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Singer: PMCs Harmful to US COIN Efforts
Brookings Reports Recommends Review of US Reliance on Hired Guns
09/27/2007 12:55 PM ET
Members of a private security company pose on the rooftop of a house in Baghdad, 18 September 2007.
Patrick Baz/AFP/Getty
Members of a private security company pose on the rooftop of a house in Baghdad, 18 September 2007.

"The use of private military contractors appears to have harmed, rather than helped the counterinsurgency efforts of the U.S. mission in Iraq," Peter Singer writes in the executive summary of his new Brookings Institution policy paper examining the growing US reliance on hired guns.

Singer, director of the 21st Century Defense Initiative at Brookings, further warns the situation is creating a dependency syndrome in which the US military has become increasingly incapable of operating without the support of private industry.

The consequence of these conflicting priorities for the US has created a situation where: "It can’t win with them, but can’t go to war without them."

Singer's study discusses how the current use of private military contractors:

* Allows policymakers to dodge key decisions that carry political costs, thus leading to operational choices that might not reflect public interest.

* Enables a “bigger is better” approach to operations that runs contrary to the best lessons of U.S. military strategy.

* Inflames popular opinion against, rather than for, the American mission through operational practices that ignore the fundamental lessons of counterinsurgency.

* Participated in a series of abuses that have undermined efforts at winning “hearts and minds” of the Iraqi people.

* Weakened American efforts in the “war of ideas” both inside Iraq and beyond.

* Reveals a double standard towards Iraqi civilian institutions that undermines efforts to build up these very same institutions, another key lesson of counterinsurgency.

* Forced policymakers to jettison strategies designed to win the counterinsurgency on multiple occasions, before they even had a chance to succeed.

Singer recommends the US government re-examine its reliance on private military contractors, paying particular attention to how their use has created vulnerabilities and increased risk for US interests, and with an eye for rolling back some of the tasks they have become their domain.

Can’t Win With ‘Em, Can’t Go To War Without ‘Em: Private Military Contractors and Counterinsurgency singer200709.pdf

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