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October 22, 2004


Mike Plaiss

Wow! Terrific! I have been having similar thoughts but you summed it up perfectly. I read your post and thought, “That’s it! That’s what I’ve been trying to say.” (I love it when that happens.)

One quote, “…that we all just get used to world wide terrorism, like our enlightened European cousins.”, reminded me of a great vignette from David McCullough’s wonderful biography of John Adams.

In it, Adams and Jefferson are both in Paris trying to secure French help against Britain. They are at a meeting (maybe a party – this is from memory) with a number of European diplomats, and the topic of piracy in the Mediterranean comes up. They perk-up because this has been a big problem for American merchant ships and they are hoping to get some incite (and maybe some help) in dealing with the problem.

Both are very naïve about international diplomacy, and almost can’t believe their ears when they learn that the European powers, including the French and the British, “deal with” the problem by paying off local North African potentates who can control the pirates. Despite having the two most powerful navies in the world both countries are effectively doing business in the Mediterranean via bribery.

McCullough does a great job of describing their reaction and the reader can almost see Adams and Jefferson looking at each other, aghast, simultaneously shaking their heads and concluding, “There’s no way we’re doing that.” Keep in mind this is from two representative of a country that didn’t even have a navy, and both instinctively conclude, “There is no way in hell we’re going to do that.”

In time, the U.S. built a navy, confronted pirates, and, largely out of shame, the British did as well. (To their credit the British admirals were eager to do so, and had been furious with how their diplomats had been dealing with the situation.) The problem of piracy in the Mediterranean soon vanished.

So you see, not much has changed in the last 225 years.

Again, great post. I hope it finds a very wide audience. I found you through John Weidner’s “Random Jottings”, by the way, one of the best blogs on the internet.

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