About Me

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I saw active service in conventional, clandestine and covert units of the South African Defence Force. I was the founder of the Private Military Company (PMC) Executive Outcomes in 1989 and its chairman until I left in 1997. Until its closure in 1998, EO operated primarily in Africa helping African governments that had been abandoned by the West and were facing threats from insurgencies, terrorism and organised crime. EO also operated in South America and the Far East. I believe that only Africans (Black and White) can truly solve Africa’s problems. I was appointed Chairman of STTEP International in 2009 and also lecture at military colleges and universities in Africa on defence, intelligence and security issues. Prior to the STTEP International appointment, I served as an independent politico-military advisor to several African governments. Until recently, I was a contributing editor to The Counter Terrorist magazine. All comments in line with the topics on this blog are welcome. As I consider this to be a serious look at military and security matters, foul language and political or religious debates will not be entertained on this blog.

Saturday, November 14, 2009

ONE YEAR OLD...

Exactly one year ago, I wrote and posted for the first time on this blog.

What started out – on a recommendation from my wife – as a forum to set the record straight on numerous issues that have bothered (and still bother) me has grown somewhat beyond my expectations.

I have had some excellent comments from those who follow the blog and also some (very valid) reprimands. As a whole, I am happy with the way things are going as I am still able to voice my opinions and concerns – and in the process learn from so many different visitors from across the globe.

However, over the past year I have, unfortunately, had to banish some from the blog who have not realised that this is a serious look at military and security affairs.

My concerns lie primarily with the soldiers and security officers who I believe are often neglected by their political masters and when things turn bad, have to take the blame for poorly formulated strategies and sometimes inexcusable and inexplicably poor political decisions. Sometimes senior officers also need to take responsibility for poor decisions and for not having the backbone to stand up for their troops and ensure that they get the correct equipment at the correct place and time.When this support is lacking and casualties rise, morale will be affected.

The lot of the soldier – be it in an armed force or as a contractor in a PMC – is not an easy one. But, we never put ourselves out there because we thought it would be easy. We know the role of the politicians and the senior officers and we know our role – and we accept it with stoicism. However, if I, in a small way, can contribute to saving the lives of soldiers with some small bit of advice, irrespective of where they are deployed, I will feel that the blog has not been in vain.

The blog has allowed me to re-establish contact with some fellow-soldiers I last saw many years ago and also to make new friends and contacts throughout the world. With followers and daily visitors from 98 countries, I feel honoured to be able to “speak” to so many about things I believe in – even though not everyone agrees with me – and, as far as I am concerned, that is healthy.

I have, over the course of the year, received several suggestions from those who follow this blog on what they would like me to write about. Some of these issues I have tried to cover and some I will still get to. Some, especially where purely political in nature, I shall not debate as I am not a politician – and have no intention of becoming one.

To those who visit the blog simply to read it or to make comments - you have all contributed to making this a good year.

My sincerest thanks to each and every one of you.

51 comments:

matt said...

Eeben,

Congrats for writing such an outstanding blog over the last year. I have learned much by hanging out here, so thanks.
What is really cool about what you are doing, is showing to other CEO's the power behind a blog. You can correct the record, draw in a readership that cares about what you have to say, and fill the information void that is often filled with media folks with agendas. More CEO's and leaders should take note of what you are doing on this blog.
I too have gone through a similar transformation on my blog, and the payoffs have been amazing. The simple act of blogging about this industry, has forced me to be more connected with it, and has allowed me the ability to share the lessons learned with an extremely fragmented group like ours.
The guys and gals out there are definitely reading this stuff, and they are definitely applying the lessons learned, strategy and tactics you have talked about, for doing well in this industry and in war.
Now if we can only get more folks to start blogging, to include some CEO's of other companies. (Are you reading this Erik Prince? Anyone?)

SD said...

Happy birthday to your blog and thank you for your very interresting posts.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, Matt. However, it is the visitors and contributors to the site that make it what it is. I can write until I am blue in the face but if no one visits or comments, it will simply be a waste of time.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, SD. It is much appreciated.

Rgds,

Eeben

simon said...

I have to say I have received an education thru the blog and your book and other books ( Ive read alot of books in the last two years )on issues involving rhodesia and south africa, PMC's and post apartheid issues, I dont think I would have received anywhere else. thanks for putting yourself on the line. Simon

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

My pleasure, Simon, but I too have learnt a lot from everyone who has joined in.

Rgds,

Eeben

Jake said...

Congratulations Eeben on your 1 year anniversary as a blogger. Your insights and perspective enrich every discussion and I am glad you have chosen to make your views known to all. Keep up the good work!

SF

Jake

Robby said...

Strange it's been about a year now that I've had feelings about coming home...coincidence....:-) thanks brother

tyhz1995 said...

Congrats sir.I am honoured to chime in from time to time.I believe you respond honestly though I was shocked to find the blog initially.I have followed your actions for some time and enjoy reading other vet's comments.I was aware of S.Africa's fight from an early age as my father had business dealings there.And admired the grit the SADF showed time and again.EO ha ha what courage!All hail Eeben Barlow!

JoExplorer said...

Eeben,

Congratulations for being able to keep this blog of yours up and going. Especially with all the different topics ,there is always something to new and interesting reads here.

Have a good Rest of the Weekend on your Side of the World !

Cheers,
Joe





Cheers,
Joe

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you too for your inputs and encouragement, Jake.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Coincidence or not, Robby, I am sure that deep down you have always missed home. Thanks for always updating us with links on topical issues.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I appreciate everyone’s comments, Tyler. Without them, the blog would simply be a stagnant page on the internet.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Joe, although it is not always easy to keep it going, especially when I am travelling. Keep visiting from your side of the world.

Rgds,

Eeben

craftech said...

Congratulations with your blog anniversary Eeben. I believe you will achieve your personal goals with this informative blog.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, craftech. It is much appreciated.

Rgds,

Eeben

Tango said...

Eeben ,
I have followed your bog over the past year and have enjoyed reading every article posted.
I am looking forward to the release of your next book as well.

Regards
Tango


A poem of a common soldier.....which politicians should read!

Just A Common Soldier

by A. Lawrence Vaincourt

He was getting old and paunchy and his hair was falling fast,
And he sat around the Legion, telling stories of the past
Of a war that he had fought in and the deeds that he had done,
In his exploits with his buddies; they were heroes, every one

And tho' sometimes, to his neighbors, his tales became a joke,
All his Legion buddies listened, for they knew whereof he spoke
But we'll hear his tales no longer for old Bill has passed away,
And the world's a little poorer, for a soldier died today

He will not be mourned by many, just his children and his wife,
For he lived an ordinary and quite uneventful life
Held a job and raised a family, quietly going his own way,
And the world won't note his passing, though a soldier died today

When politicians leave this earth, their bodies lie in state,
While thousands note their passing and proclaim that they were great.
Papers tell their whole life stories, from the time that they were young,
But the passing of a soldier goes unnoticed and unsung

Is the greatest contribution to the welfare of our land
A guy who breaks his promises and cons his fellow man?
Or the ordinary fellow who, in times of war and strife,
Goes off to serve his Country and offers up his life?

A politician's stipend and the style in which he lives
Are sometimes disproportionate to the service that he gives.
While the ordinary soldier, who offered up his all,
Is paid off with a medal and perhaps, a pension small

It's so easy to forget them for it was so long ago
That the old Bills of our Country went to battle, but we know
It was not the politicians, with their compromise and ploys,
Who won for us the freedom that our Country now enjoys

Should you find yourself in danger, with your enemies at hand,
Would you want a politician with his ever-shifting stand?
Or would you prefer a soldier, who has sworn to defend
His home, his kin and Country and would fight until the end?

He was just a common soldier and his ranks are growing thin,
But his presence should remind us we may need his like again.
For when countries are in conflict, then we find the soldier's part
Is to clean up all the troubles that the politicians start

If we cannot do him honor while he's here to hear the praise,
Then at least let's give him homage at the ending of his days
Perhaps just a simple headline in a paper that would say,
Our Country is in mourning, for a soldier died today.

Sonny Cox said...

Eeben,

Each time you post something on your Blog, you tend to set the records straight.

Your Blog has grown from strength to strength and is a pillar of strength to all who read it.

Cheers to the next ten years!!

Regards

Billy

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Tango. Also, thanks for the great poem. I agree – politicians ought to be forced to read it.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, Billy.

Rgds,

Eeben

Aethyr said...

Dear Eeben,

Congratulations for you and your blog. I remember bumping into it after reading your book. You were very busy with this blog and I want to thank you for that. In the beginning I was able to contribute to some things but then I preferred to just shut up and read your input, because I am no soldier and I am lacking the experience.

But still I am excited everytime you post a new blog.
Thank you for a huge amount of insight. My best wishes for the upcoming year.

regards
David

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you, David.

However, I believe that every visitor’s comments and questions are valid to the person sending them and to me as well as I too learn from everyone in the process. I really want the blog to be a live, evolving blog and that can only happen when people question and comment. So please do not feel that you are lacking in any way whatsoever.

Rgds,

Eeben

greendemon said...

Your thoughts and experience on matters military and COIN are enlightening; thanks for keeping up the blogwork.

I came across a report by a veteran of COIN which echoes your conclusions. It's always reassuring to hear solidly grounded opinions which mainly agree with our own ;)

http://smallwarsjournal.com/blog/2009/11/afghanistan-trip-report/

"SWJ Blog - Bing West - Afghanistan Trip Report

….I’d like to share a few thoughts. By way of context, let me state my frame of reference. As a former assistant secretary of defense for international security, I am familiar with Washington dynamics; but I believe COIN is decided at the small unit level, not in national capitals. I was 18 months in Vietnam, have written five books on COIN and made 20 trips to Iraq and Afghanistan. This was my third Afghanistan visit in quick succession (April-May, June-July and October). My observations are based on forty to fifty shuras and patrols - several on extended missions - that included numerous small-arms engagements and fire missions. I talked with about 500 Marines and Afghan security forces of all ranks. The observations here are derived from that sample [.]"

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your comment as well as the link, greendemon. I too found the Afghanistan trip report to be very interesting and well worth reading.

Rgds,

Eeben

John said...

Hi Eeben

I know this is old news and off the point for this posting, but I have just seen that there was another attempted hijacking of the Maersk Alabama, that was hijacked by Somali pirates a few months ago.
This from the Christian Science Monitor
“The Maersk Alabama is not the first commercial ship to use armed guards to repel pirate attacks. The Italian flagged MSC Melody – a cruise ship with 1,500 passengers en route from Durban, South Africa to Genoa, Italy – repelled a pirate attack in April 180 miles north of the Seychelles Islands. A skiff with six apparently Somali pirates fired some 200 rounds at the Melody. A team of Israeli armed guards fired into the air, while ship crew members used fire hoses against the pirates attempting to climb aboard the ship. Some owners have resisted putting armed guards on ships, arguing that pirates will always be better armed and are likely to continue using their weapons on board, increasing the likelihood that crew members will be injured or killed.In most cases, pirates leave the crew members of hijacked ships unharmed, experts on Somali piracy say, but their tactics could become more brutal if commercial ships start fighting back.”

If one listens to these so called experts, and it seems like most ship owners do, its better for you to be hijacked and do nothing, than to fight for what is yours and deny these criminals from taking away your freedom, probably your life and your possessions!

Its alarming to see how weak our civilization has become (or rather some in it), to think that we will rather fire our guns in the air and use water hoses to repel criminals who are shooting at you and trying to board your ship!!

All I can say is good luck to the pirates! Seems like they are getting away with being criminals I think we are in the wrong business!!!

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

A fascinating article, John, thanks for making us aware of it.

I am a little astonished at what I read as it does seem to me that crime definitely pays. However, I must also admit that no one seems to be looking at the root cause of this Somali “toll-fee” and work at fixing that. We are all aware of the failed-state scenario, but there are reasons why states fail. Nevertheless, they do fail and will continue to fail until such time as a DECENT, REALISTIC strategy is developed, put in place, adhered to, monitored and continually adjusted as necessary.

I too believe it is much more economical to be hijacked than to have armed guards – especially when the insurance pays out. Some vessel owners are really not concerned at protecting their crews and the cargo they have been entrusted with. Besides, why do so if more money can be made from a simple hijacking?

Rgds,

Eeben

hardnose said...

Eeben,

Congratulations on your 'site'. I have found it both entertaining and informative. My work often keeps me from joining in on the discussions, but when I can find time to sit in front of the computer I try to get a word in edgewise. EO was a good company and it's a shame that there was and is so much contraversy surronding it. They did great work, and I'm sure that contiinues on many other levels, down the road less traveled. I look forward to future articles on your 'blog'.
Rgds,
Hardnose

P.S. It's always a good idea to listen to the wife, they seem to have a way of hitting the bullseye when you least expect it.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thank you, Hardnose – it is always good to have old visitors return to check what is happening here.

Yes, I too think EO was a good company. Ironically, I believe EO’s problem was that it actually did what it was contracted to do. Today, there are numerous PMCs that as best can be described as “briefcase” or “Powerpoint” companies and no one is remotely interested in them. But, let a PMC achieve something positive – and it will be reported negatively.

Rgds,

Eeben

Alex said...

Hey Eeben,

Congratulations on the blog's anniversary. I always find the articles and the ensuing discussions to be both fascinating and informative. I'll keep this short, suffice to say as long as you keep writing I shall keep reading, and be better informed for it.

By the way, I recently got the essay you kindly assisted me with back and was both surprised and gratified to find I got top marks for it. Thanks again for your help on that, I really do appreciate it.

Regards

Alex

J. said...

Happy blogiversary! This is a great blog, and I hope to come back to it again and again. You're doing a great service for the military community. Now get back to work, pound out another great post.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, Alex, and well done on your essay results.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, J.

I am trying to pound out another posting but time can sometimes be my enemy...

Rgds,

Eeben

Alan said...

Eeben:

Congratulations on your important milestone. On a sad note, my condolences on the passing of fellow countryman Mendel Kaplan.

Regards, Alan

Obin and Jessica Robinson said...

Eeben,

I've been following your blog for about a year and I read it all the time while in Iraq. At the same time I also read Executive Outcomes while in Iraq.

I couldn't help but wonder why our executive-level American politicians and strategists don't follow your simple COIN strategies which were proven to be successful? Then of course I came to the part of the book where you wrote about the foreign 'journalists' working in South Africa that helped to ruin Executive Outcomes. I wonder if the same sorts of 'journalists' are working in the USA today and hurting our counterinsurgency efforts worldwide?

Keep up the great work on your blog and with your books. Your words of wisdom helped our team greatly in Iraq. I wish the other teams would have taken the time to read your blog and books. It would have made everyone's time easier by learning from your successes.

Obin Robinson

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Many thanks, Alan.

I understand that Mendel Kaplan was a tireless champion and philanthropist and I am sure the Jewish community will miss him greatly.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your visits to the blog as well as for taking the time to read my book, Obin. I really appreciate it.

I believe that the media is very heavily tainted by a few very unscrupulous people who pose as journalists – both local and foreign – who will never allow facts to get in the way of a good lie. Whereas there are many good journalists around, there are also some who fit the bill of “nefarious mercenary” very well and couldn’t care less about informing people and their responsibilities as journalists. As long as the media does not clear its own house, things will only get worse on that front.

I am thrilled to read that my blog made a small contribution to helping your team. If that is so, then my blog has achieved its aim.
Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks for your words, Private T.

Yes, I do cope much better in a hot climate as I detest the cold. But, I have had to spend time in extreme cold and managed to survive but only barely.

I am, despite all its problems, still passionate about Africa and will continue to be so.

Rgds,

Eeben

Joe1172 said...

Hi Eeben,
congratulations to your first blog anniversary! I am following your since about 10 months and find it very informative and entertaining as well.

I have a suggestion and hope you like my idea: What about opening one subject that deals with your book "EO - against all odds"? I finished reading it a few weeks ago and have some questions about some chapters in the book and don't like to go off topic in the other article' comments sections. I am sure other followers would appreciate that as well.

Apart from that I found an article about your book from a German journalist that you might find interesting as it isn't written in the usual politically correct style: http://martincompart.wordpress.com/2009/10/08/gute-soldner-jenseits-von-blackwater/

It is written in German, but I as A German native I can read Afrikaans quite fluently and I wonder if an Afrikaans speaker can do the same on German texts. (If not I can send you a translation)

Greets from the Cape!
Joe

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Joe.

I will need to think about a posting dealing with EO as I don’t want to bore the visitors to the blog. It is something that now lies in past but if you have a question, just send it along until an EO post is finally made and I shall try to answer it as best I can.

Thanks for the link to the German site. It is an interesting read – although I don’t read much German, I can understand some of it. Thanks for your offer for doing a translation – much appreciated.
Enjoy the Cape – we have been drenched up here!

Rgds,

Eeben

Robby said...

FYI...follow up on Blackwater case

US to drop shooting case against Blackwater guard

WASHINGTON – The Justice Department intends to drop manslaughter and weapons charges against one of the Blackwater Worldwide security guards involved in a deadly 2007 Baghdad shooting, prosecutors said in court documents Friday.

The shooting in busy Nisoor Square left 17 Iraqis dead and inflamed anti-American sentiment abroad. It touched off a string of investigations that ultimately led the State Department to cancel the company's lucrative contract to guard diplomats in Iraq.

Iraqis have said they're watching closely to see how the U.S. judicial system handles the five men accused of unleashing an unprovoked attack on civilians with machine guns and grenades.

A one-paragraph notice filed Friday says only that prosecutors have asked that the case against Nicholas Slatten of Sparta, Tenn., be dropped. The government's detailed request to the court was filed with the judge and with the defendant, but was not made public.

Prosecutors filed the request in a way that allows them to file new charges against Slatten later. There is no indication in the documents whether they intend to. Justice Department spokesman Dean Boyd said Friday he could not say whether new charges would be filed.

Slatten's attorney, Thomas Connolly, said he could not comment on the court documents but said Slatten has maintained his innocence all along. Slatten was an Army sniper who served two tours in Iraq before joining Blackwater.

The request could be a bad sign for the government. After the shootings, some guards spoke to investigators under the promise of immunity. Prosecutors have been arguing behind closed doors that the immunity deal did not taint the case. The judge is considering that issue now. Jury selection in the trial is scheduled to begin Jan. 25.

Five guards, all military veterans, face charges. Prosecutors say the shooting was unprovoked but Blackwater says its convoy was ambushed. A sixth pleaded guilty, turned on his former colleagues, and pleaded guilty to killing one Iraqi and wounding another.

The case against the remaining four guards is set for trial in February. Prosecutors were aggressive in their charges, using an anti-machine gun law to attach 30-year mandatory prison sentences to the case. And though authorities can't say for sure exactly which guards shot which victims, all five guards are charged with 14 counts of manslaughter.

So far, most of the case has played out behind closed doors. Defense attorneys have argued the FBI improperly built their case using information gathered under the promise of immunity. Investigators say they were careful to build their case only on material gathered independent of the immunity deals.

The trial likely will hinge on whether the Blackwater guards were provoked. Iraqi witnesses say Blackwater fired the only shots. Some members of the Blackwater convoy said they saw gunfire. Others said they didn't. Radio logs of the shooting indicate the guards were fired on.

Prosecutors say the guards was itching for a fight and unleashed a gruesome attack on unarmed Iraqis, including women, children and people trying to escape. The convoy allegedly launched a grenade into a nearby girls' school.

Since the shooting, Blackwater, headquartered in Moyock, N.C., has renamed itself Xe Corp. and has undergone a management upheaval.

graycladunits said...

Dear Sir:

College work has made this reply late. I asked if JMU would be willing to have you. It turns out that their top honorarium is 1500 USD for speaking. A history professor said that if the head of Africana Studies were to ask you to come, it would be only if you were already in the US so that they could avoid having to pay for your plane ticket. ALso, turns out that JMU deducts room, board and meals etc. from every honorarium. I don't know how this sounds to you. I don't know how much the average speaker makes as an honorium in my own nation. I've never done the research before. JMU is not the richest school, but I have the email address of the guy in charge of Africana Studies who you would need to talk to. Perhaps, you could visit JMU while speaking at some other schools. Let me know if you are interested. I will let him know that you do these kinds of tours.

graycladunits

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

An interesting link, Robby, thanks for sending it through and keeping us updated.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

No problem whatsoever, GCU. However, thank you for your interest in having me there to talk to you and others.

I have no plans to travel to the US at this time. But, if ever I did decide to undertake such a trip, I will notify you in advance.

Thanks again for your interest.

Rgds,

Eeben

Gatvol said...

Its refreshing to see that this Blog has kept its head way above water and all the respones to your topics are in line with good demeanor.
Keep up the good work, but unlike others out there, dont let us know......ha ha.
A coffee in the mall is overdue.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Sorry to have taken a while to respond to you and the others, Gatvol, but I am still out of country and internet is somewhat intermittent where I am

I am very fortunate in the manner most people respond to the posts. As I mentioned earlier, I had banned a few but that is an absolute few.

Yes, when I get back, coffee in the mall would be a good idea. Thanks for the invite.

Rgds,

Eeben

Sonny Cox said...

Hi again Eeben
I would like to send you a letter of appreciation from the MOTH side, in the near future.
Could you please furnish me with a fax/post box/e-mail or DLB address at some stage soon?
Warm Greetings
Billy

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

Thanks, Billy, I need the "warmth" part of your greeting. I am currently out-of-county (somewhere rather nippy!)but will call you when I return.

I had a really good time with you guys as did my son.

Rgds,

Eeben

Fabio Di Caro said...

Angename kennis Meneer Barlow,your deeds have been of example to me thorughout the years,now that I have found your blog allow me to keep in touch with you.Like you said how did these clowns get under contract or the contract was hit anything that moves.Recently I got contacted by one of "those" companies and even though money was extremely good and times are not,my only reply was that I don't go around with that kind of people.Like everybody all I wish for is to go back to ZA,to my beloved Johannesburg,South Africa doesn't belong to us we belong to South Africa,Met Ons Land en Met Ons Nasie Sal dit Wel Wees God Regeer.I live in Italy now,hopefully I'll be able to meet you some day but for now all the best to the ultimate best.

Fabio Di Caro said...

Hi Mr Barlow,my site is http://www.highpowerenterprises.eu
please feel free to contact me,actually I look forward to hearing from you,I confess that my first choice was Executive Enterprises but then I thought what if "he" gets upset for the similarity of the names and comes looking for me?Keep well Sir,great having found you.

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

It is good to have you join us, Fabio. Thank you for your kind words.

You are so right – we belong to South Africa and it will always be so.

I look forward to meeting you one day when you return from Italy.

Rgds,

Eeben

Eeben Barlow's Milsec Blog said...

I like the lay-out of your site, Fabio. Of course, as EO no longer exists, I cannot lay claim to any part of the name so if ever you wish to change the name, I cannot even frown at it.

Good luck and rgds,

Eeben