The author (scholar at CATO) makes a case for private peacekeeping and shows
cases, where it worked very cheaply and well. At the original article (URL
below) you can find active hyperlinks. Enjoy!
Society for Legal and Economic Education
Take the Dogs of War, Please!
by David Isenberg
Thursday, June 15, 2000
To paraphrase Ben Franklin's celebrated remark about hanging, there is
nothing like barbarous, monstrous, depraved wartime atrocities to cause
people to question their assumptions. Case in point: Sierra Leone. Consider
that just a few years ago writers in leftist publications like The Nation
were denouncing the emergence of private military companies (PMCs). Groups
such as the now disbanded Executive Outcomes of South Africa, Sandline of
England and Military Professionals Resources Inc. in the United States were
derided as collections of bloodthirsty racist mercenaries with a corporate
veneer, tools of imperialist multinational corporations, or covert arms of
Now, however, the times are changing. More observers are recalling that back
in 1995 and 1996 Executive Outcomes, with an initial deployment of only 160
men, handily defeated Foday Sankoh's Revolutionary United Front (RUF) in the
field in Sierra Leone and forced them to the negotiation table.
Today, though, op-eds and commentary calling for the use of PMCs have
recently run in The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal and ABC News.
Even the British journalist William Shawcross, a bleeding heart if ever
there was one, commented in his recent book, Deliver Us From Evil, on the
effectiveness of U.N. peacekeeping operations. "At a time when Western
governments were more and more reluctant to commit their own troops,
especially in Africa, it seemed to me that, under private control, private
armies such as Executive Outcomes could play an increasingly useful role,"
Because much of the reporting on what Executive Outcomes (EO) and Sandline
did in Sierra Leone has been inaccurate, it is important to detail what
EO was originally hired by the Sierra Leone government in 1995 to deploy 160
of its personnel from May 1995 to March 1996 to defeat the RUF, whose
trademark signature is chopping off the hands and arms of helpless
civilians. After training up company-sized contingents of the military and
enlisting the support of the Kamajors, EO provided the leadership,
helicopters and fire support necessary to prosecute a successful war against
the RUF. By late 1995, the siege of the capital, Freetown, was over and RUF
headquarters to the east had been destroyed. Diamond-mining areas and
mineral concessions had been liberated (thus depriving the RUF of crucial
income), which led to the initiation of peace talks between the government
and the RUF in February 1996 -- at the same time that Ahmad Kabbah was
Unfortunately, Kabbah terminated EO's contract , effective January 1997,
though EO was previously informed that the earliest its contract would be
terminated would be March 1997. Contract termination was supposed to be
dependent on the timely deployment of a U.N. observer mission, but that
never happened. Ironically, EO warned that its premature departure would
leave the way open for a successful coup within 100 days. As it turned out,
the coup occurred 95 days after EO left, leaving Sierra Leone in the hands
of a brutal military-rebel regime.
Anarchy and brutality ensued, with prolonged fighting between the regional
ECOMOG forces of the Economic Community of West African States led by
Nigeria. In February 1998 ECOMOG launched an attack that finally led to the
collapse of the junta and its expulsion from Freetown. Kabbah returned to
office in March.
At that time another PMC, the U.K.-headquartered Sandline, made news in the
so-called "Arms to Africa" affair. For reasons that are still
incomprehensible, officials in the British government claimed that Sandline
had illegally supplied weapons, in violation of a U.N. embargo, and other
military assistance to Kabbah. As it turned out, the charges were baseless.
Not only had Sandline's activities been entirely lawful, but it had kept the
government fully informed of its activities.
Nevertheless, in the ensuing security void there was an unseemly rush
unseemly to get a peace agreement, the flawed Lome accords, which allowed
the RUF to assume posts in the government and to regroup, rearm and renew
With the advantage of hindsight it is obvious that the operations of EO were
remarkably effective. The government of Sierra Leone hired the EO, which won
the war in less than two years. Its entire operation cost around $36
million, and its total deployment of people in the country at one time did