Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Pirates, stimulus, and the Constitution

The recent media frenzy over the Maersk Alabama and the uptick in piracy in the Gulf of Aden (3 more ships taken yesterday) provides a great opportunity for the federal government to stimulate the economy while combating piracy.

Blackwater (the liberal scourge word) recently re-flagged itself as Xe (pronounced Z) in an order to combat all of its recent negative PR (most of which has yet to be proven to be true, by the way) and is struggling to keep its worldwide operations alive. The loss of the State Department contract for Iraq security of diplomats was a heavy blow. Indeed, since Blackwater is the worldwide leader in contract security and training services, they are obviously too big to fail under liberal dogma. Since the federal government has a clear cut responsibility to assist this ailing US company, the question becomes how to help in the wake of the bailout hangover currently sweeping the nation.
Enter the pirates.

While popular opinion over the past week has been that merchant ships should be armed with at least light weapons, if not to the teeth (Mitch Berg writes about how merchants fought off pirates 200 years ago) the problem becomes one of international maritime law. Most ports of call do not allow merchant ships to carry weapons in port. Which makes sense, I suppose. Do we really want Iranian or North Korean freighters able to enter New York Harbor armed with missiles and machine guns? I think not.

No the solution is so much simpler, and was even forseen by the Founding Fathers. We give Blackwater (Xe) a Letter of Marquee.

Not familiar with that term? A letter of marque is an official warrant or commission from a government authorizing the designated agent to search, seize, or destroy specified assets or personnel belonging to a foreign party which has committed some offense under the laws of nations against the assets or citizens of the issuing nation, and has usually been used to authorize private parties to raid and capture merchant shipping of an enemy nation.

So Congress gives Xe a Letter of Marquee, authorizing the destruction of the Somali pirate fleet. What? You say we can't do that legally? You're wrong. Article 1, section 8 of the US Constitution lists the enumerated powers of Congress, to include;
To define and punish piracies and felonies committed on the high seas, and offenses against the law of nations;
To declare war, grant letters of marque and reprisal, and make rules concerning captures on land and water;

Unlike most of the federal stimu-less spending, money to Blackwater could be in the simple form of a bounty. Say $10,000 for every small pirate ship captured or destroyed, $50,000 for every mother ship and so on. This simple incentive would ensure that the job would be done right, or the government doesn't have to pay. Try getting that kind of guarenteed result from any of the stimu-less spending .

So the next time you hear some talking head or politician on TV talking about how dealing with piracy is a delicate issue, how we have to be careful of international law, and we must hold to our own laws when deciding how to solve this problem, keep in mind that the Founding Fathers found the solution to piracy on the high seas hundreds of years ago.

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