Friday, April 10, 2009
A World Turned Upside Down
From MOGADISHU (Reuters) comes this update regarding the ongoing story of a world turned upside down. The worlds strongest most technologically advanced navy stands by as Somalia pirates hold American Sea Captain Richard Phillips hostage in a stranded lifeboat. Phillips attempt to escape under the watchful eyes of the Navy was thwarted by the pirates when they opened fire and Phillips swam back to the boat. The silence is deafening as the world awaits to see what the U.S. Navy will do. This final passage of the news account reveals how far our nation has come from the days of Thomas Jefferson and his response to the Barbary pirates in the first decade of the 19th century.
The hijackings brought a massive international response, with ships from the United States, Europe, China, Japan and others flocking to the region to protect the sea routes.
Maritime groups say the likeliest outcome from the U.S. hostage saga is a negotiated solution, possibly involving safe passage in exchange for the captive.
U.S. Somalia expert Ken Menkhaus said the best outcome would be for the German ship to be allowed to pick up Phillips and his captors and take them to shore, and for a ransom to be paid for the American.
"It would mean no loss of life and no risk to the lives of the other hostages. And at the end of the day an insurance company would be out $2 million -- probably just $1 million after negotiations," Menkhaus said.
Just read the comments of Mr. Menkhaus to get an idea of how impotent we have become as a nation that is so risk averse that we would gladly pay a ransom to solve a problem and avoid bloodshed. We are behaving just like the Europeans did in the early 19th century when after the United States defeated the pirates in two wars, continued to pay ransoms into the 1830's.
It is even more ironic that the ship tasked standing by is named after Captain William Bainbridge, who himself became a hostage of the pirates when his ship the USS Philadelphia, ran aground.
The United States went on to fight the Barbary Wars which consisted of the First Barbary War and Second Barbary War, ending for once and for all the taking of American ships by pirates, that is until last week, when President Obama finds himself faced with the same problem that Thomas Jefferson confronted two hundred years ago.
Christopher Hitchens wrote this article found in City Journal about how Jefferson dealt with the Barbary Pirates. Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates.
In his final paragraph Hitchens quotes Kipling who consuls against any nation falling victim to paying tribute.
Kipling runs briskly through the stages of humiliation undergone by any power that falls for this appeasement, and concludes:
It is wrong to put temptation in the path of any nation,
For fear they should succumb and go astray;
So when you are requested to pay up or be molested,
You will find it better policy to say:
—“We never pay any-one Dane-geld,
No matter how trifling the cost;
For the end of that game is oppression and shame,
And the nation that plays it is lost!”
It may be fortunate that the United States had to pass this test, and imbibe this lesson, so early in its life as a nation.
One would hope that our nation does not forget the lesson learned early on our history, because if so if portends we have become the colossal elephant, who can not scratch the flea.