WASHINGTON, Aug. 16, 2016 — “Stretched too thin” is a phase often applied to our abused military. And with burdensome American troop commitments in Europe and Asia, it is impossible, not to mention prohibitively costly, to expect them to successfully fight against ISIS.
Republicans in Congress should declare war on ISIS, issuing letters of marque with promises of profitable bounties for the heads of jihadists and their property in weapons and territory.
During the War of 1812 Capt. John Ordronaux boarded his ship, the Prince of Neufchatel, in New York harbor. In his breast pocket he carried a letter of marque – a legal document sanctioning piracy on behalf of the United States Congress and under the command of President James Madison.
Ordronaux was to use his schooner’s crew of 129 men and 18 guns “to subdue, seize, and take any armed or unarmed British vessel public or private, which shall be found within the jurisdictional limits of the United States, or elsewhere on the high seas… to bring within some port of the United States.”
It is said that when a boarding party from the British frigate Endymion seemed on the verge of defeating the Neufchatel’s American crew, Ordronaux opened the hatch to his ship’s gunpowder magazine, lit a match and threatened to blow up the vessel with everyone on board.
And with that, the American crew got back in the war with renewed zeal.
“Fighting with knives, bare fists, cutlasses, pistols, and even teeth, the Americans slashed, hacked, and drove the British overboard,” Barbara La Rocco wrote in her book “A Maritime History of New York.”
These free-market American privateers defeated the much larger 40-gun British frigate, remanding her captured crew into the custody of Nantucket Island’s county sheriff.
The letter of marque is a constitutional provision that sits buried in Article I, Section 8, several lines below the legislative body’s delineated powers to “lay and collect taxes,” “borrow money on credit,” establish a “uniform rule of naturalization” and dole out punishment for “counterfeiting the securities and current coin of the United States.”
The man who issued Ordronaux’s pirate’s license, James Madison, is considered the father of our Constitution. Under the old Articles of Confederation, each of the 13 original states had the power to issue letters of marque in time of war. But Madison argued in Federalist 44 that after ratification of the U.S. Constitution, only Congress would be “fully justified [to declare war and issue letters of marque] by the advantage of uniformity in all points which relate to foreign powers; and of immediate responsibility to the nation in all those for whose conduct the nation itself is to be responsible.”
It is time to change the fight against ISIS. Free-market piracy is a time-proven and much more cost-effective weapon of war than the approach the U.S. is currently taking.