Foreign Policy Blogs

A Lucrative War?

It seems that talk of Blackwater and other mercenary organizations in Iraq has subsided over the past year (while searching the New York Times, the most recent articles I found on the subject were Mike Nizza's “The Lede” blogs from 2007).  At least that's what has happened in the US; abroad it's a different story.  The topic of mercenaries, or PMFs (Privatized Military Forces), is still hot in Egypt, and came out of the most recent publication of al-Ahram Weekly.

Galal Nassar writes that international mercenary soldiers make up a billion-dollar industry, being hired from multiple countries to fight for thousands of dollars per week, sometimes even per day.  Further complicating the issue, these salaries are becoming a huge problem in recruiting Iraqi police and security forces, as the difference in pay is staggering.  Why would an Iraqi soldier want to be a target for insurgents, trying to avoid death on a daily basis working in an under-funded position when he could just as easily make twice as much and have access to the latest technology and weaponry?  I know what my choice would be, given the situation in Iraq. 

 The worst part of mercenary companies is that few international regulations apply.  Essentially PMFs are said to perform missions in which national armies, such as that of the US, are not supposed to engage.  They can assassinate, use guerrilla tactics, import weapons and 'sabotage’ the enemy.  There is even talk that these companies are inciting further violence. 

While the subject blew over in the US after the CEO of Blackwater testified in front of Congress, we should still be wary of PMFs operating in Iraq.  It is obvious that these organizations should be further investigated, but easier said than done with the constant chaos embracing the country.  And while these companies might be spurring violence, what if their role has contributed to the latest decline in hostility? 

We should wonder if hiring private armies is the new trend in fighting conflicts.  If so, this is a very dangerous line to cross.  CEO Erik Prince testified that the soldiers working for Blackwater are, “Americans working for America protecting Americans.”  If this is the case, how do we stop from blurring the line between paid mercenaries and US soldiers?  The scariest question we have to ask then is what happens to the ideals of fighting for bravery, honor and the love of your country?



Jennifer Bushaw

Jennifer Bushaw holds an MA from the University of Chicago in Middle Eastern Studies with an emphasis on policy. She focused her research, including her Thesis, on modern Iraq and the Iraq war. She also has a Bachelor's in History from the University of Michigan. Jennifer is currently working as an Investigative Research Associate for a security advisory and management firm in Chicago, Illinois.

Areas of Focus:
Iraq-US Policy; Security; Coalition Operations;