moldybluecheesecurds 2

Saturday, April 23, 2011

America in the Hands of a Professional Military

Two of a three part series, a fascinating look at the result of professionalizing and then out-sourcing America's military activity to contractors.

Things that really bother me:
  • How a professional military makes it easier to go to war, because the sacrifice isn't shared. Not only do fewer people serve, but fewer people even have relatives in the military.  From the article:
  • "The professional military also makes it possible to sustain wars. Long wars become possible because the boots-on-the-ground can be deployed and redeployed. In the past, to fight wars like the ones in Afghanistan and Iraq, “you would have had to institute a draft in order to sustain the action that’s been going on,” Keaney says. “And that would have been a brake on any administration."
  • This next quote drives the point home even more convincingly.  As even fewer members of Congress have had military service, there's less understanding of the impact and more willingness to use the military to solve problems:
  • "When the Gates Commission signed off on its report, the 91st Congress had nearly 400 veterans, from World War II and Korea. The just completed 111th Congress had far fewer, 121. Only seven members of the 110th Congress had family serving in Iraq or Afghanistan.The fear is not that the military would attempt to usurp the government. “The real danger,” Betros says, “is that Americans reflexively move towards a military solution before they will try all the other elements of national power. For now, the country relies very, very heavily on its military, without asking if there is an alternative. When all you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail."

The second article in the series looks at the privatization of U.S. warfare, with astonishing implications for our ability to control our armed conflicts. For one, the Defense Department offers no-bid contracts to companies stuffed with military veterans, and then fails to fully account for the money spent.  The use of contractors for base support, kitchen duty, etc seems to be a minor one.  But the U.S. is increasingly using contractors in armed combat, with disastrous results.

What most rankles the colonels is that contractors have only one obligation: to fulfill their contract. They answer to no chain of command; they are not subject to the Uniform Code of Military Justice; they are not required to have U.S. military training; and they are not subject to the Law of Land Warfare or the Geneva Conventions. Contractors decide on their own rules of engagement. Those security contractors who work for “U.S. agencies” or the State Department, which will soon be taking over control of security in Iraq, are immunized from Iraqi laws, and potentially U.S. law as well. Put another way, they have license to kill.
Two of the largest battles of the Iraq war, which took place in Fallujah, a city of nearly half a million, occurred in part because four well-armed security contractors — who had been warned not to drive through the heart of the big city — proceeded into a no-go conflict zone and were murdered. They were on their way to deliver catering supplies.

The security contractors who were from the now infamous Blackwater USA (renamed Xe Services LLC), a private military company, were ambushed as they slowed at an intersection. A frenzied crowd then pulled the dead and wounded contractors from their vehicles and tore their bodies apart, set them on fire and hung their remains from a bridge over the Tigris.

The article goes on to talk about how private contracting has become the default option for overseas security, whether for the armed forces or the State department, and how it means ceding more control of those operations to third parties who are less under the control of our civilian-led government.

I worry that we've created a too-professional military, an entire workforce of people who require ongoing military conflict to sustain their careers, at the expense of more productive uses for our collective dollar. 

No comments: