STAFF NEWS & ANALYSIS
Private US Military Firms Spread to Switzerland: US$100 Billion Market Seen
By Staff News & Analysis - February 25, 2013

Mercenary firms: a lucrative niche market … Contractors of the US private security firm Blackwater secured the site of a roadside bomb attack near the Iranian embassy in central Baghdad in 2005 (AFP) European states are subcontracting an increasing number of tasks to private military companies to cut their armies' sizes and budgets. These mainly US firms cost them dearly, however, says military expert Alexandre Vautravers. Since the 1990s, the United States Armed Forces and particularly also the armies of Europe have been using private military firms to handle tasks they can no longer fulfill. – SwissInfo

Dominant Social Theme: A private military makes a lot of sense and is a normal and healthy trend.

Free-Market Analysis: The United States has recently engaged in so many wars that it has spawned a mercenary industry that is growing into a US$100 billion-a-year commercial enterprise.

Is this a "real" business? There is considerable doubt that many of the wars now embarked upon are necessary for the protection of the United States and its allies, but the military-industrial complex drives them ahead nonetheless. And thus, for now it seems that the commercialization of war is a lucrative business indeed. It is part of the larger militarization of Western society.

In the past decade, the US has grown tremendously more militarized. Between the immense popularity of digitalized war games, the endless stream of movies glorifying war and the numerous new wars being created in Africa and elsewhere, one could observe that war was surely a US growth industry.

And now, according to Swiss Info, the privatization of war is spreading throughout the West.

Alexandre Vautravers, head of the department of international relations at Webster University in Geneva and chief editor of Revue Militaire Suisse, talks about the rise of private, government-contracted militias in an exclusive interview. According to Vautravers, "Private military companies primarily work in niche markets, in activities which conventional armed forces cannot or do not want to carry out," he explains.

Vautravers makes the point that these are not necessarily violent activities. "During the war in Iraq, for example, the US army signed extremely lucrative contracts for laundry, hygiene and cleaning." However, such companies may also "win a lot of contracts to protect people and buildings, an area where the employment of trained and heavily equipped professional military staff is not always justified."

Vautravers says that private armies are not usually employed on front lines because services are very costly, two to four times what it would cost for conventional troops, or even more. Also, there are time constrains on private armies and contracts may have to be renegotiated depending on strategic considerations.

There is considerable sensitivity about the privatization of war and Switzerland in particular has taken action to discourage the direct involvement of mercenary troops in potentially lethal situations, he adds.

In January 2013, the cabinet asked parliament to discuss whether to outlaw Swiss-based private security firms which directly participate in armed conflicts abroad.

At the end of 2005, the Swiss government adopted a report on military and private military companies. It commissioned the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs to launch an international process to promote the respect of international humanitarian law and human rights among private military and security firms operating in war zones.

The publication, known as the Montreux Document, is the first result achieved jointly by the foreign office and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

On November 9, 2010, 58 private security companies gathered to sign the international code of conduct, which obliges them to respect human rights and international humanitarian law. By January 2013, 592 private military companies had signed this code of conduct.

The article points out that the private military market is valued at more than $100 billion per year – a staggering sum that gives us the idea that no matter what documents are signed, the increased privatization of the military is a trend that will continue.

Much of the commercial pressure is coming from the US where soldiers are not going back into the civilian community but continuing their military careers by becoming advisors to the US military industrial complex. "Many former US soldiers start their own firm or join another company. Many companies established in Africa or in the Golf States are more or less disguised US firms which are not interested in being US based."

The incessant military actions of the West have spawned an international industry of massive proportions. It is in a sense an entirely artificial industry as the wars themselves are questionable and the funding comes from taxpayer dollars and fiat-money printing.

After Thoughts

No doubt fortunes are being made in this new industry, but we can't help believing its very artificiality makes it a volatile endeavor. No matter how observers want to dress it up, this a business based on dubious rationalizations for institutionalized violence. On a deeper level, of course, it offers all sorts of disturbing insights into how Western society is evolving and the nature of what must be seen as profoundly anti-social trends.

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