The role of private military corporations in modern warfare has been a controversial one, and none has been in the news more than Blackwater. The organization has provided battlefield services to the United States for years, most notably in the War on Terror in Iraq and Afghanistan. Erik Prince, the founder and Former CEO, has written a new book on the organization: Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror. He joined Glenn on radio to discuss the role of PMCs in modern warfare, as well as his unique inside into the state of affairs in the Middle East.
"Let's start with the overall concept of private armies. Why should we feel comfortable with private armies and contractors now working for the State Department?" Glenn asked Prince.
"Blackwater was not a private army anyway, we were a service contractor that provided services to the U.S. Government that ranged from training to aviation support, resupply, logistics, construction and security. At no time did we ever have a standing army of people waiting around to do something. There were contractors that were contracted to the State Department, operating to the detail of a 1,000-page contract of a competitive bid, and their job was to provide a body guard services or in other cases we might be doing training training the Afghan border police or building a narcotics interdiction unit. So there's a lot of misconception," Prince explained.
In fact, a whole chapter of his book on Blackwater is dedicated to the history of battlefield contractors.
"The first colonists were actually private companies, listed on the London Stock Exchange, like the Jamestown and Massachusetts Bay colonies, and they hired former soldiers to protect the colony and assist with their logistics. I go through much of American history, even nine out of ten ships taken during the American revolution were taken by privateers, private ship, private crew issued a hunting license."
Ultimately, Prince argues that the issue of PMCs comes down to the private sector vs. the public sector. The private sector offers a less expensive, more effective, and more efficient option compared to the government - much like they do in other areas.
"When you send something overnight, you used to only be able to sent it via the postal service. Now you have FedEx, UPS, DHL, and other private vendors that could do something that used to be a government monopoly, they can do it better, cheaper, faster, and more reliably."
"I think the left doesn't like the military as it is, let alone, if a private organization does it. I mean, the hard left generally does not like capitalism or the free market."
"My only point about contractor supporting national security, because contractors have information at their hands about what something actually costs, we can make better, more rational economic decisions. And let me give you an example. We were hired on a competitive bid to provide helicopters to embark aboard a military sea lift command ship. We showed up with two helicopters and eight guys, replacing the Navy who was doing it with two helicopters and 35 guys. For every 35 guys they had deployed, they had another 70 or more back in the states. So apples to apples, pretty clear to see who does that job cheaper."
The conversation then turned to the Middle East and the conflict between ISIS and Syria. Prince believes that the United States was running missiles into Syria - a theory Glenn discussed shortly after the Benghazi attack.
"Now we have ISIS," Glenn said. "We are dropping missile systems and weapons, and ISIS is getting them. We are arming the wrong people. I think we are going to try to help take down Assad, which is only going to destabilize things more. What should we be doing?" Glenn asked.
"If the Assad regime were to fall right now then ISIS one running Syria as well. We can do the whole post-analysis of what was done wrong that led to ISIS being in charge, but now, the people we should be supporting vigorously are the Kurds. They have yet to receive any serious weapon systems despite all the promises and assurances from the U.S. Government. So these poor guys are still going head-to-head with ISIS, who captured five heavy divisions of American equipment, new, state-of-the-art stuff, and another three major logistics bases worth of ammunition. Think stingers, hell fire missiles, that they captured from a resupply convoy coming to Baghdad from Kuwait. So they are well-equipped to fight for years to come."
"The Kurds, on the other hand, are fighting with old Saddam-era stuff completely outgunned and outmatched. They fight bravely, but it is hard to take on a fully armored vehicle with just an AK. That's not a fight you want to be in. Giving them serious horsepower weaponry is the first thing. Second, you have to be able to push back the Iranian influence in Baghdad. The Iranian army, the Revolutionary Guard Corps is effectively running much of the Iraqi army, particularly all the Shia militias that have come in to supplement the Iraqi army, so at some point, some force is going to have to crush ISIS and prevent them from spreading, because they will spread. They are now trying to get going in Egypt. You have radical Islamists in Libya that have professed allegiance to ISIS as well, to the caliphate. So now you have Egypt with some crazies on their western boundary. They have problems in the Sinai, and this cancer will spread."
"You are going to have to deal with some of the primary tumors to suppress them, or they are going to continue to metastasize."
You can get Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror in stores now.