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The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

The Student News Site of Stony Brook University

The Statesman

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    They’re Not Your Jack Sparrow

    Twenty years ago, the world of piracy seemed like a long lost part of human history. With Russian and American navies ruling the seas around the globe, the threat of vagrant hostage-takers wasn’t an issue. With the collapse of the Soviet Union however, a power vacuum was created on the unguarded seas, and the pirates returned.

    To most of the modern world, piracy is still a remote threat. America and Europe have little to worry about with their well-developed and well-funded coast guards protecting their shores. Even developing nations like China are able to keep pirates at bay by enforcing strict death penalties for maritime crimes committed in their waters. Like their swashbuckling ancestors, modern pirates have no desire to attack armored enemies. They prey on the week by hiding out of sight and staying out of reach of authorities.

    But pirates are prevalent in much of the rest of the world. Undeveloped nations with large tracts of unprotected coasts are particularly at risk. Even developing countries like Brazil can’t counter piracy on something as huge as the Amazon River. Just like in the olden days, mercenaries and madmen are willing to risk their lives in search of fortune. So what is the treasure they seek? The answer: ransom money and millions of dollars of it.

    The recent rash of attacks in places like Somalia is a testament to how pirates operate. The simple equation is unprotected waters equal pirate activity. This is a serious issue since a nation’s inability or refusal to fight piracy creates a dangerous climate for anyone who travels through that nation’s waters. Pirates particularly prey on expensive vessels that they think they can make the most money off of. It is important to realize that, like most things, this all comes down to money. Pirates know that by hijacking pricey yachts or huge cargo ships that they can ransom off the crew for millions of dollars. They don’t necessarily want to kill their captives. If they do, then their only bargaining chips for their livelihood and lives would be gone. They want to get their money and get out.

    The key question is: how are we going to stop it? The U.S. has acted boldly so far, sending warships and using Navy SEALS to take out pirate hostage-takers. Despite this swift response however, our options are limited. The most obvious solution is to press other nations – especially one’s like Somalia where these attacks are occurring – to vamp up their efforts to fight piracy. Only through a unified effort will the problem be ended.

    This is an issue that concerns everyone that is in favor of trade on the seas; whether they are friend or foe. Nations need to come together to continue countering this common threat. In the 21st century, piracy should be a thing of the past. Giving into pirates means conceding to demands that would further escalate the rate of violence. The response has been good so far, but we need to keep pressuring pirates by both not paying them off and by fighting them off before they capture vessels. This has to be done both at sea by ships and on land by governments. Only then will the seas be safe for all.

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