Licensed to Kill Hired Guns in the War on Terror ePUB

Licensed to Kill Hired Guns in the War on Terror I'm torn about this book On the one hand it's a fairly balanced study of the phenomenon of private military contractors with a lot of really interesting information in it On the other hand it's poorly organized often back tracking to cover ground that has already covered earlier in the book and the prose is freuently confusing and stilted The unimaginative title gives you a pretty good idea of Mr Pelton's literary skills At one point Pelton says about Erik Prince owner of the Blackwater corporationOne of Erik's friends told me Erik's real ambition he wants Blackwater to be be the fifth column of the US militaryWait what? Erik Prince is secretly plotting to overthrow the US government from within?Presumably Pelton means a fifth BRANCH of the military not a fifth column fifth column is an expression that is used to denote a traitorous element within a government something that a guy writing a book that actually deals explicitly with several coup attempts might be expected to knowLater Pelton uses the phrase the gig was up No Mr Pelton The JIG was up Pelton clearly need a much competent and actively involved editor Too bad Meh The writing is a bit stilted with pronouns used ambiguously Often reuiring re reading a page before discovering that the he in uestion is not the he you thought Apart from such flubs the book could be divided into 3 parts The first is the alternating kiss the butt of Blackwater then distance yourself to appear unbiased shtickThe second is ride along in Ira with BlackwaterThe third is discuss African mercenaries and one highly public wannabe Rambo in the mideastThe third is actually the most interesting but entails little new information that couldn't already be gleaned from a number of better sources The book's strength should have lain in the telling of life as a private security contractor in Ira and Afghanistan It didn't What ended up happening is several chapters of name dropping for credibility followed by very general stories The book was not horrible though And for those interested in finding out about the massive numbers involved in farming out a government's job to big business in terms of money and lives lost the book will open some eyes Again there's little new or groundbreaking here What it does do is collect vignettes from a range of times and places into one book While the author's focus was intended to be upon mercenaries let's be honest here in the war on terror the significant portions of the book don't deal with it Rather they are bits and pieces regarding mercenaries in the past 40 years The only thing that's clear from the book is that nothing is clear when governments hire mercenaries to do their work for them A The journalist should not insert himself into every story Who are you Scott Pelley?B Like my 4th grade teacher used to tell me cite your sources Nothing screams 'Bullshit' like an anonymous sourceC The writing sucksIn short a poorly writtenexecuteddocumented book on a fascinating IMO and current subject that many are curious about A masterful and balanced study of a complicated topic The author avoids demonizing the people who work in privatized military companies PMCs some of which do and some of which don't fit the definition of mercenaries while making clear the dangers the industry itself poses to our national security the people of the societies where they are working and international order He focuses primarily on Ira but also examines uite a few other places and situations present and past including the parallels to the European mercantile companies like the British East India Company that had their own armies and functioned in some ways as proxies for their home governments an arrangement that today might be called fascism with its blending of corporate and government power and identitiesOne of the old masters of systems theory Dr W Edwards Deming made exhaustive studies of the problems of systems gone astray He made and remade the point that although in our culture the first reflex is often to look for a guilty party a full 95% of the time not a figure he pulled out of the air but an actual statistical finding everyone involved in the situation was making a good faith effort to do the right thing but the system in which they were working was flawed in ways that caused the bad outcomes he studied The solution is to change the system not blame the people; if we just ID and crucify some culprits and leave the system intact the same things will almost certainly happen again with the next set of peopleAnother relevant point was made by M Scott Peck in his book People of the Lie a study on evil He recounted his experience while working at the Pentagon during the Vietnam war and how the process of planning and executing that war and the attendant responsibility for its results was distributed among so many people that any one of them was likely to honestly feel that heshe wasn't the one making it happen but was only doing hisher job as well as possible while the decisions and power rested elsewhere That was one type of flawed system a la DemingToday as then it might be accurate to say that there are indeed some culprits some people who are knowingly causing evil and suffering in the places where the PMCs operate; but most of those culprits are high up and far awayThis is a vital book for anyone concerned about the future of our country's international relations the furthering of government reform in the Third World and the blurring of the boundaries between government and corporate powers Robert Young Pelton writes excellent adventure books except they aren't fiction What I appreciate about this is the full view This book does not read like an issue of Soldier of Fortune It's not a left wing diatribe against the military industrial patriarchy It tells the reader how we got here and the forces and people that brought us here It spares a lot of judgment and describes why paramilitary forces are all the rage and will continue to be so We learn how protection becomes mercenary sometimes out of necessity in the heat of battle Licensed to Kill does not limit itself to just one company or just one war The sections on how Executive Outcomes and Sandline came to exist are very interesting This is an era when governments are too hobbled by their own internal checks and balances The work doesn't go away no matter how many lawyers barnacle the system up And in the vacuum voila Modern Mercenaries13 September 2013 Based on what I have seen on Goodreads maybe I should have read Corporate Warriors instead of this book because people have described that book as 'the uintessential book on the private security industry' but the reason I ended up getting this book was because the title caught my attention when I was perusing and decided to place an order In a nutshell it is an interesting book that explores the aspects of the private security industry that has arisen since the Ira War but I found that Pelton seemed to spend a lot of time simply telling stories and would only then spend a small amount of time outlining the pros and cons of this relatively new industry Not all of his stories were bad though most of the time he seemed to just waffle Now the idea of private security is nothing new because there have been firms providing security for as long as I have known but in an advanced democracy these firms at least here in Australia tend to be kept on a very short leash As a private security contractor in Australia you simply cannot be trigger happy For instance while a bouncer at a night club and they generally work on a contractual basis though the proper term for them is a crowd controller can break up fights and eject people they have to do it in a way that they cannot open themselves up for prosecution or civil penalties such as a lawsuit What changed with the Ira War was that these firms began to operate in overseas jurisdictions with limited oversight At this stage the American Army was not actually outsourcing the combat aspects of the assignment but rather they were outsourcing security for dignitaries such as the UN and the pro consul Paul Bremer However in a place that was as chaotic as Ira the normal restraint that can be shown in a Western Democracy would probably end up getting you killed The concern is that there is limited oversight over their actions and even if they do get involved in a fire fight that they start they can easily vanish with no repercussions The US army had been outsourcing operations for uite a while and an economic way that is understandable It is better to outsource the minor details of the army such as catering maintenance and even laundry services because it means you do not need to keep full time staff on the payroll You only pay what you use This is the same with security details because it frees up the troops for combat orientated roles and also theoretically keeps costs down While they still have mess halls I have seen films of the bases in Ira where there are Pizza Huts and Subways on base which I must admit does offer better variety than the simple mess hall There are problems with that though as Pelton points out For instance the idea of cost plus being the cost of providing the service plus profit may at first seem cost effective but these costs can uickly spiral out of control There is one incidence where there were at least four layers of cost plus contracts that is the initial contract which is sub contracted to another company who then sub contracts to another company and so forth This also applies to other areas such as cantering because the company that won the contract on a no bid basis then goes and sub contracts out to another Further because corporations operate purely on a profit motive and because the average soldier does not get a choice as to the provider the soldier wishes to use there is no incentive to provide a uality product If the company doing the laundry service does a rubbish job then the soldier is stuck with that I have actually heard that soldiers were not allowed to wash their own clothes but had to use the contractor who charged the American government an inordinate price for the service Many of us think of private security contractors as earning huge amounts of money and living a high lifestyle however Pelton blows that myth to smithereens The people making the money are those that sit at the top of the food chain that is the executives While the contractor may be earning 60000 a day this is not steady income and there is no guarantee that their contract will be renewed after the next stint Then there is the threat of injury andor death separation from their families and the fact that their skills are not really transferable Once they are back home the best they can get is a minimum wage security job and even then only if they are physically capable It is highly unlikely that they would be offered insurance so the only thing that their families have to rely on in case of death is a small amount given by the US government about 6500000 Naomi Klein mentioned in her book 'Disaster Capitalism' that the next bubble would the the private security bubble I thought she was talking about Homeland Security but I suspect that she was talking about this industry From what I gathered there are a lot of companies and once the war in Ira is over which I believe it technically is there is going to be little to no work for these companies I suspect that many of them have already folded that is if they were not wound up beforehand and the executives made off with a tidy profit However many of these companies aren't listed on the stock exchange Blackwater isn't so I suspect most of the operators knew that this was only going to be a short term venture By the way Eric Prince founder of Blackwater as since left the company and the company has also changed its name twice so is no longer known as Blackwater The last chapter was particularly interesting because it was about the failed coup attempt in Euitorial Guinea that involved the son of Magaret Thatcher I remembered that clearly because it involved the son of Margaret Thatcher What I thought was odd was that Pelton was writing as if this coup was something new and something that had arisen from the Ira War In reality it is not It was not so much like Executive Outcomes a South African security firm that would be hired by African dictators to put down rebel forces but rather a bunch of out of work special forces operatives that where brought together to get rid of a dictator and steal Euatorial Guinea's oil resources Further I don't actually think that it is all that ironic that they got caught in Zimbabwe It is not that Mugabe would have particularly been concerned about some coup plotters but what would have concerned him would have been the fact that the people pulling the strings behind the coup were all white Okay it all came about by accident but for a guy that sought to evict all of the white farmers from Zimbabwe I highly doubt he would have turned a blind eye where a coup against an African government was being orchestrated by white power brokers Really enjoyed the book and the details inside about the author's experience I wouldnt say he was critical but honest I do think the word mercenary was tossed around a bit too much and not used by the State Dept standards Another aspect is that any consideration into this subject would have to include the nature of Goverments and Armed forces capabilites and altruistic actions Robert Young Pelton first became aware of the phenomenon of hired guns in the War on Terror when he met a covert team of contractors on the AfghanistanPakistan border in the fall of 2003 Pelton soon embarked on a globe spanning odyssey to penetrate and understand this shadowy world ultimately delivering stunning insights into the way private soldiers are usedEnter a blood soaked world of South African mercenaries and tribal fighters backed by ruthless financiers Drop into Baghdad’s Green Zone strap on body armor and take a daily high speed ride with a doomed crew of security contractors who dodge car bombs and snipers just to get their charges to the airport Share a drink in a chic hotel bar with wealthy owners of private armies who debate the best way to stay alive in war zones Licensed to Kill spans four continents and three years taking us inside the CIA’s dirty wars; the brutal contractor murders in Fallujah and the Alamo like sieges in Najaf and Al Kut; the Deep South contractor training camps where ex–Special Operations soldiers and even small town cops learn the ropes; the contractor conventions where macho attendees swap bullet punctuated tales and discuss upcoming gigs; and the grim Central African prison where contractors turned failed mercenaries pay a steep priceThe United States has encouraged the use of the private sector in all facets of the War on Terror placing contractors outside the bounds of functional legal constraints With the shocking clarity that can come only from firsthand observation Licensed to Kill painstakingly deconstructs the most controversial events and introduces the pivotal players Most disturbingly it shows that there are indeed thousands of contractors—with hundreds being produced every month—who’ve been given a license to kill their services available to the highest bidder About the only useful information in this book was the background on how Blackwater got started and the details of the failed coup attempt in Euatorial Guinea The book was scattered no chapter logically followed any other chapter and full of anecdotes of uber masculine risks and debauchery Plus it’s a bit outdated Robert Young Pelton shines a light on the secretive and sometimes dark world of PMCs Great stuuf

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