After 9/11 one of the few sectors to enjoy growth was the young market niche of private military contractors (PMCs). Peter Singer of the Brookings Institute was an early analyst of this new growth industry, generating a detailed taxonomy of their militarized services and a litany of case examples of their clients and covert activities in his book Corporate Warriors (2003). Private military companies are lean, nimble global businesses formed and managed in many cases by former military men and specialized in armed conflict services from combat and operating drones, to intelligence and spying, war logistics, training militaries, building and servicing military bases, post-war de-mining operations, and peacekeeping. Their clients include governments of all ilk from "democratic" to "rogue," the UN and NGOs, rebel groups, paramilitaries, drug cartels, and human traffickers. Sometimes they contract with both sides of a conflict. Some garner business concessions in oil and natural resources in client countries, thus the cachet of conflict in resource-rich countries.
It's anticipated that military companies will continue enjoying generous growth despite current global economic contraction. According to Allison Stanger, author of One Nation Under Contract (2009), PMCs have made the U.S. wars in Iraq and Afghanistan possible, given the low support of Allies. In 2009, military contractors comprised half of the Department of Defense workforce in Iraq and more than half in Afghanistan. The vaunted U.S. military withdrawal from Iraq leaves in place a substantial, shadowy private military occupation. Stanger observes that the core pillars of national security -- intelligence, diplomacy, development and defense -- are increasingly handled by private contractors, a troubling trend unremarked by most Americans.
Here are five caveats regarding military merchants in corporate clothing:
1. Corporate profit vs. public good. Making a profit from war, for company owners and stockholders, is the bottom line for PMCs. Being in the "marketplace of violence," they rely upon, and are positioned to promote continuous armed conflict, with few, if any, public checks and balances.
2. Global glut in ex-soldiers and arms. Since the end of the Cold War, the market has been saturated with ex-soldiers and military weapons unloaded by governments to arms brokers. On the "demand" side of violence, the incidence of conflicts within countries has doubled since the end of the Cold War and zones of conflict have doubled as well, creating a perfect storm of opportunity for corporatizing war. "The consequence," according to Singer, "is that governments no longer have control over the primary means of warfare."
4. Select history of abuses.
Working both sides of conflicts: According to Singer, the PMC Lifeguard allegedly supplied arms to rebel forces in Sierra Leone at the same time they were hired as security by mining companies to protect operations from rebel forces and their parent company Sandline was contracted by the government to defeat rebel forces. Another affiliate of Sandline simultaneously supplied aerial war support to the government and weapons to the rebels.