They pose little threat. But there is peril in comparing them to Barbary brigands. That muddies the debate—clouding our perspective on what truly is in our national interest.
In much of the froth about piracy off the Horn of Africa one sees a tendency to compare that problem today with the problem the young United States had with Barbary pirates 200 years ago. But trying to understand modern-day piracy—especially Somali piracy—by looking at the past can present a distorted view of what’s happening today. It is very possible to learn the wrong lessons from history, and distorted perspectives lead to distorted policy.