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Mercenaries Author(s): Deborah Avant Source: Foreign Policy, No. 143 (Jul. - Aug., 2004), pp. 20-22+24+26+28 Published by: Washingtonpost.Newsweek Interactive, LLC Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4152906 Accessed: 02/01/2010 18:19
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. private corporations.From the 12th centurythrough the peace of Westphaliain 1648. Carl Levin recently. "Private Security Are Companies Mercenaries" were individuals or small ex-military groups that operated in the shadows. No.suchas the procomplexneedsof a modernizing The term "mercenary"describesa wide variof military activities. military contractors often employed soldiers trained within feudal structures. Modern contractors most resemble the military of enterprisers the late Middle Ages. Fightingwars. Mercenary units that fought in the American Revolution were effectively leased to the British Army by the Hessians.nearlyall force was contracted. The mercenaryactivity associated with entities such as the British East India Company came about when nation-states chartered companies to establish colonies and engage in long-distancetrade.THINK AGAIN By Deborah Avant "How is it in our nation's interest. The soldiers of fortune that ran riot over the African continent in the 1960s Deborah Avantis associateprofessorof politicalscienceand international affairsat the George WashingtonUniversityand author of a forthcoming book on private security and political change. maintainingorder.." asked U. performing vital national security functions . 20 FOREIGN POLICY .fromItaliancity-states the Vatican. many of which bear little ety resemblanceto those of today's privatesecuritycompanies. of contracted forces in the late Middle Ages to the inabilityof the feudalsystemto addressthe increasingly society. rather than military personnel. Sen. these hired guns are rapidly becoming indispensable to national militaries. "to have civilian contractors.and collecting taxes were among the various political tasks filled by Some historianslink the rise these militaryenterprises.S. Beforethe rise of the nation-state. Even as governments debate how to hold them accountable. sending them to to whomevercould pay. and nongovernmental groups across the globe.in a war zone?" The answer lies in humanity's long history of contracting force and the changing role of today's private security firms.

Similarreasons existtoday:The market and pressures. AlthoughU.N.Truckdriving may not sound like an integralmilitaryresponsibility. Since U. Today'sprivate securitycompanies are corporate endeavors that perform logistics support. and the absence of a U. training. roughlyequal to that of the recentwar in Iraq. Wrong. prison interrogation.Contractors have the technical to expertise supportincreasingly suchas the UnitedStates' complexweaponssystems. but with individuals drawn from vast databasesof ex-militaryand former law enforcementpersonnel. after the end of the Cold War brought reductions in force size and numerous ethnic and regional conflicts emerged requiringintervention. Although many of these individualsare quite honorable. Media attention on contractors in Iraq. the Iraq conflict demonstrates. "The Administration Bush Has Dramatically of Military Contractors" Expanded Use May 2003. PresidentGeorge W. technology. building policeto trainand The ingfledgling military policeforces. drawing private security companies closer to combat as the Iraqi insurgency continues. Individuals may appear in several databases.securitycontractorshave flooded the country. The unstable environment has stretched coalition forces thin. Bush announced the end of "major combat operations" in Iraq in "Contractors Don't Other Essential in Engage Military Combat Tasks" or False. peacekeepers and international civilian police unavailable. has also raised public awareness of securitycontractorsto a higherdegreethan in previous conflicts. however.the industry's structure allows ample opportunity for some who bear disturbing similarities to the 1960s-style soldiers of fortune to enter the corporate mix. move easily from one contract (and company) to the next.tection of trade routes for merchants. the truck driver may have a more intense military experience than anticipated. Similarly. in and provide services peacekeeping governancekey fromstaffing civilian missions. mandate has made tools such as U.These databaseslist individualsby experienceand specialtyso contractorscan custom-fit each job with qualified employees.which contractorsprovide readily-even As including. militarycontractors perform manyof them. risk analysis. such as the Americans who allegedly abused Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraibprison.thesetasksarechanging. the United States deployed about one contractor for every50 active-duty personnel. intelligence work. but if a driverdeliveringfuel to troops passes through combat zones. They operate in an open market. and freelance when not under contract. The United States ramped up military outsourcing during the 1990s.Ethnicconflicts in Bosnia and Herzegovina in the mid-1990s and Kosovo in 1999 saw that ratio increaseto about 1 to 10. waron terrorismalso increases importance intelligence the of services. B-2 bomber Apache and Contractors often helicopter. work for many employers at once. and boast of their professionalism.During the first Gulf War in 1991.S. but two of the four contractorsimplicatedin the Tagubareporton the Abu Ghraibabuseswere hiredas or interpreters translators. security.as we now know. DefenseSecretary Donald Rumsfeld the Pentagon said wouldoutsource but all coremilitary and tasks. social of a globalizedworld createmultipledemands change that nationalmilitaries have difficultymeeting. These companies staff their projects not with permanent employees.language interpretationmay sound mundane. and much more.many military duties that may not technically be considered core tasks nonethelessbecomeso in the midst of war. JULY I AUGUST 2004 21 .N.S.

In the United States.ThinkAgain ] "Military than Contractors Are Cheaper Regular Soldiers" most telling. GSGmanagersreportedly worried that training Sierra Leone's troops would reputationthat might give the companya mercenary future contracts. which can use several methods. Military forces are beholden only to their governments. regulate security contractors to greater or lesser degrees. Given its work with endanger employerssuch as the Britishgovernment.000 per month. for instance.S. faulted the military for poor budgetaryoversight.training.K. Perhaps "Contractors Are An Accountable to No One" Many governments exaggeration. Contractors are accountableto a rangeof employersand respond most effectively to market incentives. for example. (The reasons: to gain specialized technical skills. ultimately. Moreover. cost-effectiveness not one of the three is reasons for outsourcinglisted in a 2003 GAOreport on military contracting. U. and.) News reports on the war in Iraq have noted the relativelyhigh salariesof contractors-some $20. bypass limits on military personnel that can be deployed to certain regions. For instance. former Sierra Leone dictator Valentine Strasser fired U.A 2000 report on logistics support in the Balkans by the U.S. triple or more what active-dutysoldiers earn-but such figures fail to explain whether contractors are indeed cost-effective. from withholding funds to personnel discipline. most contractors are recruitedand trained by governmentsat some point in their careers.S. When deciding how to respond to a request. market accountability differs from accountability in well-run military organizations. and ensure that scarce resources are available for other assignments. Prove it. when the U.In addition. But governmentsfrequentlycurtail competition to preserve reliability and continuity.However. For instance. its access to informationabout contracts is . That said. broader market reputation.-based Gurkha Security Guards (GSG) for refusing to provide security for army training facilities in 1995. Numerous studies on privatization and outsourcingsuggestthat two conditionsmust be presentfor the privatesectorto deliverservicesmore efficientlythan the government:a competitivemarket and contractorflexibility in fulfilling their obligations.and deployingpersonnel.their earnings. Brown & Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton) won a no-bid contract to rebuild Iraqi oil fields in 2003 because the Pentagon determinedit was the only company with the size and securityclearancesto do the job.S. Although the U. The fact that contractors can be fired makes them at least minimally accountable for their actions. Some analysts arguethat contractorsare ultimatelycheaperbecause they allow the military to avoid the expense of recruiting. the GeneralAccounting Office (GAO). for example. a long list of requirements trainersresulted in a higher estimatedcost than that of the previous program. For example. Congress approves the military budget. Army outsourced ROTCtraining in for 1997. military contractor Kellogg. contractorsconsiderhow that requestmight affect their other customers. military leadershave voiced concern that the lure of corporate contractorsunderminesArmy personnel retention-a worry shared by military leaders from Britainto Chile.this concern made good businesssense. government'sinvestigative arm. governments often impose conditions that reduce contractors' flexibility. the Federal Acquisition Regulations and additional Department of Defense rules govern contracts with private security firms. the UnitedStates. The use of contractors to avoid governmental is In accountability moreworrisome.the executive branchhires contractors. to hold an 22 FOREIGN POLICY organization or individual to account.

S.which govactivities erns only such egregioussoldier-of-fortune . Furthermore. For example. and the militias spoiled several iterations of peace negotiations that followed. Countries that opposed the war may have a particularlyhard time prosecuting contractors for crimes committed in Iraq. Yet contractors sometimes worsen the conditions for long-term stability.N. The mines were key to EO's payment. Convention on Mercenaries. but through a private entity. company Military ProfessionalResourcesInternational(MPRI)to provide advice and training to the Croatian govern- ment. effectivelylimiting on congressionalchecks on foreignpolicy.the U.contractors can facilitate foreign policy by proxy. inadvertently strengthening parallelforce. military assistance. 24 FOREIGN POLICY Even U. The Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). "Contractors Frequently. and the mining companies employed EOsubsidiaries. actions. The British government has encouragedsimilarcontractswith states in which British firms have commercial interests.S. who were accused of plotting to depose President T6odoro Obiang Nguema of Equatorial Guinea. The country's president.The presidentcan use this advantageto evade restrictions U.S. its activities did not enhance the conditions for longterm peace. Last March. Operate Outside the Law" The legal status of contractors varies considerably. Although many critics argue that militarycontractorshave an economic interest in prolonging conflict rather than reducing it. Although EO helped with short-term security. That is especially true of countries such as South Africa that claim contractors from their country are exporting services without the government's permission. the contractorsfound the army undependablein retaking the country's diamond mines. but too often the distinction is unclear. "Contractors Value Profits More than Peace" Not always. This example also demonstrates how countrieswith naturalresourcesor wealthy nonstate actors are privileged in the security market. The status of contractors is even more contentious under international law. secretary of defense with initiating prosecutions.S. Tensions between the local army and the militias contributed to a coup. Indeed. Their legal status remains a matter of dispute. employees of private military companies rarely have been accused of aggravating conflict intentionally to keep profits flowing.In 1994. many human rights advocates regard such organizations as a way to hasten interventionsthat Westernpowers might otherwise avoid. which in turn trained soldiers to protect a Britishcompany's tea and sugar estates from rebels. stipulated that contractors are subject to the laws of their parent country. legislation created to address this issue (the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act of 2000) lacks specifics and entruststhe U. but at a distance that allows for plausible deniability.In 1995. not Iraqi law. Sometimes they are subject to the laws of the territory in which they operate and other times to those of their home territory. Zimbabwe arrested some 70 employees associated with British private security firm Logo Logistics. when British securityfirm Executive Outcomes (EO)helped Sierra Leone's army defend its capital from rebels. allowing the government (or parts of it) to change events on the ground.BecauseEO'sstake in the mines was so high. Franjo Tudjman. such as the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. the firm turned instead to local a militias.S. in 1986 the British government loaned money to Mozambique'sgovernmentto hire British security firm Defense Systems Limited. received the advantages of U.S. the United States licensed U.Think Again often limited.-led entity chargedwith governingIraqthrough June 2004. Most security company activity falls outside the purview of the 1989 U.

transnationalcorporations.potentially under different rules of engagement. Therefore. Oil.S. Governments Hire Private Security Companies" takes and confusion can increasewhen contractors work for states as well as commercialpartiesin the same territory.The CPA clearcontrolof these forces. military worries that even as contractors become more involvedin the use of lethal force. national militaries that participate in peacekeeping missions (whichgreatlyinfluencetheirrespective government's see contractorsas competition.reportsthat two thirdsof its employeesareIraqi-sometimes joincompaniesthatreportIraqisecurity ing with fledgling never had edly hire ex-RepublicanGuards. recruited in Iraqhaveactively Iraqis--oneof the largest operationsin Iraq. government was subject to international legal action. Peacekeeppolicies) ing operationsgive these militariesmoney and prestige and sometimes keep them afloat. Those who advocate that the United Nations hire private contractors are not looking to replace U. Rather. the Report of the Panel on United Nations PeaceOperations-or "BrahimiReport"- . government still officially designated the contractors as kidnapees. the U.S.Think Again ] as overthrowing a government.S. peacekeeping forces. neither the contractors nor the U. Human rights law generally binds only states.creatingmany problematic side effects. when the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerrilla group took three U.the SteeleFoundation.In Iraq. These legal muddles can also restrict the rights of private security personnel.S.S. For example.S. militaryor the CPA.the U. SecurityCouncil and GeneralAssembly have been reluctantto consider it because of weak governments'concern that private securityforces could be used against them. Securitycontractorswork for governments.N. For instance.contractorpresenceis not dependenton the U. militias.-based advocacy group InternationalPeace Operations Association to provide private forces for Democratic Republic of the Congo suggested teaming military contractors with local forces. diamond. Long concerned about the status of contractors on the battlefield. nearly every foreign entity-from the CPAto Bechtel to ABC News-requires private security. That said. the local forces trained by military contractors could destabilize the environment after the contractorsleave. Additionally. and other extractiveindustrieshire contractorsto guard (or to train locals to guard) their facilities. outsourcing firm DynCorp (hired by the United States to train police officers in the Balkans)were implicatedin sex-trade schemes. That is a bad idea: Without firm governmentcontrol. a 2003 proposal by U. military contractors hostage in 2003 and granted them Pow status. Securitycontractors'reliance on local employeesto cut costs andgain localknowledgeis also firmsworking Dozens of privatesecurity problematic. and nongovernmental organizations (NGOs).S. The privatefinancingof security(whether convia or controloverthe use tractors.Mis- "The United Nations Should Outsource to Peacekeeping Private Contractors" No. The U. 26 FOREIGN POLICY Outsourced peacekeeping is also unlikely. "Only Wrong. reducing the formal legal responsibilities of contractors. when personnel from the U.and the UnitedNations and NGOsemploy convoy guards.how a new Iraqigovernment will regulateand overseethem is unknown. rebels)diffuses of force. Yet. they hope to make them more flexible and easier to use. they are also less likely to receive prisoner-of-war (Pow) status if captured by enemy forces.N.

Those states that do not tap into the market lose relative power. collective monopoly on violence. [I [Want to KnowMore? in in "PriDavidShearer involvement international interventions his seminalarticles arguesfor contractor Vol. Vol. For a more skeptical view. Fall 1998). "Private Military State Contractors Power" Undermine Not always. Profit or Plun- der?ThePrivatisationof Securityin War-torn Institute Security for Studies. consult Ken Silverstein's Private Warriors(New York: to Verso. Chris Seiple.foreignpolicy. Ultimately. Military contractors can enhance the power of individual states.Indeed. The fact that the UnitedStates.2002). However. as when failed states like Sierra Leone essentially buy an army. (Adelphi EIGNPOLICY. which is managing the chaos in Iraq with fewer troops than many believed necessary by increasingits personnel pool. Africa's civil wars have led extractivecompaniesand NGOsto hire security. For historical perspectives. "Humanitarian Action and Private Security Companies" (London: International Alert. claimsto authorprivatesecuritycreatesoverlapping the problems that prompted ity. and Koenraad Van Brabant. Thomson's and in StateBuildingand Extrateritorial Violence EarlyModernEurope Mercenaries. whichtiesthe privatesecurity industry's development the weaponstrade.2000). Military contractors could train them for greater flexibility and capacity. furthercomplicatingconflict resolution. A report by Tony Vaux. AfricanSocieties(Pretoria: 1999). 1998) and "Outsourcing vateArmiesandMilitaryInterventions" War"(FORPapers. 2003) provides a good overview of the private security industry and its potential costs and benefits. March 2002). edited by Jakkie Cilliers and Peggy Mason. contractors undermine states' however. 1994). the report lists major stumbling blocks to effective peacekeeping memberstate support operations(suchas insufficient and lack of clear mandates) that are unlikely to be solved through privatization.Singer's book Corporate The CorMilitaryIndustry(Ithaca: Warriors: Riseof thePrivatized nell University Press. For an international legal debate on private military contractors. see Janice E. potentially feeding demandfor privatesecurityin the firstplace. theUnitedNations it hard for nations that hire private security makes oppose militarycontractingto restrictsecurityfirms based in their country. and the New World Disorder" (StanfordJournal of International Law. and a comprehensive index of related FOREIGNPOLICYarticles. see Peace. access to the FP Archive. go to wwvw.316. Sovereigns: (Princeton: Princeton University Press. Contractorsare also quite useful to powerful nations such as the United States.com. Books. analyzes the issues transnational nongovernmental organizations face when considering private security. Pirates. For information about the role of contractors in Africa'swars. 1998). and Britain. Australia. States that embrace private security have a flexible new foreign-policy tool partly because private forces ease the political restraints typical among democracies.Think Again released in August 2000 lists several ways in which U. ))For links to relevant Web sites.N. International Law. This practicecan reducestatecontrolover nationalterritories.A reportby the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists. 34. forces could work together more effectively. consult Juan Carlos Zarate's "The Emergence of a New Dog of War: Private International Security Companies. "Making a Killing: The Business of War" (Wash- facetsof the industry. Greg Nakano. 28 FOREIGN POLICY . also castsa criticaleye on manydifferent ington:PublicIntegrity PeterW.

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