Marine soldier as a soldier for hire



    Since the end of the so-called Cold War, the traditional East-West military alliances have lost their common purpose resulting in a revolution in military affairs that is redefining military doctrine, structure and armaments. Change is the only constant in this increasingly fluid environment that is producing a number of alarming new trends--one of which is the privatization of military expertise.

    After the Cold War the U.S. began to reduce the size of its armed forces. A large number of military personnel-- from enlisted men to top brass--found themselves back in civilian life. Concurrently, small regional conflicts began to multiply at a rapid pace. With the end of superpower rivalries and little U.S. domestic support for involvement in these conflicts, a new market was created for private military consulting. Former generals, admirals and special forces personnel banded together to form private consulting firms, offering their expertise to foreign governments--for a price.


    The largest of these firms is Military Professional Resources, Inc. (MPRI), a Virginia based corporation that was founded in 1987 by retired Army General Vernon Lewis. MPRI earns about $12 million a year and maintains a data base with the names of 2,000 retired military personnel. Their brochure boasts that they provide "The World's Greatest Corporate Military Expertise." Some of the company's officers and their credentials are as follows:

    It would not be stretching the truth to say that MPRI houses a collection of some of the most brilliant military tacticians in the world today. This collective brainpower, along with its inherent connections with U.S. and foreign governments, is not a collection of retirees looking for something to do but, rather, represents a major change in the way the Insiders direct the outcome of conflicts around the globe.


    Military Professional Resources, Inc., as well as other firms, must first get a license from the U.S. State Department before they can be contracted by a foreign government for military consultation. Sometimes they respond at the behest of the State Department as they did in April of 1995 when fighting in the Balkans was at one of its most intense periods. MPRI dispatched a team to Croatia headed by a number of retired generals. They claim to have helped the Croatians "avoid excesses or atrocities in military operations" and "offered advice about the role of the army in a democratic society." Just a few months into their lessons on "democratic values", the Croatian military launched a series of offensives against Serbian forces. The most important was dubbed "Operation Lightning Storm", launched against the Krajina region in which Serbian villages were sacked and burned, hundreds of civilians were killed and 170,000 were left homeless. The operation was a textbook illustration of western military doctrine. "The Croatians did a good job of coordinating armor, artillery and infantry", says Roger Charles, a retired marine lieutenant colonel and military researcher. "That's not something you learn while being instructed about democratic values."

    While receiving consultation from MPRI, the bumbling Croatian military was transformed into a modern fighting force that surprised their foes and observers alike with quick choreographed movements of artillery, armor and infantry to flank the Serbs. The entire operation bore the stamp of the minds that created and implemented "Operation Desert Storm." Since American opinion had also been sufficiently choreographed by the national media against the Serbs, the Croatian offensive and MPRI involvement has provoked little or no protest. In fact, the use of private contractors to turn the course of war without endangering the lives of American soldiers may be commended for its shrewdness by some.


    Croatia has just signed another contract with Military Professional Resources, Inc. After the Dayton accord was signed, a Pentagon official urged the Bosnian government to hire MPRI to train its military forces. In early 1996 Assistant Secretary of State, Richard Holbrooke told Congress that the training of Bosnian forces by MPRI "can begin as soon as the contracts are worked out" --that's contracts, plural, because the $400 million program is being paid for largely by Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Brunei and Malaysia. The State Department has issued a license for MPRI to implement a full-scale training program for the police and military in Angola, a deal said to be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. These and other contracts are just the beginning of a new era of military outsourcing involving MPRI and other contractors providing similar services. The Defense Intelligence Agency recently hosted "The Privatization of National Security Functions in Sub-Saharan Africa", a closed door symposium for contractors such as MPRI. One attendee was quoted as saying, "There was a consensus among government officials and the companies that this sort of activity is going to greatly increase during the next few years."


    The implications of this trend are concealed under a shroud of convenience. Contracting removes operations from congressional and public scrutiny. It provides the U.S. administration with "plausible deniability" of overseas entanglements and allows the continued downsizing of the military establishment without losing its ability to influence and control large overseas operations. Government bureaucrats would not have to disclose information regarding contracted operations on the grounds that it is "proprietary information"--an excuse that is especially useful when supporting brutal regimes. The public would not be aware of the major operations ordered by the executive branch because there would be no major deployment of American troops and funding could come from client states, even if it is paid with American aid dollars. All that would be needed is a license from the State Department.

    Americans are not aware of the ongoing transformation of their military institution. While privatization is widely touted as "reform", it is the means being used to remove military expertise and technology from the domain of public accountability. America's military industrial complex was once made up of arms makers, military brass and supportive politicians in Washington. Arms makers and military tacticians are consolidating their cooperation while edging out the increasingly irrelevant elected representative. The democratic process, so long subverted and corrupted by the large money interests, is now discarded as hindrance to their plans. The executive branch, owned lock, stock and barrel by these interests, rubber-stamps their internationalist agenda. The State Department licenses and promotes corporate mercenaries while suppressing activities of other private armies such as Executive Outcomes of South Africa, a company providing the same services without the sanction of the international ruling elite.


    Historically, the military institution has played an important part in the preservation of the nation state. During war, national emergency or political upheaval, the military has been called upon to protect national interests. In America the officers corps has been filled, generally, by individuals who have demonstrated intelligence, character and dedication to American values. In the past, such an institution could be counted on to maintain those values in an emergency, to support constitutional government, to submit to civilian control and to perform its mission with a disinterested fidelity. Such an institution would present an obstacle to a dictatorship.

    Adolf Hitler recognized the threat presented by his Prussian generals in the final days of the Wiemar Republic. The generals could have blocked his plans and defended the Republic and constitution, and they almost did. Even when Hitler attempted to implicate some of them in sex scandals and expose them to public shame, they did not bend. But, eventually, they allowed themselves to be threatened, bribed and cajoled into supporting the Third Reich, and their failure to meet their defining test resulted in the destruction of their nation as well as Europe.

    America's generals have also passed the threshold of no return. Bludgeoned by scandal, fearing for their careers, enticed by lucrative positions in the new private military complex, their eyes fixed on their own futures, they have failed to meet their defining test and the Republic is lost. America has lost an institution that could have been her helper in the crisis to come. In the hands of the international elite it is now an institution that will be instrumental in her destruction.


  1. Privatizing War - How Affairs of State are Outsourced to Corporations Beyond Public Control; The Nation magazine 8-4-97.
  2. Retired Generals Sell Expertise Overseas; Associated Press 11-23-95.
  3. Private US Companies Train Armies Around the World; US News and World Report 2-8-97.
  4. Generals For Hire; Time Magazine 1-15-96.

Written 8/6/97


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