Thursday, January 28, 2016

Shores of Tripoli

When I studied history in school, I never remember learning about the Barbary Wars. In fact, I always thought the Barbary Coast was referring to California. When I went into the army I learned about the history of the 2nd Armored Division, but that is all the history they taught us. I suspect if you were in the Marine Corps, they taught the entire history of the corps. I wish we spent more time on history as it actually happened, but as time passes the trend in education is more toward recent history. Or in some cases, the history taught in schools is to persuade children that they are racists living in an evil country. Well, I do not think that and I do not believe that. Because of time constraints there is not enough time to cover our entire history in school. Supplementary literature is required.

The Strait of Gibraltar was and is the gateway from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mediterranean Sea. The Muslim countries in North Africa were financed by pirates stealing ships, ships’ cargo and ransoming sailors held as slaves. You see, the Koran made it completely legal to steal from and enslave non-Muslims. The perpetrators were Morocco, Algiers, Tunis and Tripoli and their northern Coast is called the Barbary Coast.

Most countries that sailed through the Strait of Gibraltar paid tribute to the rulers of these countries, so they would not pirate their ships. The problem for us was, the price of tribute and ransom kept rising and being a brand new country, the United States of America had no money to pay. We had merchant ships taken and their crews used as slaves until ransom was paid.

The “…shores of Tripoli” and the Barbary War is significant history to the US Navy and Marines. At the turn of the 19th century, John Adams had let our navy diminish in size from what he inherited from the George Washington presidency.

Since the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson had been involved with our government and these pirates were always a sore spot. When he succeeded John Adams as president, he set out on a plan to stop the pirating. Remember all the trading nations of the world were paying tribute to the Muslims. This pacifist position lead to more pirates and more ships’ crews in slavery. The very idea of paying these slavers rankled Jefferson and he wanted to set things right. First he had to rebuild the navy. Then he had to get competent commanders in place. Our navy and marines were able to stop the pirates, but instead of allowing our military victory to stand and freeing the slaves by force, a representative of the state department paid tribute to the Muslims.

During the War of 1812 the Muslims took advantage and again started pirating American merchant vessels. Soon after the War was over, President James Madison used force and stopped the pirating of our ships for over 100 years.

Does any of this sound familiar to you. It is kind of the situation we are in today. Pacifist leadership leads to more evil-doers, not less. ISIS is a great example. The balance between the Department of State and the military objectives is always contentious.  Pacifists will never learn. The only peace possible is peace through strength.

I highly recommend the book, “Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates” by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager. It is a great history supplement told as an invigorating narrative. They tell the story much better than I have summarized here.


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