From John Robb, echoing Robert Pelton Young’s thoughts on Blackwater.
Another example of dysfunction in our societal discussion about the future of security: rather than an informed/constructive debate on the future of private military contractors in warfare (a big topic that WILL NOT go away), we end up demonizing Blackwater.
If anything, Blackwater’s current problems have everything to do with its (ill advised) super-macho image and anger over an unpopular/ unsuccessful war than anything approaching reality.
Thus, Blackwater will be discarded and another firm, presumably less mindlessly macho, will replace them, and little will change. Of course, the best way to eliminate the need for security contractors is to eliminate needless wars. But if they must be used, then, hey, if a dog is out of control, dog handlers say the problem usually lies with the owner, not the dog.
In the comments, Robb notes
In general, within the emerging global/US security framework, we are going to see much more use of private companies. There’s no way around it. It can turn into a nightmare with hugely inefficient/ dangerous, vertically integrated global contractors — or — we can horizontally bound the industry, use transparency to create public trust, and reap the benefits of an innovative/ efficient/ responsive ecosystem.
The contractors aren’t actually from the evil wizard’s military compound or hired off the nearest barstool because they were the local bar-fighting champ. Most are from the military elite; Navy Seals, Army Rangers, and are highly trained professionals. But right now, they are mostly hired by the State Department to protect important personages and the military increasingly doesn’t want them, seeing them as getting in the way of the mission. So, they need to be brought under control with clear, obvious, enforceable guidelines, Robb suggests something akin to an open source approach here.
Max Boot sums it up.
Contractors are a fact of war, but they need stronger oversight.
It is outrageous that almost no American contractors have been held criminally liable for conduct in Iraq or Afghanistan, but hundreds of soldiers have been court-martialed. You can’t blame this shortcoming on the security firms; they don’t have the power to send their own employees to jail.
But so far the US government and military has chosen not to prosecute the contractors. Why is this? Especially since US soldiers have been prosecuted for the same actions. This is what we need to know.