Turning war into business: Private security companies and commercial opportunism

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This article argues that the prewar planning process for postwar Iraq was plagued by myriad problems, including a dysfunctional interagency process, overly optimistic assumptions, and a lack of contingency planning for alternative outcomes. These problems were compounded by a lack of civilian capacity during the occupation period, which led to a complicated and often uncoordinated relationship with the military authorities who found themselves taking the lead in many reconstruction activities. Taken together, these mistakes meant that US success on the battlefield was merely a prelude to a postwar insurgency whose outcome remains very much in doubt more than three years later.
This article sets out to investigate the impact of Private Security Companies (PSCs)1 on civil wars. In doing so, it has taken an historical line, outlining the way the industry has developed from when it first emerged on the international stage in the late 1960s, to the present. Importantly, the article is able to identify three broad strands of involvement in civil wars that include substituting for state military forces, propping up weak governments, and supplementing state militaries. Moreover, in each of these situations, the involvement of PSCs raises both moral and legal questions, as well as challenges for government. This is especially so in light of their activities in Iraq and Afghanistan and the likelihood that governments will increasingly turn to them for niche capabilities.