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Paramilitary: Why Mercenaries Survive and Thrive
   Next Article → MEXICO: Avoiding Escalation
January 1, 2008:  Most nations are understandably nervous about trusting foreigners to run their armed forces. Yet mercenary troops have long been a logical way for rulers to control their subjects while avoiding revolution spawned in the local military barracks. Often, mercenaries are hired mainly because it's cheaper, or not enough of your citizens are willing, or able, to be effective soldiers. The Iraq war reminded Americans that the United States was also a major employer of mercenaries. This has been the case for centuries, although it became more common in the 20th century, as the U.S. became more involved with foreign nations.

 

Iraq saw extensive use of mercenaries, mainly because the Iraqis with the most security and military experience, the Sunni Arabs, were the least reliable. It was safer to bring in foreigners for security work. You could use soldiers for this, but the troops were needed for more dangerous, and complex work. Over thirty firms were used to hire people for security work. This included three types security. First, there was guarding of bases. The Green Zone (a large chunk of central Baghdad) employed thousands of these mercenaries. Other large bases employed many more. The second type of work was convoy security. On the main supply routes, the guys driving the trucks, as well as the security guards, were all foreigners. The most dangerous routes were generally used only by military run convoys. The third type of security was as bodyguards, and this is where the most expensive mercs (usually former commandos) were employed.

 

Most of the Iraq mercenaries had military or police experience and they came from all over the world. By 2005, some countries were passing law outlawing the recruitment of their citizens for this work. The main reason for this was that active duty soldiers and police were being recruited. In many countries, the mercenary pay was much more than what they were making at home. These laws didn't really work. The word was out that high paying, not-too-risky work was available in Iraq. The recruiters could operate via the internet, or potential recruits could simply go to a neighboring country and apply there. 

 

While there was some danger, the casualty rate was low (less than one sixth of what U.S. troops experienced in Vietnam.) The security companies usually paid life insurance benefits, as well as covering medical expenses. The risk was no deterrent to the many people who kept applying for the jobs.

 

Getting reliable mercenaries has always been a problem, but the security firms in Iraq screened their people pretty well. There were only a few terrorist attacks inside the bases guarded by the mercenaries. This was in line with past U.S. experience with mercenaries. During the Vietnam war, many mercenary units were formed, some for commando operations. The U.S. Army Special Forces is trained to recruit and use mercenary troops. Most of the Special Forces experience goes back to World War II, where mercenaries were common in many of the more obscure theaters of war (where there were never enough U.S. troops.)

 

Mercenaries are increasingly being used for peacekeeping. While the UN is uneasy with this practice, relief workers in need of protection are not so sensitive. Some of the major security firms, like Blackwater, have offered to provide brigade size unit of peacekeepers, staffed by former soldiers and police, to do the work that many nations are reluctant to send their own troops to do. The UN turned this down, mainly because of an institutional dislike for mercenaries. Too many UN member countries are vulnerable to mercenary backed coups, and this translates into the institutional bias.

 

 

Next Article → MEXICO: Avoiding Escalation
  

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ker       1/1/2008 9:05:34 PM
"Mercenaries are increasingly being used for peacekeeping. While the UN is uneasy with this practice, relief workers in need of protection are not so sensitive. Some of the major security firms, like Blackwater, have offered to provide brigade size unit of peacekeepers, staffed by former soldiers and police, to do the work that many nations are reluctant to send their own troops to do. The UN turned this down, mainly because of an institutional dislike for mercenaries. Too many UN member countries are vulnerable to mercenary backed coups, and this translates into the institutional bias. "
 
Small dictatorial states sometimes prevent revolution by keeping the people so poor that they can't organize the resources to revolt. "So what if we burn the country down as long as I own the wreckage." The people resent this but what can they do?  A surprisingly small group of experienced combatants with aggression and planning can turn the situation upside down very quickly. (The wreckage may remains wreckage but the owners can be displaced painfully.)  Since so many votes at the U.N. come from small dictators great pains are taken to avoid these "illegitimate" shakeups.  They might be the most cost effective way to deter genocide but first things first.  Protecting the people who appoint the ambassadors to the U.N. is more important to the U.N. than, well, anything.
 
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Yimmy       1/1/2008 9:39:04 PM
Mercenaries are not a long-term cost effective solution.  Private Military Companies are a profiteering organisation, one could go as far as call them the epitome of Capitalism.   A mercenary is paid more than that of his equivalent rank in a states army, or otherwise he would not fight in someone else's war.  His company also demands more money than otherwise necessary for the military operation, so as to take their cut off the top and do good by their share holders.

The advantage of the PMC is in the short-term.  Why spend government funds on armed men every day of every year in the form of a standing army, when the war may never come?  If the war does come, then:

a)  Go crying to the UN or America.

b)  Buy some mercenaries, who will demand your left kidney in payment, but who may win the war.

c)  Bend-over.

I would speculate, that PMC's consisting of amoral, money grabbing scum, they may not be the best organisations to use for UN peace keeping operations.

 
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Yimmy       1/1/2008 9:40:30 PM
One for our American friends,

d)  Hold organised militias.


 
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jastayme3       1/2/2008 1:08:58 AM

Mercenaries are not a long-term cost effective solution.  Private Military Companies are a profiteering organisation, one could go as far as call them the epitome of Capitalism.   A mercenary is paid more than that of his equivalent rank in a states army, or otherwise he would not fight in someone else's war.  His company also demands more money than otherwise necessary for the military operation, so as to take their cut off the top and do good by their share holders.

The advantage of the PMC is in the short-term.  Why spend government funds on armed men every day of every year in the form of a standing army, when the war may never come?  If the war does come, then:

a)  Go crying to the UN or America.

b)  Buy some mercenaries, who will demand your left kidney in payment, but who may win the war.

c)  Bend-over.

I would speculate, that PMC's consisting of amoral, money grabbing scum, they may not be the best organisations to use for UN peace keeping operations.

Actually, I would say those qualities would make them ideal organizations for UN peacekeeping operations.

 
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ker       1/2/2008 9:09:49 PM

Mercenaries are not a long-term cost effective solution.  Private Military Companies are a profiteering organization, one could go as far as call them the epitome of Capitalism.   A mercenary is paid more than that of his equivalent rank in a states army, or otherwise he would not fight in someone else's war.  His company also demands more money than otherwise necessary for the military operation, so as to take their cut off the top and do good by their share holders.


This is a very simplistic comment.  The Prince talks about the dangers of being dependent on mercenaries because if you win with them they may try to take your winnings for them selves.  This is good advice.
You can not replace a national patriotic military with mercenaries but you can use them in targeted roles to good effect.  You should consider that a mercenaries may work for less money than a conventional solder.  This may be do to difference between incomes in different nations or for some personal psychological reasons. (Fighting another mans war might be a nice option for some people.)  Further more ten mercenaries may be able to do the work of 100 or more members of a peace time army.  Better to pay for what gets done rather than the number of people doing or not quite doing it. 
 
The profit margin's of the mercenaries company may be cash well spent.  It may be nice to think that some in house manger can do what the mercenaries organizers do but making it happen is another thing all together.  In many of the worlds army the commanders and their political patrons are taking money out of the system for personal profit in larger amounts than mercenaries would. Remember ghost solders, fictional names placed on pay lists so commanders can pocket the cash. 
 
I admit that you need to be careful dealing with mercenaries but you need to be careful dealing with everybody.
 
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Azr@el       4/7/2008 3:35:57 PM

    To fight one's own wars you have to make certain pacts with the devil and be able to live with yourself afterwards. But it's worth the cost since it's for the sake of protecting those you love. But fighting another man's war for foreign coin? To each their own opinion.
    But let's dispel some myths, peace loving freedom fighters don't hire mercenaries to overthrow dictatorships. The freedom fighters are often willing to pick up protest signs and/or kalashnikovs and do the deed themselves on the cheap. So who goes around hiring mercs to overthrow dictators? yup you guessed it , other would be dictators willing to cut foreign multinationals a better deal on mineral exploitation concessions. The alphabet soup security services of democracies normally mothered along the transactions between interested parties for the sake of national interests. And thus stood the state of affairs in the old days.
    Now in this era of super-empowered individuals, guys like obl and bill gates running around, does anyone really want a large supply of well trained soldiers loitering off the leash? Sure, 99% of these fellows who are conditioned to fighting for foreign coin won't trade their services to the highest bidder no questions asked, but it just takes a few to set up a shoot house and run a few hundred would be jihadis thru the grinder.
 
 
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ker       4/8/2008 2:27:50 PM
Not all mercenaries are the same.  The categorizes in the Prince were "Your own troops" citizens, subjects or family,  "Auxiliaries" troops from aligned states helping out,  and mercenary who were none of the above.  Mixed units were also acknowledged.  Augzilirys get you in trouble when they are brave and mercenary get you in trouble when they are not the book says.  So by these standards Black Watter if it is majority Americans with the British supplying the next largest group by numbers  (If this is not true in absolute terms it is in terms of leadership?) is a mix of your own troops and auxiliaries.  Mercs are defined by citizenship and not tax bracket in this view.  So if your majority is made of American citizen vets and your big contracts are with people like the American Department of State you have more in common with the Marine Corp than with state less roges who play both sides of the fence.  In New York City the guards at Rikers Island went on strike once and blocked access to the prison/mother of all jails wile a riot was going on inside.  When Black Water dose that kind of play to demand more money I will change my mind about them, I promise. 
 
If you are concerned about bad mercs who will cause a surprising expansion in the capacity of bad fighters the the answer is to dominate the market with pro-American firms. 
 
Lets say that a grupy corporation that wants to get a cut rate on raw materials and has no concern for the people of a country tries the "dogs of war" move.  If they replace a leader who was flat out sadistic then it is a good move.  Given the choice between sweat shops and genocide I think I can make a decision.  Can you? 
 
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Azr@el       4/8/2008 8:50:00 PM
   There are about 50,000+ pmc's in iraq, the nationalities of these troops vary from chilian, russian, serbian, bosnian, columbian, panamanian, croatian , american , south african, british, french, indian, nepalese, romanian, etc...
And the largest bloc of mercenaries in iraq are of course iraqi, about 30,000 receiving top notch training by firms like black water trying to cut expenses by hiring in country ex-iraqi soldiers($150-200 per month) and training up using ex-us special forces($1500-2000 per day). How many of these "abdul come lately's" will one day use their expertise against u.s. interests for the highest bidder? You tell me.

    I really don't why, but whenever a bunch of guys with guns burst into the presidential, rape the servants and carry off the head of the head of state, things tend to go from bad to worse. Go figure. But then again there are worst things you could with a few well trained and well motivated troops then overthrow a banana republic.

   



 
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