Summary: Again we turn harsh lights on the future of America. The US government has created a pool highly skilled mercs (on a base of people the government itself trained). What will these people do when our wars wind down? To create serious trouble only a few need sell their knowledge and experience to unfriendly regimes and criminal gangs. Executive Outcomes has its roots in the Apartheid-era South African Special Forces. A more disturbing warning comes from Mexico. Their gang wars went into hyperdrive with the formation of the Los Zetas Cartel from Mexico’s Special Forces, followed by the arrival of the Kaibiles (ex-Guatemala Special Forces). This post summarizes previous posts about mercs.
For good reason mercenaries have been called “the dogs of war”. Since the end of the Thirty Years War in 1648 the major western nations have worked to eliminate the scourge of mercenaries. But changing circumstances have brought them back, as they have the ability to adapt more quickly than conventional military forces.
Roberts made the interesting observation that the great military revolutions throughout history generally coincided with the predominance of mercenaries. They possessed the necessary discipline and professional skill to create a revolution …
— from the entry on “Military Revolution” in the Oxford Companion to Military History. Refers to Michael Roberts (1908-1996), historian and author of The Military Revolution 1560-1660 which described the “revolution in military affairs”.
Under the stress of the Long War, the Bush Jr Administration thoughtlessly accelerated the resurgence of mercs (aka Private Military Corporations). The dangers of this are obvious to anyone watching events in Mexico.
Our finest troops now have an alternative market in which to sell their skills, one paying far more than America. We have created a conflict between our soldiers’ patriotism and their families’ needs, a challenge whose dimensions cannot yet be seen – only imagined. At the very least, we now bid against ourselves for their services. This will likely move beyond our control, as markets usually do.
Once the Long War ends (perhaps the conventional way, as we run out of money), what will unemployed mercs do? Attempt to re-enlist for a fraction of their current pay? Or find another employer? Once a soldier kills for a dollar, unconnected to a national army, an invisible but real line has been crossed. Inevitably some of our finest will eventually be working outside of our control.
That some American mercs will serve our enemies is a near certainty. David worked as a merc for the Philistines. El Cid, hero of the Reconquista (d. 1099), worked as a mercenary for both Christian and Muslim rulers. Mohammed II hired Christian mercenaries, such as Urban of Hungary, to forge and operate the great cannon that broke the triple walls of Constantinople in 1453. Countless other examples can be cited throughout history. For more on this see “The new condottieri and US policy: The Privatization of Conflict and its implications“, Eugene B. Smith, Parameters, Winter 2002.
What consequences can we expect to see? Knowledge moves with people. Hundreds of years of State-developed of tactics and training will become available to our 4GW enemies, those with the wit to take advantage of this opportunity. Only small numbers need “defect” for this to occur. Much of our advanced military technology is also available to anyone with the necessary money; hiring mercs gives “them” the ability to effectively use these weapons.
Perhaps the most illuminating aspect of this is that our massive national security apparatus has not considered this scenario (so far as I can see).
A note from the past
Mercenaries and auxiliaries are useless and dangerous; and if one holds his state based on these arms, he will stand neither firm nor safe; for they are disunited, ambitious and without discipline, unfaithful, valiant before friends, cowardly before enemies; they have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is; for in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.
The fact is, they have no other attraction or reason for keeping the field than a trifle of stipend, which is not sufficient to make them willing to die for you. They are ready enough to be your soldiers whilst you do not make war, but if war comes they take themselves off or run from the foe; which I should have little trouble to prove, for the ruin of Italy has been caused by nothing else than by resting all her hopes for many years on mercenaries, and although they formerly made some display and appeared valiant amongst themselves, yet when the foreigners came they showed what they were.
— The Prince by Nicolo Machiavelli — CHAPTER XII: How Many Kinds Of Soldiery There Are, And Concerning Mercenaries.
For more information about our mercs
- Militia – the ultimate defense against 4GW, 31 May 2008 – See Chapter 12 about mercs
- Don’t read this about Blackwater! Why ruin your illusions, so carefully manufactured by our government’s info ops., 2 November 2009
- Mercs spread special ops methods to corporations and (eventually) our, 17 September 2010