Suddenly, a Rise in Piracy's Price





At some point, Thomas Jefferson realized, you just can’t do business with pirates any more.

For years, the infant American government, along with many others, had accepted the humiliating practice of paying tribute — essentially mob-style protection fees — to a handful of rulers in the Barbary states so that American ships crossing the Mediterranean would not get hijacked. But in 1801, Tripoli’s pasha, Yusuf Karamanli, tried to jack up his prices. Jefferson said no. And when the strongman turned his pirates loose on American ships, Jefferson sent in the Navy to bombard Tripoli, starting a war that eventually brought the Barbary states to their knees. Rampant piracy went to sleep for nearly 200 years.

The question now is: Are we nearing another enough-is-enough moment with pirates?

On Tuesday, Somali pirates shot and killed four American hostages. A single hostage intentionally killed by these pirates had been almost unheard of; four dead was unprecedented. Until now, the first thing that came to mind about Somalia’s buccaneers was that they were brash and mercurial. Just a few weeks ago they let go some Sri Lankan fishermen after they essentially said, “You’re poor, like us.” They were seen as a nuisance, albeit an expensive one, but not a lethal threat....

comments powered by Disqus
History News Network