Small Wars Journal

Private Soldiers: Bullets for Hire

Sun, 11/18/2012 - 6:23am

Plutocratic Insurgency: Mercenary Muscle?

Preface: Global elites and multinational corporations (MNCs) need to protect their business interests— insider deals and purchased politicians are not always enough. Sometimes ‘when push comes to shove’ nothing beats hired guns. This is especially true in failed and unstable states with lots of natural resources. The private military corporation Academi appears to recognize that need and the evolving security environment of the early 21st century—one in which MNCs are quickly expanding their use of mercenary muscle. Also note that China, Inc., recognizes the value of mercenaries too. Expect increasing use of mercenaries over the coming decades. They are a key attribute of Epochal Change and the current transition from the modern to post-modern era.

Private Soldiers: Bullets for Hire

The business of private armies is not only growing, but changing shape

The Economist

Nov 17th 2012

Over the past decade the business of renting out private soldiers has grown from a specialised niche into a global trade, worth as much as $100 billion, according to the United Nations.

Key points: More than 90% of the firm’s [Academi—formerly Xe and before that Blackwater] business to date has come from governments, but it thinks that in the future half of its customers could be corporate. Among the early adopters are energy firms and a hotel chain… In Angola, where more than 260,000 Chinese live and work, private firms keep them safe from banditry…



Tue, 11/20/2012 - 5:28pm

Are PMCs the issue, or are they simply a symptom?

IMHO, they represent a symptom brought about by over-stretched militaries, low political will to accept risk to uniformed personnel, and local instability/insecurity. This is not a new phenomenon, and PMCs will continue to exist. These issues will never be fully resolved, and as such PMCs will always exist in some form or function.

I do not agree with the premise that they "are a key attribute of Epochal Change and the current transition from the modern to post-modern era," as they existed well before the modern era. The historical record of using paid warriors by both nation-state and private enterprise is too long to record here. Does anyone remember that German mercenaries helped the American colonies defeat the British?


Tue, 11/20/2012 - 4:58pm

Corporate mercenaries create nothing but problems.

On the societal side, the fact that politicians can reduce the impact of making war goes against the very idea of a representative government. If the cost of war for a given country is hidden because mercenaries have been contracted, then will we not fight war more often?

On the military side, I have seen how the corporate mercenary/contracting firms bilk the military's best talent. The taxpayer funds all the upfront training and security clearance costs, and then the mercenary recruiters sweep in offering twice the pay, which of course they can, because they firm payed none of the training costs. Not only do mercenary companies bilk talent, they also destroy core competency. I have seen this personally with aviation maintenance. Many military organizations cannot do their jobs efficiently because their function has been taken over by contractors. While this may work in low intensity conflict, when the duece hits the fan, if the contractors show up, the price will be 10 times as much.

If we make war corprate, then we will have war more often.


Tue, 11/20/2012 - 4:57pm

Concur with the assessment that Bunker articulates however concerned with the pontential issues that could arise at the tactical through stragetic spectrums. The Institute for National Strategic Studies developed some characteristics that contract support brings to the table from a government perspective which are: 1) The Government does not control the quality of personnel the contractor brings on board. 2) In today's operating environment interaction with the local populace is imperative for success and if contractors are brought aboard there is no control of the interaction unless there is strict enforcement conveyed in the scope of work and 3) At the end of the day the Government agency providing host nation support is responsible for everything that happens. Hammer brings up very valid historic examples where contract support has been successfully integrated. But, we must also not forget examples where it did not play to Government's favor; DynCorp child sex ring in the Balkans and the Blackwater shootings in Nisour Square in Baghdad. Just saying we need to ensure a mechanism of quality control is fostered before going full bore in contract support.


Mon, 11/19/2012 - 2:58pm

Merecenaries... Why do some people shudder at the term? The Flying Tigers were mercenaries, and were well regarded, even thought of as heroes. They have been a have been a part of every US conflict, both for and against us. Academi,Xe,Blackwater are filling a niche that has always existed. So are similer companies. Now it is more corporate than the days of yore, but it has always been there. And as for serving business, they have for centuries. The British East India trading company at one time had a larger Army than the Brits... All of it mercenary... Until nationalist armys really started, most nations at least in europe depended on the mercenary to provide specialized and elite troops, to prop up the conscripts.

For better or worse they have always been a part of conflict and always will be. War is a trade like any other.