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Privatization refers to the concept of changing a sector, organization or department from the control of the government and the public to private ownership. Most of the militaries in the world are owned, regulated and controlled by the government. However, for a long time in the history of warfare, private military services have been offered by private military or security companies. In the past, they were simply referred as mercenaries but nowadays they are better known as private military agents or contractors. Mercenaries have been hired ever since the beginning of warfare. The United Nations Mercenary Convention prohibited the use of mercenaries and private military companies do all they can to distance themselves from the stigmatization associated with mercenaries.

Private Military Companies offer services that are similar to those offered by government armies. In most cases they supply government militaries with supplies, training and staff. They are also employed by large scale companies to guard offices and assets in hostile and polarized places. P.W Singer gave the world a picture of private military services in his book “Corporate Warriors.”  The companies are found in all continents with the exception of Antarctica. The industry is approximated to generate annual revenues of over 100 billion US dollars.

Background

Those pushing for privatization of the military base their argument on the fact that privatization will increase effectiveness in the military. The camp opposing this move on the other hand argues that a private military has never gone to a fully-fledged war and hence the concept of effectiveness has never been fully tried and tested. Warfare and keeping peace are integral to the world security and stability and it would be highly detrimental to gamble with the capability of a private military to handle such delicate matters. This essay tries to seek a middle-ground between the two opposing camps and to chart the way forward with regard to privatization of the military.

Opinions on Privatization

Services of military contractors have become almost indispensable to government armies in the 21st century. When celebrating the eighth anniversary of the war in Iraq, an American military commander succinctly confirmed that it would have been a big challenge for the American Army to go to war without the services of military contractors (Percy 57). At one point the number of military contractors in Afghanistan and Iraq exceeded the number of American soldiers. Their services have always been used in manufacture of war ships, planes and war tanks.

The notion of privatization of warfare is negative because it would amount to an act of profit making out of war which would be grossly inhuman. In the United States for instance, contracts awarded to the contractors by The Department of Defence sometimes exceed 280 billion US Dollars. The contractors engage in provision of basic services such as construction, organizing food for the military, laundry, logistics and translations. These are jobs that soldiers within the context of a government military can easily be trained to do. They also provide security for the embassies and training camps. Most private contractors hire personnel from third world countries so that they can pay them low wages and make high profits.

Private contractors are also known to obstruct the government military from performing their mission effectively. There is also bad blood between the government soldiers and employees of private contractors. The soldiers consider the contractors to be amateurs in the battlefield with no skills. Government soldiers do not also like the fact that the private contractors are usually paid higher salaries (Singer 187). Contractors have been reported to be trigger happy and at times shoot civilians leading to insurgencies and uprisings in war prone zones.

Furthermore, private contractors are only in the battlefield to fulfil the obligations under their contracts. They are not governed by The Uniform Code of Military Justice, the Geneva Conventions or the Law of Land Warfare and therefore, their levels of discipline are pretty low as compared to those of government soldiers (Singer 189). The contractors currently operate in a legal vacuum and may engage in many illegal activities. They have also been accused of engaging in trafficking of persons from third world countries to work at lower wages.

On the positive side privatization of military service is beneficial because it helps reduce the expenditure that the government spends on the military and military operations. Contractors are cheaper to hire. Their services can also be terminated at any time if the government wishes. Getting rid of a government soldier on the other hand is a bureaucratic complicated process. Since soldiers are highly trained and highly skilled it would not be cost-effective to assign them basic chores such as cooking and laundry. Such services are better performed by private contractors.

Provision of alternative services also enhances quality and productivity. Most people are not particularly motivated to pursue careers in the military and more often than not government militaries are usually under-staffed. Private military contractors provide governments with the requisite numbers in case of an emergency. Private contractors also assist governments in hiring armed services when need arises e.g. in times of war. This ensures that the government does not waste tax payers’ money on full-time soldiers even in times of peace.

Conclusion

The middle-ground is the only plausible position in privatization of military services. The government military should work alongside private contractors for purposes of cost-efficiency. However, a code of conduct should be introduced for the private contractors. They should also not be licensed to carry or use arms. The recruitment exercise should be conducted in an open and transparent manner to avoid illegal practices such as human trafficking. The salaries of the two groups should be harmonized to reflect the magnitude of work performed by each in the battlefield. Collaboration between the government soldiers and private military contractors will be a success for all the parties involved and will go a long way in facilitating world peace, security and stability.

Code: Sample20

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