A lot of people dont realize it but when America declared independence from Britain we lost protection of the British Navy. Then pirates in Africa began to attack American shipping in the Mediterranean and holding Americans as slave labor. American soldiers were being beheaded 200 years ago in 2 viscious wars. We werent born a world power we were beat that way. Here is a great article about it..
http://africanhistory.about.com/library/weekly/aa092001a.htmand a book about it..