Mercenaries in Iraq: Dogs of Indecision
This debate about private military contractors – or what we might call the ‘Blackwater-bashing’ that now passes for an anti-war position – is based on a profound misunderstanding of what lies behind the rise of the mercenary in Western warfare. The use of Blackwater and other money-hungry former soldiers in Iraq is not a product of any clear-cut political agenda on the part of the Bush administration, but rather of its opposite: a severe crisis of authority amongst America’s rulers which means they are even willing to outsource the means of coercion – traditionally the highest form of authority in capitalist society – to non-state actors.This is the future (and the past) of war. There are now more private security contractors in Iraq than US military personnel. When wars are driven by the interests of the wealthy and powerful it is hardly surprising that, when they run out of poor schmucks to fight their battles, they are happy to cough up hard cash for others to do it.
It is a powerful sense of political stasis in Washington, and the US government’s inability to convince its own military men that Iraq is a cause worth taking a risk for, that means it is ready to hire others to use force on its behalf. From this viewpoint, Blackwater and the rest do not represent Washington’s authority, but rather its crisis of authority; they are an army of private contractors conjured up to do what Washington feels it does not have the political or moral legitimacy, or the military nerve, to do for itself. Mercenaries were once referred to as the Dogs of War – the private military contractors in Iraq look more like the Dogs of Indecision.