In the 1990s, not a few private military firms, known among laymen as mercenary companies, found incredible success offering their services to governments of poor states, overwhelmed by civil unrest – and in some cases outright civil war. Where bellicose libertarians find much to laud in the extreme efficiency and supreme aptitude for warfare exhibited by these groups in nearly every conflict they engaged in, from Sierra Leono to Indonesia, I find only the troubling sentiment that even as financial markets exert too great control over political processes in developed regions, these (necessarily) authoritarian organizations exert greater influence than governments ostensibly established by the will of the governed to provide for their common welfare and defence.
On the one hand, history demands we all concede that mercenaries as a group will ever be more excellent soldiers than any a public government can raise; this has been true from Corvinus’ Fekete Sereg in 1460 to Eben Barlow’s Executive Outcomes in 1990 (with notable exceptions in such nations demanding universal service and engaged in constant warfare as modern Israel). So I cannot say I oppose the existence of these firms on the basis of their competency, nor governments’ employment of these firms on moral grounds – as mercenaries are more truly volunteers to war than any public military could ever be, and if we must fight wars, perhaps it is best that they are fought by those who at once hold no qualms in their hearts about fighting them even as they stand better-armed and better-trained than their public counterparts.
Such a system could moreover expectedly leave civilian populations increasingly less involved in warfare, and increasingly ignored as potential targets; the counterpoint here would be overall devaluation of civilians in warfare, and the complete separation of motivation to protect civilians and winning the battles, which could endanger civilians further than need be, though this has historically only intermittently been the case. All that said, under no circumstances should a public government ever find itself in a position wherein its own capability to enforce its laws and assure the citizenry of its commitment to and capability of enforcing their social contract can be legitimately questioned. Such is the very definition of a failed state, and no outcome is worse in my mind than an Earth governed by firms, having monopolized violence away from governments, seeking profit above governments sworn to protect and defend sacred life.
Therefore, where I would tentatively support the employment of mercenaries before a draft or any such mechanism in geopolitical conflict, I find it in communities’ and governments’ own self-interest (particularly in the developing world) to ensure they neither overextend themselves nor leave themselves so small and meek as to ever be forced to rely on contractors to provide the bulk of service in assuring the integrity of a social contract. This is in my eyes the most utilitarian answer to questions of the privatization of war and public safety. Unfortunately, I fear on this Earth, such an answer dooms the most volatile regions to perpetual conflict – Kashmir, Colombia, Iraq and the Congo – these places will remain entrenched in war until the end of time in the absence of public opposition to war in the developed world – which generally arrives only as a public sacrifices for it: an eventuality that will be avoided in the employment of private militaries to resolve geopolitical quandaries.
Perhaps, it is wise here – for the developed world most of all – to recall the wisdom of welcoming suffering in war, lest we grow too fond of it.