2008: Yet another sign that peace has come to Iraq. The U.S. is beginning to replace
foreign workers with Iraqis. The foreign contractors are cheaper than soldiers,
mainly because most of them are unskilled labor from countries with very low
pay scales. These civilians still make several times what they could back home,
if they could find a job back home. Foreigners were hired because it was too
dangerous to hire Iraqis. First, there was the loyalty problem, and then there
was the risk of terrorists threatening, or killing, Iraqis working on American
bases. There were some Iraqis working on those bases, mainly interpreters and
some key specialists. And these Iraqis faced constant danger from terrorists.
This policy greatly reduced the terrorist attacks inside American bases. There
were only a few in over five years, all carried out by Iraqis who had access to
150,000 foreign workers, there was some danger in Iraq, but for civilian
workers, the chances of getting killed or wounded were a third of the rate for
the troops, and the troops had a
casualty rate that was about a third of what it was for previous wars (like
Vietnam). Moreover, in the last year, combat casualties among foreign
contractors has come way down, to, like, hardly any.
always had civilians along, to perform support functions. The historical term
is "camp followers." In times past, the ratio of civilians to
soldiers was often much higher, like eight civilians for every one soldier.
Only the most disciplined armies (like the ancient Romans at their peak), kept
the ratio closer to one to one. That's the same ratio U.S. troops currently
have, although it was more like 90 civilians for every hundred troops during
the Surge Offensive last year.
armies became common in the 19th century, it was suddenly cheaper to replace
many of those civilians with conscripts (who were paid a nominal wage.) Now
that armies are going all-volunteer, it's reverting to the old days, where it
was cheaper to have civilians perform a lot of support jobs.
most of the civilian contractors work in the well defended bases, and most of
the contractor casualties are among those (about a quarter of the total) who do
security or transportation jobs that take them outside the wire. But even those
have a lower casualty rate than the combat troops. For the really dangerous
work, the troops are used. But working in a combat zone is still dangerous, no
matter what your work clothes look like.
One of the
first major bases to replace foreign contractors will be al Asad air base.
There are 5,000 foreign civilians at al Asad, and all are expected to be gone,
and replace by Iraqis, within a year. It may be a few years before all (or
nearly all) of the civilian contractors are replaced by Iraqis. This will save
the United States a lot of money, as the Iraqis will be paid according to
prevailing wages in Iraq. That's less than half what most of the foreign
contractors are paid.