Private Military & Security Companies and the Pursuit of Legitimacy


“Even though private military and security companies are relatively new to international security, they are increasingly being recognized by governments, civil societies  and  international organizations as  legitimate actors that can have a positive impact on international security”1.

This quotation from one of the most eminent scholars in the field of private security constitutes an optimal incipit to illustrate the content and structure of this dissertation.

Private military and security companies represent the subject of this research project and – as Kinsey points out – they are relatively new actors in the field of international relations  in  general  and  –  more  specifically  –  within  the  context  of  international security.  Nevertheless, in a relatively small amount of time, they have managed to acquire an incredible gravitas, both financially and in terms of security actors. The current estimated value of the global private security sector is in fact close to $100 billion and it represents one of the fastest growing sectors of the economy world-wide.2 Several PMSC are publicly listed companies, with a working force in terms of hundreds of thousands of people, engaged in a large spectrum of activities all around the World: from the training of police forces, to high-tech surveillance and intelligence analysis.

Increasing recognition by governments, civil societies and international organizations is a direct consequence of this gravitas: interacting with these corporations has become a necessity rather than a choice, as they have gradually taken over the provision of a whole spectrum of security services, from logistics to the training of armed forces, from surveillance to intelligence gathering.

The magnitude of process has automatically triggered a number of questions about the causes  and  potential  consequences  of  what appears  to be  an  unstoppable  process. Issues regarding the legitimacy of the private security business have been among the first to be raised and despite their importance, it is plausible to claim that they have not been addressed accurately.

The  provision  of  private  security  triggers  a  number  of  fundamental  questions  all related to the notion of legitimacy. The first – outlined by Mandel – is the question of control over the means of coercion, specifically who has, and who should have, the legitimate authority to use physical coercion in pursuit of security.3   With a gradual but constant  rate,  these  private  corporations  are  in  fact  taking  over  one  of  the  most defining  characteristic of the Westphalian state, the provision of security. This has enormous  consequences  –  in  theory  and  in  practice  –  on  the  very  nature  and perception of security ( as a private commodity as opposed to a private good) as well as on the nature and function of the State itself, since the dispersions of means of coercion challenge the Weberian conception of the state’s monopoly over these means.4

The other fundamental issue project is the one proposed by Kinsey, the recognition of PMSCs as legitimate actors – which is also the central argument of this research.

Numerous scholars have in fact raised concerned or express opinions – as in the case of Kinsey – about the nature of these corporations: some have claimed the illegitimate nature of these corporations5; others have advocated the opposite6. The majority of scholars agree that PMSC are attempting to become legitimate entities.7 The recurrence and redundancy of this claim in the literature – however – comes together with its lack of explanation and empirical demonstration, and as transformed legitimacy in a cliché.

Recognizing this gap within the literature, the intent of the dissertation is to address this fundamental though neglected link between legitimacy and PMSCs. Specifically, it will be argued how through an appropriate theoretical understanding of the notion of legitimacy it is possible to substantiate the claim that PMSCs are trying to become legitimate actors, disentangling this argument from the realm of the assumption and instead demonstrating with substantial empirical evidence how this transition is taking place.

The dissertation will argue how changes within the structure and organization of the market for force can be interpreted as the pragmatic evidence of a continuous path undertaken by most PMSCs toward legitimacy. This concept constitutes in fact a powerful cognitive instrument to interpret some drastic modifications that occurred within  the industry  in the past 20/30 years,  such as the disappearance  of combat services. Attempts to distinguish between private military companies and private security  companies  on  the  base  of  the  services  they  provide  have  been  largely proposed and discussed8: the choice of employing the nomenclature of private and military  companies  testifies  a  precise  intent  to  describe  this  transition  from  a militarized security to a more defensive approach.

The project will at first situate itself within the existing literature on PMSCs: by doing so, it will discuss the limitations and potential sources of inspiration of those research projects already carried out in this field. In the second chapter, the notion of legitimacy itself will be introduced, explained and connected to the phenomenon of privatized security. In the third chapter, the origins of the private military industry will be analyzed, in the attempt to understand and explain to what extent PMSCs and their activities can be perceived as illegitimate. The fourth chapter will instead focus precisely on the strategies of legitimating implemented by modern PMSCs; the potential outcomes of these legitimzing policies will be discussed in the last chapter.9

Chapter One

Literature Review

This first chapter will attempt to present a general overview of the existing literature on PMSCs.

As it will be argued, research on this issue has undergone an increasing trend of complexity, evolving from an initial stage of a priori and superficial evaluations to a more sophisticated analysis. What is missing – however – is a strong theory-based approach to the subject that can explain the evolution and changes in the market for force that have occurred in the last two decades.  In this sense, it will be argued how the notion of legitimacy constitutes a optimal conceptual ground to build this research- project and to emphasize the contribution of each section of the literature.

Existing literature on PMSCs and the privatization of security can roughly be divided in three main phases. The first and initial section of the literature on PMSCs develops after the intervention of Executive Outcomes (EO)10 and Sandline International (SI)11 in a number of African conflicts. This phase is characterized by a huge dichotomy between strong supporters of PMSCs and harsh critics of their activities.

The academic position of the formers is characterized by a strong underlying optimism concerning the ability of PMSCs to arrest conflicts in the Third World. A good example of this position is Doug Brook’s paper, “Write a Cheque, End a War”12. In the incipit of this article, the author asks almost rhetorically: “Have mercenaries become Africa’s best  hope?”13.  In  his  opinion,  PMSCs  represent  the  best  option  –  both  in  terms  of efficacy and efficiency – to stop the rising number of armed conflicts in the African continent: “All it takes – he affirms – is a willing chequebook and a small one at that”14.

Analysis of moral and political dilemmas triggered by the employment of PMSCs in conflict or post-conflict scenarios is merely introduced and only marginally discussed and – evidently – his evaluation is extremely over-simplified.

Another early advocate of the private security business – though more moderate in his conclusions – is David Shearer, who also suggested the idea that PMSCs could represent an efficient alternative to peacekeeping missions, especially considering the apathy shown by the international community.15

Abdel-Fatau Musah and J. Kayode Fayemi – on the contrary – are among the earliest and fiercest critics of PMSCs. Their edited book “Mercenaries – An African Security Dilemma”16 introduces numerous claims about the inappropriateness of the deployment of thesecompanies,  raising  important  issues  from  moral,  political  and  economic  points-of- views about the intervention of these modern mercenaries in Africa.

One of the most controversial issues emerges from the alleged relationship between these  PMSCs  and  a  number  of  natural  resources  extraction  companies:  O’Brien dedicates a whole chapter to describe thoroughly these links17  and both Musah and Fayemi’s18critics often revolve around this issue. The underlying argument is that the military and commercial intervention of these Western companies in the African continent  represents  a  new  strategy  for  the  pursuit  of  national  interests  and  that PMSCs will become involved only if profitable natural resources are present. 19

It is important to point out that all these initial claims and allegations made on the first PMSCs have no theoretical background and very little evidence to support them. They are mainly influenced and sustained by a priori positions about the advantages / risks of employing private security forces. For instance, in the case of the advocates of the privatization of security, the benefits of a liberal / free-market approach to security represent the main thesis to argue in favour of PMSCs. According to Brook, PMSCs work because they have proven so and because they are cheaper than national armies.20

On the contrary, opponents of PMSCs base their argument mainly on the (neo) colonialist arguments combined with an atavistic fear and repulsion for mercenaries: the numerous devastating campaigns carried out by the so-called “dogs of war” in many  African  countries  during  the  1960s  and  1970s  have  somehow  distorted  the perception  of  these  companies  and  their  business.21    Nevertheless,  as  it  will  be discussed  in  the  next  chapter,  the  critique  of  orthodox  opponents  of  the  private security sector constitutes the mandatory beginning for the analysis of these corporations from a moral point-of-view.

The second phase is characterized by a more rigorous analytical approach.

P.W. Singer’s “Corporate Warriors” represents the first systematic attempt to study and explain the complex and controversial world of privatized security. Singer– in fact – is among the first scholars to provide a detailed explanation of the causes and consequence of the emergence of a new market for force22. Singer’s analysis is particularly useful as it provides the first – and since then most used – taxonomy of the industry, the so-called “Tip of the Spear” typology23. However, in the attempt to provide a comprehensive perspective, the problem of a lack of a singular and solid theoretical framework emerges. In fact, as the author brings together (too) numerous elements of analysis – i.e. costs/benefit; accountability of decisions; democratic decision-making– he enlarges the spectra of possible points-of-view, therefore impoverishing the depth of the overall analysis.

Instead of developing a sound  theoretical structure that might underpin his whole research, Singer borrows a number of different paradigms of analysis from a variety of disciplines – mainly history and economics – which explain only superficially the phenomenon of the rise of PMSC. As a result, the description of the market is very accurate and detailed, but the approach is too heterogeneous to draw any plausible conclusions about the macro-theoretical implications that derive from the growing private security sector.

The Market for Force” – by Deborah D. Avant – has the merit of recognising this limitation in Singer’s work, providing the first solid theoretical study of the process of privatization of security. Specifically, Avant relies on an institutional perspective, “drawing from distinct ‘logics’ in economics and sociology, underpinned by in an interest in institutional mechanisms and how they affect collective outcomes.24” This framework of analysis is characterised by an attempt to combine the control mechanisms of the rational-economists – which focuses on the effect of privatisation on screening and selection, monitoring, and sanctioning – and those of the constructivist- sociologists  –  which  instead  focus  on  the  promotion  of  standards,  education  and socialising25.

The main result of this approach is a more articulated and deep level of analysis. As Avant claims, “the debate between optimists and pessimists about the consequences of privatising security…emphasises only one part of the control problem26”. Instead, by admitting that both positions “ could be right as they focus on different conceptions of control27”, the author abandons a priori theses and focuses her attention on the understanding  of  how  different  intervening  variables  –  i.e.  the  varying  capacity  of states,  the  prevailing  international  value  –  can  affect  the  outcomes  of  this  re- distributive process of the means of coercion. Despite the criticism it has received28  – Avant’s contribution represents a fundamental step toward a more theoretical and structured investigation of privatized security.

An important trait d’union between these two pieces of research lies in the particular attention the two authors devolve to the problem and mechanisms of control. If in the first phase of the literature there is only a marginal acknowledgement of the risks and precautions that can be taken to put PMSCs under legislative restraints, both Singer and Avant devote instead a substantial part of their analysis to investigate how rules and  regulations  can  control  the  process  of  privatization  of  security.  Even  if  the solutions they propose are substantially different, it is significant to underline the evolution  from  a  simplistic  acknowledgment  of  the  risks  in  the  first  phase,  to  a proactive  academic  approach  for  the  regulation  the  market  in  the  second,  as  this substantiate the initial claim about the increasing complexity of analysis.

In  the  third  phase  of  the  literature  is  possible  to  assist  to  a  diversification  of disciplinary approaches to the subject, which nevertheless share a profounder commitment to a more conceptual investigation. Research is more inclined to explain and interpret theoretically the phenomenon of privatized security, rather than simply describing it. Two scholars in particular have contributed to the contemporary expansion and deepening of research in this field.

Christopher Kinsey’s  “ Corporate Soldier” is a  significant attempt to investigate the British market for force: up to his publication – in fact – most researches had either been concerned exclusively with the American market (Singer) or had simply generalized about global trends (Brooks & Shearer). On the contrary, Kinsey recognizes the importance of the “British experience” in private security and his research covers one significant gap in the literature. Nevertheless, the added value in Kinsey’s research for this dissertation lies in his recognition of the changing nature of PMSCs: as it will be discusses in the course of this research, Kinsey is among the very first scholars to identify a “legitimizing pattern” in the nature of the activities performed by these corporations. As the author argues:

“Even  though  PMSCs  are  relatively new to international security, they are increasingly being    recognized    by    governments,    civil     societies    and international  organizations  as  legitimate  actors that  can  have  a  positive impact on international security”29.

One of the most recent and relevant publications in this academic context is the book “Mercenaries”, written by Sarah Percy. Though PMSCs are only marginally discussed30, her work is particularly relevant as it represents a very interesting attempt to discuss the role of norms and how they influence the process of privatization of security. Her work will prove to be almost necessary to explain how the mercenary cliché affects the reputation and business strategies of most PMSCs. Furthermore, Percy has also mentioned the topic of disengagement from combat operations by PMSCs31, which in represents one of the main legitimizing strategies that will be explored in the third chapter.

What is perhaps more interesting to point out is the fact that in Percy’s book, the theoretical framework represents the core of the analysis: the constructivist approach she adopts is thoroughly described in the first chapter, as it constitutes the theoretical backbone that sustains the empirical section of the book.32  As the author recognizes, the fact that “most writers do not situate their accounts in a theoretical framework”, represents one of the most significant gaps in existing literature33.

This   dissertation   aims   at   grafting   onto   this   research   approach,   embracing   the conviction that only a solid and well-designed theoretical framework can provide an appropriate background for a thorough empirical research34.

Obviously, the scope and range of this dissertation is more modest than Percy’s project. However,  this  does  not  compromise  the  validity  of  the  overall  argument,  that privatized security and PMSCs are better understood and explained under a theoretical lens. In the specific context of this research project, it will be argued that the notion of legitimacy represents a key-concept to analyze the evolution of the market of force in the last two decades, describing which policies and strategies PMSCs are concretely putting into practice in order to make their business both profitable and respectable at the same time.

From this conceptual standpoint, it is possible to consider the concept of legitimacy as the theoretical trait d’union of the literature. Fragments of legitimacy discourses are in fact present in all three phases of the literature.

Shearer speaks in fact of “the prospect that private military companies might gain some degree of legitimacy within the international community”35. Along this line of thought, Singer considers how private military firms– inserted in wider industrial complexes – might gain a “new level of legitimacy”36. Kinsey’s explicit interest in the legitimacy profile of British PMSCs has already been mentioned. However, also in Percy’s research there is a strong commitment to understand the legacy between mercenaries and contractors from a legitimacy point-of-view, as she recognizes that “despite best efforts of first PMC and later PSCs to present themselves as legitimate business concerns free from the mercenary label, they have been tainted by it.”37

Nevertheless, in all these cases, there is no attempt to define legitimacy as a concept or to understand how it is connected to the private security business: in most cases, the word “legitimacy” is just uttered, but the notion behind it and its implications are never explained. This dissertation recognizes these gaps within the literature and the benefits of providing at least a partial analysis of the role of legitimacy as a concept and not as a mere cliché within the private security discourses. Constructing the architecture of this dissertation around this notion will allow a more theoretical understanding of PMSCs, as well as a solid background where to integrate and discuss the empirical findings of the  investigation.     Furthermore,  it  will  be  possible  to  combine  together  all  these “fragments”, benefitting from their partial contribution. Finally, it will be possible to address appropriately underlying questions such as: what does it mean to be a “legitimate” business? Or more specifically, what does it take for private security to be a “legitimate” business?

The most appropriate incipit for this project is the description of the theory, therefore understanding what is meant by legitimacy and how can this concept be applied to the analysis of PMSCs.

Chapter Two

This second chapter is divided into two sections.

The first part represents the theoretical core of the dissertation. The concept of legitimacy will be introduced and de-constructed, acknowledging the fundamental contribution of Ian Clark for the development of the analytical framework of this research project.

This will be employed in the second part of the chapter, to collect evidence and demonstrate why and to what extent PMSCs and some of their activities can be defined as illegitimate.

Legitimacy in Theory

In the broader realm of international relations, discourses on legitimacy are generally characterized  by  a  widespread use  of  the word,  without  however  a  corresponding depth in the level of analysis of the concept.

Throughout the last two decades of international relations, discourses on legitimacy have constantly emerged when a crisis was on the horizon: the war in the Balkans; the Operation “Enduring Freedom”; the invasion of Iraq and the very recent conflict in Georgia38 have revolved around questions of legitimacy and the use of force.39

Policy makers and observers have constantly questioned who has and who should have the legitimate authority to use physical coercion in the pursuit of security.40 Consequently, it is possible to argue that the notion of legitimacy lies at the very centre of international policy making – in general – and it becomes the incipit of all those discourses related to the use of force. One would expect such a fundamental notion to be of particular relevance and interests to IR scholars. On the contrary, such an inflationary use of the word ‘legitimacy’ by politicians and diplomats has triggered very little interest in the academic research. 41

Privatized security and legitimacy have a similar connection. Provision of security and the use of physical coercion are inherently embedded into questions of legitimate authority. As Mandel sustains, “The fundamental underlying theoretical question surrounding the privatization of security is who has, and who should have, the legitimate authority to use physical coercion in pursuit of security.42” However, as in the broader case of legitimacy and IR, little attention has been devolved to the understanding and implications of this question, as the chapter on the literature review has argued. What appears to be missing – both in IR and security studies discourses – is an academic commitment to provide a deeper understanding of this notion.

One significant exception is represented by Ian Clark’s work:  in fact, his two most recent publications attempt to investigate in depth the nature of legitimacy, as a fundamental concept in the study of IR and as a distinctive feature of its practice.

His first research is a historical excursus, “to trace the development of practices of legitimacy within the bounds of international society43”: legitimacy is hereby presented as key-element in the understanding of the role of history, norms and stability within the international system.44  The second research project delves more closely into the originating process of legitimacy, as the author attempts to expand his research for the normative sources of legitimacy within IR practices.45 Specifically, Clark is interested in a deeper understanding of the role of world society in creating and shaping international norms46.As the author points out, both his researches seek to make a significant contribution to a number of topics within the literature of IR, such as international history47.

Within the more limited context of this dissertation, one of the most significant contributions of Clark’s research is his attempt to de-construct and re-define the main normative components of the notion of legitimacy.

According to Clark, “Legitimacy can most helpfully be thought of as that political space marked out by the boundaries of legality, morality and constitutionality48.

Spencer argued that element of legality represents the ‘procedural’ element of legitimacy, “a legitimacy of formal rationality, in which laws and authority are accepted because of the formal legality attached to them”49. On the contrary, morality represents the value-rationality, the ‘substantial’ element of legitimacy50. These interpretations represent the two most recurrent analytical classification of legitimacy. However, according to Clark, there are also notions of constitutionality that have to be taken into account:

“These arise where there are expectations created about political forms of political conduct  often  within political institutions that are more  or less ‘sticky’. Critically, in this case, the norm is bases – not upon legal nor moral notions, but upon a sense of what is politically appropriate, rooted in expectations rather than in rules.51”

The constitutional norm introduces an element of non-rationality between the legal and the moral classification of legitimacy: constitutionality is in fact: “the realm neither of legal norms, nor of moral prescriptions. Instead it is the political realm of conventions, informal understandings, and mutual expectations.” 52

The analysis developed by Clark in both books is – obviously – much profounder, technical and detailed and it be would too arduous to provide a comprehensive survey of   all   the   numerous   aspects   and   complicated   topics   that   the   author   develops throughout the two research projects.

Nevertheless, it is plausible to claim that this de-construction of legitimacy represents the backbone of his analysis and – in the context of this dissertation – it provides a basic and solid conceptual map to discuss and address the central research question. Specifically, the normative notions of legality, morality and constitutionality will represent the three theoretical pillars to ground the analysis of the evolution of PMSCs and their activities. In the following section, the complicated and circuitous path of some of these companies through this ‘political space’ called legitimacy will be described and discussed.

Tracing an imaginary-conceptual line from the origins of the industry to the actual structure of the market, the dissertation will first try to illustrate which characteristics of the private security industry can be considered to be immoral, illegal and unconstitutional, turning “inside-out” the normative components elaborated by Clark. Following this conceptual line, the second part of the dissertation will instead focus on the transformation process that the market has undergone in the past two/three decades. In this case, it will be possible to interpret these structural changes through the lens of legitimacy, explaining how PMSCs vindicate and shape their business activities according to moral, legal and constitutional restraints.

Nevertheless, before going into the details of the argument, it is also important to point out some of the limitations that emerge from Clark’s research, specifically to consider to what extent it is epistemologically feasible and appropriate to adopt entirely his vision of legitimacy in the context of this research project.

Clark’s analysis is in fact focused on legitimacy as it emerges from international society and applies to inter-states’ practices, whereas this project is centred on legitimacy as it refers to non-state actors, namely PMSCs. Consequently, some of elements of its theoretical framework may not be relevant to this research project.

Specifically,  the  normative  element  of  constitutionality  as  such  is  inapplicable  to PMSCs’, as it refers to what is considered to be politically appropriate in the conducts of States. Instead of using the term ‘constitutionality’, which is inextricably linked to the State’s apparatus, the concept of ‘political acceptability’ will be adopted: this in fact still retains its original characteristics – the intrinsic political nature – without however being too entangled into the idea of State.

PMSCs and Immorality

It is analytically appropriate to begin this investigation on the illegitimacy of PMSCs analysing  firstly  the  moral dimension, as  this represents the nucleus of the  vexata quaestio of PMSCs and their business. In its Manichean duality, the moral question reveals  in  fact  those  structural  elements  that  are  both  definitional  of  the  private security industry and of its perceived wrongfulness.

In order to argue why and to what extent PMSCs and their activities are perceived as immoral, it is necessary to trace an accurate genealogy of the norm. To do so, it is unavoidable to delve into those scenarios where PMSCs firstly became involved, as they represent the most appropriate context to interpret the genesis of the private security industry and the reactions it provoked.

The first phase of research in the field of PMSCs provides interesting, though superficial evidence to explain part of the rationale behind the moral norm.

As it has been argued in the previous chapter, this phase is characterized by a very dualistic and oversimplified analysis of these companies. A symbolic motto to describe these divergent academic positions might be one of Doug Brook’s articles on PMSCs: “ Messiah or Mercenaries?53”

‘F. Olonisakijn’s research provides a very critical account on PMSCs’ intervention in African conflicts, especially within the very delicate context of the Sierra Leonean civil war in 1991. Though mainly descriptive, this analysis contains sufficient elements to outline an initial ‘moral profile’ of the first PMSCs to enter the business, especially Executive   Outcomes   (EO)   and   Sandline   International   (SI).   Opposed   to   Brook’s ‘messianic’   vision   of   these   two   companies,   Olonisakijn   focuses   closely   on   the ‘immorality’ of the private security business, pointing out the essence of its unethical nature:

“…Beyond the immediate financial and economic impact on impoverished countries, however, accusations of immorality also stems from fears about the  long-term  impact  of  mercenarism  on  security  and  stability  on  the African continent. … Mercenarism must fundamentally be seen as a trade. The activity exists purely for profit and not for any altruistic reasons… … Mercenaries, given that they are motivated by profit, can ultimately employ their services on the side of an immoral cause.54

As it is possible to deduce from this quotation, according to Olonisakijn, mercenaries’ immorality is rooted in the venial motivation that triggers their intervention and that represents also the nucleus of the private military business: profit.

This element is congenital and ineradicable both in the mercenary ‘profession’ and in the private security business and it represents the most problematic element in the moral perception of these actors, as well as an unbreakable link with mercenaries.

Early abolitionists like Olonisakin tend to fall into a faulty and simplistic syllogism: given that all mercenaries fight for money and since all contractors also fight for money, then all contractors are mercenaries. Clearly, the profit-oriented nature of any business is undeniable and the security business is certainly no exception.

However, the analytical risk of this syllogism is to over-simplify the understanding of PMSCs, ignoring those substantial differences that exist between mercenaries and contractors. Nevertheless, this criticism has to be contextualized and viewed from “an African perspective”, in order to be understood and appreciated for its positive contribution for the understanding of PMSCs’ immorality. In fact, the moral condemnation of the nascent private security industry cannot be appropriately understood without considering the destructive impact of the numerous mercenary expeditions had in African throughout most of the Twentieth Century. As J.C. Zarate correctly points out: “It is in this historical and current context that the emergence of the international private security company, in its varied forms, must be understood and analyzed55”.

Throughout approximately 4 decades, mercenary outfits have been involved in more than 50 local conflicts in more than 20 African nations56, usually with the intent to promote military coup d’état or to protect Western economic interests. The shocking and criminal conduct of these mercenaries during their campaigns earned their leaders the notorious epithet of les affreux, ‘the terrible ones’: “In short, mercenaries represented everything African states were fighting against: capitalism, in the sense that mercenaries were fighting for money and colonial domination”57.

Academic positions of abolitionists like Olonisakijn match this geo-historical scenario: because of the chronological and geographical proximity with the devastating mercenary experience, PMSCs were immediately recognized and branded as a new avatar of les affreux. From the abolitionist perspective, PMSCs were not the lesser of two  evils,  an  effective  compromise  to  reduce  the  hyper-conflictuality  that  was spreading in many African countries, but as the inheritors the mercenary tradition. Consequently, their activities were not morally defensible.

Nevertheless, the immoral profile outlined by Olonisakijn can be defined as circumstantial, as situational, since it provides a necessary but insufficient explanation for the immorality of the private security business. From the abolitionist perspective, it is possible to deduce only why PMSCs have been perceived as immoral in a given time (1990s) and place (Africa).   This explanation is important, as it represents the initial stage of the industry and also because it explains the rationale behind the ‘mercenary syllogism’, but it is still partial and superficial.

There are in fact deeper philosophical elements that transcend the context of the abolitionists’ analysis and that allow a more theoretical understanding of the rationale behind the immorality of the private security business.

Lynch and Walsh in an article cuttingly entitled “The Good Mercenary?” investigate the philosophical and deontological roots behind the moral dislike of the mercenary profession.58  According to their thesis, the fundamental dishonesty of the mercenary profession lies in its perceived amorality or immorality: mercenaries engage in war and conflicts either with no attachment at all to the cause (amorality), or their motivation is purely opportunistic/financial (immorality). This immoral conduct  – they argue – is unacceptable or at least hardly justifiable:

“ One objection to the morality of the mercenary, and one that often underpins claims of abhorrence, lies in the view that willing participation in organized violence is wrong period.…It is a commonplace that mercenaries are evil because they receive ‘blood money’. Sometimes there is a talk of ‘the whores  of  war’.       Such  epithets  point  to  a  common  moral  criticism  of mercenarism; namely, that mercenaries kill for money. The mercenary’s killing motives are morally inappropriate because they are in a determining sense financial.59”

This argument echoes in part the abolitionist position, which however assumes this moral stand relying exclusively on fragile historic precedents. On the contrary, Lynch and Walsh delve into a deeper understanding of the reasons behind this moral condemnation. According to these authors, moral arguments against mercenaries are to be found within the just war doctrine, specifically within the Thomist tradition, whose constitutive elements are the notions of just cause – introduced by Augustine60  – and right intention – introduced by Aquinas61. According to this school-of-thought, a belligerent  activity  can  be  justified  morally  only  if  it  is  motivated  by  both  these principles.62

If one applies these two normative elements of analysis to the intervention of EO in Sierra  Leone,  it  is  possible  to  recognize  that  private  military  contractors  were perceived as lacking both a just cause to intervene in the conflict – as they were foreigners motivated only by the prospect of eventual mining concessions – and the right  intention –  since  their  clandestine  target  was  to  secure  Western  economic interests and secure only a fragile peace. Apparently, first PMSCs like EO and SI clashed not only against the scepticism of a few abolitionists or the despicable reputation of les affreux, but also against profound and resilient philosophical arguments about the immorality of the mercenary profession, that still today characterizes the conduct of warfare63.

However, the prescriptive content of this moral norm against mercenaries is not only highly sophisticated and resilient, but also circumscribed. In fact, Lynch and Walsh mention  specifically  the “killing motives” of mercenaries as the essential  source of immorality. This aspect of the immoral norm is fundamental to point out that if the private industry as a whole might be perceived as immoral for its profit-orientation, the nucleus – or “added value” – of this immorality can be found in those circumstances when a contractor employs a level of lethal force without an appropriate justification. When a contractor pulls the trigger, the identification with the mercenary is complete: not only in fact, the contractor shares the same immoral motivations, but he engages in the exact same activities. An ethical distinction between the two becomes impossible.

Pulling the trigger for money is the most immoral activity that contractors can engage with: consequently, this is also the incipit of every legitimizing strategy. PMSCs – as it will be discussed in the next chapter – need to keep away from those circumstances where the use of force might be required. Furthermore, they cannot justify their activities with a simplistic “business-as-usual” approach, but they need solid moral justifications to vindicate their services.

Concluding  this  first  paragraph,  it  is  possible  to  claim  that  the  immoral  norm represents the “grundnorm” of this analysis: as it will be argued in the next chapter, the illegal norm against contractors lays its foundations in these moral arguments against privatized  security.  In  other  words,  the  private  security  sector  is  –  first  of  all  – perceived as something inherently immoral and – consequently – also as something illegal.

PMSCs and Illegality

This second paragraph will attempt to demonstrate to what extent contractors and PMSCs are perceived as illegal actors. As it will be argued, also in this case it is the cumbersome  heritage of  the mercenary tradition  that affects the perception of the industry. The illegal norm against the private security sector remarks and reinforces the content of the moral norm, delimiting the range of business activities that PMSCs can carry out without incurring into informal sanctions, such as loss of reputation.

The  re-explosion  of  the  mercenary  business  in  the  early  ’60s  triggered  a  violent reaction in those African countries that were firstly affected by a military phenomenon that had disappeared from the international arena for over a century. Just to mention one of the most notorious examples of physical repression against mercenaries, one could refer to those former UK paratroopers recruited by Donald Telford and John Banks, who attempted to overthrow the Angolan President. Defeated by the MPLA (Popular Movement for the Liberation of Angola), they were later tried and executed in1976.64

Within one year of the Angolan trial, African countries managed to arrange a powerful lobby group within the UN and they succeed to introduce particular provisions against mercenaries   and   mercenarism   within   the   Additional   Protocol   I   of   the   Geneva Conventions (Article 47)65.

On a regional level, the Organization of African Unity promoted a Convention for the Elimination of Mercenarism in Africa66. The United Nations International Convention Against   the   Recruitment,   Use,   Financing   and   Training   of   Mercenaries   of   1989 represents the apex of this international commitment against mercenaries67.

It is beyond the scope of this section to provide a detailed description of the genesis, content and limitations of each international convention: many authors have developed very thorough analyses about benefits and limitations of every treaty and about the legislative consequences that emerge from the establishment of these international regulations68. On the contrary, it is relevant to mention these legislative frameworks because by doing so it is possible to depict the content of the illegal norm against PMSCs.

Technically speaking, there is no international framework that prohibits, or even regulates PMSCs as such. If on a national level, Governments attempt to license, regulate or ban the private security business in order to cover this legal vacuum, on an international level this legislative deficiency persists, creating an increasing con-fusion between contractors and mercenaries. As for the moral norm, it is the resemblance or ‘ideological proximity’ of the two actors and the activities they perform that constitute the fulcrum of the vexata quaestio about the legality of the industry.

It is plausible to claim that if the private security industry is internally regulated – at least in some of those countries where there is a strong private security sector – it is also internationally limited, or at least marginally influenced. National regulations – which address directly PMSCs as a distinctive actor – establish rules and norms about what PMSCs can or cannot do. A good example of this national control mechanism can be  considered  the  American  prosecution  system  for  non-military  personnel,  the Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act69.

On the contrary, international conventions – which address PMSCs only indirectly – set up a number of legal boundaries that indicate what PMSCs ought or ought not do, in order to be perceived as legal corporations. Reference to PMSCs is only indirect, as the juridical subject of these conventions are in fact mercenaries and the mercenary trade, not employers and employees of the private security industry, which had yet to appear on the international scenarios when these protocols were established. The result of these international conventions is a legislative grey area, where the two subjects apparently overlap and where legal constraints against mercenaries influence also to the private security employees.

International legislation against mercenaries has proven to be extremely ineffective: the most apt example is the 1989 UN Convention – initially proposed by the Ad Hoc Committee in 1979 – which came into force only in 200170.

The  Gordian  Node  par  excellence of  the  legislation  is  the  definition  of  mercenary, created  in  the  notorious  Article  47  of  the  Additional  Protocol  I  to  the  Geneva Convention and founding pillar of the 1989 Convention.71Despite its numerous limitations and contradictions72, the definition contained in Article 47 and adopted also by the UN Convention maintains a fundamental core of illegality that reflects the moral norm against mercenarism and that establish a perimeter around PMSCs and the services they provide. The fundamental elements that define the illegality of the mercenary profession are:

  • The fact that mercenaries take direct part in the hostilities (Paragraph (2)(B);
  • They are motivated essentially by the desire for private gain. (Paragraph (3)(B);73

According to Percy, this is what emerges from the preparatory negotiations within the Working Group on Article 4774: originally, the legal norm against mercenaries had to reflect precisely the content and shape of the moral norm. Other elements (such as the foreign nature of the mercenary troops, or the locus of recruitment) where added only eventually and contributed significantly to the inapplicability and enforcement of the Article.75

As in the case of the moral norm – it is the connection with the realm of actual violence and use of lethal force that marks the boundary between acceptable and unacceptable, between legal and illegal: in order to maintain a respectable business image it becomes imperative for PMSCs to keep out from actual hostilities.

When contractors engage in combat operation, they stop being generic and lawful contractors, or security experts, or professional analysts: they “become” mercenaries, unlawful combatants. Even if mechanisms of enforcement are extremely weak and – as Hampson said, “Only the most foolish or unlucky” could be persecuted under current international legislation76, PMSCs and contractors can be sanctioned in terms of reputation  and  corporate  image.  The  perception  that  is  generated  when  private security employees are directly involved into combat operations is that unlawful mercenaries are killing for money, not that legal contractors are fighting to restore peace and security.

Some  scholars  argue  that  the  distinction  between  combatant  and  non-combatant status, between direct or indirect participation to hostilities are mere academic disputes: Kwakwa – for instance – claims that “ in terms of the consequences of their actions – however – there is not much difference between the experts who advises the combatant on how to do the killing, and the combatant who does the actual killing.77”

On the contrary – as it will be further discussed in the paragraph on legal strategies of legitimation   –   legal   considerations   have   been   relevant   for   the   structure   and organization of the market for force, favouring those companies who abstained from engaging in direct hostilities and penalising those that openly relied on the use of lethal force to expand their business activities. To facilitate the “purge” of illegitimate corporations, PMSCs have often appealed to national governments for supplementary legislation  in  the  private  security  market,  with  the  precise  intent  to  apply  a  rigid distinction between respectable and disrespectable companies.78

PMSCs and Political Unacceptability

This third paragraph will discuss the concept of political acceptability and how it is related to the phenomenon of privatized security. Specifically, it will attempt to argue in which circumstances it becomes unsuitable and problematic for a government to employ or rely on PMSCs. The “Papua New Guinea (PNG) Affair”79  represents a good example to demonstrate the significance and magnitude of the political restraints that PMSCs have to take face in order to legitimize politically their business, avoiding dangerous collision with potential clients.

When SI was called to intervene in PNG at the beginning of 1997, the situation for the government was extremely grave. Similarities with the Angolan and the Sierra Leonean civil wars are evident: also in this case, the legitimate government is held hostage by a secessionist group which managed to take control of a substantial part of the territory, jeopardizing the internal sovereignty of the State.

What is most striking about the PNG Affair is the sentiment of political and public outrage triggered by mere contract’s rumours. Opposition grew from branches of the Government itself but also large popular demonstrations in the capital city stalled the deal  at  first,  and  then  obliged  the  Prime  Minister  to  resign,  basically  voiding  the contract. As  in  Sierra Leone and Angola before, allegations were made about links between SI and natural resources extraction companies, fostering the stereotype of the foreign mercenary coming to Bougainville Island to fight for money80.

Effects provoked by these allegations on the military establishment and the public opinion were devastating for the political environment. One fundamental problem was represented by the collision with the local military establishment, which – as Singer explains  –  felt  both  threatened  and  embarrassed  by  the  PM’s  decision  to engage  a private military firm81. Defence Force Commander (DFC) Jerry Singirok was the first to speak out against the plan, condemning it as “a corrupt and wrongful devolution of proper public authority”82. This statement sat off a dangerous escalation of accuses between the PM and the DFC, which brought the Country on the verge of a full-scale civil war.

The retributive/lucrative element connected with the private security business played a fundamental role to foster the crisis and to create the perception that SI’ intervention was unacceptable. According to DFC Singirok, it was unfair to invest public resources to contract a private militia: those resources belonged to the national army and they had to be spent on it, rather than on mercenaries83.

In addition, Government’s decision to hire a PMSC to stop an internal revolution jeopardized the internal sovereignty and image of PNG, contributing to the idea that the Country could not rely on its own national army, in other words that the State could not provide for the safety of its own people. The negative impact was therefore imposed not  exclusively  on  the  reputation  of  the  local  military,  but  on  the  whole  national political establishment. By relying on a private foreign militia, the Government was presenting an image of a Country in dire need of help, incapacitated to negotiate with secessionist rebels or to restore independently its territorial integrity.

When rumours on the financial clauses of the contract were leaked to the public, the popular resentment mounted exponentially, as it was perceived that the Government was “selling off” its natural resources to foreign companies. As Singer points out, the hire of SI was perceived not only as an insult to the professionalism of the national army,  but  also  as  an  infringement  on  national  sovereignty84.  Thomson  was  very accurate in describing this ideological link between weak states and dependency on private forces, when she wrote that: “Today real states do not buy mercenaries85”.

As it is evident from this scenario, the seriousness of the situation alone could not justify the intervention of a private actor to restore peace and security. PMSCs – therefore – cannot present themselves as the last resort for desperate governments to re-establish the integrity of the State, but on the contrary, they have to represent the best available option on the market. “Hiring private forces” – Percy writes about the PNG  Affair  –  “was  a  final  indication  that  the  state  had  failed  and  could  no  longer provide security for its own citizens”86. In other words, they have to create an environment of consensus around their modus operandi, and to do so they have to keep in mind the importance of the local military as well as the influence of the public opinion.

On the one hand, it might be argued that the PNG Affair – as well as EO’s interventions in  Sierra  Leone  and  Angola  –  illustrates  a  worst-case  scenario,  where  reliance  on private   contractors   represent   the   extrema   ratio, undertaken   by   a   desperate government to preserve the territorial integrity of the State.

On the other hand, it remains to be explained how PMSCs have managed in less than two decades to acquire significant – sometimes fundamental – roles in the market for force, often establishing a dominant position, as in the case of the security sector reform87.

As it will be discussed in the following chapter, successful PMSCs have mutated not only on an operative level – choosing more carefully their clients and activities but also on an organizational level – implementing a number of collusive policies with the intent to guarantee that the company is not ostracized or opposed by the military and – more importantly – supported by the political establishment.


The main intent of this second chapter was to instruct an illegitimacy case against the private military / security sector.   Having first outlined and described the legitimacy criteria  –  according  to  Clark’s  understanding  of  this  concept  –  this  section  has attempted to demonstrate in which circumstances PMSCs have violated this ‘political space’, as well as the consequences of these violations.

Specifically, the moral norm has explained what is perceived as inherently unethical about the private security business. Integrating the abolitionists’ position with the explanations of the Thomist tradition, it has been argued why the mercenary syllogism is still so influential for the reputation of these companies.

Secondly,  the  legal  norm  has  showed  that  even  if  formally  there  are  very  few restrictions that limit the private security business, international conventions against mercenaries have a severe thought indirect impact on the activities that PMSCs can undertake without incurring into informal sanctions, such as loss of reputation. Lastly, the third paragraph has delved into the complexities of the constitutional norm, with the intent to demonstrate the political problems posed by the massive employment of private security corporations.

Nevertheless, these arguments represent only one façade of the private military industry. Empirical analysis has been centred almost exclusively on those first archetypical  industries  that  have  essentially  created  a  market  for  private  security. Being the earliest companies in a brand new market, firms like EO and SI entered the political space of legitimacy without a compass.

As a result, they both incurred into a series of violations of the legitimacy norms and despite their positive contribution in a number of highly insecure scenarios, they have been incapable (or incapacitated) of guaranteeing their permanence in the security market in the long term.

What is left outside this portrait of the private military industry is the “bright side” of the security business; in other words, all those firms that have managed to secure their profits and reputation. It is therefore necessary to integrate this analysis of the security business, describing which steps have been taken by some PMSCs to legitimize their activities.  This is precisely the intent and content of the following chapter.

Chapter Three

This third chapter constitutes the argumentative core of the entire dissertation, as well as the fundamental completion of the previous one. Specifically, this section will describe and investigate some of the strategies of legitimation implemented by PMSCs in order to safeguard and promote their business.

If the former section was centred on the issues that arise from the various legitimacy norms, in this chapter the analysis is focused on the solutions that security firms attempt to put in place.

From a theoretical perspective, the analysis will follow the tripartite structure outlined in  the  precedent  chapter.  It  will  be  investigated  how  PMSCs  are  attempting  to transform their image and influence the perception of their activities, avoiding those stigmas of immorality, illegality and unconstitutionality that have influenced so remarkably the genesis of the industry.

The methodological component of this investigation represents an innovative and potentially beneficial instrument of research for the analysis of these corporations and – more generally – for the phenomenon of privatized security. In fact, throughout the examination of these strategies of legitimation, a number of primary sources will be employed. Specifically, the research will rely on those documents – press releases; official statements–published by various PMSCs.

The rationale behind this methodological approach is rather logical: given that this research project is interested in understanding how these private corporations present themselves to the public, it seems necessary to analyze those documents released by the corporations themselves.

For this methodological approach, the Internet has revealed itself as a mine of information on companies’ policies and public statements, very often unexplored or unmentioned by researchers and experts in this field. Obviously, these sources of information need to be appropriately interpreted and filtered, in order to distinguish relevant academic details from mere advertisement.

This chapter – with the help of relevant text analysis techniques – will attempt to cover this empirical gap: these websites, the documents and often even the images included, open a window on the public image of these corporations: as it will be argued, often their strategies of legitimation start from the Internet, as legitimacy is also a matter of public appearance and investors relations.

PMSCs and the Pursuit of A Just Cause

The section on immorality has outlined which fundamental ethical dilemmas PMSCs have to face in the private security market. The two essential components of the moral norm against the private security business are:

  • Engagement in direct hostilities;
  • Lack of a just cause.

Any attempt to legitimize the private security business has to start from here, from what has been defined as the grundnorm of private security’s illegitimacy. PMSCs have to find a genuine justification – beyond mere profit – for their activities and – more importantly – these cannot include the provision of any service that requires the use of lethal force.

It is interesting to notice how primordial attempts to justify the private security business have immediately revolved around the problem of legitimacy and the use of coercion. Specifically, both EO and SI committed themselves -from the very beginning of their business enterprises – to a strict and rigorous ‘legitimacy policy’, according to which they would provide help and assistance only to legitimate governments. EO’s mission statement – quoted verbatim – was:

“To  provide  a  highly  professional  and  confidential  military  advisory  service  to legitimate   governments.”   88In   more   than   one   occasion,  EO’s   spoke-persons   and managers stated:“ EO will only work for democratically elected governments or governments recognized by the United Nations”89.SI’s was committed to a similar goal, “to offer governments and other legitimate organisations specialist military expertise at a time when western national desire to provide active support to friendly governments, and to support them in conflict resolution, has materially decreased, as has their capability to do so.90”

Both EO and SI – throughout their decennial business experience – have worked exclusively for legitimate governments and have always rejected contracts from rogue regimes.91 The implicit intent of this legitimacy policy was to reinforce the distinctions between contractors and mercenaries, between “dogs of wars” and professionals of security. According to EO and SI’s plans, the legitimacy of their employers would act as an umbrella, to  shield PMSCs against public and international criticism: by dealing exclusively with legitimate governments, PMSCs hoped to legitimize their business.

As it has extensively been discussed in the previous chapter, this plan failed: despite their commitment, both EO and SI were pushed out of the security business: “PMCs were too controversial to have the sort of legitimate reputation they desired….92”

What emerges from the fiasco of both EO and SI is that the fundamental moral problem lied in what PMSCs were doing and why they were doing it: the provision of combat services was simply publicly unacceptable93. The ‘employer-factor’ – who they were fighting for – was irrelevant in the PMSCs’ pursuit of a legitimate reputation.

Consequently, those industries that managed to stay in the market had to re-enforce their strategies of legitimation: more radical policies – such as the disappearance of combat” operations94 and the camouflage of profit – were necessary to guarantee a stable and profitable market in the long run. These policies tackle in fact the core moral accusations of the private security business.

In this respect, it is particularly utile to reflect on the divergent business approaches adopted by SI and Aegis Risk Management (ARM), now known as Aegis Defence Services95. Founded by the same entrepreneur – a former Lieutenant-Colonel in the Scots  Guards,  Tim  Spicer  –  these  two  corporations  and  their  different  policies  on combat services represent the most apt example to demonstrate the influence of the immoral norm on “want-to-be-legitimate” security corporations.

Spicer’s own words demonstrate manifestly a radical change in policies toward engagement in hostilities. Interviewed in 1999 – few months before leaving SI – Spicer was  asked  whether  or  not  SI  would  engage  in  combat  and  accompany  clients  on operations. He answered:

“Of course we will. I use the analogy of a boat builder. If I built a boat and you paid for it and said to me, ‘Ok, let’s go for a test run’ and I refused, you would be very dubious about that vessel.”96

Few years later, he was asked the same exact question about his brand new company, ARM.        His            answer            was    negative:   on    the   contrary,   “Spicer   started   the    new company…with the explicit intention of excluding combat from the company’s range of services”97.

This drastic change in combat policies has affected the entire market, not just Tim Spicer and his enterprise. ArmorGroup (AG)98  has enforced a number of policies with the intent to foster the perception that the company is not involved in any combat or aggressive activity. According to Christopher Beese – Chief Administrative Officer of AG –the company “ avoids anything to do with guns: carrying them, supplying them, and training people in using them…The ‘public relations exercise’ involved in providing offensive combat services would be next to impossible”99.

In terms of ‘public relation exercise’, it is interesting to analyze how disappearance of combat is also a matter of semantic and semiotic: PMSCs avoid appearing aggressive, choosing very carefully even the nomenclature or the graphic presentation of their services.

Whereas EO would include “belligerent activities” – such as “land, air and naval warfare”100 – in the list of services provided, vocables such as “war” or even “military” have been suppressed from the register of modern PMSCs.

ARM – for instance – would list on its homepage “friendly activities” such as “Research and Intelligence”, or it would use a vague terminology such as “Security Operations”101. Visually speaking, the firm tends to reassure immediately its potential customers, showing  images  of  young boy, playing with a kite, with a construction site on the background102.Superimposed on the picture, appears the script “ Securing a better future”. The very name of company – “Aegis” – appeals immediately to a defensive, approach to security.

AG opts as well for a “defensive approach” mentioning services such as “Protective Security”, “Risk Management Consultancy” or “Development and Reconstruction”103.

DynCorp International (DI) – one of the largest and most active American PMSC in the market104–might appear as only marginally involved into security services, which are barely  mentioned  in  the  homepage105.  Passing  on  the  screen,  it  is  possible  to  see pictures of aeronautical engineers, a variety of logistic personnel, but nothing closely related to “aggressive” security106.

Last  but  not  least,  Group4Securicor’  sober  website  –  the  World’s  largest  security services provider, operating in more than 100 countries with over 500,000 employees107  –might be easily confused with an investment bank or another financial agency, with indications of the share price and links to the London Stock Exchange dominating the homepage108.

Together with the disappearance of combat operations, PMSCs have also developed massive legitimizing campaigns to vindicate their profit-oriented approach to security and to defend themselves from accusations of being venal corporations that profit from war and destruction. Obviously, denying the profit-oriented nature of these private corporations – which are often listed in various stock exchange markets – would be close to impossible.

Nevertheless, it plausible to claim that PMSCs have developed a number of public relations initiatives to cover-up or conceal the profit-element which is so intrinsically embedded into any business activity.

Initial attempts have tried to “normalize” the profit-side of the private security market, playing it off as due retribution for professional work: “ There is nothing wrong with soldiering for pay– Spicer writes – During my life as a professional solider I expected to be paid.109”

Nevertheless, provision of security and the use of coercion could not so easily be justified as mere “business-as-usual”. PMSCs have therefore strived to develop a public commitment to higher moral causes and values, such as self-determination, human rights and – of course – the war on terror. These just causes would in fact provide a solid ethical shield against accusations of mercenarism.

One significant example comes from an article – recently published on ARM’s website – which illustrates perfectly how PMSCs carry out their “public relations campaign” against  detractors  of  the  private  security  sector.  In  this  response  to  a  Weekly Standard’s article–polemically entitled “Warriors for Hire”110 – Kristi M. Clemens – Executive Vice President of ARM – vindicates vigorously the reputation of the entire industry against brutal accusations of mercenarism, enlisting a number of virtuous PMSC’s  projects  that  have contributed to the spread of democracy and democratic values worldwide:

“MPRI {Military Professional Resources Incorporated}111  built the armed forces of Balkan democracies emerging from civil war. Dyncorp is doing similar work for the newly elected president of Liberia. Global and Control Risks undertook the voter registration that made possible Afghanistan’s first everdemocratic elections. And Aegis’s support for the U.N. made possible the referendum and general election in Iraq. … The reality is that all of these companies–and many others–are just as committed to supporting humane democracy as Blackwater. All strive to be professional, ethical, and legitimate. In fact, Aegis is eager to see the private security industry regulated by government. Blackwater is a good outfit, and so is Aegis. Our mission is simple: to assist governments and legitimate multinational organizations with winning the war on terrorism.112

This document demonstrates clearly the effort and the intent to legitimize the entire industry, not just ARM. In Clemens’ words there is almost a feeling of  “solidarity” for a fellow corporation – Blackwater Security Consulting L.L.C. 113  – whose reputation has been attacked. It is extremely interesting to see written in plain words how legitimizing strategies work and to assist – in few lines – to the disappearance of combat and the camouflage of profit:

1.   Firstly, Clemens rejects and retorts point by point all accusations, those that refer to ARM’s contractors employing lethal force with particular duress114;

2.   Secondly,  there  is  no  mention  at  all of  the  profit-side  of  all  the  virtuous campaigns and missions carried out by various PMSCs: how much these contracts were worth – for instance.

3.   Even in a related article about a major contract renewal won by ARM with the American Department of Defence the profit figure almost fades in the background, submerged by the description of ARM’s extraordinary contribution to rebuild Iraq. 115,

All that is possible to deduce from Clemens’ list is how beneficial, ethical and righteous the impact of PMSCs has been for the development of democracy and the global fight against terrorism.

Another interesting element that emerges from this document is demand for supplementary regulation within the market for force. “In fact – according to Clemens – Aegis is eager to see the private security industry regulated by governments.”116  This desire might initially appear as “perverse”: one could argue that no legislation is better, that PMSCs benefit from the (almost) law-free environment that pervades the security market. On the contrary, as it will be argued in the next chapter, PMSCs are indeed eager to see the private industry regulated, because a clear legislation is better than no legislation at all to achieve a legitimate status.

PMSCs and the Pursuit of Legislation

In the section on PMSCs and illegality, it has been mentioned how corporations have understood the importance of acting within the boundaries of law and regulations since the early stages of the industry,  as these can act as a powerful dividing line between legitimate businesses and disrespectable corporations.

As in case of the moral norm, the fundamental criterion of distinction between legality and illegality lies in the use of lethal force. As PMSCs engage in this kind of activities, they enter a grey area on the edge of international humanitarian law, reinforcing the ideological link between mercenaries and contractors, therefore jeopardizing the reputation of the industry.

In the initial phase of the industry, companies have targeted this link by attempting to appear as legal businesses. As Kinsey thoroughly argues, the construction of a legal personality represents one of the first and most important steps in this direction.

“ As business grew it was necessary to conduct it within legal boundaries at all levels, including in the field. As such, employees could no longer be referred to as mercenaries, since to do so would imply the law having been broken in connection with a legitimate business operation. … During the late 1980s, companies started to adopt a legal personality that would distinguish them from former mercenary armies.”117

As Spicer explains, a legal personality included characteristics such as the permanent structure and presence of the company; the bureaucratic organization and business structure; the existence of assets such as a vetting system, a doctrine and a training capacity118. On the contrary, mercenaries and mercenary organizations were characterized by the lack of all these features.

Nevertheless, these strategies proved to be insufficient – or only partially successful – to refute accusation of mercenarism, as PMSCs were still engaging in direct hostilities. Subsequent attempts to legalize the market for force have aimed at this aspect of the industry: if at first it was necessary to separate between mercenaries and legitimate business operations, the following phase of the market for force required a further distinction between respectable and disrespectable corporations. The latter criticized the former properly because of their belligerent, illegal activities.

EO – for instance – has been accused and publicly delegitimized by other companies, such as MPRI. Executive members of this corporation have often underlined the difference between them and EO, pointing out how “MPRI has not involved itself in combat operations to date, only undertaking military training and consultancy contracts”119. EO’s employees were often portrayed as unlawful combatants, whereas MPRI’s contractors were only mere advisors or trainers-which according to company’s policy should always remain unarmed.120

As it is possible to deduce from these examples, legislation and regulation in the private security market acts as a filter or – using a more appropriate economic terminology – as a barrier to entry, limiting the access to the market for force only to those corporations that comply with rules and regulations. PMSCs’ appeals for a more regulated market can be interpreted from this perspective, as an attempt to reduce competition and increase profit. According to Percy,   “Regulation may serve to make the  more  legitimate  PSCs  even  more  legitimate,  while  marginalizing  their  less legitimate competitors”, as the dispute between EO and MPRI clearly demonstrates.121

Effects on the market for force are two-fold: on the one hand, increased regulation cut off one significant part of the services provided by PMSCs, namely combat services, reducing the supply. On the other hand – however – the number of competitors in the market is also significantly reduced: only those corporations that are capable of differentiating their services – without relying exclusively or massively on the provision of combat troops –can secure their presence and profit in the long run.

The radical structural changes in the market for force demonstrate this trend: services are    increasingly    heterogeneous,    expanding    especially    in    those    areas–    like surveillance122and post-conflict reconstruction123 – where the use of force is not required or – at most – only potentially required.  At the same time, the market is going through a phase of consolidation, where bigger corporations are acquiring smaller and medium firms124. As a result of this remodelling of the market, fewer corporations are sharing more profit, demonstrating the validity of Zarate’s argument: legitimate PMSCs can and – as a matter of fact – do profit from regulation of the market.125

PMSCs do not oppose a more regulated market, because legislation represents the best way to achieve a legitimate status: even radical supporters of these corporations like Doug Brooks have advocated the necessity, the importance and the benefits that might arise from national regulatory frameworks.126

The confusion and uncertainty created by indefinite or imperfect regulatory regimes – such   as   the   UN   International   Convention-   about   what   can   be   unquestionably considered as legal/illegal, contribute to create an environment that in previous paragraphs has been defined as a legislative “grey area”, where borders between licit and illicit are often bogus, but where the general tendency is to consider PMSCs’ behaviour as wrong, often a priori.

Nevertheless, analyzing PMSCs’ activities with an unbiased eye, it is both inappropriate and incorrect to argue that PMSCs’ conduct is illegal. Two examples above all corroborate this thesis: the “Arms to Africa” Affair and the PNG Affair. In the former case, three different investigations held by different bodies within the UK cleared SI and Tim Spicer of any accusations of violating the arms embargo imposed by the UN127.

In the latter case – which has been thoroughly described in the previous chapter – PM Sir Julius Chan and Tim Spicer’s company were both cleared by the respective legal proceedings. The PNG Constitutional Court declared that there was no wrongdoing in the PM’s decision to sign a deal with SI.128Furthermore, an international arbitration panel obliged the new PNG ad-interim government to pay the second half of the 36$ million contract that former PM Chan had signed with SI.129

Furthermore – even if the analysis is shifted on the single contractor – the actual international framework does not allow any definitive judgment on the illegality of the private military or security employee. Whether it is because regulatory frameworks- both national and internationals –  are difficult to be enforced or absent, the essence of the argument does not change: rebus sic stantibus, the legal status of these corporations remains undetermined. If on the one hand, they can still be accused of conducting an immoral activity, on the other hand there are no definitive legal instruments to argue that it is also illegal.

The fundamental role of legislation is to guarantee and safeguard the reputation of PMSCs, clearing their legal and moral status by establishing definitive borders between licit and illicit. This is the intrinsic rationale behind PMSCs’ appeal for a regulated market: once it has been legally established what they can and they cannot do, they can focus on the former and forgo the latter. As Brooks claims:

“…Such laws would end the uncertainty and allow companies to focus theirs effort on military services that would thus be officially ‘legitimate’…. There are a number of PSCs that would be willing to compete as PMCs for peacekeeping/peace enforcement contracts should that role become legitimized through national legislation.130”

In this way, both their profit and reputation are safe, as they can claim that they are not doing anything illegal: for PMSCs’ it is clearly a win-win situation.

Discussion on the above-mentioned PNG Affair brings back the controversial topic of PMSCs and political acceptability, which will be discussed in the next section.

PMSCs and Political Acceptability

In the section on PMSCs and political unacceptability, by presenting the controversial PNG Affair, it has been demonstrated which problems arise on a constitutional level to justify the intervention of a PMSC. Despite the severity of the security scenario, intervention by a skilful but private military actor was perceived as inappropriate by the population and as unacceptable by the military establishment.These two elements – popular and military reaction –constitutes the core of the “acceptability issue” for PMSCs.

On the one hand, their intervention cannot be justified only by the gravity of the situation:  PMSCs cannot present themselves simply as the “last resort”, but as the best available option. On the other hand, relations with the local military establishment have to be collusive, not competitive, as risks of antagonizing members of the Armed Forces are potentially devastating.

It is possible to recognize how moral and legal strategies of legitimation are focused on the supply-side of the industry:   recognizing which activities are morally and legally indefensible, PMSCs have shaped the panoply of services they offer, eliminating the provision of combat services. These strategies can be defined as “adaptive” to the moral and legal norm on privatized security, which are too resilient to be ignored, avoided or modified.

On the contrary, strategies discussed in this section tend to focus on the demand-side of the industry: by appealing to those characteristics where PMSCs claim to have a comparative advantage relative to the traditional military, the private security industry shapes the market for force to its own advantage, creating its own demand. In this sense, the role of PMSCs can be defined as pro-active, as firm create the necessary conditions for their success, building a supportive environment around their modus operandi.

Anna Leander – in her paper “ On the Significance of the Emergence of Private military Companies”131  – talks explicitly about the increasing capacity of these firms to set the security agenda: some of the cases she presents to argue her thesis can also be interpreted as legitimizing strategies adopted by PMSCs.

One of the most interesting and controversial aspects investigated by Leander is the relation between PMSCs and policy makers. This increased inter-connection between the governmental realm and the private security industry indicates a profound transformation in the way PMSCs operates: as it is possible to evince from Leander’s analysis, security corporations do not limit themselves to the provision of services, acting as mere instruments of various security policies. On the contrary, they climb the “chain of command”, influencing more or less subtly the decision-makers, relying for instance on political strategies such as lobbying.

Leander provides concrete example of how these strategies work, analyzing MPRI’s intense and successful pressure on the US Government about a major contract in Equatorial Guinea.132 Influence on policy-makers usually rely on national interest arguments (as in the Equatorial Guinea case) or – more frequently – on the higher efficiency and extreme technicality of private security. Higher efficiency – which is a synonym for lower costs – has been the earliest and strongest argument PMSCs have used to promote private security, exploiting the widespread support for privatization which it is still very much the favoured word in the vocabulary of advocates of the industry. The extreme technicality is a more recent and controversial topic, which is better explained by Leander’s own words:

“ Beyond  bolstering  their  image  by  contrasting  it  to  that  of  the  public, private actors are also prone to frame security issues as questions of managerial efficiency and technical competence. The firms base their authority in their capacity to offer technologically effective and econonomically interesting solutions to existing problems…”

PMSCs formulate security problems in terms of efficiency and extreme technicality as to highlight the fact that they represent the best solution to it: as it has been argued, their intent is not to appear as the last option, but as the best possible option.

Another fundamental strategy adopted by PMSCs is the co-optation of influential political members within their establishments and – more importantly – of former officers  of  the  Armed Forces.  The  intent  of  this  strategy  is  two-fold.  Firstly,  by recruiting members of the political élite to be reckoned with, PMSCs secure more political leverage at various levels of the decision-making processes: in other words, they make sure that they have a “privileged interlocutor” within the highest sphere of power that keeps their interests in mind at all times. Although similar to lobbying, this strategy is much more pragmatic and controversial. The example par excellence is the actual Vice-President of the United States Dick Cheney, who is also former Chief Executive Officer  of  Halliburton,  by  far  the  largest  private  logistic  provider  in  the World. Another excellent example is the recent and rampant private career undertaken by Field Marshal and Baron Peter Anthony Inge, former Chief of the General Staff and professional  head  of  the  British  Army  between  1992  and  1994,  who  is  now  co- chairman of the Aegis board of directors, together with Tim Spicer.

Secondly, by co-opting former member of the armed forces, PMSCs create a collusive environment where they avoid juxtaposition or contrast with the military. On the contrary, the result of this cooperation is a regime of  “profitable continuity”, where an increasing number of high-ranking officials leave their positions within the Army to join PMSC for a much higher salary. In addition, retired member of the armed forces are also joining en masse these corporation, attracted by the potential economic benefits. This  strategy  produces  a  number  of  positive  externalities,  which  are  incredibly beneficial for PMSCs.

Economically, this policy reduces drastically the training-related costs, as all employees are already experienced and have already been trained, sometimes with the highest standards. In terms of reputation, PMSCs can benefit from the stature and esteem that former member of the armed forces might have earned: as Singer points out, “Such officers are more likely to be trusted and respected when selling to foreign clients. Back home they can also call on a pre-existing network of contacts that feed them privileged information and contracts.”133 The possibility of having among the executive members of a security company a former general or a chief of staff increases exponentially the credibility of a PMSC: MPRI – for instance – has established rigorous recruiting policy, according to which they hire exclusively national military personnel.134


Taking Singer’s taxonomy of the private security industry as analytical landmark, the description proposed in this chapter differs substantially from the “Tip of the Spear” typology. Paraphrasing this model, it is plausible to claim that the tip has been blunted, whereas the hilt of the spear has become more robust. As a result of different legitimizing strategies, PMSCs have in fact cancelled the provision of combat services – metaphorically and literally – in favour of less controversial commercial activities.

At the same time, PMSCs have increased their effort to vindicate from more ethical grounds the rest of their activities, as the mere construction of a legal personality proved to be insufficient to guarantee a legitimate reputation to the industry.

As  it  has  been  described  in  the  last  part  of  the  paragraph,  PMSCs’  approach  to legitimacy issues has not been exclusively passive: on the contrary – exploiting their rising economic power and political gravitas  – they have undertaken an extremely proactive approach to the market for force, shaping the demand so as to increase their comparative advantage as opposed to the traditional military.

Nevertheless, as in the case of the second chapter, there are a number of hidden issues and explicit controversies that arise from this analysis and – even if marginally and superficially – it is nonetheless important to point (at least some of) them out in the last chapter.

Limitations, Reflexions & Conclusions

The second and third chapter have described and analyzed two sides of the same coin, contrastive but complementary at the same time. After all, it would have been impossible to argue how PMSCs are trying to be perceived as legitimate, without demonstrating why they are illegitimate in the first place.

Nevertheless, this analytical approach leaves outside some of the most controversial aspects of the private security industry, what could be defined as “the third side” of the coin. It is therefore important to recognize and reflect – even if marginally – on some of the limitations and unanswered questions of this research project.

Problems emerge first of all on a methodological level: on the one hand, the adopted theoretical approach has allowed a broad overview of legitimacy-related issues in the market for force. On the other hand, the idiographic approach adopted in the empirical section of the research project might constitute a limiting factor for the significance of its conclusions. Throughout the dissertation, specific examples have been picked up to demonstrate the validity of specific claims: this method might therefore be considered as too inductive, as if the theory is imposed and not derived from the facts.

This choice can be justified by the intrinsic limitations of a research project that – necessarily – cannot include and analyze a higher number of samples. Limited words imposed a limited number of cases to be argued and this dissertation has opted for those corporations that for their magnitude within the market for force can be considered as representative and significant.

What is – unfortunately – excluded from the picture are a number of PMSCs that – for a number of reasons – do not take part into this legitimizing process. Influential companies like Blackwater – for instance – have shown a certain degree of disregard for legitimizing practices:   whereas they strongly appeal for a larger role of PMSCs within international peacekeeping operations135, they also seem to be reluctant to abandon the provision of combat services. Throughout the war in Iraq, in several occasions contractors employed by Blackwater have in fact been accused of engaging directly in hostilities, sometimes to rescue soldiers of the Coalition136, sometimes opening fire on unarmed civilians137. Therefore, it is important to keep in mind is that – although  the  majority  of  PMSCs  engaged  in  strategies  of  legitimation  –  pocket  of resistance within the industry resist.

Furthermore,  even  the  PMSCs  that  have  been  presented  cannot  be  considered legitimate tout court. On the contrary, they often foster their legitimizing policies in order to cover even more their illegitimate practices. Simply because PMSCs claim that they are legitimate businesses, it does not mean that they are always acting according to moral, legal or political restraints: MPRI – for instance – despite its policy against the provision of weapons to its contractors, has been repeatedly accused of engaging in combat during its “training” contract with the Croatian Army in 1995138Several DynCorp’s pilots have been involved in combat situations in Colombia, while providing “training” to helicopter crews engaged in the war against drug cartels.139In these circumstances where PMSCs exploit the fog of war and the bogus legal frameworks, it would be perhaps more appropriate to talk about an “invisible” tip of the spear.

Another essential element that has to be reminded is the implicit trigger of most legitimizing policies adopted by (most) PMSCs: profit. In the context of this dissertation, legitimizing policies have been interpreted as the result of moral, legal and constitutional constraints. Keeping in mind the validity of the arguments that have been presented, nevertheless it is fundamental to underline that the pursuit of legitimacy, for these corporations, is not a mere public relation activity, with an end itself, but a rational and profit-oriented strategy. Therefore, while analyzing these strategies and results, the intrinsic private nature of these corporations and their ultimate  goal  cannot  be  neglected:  PMSCs  pursuit  legitimacy  because  legitimacy  is profitable.

This leads the analysis to another controversial issue, limitations to legitimizing strategies. A  fundamental  fallacy  in  the  approach  advocated  by  supporters  of  the private security industry like Brooks lies in the erroneous assumption that legislation will guarantee PMSCs a legitimate status, in other words that legality will lead to legitimacy. As it is clear from Clark’s explanation of the concept, legality constitutes only one element of legitimacy; therefore, even if a more regulated market might substantiate PMSCs’ claims that they are acting within legal restrains, legislation will never solve the moral issues that are so intrinsically embedded within the provision of private security (profit).

Finally, one last word has to be dedicated to the potential consequences that might arise if legitimizing strategies become even more successful. In the course of the dissertation, legitimacy has been analyzed from a theoretical perspective but – de facto– PMSCs  have  already been legitimized  en masse by the market forces. Continuously supported by an unbreakable faith in the benefits of privatization140, PMSCs expand their business, re-new their billionaire contracts while the global value of the industry is expected to reach the impressive figure of 202$ billions in 2010.141  But what about the hidden political costs of this savage privatization? Consequences of an undisputed market for force might not be accused in the short-term: they do – however – trigger a number of controversial issues in the long run. Scholars usually argue on the lack of accountability of private security actors, provoked by the lack of regulation.142

Nonetheless, it is also possible to argue how consequences are much more practical. For instance: what is going to be the role of the traditional military in the coming years? Which consequences is it possible to expect from the continuous drawing of PMSCs from members of the armed forces? Is it going to become a mere training-centre, where cadets are formed and then employed by PMSCs? Clearly, this mechanism is not sustainable on the long- term.

Furthermore, even if moral norms managed to keep PMSCs away from combat scenarios, they left the door open for other security sectors, such as intelligence, where risks of a debacle are much higher and where there are also enormous ethical issues regarding – for instance – the privacy of the citizens.

Concluding, it is possible to claim that the process of legitimization that the majority of PMSCs are undertaking deepens – if possible – the complexity that is already embedded into the issue of privatized security. PMSCs represent an hybrid actor, which draws its legitimacy both from the market and from other international actors and – more importantly – that is capable of adapting to different norms, but also to shape them in their favour. Properly because of this hybrid and mutating nature, it is impossible to give a definitive statement about whether or not their presence in a variety of security scenarios will be beneficial or detrimental.

This research process has attempted to show the evolution of these actors in a limited time frame; it might be an initial step to understand not only where PMSCs are going but also how is it possible to legitimize even further their activities, maximizing the benefits and reducing the risks.


1   Kinsey,  Christopher,  “  Corporate  Soldiers  and  International  Security:  The  Rise  of  Private  Security Companies”, Routledge London (2006),  [ Emphasis in italic is always added ]

2 Abrahamsen, Rita; Williams, Michael C, “ The Globalization of Private Security”. ISP/NSC Briefing Paper 05/02, London, Chatman House, (October 2005).

3  Mandel, Robert. “ The Privatization of Security”, Armed Forces and Society, Vol.28, N.1 (2001), pp.129- 151

4 Ibid.

5 Musah, Abdel-Fatau and Fayemy, ‘Kayode J. (eds.) “Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma”, London, Pluto, (2000)

6 Brooks, Doug, “Write a Cheque, End a War – Using Private Military Companies to end African conflicts”, Conflict Trends, (2000), pp.33-35. Available at

7  Spearin, Christopher, “ Humanitarians and Mercenaries: Partners in Security Governance”, in “ NewThreats and New Actors in International Security”, Elke Krhamann, ed., New York,  Palgrave – Macmillan, (2005), pp. 45-68

8 O’ Brien, Kevin, “ What should and should not be regulated?”, in in Simon Chesterman and Chia Lehnardt, eds, “From Mercenaries to Markets: The Rise and Regulation of Private Military Companies”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2007), pp29-49.

10   For  a  comprehensive  description  of  Executive  Outcomes,  see  Singer,  Peter  Warren,  “  Corporate Warriors – The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry”, Ithaca (2003), New York & London, Cornell University Press, pp.101-118

11       For  a  description  of  Sandline  International,  see  Kinsey,  Christopher,  “  Corporate  Soldiers  and International Security: The Rise of Private Security Companies”, Routledge London (2006), p.23.

12 Brooks, Doug, “Write a Cheque, End a War – Using Private Military Companies to end African conflicts”, Conflict Trends, (2000), pp.33-35. Available at (Visited on 14 June, 2008)

13 Ibid, p.33

14 Ibid, p.35

15 Shearer, David, “Outsourcing War”, Foreign Policy, No. 112, (Autumn, 1998), p. 68-81

16 Musah, Abdel-Fatau and Fayemy, ‘Kayode J. (eds.) “Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma”, London, Pluto, (2000)

17 O’Brien, Kevin, “ Private Military Companies and African Security” in Musah, Abdel- Fatau and Fayemy, ‘Kayode J. (eds.) “Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma”, London, Pluto, (2000), pp.76-117

18 Musah, Abdel- Fatau and Fayemy, ‘Kayode J., “ Africa in Search of Security: Mercenaries and Conflicts – An Overview”, in Musah, Abdel- Fatau and Fayemy, ‘Kayode J. (eds.) “Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma”, pp.63-71

19 O’Brien, Kevin, “ Private Military Companies and African Security” in Musah, Abdel- Fatau and Fayemy, ‘Kayode J. (eds.) “Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma” For an alternative perspective on the issue, see Percy, Sarah, “Mercenaries – The History of a Norm in International Relations”, Oxford, Oxford University Press (2007), pp.214-215

20 Brooks, “Write a Cheque, End a War”, pp.33-35

21 Percy, Sarah, “Mercenaries”, pp.185-189

22 Singer, P.W, “ Corporate Warriors – The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, pp.49-72

23 Ibid, p.92

24. Avant, Deborah D,   “The Market for Force : the Consequences of Privatizing Security”, New York, Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, (2005), p.6-10

25 Ibid,p.56, p.254

26 Ibid, p.254

27 Ibid, p.5

28 Benson, Bruce L., “ The Market for Force”, The Independent Review, v. XI, n. 3, (Winter, 2007)

29 Kinsey, “ Corporate Soldiers”, p.4

30 Percy, “Mercenaries”, p.206-243

31 Ibid, 225-232

32 Ibid, p.14-48

33 Ibid, p.12

35 Shearer, “ Outsourcing War”, p.79

36 Singer, “ Corporate Warriors”, p.47

37 Percy, “ Mercenaries”, p.206

38   Trevelyan,  Laura,  “Georgia  exposes  UN’s  weakness”. BBC  News  Online,  BBC,  London.  Available  at:  (Visited  on  30 August, 2008)

39 Clark, Ian. “Legitimacy in International Society”. Oxford: Oxford University Press,(2007), pp.1-2

40 Ibid, p.2

41 Ibid, p.2

42 Mandel, Robert. “ The Privatization of Security”, Armed Forces and Society, Vol.28, N.1 (2001), pp.129-


43 Clark, “Legitimacy”, p.18

44 Ibid, p.14

45 Clark, Ian. “ International Legitimacy and World Society”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008, p.2

46 Ibid, pp.29-35

47 Ibid, p.34

48 Clark, “Legitimacy”, pp.19-20

49 Spencer – Summarized by Ian Clark – “Legitimacy”, p.18

50 Ibid, p.18

51 Ibid, p.19

52 Ibid, p.220

53   Brooks,  Doug,  “Messiahs  or  Mercenaries?  The  Future  of  International  Private  Military  Services”, International Peacekeeping, 7:4 (2000), pp.129-144

54 Olonisakijn, ‘Funmi, “ Arresting the Tide of Mercenaries: Prospects for Regional Control”, in Musah, F.A. and J.K. Fayemy (eds.) “Mercenaries”, pp.233-255

55 Zarate, Juan Carlos, “ The Emergence of A New Dog of War, Private International Security Companies, International Law, and the New World Disorder”,  Stanford Journal of International Law, 34, (1998), pp.75-162

56  For a comprehensive list of mercenary campaigns in the African continent, see Musah, F.A. and J.K. Fayemy (eds.) “Mercenaries”, Appendix I, pp.265-274

57 Percy, Sarah, “Mercenaries”, p.188

58 Lynch, Tony, Walsh, A.J, “ The Good Mercenary?”, The Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol.8, N,2 (2000), pp.133-153

59 Ibid, p.135

60 Ibid, p.138

61 Ibid, p.138, Footnote N.11

62 Clark, Ian, “ Waging War: A Philosophical Introduction”, Oxford, Claredon Press, (1988), pp.60-61.

63 Johnson, James Turner, “Can Modern War Be Just?”, Connecticut, Yale University Press, (1984), pp.11-29

64 Musah, F.A. and J.K. Fayemy (eds.) “Mercenaries”, Appendix I, pp.266

65 I n t e r n a t i o n a l  C o m m i t t e e  of  t h e  R e d  C r o s s  ( I C R C ) , International Humanitarian Law – Treaties & Documents “ Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977”. Part III : Methods and means of warfare — Combatant and prisoner-of-war status #Section II — Combatant and prisoner-of- war status. – ICRC, Geneva (1997). Available at: (Visited on July 2008)

66 Musah, F.A. and J.K. Fayemy (eds.) “Mercenaries”, Appendix V, pp.286-288 For an advocacy  for  legislation against mercenaries, See Layeb, E., “  The Need  for an International Convention Against Mercenaries and Mercenarism”, African Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol.1, (1989), pp.466-81

67 UN DOC A/RES/44/34.Available at (Visited on 2 July 2008)

68  For a thoughtful commentary on the UN Convention, See: Cassese, Antonio, “ Mercenaries: Lawful Combatants or War Criminals?”, Zeitschrift fur auslandisches offentliches Recht und Volkerrecht, Vol.40, (1980), pp.1-30

69  Percy, Sarah, “ Regulating the Private Security Industry”, Adelphi Paper N.384, London, Routledge, (2006), pp.28-30

70  Percy, Sarah, “Mercenaries: Strong Norm, Weak Law”, International Organization (2007), Vol. 61, pp.367-397, Cambridge University Press

71 See Percy, “ Mercenaries”, Appendix I, p.248

72 Zarate, “ The Emergence of a New Dog of War”, pp.120-122

73 See Percy, “ Mercenaries”, Appendix I, p.248

74 Ibid, p.177

75 Ibid, pp.171-185

76 Hampson as quoted by Percy in “Mercenaries”, p.171

77    Kwakwa,  “  The  Current  Status  of  Mercenaries  in  Armed  Conflict”:  Hastings  International  and Comparative Law Review, Vol.14 (1990), p.71

79  For a detailed description of the above-mentioned ‘PNG Affair’, see Singer, “ Corporate Warriors”, pp.191-205

80 Ibid, p.194

81 Ibid, p.197

82 Ibid, p.194

83 Ibid, p.195

84 Ibid, p.194

85 Thompson, Janice, “ Mercenaries, Pirates, and Sovereigns: State Building and Extraterritorial Violence in Early Modern Europe”, Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, (1994), p.96

86 Percy, “Mercenaries”, p.218

87 Krahmann, Elke, “ Transitional States in Search of Support – Private Military Companies and Security Sector Reform”, in Simon Chesterman and Chia Lehnardt, eds, “From Mercenaries to Markets: The Rise and Regulation of Private Military Companies”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2007), pp.94-114

88 Executive Outcomes, “Missions & Services” (1998). Available at (Visited on 3 August 2008)

89 Zarate,” The Emergence of a New Dog of War”, p.148

90Sandline International, “Sandline Homepage” (April 2004). Available at (Visited on 3 August 2008)

91 Zarate,” The Emergence of a New Dog of War”, p.148

92 Percy, “Mercenaries”, p.227

93 Ibid, p228

94 Ibid, p.227

95 For a description of ARM alias Aegis Defence Services, see Isenberg, David. , “ A Fistful of Contractors: The Case for a Pragmatic Assessment of Private Military Companies in Iraq. British American Security Information Council, (September 2004), Executive Summary and Key Conclusions, Appendix 2, p.80

96 Percy, “Mercenaries”, p.227

97 Ibid,p.228

98  For a description of AG, see Isenberg, David. , “A Fistful of Contractors: The Case for a Pragmatic Assessment of Private Military Companies in Iraq.” Appendix 2, p.82

99 Beese, Christopher as quoted by Percy in Ibid, p.230

100   Executive Outcomes, “Missions & Services” (1998)

101  Aegis Defence Services, “ADS Homepage”, (2008) Available at (Visited on 8 August 2008)

102 Ibid.

103 Ibid.

104  For an accurate analysis of the role of DynCorp in the private security market, see, The Centre for Public Integrity, “Windfalls of War – US Contractors in Afghanistan & Iraq”. – Washington, November 2004.   Available   at (Visited on 4 August 2008)

105DynCorp. International, “DynCorp. Homepage” (2008). Available at (Visited on 12 August 2008)

106 Ibid.

107 For a recent history of Group4Secuticor’s, see G4S Corporate Website, “1950s-2000”, 2008. Available at (Visited on 12 August 2008)

108  G4S Corporate Website, “G4S Homepage”, Available at (Visited on 12 August 2008)

109 Spicer, Tim, “ An Unorthodox Soldier: Peace and War and the Sandline Affair”, Edinburgh, Mainstream, (1999), p.29

110 Hemingway, Mark,  “Warriors for Hire – Blackwater USA and the rise of private military contractors”, Weekly Standard 12/18/2006,  Volume 012: Issue-14, Available at              (Visited 20 August 2008)

111 For a description of MPRI and its main actvities, see The Centre for Public Integrity, “Windfalls of War – US Contractors in Afghanistan & Iraq” – Contractors – Alphabetical List – Military Professional Resources Incorporated. (May 20, 2004). Available at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

112  Aegis Defence Services Limited, “Warriors for Hire” Response – The Weekly Standard”, March 2008. Available at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

113 For a description of Blackwater and its main activities, see The Centre for Public Integrity, “Windfalls of War – US Contractors in Afghanistan & Iraq” – Contractors – Alphabetical List – Military Professional Resources   Incorporated. (May 20, 2004). Available at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

114 Ibid, See Comma (4),

115 Aegis   Defence   Services   Limited,   “Aegis   Wins   Contract   Renewal”,   April   2008.   Available   at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

116  Aegis Defence Services Limited, “Warriors for Hire” Response – The Weekly Standard”, March 2008. Available at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

117 Kinsey, “ Corporate Soldiers”, p.66

118  Spicer, Tim, “ Interview”, Cambridge Review of International Relations, Cambridge, Vol. XIII, No.1, (1999), p.165

119 Singer, “ Corporate Warriors”, p.119

120 Kinsey, “Corporate Soldiers”, p.66

121 Percy, “ Regulating the Private Security Industry, p.39

122 Singer, “Corporate Warriors” – International Security, p.186

123 Gaston, E.L., “Mercenarism 2.0? The Rise of the Modern Private Security Industry and Its Implications for International Humanitarian Law Enforcement”, Harvard International Law Journal, (Winter, 2008), Vol.49, N.221,

124 Singer, “Corporate Warriors” – International Security, pp.199-200

125 Zarate, “ The Emergence of a New Dog of War”, p.153

126 Brooks, “ Messiah or Mercenaries”, pp. 136-137

127 Kinsey, “Corporate Soldiers”, pp.78-88

128 Singer, “ Corporate Warriors”, pp.191-205

129 Ibid.

130 Brooks,” Messiah or Mercearies?”, p.137

131 Leander, Anna, “ On the Significance of the Emergence of Private Military Companies”, Paper Presented at the Conference Facets of Power in International Relations, Session 5, London School of Economics, October (2004). Available at (Visited on 1 August 2008)

132 Ibid, p.6

133 Singer, “Corporate Warriors”, p.78

134 Ibid.

135  Langfitt, Frank, “Private Military Firm Pitches Its Services in Darfur”, All Things Considered, (May 26, 2006)  Available  at  (Visited  on  11 August 2008)

136    Mokhiber,   Russel,   Weissman,   Robert,   “The   Rising   Corporate   Military   Monster”, Available   at  (Visited on 11 August 2008)

137       Jordan,  Jakes  Lara,  “Report:  Blackwater  Killings  Unjustified” –  Associated  Press,  Washington, (November 14, 2007)   Available at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

138 Avant, “ The Market for Force”, pp.103-142

139 Ibid, p.19

140 Ibid, p.35

141 Leander, “ The Power to Construct International Security”, p.3

142Matziorinis, Nicholas, Nalin, Paolo, “Private Military Companies: Legitimacy and Accountability”, McGill Management, Montreal, (2004)



ABRAHAMSEN, RITA, WILLIAM, MICHAEL C,“ The Globalization of Private Security”.ISP/NSC Briefing Paper 05/02, London, Chatman House, (October 2005).

ADAMS, T.K., “The New Mercenaries and the Privatization of Conflict”. Parameters, US Army War College Quarterly, XXIX (2): 1-12, (1999)

AVANT, D.DEBORAH, “The Market for Force: the Consequences of Privatizing Security”. New York, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, (2005)

AVANT, D.DEBORAH, “From Mercenaries to Citizen Armies”, International Organization, 54(1), (2000), pp.41-72,

BENSON, BRUCE.L., “ The Market for Force”, The Independent Review,Vol. XI, N. 3, (Winter 2007)

BROOKS, DOUG. “Messiahs or Mercenaries? The Future of International Private Military Services”.International Peacekeeping, 7:4 (2000) pp.129-144

CASSESE, ANTONIO, “Mercenaries: Lawful Combatants or War Criminals?” Zeitschrift fur auslandischesoffentlichesRecht und Volkerrecht, Vol.40, (1980)

CLARK, IAN,“  International  Legitimacy  and  World  Society”. Oxford,  Oxford  Universit Press, (2008)

CLARK,  IAN,  “Legitimacy  in  International  Society”. Oxford,  Oxford  University  Press, (2007)

CLARK, IAN, “Waging War: A Philosophical Introduction”. Oxford, Claredon Press, (2001)

GASTON, E.L.,“Mercenarism 2.0? The Rise of the Modern Private Security Industry and Its Implications for International Humanitarian Law Enforcement”. Harvard International Law Journal, Vol.49, N.221, (2008)

ISENBERG, DAVID. , “ A Fistful of Contractors: The Case for a Pragmatic Assessment of Private  Military  Companies  in  Iraq. British  American  Security  Information  Council, Executive Summary and Key Conclusions, Appendix 2, (September 2004),

JOHNSON, JAMES TURNER,“Can Modern War Be Just? Connecticut, Yale University Press, (1984).

KINSEY, CHRISTOPHER, “Corporate Soldiers and International Security: The Rise of Private Security Companies”, London, Routledge, 2006

KRAHMANN,  ELKE,  “Regulating  Private  Military  Companies:  What  Role  for  the  EU?” Contemporary Security Policy, Vol.26, N.1 (2002)

KRAHMANN, ELKE, “Transitional States in Search of Support – Private Military Companies and  Security  Sector  Reform”,  in  SIMON  CHESTERMAN  AND  CHIA  LEHNARDT, EDS,  “From Mercenaries to Markets: The Rise and Regulation of Private Military Companies”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2007)

KWAKWA, E.EDWARD, “The Current Status of Mercenaries in Armed Conflict”. Hastings International and Comparative Law Review, Vol.14 (1990)

LAYEB,  E,   “The   Need   for   an   International   Convention   Against   Mercenaries   and Mercenarism”. African Journal of International and Comparative Law, Vol.1 (1989)

LYNCH, TONY, WALSH, A.J, “ The Good Mercenary?”,The Journal of Political Philosophy, Vol.8, N,2 (2000)

MATZIORINIS,  NICHOLAS;  NALIN,  PAOLO;  “Private  Military  Companies:  Legitimacy  and Accountability”; McGill Management; Montreal; (2004)

O’BRIEN, KEVIN, “ Private Military Companies and African Security” in MUSAH, ABDEL- FATAU AND FAYEMY, ‘KAYODE J. (EDS.)“Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma”. London, Pluto, (2000)

O’ BRIEN, KEVIN, “ What should and should not be regulated?”, in Simon Chesterman and  Chia  Lehnardt,  eds,  “From  Mercenaries  to  Markets:  The  Rise  and  Regulation  of Private Military Companies”, Oxford: Oxford University Press, (2007)

OLONISAKIJN,‘FUNMI,    “  Arresting  the  Tide  of  Mercenaries:  Prospects  for  Regional Control”. IN MUSAH, ABDEL- FATAU AND FAYEMY, ‘KAYODE J. (EDS.)“Mercenaries: An African Security Dilemma”. London, Pluto, (2000)

MANDEL, ROBERT.“ The Privatization of Security. Armed Forces and Society, Vol.28, N.1 (2001)

PERCY, SARAH, “Mercenaries – The History of a Norm in International Relations”. Oxford, Oxford University Press, (2007).

PERCY, SARAH, “Regulating the Private Security Industry”, Adelphi Paper N.384, London, Routledge, (2006),

PERCY, SARAH, “Mercenaries: Strong Norm, Weak Law”, International Organization, Vol. 61 (2007)

SINGER,  PETER   WARREN,  “Corporate  Warriors  –  The  Rise  of  the  Privatized  Military Industry”, Ithaca, New York & London, Cornell University Press, (2003)

SINGER,  PETER  WARREN,  “Corporate Warriors  –  The  Rise  of  the  Privatized  Military Industry and its Ramifications for International Security”, International Security, Vol.26, N.3 (Winter 2001-02), pp.186-220

SHEARER, DAVID, “Outsourcing War”.Foreign Policy, No. 112, (Autumn, 1998)

SPEARIN, CHRISTOPHER, ‘Between public peacekeepers and private forces: can there be a third way?’, International Peacekeeping vol.25/2 (2005).

SPEARIN, CHRISTOPHER, “ Humanitarians and Mercenaries: Partners in Security Governance”, in “ New Threats and New Actors in International Security”, Elke Krhamann, ed., New York, Palgrave – Macmillan, (2005)

SPICER, TIM,“ An Unorthodox Soldier: Peace and War and the Sandline Affair”.Edinburgh, Mainstream, (1999).

SPICER, TIM, “ Interview”, Cambridge Review of International Relations, Cambridge, Vol. XIII, No.1, (1999)

THOMPSON,   JANICE,“    Mercenaries,    Pirates,    and    Sovereigns:    State    Building    and Extraterritorial Violence in Early Modern Europe”. Princeton, N.J., Princeton University Press, (1994)

ZARATE, JUAN  CARLOS, “  The  Emergence  of  A  New  Dog  of  War,  Private  International Security Companies, International Law, and the New World Disorder”. Stanford Journal of International Law, 34, (1998)

Internet Resources


BROOKS, DOUG, “Write a Cheque, End a War – Using Private Military Companies to end African conflicts”, Conflict Trends, (2000), pp.33-35. Available at (Visited on 14 June, 2008)

HEMINGWAY, MARK, “Warriors for Hire – Blackwater USA and the rise of private military contractors”, Weekly Standard, (12/18/2006),Volume 12:Issue-14, Available at (Visited 20 August 2008)

TREVELYAN, LAURA, “Georgia exposes UN’s weakness”. BBC News Online, BBC, London. Available at: (Visited on 30 August, 2008)

LANGFITT, FRANK, “Private Military Firm Pitches Its Services in Darfur”, All Things Considered, (May 26, 2006) Available at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

MOKHIBER,  RUSSEL;  WEISSMAN,  ROBERT,  “The  Rising  Corporate  Military  Monster”, Available  at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

JORDAN,   JAKES   LARA,   “Report:   Blackwater   Killings   Unjustified” –   Associated   Press,   Washington, (November 14, 2007)   Available at (Visited on 11 August 2008)


I N T E R N A T I O N A L  C O M M I T T E E  OF  T H E  R E D  C R O S S ( I C R C ), International Humanitarian Law – Treaties & Documents  “ Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 12 August 1949, and relating to the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I)!, (8 June 1977). Part  III  :  Methods  and  means  of  warfare  —  Combatant  and  prisoner-of-war  status  #Section  II  — Combatant and prisoner-of-war status. –   ICRC, Geneva (1997). Available    at: (Visited on w July 2008)

UN DOC A/RES/44/34. Available at (Visited on 2 July 2008)

THE CENTRE FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY, “Windfalls of War – US Contractors in Afghanistan & Iraq”. – Washington, (November 2004). Available at (Visited on 4 August 2008)

THE CENTRE FOR PUBLIC INTEGRITY, “Windfalls of War – US Contractors in Afghanistan & Iraq” – Contractors – Alphabetical List – Military Professional Resources Incorporated. (May 20, 2004). Available at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

THE CENTRE FOR  PUBLIC INTEGRITY, “Windfalls of War – US contractors in Afghanistan & Iraq”  – Contractors – Alphabetical List – Blackwater (May 20, 2004). Available at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

PMSC s’  Websites

AEGIS DEFENCE SERVICES LIMITED, “ADS Homepage”, Available at (Visited on 8 August 2008)

AEGIS DEFENCE SERVICES LIMITED, “Warriors for Hire” Response – The Weekly Standard”, (March 2008). Available at (Visited on 8 August 2008)

AEGIS  DEFENCE  SERVICES  LIMITED,  “Aegis  Wins  Contract  Renewal”,  (April  2008).       Available  at (Visited on 11 August 2008)

EXECUTIVE OUTCOMES, “Missions & Services” (1998). Available        at (Visited on 3 August 2008)

DYNCORP  INTERNATIONAL,  “DynCorp.  Homepage”  (2008).  Available  at (Visited on 12 August 2008)

G4S CORPORATE WEBSITE, “1950s-2000”, 2008. Available at (Visited on 12 August 2008)

G4S CORPORATE WEBSITE, “G4S Homepage”, Available at (Visited on 12 August 2008)

SANDLINE INTERNATIONAL, “Sandline Homepage” (April 2004). Available at (Visited on 3 August 2008)

Written by: Junio Valerio Palomba
Written at: Aberystwyth University
Date:  2008

Please Consider Donating

Before you download your free e-book, please consider donating to support open access publishing.

E-IR is an independent non-profit publisher run by an all volunteer team. Your donations allow us to invest in new open access titles and pay our bandwidth bills to ensure we keep our existing titles free to view. Any amount, in any currency, is appreciated. Many thanks!

Donations are voluntary and not required to download the e-book - your link to download is below.