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Posts Tagged ‘Privatization of Security’

This is both a follow-up on the previous post here by my dear co-blogger turem and probably the first in a series of entries I would like to make about private military firms from U.S. and elsewhere operating in various parts of the world. This issue came to my attention for the first time when I watched the documentary Private Warriors four years ago. At that time, even though I was aware of the fact of military outsourcing in U.S., I was amazed by the extent of this phenomenon especially in the context of the invasion of Iraq. I followed up on this topic by reading Jeremy Scahill’s book “Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army“. (This book helped me seeing the ways in which a small firm that has entered -I have to say- the “business of security” with the provision of military training has risen to unprecedented levels of political clout and how it has been involved in a number of military operations around the world, including but by no means limited to Iraq. Another book for those of you who can read in German would be Rolf Uesserl’s “Krieg als Dienstleistung” (which can be translated quite tellingly as ‘War as a Service Sector’) which has a more general coverage of the private military firms doing business in various parts of the world.)

In the later posts, I will talk more about these books and the scary stories in them; but today I just wanted to point out to and focus on the fact that just as elections are being considered as a matter of expertise and technique in the U.S. and that this understanding of elections is being marketed around the world, the field of security has also been under attack by the same mentality of private expertise and of business techniques. A chilling quote from one of the executives of Blackwater that immediately comes to my mind fits perfectly well here. His claim was essentially the following: “When you have to ship a package overnight, do you use USPS or Fedex? So, that is exactly what we aim in the field of security.” Another quote that I remember from one of the spokespersons of Blackwater was that just like the newspapers and doctors are making money from the sufferings of other people, it is perfectly acceptable that some military firms make money out of military operations that might cost people’s lives.

Right? It is that simple. Well, for these people, maybe; at least on the level of their public discourse. However, as turem makes this point clearly in the context of elections, one of the fundamental problems here is that the whole idea of leaving the job of security provision to the experts of the field opens the way to allowing them to decide where and when a security problem exists and in what ways that problem has to be solved. If the provision of security becomes a business matter -or to allude to the title of Uesserl’s book-, if it becomes a service sector in itself where certain clients are being served for their need of the provision of security, then this means essentially that it becomes perfectly legitimate to try to expand the markets for the provision of security which is exactly what is happening in the field of international peace keeping operations, for instance. The private military firms have been lobbying for this in various peacekeeping operations in the recent past by pointing out to the incompetencies of the NATO operations. In a sense, this is almost inevitably so, because the way these operations are decided upon is never as smooth as the analogy with FedEx would imply: If you have to ship something overnight, it is essentially your private decision to send a package somewhere as quickly as possible. FedEx is not in the capacity to lobby you or to fund you for some other purpose so that you would be more wiling to use them instead of USPS or any other private shipping company. There is essentially no interaction between you and FedEx in deciding what to send, where and why. However, in the case of the military outsourcing, it is certainly not the case the politicians as the representatives of the people, alone and in total isolation from these military firms, decide on what kinds of security needs have to be served for their country. It should suffice to remind you of Dick Cheney and Halliburton, I guess. Besides, these firms present themselves as the experts of this thorny issue called security. They advise you on the meaning, the necessity and the techniques of security. Hence, we end up with a field where the definitions, the meanings and the boundaries of private and public, economic and political, political and military, technical and ethical get totally blurred. It is exactly this blurring of vision in many issues in the field of politics today that allows one to move on with a business mentality of expertise that turns out to be totally shallow with a little bit of scratching its surface.

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