View Full Version : All-Mercenary service?

01-29-2006, 03:22 PM
There was a time where I would have laughed at the thought of privitizing the military but of late I have started to reconsider. What do you think?
Should we open wars to "bids" and deliver the war to whoever has the best bang for the buck?

01-30-2006, 08:10 AM
Col. Chet Richards introduces this arguement in his new book Neither Shall the Sword (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/193201926X/ref=pd_cmp_rvi_1/103-1293267-8828640?n=283155).

01-30-2006, 03:36 PM
Col. Chet Richards introduces this arguement in his new book Neither Shall the Sword (http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/193201926X/ref=pd_cmp_rvi_1/103-1293267-8828640?n=283155).
It is an idea that has surfaced from time to time. Chet's book is on my to-read list. His previous book, _Swift Elusive Sword_, was quite good too. His OODA applied to business book is also quite good. He is a smart gentleman and I would highly recommend anything coming from his pen.

01-31-2006, 05:49 PM
Someone should use this Creveldian/PMC plot in a sci-fi novel. The ideas will spread like wildfire.

01-31-2006, 06:28 PM
Someone should use this Creveldian/PMC plot in a sci-fi novel. The ideas will spread like wildfire.

Yes, I had thought the same thing some time ago - before I knew Chet was writing his book actually. I wish there was more time in the day and that I had more talent to deliver the idea.

01-31-2006, 10:36 PM
It seems that an all mercenary service is the wave of the future, but by doing so states will risk lose what legitimacy they have left. A state that relies on a corps of mercenaries will have given up it monopoly on violence. The state also runs the risk of creating a powerful enemy by empowering mercenaries.

02-01-2006, 02:55 PM
Last night I was watching Thomas Barnett's Blueprint presentation on video and it occurred to me that some sort of balance would need to be struck between protecting the homeland and projecting power. Mercenaries might be a good solution for projecting power but not necessarily desirable for defense forces - for several reasons, not least of them being fear of military coups but such a force. Many have advocated a well regulated militia for national defense - i.e., not a professional service like the national guard so much as an armed citizenry as with Switzerland. I think such a system could give us the best of both solutions. Every system is going to have flaws but this one seems to me the most cost-effective and also has the benefit of giving all Americans greater stake in our country so it should improve more involvement of the people in political movements. Seems a win-win to me.

02-01-2006, 11:46 PM
Mercenaries are useful when the state needs deniability or expendable soldiers, I worry about a government that thinks it need either. A militia, like you described, would be the exact opposite and something that would inspire a lot more confidence with people like me.

Fabius Maximus
02-02-2006, 03:17 PM
Mercs or militia? Perhaps opposite directions for US forces in the 21st century, or perhaps complementery.

Here is my article on the role militia might fill for US forces:

"Militia: the dominant defensive force in 21st Century 4GW?"
12 pages

Comments appreciated!

02-02-2006, 05:47 PM
Fabius -

I am a DNI site addict and I have enjoyed all your articles posted there. This one is no exception. It is good to have you here.

I think a mercenary/militia mix could be ideal.

As for the deniability of a mercenary force - I'm not so sure. To hire mercenaries for any purpose, a president would have to seek congressional funding and he would have to have an estimate of the cost along with the thinking behind the estimate. It would be a built-in check/balance in that the president would find it difficult to hide his true purpose when he has to open the project up for discussion with the representatives of the people. Not impossible, just more difficult. I would contend that congress voting moneys for a president to wage war as he sees fit and giving him a blank cheque to do it is something that has already been done on several occasions since WWII anyhow - a mercenary service would not make that more likely.
In the current structure, the NSA or CIA or who knows what other orgs can, in effect, act as such mercenaries at the whim of the president....I don't see how this would be any different. If anything, it would be harder for him to wage war without more congressional oversight.

02-02-2006, 06:02 PM
Fabius -

A very interesting article. However, I wish you would spend more time on the missions which we would require of these militias. Ultimately, force design has to rest on the mission requirements. Counterterrorism and antiterrorism operations are specialist jobs. So is SWAT, although the teams of many smaller departments are strictly part time - serving regular patrol duties as well as occasional SWAT requirements.

Homeland defense consists of more than a body of men armed with machine guns. Especially an ill trained and poorly disciplined body - this is the security fallacy of the third world. Today, the threat from suicide bombers, vehicle borne IEDs, hijackings and hostage takings can't be forestalled by a force that requires even fifteen minutes to deploy, let alone the twenty four hours and more it can take a 'Guard or similar unit to form up. Our notional militia must have very different training from the expeditionary forces of our military in order to succeed - training in spotting the tell tale signs of a suicide bomber in action, in spotting surveillance activity at a high value target, seeing a vehicle driving erratically, etc. If we want them to take action, they'll need intensive direct action training as well - close quarters marksmanship, fast draws and concealed carry. These skills, and the vigilance to use them properly, are perishable. Only a select few have the ability to develop and use them wisely.

Ultimately, I think a more appropriate solution is a return to the sorts of Civil Defense wardens of the second world war - a time when an American city might well come under attack from air or sea in such a way that locally armed militia couldn't respond - but you still needed a coordinated plan to cope. Trained in countersurveillance, first aid and equipped with the technology to communicate rapidly with first responders and national intelligence as needed a modern civil defense warden's best weapon might well be a Blackberry . . .

As to the problems of mercenaries, it's a matter of regulating the market. Market forces are powerful, but they are not unstoppable. No human force is. Note that Swiss mercenaries have served the Vatican for centuries without incident. By tightly regulating who may employ PMCs and for what purpose, we will be able to limit the market and still make use of soldiers whose special skills we may require even after their enlistment ends.

02-02-2006, 06:11 PM
My understanding is that the militia is not intended to deal with antiterrorism - antiterrorism would be the role of mercenary specialists. A militia is, by nature, a defensive force.

The debate over if a militia primarily of light irregular infantry not being able to hold off a foreign attack is, I believe, based on a couple of presuppositions. One is that the militia purpose is to defend and hold territory - I'm not so sure that's the case. I think they are more a poison pill defense - any invader will be attempting to swallow an armed camp. Such an invader would have a counterinsurgency on his/her hands that makes Iraq or Vietnam or Malaysia look like choir practice. Such is, I believe, the reason Switzerland's militia has been so effective - any potential enemy knows that he will have to deal with an automatic weapon behind every tree, rock, barn.... He may make progress fighting a conventional war in the beginning and may even take a great deal of territory but then he will have the problem of holding it when the militia begins to carry out its primary mission - being a thorn in the side of any invader.

02-02-2006, 06:23 PM
Very true, Stratiotes, however the logistical challenges of invading the continental United States (as well as the sheer size of the place) make this sort of problem very unlikely for us. The problems we do have, however, are bad enough as it is.

For example, it takes a long time to train a professional infantryman. Light infantry are the backbone of any small war effort, and infantry are mandatory for the big wars, too. I worry about our nation's ability to handle a truly major theater war - something on the scale of the US Civil War and the two world wars. The fact that we don't have an enemy on the horizon doesn't mean this kind of thing won't happen again - history shows us that it likely will. We had several million men under arms in the last big war - and that was with a much smaller population. How will we put a twenty million man army together? Militia offer up something of an answer - a big body of part trained men who will take to soldiering better than totally untrained recruits. To my mind, they should focus on five skill sets and ignore everything else: 1) Physical fitness 2) Marksmanship 3) First aid/emergency medicine 4) Night operations and 5) Squad level tactics of the most basic sort. By concentrating on a few fundamentals the militia can remain competent at the most basic job - higher level training will come when and if they need it.

02-02-2006, 06:42 PM
I have to agree with you on the training of the militia being of great importance. I think returning to the pre-WBTS militia which was not much more than a social club would make it meaningless.

As for wars requiring a lot of manpower. I think the mercenary force can provide that supplement. The need for huge forces is usually due to the need to project power in foreign theatres - something a militia is not designed to do, that's a given.

But, watching Thomas Barnett's Blueprint presentation where he talks about the US being, in effect, a big club that can be used to hammer evil doers.... I came realize, one could argue that we have an all-volunteer force now that acts as a mercenary force to others already. Our current fulltime military is sent all over the place to break things and kill people. We are not just consumers of such a force, we are in essence providers of that service. So, the fact that we can provide merc services with an all volunteer service now tells me we would not likely have much difficulty with manpower in the future.

Fabius Maximus
02-03-2006, 12:15 AM
As a newbie to this site, I am astonished at the high quality of this discussion.

Jones_RE, I wish I had talked to you before writing the militia article! All great points!

I have a few brief comments, on which I'd appreciate seeing your replies. I'll post those in a separate reply.

But first, a mechanical note. On the web the number of readers decreases sharply with length of an article. I've found aprox 7 pages (2500 words) as the upper limit. That does not allow the kind if detailed analysis these subjects require!

Note that SWJ has similar limits. Feature stories are 1,000 - 2,000 words, the length of my light, topical articles. Short articles are 750 to 1,000, the length of my letters to Mom.

My "Militia" article, in which you would have liked more detail, was 4400! In hindsight, much too long. Yet I left a lot of material on the cutting room floor to keep it that short.

Something to keep in mind when reading articles!

So I have taken to writing articles in a series. That's what I did in my review of the Iraq War (2 parts), and the current series on developing a Grand Strategy for America (3 parts).

In fact, you can see my 4GW articles as chapters in a book. It's collectively written, as readers hammer on each article as it gets posted -- which improves the next article.

Fabius Maximus
02-03-2006, 12:38 AM
I see militia as disaster response and "Homeland Security" only. Not as Reserves. They should never go overseas, except as the first stage of a draft.

The "Militia" article describes their strong points, which are those of a Police reserve force more than Army Reserve. Also, the Disaster response aspect should not overlooked. In a 4GW era we'll likely have man-made disasters.

What many of your are reaching for, I think, is a sense of how the pieces (army, militia, mercs, etc) fit together to acomplish our national goals.

That is, you would like to see the full chaim from a Grand Strategy down to the operational art. Barnett and "Pax America" advocates have such a vision. Neither the "Revolution in Military Affairs" or 4th Generation War" communities have it.

Without such a plan it is not possible to sensibly talk about force details and doctrine. I realized that after writing "Militia." Rather, the critiques forced me to start again at a higher level.

Here is part one of this long chain ...

"The Myth of Grand Strategy"
Part one in a three-part analysis of grand strategy in a new Era of warfare

The next two articles will be even more controversial.

Part II explains how in times of great change it is difficult to determine who is strong, who is weak. This is easy to see in the RMA at the close of the Middle Ages. The author uses Israel vs. Palestinians as a current example. By the important metrics in an era when the State is declining, Israel is weak. The Palestinians are strong, and seem likely to win. A horrible outcome, another historical tragedy.

Part III considers the US, describing how the US is weak in several vital dimensions. From this the author develops an appropriate strategy -- defensive, so we can conserve our strength and rebuild while we adapt to this new era.

After this series, the next series will describe the force structure suitable to implement my proposed Grand Strategy. Why and how to use a militia? Why not to use mercs. And a proposal for an American Foreign Legion.

Apologies for the length of this post. I hope it is relevant to this discussion.

02-03-2006, 12:38 AM
Fabius Maximus

Well first of all let me say that like Stratiotes I am a regular DNI reader and have enjoyed your writings there.

As I expressed earlier I am more than a bit leery of the use of mercenaries. On the other hand I have often wondered why we don’t make more use of militia type units. This was obvious after hurricane Katrina and the lawlessness that ensued. Had there been sometime of militia or reserve police force they could have reinforced the police. Such units would only need some basic law enforcement training since they would all most always be side by side with regular police officers. After the initial training, the cost would be minimal since they would only need small arms, some riot control gear, and maybe few trucks. Since they would only be one or two days a month so they would need to be paid a lot just enough to they don’t lose money on the deal.

Fabius Maximus
02-03-2006, 12:48 AM
In my "militia" article (link given above) I discuss mercs, and give what I consider a pretty decisive 390 words on why we should not use them.

If anyone has a rebuttal, I'd appreciate seeing it.

I await receipt of Chet Richard's book to read why I am wrong. Although I've discussed it with him and still remain convinced that this is the wrong path for us.

02-03-2006, 02:47 AM
A comment on mercenaries, PMC’s and militias:

Mercenaries have their uses and what constitutes a “ Merc” depends on the definition you care to use. John Keegan has pointed out that our professional soldiers are technically speaking, mercenaries. So is the Foreign Legion. So were the British Army Ghurkas. According to the UN’s ridiculously torturous definition of mercenary activity, virtually no one fighting for pay under the color of authority of a state is a “Merc” unless you are “Mad Mike “ Hoare or Colonel Bob Denard.

Frankly, PMC’s with real military capabilities like the old Executive Outcomes are damned useful in the Gap where the dramatically outclass local fighters, be they rebels or state military conscripts. We would get far better results in, say, Darfur, using full-blooded PMC’s against the Janjaweed, under the supervision of Core state military officers than say, by bribing OAU states to send 25,000 ill-trained, poorly equipped
“ Peacekeepers” who will rape, murder and loot. Or Bangladeshis, who though better disciplined, need a huge amount of foreign logistical amd material support.

While I have reviewed Dr. Richards brief that is based on Neither Shall the Sword and found it provocative and intellectually useful (http://zenpundit.blogspot.com/2005/12/shock-and-awe-chet-richards-preview.html)for challenging outmoded assumptions, replacing the Defense Department with all-PMC’s or a mix of PMC’s and militia is simply not going to happen for any great power. A small state, like a Gulf Emirate, might find such a policy useful as their militaries are useless for anything beyond maintaining internal order but a great power treads in dangerous waters if it were to try that policy. It is simply a bad idea for all the reasons listed by Machiavelli.

Militias have their uses but lets not go overboard with this concept either. Militiamen are not going to maintain and fly fleets F-16’s, operate attack submarines or be given control over tactical nukes. State militaries are always going to have a place at the table and suggesting otherwise is a preference for an isolationist foreign policy that disregards the stabilizing effects of military security on the global economy. You have to count not only the obvious costs, enormous as they are, of the Leviathan “ Big War” American defense establishment but the expenditures that we do not make because states take the preponderant power of the U.S. into account for their calculations.

Absent that military hegemony of the U.S., the world would have a) far more state vs. state wars and b) the economic costs of interrupted trade.

02-03-2006, 01:15 PM
I await receipt of Chet Richard's book to read why I am wrong. Although I've discussed it with him and still remain convinced that this is the wrong path for us.

Fabius - Ah, the mystery of the web - from the first article of yours I read I had suspicions that you and Chet were one and the same person. :D

zenpundit/Jones_RE and others - I agree that you have made some good points about limitations of the militia. I don't think a militia is necessarily the the answer all by itself but I think the assets it would provide make it a very important (if not the most important) part of a national defense. With a militia, any other fulltime force such - Mercs or otherwise - could be substantially reduced and provide less of a danger of abuse (the very argument of many of our founders). At the same time, I think we have become so used to a large fulltime force that we have made an assumption that it is required or that it is superior to all others.

As an aside, I do not see the connection that some states do not go to war because of US strength. I see a lot of war still going on despite the threat of US intervention. And, at times, such as with Kuwait, our political maneuverings cancel out the threat and lead potential badguys to think we will do nothing - leading to our intervention and another war we would not have had otherwise.

02-03-2006, 05:26 PM
Sorry to dominate the thread but I just remembered somebody had mentioned a militia would not work well because of the size of our country.

To me, the size of our country is simply a geographical challenge that can make it more difficult for the militia or for the invader depending on how it is handled. The Swiss example is more analogous than it might seem - their area is smaller but its also very mountainous - they have a geographic challenge as well. They have learned how to use that challenge to their advantage. We could use the geography of our country - size being one factor of many - to our advantage. I just don't see how this is something that makes a militia necessarily less effective. If anything, it is an even greater challenge to any potential invader since he has even more territory he has to try and hold.

02-03-2006, 06:14 PM
I think you mean me, Stratiotes. And now that I think about it, I recall that the top strategists for the Empire of Japan ruled out any large scale seizure of US territory in part because so many Americans owned guns. So the poison pill factor does still apply to us. (Tangent - if we'd known how many Iraqis owned AK-47's would war planners have set things up differently?)

"Herd immunity." It's a term coined to reflect that fact that when you immunize a certain percentage of a group against a disease, that disease is no longer able to affect the group. That is, you don't have to reach a 100% immunization rate in order to protect the group, because diseases must pass from individual to individual and cannot do so under a condition of herd immunity - infected individual comes into contact with another susceptible individual.

Herd immunity is the sort of thing we reach for with a militia/poison pill strategy. We don't have to arm everyone, just a sufficient percentage to deter attack.

I think a sort of herd immunity is the desired end state with any 4th Generation conflict - a level at which individual actors or cells may be capable of violence, but incapable of spreading and reproducing more cells to follow their line of operations (to borrow from Maj. Strickland - the enemy has LOOs too, after all). All of the usual techniques of counterinsurgency are really seeking to reach this end state - but we haven't had a term for victory before.

02-03-2006, 07:00 PM
I think a sort of herd immunity is the desired end state with any 4th Generation conflict - a level at which individual actors or cells may be capable of violence, but incapable of spreading and reproducing more cells to follow their line of operations (to borrow from Maj. Strickland - the enemy has LOOs too, after all). All of the usual techniques of counterinsurgency are really seeking to reach this end state - but we haven't had a term for victory before.

I agree with you. And, on the AK count in Iraq - days before the war began I had read a report on AP I think about how Sadam's regime had given away automatic weapons and ammunition to citizens and required that they learn how to use them. I think there was some knowledge of how many there were but perhaps they thought none would be used against "liberators." A gross underestimation of the potential I would think.

On the insurgent side, their task is substantially easier than the counterinsurgency. The insurgent has to only install the thought that a physical occupation of their land does not necessarily mean they have to accept occupation in their hearts. They are occuppied physically but not mentally. It reminds me of the part in the movie "Hanoi Hilton" when the Cuban torturer is mocking an American prisoner with, "Don't you realize I can make you free, man?" to which the American responds defiantly, "I'm already free, man!" So long as the herd immunized to never accept physical defeat as the final defeat, they continue to have the seeds of resistance.

01-30-2007, 03:02 PM
One of the suppositions of this thread has been that PMC's would be working for the US, Western States or more traditionally underdeveloped countries. Do these arguments remain if the Chinese hire Mercenaries to fight in Nepal? Or to protect their growing Oil interests in Zimbabwe? So far as I've read this argument has been entirely inward looking. Perhaps before we decipher the value of Mercs and Militias we should look at how our competitors would use them. I doubt the Chinese would feel comfortable issuing AK's to the populace.

Second thought: The UN relies on states such as Bangladesh to provide troops, these are state sponsored Mercs no different than Hessians at the turn of the 18th Century. Here is a good opportunity for a Blackwater like company to step in and offer a more professional security force. Of course they would have to compete with the rates the Bangladesh Army receives. AND they would have to follow UN authority for command and control.

Third thought: As for Militia, the US does not need a Militia. A more appropriate response would be large bodies of trained volunteer Emergency Responders. If Katrina taught us anything, it is that organization and coordination to any catastrophe, natural or man-made, is far more important than mobs of armed people roaming around without supervision. And the most valuable assets in that disaster where rescue helicopters, trucks and small boats for rescue and recovery. Major difficulty arose from an inability of the various operations to talk via radio to one an other, also in language, the USCG Lat Long for GPS locations while ANG used MGRS and the many PD’s and EMS’s used local street names, what happens when the militia shows up? The arguments that the Police could benefit from an armed auxiliary supposes that the Police are already well trained and that the auxiliary would also be well trained and subordinate to the Police. I do not believe the New Orleans PD lived up to that assessment.