I posted about the plans of Britain's labor government to gut the Royal Navy. Yes, I did so in a way that made fun of them. Michael Van Der Galien described my take as quite accurate. He also pointed out the deadly seriousness of the problem:
It’s easy to make fun of the Brits, of course, but fact of the matter is that I don’t find this funny at all. Britain once had the most powerful Navy in the world. Labor’s goal seems to have always been to bring it to utter destruction; it has almost succeeded in doing so, if it goes ahead and implements these plans it will succeed. This will not only weaken Britain, it will weaken the West as a whole and the EU. Forget about playing an important role in the world, forget about defending ourselves against possible future attacks, forget about it all. Europe will be handicapped and useless. All we’ll be able to do is to live in our Kantian paradise, hoping everyone will just let us be and live in peace. For if they do not, we can’t do anything about it.
He's right. I sometimes make fun to point out the insanity of some positions. Today I have posted quite a few things about the difference between talking and doing. Lately democracies are more in love with talking and less inclined than ever to actually do anything. Tyrannies do not suffer that same ambivalence toward acting. You could ask some monks in Burma about that. Well, if you can find any live ones.
There is a real – and growing – downside to the refusal of western powers to face up to global truths. Rwanda, Darfur, Zimbabwe, Somalia, Burma, Iran, North Korea, Iran. All are part of a refusal by the west to face facts. There are bad people in the world – and we are not them. But the navies get cut and the west turns inward. More welfare state goodness for the masses to keep them happy. Less for defense every year. Cut the fleet, cut the army. Ignore the beasts of the world.
Paul Raffaele, writing at The Smithsonian, has an article that shows, rather clearly, what those cuts in defense and abdication of responsibility entail. You see, there really are pirates. And they are getting worse every year.
Now the seedy romance of the golden-age legends may be supplanted by a new reality: as governments cut their navies after the cold war, as thieves have gotten hold of more powerful weapons and as more and more cargo has moved by sea, piracy has once again become a lucrative form of waterborne mugging. Attacks at sea had become rare enough to be a curiosity in the mid-20th century, but began to reappear in the 1970s. By the 1990s, maritime experts noted a sharp increase in attacks, which led the IMB to establish the Piracy Reporting Centre in 1992—and still the buccaneering continued, with a high of 469 attacks registered in 2000. Since then, improvements in reporting, ship-tracking technology and government reaction have calmed the seas somewhat—the center counted 329 attacks in 2004, down to 276 in 2005 and 239 last year—but pirates remain very much in business, making the waters off Indonesia, Bangladesh, Nigeria and Somalia especially perilous. "We report hundreds of acts of piracy each year, many hundreds more go undetected," says Capt. Noel Choong, head of the Piracy Reporting Centre, in Kuala Lumpur. "Ships and their crews disappear on the high seas and coastal waters every year, never to be seen again." Even stationary targets, such as oil platforms, are at risk.
Global commerce would collapse without oceangoing ships to transfer the world's fuel, minerals and bulk commodities, along with much of its medicines and foodstuffs. According to the U.S. Maritime Administration, about 95 percent of the world's trade travels by water. Boston-based Global Insight, a forecasting company, estimates the value of maritime trade for 2007 to be at least $6 trillion. Estimates of the pirates' annual global plunder range into the billions.
You turn a blind eye on the rest of the world at a price. You refuse to face down a thug at a real cost. You cut defense and there are real consequences. Once upon a time the Royal Navy virtually killed the slave trade by stopping suspicious vessels and searching them. Now they'd be hard pressed to send a boy scout in a rowboat. And it is getting worse. As the west turns inward, the monsters and the pirates of the world are emboldened.
They don't have a lot to fear these days.
(Do read all of Paul Raffaele's article. It is quite good.)