This is the story of the privatization of America’s national security and the rise of a bold new industry of private military and security companies—how and why it happened and why all Americans should be concerned.
Not too long ago there were no private military and security companies; there were only mercenaries. Now private military is a bona fide industry that has become indispensable to American foreign military and policy. The pivotal moment in this story came when the United States found itself in a prolonged war with Iraq and the Bush administration had to rely on private security contractors to supplement the military. Private contractors eventually exceeded traditional troops in what some now regard as American’s first contractor war. The industry then began exploring a vast array of new markets for its armed and unarmed security and defense services.
Private contractors now assist U.S. forces in combat operations and replace them after the military withdraws from combat zones; they guard our embassies; they play key roles in U.S. counterterrorism strategies; and Homeland Security often depends on them. Their services include maritime security, police training, drone operations, cyber security, and intelligence analysis (as Edward Snowden has famously revealed). Other countries and even the United Nations employ them. As they expand their markets, private security firms are becoming wild cards of global policy.
Ann profiles members of Congress who recognize the risks of our dependence on private contractors but have been unable even to determine the true scope of our dependence. She introduces us to a former mercenary who now runs a successful security company and a U.S. Army general who worries that as the industry spreads globally American contractors could one day be fighting American troops. Ann describes an international initiative that has spent nearly a decade seeking effective ways to monitor companies that broker these men with guns. And she reveals the story of a U.S. soldier shot by an employee of a U.S.-contracted military and security company.
The Invisible Soldiers should inspire a long-overdue national dialogue about the poorly understood international industry on which our security now rests.