John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


From the Shores of Tripoli

Posted on September 10, 2013
Thomas Jefferson hated bargaining with terrorists.

In his day, the terrorists were pirates and they were based mostly in Tripoli, Algiers and other points in the Middle East.

It had long been a tradition in Mediterranean Sea for European powers to pay tribute to these Muslim brigands so that they wouldn’t take their ships and enslave their crew.

Ships from America had been protected by the British Empire and their system of payments, but that protection ended once the American Revolution ended.

Jefferson and John Adams were dispatched by George Washington to find a way to pay the pirates to end their pillaging of American shipping.

The United States Navy was founded principally because the Congress and the President were tired of having to pay the tributes to the Muslim pirates.

That’s probably why Jefferson got his first Koran, which is in the Library of Congress today.  He was trying to figure out these bastards who kept taking our ships and imprisoning our people.

When Jefferson became President, he said enough was enough, and he sent the newly formed Navy to punish the Barbary Pirates.  Interestingly, he didn’t ask for a declaration of War.  He merely asked that the Congress authorize that the Navy protect our interests in the region, which it did.

The first Marine raid was conducted on the “shores of Tripoli,” which just goes to show, we have been dealing with these characters in the Middle East for a long, long time.

Three different groups, numbering up to 5 million people, are theoretically going to be descending on the Nation’s Capitol tomorrow to celebrate (or mark) the 12th anniversary of the September 11th attacks.

The 9/11 attacks are still on the minds of many Americans, including the 5 million who are going to be coming to DC.   So, why wasn’t it on the mind of the President when he gave his speech tonight?

You would think it was a natural connection.

We have to keep the world safe from chemical weapons because we don’t want another attack on our soil like we had 12 years ago.

But the President decided not to go down that path, chiefly because the President wasn’t quite sure what he was asking the people what to do.

He warned that a failure to act would send the wrong signal to Bashar Assad, but then he failed to act to punish the Syrian strong man.

He said that it wasn’t going to be a pinprick operation because the American military “doesn’t do pinpricks.”

But then he tried to assure everybody that it wasn’t going to be very big either.

It’s not clear if this operation would be bigger than a bread box or not.

The President’s speech wasn’t a call to action.  It was more of a status update.

And the status was more than a bit confused.

Are we going to war?  Or are we waiting for Vladimir Putin to work something out with Assad?  Are we going alone or are we waiting for the UN to act? Are the British with us now or are they still sitting this one out because of the vote in the Parliament?  And are the French with us?

None of this seems to be sorted out thus far.  There is no clarity, no strategy, nothing that makes sense to me in the long term.

Will we act tough or will we just turn our heads?  Will we pick sides or will we let the Syrians work this out themselves?

What is our strategic interest in getting involved in what seems to be a proxy war between the Saudis and the Iranians?

Our interests in the Middle East used to be pretty clear.  Back in Jefferson’s day, we wanted our merchant marine to have the ability to conduct commerce.  In the last thirty years, our chief interest has been oil.  Lately, our chief interest seems to be protecting Israel from nation-states that wasn’t to see its destruction.

But we don’t have a dog in the Sunni-Shia civil war that seems to be engulfing the region.  While we certainly don’t want the Iranians to gain any more leverage and power over the region, getting involved in Syria doesn’t seem the best way get the Iranians to back off their nuclear program.

In any event, the President didn’t put any of this into a broader context for the American people.   He didn’t mention 9/11 nor Thomas Jefferson.   He didn’t explain what he really wants to do or why he wants to do it.

I thought it was all very confusing.

Thomas Jefferson would not have approved.

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