Of all the books published about private military and security contractors in recent years, with more coming out all the time, few really understand the phenomenon of outsourcing roles that were formerly the preserve of government.
Either they are academic theses and dissertations rewritten for public consumption, such as Peter Singer’s Corporate Warriors, a rare useful book on the subject; ill‐concealed hysterical jeremiads masquerading as dispassionate journalism, such as Jeremy Scahill’s over‐the‐top fulminations against Blackwater; or breathless “I was there taking fire in the sandbox” memoirs from conflict zones.
Not many authors have paused to consider exactly what is going on. To paraphrase what was said about the US intelligence community after the September 11, 2001, attacks, they don’t connect the dots. Finally someone has.
That someone is Allison Stanger, professor of international politics and economics at Middlebury College in the United States.
Stanger points out firstly that private contractors are working for more parts of the US government than just the Pentagon or State Department. Secondly, contrary to popular assumptions, most private contractors working in areas that used to be the exclusive preserves of government, such as foreign policy, military and intelligence sectors, homeland security, or foreign aid, are not a bunch of unscrupulous greed heads, although they are certainly in pursuit of profit.
Stanger does not only focus on the for‐profit private contractors doing military and security work. She also looks at the Department of Homeland Security, and the non‐profit players working in the development field. When foreign aid contributions by the private sector dwarf those of the US Agency for International Development, and in any case most of USAID’s work is done by contractors, one wonders what the point of it is.
The ubiquitousness of such contractors is a sign that something both revolutionary and global in scope is happening that can only become more prevalent.
As Stanger recognizes, what is going on is essentially a manifestation of globalization. She notes: