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Our purpose is to encourage the knowledge and the debate of issues connected with art and military science. Selection of articles attempts to reflect different opinions. Beyond any ideological ascription. In order to impulse critical thought amongst our readers.

miércoles, 29 de enero de 2014

La privatización de la defensa y la seguridad.

 

 

 

The Commercialization of Security is Only Beginning.

By Steven Metz, on


    
 
It would be easy to dismiss the trajectory of Erik Prince, who made a fortune with his security firm Blackwater only to resign and turn to a form of self-exile amid intense public criticism, as a personal drama born from a set of particular historical conditions. Prince revealed this month that he will be the chairman of a Chinese-based company providing security to extractive industries in Africa, suggesting his future will no longer intersect with America’s. But the professional evolution of Prince, Blackwater and its replacements are not simply side effects of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan or the global conflict with al-Qaida but are instead emblematic of the ongoing commercialization of security. The world is in the opening act of an historic change: Today’s private security firms are the small tip of what will become a very large iceberg.

When the United States began its global war against al-Qaida after the Sept. 11 attacks, Prince, a former Navy SEAL, was in the right place at the right time. He was running a modest security training business in North Carolina—Blackwater, Inc.—but moved quickly to help the Central Intelligence Agency build links with Afghan warlords. Later Blackwater won contracts to provide security for U.S. officials in Iraq and to provide a number of other security services. Its revenues grew from about $400,000 in 1998 to more than $1 billion by 2006.


Eventually, though, things soured for Blackwater, which later became Xe Services and is now known as Academi. As the conflict in Iraq subsided and the Iraqi security forces became more effective, there was less need for contracted bodyguards. Excesses by Blackwater operatives led U.S. government agencies to sever ties with the company. Following a brief stint in Abu Dhabi, Prince returned to the United States to write his memoirs.

Blackwater is the latest chapter in America’s security story. Throughout most of history, militaries existed to protect a particular regime or dynasty. Then the 17th century gave rise to the idea of national security. Mass armed forces composed of a professional corps and citizens temporarily in arms protected their nation and promoted its collective interests. The U.S. military was the embodiment of this, mobilizing soldiers when threatened and then demobilizing afterward, keeping only a small peacetime force to provide a foundation for future expansion and mobilization. The archetypical American warrior was a citizen soldier—often a draftee—who grudgingly tolerated military life and culture when necessary but abandoned it as soon as possible. Hawkeye Pierce from TV’s “M.A.S.H.” rather than Gen. George Patton was the model U.S. soldier.

Over time, however, three changes have undercut the traditional concept of national security. One has been the replacement of national economies and companies with a globalized economy and transnational corporations. A transnational corporation, particularly one doing business in dangerous parts of the world where local security forces are weak, is seldom confident that an advanced national military will protect its facilities, people and access. As a result, corporations continue to build or contract for their own security. As economies become increasingly transnational, the idea of national security will be less relevant.

Second is the evolution of societies away from the values and practices associated with the military. This is happening in all advanced nations, including the United States. As defense consultant and military historian Robert Goldich has written, the American public has “begun to question the practical necessity and moral legitimacy of institutionalized violence.” The U.S. military, he believes, “has become a refuge for those who question the basic orientation of civilian society and do not wish to live within many of its central boundaries.” The result is a growing cultural gap between the military and the public.

Third is the shift in threat from periodic wars with other nations to a constant, often morally ambiguous struggle with nonstate entities like al-Qaida and a sordid mix of other militias, insurgencies and criminal gangs. This type of conflict does not lend itself to the emergency mobilization of citizen soldiers, but rather demands hard, disciplined professionals willing to spend extended time in very unpleasant places.

Taken together, these factors suggest that subcontracting security to private entities will continue and expand. Blackwater was a portent of the coming shape of security. Commercial security firms will be willing to do things that nations may not want to compel their citizens to do. Not only will the United States rely on them, but so too will powerful transnational corporations, nongovernmental organizations and other nations.

What, then, might this mean? For better or worse, it will be easier for the United States to use force largely because the public and its elected leaders do not have the same attachment to professional security contractors that they do to citizen soldiers. With the shift to an all-volunteer military in the 1970s, Americans began to believe that since members of the professional military had joined willingly, more could be expected of them in terms of adherence to the highest ethical standards. Volunteer soldiers could be asked to do things that draftees couldn’t, like repeated deployments over an extended period of time. This gap between the public and its protectors will grow even wider as private corporations take on an even larger role in security.

The commercialization of security may also challenge the qualitative superiority that the U.S. military has experienced since World War II. Today, most private security firms retain some national affiliation or leaning. Blackwater, for instance, would not have signed a contract with America’s rivals. Yet Prince now works for a Chinese company. In Mexico, former members of the military went to work for drug cartels. This too was an omen. As the commercialization of security continues and expands, there will be state of the art security companies without a national affiliation, willing to work for whoever pays the most, be it a nation, a corporation or some other entity. Potentially there may come a day when the U.S. military faces commercial security firms just as well-trained and well-equipped as its own units.

While no one knows exactly how the commercialization of security will evolve, it is likely to represent one of the most profound changes in the global security environment since the emergence of the concept of national security and national militaries several centuries ago. It will challenge the way Americans think about military force and require a radical revision of U.S. security strategy to deal with a dangerous and confusing new world.

Steven Metz is a defense analyst and the author of "Iraq and the Evolution of American Strategy." His weekly WPR column, Strategic Horizons, appears every Wednesday