Ronald Reagan once asked Mikhail Gorbachev to imagine that there was “suddenly a threat to this world from some other species, from another planet”. The late American president speculated that this would ensure “we would forget all the little local differences that we have between our countries”.
We are still waiting for the Martian invasion that will test Reagan’s theory. But, in the absence of little green men, it has fallen to Somali pirates to provide the common enemy that unites the nations of the world. An extraordinary international flotilla is patrolling the waters off Somalia, in an effort to stop attacks on the 30,000 ships that pass through the Gulf of Aden every year. Warships from countries as diverse and mutually suspicious as the US, China, Iran and Japan are policing this crucial international waterway. The largest of three international taskforces is run by the European Union and commanded by a British admiral operating from a headquarters in nearby north London. All the various navies, except the Iranians’, co-ordinate their operations at regular meetings.