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Private Military Ecology Blog
last updated 27-Mar-2016
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At Private Military Ecology we explore unfolding trends and alternative futures for the use and understanding of Private Military and/or Security Companies and services. Late in 2013, we opened shop at WordPress: --a nicer, cleaner and more elegant experience. At WordPress, we discuss the changing 21st century security environment in addition to private military and security issues. Private Military Ecology @Blogger, however, is our oldest blogging space and you might find many posts there not available here or at WordPress.

McCain, the military-industrial complex, and contractors

Young John McCain As the global financial crisis has inevitably taken center stage, security contractors are not likely to figure in John McCain’s election agenda. In fact, other than a collection of brief statements, concrete policy proposals pertaining their use and control failed to materialize. Nevertheless, there is an item about the military-industrial complex that throws some light on his views about military outsourcing and contracting-out, broadly.

First, to recap, the notion of the military-industrial complex acquired a distinct meaning in the powerful farewell address of President Dwight D. Eisenhower in 1961. There, he warned us that: “…we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military industrial complex. …We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.”

In the 2005 documentary by Eugene Jarecki, Why We Fight, the evolving relationship between the defense sector and government were given an up-to-date exploration. This is a well-researched and stimulating film. However, the approach towards Private Military Companies (security contractors on our terminology) is problematic. This is because PMCs are understood as part of the ‘military machinery of defense’. Indeed, training and support services linked to the supply of military hardware are aspects covered by some PMCs. Yet they render many more services in areas such as protection, risk assessment, intelligence, reconstruction assistance, and homeland security that are not strictly linked to defense. That is, the private military industry overlaps the defense sector in certain areas, but the two are not the same.

Senator McCain was twenty-five years old when Eisenhower issued his warning. Assimilating this knowledge during his formation years, he tends to see PMCs as a logical extension of an expanded defense sector and the military-industrial complex. In this light, in Why We Fight he states that over-billing abuses should be addressed. He had in mind certain controversies involving Halliburton-KBR. While we welcome stricter scrutiny and better regulation, McCain’s (and Jarecki’s) approach fails to capture the broader challenges and opportunities inherent in the use of PMCs. For instance, the over-billing in question involved services that fall outside defense.

PMCs are service oriented rather than capital intensive like the defense sector. Their control and regulation require flexible frameworks that do not necessarily apply to defense. It is somehow a different matter regulating services associated with the longer-term production and maintenance of defense capital than, for example, the fulfillment of a task order focusing on the swift deployment of security details or a mine-clearance team to the latest humanitarian crisis.

This is not just a matter of semantics. If elected, McCain needs to acknowledge the distinctiveness of PMCs in order to coherently control force while harnessing PMCs’ potential to enhance global security in the twenty-first century.

McCain choses Alaska Governor Sarah Palin as running mate

Any views Ms. Palin articulates on this matter would most certainly be based on a mix of whatever the individuals coaching her think about PMCs and the experience of her loved ones in Iraq.

October 2, 2008





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