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History Lessons Barack and Hillary Never Learned

Can you imagine FDR expressing any sensitivity to the 3rd Reich about the rich German Jews making too much profit at the expense of other Germans? Would JFK speak to the Soviet Union expressing sensitivity about the Ukrainian farmers who are not working hard enough to give food to be distributed to the other Soviets? They both had their differences with their political opponents on domestic spending and taxing, but they knew their history with respect to foreign adversaries.

Christopher Hitchens wrote a column, Jefferson Versus the Muslim Pirates, that provides an example of a confrontation Thomas Jefferson and John Adams had in 1785 with a muslim. Below is an excerpt.

One immediate effect of the American Revolution, however, was to strengthen the hand of those very same North African potentates: roughly speaking, the Maghrebian provinces of the Ottoman Empire that conform to today’s Algeria, Libya, Morocco, and Tunisia. Deprived of Royal Navy protection, American shipping became even more subject than before to the depredations of those who controlled the Strait of Gibraltar. American ships were pirated and their Christian crews enslaved by Muslim pirates operating under the control of the “Dey of Algiers”—an Ottoman Islamist warlord ruling Algeria.

What Jefferson heard when he went with John Adams to wait upon Tripoli’s ambassador to London in March 1785. When they inquired by what right the Barbary states preyed upon American shipping, enslaving both crews and passengers, America’s two foremost envoys were informed that “it was written in the Koran, that all Nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon whoever they could find and to make Slaves of all they could take as prisoners, and that every Mussulman who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise.”

Ambassador Abd Al-Rahman did not fail to mention the size of his own commission, if America chose to pay the protection money demanded as an alternative to piracy. So here was an early instance of the “heads I win, tails you lose” dilemma, in which the United States is faced with corrupt regimes, on the one hand, and Islamic militants, on the other—or indeed a collusion between them.

It seems likely that Jefferson decided from that moment on that he would make war upon the Barbary kingdoms as soon as he commanded American forces.

It is certain that the Barbary question had considerable influence on the debate that ratified the United States Constitution in the succeeding years. Many a delegate, urging his home state to endorse the new document, argued that only a strong federal union could repel the Algerian threat. In The Federalist No. 24, Alexander Hamilton argued that without a “federal navy . . . of respectable weight . . . the genius of American Merchants and Navigators would be stifled and lost.” In No. 41, James Madison insisted that only union could guard America’s maritime capacity from “the rapacious demands of pirates and barbarians.” John Jay, in his letters, took a “bring-it-on” approach; he believed that “Algerian Corsairs and the Pirates of Tunis and Tripoli” would compel the feeble American states to unite, since “the more we are ill-treated abroad the more we shall unite and consolidate at home.” The eventual Constitution, which provides for an army only at two-year renewable intervals, imposes no such limitation on the navy.

One hundred years later the British empire had a confrontation in the muslim world that conforms to today’s Sudan. The Soudan region had long been a bastion of slavery. It was controlled principally by slave-trading Arab tribes who gained dominance and enslaved much of the negro population. When Egypt first came to dominate the region in about 1819, it merely taxed the slave-trade, and did nothing to oppose slavery or the abuses of the chieftains. As Britain gained ascendency over Egypt, it pressured the Egyptian khedives to prohibit slavery. The Mahdi, also known as Muhammad Ahmad, was a self-proclaimed prophet whose base of support was Arab traders, who were angry over the efforts of the Egyptian-British government to abolish slavery. source Historian, Alfred Egmont Hake, wrote The Death of General Gordon at Khartoum, 1885. Below is an excerpt.

In I882 Mohammed Ahmed, who called himself the Mahdi or Messiah, invited all true believers to join in a holy war against the Christians. Thousands of wild tribesmen flocked to his banner, and in the following year he annihilated an army of eleven thousand English and Egyptians that had attempted to subdue the revolt. Rather than send more soldiers to die in the deserts of the Upper Nile, England decided to abandon the province. But first the thousands of Europeans who had taken refuge in Khartoum and other towns of the Soudan must be rescued from their perilous position. In this crisis the Government turned to the one man who could effect the withdrawal if it was still possible, and in January, 1884, appointed General Gordon to superintend the evacuation of the Soudan.

To get these people out of Khartoum was General Gordon’s first duty, and the first condition of evacuation was the establishment of a stable government in the Soudan. The only man who could establish that government was Zebehr. Gordon demanded Zebehr with ever-increasing emphasis, and his request was decisively refused. He had then two alternatives—either to surrender absolutely to the Mahdi, or to hold on to Khartoum at all hazards. While Gordon was strengthening his position the Mahdi settled the question by suddenly assuming the offensive.

Meanwhile, his efforts to negotiate with the Mahdi failed. “I will make you Sultan of Kordofan,” he had said on arrival to the Mahdi. “I am the Mahdi,” replied Mahomet Ahmet, by emissaries who were “exceedingly cheeky,” keeping their hands upon their swords, and laying a filthy, patched dervish’s coat before him. “Will you become a Mussulman?” Gordon flung the bundle across the room, canceled the Mahdi’s sultanship, and the war was renewed.

On January 26, Faraz Pasha opened the gates of the city to the enemy, and one of the most famous sieges
in the world’s history came to a close. It had lasted from March 12 to January 26—exactly three hundred and twenty days.

When Gordon awoke to find that, through the treachery of his Egyptian lieutenant, Khartoum was in the hands of the Mahdi, he set out with a few followers for the Austrian consulate. Recognized by a party of rebels, he was shot dead on the street and his head carried through the town at the end of a pike, amid the wild rejoicings of the Mahdi’s followers. Two days later the English army of relief reached Khartoum.

Anything more utterly absurd than the accusation that Gordon forced fighting on the Mahdi cannot be conceived. He acted uniformly on the defensive, merely trying to clear his road of an attacking force, and failing because he had no fighting men to take the offensive. He found himself in a trap, out of which he could not cut his way. If he had possessed a single regiment, the front of Khartoum might have been cleared with ease; but his impotence encouraged the Arabs, and they clustered round in ever-increasing numbers, until at last they crushed his resistance.

The bold highlighted portions of these excerpts is intended to point out how necessary it is for US foreign policy to be the “Don’t tread on me” posture of a defense hawk. The realist approach is way too soft, and only serves to encourage our foreign adversaries. It only cracks them up to hear this “I feel your pain” language. They say to each other “Heh, you don’t feel our pain – yet.”

The neo-con approach is way too extended and far reaching. The US does not have the ability to come to the rescue in every part of the world where people are abused. Our country won our independence only after enduring years of abuse from the Brits. This movement for our own independence had to come from within, and not initiated by another nation.

I am retired after 36 years of being a state of Indiana employee. I enjoy writing and reading conservative blogs.


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    • I really like the way Dick Cheney put it

      There comes a time when deceit and defiance must be seen for what they are. At that point, a gathering danger must be directly confronted. At that point, we must show that beyond our resolutions is actual resolve.

    • I really like the way Dick Cheney put it

      There comes a time when deceit and defiance must be seen for what they are. At that point, a gathering danger must be directly confronted. At that point, we must show that beyond our resolutions is actual resolve.

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