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Tuesday, March 20th, 2007


Every so often, at work, we are given professional reviews and I like to express my contempt for the meaninglessness of the process to any relevant professional function with tart commentary. My contributions this year were as follows:

In response to a demand for critical information about my colleagues, I replied:

“They are to staff meetings what Moses and the Hebrews were to the Sinai desert”

And of myself:

” I put the ‘I’ in ‘Team’ “

No one reads these forms and they have no discernable effect on one’s career. Golden ratings will not save you if you screw-up and annoy the wrong bigwig nor will long established mediocrity even be accurately documented. What a waste of time.

Tuesday, March 20th, 2007


Former CIA clandestine operative Robert Baer, author of See No Evil and a loose model for the George Clooney character in “Syriana” has an article up in Vanity Fair profiling Tim Spicer, the CEO of a British PMC called Aegis Defence Services. A sample.

Iraq’s Mercenary King

“No one planned for a private army of this size. Like most things in the Iraq war, it just happened. After the Iraq National Museum was looted, in April of 2003, and even four months later, after the U.N. headquarters was destroyed by a car bomb, the Pentagon assumed it was dealing with garden-variety crime and terrorism—nothing a good whiff of grapeshot couldn’t quell. With U.S. forces stretched thin, why not let private military contractors deal with routine security? They could protect the coalition offices, the supply shipments, the embassies, and also the reconstruction teams, the journalists, the U.N. workers, and the aid organizations. After all, guns for hire in Afghanistan had been keeping Hamid Karzai alive.

As the security situation deteriorated and the insurgency became more sophisticated, the contractors were forced to adapt, operating as small military units, carrying automatic weapons and rocket launchers, and traveling in convoys of heavily armored S.U.V.’s. Their tactics included driving at 90 miles an hour or more and shooting at any vehicle that appeared to be a threat. In some cases, military contractors fought pitched battles. Today, when they get in trouble, contractors can call on help in the form of military air support or a quick-reaction force.

Who are these contractors? Watch the passengers in Dubai waiting for flights to Kabul and Baghdad and you’ll get an idea. Half of them are fortysomething, a little paunchy, their hair thinning. They haven’t done a pull-up or run an obstacle course in 20 years. You have to suspect that many are divorced and paying alimony, child support, and mortgages on houses they don’t live in. The other half, in their late 20s and early 30s, have been enticed into leaving the military early, quadrupling their salaries by entering the private sector. They bulge out of their T-shirts, bang knuckles, shoulder-bump. They can’t wait to get into the action.

The mercenaries crowd the duty-free counters buying boxes of Cuban Cohiba cigars and bottles of Jack Daniel’s—nights on mortar watch can be very long. There’s no doubt they can afford it. Men with service in an elite military unit have been known to make up to $1,500 a day. More typically a Western military contractor will earn $180,000 a year. Depending on the contract, benefits can include a hundred days of leave, kidnapping insurance, health insurance, and life insurance.”

Hmmm. I know a couple of people who’ve done that kind of work, I wonder if they’ll chime in on that assessment. It is worth noting that Baer himself has had an exceptionally colorful career with the CIA; so much so that you could easily imagine him sitting in a bar with Robert Young Pelton or Robert Kaplan, comparing scars like Captain Quint and Sheriff Brody aboard the Orca.


Corporate Warriors




Global Guerillas

Thomas P.M. Barnett

The Small Wars Council

Neither Shall The Sword

Intel Dump

Foreign Policy In Focus

Coming Anarchy

The Nation ( hat tip to Patrick Squire via Tom)

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