The United States is justified in using private military firms abroad to pursue its military objectives
A private military company is a company that is hired and provides a nation with staff and services. Private military companies (PMCs) are often useful to governments because they can provide specialized services and help strengthen a nation's forces abroad. PMCs can carry out a variety of different tasks and thus are incredibly useful in supplementing a nation's forces. However, at the same time, PMCs are not directly accountable as other government forces are, and they are not always under the same rules and regulations.
Please cast your vote after you've read the arguments.
You can also add to the debate by leaving a comment at the end of the page.
PMCs can be used to help intervene in dangerous situations where other countries are unwilling to provide troops and supplies.
"[PMCs] make it possible to break vicious cycles of violence. They could do this by… providing troops for outside interventions. The importance of providing troops is often argued with reference to the 1994 genocide in Rwanda… Rwanda has come to epitomize situations where PMCs could be used to break cycles of violence: a situation marked by widespread agreement around the necessity of outside intervention, but an equally widespread unwillingness to provide troops. In such a situation, those suggesting that PMCs could be used to enhance security argue that they could make up for the lack of willing and qualified troops." [[Anna Leander, "The Market for Force and Public Security: The Destabilizing Consequences of Private Military Companies," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42 No. 5, Sept 2005, pp. 605-622]]
This point assumes that hired companies provide qualified forces. However, this has been historically untrue. "However, many firms have had minimal or insufficient screening – or none at all – hiring individuals with questionable backgrounds that proved embarrassing and/or worrisome, not just for the firm, but for the wider public mission. Darker examples in Iraq range from one firm hiring an ex-British Army soldier who had earlier been jailed for having worked with Irish terrorists to another firm bringing in an ex-South African Apartheid soldiers, including one who had admitted to firebombing the houses of over 60 political activists back home." [[Fred Schreier and Marina Caparini, http://www.libertyparkusafd.org/lp/Hale/Special%20Reports/Defense%20Contractors/Privatising%20Security%20-%20Law,%20Practice%20and%20Governance.pdf, March 2005]]
There is also the problem of lack of accountability. Even though firms seemingly have no reason to betray those that hire them, it is ultimately up to the individual people employed. "The goals of clients are often at odds with firms’ aims of maximizing profits. Also, while firms may have market incentives not to abandon their posts or jump ship for better paying contracts elsewhere, their employees often do not. Operations will thus depend on soldiers, unaccountable to the code of military justice, who make their own personal risk vs. reward analysis." [[http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/petersinger.pdf]]
PMCs have historically helped with resolving conflicts and aiding countries in winning conflicts.
"PMCs could be deployed as 'force multipliers' by governments who cannot tip the balance to their favour in an armed conflict and who cannot obtain the help needed from outsiders. PMCs could 'multiply' local forces quite literally by operating together with them, by training locals and/or by taking over non-military tasks, hence freeing up local troops for military operations. To illustrate how PMCs might play such roles, the reference point is the 'successes' of the South African firm Executive Outcomes (EO) (closed in 1998) in ending the cruel and costly (in terms of human lives and limbs) conflicts in Angola and in Sierra Leone. (the article goes on to explain the specific situations)" [[Anna Leander, "The Market for Force and Public Security: The Destabilizing Consequences of Private Military Companies," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42 No. 5, Sept 2005, pp. 605-622]]
While PMCs may be helpful in resolving conflicts in the short-term, they are not viable solutions because they do nothing to actually solve the problem in the long-term "The key to any durable peace is the restoration of legitimacy. Unfortunately, if security is privatised, the companies become a temporary mechanism to preserve peace, yet do little to address underlying causes of unrest and violence. Moreover, the reliance on an outside private force does little to reestablish the local social contract. Instead, it reinforces the idea that power belongs only to those who can afford it." [[http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/petersinger.pdf]] Thus, PMCs may actually cause more problems than they solve, or they may just be masking the actual underlying causes of conflicts.
PMCs have become so ingrained in our foreign operations that they have become necessary.
"Just as Iraq is the single largest U.S. military commitment in more than a generation, so too is it the largest commitment for the private military industry. The numbers for the PMF presence in Iraq dwarf any past operations. Over 60 firms employ more than 20,000 private personnel carrying out military functions (as opposed to the thousands of additional civilian contractors providing reconstruction or oil services). To put this into context, such numbers mean that the private military industry has contributed more forces to Iraq than any other member of the U.S.-led coalition, being nearly equal to all the states excluding the U.S. combined." [[Fred Schreier and Marina Caparini, http://www.libertyparkusafd.org/lp/Hale/Special%20Reports/Defense%20Contractors/Privatising%20Security%20-%20Law,%20Practice%20and%20Governance.pdf, March 2005]]
Reliance on PMCs is actually a bad thing and something that we should try to discourage. This kind of dependence paves way to larger problems. "As PMFs become increasingly popular, so too does the danger of their clients becoming overly dependent on their services. Reliance on a private firm means that an integral part of one's strategic success is vulnerable to changes in market costs and incentives. This dependence can result in two potential risks to the security of the client: (1) the agent (the firm) might leave its principal (the client) in the lurch, or (2) the agent might gain dominance over the principal." [[P.W. Singer, "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry and Its Ramifications for International Security," International Security, Vol. 26 No. 3, Winter 2001-2002, pp. 186-200]]
Furthermore, reliance on PMCs actually creates more long-term problems that make foreign objectives (such as peace or stability) impossible.
"In addition, private contractors sometimes remain in a country after the conflict (and their contract) has ended. This happened in Sierra Leone, where the government paid for the contractors’ services in mining subsidiaries, leading the PMC Executive Outcomes to retain a militarized presence in Sierra Leone long after its contract had ended in order to protect these mining assets.128 This militarized presence destabilized the already vulnerable country by creating a parallel force that ultimately became a challenge to the national army."
The United States relies heavily on PMCs and would to be able to successfully carry out its foreign missions without them.
"In lieu of the 20,000 private military contractors sent to Iraq, the U.S. would have had to either expand the regular force deployed, call up
even more national guard and reserve troops, or have made tough political compromises with allies or the UN. Instead, it avoided these decisions by using contractors. Such a choice importantly also came with the positive externality of contractor casualties largely staying out of the news. Indeed, the American media made a major news story in the late summer of 2004 that casualties had passed the 1000 killed in action mark, thus putting a great deal of pressure on the Bush Administration. However, they missed the fact that such a figure had long been passed, when one counted the contractor deaths." [[Fred Schreier and Marina Caparini, http://www.libertyparkusafd.org/lp/Hale/Special%20Reports/Defense%20Contractors/Privatising%20Security%20-%20Law,%20Practice%20and%20Governance.pdf, March 2005]]
PMCs have actually caused multiple problems because of their lack of accountability. While it may seem wise to hire other companies to carry out the United States's missions, there have been major incidents where PMCs have not carried out their missions and therefore it would be unwise to rely on them. "One dark example is what happened with the Dyncorp firm, hired by the US and the UN to provide international police in Haiti and the Balkans. Several of its employees became involved in the sex and arms trade, including its Bosnia site supervisor who videotaped himself raping two young women. None of the employees were ever criminally prosecuted and the whistleblowers were fired. The firm now has a similar contract in Iraq." [[http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/petersinger.pdf]]
Hiring PMCs can serve as a deterrent to conflicts, increasing the chances of peace.
"The privatized military industry can act to reduce the tendency toward conflict in certain situations. The announcement of the hiring of
a PMF, for example, may make adversaries think twice about initiating war or be more apt to settle an ongoing conflict, by changing the expected costs of victory. Effective corporate branding might thus have a deterrent effect." [[P.W. Singer, "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry and Its Ramifications for International Security," International Security, Vol. 26 No. 3, Winter 2001-2002, pp. 186-200]]
Hiring PMCs will actually increase the chance of conflict because it desensitizes the issue. "The chances for peace are greatly increased when the people control the decision on whether or not to go to war, since it is the people themselves who will suffer “the miseries of war.”99 If, on the other hand, the decision rests with the head of state, he has little incentive to refrain from war because he bears none of its costs... In Iraq, for example, contractor deaths are not counted towards the official death toll,102 allowing the government to present a far lower number of American casualties. Recent estimates suggest that the total number of contractors killed in Iraq is 1,000, with over 10,000 wounded or injured on the job." [[Zoe Salzman, Private Military Contractors and the Taint of a Mercenary Reputation, http://www.law.nyu.edu/ecm_dlv2/groups/public/@nyu_law_website__journals__journal_of_international_law_and_politics/documents/documents/ecm_pro_058877.pdf%5D%5D
PMCs can also actually prolong conflict because of their own interests. "Unlike a state, which is under pressure to resolve conflicts, there is little incentive for private contractors to encourage the resolution of the conflicts120 that motivated their hire in the first place. Thus, when military force is sold as a commodity on the market, there is a risk that private contractors, who “directly benefit from the existence of war and suffering,”121 will aggravate a conflict situation in order to keep their profits high.122 For example, “[t]here have. . .been allegations that Halliburton has run additional but unnecessary supply convoys through Iraq because it gets paid by the trip”—a clear case of a company’s incentive to turn a higher profit leading it to risk aggravating the conflict." [[Ibid]]
PMCs increase the United States military resources without having to recruit or train.
These private military firms hire out trained soldiers to fulfill certain assigned tasks. This means that the United States can get ready-to-hire trained soldiers whenever it needs it, allowing the U.S. to quickly increase the amount of soldiers it can deploy. And the more soldiers the U.S. has, that frees up other soldiers to help in other wars and combat zones. In short, the more the merrier. And all this without risking the lives of American soldiers or taking the time to recruit, draft, or train from the general population.
PMCs that are native to an area may have detailed knowledge of the local area's geography and political state among other things.
PMCs that are 'abroad' as the resolution states and originating from a combat zone with U.S. troops involved would have a far superior knowledge of the local geography and political state than a U.S. born and bred soldier might have. Here's an example: In Afghanistan, a PMC that draws recruits primarily from Afghanistan would have a far better knowledge of the area and therefore a superior ability to interact with the local people, being able to understand their situation. A regular old U.S. soldier though would not have the same understanding about, say, the local tribes and their differences, then these people and might create more opportunity for a cultural misunderstanding.
There is no way to know how loyal the troops actually are, there has been instances where the PMCs have turned on their employers. For example, if you took Americans and hired them to kill their own people are you sure they would do it?
Iin Sierra Leone in the mid-1990s, private contractors broke off a contract they had held with the government and provided direct military support to revolutionaries fighting to overthrow the state.
PMCs often do not even engage in combat
PMCs in most cases are not used by the government that hired them to fight for that country. They are generally used for more menial tasks such as doing laundry, washing dishes, or preparing food. And with this being the case the lack of accountability will not be an issue. The governments that hire the PMCs do not have to work about the PMC turning on them or killing civilians etc. The governments tend to trust their own troops more than the PMC because of the preconceptions that the leaders usually have so they use the PMC to provide services that support their own troops which are on the front lines.
PMCs do not have to be on the front lines to cause trouble. "Blackwater provides security for American diplomats in Iraq. A convoy carrying diplomats was approaching the square when a second Blackwater convoy, positioned on the square in advance to control traffic, opened fire.
'Not even a brick was thrown at them,' said Abdul Qader Mohammed Jassim, the Iraqi defense minister."[[http://www.nytimes.com/2007/10/08/world/middleeast/08blackwater.html?_r=1]]
Also, this point is misleading on the usage of PMCs.
Private military firms come in three types:
"1. Nonlethal Service Providers (NSPs)
NSPs provide logistics services, air transport, construction of military bases and refugee camps, and other specialized services such as water purification, unexploded ordinance disposal, and mobile hospitals. ...
2. Private Security Companies (PSCs)
They provide armed protection for "nouns": people, places, and things. These include politicians, military leaders, buildings, organizations, convoys, etc....
3. Private Military Companies (PMCs)
PMCs are firms used to alter the strategic shape of a conflict. PMCs generally work for states, international and regional organizations and provide military and police training, security sector reform, assistance in defense ministry design, and even advice on proper civil-military relations in a democracy. PMC employees are generally unarmed, though in Iraq some carry sidearms for self-defense."[[http://decorabilia.blogspot.com/2011/02/benefits-of-private-military-firms.html]]
PMCs do not have the United States's best interests at heart and are not directly accountable.
"When it comes to military responsibilities, the incentives of private companies to turn profit may not always be in line with the client’s interests or those of the public good. While in an ideal world there would be good competition, management, and oversight, producing cost and qualitative efficiencies, governmental contracting is not always set up to ensure this. Thus, the general concerns with any contracting handover (overcharging, over-billing hours, providing insufficiently trained personnel, quality assurance issues, etc.) cross over into the military realm." [[Fred Schreier and Marina Caparini, http://www.libertyparkusafd.org/lp/Hale/Special%20Reports/Defense%20Contractors/Privatising%20Security%20-%20Law,%20Practice%20and%20Governance.pdf, March 2005]]
There is no reason that PMCs will mistreat people or betray the United States. "Those arguing that PMCs could enhance security point out that their employees are military professionals. They have no more motivation to maltreat civilians than public soldiers. They may well be less inclined to do so than public soldiers precisely because their motivation is pecuniary and not ideological or rooted in loyalties to a nation, group, clan or tribe. Moreover, industry advocates point out that the highly politicized market for force makes it essential for PMCs to behave respectably. 'The fastest thing that would get us out of business is human-rights violations.’" [[Anna Leander, "The Market for Force and Public Security: The Destabilizing Consequences of Private Military Companies," Journal of Peace Research, Vol. 42 No. 5, Sept 2005, pp. 605-622]]
PMCs are not held to the same standards and thus should not be hired by the US government.
"PMFs lie outside national military controls and structures, so clients must also worry about how they can replace such services if things go awry or should the firm or its employees refuse to carry out orders in the midst of a crisis. Contractors exist within a business and even though they are doing military jobs, they are not in the military. Business is a civilian realm that falls outside the military chain of command and justice system." [[Fred Schreier and Marina Caparini, http://www.libertyparkusafd.org/lp/Hale/Special%20Reports/Defense%20Contractors/Privatising%20Security%20-%20Law,%20Practice%20and%20Governance.pdf, March 2005]]
"Private contractors also threaten the state’s monopoly on
the use of force because they frequently operate outside the
control of any national laws. It remains unclear, for example,
whether private contractors hired by the United States are
subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), as are
members of the national armed forces... Private contractors employed in Iraq were also granted immunity from Iraqi laws by the Coalition Provisional Authority's Order 17. Even where they are not exempt from local law, however, the situation on the ground in many of the states where private contractors operate is too unstable to guarantee any real accountability." [[Zoe Salzman, Private Military Contractors and the Taint of a Mercenary Reputation, http://www.law.nyu.edu/ecm_dlv2/groups/public/@nyu_law_website__journals__journal_of_international_law_and_politics/documents/documents/ecm_pro_058877.pdf%5D%5D
As mentioned in the previous point, there is no reason that PMCs will actually mistreat people or fail to carry out their job. Their main goal is profit, and in order to maximize profit, it is in their interest to honorably carry out their missions and their jobs.
There is no way for governments to regulate and ensure the quality of PMCs.
"The private military market is global, but it is also effectively unregulated. This means that a broader set of military capabilities are available outside state control, with the decision of who gains such skills and expertise granted to the firms themselves. To put it another way, there are insufficient controls over who can work for these firms and who these firms can work for. PMF employees have ranged from
distinguished and decorated veterans to some true bad apples who do not best represent the government or the public interest. The discretion on recruiting, screening, and hiring for public military roles has been largely left to private firms, with mixed results." [[Fred Schreier and Marina Caparini, http://www.libertyparkusafd.org/lp/Hale/Special%20Reports/Defense%20Contractors/Privatising%20Security%20-%20Law,%20Practice%20and%20Governance.pdf, March 2005]]
"Privatization also raises problems of employee selection and accountability. Military firms recruit effective, but not necessarily congenial workers. Many former members of the most notorious and ruthless units of the Soviet and Apartheid regimes have found employment in the industry. Even if the firms are scrupulous in screening their recruits, it is still difficult for them to
monitor their troops in the field. Furthermore, if employees do commit violations, there is little incentive for a firm to turn them in to any authorities, which are often absent in failed states. To do so risks scaring off other prospective employees and clients." [[http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/petersinger.pdf]]
The hiring of PMCs has actually strengthened warlords and the Taliban in Afghanistan.
Hiring private forces to escort NATO convoys has actually strengthened a dangerous network of Afghan warlords. In fact, NATO convoys that refuse to pay them for protection are sometimes threatened and attacked. The money that the United States pays to hire these private forces has actually found its way to the Taliban (based on a study done by the House Subcommittee for National Security). In fact, the money paid to these warlords actually strengthens the competing forces within Afghanistan that exacerbates the current power vacuum. As long as the US continues to use these PMCs in Afghanistan, there will be no peace or stability. [[Dexter Filkins, "US Said to Fund Afghan Warlords to Protect Convoys," http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/22/world/asia/22contractors.html?_r=1&ref=private_military_companies, June 21, 2010]]
This does not necessarily mean that there is anything inherently wrong with using PMCs. While it might be true that the United States has sometimes misjudged which private forces to hire, this does not mean that we cannot use PMCs altogether. In fact, there can be solutions to ensure the quality of PMCs. "One approach to resolve this dilemma might be for the UN and/or umbrella aid organisations to establish a database of vetted and financially transparent firms that have met international standards. This database would have to be constantly updated, with the attachment of military observers and auditors to monitor contracts, recruiting, and operations." [[http://smallwarsjournal.com/documents/petersinger.pdf]]
Also, the alternative would be even worse - without at least some sort of protection, these NATO convoys would not be able to accomplish anything at all. It is better to have some presence in Afghanistan as opposed to none at all because of possible intimidation.
PMCs violate basic human rights and international agreements in its pursuit of victory and success.
"Although it is incorrect to assume that PMFs kill just for money, there are certain situations in which human rights may be transgressed for the corporate interest. Possible examples include Executive Outcomes personnel using indiscriminate force in Sierra Leone and Angola. The firm is also known to have used fuel air explosives (FAEs or vacuum bombs) in its Angola operations. International bodies regard the use of FAEs as a transgression against human rights, because they inflict particularly torturous injuries and are prone to indiscriminate use. But they are also highly effective, which explains why a firm would choose to use them." [[P.W. Singer, "Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry and Its Ramifications for International Security," International Security, Vol. 26 No. 3, Winter 2001-2002, pp. 186-200]]
If those who work for PMCs actually do commit human rights violations, there is no reason they cannot be brought to justice, just like any other criminal. "Although prosecuting private contractors for their misdemeanours is often compromised by the difficulty of collecting evidence, they can be held accountable for their actions in US courts." [[http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/8943,news-comment,news-politics,pros-and-cons-of-private-security-firms#ixzz0tJTearAC]]
PMCs hurt US troops and the American army.
Because of PMCs and the competition that they bring, they actually hurt the United States forces and weaken them. "Both US and British troops, who are paid less money for doing more perilous jobs, have reason to resent the private security companies. Increasingly, expensively-trained soldiers are abandoning the army to join them." [[http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/8943,news-comment,news-politics,pros-and-cons-of-private-security-firms]]
PMCs also hurt the ability of the US army to actually protect the nation. "Private contractors threaten the state’s monopoly on the
use of force because they represent a clear alternative to state
force—a purchasable alternative that has already proven alluring
to criminal factions and other forces opposing legitimate
governments—and because they generally operate outside of
the control of national law. Even when private contractors are
hired by a state, however, the role of the state as the primary
provider of security is necessarily diminished." [[Zoe Salzman, Private Military Contractors and the Taint of a Mercenary Reputation, http://www.law.nyu.edu/ecm_dlv2/groups/public/@nyu_law_website__journals__journal_of_international_law_and_politics/documents/documents/ecm_pro_058877.pdf%5D%5D
The presence of PMCs in Iraq has significantly damaged US credibility, actually hurting its military objectives.
PMCs simply taint the reputation of the United States and undermine trust abroad. "Private security firms have harmed the US Army's reputation in Iraq. The recent killing of 11 civilians in a Baghdad gunfight, involving men from Blackwater Security, has highlighted the impunity with which these mercenaries are allowed to operate... The Iraqi government has ordered Blackwater to leave the country. If US officials insist that they stay, they will undermine Prime Minister Nouri Maliki's authority." [[http://www.thefirstpost.co.uk/8943,news-comment,news-politics,pros-and-cons-of-private-security-firms]]
The use of PMCs undermines the democratic process and government accountability in using force and waging war.
"The privatization of military force also threatens the democratic state because it allows governments to make war while avoiding democratic accountability. Democratic governments are entrusted with a monopoly on the use of force because their power to exercise that force is limited by the rule of law and by accountability to their citizens. Private contractors, however, greatly undermine democratic accountability, and in so doing circumvent the democratic reluctance for war. By undermining the public’s control over the warmaking powers of the state, private contractors threaten the popular sovereignty of the state." [[Zoe Salzman, Private Military Contractors and the Taint of a Mercenary Reputation, http://www.law.nyu.edu/ecm_dlv2/groups/public/@nyu_law_website__journals__journal_of_international_law_and_politics/documents/documents/ecm_pro_058877.pdf%5D%5D
"Notably, in the United States, private contractors are not subject to the scrutiny of the Freedom of Information Act, which greatly restricts the public’s ability to be well-informed about the government’s reliance on the private military industry. Thus, the privatization of military force allows the executive 'to operate in the shadows of public attention' and to subvert democratic political restraints." [[Ibid.]]
"the privatization of the use of force inherently removes many of the burdens of war from the citizenry, thereby reducing public debate about national involvement in the conflict. Indeed, governments may turn to private military forces not because they are cheaper, but because they are less accountable and less likely to attract political backlash. For example, by outsourcing military functions, the executive branch is able to evade certain forms of democratic accountability by circumventing congressional caps on the number of troops approved for deployment. Employing private contractors also allows the executive to avoid instituting a draft, keep official casualty counts and public criticism down, and even to avoid arms embargoes. The government is also able to distance itself from mistakes by blaming them on the contractors. By subverting public debate and by undermining the separation of powers, the privatization of military force poses a direct threat to the democratic system." [[Ibid]]
What do you think?