With the 6th anniversary of 9/11 among us, as well as the imminent report on the status of the war from Gen. David Petraeus, the commander of U.S. troops in Iraq, America continues to face the fallout and frontlines of the war on terror.
Despite debates over the success of surges and the truths behind 9/11, one of the most significant deliberations remains how many Americans are still in denial about the depth and breadth of extremists’ hatred for our nation, liberties and way of life. Do people really think ceasing a war in Iraq will quench their fire to destroy our country?
Radical Muslims’ guile existed far before 9/11, and it will be there far after an Iraqi war. In fact, it was apparent from the beginning of our nation, as seen in the Barbary Powers Conflict, a confrontation between the five Barbary nations (Tripoli, Turkey, Tunis, Algiers and Morocco) and what they considered the “Christian nations” (England, Denmark, France, Spain and the new United States).
Though I am not a historian or a military strategist, I believe now is a good time to recall this 200 year-old lesson on extremist Muslim-American relations.
The tower of terror in the treaty of Tripoli
While the United States was mopping up from the Revolutionary War, it was also squaring off against largely Muslim pirates and countries in the Mediterranean. These sea bandits cruised the coastlines stealing cargo, destroying villages and enslaving millions of Africans and hundreds of thousands of Christian Europeans and Americans.
Because America was a newborn nation with relatively little naval defense, its merchant ships were exceptionally vulnerable to attack in and out of the Great Sea. America’s rebellion against Britain severed its protection by the Royal Navy. And while France helped some during the war, the U.S. was on its own as of about 1783. As a result, its cargo and seamen were captured, and our country’s leaders were forced to negotiate with the Mediterranean Muslim contingency.
In 1784, envoys began to be dispatched to secure peace and passage from the Barbary Powers. Treaties were made. Tributes and ransoms were paid. Our cargo and captives were freed. And our ships traveled safely. Over the next decade and a half, millions of dollars were given to these radicals – estimated at 20 percent of America’s income in 1800. (Despite that men like Thomas Jefferson argued vehemently against paying ransoms and tribute – he believed the only road to resolve would be “through the medium of war.”)
America’s first four presidents (Washington, Adams, Jefferson and Madison) all dealt with this East-West conflict of powers, though to varying degrees. Though numerous negotiations and treaties were made, including “the Treaty of Tripoli” in 1796-7, Tripoli (in present Libya) still declared war against the U.S. in 1801. It is sometimes called America’s first official war as a new nation.
So, shortly after his inauguration, President Jefferson declared America would spend “millions for defense but not one [more] cent for tribute.” As a result, he deployed Marines and warships to the region, which eventually led to the surrender of Tripoli in 1805. It would take another decade, however, to completely defeat the pirates.
America’s victory over these sea radicals is commemorated today in the Marine Hymn with the words, “From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli, we fight our country’s battles in the air, on land and sea.”
Diplomacy lessons from long ago
While I am neither an alarmist nor a pessimist, I do believe we need to hear the voice of our Forefathers before it is too late. They cry out from the Barbary Powers Conflict in hope of imparting some wisdom to us. As the adage goes, we will either learn from history’s mistakes or be doomed to repeat them.
1. Muslim extremists have always had a disdain for America. Before America was a new nation, Muslim extremists hated the West. When America was born, she was aligned with the Western (“Christian”) countries and therefore became an enemy of them as well. What we witness today in our relations with extremists is essentially no different than back then, except the stakes are much higher and more costly. Nothing will ultimately simmer their bitterness but our destruction or complete subservience. The fact is, our enemies know what America stands for, and they hate us because of it. Extreme Islam will always oppose us because they are threatened by our values and way of life; from our freedom of religion to the liberties of women, America’s inherent makeup is contrary to radical Islam’s core.
2. Negotiations and treaties don’t work with extremists and terrorists. Our primary problem today, again like back then, is not our lack of international relations or communications. Seeking to clear misperceptions about America might work with some, but not radicals and terrorists. Tribute and treaties are only a temporary temperance at best; they didn’t stop them from declaring war against us, and they won’t stop them now. In the Barbary Conflict we caved into their demands and empowered them in so doing. Paying them only encouraged further attacks. Negotiating with extremists and those who harbor and support them is still bad international business.
3. Once a religious war, always a religious war. Whether justified as vengeful sentiment for the Crusades or not, Islamo-fascism cannot see any argument or altercation with the West outside the lens of a religious one. In his April 8, 1805, journal entry, even Gen. William Eaton said of Muslim radicals, “We find it almost impossible to inspire these wild bigots with confidence in us or to persuade them that, being Christians, we can be otherwise than enemies to [Muslims]. We have a difficult undertaking!” To this day, extremists still view America as it did back then, as being packaged together with the other European countries and Muslim conquests of the Middle Ages. To them the jihad hasn’t begun but continues.
4. The best defense is a good offense. For 30 years, from roughly 1785 through 1815, America fought by sea and land Muslim extremists in the form of pirate slave traders. Today, that fight continues with Muslim pirates who capture our planes and use them as weapons.
In a post-9/11 age of globalization, multi-ethnic societies and possible suitcase nukes, containment is impossible. Pre-emption is still our best solution. Our offense must be as strong as our defense. It took military might, leadership ingenuity and fortitude, and national perseverance to win the day against those Muslim extremists 200 years ago. And it will take the same today. If it took our Forefathers 30 years to resolve the Muslim-American conflict then, do we think we can settle it in six?
Nothing new under the sun
Years before 9/11, we tragically forgot these and other similar history lessons, dropping our guard to a monumentally shocking end. When 3,000 innocent American citizens were brutally murdered by parasitic pirate counterparts, we were delivered a devastating wakeup call. We relearned the same lessons from the Barbary Powers Conflict: that despite negotiations and even bribes, Muslim extremists are still engaged with America in a jihad or holy war.
Islamo-facism continues to seek to rob us of our liberties, cripple us by fear and destroy our country. Proof is found by simply asking how many of us will still not fly on 9/11. They’ve stolen a day of liberty from our calendar. Let’s not allow them to seize another.
And they won’t – as long as we stay resilient, learn from the lessons of history and remember the God of 911, Psalm 91:1 that is, for “He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High will abide in the shadow of the Almighty.”
Above all, this truth still stands, “Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” (Psalm 33:12).
(Next week I’ll discuss how the Treaty of Tripoli is erroneously used by secularists and liberals to try to prove that we are not a Christian nation).