Friday, January 19, 2007

Adams was right this time. Jefferson was wrong.

Tom Sampley wrote some pro-war stuff here about Thomas Jefferson.
Adams argued in favor of paying tribute as the cheapest way to get American commerce in the Mediterranean moving again. Jefferson was opposed. He believed there would be no end to the demands for tribute and wanted matters settled "through the medium of war." He proposed a league of trading nations to force an end to Muslim piracy.

I love Jefferson as much as the next man, but here Jefferson made a mistake. Why should the government be responsible for protecting private citizens abroad? The merchants can take responsiblity for their own risk in foreign waters instead of using their political influence to get government assistance. Why should they be allowed to externalize their risk and expect our poor Marines to bail them out when they get in trouble. Americans assume they can go anywhere in this dangerous world and be rescued by the government when something bad happens to them. This is one of the main reasons wars happen. Governments forcing one group of citizens (tax payers and soldiers) to protect another group that is taking risk for a chance of gain. Nothing wrong with taking risk for gain, but you should be responsible for your own actions. This still happens today when the government sends troops all over the world, often on secret missions, to protect national "interests". These interests are the interests of some private parties and of the politicians in bed with them. By this act, Jefferson joined the side of the Europeans in the centuries old drama between Europe and the Muslim world and set a precedent for us today. I wish he would have acted according to his other (later) sentiments: "We have a perfect horror at everything like connecting ourselves with the politics of Europe." Maybe Jefferson learned a different lesson from the Barbary Wars than Mr. Sampley wants us to believe.

This article (and Mr. Sampley's website) is heavily biased against Muslims. The Muslims had an amazing civilization based on trade when the Europe kings were still living like savages. It isn't their purpose in life to go around killing non-believers. From there point of view, Europeans have been invading their territory for thousands of years. Jefferson joined in late in the game. The key point in the article is where it states that Jefferson et al. learned that the Muslims were killing and capturing because the Kuran said to do so. This reason suits the American/European war mongers. I believe the reason was totally different. It was probably more in line with the reason Europeans and Americans captured slaves in Africa. Money. It was all driven by economics. Pirates don't go plunder because they are building up treasures in heaven. They want to sell their slaves for money or exact a tax from the merchants (like, ahem, goverments). And what problem did Jefferson solve with the "medium of war"? Is piracy gone? Is the world a safe place now? The article is just trying to justify offensive war and call it "defense". I think if Jefferson hadn't done anything and let natural market forces play out, then Americans either wouldn't have traded in the Mediterranean or would have charge higher prices to do so. The absence of trade would have been painful for the Americans, but it would have been painful for the trading partners just as much AND the pirates would have had to find something else to do. The terms for trade could have then been negotiated and piracy could have been dealt with using market forces.

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