At Least 8 Americans Killed, Others Taken Hostage By Hamas

By | October 9, 2023 | 0 Comments

History is a vast early-warning system. – Norman Cousins

In 1904 a man named Ion Perdicaris, together with his stepson, were kidnapped from Tangier, Morocco by a Berber tribal leader named Mulai Ahmed er-Raisuli. Raisuli’s motive was to extort money and concessions from the sultan of Morocco.

Perdicaris’ father was a Greek who became an American citizen and later a consul. Perdicaris himself was born in the United States, so it was assumed he was an American citizen. Later it appeared that he had obtained a Greek passport, but by that time his release had become an international incident.

Not coincidentally, Theodore Roosevelt was seeking another term as president. His secretary of State, John Hay, brought the Republican National Convention to its feet by reading a telegram from President Roosevelt:

This government wants Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead.

Roosevelt sent warships to Tangier harbor, and a small detachment of Marines was landed. Eventually Perdicaris was released, and Teddy was elected to a second term. Mr. Perdicaris moved to London, lived out his life, and died at the age of 85. A highly fictionalized – but highly enjoyable – version of this affair was presented in the film “The Wind and the Lion,” with Sean Connery as Raisuli and John Houston as John Hay.

What can we learn from this event? First of all, we learn that a president often becomes more popular when he projects an image of strength. In particular, people like to see that if an American citizen gets into trouble abroad, our government will stand up for him or her. This obvious fact seems to be beyond the capacity of the Biden administration. Perhaps these people were warned as kids, “I don’t care who started it – you’re both going to the principal’s office.” Perhaps they never learned how to handle bullies.

But this isn’t 1904. To cross the oceans, we no longer travel on coal-burning ships, but on supersonic jets. We no longer can rely on the oceans to protect us, but are subject to missiles that can cross them in minutes. The worst we can expect is not a 12-inch naval shell, but a nuclear bomb or a release of Ebola virus. The opponents we face are not isolated brigands seeking ransom, but organized fanatics seeking blood.

No, this is not the time for unbridled nationalism. But is it the time for no nationalism at all? This is not the time for saber-rattling. But is it the time for no threat of reprisal at all? This is not the time for speaking softly but carrying a big stick. Oh, wait, maybe it still is. Maybe some things never go out of style, because technology may change, but human nature does not. Maybe we can still learn something from Teddy Roosevelt about handling bullies.

America wants our hostages alive or Hamas dead.

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