May 27, 2008

Learning the Lesson of Islamist Appeasement: The Barbary Pirates

Michael Weiss recounts the experience the Founding Fathers had with the Barbary Pirates in this PJM article. I'm sure most of you know the story of how the North African states extorted Western countries based upon Islamist principles, but it's important to remind ourselves that the Islamist war against the West (and everyone for that matter) is not a new one.

What I find interesting in the article is that in the early years of the Republic we actually did negotiate with the petty Islamist rulers of North Africa. In fact, one year we paid nearly 20% of the national budget as tribute in return for promises that US shipping would be left alone. The attacks didn't stop, of course. For as soon as we paid off one tyrant others demanded the same. Lesson learned?

If there is a lesson to be had in all this, it is that talk is not cheap in matters of geopolitics, and can be instructive in ways one hadn’t even considered.

But no commander-in-chief need be blind to the arrogance and intransigence of his foe, particularly when it is an Islamist one. (And Jefferson and Adams did not have to contend with a foe seeking the ultimate means of apocalypse.) Santayana got it backwards, in fact: even those who remember history are still doomed to repeat it.

That goes double for America’s involvement in the Middle East.

Is it better to be loved or feared? As Jefferson noted in justifying his undeclared war against North Africa, "It will procure us respect, and respect is a safeguard to interest."

By Rusty Shackleford, Ph.D. at 11:17 AM | Comments |