Peacekeeping: July 7, 2003

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Mercenary soldiers were the first NGO (Non-Governmental Organization,) and now they propose using mercenary soldiers as peacekeepers.

Non-military NGOs are a rather recent phenomenon. They first began to appear in the 19th century (the Red Cross, for example), and by the end of the 20th century, there were over 5,000 of them. Only a few percent of them have anything to do with relief work in war zones, and none deal with war or peacekeeping. But now the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA, http://www.ipoaonline.org/) is forming an association of Military Service Provider (MSP) companies who will hire themselves out to provide security in areas where more traditional NGOs are trying to provide humanitarian assistance. The MSPs would provide a wide range of services, from mine clearance (which is already being done by several NGOS), to armed logistics (which is often done informally by hiring local gunmen), to emergency humanitarian services, to actual armed peacekeepers. Since NGOs are already headed in this direction (via mine clearing and hiring locals as bodyguards), there is a certain logic to having existing private security organization put together paramilitary units for the kind of peacekeeping now offered under the auspices of the UN, NATO or unilaterally. IPOA feels that private firms can offer these services, more cheaply, more reliable and more quickly. Given the problems the UN now has in rounding up peacekeepers for Africa and Afghanistan, the IPOA has a point. And one more private army operating in these badland situations isn't likely to make matters any worse. The private security companies typically hire men who have retired from Western armed forces. Those with commando experience are particularly in demand. The private security companies also offer bodyguards and general security services. While the concept of "private armies" tends to make people nervous, such organizations have been around for thousands of years. The MSPs would at least be tethered to their UN paymaster and be subject to oversight.

 


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