Merchant of Death
Money, Guns, Planes, and the Man Who Makes War Possible

Blood from Stones

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The Only Thing Worse Than No Action is...
While it appears the United Nations took a step forward by authorizing military actions on land to combat Somali pirates, the truth is, it is anther mistake in dealing with the region.

I am not against the sentiment of the UN action. I think hot pursuit into Somali territory to free ships, hostages and combat terrorism are fully warranted, and indeed necessary.

With a portion of the ships' ransom money going to Islamist terrorists and another portion going to leaders of the feckless government, all in the interests of fueling a senseless war that has destroyed a nation beyond repair, one can make a powerful argument that something must be done.

Indeed, the content of Resolution 1851, which I applaud, authorizes for one year states already involved in fighting piracy off Somalia to "take all necessary measures that are appropriate in Somalia" to suppress "acts of piracy and armed robbery at sea."

Unlike previous resolutions, the current text empowers states combating piracy to conduct operations on land in Somalia.

Secretary of State Rice hailed adoption of the resolution, saying it sent a "strong signal to combat the scourge of piracy" and stressing the need "to end the impunity of Somali pirates."

But it isn't going to happen. And that sets up the UN (and by extension the US and others who pushed the measure) for failure and a show of weakness.

The only thing worse than taking no action when it is required is to promise action, and then fail to deliver. It reveals the weakness to do anything other than talk and threaten. If you have to do that, than you are likely not actually going to act. And I would bet a great deal that there will be little real action resulting from this "strong signal." Who is willing to put boots on the ground in Somalia, even for vital commercial interests? I think the answer will be, no one.

If you have any doubt of the terrible consequences of empowering armed groups, including terrorists, by making hollow threats, just read Stephen Kinzer's book, A Thousand Hills: Rwanda's Rebirth and the Man who Dreamed it.

The Rwandan genocide was predicated in part on the belief that the international community (meaning the UN or countries individually) would be too weak and indecisive to intervene. The token UN force sent, with no mandate to act and unwilling to protect civilians, became the catalyst for ever-greater violence against those they were in theory there to protect. They bet right

The Somali pirate gangs, holding several ships and more than 100 hostages, are likely to wonder what the news means. When they figure out it means nothing, they will redouble their activities in an effort to show the world they can operate despite the public promises to stop them.

Until one is ready to act, it is far better to stay silent. Brandishing hollow threats only emboldens those, who, like the Somali pirates, continue to successfully bet that the outside world, for all its threats, has no real intention of doing anything significant.

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