The mercenary option or “Let’s Get Harry”

by Dave Schuler on May 1, 2006

I’ve read enough suggestions along these lines on mostly libertarian blogs that I really felt the need to comment. Some people are suggesting private military organizations to resolve the situation in Darfur:

THREE YEARS OF FIGHTING in the Darfur region of Sudan have left an estimated 180,000 dead and nearly 2 million refugees. In recent weeks, both the UN and the US have turned up the volume of their demands to end the violence (which the Bush administration has publicly called genocide), but they’ve been hard pressed to turn their exhortations into action. The government in Khartoum has scuttled the UN’s plans to take control of the troubled peacekeeping operations currently being led by the African Union, and NATO recently stated publicly that a force of its own in Darfur is ”out of the question.” Meanwhile, refugee camps and humanitarian aid workers continue to be attacked, and the 7,000 African Union troops remain overstretched and ineffective.

But according to J. Cofer Black, vice chairman of the private security firm Blackwater, there is another option that ought to be on the table: an organization that could commit significant resources and expertise to bolster the African Union peacekeepers and provide emergency support to their flagging mission.

A few weeks ago, at an international special forces conference in Jordan, Black announced that his company could deploy a small rapid-response force to conflicts like the one in Sudan. ”We’re low cost and fast,” Black said, ”the question is, who’s going to let us play on their team?”

No. No. No!

Nearly 400 years ago Europeans met in desperation to solve a problem: war without end; war everywhere; war against everyone. The solution they came up with led to modern nation-states. States have a monopoly on military force.

The problems with abandoning that monopoly are numerous:

  • anyone can playIf you’ve got the cash, you, too, can have your own private army! Not everybody with the cash shares your benevolence or, indeed, any of your goals.
  • it invites reprisal in kindA mercenary army invades Sudan (or the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia or Colombia). People sympathetic to the Sudanese government (or the Sauds or the Colombian government) send in their own mercenaries (not nearly as scrupulous as yours) who go after lots of people—including people who had nothing whatever to do with invading Sudan (or KSA or Colombia).
  • there are no limits or controls

These anarcho-collectivist/anarcho-syndicalist fantasies could well lead to disaster. We don’t have war everywhere without limits against everyone because states have a monopoly on military force.

No, the alternatives are either the nation-state or globalization. Government requires consensus to function and world government requires world consensus. And, European fantasies notwithstanding, there just isn’t world consensus right now. If there’s one thing we should have learned over the last five years it’s that there isn’t world consensus right now. The Mohammed cartoon controversy in which people actually died should be enough to be that beyond reasonable doubt.

For Americans the shape of such a world government would be intolerable: nearly every freedom that Americans take for granted and that have enabled America’s success would be abandoned. America is the outlier. The consensus view would be very, very different than ours.

For right now we’re stuck with nations.

And on Darfur there are only three alternatives: avert our eyes, U. S. military intervention, or entertain the romantic fantasy that someone somehow somewhere will arrive at a magical solution. Obviously, the Hollywood folks are going for the fantasy. Stick to what you know.

UPDATE:  I see that Michael Reynolds, who attended the rally for Darfur in DC over the weekend, is on roughly the same page as I am.

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Live From The FDNF
May 2, 2006 at 6:24 pm

{ 8 comments… read them below or add one }

kreiz May 2, 2006 at 3:04 am

Thanks for keeping us grounded in reality, Dave, although I’m always partial to the magical solution myself. It’s cheaper, unblemished and perfect- no muss, no fuss.

mary May 2, 2006 at 9:31 pm

These anarcho-collectivist/anarcho-syndicalist fantasies could well lead to disaster. We don’t have war everywhere without limits against everyone because states have a monopoly on military force.

If states have a monopoly on military force, then what is al Qaeda?

Al Qaeda and their janjaweed ilk are what the ‘war on terrorism’ is supposed to be about.

Hiring mercenaries will not create a situation where there are no limits or controls because that situation was already created by terrorism. Hiring mercenaries is basically using asymetric warfare to fight asymetric warfare. It has worked before and it could possibly work again.

If you can figure out a better (and proven) way to fight asymetric warfare, let us know. Averting our eyes, praying that our government will stop allying with Islamists aand praying for a magical solution hasn’t been working at all.

Dave Schuler May 2, 2006 at 11:36 pm

That we should be using our own military to put down non-state militias and to punish the states that allow their citizens to operate and fund such militias in no way implies that we should be using such private militaries ourselves. That the situation pre-exists does not mean we should perpetuate it.

We have not heretofore hired mercenary armies to fight terrorism and we don’t need to now.

mary May 3, 2006 at 6:33 am

Yes, we (as in ‘we the people’) do have to take action, because, as I posted here, (in a post you appeared to agree with) our government has no intention of punishing the Islamist states that fund al Qaeda. We’re allied with them.

http://www.deanesmay.com/posts/1146587793.shtml

If our government is willing to ally with the people who sponsored 9/11, there is little hope that they’ll be willing to fight to protect other victims of Islamism. If we have any interest in protecting other victims of Islamist terrorism and genocide, we’re going to have to look at alternatives.

Dave Schuler May 3, 2006 at 7:04 am

I’m sorry, mary, but I can’t agree with you. We live in a republic—a representative democracy. Not an anarchy or an anarcho-syndicalism. Foreign policy is the exclusive preserve of the federal government. When the federal government does not behave as we wish, the correct thing is to organize and persuade. Not disobey the law. And there are laws against raising private armies.

In addition you’ve sidestepped my argument: the secondary effects of private mercenary armies are worse than the atrocities you’re trying to prevent.

mary May 3, 2006 at 9:56 am

There are laws against private citizens hiring private security companies? What, exactly, are those laws? How are they enforced? How do they violate the laws of the republic?

I think a lot of international corporations may have been breaking the law for some time.

the secondary effects of private mercenary armies are worse than the atrocities you’re trying to prevent.

I’ve already posted lots of links about how this solution has worked before, but IB Bill has some new ones.

http://www.indcjournal.com/archives/002383.php

We know what the effects of our alliance with the Sudan will be, and we know what the effects of the UN’s objectively pro-genocide policies will be. The truly worst case scenario would be if the “Operation Turquoise” French government gets involved. The Sudan will probably devolve into another Rwanda/Congo mess. Rwanda and the Congo were (and are) the result of relying on the UN and established governments. Three million dead, plus cannibalism.

Recent history shows that private security companies are the best case scenario.

The Lounsbury May 5, 2006 at 2:32 am

Ah Mary still pimping this foolish idea based on her own sub-literate misreading of the Blackwater self-promo to get UN contracts (recall that line I quoted for you dearie, from the very actors themselves, no interest in fighting in Dar Fur / Tchad?).

Well, I guess easy, ill-informed fantasies must be fun.

Leaving that aside, your characterisation of Rwanda but most of all ex-Zaire/Congo is offensively ill-informed. “Objectively pro-genocide” policies is tin-foil-hat nuttery of course, but it does amuse me for being that.

For Rwanda, of course French state interest mucking around helped delay international response, and they get no credit for turning a blind eye to the commencement of a genocide by the proper definition, however it hardly makes them the devils incarnate (any more than the US should be made the Devil incarnate for its many botched interventions and cynical third world manipulations. Indeed, the French presently are doing yoeman work in Cote d’Ivoire in staving off a renewed civil war – with little thanks from anyone. But since you prefer ill-informed whanking, well I suppose we should simply let you shriek on about the Evil French.

As to Congo / ex-Zaire, what can I say other than only an utter ignoramus of a tin-foil hatter ignorant whanking ideologue would put the ongoing problems of that poor country on the UN, sadled with the thankless task of trying to hold together a non-country. But then again, knowledge of the situ takes a distant second place to your desire to attack the UN and “established” governments in favour of a strange “private sector” fantasy.

mary May 5, 2006 at 8:23 pm

But since you prefer ill-informed whanking, well I suppose we should simply let you shriek on about the Evil French.

If it isn’t the ‘the’ Lounsbury, the ever-abusive Howard Stern of Araby.

Indeed, the French presently are doing yoeman work in Cote d’Ivoire in staving off a renewed civil war – with little thanks from anyone.

The French basically started that war. Should the government of Cote d’Ivoire thank the French for destroying their entire air force?

From Le Monde:

http://mondediplo.com/2005/04/10diop

The actions of the French Operation Unicorn peacekeeping force in the former French west African colony of Ivory Coast have exposed the greed and seaminess of France’s dual role as both mediator and participant…

…The present crisis began on 6 November when the government attack on Bouaké also killed nine French peacekeepers. The French president, Jacques Chirac, ordered the destruction of the Ivorian air force. In Abidjan Gbagbo’s supporters promptly turned on the expatriate French community.

None of this settled anything, but it did clarify the nature of the conflict. This was the first time in 40 years of postcolonial apprenticeship that the lives of French citizens in Africa had been so threatened. Everyone had been happy to watch Africans kill each other, but television images of tearful French evacuees stepping off planes outside Paris were another matter – almost enough to make viewers forget that French forces had killed Ivorian civilians and destroyed a sovereign state’s air force to reassure 15,000 compatriots and to avenge the deaths of nine soldiers.

Even the most sceptical were forced to recognise that France was closely implicated in the power struggles in its former colonies. Paris usually worked behind the scenes, but events in Abidjan forced it to show its face. The tragedy is that innocent French civilians had to pay such a high price for bringing everything into the open. Africans noticed that the emperor had no clothes: despite a strong military presence, France had been unable to guarantee the safety of its nationals. It was cornered, on the defensive, and could only stammer barely convincing denials.

If anyone “renewed” war, it was the French.

As to Congo / ex-Zaire, what can I say other than only an utter ignoramus of a tin-foil hatter ignorant whanking ideologue would put the ongoing problems of that poor country on the UN, sadled with the thankless task of trying to hold together a non-country

I wasn’t blaming the UN for the mess in the Congo. They haven’t done a whole lot there, other than providing food for the rebels.

http://belmontclub.blogspot.com/2003/05/cannibals-versus-united-nations-on-may.html

The French (again) are at fault for the mess in the Congo-

http://www.ipsnews.net/interna.asp?idnews=23212

In the face of overwhelming evidence that France backed the Hutu-dominated Rwandan army responsible for the massacre of some 800,000 people ten years ago, it continues to deny its responsibility in the tragedy.

On the contrary, former minister for foreign affairs Dominique de Villepin claimed three weeks ago that ”French intervention in Rwanda saved hundreds of thousands of lives.”

New Rwandan leader Paul Kagamé, a Tutsi, corrected De Villepin. ”Yes, the French saved many lives — of those who committed the genocide.”..

According to Roméo Dallaire, the Canadian UN force commander in Rwanda during the genocide:

The Hutu army went ‘mad with joy at the prospect of imminent rescue by the French. Their renewed hope and confidence had the side-effect of reviving their hunt for genocide survivors’ (the RPF offensive had diverted them). ‘The génocidaires believed . . . that they now had carte blanche to finish their gruesome work.’..

…Turquoise’ deployed too late to hold up the RPF advance – one of its main objectives – but it did create a safe zone for the retreating Hutu army and the Interahamwe militias to carry out more killings, as they prepared to cross into Zaire with many of their weapons and with their structures intact. The chaos that followed has not let up: it’s known as the Democratic Republic of Congo.

Just a few reasons why we don’t want the French to be involved.

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