Piracy off the coast of Somali has become an issue since the hijacking of the Saudi Arabian oil-tanker, the Sirius Star, on November 15. Carrying a $110-million cargo of crude oil (enough to supply the New England region of the U.S. with fuel for 10 days), this is the most recent event in a string of destabalizing developments. Western states are justifiably worried about the spectre of piracy: the increased risks to oil tankers are raising insurance premiums; and the resultant rerouting and transport delays are increasing commodity prices. All this in a time of global economic recession.
The solution? According to John S. Burnett, author of Dangerous Waters: Modern Piracy and Terror on the High Seas, in today’s New York Times, we must bring back the Islamic Courts Union, a collection of courts that once controlled much of Somalia with Shariah law, maintained loose links to Al Qaeda and consisted mostly of warlords. Since the ICU was replaced in 2006, Somalia has degenerated into lawlessness and rampant piracy. The ICU’s restoration, Burnett argues, is the only hope the West has of returning safe routes to oil-tankers.
“If there is movement to talk to the Taliban in Afghanistan, then there should be some effort to talk to the fundamentalists in Somalia. If the Islamists were permitted to form a viable, functioning and effective government, this shattered land might be able to return to the community of nations – and supertankers will be able to deliver oil to the United States without fear of getting hijacked.”
Now, I can’t help but read this as being extremely Western-centric. Burnett seems to care only about the safety of oil-tankers and the efficient delivery of goods to the United States. What about the proper governance of Somalia? Is the best option really giving Somalia to the ICU in return for cheap oil?