Private War

When I began my work life, the outsourcing trend was picking up steam in the United States. I no longer recall who it was, but some guy allegedly came up with the idea of using the phone book to break up his company. If he could find a company that did a task currently done in-house, he outsourced that task to a vendor. That was probably apocryphal, but it was a useful story. Why do something in-house when there was a local specialist, who could do it better and probably cheaper than you?

To a point, it made a lot of sense. Why would a baker own a fleet of trucks when he can lease them from a company that is expert at maintaining delivery trucks? The baker can focus on his specialty and the truck repair people can more efficiently maintain the bread trucks. Even in cases where there is no direct savings, outsourcing allows for a greater focus on core competencies. Whether or not this is true is debatable, but it is something you heard a lot in the 90’s as companies unbundled themselves.

This was also the driving force behind Al Gore’s project to “reinvent government” by moving tasks from the Federal workforce to private contractors. There was a book published in 1993 that was the text book for government reformers. All over the country, private firms now exist to serve one customer – the government. There are firms around the Imperial Capital that exist solely for the purpose of fulfilling a specific contract. Once the contract expires, the firm will be dissolved or “reinvented” for a new contract.

Of course, there is another aspect to government outsourcing that is different from private outsourcing. In the private sector, the baker can be good at maintaining his bread trucks, if he chooses to put the energy into it. Government is rarely good at anything, so off-loading work to the private sector promises to get around the bureaucracy, especially when it comes to things like work rules. In theory, the government contractor is free to do what is necessary to get the job done, while government is tied down with endless red tape.

This sounds good, but it has curdled into something sinister during the communications revolution. Big tech companies now police speech on-line, doing what government cannot legally do itself. Human resource departments evolved to enforce workplace conduct rules that the state cannot easily enforce. The government can’t tell the males to be nice to the girls at the office, but they can threaten to sue the company for maintaining a hostile workplace, so the company does the state’s bidding.

Now we are about to see this concept taken to the next logical step, as the Trump administration prepares to outsource the war in Afghanistan. The plan is to have contractors like Blackwater, take over the logistics of fighting the Taliban. They would provide an air force and thousands of “contractors”, who would develop and lead militias made up local tribesman. The “contractors” are former soldiers. We used to call these guys mercenaries, but that term has fallen out of fashion for obvious reasons.

The article frames this as a cost saving move, but the most likely reason to consider doing this is the contractors can do things we no longer allow our military to do. Blackwater can also recruit a militia from whatever local forces they like, which probably means the most ruthless killers available. Put another way, there’s a realization that the US military has become an inefficient and clumsy giant of a bureaucracy, just like the rest of the federal government. Blackwater will be more efficient at executing this never ending war.

This is not without precedent. Governments have relied on private armies and private security forces since the dawn of time. The American West was often policed by hired guns, simply because they were available and willing to take the work. The Pinkertons were a security force used by the government and rich men. Lincoln used them for his personal security. The railroad used them to infiltrate the Molly Maguires and they were used in the famous Homestead Strike. Guns for hire are not new to America.

Still, this is a bit different and looks like another facet of the modern Servile State. Just as the state has outsourced its coercive functions to private companies, it is now outsourcing its violence to a private company. If Trump goes in for this, you can be sure that a hundred other firms will spring up with plans to do paramilitary work around the world on behalf of the US government. That’s the thing with outsourcing. Supply has a funny way of creating demand where none existed. Private war will now get its own SIC code.

Eisenhower famously warned about the military-industrial complex and he has been proven right. The Cold War was used to justify endless spending on the war machine. Then it was terrorism. Now we have an empire to police, in addition to the millions of hostile foreigners our government imports into our lands. There’s always some reason to keep shoveling trillions into the war machine. Now the war machine will have libertardian economists singing its praises as an efficient new innovation.

This is not a new problem. The Romans had this problem with their own armies, as well as the Praetorian Guards. America is not in danger of the military seizing control of the state or making demands on the civilian rulers. That’s because the gazillionaire global corporations got there first. Those same corporations are now taking over the policing and war making roles of the state. In the custodial state, the throne and alter will be divided once again, with the state serving as the altar and global oligopolies as the throne.

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Karl Hungus
Guest

there is a lot of pathological behavior coming out of the current system, as it enters its death throes. a flurry of changes that are of no lasting matter, and often not even implemented (commands to the 6th army kind of thing). too many people believe in magic now, to maintain a modern society…

TomA
Guest

It will keep getting worse until it gets better. The US federal government is a living thing now. It is a leviathan that grows inexorably, and it’s first loyalty is to its own survival. It is now at the megalomania phase of psychosis, but will soon morph into overt sadism. No one person can stop it.

Drake
Guest

Some people will get rich and some will go to jail.

The mercenary outfits will be able to load up with the right weapons for a mission and get crap done while ignoring the rules of engagement the moment their government overseers are out of sight. I would think about trying to make some substantial under-the-table money this way if I was 20 years younger.

Member

When Utopia, Inc. runs everything and outsources its paperwork to the federal government, the transformation will be complete.
Here’s my take on what it will look like: http://jlepore.fineartstudioonline.com/blog/100913/utopia-inc

Member

Corporations are beginning to morph into semi-political fiefdoms, issuing commands, controlling their areas, and doing the bidding of their master in Washington. In another century, few citizens will be able to comprehend the reality of our early republic. It will not be comprehensible to the kind of socialist man now being constructed.

Karl Hungus
Guest

Rollerball!

Member

I have read that in Japan corporations have Company Flags and Anthems which the workers sing each morning. Recently I have noticed some American companies have supplemented their logos with banners.Are we developing a form of techno-feudalism?

Member

What you are describing sounds suspiciously like a Japanese business cartel, or keiretsu – a tight-knit group of companies with shared interests and financial and business relationships. The East Asian mindset sometimes views business as war by other means, and if necessary, rival keiretsu will go to war with one another – literally as well as figuratively.

Karl Hungus
Guest

what would be a specific instance of two keiretsu literally going to war with each other?

Ron
Guest
I always pondered which political state our government would finally turn into, a fascist or communist one. But now I realize it is turning into something new, a hybrid of both, to achieve the same goal, unbridled power. Pretty cunning, when you think about it. Our polarized political society will be supporting it in the vain attempt to oust the other side. Little do they realize that both parties are in on the con, and knowingly wink at each other as they pretend to be outraged at one another on camera. This two faced government Janus will continue to make… Read more »
Member

And Angelo Codevilla maintains the two parties are actually just to factions of the same uniparty.

Member
Most of the Government Party is pretty comfortable with Red Capitalism (the name we give China’s “market”). I prefer Market Marxism just because I invented it, and it rolls off the tongue better. The advantages of China’s system for the ruling elite is that it allows for a lot of rich Marxists, so they get to spread their money and power around, and, well, it’s a police state, so they exercise total control over the population. That’s a win-win for guys like Obama, McCain, Clinton, the Bush’s, Zuckerberg, Musk, virtually all of national print and TV media, and the rest… Read more »
Typo Police
Guest

” work around the word on behalf of the US government.”
Hello Mr. Z, I believe you meant world.
Great article, keep up the great work

cerulean
Guest

OK, I’ll play. Alter -> altar.

Walt
Guest

libertardian…. oh wait

Al from da Nort
Guest
Machiavelli in The Prince had the definitive take on the dangers of using mercenaries exclusively, IMHO. Tl:Dr: Mercenaries won’t actually willingly die just for the money. So if it looks like they just might have to, they’ll bail on you. So in peacetime they’ll ruin you financially and in wartime they’ll ruin you militarily. Plus, sooner or later they’ll figure out that can take you over. So a really capable mercenary commander is a danger to you in peacetime and a semi-capable one is a danger to you in wartime, etc. So do these dangers also apply to the situation… Read more »
Drake
Guest

I assume most of these mercenaries would be combat arms vets of American and other Western militarizes. They’ll fight and die for each other.

They won’t die for senseless rules of engagement, community organizing, or any of the other BS we’ve been wasting money and lives on in Afghanistan for 15 years.

Member

While I would like to assume that, I think it is a dangerous assumption.During the second half of 2016 I read reports about the Obozo maladministration facilitating the mass enlistment into the army of unvetted southern border crossers in exchange for accelerated citizenship.

Calsdad
Guest

RE: ” Plus, we’d have to bail them out (i.e. use our troops to extract them) when things went Tango Uniform ”

We’ve already been there – and done that:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2004_Fallujah_ambush

I remember reading some accounts at the time it happened – from regular military guys who were righteously pissed because they felt the contractors had royally screwed the pooch on what they were doing over there and had instigated the whole Fallujah mess by their behavior.

Member
A Mercenary by any other name is still a mercenary. During the middle ages in Italy they were called condittieri, and tended to take on an independent existence.I suggest you, and President Trump consult Machiavelli about this. The armed men tend to develop their loayties to the comrades who fight at their shoulder and share their experiences. A secondary loyalty is to whomever pays and supplies them. Loyalty to the guy who hires them, not so much. Some outfits will die loyally for the cause that hires them, but many will see the wisdom of “He who fights and runs… Read more »
Anonymous White Male
Guest

Instead of “contractors” or “mercenaries”, how about we call them what they will become. “Drug cartels”.

Drake
Guest

Now you have piqued my interest. I’m a combat vet with an MBA. I’d be glad to head over there, occasionally shoot a haji, and organize the whole logistics process for an opium cartel. This working in an office crap is getting old.

Saml Adams
Guest

Maybe you go full Milo Minderbinder and hire the hajis to attack themselves in return for a share.

Drake
Guest

I like the way you think – pay them to kill each other, collect the bounties from Uncle Sam, and keep the poppies growing.

JimVonYork
Guest

I’m in, I am sure they need IT support

Glen Filthie
Guest
There’s a number of very real problems that warrants the use of mercs, Z. We have the very real problem that moslems in general and the Talibangers in particular – are animals. These goat feltching fig farmers still literally live in caves in some communities of Afghanistan. There is no rule of law outside islam and half the monkeys that practice it can’t read or reason. Yet they are killing us and our women and children in real time every day. They are attacking us, our legitimate interests and legal investments, and our like-minded allies that just want to work… Read more »
A.T. Tapman
Member

I have nothing in particular against Afghans but as far as I am concerned they can “stew in their own juices”. If they insist on bringing jihad to our land I guess we can cut off the supply of jihadists at the source by impressing them with the miracle of the atom.

Al from da Nort
Guest

In the bright light of hindsight The Roman SolutionTM would have been better by far. Go in, take down the Taliban and most particularly Mullah Omar and his circle ‘with extreme prejudice’, install a more compliant ruler, make sure he clearly understood that this better not happen again or he’d get the same and then leave.

After 9/11, Afghanistan *had* to be punished as an example for other ME pestholes’ edification but we *did not* have to undertake the obviously futile task of trying to turn it into Denmark. Ditto Iraq.

Karl Hungus
Guest

it was the saudis who attacked us from afghanistan. as far as i know, the taliban haven’t done anything to anyone outside of their own country.

Worldly Wiseman
Guest

Saudis ? It was al qaeda and they were supported by taliban and the friendly neighbors Iran and Pakistan.

Glen Filthie
Guest
We know better than that. Fact is we know who the big players are. We know who funds them. We know where they are trained. Any Saudi involvement beyond funding ended with Bin Laden. We knew Saddam had WMD’s because we sold them to him. We know that both Iran and Afghanistan are major exporters of terrorism. We know they receive funding from pretty much every middle eastern country. The gov’ts of Iran and Afghanistan were complicit in the terror export – which is why they had to be destroyed. Iran is next. (Mind you, they are masters of brinkmanship… Read more »
Member

While a majority of the 9-11 hijackers carried Saudi passports, that does not establish Saudi government responsibility any more than The United States, Boston and New York City can be blamed for the Provo IRA terrorism in Britain because of the support provided by some of our citizens. Actual Saudi Government complicity is still possible, but I have heard no real evidence.

PRCD
Guest

The evidence was buried by the Obama administration. THat the House of Saud was complicit in 9/11 is alluded-to in “Sleeping with the Devil” by Robert Baer. At the very least, Saudis pay danegeld to jihadists to take their jihad elsewhere. .

Member
PRCD, you are precisely correct, re: “That the House of Saud was complicit in 9/11 is alluded-to in “Sleeping with the Devil” by Robert Baer. At the very least, Saudis pay danegeld to jihadists to take their jihad elsewhere.” In 1991, FBI investigators captured the so-called “explanatory memo” of the Muslim Brotherhood on a raid. Since that time, we have had detailed knowledge of the “civilization jihad” planned by the Ikhwan, by which they hope to bring down our civilization from within. The Sunni Arab nations of the Persian Gulf region – in particular Saudi Arabia and recently, Qatar –… Read more »
Roulf
Guest
Glen, Consider this scenario, you are a teenager and you and your younger sister live in an orphanage owned by a wealthy benefactor who rapes the girls. The administrator begins poisoning your sister in her dormitory to weaken her and make her more compliant. Do you blame the poison or the administrator and the benefactor who paid him do it? Getting angry at the poison won’t make it stop. The poisoning of your sister will continue so long as the administrator remains in power. It’s very difficult to remove the administrator so long as the benefactor continues to pay him.… Read more »
Sam J.
Guest

“…We have the very real problem that moslems in general and the Talibangers in particular – are animals. These goat feltching fig farmers still literally live in caves in some communities of Afghanistan…”

We should stay out of their country and let them have at it all they want.

“…There is no rule of law outside islam and half the monkeys that practice it can’t read or reason. Yet they are killing us and our women and children in real time every day…”

Then don’t let them in. Concentrate on what we can control.

Pericles
Guest

Not mentioned was one custom of war that may be of interest. Professional military organizations have a custom of executing captured mercenaries on the spot. One of those “usages of war” things. Thus, those considering a career as a mercenary need to be good at what they do, lest they experience a short tenure.

Al from da Nort
Guest

Well, summary execution of ‘unlawful combatants’^ *was* the custom and merc’s not in uniform might well have fallen into that category in the past. But we unilaterally gave that up for the GWOT (global war on terror) and instituted ‘catch & release’ instead.

Of course, our opponents have no such scruples so your point that any prospective merc better be good still stands.

^A ‘lawful combattant’ carries arms openly, fights in a distinctive uniform under command of a superior officer for a belligerent state per The Geneva Convention.

Severian
Guest

I’m not a historian, but I could swear they tried something like this in the Sixties. Bay of Pigs, was it? Give the CIA credit, though — their outsourced war finally got Castro with a dastardly new superweapon, code name EXTREME OLD AGE. I expect this will work at least as well.

Dutch
Guest

Damn those Norks! The fecundity of that Kim family defeats the “old age” strategy. Maybe anti-aircraft gun proliferation will do something.

Guest
Guest

Excerpt from Julian Assange’s forthcoming book on Google. The most surprising aspect of the article is how naive Assange was about Google as late as 2013.

https://wikileaks.org/google-is-not-what-it-seems/

Google is the NSA and the NSA is Google. One has to be modestly insane to use Google products.

Dutch
Guest
And seriously off the grid to actually avoid Google. The Goog is woven into almost every smart device out there. I have always thought a device and operating architecture wholly independent of Google would sell like hotcakes and be a good thing. But I am sure the powers that be would nix that idea, one way or the other. Besides, if you go to just one mainstream site, you just might open the door for Google entry into your system. At least that is my understanding of how things work. Perhaps someone more knowledgeable can set me straight on this.
Member

This becomes even more significant when we learn that Julian Assange has just offered James Damore, the recently fired Google employee a new job with Wikileaks.

Eclectic Esoteric
Guest

It’s hard to strike fear in the heart of the enemy with the effete powder puff brigade of transgenders, and even harder to put them back into the Pandora’s Alinsky toolbox from whence they came. The wilting lillies must be removed from the battlefield to insure the safety of the others.

Karl Hungus
Guest

best movie with/about mercenaries I know of is “Dogs of War”

james wilson
Guest

As a man once said, the human race divides itself politically into those who want to be controlled and those who don’t. That ratio appears to have been weighted to the point of no return. People do love being herded, whatever they might say, more all the time. Google is just the vehicle for the brave new world to secure itself. A school of fish, it should be admitted, is a work of art.

L.Beau Macaroni
Guest

“A man” = Lazarus Long, an “author avatar” of sorts for Robert A. Heinlein.

The Walkin\' Dude
Guest

Once the nukes start flyin
We all gonna be dyin

Except for the (((roaches))) who crawl out afterwards.

Member

‘This sounds good, but it has curdled into something sinister”

I feel like the sentence fragment explains the whole world right now

Member
This is one of those columns where it’s hard to know where to start because I spent 10 years in uniform and another 10 years as a contractor for the Federal Government at a large Defense/Intelligence company. I wrote the employee evaluations for upper middle managers in Honolulu…the office Ed Snowden worked out of. I’d say “Ed Snowden worked for Booz Allen,” but if you know anything about the contracting world, Booz was just a black and white BAH lanyard, a neck tie (if they ever even required one in Honolulu), and the company that signed his paychecks. The company… Read more »
Member

Thanks for the insights.

Saml Adams
Guest

Probably time to go re-watch “The Man Who Would Be King”

Rod1963
Guest
Mercs have one benefit over regular forces. They are fungible. If some get killed it won;’t even make the back page of the NYT. It’s only when they are complete idiots and cowboys like the Blackwater goons in Fallija that got capped and torched for their innate stupidity and eventually cost us a lot of dead soldiers. Outside of that, they cost a lot more than a well trained Marine. about x5 the cost. Also the we the taxpayer pays for all their training which they get in the service. Xie and others just poach them and get the benefit… Read more »
Al from da Nort
Guest

Rod;
Your proposal guarantees that there will be absolutely nobody signing up.

walt reed
Guest

Mr. Zappa has been proven correct: Politics is the entertainment division of the Military Industrial Complex.

Clayton Barnett
Guest

Jerry Pournelle addressed much of this 30 years ago as he was developing his Co-Dominion future history: mercenary armies, Blacks & poor Whites permanently in Welfare Islands, US & Russia in bed with tech companies to suppress both competition & R&D. Clever guy.

Member
“This sounds good, but it has curdled into something sinister during the communications revolution. Big tech companies now police speech on-line, doing what government cannot legally do itself. Human resource departments evolved to enforce workplace conduct rules that the state cannot easily enforce.” The foregoing fits the classical definition of fascism, as practiced by Benito Mussolini – who once stated that he wished his creation had been named “corporatism” instead of fascism for the seamless manner in which it combined the state and the corporation. “All within the state, nothing outside the state, nothing against the state” – Benito Mussolini’s… Read more »
Jack Dobson
Guest

Afghanistan is a lost cause. Leave. If warlords and their minions want to contract with Blackwater, make that a strictly commercial transaction between the parties with no U.S. guarantees.

Mister M
Guest

Yes, the libertarians are daydreamers and not based in a practical reality. But let me know when anyone from the Mises Institute (the only libertardians who count) sings the praises of the cost savings of Mercenaries in Afghanistan and I’ll eat my hat.

Karl Hungus
Guest

“Yes, the libertarians are daydreamers” but they aren’t the only ones…

Member

We may go from being a country with a condottiere to a condottiere with a country.

Sam J.
Guest

The key is to not be involved in any action where hiring mercenaries seems the better option.

Outsourcing some support functions does not bother me though.

Member
Late to the show, but what the hell. I was just looking into my step-mother’s family, and this post reminds me of her brother, who was a “contractor” for the CIA during the Bay of Pigs operation. I don’t really understand what that term is supposed to mean (I guess you could reject responsibility for them that way, like Mr. Phelps), but he and some other “contractor” were captured by the commies and executed three days later. The other guy’s daughter eventually became a journalist, and around 2000 she wrote an article in a FL paper that sufficiently pissed off… Read more »
Abelard Lindsey
Guest
It seems as much of the alt-right is luddite in the sense that they think that technology will somehow go away and we will go back to, say, a 1920’s or 1950’s life. Of course this is not going to happen. Technology is here to stay and will only become more advanced. To me, the most likely “dystopian” scenario, if you call it dystopian, is the “Snow Crash” scenario, which is a highly privatized, decentralized cyberpunk scenario. Since the alt-right is primarily about autonomy from the cultural leftists, one would think that alt-right types would embrace a “Snow Crash” scenario… Read more »
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