Piracy on the high seas? Bring in the Marines!
(August 23, 2021 / JNS) Where have we seen this movie before? A Muslim country repeatedly attacks and hijacks ships in international waters to extract concessions. Today I hear the same cry that was proclaimed at the beginning of the 19th century.
Although the United States has been weakened by years of war and tribulation, its great leader and president proclaimed: “Millions for defense, but not a dime for homage.”
What can we learn from our historic confrontation with Islamic attempts to “shake up” the Western world that would be equally relevant today, as Iran attempts similar behavior on the high seas?
The year 1801 was not a good time for the United States to face an aggressive enemy thousands of miles away. She had just emerged victorious, but almost bankrupt and exhausted, from the War of Independence.
In the late 1700s, the Barbary states of Tripoli, Algiers, Morocco and Tunis demanded tribute from the United States to prevent them from attacking American commercial shipping. The capture and enslavement of the crew of the USS Philadelphia by Tripoli has appalled most Americans. But it also had a religious connotation, as Brian Kilmeade explains in his book, Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates: The Forgotten War That Changed American History.
In 1786, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams went to London to negotiate with the envoy from Tripoli, Ambassador Sidi Haji Abdrahaman. They question him on “the basis of the claims to make war on nations which have done them no harm”.
He replied: “It was written in their Koran that all the nations which had not recognized the Prophet were sinners, that it was the right and the duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that any Muslim killed in this war was sure to go to Heaven.
In other words, Christian sailors were a fair and straightforward game. According to American historian Robert Davis, between 1 and 1.25 million Europeans were captured by Barbary pirates and sold as slaves between the 16th and 19th centuries.
European powers, over time, have learned to “live with the problem” by associating the payment of a ransom with an occasional altercation. Overall, France, Spain, the Netherlands and the UK capitulated to the belligerent Islamic demands as they decided there was more fish to whip and face the terror in high seas was not worth it. Just pay tribute and pass it on to customers.
Then came the new kid on the block. The United States had at the time no navy or standing army. Exhausted by the conflict for independence, America’s leaders turned inward to focus on domestic issues.
But the Barbary pirates saw this weakness as an advantage and therefore took it up a notch by hijacking and imprisoning American ships and crews sailing in the Mediterranean. The advice of American counterparts in Europe, especially the French, was to accept this as a reality and pay the toll.
The European surrender should sound familiar to us even today, as EU High Representative Enrique Mora attended the swearing-in ceremony of Ebrahim “the Butcher of Tehran” Raisi in early August as President from Iran.
The details of America’s attempts to tackle the scourge would take a book to describe (and it does). So, to sum up, the United States tried to negotiate to eliminate the problem. The only problem was that the Barbary states (the earliest example of an Islamic State sponsoring terrorism to my knowledge) did not view negotiated agreements as requiring respect, especially when dealing with non-Muslims.
In September 1795, American negotiator Joseph Donaldson signed a “peace treaty” with the Dey of Algiers which provided for an initial payment of $ 642,500 — a lot of money at the time — for the release of American captives, expenses and various gifts for the royal family of Dey. court and family. To spice it up, there was an indefinite annual tribute of $ 21,600 in shipbuilding supplies and ammunition. The treaty, designed to prevent further piracy, allowed the release of 115 American sailors held captive by the Dey.
Adding to the audacity, just after Jefferson’s inauguration as president in 1801, Yusuf Karamanli, the Pasha of Tripoli, demanded $ 225,000 (equivalent to $ 3.5 million in 2020) from the new administration. Diverting the imagination, there was a long-standing tradition that if a government or consulate was changed, the government would have to pay for “consular” gifts, in gold or in goods.
Arguing that paying homage would encourage more attacks, Jefferson refused the request and the Karamanli declared war on the United States. The third president felt that military force, rather than endless tributes, would be needed to resolve the Tripoli crisis.
This ultimately led to the formation of the United States Department of the Navy and Marines (the Marine Anthem, “To the shores of Tripoli,” refers to the First Barbary War, and more specifically the Battle of Derna in 1805), to prevent further attacks on American ships and to end demands for extremely large tributes from the Barbary States. In fact, we have to thank these Muslim countries for pushing the United States out of its isolationist torpor.
America’s response was unambiguous and based on the projection of force, not surrender. After two Barbary Wars, the terror on the seas has been defeated (we thought) from the Muslim countries, once and for all. It is the American tradition; it’s the American way.
Which brings us to the latest attempt to intimidate Western powers with terror, hijacking and murder on the high seas. Again, merchant ships are under attack from Iran, while most European powers are attacking. their best to look away.
British and Romanian citizens are being murdered in cold blood – unrelated to a conflict in the Middle East – and you can already see the worthless breast shots at work. Again, we have Islamic religious connotations to the conflict that belies simple negotiations. Accepting and welcoming this kind of terror and piracy does not work.
With this re-reading of history, we hope the United States has, once again, a similar response: millions for defense, but not a dime for tribute!
Samuel H. Solomon is committed to defending human rights in defense of democracies and has founded several non-profit organizations to tackle this problem. He holds an MBA in finance, a master’s degree in philosophy and a theological ordination. He can be reached at https://sam-solomon.com and [email protected]