Maritime Piracy and Terrorism in Term Paper

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This is to note that "Trinidad and Tobago alone account for 80% (1st quarter 2004) of all U.S. LNG imports, up from 68% in 2002. Therefore, any incident involving an LNG tanker along the Caribbean routes could harm not only U.S. energy security but also the economies of the Caribbean islands, affecting tourism and other industries." (Kelshell, 1) Such a trajectory has all the markings of an Al-Qaeda styled plot, which by its premise will take an interest in that which is likely to have such widely rippling destructive purpose.

The Caribbean trade routes are of particular interest to this discussion given their proximity to the United States continental mainland and their historical appeal to the activities and organization of pirates. According to Mitchell, "the Caribbean island chain stretches for 2500 miles in a convex arch from the Bahamas past the south east point of Florida and downward to the island of Trinidad, only seven miles off Venezuela's east coast. The islands encircle the Caribbean Sea, the body of water between them and the American continent. This vast maritime area has always attracted piracy and other illegal activities." (Mitchell, 4) Inherently, piracy is an issue which must be addressed in this discussion as centrally relating to terrorism. This is a correlation which will be raised frequently throughout the discussion, denoting the inherent value of such relationships for terrorist operations.

A brief history of piracy will also contribute to the assertion of this relationship. Once, piracy in the Caribbean had been associated with the notion of independent privateering in defiance of colonialist corporations such as the Dutch East India Company. In this context, such seafaring mercantilists could be seen as more democratic than their monopolizing counterparts occupying the American colonies and their invaluable ports. These connotations, while apparent if one is to draw an analogy between these acts and those committed for political reasons by terrorists, are otherwise absent from today's understanding of piracy.

Today, piracy has garnered an immutably negative association to acts of criminality, torture and murder on the high-seas. It is more prominently remembered now that many of the most famous pirates of the Golden Age, such as Blackbeard, Captain Edward Low and Calico Jack were feared terribly by voyagers to and from the New World than that the institution of privateering was a crucial entity in colonial war and trade. This was, however, a trend of collective perception that became gradually inevitable, especially when the in the 18th century the British had begun in earnest to forcibly eradicate its purveyors. (Krystek, 1) Thus, the royal crown's efforts at creating a theretofore nonexistent establishment sentiment against piracy rendered it illegal and its likely practitioners more prone to wanton criminality.

In 1958, the United Nations passed an anti-piracy law. However, "what the law fails to address are acts of piracy committed: by governments, within territorial waters, for political purposes." (Vallar, 1) Much like in the past, governments who are incapable of levying the kind of direct political authority in trade as they would desire are inclined by this dearth of regulation to appeal to seafaring piracy. To those with little hegemonic influence to lose in regional affairs, such as is commonplace in the unprotected waters of war-torn Southeast Asia, piracy seems a practical means to some of taking by force what is inaccessible by diplomacy. Much as in the past, piracy continues to be a means of resistance to naval imbalance, especially for those who lack the military or political structure to achieve such within the confines of international law.

It is here that the political intercession between piracy and terrorism becomes more wholly apparent, especially given the historical propensity for such activities in the Caribbean sea's colonial history. Such is to say that acts of resistance against a dominant military and economic force such as the United States have been shown to bear more sensible success when taken upon through such guerilla tactics. Historically, independent maritime infringement is shown to have success, comparable to the attempt at using overwhelming military support, in undermining overwhelming and dominant force.

Here again, there is a problematic appeal to the proximity of the Caribbean Sea to crucial ports and cities along the Eastern Seaboard. Where its geographical positioning has historically allowed it to feel some sense of relative imperviousness to the full-scale threat of military assault, the United States is inherently vulnerable by the same token to the type of guerilla warfare favored by terrorists and pirates alike. This helps to capture the situation that drives the research here. Namely, there is a clear motive of opportunity in the Caribbean shipping lane that, in the age of terrorism, removes prior illusions of American imperviousness.

Such illusions have also created an infrastructural weakness in this particular capacity that makes even more appealing this venue for attack by America's enemies. "Inhabiting the most peaceful corner of the world has meant that captains of industry and urban planners have been able to treat security as a marginal issue. Those carefree days are now gone and unfortunately we have inherited critical infrastructures so open that they offer terrorists a vast menu of soft targets." (Flynn, x) for the United States, there has been a certain disadvantage rendered it due to its insulation for global conflict, which has very rarely touched its soil. The outcome has been an overwhelmingly unprepared infrastructure in the face of today's security challenges. Though the United States has long oriented its defenses to project its conflicts into the far reaches of the globe -- and generally a great distance from the U.S. itself -- it remains in many ways incapable of deflecting a major attack at its borders.

Such is to say that in the face of the terrorist ideology, premises protecting American security have become obsolete and largely only theoretical. America's geographical disposition has historically protected it from invasion due to its strong continental relationship with Canada and Mexico and its situation between two sprawling oceanic bodies. However, this is a logic which has only served effectively to understand the challenges facing a power which might seek to mount a traditional 'boots-on-the-ground' invasion of the United States. The logistical implausibility of sustaining and empowering a force which could physically occupy any political or military authority in the United States has protected it in nation-to-nation conflagration. However, with the threat of terrorism comes a new framework for operational orientation. Enemies are no longer bound to the rational assumptions regarding the mounting of a full-scale military operation. Inherently, terrorism will strategically seek to mount a series of isolated or coordination attacks which effectively amount to crippling blows to economy, infrastructure and psyche. In the case of its assaults on the United States, the terrorist underworld has never relied upon the concept of a detectable military force with the capacity to occupy. Nor has it oriented itself historically toward any long-term stationary position toward the invasion of the United States. Instead, as seen by the 9/11 plot which, with the help of various supporting players, was nonetheless carried out according to official reports by no more than 19 actual hijackers. In spite of this, the destruction and death toll were both catastrophic, owing to the success with which the plot exploited notable weaknesses in America's civil defense methods.

This points to the problem of America's defense strategy, which is structured to prevent a traditional infantry or ballistics assault which identifiable long-term trajectories against the United States. The diffuseness and global guerilla tactics of terrorist organizations as reflected by the attacks of 9/11 and the various prominent examples of maritime assault such as on the U.S.S. Cole and the French oil-tanker, Limburg, defies the logical deterrents upon which the United States has always relied for security. In particular, the notion that the United States will surely respond with swift and decisive force at the prompting of an attacker is undermined by the elusiveness of the terrorist target. This allows it to operate at a more strategically innovative approach than that taken by American defenses.

This is important, as we enter into a discussion as to the relative rarity of a successful maritime attack in the United States or as a product of terrorist organizational efforts in general. Particularly, the research will note that there is a necessity to attend with great intensity even to those terrorist prospects which have yet to be successfully ventured. As this discussion ventures on to consider the ways in which a lack of preparedness contributed directly to the capacity of terrorists to attack the United States on September 11th, it will become increasingly clear that the precedent which currently exists to suggest that a maritime attack in this context is sufficient enough to justify the allotment of considerable attention and resource by the American and Caribbean governments, as well as private organizations engaged in LNG transport. The distinct nature of the opportunity here…[continue]

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