private armies – science fiction, conspiracy theory, coming soon?

Something I have been thinking about for a long time is the economic rationalist project of privatisation. Many (even a majority) do not oppose privatisation on principle, yet it has faced significant challenges numerous times when services deemed of too much importance are targeted. The privatisation of health care, for example, is often subject of debate, whereas there continues to be significant controversy about the privatisation of water supplies. This can be seen stretching back to (and beyond) the emergence of the inaccurately labeled Global Agreement in Trades and Services (GATS) and its intended impacts on imperialistically referred to developing countries. Perhaps the most well-known dispute emerged from Cochambamba in Bolivia following a World Bank directive tying financial aid to privatisation of the water supply.

The issue of privatisation and its ideological imposition via conditions on foreign aid (often referred to Structural Adjustment Programs – SAPs) will most certainly receive some renewed attention given the recent release of Naomi Klein’s latest polemic The Shock Doctrine: the rise of disaster capitalism. Whilst SAPs are not the focus of this new work, the means through which economic rationalist ideologies are imposed on peoples and countries – in taking advantage of natural disasters/war/etc – are directly linked. I have not yet made my way through this new work, and I am not what I would consider a fan of Naomi Klein per se. I think her work No Logo [http://www.naomiklein.org/no-logo] provides some valuable analysis, though find that her analysis can be a little soft at times. I do hope she has improved on this, though am skeptical…

Why I am skeptical is linked again to her recent work. Whilst I think her work details important issues, it is not ground-breaking in itself. If she had predicted, rather than described, what is happening with the occupation of Iraq, in New Orleans and many other locales this would be different. Im am not trying to take away from her work, rather indicate its limitations and short comings as I currently see them.  She does provide some predictions, albeit not something unforeseen by others. The demonisation of Iran, in creating a basis for a forthcoming military attack, is a clear example.

Given these perceived shortcomings, do I have something to offer?

There is one shortcoming of The Shock Doctrine that I think is obvious. Significant attention has been afforded the role of private contractors in Iraq (and elsewhere) by many analysts and commentators. Much of this, especially given current outrages against Blackwater’s atrocities, centre around private security firms. With the ‘outsourcing of everything’ and this being clear with the USA operations in Iraq, why has the next logical step (if it can be considered as next, as the basis is now already in place) from a neo-con perspective not been considered??

What is this next step I am referring to?

Despite some conservative attempts to dismiss such descriptions, the private security forces in Iraq are very much mercenaries. They are being used on a scale not previously seen. Following an economic rationalist ideology, the use of private forces is ideal. As is an increase in there adoption and mobilisation. Amongst a boon of things, this promotes free enterprise and reduces the role of government. This directly parallels the basis for private contractors generally – not controversial I think.

The current use of private contractors to provide security forces provides the groundwork for its expansion. Once debate about the costs subside (most likely in response to the shock as Naomi Klein details), their usage will become accepted, even common sense. Once the constructed (i.e. ideological) validity of these becomes normalised it will not be long before this becomes unquestioned and considered an everyday part of ‘modern’ society. What we are seeing now with the use of contractors generally is only the tip of the iceberg. The already extensive reach of privatised services will extend further into the public sphere. Is it too far fetched to foresee small private armies protecting corporate property… oops, I forgot, we already have that. The question is, when will be seen seen as going too far, when will people stand up and say enough!

Aside from reactions to the often self-described actions of these private security forces in Iraq as cowboyish, gun ho and boys with toys, is there any real opposition. Will it take a further entrenchment of the already existing private forces within countries like the USA? When they target minority groups (as they will do first), who will speak out?

One thought on “private armies – science fiction, conspiracy theory, coming soon?

  1. Right now having a mercenary army is only a problem for those directly being hurt– the Iraqis. Until these mercenaries cause physical discomfort to the US public, the public will not be outraged on a large scale. At the moment, using mercenaries means that we don’t need a draft and so someone’s son or daughter might be “safe.” When you consider it on a specific person by person basis, it’s beneficial at the moment, thus no outrage.

    When you step back and look at how mercenaries affect the country as a whole and our systems, then you can see the horror of it. After all, didn’t depending on a mercenary army lead to the fall of Rome? But people won’t look at the larger picture if their small personal picture is comfortable. Only when their personal situation becomes unpleasant, will they look at the system to try and determine the larger causes.

    I guess what I’m getting at is this… you ask “when will people stand up and say enough!” My answer: it might be a while.

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