Crossville Chronicle, Crossville, TN

October 29, 2012

STUMPTALK: Jefferson and the pasha

By Ted La Vaque
Chronicle contributor

CROSSVILLE — One of the results of the Revolution was that, as a new autonomous country, the United States lost British naval protection on the high seas. Lacking a navy for protection, American commercial seamen were at the mercy of unscrupulous governments and pirates. The “Barbary pirates” were a particularly onerous lot. The Barbary regime (today roughly Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia) regarded itself to be entitled to demand tribute from nations to sail undisturbed through the Strait of Gibraltar. Many American commercial ships were taken and, as was the practice of the day, captured seamen and passengers were sold into slavery. In 1785 John Adams and Thomas Jefferson met with the ambassador from Tripoli in London (Abd Al-Rahman) to inquire how Tripoli justified the piratical activities.

They reported his response thusly: “It was written in the Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners and that every Mussulman (note: Muslim) who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.” That is identical to Iranian Ahmadinejad’s stupid, arrogant primitive rant in 2012.

Jefferson was particularly aggravated by the interference with free trade and the arrogance of the “Mussulman” regime that combined religion and government … exactly as medieval regimes such as Iran do today with Sharia law. Adams thought it better to avoid war and pacify the pirates. Soon the tribute demanded approached 10 percent of the American national budget. There continued to be political disagreement in America regarding the Barbary pirates until, in 1801, the pasha of Tripoli wanted increased tribute from America and so declared war. Big mistake! Tripoli was heavily bombarded by the new Marines that Jefferson had sent. In 1802 Congress passed legislation allowing Jefferson to direct the navy to have a permanent presence in the Mediterranean. This time it was Morocco that declared war. Tripoli captured the U.S.S.  Philadelphia. This resulted in yet another attack on Tripoli with the Americans blowing up the Philadelphia and again heavily damaging the harbor and its defenses. In 1805 William Eaton and a detachment of Marines marched on Tripoli from Egypt and attacked from land. This resulted in yet another treaty which resulted in the release of the Philadelphia’s crew and a settlement of the tribute problem. 

In 1815 Omar Pasha thought that America had been weakened by the war of 1812 and resumed the piracy and demands for tribute. He awoke one morning to find the harbor filled with American ships sent by President Monroe and in time to see his ships being blown apart. He had to pay reparations and release all hostages. President Monroe wrote, “It is settled policy that as peace is better than war, war is better than tribute. The United States, while they wish for war with no nation, will buy peace with none.” We did not hear from the Mideast pashas for a very long time. Now, of course, “tribute” is given the euphemistic and politically less aggravating name of “foreign aid.” It seems that we, and most particularly Obama, have not learned from history and so of course are doomed to repeat it, but in this case it is nuclear threats from a medieval pasha rather than wooden frigates, and instead of the Strait of Gibraltar it is the Strait of Hormuz. Jefferson was, of course, quite correct in his assessment. More recent history clearly shows us that appeasement is not and never has been a successful foreign policy. We can put Obama in the same list of failed leaders with Neville Chamberlain, who sought to appease Hitler and announced he had obtained “peace in our time” by giving Hitler bits of Czechoslovakia for his demand for “lebensraum.” That lasted a matter of months.  Earlier, Woodrow Wilson’s League of Nations proved a complete failure. Obama will discover that an appeaser is simply one who feeds others to the crocodile in the hopes it will eat him last. Obama is no Jefferson. If we understand history, a vote for Obama is a vote for war. Let’s see, how does that go again? “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…..”