From Roman efforts to destroy pirate fleets in the Mediterranean in the first century BCE, to American counter-piracy patrols off the Horn of Africa in recent times, powerful maritime states have at times intervened militarily to suppress piracy. Despite the considerable scholarly interest in examining how powerful states go about suppressing piracy, however, there has been little in-depth examination of why these states are willing to expend resources combating piracy in the first place. When this question is addressed, counter-piracy efforts are usually portrayed as the provision of the global public goods of secure sea lanes and universal access to the global maritime commons. As a result, counter-piracy is presented as a quintessential example of hegemonic power at work in the international system. Through an analysis of the United States’ efforts to combat maritime piracy in the western Indian Ocean between 2008 and 2014, this chapter examines the question: why and under what conditions do maritime hegemons intervene militarily to suppress piracy? The findings presented here challenge the standard provision of global public goods explanation; instead, this chapter demonstrates that the United States intervened when fighting Somali pirates was perceived as linked to other achieving other vital national security interests, such as combating terrorism.
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