Wednesday, November 16, 2005

Your Point Is?

Alex Tabarrok of Marginal Revolution seems to be straining for a point here:

In the late 1790s the US was having difficulty with Muslim pirates in the waters off Northern Africa. After some difficulty, a treaty was signed in 1796 with the Bey of Tripoli promising friendship, trade and an end to hostilities. The 11th article of the treaty provides a remarkable contrast between how these sorts of issues were handled by the founders and how they are handled today. It reads:

As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.

The 11th article of the treaty provides no contrast between how "these sorts of issues" were handled then and now -- by the government of the United States. President Bush and leaders of Congress have bent over backward to say that the war on terror has nothing to do with Islam per se. They have made the point that our enemy is radical Islam, not because it is a branch of Islam but because radical Islamists have made us their enemy. They have made us their enemy, in part, because Americans today -- as in 1796 -- are predominantly Christian. The fact that the government of the United States was not founded on Christianity has nothing to do with the case.