Ensuring Effective Use of Private Forces

Domestic, International and Transnational Regulatory Options in the Face of Changing Warfare

Authored by: Olivia Allison , Martha Clark Dunigan

Handbook of Defence Politics

Print publication date:  December  2008
Online publication date:  March  2011

Print ISBN: 9781857434439
eBook ISBN: 9780203804278
Adobe ISBN:


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Mercenaries are certainly nothing new to the international conflict landscape, with reports of private guns-for-hire dating back to ancient Egypt and Mesopotamia. 1 However, in recent decades a corporate form of privatized military force has developed and grown into a multi-billion dollar international industry—the private military and security industry. This industry is marked not only by its corporate nature, but also in states’ relative openness about using these companies. Indeed, states and private corporations now openly hire such firms’ services for exorbitant sums of public funds. While media coverage of this phenomenon tends to dis-parage the industry, reasonable arguments in favour of private military and security companies (PMSCs) do exist. Chief among these are arguments regarding the peace-keeping prospects for PMSCs and their potential as force multipliers for the professional military. There are dangers associated with the use of PMSCs as well, including the fact that they are often transnational in nature and fall outside of traditional legal frameworks regulating both domestic and international military activity. While the changing nature of warfare in the post-Cold War period may indicate that the transnational nature of the private military and security industry is appropriate, it also leaves open the question of how to regulate the industry in order to best harness its strengths and mitigate its weaknesses.

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