During the 16th century, the British monarchy employed private armies and navies to safeguard the interests of it’s expanding empire. They were called privateers, the most famous of them being a swashbuckling buccaneer who took care not to plunder British merchant shipping and held all others, especially Spanish galleons, as fair game. Instead of bringing him to justice for his lawless ways, the wily Queen Elizabeth-I saw an opportunity in him. Giving him the exalted status of a close ally, she even knighted him in 1581. Just as Blackwater founder, Eric Prince, is seen as a hero by American rednecks and Republicans, Sir Francis Drake was a hero to the British. (Of course, the Spaniards, whose armada he helped the Queen to defeat, thought of him as a no-good pirate).

The British monarch was not the only absolute ruler who used privateers to their ends. The Russian President, Vladimir Putin, is known to have a stable full of private armies, arms traffickers, logistics providers and ‘sanctions busters’, whom he uses to carry out tasks that he cannot officially claim responsibility for. One such specimen, Viktor Anatolyevich Bout, comes readily to mind. Now incarcerated in a US penitentiary, Bout was the world’s most notorious arms trafficker since the end of the Cold War. Once widely known as the ‘merchant of death’, Bout habitually supplied both sides in a conflict but remained untouched and above retribution because he was damned efficient and never failed to deliver on his promises. The Nicolas Cage flick Lord of War is based on Bout’s life.

The business model that saw folk like Spartacus, the Vikings, the Francis Drakes and the Victor Bouts making a living out of mayhem, has survived and proliferated into a $50 billion a year industry of which the US market, as expected the largest consumer segment, is worth $15 billion……

For God, Country, Family