Friday, February 29, 2008

Hillary Would Ban "Mercenary Firms" in Iraq

Senator Hillary Clinton's office announced today that "she has cosponsored legislation to ban the use of Blackwater and other private mercenary firms in Iraq ... The legislation requires that all personnel at any U.S. diplomatic or consular mission in Iraq be provided security services only by Federal Government Personnel."

Now, I take it for granted that this bill is mostly about election season politics. Still, I wonder where State would find enough Feds to protect those diplomatic and consular missions since there are almost as many Blackwater, Triple Canopy, and DynCorp protection personnel working for the State Department in Iraq as there are special agents in the Diplomatic Security Service (1395 vs. 1450). Not to mention that Blackwater also provides State with specialized aviation assets that could scarcely be matched even by the U.S. military, and I suppose those BW aircraft and pilots would be banned along with the shooters.

Obviously, all DSS agents can't be assigned to Iraq. And if they were, it would be a misapplication of human resources to use DSS agents, all of whom have four-year degrees and law enforcement-related backgrounds, to do bodyguard duty full time. That kind of protection work is a basic security function that younger agents do for a few years to pay their dues before moving on to higher responsibilities.

State should change some of its practices with high-threat protective detail contractors in Iraq and elsewhere, in my opinion. In particular, the legal environment must be clarified so that contractors can be properly managed and held accountable. But private protection contractors fill an important niche, and I don't see them going away anytime soon.


Doug said...

This post includes a shocking level of comprehension, nuance and reality. How did this appear in the blogosphere?

I've been sitting here reading a million blogs hammering Clinton and/or Obama about not doing 'more' (more pandering? more un-keepable promises?) on this issue. Nice to read something from someone who apparently has a solid grasp of reality.

As a Democrat, I've learned that the Democrats always find a way of 'eating their young' - undermining their best and brightest. Jeremy Scahill is leading the feeding frenzy on this issue . . .

-doug brooks

TSB said...

Thanks for your kind comments. I assume "IPOA" is the International Peace Operations Association?

It seems clear, to me anyway, that private military contractors fill the void left by the shrinking of the Westphallian system of nation-states. Before the rise of the nation-state PMCs were the norm (like the condottieri of Renaissance Italy), they remained the norm wherever the nation-state didn't take root (like Africa), and they are becoming the norm again wherever modern states fail.

Doug said...

Yes, that IPOA. I think we have to keep two points in mind. First, contractors are civilians, even when armed. They have the rights *and responsibilities* of civilians, and they should be held accountable as civilians. Second, we hire contractors to help policy-makers carry out policies. The policies may be good or bad ones, but the contractors are brought in to try to make them better (or less bad). The private sector doesn't make decisions, they just help carry out decisions.

Anyway, two interesting posts worth checking out - dunno if I can post links. But in the Wall Street Journal today an op ed by Peter Charles Choharis, "Africa's New Peacekeepers" and in GovExec a good story by Robert Brodsky on the topic of your original post here.

Best regards,