Saturday, September 04, 2004

Rambo Coalition

"Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious, and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy. The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin ... has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were."

"It must be understood that a prince ... cannot observe all of those virtues for which men are reputed good, because it is often necessary to act against mercy, against faith, against humanity, against frankness, against religion, in order to preserve the state."

- Niccolo Machiavelli (circa 1513 AD)

So with all due respect to Paul Krugman's article (op-ed here) the truth of the matter is that it now comes down to this - Corporate Warriors - the rise of the Privatized Military Industry. PMCs (private military companies) are no longer occupying just a small market niche out on the fringes of the developing world. They are now very big business and major corporations have sat up and taken notice. Firms like L-3 have acquired MPRI, ArmorGroup bought up Defense Systems Ltd, Computer Sciences Corporation bought DynCorp.

Do a Google on "Executive Outcomes" sometime soon and you'll begin to see why the business is flourishing in places such as Kuwait, Iraq, Haiti, Somalia, Rwanda, the Balkans, Afghanistan and East Timor. Since the early 1990's, when this little known private paramilitary outfit reversed the fortunes of war in Angola and Sierrra Leone, a wave of privatization and outsourcing has been sweeping Washington and no longer can the Pentagon deploy overseas without PMC assistance. A recent investigation estimates that the annual global PMC revenue has surpassed US$100Billion.

Currently, PMC personnel are working, and dying, in places like Iraq, helping to provide security for its oil fields, provide training to the army's new Stryker brigade which has just been deployed there, and train Iraqi police and prison guards. They are recruited as operatives for the Central Intelligence Agency's paramilitary division. They are piloting drug fumigation planes in Colombia, where they have been killed and captured by the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia. They are training the Saudi National Guard, serving as bodyguards to interim President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan, and providing security to US diplomats (where three of them, working for the firm Dyncorp, died in a bomb blast in October). They are recruited from big states like the US and Great Britain and microstates like Fiji. There are probably 10,000 to 20,000 private contractors working overseas just for the US Defense and State departments alone.

Contrary to fears that PMC personnel may cut and run when the going gets tough. But consider the war in Iraq. Already some US military personnel in the reserves have said they object to being deployed to Iraq, and significant numbers of soldiers, both active and reserve, are not reenlisting. In contrast, there are no documented examples of PMC personnel in the field who have said they want out.

Private military companies, for their part, are focusing much of their manpower on Capitol Hill these days. Many are staffed with retired military officers who are well connected at the Pentagon -- putting them in a prime position to influence government policy and drive more business to their firms. In one instance, private contractors successfully pressured the government to lift a ban on American companies providing military assistance to Equatorial Guinea, a West African nation accused of brutal human-rights violations. Because they operate with little oversight, using contractors also enables the military to skirt troop limits imposed by Congress and to carry out clandestine operations without committing U.S. troops or attracting public attention. "Private military corporations become a way to distance themselves and create what we used to call ‘plausible deniability,'" says Daniel Nelson, a former professor of civil-military relations at the Defense Department's Marshall European Center for Security Studies. "It's disastrous for democracy."

The push to privatize war got its start during the administration of the elder President Bush. After the Gulf War ended, the Pentagon, then headed by Defense Secretary Dick Cheney, paid a Halliburton subsidiary called Brown & Root Services nearly $9 million to study how private military companies could provide support for American soldiers in combat zones. Cheney went on to serve as CEO of Halliburton -- and Brown & Root, now known as Halliburton KBR, has since been awarded at least $2.5 billion to construct and run military bases, some in secret locations, as part of the Army's Logistics Civil Augmentation Program. In March, the Pentagon hired Cheney's former firm to fight fires in Iraq if Saddam Hussein sabotages oil wells during a U.S. attack.

Pentagon officials say they rely on firms like Halliburton because the private sector works faster and cheaper than the military. When U.S. Marines distributed relief supplies in Somalia in 1992, for example, the military contracted with Brown & Root for logistical support. "They had laborers and vehicles at the Port of Mogadishu within 11 hours after we had given them notice," recalls Don Trautner, who runs the Army logistics program.

Military insiders, from the Defense Department's inspector general to the Army War College, echo this concern. "Will using contractors place our service personnel at greater risk of losing their lives in combat?" one Air Force military journal has asked. "Are we ultimately trading their blood to save a relatively insignificant amount in the national budget?"


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home