Saturday, March 01, 2008

A Really Bad Idea

This was on Foreign Policy Passport yesterday:

Blackwater enters the campaign

Hillary Clinton has co-sponsored new legislation to ban the use of private military contractors in Iraq. This came just a day after the publication of an article by The Nation's Jeremy Scahill in which a senior advisor to Barack Obama said that the candidate "won't rule out" the use of PMCs. Given how integral PMCs have become to U.S. operations at this point, Obama's reservations about a blanket ban make some sense. Still, he can't relish the idea of being on the "pro-Blackwater" side of this issue.

Digger comments:
IMHO, this is a profoundly bad idea. I have not served with any of the folks from Blackwater, but while I was in Jerusalem, I served with members both of the other primary PMC's in Iraq, Triple Canopy and Dyncorp. I found them to be professional and dedicated, and as what would be considered a "high value target" (all diplomats are) I was extremely grateful to have them. We simply don't have enough Diplomatic Security agents to make certain our folks are safe overseas, and our military is already stretched thin enough without having to take on the role now filled by these private contractors. When we do our work, we often have to go to predictable places at predictable times, making that kind of protection vital. I wouldn't have wanted to serve in Jerusalem, much less Iraq, without them.

Yes, we need more oversight. But a ban seems like a bad idea.


Heather said...

As someone who will be working at the embassy in Baghdad in just a few months, I must sat that the idea of a blanket ban on security contractors unnerves me. Very dumb idea, in my humble opinion.

Anonymous said...

This issue is considered fair game for you to comment on?

PRTs leave a bad taste in my mouth. I'm not saying that they are bad people (though the recent shooting incident has put them under scrutiny). But, if we need to pay ex soldiers 6 figure salaries to fight a war, does that not mean that our regular soldiers are neither willing or able to fight? Does that not bring up questions about the legitimacy of the war?

One of the main reasons why I think we went into Iraq without thinking of the consequences (there was a front page article in foreign policy on this) is because Americans are sacrificing NOTHING in this war. A small percentage are in the military, while the rest of the country keeps shopping and run up record levels of debt. The majority of college students can't even find Iraq on a map

Now, add mercenaries on top of that and doesn't it seem like the formula for an overstretched empire?

Digger said...


This may be right on the line, but the use of security contractors is not exactly a foreign policy consideration. And my opinion is in line with the department, which agrees with the need for oversight but also wants to keep the contractors.

I wouldn't say they are replacing soldiers or fighting the war. What they do, or at least my experience with them, is protective details. And as I mentioned, we used them extensively in Jerusalem, which is not a war zone at the moment. They make sure the area we are travelling to is safe and then they provide protection for us going in an out. And having them there made me feel much safer in Jerusalem during some occassionally scary moments.And I know my friends in Baghdad really rely on them.

Anonymous said...

I assume the ban they contemplate is on outsourcing, not on security itself. Diplomats absolutely need security; the question is, who should we task to provide it. If we outsource it, we should have clear rules of engagement and very close oversight of their operations. And, we should compensate them fairly, not, as I perceive we are doing, exorbitantly.