Thursday, June 25, 2015

What I'm Reading Now - Private Armed Forces

Private Armed Forces and Global Security by Carlos Ortiz

Why I’m reading it:

I’m taking part in a writing collaboration project, my part of which concerns the activities of private military companies (PMCs). My own experience is with the formal US military, so I needed some background reading to get up to speed.
Not exactly the A-Team.

What I think of it:

It is a well-researched and compiled book, aimed at the academic or the consultant, not the general reader. The author starts by explaining the historical place of PMCs (a term he prefers to the more colloquial mercenary), and lays out what they look like in today’s world. The third part of the book presents the issues surrounding such forces – their relationships to states, non-state groups, international corporations & non-governmental organizations. PMCs have their supporters and their critics, and Ortiz tries to present all sides without taking sides.

Will I finish it?

I am not reading it cover-to-cover, I’m reading through several of the chapters looking for information on normative practice for PMCs.

Would I recommend it?

To someone who was studying modern conflicts and international law, yes. The writing style is academic and sort of dry; it is not a fun or fast read. However, as it’s not likely to be read as leisure reading, that’s not an issue. So no, it won’t make anybody’s list of titles for their next book club.

Gimme a quote:

(p. 48) “For the purposes of this book, I define PMCs as legally established international firms offering services that involve the potential to exercise force in a systematic way and by military or paramilitary means, as well as the enhancement, the transfer, the facilitation, the deterrence or the diffusing of this potential, or the knowledge required to implement it, to clients.”

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