Throughout its history, America has depended on its military to have the strength to defend this nation and its closest allies effectively and with honor. The military services have served that purpose well. But there has been a disturbing change going on.
Much of our military work, including critical intelligence, combat and security, is not being done by a highly trained officer corps or well-disciplined troops or even by employees of federal agencies. It’s being done by non-governmental employees who work for companies that have contracts with the federal government. Few Americans are aware of the magnitude of this change.
Americans rarely acknowledge this privatization of the military and of other parts of our national security apparatus as the creation of a mercenary army. Few are aware that private companies are actually being allowed to issue top-secret security clearances. Few understand that those hired are accountable only to their employer’s profit motives. Yet that is exactly where we find ourselves.
There is considerable difference between enlisting in the U.S. military and working for a private military company. The honor of wearing the uniform that represents American values as well as American power requires taking an oath of enlistment that holds enlistees accountable to live by it.
The oath is: “I will obey the orders of the President of the United States and the orders of the officers appointed over me, according to regulations and the Uniform Code of Military Justice. So help me God.”
Private military companies have no code of military justice, no chain of command, and very little oversight from the Pentagon or the Congress. What America has is the beginning of a mercenary army unlike anything this nation has seen before.
Consider what it means that we have gone so far as to hire private mercenaries, soldiers of fortune, to fight our battles, to kill and be killed on our behalf. Consider what it means that security at U.S. military posts in Iraq was provided largely by Ugandans, hired for less than a Walmart greeter.
Hiring mercenaries seems cheaper and leaves the nation with no long-term obligations, but doing so is unconscionable.
When we can pay others to fight and die rather than wrestling with the question of whether to become involved in foreign nations is really worth doing ourselves or sending our children, it is too easy to get involved in war, too easy to lose control of acts committed in America’s name, too easy to look away.
It’s high time for the U.S. to end the use of private mercenaries and to reconsider the wisdom of outsourcing the nation’s security.