Sunday, July 03, 2011

Book Review: Corporate Warriors- The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry

Corporate Warriors-The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, 2003. P.W. Singer. 340 pages. Ithaca and London: Cornell University Press.

After Singer researched the post-war situation in Bosnia supported by UN in 1996, he interviewed regional specialists, government officials, local military analysts and peacekeeper and soon discovered that some of them were the employees of a small private company based in Virginia called Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI), but were performing tasks inherently military. It was very difficult to find what/who they work for? That is the reason the author, went to DR Congo, Sierra Leone and Angola to study about the role of private military firm and has written this book on the basis of interviews, observations and secondary data.

This book is mainly targeted three different audiences such as academic world, world of policy (individual working in the field of foreign affairs and defense matters) and general readers. The words used in this book are simple and easy to understand. The present book under review has divided the content into three different types with 14 different topics. Let me first briefly outline the contents of the book. The first part discloses the rise of privatized military including the history of the industry. The Second part many focused on the organization, classification, and operation of privatized military forces. And, the third part emphasizes on the implications and morality of the firm.

In chapter two explained the history of the industry; the end of cold war demanded and emerged the private military force. When the Berlin wall fell and the global order collapsed, there was a security gap and the private market rushed to fill the gap. I was very much surprised and shocked to read the availability of massive arms stock (in case of Nepal) in open market in chapter 4. For instance, in Uganda, Ak-47 is similar with the price of chicken and which was also a price of goat in Kenya (p.54). Although the question is how many people can afford chicken or goat in these countries and what quantity of chicken and goat the author is referring, but still the fear remains what will be the future of the world if the availability of sophisticated weapons are common. The author also talks about the various factors that have contributed to make these weapons common. In one interview, Singh said that, "A ten-year-old can learn how to use an AK-47 in under thirty minutes, which means another addition to the demand side in terms of the threats produced. "

The new privatized military industry encompasses hundreds of companies, thousands of employees, and billions of dollars in revenue. Thus, the Military Consulting firm, MPRI chapter mainly raises the two questions. First, Is MPRI just a private extension of the US Army? Second, is it a mechanism for rewarding former US officers after their retirement? This is because another chapter disclose about the industry employee pool and the value of ex where PMF tend to hire former personnel of national and multinational militaries. However, there is a contractual dilemma from both weak and strong states. Weak states are inadequate and insufficient and have no alternative other than hiring the private military. For instance, in Sierra Leone, the government requested the private firm to saves the state. Similarly, Strong states are no longer trained to involve in fight. If a state is no longer able to provide security to its citizens, does the state hold any legitimacy to control its citizens?

The book also describes the similarities in terms of structure between private and government military force. But the question, where does the corporate military firm get legitimacy still remains unanswered.The title protrays a holistic continental scenario while the content is strategic.The author highlighted balancing proper civilian control with the military professionals needs for autonomy because the legitimacy of the PMF still remains questionable and debatable. There have been the cases of human rights abuses of the law and lack of accountability and immunity from the PMF. In 2003, the media was flooded with torture of prisoners held in Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, but none of them have been charged with a crime. The US military police and CIA also recruited two PMSCs, which was even accepted by CACI investigation. The author describes about the morality of PMF and found international law as inapplicable to the PMF. There is no law for PMF industry and accountability become diffused and more difficult to track.

The author argues that if the public protection hired employees through private firms, the security becomes private goods not collective. Thus, the rationale for citizen loyalty is weakened and the regime’s legitimacy is contested. The questions that are hanging on the air are; whether PMF should be involved in the name of protecting the assets of states or their citizens or the both?

 Final Comment:
Overall, the book provides the clear understanding about the development of private military after the failed of public military force. The book opens up many questions, myths of sovereign country and the power of capitalism. The book has only included certain powerful countries like USA and Certain African Countries. The author should also take into consideration of developing countries especially Asia, which is lacking in the book. As one of my World Pulse friend says, " the tittle portrays a holistic continental scenario while the content is strategic."There are many serious problems of state and for alternative safety; both the weak and the strong states have used private military force, but the huge mega military has lacked public trust and has the crises of legitimacy. It was my first book to read about the private military force and find it worth reading. 

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