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Implications of the Growing Role of Private Military Companies (Pmcs) for Governing Global Politics

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implications of the growing role of private military companies (PMCs) for governing global politics

The focus of the investigation, the findings of which are presented in this essay, was on the implications for the governance of global politics of the growing role of private military companies (PMCs). PMCs are different from traditional military contractors, which more often than not are referred to as defense contractors. Traditional military (or defense) contractors manufacture the weapons of war, provide the supplies that are required by armed forces, or perform other services that do not directly involve their personnel in combatant roles. Private military companies, in contrast to traditional military contractors provide both direct military services and security services. PMC personnel are directly involved in combatant roles when the contract provides for the delivery of military capacities. PMC personnel may be directly involved in combatant roles when the contract provides for the delivery of security services. PMC personnel providing security services must be prepared to engage in combatant roles; however, much of their duties will be as guards to prevent breeches of security. In the investigation, the results of which are presented in this study, the implications of the growing role of PMCs on the governance of global politics considers the effects of PMCs in both their military roles and their security roles. While the direct combatant roles performed by PMC personnel hold the greatest implications for governing global politics, there also are implications for the governance of global politics that may derive from contracts that do not envision direct combatant roles for contract personnel. Considered within this context, even the role of traditional military/defense contractors have implications for the governance of global politics. Any private company that is contracted by governments is interested in preserving and increasing the revenue generation of such contracts. Thus, such contractors may be expected to offer inducements, apply political pressure, or innovate in the development of additional services to perpetuate contractual relations with government. When such inducements, pressures, or new service offerings are allowed to driver foreign policy initiatives, the process of governing global politics. Such threats to the governance of global politics differ markedly from those associated with the use of PMC personnel in combatant roles; however, they remain relevant to the issue. The findings of the investigation of the implications of the growing role of PMCs for the governance of global politics are presented in two major discussions. The first discussion reviews the process of governing global politics. The second discussion addresses the potential threats to the process of governing global politics that derive from the growing role of PMCs.
The Process of Governing Global Politics

From the 1950s through the 1970s, the so-called hegemonic duopoly — the Soviet Union and the United States —protected their hegemonic spheres of influence, while sparring with one another in conflicts on the fringes. Much of this conflict occurred in the Third World states where each of the hegemonic powers experienced both successes and failures Gilpin, 1994). One perception of international relations, rationalism, is based upon a premise that a rational and moral political order, derived from universally valid abstract principles, can be achieved here and now. It is within the context of the rational approach that games theory is applied in the conduct of international relations. A fundamental problem with the processes is that gaming and simulation deal with models, as opposed to reality, and that participants may make decisions knowing that the real situation probably will not be affected by those decisions. Of even greater significance, however, is the fact that the technique causes participants to consider the most terrifying alternatives, as well as others. Unfortunately, those individuals indoctrinated in gaming and simulation often transfer the process to the conduct of real international relations (Cohen, 2008). Although gaming and simulation are different from games theory, games theory does play a role in the formulation and implementation of decisions in international relations. Briefly, games theory holds that participants in a game will always make a rational decision based upon the information available to them. Some degree of incomplete information and uncertainty is assumed in games theory (Osborne, 2003). Gaming and simulation lead to situations in which irrational actions are often supported on the basis that a rational response by an opponent to such action would be to withdraw rather than risk annihilation. Thus, while American actions during the Cuban missile crisis were consistent with the strong variant of coercive diplomacy, they also were representative of irrationality pursued in the name of rational action through the games theory process. The Soviets, acting rationally, withdrew (Osborne, 2003; Cohen, 2008). One school of thought holds that control over or governance of global politics is a function of three factors. These three factors are the distribution of power among political coalitions, the hierarchy of prestige among states, and the set of rights and rules that govern or at least influence interactions among states. An alternative contention, however, is that the distribution of power has, throughout history, been characterized by one of three structures. These three structures are (a hegemony or imperialism, in which a single powerful state dominates the lesser states in the system, (b) bipolarity, in which two powerful states control interactions within and between their respective spheres of influence, or (c) a balance of power in which three or more states control the actions of one another through diplomatic maneuver, shifting alliances, and open conflict (Cohen, 2008). Some theorists tend to discount the dominant capacity and willingness to exercise such capacity accorded to power states in the systemic hypothesis. These proponents contend that claims for the general validity of the theory of hegemonic stability are often exaggerated. The dominance of a single great power may contribute to order in world politics, in particular circumstances, but it is not a sufficient condition to create and maintain such order. This contention appear to be validated over the past two decades during which the United States has been the single dominant power. The contention is that hegemony and cooperation are not alternatives. On the contrary, it is contended, they are often found in symbiotic relationships with one another (Cohen, 2008). With respect to the hierarchy of prestige among states, some theorists hold that ultimately such a hierarchy rests on economic and military power. Prestige is the reputation for power, and military power particularly. Within this context, prestige refers primarily to the perceptions of other states with respect to a state’s capacities and its ability and willingness to exercise its power. This concept is especially relevant to the issue of the role of PMCs. Prestige, rather than power, is the everyday currency of international relations, and prestige is cemented through the influence of regime partners through communication. Other theorists, however, contend that power is essential for the construction and maintenance of regimes, and accorded economic power a primary role in this context (Cohen, 2008). With respect to the rules that govern interactions between states, some theorists hold that such rules apply to the conduct of diplomacy and political intercourse among states, the conduct of war between states, and the conduct of economic activity between states. Again, this contention is especially relevant to the role of PMCs. Further, it is held that the sources of such rules of international conduct are custom and formally negotiated treaties. In contrast, other theorists tend to define some of the assumed rules as norms of behavior that are not as specific as are rules. At the same time, it is argued that norms are less subject to change than are rules. This contention also is relevant to the role of PMCs. Thus, the argument is that rules, if they are to be effective at all, must derive from specific interstate agreements that affect the exercise of national controls (Cohen, 2008). Hegemony and cooperation are not alternatives. Rather, states exist in symbiotic relationships with one another. Power is essential for the construction and maintenance of regimes, and economic power plays a primary role in this context. With respect to the rules that govern interactions between states, norms are less subject to change than are rules, and rules, if they are to be effective at all, must derive from specific interstate agreements that affect the exercise of national controls. Through the exercise of rational-choice, affiliation with international regimes is a voluntary action on the part of a state. Incentives to form international regimes depend most fundamentally on the existence of shared interests (Cohen, 2008). International relations most often is thought of in terms of relations among nations. Such relations largely are associated with conflict resolution, as conflict and disagreement are endemic in the global political environment of the 21st century. Cooperation may be considered as a foundation of human civilization. Cooperation in global conflict resolution has traditionally been noticeably absent in the governance of global politics. Rather, war, or the threat of the use of force, are the traditional approaches to conflict resolution in the conduct of international relations. Although each national state tends to reserve a monopoly on violence for itself, through mutual diplomatic recognition of one another, national states also recognize the legitimacy of the wars each has waged in the past. Warfare, thus, is a form of participation in the process of global political governance, and armed conflict is simply the last step in the process, when all other efforts at persuasion have failed. The resort to war, or to the threat of war, is closely associated with the theory of relative power among national states. In international relations, such relationships tend to be defined in the context of superpowers, great powers, and so forth. One school of thought holds that the behavior of states in global politics is largely determined by the power relations and differentials among stats. Order within the global political system is continually threatened by the possibility that some states will resort to force or war in order to improve their relative power positions, while other states will opt for similar behavior to preserve their perceived power positions. At times, a state may attempt to achieve its international objectives by “employing ‘coercive diplomacy’ — a combination of diplomacy and defense measures” (Perry, 1996, p. 65). Efforts often are made to settle disputes in the global political arena between states through an action short of all out war, but, nevertheless, an action in which the threat of the use of massive force is present. This process is referred to as coercive diplomacy, which calls for using just enough force of an appropriate kind to demonstrate a resolution to protect well-defined interests and to demonstrate the credibility of a state’s determination to use more force if necessary (Art & Cronin, 2003; George, 2009). Coercive diplomacy attempts to affect an enemy’s will to fight rather than negating a capability to fight. The force employed in the conduct of coercive diplomacy is, thus, said to be used in discrete and controlled increments, to induce an opponent to revise calculations and agree to a mutually acceptable termination of the conflict. In actuality, after all of this high level rhetoric is distilled, coercive diplomacy is a limited application of military power, in an effort to attain goals without the risks typically associated with full-scale military action. Coercive diplomacy holds many potential advantages to the party capable of applying the concept effectively. When coercive diplomacy does not work, however, the initiating party may weaken its position significantly. The United States, together with the support of the United Kingdom, applied coercive diplomacy in Iraq for approximately 12 years through frequent aerial bombings conducted in the name of Iraqi violations in the so-called no-fly-zones put into place following the end of the Gulf War in 1991. Coercive diplomacy ended with the pre-emptive attack on Iraq by the United States in 2003. The actions from 1991 through 2003 were a repeated reminder to Iraq of the severe actions the United States might take against the country if Saddam Hussein did not back down. The threat of more severe action, however, did not appear to Saddam to be imminent until the passage of the United Nations Security Council resolution in 2003 that provided legal cover for the pre-emptive strike by the United States. Coercion used in international relations is a part of conflict behavior between nations. Conflict behavior is contrasted with competition. Where competition is aimed at achieving one’s own particular goals, conflict implies behavior aimed at affecting an opponent. The differentiation between conflict behavior and competition is significant, because conflict assumes the necessity or the desirability of confrontation (Art & Cronin, 2003; George, 2009). The use of coercion is a negative action, as opposed to the pursuit of a positive foreign policy. The use of coercion is one means of attempting to upset some sort of existing balance. It attempts to cause the party at which it is directed to relinquish values that would not otherwise be relinquished. The use of coercion requires that the using party possess the power to hurt the party to which the coercion is applied. The success of coercive action depends more on the threat of what is yet to come than on damage already done. The use of coercion also requires that the interests of the two parties concerned not be absolutely opposed. If the coercing party had no commonality of interest with the target party, it would simply impose the hurt on that target party, rather than attempting to gain its objectives through coercive action. The use of coercion, however, is always a high-risk action, because it is quite likely to precipitate an unpleasant response from the target state (Art & Cronin, 2003; George, 2009). Coercive diplomacy is distinguished from pure coercion, because coercive diplomacy includes bargaining, negotiations, and compromise as well as coercive threats. Coercive diplomacy is characterized by a high level of verbal communication between the parties involved. The practice of coercive diplomacy is dependent upon the presence and effectiveness of both diplomatic skills and military power in a nation’s arsenal. The presence of either one in the absence of the presence of the other likely will lead to sure armed conflict in any effort to settle international conflicts. Similarly, an excessive reliance on either diplomatic skills or military power at the expense of the other also likely will lead to armed conflict in any effort to settle international conflicts. Diplomacy, thus, remain indispensable in the system of states.
Potential Threats to the Process of Governing Global Politics That Derive from the Growing Role of PMCs

PMCs have been around a long, long time. Although the term the terms that were once used, soldiers of fortune and mercenaries, essentially describe the same behavior as that of PMCs, notably guns for hire, the sophistication has increased geometrically. The growth of PMCs accelerated in the aftermath of the end of the Cold War. At that time, there were thousands of trained military personnel, especially in the Former Soviet Union and in the Eastern European satellite states that had been dominated by the Soviet Union, whose military services either were no longer required or could no longer be funded. Thus glut of trained military personnel coincided with the emergence of higher levels of political uncertainty in developing areas of Asia and Africa, which in turn fostered higher levels of internal conflict in those regions. The opposing parties in these unsettled areas were open to the services of displaced soldiers. The most efficient way of connecting the displaced soldiers and the parties competing for power in the unsettled regions was through the creation of military companies to contract to provide military services. A decade later, the terrorist attacks in the United States followed by later terrorist attacks in the United Kingdom and Spain persuaded several stable states that private military contract personnel might be more effective in the pursuit of terrorist groups because they would not be subject to the constraints that apply to regular military forces in the conduct of international relations. The preceding phrasing disguises the fact that most of the behaviors of PMCs, while they may contravene international law, they nevertheless provide cover for the contracting-out state that can claim no knowledge of the actions of the PMCs (Albarda & Lisowiec, 2007). In the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of 2001 (United States), 2004 (Spain, and 2005 (London), the United States especially, the United Kingdom to a lesser extent, as well as some other states began reappraisals of both the structure of role of the regular armed forces, along with the roles that could be assigned to PMCs. These reappraisals led to substantial growth in the numbers of PMCs, as well as in the extent to which PMCs exercised critical roles in the pursuit of foreign policy objectives by states such as the United States and the United Kingdom (Dunar, Mitchell, & Robbins, 2007; Lehnardt, 2006). Beutel (2005) found that international efforts to regulated PMCs had largely failed. A major criticism that holds adverse implications for the governance of global politics is that the governments of independent states use PMCs to circumvent their own formally stated foreign policy in order to affect the actions of other countries. It also was found that PMCs have few incentives to behave lawfully. An example of such use of PMCs was investigated by Boysen (2007). Boysen (2007) found that the United States Administration has been unable to effectively control the actions of the PMCs in Columbia and that the Congress has been denied the ability to hold the PMCs accountable. Illegal actions that frequently rise to the level of war crimes have been reported. Wallwork (2004) argued, however, that the value of PMCs in the ongoing war against terror cannot be overlooked. Petersohn (2008) found, however, that a principal reason why states cannot effectively control PMCs is that, because the use of PMCs allow states to act counter to their own formally stated policies and objectives, gaps develop between stated policies and to actual behaviors that is becomes increasingly difficult for states to hold PMCs accountable. Cameron (2005) found that PMC personnel cannot be considered to be combatants under international law. Thus, this places PMC personnel in the same classification that the United States applies to terrorists and which the country incarcerates in various offshore prisons with few rights accorded to the inmates. Thus, PMC personnel become in the eyes of international law personnel who are illegal combatants. Krahmann (2005) concluded that the central problem for the governance of global politics that are attributable to PMCs are (a) challenges to state sovereignty, (b) criminal activities such as trafficking in arms, and (c) the lack of transparency and accountability of these companies. Isenberg (2010) concluded that PMCs become quasi states in their own right; thus, defying governance within the realm of global politics.
Summary and Conclusion

The focus of the investigation, the findings of which were presented in this essay, was on the implications for the governance of global politics of the growing role of private military companies. The conclusion drawn was that the chief implications of PMCs for the governance of global politics are negative in character. The principal threats are to state sovereignty and state legitimacy. Sovereignty is threatened because PMCs can effectively resist regulation, thereby defying states. Legitimacy is threatened because PMC personnel are noncombatants acting in the name of the state while conducting illegal actions.

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Art, R. J., & Cronin, P. M. (2003). The United States and coercive diplomacy. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.
Beutel, M. D. (2005). Private military companies: Their emergence, importance, and a call for global regulation. San Francisco, CA: Wadsworth.
Boysen, M. (2007). Private military firms as instruments of U.S. foreign policy: The case of Columbia. Monterey, CA: Naval Postgraduate School. Accessed on 2011-080-10 at:
Cameron, L. (2005). Private military companies: Their status under international humanitarian law and their impact on regulation. International Review of the Red Cross, 88(863), 573-598.
Cohen, S. B. (2008). Geopolitics: The geography of international relations. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
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George, A. L. (2009). Forceful persuasion: Coercive persuasion as an alternative to war. Washington, DC: United States Institute of Peace.
Gilpin, R. (1994). Dependence and economic development, pp. 440-460. In Williams, P., Goldstein, D. M., & Shafritz, J. M., Eds. Classic Readings of International Relations. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Publishing Company.
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