The further to the left or the right you move, the more your lens on life distorts.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Plan D

Sam Ser of The Jerusalem Post (hat tip: The Belmont Club) relates the following story:
The meeting in London was doomed from the outset. The Arab strongman's envoy held all the cards - three craft had already been hijacked, their passengers and crew held hostage in an inhospitable and almost unreachable land. The American ambassador knew the ransom demand would be high, but even he could not have imagined just how exorbitant it would be. To meet it would require one-tenth of America's annual budget.

Lest the adventurous Yanks dare to contemplate a military attack to rescue their captured comrades, Abd al-Rahman al-Ajar provided a most unpleasant revelation: the Koran declares that any nation that does not bow to the authority of the Muslims is sinful, and it is the right and duty of Muslims to make war upon it and take prisoner any of its people they may find. Further, any Muslim slain in battle against such an enemy would be promised a place in Paradise.

"We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever," the furious but helpless ambassador relayed to his government. Congress would authorize no such fight, however, and voted instead to pay the ransom.

And that is how America first capitulated to Arab terrorism, some 220 years ago.

In a discussion of this, Wretchard of The Belmont Club comments:
It's now forgotten that capitulation didn't work. Simply didn't work. The Barbary Pirates raised their demands until the Pashas were taking nearly 20 per cent of Federal Revenue. But in the beginning the policy of appeasement seemed perfectly [fine]. The initial extortion demand of $70,000 was far smaller than the astronomical $2 million dollars requested by Thomas Jefferson to build a Navy [to defeat the Muslim pirates]. In the end it proved cheaper to crush them.
Rather quickly, American ships bring the North Africans to heel, cementing the United States' role as a power broker in the Middle East. Before he revised it in the War of 1812, Francis Scott Key's "Star-Bangled Banner" - which would become the American national anthem - described "turbaned heads bowed" to the "brow of the brave." No longer weak, then, America invites no more insults. Strengthened, in fact, it begins to deliver a few of its own.

Those who refuse to learn from history … and all that.

Of course, as Wretchard rightly notes, it’s 200 years later and much has changed. It is intriguing to note however, that our attempts to democratize the Middle East in the early 1800s (and to convert Moslems to Christianity) were doomed from the onset.

From Sam Ser:
"Might as well attempt to convert bricks into bride-cake as the Orientals into Christians," author Herman Melville snipes in his account of his Middle East travels.

So let’s recapitulate. History informs us that appeasement will not work. It also suggests that isolationism will not work. It further indicates that negotiation with Islam is a one way street -– all give, no take – and that agreements defined in terms of Western values are meaningless.

Wretchard comments further:
Today we are told that it is America's support for despots and authoritarian regimes in the Middle East that incites hatred against it. In the next breath one is assured that a military response to today's terrorists will raise all of Islam against us. Finally we are assured that the certain cultures are irredeemable and that any attempts to "bring Democracy to the Middle East" are an exercise in folly. Those are Plans A, B and C. Are there any Plan D's?

Indeed, are there any plan D’s?