Tuesday, April 13, 2004

Dogs of War

The recent fighting in Iraq has again brought the world's attention to the problems and opportunities which arise from the use of mercenaries. On March 31, four security contractors working for the Coalition were killed in an ambush in Fallujah, after which their bodies were mutilated and hung up from a nearby bridge. There was an immediate public outcry against the barbarous act, followed by a prominent left-leaning commentator making disparaging remarks about the "mercenary" contractors not deserving sympathy.

This, of course, provoked an overwhelming reaction from the blogosphere, especially from those either in the military or employed as private contractors by the military. Actions speak louder than words, though-- the mercenaries were vindicated a few days later when an attack on US government headquarters in the Iraqi city of Najaf was repulsed by one American soldier and eight security consultants from Blackwater, the same company which employed the four contractors killed in Fallujah.

So what's wrong with mercenaries? They kill for money, but so do all soldiers. The founders of this country were distrustful of professional armies and preferred citizen militias. After two world wars and the cold war, the American public seems to have got past this feeling. (Indeed, there are those who argue that Americans have too much faith in our soldiers.) We do not worry about paying soldiers, except to wonder if we are paying them enough.

Evidently, though, we are, since the military is hitting its recruitment and re-enlistment goals. (Retention in the National Guard seems to be a problem, though.) Another indicator that the US military is doing something right: the large numbers of foreigners who join up.

It is especially interesting to see this influx of foreigners considering that the American public's reputed sensitivity to the deaths of our GIs. Maybe the US should just start its own foreign legion.

Back to work. More later.


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