Amazon.com: Customer Reviews: Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, Updated Edition (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs)
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on May 30, 2005
Throughout history, private interests have performed military duties and always proved a critical political factor. Celts and Germans worked in the Roman Emperor's personal Praetorian Guard, King Edward I employed professional companies of archers, and the Swiss fought all over Europe, and are still guarding the Vatican. It's only in the 19th and 20th centuries that the state has become the sole legitimate agent in the conduct of military operations. The 1990s, however, have witnessed the emergence of private organized interests at every level of military operations. The twist comes because today these private military firms (PMFs) are organized as twenty first century corporations, with business plans and long term profit objectives.

Singer's analysis begins with an account of private military interests in ancient and modern times. This gets us used to the idea that PMFs have been around before and are really nothing new. In the second section, Singer classifies PMFs in three segments, each characterized by how far its activities are from actual fighting. First and most obvious there are the military provider firms that place frontline military units (e.g. Executive Outcomes) second there are the consulting firms who train and shape a client's military (e.g. Military Professional Resources Inc.) and third there are the firms that provide logistical and support services such as food delivery (e.g. Brown and Root).

Lastly, Singer examines the implications of using PMFs, which of course being corporations are motivated by profit. Singer illustrates how seemingly simple precepts result in fiendishly complex moral problems.

Do we feel uneasy at for-profit military firms? Of course we do and so we are tempted to dismiss any question of using them. But In 1994, one of the more unsavory firms, Executive Outcomes, created a plan that for some 150 million dollars could have stopped the Rwandan genocide and saved hundreds of thousands of lives.(*) The UN Security Council balked at the costs, nothing was done until the genocide was well under way and half a million people were butchered.

Do we support relief organizations such as CARE? Do we give them money? I do. But how should we feel about the Red Cross and CARE using that money to hire PMFs as protection? Is it right for them to support PMFs? Is it right of us to expect them to go into dangerous situation with inadequate UN or local military protection?

Singer's conclusions are only tentative, and given the emphasis he's placed on how complex the moral dilemma is, this is only proper. He neither condemns nor supports the rise of PMFs, he merely states that they exist and are on the rise, he describes how they operate, and he points out the practical and moral dilemmas that arise from making use of them. He ends with a rewording of the proverb that war is too important to be left to generals: war is too important to be left to private industry. In other words, he warns us that while PMFs are here to stay we must keep them in check and on a leash.

Vincent Poirier, Tokyo

(*) See comments for more on this.

VP
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on February 17, 2006
P.W. Singer has written a very insightful and detailed look into the modernization and globalization of the private military firms. The private military firm is not a new concept but actually dates back thousands of years. These firms are better known under the more controversial name: mercenaries.

It'd be unfair to say that all private military firms are like the mercenary companies of old. Sure there are still flight-by-night firms that hire themselves out to the highest bidder, switching allegiances on a dime, and committing acts of brutality that made them so infamous during the African civil war and wars of liberation in the late 1950's and through most of the 1960's. The modern private military firm as described by Singer has more in common with corporations that deal in outsourcing specific jobs.

Corporate Warriors goes through in describing the many different types of firms. From the provider firms like Executive Outcomes (a famous early 90's firm created by former South African military operatives) which take a fron-line role in training, advising and fighting for their clients. Then there's firms like the US-based MPR who provide military assistance in the form of advisors that range from ex-generals to former veteren noncoms. The third type would be firms like Halliburton who provide non-combat services (mess hall, laundry, logistics, etc...) for the US Military and its allies.

What all these types of private military firms have in common is in the way they are run. These firms are run like Fortune 500 firms and alot of the companies in the Fortune 500 make use of these firms' services. Whether for help in negotiating with the governments of third world nations to security detail for corporate officers. These firms in the last decade or so have seen a rise in their profits as the US government and its military services have begun outsourcing noncombat duties to outside firms. It is this new practice begun by the US and mirrored by its allies that Singer points should be a concern.

Such firms are not bound by the rules of war and engagement. They also don't fall under the rules of the Geneva Convention in terms of prisoner status in the event employees of such firms become so. With the proliferation of PMF operatives and advisors in combat zones around the world it's inevitable that such employees will become front-line participants in such conflicts instead of staying out in the sidelines. One prime example of such an occurence was the ambush and killing of four Blackwater security operatives in Iraq. In fact, employees of these PMF's account for a very lrage percentage of civilian contractors killed in Iraq and Afghanistan. Another example where the line between military and civilian has blurred has been the use of civilian contractors to advise and conduct interrogations not just in Abu Ghraib, Iraq but also in Guantanamo Bay. Such a blurring of the lines has led to corruption and criminal acts.

Singer points this out in detail and sees the trend of governments using civilian contractors to supplement their military more and more in the years to come as a dangerous shift in miitary policy. Singer doesn't just point out the negative consequences of overuse of the PMF's. He also acknowledges that such firms does provide great service to their clients and have become an integral part of the global economy. Singer knows that like any industry the private military firms are here to stay, but with more governmental accountability and oversight of these firms then their negative impact on the political and strategic arena can be minimized.

I highly recommend this book as it takes a centrist approach in dealing with the subject of private military firms and the issues their sudden rise as a power industry has brought to the forefront.
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on June 22, 2003
Singer's categorizations of military assistance organizations confer clarity in a fragmented, heterogenous field of activity. When one thinks of quintessential 'government-provided' services, one thinks of education, prisons, policing, and the military. While privatization in the first three such areas has been studied extensively, Singer has provided here an essential overview and analysis of how privatization has unfolded, to a much greater extent than we may realize, in the military sphere. 5 stars- as readable as it is insightful.
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on September 11, 2003
Most folks will automatically assume this is a book about the latest generation of mercenaries. While that's certainly an aspect of this industry, there's a far more surprising side to this story: Their role in the restoration of peace, and in the reconstruction of wartorn countries.
Thus, private military firms (PMF's) are actually one of the 8 sectors of restorative development, often referred to as the global "restoration economy", which currently accounts for about $2 trillion annually. [Restorative development is defined as "socioeconomic revitalization based on restoration of the natural and built environments".]
This shouldn't be so surprising, given that most of them come from engineering or construction roots. But, why the dichotomy of good and evil? It's simple, really:
When PMF's are used to advance "new development" (such as exploiting someone else's natural resources, which often requires a "regime change"), they are often operating on "the dark side". When they are advancing "restorative development", they are usually the "good guys". The same dynamic can be found in the ordinary (non-PMF) civil engineering community.
Corporate Warriors does a wonderful job of documenting this fast-growing, highly profitable "ancient" industry, which is experiencing a rebirth as a major global force after 3 centuries of slumber.
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on August 24, 2003
Corporate Warriors is an exceptionally well written, well sourced book that will forever alter the way you view the present and future of American foriegn policy and of contemporary war on a global scale. It is a very balanced assesment of the privitization of war, which both exposes some very frightening aspects of the deal-making surrounding it's major players, yet demystifies other components and makes the case for a responsible, accountable use of these corporations. The lingering questions that one is left with at the end of its reading resonate with essential issues concerning globalized capitalism, namely its insatiable demand for the expansion and reinvention of its markets. Here, violence becomes a commodity and market economics come head to head with the social contract and moral conflicts unimagined just a few decades past.
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on November 23, 2004
This book is an intelligent, extremely well researched look at the expanding global use of Private Military Firms (PMF's) in warfare. Singer gives a complete account of their evolution and re-introduction, illustrating how the end of the Cold War has given rise to thousands of PMF's with seemingly no end in sight. The belief that nation states hold absolute military control is quickly diminished as the author demonstrates how even the strongest of nations have out-sourced many key and in some cases, highly sensitive military industries once thought exclusively the charge of the government.

The author contends that although useful and perhaps necessary in certain conflicts, PMF usage on the battlefield is on the sharp rise worldwide. As their availability increases, the number of internal conflicts in weaker nation states have also risen sharply. He sees a new pattern emerging as their easy accessibility means conflicts "are now more easily waged for economic control and resource exploitation." But it is profit not patriotism driving these firms who in many cases are linked to multinational corporate structures complete with CEO's, shareholders, and market share. The notion of engaging in warfare for ideological or patriotic allegiance is doubtful and unlikely, as the very nature of these firms require conflicts persist for their own survival to flourish.

"Corporate Warriors" examines the good, the bad, to the ugly, and case studies past interventions some of which held remarkable positive outcomes, others which hold stark warnings for future implications, and still those where disgraceful accounts of lawlessness and moral ethics were completely abandoned. He discusses the almost non-existent public monitoring mechanisms to oversee possible conflicts in foreign policy and raises the issue of circumventing congressional oversight due to either current laws or offshore corporate links. The book discusses the paradox of mixing business with war and raises valid questions on legal, moral, and international accountability as even now firms with blemished histories in the Balkans have landed lucrative contracts in Afghanistan. Other firms who in the past often operated in the shadows, are seizing the window of opportunity opened as the "war on terror" gives off a sounding bell which is heard loud and clear throughout the industry .....their new meal ticket arriving on a platter.
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on January 28, 2004
This book is an intelligent, extremely well researched look at the expanding global use of Private Military Firms (PMF's) in warfare. Singer gives a complete account of their evolution and re-introduction, illustrating how the end of the Cold War has given rise to thousands of PMF's with seemingly no end in sight. The belief that nation states hold absolute military control is quickly diminished as the author demonstrates how even the strongest of nations have out-sourced many key and in some cases, highly sensitive military industries once thought exclusively the charge of the government.
The author contends that although useful and perhaps necessary in certain conflicts, PMF usage on the battlefield is on the sharp rise worldwide. As their availability increases, the number of internal conflicts in weaker nation states have also risen sharply. He sees a new pattern emerging as their easy accessibility means conflicts "are now more easily waged for economic control and resource exploitation." But it is profit not patriotism driving these firms who in many cases are linked to multinational corporate structures complete with CEO's, shareholders, and market share. The notion of engaging in warfare for ideological or patriotic allegiance is doubtful and unlikely, as the very nature of these firms require conflicts persist for their own survival to flourish.
"Corporate Warriors" examines the good, the bad, to the ugly, and case studies past interventions some of which held remarkable positive outcomes, others which hold stark warnings for future implications, and still those where disgraceful accounts of lawlessness and moral ethics were completely abandoned. He discusses the almost non-existent public monitoring mechanisms to oversee possible conflicts in foreign policy and raises the issue of circumventing congressional oversight due to either current laws or offshore corporate links. The book discusses the paradox of mixing business with war and raises valid questions on legal, moral, and international accountability as even now firms with blemished histories in the Balkans have landed lucrative contracts in Afghanistan. Other firms who in the past often operated in the shadows, are seizing the window of opportunity opened as the "war on terror" gives off a sounding bell which is heard loud and clear throughout the industry .....their new meal ticket arriving on a platter.
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on June 11, 2003
Singer is renowned as an expert in the privatization of the military, and has appeared regularly on major news programs like CNN, CNBC, and Nightline. He documents how private companies have taken on an increasingly large role in military operations and support, both on the battlefield and in logistical and support roles, and his study raises serious questions about the conflicts of interest that may occur when military operations become enmeshed in politics and profit motives.
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on November 5, 2012
This is highly charged subject with strong arguments for and against the concept and practice of independent contractors for hire either indepedently or as sub-contractors though private military firm. The gamut of arrangements for this polarizing business is larger and more complex than are popularly thought and Singer does a good job. His descriptions, the history of private military organizations/individuals and thoughts are well-organized and cogent. The only caveat to an otherwise excellent book is that this book - while updated - is still dated. The world moves on and while some things are universal, a lot of wars and politics have passed since the 2004 publication of this book. Otherwise, a good and informative read, this book stirs the pot and re-generates the debate on private military contractors.
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Mr Singer provides an excellent study of a millenia-old dynamic: the use of mercenaries in warfare. Of course, today's mercs are referred to in much different, politically-correct terms - but that doesn't change the basic principle on which these warrior-for-hire are founded. It is important, though, to understand the changes in the days even since Executive Outcomes, and the evolution that has taken place since then. This work, along with several other written in recent years, do a functional service to the global public by helping to educate those unfamiliar with this often misunderstood profession, its corporte backers, and the entities that hire them today. In my opinion, there is definitely a role for private military companies (call them what you will) in this modern world, and there is little question that - just as they were used 2,000 years ago - the mercenary will always have a role to play in international conflicts. Having attended some training at Blackwater and met Eric Prince (following 9/11, prior to Blackwater becoming a rent-a-cop's dream vacation), and having worked in the national security field, this subject is of intense interest to me, personally. This work furthered my knowledge on the subject and I think should be read by everyone who has an interest in national and international security.
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