Recently I went to Connecticut for my high school class reunion. As I was leaving the event, a very bright former classmate gave me a gift of the book, "Thomas Jefferson and the Tripoli Pirates", which was written by Brian Kilmeade and Don Yeager. I've long thought that Thomas Jefferson was one of our special presidents, and I have liked Brian Kilmeade's sense of humor and enthusiastic demeanor. Of course with a name like, Kilmeade how could I not like him. The book didn't disappoint and it made me liken it to what is happening in the Middle East today.
One of the things to adjust to while reading the book was dealing with the time and space that the book's subjects needed to complete a communication. Today, we think in terms of nano-seconds for visuals to appear on our computer screen or for our telephone to ring, but Jefferson and his emissaries dealt in cryptic hand-written letters that had to traverse countries, seas, and an ocean just to complete half of a two way communication. I felt a bit of the frustration those patriots must have experienced as they waited months and months before they even knew that their communique had been received. On the positive side of that issue though, is the thought that the issues of trust and honor that were shared during that period is far beyond what is expected today. Kilmeade and Yeager were able to provide historic accounts of words spoken or written, that underscored the honor those sent into battle gave to their mission. They honored the words of President Jefferson as to how they were to respond to the possible challenges that would befall them, even when they may have wished to do otherwise.
Another issue that needed somewhat of a mind adjustment was the speed or, more accurately, the lack of speed that faced our emissaries. We think in terms of breaking sound barriers, or traveling at 40 knots under the sea, or firing missiles guided by global positioning systems across thousands of miles. Those things hadn't even been conceived of. In their place was our country's first Navy, newly built wooden ships fitted with cannons that didn't fire sophisticated missiles, but plain old cannon balls. Navigating the newly built ships propelled only by wind, in uncharted waters, devoid of Loran, or Sonar, or highly sophisticated global positioning satellites to assist in navigation, meant that sailors often had to continually "sound" the depths of the waters below in the Mediterranean to ensure their vessels would not strike bottom. And, there was no "reverse" gear or internal combustion engine to assist them in agile maneuvering; they had only the wind, maybe some oarsmen, and the guidance and direction of the captain or helmsman.
The thing that stood out most impressively was the selfless courage and bravery shown by so many men. To them, honor was more important than life itself. They were committed to a mission designed to bring respect and honor to their new country, the United States of America. They were truly ready to put their life on the line to make that happen. I don't want to take away the pleasure you will receive from reading the book but one of the conclusions I came to was that appeasement is surrender. And, it enables the receivers of that appeasement to demand and receive even more and more of it. Thomas Jefferson knew that, as did those he sent to face the problems in the Middle East.
In his book "America Alone," New Hampshire resident Mark Steyn cited the following quote from Osama Bin Laden: "When people see a strong horse and a weak horse, by nature they will like the strong horse." Jefferson gave us a stark lesson on the mindset of the rulers in the Middle East, and how they work to be perceived as the strong horse. We read and can compare the demands and reactions of those Arab leaders in the early 1800s, to what has been transpiring across the middle east today . . . especially the seemingly never ending demands of the Iranian Mullahs, their continuing actions to demean and insult our great nation, their repeated and flagrant taunting of our military, and their disdain of the treaty agreement that they signed. To the world, they are presenting themselves as the strong horse, and our great nation as the weak horse.
In a speech to CEOs of International Companies in 2008, at Davos, Switzerland, Herbert Meyer, former chief intelligence officer to President Reagan, gave what I call a "must read" account of the conditions facing the world today. (You can read it at http://www.newcombat.net/news_and_links/Davos2008Meyer.pdf.) In his closing, Meyers said, ". . . We are becoming one of the last holdouts of the traditional Judeo-Christian culture." And, "The only people who can hurt us are ourselves, by losing our culture. If we give up our Judeo-Christian culture, we become just like the Europeans. The culture war is the whole ballgame. If we lose it, there isn't another America to pull us out." His words need to be heeded.
We must recognize that we are in a culture war and forcefully address it just as Jefferson and our fledgling Navy did.
(Bob Meade is a Laconia resident.)
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