Ali Musa/AFP/Getty Images
A Somali gunman carries a Russian-made long range machine gun.
Two American couples, Jean and Scott Adam of Southern California and Phyllis Mackay and Bob Riggle of Seattle, were killed today by their Somali pirate captors in the Gulf of Aden. The U.S. military was in the middle of a rescue attempt when the pirates, outnumbered, opted to kill their hostages. Piracy off the Somali coast began eight years ago with a paradoxically benevolent goal. For years the coasts off Somalia had been illegally used as toxic waste dumping grounds by more prosperous nations, and fish stocks had been plundered by outside countries and independent entities taking advantage of Somalia's weak infrastructure. Somali warlords began fighting these outsiders to defend what few resources they were capable of defending. But over time their reach, and the kinds of targets they attacked, broadened to include humanitarian vessels, luxury yachts, and anything else that entered Somali waters. Warships from NATO countries, including the United States, have been patrolling the area since last year. The violence however has yet to be curbed. Is tightening security along the Somali coast the answer? Or with large historical and systemic problems like extraordinary poverty, governmental chaos, and years of outside exploitation, is policing the sea merely a band aid on a wound that goes much deeper?
Jeff Kline, Program Director for Maritime Defense and Security Research, Naval Postgraduate School; retired Navy Captain