London-based think tank – ships defending themselves not a good idea

Roger Middleton, a self-described piracy expert at the left of center Chatham House in London, thinks it’s bad business for American ships to arm themselves to repel pirates. Criminal pirates from Somalia have taken many hostages and in doing so, have found most countries and ship owners willing to pay millions in ransom. Not so much anymore.

Middleton states the international maritime community was against armed guards – who mind you are only there to defend – vessels at sea. He’s of the mind American shipping companies are making the situation worse by adding defensive measures including former military on board to defend the ships in international waters.

Middleton’s reaction was printed in by the Associated Press in an article today referencing another pirate attack on the Maersk Alabama that did not end so well for the pirates. You might say they were shocked to find a ship’s crew willing to actually defend themselves.

Somali pirates attacked the Maersk Alabama on Wednesday for the second time in seven months and were thwarted by private guards on board the U.S.-flagged ship who fired off guns and a high-decibel noise device. …

Vice Adm. Bill Gortney of the U.S. Naval Forces Central Command, said the Maersk Alabama had followed the maritime industry’s “best practices” in having a security team on board.

“This is a great example of how merchant mariners can take proactive action to prevent being attacked and why we recommend that ships follow industry best practices if they’re in high-risk areas,” Gortney said in a statement.

However, Roger Middleton, a piracy expert at the London-based think tank Chatham House, said the international maritime community was still “solidly against” armed guards aboard vessels at sea, but that American ships have taken a different line than the rest of the international community.

“Shipping companies are still pretty much overwhelmingly opposed to the idea of armed guards,” Middleton said. “Lots of private security companies employee people who don’t have maritime experience. Also, there’s the idea that it’s the responsibility of states and navies to provide security. I would think it’s a step backward if we start privatizing security of the shipping trade.”

Well you see Roger, when there is a demand for a service, those who can train up and provide the service come forward. That’s exactly what we’re seeing here. For you to imply these defenders are inexperienced and will make things worse is idiotic.

Just a little bit I’ve learned about Chatham House. … They released a paper in 2006 that indicated the coalition in Iraq had lost all control and Iran was really running things. Is this still the case? Honestly, I did not read the entire 100-plus page report, but here are two passages. (It actually does seem to be an interesting read and I’m putting it on my list.)

Iran views Iraq as its own backyard and has now superseded the US as the most influential power there; this affords it a key role in Iraq’s future. Iran is also a prominent presence in its other war-torn neighbour with close social ties, Afghanistan. The Sunni Arab states of Jordan, Egypt and the Gulf are wary of Iran yet feel compelled by its strength to maintain largely cordial relations while Iran embarrasses their Western-leaning governments through its stance against the US. …

A major US preoccupation has been protecting the security of Israel, the country assumed to be first in line if Iran were to develop or acquire nuclear weapons. In this respect, Ahmadinejad’s statements from the second half of 2005 that Israel should be ‘wiped out’ and that the Holocaust was a historical fabrication have played into the hands both of members of the Israeli government and of pro-Israeli supporters of the Bush administration who argue that Iran represents the greatest threat to US and Israeli interests in the Middle East.

These guys don’t seem much into self defense, nor did they foresee the successes in Iraq.

Recently, Chatham House presented its 2009 Chatham House Prize to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, president of Brazil. He was recognized for “being a key driver of stability and integration in Latin America and has made a major contribution to reducing poverty in Brazil through innovative and responsible economic policies”.

Did I hear about some unrest and violence in Brazil’s capital recently? Oh yes, a bunch of gang violence has broken out recently and gangs are shooting down police helicopters.

When Rio de Janeiro was named the host of the 2016 Olympics earlier this month it seemed like a fresh start for one of the world’s most vibrant, but violent cities.

But a weekend of gang battles that spilled out of favelas, or shantytowns, and onto streets just a few miles from where many of the Olympic events will be held is highlighting concerns over security during the Games.

At least 12 people were killed on Saturday, including two policemen who died when their helicopter was brought down by warring drug gangs after police tried to halt shootouts between the rivals. And the violence extended into Sunday when two men were killed by police exchanging fire with alleged gang members.

2016 Olympics here we come!

Sweetness & Light, Atlas Shrugs and the guys over at Blackfive are also writing.