Sunday, April 11, 2021

Security Contractors

 I recently had a discussion with my significant other.  It started with a question that I think surprised them. "So, out of curiosity, what is your opinion of private military companies?" I wasn't prepared for the response.

For the next half-hour we had a very one-sided conversation about the evils of mercenaries, of war profiteering, of people choosing as a job to go to a foreign land and impose the will of corporations with little or no transparency.  I'm grateful I got an answer to my question: she's decidedly against PMCs.  But I'm not so certain if I am or not.

What is the difference between a security contractor and a member of the military?  Does rank and official command structure make such a difference that soldiers are good and 'mercenaries' are bad? Don't members of the military choose a career where the purpose is to kill people and break things? Are citizens really kept apprised of all the doings of the military, or do we have enough 'transparency' to be confident that wrongdoing will not go unpunished?  

The American government clearly has no problem in hiring private security companies. Contractors have been, and are, heavily involved in every major war effort since 1965 when former SAS created an elite group to supplement fighting forces. The US employs advisors, trainers, bodyguards and personnel from private security companies with regularity. But should it? Do these companies adhere to the same standards of conduct as military members are expected to? Is it right that a multi-billion dollar industry exists where private citizens can be hired to go to war and profit from it? Do these professionals violate the Geneva Convention by adding unlawful combatants to warzones?

In the case for private security, I see ample reason to keep them-- the human capital is already high. The US does not need to train these individuals, it can use them to supplement whatever mission it has and can distance itself from the conduct of individuals if they become problematic.  The case against them is mostly moralistic (as I discovered when I broached the subject); mercenaries are inferior to actual soldiers, they violate international law and promote the global industry of war, encouraging conflict.

My opinion remains open. While I think of the military as a noble profession, am I biased against private companies who are made of former military? Do I somehow think they don't value the country quite as much because now they work for a higher paycheck?  Would I work for a PMC if given the chance? 

Yes, assuming they'd hire me.

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