Hessians: This Year’s Model

Reading an editorial for tomorrow about Blackwater, I wonder that we haven’t heard an appropriate lyrical allusion from bill on the subject. Well, I guess I’ll just have to do it myself:

 Don’t you know I got the bully boys out/
changing someone’s facial design…

Come to think of it, why not just use the whole song?

Hand In Hand
No, don’t ask me to apologise.
I won’t ask you to forgive me.
If I’m gonna go down,
you’re gonna come with me

You say ‘Why don’t you be a man about it,
like they do in the grown-up movies?’
But when it comes to the other way around,
you say you just wanna use me. Oh,
you sit and you wonder whether
it’s gonna be syndicated.
You sit with your knees together.
All the time your breath is baited.

Hand in Hand.
No, don’t ask me to apologise.
I won’t ask you to forgive me.
If I’m gonna go down,
you’re gonna come with me

Don’t you know I got the bully boys out
changing someone’s facial design,
sitting with my toy room lout,
polishing my precious china
Don’t you know I’m an animal?
But don’t you know I can’t stand up steady?
But you can’t show me any kind of hell
that I don’t know already.

Hand in Hand.
No, don’t ask me to apologise.
I won’t ask you to forgive me.
If I’m gonna go down,
you’re gonna come with me
Hand in hand, hand in hand, hand in hand…

Now, for serious commentary on the subject, you’ll have to read tomorrow’s editorial page. In the meantime, I’ll say the performance of these rent-a-commandos are about as perfect an example of the problem with privatizing the natural functions of government as you’re ever likely to find.

Having shrunk the segment of government with this responsibility (the military), although thankfully not quite enough to drown it in a bathtub, we have generated a private-sector demand that is sufficiently lucrative so as to make it unbelievably tempting to some of our best warriors to go private. That weakens the U.S. military at a time we can ill afford it, and turns these exemplary soldiers into "weapons-free" mercenaries who are unconstrained by the military’s rules of engagement.

So we find ourselves, at a time when we’re painstakingly working to win hearts and minds to the counterinsurgency cause (the Petraeus strategy), with these hyperagressive private Rambos running around giving our country (and our allies’ countries, for that matter) an increasing worse name with the local indigenous population.

Privatization might work in some areas (although far, far fewer that the libertarians fantasize), but there’s one area where we must have political accountability: War-making.

8 thoughts on “Hessians: This Year’s Model

  1. Doug Ross

    It wasn’t Libertarians (big L or small) who created the environment where private thugs prosper. It’s the government comprised of Democrats and Republicans (like the ones you consistently endorse) who did it. You can’t blame libertarians for something they didn’t do. There’s no basis to even make the leap of logic it requires.
    Libertarians value national security. Politicians value lining their own pockets and the pockets of people who contribute to their campaigns. The defense contracting business is all the matters, not the grunts on the ground.
    Why don’t you ask Senator Graham or McCain to introduce a bill to abolish private security spending for Iraq and use the money instead to compensate the troops who AREN’T in it for the money? As two military guys, shouldn’t that be a no brainer, right? Bet you won’t even get a response on that…

  2. Brad Warthen

    As an anti-government type once said, “There you go again.” You’re taking the private-sector approach — if you might lose an employee, increase his pay.
    That said, I agree that since the market has set a value for special-forces types, the government ought to compensate them at something closer to that price.
    But I would prefer to see more troops than simply paying more to the too-few that we have. However they’re paid, there simply aren’t enough of them.
    Note that I didn’t blame libertarianism for the drawdown of the military. I simply said it’s an excellent example of when privatization does not, and cannot, work, and invited libertarians to take note. I didn’t say “they” did it; I said “we” did it.)
    What got us here? The “peace dividend.” National security cost-cutting paired with a deadly combination of tax cuts and increased entitlement spending. The “total force” concept, which turned too many essential tasks over to the Guard and reserves. And, yes, privatization of the kinds of jobs that used to be done by servicemen — cooking (K.P.), cleaning (policing the area), and even force protection. Just last night, my Dad and I were talking about the days when soldiers and marines stood guard at base gates — we can’t seem to spare them for that these days.
    But I think it was elimination of the draft (a cherished libertarian ideal, no?) that pushed a lot of that “non-essential” stuff into the private sector: Not enough Sad Sacks around; everybody’s needed as real soldiers these days. That’s about as far as I’d go in blaming libertarianism on this — and I’m being facetious even in going that far (it was Vietnam, more than notions of individual liberty, that did in the draft). I think it was mostly a whole lot of other factors.

  3. Brad Warthen

    … and I should add, for those who might be new to the discussion: I always mean “small-l” when I say “libertarian.”
    The “big-L” ones are so few as to have no effect on our public life, for practical purposes. The overwhelming majority of libertarians are Democrats, Republicans or independents.

  4. bill

    There was a checkpoint charlie
    He didn’t crack a smile
    But it’s no laughing party
    When you’ve been on the murder mile
    Only takes one itchy trigger

  5. bud

    Brad, I’m surprised you have the hutzpah to bring up Blackwater. This is yet another example of how this stupid misadventure has failed to make us more secure. The problem is not HOW we’re conducting the occupation. No, the problem is simply that we ARE conducting the occupation. After all, Abu Ghraib was run by the military. So by what strange logic do you suggest more uniformed soldiers would result in fewer atrocities?

  6. Doug Ross

    libertarianism <> privatization
    libertarianism = doing the things a government is supposed to do and nothing else
    A Libertarian President would ensure our troops are at a sufficient level and funded by taxpayers, not by deficit spending.
    The draft was killed off for two reasons:
    1. The American people did not believe in the objective of the Vietnam War and did not think it was worth expending American lives for
    2. It became more and more apparent that people of privilege were able to avoid service (ref: Cheney, Limbaugh, Rudolph Giuliani, Quayle, Bush’s service on the front lines of Arkansas, Trent Lott, Fred Thompson (had kids at the time with his first wife), Tom DeLay, Bill Frist… notice the pattern???)
    A Liberarian would support a draft if everyone was treated equally. The system of Democrats and Republicans does not allow that.

  7. Nate

    “A Liberarian would support a draft if everyone was treated equally.”
    WHAT?!?!?! I think someone need to do a basic google search on libertarianism. A libertarian (big or small L) would NOT support a draft – PERIOD!
    A libertarian is someone who does not support the use of force unless that force protects an INDIVIDUAL’S (not a grpup’s) life, liberty, or property. While there are libertarians who support the idea of a standing army (in conflict with the Constitution), they do so with the idea that the way to pay for that army is through excise taxes, one of the (very few) voluntary taxes I know of. The only other kind I can think of is a use tax, such as a highway toll or a gasoline tax.

  8. Mike Cakora

    I’ve been keeping up with Ralph Peters and Peter Singer too, but I think the notion that Blackwater and other private military companies (PMCs) are enticing folks out of the military is overrated. I offer only my recent experiences dealing personally with military and PMC personnel.
    First, while the pay is good, so is the pay / bonus arrangement for special forces.
    Next, most of the shooters I know are retired or were doing something completely different when they decided to take the all-expenses-paid tour to Iraq. In fact, a friend is returning to Columbia 11/19 and I’d be happy to introduce you to him. He left SOF in the 1980s, had his own business here in town, and decided to do something different for a while in Iraq. He’s now the judge and sheriff for a town of 5,000 oil workers in central Asia, but he gets to come home every six weeks.
    What Blackwater and Triple Canopy provide is more akin to Secret Service personal protection than anything that any US military unit does. For example, convoy protection is a military police function and is accomplished by having MPs in the vanguard and at the rear of a convoy of supply vehicles. It’s dangerous work and how Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester won her Silver Star.
    The old-boy network makes hiring and assignments easy for these companies because the SOF community is rather small, perhaps two degrees of separation, and that goes for our British and Australian buddies too. What they look for are the best operators, folks with demonstrated knowledge, skills, cunning, and coolness to plan for and effect the safe movement of those in their charge.
    The great deal for the taxpayer is that we can pay to have these guys do a really hard job for only as long as we need them. And we can make them do things that we can’t make our military folks do, things like acting as bodyguards for high-value targets in dangerous places. While their special forces backgrounds equip them with the necessary knowledge and skills to provide that protection, they have to reorient their way of thinking and operating to do so.

    Finally, most folks overlook the military service-cycle which has a built-in winnowing factor, the old up-or-out. One can readily see its opposite in the British military where if one is a great mail clerk, one may remain a mail clerk for his or her entire career.
    In any of the US military branches, mail clerks have to advance to a supervisory position within six to ten years in service or face discharge (honorable) simply for lack of advancement potential. This inverse funnel causes folks to fight for advancement, find another specialty that they can advance in, or get out. That’s why most mail clerks are first-termers: they either advance or move out, another reason for the great mail service within DoD.
    Special forces folks usually move into that specialty after three or more years in combat arms. After they pass muster for service in the elite units, they still have to advance in rank and still face, until lately, discharge (actually, a bar to reenlistment) if there were fewer slots than qualified candidates. The downsizing of the military in the 1990s (a bipartisan effort – “Hey, we won the Cold War”) hit special forces hardest. That’s another reason why there are a lot of skilled guys available to serve in the PMCs.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *