Saturday, November 29, 2008

Power, Vacuum, Piracy

Jdg 17:6 In those days there was no king in Israel, but every man did that which was right in his own eyes.

1Pe 2:13-14 Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man for the Lord's sake: whether it be to the king, as supreme; (14) Or unto governors, as unto them that are sent by him for the punishment of evildoers, and for the praise of them that do well.

A major function of government is the punishment of crime. One of the things that emerges from a careful study of history is the discovery that evildoers naturally gravitate to places where governments have difficulty employing their power. In the early 1700's one of the places where governments had trouble exercising power was the Caribbean. In that time the major European powers were not only involved in a series of wars including the War of the Spanish Succession. Fought to preserve the European status quo, by preventing the unification of France and Spain. One of the consequences was the increase in Piracy in the Caribbean.
Spain could only with difficulty provide any protection for its shipping, principally by convoy. The English authorized Privateers with Letters of Marque and Reprisal. The number of Privateers acted to provide cover for the outright pirates.

In our era, we have seen the dangers of regions with week or nonexistent governments. A short and incomplete list would include Lebanon, Somalia, Yemen, Afghanistan and Post Sadam Iraq. That doesn't include governments which for strategic and tactical reasons have supported, trained or encouraged terrorism as a means of furthering their goals. The history of Al Qaeda provides one example of how vacuums of power were exploited.

As we have seen in the news recently, there has been an increase in Piracy in East Africa. One of the nodes is Somalia which since the mid-1970's Somalia has been divided by civil wars and currently has a weak government with a very limited ability to suppress piracy. Meanwhile in the best tradition of piracy men who are seeking power influence and money are engaging in piracy. Peter Leeson of George Mason University has examined some of the economic elements of Piracy.(1)

The same vacuum of power that permits Piracy to flourish at the margins of governmental power, also provides a favorable climate for Terrorism.


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