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Pompey the Great Needed Urgently
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While I normally think that armed intervention in other peoples’ quarrels generally turns out poorly, there are times when a little overwhelming force can be salutary. The current situation with pirates operating freely out of Somalia, which has no effective government, begs for just such a solution. The pirates use well established and well known bases along the coast. The bases are heavily fortified but would stand no chance against a regular military and naval force. In spite of their vulnerability, they have not been attacked or even seriously threatened.

Under the later Roman Republic, the eastern Mediterranean was infested with pirates, many of whom operated out of Cilicia in Asia Minor. Attempts to root them out failed because they would withdraw inland or move down the coast whenever Roman warships appeared, declining battle and living to fight another day. In 67 BC Pompey was given an unprecedented mandate under the lex Gabinia to assemble a fleet and army to deal with the problem. He divided the entire eastern Mediterranean into thirteen zones and sent a flotilla to each simultaneously so that the pirates would have nowhere to run to. He landed marines at each pirate base to destroy the ships and fortifications, capturing and killing the pirates whenever possible. Those who surrendered he resettled. He ended the piracy problem in only three months and the Mediterranean remained pirate free until the turmoil of the late third century AD. The downside was that the extraordinary command given to Pompey led to other extraordinary commands given to others, Julius Caesar included, which eventually resulted in the end of the Roman Republic. I guess today we would call that blowback.

(Republished from The American Conservative by permission of author or representative)
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: Somalia 
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  1. daveg says:

    This is something that is a) in the national interest, b) would be relatively cheap to do, and c) would not cost a single US life. It would probably create goodwill towards the US, something we could us right now.

    But, we hear nothing from the MSM or the neocon branch thereof.

    If only those bases were near Israel.

  2. Pompey the Great not needed; call upon Stephen Decatur, American hero.

    Letters of Marque and Reprisal could be useful in this situation.

    Some government (*hint*: the United States Congress) should work with the corresponding countries in the region (Yemen, Oman, Djibouti) and authorize a small task force of cruisers and frigates and special forces teams to attack and destroy these pirates and their bases of operations.

    The justification for this suggestion would be to invoke international law, stating these pirates are “hostis humani generis.”

    International piracy can only be defeated internationally. With the United States working with nations of the region to depose of a common threat, such an action would be a major plus for American Diplomacy and standing in the world, which is in such a hole after Iraq.

  3. has a great column from the War Nerd on the Somali piracy problem. Simply rooting them out won’t stop new pirates if they are doing it because they are starving.

  4. rawshark says:

    Shouldn’t we address the hostage situaion before we start raiding pirate hangouts? I agree we could end this fast but they have a hole card we should consider.

    ‘Simply rooting them out won’t stop new pirates if they are doing it because they are starving.’

    Clearly you’re not a conservative. They’re doing it because they hate our freedoms, and because they’re Islamofascists and because they’re just plain evil. Why be rational?

  5. Anonymous • Disclaimer says:

    An acquaintance who is in the Navy says he is being deployed to that region to deal with the pirates. I suspect you are going to get your wish.

  6. kishnevi says: • Website

    Actually, the oligarchic structure, by failing to adapt to Rome’s growth, and allowing corruption and cronyism to flourish unchecked (after all, it was Rome that came up with the official patron-client relationship), was what brought Rome down. What worked fine when Rome was a little city fighting with other neighboring little cities did not work fine when the field of play expanded to include the entire Mediterrean. The fiascos of the Gracchi, the Social War, and the proscriptions of Marius and Sulla occurred in the generations preceding Pompey, and already showed the problems existing in full force. And the solution when it eventually arrived turned out to be as much of a problem–in place of oligarchs, an autocrat backed by the military, with corruption undiminished.

  7. RKU says:

    This brings to mind the late Sam Francis’s notion of “Anarcho-Tyranny”, but extended to the international category.

    We go around the world attacking lots of countries for no logical reason and endlessly meddling in things that don’t concern us…

    Meanwhile, gangs of pirates begin hijacking huge oil-tankers sailing down rom the Persian Gulf, and nobody does anything about it…

  8. Peter says:

    Sorry, pirates that commandeer supertankers and engage in firefights with Indian warships are NOT starving. In fact, they’re fed quite well for the region, which may be a reason why there are so many of them. This whole “just throw money at the poor people and all crime will go away” is so utterly inane that I get physically sick just writing it. Crime occurs at all levels of society and is not the exclusive realm of the poor and/or starving. And if people in Somalia are starving, that’s most likely due to people like the pirates, who have the weaponry and prevent average civilians from being able to farm or hunt the enormous herds of antelope and camels that roam throughout Somalia.

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