Tuesday, December 15, 2009

"Security contracting"

The official US military establishment, large and expensive as it is, has a substantial shadow, organizations like the former Blackwater. If you don't think these guys have political influence, which exists beyond the rather shaky limitations of constitutional government -- think again.

Here's a primer from At War in the New York Times
Note where I have bolded some material:
The news that Blackwater Worldwide (or its new name, Xe Services) collaborated with the Central Intelligence Agency was one news event that did not surprise me. I think the spate of recent news is just the tip of the iceberg.

It has been argued that our servicemen overseas do not receive enough attention in the news media about all that they do. But if that is the case, then it is doubly true for contractors, as their actions have been even more underrepresented in the news then the military’s.

When President Obama announced a troop surge in Afghanistan, many people focused strictly on the number of troops and the time line he presented. What was missing was a discussion of how many contractors would be needed to support the increase. Currently the ratio of United States servicemen to contractors is roughly one to one. Thus, the actual number of additional personnel members who will be added to the American footprint in Afghanistan could be closer to 60,000 — 30,000 additional military personnel members plus 30,000 contractors.

Security contracting is a business that will probably be a fixture in security operations for years to come. It is partly an outgrowth of a capitalist drive to reduce everything, even war, into purely fiscal terms. Contractors, be it those with weapons or those with cooking tools, are at first glance cheaper than deploying and sustaining an equivalent number of an all-volunteer military service members.

Contracts are close-ended, and hence there are no enduring requirements like providing these contractors with aid in expediting United States citizenship. Nor do they require open-ended benefits such as a G.I Bill, veteran benefits, disability payments or a retirement pension.

But their involvement has shown that war is not simply a sacrifice for those who fight it. It can also be a lucrative economic enterprise. Their deaths are also easier to accept because they are not even reported. No obligatory half-staff flags. This, in turn, reduces the overall cost of the human effort needed to sustain America’s war overseas as contractor casualties and deaths do not add to the tally of combat casualties that news organizations report.

The author also suggests that many veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan have in this recession better prospects as contractors than as anything else. Makes you wonder where this process of militarizing the US population will end. Or which country will be the first to be taken over by unhappy or ambitious "contractors."

Image: Landsknechts, German mercenaries of the 16th century.

1 comment:

  1. Anonymous4:57 pm

    It occurs to me belatedly that 'contractor' can be a direct translation of condottiere.