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Modern Letters of Marque

Started by Weaver, September 18, 2021, 08:21:06 PM

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Weaver

So here's an interesting couple of tidbits I only just found out about:

Quote
... after the Congress of Paris at the end of the Crimean War, seven European nations signed the Paris Declaration of 1856 renouncing privateering, and forty-five more eventually joined them, which in effect abolished privateering worldwide. The United States was not a signatory to that declaration. Despite the attempt to end privateering around the world, nations continued issuing letters of marque. In 1879 at the beginning of the War of the Pacific, Bolivia issued letters of marque to any vessels willing to fight for them. At the time Bolivia was under threat from Chile's fleet but had no navy.


20th Century

In December 1941 and the first months of 1942, Goodyear commercial L class blimp Resolute operating out of Moffett Field in Sunnyvale, California, flew anti-submarine patrols. As the civilian crew was armed with a rifle, a persistent misconception arose that this made the ship a privateer and that she and sister commercial blimps were operated under letters of marque until the Navy took over operation. Without congressional authorization, the Navy would not have been able to legally issue any letters of marque.


21st-century American reconsideration of letters of marque

Article 1 of the United States Constitution lists issuing letters of marque and reprisal in Section 8 as one of the enumerated powers of Congress, alongside the power to tax and to declare War. However, since the American Civil War, the United States as a matter of policy has consistently followed the terms of the 1856 Paris Declaration forbidding the practice. The United States has not legally commissioned any privateers since 1815, although the status of submarine-hunting Goodyear airships in the early days of World War II created significant confusion. Various accounts refer to airships Resolute and Volunteer as operating under a "privateer status", but Congress never authorized a commission, nor did the President sign one.

The issue of marque and reprisal was raised before Congress after the September 11 attacks and again on July 21, 2007, by Congressman Ron Paul. The attacks were defined as acts of "air piracy" and the Marque and Reprisal Act of 2001 was introduced, which would have granted the president the authority to use letters of marque and reprisal against the specific terrorists, instead of warring against a foreign state. The terrorists were compared to pirates in that they are difficult to fight by traditional military means. On April 15, 2009, Paul also advocated the use of letters of marque to address the issue of Somali pirates operating in the Gulf of Aden. However, the bills Paul introduced were not enacted into law.

From here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Letter_of_marque

So ignoring the modern politics aspect as per the board rules, this nevertheless opens up some interesting alternative-history possibilities:

What if those airships HAD been issued letters of marque?

What if other nations followed suite, and the Paris Declaration went the way of all previous attempts to end privateering?

What might WWII privateers, issued with letters of marque against combatant powers, look like?

What might 21st century privateers, issued with letters of marque against terrorists, look like?

Given the resources involved in 20th/21st century warfare, might companies and corporations have followed Goodyear's example and got into the privateering business? After all, if you've got a product to sell and nobody's buying, or a tarnished image that needs polishing with some patriotic heroics, forming a private military arm and gaining letters of marque to go after your country's enemies might seem a good investment.
"We thank you, but this diversion is not true. Things never happened thus."

"Oh, but it IS true. Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are
the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot."

- Sandman: A Midsummer Night's Dream, by Neil Gaiman

jcf

Quote What might 21st century privateers, issued with letters of marque against terrorists, look like?

Terrorists as determined by whom?
Student protestors in Mexico during the '60s and '70s were declared to be terrorists
by the government, which rather ironically led to some becoming actual guerillas
during the period of the Dirty War. Of course it was the government that was
using terror for political purposes rather than the tiny, ineffective guerilla bands.

Terrorist is a loaded term with very subjective meanings, also doesn't the world
have enough pain, suffering, injustice and destruction already? Why theorize
about adding more?

As to private corporate armies, what do you think "private military" contract companies
actually are and what role they filled in the US "war on terror"?


"Conspiracy theory's got to be simple.
Sense doesn't come into it. People are
more scared of how complicated crap
actually is than they ever are about
whatever's supposed to be behind the
conspiracy."
-The Peripheral, William Gibson 2014

Weaver

'Terrorists' as determined by the state issuing the letters of marque, obviously. Equally obviously, different states will have different definitions of 'terrorist' and colourful opinons about each others' definitions of 'terrorist'. It's the germ of a idea for a backstory to some interesting/unlikely models Jon, not a political/ethical treatise. Also, if we shouldn't theorize about adding more pian, suffering, injustice and destruction to the world, then we'd better give up on all post-apocalyptic scenarios too, hadn't we?
"We thank you, but this diversion is not true. Things never happened thus."

"Oh, but it IS true. Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are
the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot."

- Sandman: A Midsummer Night's Dream, by Neil Gaiman

Rheged

We had this discussion about 10 years ago (gosh, is it really so far in the past?)

https://www.whatifmodellers.com/index.php?topic=33076.msg515834#msg515834
"If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you....."
It  means that you read  the instruction sheet

Weaver

Quote from: Rheged on September 22, 2021, 08:33:54 AM
We had this discussion about 10 years ago (gosh, is it really so far in the past?)

https://www.whatifmodellers.com/index.php?topic=33076.msg515834#msg515834

Wow - I even contributed to it and I didn't remember...

Mind you, that discussion was quite constrained around the idea of dealing with Somali pirates. With this one I was intending to open it up to more general and imaginative alt-history possibilities. It was really the idea of the Goodyear airships operating under Letters of Marque that set me off..
"We thank you, but this diversion is not true. Things never happened thus."

"Oh, but it IS true. Things need not have happened to be true. Tales and dreams are
the shadow-truths that will endure when mere facts are dust and ashes, and forgot."

- Sandman: A Midsummer Night's Dream, by Neil Gaiman

Doug K

Isn't this pretty much what the US did in relying on "contractors" in Iraq & Afghanistan, and more recently the Russians (complete with air assets) in Libya?

Nick

Balance Of Power by Thomas Huston

The US Congress decides to take direct action against pirates and terrorists by issuing a Letter of Marque to a US Navy carrier group. The US President has his own ideas and as CinC sends another group to stop them.
Political-Legal arguments in DC, high power action on the high seas. Long time since I skim read it, forget the outcome. But there was a sequel in the series according to Amazon reviews.

TheHouse209

Balance of Power was good. Ghost Fleet was another book that mentioned a Letter of Marque. If I recall right,  a billionaire starts a private military company and gets a Letter to go take over a space station.
As an aside,  and not intended to take over the conversation, I have a question related.
If you were to start one of those contractor companies, would you have to follow the restrictions of individual citizens to buy firearms, or would it be unlimited if you have the money?

zenrat

If you've got enough money you can do anything.  Even become president of the USA.

I'm sure that if a government had issued one with a letter of marque they would facilitate provision of suitable materiel to a location where acquisition and/or possession of said materiel was not a problem.
Fred

- Can't be bothered to do the proper research and get it right.

Another ill conceived, lazily thought out, crudely executed and badly painted piece of half arsed what-if modelling muppetry from zenrat industries.

zenrat industries:  We're everywhere...for your convenience..

Old Wombat

Quote from: TheHouse209 on October 02, 2021, 07:33:17 PM
If you were to start one of those contractor companies, would you have to follow the restrictions of individual citizens to buy firearms, or would it be unlimited if you have the money?

If you have unlimited funds, you could buy what you want.

However, the roles of PMC's & PSC's are becoming more & more regulated. For starters, PMC's actively engaged in military operations are, in fact, acting illegally, as mercenaries, & may be treated by the law as such. Their roles are generally defined as being advisory, training, logistics, corporate & infrastructure security, personal security & reconnaissance.

PMC's & PSC's, also, must be legally registered private companies & have a legally binding contract with the nation within which they are operating to provide their services within that country, not just with the organisations or nations employing them.
Has a life outside of What-If & wishes it would stop interfering!

"The purpose of all War is Peace" - St. Augustine

veritas ad mortus veritas est