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"Those who ignore history
are doomed to repeat it"

by Peary Perry
Peary Perry
Someone much smarter than me once said that to be ignorant of history would require you to repeat it.

Or something to that effect. I'll think about the correct version as I go along.

I have often wondered why Hitler, for example, didn't observe what happened to Napoleon when he invaded Russia in 1812. As you may recall he lost somewhere in the neighborhood of over 500,000 troops. You would think someone on Hitler's staff would have pointed out that repeating the same mistake often leads to the same conclusion.

Maybe they did, maybe their advice wasn't welcomed. Who knows?

Anyway I call your attention these words in the Marines Hymn…… "To the shores of Tripoli". Where did those words come from and how are they relevant in our modern day world?

Well, as I just said in my opening paragraph, "Those who ignore history are doomed to repeat it." I believe this is the correct way it should be said.

In the 1790's, the leaders of the four Barbary nations of Northern Africa embarked upon a program to capture all non-Muslim ships and their crews. The ships were taken as prizes and the crews that were not ransomed were sold into slavery. The United States had just become an independent nation and no longer had the protection of the English Navy for their merchant fleet. Consequently, a large number of Americans and their ships were taken by these Barbary Coast nations.

Washington and Adams favored appeasement and agreed to pay an annual ransom to leave our merchants alone. In 1795, our payment of one million dollars was the equal of 13% of our total government spending of 7.9 million dollars. Adams was quoted as saying….. "We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever," Jefferson was totally against this practice had protested the payment of tribute from the beginning. Jefferson had met previously with one of the Muslim diplomats in France in 1780. He asked why any nation would be against ours since ours had just been formed. Jefferson was told that their beliefs were founded on the Laws of the Prophet and it was written in their Koran. That all nations who have not have answered their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as prisoners.

Once Jefferson became President, he did things his own way and ended up sending the newly created United States Navy along with a detachment of United States Marines to invade Tripoli. The Muslims were overthrown and the payment of 'tributes' ceased. Jefferson was quoted as saying…"Millions for defense, not one penny for tribute."

But in the final analysis, who was right in their beliefs? Washington, Adams or Jefferson? Well, in a sense they all were. As you recall, Washington and Adams favored paying the leaders of the Barbary Coast to leave our ships and crews alone. Adams had even gone so far as to say….….. "We ought not to fight them at all unless we determine to fight them forever," Jefferson had gotten his fill of the practice and had put an end to it by his use of force with the United States Marines and Navy.

So, are we at war today or not? If you go back and review this small piece of history, we have never ceased being at war by those who adhere to the same principles as the Muslim leaders of the Barbary Coast in 1795. We have just had a long cease fire, if you will.

Are there people in other countries who are actively trying to destroy us? I believe the answer is a most definite yes. Can we overcome this pressure? Here again I believe the answer is yes.

How do we solve this problem?

I believe the answer is the same as it was 212 years ago, which was combination of diplomatic skills, negotiations along with a strong defense. Mainly a strong defense. Our country did not back down in 1805 when Thomas Jefferson was the President and it should not back down from other oppressors in 2007. There are dragons out there and they do seek to destroy us and our way of life. Weakness, meekness and appeasement along with a complete disregard for history and the lessons from the past are not the American way.

Remember if we do not learn from history, then we must repeat it.

God Bless the USA.
© Peary Perry
Letters From North America >

January 17, 2007 column
Published January 23, 2007
Syndicated weekly in 80 newspapers
Comments go to www.pearyperry.com
Peary Perry's
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