I notice that Islamic piracy is back on the rise on the world stage. Europe was held hostage at the mercy of Islamic pirates in its Mediterranean shipping for centuries from the Crusades to the 1800s. Every European naval power paid the Islamic pirates of those days (North African corsairs from the Barbary States) an annual tribute to not harass their shipping. Like protection money to the mob, it worked, but it didn’t give the criminals any incentive to forsake piracy; it just created a supply and demand cycle which ensured the survival of piracy as a thorn in one’s flesh.
When America was a young nation, during the Jefferson administration, we declared war on the Barbary States because of their harassment of American shipping. In those days the pirates took crew and passengers hostage and demanded ransom for their return (sound familiar?), or, if they could not get ransom, the Americans were enslaved.
The war lasted for a few years, with a flareup again after the War of 1812, and produced many exciting episodes and courageous heroes. But the long and the short of it was, bold and decisive action – such as pointing loaded cannons at the equivalent of the presidential palace and demanding the release of every American captive or else — and a willingness to spend millions for defense but not one cent for tribute, ended the hostilities in our favor rather quickly. When the Barbary States saw that piracy was no longer profitable, the former pirates soon found employment in other professions.
We used to know how to handle pirates, Islamic and otherwise, as well as every other sort of terrorist and thug. As my mother would say when I asked her as a new mother myself, how to enforce parental authority with my toddlers (a small type of terrorist and thug, if they are allowed to be), “You have to make the consequence of the action greater than the benefit.” Simple economics. Let’s hope we remember our history.