Iraq Research Paper

Free Research Paper on Iraq:

The question whether private military security companies (PMCs) should be used in Iraq alongside conventional forces has been a subject of a heated debate ever since the intervention. It becomes even more topical now, at the stage of the country’s reconstruction and transition to democratic governance. Although tremendous progress has bee made, it is too early to be optimistic about the future of the fledging government of Iraq under the current political and economic circumstances. After the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, there has been a general disquiet in the country. The military operation in Iraq destroyed the country completely. Hundreds of people are still killed in terrorist attacks every month. Poverty, crime and lack of infrastructure appear to be minor problem against the background of dangerous blasts and explosions. The U.S. entered Iraq without having a clear plan for rebuilding the country. As a result, the war in Iraq imposed a financial burden on the U.S. government and American taxpayers, not to mention the tragic losses in human lives. Money has to be spent not only on military operations, but also on such issues as enhanced security of military bases, reconstruction activities, and veterans’ benefits. Paying to PMCs has been another significant expense.

The resources that the US can spend on supporting the “emerging democracy” are gradually exhausting. Two processes will be happening simultaneously: the people of Iraq will get disappointed in their new government, while the U.S. will gradually decrease its military presence and financial assistance to the country. As a result, presence of PMCs in Iraq can be seen as an unwanted burden on American taxpayers; however, on the other hand, it can be regarded as a necessary measure to ensure stability and security in Iraq and decrease pressure on our troops.

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Modern day Iraq is a poor, devastated, and dangerous place. Economic stagnation, scarce supply of goods, bad housing, and lack of educational facilities do not provide for a blossoming democracy. International help is gradually decreasing, while crime and corruption only grow. Iraqis will be quick to realize that the government is unable to guarantee basic rights and security. If the government performs poorly, and it likely that it will, the insurgents will get more support and power. Therefore, the continuing presence of PMCs, maybe for as long as several decades, might be necessary.

However, the major reason why the U.S, hired PMCs in Iraq was public opinion. Domestic public opinion about the issue has reversed since the beginning of the operation. While in 2003 American public was buying the Churchillian rhetoric of the government, the popular sentiment several years after was is in favor of a complete and immediate pull-out. To appease the electorate at home, the U.S. government had to keep causalities among troops at minimum. Since state leaders are constrained by what public thinks, “some of the pressure of public opinion can be alleviated when a state outsources military functions. The public does not equate the death of a contractor with the death of a national soldier as contractors are not directly associated with the state’s military” (O’Keefe, 2009, p. 5).

A natural question arises: is a government entitled to circumvent an opinion of its citizens? In most cases, an answer would be “no”. Yet foreign policy and international relations decisions are essentially different from decisions on domestic matters and should not always be delegated to public at large. Apart from their complexity, it is also important to keep in mind that such decisions should incorporate a long-term perspective. In Iraq, there was a rationale behind the Administration’s commitment to “staying the course” (even if it was not supported by popular public opinion throughout the operation) policy: giving in to the domestic pressure and pulling out might have done more harm to Iraq, since it would have been taken over by terrorist networks ranging from Hezbollah to PKP. In order to “stay the course”, the government had to conceal the real human costs of the war by hiring PMCs.

As Dahl (1999, p. 30) puts it, when it comes to foreign policy decisions, “the threatened costs of the policy are fairly obvious, while the promised gains are abstract, theoretical, and distant.” Public at large should not be always entrusted with making foreign policy decisions, since it cannot directly witness the consequences of these decisions, thus lacks collective experience about such matters. For instance, an ordinary American family is likely to have collective memory about how lowering taxes affects national well-being; yet such a family is unlikely to have first-hand evidence of how a regime change in Myanmar/Burma would affect the well-being of Burmese citizens. Similarly, when American soldiers were not returning home from Iraq or returning injured, the public could clearly see and experience the losses. However, it could only see televised images of the life in Iraq under Saddam Hussein and in the transition period, therefore it could not take informed decisions about the importance of “staying the course”.

Those who take foreign policy decisions should be greatly superior in knowledge and expertise to those whom they serve (Dahl, 1999). European Constitution is also an example of how important decisions on international issues should rest within elites and bureaucracies rather than general public. Holding a referendum on European Constitution turned out to be a failure; yet European politicians are likely to attempt to push it though without relying on the opinion of their electorates.

Looking at the U.S. history, it is possible to find two fairly similar military operations, one in Iraq and one in Vietnam. Both wars, while unnecessary for the immediate defense of American territory, had a serious bearing on the country’s geopolitical standing. The fact that complicated victory in any of them was that they were led against an elusive enemy. PMCs which help the U.S. to “stay the course” will be crucial for ensuring Iraq does not turn into the next Vietnam. One of the powerful factors that contribute to pulling out from Vietnam before a conclusive victory was achieved is that there was the growing domestic opposition and anti-war movement. This movement was sparkled by journalistic coverage of the events in Vietnam, especially in the audiovisual media like television. Keeping in mind that the world being even more globalized nowadays, it is very important to create a perception among American voters that human cost of the war was relatively low in order to achieve full stabilization of the situation. The Economist (2008) has argued that the costs of the war equaled to $25,000 per a household and hinted on possible connection between the escalating costs of the war and the U.S. economic decline and global turmoil that followed. The public in the U.S. could have favored pulling out for economic reasons alone, therefore the use of PMCs there is absolutely necessary. At the same time, it is important to remember that hiring PMCs was expensive as well: they “have cost nearly $100 billion, accounting for roughly 20 percent of the total U.S. budget for the five-year war” (Tilghman, 2008, para. 2).

Having looked attentively at the first argument in favor of using PMCs in Iraq, it is necessary to analyze other reasons why it is a generally good idea. Dissociation between PMCs and troops can be beneficial for one more of its additional features. Cockburn (2007) argues brutality and arrogance of American soldiers to some extent fueled the insurgency which followed the intervention. The ease of the victory (which only took three weeks) was a sign that American forces felt unconstrained and determined to win Iraq at any cost; this alienated local population. As Cockburn (2007) reports, Americans used “indiscriminate, massive overuse of firepower, and success calculated by the number of supposed insurgents killed, weapons captured and suspects taken away with bags over their heads” (p. 39). However, Iraqis should not have the same feeling towards PMCs, which allows these companies to engage locals into the reconstruction process more effectively than if it was done by American troops. And “there were specific technical skills required to occupy Iraq and fight an insurgency, and the American military did not have enough of these technically skilled individuals that were necessary” (O’Keefe, 2009, p. 1).

Moreover, it is necessary to look at one more argument which is often discussed in relation to PMCs. There are some people in the U.S. who claim that the true purpose of wars is to give rise to the military-industrial complex that will ensure vast benefits for those in power. While wars have had varying overall effects on the U.S. economy, wartime production of the military-industrial complex has been soaring throughout the American history. There are critics who suggest that personal and business connections between the Bush family, his surroundings, and the military-industrial complex influenced the development of the U.S. foreign policy. Back then and nowadays the primary direction of the U.S. foreign policy supposes unilateral and offensive action for the purpose of keeping weapon production high under the plausible pretence of strengthening world democracy and liberty. Even during the Cold war, the arms race offered numerous lucrative profiteering opportunities for everyone in the military and defense industry. While there was no direct necessity to engage in proxy wars, they were necessary to boost the development of the military-industrial complex. The media reported on “massive fraud and embezzlement of millions of dollars by the US military in its operations in Iraq” (The Times of India, 2008, para. 1). Using PMCs ensured that apprehensions about the Iraq war being started only to provide work for the military-industrial complex were dispelled.

Yet the extensive use of PMCs in Iraq has far reaching implications. As Olsson (2005) points out, “the intervention of PMCs in Iraq also raises three more fundamental political issues concerning the use of commercialised means of coercion” (para. 3). Small (2007) argues that traditionally it was state that had monopoly on the use of force. Outsourcing of violence may mean the end of the Weberian state as we know it. Thus, it is necessary to view the presence of PMCs in Iraq in the broader context of implications it has for the organization of the state and precedent it sets. Leander (2005) argues that since the market for force tends to self-perpetuate, leaving security to private actors can have dangerous consequences indeed.

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