Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Outsourcing foreign policy

On Monday, Garry Trudeau, the creator of Doonesbury, gave an engaging retrospective talk about his art and satire thus far. He answered audience questions with great candor and patience. When one person asked him for his opinion on the draft, Garry shared that we probably cannot go back. Yet, at the same time there’s a growing distance between the citizens and those that carryout foreign policy decisions on distant battlefields. He mentioned that “…our foreign policy is being outsourced”.

Could B.D.'s next career move be to a private military security company as a consultant to an oil company in a dangerous place somewhere?...

While it can be a bit blunt to say that our professional, non-conscripted, all-volunteer military is a source for this outsourcing, the fact remains that legions of contractors serve in zones of conflict. We no longer use the term mercenary. They’re called contractors. The combination of volunteers and paid supporters, a necessary one given the large foreign campaigns over the decade does make the wars less personal, less real to many.

This phenomenon is not new. Throughout history, there are instances where paid professionals served next to those who took an oath of allegiance to a royal, a cause, or a person.

As there’s no turning back, apparently for the time being, on conscription or any form of national service, it appears that private military contractors now occupy an essential place on the rolls of our Defense Department’s force structure. Fallen and wounded contractors do not appear on casualty lists in the news, nor are their funeral services deemed worth covering by the media. That will change soon.

Outsourcing possesses a bad connotation. You may immediately think of the defunct Company (resurrected as Xe Services) Blackwater when someone utters military contractor. These are real people. Granted, they are serving for a wage (often lucrative), but they serve nonetheless and our Commander-in-Chief needs them. They are performing essential services from personal security to cooking, from flying drones to building water purification systems. It’s a growth industry with sophisticated companies, some of the best being from Great Britain, and now with a change in law, from France.

Great Britain will downsize their military over the coming years, but rest assured, their excellent private military security companies will more than fill the gaps. Their experience in this field is unmatched, their expertise currently under our Defense Department's payroll for quite sometime. There's nothing sinister here. This is serious business; securing national interests as well as corporate investments.

And it’s not just our Defense Department doing the hiring. Our State Department has been hiring as well.

It’s a growth industry, outsourcing foreign policy. Where will it lead? Will this growth extend back into domestic policy? Will our domestic security agencies see a growth in outsourcing services? Will corporations hire organized private military security units (not just individuals but organized, equipped, and deployable forces)? China, a leader in exploring energy resources in Africa is hard at work to secure their investments. As our foreign policy is closely linked to energy security, it makes sense that oil companies take care of their own to ensure “business continuity”. It’s a stark reality.

We’re outsourcing our foreign policy to the point where we may be turning to the business page first to read dispatches from the front, because after all, we have a great deal invested in these ventures. There’s no turning back.

Outsourcing foreign policy is not an issue, though. Apparently everyone seem alright with the trend.

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