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The Heritage Foundation: Applying Counterterrorist Methods to the Threat of Piracy

Authors: James Carafano, Director, Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for Foreign Policy Studies, Heritage Foundation, and Jon Rodeback
March 4, 2011


This backgrounder emphasizes the need for the US and other countries to take offensive, and not defensive, measures against threats to global commerce and security.

Piracy is a growing threat to global commerce and is becoming a U.S. security issue, especially with the pirates' growing ties to international terrorism. Not only have ransom payments to pirates funded expand­ing piracy off the coasts of Somalia and driven up the costs of maritime commerce, but they may be sup­porting terrorist activities in the region and elsewhere as well.

At the very least, piracy is helping to perpetuate the lawlessness in Somalia. In February 2011, piracy took a deadly turn when Somalia pirates hijacked a yacht off Somalia and then killed the four people onboard—all of them Americans.1 Anti-piracy efforts to date have achieved some success, particu­larly in the Strait of Malacca, but they have failed to halt the spread of piracy in the Gulf of Aden and the Indian Ocean.

The U.S., in cooperation with other seagoing nations—an anti-piracy “coalition of the willing”— needs to move beyond defensive measures and start taking the fight to the pirates, attacking every aspect of the pirate networks. The U.S. and other countries should use every means at their disposal to deny the pirates any safe haven—geographical, financial, or legal—and bring them to justice wherever it is most convenient.

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