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Prior to independence, American colonists had enjoyed the protection of the British Navy. However, once the United States declared independence, British diplomats were quick to inform the Barbary States that U.S. ships were open to attack…

The Barbary States were a collection of North African states, many of which practiced state-supported piracy in order to exact tribute from weaker Atlantic powers. Morocco was an independent kingdom, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli owed a loose allegiance to the Ottoman Empire. The United States fought two separate wars with Tripoli (1801-1805) and Algiers (1815-1816), although at other times it preferred to pay tribute to obtain the release of captives held in the Barbary States.” (Barbary Wars, 1801-1805 and 1815-1816 https://2001-2009.state.gov/r/pa/ho/time/jd/92068.htm )

The freedom of navigation/maritime shipping remain important, but not always understood by the general public. Because of the Suez Canal, the Mediterranean appears even more important, today, but the many western Putin apologists are either happy to lose access to maritime routes or don’t understand the importance of maritime access, and/or haven’t bothered to read a map. Maps are widely available online these days. People no longer have to go buy an expensive atlas, as used to be the case.

William Bainbridge pays tribute to the Dey of Algiers, by Henry Alexander Ogden (1856-1936), public domain via wikipedia
In 1800 during the months before the First Barbary War broke out, Bainbridge was given the ignominious task of carrying the tribute which the United States still paid to the Dey of Algiers to secure exemption from capture for U.S. merchant ships in the Mediterranean…”https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/William_Bainbridge

From the Halls of Montezuma

To the shores of Tripoli;

We fight our country’s battles

In the air, on land, and sea;

First to fight for right and freedom…


China and Russia’s role in the Mediterranean-MENA (Middle East-North Africa) countries is now more visible than 10 years ago, and India may also become a relevant player in the decades to come. In all these contexts, infrastructures – military or civilian, physical or virtual – play a major role…. Exponential growth in domestic and foreign investments in the Mediterranean port system, spurred by a spike in trade flows between Europe and Asia, has transformed the Mediterranean basin from an obligatory passageway into a strategic crossroad of global trade in the span of 25 years.” See: ”INFRASTRUCTURES AND POWER IN THE MIDDLE EAST AND NORTH AFRICA” By S. Colombo, E. Soler i Lecha (Eds.), IE Med, European Institute of the Mediterranean (Sept. 2020). https://www.iemed.org/publication/infrastructures-and-power-in-the-middle-east-and-north-africa/ See too: “Russia is successfully advancing in the Middle East – Part I” by Joumana Gebara, Feb 21, 2018, MEA https://web.archive.org/web/20180225120614/https://mideastanalyst.com/russia-successfully-advancing-middle-east-part (NB: Ms. Gebara, who is a Lebanese Christian, was an early victim of twitter and internet purges due to her online conflict with a supporter of Hezbollah/Iran.)

The main Mediterranean countries targeted by the Chinese strategy are either located around Gibraltar Straits as Morocco, Spain and, adjacent Algeria; those around the Otranto Straits including Albania, Croatia, and Montenegro, or the Levantine basin states – seen as a component of a strategic axis with the nearby Turkish Straits and the Suez Canal – thus, Israel, Greece, and Cyprus.” A. Popesc, 2017, “Control of Key Maritime Straits – China’s Global Strategic Objectivehttps://www.ijeba.com/dmdocuments/2017/6._POPESCU_1_17.pdf

The reason that France got fed up and invaded Algeria is little known/almost never mentioned: “The Regency of Algiers was one of the main bases of the Barbary pirates and Barbary Slave Traders who attacked Christian ships and coastal settlements in the Mediterranean and North Atlantic. Like the rest of the Barbary Coast, the Regency of Algiers lived from the trade of slaves or goods captured from Europe, America and sub-Saharan Africa. The European powers bombarded Algiers on different occasions in retaliation and the United States engaged in the Barbary Wars in order to put an end to Algerian privateering against Christian shipping. The conquest of Algeria began in the last days of the Bourbon Restoration by Charles X of France. It aimed to put a definite end to Barbary privateering and increase the king’s popularity among the French people, particularly in Paris, where many veterans of the Napoleonic Wars lived. Algerian slave trade and piracy immediately ceased after the French conquered Algiers.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/French_conquest_of_Algeria https://fr.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conquête_de_l%27Algérie_par_la_France France agreed to leave Algeria 60 years ago on 18 March 1962: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Évian_Accords. This post was drafted a few weeks ago, but today there was a symposium led by French President Macron marking the 60th anniversary of the end of the Algerian war: https://youtu.be/iKjkP-HoiHQ It features previously little heard voices of the Algerian war: a then young French soldier; a Berber (indigenous Algerian) married to a “Pied Noir” Frenchman; an Algerian born, ethnic Spanish, “Pied Noir”, who was forced to leave Algeria, as a child, and an Harki, indigenous Berber, who, along with his family, supported France. Whatever you think of Macron, he is rightly recognizing the details and complexities of the Algerian war, and warns of the risks of not knowing history and of rewriting history, as Russia is doing today regarding Ukraine. The Report by renowned historian Benjamin Stora: https://www.elysee.fr/admin/upload/default/0001/09/0586b6b0ef1c2fc2540589c6d56a1ae63a65d97c.pdf On a similar note, no one mentions, either, that the US first invaded Haiti, because the Germans were threatening Haiti, directly, which had repercussion on the United States, too (e.g Lueders Affair). Otherwise, Germany could have gained control of the Windward Passage, as well as having a base of operations in the Caribbean. History/historical detail is more complex than we are generally led to believe.

Barbary Wars, 1801-1805 and 1815-1816

The Barbary States were a collection of North African states, many of which practiced state-supported piracy in order to exact tribute from weaker Atlantic powers. Morocco was an independent kingdom, Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli owed a loose allegiance to the Ottoman Empire. The United States fought two separate wars with Tripoli (1801-1805) and Algiers (1815-1816), although at other times it preferred to pay tribute to obtain the release of captives held in the Barbary States.

The practice of state-supported piracy and ransoming of captives was not wholly unusual for its time. Many European states commissioned privateers to attack each others’ shipping and also participated in the transatlantic slave trade. The two major European powers, Great Britain and France, found it expedient to encourage the Barbary States’ policy and pay tribute to them, as it allowed their merchant shipping an increased share of the Mediterranean trade, and Barbary leaders chose not to challenge the superior British or French navies.

Prior to independence, American colonists had enjoyed the protection of the British Navy. However, once the United States declared independence, British diplomats were quick to inform the Barbary States that U.S. ships were open to attack. In 1785, Dey Muhammad of Algiers declared war on the United States and captured several American ships. The financially troubled Confederation Government of the United States was unable to raise a navy or the tribute that would protect U.S. ships.

In contrast to the dispute with Algiers, U.S. negotiations with Morocco went well. Moroccan Sultan Sidi Muhammad had seized a U.S. merchant ship in 1784 after the United States had ignored diplomatic overtures. However, Muhammad ultimately followed a policy of peaceful trade, and the United States successfully concluded a treaty with Morocco in 1786. However, Congress was still unable to raise enough funds to satisfy the Dey of Algiers.

In an attempt to address the challenge posed by the Dey of Algiers, Thomas Jefferson, then U.S. Minister to France, attempted to build a coalition of weaker naval powers to defeat Algiers, but was unsuccessful. However, the Kingdom of Portugal was also at war with Algiers, and blocked Algerian ships from sailing past the Straits of Gibraltar. As a result U.S. merchant ships in the Atlantic Ocean remained safe for a time and temporarily relieved the U.S. Government from the challenges posed by the Barbary States.

In 1793 a brief Portuguese-Algerian truce exposed American merchant ships to capture, forcing the United States, which had thus far only managed to conclude a treaty with Morocco, to engage in negotiations with the other Barbary States. In 1795, The U.S. Government dispatched diplomats Joel Barlow, Joseph Donaldson, and Richard O’Brien to North Africa and successfully concluded treaties with the states of Algiers, Tunis, and Tripoli. Under the terms of these treaties, the United States agreed to pay tribute to these states. The treaty with Algiers freed 83 American sailors.

The adoption of the Constitution in 1789 gave the U.S. Government the power to levy taxes and to raise and maintain armed forces, powers which had been lacking under the Articles of Confederation. In 1794, in response to Algerian seizures of American ships, Congress authorized construction of the first 6 ships of the U.S. Navy. In 1801, the Pasha of Tripoli, Yusuf Qaramanli, citing late payments of tribute demanded additional tribute and declared war on the United States. The United States successfully defeated Qaramanli’s forces with a combined naval and land assault by the United States Marine Corps. The U.S. treaty with Tripoli concluded in 1805 included a ransom for American prisoners in Tripoli, but no provisions for tribute.

In 1812, the new Dey of Algiers, Hajji Ali, rejected the American tribute negotiated in the 1795 treaty as insufficient and declared war on the United States. Algerian corsairs captured an American ship several weeks later. In accordance with an agreement between the Dey and British diplomats, the Algerian declaration was timed to coincide with the start of the War of 1812 between Britain and the United States. The war with Britain prevented the U.S. Government from either confronting Algerian forces or ransoming U.S. captives in Algiers.

Once the Treaty of Ghent ended war with Britain, President James Madison was able to request that Congress declare war on Algiers, which it did on March 3, 1815. The U.S. Navy, greatly increased in size after the War of 1812, was able send an entire squadron, led by Commodore Stephen Decatur, to the Mediterranean.

When the U.S. naval expedition arrived in Algiers, a new ruler, Dey Omar, was in power. Omar wished to restore order after several years of political instability and was acutely aware that he could no longer count on British support against the Americans. Decatur had already defeated two Algerian warships and captured hundreds of prisoners of war, and was in a favorable position for negotiation. Dey Omar reluctantly accepted the treaty proposed by Decatur that called for an exchange of U.S. and Algerian prisoners and an end to the practices of tribute and ransom. Having defeated the most powerful of the Barbary States, Decatur sailed to Tunis and Tripoli and obtained similar treaties. In Tripoli, Decatur also secured from Pasha Qaramanli the release of all European captives. The U.S. Senate ratified Decatur’s Algerian treaty on December 5, 1815. Dey Omar repudiated the treaty, but another U.S. squadron arrived after a combined Anglo-Dutch bombardment of Algiers, and U.S. commissioner William Shaler dictated terms of a new treaty which contained essentially the same provisions as the old one. Shaler concluded his negotiations on December 23, 1815, but the Senate, owing to an accidental oversight, did not ratify the treaty until February 11, 1822.

The Barbary States, although they did not capture any more U.S. ships, began to resume raids in the Mediterranean, and despite punitive British bombardments did not end their practices until the French conquest of Algeria in 1830.

1801-1805 Tripoli. The First Barbary War included the USS George Washington and Philadelphia affairs and the Eaton expedition, during which a few marines landed with United States Agent William Eaton to raise a force against Tripoli in an effort to free the crew of the Philadelphia. Tripoli declared war on the United States on May 10, 1801, and although Congress authorized U.S. military action by statute, they never voted on a formal declaration of war….

1815 Algiers. The second Barbary War was declared against the United States by the Bey of Algiers of the Barbary states, an act not reciprocated by the United States. Congress did authorize a military expedition by statutes. A large fleet under U.S. Commodore Stephen Decatur attacked Algiers and obtained indemnities.

Tripoli. After securing an agreement from Algiers, Decatur demonstrated with his squadron at Tunis and Tripoli, where he secured indemnities for offenses during the War of 1812”. https://crsreports.congress.gov/product/pdf/R/R42738/31

Another public domain map https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mediterranean_Sea_political_map-en.svg

Full map (public domain) https://maps.lib.utexas.edu/maps/africa/algeria_pol01.jpg
Additional maps https://maps.lib.utexas.edu/maps/algeria.html

This post was first drafted ca 23 February in response to the beating of “anti-war” drums by Putin apologists, and people that they had apparently confused. Pro-Russia/Putin apologists were claiming that helping Ukraine meant war with Russia. The next day, Russia started its massive invasion of Ukraine and this post fell to the side. Most of the apparently fake anti-war individuals have shown their hand as Putin/Kremlin assets, though probably most are simply useful idiots. These do not appear to be young people, either, but those who are old enough to know better. Those still running Putin/Kremlin propaganda need a new category called useful super idiots, if it’s really unwittingly: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asset_(intelligence One is such a super idiot that we became convinced that they were working at a Kremlin troll farm. Since that time, we have found online videos showing that this crazy and/or dumb person is a real American, which is even more frightening, especially as they state that they are “pro-Russia”. The person is not a foundational American, but was born in the USA or arrived in childhood, based upon their accent. It is possible that they migrated from Russia as a child, however. Putin’s fan base in the west may be larger than in Russia, because Russia has been subjected to Putin for over 22 years.