Wednesday, April 26, 2006

# Posted 10:13 AM by Patrick Porter  

HUMANITARIAN MERCENARIES? Rebecca Weiner considers whether private security firms should be deployed in crisis regions like Darfur.

Consider the options currently on the table: the African Union, which functions more to monitor and report, without a clear mandate to use force and intervene, and logistically dependent for its resources on the Sudanese government, which is complicit in genocide.

NATO, a body that is very relucant. It recently stated that deploying a force of its own is 'out of the question.'

UN peacekeepers: too slow to arrive, sometimes too minimalist in its peace enforcement, and deployed by an organisation which is reluctant to call the crisis by its proper name. Alternatively, even if an effective body of UN peacekeepers were deployed, it could sure use the expertise, experience and resources of a private military company.

As Weiner explains, there are serious objections to resorting to private security firms:
More fundamentally, many believe that the international community has a special responsibility to take on problems such as Darfur-and that outsourcing humanitarian interventions to the private sector is just another way of sidestepping the hard political debates that should take place in public.
As do I. However, we seem to face a stubborn pattern of behaviour in the international community, which pledges 'never again' and persistently refuses to intervene in situations naively deemed to be marginal to their interests.

We can try and change that mentality in the 'hard political debates', but it might take another decade, probably much longer. Or we can explore alternatives - partnerships between the international community and private organisations. To be sure, these alternatives need regulation and rethinking, but that might be a more effective and economically attractive solution. It might even save lives.

As with many other situations, it may be that there is no viable solution to be found within the current UN framework.

And its easy to overdo the distinction between accountable and well-behaved publicly-appointed peacekeepers (cheers) versus wicked mercenaries out for loot and sex (boos).

Corruption, sexual exploitation and even complicity in human rights violations have all been carried out by forces acting in the name of the UN and NATO. So, these are problems with peacekeeping we already face, not ones that would be created by mercenary alternatives.

And when it comes to finance, the fact that private security firms are most cost-effective is not narrowly a monetary question. If it makes intervention less economically unattractive, it probably enhances the chances of intervention.

However, there are ambiguities surrounding the regulation and accountability of firms. Right now, there is no international regulatory regime in place.

This post leaves about a zillion questions unanswered, like: how do we manage the relationship between private firms and public bodies like states and trans-national institutions? There are probably Oxbloggers out there with an interest in the private security market. Any thoughts?

President Bush is only beginning to grasp the intricacies of the problem:
A couple of weeks ago, answering a question from a student after giving a speech at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies, Bush provided a hint of the emotional texture of his extraordinary dependence on his Secretary of Defense.

“My question,” the young woman said, is in regards to private military contractors. The Uniform Code of Military Justice does not apply to these contractors in Iraq. I asked your Secretary of Defense a couple months ago what law governs their actions.

The President: I was going to ask him. Go ahead. (Laughter) Help. (Laughter)

Q: I was hoping your answer might be a little more specific. (Laughter) Mr. Rumsfeld answered that Iraq has its own domestic laws, which he assumed applied to those private military contractors. However, Iraq is clearly not currently capable of enforcing its laws. . . . Mr. President, how do you propose to bring private military contractors under a system of law?

The President : I appreciate that very much. I wasn’t kidding. (Laughter ) I was going to—I pick up the phone and say, Mr. Secretary, I’ve got an interesting question. (Laughter ) This is what delegation—I don’t mean to be dodging the question, although it’s kind of convenient in this case, but never— (laughter ). I really will—I’m going to call the Secretary and say you brought up a very valid question, and what are we doing about it? That’s how I work. I’m—thanks. (Laughter )
(11) opinions -- Add your opinion

What in the president's answer suggests that he is even beginning to recognize the problem? His answer here will give fodder to those who accuse him of incompetence and disregard for decency and human rights.
Certainly nobody, including the president, can be expected to know everything. The valuable person is the one who knows how to find out.

However, it is distressing to hear that he is only now starting to think about this issue. It should have come up at least at the beginning stages of Iraq reconstruction. It should have been looked at when the military made the decision to start subcontracting work formerly done by the military (if at all) inhouse.

I have no suggestions on the answer, but also wanted to chime in on Weiner's assertion that a job that is the UN's should be done by UN or not done at all. I think that position is rediculous, and in this instance bordering on savage.
God help us, that is the single most pathetically revealing exchange from the President, ever.
The UN already employs private security guards to protect it's property and personnel, according to according to Globalsecurity.org. Moreover, both the UN and aid agencies often pay disguised protection money to "clans" and "warlords" by hiring them as guides, porters, and guards, etc.

The UN has close to 400 private security guards in the Congo alone, according to its own procurement documents. Of course, this is different from employing private contractors as peacekeepers. But the key problem isn't whether the peackeepers are Bangladeshi soldiers or ex-French Legonaires. It is that the UN is loathe to use peacekeepers to attack the infrastructure of gangs, say in the Congo. Nor are peacekeeping missions provided with top class intel gathering system to identify who should be arrested, etc. Once the UN decides to go that route, i.e. conduct raids to pick up gang leaders instead of presence missions, then mercenaries will probably prove better value than Third World infantry.
In case anyone thinks mercenaries are a right wing thing, Matthew Yglesias at TPM Cafe has heard it discussed at Cato and calls it an example of "out of the box" thinking. Of course, a lot of non-core security work is already being outsourced to contractors in Iraq and if someone were fair about it, they would examine the experience.

My guess is that private contractors in Iraq have not been as "bad" as alleged. If so, their abuses would be plastered all over by a press that would be more than delighted to recount abuses. Relative to UN personnel in the Congo, or even regular troops in Iraq, they don't seem wildly out of control. But then, I don't think anyone has looked closely because the idea itself has been beyond the pale. Let's hope that with Yglesias and Cato on it, it will get the serious look it deserves.
The new term is Private Military Companies. They did a great job in one of the African countries. The government hired the organization and it was well on the way to cleaning out the rebels. Then the UN and several countries got involved. They were worried abhout the perception the the "white man" had to come in and help out. I believe the mercs had less than a thousand men (much less). The UN ended up with 22,000 men and they acted as a peacekeeping force. The mercs, much like the paid armies of the past, worked for the government and were trying to win a fight.

There were questions raised ablout the amount the government was paying the PMC so using these organizations is not all roses.

However, on the question of who is better, a not so well trained and equipped soldier from a UN country or a well trained merc the answer should be obvious.

If you want to read up on PMCs you may want to read Why do States hire Private Military Companies by Henry Sanchez. Http:newarkwww.rutgers.edu/global/sanchez.htm

The article is a general coverage. Anyone with specific knowledge of a particular region may question some of the writing. For instance. Sandline's operations in New Guinea were not as benign as made out in the article.
davod, it was Blackwater in Sierra Lionne (sp?). If your worried about human rights write it into the contract.
I used to read a lot of science fiction.
This is not new--as an idea--and the issues have been worked out as fiction.

Sandline and Executive Outcomes have a fair number of hits on line if you want to spend some time surfing.

In fact, some of the ads are so matter of fact that it's funny to think they're talking about war for hire.

Point is, states which are in chaos internally and/or cannot control their borders become less than states and the usual answers are less applicable.

I won't say I pine for the Cold War, but these are interesting days.
Kaplan's Eastward to Tartary pictures the 'stans as they may well have been when the Golden Horde was breaking up, or when Russia was moving toward India in the late nineteenth century.
Who, actually, is in charge along the Andean Ridge?
As for Africa....
reminder - rally in DC this Sunday for Darfur. Other rallies for Darfur around the US and Canada.
The fact of the matter is that people are dying (being killed) and the UN does nothing.

Isn't that getting through to people?

In Dafur, I just read that the USA supplies 85% of the food aid for the refugess. So much for the international "community."

Bashing Bush over the laws governing private contractors in Iraq while China and Russia block efforts to stop the genocide in Dafur says it all.
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