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The second historical case involves the United States in its early nationhood, the Barbary pirates, and spanned a period from 1784 to 1815. Soon after the successful conclusion of the American Revolution in 1783, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams, and Ben Franklin were commissioned by Congress in 1784 to go and investigate the marketing potential of U.S. commercial products in Europe and the Mediterranean world. The first major impediment to American commerce in and around the Mediterranean that the congressional delegates encountered was piracy against U.S. merchant ships carried out by international outlaws under the sponsorship and protection of Muslim rulers of “statelets” along the North African coast. From his vantage point in Europe, Jefferson learned that the “pirates” were not buccaneers in the traditional sense in that they didn’t drink or chase women or simply desire the accumulation of booty, instead their motivation was “religious” in carrying out Islamic jihad. The Muslim sailors, preying on innocent non-Muslim seafarers, called themselves “mujahideen” (strugglers in the cause of Islam) and not pirates. We recall this nomenclature arising among the Afghan fighters who first struggled with the Soviet army.
The Muslim pirates looted merchant ships and used their ill-gotten gains to procure cannons, guns, ammunition, and ships to further their jihadist cause. In accordance with the religious instructions contained in the “noble” Qur’an, they also captured, ransomed, and traded in slaves from the looted merchant vessels. The American congressional delegates in Paris also learned the way in which the European powers like Britain, France, and Spain dealt with the Barbary pirates’ threat to their commerce: to pay mafia-like protection money to the Muslim rulers of the “Maghreb” (“Land of Sunset” – that is, looking west from Cairo on Islamic conquests). For context, the Maghreb takes in the modern-day states of Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, and Libya. Although opposed by Thomas Jefferson, in 1784, Congress decided to follow the lead of the Europeans and appropriated $80,000 as “tribute” to the Barbary States of the Maghreb, and it then instructed Jefferson, as Ambassador to France, and John Adams, as Ambassador to Britain, to undertake negotiations with the Tripolitan ambassador to Britain to obtain safe passage and to buy immunity from the jihadist piracy for American merchantmen in the Mediterranean and Atlantic.
When these two future presidents questioned the Tripolitan ambassador why the Barbary States were attacking U.S. vessels in light of no provocative or hostile American actions, he replied that the mujahideen were acting on the instructions of the Prophet Mohammed to make war on all who did not worship Allah and acknowledge the authority of his prophet. Jefferson and Adams were further informed that every Muslim killed in these attacks went immediately to Paradise. This now rings as déjà vu to those of us now living through this reinvigorated jihad in the 21st century.
From that meeting in 1784 until 1815, when Commodores William Bainbridge and Stephen Decatur won naval victories that led to treaties finally ending all U.S. tribute payments to the Barbary States, the American nation paid appeasement bribes off and on for 31 years. Additionally, during this period there had been a four-year war (1801-05) against the Barbary States during the first Jefferson term of presidency. So, once again the conclusion established by the preponderance of the evidence is upon us: the Americans’ negotiated payment of protection money cost the U.S. millions in appeasement bribes and resulted in two Mediterranean wars. Finally, we have what is far more conclusive with the historical record open before us. The U.S. Government ended the extortion payments in 1815 by winning a war against the Barbary jihadists, a course of action Thomas Jefferson had initially advised the nation to take in 1784.
Tuesday, January 16, 2007
This is part of a much longer analysis by David Yerushalmi as to why Appeasement (clothed as "Convergence") doesn't work when either of the parties in the conflict are (irrationally) unreasonable. What makes the argument powerful is the consistent historical proofs that he brings to support it. The eye opener for me was the realization that the episode of the Barbary Pirates of 1784 to 1815 was really a Jihadist initiative! Read on!