A review inspired by Stephen Armstrong’s War Plc: The Rise of the New Corporate Mercenary.
Let’s say you are a journalist who suddenly and just in 2005, yes 2005, discovered that Private Military Companies exist and are part of a thriving industry. You are excited about your ‘discovery’ and want to share this never-before-told story with the men in the street. Given the 10 year gap since the subject started to be studied systematically and a tidal wave of titles covering the same, what can you do to write and sell a book?
For a start, perhaps a good idea is to use blog-style borrowings, preferably originating in decent scholarship. Mash up passages and make them your own (no references needed), throw them at scholars who would be happy to confirm them as long as you mention them in the longest acknowledgment section ever written for this type of book.
This technique is particularly important for the first two chapters, i.e. in order to set a pseudo-knowledgeable tone. In other words, set the scene for a fast and furious ‘suspension of disbelief’. Afterwards, the usual Iraq blurb spiced up with unused interviews and quotes.
But Brits do not like blogs or blogging. It is not elegant and beneath them. Well, it does not matter because with your media connections you can always attract decent reviews and, ultimately, you are targeting bought-at-the-airport book readers.
Worried that key people in the industry might trash you? Just interview them and agree to their requests, for example, by stressing ‘private security companies’ instead of other terms. As this is a British book aimed at the British market, be particularly critical of American firms. However, you are free to criticize British enterprises and people as long as they are long gone.
You also need a catchy title: War Inc, taken, Ltd used so many times, LLC not understood by a British audience, what about Plc? War Plc is indeed catchy, if not such an ill-chosen title. For arenas of conflict is where PMCs thrive, not war. At the outset, there are too many legal and theoretical connotations attached to ‘war’ to argue a clear association between it and PMCs. Have you realized that the Iraq conflict, which largely feeds your book, does not fulfil the requirements of a war? Probably not. In the end, just remember you are plainly engineering controversy out of borrowed scholarship and misplaced paper clippings.
30 July 2008