Suspected pirates in Mombasa, Kenya, June 2009.
Joseph Okanga / Courtesy Reuters

Maritime piracy is by definition a crime of the sea, but one that has deep roots onshore. Pirates need safe havens that provide them with vessels and supplies—and, crucially, the means of getting their stolen goods to market.

Understanding this, governments have traditionally combatted piracy not only with warships, but also with boots on the ground. From ancient Rome to Qing dynasty China to seventeenth-century England, sovereign states have undermined pirates by uprooting coastal villages, burning boats, and executing collaborators. And that has been the case for the United States, too. In 1805, U.S. President Thomas Jefferson deployed a

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