Are Mercenaries Really a Cheaper Way of War? By David A. Graham - Defense One
The founder of Blackwater says privatizing the 16-year war could save taxpayer money. History, both recent and farther back, suggests a different outcome.
The world is sliding in a strange direction when a Prince wishes to become a viceroy.
That’s Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary Academi, previously Xe, né Blackwater, who has been pushing a plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan. At 16 years, it’s the country’s longest war, it continues to cost huge sums of money—$40 billion this year alone—and there’s no obvious end in sight. So Prince’s plan is for the U.S. to turn the war over to mercenaries (perhaps, say, Academi) and to appoint a viceroy (perhaps, say, Erik Prince) to run the war.
USA Today reported Tuesday that Prince’s plan has the attention of the White House. One can see why that might be the case. Not only is Prince’s sister the secretary of education (she was Betsy Prince before she married and became Betsy DeVos), but President Trump has also reportedly expressed frustration about the war. “We aren’t winning. We are losing,” he said, according to NBC News, which also said he has considered sacking the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson.
When Prince first suggested the plan, former mercenary Sean McFate wrote in The Atlantic that it was a bad idea—even if one left out the many black marks on Blackwater’s reputation from the conduct of the war in Iraq, and also even if one left out the fact that his exemplar for the viceroy role, General Douglas MacArthur, was fired by the president for abuse of power. Those legitimate worries aside, McFate warned that there plenty of other reasons to be wary: Mercenaries are susceptible to being hired away, tend to foment war where they go, and, essentially, lack the accountability that actual troops do…