Tripoli: The United States’ First War on Terror

Written by David Smethurst
Review by Sue Schrems

Problems in the Middle East are not new to the U.S. Tripoli: The United States’ First War on Terror chronicles the first U.S. military involvement in the region. Though an interesting account in its own right, the light of current events makes this history particularly intriguing. Although called “pirates,” the Barbary pirates were in fact military arms of the governments of Morocco, Algeria, Tunis, and Tripoli. Their activities were in part to extract “protection money” from countries to ensure the safety of their shipping in the Mediterranean. When Tripoli’s ambassador to Britain was asked the reason, however, his response was the same mandate for jihad that we hear today. Other similarities include the facts that Congress did not authorize the military actions; there were many problems in the conduct of the war; the strategy included regime change, and some factions favored military action, while others favored meeting rising demands for tribute. The author does not point out any of these similarities, but they are striking. The book is basically non-fiction, with some fictional details and dialog added to make it a more enjoyable read.