Disproportionate response

A super article from The National about the British sacking of Ras al Khaimah in 1809.

Dastardly pirates, imperial power plays, this region has it all.

A couple of themes I find interesting when reading about conflict and resolution in this part of the world.

1. The Sheikh offering ‘settlement’ over a particular attack on a British ship.

This concept of financial compensation obviously exists in Britain, but it seems to be more of a standard and accepted concept here. If things had been the other way around, I would imagine that the British would have been in touch with the Sheikh and offered some kind of recompense, but it would have been more subtle than ‘we killed some of your chaps, how much cash do you want’. Maybe I’m misunderstanding what is meant by ‘settlement’, but the implication is that it would be financial.

I suppose a modern equivalent is blood money paid out when someone is killed in a car accident (something that’s calculated into your insurance premium – the number of seats in your car is important, as that’s the total number of passengers you could kill in an accident). It doesn’t bring anyone back to life, but it does help and it’s standard practice. In the UK you’d have to use other means to get some kind of financial recompense and it would be seen as being a little distasteful.

2. Taking hostages and holding them for ransom.

Nothing changes here – to wit, Somali pirates. These sort of incidents can be described as being symptoms of major power struggles and can be directly responsible for shaping history. When you get down to the nitty gritty, however, the ‘pirates’ we just looking for an opportunity to make some cash.

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One Response to “Disproportionate response”

  1. SJS Says:

    I remember my history master, Mr Senior ("Yellow Bags" – a fine history teacher)answering a question about what exactly had kicked off the incident known as the "defenstration of Prague": the incident that started the Thirty Years War in Europe in the 17th century. "Oh, just a Catholic procession being roughed up by Protestant yobs". Yes, just that. But it unleashed 30 years of bloodshed and the bitterness, and many other quirks, still linger today if you dig deep enough. It probably also accounts for why Europe is so secular today and wants little to do with "Religion".

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