Friday, July 22, 2011

Are Private Soldiers A Good Idea?

Wired Magazine reports that the United States State Department is hiring over 5,000 private military contractors, less charitably known as mercenaries, to work in Iraq.  Further, it seems as if the State Department is less than forthcoming about the details.
By January 2012, the State Department will do something it’s never done before: command a mercenary army the size of a heavy combat brigade. That’s the plan to provide security for its diplomats in Iraq once the U.S. military withdraws. And no one outside State knows anything more, as the department has gone to war with its independent government watchdog to keep its plan a secret.
I may be a bit paranoid, but the idea that a department of a government can set up its own military is disconcerting.  The fact that bureaucrats are keeping details secret is even worse.  Wired reports that such fears may have merit, especially given the history that private contractors have in Iraq.
This isn’t an idle concern or a typical bureaucratic tussle. The State Department has hired private security for its diplomats in war zones for the better part of a decade. Poor control of them caused one of the biggest debacles of the Iraq war: the September 2007 shooting incident in Nisour Square, where Blackwater guards killed 17 Iraqi civilians. Now roughly double those guards from the forces on duty now, and you’ll understand the scope of what State is planning once the U.S. military withdraws from Iraq at the end of this year.

“They have no experience running a private army,” says Ramzy Mardini, an analyst at the Institute for the Study of War who just returned from a weeks-long trip to Iraq. “I don’t think the State Department even has a good sense of what it’s taking on. The U.S. military is concerned about it as well.”
 Finally, I realize Libya, Pakistan, and Somalia illustrate that few political leaders believe that the Constitution's restrictions should be followed, but is this "brigade" pass Constitutional muster?

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