Private military contractors

Robert Kaplan explains the real story in the latest Atlantic Monthly:

…Mention private military contractors to many civilians, especially to liberals, and they’ll think of red-state good old boys working for a firm like Halliburton—the Texas-based corporation formerly run by Vice President Dick Cheney—who appear to constitute a rogue, mercenary element favored by a Republican administration.

In fact, the former Halliburton subsidiary of Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR) consummated its veritable marriage with the U.S. military during the Clinton administration, when the firm’s logistical capabilities were indispensable to the Balkan interventions that many liberals supported. The KBR-designed military bases in Bosnia and Kosovo became templates for those in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Rather than mercenaries who will fight for the highest bidder, private contractors like KBR and Blackwater are composed mainly of retired American noncommissioned officers (NCOs), working alongside the same military to which they used to belong. Just as other professions tap the wisdom and expertise of retirees, so does the American military. Indeed, some contractors, like Triple Canopy, are known to hire veterans of the most elite Special Operations units in the U.S. military. “I’m hiring the elder statesmen of the combat arms community,” one Army colonel told me, referring to some private contractors he was taking on to supplant his uniformed troops in a noncombat capacity. “They won’t have to go through any sniff test when they arrive in the field as consultants. They’ll be instantly looked up to.”