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Have Gun, Will Travel

Essay by   •  February 24, 2011  •  Essay  •  2,003 Words (9 Pages)  •  1,304 Views

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Have Gun, Will Travel

The concurrent wars in Afghanistan and Iraq have left the United States government spread far too thin to effectively manage and maintain all of the intricies that a war requires of a military. This requires the U.S. to outsource many jobs in order to allow military personnel to effectively and efficiently succeed in their missions. This outsourcing is made possible by the availability of Private Military Firms (PMFs) and their ability to provide a wide range of military services, both combative and non-combative, in a reliable and cost effective manner. One of the major problems, however, is that these PMFs are not bound by military law, and colossal loopholes exist in U.S. extraterritorial law, which in turn leaves these companies free to conduct their operations with little moral concern or consequence. The U.S. Government must therefore create stringent laws that put more oversight on these Private Military Firms and strictly enforce punishments for human rights violations and war crimes.

"The end of the Cold War is at the heart of the emergence of the privatized military industry" (Singer 49). Due to the hyper-production of its military force, the collapse of the Soviet Union essentially left a free-for-all on the unregulated military market. When the state collapsed in 1989, it left a deluge of unemployed soldiers, millions of available weapons, and a vast surplus of military vehicles. Where once stood the Soviet Union, strong and powerful, a military vacuum suddenly took its place, with many Private Military Firms soon to rise from the embers. Elite military units were transformed, almost overnight, into private companies while keeping roughly the same hierarchical structure. "It is estimated that nearly 70 percent of the KGB entered the industry" (Singer 53). However, it was not only Soviet forces that found themselves in the unemployment bracket; many Western countries, such as the U.S. and Britain, no longer had a need for a huge military force. This resulted in massive military cutbacks on the global level, leaving the U.S., British, and apartheid-era African countries with significantly reduced military forces. "The end of it [Cold War] sparked a global chain of downsizing, with state militaries now employing roughly 7 million fewer soldiers than they did in 1989" (Singer 53).

Since then, Private Military Firms have developed into three distinct categories, being able to provide every military service under the sun, from cleaning personnel to combat batallions. The first category, "military provider firms, are defined by their focus on the tacticle arena" (Singer 92). These firms typically employ ex-elite soldiers such as U.S. Special Forces, British SAS, or Soviet Alpha troops. These firms also make use of armored vehicles, attack helicopters, jet fighters and gunboats - mostly of Soviet make. Military consultant firms comprise the second major category. These are "firms that provide advisory and training services integral to the operation and reconstructing of a client's armed forces" (Singer 95). Essentially, these firms modernized a client's military power, but do not usually engage in actual combat against the clients opponents. Consultant firms provide organizational, strategic, and operational training; while they do not engage in battlefield operations, they have a tremendous influence upon the client's armed forces, proving that knowledge can easily be translated into power. Military support firms deal with only non-combative, rear-echelon services; "including logistics, intelligence, technical support, supply, and transportation" (Singer 97). To see the scope of their actions and their effects on the global community, it is important to note a few of the most notable Private Military Firms. While these PMFs are not necessarily related to any single country, as non-state actors they have an undeniable impact on the international community. They turn the tides of war, not based upon who is right or wrong, but on who can afford their services. It is only by examining the actual involvement of these PMFs in international conflicts that one can understand the larger roles that they play and from there decide how to best control them.

One of the biggest blemishes on the Privatized Military Industry's record occurred in the Balkans by employees of DynCorp, a military support firm. While the official mission of DynCorp was to provide logistical support, the unofficial mission of some of its employees was to profit from sex-slave and prostitution rackets. "DynCorp's Bosnia site supervisor even videotaped himself raping two young women" (Singer 222). What might be even more offensive is that the only DynCorp employees that were fired were the whistleblowers who brought the situation to light. This is only one morally reprehensible example of a how a lack of international private military laws allowed atrocities to be committed and unpunished under the banner of peacekeeping.

Perhaps the most famous, and occasionally infamous, military provider firm was Executive Outcomes (EO), which officially disbanded in 1999. It was founded by Eben Barlow in 1989, assistant commander of the 32nd battalion of the South African Defense Force, an "elite strike forceÐ'...known as the Ð''terrible ones' by its opponentsÐ'...[and] accused of egregious human rights violations by the South African Truth Commission" (Singer 102). Executive Outcomes was only a subsidiary of a larger corporation, Strategic Resources Corporation, which also owned several other PMFs, and had many connections to international oil and mining companies. Perhaps the most notable of EO's operations occurred in the natural resource laden country of Sierra Leone, a former British colony on the coast of Western Africa. In 1995, the government of Sierra Leone was engaged in a brutal civil war with bloodthirsty rebels calling themselves the Revolutionary United Front (RUF). "The group's particularly heinous calling card was the amputation of captured civilians' arms" (Singer 3). The weak and almost overthrown government of Sierra Leone was in desperate need of help, but was refused aid by the international community. In desperation, they turned to Executive Outcomes. Within several months, the RUF's infrastructure had been reduced to ashes; the country's diamond mines had been reclaimed; the first free elections in over twenty years had been held; and, most importantly, Sierra Leone was now a civilian led democracy. With the contract between the government and EO at a mere "$35 million dollars, significantly, just one-third of the government's annual military budget" (Singer 114), it was a

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