Human Conflict is a very big threat in todays world. Conflicts are much more destructive events than natural disasters. I believe that understanding conflicts is very vital in order to survive and avoid dangers. I’m going to write about different trends that we can see concerning conflicts in today’s world. The first trend that I’m going to write about is Private Military Companies and Private Security Companies. This is not a trend that has emerged from nowhere but a trend that has developed throughout history. In order to give some deeper understanding of this phenomenon I’m going to describe some of the historical contexts where outside assistance has been used in conflicts.
The Thirty Year War
During the thirty year war 1618-1648 mercenaries constituted a large number of the forces engaged throughout the war. The war ended with The Treaty of Westphalia 1648. This is often marked as the beginning of international system with sovereign states by many scholars.
The American Revolution and The Hessians
During the American Revolution (1775-1783) the British forces hired a large number of different foreign soldiers to fight for them. The most famous soldiers were from the area Hesse-Cassel in Germany. Even if not all soldiers were from this area they were often all referred to as the “Hessians”. At the beginning of the American Revolution things weren’t going that well for the British forces, even if the British won the battle at Bunker Hill there was a very high price to pay for this victory. The Hessian Forces was first introduced at the Battle of Long Island and they preformed excellent against the American troops. It was only through high skills of General Washington and mistakes from the British that the American forces could make a retreat and avoid capture. The Hessian troops continued to play an important part in the campaign at other battles, including the one at Fort Washington. The Hessians almost help turn the war into a victory for the British forces until General Washington defeated the Hessian forces at Trenton with a surprise attack. The victory can be blamed on the Hessian commander Johann Rall that didn’t fortify the city and still was hung over when the attack took place. But Rall paid the ultimate price for he’s mistake as he died in the battle. The Hessian Forces would continue to play an important part, but it was in this initial stage they had the most importance. The Hessian and British forced were defeated and the colony’s won their freedom. Up to 30.000 troops from the German states would fight for the British in the revolution and they fought well. The recruitment of these troops where mentioned in the Declaration of Independence: “He is at this time transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the works of death, desolation and tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty & perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized nation”
Ghurkas and the French Foreign Legion
The British and French Forced started to include foreign nationals into their own armies in the 1800s. These forces were integrated into the regular forced in special units that has performed very good in many conflicts. The British recruitment of “Gurkhas” from Nepal, most famous for their long curved knives have proven them value in many conflicts fighting for both the British and in private service of different companies. Both the Gurkhas and the Legion has proved to be a successful concept that still is a part of the French and British forces today.
The Congo Crisis 1960-65
During the Congo Crisis Mercenaries were employed by all sides made a critical component. The Mercenaries even came into direct conflict with the UN peacekeeping forces. The Congo Crisis was a very complex conflict with many parties. Famous mercenaries like Mike Hoare also known as “Mad Mike” fought in the conflict. Even the famous guerilla leader Che Guevara joined the conflict but was forced to escape. The mercenaries even turned on those that hired them and thought for themselves during a period but eventually they were defeated and forced to leave the country.
Executive Outcomes was formed by Eeben Barlow from South Africa. Barlow has previous combat experience from the South African Defense Forces (SADF) and the South African intelligence services. Barlow was head of the European section of the secret intelligence agency Civil Cooperation Bureau. Barlow started EO in 1989 and started with selling training to the South African Intelligence services. In 1993 EO was contracted to assist the Angolan government forces so that a corporation could evacuate some equipment used to extract oil from a territory controlled by the rebel group UNITA. South Africa had given military support to UNITA during the Cold War and many of the Special Forces operatives that were contracted had experience from assisting UNITA. The mission became a direct confrontation with UNITA one side and EO plus the Angolan Government Forces on the other side. Many were skeptical against EO possibility to success before the mission; the employed were described as old men with little chance of success. But after their first mission no one where laughing.
EO was contracted to train the Angolan government forces, supply intelligence and spearhead the operation against UNITA. With EO:s help the Angolan conflict took a turn and UNITA were being put on the retreat. EO pilots used aircraft that were being used for training by the Angolan Air force and mounted rocket tubes on them in order to use them as air support. In the end of the conflict they were even given the possibility to use a MIG-29.
1995 The situation in Sierra Leone was critical, the government forces were being pushed back by the rebel group Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and EO was contracted to help secure the capital and help train the government forces. The RUF were an extremely brutal rebel group that often amputated body part by civilian in order to spread fear, kidnapping children and using them as child soldiers and financed their war by using slave labor to harvest diamonds. The mission is one of the most successful interventions in modern history. With a forces of only a couple of hundred of men EO drove the RUF consisting of thousands of men on the retreat using only weapons provided by the government, Land Rovers, a few Armored Personnel Carriers and a Russian Mi-24 Hind Attack Helicopter. In combination with electronic and airborne intelligence gathering, mortar attacks, airstrikes with the Hind Helicopter and direct attack with ground forces EO defeated RUF in engagement after engagement. EO confronted the rebel group directly and in combination with training of government forces this once again proved extremely successful. Sierra Leone had a democratic transition during the EO mission as a result of the stability provided. The new presidents choose to rely on a UN peacekeeping force instead and EO leaved the country. This is one of the biggest failures of the UN, the country plunged back into civil war and it would not be until Special Forces from Britain got involved in the conflict that the conflict would come to an end.
EO is the only corporation in modern history that engaged in a large scale in offensive operations. The corporation was closed in 1998. The reasons for the company’s success are many. First of all both the management and the soldiers working for company had direct experience of combat and conducting operation in challenging conditions. The second part was the fall of the Apartheid regime that enabled the company to recruit many person how where being relived from service as a result of this. The third factor is companies’ ability to gather intelligence. The company had make do with what they had, they didn’t have their own weapons, even if they had their own equipment in form of body armor, transport helicopters and night vision to name a few things. There have been a massive critique against EO, it’s my belief that much is a result of the fact that many of the employees had a history of serving the Apartheid regime. I’m sure that many of the employees in their past had some questionable actions behind them. But no matter this they were in no doubt excellent soldiers that managed to do what other countries where unable to do by themselves. In the case of Sierra Leone the soldiers from EO that had served the Apartheid regime became the most unlikely saviors. Peter W Singer where one of the first scholars to write one the subject in he’s book “Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry”. The journalist Jim Hooper has interviewed many of EO:s employees and followed them on actual missions, he’s written about these events in the book “Bloodsong!”. Eeben Barlow wrote he’s memoirs’ in 2007 called “Executive Outcomes: Against All odds”. This is just some of the books covering the subject, but I recommend all persons want to learn more about the subject to read the memoirs of the people that were there and not only the work of scholars.
The British company Sandline International (SI) was another Private Military Company that has taken part in offensive operations. SI was contracted the by the democratic elected president in Sierra Leone Tejan Ahmed Kabbah after a military coup by the RUF and rebel forces. The company assisted Kabbah and was contracted to supply these forces with weapons. During this period there was a British arms embargo against Sierra Leone and the owner of the company Tim Spicer was suspected of violating this embargo. All charges were later dismissed and the affair is often referred to as the “Sandline Affair”. Kabbah was reinstated after ECOMOG forces with the assistance of SI drove the rebel forces from the capital Freetown. The company SI is no longer an active corporation, but Spicer has created a new company called Aegis in 2002. Aegis has coordinated a lot of the efforts by Private Security Companies in Iraq. Spicer have also written a memoir about SI called “An Unorthodox Soldier: Peace and War and the Sandline Affair” in 1999.
The Conflict on the Balkans
During the conflict on the Balkans the company Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) was contracted by the Croatian government to train their forces. During “Operation Storm” in 1995 the Croatian forces presented a coordination and professionalism that they hadn’t shown before. After the war was over MPRI was contracted to train the new Bosnian Army. Other companies like Kellogg Brown & Root, DynCorp and Armorgroup have also provided logistic, training and security services on the Balkan to state forces, the UN and Non Governmental Organizations (NGO:s). Individuals also fought for money on the different sides in the conflict.
Afghanistan and Iraq
During the last conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan the use of private security companies have increased dramatically. Contractors perform a lot of the jobs that military personnel used to perform, mainly logistics like driving trucks, running military bases, construction, and laundry and so on. But contractors have also had a lot of defensive surety for both military and civilian compounds and personnel. Armed escort for persons and NGO:S is also a increasing field of expertise. Much of the most modern military equipment is so advanced that only the companies that have created the equipment have the capacity to perform maintenance and control it. This was the case of “Global Hawk” in the initial stage of the second Iraq War.
Blackwater is one of the Private Security Companies that’s has been getting the most attention in the media. Blackwater has the largest private training facilitates in the world in North Carolina where they offer training for military and police forces from all around the world. The 31st of March in 2004 four security contractors working for Blackwater was ambushed and killed in the city of Fallujah in Iraq. The employees where killed, their bodies burned and pictures of this was broadcasted all around the world. The response to these events was very strong and the occupations of Falluja would claim many lives on all sides. In Iraq Blackwater was contracted to protect the Central Provisional Authority how governed Iraq up to the takeover of the transitional government. In the 4th of April 2004 a complex in Najaf was attacked and the security contractors defended the complex against the attackers. The numbers of attackers killed varies strongly between different estimates. Video from this event was filmed by Blackwater employees and can be found on Youtube. The 16th of December 2007 a security force from Blackwater was driving through a marketplace in Bagdad. Exactly what happened is unclear, but the employees opened fire and killed around 20 people. After Hurricane Katrina 2005 personnel from Blackwater was fast on the ground in New Orleans. The information about Blackwaters work in New Orleans is hard to verify but the journalist Jeremy Scahill writes very negatively about the company in he’s book “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s largest mercenary army” from 2007. There have also been reports from The Wall Street Journal that some rich individuals hired Private Security Companies to guard their homes after the hurricane. I’m personally of the belief that much of the details in he’s book are correct, but I don’t think that the book gives the entire picture about the company. There is no doubt in my opinion that Blackwater personnel has done some mistakes and used excessive force during the missions in Afghanistan and Iraq, but it’s my guess that future research will find both more negative events as well as positive effects. Blackwater has changed their name in 2009 and is now known under the name Xe Services LLC.
The American Development
Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) is one of the biggest contractors that works with the US Military, the company mainly provide logistical services. DynCorp have been training the new Iraqi Police Force. The major development is that today corporations handle very much of the logistics in military operations and the maintenance and in some time even operation of advanced military equipment. Armed security personnel may attract much attention, but this is not the largest form of contracting that’s taking place. I once again would like to stress that the companies operating today may carry military weapons but mainly offers defensive security. There is no company that provides the offensive kind of services that Executive Outcomes provided today.
Are contractors working for PSC and PMC:s Mercenaries?
Mercenaries are often described as individuals how fight for money in the media and literature. In the international law the definition of a mercenary can be found in the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977, article 47. The definition is very specific and a person must follow all the criteria in order to be regarded as mercenary. A Mercenary under this definition is a person that:
(a) is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an armed conflict;
(b) does, in fact, take a direct part in the hostilities;
(c) is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a Party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party;
(d) is neither a national of a Party to the conflict nor a resident of territory controlled by a Party to the conflict;
(e) is not a member of the armed forces of a Party to the conflict; and
(f) has not been sent by a State which is not a Party to the conflict on official duty as a member of its armed forces.
It’s very hard to apply this definition to the personnel that works for Private Military Companies and Private Security Companies. So the personnel recruited by these companies may do it for the money, but that doesn’t mean that they are mercenaries, at least not according to the definition in international law.Under article 47 Mercenaries are not entitled the right to be regarded as either a combatant or prisoner of war.
In the Media Private Military Companies, Private Security Companies and Mercenaries are often described as villains that are only causing trouble. This picture have been portrayed in TV shows like Jericho where the fiction firm “Ravenwood” kills civilians without regret and in the TV show 24 where Private Military Companies tries to over trough the US Government. This is often the case in movies to, where “Blood Diamond” is one example.
Corporations have started too do much of the work previously done by military forces – this is the reality of today. The companies provide many services that benefit the armed forces of many countries my providing logistics, training and advanced equipment. These corporations are most likely the most well armed and well organized non state actors in the western world. But it’s important to understand that this is not standing armies, they recruit personnel from databases for specific mission. You may encounter these kinds of companies both in conflicts zones and after natural disasters, and it’s my belief that this kind of companies will continue to expand their business. There is a lobby organization that works for these companies called International Peace Operations Association (IPOA).