A little-known congressional power could help the federal government
keep the Somali pirates in check -- and possibly do it for a discount
price. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) and a growing number of national
security experts are calling on Congress to consider using letters of
marque and reprisal, a power written into the Constitution that allows
the United States to hire private citizens to keep international waters
-- Used heavily during the Revolution and the War of
1812, letters of marque serve as official warrants from the government,
allowing privateers to seize or destroy enemies, their loot and their
vessels in exchange for bounty money.
-- The letters also require would-be thrill seekers to post a bond promising to abide by international rules of war.
a YouTube video earlier this week, Paul suggested lawmakers consider
issuing letters, which could relieve American naval ships from being
the nation's primary pirate responders -- a free-market solution to
make the high seas safer for cargo ships.
"I think if every
potential pirate knew this would be the case, they would have second
thoughts because they could probably be blown out of the water rather
easily if those were the conditions," Paul said.
Theoretically, hiring bounty hunters would also be a cheaper option:
security experts estimate that this week's ship captain rescue by Navy
SEALs cost tens of millions, although a Navy spokesman says the
military cannot confirm the exact cost of the mission.
privateers would be incentivized to patrol the ocean looking for key
targets -- and money would be paid only to the contractor who completed
"If we have 100 American wanna-be Rambos
patrolling the seas, it's probably a good way of getting the job done,"
said Competitive Enterprise Institute senior fellow and security expert
Eli Lehrer. "Right now we have a Navy designed mostly to fight other
navies. The weapons we have are all excellent, but they may not be the
best ones to fight these kinds of pirates. The only cost under letters
of marque would be some sort of bounty for the pirates."
Source: Erika Lovley, "Ron Paul's plan to fend off pirates," Yahoo.com, April 15, 2009.
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