Are private military entrepreneurs important

Modern warfare

Andrea Schneiker

To person

is junior professor for political science with a focus on international relations at the Faculty of Social Sciences at the University of Siegen and member of the research network "Private Security Research". [email protected]

Elke Krahmann

To person

is Professor of International Political Studies at the Faculty of Economics at the University of Witten / Herdecke. [email protected]

Private military and security companies play an important role in modern warfare. Private security actors are not a new phenomenon, but can be found in ancient times. In Greece, for example, there were mercenary units and "condottieri" leading them before the beginning of our era. [1] However, since the end of the Cold War, the number of such firms and the scope of the activities they carry out have increased significantly. In 2010, over 260,000 employees from private military and security companies worked for US government agencies in Afghanistan and Iraq alone, where they operated side by side with the state military in many functions. [2] They helped, for example, with the guarding of bases, with personal protection, with the military training of the new Afghan and Iraqi armed forces, with military logistics and transport in the operational areas, the repair of weapon systems, the construction of camps and the supply of troops.

Proponents of the use of private military and security companies argue that they fill the capacity gaps of the state military and increase the effectiveness of military operations. The problem, however, is that these companies are taking on more and more central military tasks, but at the same time their work in conflict areas is insufficiently controlled. This can have negative consequences for international missions and local populations.

A frequently cited negative example are operations by the US company Blackwater, which has since been renamed Academi. In September 2007, for example, Blackwater employees killed 14 unarmed Iraqi civilians in the busy Nissor Square in Baghdad when they opened fire on the crowd - they later spoke of self-defense after mistaking the driver of an approaching car for a suicide bomber. But other international private military and security companies such as the US companies DynCorp and Triple Canopy became known in Iraq for their aggressive behavior and the endangerment of civilians.

These scandals surrounding individual companies have led the media and academia to take a critical look at the phenomenon of private military and security companies in connection with modern warfare. Nevertheless, the privatization of security in armed conflicts has so far mostly taken place far away from the public eye of Western intervention states. It is they who are driving this development forward by increasingly outsourcing military and security functions.

In order to contribute to a greater awareness of the problem, we would first like to explain in this article what private military and security companies are and how they differ from classic mercenaries. Then we look at the reasons for the increased use of private military and security companies in armed conflicts and discuss the implications.

Mercenary or Business Company?

In the media, the employees of private military and security companies are often referred to as mercenaries. In terms of national laws and international conventions, however, they are not mercenaries, but employees of legal service companies. The definition of mercenaries under international law, as set out in Article 47 of the First Additional Protocol to the Geneva Conventions of 1977 and the International Mercenary Convention of 1989, is very narrow and requires, among other things, recruitment for warfare, direct participation in combat operations and an individual Profit motivation. These criteria are not met by the employees of today's private military and security companies or at least cannot be proven beyond doubt. [3] They also differ from historical forms of the mercenary as a lone fighter, such as was found in numerous conflicts on the African continent in the 1960s. In contrast to classic mercenaries, they are embedded in a company structure and do not work independently; as a result, individual profit is subordinated to entrepreneurial interests and principles of action.

Beyond the finding that employees of modern private military and security companies are not mercenaries in the sense of international law, there is no uniform definition or classification of such companies. The term "private military and security company" is defined differently in political debates as well as in national and international regulations. As a result, the scope of the industry, its contribution in the context of modern warfare and the associated effects are assessed very differently.

Often there are typologies that differentiate private military and security companies on the basis of various services. Both in science and in politics, for example, private "security companies" that protect facilities or people are contrasted with private "military companies" that fulfill military functions and guarantee training. Such a separation is problematic as many international private military and security companies offer a wide range of services. The portfolio of corresponding companies in the US Constellis Group, which also includes Academi, includes not only surveillance, personal protection, training, consulting, risk management and security technology, but also military logistics and maintenance, communication, and warehouse construction and supply. In addition, the transition between individual tasks can be fluid. For example, protecting people or convoys in a conflict area can lead to armed military clashes.

At the same time, the same companies that are used in the context of modern warfare are also active in conflict-free OECD countries. The world's largest private military and security company, the British company G4S, which has an annual turnover of ten billion US dollars and for which more than 600,000 employees work in over 110 countries, protects British diplomats in Afghanistan and operates a deportation center in Austria . [4]

Due to the mixing of military and security tasks in practice, the so-called Montreux Document, a declaration of principle adopted in 2008 on dealing with private military and security companies, which has so far been supported by 53 countries as well as NATO, the European Union and the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe has signed a comprehensive definition. Private military and security companies are defined as "private business companies that provide military and / or security services (...). Military and security services include in particular armed guarding and the protection of people and objects such as convoys, buildings and other locations, maintenance and security the operation of weapon systems, the internment of prisoners and the advice or training of local forces and security personnel ". [5]