The UN this week took steps toward full authorization for a multinational maritime force to combat the increasing threat of the hijacking of ships in the Gulf of Aden by Somali pirates. This is a big deal, especially considering that China, who almost never participates in military actions overseas, committed to a deployment of its PLA Navy to the area. This is great overall, in that it shows at least a certain willingness to take a stand as a world body against threats as they present themselves (next step is standing up to renegade nation-states), as well as the communal spirit, which has been somewhat wanting in recent months and years (the US bears some responsibility for this but we're hardly alone), that is bolstered slightly by the shouldering of responsibility by individual member nations. Yes, this action was largely brought about by indiscriminate and un-ignorable threats to nations' financial interests on a huge scale- typically running in the tens of millions of dollars per hijacking- but it's a start.
I am concerned, however, that the international community is focusing solely on the part of the problem that has a negative impact on them- not a surprise and hardly the only instance of it's kind, just one of the most obvious- without taking an active approach to dealing with the underlying cause. There is not a more visible example to be found anywhere of the fact that the last thing a poor country is is a stable country. I'm honestly surprised there aren't more countries in the world like Somalia. It's been more than a decade since Somalia had a functioning national government, hard-line Islamic militias run rampant, and the country is so deep in civil war that the international community is literally afraid to intervene. These pirates are a product of the condition of their country.
I feel that this multinational naval fleet is a good first step, but regarding it as anything other than a first step- implicit of further steps to follow- is a recipe for disaster. So much more needs to be done. A military force with the international community's full backing and the teeth to get the job done will at some point in the near future be necessary to get the armed and violent elements of the Somali populace under control. Immediately thereafter- as close to simultaneously as possible, really- an administrative system capable of substantially tackling the broken nation's infrastructure problems and shortages would have to be put in place. Food, medical resources, and sanitation systems would have to provided on as big a scale as has ever been done. In the (much) longer-run, issues such as refugees, human rights, education and a functioning judiciary would have to be addressed. Such an administrative entity would probably have to be made up primarily of outsiders, at least at first, much like the Coalition Provisional Authority that managed Iraq following the toppling of Saddam Hussein (minus the corruption and incompetence that plagued it). Somali officials would need to be included to the extent possible, both to lend legitimacy to the governing body and to give the Somalis the skills and experience necessary to effectively lead their country. Also to that end, as many Somalis without a major history in the factional violence and that are willing to remain loyal to the new national government (with Somalia in the condition it's in, a steady paycheck would probably provide more than sufficient motivation in most cases) as can be found need to be trained and employed as national military and police. If the forces charged with long-term peacekeeping aren't at least predominantly Somali, their credibility and trustworthiness in the eyes of their countrymen would be in serious jeopardy. These are all lessons we learned the hard way in Iraq.
If meanigful action is not taken beyond putting cruisers in the Gulf of Aden to protect oil shipments (the profits of which are very unlikely to be seen anywhere near Somalia, I might add), the result will not just be the continuance of the unpleasant status-quo. Sure, merchant-shipping will be safer, but Somalia will continue to be wracked with civil violence, Somalis will continue to be punished simply for having been born there, the Islamic militias will gain more expansive and unchallengeable power, and Somalia could potentially become a new haven for terrorists in the image of pre-9/11 Afghanistan. Propoganda will be spread all over the world (even more than it is now) that the UN and its most powerful member-nations are only interested in the inhabitants of the poor and desperate corners of the world when said inhabitants are killing them and plundering their fortunes just to eat. Worse still, arguments to the contrary will not have a leg to stand on.