Private Security Contractors Thesis

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Private Military Contractors

Private Security Contractors

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Private Military Contractors

Private Military Contractors (PMCs) are a necessary but imperfect tool in today's rapidly changing and increasingly unstable world, utilized by the United State military, rife with ethical and other complications. Today's world is burgeoning with modern, powerful democratic states. As a means of filling roles once reserved exclusively for the military, these states are increasingly relying on the services of PMCs. The services provided by these contractors vary and can include: logistical, technical, supply, protecting vital governmental entities, and consulting services regarding the restructuring of the client's armed forces. One of the largest PMCs used by the United States is Blackwater, recently renamed Xe, who has assisted the American military on a variety of fronts, but most notable in Iraq.

To further understand the reasons why PMCs have become increasingly popular, despite the complications and ethical implications, an overview of PMCs will be given. This will then be followed by the benefits and disadvantages of their use. Lastly, a review of Blackwater's operations in Iraq and the challenges that have been experienced there, as well as their successes. In the end, this will demonstrate that although PMCs involve many challenges, they are a tool that when properly wielded can be a very effective means of extending a state's military capabilities in a variety of areas.

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TOPIC: Thesis on Private Security Contractors Assignment

Despite the recent media coverage, PMCs are not a new idea. As Avant (2004) notes, before the rise of the nation-state, hiring military contractors was a common occurrence. During the late Middle Ages, soldiers, who were trained within the feudal structure, were employed by military contractors and sent out to whomever could pay for them. These ancestors of what would become the PMCs of today not only fought in wars, but also maintained order and collected taxes. Avant concludes that historians surmise that the rise in the use of contracted military was in response to the feudal system's inability to meet the needs of an increasingly complex and modernizing society. As an example, the need for the protection of trade routes for merchants. There are reasons similar to this that still exist today, including: advancing technology, social change due to globalization, and market pressure that equate to militaries being unable to meet these ever-expanding demands. PMCs not only help with peacekeeping missions, as Avant notes, but also governance building missions, such as seen in Afghanistan and Iraq. PMC personnel are also instrumental in staffing civilian police forces, until an area can staff it themselves. Training of these new police forces, as well as new local military forces, is another task at which PMCs have been shown to be adept.

Today, PMCs are corporate enterprises that provide a variety of functions. These tasks may include training, security, logistical support, risk analysis, and much more (Singer, 2004). They step in when coalition forces cannot be put together quickly enough to be effective (Singer, 2003). These organizations are professional and work for multiple employers at once, according to Avant (2004). Instead of using permanent employees, today's PMCs use temporary personnel pulled from a database of former law enforcement and ex-military. This database includes a listing of the potential employee's experience as well as special skills. In this way, the contractor can choose which employee is the best fir for each individual project. Oftentimes, the individuals are in several databases and it is common for them to move from one company to another, as the contracts become available. When they are not under contract, these private military personnel often freelance. Avant notes that despite the fact that most of these employees are honorable, there is the ability for '1960s-style soldiers of fortune' to be brought on board a PMC. However, PMCs are not mercenaries.

Avant (2004) defines mercenary as "a wide variety of military activities, many of which bear little resemblance to those of today's private security companies" (p. 20). Mercenaries were used by the British East India Company, in an effort to build colonies and facilitate the establishment of long-distance trade. Mercenaries also fought in the American Revolution. The Hessians leased these units to the British Army. In the 1960s, mercenaries could be found in the turmoil on the African continent, were ex-military operated from the shadows.

In the United States, although there has been much media coverage of PMC usage by the American military since the beginning of the Iraqi War, the use of PMCs pre-dated this conflict. After the end of the Cold War, in the 1990s, military outsourcing to PMCs was expanded, according to Singer (2003). The end of the Cold War ushered in an era of false security, that led to the reduction in American military forces. However, there were several regional and ethnic conflicts that had to be addressed, despite the lack of military resources (Avant, 2004). In fact, there are three primary reasons why the use of PMCs has grown significantly over the past two decades. The first is the increase in the number of small conflicts in the Third World and the fact that these nations can no longer count on military and financial support from the two superpowers. The second is the decreased willingness for Western governments to get involved in international peacekeeping missions. Third is the reduced defense budgets many nations are working with, post-Cold War (Krahmann, 2005).

In 1991, during the first Gulf War, America deployed approximately one PMC contractor for every 50 active-duty personnel. By the mid-1990s, due to the ethnic conflicts arising in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the need for PMC personnel increased. In 1999, the conflict in Kosova further taxed American military resources, raising the PMC contractor to active-duty soldier ratio to about 1 contractor for every 10 soldiers.

This is approximately the same ratio as that found in the recent Iraq War. However, Avant (2004) notes that once 'major combat operations' were completed in Iraq, an increased contingent of PMC personnel has been sent into the country.

Benefits of Using PMCs

Looking at the long history of use of contracted military forces, it is not surprising that there are a variety of benefits to using the services of a PMC. One of the primary benefits of using PMCs is the flexibility it allows states' militaries. A state's military has to meet a rapidly changing challenges in today's world. As noted earlier, Avant (2004) describes the reasons for using PMCs in today's modern world as being similar to those reasons that were present in the late Middle Ages. A nation's military can quickly become overextended, especially in today's increasingly globalized world. The demands for military assistance increase, but this does not mean the military has the resources on hand to meet these increased needs. This is where PMCs can be most useful.

As a military is spread thinner and thinner, hiring PMCs for certain tasks allows the military to concentrate their forces in other areas. A corporation can be used as an analogy for the military. Corporations all over the globe have realized the benefits of outsourcing certain tasks that they had, in the past, handled in house. By outsourcing, corporations can often save money, as these outsourced organizations can take advantages of economies of scale, due to their specialization. In addition, these outsourced organization often are more skilled at the specific task given to them, as it is their particular specialty. This leaves the corporation to focus on its core business, making them more competitive, nimble, profitable and successful in achieving their corporation's mission.

The relationship between a military and a PMC is very similar. The PMC gives the military an enhanced flexibility, it doesn't have with its own resources. By selecting specifically skilled personnel for a mission, PMCs can be more effective in completing the tasks given. Oftentimes, there's a cost savings advantage to using a PMC as well. Even if a military were financially able to ramp up the number of soldiers in their ranks to physically addresses these needs, timeliness is a critical factor.

Training of new soldiers simply takes time. Given the rapidly changing global challenges militaries have to address, in today's world, oftentimes militaries don't have this time to spare. Gone are the days when untrained village farmers could be rounded up and armed with whatever was on hand, and that rag-tag group was called an army. To do the equivalent of this today would be sending these citizens to their slaughter. The responsiveness of using a PMC who has access to specially trained, senior-level personnel cannot be matched. As Avant (2004) notes, PMC personnel are already highly trained and have the technical expertise to support even the most complex weapons systems. In order to meet this level of responsiveness, a military would have to have on staff a significantly larger force than they have currently.

Although in times of need, these extra soldiers, and the requisite equipment, would be able to quickly respond, in conflict downtimes, they'd simply be sitting idle. Nations would have to… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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APA Style

Private Security Contractors.  (2009, November 25).  Retrieved August 1, 2021, from

MLA Format

"Private Security Contractors."  25 November 2009.  Web.  1 August 2021. <>.

Chicago Style

"Private Security Contractors."  November 25, 2009.  Accessed August 1, 2021.