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PMCs and Entrepreneurs Applied capitalism. Making money in the war zone, and the issues that go with it.

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Old 03-30-2006   #1
SWJED
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Default Matters Blackwater (Merged thread)

Moderator at Work

Today I have merged nine threads on Blackwater into one and so changed the thread title.(Ends)

30 March Norfolk Virginian-Pilot - Blackwater USA Says it Can Supply Forces for Conflicts.

Quote:
Stepping into a potential political minefield, Blackwater USA is offering itself up as an army for hire to police the world's trouble spots.

Cofer Black, vice chairman of the Moyock, N.C.-based private military company, told an international conference in Amman, Jordan, this week that Blackwater stands ready to help keep or restore the peace anywhere it is needed...

Until now, the eight-year-old company has confined itself to training military and police personnel and providing security guards for government and private clients. Under Black's proposal, it would take on an overt combat role...

Unlike national and multinational armies, which tend to get bogged down by political and logistical limitations, Black said, Blackwater could have a small, nimble, brigade-size force ready to move into a troubled region on short notice...

Peter Singer, a scholar at the Brookings Institution who has written a book on private military companies, said the concept of private armies engaging in counter-insurgency missions raises myriad questions about staffing standards, rules of engagement and accountability...

Last edited by davidbfpo; 04-26-2012 at 10:34 PM. Reason: Add Mod's Note
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Old 03-30-2006   #2
Tom Odom
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Thumbs down Walmart Wars: discounting conflicts?

Lovely idea. Then we could hire mercs to engage in conflicts with no effect on the US scene beyond the bottom dollar. This seems to be a dangerous commercial extension of the drive to develop "lighter, more rapidly deployabe forces" in the interest of getting to conflict zones without a parallel--or more serious--effort at determining why you want to go in the first place. Faster is NOT always better.

I have studied and worked in environments where mercs get involved. We have already had serious side effects from merc security companies operating in Iraq.

Sounds rather Roman. I still believe that if a nation is not willing to put it's citizens and its policies at risk, then it should refrain from using mercs.

Tom

Last edited by Tom Odom; 03-30-2006 at 03:38 PM.
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Old 03-30-2006   #3
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Executive Outcomes and Sandline certainly come to mind.
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Old 03-30-2006   #4
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Default Who you "hire" to do what and why

There are all kinds of negative potentialities here but there are also positive ones in that small professional units operating under great power supervision may in some instances be better than:

a) Doing nothing

b) Relying on the most poorly disciplined, led and trained armies of the world to be at the forefront of UN peacekeeping.

c) Letting virtually unarmed UN peacekeepers become accesssories to atrocities via ineffectuality, as in Bosnia.

While Tom's caveats are well-taken the current system is nothing to write home about either.
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Old 03-31-2006   #5
Bill Moore
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Default In some cases

Like Tom I have a lot of concern about sending contractors to wage our nation's fight, but I think Zenpundit's points are valid also. I wonder how effective a force like this would have been in Rwanda? They probably could have saved thousands of lives, but instead the U.S. and the Western world was embarassed and shamed by their political paralysis to respond with small military force. Executive Outcomes reportedly did an outstanding job in bringing the killing to a stop in Sierra Leone before they were asked to leave. Perhaps a company similar to Black Water could have been more effective in Bosnia than the Dutch military, and other so called peace keepers that made a laughing stock of the UN, then again without the credible threat of U.S. airpower to provide protection, a company like Blackwater probably wouldn't last a week against a force as large, well trained, equipped, and motivated as the Serbs. Liberia, Somalia, Rwanda, Philippines, Mexico, or isloated areas within Afghanistan and Iraq they may have a role, but a Bosnia type scenario is probably beyond their means.

The danger of this type of company is they can be employed without going through the political process that would be required to commit military forces, yet the advantage of this type of company is they can bypass the political process, thus give the President, or perhaps the UN, other regional organizations (like ECOWAS), or even other countries an option that can be employed quickly and effectively with minimal risk politically to the U.S. government.

I just wonder what happens when they get in over their head (like in Fallujah) in an area where the U.S. hasn't committed troops? Will the U.S. government be pressured to respond to get them out of trouble, or do we sit by and let Americans who were doing our (the U.S. military's) bidding for us get their butt kicked? Of course it will depend on the uproar created in the press.

Companies like this present our government with numerous hazards, but I think they also expand our national security options if.......
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Old 04-03-2006   #6
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Default On Mercs

Bill and all,

The issue of using mercs is one of those that depends on the where and the why. My own experience in dealing with this issue came about in researching the 1964 Congo Hostage Crisis. Leavenworth Paper #14 resulted. Many have read Mike Hoare's Congo Mercenary and it was nomninally the basis for the film, The Wild Geese. Both are works of fiction; the film is more honest about its romanticizing than Hoare. The mercenary operations in the Congo were multi-level:

The Ground Force: the real organizer of the ground op was Colonel Vandewalle who had been the last head of security in the Belgian Congo before independence. He was Belgium's man in organizing the Katangan Secession under Mosie Tshombe with a variety of mercenaries including Hoare and Roger Trinquier. When Tshombe came back in the 1964 crisis so did Vandewalle and he ultimately lead the mercenary column into Stanleyville from the south to link up with the Belgian Paracommandos.

The Air Force: the CIA and the USAF set up a Congolese Air America using T-6s, T-28s, and A26s (AKA B-26s) and Bay of Pigs Cuban pilots to fly close air support.

The Covert Force: there was also a merc/black element attached to Vandewalle's column to extract key personnel from Stanleyville.

All of this worked and then it did not. The Stanleyville and Paulis ops did save a large number of hostages. But more hostages were killed elsewhere in the next year. The mercenaries ended up revolting against the new Mobutu government and fought their way out via Bukavu.

In 1994 I raised the idea of contractors to secure the refugee camps in eastern Zaire, given the large number of ex-Rwandan army and militia members active in those camps. I suggested the Israeli-Zairian security company SOZAIS and even had the retired Isaraeli colonel who ran the company come out to Goma to do a site survey. SOZAIS used active soldiers from the DSP (the Mobutu regime guaranteors trained by Israel) to provide contract security to businesses and indiividuals. Ultimately a form of what I proposed did take place when the UNHCR hired a force of nearly 1000 DSP soldiers with "advisors" to help improve security in the camps. This helped the international workers but did nothing about the larger security issues in those camps; the ultimate fall out was the 1996 clearing of the camps and the 1997 and 1998 invasions of Zaire with a current death total in excess of 3 million.

Perhaps a merc force could have sopped the geoncide if someone had had the will to deply such a force. But I would say that the world did have a force capable of doing just that (UNAMIR) on the ground with a Commander willing to do it and nothing was done. I doubt seriously that the RPA (the rebels) would have accepted a merc force on their turf because they were already dealing with the French intervention and French assistance to the former government. Later when the RPA did move on the camps in 1996 using client militias, the former government and the militias had hired Serbian mercenaries to help train and lead their forces. They fared poorly against the RPA; I suspect any merc force interjected into this cauldron in 1994 would have shared a similar fate.

the closest thing to standing merc force in the world is the Foreign Legion. It allows France to do things that the French public and the regular military would not accept. Sometimes that is good as in the case in Kolwezi in 1978. Sometimes it is not: French activities in supporting and training genociidal killers in Rwanda are well documented. The 1st REPs rebellion in Algeria was another case where the use of forces loyal only to themselves caused France great problems.

And we have used mercs from time to time as an extension or lead for our own policy. The Flying Tigers in China were true mercenaries, drawing bounties for each Japanese plane shot down. That is not to take away from the valor or reputation of the AVG; Read Pappy Boyington's book for a warts and all view of the AVG.

My take on mercs is always measured against our national interests. If it is sufficiently in our interests to get involved militarily, then it should be sufficienty important to use our established forces.

best
Tom
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Old 04-03-2006   #7
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Mercenaries can provide several things to their employers:

1) Expertise. Mercenary soldiers may be better trained or more experienced than national forces. This probabably doesn't obtain in the US (with some possible exceptions).

2) Deniability. Mercenary soldiers may be hired in order to conduct military activities that the national forces do not wish to be held accountable for. This doesn't help the United States in our current conflicts - international media is more than capable of pinning a "contractor's" actions on the United States government. It's questionable whether mercenaries provide even a shred of deniabililty in the modern, information rich environment.

3) Expendability. National forces may be sensitive to their own casualties, but not to those of the mercenaries. The United States might make effective use of this trait, but for the fact that most of our private military companies are staffed by Americans. It was the gruesome murder several Blackwater employees that initiated the First Battle for Fallujah, for example.

4) Numbers. National forces may simply lack sufficient bodies to accomplish a mission and mercenary units can fill out the roster effectively. This is why the US employers PMCs in Iraq and Afghanistan - there is an extreme demand for infantry who can conduct security operations of many different sorts. This demand is so high that jobs that would ordinarily go to riflemen or MPs are outsourced at six figure salaries.

I'm afraid that as long as there is a shortage of effective foot soldiers, and mercenary units are available (both financially, legally and politically) then the US military will make use of their services.

A "healthier" use of mercenary formations would be places in South Korea, where forces are unlikely to see ground combat. Similarly, using contract soldiers to accomplish various non combat tasks, such as security and maintenance duties at US bases, might free up individual soldiers who could be re trained as infantry.
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Old 04-04-2006   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jones_RE
Mercenaries can provide several things to their employers:

1) Expertise. Mercenary soldiers may be better trained or more experienced than national forces. This probabably doesn't obtain in the US (with some possible exceptions).

2) Deniability. Mercenary soldiers may be hired in order to conduct military activities that the national forces do not wish to be held accountable for. This doesn't help the United States in our current conflicts - international media is more than capable of pinning a "contractor's" actions on the United States government. It's questionable whether mercenaries provide even a shred of deniabililty in the modern, information rich environment.

3) Expendability. National forces may be sensitive to their own casualties, but not to those of the mercenaries. The United States might make effective use of this trait, but for the fact that most of our private military companies are staffed by Americans. It was the gruesome murder several Blackwater employees that initiated the First Battle for Fallujah, for example.

4) Numbers. National forces may simply lack sufficient bodies to accomplish a mission and mercenary units can fill out the roster effectively. This is why the US employers PMCs in Iraq and Afghanistan - there is an extreme demand for infantry who can conduct security operations of many different sorts. This demand is so high that jobs that would ordinarily go to riflemen or MPs are outsourced at six figure salaries.

I'm afraid that as long as there is a shortage of effective foot soldiers, and mercenary units are available (both financially, legally and politically) then the US military will make use of their services.

A "healthier" use of mercenary formations would be places in South Korea, where forces are unlikely to see ground combat. Similarly, using contract soldiers to accomplish various non combat tasks, such as security and maintenance duties at US bases, might free up individual soldiers who could be re trained as infantry.
All "good" business arguments. And many of which work counter to training, fielding, and maintaining a national military force that reflects the national society.

Tom
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Old 04-04-2006   #9
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I wholeheartedly agree. Note that mercenary strengths are only useful in the face of national weakness. A well trained, politically supported, and sufficiently large national force does not require mercenary help. Sufficient use of mercenaries, however, would naturally tempt policymakers to believe that there is no need to correct deficiencies in their force structures. Our current reliance on private military companies stems directly from a failure to pay attention to intangible factors in the national defense: soldier pay, recruiting and information operations as well as errors in the composition of the force (i.e. too much reliance on reserve and national guard forces, incorrect allocations of light units, etc).
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Old 04-05-2006   #10
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The arguments presented thus far are based on the assumption that the state has a monopoly on violence and PMCS's are extraneous to legitimate and effective forms of utilizing violence. (That is the impression I've gotten anyway)

That is true -currently PMC's are tools to be utilized by nation states, few others can afford or have a requirement for a brigade.

But if we look to the future we see current PMC's are innovators on the adoption curve because their target customer base is so small (marked in yellow). They've been at this stage for quite some time, but as this article illustrates, they're attempting to get better at what they do.



As the PMC market evolves we'll see the positive attributes Zenpundit highlights become points/areas of competition. (Marked in red)

The major impact made by private security market will come as the state evolves (market state, decentralization driven by security concerns etc), which will increase its customer base, amount of primary participants and
competition.

Just some food for thought. It is not my intention to hijack the thread.

Regards,
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Old 04-06-2006   #11
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Do we want a military force attempting to influence a people or battlespace based on their desire to satisfy pol/mil objectives, or due to a desire for continued profit? Call me cynical; however, private companies motivated by profit and the idea of economy of force missions do not seem to mesh.
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Old 04-06-2006   #12
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Maj Strickland brings up a good point, but I think that a PMC ISO of a commercial interest in Economy of Force to the nth degree. They attempt to accomplish the objective with the smallest force possible, require no investment in infrastructure, and go away when hostilities have ended.
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Old 04-06-2006   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Major Strickland
Do we want a military force attempting to influence a people or battlespace based on their desire to satisfy pol/mil objectives, or due to a desire for continued profit? Call me cynical; however, private companies motivated by profit and the idea of economy of force missions do not seem to mesh.
I agree completely. Go back to the days of the Free Companies in the 100 Years War for "PMCs"; the reasons states have a "lock" on violence are many.

Any force that can be hired, can be bought.

Tom
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Old 04-06-2006   #14
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Default Outsourcing the will of the international community

I'd like to throw out a few bits to chew on...

When we talk about Blackwater's providing UN peacekeeping forces, we need to keep in mind their use is subject to the will of the international community, and not just the US. We need to remember not to always conflate international will w/ US goals. For a PKO, a SC decision needs to be made, otherwise we need to frame the discussion around the politics of that other group. My comments focus on the UN engaging Blackwater and not NATO, AU, or some ad hoc coalition, let alone solo state commission.

I suggest we consider what I argue is the mercenarial aspect of present pko's (a very controversal suggestion I know). If we look at PKO contributors as of December 2005, the top three contributors to PKOs -- Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India -- contributed over one-third of ALL UN Peacekeeping Forces, including police, military observers and troops. Meanwhile, the permanent members UN Security Council contributed only 3.7%, with China contributing more than the UK, US, and Russia combined.

As most know, these sub-contractor nations, notably those not on the SC, contribute the bulk of the forces and receive +/- $1000 per man per month for their contribution. Their participation is further subsidized when considering they rarely have their own transport and too often are in need of equipment. In practice, these are truly sub-contractors, contracting to the UNSC which established and mandated the mission -- the GA has no real roll in this. The SC clearly already uses money to mitigate a deficit of political will today. On its current trajectory this will continue and deepen as Western states continue to downsize and do not prioritize the need to participate and thus will not have the forces to contibute.

A significant point of discussion should hit on the perception of the force, whether it is a military, milob, or police force. In the US, we frequently disregard or ignore the perception of contractors and consider them expendable and deniable. However, in the AO and beyond this is simply not true. Their death or abuse reflects back onto the contracting state, perceived or real, and is amplified by the media (although generally not by US media). One purpose of PKOs, of course, is participation in the global sphere and we cannot forget this.

One reason the sub-contractor nations are involved in PKOs their state as TCNs. Blackwater, in promoting its well-known roster of Western former-SF and similar, most notably American (including the big and brawny / physically intimidating), may not be optimial in an especially polarized environment like this Administration has created today. The 'American' may not be seen as a peacekeeper but as lightening rod (perhaps that's good as the combantants cease fighting each other in the short-term). BW is likely to be seen as an American force under some cover. Lest we forget they may be 'tagged' as OGA, perception of the force is reality. Their reputation in Iraq, by they Iraqis, is critical. Their reputation in the US means nothing, they aren't peacekeeping in the US (well, they are / did along with other PSCs, but that's not under the UN).

Of course, further to this is as a private company continues to build up a capability, the need to use this capacity expands. Unlike a state that subsidizes military (and police) force through indirect means (i.e. taxes), the PSC only has direct means (i.e. contracts).

Just some thoughts for the worthy discussion we're having on this.
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Old 04-06-2006   #15
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I neglected to add some further food for thought...

The increase in Chinese participation in PKOs is directly related to their desire to increase their profile and, I wonder if / might this inhibit SC hiring of a "third party corporation (TPC vs TCN).

Also, remember that Blackwater would have to be specifically licensed to participate in the PKO under existing US laws. Therefore, the US must have the desire for them participate... perhaps that how we do actually conflate US policy with international community's policy...
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Old 04-07-2006   #16
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Default Excellent Points

I applaud your points as they are very relevant to discussions of deploying any forces--national, UN or multinational like the MKO, or contract--into zones of conflict.

The reality of UN PKOs often surprises those who have not been on the ground with them. LTG Dallaire's shock and dismay over the uneven quality of his troops--especially the Bangaldesh Battalion and regrettably the Belgian Paracommandos--speaks volumes. The Canadians are the instutional memory and highest practioners of UN peacekeeping. General Dallaire had trained Canadian troops for such missions but had never been a participant. His experience in Rwanda was to say the least less than positive.

My own experience in UNTSO as an observer was similar. Individual observers were quite good, regardless of nationality. But there were definable blocks of marginal quality observers. And much of that had to do with the benefits and pay offered by the observers' countries for such duty. Some like the Swedes and Austrians spent years in the mission area because they received substantial tax breaks and other benefits.

The Fijian battalion in UNAMIR was essentially a contract force; the country would raise an entirely new battalion and send it to Sinai as part of the MFO. Then it would stand down from the MFO and transfer to UNIFIL. After that tour, it returned home (at least on paper) and a new unit began standing up.

UNAMIR 2 in Rwanda was much the same. Some contingents like the Canadians were professional soldiers who came fully equipped. But the slowness in putting UNAMIR 2 on the ground because many countries offered troops expecting to get "free" equipment. Ironically, the best and most effective contingent on the ground was the Ethiopian Battalion; they were also the worst equipped contingent. That opinion is shared by the Force Commander LTG Tousignant, the SRSG Ambassador Khan, Ambassador Rawson, the RPA Commnader/Defense Minister/Vice President, and yours truly. The reason for the Ethiopians effectiveness was they were: non-French speaking Africans which made them acceptable to the RPA; they were former rebels themselves and that made the RPA respect them; and they would shoot when necessary and ask later which made the RPA love them. Their "garrison" skills when it came to neatness and field sanitation would and did make Western soldiers shudder. But they did control their area and they worked well with the RPA.

When it came to policing the camps in Zaire, no one would take that mission. I have mentioned in this discussion my suggestion to go contract--one that ultimately was taken. The UN looked at using UNAMIR 2 to do the job; that was still born. Another company run by Brits looked at it; I ran into their negotiator on a UN flight in Nov 94. I knew him from Zaire and considered him to be a friend. He had another Brit with him who had retired SAS stamped on his forehead. I told them both to make sure that their statement of work allowed them to shoot people. They grinned and said they had asked for an "aggressive ROE". They did not get the job; it went to an element of the Zairian Army that was tied to the Israeli contractor I brought out to Goma. It was a bandaid on a sucking chest wound at best but it was the best we could come up with at the time.

Finally in 1996 the US and the Brits looked seriously at the issue and began planning the MNF as a way of prying the refugees out of the Zairian camps. But Ambassador Gribbin's stance that the MNF had to be able to shoot was not taken to heart. Fortunately the RPA "solved the problem" by clearing the camps even as the MNF HQs began its initial operations.

Despite all that I have said above, I still believe in UN PKOs as the best solution for problems like Rwanda and the camps in Zaire. Using UN forces puts a UN stamp on the problem, something that is most useful. That is not to say that UN peacekeeping and indeed the UN in general needs a dramatic overhaul if not a complete rebuild. Maybe if PMCs are the coming thing, then peackeeping/peace enforcement would be a good fit. In some ways that is already happening; the Canadian flight detachment in UNAMIR 2 was a purely commercial contract. They had all flown in UNISOM before coming to Rwanda.

Enough said fer now,

Tom
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Old 04-08-2006   #17
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I'm not sure that Executive Outcomes (EO) or any PMC would have made much difference in the Rhodesian civil war (1960s to 1980). The Rhodesians (depending on the stats) had a 1:17 or 1:43 kill ratio against the Marxist rebels. An incredible kill ratio. The Rhodesians had mercenaries (a couple thousand). Yet they still lost.

The SADF guys who formed EO are really a direct descendent of the Rhodesian military forces in many ways. After the Rhodesians lost, many of them joined the South African Defense Forces (SADF). They influenced the SADF special forces concepts, counter-insurgency and warfare tactics. South Africa’s counter-insurgency policy wasn’t exactly successful either. Probably because they didn’t learn anything from the failure of the Rhodesian experience. They continued to use the failed practices that their Rhodesian brothers taught them.

If EO was around and had to fight in the Rhodesian war, I highly doubt they would have made any difference against the Marxist rebels. Primarily because they were/are a reflection of the same Rhodesian forces that fought and lost in that war. Racking up a high kill ratio doesn’t cut it in counter-insurgency. Ian Beckett succinctly described the Rhodesian’s main problem:

it has been suggested that the apolitical nature of the Rhodesian armed forces prevented them from seriously coming to terms with the political aspects of guerrilla insurgency. There was never any real attempt at political indoctrination or instruction within the Rhodesian armed forces and to the end of the war guerrilla insurgency tended to be regarded as a military rather than a political problem to which military solutions alone should be applied.

http://members.tripod.com/selousscou...79%20part1.htm

I think the same could be said of the SADF and military oriented solutions to the counter-insurgency strategy of South Africa.

Check this website for articles and other great info on the Rhodesian civil war.

http://members.tripod.com/selousscou...l_overview.htm

These articles below detail some of the ways Rhodesian forces influenced the SADF.

O'Brien, Kevin A. "The Use of Assassination as a Tool of State Policy: South Africa's Counter-Revolutionary Strategy 1979-1992." (Parts I and II) Terrorism and Political Violence 10, no. 3 (Summer 1998): 86-105 and 13, no. 2 (Spring 2001): 107-142.

'Brien, Kevin A. "Counter-Intelligence for Counter-Revolutionary Warfare: The South African Police Security Branch, 1979-1990." Intelligence and National Security 16, no. 3 (Autumn 2001): 27-59.
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Old 04-08-2006   #18
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When Executive Outcomes first appeared on the scene in the 90s, they said they were anti-communist and would never serve a communist cause. Yet they helped the marxist MPLA defeat the anti-communist UNITA faction in Angola. The EO mercs were the same guys that trained and fought alongside UNITA against the MPLA just a few years earlier. UNITA and the MPLA are/were corrupt, butchers etc... But UNITA led by Joseph Savimbi was our ally during the Cold War. Ronny Reagan called Savimbi the “George Washington of Africa.”

Many pro-PMC advocates look to EO's role in Angola as something divine. Why should I dance for joy at the thought that EO helped to bring about the downfall of UNITA? A one time U.S. ally who fought the communist Cubans and MPLA.

EO's role in Angola proved one thing, that mercs can be in it for the profit, not the politics. The EO SADF staff turned on the people who they helped train and fought for the people who ten years earlier they were trying to destroy. Classic mercs.

How are Rhodesian, South African and Israeli mercs trained in political assassination and viewing all solutions in war as "military" going to turn the tide against non-state actors?
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Old 04-24-2006   #19
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Default PMCs and the Future of War

Lecture notes from the Foreign Policy Research Institute (w/ video) - Private Military Companies and the Future of War by Deborah Avant.

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The topic “private military companies and the future of war” is a big one. Both parts of the title—“private military companies” and “the future of war”—are phrases that can be disputed. In my recent book, which examines the privatization of security and its impact on the control of force, I label these companies “private security companies” (PSCs) specifically because they provide a range of services, some of which are hard to categorize as military, per se. And while PSCs are integral to war efforts—more than 1 of every 10 people the U.S. deployed to the Gulf in the lead-up to Operation Iraqi Freedom were PSC employees—some of the more controversial uses of private security have been in the aftermath of the “war.”

While all might agree that infantry soldiers should not be contracted out, in the midst of the insurgency in Iraq some PSCs have provided services that are nearly indistinguishable from what an infantry soldier would do. So it is in the grey area between what we would all describe as war and other violent settings that we can find the most interesting grist for thinking about the role of PSCs in the future of security. Indeed, PSCs have been in the news of late not because of their activities in Iraq, but because of their activities in New Orleans. Below I will offer a brief description of the market, discuss some of the benefits and risks it poses and suggest that their impact on the future of war depends, in part, on the strategies the U.S. and others undertake to manage the risks. I will end with what I see as the best avenue for moving forward...
Hat tip to Zenpundit
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Old 04-24-2006   #20
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Default Should Humanitarians Use Private Military Services?

Humanitarian Affairs Review - Should Humanitarians Use Private Military Services? by Peter Singer.

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Private military services have taken part in conflicts from Bosnia to Iraq, supporting the work of governments, corporations and NGOs. Is this a healthy development? Peter W. Singer, from the Brookings Institution, warns the humanitarian community to be business-savvy before they take the privatisation plunge.
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