America’s military actions in the Middle East and North Africa are not isolated to the modern era. In truth, American military forces have been conducting operations in the region against non-state actors terrorizing civilians for nearly the entirety of American history.
In the late 1790s, America had come into its own as a commercial state. While still a long way from the robust, globe-spanning trade empires of Britain and France, the upstart nation had garnered a reputation as a land of merchants, and the American vessels traded in ports all over the world.
A vessel flagged under a fledging nation however, was not without risk. Unlike Britain and France, which backed their merchants with powerful navies and strong diplomatic ties, U.S.-flagged ships enjoyed few protections. America could not field a standing navy until 1789, as only with the adoption of the Constitution did the federal government gain the authority to raise a military in peacetime. Congress did not commission the first U.S. warships until 1794. Even then, Congress remained reluctant to construct expensive warships. For a time, the French Navy agreed to serve as a guarantor of U.S. vessels, but as U.S. merchants became more successful, the French started to fear American competition and withdrew their protection.
Read the Remainder at War on the Rocks