Lessons From the Barbary Pirate Wars
An American skipper in the hands of seafaring rogues. Some of the world’s busiest shipping lanes under attack. Tough men from a messy patch of Africa eluding and harassing the world’s greatest powers.
Sound familiar? Well, it’s not last week’s drama on the high seas we’re talking about, when Somali pirates attacked an American freighter in the Indian Ocean and took its captain hostage, then made off with him in a lifeboat. We’re talking about the Barbary Wars, about 200 years ago, when pirates from the Barbary Coast (today’s Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria and Libya) hijacked European ships with impunity and ransomed back the crews.
“When I first read about the Somali pirates, I almost did a double take and turned to my wife at the breakfast table and said, ‘This is dj vu,’ ” recalled Frank Lambert, a professor at Purdue who is an expert on the Barbary pirates.