9 Nov 2008

Pirates and Terrorists

Posted by jofr

In the popular modern imagination, pirates of the classical period were rebellious, clever individuals who operated outside the restricting bureaucracy of modern life. They are surrounded by myths and legends. Yet from a modern point of view, the pirates of the 18th century were also terrorists. Piracy after all is just robbery committed at sea, without a commission from a sovereign nation. It is interesting that the golden age of pirates began after the naval wars between England, Spain and France. Many pirates who have looted ships in the name of their king before now did the same for their own sake, because the state pirates were no longer suited for the new politics. The royal empire created it’s own terrorists, just like the USA created it’s own terrorists today.

It is the same mechanism we discussed earlier in Terror as Unintended Consequence:

  • an empire or superpower first delivers weapons and
    military knowledge to autonomous parties or groups in
    instable regions (here a kingdom which supports pirates),
  • then the autonomous parties succeed in their
    conflict, fight or resistance against something
    (they loot the foreign ships successfully).
  • Times have changed and the autonomous parties
    do something that is not intended by the superpower
    (for instance they loot ships of the crown).
  • Finally the superpower turns against the autonomous
    parties, threatens them or tries to eliminate them
    (the king uses the royal navy to eliminate the pirates).

(Image from Wikipedia)

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