I have, of late, been wondering if the debate about PMCs is not superfluous.
I ask this question because I wonder just how “private” the majority of PMCs out there are?
To understand the concept of a Private Military Company, I believe that one should evaluate it against certain criteria. After all, the operative word is “private”.
As a basic set of criteria to measure PMCs against, I think the following questions ought to be asked:
1. Were they founded at the behest of, and/or with support from a host government?
2. Were they founded to assist a host government with specific military or foreign policy aims?
3. Are they independently funded or are they sustained by host government contracts?
4. Are they operating to further the foreign policy of their host government?
5. Were they awarded contracts based on recognition of prior work or were they handed their contracts, regardless?
6. Are their contracts awarded by their host government or by the client government?
7. Do they operate as an extension of their host government’s armed forces?
8. Have they (really) produced measurable results?
If these questions cannot be answered satisfactorily, then surely they are not “private” military companies but rather parastatal military companies.
Let me be clear on this score: I don’t mind them being parastatal military companies at all. In fact, good for them. However, it irks me that they are advertised as “private” as that is what many of them certainly are not.
Some claim to have modelled themselves on “company X” or “company Y” but in fact, that is simply a smokescreen. I suspect that this is done to distance themselves from their host governments and make them appear “private”. But this perception actually prevents the real Private Military Companies from entering the market as they cannot compete on the same level as Parastatal Military Companies – simply because they do not have the financial backing of a government behind them.
I also know that some of these PMCs boast at being non-profit PMCs. But, I am told (rather reliably) that there is at least one PMC that has (very quietly) set up an “independent” PMC, in parallel with itself that it then subcontracts. In my book, this hardly makes it a non-profit PMC. Actually, I suspect that there is an element of fraud in this if the claim is true.
So, while the debate rages on about Private Military Companies I have to wonder just how “private” many of them really are.