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Posts Tagged ‘MERCENARIES’

WHEN PATRIOTS BECOME PREDATORS

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 21, 2014 at 12:03 am

Bill O’Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel program The O’Reilly Factor, has offered his own solution to fighting terrorism: A multinational mercenary army, based on a NATO coalition and trained by the United States.

Bill O’Reilly

“We would select them, special forces would train them–25,000-man force to be deployed to fight on the ground against worldwide terrorism. Not just ISIS,” O’Reilly said on “CBS This Morning” on September 24.

Actually, O’Reilly’s idea is the subject of The Profession, a 2011 novel by bestselling author Steven Pressfield.

The Profession

Pressfield made his literary reputation with four classic novels about classical Greece.

In Gates of Fire (1998) he explored the rigors and heroism of Spartan society–and the famous last stand of its 300 picked warriors at Thermopylae.

In Tides of War (2000) Pressfield depicted the rise and fall of Alcibiades, Athens’ greatest general, as he shifted his loyalties from that city to its arch-enemy, Sparta, and then to Persia, the enemy of both.

In The Virtues of War (2004) he took on the identity of Alexander the Great, explaining to his readers what it was like to command armies that swept across the known world, destroying all who dared oppose them.

Finally, in The Afghan Campaign (2006) Pressfield–this time from the viewpoint of a lowly Greek soldier–refought Alexander’s brutal, three-year anti-guerrilla campaign in Afghanistan.

Steven Pressfield Focused Interview

 Steven Pressfield

But in The Profession, Pressfield created a seemingly plausible world set into the future of 2032.  The book’s own dust jacket offers the best summary of its plot-line:

“The year is 2032. The third Iran-Iraq war is over.  The 11/11 dirty bomb attack on the port of Long Beach, California is receding into memory.  Saudi Arabia has recently quelled a coup. Russians and Turks are clashing in the Caspian Basin.

“Iranian armored units, supported by the satellite and drone power of their Chinese allies, have emerged from their enclaves in Tehran and are sweeping south attempting to recapture the resource rich territory that had been stolen from them, in their view, by Lukoil, BP, and ExxonMobil and their privately-funded armies.

“Everywhere military force is for hire.  Oil companies, multi-national corporations and banks employ powerful, cutting-edge mercenary armies to control global chaos and protect their riches.

“Even nation states enlist mercenary forces to suppress internal insurrections, hunt terrorists, and do the black bag jobs necessary to maintain the new New World Order.

“Force Insertion is the world’s merc monopoly. Its leader is the disgraced former United States Marine General James Salter, stripped of his command by the president for nuclear saber-rattling with the Chinese and banished to the Far East.’

Salter appears as a hybrid of World War II General Douglas MacArthur and Iraqi War General Stanley McCrystal.

Like MacArthur, Salter has butted heads with his President–and paid dearly for it.  Now his ambition is no less than to become President himself–by popular acclaim.  And like McCrystal, he is a pure warrior who leads from the front and is revered by his men.

Salter seizes Saudi oil fields, then offers them as a gift to America.  By doing so, he makes himself the most popular man in the country–and a guaranteed occupant of the White House.

And in 2032 the United States is a far different nation from the one its Founding Fathers created  in 1776.

“Any time that you have the rise of mercenaries…society has entered a twilight era, a time past the zenith of its arc,” says Salter.

“The United States is an empire…but the American people lack the imperial temperament.  We’re not legionaries, we’re mechanics.  In the end the American Dream boils down to what? ‘I’m getting mine and the hell with you.'”

Americans, asserts Salter, have come to like mercenaries: “They’ve had enough of sacrificing their sons and daughters in the name of some illusory world order.  They want someone else’s sons and daughters to bear the burden….

“They want their problems to go away.  They want me to to make them go away.”

And so Salter will “accept whatever crown, of paper or gold, that my country wants to press upon me.”

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

 Niccolo Machiavelli

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Centuries ago, Niccolo Machiavelli issued a warning against relying on men whose first love is their own enrichment.  Steven Pressfield, in a work of fiction, has given us a nightmarish vision of a not-so-distant America where “Name your price” has become the byward for an age.

Both warnings are well worth heeding.

 

 

PATRIOTS-FOR-HIRE

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on October 2, 2014 at 12:19 pm

Bill O’Reilly, host of the Fox News Channel program The O’Reilly Factor, has offered his own solution to fighting terrorism:  A multi-national mercenary army, based on a NATO coalition and trained by the United States.

Bill O’Reilly

“We would select them, special forces would train them–25,000-man force to be deployed to fight on the ground against worldwide terrorism. Not just ISIS,” O’Reilly said on “CBS This Morning” on September 24.

Searching for allies to back his proposal, O’Reilly invited Tom Nichols, a professor at the US Naval War College, onto his show.

Nichols’ response: “This is a terrible idea…not just as a practical matter but a moral matter. It’s a morally corrosive idea to try to outsource our national security. This is something Americans are going to have to deal for themselves.”

Actually, O’Reilly’s idea is in fact being tried out, albeit unofficially.

Sixty to 70% of America’s Intelligence budget doesn’t go to the CIA or the National Security Agency (NSA) or the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Instead, it goes to private contractors who supply secrets or “soldiers of fortune.”

The outsourcing of government intelligence work to private contractors took off after 9/11.

This was especially true after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003–and found its Intelligence and armed services stretched to their furtherest limits.

The DIA estimates that, from the mid-1990s to 2005, the number of private contracts awarded by Intelligence agencies rose by 38%.

During that same period, government spending on “spies/guns for hire” doubled, from about $18 billion in 1995 to about $42 billion in 2005.

Many tasks and services once performed only by government employees are being “outsourced” to civilian contractors:

  • Analyzing Intelligence collected by drones and satellites;
  • Writing reports;
  • Creating and maintaining software programs to manipulate data for tracking terrorist suspects;
  • Staffing overseas CIA stations;
  • Serving as bodyguards to government officials stationed overseas;
  • Providing disguises used by agents working undercover.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends; among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Americans–generally disdainful of history–have blatantly ignored both the examples of history and the counsel of Machiavelli.  To their own peril.

Mark Mazzetti, author of the bestselling The Way of the Knife, chronicles how the CIA has been transformed from a primarily fact-finding agency into a terrorist-killing one.

Along with this transformation has come a dangerous dependency on private contractors to supply information that government agents used to dig up for themselves.

The U.S. Navy SEALS raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been the subject of books, documentaries and even an Oscar-nominated movie: “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Almost unknown by comparison is a program the CIA developed with Blackwater, a private security company, to locate and assassinate Islamic terrorists.

“We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability,” Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, said in an interview.  “If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the [CIA] chief of station, the ambassador or anyone to bail us out.”

But the program never got past the planning stage.  Senior CIA officials feared the agency would not be able to  permanently hide its own role in the effort.

“The more you outsource an operation,” said a CIA official, “the more deniable it becomes.  But you’re also giving up control of the operation.  And if that guy screws up, it’s still your fault.”

Increased reliance on “outsourcing” has created a “brain-drain” within the Intelligence community. Jobs with private security companies usually pay 50% more than government jobs.

Many employees at the CIA, NSA and other Intelligence agencies leave government service–and then return to it as private contractors earning far higher salaries.

Many within the Intelligence community fear that too much Intelligence work has been outsourced and the government has effectively lost control of its own information channels.

And, as always with the hiring of mercenaries, there is an even more basic fear: How fully can they be trusted?

“There’s an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie,” said Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA.  “Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Yet another concern: How much can Intelligence agencies count on private contractors to effectively screen the people they hire?

Edward Snowden was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting/security firm.  It was through this company that Snowden gained access to a treasury of NSA secrets.

From September 11, 2001 to 2013, the government has spent more than $500 billion on intelligence.

A 2010 investigative series by the Washington Post found that “1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the country.”

Jesus never served as a spy or soldier.  But he clearly understood a truth too many officials within the American Intelligence community have forgotten:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

MERCS FOR HIRE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 15, 2014 at 12:33 am

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, may soon prove to be more than great entertainment. It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

Throughout the movie, wealthy Romans assume they can buy anything–or anyone.  When seeking a favor, Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Oliver) says bluntly: “Name your price.”

Today, “Name your price” has become the password for entry into America’s Intelligence community.

Althugh not portrayed in Spartacus, one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman empire lay in its reliance on foreign mercenaries.

Roman citizens, who had for centuries manned their city’s legions, decided to outsource these hardships and dangers to hired soldiers from Germany and Gaul (now France).

Although Germans and Gauls had proven capable fighters when defending their own countries, they proved highly unrelible as paid mercenaries.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, drew heavily on ancient history for his examples of how liberty could best be preserved within a republic.

Niccolo Machiavelli

Fully aware of the Romans’ disastrous experience with mercenaries, Machiavelli believed that a nation’s army should be driven by patriotism, not greed.  Speaking of mercenaries, he warned:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends, among enemies they are cowards.”

Americans–generally disdainful of history–have blatantly ignored both the examples of history and the counsel of Machiavelli.  To their own peril.

Mark Mazzetti, author of the bestselling The Way of the Knife, chronicles how the CIA has been transformed from a primarily fact-finding agency into a terrorist-killing one.

Along with this transformation has come a dangerous dependency on private contractors to supply information that government agents used to dig up for themselves.

America’s defense and Intelligence industries, writes Mazzetti, once spread across the country, have relocated to the Washington area.

They want to be close to “the customer”: The National Security Agency, the Pentagon, the CIA and an array of other Intelligence agencies.

The U.S. Navy SEALS raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been the subject of books, documentaries and even an Oscar-nominated movie: “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Almost unknown by comparison is a program the CIA developed with Blackwater, a private security company, to locate and assassinate Islamic terrorists.

“We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability,” Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, said in an interview.  “If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the [CIA] chief of station, the ambassador or anyone to bail us out.”

But the program never got past the planning stage.  Senior CIA officials feared the agency would not be able to  permanently hide its own role in the effort.

“The more you outsource an operation,” said a CIA official, “the more deniable it becomes.  But you’re also giving up control of the operation.  And if that guy screws up, it’s still your fault.”

Increased reliance on “outsourcing” has created a “brain-drain” within the Intelligence community. Jobs with private security companies usually pay 50% more than government jobs.

Many employees at the CIA, NSA and other Intelligence agencies leave government service–and then return to it as private contractors earning far higher salaries.

Many within the Intelligence community fear that too much Intelligence work has been outsourced and the government has effectively lost control of its own information channels.

And, as always with the hiring of mercenaries, there is an even more basic fear: How fully can they be trusted?

“There’s an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie,” said Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA.  “Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Yet another concern: How much can Intelligence agencies count on private contractors to effectively screen the people they hire?

Edward Snowden, it should be remembered, was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting/security firm.  It was through this company that Snowden gained access to a treasury of NSA secrets.

In March 2007, the Bush administration revealed that it paid 70% of its intelligence budget to private security contractors.  That remains the case today–and the Intelligence budget for 2012 was $75.4 billion.

A 2010 investigative series by the Washington Post found that “1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the country.”

Jesus never served as a spy or soldier.  But he clearly understood a truth too many officials within the American Intelligence community have forgotten:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

MERCS FOR HIRE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, Business, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on May 14, 2014 at 1:49 am

A movie critic, reviewing John Wayne’s 1968 gung-ho film, The Green Berets, said that Wayne had reduced the complex issues behind the Vietnam war to the simplicity of a barroom brawl.

In the same vein, the American news media displays a genius for ignoring the complexities of a major news story and focusing on just a single, sensationalistic aspect of it.

Take the Paula Deen scandal.  The media universally focused on Deen’s admitted use of the “N-word”–and utterly ignored far more important aspects of the story.

According to the complaint filed in the lawsuit, employees at the restaurant were routinely subjected to violent behavior, racial and sexual harassment, assault, bettery and sexual discrimination in pay.

Similarly, in covering the odyssey of Edward Snowden, the former National Security Agency (NSA) employee turned mass secret leaker, the media have followed the same path.

Edward Snowden

Following Snowden’s disappearance from the United States, the media focused their attention on charting the almost daily whereabouts of Snowden.

Would Snowden receive amnesty in Hong Kong?  In Russia?  In Cuba?  China?  Venezuela?  Nicaragua?

For the moment, he has settled on Russia, whose president, Vladimir Putin, is keeping a protective eye on him.

Yet even though he has momentarily obtained asylum, there’s no guarantee it will last.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, the international terrorist better known as “Carlos the Jackal,” can attest to that.

By 1994, he had spent almost 20 years on the run from the French Intellilgence agents.  They were seeking him for a series of terrorist attacks across France–and for the 1975 murders of two counter-intellilgence agents and their informant.

Carlos “The jackal”

After living in a series of countries that had no extradition treaty with France–such as Syria, Iraq and Jordan–he settled down in the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

He felt utterly safe, since he had been accorded official protection by the Sudanese government.  But he had misjudged his protectors.

French and American Intelligence agencies offered a number of deals to the Sudanese authorities. In 1994, Carlos was scheduled to undergo a minor testicular operation in a Sudanese hospital.

Two days after the operation, Sudanese officials warned him of an assassination plot–and moved him to a villa for protection.  They also provided him with bodyguards.

One night later, the bodyguards entered his room while he slept, tranquilized and tied him up–and slipped him into the custody of his longtime pursuers.

On August 14, 1994, Sudan transferred him to French Intelligence agents, who flew him to Paris for trial.  He is now serving two sentences of life imprisonment.

There is no guarantee that any nation that guarantees the security of Edward Snowden today won’t decide, in the future, to betray him.

And, eventually he will run out of secrets to spill.  That’s assuming that Russian and/or Chinese Intelligence agents haven’t already helped themselves to the secrets on his laptop.

As Mr. Spock once famously said during an episode of Star Trek: “Military secrets are the most fleeting of all.”

So where does the significance of the Snowden story lie?

In the fact that Americans have become too lazy or fearful to do most of their own spying.

Yes, that’s right–60 to 70% of America’s Intelligence budget doesn’t go to the CIA or the National Security Agency (NSA) or the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Instead, it goes to private contractors who supply secrets or “soldiers of fortune.”

One such contractor is Booz Allen Hamilton–which employed Snowden and gave him access to the super-secret NSA.

The outsourcing of government intelligence work to private contractors took off after 9/11.

This was especially true after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003–and found its Intelligence and armed services stretched to their furtherest limits.

The DIA estimates that, from the mid-1990s to 2005, the number of private contracts awarded by Intelligence agencies rose by 38%.

During that same period, government spending on “spies/guns for hire” doubled, from about $18 billion in 1995 to about $42 billion in 2005.

Many tasks and services once performed only by government employees are being “outsourced” to civilian contractors:

  • Analyzing Intelligence collected by drones and satellites;
  • Writing reports;
  • Creating and maintaining software programs to manipulate data for tracking terrorist suspects;
  • Staffing overseas CIA stations;
  • Serving as bodyguards to government officials stationed overseas;
  • Providing disguises used by agents working undercover.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli, the Florentine statesman, warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:

“There are two types of armies that a prince may use to defend his state: armies made up of his own people or mercenaries….

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal.

“They are brave among friends, among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Machiavelli, on meeting Edward Snowden, would no doubt find his judgment confirmed.

JAMES BOND FOR HIRE: PART TWO (END)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 12, 2013 at 9:00 pm

The 1960 Kirk Douglas epic, Spartacus, may soon prove to be more than great entertainment. It may also turn out to be a prophecy of the end of the American Republic.

Throughout the movie, wealthy Romans assume they can buy anything–or anyone.  When seeking a favor, Marcus Licinius Crassus (Laurence Oliver) says bluntly: “Name your price.”

Today, “Name your price” has become the password for entry into America’s Intelligence community.

Althugh not portrayed in Spartacus, one of the reasons for the fall of the Roman empire lay in its reliance on foreign mercenaries.

Roman citizens, who had for centuries manned their city’s legions, decided to outsource these hardships and dangers to hired soldiers from Germany and Gaul (now France).

Although Germans and Gauls had proven capable fighters when defending their own countries, they proved highly unrelible as paid mercenaries.

Niccolo Machiavelli, the father of political science, drew heavily on ancient history for his examples of how liberty could best be preserved within a republic.

Fully aware of the Romans’ disastrous experience with mercenaries, Machiavelli believed that a nation’s army should be driven by patriotism, not greed.  Speaking of mercenaries, he warned:

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends, among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Americans–generally disdainful of history–have blatantly ignored both the examples of history and the counsel of Machiavelli.  To their own peril.

Mark Mazzetti, author of the bestselling The Way of the Knife, chronicles how the CIA has been transformed from a primarily fact-finding agency into a terrorist-killing one.

Along with this transformation has come a dangerous dependency on private contractors to supply information that government agents used to dig up for themselves.

America’s defense and intelligence industries, writes Mazzetti, once spread across the country, have relocated to the Washington area.

They want to be close to “the customer”: The National Security Agency, the Pentagon, the CIA and an array of other Intelligence agencies.

The U.S. Navy SEALS raid that killed Osama bin Laden has been the subject of books, documentaries and even an Oscar-nominated movie: “Zero Dark Thirty.”

Almost unknown by comparison is a program the CIA developed with Blackwater, a private security company, to locate and assassinate Islamic terrorists.

“We were building a unilateral, unattributable capability,” Erik Prince, CEO of Blackwater, said in an interview.  “If it went bad, we weren’t expecting the [CIA] chief of station, the ambassador or anyone to bail us out.”

But the program never got past the planning stage.  Senior CIA officials feared the agency would not be able to  permanently hide its own role in the effort.

“The more you outsource an operation,” said a CIA official, “the more deniable it becomes.  But you’re also giving up control of the operation.  And if that guy screws up, it’s still your fault.”

Increased reliance on “outsourcing” has created a “brain-drain” within the Intelligence community. Jobs with private security companies usually pay 50% more than government jobs.

Many employees at the CIA, NSA and other Intelligence agencies leave government service–and then return to it as private contractors earning far higher salaries.

Many within the Intelligence community fear that too much Intelligence work has been outsourced and the government has effectively lost control of its own information channels.

And, as always with the hiring of mercenaries, there is an even more basic fear: How fully can they be trusted?

“There’s an inevitable tension as to where the contractor’s loyalties lie,” said Jeffrey Smith, a former general counsel for the CIA.  “Do they lie with the flag?  Or do they lie with the bottom line?”

Yet another concern: How much can Intelligence agencies count on private contractors to effectively screen the people they hire?

Edward Snowden, it should be remembered, was an employee of Booz Allen Hamilton, a consulting/security firm.  It was through this company that Snowden gained access to a treasury of NSA secrets.

In March 2007, the Bush administration revealed that it paid 70% of its intelligence budget to private security contractors.  That remains the case today–and the Intelligence budget for 2012 was $75.4 billion.

A 2010 investigative series by the Washington Post found that “1,931 private companies work on programs related to counterterrorism, homeland security and intelligence in about 10,000 locations across the country.”

Jesus never served as a spy or soldier.  But he clearly understood a truth too many officials within the American Intelligence community have forgotten:

“For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.”

JAMES BOND FOR HIRE: PART ONE (OF TWO)

In Bureaucracy, History, Military, Politics, Social commentary on July 11, 2013 at 10:33 pm

A movie critic, reviewing John Wayne’s 1968 gung-ho film, “The Green Berets,” said that Wayne had reduced the complex issues behind the Vietnam war to the simplicity of a barroom brawl.

In the same vein, the American news media displays a genius for ignoring the complexities of a major news story and focusing on just a single, sensationalistic aspect of it.

Take the Paula Deen scandal.  The media have universally focused on Deen’s admitted use of the “N-word”–and utterly ignored far more important aspects of the story.

According to the complaint, employees at the restaurant were routinely subjected to violent behavior, racial and sexual harassment, assault, bettery and sexual discrimination in pay.

Similarly, in covering the odyssey of Edward Snowden, the former NSA worker turned mass secret leaker, the media have followed the same path.

Edward Snowden

In an updated version of “Where’s Waldo?” the media have focused their attention on charting the almost daily whereabouts of Snowden.

Will Snowden receive amnesty in Hong Kong?  In Russia?  In Cuba?  China?  Venezuela?  Nicaragua?

The blunt truth is that Snowden, as an individual, doesn’t matter.

Either he will obtain aslym in a country that hates the United States–or he won’t.

Even if he obtains such asylum, there’s no guarantee it will last.

Ilich Ramírez Sánchez, the international terrorist better known as “Carlos the Jackal,” can attest to that.

By 1994, he had spent almost 20 years on the run from the French Intellilgence agents.  They were seeking him for a series of terrorist attacks across France–and for the 1975 murders of two counter-intellilgence agents and their informant.

Carlos “The jackal”

After living in a series of countries that had no extradition treaty with France–such as Syria, Iraq and Jordan–he settled down in the Sudanese city of Khartoum.

He felt utterly safe, since he had been accorded official protection by the Sudanese government.  But he had misjudged his protectors.

French and American Intelligence agencies offered a number of deals to the Sudanese authorities. In 1994, Carlos was scheduled to undergo a minor testicular operation in a Sudanese hospital.

Two days after the operation, Sudanese officials warned him of an assassination plot–and moved him to a villa for protection.  They also provided him with bodyguards.

One night later, the bodyguards entered his room while he slept, tranquilized and tied him up–and slipped him into the custody of his longtime pursuers.

On August 14, 1994, Sudan transferred him to French Intelligence agents, who flew him to Paris for trial.  He is now serving two sentences of life imprisonment.

There is no guarantee that any nation that guarantees the security of Edward Snowden today won’t decide, in the future, to betray him.

So for all the efforts of the news media to treat him like the Flying Dutchman, he is just one man.

And, eventually he will run out of secrets to spill.  That’s assuming that Russian and/or Chinese Intelligence agents haven’t already helped themselves to the secrets on his laptop.

As Mr. Spock once famously said during an episode of “Star Trek”: “Military secrets are the most fleeting of all.”

So where does the significance of the Snowden story lie?

In the fact that Americans have become too lazy or fearful to do most of their own spying.

Yes, that’s right–60 to 70% of America’s Intelligence budget doesn’t go to the CIA or the National Security Agency (NSA) or the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA).

Instead, it goes to private contractors who supply secrets or “soldiers of fortune.”

One such contractor is Booz Allen Hamilton–which employed Snowden and gave him access to the super-secret NSA.

The outsourcing of government intelligence work to private contractors took off after 9/11.

This was especially true after the United States invaded Iraq in 2003–and found its Intelligence and armed services stretched to their furtherest limits.

The DIA estimates that, from the mid-1990s to 2005, the number of private contracts awarded by Intelligence agencies rose by 38%.

During that same period, government spending on “spies/guns for hire” doubled, from about $18 billion in 1995 to about $42 billion in 2005.

Many tasks and services once performed only by government employees are being “outsourced” to civilian contractors:

  • Analyzing Intelligence collected by drones and satellites;
  • Writing reports;
  • Creating and maintaining software programs to manipulate data for tracking terrorist suspects;
  • Staffing overseas CIA stations;
  • Serving as bodyguards to government officials stationed overseas;
  • Providing disguises used by agents working undercover.

More than 500 years ago, Niccolo Machiavelli warned of the dangers of relying on mercenaries:

“There are two types of armies that a prince may use to defend his state: armies made up of his own people or mercenaries….

“Mercenaries…are useless and dangerous. And if a prince holds on to his state by means of mercenary armies, he will never be stable or secure; for they are disunited, ambitious, without discipline, disloyal; they are brave among friends, among enemies they are cowards.

“They have neither the fear of God nor fidelity to men, and destruction is deferred only so long as the attack is. For in peace one is robbed by them, and in war by the enemy.”

Machiavelli, on meeting Edward Snowden, would no doubt find his judgment confirmed.

FICTION THREATENS TO BECOME REALITY

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics, Social commentary on July 7, 2011 at 11:11 am

Steven Pressfield knows history.  He knows it well enough to have written four great historical novels about ancient Greece.

  • In Gates of Fire, he re-imagined the immortal last stand of the 300 Spartans at Thermopylae. 
  • In Tides of War, he re-fought the Greeks’ 25-year version of the Cold War between Athens and Sparta.
  • In The Virtues of War, he resurrected Alexander the Great as a luminous but murderous military genius.
  • And in The Afghan Campaign, he depicted the first great conflict between the West and Afghanistan, as Alexander sought to brutally “pacify” the country so he could press on to conquer India.

And now, with The Profession, Pressfield has abandoned history altogether for the future.  Or perhaps it’s more accurate to call it a warning about the history that Americans may well face in the near-future.

Pressfield creates his futuristic world out of events now shaping our lives.  In doing so, he reveals more truths about our military and civilian bureaucracies than many Americans might want to learn.

American military and Intelligence agencies are increasingly relying on private–and highly-paid–contractors to meet their needs. The 2003 invasion of Iraq saw more private “soldiers-for-hire” operating there than soldiers from the regular American military.

It was in Iraq that Blackwater became a household word–as much for its wholesale brutality as its effectiveness.

Pressfield slams us forwad into the ultra-violent world of 2032, where   apocalypse hovers around every corner.  The third Iraq-Iran war is over, and Americans are still reeling from the November, 2011 “dirty bomb” attack on Long Beach, California.

America has attained the power of an empire–but has lost the will to put its own sons at risk to defend it.

Instead, it turns to the privately-funded armies of such multi-national corporations as BP and ExxonMobil. And the largest of these mercenary armies is Force Insertion–whose leader is a cashiered United States Marine general named James Salter.

Salter is a combination of two great Pressfield characters. He has the far-seeing strategic genius of the Athenian general, Alcibiades (Tides of War). And he has the charismatic authority of Alexander the Great, who’s worshipped by the soldiers he commands (The Virtues of War, The Afghan Campaign).

He is thus a highly attractive character.  It’s easy to see why so many people–soldiers and civilians–want to see him victorious.

But there is a dark purpose behind his every maneuver. Again like Alcibiades, who deserted Athens for Sparta, he’s driven by rage and pride to avenge himself on those he blames for his disgrace and exile.

And he has an audacious plan to make this a reality:  Seize the oilfields of Saudi Arabia–fifty years’ worth of crude–and offer these as a gift to his fellow Americans.  In exchange, he will return home—as an American Caesar/President.

Standing firmly behind him for most of the novel is its narrator, Gilbert “Gent” Gentilhomme. A former Marine-turned-mercenary himself, Gentilhomme seeks a place of honor and purpose in a world he sees as generally lacking both. He sees Salter as a second father and warrior ideal–a courageous, brilliant, true patriot wronged by those in power who despise such qualities.

It is only when Gent comes to realize the terrible danger Salter poses to the Republic that he moves from devoted follower to would-be assassin. At the climax of the novel, he faces off with his longtime hero, in an exchange containing more blunt truths about America today than many readers may want to accept.

“The United States is an empire,” says Salter. “But the American people lack the imperial temperament. We’re not legionnaires, we’re mechanics. In the end the American Dream boils down to what? `I’m getting mine and the hell with you.'”

Salter realizes he is ultimately fighting a losing war to preserve the country he loves.  The ambitious part of him hungers to accept the gift of absolute power his fellow Americans want to gratefully confer on him.

The reflective part of him knows he is, in effect, betraying the very Republic he longs to save–and hopes an assassin’s bullet will spare him this disgrace.

 “The very ascension of someone like me–a mercenary general plucked from the provinces–is history’s sign that the nation has lost its way and is struggling desperately, merely to hang on.”

Most reviews of The Profession have focused on its depiction of futuristic techno-war: Holographic, hand-held phones. Cloaking technology to conceal high-end weaponry from satellite eyes-in-the-sky. Tactical nuclear weapons that are commonly possessed and plausibly used.

Like a Tom Clancy novel, The Profession can be read by those who simply want an exciting page-turner. But, unlike Clancy’s thrillers, this is a book with an urgent warning for its audience: A warning that what we are today threatens to lead us to the edge of an abyss–in which there is no freedom, and from which there is no return.

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