11/19/2008

Not the Pittsburgh Pirates


It is hard to believe that in 2008, international commerce is once again being threatened by Muslim pirates. Nearly two hundred years after the US victory in the Second Barbary War, merchant ships on the high seas off the coast of Somalia are being held for up to $10,000,000 in ransom.

At first, as a defenseless new nation, the United States was unable to respond to the illegal acts of the Barbary pirates. President Washington instructed his Ambassadors to France and England (who happened to be Thomas Jefferson and John Adams) to meet with the ambassador to England from Tripoli, Sidi Haji Abdul Rahman Adja. When the American ambassadors asked Adja why his government was hostile to the American ships, even though there had been no provocation, Adja responded by saying “It was written in the Koran that all nations which had not acknowledged the Prophet were sinners, whom it was the right and duty of the faithful to plunder and enslave; and that every mussulman who was slain in this warfare was sure to go to paradise.” Sound familiar?

With no seaborne military, our young nation decided that the only alternative was to pay financial tributes to the Barbary states. Despite these payments, the piracy did not stop. US ships were seized, their cargo was stolen and US merchant sailors were sold as Christians into slavery for Muslims. Finally, Congress acted and the United States Navy and the US Marine Corps were founded in response to the Barbary pirates and possible war with France. American victories in the First and Second Barbary Wars put an end to the practice of piracy in the Mediterranean.

Unfortunately, it does not seem that the world has learned its lesson. As of today, no major naval power has taken action against the Somali pirates. Neither the US Navy nor the Royal Navy have indicated that they will stop this practice. As a matter of fact, US Vice Admiral Bill Gortney, commander of the combined maritime forces, has said the merchant shipping companies are partially to blame for the latest incidents. He claims that they are traveling too close to the coast of Somalia. While this may be true, freedom of navigation in international waters is one of the main principals of international trade. This is similar to blaming a crime victim who was traveling through a bad neighborhood.

It is time for the civilized world to act. The major naval powers (meaning the United States and Great Britain) must stand up and say that freedom of passage in international waters is a right for all those engaged in legal commerce. Piracy will not be tolerated and those who engage in such activities will be held accountable. As the actions of the Washington administration proved, appeasement does not work. When will the world finally learn this lesson?
UPDATE: The Indian Navy, believe it or not, has engaged the pirates. It's amazing that a country like India will act, but that the US Navy and the Royal Navy are no where to be found.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

One quick correction: the US Marine Corps was actually founded in November 1775, not in response to the Barbary Pirates.

Steven L. Baerson said...

The Continental Marines were founded in 1775 and dispanded in 1783. In 1789, in preparation for war with France and in response to the Barbary Pirates, Congress authorized the US Navy and the US Marine Corps.

Anonymous said...

There is no distinction as far as Marines are concerned. The official birthdate is acknowledged as Nov 10, 1775. Sorry, point of pride. Now the Navy on the other hand....

Steven L. Baerson said...

anonymous, certainly I mean no disrespect to the Marines, either current or past. By the way, who are you? It's not as much fun when the comments are anonymous!

Rational said...

None taken...just making sure the history of my Corps is well represented. After three months in boot camp having my brain thoroughly washed I have all this knowledge that finds very few outlets to be displayed (anyone for a discourse on Gen. Smedley Butler?). Actually, I was a friend of Chalem's in college and only recently hooked up with him again (in only the most male and platonic of ways, of course). I have posted comments under the name rational... and wil continue to do so. I like the product...its as entertaining as anything else out there and we will certainly have a lot to comment on in the coming years.