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This book offers a comprehensive moral theory of privatization in war - asks whether, and to what extent, the privatization of combat and other military services is morally justifiable.
At the peak of US hostilities in Iraq and Afghanistan, more than one contractor served for every member of the military, up from one in 10 during the initial invasions and one in 25 during the Gulf War. Contractors drove truck routes, cleaned latrines, performed interrogations, cooked meals, trained police, washed clothes, repaired vehicles, built bases, protected diplomats, translated interviews, and gathered intelligence. Often, they also engaged in killing. The moral challenge posed by these private military contractors is how governments should draw lines when relying upon them. When is military privatization no longer permissible? Perhaps a boundary should be drawn around the entire battlefield, or rather where the sound of gunfire can be heard. Perhaps the appropriate restriction is not on physical proximity to combat, but on participation in combat, or not on participation but on participation in ‘offensive’ (as opposed to ‘defensive’) combat. Some have even questioned whether lines should be drawn at all. Is there a morally relevant distinction between, say, hiring private ground controllers and renting an air force or between defending an installation and driving away its assailants? What if a state were simply to procure its entire military from the private sector? Such questions about private military combat eventually raise a still more heretical set of questions about the very enterprise of war, one that has long been central to just war theory: what, if anything, gives states the exclusive authority to declare war in the first place?
This book takes up these questions and attempts to delineate the full spectrum of justifiable military action for private agents. In service of this goal, the book asks about the kind of wars that private actors might wage apart from the state and about the kind of wars that private actors might wage as functionaries of the state. The first set of wars, we might say, serves to probe the ad bellum question of whether private actors can justifiably authorize war, while the second set of wars serves to probe the in bello question of whether private actors can justifiably participate in war. The cases that drive the analysis are drawn largely from the rich and complicated history of private military action, stretching back centuries to the Italian city-states whose mercenaries were reviled by Machiavelli and even to Ancient Persia, where a coup attempt made famous by Xenophon’s Anabasis relied upon the contracted service of Greek irregulars. Occasionally, the author examines the hypothetical examples conjured by philosophers and novelists—the private protective agencies of Nozick’s Anarchy, State, and Utopia, for example, and the private armies of Thomas M