In defense of mercenaries

Andy Reddson is a Sacramento malcontent and troublemaker who has worked in the security field for over 12 years

Recent (and not-so-recent) events in Iraq have, once again, brought the issue of the mercenary to the attention of the public. The reality is that mercenaries are part of the modern-military environment—and of the civic environment, as well.

As the peace “dividend” from the end of the Cold War, the miniscule militaries available to the nations of the world have become hard-pressed to maintain even the war-making capability demanded of them by their nations. Furthermore, some missions of the modern battlefield rightfully do not belong under military control.

Do taxpayers really want U.S. Army personnel guarding oil derricks when we know those industrial operations exist solely for the profit of the owners? Would they tolerate posting a police officer outside a liquor store to ensure order at no cost to the store owner? Of course not! It’s a ridiculous idea! So why would taxpayers be willing to tolerate using U.S. military personnel to guard private interests in Iraq?

Domestically, we even have mercenaries operating openly in the public. You probably passed several on your way to work today. The difference is that, domestically, we don’t call them “mercenaries.” We don’t even call them politically correct terms such as “private military contractor.” We call them what they are: security guards, security officers, loss-control officers. There are also any of dozens of politically incorrect derogatory terms; I know of racist terms not half as hateful as the things I’ve been called as a guard.

Don’t buy it? Consider what a mercenary is: An armed individual, company or troop beholden to private (and occasionally public) interests and vested with the defense of not the public peace or common good, but of the interests of only their employer. Some of the employer’s interests may directly conflict with the public interest. There is no client I’ve dealt with who does not occasionally (if not the majority of the time) find their business interest in conflict with the public interest, directly or indirectly.

Keep it simple: Mercenaries of all sorts, from guards to soldiers, serve the private interest. Don’t expect them to be public servants, and don’t expect public servants like police officers and the U.S. military to protect private enterprise.

In today’s world, we need both.