Affirmative: Neptune’s Navy: A Navy by any Other Name…
Are Transnational NGOs true champions of protecting nature acting in the public interest, or are they just another political action group acting on behalf of state interests? Research is as divided over what transnational NGOs are. Greenpeace and the Sea Shepard Society are controversial, raising questions about the legality, the response and actual achievements of symbolic campaigns.
But, governments and Naval officers increasingly question the purpose of groups like Greenpeace and their naval fleets. Papers like, The Para-Navies of the 21st century highlight the complexity of the subject and little examined aspect of non-linear, asymmetrical warfare. By simple appearance the war-like, distinctive naval patterns does pose the question if well-meaning activism is going ‘overboard’, departing from the traditional non-violent action campaigns at all costs.
Courts views are relatively straightforward on the subject,
“…..On 25 February 2013, the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth District ruled that the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society is a pirate organization. “When you ram ships,” the opinion noted, “hurl containers of acid; drag metal-reinforced ropes in the water to damage propellers and rudders; launch smoke bombs and flares with hooks; and point high-powered lasers at other ships, you are, without a doubt, a pirate.” Beyond the fact that they have modified the skull and crossbones to a skull and tridents as their logo, a legal case can be made to brand them as pirates.”
Comments made in one blog forum reflects the position of the Sea Shepard. According to Paul Watson, his officers are subjected to laws of the flag, that is the laws of the Netherlands, Australia and the United States.
The paper written by Claude Berube at the U.S. Naval Academy pointed out the deliberate purpose,
“…Greenpeace, the Sea Shepherds’ older, but slightly more docile sister organization, has also engaged in aggressive tactics throughout its history. These deliberate acts are designed primarily to draw attention to a cause. In some cases, they are meant to invoke an intentional reaction, or better still, over-reaction, by corporate entities or maritime law enforcement agencies, coast guards, or navies…”
Should Transnational NGOs be viewed as non-state actors, executing an asymmetrical war strategy in particular if one of the boats has ramming capabilities? Do the Transnational NGOs fall under the Laws of Warfare since the groups themselves declare their actions as “navy” and part of “warfare”, “warriors”, and as evidence seen in past actions, have executed criminal acts of destruction of private property?
Buccaneers, or activists with a cause, the new naval forces of non-state actors will remain controversial. The original article by Chris Rawley and Claude Berube can be found here and here and here and here.