The Bow Ramp

Monday, November 28, 2005

Privateers off the Port Bow

While perusing Strategy Page this afternoon, I came across this interesting little tidbit.  A few postings ago, I talked about the piracy situation and suggested some possible courses of action that could be taken against pirates.  One of the things that came to mind was the use of privateers.  However, I did not list this option in my post because I felt that the U.S. Government wouldn’t have the political nerve to use them, even if it was a reasonable and cost-effective option.  It did not occur to me that it might be done through a third-party state.  Certainly, no one inside Somalia is going to complain about the use of Mercenaries tm .
With sufficient oversight, privateers could provide a “good bang for your buck.”  As a privateer, you would be fighting mostly lightly equipped pirates.  You wouldn’t need a lot of very expensive infrastructure (i.e. Aircraft Carriers, cruise missiles, etc.) or years of specialized technical training for many of your personnel.  Hiring and equipping your force can be done fairly easily.  You could also quickly adjust your posture as necessary in response to changes in pirate tactics.  Needless to say, the Somali government (such as it is) is going to be a lot different to deal with than the U.S.  Bribery is a certainty, but a little cash in the right hands can probably get you from here to there a lot quicker than wading through a sea of red tape.  They are probably going to be a bit more results oriented than our own people as well.
Eaglespeak has more info here.  In the comments to that post, there was a link to this site where there was quite a spirited discussion about just what sort of company Topcat Marine Security is.  First thing I noticed was that Topcat’s web site sucked.  That said, I don’t care if they are a CIA front, a little guy trying to break into the Military Industrial Complex tm, or little green men in disguise.  I am willing to wait and see.  The price-tag is supposedly 50 million bucks.  Now, 50 mil is a lot of money to me, but is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of stationing a few Navy ships off the coast.  If paying 50 million dollars to a contractor significantly reduces the incidence of piracy in the horn of Africa, then I consider it money well spent.  If it doesn’t work out, then it will be a cheap lesson learned.    

Update:  It sounds cool, so I’ll keep the wording above; but in reality these people wouldn’t actually be privateers in the old, original sense of the word.  Privateering was essentially state sponsored piracy.  In this case, the Topcat folks would be contracted law enforcement personnel.  The people they would be capturing/killing are criminals rather than legitimate mariners and in accordance with the press reports, the Somali government intends to operate within their Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), rather than on the high seas (although I’m sure hot pursuit would be authorized.)