File:Isenberg Private Military Contractors.pdf
- Executive Summary
- Definitional Issues (or “who Are You Calling A Mercenary”)
- Classifying Pmcs
- The Obama Administration And Pmcs
- Privatization Past Is Pmc Prologue
- The U.S. Government And Pmcs
- How Did We Get Here?
- Is Contracting For Military Services Cost Effective?
- Contractors And Transparency
- Contractors And The Iraq War
- Better Regulations Needed To Manage Contractors
- The Contracting Seal Of Approval
- Why Not Self-Regulation?
- Enabling Bad Policies And Shifting Blame
The debate over whether and how to utilize private military and security contractors generates much heat but not much light. In many case the level of discourse resembles children’s name calling, i.e., “You’re a mercenary.” “No I’m not.” Such rhetoric is silly and distracting and prevents people from facing underlying realities which are rarely dealt with publicly.
The truth is that the United States is by far the world’s largest consumer of such services. While contractors have worked with the government since the country’s founding their role has grown as Washington has reduced the size of the U.S. military in the post-Cold War era, and as those forces have become strained by the demands of U.S. grand strategy. This did not happen by accident. Decades ago the government made a deliberate decision to both privatize and outsource military functions and activities that had traditionally been done in the public sector.
One can argue for and against such contractors but what nobody wants to discuss is that the U.S. government’s huge and growing reliance on private contractors constitutes an attempt to circumvent or evade public skepticism about the United States’ self-appointed role as global policeman. The U.S. government has assumed the role of guarantor of global stability at a time when the American public is unwilling to provide the resources necessary to support this strategy. Private contractors fill the gap between geopolitical goals and public means.
The low visibility and presumed low cost of private contractors appeals to those who favor a global U.S. military presence, but fear that such a strategy cannot command public support. And by using contractors the United States also shift responsibility and blame for its actions.
As the United States relies more heavily upon military contractors to support its role as world hegemon, it reinforces the tendency to approach global crises in a unilateral, as opposed to multilateral manner, further ensuring that the burdens will be carried disproportionately by U.S. taxpayers. U.S. use of PMCs is inevitable until people grasp the key point, which is that that contracting is both part of war and part of maintaining a global military hegemonic presence.
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