by David Phinney
Sunday April 22nd 2018

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Thoughts on War Contractors

The Christian Science Monitor surveys thinkers and pundits about the battlefields filled with contractors — now estimated to be as high as 180,000 in Iraq:

Everything from who controls their activities to who cares for them when wounded remains unresolved, say experts in and out of the military. This has led to protests from families in the United States as well as concerns in military ranks about how contractors fit into the chain of command.

Peter Singer, foreign policy specialist at the Brookings Institution in Washington: “This is a very murky legal space, and simply put we haven’t dealt with the fundamental issues…. What is their specific role, what is their specific status, and what is the system of accountability? We’ve sort of dodged these questions.”

Loren Thompson, Lexington Institute in Arlington, Va.:
“Every war is unique, but the heavy use of private contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan is likely to persist in future conflicts…. Relying on market sources is intrinsically more flexible than using government workers, and nobody seriously believes that the market will fail to respond to multibillion dollar opportunities even when danger is involved.”
Dina Rasor, coauthor of the excellent new book, “Betraying Our Troops: The Destructive Results of Privatizing War”: The “military-industrial complex” that former President Eisenhower warned of has been overshadowed by the “war-service industry,” she says. The complex relied on the cold war to keep its budgets high, knowing that the weapons it produced probably would never be used. The war-service industry, by contrast, “doesn’t build weapons but has to have a hot war or an occupation going on in order to keep its budgets high.” Constituencies will be built within the military and in Congress to promote this growing industry, she predicts.
Lawrence Korb, former assistant secretary of Defense: Predicts that the number of contractors providing military logistics support will shrink, in part because the US effort in Iraq will wind down at some point and in part because the US plans to increase the armed forces by 92,000 soldiers and marines over the next five years. Looking ahead to the need for peacekeeping and stabilization in future conflicts, Dr. Korb says, “I can’t imagine doing it again without thinking it through.”
Jana Crowder, Knoxville, Tenn., a “stay-at-home mom with four kids” who runs a website for moral support during the seven months her husband was an engineering contractor in Iraq: “I had no idea what I was getting into,” she says. “I found a whole different war zone out there — contractors coming home physically and mentally damaged. I didn’t even know what PTSD was, but I had guys calling me up saying they had nightmares, that they couldn’t sleep, that they were hallucinating and crying…. PTSD doesn’t know whether you’re wearing a uniform or not.”
(Speaking of PTSD among contractors, Anthony Feinstein suggests in Iraqslogger that an online evaluation developed for war journalists may be suitable for contractors as well.)
Here’s The Christian Science Monitor’s Silent Surge in Contractor ‘Armies.

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