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Friday, November 28, 2014

Nostalgia blurs details of founders’ foreign policy

Editor’s note: This is in response to the letter “Foreign policies based on hope leave U.S. weak,” published in the Sept. 27 Daily Lobo. In the letter, reader Allen E. Weh called for a more realistic approach than operating on hope in this country, citing our foreign policy response to the recent murders of the U.S. ambassador and three other Americans in Libya.

Editor,

Regarding the letter by Allen Weh that appeared in the Sept. 27 issue of the Daily Lobo, the following correction to his use of Thomas Jefferson and the Barbary Pirates would assist in clearing up his use of the example to demonstrate decisive leadership.

The new nation was exposed to attacks in the Mediterranean along the Barbary Coast following the withdrawal of British protection in the form of tribute and ransom payments as a result of the American Revolution. Such ransom demands were regularly made by the Barbary states of Tripoli, Algiers, Tunis and Morocco in order for maritime nations to rescue their ships and crews. Jefferson objected to the practice of paying $1 million a year for this purpose, and upon becoming president in 1801 refused to continue it. As Weh reports, yes he did send a naval contingent to respond to the capture of two American ships, resulting in the capture of a naval vessel, the USS Philadelphia and her crew. At the end of this affair, and a four year standoff, Jefferson agreed to pay a ransom of $60,000 for the crew. Meanwhile, the USS Philadelphia had been burned by Lt. Stephen Decatur in a daring raid to prevent its use by the enemy.

Whether this incident displays leadership and resolve on Jefferson’s part is debatable. However, I found it interesting that Weh went back to 1801 for his example, and that he neglected to mention the payment of the $60,000 ransom to conclude the matter with the Pasha of Tripoli, leading readers to conclude that simply sending the Navy did the job.

His passing over of more recent examples where the cry to “send the Navy” or “send the Marines” has not solved military threats in far more lethal and costly adventures, is puzzling. Why go back more than 200 years?

Anyone who would attack President Obama’s foreign policy record without mention of the capture of Osama bin Laden would seem to be using a distorted vision for presidential achievement.

Carol Lovato
Daily Lobo reader