Tuesday, December 15, 2009

The Fall of the Citizen-Soldier


War has changed throughout the years, structurally and technologically. We have seen the developments in weaponry, tactics, and soldier’s ability to fight. But one thing that hasn’t changed is the use of mercenaries; these are soldiers that fight merely for money, rather than a legal or moral obligation to their country. Throughout time mercenaries have been used and have profited from wars waged. Xerxes, king of Persia, used mercenaries to invade Greece in 484 BC. A quote from Returns the Nostoi an ancient Greek poem written around that time states,” For gifts beguile men's minds and their deeds as well.” Even in ancient Greece after the sacking of Troy, people were aware of how money and gifts change man’s perceptions on things. Centuries ago mercenaries had bad reputations for just being hired soldiers and will leave with the first sign of opposition. Machiavelli wrote at length warning rulers of the use of mercenaries in the Italian Wars. The main motive for mercenaries not to be trusted was greed, they didn’t care about the people they were fighting for or the country they were defending. That is why they were viewed as not trustworthy.

Now instead of mercenaries there are privatized military companies such as; Xe, KBR, DynCorp, and Custer Battles. All of these privatized military companies currently have troops in Iraq, fighting alongside American soldiers. With the American government unable to supply enough troops for the war they were forced to look in another direction. As Washington Post writer Steve Fainaru describes,” the government chose to outsource responsibility for deciding who can kill and die for the United States to for-profit companies that employed tens of thousands of soldiers-for-hire.”
This is a disturbing trend, private military personnel on the grounds in Iraq representing the US and they hold a great deal of power. Fainaru goes on to say, “The mercenaries developed their own language and subculture, and they fought their own secret battles under their own rules – ‘Big Boy Rules,’ as they called their playbook, with more than a hint of condescension, to distinguish it from the constraints of the military's formal code. They weren't counted by our government, alive or dead.” In many respects there is a “parallel war” going on in Iraq, the privatized soldiers have their own agendas, different from the American soldier that enlisted with the government. War crimes are a big deal especially when it was documented that employees of Blackwater massacred 17 people at a Baghdad traffic circle. This brought to thought how these private mercenaries can be stopped from committing these war crimes. They have to be held accountable for their actions, but the government treats them as rouge soldiers that really don’t exist, because of this there are no exact statistics for how many private mercenaries were killed in Iraq.
It is well known that the US wouldn’t be able to maintain their campaign in Iraq without the use of privatized military personnel. But is this the future of warfare? Will we see countries hire private contractors to fight their wars for them instead of risking their citizen’s safety? Skeptics of PMC’s believe this is a growing trend and you will see other countries hire out private contractors for war. For example, imagine that the Iraqi insurgents hired out Xe to fight against the US. The war may be going a different way than it is right now. Instead of untrained terrorists shooting at US military, there would be highly trained killing machines shooting. That could lead to many more casualties than we have already seen in Iraq thus far. When we talk about private soldiers we’re strictly speaking about those soldiers that are non-American. The soldiers hired out from South America and other countries. Unless the American soldiers hired out want to commit treason and be lumped in with the likes of Benedict Arnold. Esther Schrader writes in the LA Times,”Although the most successful of the U. S. firms carefully screen their employees, prohibit them from carrying arms and generally reject contracts with governments the U. S. considers unsavoury, they operate in a world populated by a darker breed of ex-soldiers who serve as guns for hire to thugs throughout the world. Competing military companies in Britain and South Africa have hired out their employees as combatants in Angola and Sierra Leone. And employees of the U. S. companies have sometimes taken up weapons themselves, employees of the firms say.” These companies are strictly about making money and would sell their services to the highest bidder regardless of who it is. They can’t be trusted. It would be devastating to see Iran or North Korea hire out private contractors, in the event that the US goes to war with those two countries. Unless, these companies have morals and grow a conscious, these companies could become a problem for the United States in the future.

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