Here’s Bill O’Reilly last night: “So far, the United Nations has not responded to the pirate threat. Are you surprised? ‘Talking Points’ believes the U.N. could blockade the Somali ports where the pirates live, thereby crushing the threat. Is that hard? No, all it takes is will.”

This is a cheap shot.  The United Nations has been on top of this for several months.  In fact, the UN’s World Food Program is the single entity most directly affected by piracy off the Somali coast. Some 95% of all humanitarian aid to Somalia and other east African countries passes through the region. Indeed, WFP humanitarian aid en route to WFP’s Kenyan headquarters was the cargo of the Maersk Alabama.   

Back in June, the United Nations Security Council passed Resolution 1816, which called for international coordination of anti-piracy efforts in the Indian Ocean. It also authorized the use of force to combat piracy, providing the legal foundation for things like sniper shots and attacks on pirate vessels.   The international fleets in the Indian Ocean today are there precisely because the UN took action.  Oh, and back in December the Security Council passed Resolution 1851, authorizing “land pursuit” of pirates.

Also, for the record, the United Nations does not have a navy.  It cannot “blockade” the Somali ports.  Of course, “blockade” seems to imply that the action would be geared toward denying the enemy access to goods that it would otherwise receive absent the blockade.  What exactly would a blockade of Somalia accomplish?  Intercepting humanitarian aid before it reaches Somalia?  Wouldn’t that sort of defeat the whole purpose of fighting the pirates in the first place?

UPDATE:  Two thoughtful op eds explain what, precisely, a blockade would entail. Still, “the UN” does not have a navy.  Conducting a cordon of Somali ports would require the cooperation of a multi-national coalition of the willing.

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