Private firms play an indispensable role in supporting peace and stability operations from Congo to Iraq, but sensationalization and misinformation of "battlespace contractors" has unfortunately skewed public perceptions and is having an adverse impact on policy formulation. Despite frequent claims that private firms are unprecedented, unregulated, inherently unethical and even a threat to American democracy, the private sector actually has a long history supporting U.S. military operations, is regulated by numerous domestic and international laws and statutes, plays a central role in operations critical to speedy state recovery, infrastructure reconstruction and humanitarian security, and is critical to implementing policies of democratic governments and the international community. The private sector provides policymakers, as well as those tasked to carry out the policies, with remarkably cost-effective and flexible tools, and criticisms of the industry too often have more to do with the politics behind the policies than with the performance of the companies engaged in their implementation.Private military firms come in three main varieties:
1. Nonlethal Service Providers (NSPs)
NSPs provide logistics services, air transport, construction of military bases and refugee camps, and other specialized services such as water purification, unexploded ordinance disposal, and mobile hospitals. While NSPs face many of the same legal issues as the PSCs and PMCs when they operate in CPC regions, most concerns about NSPs focus on appropriate procurement policies, whether their services should be labeled "inherently" governmental, or whether the U.S. military is too reliant on them.
2. Private Security Companies (PSCs)
They provide armed protection for "nouns": people, places, and things. These include politicians, military leaders, buildings, organizations, convoys, etc.... While conceptually there is little difference between security guards in Iraq and in the United States, where private security outnumbers regular police three to one, PSCs in Iraq tend to have military backgrounds, be better armed, and offer a higher level of armed security capable of defending their "nouns" against attacks by heavily armed insurgents and bandits.
3. Private Military Companies (PMCs)
PMCs are firms used to alter the strategic shape of a conflict. PMCs generally work for states, international and regional organizations and provide military and police training, security sector reform, assistance in defense ministry design, and even advice on proper civil-military relations in a democracy. PMC employees are generally unarmed, though in Iraq some carry sidearms for self-defense.Note that although Private Military Firms are involved in war zones and may tangentially be involved in combat operations, primarily their purpose is supportive and defensive.
According to Brooks and Shevlin, there are five main advantages to private military firms:
* surge capacity and speed - the ability to recruit and train personnel
* force multiplication - the ability to rapidly deploy personnel, equipment, and munitions
* specialized skills - most often in technology, security details, and training
* ease of use - the competitive market ensures that firms are highly responsive to their governmental "customers," and easily discarded if unsuccessful
* cost efficiency - on the whole, private military firms are cheaper than similarly equipped State actors
The article contains much more regarding the legal status of private firms, both in domestic and international law, too complex to summarize here. Overall, Brooks and Shevlin's analysis is well worth reading for LDers looking for affirmative arguments.