It's a sadly true commentary on the pitiful, self-sacrificial state of our country's foreign policy, which has eroded beyond all recognition from the time of the Monroe Doctrine. Helprin lays out the full military capability that could be employed to eradicate the pirates, and then says, referencing Jefferson's war with the Barbary pirates:
As daunting as all this may seem, we believe that you may conduct your business relatively unimpeded for some time to come. When the United States had only a tiny fraction of the naval capability it now has, the small and vulnerable forces it sent to deal with pirates of equal or greater military power performed with legendary bravery and daring. That was then.He later concludes with this excellently phrased and damning critique--though he doesn't name it explicitly--of an altruistic foreign policy.
The powers that should be a threat to you are caught in a paralyzing web of abstract legalities, deference to hostile opinion, and even in the clearest cases a perverse contempt for self-defense, which rules out the ability effectively to define, prepare for, justify, and execute it—and execute you. You would think that if you fire upon our ships we would fire back. But those days are over, and you have prosperous times ahead. [bold added]Read the whole disappointing, disheartening thing. If you're like me, it will make you shake your head in disgust at the moral cowardice and unprincipled actions of those who guide our foreign policy.