Ron Paul and the Pirates

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Ron Paul has publicly suggested a new plan to deal with piracy, and it is the subject of a surprisingly-sympathetic article by the Associated Press:

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 safe.

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.

Dr. Paul also anticipated the criticism that this would be just another Blackwater fiasco:

“It may work in the sense that if you give people incentives to fight piracy, you’ll see more action taken against it,” said Andrew Grotto, a senior national security analyst with the Center for American Progress. “The ocean is huge and, practically speaking, there’s no way the Navy can prevent piracy; it’s too big. But just given the experience in Iraq with private contractors, that effort showcases the difficulties dealing with folks who aren’t answerable to anyone but shareholders.”

But Paul has already thought through a number of these updates.

Days after Sept. 11, Paul introduced legislation allowing President Bush to allow private citizens to go after Osama bin Laden and other identified terrorists and put a bounty price on the heads of targets responsible for the New York attacks. Contractors would also be required to post a play-by-the-rules bond and turn over any terrorists — and their seized property —to U.S. authorities.

“The Constitution gives Congress the power to issue letters of marque and reprisal when a precise declaration of war is impossible due to the vagueness of the enemy,” Paul wrote in a press release. “Once letters of marque and reprisal are issued, every terrorist is essentially a marked man.”

8:05 am on April 15, 2009