Friday, February 15, 2013

Jefferson's War

[from June 2009]
On the surface, the Tripolitan wars seem to be a close parallel to Bush's "War on Terror". Terrorist Arab 'quasi-states' are terrorizing the transportation sector. European appeasement of the terrorists provides nothing more than a brief respite. After one group serious wrongs America, the president sends a force to fight the terrorists. The initial public support starts to waver as the fighting drags on. However, with a final big show of force, Americans are able to "beat" one "warload" and leading the others to fall in line, providing a true peace that years of negotiations could not provide.
The detailed account of the Tripolitan war in this book helps to show the key differences under the surface. The Barbary pirates were operating in a well-established manner, adjacent to standard diplomacy. The prime goal was money rather than religion or ideology. The Tripolitan war was also drawn out primarily due to American bumbling (due to mistakes, incompetence, and lack of forces.)
This book, despite its subtitle, is an objective history of the Barbary wars, with little attempt to draw parallels to the present. It brings in clear understanding of the "shores of Tripoli" line of the Marine Hymn, and brings early Naval and Marine heroes in to their historical context. It makes clear that the United States of the time was an infant nation, still trying to find itself.
The narrative is pretty well done, though at times seems to jump around. Overall it is worth the read.

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