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Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Japan seeks help against pirates

Japan calls on Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore to help against pirates. Historically, it has taken an international effort to quash piracy and a "no ransom" philosophy. Americans have fought pirates before - the Barbary pirates (good history here):
Two ships, the Maria of Boston and the Dauphine of Philadelphia, were captured by Algiers in 1785, and their crews of 21 men enslaved. A ransom of almost $60,000 was demanded by the dey of Algiers, but it would be ten years before the surviving eleven were released.

The nation's first Secretary State, Thomas Jefferson, told Congress it must choose "...between war, tribute and ransom." He believed war was the only reasonable choice, and advocated the creation of a navy. Tribute paid to the pirates was "money thrown away," and the only thing they truely understood was gunpowder and shot. Just as Luther 250 years earlier, Jefferson called for a united military alliance among the European powers, along with America, to blockade North Africa and provide for a military solution against the pirates. Europe chose to continue paying tribute.

"Would to Heaven we had a navy to reform those enemies to mankind, or crush them into non-existence," said George Washington in 1786. Said one American envoy, "There is but one language which can be held to these people, and this is terror."

By 1794, Algiers had captured 11 American vessels and taken over 100 prisoners. In 1795 Congress agreed to their ranson by authorizing a payment of cash, munitions, a 36-gun frigate, and an annual tribute of $21,600 worth of naval supplies. In 1799, agreements were negotiated with Morocco, Algiers, and Tunis. Tripoli agreed not to attack American shipping, in return for an annual tribute of $18,000.

The Barbary Pirates, though discriminating against Christians, were businessmen, much like the Mafia. It was reported that ransom rates were set at a fixed price: $4,000 for a passenger, $1,400 for a cabin boy. In the coastal towns of Salem, Newport, and Boston, the names of those who were captured by the Barbary Pirates were read aloud each Sunday in the churches, just as those who were lost at sea. Most of the ransom had to be raised privately, as Congress was unable or unwilling to pay the full asking price.

By 1800 a new slogan was beginning to appear across the new country, "Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute."

Finally in 1801, with Jefferson as the new President, the country had enough. Three months after Jefferson's inauguation, after refusing to pay Tripoli's demand for immediate payment of $225,000 and an annual payment of $25,000, the Bashaw of Tripoli cut down the flagstaff at the U.S. consulate and declared war. Jefferson ordered the frigates President, Essex, and Philadelphia and the sloop Enterprise, under Commodore Richard Dale, to patrol the North African coast and to bombard Tripoli.

In September, 1803 Captain Edward Preble was given command of the American fleet. He soon convinced the Sultan of Morocco to stop preying on American shipping by sailing the Constitution into the harbor of Tangiers, and pointing the cannon at the Sultan's palace.
Someone needs to be pointing some serious hardware at the pirate havens near the Strait of Malacca. And to not pay any "tribute." Japan has the Navy for it, but for historical reasons may be reluctant to go after the pirates by itself.

Update 3/16/05: I note that the Indonesian Navy and the Malaysian Navy both have ships out looking for pirates.
Malaysia's marine police said Tuesday that five ships have been deployed to beef up the search for three crew members of a Japanese-owned tugboat who were kidnapped by pirates in the Malacca Strait on Monday.
We know that Singapore has stepped up its patrols. This is as it should be.

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