July 27, 2006
The Hamdan Decision and the Privatization of War
May 2, 2006
Let Blackwater Loose in Darfur
The executives of one of the most well-known private security firms, Blackwater, have offered to provide a brigade of peacekeepers in Darfur, if only someone will pay for it. [hat-tip: Arts and Letters Daily]
A few weeks ago, at an international special forces conference in Jordan, Black announced that his company could deploy a small rapid-response force to conflicts like the one in Sudan. ''We're low cost and fast," Black said, ''the question is, who's going to let us play on their team?"In other words, the private security firms need something other than cash to pay for their peacekeeping; they need some sort of legitimacy. But legitimacy for what? Invasions? The establishment of private empires of sorts?
What companies like Blackwater are proposing to do in Darfur today is very different from the combat missions of a decade ago. ''We have no interest in offensive operations," says Taylor flatly. Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association, the industry's trade association, agrees: ''[Executive Outcomes] and Sandline were supporting offensive combat operations. I don't think that'll happen again, and certainly not that way."No one questions that firms like Blackwater would excel at providing this service cheaply and professionally.
Today, private military companies are offering defensive services-they propose to secure refugee camps and vulnerable villages, guard humanitarian aid agencies and NGOs, or, depending on the requirements of the contract, assist peacekeepers like the African Union troops in Darfur.
There's little question that companies like Blackwater could be more effective operationally than the African Union, which has been hampered by its peacekeepers' lack of command and control experience. Private military companies boast a roster of former special forces officers and law enforcement officers who are accustomed to volatile conflict and post-conflict areas like Sudan.The essential problem is unique to the international system: horrific events, like genocide, which occur within the boundaries of a given state, are seen as being within the sovereign bounds of that state, and the territorial sovereignty of any given state, in our current system, is sacrosanct. Only the society of states, embodied in a number of international institutions, can choose to violate that precious sovereignty. Cries of "Never again" then seem to pale so long as that which prompts them is confined to one state. Intrastate genocide becomes, ironically, a sort of externality of the international system.
Blackwater also subjects all of its personnel to an impressive array of extra training-whether they're training to work in Baghdad or the firm's North Carolina headquarters. They take classes in international humanitarian law, leadership, ethics, regional awareness, and ''customs and traditions." They've recently approached Amnesty International about teaching human rights education classes. And the International Peace Operations Association boasts that its code of conduct was written by human rights lawyers.
The industry also claims that it's far cheaper than its multilateral or military counterparts. ''We offer the ability to create a right-sized solution-which creates a cost savings right off the bat," says Taylor. By contrast, Brooks notes, ''NATO is insanely expensive; it's not a cost-effective organization. Neither is the [African Union]. Private companies would be much, much cheaper. When we compared their costs to most UN operations, we came up with 10 to 20 percent of what the UN would normally charge."
And so the handwringers worry over how to stop such ghastly events while still maintaining the territorial sovereignty of states.
There is no easy solution.
Blackwater though, seeks to insert itself due to one particular detail of the particular externality of Darfur. Namely, no powerful state in the world has any inherent national interest in preventing the killing there, except solely out of a sense of altruism. Blackwater offers to solve the problem for them, if only someone will pay for it all.
Here's several ways that Blackwater can raise the capital necessary to fund the Darfur peacekeeping mission, and really score a PR coup at the same time:
Option 1: Pro Bono
First announce that the mission in Darfur will be a non-profit venture. The troops and overhead will be paid for, but the firm itself will make no profit from the enterprise. Call it private security pro bono if you will. Then ask states to fund the cost.
Option 2: The Wealthy Donor Option
Go the non-profit route again. This time though, approach several wealthy individuals for support. How many Hollywood millioinaires turned out for Live8 last year? Ask them to put their money where their mouth is. Most will decline you. When they do, shame them publicly. The publicity alone will attract other wealthy donors. You know, the steel magnate from Pittsburgh, who's retired now, and already given plenty of dough to his alma mater. Or the guy in the heartland somewhere who made his fortune in mousetraps. Ask for $100 million and tell the donors that they might get a building named for them if they give that much to an insitution, but here, they'll be a footnote in history and maybe a city in Africa will carry their legacy. Be creative.
Option 3: The Paypal Option
Go to the world. Again, make it pro bono/non-profit. Ask for private donations to fund peacekeeping in Darfur. If the US public can give a billion or so in a few weeks for tsunami relief, it can certainly cough up several million to stop a genocide. Plus, none of it has to be sifted through the sticky fingers of [insert international body here]. And it'll be tax-deductible!
Finally, PR is key. Hire a bunch of bloggers to embed (ahem: my email address is in the sidebar). The journos should be all over you already. If firms like Blackwater are half as good as they claim, the immediate effects of their intervention, properly publicized, should spur further contributions in a sort of virtuous cycle.
Now take any of the above three choices and mix and match until you have enough dough to support your operations for an extended period. After you get going, your success might be shameful enough to the society of states that they start to cough up institutional money to continue your mission. All told, the private firm comes out ahead and does a good bit to shake the image of "mercenary" that seems to dog the industry.
In case you haven't noticed, each of these involves the non-profit angle. It seems that any for-profit option would have a very hard time gaining legitimacy, unless it was funded by Sudan's neighbors, or perhaps on an installment plan, by the people in Darfur themselves -- though that might be an exceptionally long installment.
Notably, it is the very same people who most loudly proclaim, "never again", who will also most loudly protest private efforts to stop the death. Perhaps actions will be perceived to speak louder than words if things are orchestrated with a bit of savvy and elan . . .
In diplomacy, business, and life, much is made of "the art of the deal." This is a situation that is crying out for a deal to be brokered between a variety of players. Something much greater than wealth will accrue to the person who can put all the pieces together in this situation: a guaranteed place in history.
October 13, 2005
Black Globalization and Small Wars
[The Adventures of Chester is pleased to bring you a guest post by Mark at ZenPundit. Zenpundit has become one of my favorites over the past month or so, as it always seems to have interesting stuff little-covered elsewhere. I asked Mark to do a post about whatever he wanted, and this is his choice. Enjoy!]
When Saddam Hussein emptied his prisons prior to the Iraq War it seemed at the time a sign of his regime’s impending doom. Either Saddam’s amnesty was an act of desperation to shore up support among the Iraqi people or his grip on power had so weakened that he had lost control even over elements of his own security apparatus. In actuality, the dictator had made a preemptive asymmetrical strike against American forces by releasing Iraq’s professional criminals whose well-organized networks badly undermined the CPA and today are connecting an otherwise heterogeneous insurgency [pdf]. Although this move ultimately did Saddam Hussein little good it demonstrated the potential power that "Black Globalization" has to effect the outcome of military interventions, even those of the United States.
It’s rather strange that given our history, American intelligence did not forsee this outcome in Iraq. It was the United States government that used the Mafia of Charles “ Lucky” Luciano to gather naval intelligence, suppress sabotage on the dockyards and enlist the Sicilian Mafia to undermine Mussolini’s rule to soften the island for Allied invasion. WWII however was the age when nation-state control and the exercise of sovereignty and economic autarky were at their zenith and non-state actors like criminal syndicates were peripheral to events.
Today, the strategic situation is vastly different. The relative primacy of nation-state sovereigns has been eroded by globalization that opened their economies and borders to greater flows of “connectivity” and challenges to their political legitimacy mounted by international, transnational and subnational actors. Some of these, the WTO or the internet for example, at least have brought tremendous benefits. Not so the metastasis of transnational criminal networks that constitute black globalization and have an economic reach that in the aggregate, rivals the greatest of regional powers and are centered on a few geographic nexus points. A sampling of annual estimates:
Governmental corruption: $ 500 billion
Global Narcotics trafficking $ 400-500 billion (matching or exceeding U.S. Defense budget)
Conflict Diamond Trafficking: $ 24 billion/ 10 % world market
Human Trafficking $ 7 billion
Stolen Automobile Smuggling: $9 billion
Piracy (maritime): $16 billion ( high end estimate)
Even leaving aside minor or hard to estimate contraband markets or legal “ gray “ markets like international arms dealing, these revenues are enough to field armies or acquire the most expensive technology to evade capture or launch asymmetrical attacks on state forces.
Clearly, the days when even a weak state ruler like Ngo Dinh Diem could scattter a criminal organization with a whiff of grapeshot are over. Expeditions into failed Gap states like Somalia or major military invasions of countries like Iraq must take Black Globalization networks into account during strategic planning as they would subnational or even full-fledged state actors. In terms of on the ground, policy, options for U.S. policy makers and commanders for engaging these networks would include:
Alliance ( Luciano Model)
Benign Neutrality ( Transactional Model)
Armed Neutrality ( Deterrence Model)
Active Containment ( Limited military action)
Belligerence (Counterinsurgency model)
Ideally, the U.S. would seek to prevent the Black Globalization network from actively aligning itself with the enemy and avoid direct engagement to suppress the network until the primary mission was accomplished. Imagine the state of Iraq today if the criminal networks were working hand in glove with American and Iraqi troops to root out the insurgency instead to aid the insurgents against coalition forces. Circumstances, however may not always prove to be so simple, corrupt and violent networks being what they are, any negotiated result is at best transient.
A second indirect form of pressure could be exerted on the money laundering aspect of Black Globalization which must at some point attempt to “ clean” their cash flow through or by acquiring legitimate banks and financial markets in Western countries. Strategic financial attack was evidently taken against the major backers of Slobodan Milosevic during the Kosovo War with positive results. Exploiting this avenue might require that the Marines have more than just a few good accountants, a genuine financial intelligence service would be required to maximize effectiveness.
The complexity of small wars is almost enough to make diplomats and generals long for the good, old days of the Warsaw Pact. Almost.
FOLLOW-UP FROM CHESTER: Coincidentally, I recently had a conversation with a reserve Marine Gunnery Sergeant, who was deployed in the Sunni Triangle last fall. He told me of some of the "unorthodox" methods his platoon used to better their position and gain influence among the locals. A detective in civilian life, the Gunny quickly realized that in Iraq he was swimming in the same sea as that of the drug industry. When his platoon made a raid and captured cash, they would then use that cash to bribe other locals, who would then point them toward weapons caches, or terrorists. The Gunny assured me nobody got a payoff unless their info had proven positive. In addition, they used the cash to purchase equipment from other actors in the area: military contractors. Using captured funds, he was able to guy electric generators to use in his platoon's position, allowing them to keep their equipment charged, etc (I don't have as many details on this as I'd like to, but as an engineer, I can assure that a rifle platoon with its own generator would be extremely rare). In short, the Gunny, who swore, literally, that none of his men took any money for themselves, was able to enter the marketplace as it existed in Iraq and participate in it to the advantage of US national security.
I don't know if what he did was legal. To me, it sounds like something that there's probably a regulation against, and this is why I'll keep the details of who, what, and where to myself. But if it's not kosher, it should be. It raises an interesting proposition: could US-backed market actors -- call them what you want, contractors, warlords, influence entrepreneurs -- could these individuals, given large sums of cash, the ability to protect themselves, and very broad intent and mission statements take over or subsume some of the black marketplaces that Mark discusses above? It is certainly worth thinking about. One of the oft-touted methods for countering a network-type organization is with another network (Fight network with network, one might say). If that method is truly to be tested, then initiatives such as the Gunny's will need to be not only condoned, but encouraged. I'm sure that Green Berets are either taught such methods officially, or learn them amongst themselves when deployed. I would not be surprised if other Marine units are doing similar things. Marines, being the smallest and least-funded service, are world-class scroungers, and officers know that sometimes it is best not to ask the senior enlisted personnel where something came from. There is an excellent chapter on this topic in the book First to Fight.