The United States government is currently offering up to $20 million dollars to individuals who provide information which leads to the killing or capture of four ISIS terrorists. CBS News reports:

Through its Rewards for Justice program, the State Department announced Tuesday that it would pay up to $7 million for information on Abd al-Rahman Mustafa al-Qaduli, up to $5 million each for Abu Mohammed al-Adnani and Tarkhan Tayumurazovich Batirashvili and up to $3 million for Tariq Bin-al-Tahar Bin al Falih al-‘Awni al-Harzi.

The same program was used to target Osama Bin Laden, but to the best of our knowledge, nothing came of it. However, there is another tool in America’s toolbox that could be utilized to legally authorize others to kill ISIS terrorists for us. We would have to dust off a legal mechanism known as letters of marque, which sanctions freelancers. In the old days, kings could sanction private citizens on the high seas to capture or destroy vessels flagged by adversarial nations. These government-sanctioned pirates were known as privateers.

Even after the American Revolution, letters of marque were authorized during America’s first War on Terror, the campaign against barbary pirates off the coast of Libya. President Madison himself authorized these letters of marque. By capitalizing on this legal precedent, America could do what it does best: let the free market run its course.

Granted, there are a lot of hand-wringers out there who will be upset by this. ‘Why, we’re undermining the rule of law, states should have the only monopoly on violence, commoditizing violence will lead to corruption and prolong wars, blah, blah, blah…’ That is all well and good, but I think that it is fair to say that the ‘nation states’ of Iraq and Syria have long since lost their monopoly on violence, and with America unwilling (for good reasons) to commit to a full-blown ground war against ISIS, letters of marque could provide a cheap, viable alternative.

From my point of view, it is high time for us to hoist the Jolly Roger and sanction the first American pirates in 200 years.

"Flag of Henry Every red". Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons

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