do we need another Lieutenant Decatur or Thomas Jefferson?

prior to Thomas Jefferson’s inauguration in 1801, tribute to the Barbary pirates had consumed as much as twenty percent of the US government’s revenues. with his accession to the Presidency, the United States stopped paying off the pirates, leading to war with the Barbary states.

in February, 1804 Lt. Stephen Decatur, Jr. led a small force of sailors and Marines into Tripoli harbour in an attempt to recapture the USS Philadelphia from Barbary pirates. though they were not able to cut out the vessel, they did destroy her, denying a valuable asset to the Pasha of Tripoli.

now the industrialized world is in a similar situation to that of Europe and the US prior to the Barbary Wars; the shipping in an important part of the sea lanes is beset by pirate gangs, seizing whatever vessels they can to ransom. the United Nations Security Council has unanimously called on member states with military power in the region to use that power to suppress these pirates.

but ships are still being taken, with their crews and cargoes held for ransom.

i feel that, like England, France and the US in the 1800s, it is time for the affected states to act proactively. states without the ability to project military power overseas, such as Saudi Arabia, Japan and the UAE, could contribute financially to support amphibious operations by the local and world powers like China, India and the US. not only would this provide relief from the predations of pirates (and the costs of hiring mercenary guards), it would provide an opportunity for civilized (though competing) powers to work together for mutual benefit.

of course, none of this will solve Somalia’s underlying problems. but i’m not sure that outsiders can do much for Somalia, given how ineffectual UNOSOM I and II were. yet one country’s internal problems is no reason for the world (or innocent sailors) to suffer.

quote of the day:

“Millions for defense, not one cent for tribute.” – Robert Goodloe Harper


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