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Corporate Warriors

Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry
By P. W. Singer

This book is a well written and extensively researched study into the current growth of corporate involvement in the realm of modern warfare. The idea of private military forces and support infrastructure is nothing new but in today’s global climate it is a very dangerous prospect. I read this book about a year ago and have since given it away so my memory may be slightly blurry but I plan to read it again and recommend that everyone else does the same. The book covers a topic very relevant to the post cold war era of global unrest. A good example of the recent growth of the Privatized Military Industry (PMI’s) is Gulf war I and II. In the Iraq war I, one in ten personnel on the ground was not a member of a state military but a private contractor, and in Iraq war II the situation reversed and 9 of 10 personnel on the ground is a private contractor (their deaths are not reported and this greatly increases the casualty count). This trend is growing and there are very few if any restrictions on a national or international level. As the author presents his study he is very careful to not pass judgment on the idea of these PMI’s but points out several examples of the benefits and potential dangers of these corporations. Considering that these groups supply everything from Special Forces operatives to reconstruction expertise it is not hard to see the potential dangers involved.

There are now companies that cover every part of war you can conceive of from actual troops (training personnel to special ops teams), equipment (tanks, helicopters, fighter jets etc), information (satellite imagery and intelligence), reconstruction, to behind the lines support (food, fuel, general infrastructure). These companies supply everyone from the US and UK state militaries to the most brutal of dictators and are only limited by the morals of the board of directors. As you can see there is a great potential for abuse if left to grow on its own. In this age of high tech warfare it is reasonable to expect that the farming out of specialized tasks is in the best interests of everyone but it is a market that must be at the very least given some very basic limitations towards their activities. These companies have done great good from the building of refugee camps faster than anyone else could have, to training the victims of the genocide in Bosnia (I don’t remember which group involved in this situation) to fight back and they ended up defending themselves and securing their freedom. At the same time some employees of a contractor in Bosnia were found to be running drugs, guns and sex slaves and another filmed himself raping two minors. Here is one of the scary parts because the country technically didn’t exist therefore, no laws, they were not soldiers, so no military court and they were out of U.S. jurisdiction, so no prosecution, they just got a transfer within the company (the two women who reported them got fired). Another example of abuse is the U.S. Congress has limited how many U.S. soldiers are allowed to operate in Columbia, so the CIA, DEA, Pentagon etc. just hired private soldiers to go in. This allowed them to stick to the letter of the law, but essential run a blacked out private war in a foreign country. You may have heard about a missionary family’s plane being shot down a few years ago by a CIA anti-drug fighter plane, actually it was a company called AirScan hired by the CIA.

Sorry this is more of a summary than a review but the book was a well written analysis of an industry that has the power to literally redraw the map of the world. The book was a little long but very comprehensive and the author does a good job of showing the pros and cons of an issue just behind the front pages of conflicts around the world.

May 24th, 2005