The Privatization of Security: Lessons from Iraq

Abstract

Images of private forces in Iraq—killed and mutilated in Fallujah, implicated in prisoner abuse at Abu Ghraib, and shooting up civilian vehicles—have provided a dramatic illustration of the role private security companies (pscs) now play in U.S. military operations. Though the United States’ use of contractors on the battlefield is not entirely new, the increased number of contractors deployed and the use of private security forces to perform an escalating number of tasks has created a new environment that poses important trade-offs for U.S. policy and military effectiveness and for U.S. relations with other states. This article outlines the history of U.S. contractors on the battlefield, compares that with the use of private security in Iraq, discusses the benefits and risks associated with their use, and proposes some trade-offs that decision-makers in the United States should consider while contemplating their use in the future.

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