Posted by G.A. Matiasz on October 6, 2007
Here’s a reprint, in full, from the New York Times. You might be asked to subscribe if you click on the link. The accompanying graphic is excellent.
Foreign Policy, Privatized
By ALLISON STANGER and OMNIVORE
Published: October 5, 2007
WHILE most Americans are aware of the controversy over the role of the private security company Blackwater in Iraq, probably few understand that armed contractors in Iraq are just the tip of an iceberg. Across the globe, in everything from diplomacy to development to intelligence, contractors are a major American presence, and only a small fraction of them carry weapons. American foreign policy, to a great extent, has been privatized.
The charts below, based on figures from the Federal Procurement Data System, tell the story. In 2005, federally financed contractors were working in every United Nations-recognized country except Bhutan, Nauru and San Marino.
It has become conventional wisdom to blame the Bush administration for the “hollowing out” of government, but this misses the mark. While contract spending has more than doubled since 2001, serious federal efforts to outsource began under President Bill Clinton.
Nor is contracting necessarily bad: United States money creates jobs for the local population, and humanitarian organizations like Save the Children, CARE and Catholic Relief Services have relied heavily on dollars from Washington. Outsourcing can play to America’s strengths, exploiting our capacity for innovation, flexibility and efficiency.
Yes, as we have seen in Iraq, hiring contractors can lead to severe problems with accountability and fraud. And while steps like making contractors liable for civil penalties may manage some symptoms, they will not cure the disease. We need to devise far better ways of overseeing contractors worldwide.
Some are tempted to turn back the clock and reassert traditional government authority, denouncing private-sector greed and the “coalition of the billing.” But that would be a terrible mistake, for outsourcing is in part a rational response to the new possibilities of the information age. The challenge will be to manage creative forms of collaboration between government and the private sector in ways that serve the public interest.
Allison Stanger, a professor of political science at Middlebury College, is writing a book on the privatization of American power. Omnivore is a graphic design firm in New York City.
Posted in Allison Stanger, Blackwater, government contractors, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, New York Times, news, Omnivore, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization, The privatization of foreign policy, US military | 3 Comments »
Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 22, 2007
In one of the more amazing stories to date, Blackwater is being investigated by Federal prosecutors for illegally smuggling weapons into Iraq that may have been sold on the black market and then wound up in the hands of terrorists. So, there’s a distinct possibility that, when Blackwater contractors are under attack in Iraq, they’re being fired upon with their own weapons. You can’t make this stuff up!
Posted in Baghdad, Blackwater, Blackwater aids terrorists, Blackwater back at work, Iraq, Iraq War, Islamic extremists, Islamic militants, Islamic terrorism, military contractors, military privatization, news, politics, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, privatization of war, PSFs, security privatization, terrorists, US military, weapons smuggling | Leave a Comment »
Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 21, 2007
This should come as no surprise, but Blackwater is back at work in Iraq. The US government is allowing Blackwater operations “limited to essential missions only outside Baghdad’s heavily-fortified Green Zone.” This is being done in consultation with the Iraqi government, according to the BBC. Wonder who and how much the US had to bribe to get this deal?
Posted in Baghdad, Blackwater, Blackwater back at work, Blackwater banned, Business as usual, Green Zone, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization | Leave a Comment »
Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 19, 2007
Movements of key CIA station personnel in Baghdad—along with most State department diplomats and teams building police stations and schools—have been frozen for the second day in a row, according to a State department source who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
Essentially, the CIA, State department and government contractors are stuck inside the International Zone, also known as “the Green Zone,” in Central Baghdad. Even travel inside that walled enclave is somewhat restricted.
So reads an article by Richard Miniter on Pajamasmedia.com. Apparently, the CIA, State Department, and government contractors all rely on Blackwater for security.
“By jamming up Blackwater, they [the Iraqi government] shut down the movements of the embassy and the [CIA] station,” a State department source told Pajamas Media. He is not cleared to talk to the press.
Posted in Blackwater, Blackwater banned, Central Intelligence Agency, CIA, government contractors, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, Pajamas Media, Pajamasmedia, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, PSFs, security privatization, State Department, US military | Leave a Comment »
Posted by G.A. Matiasz on September 18, 2007
The Iraqi government has suspended Blackwater’s license to operate, and demanded that the company leave the country, as a result of a firefight in which several civilians and a police officer were killed (story here). Blackwater contractors (read mercenaries) were protecting a convoy of US State Department officials when they supposedly came under attack and, according to the Iraqis, started firing indiscrimately at surrounding civilians. The Iraqi government has said it is considering prosecuting Blackwater employees for the deaths, and that it will review the status of all Private Security Firms in the country as a result of the incident. Here’s a profile of Blackwater from the BBC.
Posted in Blackwater, Blackwater banned, Iraq, Iraq War, military contractors, military privatization, politics, private contractors, private security contractors, Private Security Firms, privatization of war, PSFs, security privatization, US military | 2 Comments »
Posted by G.A. Matiasz on July 18, 2007
Here’s a collection of recent articles and stories, all on private contractors becoming more prominent in Iraq as that war is progressively privatized.
First off is an On The Media radio story, “Have Gun Will Travel,” that comes with four related newspaper articles.
Then there is this quite extensive Christian Science Monitor story, “Silent surge in contractor ‘armies'” by Brad Knickerbocker, about private contractors in Iraq, and how their role will likely grow more prominent as the US draws down its troops.
Finally, The Monthly Review offers a very long Marxist analysis by James M. Cypher of the privatization of the US military that sees it as part of the shift from Keynesianism to Global Neoliberalism in the US economy.
Posted in Blackwater, Brad Knickerbocker, Christian Science Monitor, From Military Keynesianism to Global Neoliberal Militar, Have Gun Will Travel, Iraq, Iraq War, James M. Cypher, Keynesianism, military contractors, military privatization, neoliberalism, NPR, On The Media, private contractors, private security contractors, privatization of war, Silent surge in contractor armies, The Monthly Review, US military | Leave a Comment »
Posted by G.A. Matiasz on June 12, 2007
What? No front page story on Paris Hilton’s latest travail?
Well, it is the Guardian Weekly after all. I just wanted to highlight a few items in this week’s edition (June 8-14 2007, Vol. 176 No 25).
— Jean-Jacques Bozonnet has a fascinating story on the Italian state. (“Torrent of criticism has Italian politicians fearing implosion”) Apparently, the Italian political apparatus is ten times the size of its neighboring European countries. A local business leader is quoted as saying: “The cost of political representation is equal to that of France, Germany, the UK and Spain together. The party system alone costs taxpayers 200m euro a year, compared with 73m euro in France.”
— A day in the life of an anonymous private security contractor in Iraq entitled “It’s the wild west: we’re a taxi service with guns.”
— A reprint from the Washington Post by Steven Pearlstein entitled “US middle class doing just fine.” I think I’ll run down a copy of the study in question as it flies in the face of most things I’ve experienced about the American economy.
— “Danger: upheaval down under,” an opinion piece by Will Hutton of the Observer, details striking parallels between the political climate in Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, with an emphasis on the state of the social-democratic Left. Here’s two salient quotes: “One answer is being provide by a nascent Australian progressive think-tank, Per Capita. The left has to invest in people, design markets so that companies deliver public-interest outcomes, extend the polluter-pays principle to every form of economic activity where private companies do not pay for the damage they generate and start to develop a story about promoting individual wellbeing. It is a fine wish-list, and the ambition can hardly be faulted. The question remains: how?” And there’s Hutton’s concluding paragraph: “It is not that the right has a better or even good answer to the questions of our times. It is that the modern left, unless it is prepared to say something concrete about how it wants the economy to look in the future and takes steps to shape it, has little to say either. And if it’s the incumbent government, the consequences is staring it in the face.”
— A whole secti0n on the “G8 and the world.” It asks the rhetorical question: “Developed nations’ leaders have promised to give poorer states a better deal. Are they delivering?” The answer is, no.
— A cyberpunk flavored story about how RFID tags are being used to help make sense out of the baffling confusion that is Tokyo. (“Tagging Tokyo’s streets” by Michael Fitzpatrick) “The city with no street names.”
— A well-deserved savaging of Don DeLillo’s latest novel which I think applies to most of the man’s pretentious oeuvre. (“An inevitable DeLillo, an unoriginal DeLillo” by Jonathan Yardley of the Washington Post)
It’s still probably on the newsstands, in case you’re interested.
Posted in Australia, Britain, Don DeLillo, G8, Guardian Weekly, Iraq, Italian politics, Italy, life, New Zealand, news, Paris Hilton, private security contractors, RFID, the Left, The Observer, Tokyo, Washington Post | Leave a Comment »