Zakheim: The Anti-Merc

Mercenaries, beware: Dov Zakheim (remember him?) doesn’t like you.

Zakheim is a bona fide fat cat of the defense industry, a privileged member of the ultimate Old Boys Club. He used to sign checks for the DOD; now he collects them as a vice president for a big defense consulting firm.

(Ah, the cycle of life.)

This means a lot of things about Zakheim, but mainly it means that The DEW Line listens when Mr. Zakheim decides to make a point.

And he has decided to make a point about private military contractors, which in a former age were simply called either mercenaries or camp followers.

In a published review of three recent books on the topic, Zakheim makes it clear that he thinks the Blackwaters and DynCorps of the world are doing more harm than good. Put another way, he’s saying DOD and other national security agencies are wasting their money. We recommend you read the full article (warning: registration required, but it’s free). Here’s an excerpt with his conclusions:

No matter how capable military contractors might be when deployed in combat-related areas, they will not achieve the aims of the governments that hired them. To be sure, they will remain an important supplement to military forces, providing critical noncombat service support that would otherwise have to be performed by highly trained servicemen and servicewomen who are best employed in combat roles. But military contractors cannot act effectively as soldiers in the long run. Worse still, they may well undermine their clients’ military aims, because they will add to the resentments of those already embittered populations that view the United States as an alien occupier.

Despite the glory that Colonel Schumacher ascribes to such contractors, and the wealth that Professor Kinsey and Mr. Pelton claim they have earned, undermining military aims is exactly what they appear to be doing in Iraq, and perhaps in Afghanistan. When all is said and done, the political and strategic consequences of their activities in both countries are still unknown — and as has often been the case with mercenaries in the past, we will not be in a position to judge the results until it is too late to do anything about them.

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