It’s not a proposition for anyone. But if you are a country suffering from insurgency, call Blackwater USA for help. The rising star in the private military industry wants to sell its services at a fraction of the cost of operating NATO or U.N. peacekeepers. Blackwater officials have hinted at this type of future operations by insisting that a private army would not only be cheaper, but also provide real security instead of simply watching massacres in the next village. Private armies may very well be efficient and cost effective, but the dangers of using them are easy to spot.
Blackwater Vice Chairman J. Cofer Black told Special Operations Forces Exhibition [Sofex] in Jordan that his company could send a private army for counter-insurgency missions to any country on short notice, according to Middle East Newsline. Ambassador Black joined Blackwater in February 2005 after a distinguished but dangerous C.I.A. career, which included capturing “Carlos the Jackal.”
Blackwater USA would dispatch a brigade to any low-intensity conflict zones for security operations. While Amb. Cofer did not cite any figures, the contracting cost would be a fraction of what either the U.N. or NATO might spend on such work.
In January 2005, Chris Taylor, Blackwater’s vice president for strategic review, argued at George Washington University Law School that there is an “emergent and compelling need” for efficient, professional soldiers in today’s counterterrorism environment. Peacekeeping operations also fall under the capacity of professional soldiers. Mr. Taylor said:
Send 10,000 UN troops to Darfur? A colossal waste of money. You do not create security and peace by throwing more mediocre, uncommitted people into the fray.
A 2,000-strong contract army could perform security duties and eventually turn over the operation to the United Nations for post-conflict management, he said, stressing that is what non-governmental groups do best. He cited an example of African Union [AU] troops in the Darfur region of Sudan, saying they were powerless to stop the horrific violence being committed just 300 yards (meters) away.
Mr. Taylor’s speech reminds multinational forces of deadly failures in former Yugoslavia, Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, the post-Mobutu mayhem in the Congo, Somalia and Darfur. Such security forces have been so bound by bureaucracy and public image that they often provide little security even in large numbers. Can highly trained professional soldiers perform better than a poorly paid ragtag army? Probably.
But these private armies remain largely unaccountable. In 2003, Blackwater started posting classified ads in El Mercurio, a Chilean daily published in Santiago. Blackwater’s local recruiter had suspicious backgrounds, and many applicants were in former Chilean dictator Augusto Pinochet’s commando units.
While Blackwater USA does not appear to be in the coup d’etat business, Executive Outcomes [EO] was involved in the very African business of rebel warfare and coups. Like South Africa’s infamous “32 Buffalo Battalion,” highly trained commandos have been out of job worldwide when peace broke out. Blackwater, like others, seem to be in a recruiting war without conscience.
Blackwater USA is not alone. A more famous private army is that of DynCorp International. Despite its checkered past and negative publicity in recent years, DynCorp survived nearly 60 years as a key U.S. defense contractor. It has provided military training in countries where the U.S. did not want to go. It even gets paid to guard Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president.
As for Blackwater, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have been highly profitable. The company wants to build a 6,000-foot airstrip, a 2,550-foot airstrip, a 5,000-square-foot building and a 20,000-square-foot hangar in North Carolina. Last month, the company moved into a brand new, 66,600-square-foot headquarter in North Carolina.