Blogger just ate up a ton of work I did translating parts of this article from Der Spiegel about the role of Private Military Companies (PMCs) in the war on Iraq. Since most of it’s a rewrite from this excellent Fortune magazine article, I won’t do it all again. Go read either version: it features Dick Cheney’s former employers, Halliburton, whose PMC subsidary, Kellogg, Brown & Root stands to make a packet on the Iraq war. What a surprise.

Here’s the original bit tranlated:

“PMCs fit the concept of the lean state,” says military researcher Prof. Herbert Wulf. Hiring them is considered an “effective and market-based method” — particularly in the case of “dirty conflicts” like rebellions. The danger is that the gradual privatiation of military functions undermines the state monopoly on force. “The specialist firms operate quietly, effiently and frequently far from parliamentary control,” warns Wulf. “We have to ensure that this oversight is not pried away.”

The most important activities for the PMCs are not “combat jobs” but logistical support. Government troops are meant to consentrate on their core competence — fighting. The rest is outsourced: support roles like the construction of training camps, the maintainence of machines and technology, and the provision of food are eagerly taken up by military contractors.


The big global PMCs will also advance closer to the enemy where necessary. … Supporters say that the PMCs strengths can be played upon particularly in delicate missions. They act quickly, flexibly, and without long discussions in international bodies. They don’t need Security Council Resolutions …


According to U.S. military strategist Thomas Adams, the Private Military Companies have long become an an extention of foreign policy. They not only act faster, but also more discretely. It is a nightmare for every country when its own troops killed in action have to be brought home. But with private contractors, there’s no funeral with military honours.</blockquote>

Another good resource about this topic is Ken Silverstein’s book Private Warriors. Last year, there was a good primer on the topic in the Harvard Business Review, and Foreign Policy also published a story about this a few years ago.</a>