As further clashes with pirates played out off the coast of Somalia, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with definite air of resolve this week about America’s response.
“The United States does not make concessions or ransom payments to pirates,” Clinton said, emphasizing each word.
The State Department has developed a new four-point plan for combating maritime hijackings, which Secretary Clinton rolled out yesterday, providing some (rather basic) details to supplement President Obama’s recent (ambiguous) commitment to “halt the rise of piracy.”
Firstly, the administration will send an envoy to the Somali peacekeeping and development meeting in Brussels this month, to which point Secretary Clinton noted:
The solution to Somali piracy includes increased Somali capacity to police their own territory… to help the Somalis assist us in cracking down on pirate bases and in decreasing incentives for young Somali men to engage in piracy.
Clinton also emphasized that the administration will work to expand the multilateral response through the Contact Group on Piracy Off the Coast of Somalia (CGPCS), including finding ways to track and freeze pirates’ assets. Clinton urged countries to take responsibility for prosecuting and imprisoning captured pirates and to work to free the numerous vessels still being detained by pirates. She said that the State Department would press regional leaders and members of the Somali Transitional Federal Government to “take action” against pirate strongholds on land as well as engage with representatives of the shipping and insurance companies “to address gaps in their self-defense measures."
Generally, the announcement boiled down to this: “Those plotting attacks must be stopped, and those who have carried them out must be brought to justice.”
She makes a fair point, and it is important to note that these initial responses to the uptick in piracy are undoubtedly meant for those who have questioned President Obama’s military wherewithal. But what’s still missing from this strategy is a strong emphasis on the fact that piracy is a symptom of Somalia’s much deeper, systemic problems. And while Clinton acknowledged that the administration’s long-term Somalia policy is still under review, the administration must also note that these early responses will affect the implementation of a comprehensive approach that addresses Somalia’s fragile central government, endemic anti-Americanism, and links to global terrorist networks.