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Maritime Piracy: Examining the U.S. Response to a Global Threat

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Research paper

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Recent high profile maritime hijackings off the coast of Somalia and in the Gulf of Aden have sharpened U.S. and international focus on the long-standing, but growing problem of maritime piracy. Despite an extensive record of anti-piracy efforts by the United States and other nations around the globe, piracy continues to challenge the United States and the international community in the 21st century. This paper will examine the U.S. response to the global threat of piracy, including that of the U.S. Navy, as well as international efforts to stop it. The analysis will include an evaluation of U.S. policies and the effectiveness of implemented strategies to counter the threat posed by maritime piracy, with particular emphasis on the escalating activity off the Horn of Africa. Successful implementation of any strategy must include continual assessment and adjustment based on changes in the environment. The current U.S. strategy to leverage the international community to mitigate the impact of piracy sufficiently addresses the near term threat to U.S. national interests. However, specifically in the case of Somali piracy, the environment must be monitored for three indicators that will likely necessitate a change in strategy. First, the U.S. strategy must ensure that piracy does not evolve into a funding source for violent extremist organizations. New credible evidence of a nexus between Somali piracy and violent extremism is the single most important indicator that a change is strategy is required. Second, a significant increase in violence toward hostages, particularly U.S. hostages, would likely rally the will of the U.S. people and the Administration to undertake a more aggressive strategy. Third, and most unfortunate for the entire region, would be a pirate attack resulting in an accidental large scale environmental disaster, such as a chemical or oil spill.

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  • Government and Political Science
  • Sociology and Law
  • Military Forces and Organizations

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