The US has ships assigned to the task, and the European Union earlier this month launched Operation Atlanta, a naval mission that will put ships from EU-member navies in waters off the Horn of Africa. China, whose cargo vessels have come under attack, said this week it may participate in the global antipiracy effort.
This year alone, pirates off the Somali coast in East Africa have hijacked at least 70 vessels and extorted more than $150 million in ransom. The spectacular rise in piracy off Somalia has made the Gulf of Aden – an economic lifeline used for shipping a substantial portion of the world's oil – the most dangerous waterway on earth, according to the Piracy Reporting Center, part of the International Maritime Bureau.
UN authorization to pursue pirates onto Somali territory – where they find haven in ungoverned ports – provides a new tool for counterpiracy efforts. It does little, though, to address conditions that allow pirates to flourish.
"Piracy is a symptom," Rice said, "of the instability, the poverty, the lawlessness that have plagued Somalia for the past two decades."
The Security Council and the broader international community seem unprepared to address the problems that make Somalia a failed state.
The US had hinted that it would seek the creation of a UN peacekeeping force for Somalia, to head off a slide into deeper chaos there. But stiff opposition, in particular from UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, led the US to shelve the idea – although Rice suggested that the US may ask the Security Council to create such a force before year's end.
Mr. Ban's resistance to the US proposal stems from the fact that he can find no UN members willing to lead what would be a dangerous and complicated mission.