Pandragon blog is hyperventillating about Blackwater, a private security company that was used to stop the high crime rate in post Katrina New Orleans.
Civil libertarians grit their teeth over the idea of any sort of police, and paid professionals are especially anathema, since unlike police in a democratic country, they could easily deteriorate to outside the rule of law and become a law unto themselves.
But mercenaries? Horror. They do it for money. And they are not accountable to anyone.
Tell me about it.
One of the major problems here in the rural Philippines are the politicians who have private armies and use them to pop off political opponents and activists and reporters who threaten their hold on local government.
Indeed, my nephew was killed last year in the crossfire of one of these feuds. During the last election, things got so bad that the election here had to be counted by the Comelec instead of local teachers, security was supervised by the military, and some local police chiefs were reassigned in an attempt to stop pre election violence.
But what keeps us stable here is that, despite corruption, private security guards all over, and “extrajudicial killing”, there is a core of professional soldiers and police who keep the level of abuse at a level that the public will tolerate.
The key word is not military, or mercenary, or police, but professional.
Professionals stay within a code of honor, don’t abuse their power, and are accountable to a higher power.
Without such professionals, be they soldiers or police or mercenaries or US Marines, there are evil people out there who will take over. Safe Americans often fail to recognize this, which is why the joke is that a conservative is a liberal who has been mugged.
You need a sheepdog to stop the wolves preying on the sheep, and the Christian argument for being a soldier or policeman is that a good shepherd gives his life for his sheep, not run away and claim he is a pacifist.
So why not simply use the UN and it’s peacekeepers? The dirty little secret is that too many are not soldiers, just observers.
A UN force that leaves civilians to be massacred in Bosnia and Rwanda is not a good advertisement for those peacekeepers.
Similarly, when millions in Central Africa have died from civil wars and massacres under the eyes of UN and AU peacekeepers, there is an argument for professionals to run peacekeeping.
That is what is argued in this Boston news paper.
You see, in the third world, it is not a choice between a police state and freedom: it is often the choice of a police state versus anarchy and civil war.
The main problem is accountability: who will control them? Mercenaries have a nasty history of taking over. And of course the cost: good mercenaries are not cheap, and only a few men have the capability to do the job and not be corrupted.
So what is the answer? Like all of life, there is no easy answer. But if I were a doctor in Africa, I would prefer Blackwater in the area to the thugs who got money from the left as freedom fighters, but who actually used their guns to kill doctors, nurses, and innocent villagers.
Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. Her website is Finest Kind Clinic and Fishmarket.Â