Thursday, July 29, 2010

Mercenaries Are Losing Our Wars For Us

Back in 1776 the British Empire employed a group of Prussian mercenaries known as the Hessians in their war against George Washington's  rag-tag Continental Army rebels. The well-paid and well-fed  Hessians had superior training, experience and weaponry and were barracked in heated buildings with potable water, warm clothes and fresh food.

Washington's barefoot troops slept on the frozen ground of Valley Forge and lived on a diet of frostbite and desperation. They didn't stand a chance in a "fair" fight with a group as formidable as the German thugs quartered near Trenton, NJ.

So they did the reasonable thing. They attacked the sleeping Hessians in the wee hours of Christmas, 1776, catching the imported killers unawares as they groggily slept off the previous night's feast. The Hessians were all killed or captured and the Americans didn't lose a single life.

Imagine if a group of Iraqi or Afghan insurgents attacked sleeping American soldiers on the Christmas holiday. That wouldn't go over so well, would it?

But I digress.

Let's move ahead in history to World War One. American soldiers played a decisive role in winning that war- Government Issue soldiers, not mercenaries. Not so professional, but they got the job done.

Next we have WWII, which America won on two fronts- Europe and the Pacific. Government Issue soldiers fought that war. G.I.s cooked for other G.I.s. G.I.s drove convoys of G.I. supplies to other G.I.s. G.I.s built latrines for G.I.s and so on...and America won that war in less than four years.  No "contractors" from Blackwater  or Halliburton  helped America win WWII.

The American soldiers  who fought in the World Wars weren't getting rich. They had no incentive to stay overseas any longer than needed to finish the fight. Most wanted to return to their civilian jobs.

Today we have two wars that employ a vast number of private mercenaries (euphemistically called contractors) to do the work that American soldiers used to do for themselves, including cooking, transportation, construction - even combat roles. The contracted Blackwater mercenaries make tenfold what a typical American soldier earns and generally have better equipment and working conditions than our real soldiers enjoy. Or don't enjoy.

Nine years of contractor-enhanced fighting later, we still haven't managed to win two pissant useless little wars. Two bloody, lethal and hugely expensive wars; wars that use contractors that hire sub-contractors who hire sub-subs to carry out tasks such as building showers for Marines. Showers that electrocute our troops.

The corporations that supply these 'services' are getting rich from the current wars. Very very rich.

 Consider this: The best-trained and equipped mercenary invader is no  match for a barefoot rabble of sleep-deprived native  farmers. Sure, in a head-to-head firefight, the farmers will be cut to ribbons- but the farmers won't take that option. They'll adopt George Washington's insurgent tactics and they will lose many  battles in the doing, but they will win the war.

Because a farmer- or a shopkeeper or a barber- doesn't go to war unless he absolutely has to. His home, his family and his freedom are on the line and he will do whatever it takes to protect those things, including dying. A mercenary, on the other hand, has nothing to keep them in the battle except a paycheck. It's enough to make them want to kill, but not enough to make them willing to die.

If a G.I. wins a war, he gets to go home. That is his incentive for peace.

If a mercenary wins a war, he loses his job.What's his incentive for peace? More importantly, what incentive for peace do his corporate bosses have?

So much for the exit strategy.


billy pilgrim said...

good point on the mercenaries being out of a job if they win the war. i don't think they'd be out of war very long though. i'm sure the military industrial complex has several new wars in the pipeline.

secret agent woman said...

Very true - it's to the mercenaries' advantage to continue the conflict.

Just to let you know, I've had to change my blog's URL. This avatar links to the new site.

matt said...

Actually, you forgot to mention George Washington's mercenary navy called privateers. Arguably, we would never have defeated the British on the high seas if it wasn't for the havoc that these commerce raiders or legalized pirates brought upon British vessels.

The wealth that came from this endeavor, also helped to invigorate the war time economy of the colonies back in the day. Millions of dollars were made off of this stuff. Not to mention the shipping industry grew from this vibrant war industry.

These privateers also attacked British Navy ships. With those acts, they were able to capture guns and munition, and those materials are what the Continental Army used in their fight. Privateering was pretty important back then to the war effort and the overall strategy.

Matter of fact, if you look in the US constitution today, under Article 1, Section 8, Paragraph 11, you will find the legal mechanism that our young country used to to do business with this 'mercenary navy' called privateers. It is called the Letter of Marque and Reprisal, and it is proof of this relationship the government had with private industry during our early wars.

Allan said...

I don't think a privateer navy would do very well in Afghanistan.

angel said...

Thats fascinating! I never thought of it that way!