Criticism of the growing role of military contractors
Nicholas von Hoffmann, writing in the June 2004 issue of Harper's
(p.79-80), gives a brief but strong statement of the case against the
growing role of military contractors to provide personnel on or near the
In theory, private contracting creates competitive pressure to reduce
costs, but in practive the bidding process can be so opaque and distorted
by favoritism that it becomes an empty formality... The financial savings
have turned out to be highly debatable. The costs and attendant risks are
not. The government's monopoly of violence -- its role as the guarantor
of civil peace and the rule of law -- has been diluted by the new arrangements.
He also argues that we should not take false security for the fact that
these contractors have so far stayed obediently in their assigned roles,
writing, "[T]he praetorian guard protected the Roman emperors for a
long time before it started killing them."
It is notable, however, that much of the criticism of private military
contractors seems to focus on largely theoretical issues with free use of
arguments based on historical precedents whose relevance is to many
non-obvious. Analyses usually make the radical claim that the practice is
fundamentally flawed and has to be rejected. There has been little
publicized effort made to actually go into details to try to pinpoint and
suggest corrections to the actual flaws of the system, thus reaching an
optimal middle ground.