Wednesday, September 10, 2008

U.S. History in the Middle East

One hopes that Joe Biden knows his history, especially if he’s called to the Oval Office to advise President Obama on the next steps the United States should take against Middle Eastern terrorists.

Perhaps a Vice President Biden will recall the Betsy, the Maria and the Dauphin, American-owned merchant ships that were seized by Middle Eastern pirates, becoming the first victims in the war on terror – way back in the eighteenth century.

What, you say? The war on terror wasn’t created by President George W. Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the diabolical Donald Rumsfeld, the most evil man to ever occupy the defense secretary’s office?

No, the war against Arab terrorism is almost as old as the country itself, stemming back to the 1780s, when those three American merchant ships were hijacked and seized by Arabian pirates.

The “evildoers” back then were pirates from the Barbary sheikdoms of Morocco, Tunis, Algiers, and Tripoli. American political leaders were so alarmed by these attacks that John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, on diplomatic duty in Europe, were ordered to negotiate a peace treaty with the sheikdoms – or, as we would say today, find out how much of a bribe the United States needed to pay annually so U.S. ships would no longer be attacked.

George Washington, frustrated with seeing American merchant ships attacked, by both Arab pirates and European navy ships, proposed the construction of the U.S. Navy during the last year of his presidency. The first Navy ships that were built would, at President Jefferson’s direction, successfully attack the Barbary Pirates, providing the young country with its first military victories since the Revolution.

Part of the reason that the United States finds itself fighting Arab terrorists is because the U.S. embraced ideas that were sprung from John Locke and the European Enlightenment, concepts that advance, endorse and support the notion that markets should be free, government should be limited, religion should be kept at an arm’s length (at least from the government), and that people are endowed with natural human rights, allowing them to live as they see fit, accepting any religion they find suitable, and selecting those who seek to govern them. In addition, the United States accepts the notion of tolerance, property rights and rule-of-law.

The acceptance of the ideas from Locke and the European Enlightenment, and the advancement of them, led the United States and its western Allies to become economically successful, tolerant of variety of people, and politically viable; these ideas stand in stark contrast to the beliefs of Arab jihadists, who are quick to blame others for all that ills their countries and their fellow believers.

That’s the word from Melvin E. Lee, a U.S. Navy captain based in Naples, Italy, where he serves as the special operations officer for the Sixth Fleet. He wrote this nearly 3,700 word article, “The Fallacy of Grievance-based Terrorism,” for the Middle East Quarterly, earlier this year.

Capt. Lee, who recently completed his master’s degree at the U.S. Army War College in Carlisle, Penn., has written an outstanding article that is heavily sourced. He provides solid research, showing that a number of high-minded thinkers are coming to the same conclusion – Islam must embrace the ideas of John Locke and the European Enlightenment so its followers and its citizens no longer live in a ghetto; failure to accept these ideas and the Islamists will continue to resort to terrorism to resolve their problems. A former submarine commander, Capt. Lee provides a detailed account of U.S. actions in the Middle East for more than 200 years.

“Only Islam’s fundamental reform will resolve the conflict” between the United States and the terrorists, writes Lee.

In the interests of full disclosure, your correspondent knows Mel Lee. We went to college together and shared a suite in one of the residence halls. Lee, a double major in physics and chemistry, was (and, as far as I’m concerned, remains) the sharpest knife in the drawer. After receiving his bachelor’s degree, he pursued his Ph.D. at the University of Arizona but cut short his studies to pursue his naval career.

Capt. Lee is an excellent Navy officer and I hope that one day he’s advising a president on national security. I’ll rest easier at night knowing he has the president’s ear on complicated and delicate issues.

Capt. Lee’s idea – that Islam needs to reform itself – has been accepted by other leading thinkers. Max Rodenback, the Middle East correspondent for The Economist, in reviewing the Brookings Institution’s Kenneth M. Pollack’s latest book, A Path Out Of The Desert: A Grand Strategy for America in the Middle East, compliments Pollack for concluding that terrorism coming from Middle Eastern (Arab) states will not end until “they manage to produce better schools, more opportunities for youth, wider social justice and more inclusive, accountable government.”

Rodenback went on to say, in his New York Times review, that Pollack was quite right to admit that “George Bush showed unwonted acuity when he called for draining the swamps of extremism by promoting reform.”

This is a recipe for democracy.

You can find Capt. Lee’s article here:

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Mr. Page, if you wrote this edit, I might think you intelligent. Instead, it appears you are merely an average pen who quotes others so it cannot be deemed plagiarism.

As far as Islam and Bush go, W did not use his vast resources at hand to understand the magnitude of the blunder he was about to undertake. There is no doubt that the billions and billions of US dollars poured into this bottomless pit of a war and the extreem loss of American trust throughout the world are directly behind and the driving force of the substantive devaluation of the dollar and most certainly worsened the effect of the housing crisis.

Jan 09 shows great promise for the USA as both candidates are far above the lowly GW, who by the way is barely qualified to wipe their noses.