Blackwater Founder Wants Mercenaries to Fight ISIS War



The Islamic State (ISIS) is massacring people in the strategic town of Kobani along the Syrian-Turkish border, indicating that American airstrikes on the terrorist group were not effective. Big-named pundits like Bill O'Reilly and Steven Colbert have been arguing about whether mercenaries should fight America's war against the Islamic State (ISIS). Now, the ex-chief of the mercenary company formerly known as Blackwater has waded into the debate, and (no surprise) he says absolutely they should.

Erik Prince, a former Navy SEAL and founder of Blackwater (now called Academi), writes in his current company blog at Frontier Services Group "as someone who spent many years operating in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other underdeveloped countries facing existential security threats":

The President's current plan seems half-hearted at best. American air power has significant reach and accuracy, but ultimately will be unable to finish the job of digging ISIS out of any urban centers where they may seek shelter amongst the populace. Clearing operations ultimately fall to the foot soldier.

In spite of President Barack Obama's promises that American involvement in Iraq will be limited, troops-on-the-ground is an increasingly likely scenario. The Pentagon has said as much.

Whose troops, though? Prince says the Kurds can't do much, because "the U.S. State Department [is] blocking them from selling their oil and from buying serious weaponry to protect their stronghold and act as a stabilizing force in the region." The Iraqi military is broken. The Obama administration has $500 million for moderate Syrian rebels, but deciding who is "moderate" is easier said than done. The majority of American troops don't want to fight this war.

Prince writes that "the American people are clearly war-fatigued," and he accuses the Defense Department of waging war in "the most expensive ways." He says that "a multi-brigade-size unit of veteran American contractors or a multi-national force could be rapidly assembled and deployed" to eliminate the ISIS threat.

The elephant in the room is Blackwater's track record. In one incident in 2007 the company killed 17 civilians and injured 20 more in Baghdad. In two years' time, employees were "involved in 195 shootings," having shot first in 163 of them. Wikileaks exposed sordid details about civilian deaths in Afghanistan, too. A Blackwater manager threatened to kill a State Department auditor for raising questions about the company's practices.

Will the Obama administration bite anyway? The Daily Beast reported one month ago that the Pentagon had already some major military contractors about estimated costs of fighting ISIS. Academi already has a $250 million contract with the CIA, $92 million contract with the State Department, so it's not like the company is in bad standing with the federal government.

If the White House does turn to private companies to fight ISIS, some people will likely shriek "capitalism!" Those folk will have to reconcile that notion with the fact that the business opportunity only exists because of a massive government project with ill-defined goals that has already cost nearly one billion dollars and is expected to cost billions more regardless of private involvement. 

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  1. Prince notes that “the American people are clearly war-fatigued,”

    I hear this a lot – I always wonder why the term “fatigued” is used? No rationing, price and wage controls, bombardments, air raid sirens going off – their sons and fathers being conscripted and sent off for years at a time or coming back in a box.

    Tired of fighting with no discernible end and without a clear goal, certainly. Not wanting the waste and expense, sure. War-fatigued” – I dunno.

    1. What it really means is that the American people are no longer so ‘rah-rah’ for the current war because we’re not really seeing anything in return for the expenditure.

  2. So we’re going to issue a Letter of Marque that allows Blackwater to go in, pacify, and extract whatever resources they feel offset their troubles? I’m not sure this is how international law works anymore

    1. Probably not but I do kind of like the idea.

      It’s a contract, they’d have to abide by the rules or they would’t get paid. That’s arguably more incentive to follow rules of engagement and international law than state-actors.

      1. I could get behind this, especially if Europe and Japan help foot the bill.

      2. The current ROEs make victory impossible so no sane individual/organization will agree to them or the punchline of ‘international law’.

        1. No ‘victory’ is a feature, not a bug.

          They’re not going to get a ‘win the war’ contract. They’re going to get a ‘conduct combat operations for cost-plus a day’ contract or, better, ‘conduct combat operations for cost-plus, take what you want form the invaded country, and not be legally liable for anything you do’ contract.

    2. This is a much more rational approach to dealing with non-state, murderous criminals than sending the US armed forces after them.

    3. Works for me.

  3. If the White House does turn to private companies to fight ISIS, some people will likely shriek “capitalism!” Those folk will have to reconcile that notion with the fact that the business opportunity only exists because of a massive government project with ill-defined goals that has already cost nearly one billion dollars and is expected to cost billions more regardless of private involvement.

    I’ve got no problem with mercenaries per se. The problem is the deference and legal immunity they receive in the course of their actions. They exist outside of the military command and penal system, yet also under the protective umbrella of the federal government. Moral hazards are a bitch.

  4. Blackwater Founder Wants Mercenaries to Fight ISIS War

    But who would build the roads?

  5. Erik Prince would naturally want this, since the end game of a return to the wide-scale use of mercenaries is Erik Prince personally ruling some Cortes or Pizarro style empire somewhere.

    The use of mercenaries always ends in disaster for the society that undertakes it. Without historical exception. Mercenaries are a stupid idea that’s really fooking OBVIOUSLY a stupid idea.

    1. Oh, I don’t know. Funding some mercs to defend the Kurds seems like a good way to fight ISIS without some of the downsides. I suppose it could all go wrong in some way, but it’s hard for me to see how it could be worse than what ISIS is doing and could do.

      1. Do the frogs still have the Foreign Legion? Maybe use them.

        1. They do, but France now has such a large Muslim population that it would be domestically problematic.

          1. Is that what the Gendarmes are for?

            1. Their job is to watch angry yutes burn cars.

    2. 1. By certain historical standards, the American military in which volunteers get paid is essentially a mercenary force. You wouldn’t have to go back too far to see such a model explicitly defined as such.

      2. Mercenaries have been used in the vast majority of wars by everyone. We used a good number in Iraq. We had Ugandans defending are military installations in Iraq and very few people who weren’t there don’t realize that fact. The Romans were using them when they were conquering most of Europe. Very successful empires have always used them to get around the unpopularity and logistical constraints involved in war.

      3. People want choir boys fighting their wars. Well, choir boy don’t win wars for you. Guys willing to go over and fight even when ostensibly for patriotism aren’t always the most savory individuals. They certainly aren’t the image the military tries to portray with its professionalism BS.

    3. I’m calling bullshit. America used mercs in Iraq and won. PMCs are getting more and more business for a damn good reason: they work.

      1. Yeah, and they seem very libertarian to me. I think a major reason that mercs got a bad name historically was when nations tried to replace, rather than supplement, a military.

  6. Filibustering! Why not? What’s the worst that can happen?

  7. “the U.S. State Department [is] blocking them [Kurds] from selling their oil

    WTF? Why? And how?

    1. Because the government is insane and nobody is as upset about this as they should be, especially Reason. Everyone should be calling for defenstration over this.

    2. Because the Kurds selling oil pisses of both the Iraqi government *and* the Turks.

    3. As recently as a month ago there was a tanker loaded with one million barrels of Kurdish oil sitting in international waters offshore Galveston, Texas trying to get US State Department approval to unload. The Iraqi government is off course trying to block the sale. There were two other tankers like this stranded in other parts of the world pending the same issues. One tanker of Kurdish oil that sat offshore Morroco for three months this summer has now left and appears to have been unloaded into another vessel at sea.

      1. *of (not off)

  8. Mercs are a great idea! The place that really badly needs them is Nigeria. They have a big army that is apparently a useless abusive POS that can’t even keep the entire country out of Boko Haram’s hands. A PMC would clean that right up.

    BW had some unfortunate incidents, but that’s inevitable in war.

  9. On the issue of mercenaries fighting for us – its in the same boat as the death penalty. I have no problem with the *concept*, I just don’t trust the execution and so would be against its actual *practice*.

    One of the major limits on American adventurism is the fact that we can only get so many people in the military and for so long.

    With mercenaries the only limit is how much we can pay – and we can pay a *lot*.

    1. Really, ever hear of the Hmong?
      Problem is they work for the highest bidder. Whoever has the deepest pockets.

  10. The article is badly titled. If Erik Prince wanted mercenaries to fight ISIS, he should simply go ahead and pay for it — he has the expertise and infrastructure to do it, after all.

    Rather, the title should be “Blackwater Founder Wants US Government to Pay His Mercenaries to Fight ISIS War”.

  11. Mercenaries are awful, they are loyal to themselves and their paycheck, in that order. Mercenaries are fickle friends and will desert when fortune turns against them. They have their uses in war, primarily to supplement the military when manpower or expertise are lacking but they should never be relied upon, and replaced with proper soldiers at the soonest possible moment. As for using only mercenaries to prosecute a war, that is utter folly.

  12. Hi
    I’m trained Army soldier can I join as mercenary

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