Thursday, September 27, 2007

Mercenaries without borders

A $100 billion market
During the March 2003 military invasion of Iraq, US Navy troops were commanding American warships. But at their sides, stood private military personnel to operate some of the most sophisticated weaponry of the world. When the predatory Unmanned Air Vehicles (UAV’s), the Hawks, and the Stealth heavy bombers engage in action, their systems are equally operated by PMC’s.

In Iraq, the role of these PMC’s increased even more dramatically in the so-called “post-war” period. In 2003, of $87 billion spent on the war costs, nearly one third, i.e. $30 billions went to PMC’s. The U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) estimated the number of PMC’s to be 60 with 25.000 people deployed while it went up to 181 PMC’s with over 48.000 people deployed by PMC’s in Iraq in 2006, more than four times the number of the 11.000 soldiers of the British contingent!
The “Coalition of the willing” seemed outnumbered by the coalition of the “willing to get rich”. Flag officers of the British Army complain nearly daily about the great number of qualified military personnel of her majesty’s glorious army on the leave for jobs in the private sector paid generally five to twenty tiles as much as military personnel un the national army. A former commando of the highly trained SAS, Delta Force or other Special Forces can earn up to $1000 a day. Even the Pentagon was obliged in 2004, to stop the bleeding of its own forces by the PMC’s, to award an extra $150,000, paid immediately, for those non-commissioned officers willing to serve another six years.

“Revolution in Military Affairs”
This “revolution in military affaires” (RMA) described by Martin van Creveld’s “The Transformation of War” replacing nation-states by “war-making entities” is on the rise since years, but the magnitude of its dimension takes dramatic and worrisome dimensions now.
First, if one steps a little bit back in time, one sees that since the end of the cold war, nearly six million armed forces have been thrown on the labor market having as unique skill their military experience. The giant armies Red Army, the east-German Volksarmee or South-Africa’s military forces have been massively shrunken. The US army did not resist to the global trend and reduced its troops from 2.1 million men in arms in 1990 to a mere 1.4 million in 2003, i.e. one third less! It is this massive reduction of the armed forces under Clinton, a downsizing even further increased by the Bush-Cheney administration that lead to the explosion of the private market. Thanks to Donald Rumsfeld, who said that one can outsource “everything except shooting”, the PMC’s conquered a market of about $100 billions a year which absorbs nearly one fourth of the US defense budget of 2006 that amounted to $439.3 billions. In a typical Orwellian doublespeak, the PMC’s created their own lobby to market their business, called the International Peace Operations Association.

To be continued.