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23 April 2007

The quality of private military studies

We have been following the debate over private military companies for some time now. It bears exceedingly close relationships in many ways with similar evolutions in the privatization of intelligence, but due to the high media profile of major private military contractors has received a great deal more public attention. This public attention has translated into a number of journalists and academics seeking to put forth their own views on the issues – but who have routinely been writing as outsiders, and frankly in most cases in a politicized manner that does no credit to the study of the subject.

We have long struggled with any critiques of this new cottage publishing industry centering on the PMCs, if only because it is very difficult to engage in conversation with those who usually start the debate from a perspective that denies the legitimacy and raison d’etre for the existence of contractors of any stripe, let alone a functioning marketplace which includes services performed in the battlespace.

To this end, we may reference the following critique of the new bestseller on Blackwater. Ironically, the criticism is written by an academic who is also pitching a book (though one of fiction). Regrettably, one must also overlook the comments re: “manipulated” intelligence, which are also unhelpful to advancing the actual debate, especially when expressed in the kind of verbal shorthand which is so symptomatic of politicized discussions of a complex issue not so easily rendered into soundbite form.

We do however wish to echo the disappointment in the squandering of a unique opportunity to do justice to the complex and difficult issue of private military contracting. However, we also note the continued interest in study of private military entities in a number of other areas. There have been a number of online ventures in which serious individuals are now beginning to look more closely into the matter, with some good results. And of course, there is the remarkable output of the “khaki tower” – the military academia, which has been producing consistently interesting publications at a quality and level of depth that simply has not been matched by any academic, journalist, or other outsider. Some of these pieces date back even prior to 9/11.

Now if only the literature on the privatization of intelligence was so robust, or so professional – but one must suppose that the analysis of shooters is and always will be of greater interest to a wider audience than the arcane nature of our art and science.

Butkus and Howes. A Critical Analysis of the Coordination, Command and Control of Contractors in Iraq. Naval Postgraduate School, December 2006.

Herron and Santiago. Analysis of Security Contractors in Deployed Environments. Naval Postgraduate School, December 2006.

Harris, Neil J. Contractors and the Cost of War: Research into Economic and Cost-Effectiveness Arguments. Naval Postgraduate School, December 2006.

Heskett, Jonathan D. The Potential Scope for Use of Private Military Companies in Military Operations: An Historical and Economical Analysis. Naval Postgraduate School, December 2005.

Jorgensen, Brent M. Outsourcing Small Wars: Expanding the Role of Private Military Companies in U.S. Military Operations. Naval Postgraduate School, September 2005.

Wallwork, Richard D. Operational Implications of Private Military Companies in the Global War on Terror. Army Command and General Staff College, February 2005.

Kidwell, Deborah C. Public War, Private Fight? The United States and Private Military Companies. Combat Studies Institute Press, 2005.

Millard, Todd S. Overcoming Post-Colonial Myopia: A Call to Recognize and Regulate Private Military Companies. Judge Advocate General's School, April 2003.

Housen, Roger T. The Privatization of Warfare: Back to the Future. National War College, 2002.

Goddard, Scott C. The Private Military Company: A Legitimate International Entity Within Modern Conflict. Army Command and General Staff College, June 2001.

Baffer, B. D. The Professional Military Services Industry: Have We Created a New Military-Industrial Complex? Marine Corps War College, May 2005.

Vaught, Donna S. Modern Mercenaries of the Twenty-first Century: Professional Military Consultants a Modern Tool of Foreign Policy. Naval War College, February 1999.

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