Sunday, March 28, 2004

Outsourcing Security 

This is hardly a new phenomenon, but The Independent and The Economist (publications with very different ideological bents) are reporting on the huge number of mercenaries employed by the Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq (and presumably to be rehired by the UN and other institutions after power is handed over).

The stunning fact is that mercenaries are the third largest foreign group under arms in Iraq (after the US and UK forces). Puts Spain's threat to withdraw its troops in a whole new light, doesn't it?

The other thing one might worry about here is what happens to all these guys if the UN doesn't hire them. Hopefully the companies paying them are well-organized enough that we don't end up with a bunch of underemployed, highly-trained military guys looking for work in a civil war-prone Iraq. Surely someone is making sure that any separatist groups that arise after the US leaves don't get any help from the mercenaries. Right?

P.S. If you're interested in the phenomenon of privatized military industry (i.e. mercenaries) and have access to a good library, the best piece I know of is PW Singer's article in the Winter 2001 issue of International Security (not available free online).

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