Feb 3, 2011

the benefits of private military firms

Concerning the March/April 2011 resolution, what are some of the tactical and strategic advantages of private military firms? In "Reconsidering Battlefield Contractors," from the Summer 2005 edition of Georgetown Journal of International Affairs, Doug Brooks and Jim Shevlin lay out some of the arguments in favor. The gist:
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.

21 comments:

Anonymous said...

I have a question on how to make an attack out of this claim. The claim is that under U.S law, PMC cannot engage in combat. How could you make an attack out of that?

Jim Anderson said...

An attack for which side?

C said...

Jim do you think causal, lay, or even semi educated judges are going to be able to judge debates on this effectively? I dont think your average person even knows anything about private military firms, let alone military justifications for them.

Anonymous said...

C,

I don't think that should really even have to be a question, it is our job as debaters to make the topic accessible to them.

The LD rules themselves state that the arguments should be understandable to an educated non-specialist listener. Thus if you need to take a few minutes to define terms and flesh out your ideas to be sure your judge understands you case then so be it.

Assuming the judges fall into the category of an "educated" person then any concept should be explainable to them and understandable should the debaters do a good job.

Anonymous said...

where can I find "Reconsidering Battlefield Contractors?" Is there an online copy of some sort?

Anonymous said...

Jim,
I searched on jstor and lexis-nexis and could not find the article. Could you post a link or be willing to e-mail a copy? Thanks!

Jim Anderson said...

Email me if you're having trouble finding resources online.

Madi said...

my question is this: for an aff argument, when defining what the U.S. military objectives are, what is the best way to do so? simply define objectives? or is there a published version of what the military claims it's objectives to be? for instance, if the military claimed that it's objective was the security of our nation, then the only thing aff would have to prove is that the U.S. is justified in using private military forms when attempting to secure our nation, correct? If so, where could i look for a definition of the U.S. military objectives?

Jim Anderson said...

Madi, there are a few ways to approach the problem.

One is to try to outline the broad objectives as described in the 2011 National Military Strategy:

Let us not forget, the Nation remains at war abroad to defend against and defeat threats to our homeland. Our foremost priority is the security of the American people, our territory, and our way of life. In the current operational environment, this means each component of our Joint Force will remain aligned to achieve success in our ongoing campaign in Afghanistan and security cooperation efforts with Pakistan, and against violent extremism worldwide. We must continue to prevent attacks against the United States and its allies, strengthen international and regional security, and be prepared to deter and defeat aggression that would undermine international stability as we fight these campaigns.

Another is to shift focus away from the objectives, which are subject to change as the global situation changes--what if, for instance, Egypt's generals decided to attack Israel tomorrow? Or what if North Korea attacked South Korea, or China attacked Taiwain?--and to emphasize that this is a debate over principles. We can evaluate PMFs on their merits and whether they're justified without having to evaluate specific military objectives.

Madi said...

ok, thanks so much! i think the National Military Strategy is what i'm going to lay my framework with.

Anonymous said...

can i have a value of safety and a vc of constitutionality
if my contentions are talking about the services they provide, the new regulations they have to follow, their cost efficiency, and how incapable the military would be without them

Jim Anderson said...

Your contentions should link through your criterion to your value, so you'd have to show why there's a constitutional obligation to achieve safety (shouldn't be hard to do), and why / how the Constitution allows or permits their use.

Anonymous said...

Your source distinguishes between Nonlethal Service Providers and Private Military Companies - can one use that to argue that food service and the like are nontopical?

Jim Anderson said...

Be very, very careful with the wording: the resolution says "private military firms," not "private military companies." In Brooks and Shevlin's article, "firm" is the broader designation, synonymous with the phrase "battlefield contractors," and inclusive of NSPs, PSCs, and PMCs.

Anonymous said...

What's the difference between a firm and a company? Because when I google private military firm, all I get is private military company. Firm is pretty much synonomous with company, is it not?

I also looked at Brooks's article, and it makes no mention of "private military firms"; it only refers to them as "private firms."

Jim Anderson said...

I see what you're saying, and that's the difficulty of finding definitions for this debate--"Private Military Firm" isn't a legal term of art, so you have to find functional definitions that fairly divide up ground.

Compare my reading of Brooks and Shevlin with this definition, which is equally broad:

"Private MIlitary Companies" or PMCs are on occasions referred to as "Military Firms", "Military Service Providers" (MSPs), "Privatized Military Firms" (PMFs), "Transnational Security Corporations" (TSCs), and "security contractors". All of these terms, however, point at the same phenomenon: firms offering security and military-related services that up to the 1980s used to be considered the preserve of the state.

I think a case can be made that because of their aggressive posture, PMCs are the most salient PMFs, but that seems to take away Aff ground.

Anonymous said...

Hey Jim, there is a lot of talk about PMF's being involved in fighting wars, but has anyone come up with a real example where a PMF was used directly and solely to complete a combat operation, it seems like everyone assumes that PMF's do combat operations, when from what I have read, they don't actively participate in combat operations, like capturing strongholds, and taking down terrorist targets.

Jim Anderson said...

That's right; PMFs are primarily engaged in support and security operations.

However, I'm not sure why that would matter too much, for two reasons:

1. The services PMFs provide, even if merely logistical, are "mission critical," both in practical and moral senses.

2. One doesn't have to be involved in offensive operations to get in trouble, militarily speaking. The infamous Blackwater incident in 2007 comes to mind.

Anonymous said...

Are there any cards/articles that talk about the U.S. using PMFs in south korea?

Jim Anderson said...

I see indications that Xeros Services is working to protect South Korean oil interests, but exactly how isn't detailed.

Anonymous said...

Novice LD'er asking what my value and critereon should be writing an affirmative case on the March/April topic?