One of the changes that marked the decline of the Roman empire was their increased reliance on mercenaries instead of citizen soldiers. Many were in it solely for the money (or salt) and not patriotism. The same was increasingly true of the wealthy elite. Sound familiar?
Some companies employ contractors who are not US citizens or residents. If Congress expands this further, it’ll be a clear sign we’re headed in what has historically been a tragic direction. Their loyalty and accountability will not be to the people of the United States—and certainly not to the people of Afghanistan—but to their corporations.
After all, the new incarnation of Blackwater, rebranded as Akademi, has been spotted in Yemen, Ukraine, and other places conducting missions that are not always sanctioned by the US government, not even covertly. In East Africa, they work for Chinese corporations frightening locals from getting in the way of their construction projects. Nothing about that mission has anything to do with the interests of the American people, who would be footing the bill for the mercenary force.
There is a place for private security, but not as a substitute for the US military in wars that we are unwilling to end. And this proposal is not about security, but about outsourcing the war to private companies. How do you argue it’s not war profiteering when the war is being conducted by unaccountable and secretive for-profit firms?
Erik D. Prince, a founder of the private security firm Blackwater Worldwide, and Stephen A. Feinberg, a billionaire financier who owns the giant military contractor DynCorp International, have developed proposals to rely on contractors instead of American troops in Afghanistan at the behest of Stephen K. Bannon, Mr. Trump’s chief strategist, and Jared Kushner, his senior adviser and son-in-law, according to people briefed on the conversations.
Soliciting the views of Mr. Prince and Mr. Feinberg certainly qualifies as out-of-the-box thinking in a process dominated by military leaders in the Pentagon and the National Security Council. But it also raises a host of ethical issues, not least that both men could profit from their recommendations.
“The conflict of interest in this is transparent,” said Sean McFate, a professor at Georgetown University who wrote a book about the growth of private armies, “The Modern Mercenary.” “Most of these contractors are not even American, so there is also a lot of moral hazard.”
Trump Aides Recruited Businessmen to Devise Options for Afghanistan https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/10/world/asia/trump-afghanistan-policy-erik-prince-stephen-feinberg.html