Perhaps the major reason it has been 200 years since pirates dared challenge the United States of America on the high seas was the decisive action taken by Thomas Jefferson (the first Democrat) against them. Jefferson dispatched the schooner USS Enterprise in 1801 to the same Barbary Coast where today's Somali (and as back then) Islamic pirates demanded financial tribute from the United States. The U.S. Navy soundly defeated the pirates.

The world's tyrants are watching to see how President Obama reacts. The message they get will determine how they respond to America and whether we will be in greater peril.

Two years later the pirates were back for more. This time, they captured the USS Philadelphia along with its captain, William Bainbridge, the officers and crew and held them hostage. On the night of Feb. 16, 1804, Lt. Stephen Decatur, Jr. led a small band of the first American Marines. The Marines commandeered a Tripolitan ketch, which they re-christened USS Intrepid, to deceive the guards on board the Philadelphia and get close enough to the ship to storm the vessel. With support from American ships, the Marines set fire to the Philadelphia, preventing her use by the pirates and went on to capture the city of Tripoli. This is where the line came from in the Marine H ymn about "the shores of Tripoli".

So far, the reaction by modern Democrats has been less than inspiring. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman John Kerry has threatened to hold hearings! That should strike fear into the hearts of the pirates. What will the Obama administration do if the pirates are captured alive? He won't sent them to Gitmo, which he is closing down. Will they get ACLU lawyers? Will there be testimony from a "pirates rights" group? Will they be released on a technicality after a trial in U.S. courts? If there is not as forceful a response as there was during the Jefferson administration, it will invite more of these incidents. The world's tyrants are watching to see how President Obama reacts. The message they get will determine how they respond to America and whether we will be in greater peril.

Cal Thomas is America's most widely syndicated op-ed columnist. He joined Fox News Channel in 1997 as a political contributor. His latest book is "What Works: Common Sense Solutions for a Stronger America" is available in bookstores now. Readers may email Cal Thomas at tcaeditors@tribune.com.