Archive for the ‘Blackwater’ Category

Blackwater, like any group of armed professionals in a chaotic environment, will find that some of its operators make mistakes. Under stress, they might be too quick on the trigger, misidentify the target, or otherwise create problems for themselves and the mission in Iraq. This is inevitable and likely occurred in the recent incident in Baghdad where 17 civilians were gunned down. The fact none of their protectees have died in Iraq is admirable, but this does not necessarily show that Blackwater’s personnel are furthering the mission goals from a strategic perspective. If the goal is to secure Iraq for the Iraqis so that they rally to the government so we can then leave, all of the people that are killed or aggrieved in the course of security operations create more work for the US government and the uniformed military.

But Blackwater’s very existence, even if its men performed their work with exquisite sensitivity, is not good news. Private contractors providing services that were once the responsibility of the uniformed military–most dramatically providing security for proconsul Paul Bremer and various US Army Generals–is a sign that our military is too small and inflexible to deal with the mission in Iraq and the war on terror more broadly. The shift from the uniformed military to contractors is part of a broader shift of power away from the nation-state to transnational entities–things like the WTO and multinational corporations–and a parallel devolution of power to subnational groupings like the tribe, the family, and the private individual.

Blackwater’s ususal mission in Iraq is a prosaic one: guarding VIPs in a nation that is in the midst of a very violent insurgency. But their presence shows two very bad things. One, it shows that the environment in Iraq, even in its capital city, remains too dangerous for movement by Iraqi and American officials in all but the most well-armed caravans, replete with armored cars, automatic weapons, and platoon-size teams of guards. Second, it shows that this capability is not available to the government in house. (more…)

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