It’s an unavoidable gap in grade school and high school US history. In general, the courses look at colonization, the Revolution, and then the Civil War. The Barbary Wars were small and, with a lot of material to cover, they’re not important enough to be part of the curriculum. It wasn’t really a full-fledged war.
I had an old primer from the 19th Century that did discuss them, including the Burning of the Phil-a-del-phi-a (the word was hyphenated to make it easier for kids to read), which was a major event of the war. But back then, you didn’t have to cover the 20th century, so you could spend more time on the war.
Thats unfair I think, by that standard the second Iraq War wasn’t really a full fledged war because of how easy victory came.
if it was just a commando raid into foreign territory to rescue US citizens I’d agree it wasn’t a war. However it started with the leader of a foreign nation declaring war on the US for no valid reason, the attacking of US interests in international waters and kidnapping of citizens. The US responded by invading and seizing cities, even installing a US friendly government with the help of foreign allies.
As a song lyric, perhaps, but not to connect it to the “Barbary Coast”, which may sound vaguely familiar to them, or to know why the USMC had anything to do with it. They will currently be most familiar with Tripoli from news stories during the Libyan civil war. After Qaddafi and The Arab Spring have receded several years into the past, we’ll probably have somebody on this board asking what the marines did in Libya during the 2011 Battle of Tripoli to have it commemorated in the song.
“The Halls of Montezuma” is probably even less connected to anything else in many people’s minds.
I think it also hurts them that the Barbary Wars don’t really fit into any of the 18th or 19th century narrative threads. You can toss in the War of 1812 as a postscript of the Revolutionary War. The Mexican War can be included as part of the lead up to the Civil War, or as part of a westward expansion discussion. The Indian Wars went on for centuries, so they can be attached to just about anything or everything.
The Barbary Wars really only fit in the context of early American non-European foreign affairs. And for the first century that can be summed up as Barbary Wars, Perry visits Japan, Monroe doctrine, & early intervention in Latin America. Basically the Barbary Wars are off the main narrative screen. They are far away. And unlike the other non-European foreign affairs, they don’t have any particular antecedent and don’t lead to much afterwords. For Perry you can tie in interest in the orient, the Spanish War, conquest and brutal occupation of the Philippines, and eventually the Pacific war against Japan in WWII. For Latin America you have a narrative that stretches from 1800-ish (depending on where you want to start) till this week.
In contrast in the Barbary Wars: We went. We saw. We kicked the Pasha of Tripoli’s butt. We left. We came back a decade later and did it again to the Dey of Algiers. And then didn’t return to North Africa for 140 years. Hard to build much of a narrative out of that. It is a one off that doesn’t lead anywhere in particular. And there are way more important things going on at the same time. So it gets lost in the noise.
I doubt this belongs in GQ. I think the answer requires too much speculation.
1 General decline in teaching history.
2 Not fought against western nations.
3 Politically incorrect lessons. The nasty Americans used force against the thirld world to stop a problem the other nations let fester. Military force working, American exceptionalism, building pride in America, defeating Islamists? How awful.