November 5, 2002
6:35 AM   Subscribe

Lots of news about war profits lately. Here's where much of it's coming from. Investigative journalism lives!
posted by jfc (4 comments total)
Hasn't the US paid armies from abroad since the revolution? Good post though.
posted by LouReedsSon at 7:08 AM on November 5, 2002

This is hardly a shocking development if you know anything about the Merchant Marine.

LouReedSon, "armies from abroad" is just wrong -- not to mention off topic. We're not talking about mercenaries here, but about staffing support and specialist positions.

In the Revolutionary War, the Americans were incensed at the German mercenaries working for the British (called Hessians). But we had hundreds of foreign-born volunteers, many from countries opposed to Britain such as France. That's entirely different. (Even today we encourage immigrants to join the army as a path to citizenship.) In the war against the Barbary Pirates, US Marines put ashore in what is now Libya, raised an army of local allies around opposition to the Bey of Tripoli, and put the Bey's brother (back?) in control. There were always civilians traveling with armies and the navy made extensive use of them.

The Civil War was the first war involving modern transportation and logistics, and probably one of the first times that anyone from railroad workers to chuck-wagon cooks could find themselves helping an army. Contractors were used in WWII, Korea, and Vietnam.

The main difference today is that we have an all-volunteer army; and despite some high-strung concerns about a draft, we're not likely to change that soon. Volunteers don't, for the most part, sign up to cook. It's also difficult to justify spending $100,000 to train a soldier and then have him pump gas. It's therefore cheaper to hire contractors to supply these logistical positions. The articles also mention the question of expertise which contractors have and soldiers don't have the time in service to acquire. In a high-tech army, more and more equipment is going to be beyond the capability of being put in the hands of a hayseed high-school graduate. Of course, this poses problems for the military, but the general trend seems inescapable. Among the alternatives are much higher spending, longer terms of service, and even reinstitution of the draft, few of which are politically acceptable.
posted by dhartung at 8:06 AM on November 5, 2002

My problem is that the same people who are gung-ho about all of the contracted military services also espouse a very Machiavellian foreign policy. They forget that the first thing that Machiavelli said in the Prince is to steer clear of hired military help.
posted by sp dinsmoor at 9:41 AM on November 5, 2002

Fascinating series of articles from ICIJ. With the cold war over and a return to small regional conflicts it seems a logical conclusion that foreign policy involving force could be more readily handled with hired help. There are many advantages and it certainly is a growth industry. Ill never forget the day I first saw a mercenary truck on I-95 hauling military gear with banners adds and phone numbers for services on the side of the truck.
posted by stbalbach at 11:50 AM on November 5, 2002

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