Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Blackwater & Anarchy

I am reading the most recent newspaper article on Blackwater, this one about the trial of five Blackwater employees who are charged with the illegal killing of innocent civilians on a Baghdad street corner. Blackwater, if you recall is the US security firm headquartered in our very own North Carolina. For many millions (now over a billion?) of dollars in sole source contracts, Blackwater provides “security” to diplomats and other non-military officials who attempt to do business in the anarchic state of Iraq. I guess because Iraq is anarchic, largely lawless, Blackwater feels free to dispense its force at any time and in any place it chooses. Iraqi citizens are incensed, as well they might be.
Blackwater exists in Iraq mainly because we and other states choose to pretend that “normal business” can still be conducted in Iraq, so long as adequate security can be provided. Diplomats, commercial firms eager to do business, and others try to live and work in Iraq. They hire Blackwater to secure their workers. Blackwater provides this security by arming its employees perhaps better than our military, and by giving them a certain “freedom of action” to carry out its assigned mission.
Regardless of the outcome of this particular trial, I am left with this thought—why should we need to spend money on Blackwater? The logic seems to be something like this: Iraq is a highly dangerous place, between those nasty IED’s (improvised explosive devices) and the even simpler explosive vests worn by the faithful to blow up people, places and other onlookers. The place must resemble the trenches in France during WW I. Therefore, security services like Blackwater are necessary.
I would certainly agree that some force is useful if one insists on living and working in Iraq. I am drawn to the belief, however, that Iraq is a war zone, where killing is random, and law is largely absent. Normal business carried out by non-Iraqi’s should not exist in Iraq. Diplomacy should not exist in Iraq, so diplomats should not live there, and, therefore, should not need the services of Blackwater.
Let’s be clear—Iraq is an anarchic state. There are others—Afghanistan, Somalia, and, lately, Pakistan. In such countries, not yet nation-states, we need a military presence, and probably police forces, but not diplomats. Diplomats come later, after these states achieve civilized status.
I would argue for a brand new role for the world body—yes, the United Nations. We need some way for the UN to declare certain states to be anarchic, and then to move armed forces into those states to secure the states so as to protect its citizens. The people in Somalia, Afghanistan, et al, should not have to wonder when an armed gang will swoop into their village to cut off the heads or hands of various citizens.
If we can afford to pay Blackwater, it occurs to me we can afford to pay for more US/NATO/UN armed troops-actual soldiers. We pay Blackwater forces several times what we pay US troops. Why not hire more actual soldiers? They are at least accountable to the various military chains of command for their actions. Blackwater needs to leave places like Iraq. Maybe Exxon could then hire Blackwater to escort its tankers throughout the pirate-infested waters off the coast of Africa.
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