If you’re ‘known by the company you keep,’ it’s no wonder America’s reputation is in the toilet these days…
At two in the morning on Sept. 9, 2005, five DynCorp International security guards assigned to Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s protective detail returned to their compound drunk, with a prostitute in tow. Less than a week later, three of these same guards got drunk again, this time in the VIP lounge of the Kabulairport while awaiting a flight to Thailand.
Such episodes represent the headaches that U.S. contractors can cause in Afghanistan, Iraq and elsewhere. They are indispensable to the State Department’s mission overseas, handling security, transportation, construction, food service and more. But when hired hands behave badly — or break the law — they cast a cloud over the American presence.
Most of the infractions, which include excessive drinking, drug use, sexual misconduct and mishandling weapons, were violations of corporate and U.S. policies that probably went unnoticed by ordinary Afghans and Iraqis. But other offenses played out in public, undermining U.S. efforts in both countries and raising questions about how carefully job candidates are screened.
It’s odd to me that it was so crucial to federalize airport security, but our government contracts out gunslinging in foreign lands on a massive scale. To this day, the word “Blackwater” is tangibly toxic across a swath of the Middle and Near East. Frankly, that’s deserved. These people, not being government employees, are subject to less oversight and discipline — and they know it. If such a guard force is “indispensible” to the State Department, then hire security that’s subject to department discipline. But let’s stop sending mercenaries to the frontier, as the Romans did, and then wonder why outsiders think badly of us.
The second type of barbarization was the short-term use of tribal groups of barbarian allies… These contingents were not a permanent part of the army. Instead Roman emperors and generals hired them for the duration of a war and then dismissed them. Nonetheless, their easy availability from the settled barbarians, combined with the need to use such troops to stop them attacking Roman territory themselves, meant that the regular army suffered. This, with the financial crisis faced by the western empire, began to weaken the western army.