“War is Boring” (and so is piracy)

War may be boring, but David Axe is far from a snoozer. Axe who writes the normally interesting online news operetta, “War is Boring” (love that title) popped up in the Defense Department’s “Early Bird” with a piece on the decline in pirate activity off the Somalia coast. While such coverage probably thrills the Pentagon, it is hardly news.

As discussed in past postings, if you go to the statistics maintained by the International Maritime Bureau (we use it as our standard) you will see pirate incidents worldwide remain relatively constant. They may spike in one area and decline in another, but the numbers do not deviate much. The spike in pirate activity earlier this year, notably the increased number of successful boardings in the Gulf of Aden still totaled well under one percent of the tens of thousands of vessels that transit the area each year. Chances are had the Maersk Alabama not been boarded and its amiable, everyman captain abducted, and the ensuing media circus so provocative, America’s bad-boy for high-seas thievery might still be the fictional Caribbean pirate, Jack Sparrow.

International efforts have been touted as making the difference in this “deadly” fight. In the area’s more than 1 million square miles of water, 15 to 20 warships from the U.S., NATO and the E.U. patrol the region at any one time. (Four or so vessels are U.S. Navy.) Another 20 ships have come on station courtesy of Russia, China, India, Japan, South Korea— and get this— Iran. That tops out at 40 vessels on a good day.

The senior U.S. Navy officer afloat explained to Axe that some changes on land are more likely the reason for any shift in pirate behavior, though it is tough to imagine the republics of Somalia, Puntland, and Somaliland having much of an effect on anything, let alone working in concert.

We say pirate activity will remain at some relative constant. Media coverage may continue to change perception, but it doesn’t change reality.

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