Returning to work after time in the mountains is never fun, but I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep, so here we are. At least Mrs. Animal has returned to the increasingly loony environs of the Bay Area with me for a while, which improves the outlook of yr. obdt. no end.
Moving right along: Libertarian scribe John Stossel, oft-quoted in these virtual pages, has some thoughts on private militaries. Excerpt:
The military uses contractors to provide security, deliver mail, rescue soldiers and more. Private contractors often do jobs well, for much less than the government would spend.
“We did a helicopter resupply mission,” Prince told me. “We showed up with two helicopters and eight people — the Navy was doing it with 35 people.”
I asked, “Why would the Navy use 35 people?”
Prince answered, “The admiral that says, ‘I need 35 people to do that mission,’ didn’t pay for them. When you get a free good, you use a lot more of it.”
Prince also claims the military is slow to adjust. In Afghanistan, it’s “using equipment designed to fight the Soviet Union, (not ideal) for finding enemies living in caves or operating from a pickup truck.”
I suggested that the government eventually adjusts.
“No, they do not,” answered Prince. “In 16 years of warfare, the army never adjusted how they do deployments — never made them smaller and more nimble. You could actually do all the counter-insurgency missions over Afghanistan with propeller-driven aircraft.”
In Robert Heinlein’s romping novel Friday, the main character joins a mercenary army preparing a filibuster from St. Louis into a neighboring nation-state up the Mississippi, in a speculative future Balkanized North America. Earlier in the novel, she stays with a Canadian family with a large estate, security for which is provided by a private armed security firm named the Winnipeg Werewolves.
Why shouldn’t private security firms protect private property? Some do already, but generally they provide only unarmed security. But since private armed security does exist, why shouldn’t the Imperial government make more use of private contractors?
Our military is sadly overextended and overdeployed. Private contractors may help fill some of that gap, and give the taxpayers a bargain in the process. On the other hand, private contractors are harder to hold accountable under the Uniform Code of Military Justice if they screw up. Also, who is to say that a band of said mercenary soldiers may not indulge in the kind of filibustering expeditions that the 19th century was known for?
It’s a pretty problem.