Private Military Companies Mere War Profiteers or a cost-effective alternative?
[…] “This war has been privatized more than any other war in history… forty cents of every dollar Congress controls goes to private contractors.”1
In Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers Robert Greenwald shows how private companies have made millions of the Iraq War performing duties that used to be done by the government. In that same documentary, private military companies are portrayed as greedy, profit-seeking organisations, who will do anything to maximize their profits. If a company is primarily concerned with profits, might they skim on their mission, might they offer cheaper services when possible? According to director Robert Greenwald the answer is yes. In their turn the private military companies and their supporters often claim that they are more nimble and cost-effective than the government (Isenberg 2009: 29), and therefore the right person to do the job. This paper will deal with three issues regarding private military companies in general and more specific in Iraq. First, attention will be paid to the reasons and motives of the American government to contract out many of its responsibilities to private military companies (PMCs) such as Halliburton, Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR) and Blackwater (which nowadays goes under the name Academi). Second, this paper will address the challenges transparency as a public value faces in the light of outsourcing activities to PMCs. Finally attention will be paid to the question whether Greenwald is right in his claim that PMCs are in fact War Profiteers who are only looking for profit, or that contracting out military services is in fact a cost-effective alternative in a time where the national military of the US is downsized.
American use of PMCs: military outsourcing in Iraq This section will describe the motives of the American government to outsource a large portion of its military in the Iraq War. This outsourcing is the result of three issues (O’Keefe 2009:1) a limited military capacity to unilaterally invade and occupy Iraq, sensitivity of public opinion and the need of specific technically skilled individuals.
Limited military capacity One of the motives for employing PMCs in Iraq is the fact that the American military capacity is limited. One reason for this limited capacity is the military downsizing following the end of the Cold War (O’Keefe 2009: 3). In the aftermath of the fall of the Berlin Wall, nearly 700.000 American troops were no longer needed and became unemployed. This decline in troops greatly reduced American capabilities (Ballard 2005: 5). To this point, Andre Bearpark, the 2003 Coalition Provisional Authority’s (CPA) direct of operation says, “the military just hadn’t provided enough numbers [for the Iraq War]. It was stretched to the limit.”(Bergner 2005: 32). This argument is also set forward in the 1
Derived from the documentary “Iraq for Sale. The War Profiteers” (2006) directed by Robert Greenwald
first minute of Iraq for Sale: The War Profiteers, where the voice-over states that “there isn’t enough military infrastructure [...] and PMCs fill the gap”. In other words, the reduced capacity of the national armed forces provides the private sector with the opportunity to fill the gap. PMCs might be filling a gap, but the use of PMCs is also convenient for the US government, they allow – in this case the Bush administration – to mount a military campaign by looking towards the private sector for support. PMCs can provide “surge capacity” to field additional forces without delaying troop mobilization due to factors such as training (Avant 2009, 331). Major Joseph R. Perlak, a judge advocate with the US Marine Corps, stated in a 2000 article in the Military Law Review that privatized forces function as an civilian contractors function as an “effective force multiplier.” This means they are hired to provide services that will free a “trigger puller” to...
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