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Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror Hardcover – November 18, 2013
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“Prince’s book belongs on the shelf next to the memoirs of the other Iraq and Afghanistan war chieftains…. we need Prince’s story to help us understand the history of the post- 9/11 wars and the myriad roles contractors played in these conflicts.”
—The Washington Post
About the Author
Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL, founded Blackwater in 1997. He served as its CEO until 2009 and its Chairman until 2010, when the company was sold. A native of Michigan, he now lives in Abu Dhabi, where he pursues a variety of business ventures.
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If you're looking for a different perspective of how the world of private contractors works, the challenges they face, and the type of work they do, this is a great book to read.
Erik Prince gives an honest take from his position on the company he built and that America needed while also, in my opinion, blowing the lid off of the negative press his company received all these years. I read this book after reading other military books [The Way of the knife, The Red Circle, Honor and Betrayal] and it offered me a completely different look on how far the Government is willing to go to seek (political) cover and hang folks to dry. Overall, Erik Prince does a fine job explaining and offering historical context, very personal accounts and admitting flaws, and perspective...it's really up to the reader to decide to either absorb or ignore after 'hearing' from the other side - the proverbial horse's mouth.
I would recommend reading The Way of the Knife as a companion to give a reader an idea of the other half that Erik Prince alludes to but cannot explicitly mention, namely the CIA assassination program via surrogates like Blackwater. In retrospect, the fact remains that despite how divisive contractors are in the war on terror with people, politicians, POTUS...they are still being employed and contracts renewed, even Blackwater or Academi as it is now known. That in itself speaks for itself.
Litigation is unfortunately something that the author knows too well. ‘Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater’ is the author’s effort at setting the record straight. My war in the USAF was the Cold War. The author’s is Iraq and Afghanistan. My bad guys then were The Red Brigades, Bader Meinhof, the PFLP and others. To be sure, Blackwater had a presence in more theaters of conflict. However, the principal focus for the book is the insurgent and Al Qaeda activity in the primary mid-eastern areas of the globe of which most of us are familiar from the news.
The book opens with an historical narrative of the author’s roots; his family, the strong influence of his father, faith in God, expectations for himself and the power of an idea – one that became Blackwater.
Prince is extraordinarily candid in terms of his interpersonal marital relationship(s) and what may be characterized as errors of judgment in this area of his life. However, this is balanced by the pride he feels at the building of an organization that is rooted in both patriotism and entrepreneurship.
There is a sincere effort by Prince to explain the difference between his view of Blackwater as an organization and the portrait painted by the media and some politicians. However, there is a tendency in the narrative to cast the company and author as recurrent victims. Given the polarizing nature of Washington politics there is likely some truth to this. However, in combat mistakes are made. Lives are lost. This is the nature of war. The further tragedy lies when lessons from those mistakes are not learned and subsequently repeated.
I do not feel the book offers a revisionist history. This is a good thing. Blackwater and its re-branded entities (i.e. Xe, etc.) have been a force for good; rescue and security efforts by the company in the wake of Hurricane Katrina is just one example. However, it does portray the dichotomy inherent when entrepreneurial management of an outside contractor and its culture collide with opposing forces of a political bureaucracy. It’s the belief of this reviewer that our efforts abroad are not only better for the existence of PMC (private military contractors), but would be fatally compromised without them. I want these guys covering my 'six'.
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Sometimes the U.S. Government can't get out of its own way
And this is the book that explains it !!!