War has become business

The U.S. military is privatizing at an alarming rate. Thousands of troops are now employed by companies such as Blackwater and while many hoped that Obama would decrease this corporate-socialism at least in part, there has been a 23 percent increase in the number of private contractors working in Iraq and 29 percent working in Afghanistan according to the Bill Moyers Journal.

Like any increase in privatization, the danger is linking corporate profits with what should be public interests. Warfare is now a game of who can make the most money, deliver the cheapest product and compete most efficiently. The results are what you would expect them to be: Contracted troops reportedly have seen a decrease in the quality of food, living standards and weaponry while serving abroad. Companies invested in America’s War on Terror now have a huge amount at stake in keeping the war going. Haliburton, KBR and Blackwater all benefit extensively from the increasing outsourcing of military expenditures and they have all made huge financial donations to campaigns supporting the war.

The exact number of soldiers working under contractors remains unclear. Official counts of how many U.S. soldiers are deployed at any time do not include contracted soldiers. Likewise, casualties inflicted by these companies are not tallied and often go unreported. This means we are drastically underestimating the amount of troops currently serving abroad.

The federal government has traditionally been respected for its monopoly on violence. Political scientists usually define the government as the sole legitimate wielder of violence. Civilians are not supposed to have the power to declare war, and murder is punishable by the state. The government, on the other hand, is expected to punish people for their crimes and declare war when necessary. The privatization of the military means that corporations and the civilians who own them are now able to share the government’s control over violence. Privatization means that the state is now responding ever-increasingly to corporate pressures and that these corporations are now responsible for the outcome of the war, the safety of our troops and the defense of our nation.

To some extent, private mercenaries have been used by governments for centuries. While the ethics have always been questionable, the current extensiveness of privatization is cause for alarm. Furthermore, corporate interests now frequently have loyalties to multiple countries. Their goal is not to protect the citizens, but to make a profit. Our current war against Iraq comes with many mandates to restructure their country to support corporate interests. It is likely that these changes would have happened even without the involvement of huge corporations in the military, but their presence has probably had at least some affects on the neo-liberalization of Iraq.

Americans should not be surprised that we are finding it increasingly harder to pull out of Iraq and now Afghanistan. We are up against some of the wealthiest and most powerful corporations around. While our interests may be the protection of our people and our ideals, their interests are to make a profit in whatever way possible. You wouldn’t trust Walmart to wage your wars, so why would you trust Blackwater?