Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Modern Pirates

This Wall Street Journal editorial on the importance of confronting piracy almost seems like a voice from the past.

Writing in The Atlantic Monthly in 2003, William Langewieshe described the sophisticated operations of modern buccaneers:

The new pirates have emerged on a postmodern ocean where identities have been mixed and blurred, and the rules of nationality have been subverted. Scornful of boundaries, they are organized into multi-ethnic gangs that communicate by satellite and cell phone, and are capable of cynically appraising competing jurisdictions and laws. They choose their targets patiently, and then assemble, strike, and dissipate. They have been known to carry heavy weapons, including shoulder-launched missiles, but they are not determined aggressors, and will back off from stiff resistance, regroup, and find another way. Usually they succeed with only guns and knives. Box cutters would probably serve them just as well. Their goal in general is to hijack entire ships: they kill or maroon the crews, sell the cargoes, and in the most elaborate schemes turn the hijacked vessels into 'phantoms,' which pose as legitimate ships, pick up new cargoes, and disappear.

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