Wednesday, April 15, 2009

'Sons of Somalia' to Fight Pirates

'Sons of Somalia' to Fight Pirates? (Updated)
By Nathan Hodge April 15, 2009
Over at Information Dissemination, Galrahn is offering one of the more original proposals that we've seen lately for tackling Somalia's piracy problem: we pay, you fight.
One of Somalia's biggest problems is a complete lack of maritime security. Galrahn's solution? Help Somalia build the rudiments of coast guard. The price tag, he says, would be a mere $130 million per year. Here's how he crunches the numbers: For a 2,000-man Somali coast guard earning $10 a day, plus a 400-man officer corps making $20 a day, the estimated manpower costs would be $10.2 million annually. That's chump change, he argues, when you weigh it against ransom payouts and the cost of skyrocketing insurance premiums.
Galrahn also proposes outfitting Somali coasties with 30 experimental M-80 stealth ships at $15 million a piece; one could presumably find cheaper options than an prototype vessel. But for the sake of argument, that comes in at a total cost of around $130.2 million annually to equip and train a 30-vessel coast guard with 2,400 officers and men.
In essence, Galrahn is taking a page from the program the U.S. military used to co-opt largely Sunni insurgents in Iraq. If a Somali coast guardsman is paid a decent wage, he argues, the economics of piracy start to look a lot less attractive:
I look at this as a "Sons of Somalia" model in the spirit of "Sons of Iraq" except with direct training and military equipment assistance, plus a long term cooperation commitment. If the Somali Coast Guard is paid a wage of $10 - $20 dollars a day, plus using better equipment that interfaces with the modern technology of international naval forces, that job becomes appealing for the Somali kid looking for a way ahead. It would also keep costs low.
But of course, such a payoff program is much easier to do, if your forces are already in charge of the country. Without that sort of wider control, infiltration of your new guns-for-hire teams gets all too easy.
Interestingly enough, we have seen some signals that the Pentagon may be interested in providing military training in Somalia to create functioning security forces. Vice Adm. William Gortney, commander of U.S. naval forces in the Middle East, stated as much on Sunday, when he said: "the ultimate solution for piracy is on land." And Pentagon spokesman Bryan Whitman said earlier this week that military training for Somalis was one possible option for combating instability and lawlessness.
UPDATE: Then, of course, there's Ron Paul's option. According to Politico, he's "calling on Congress to consider using letters of marque and reprisal, a power written into the Constitution that allows the United States to hire private citizens to keep international waters safe."

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