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The Arrival of the Warrior Corporation

Posted on Feb 25, 2012
ElDave (CC-BY)

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

(Page 4)

Meanwhile, in those war zones, the Big Corporation would take over the humblest of soldierly roles—the peeling of potatoes, the cooking of meals, the building of bases and outposts, the delivery of mail—and it would take up the gun (and the bomb) as well.  Soon enough, even the dying would be outsourced to corporate hirees.  Occupied Iraq and Afghanistan would be flooded with tens of thousands of private contractors and hired guns, while military men trained in elite special operations units would find their big paydays by joining mercenary corporations doing similar work, often in the same war zones.

It was a remarkable racket.  War and profit had long been connected in complicated ways, but seldom quite so straightforwardly.  Now, win or lose on the battlefield, there would always be winners among the growing class of warrior corporations.

The all-volunteer force, pliant as a military should be, and backed by Madison Avenue to the tune of hundreds of millions of dollars to insure that its ranks were full, would become ever more detached from most of American society.  It would, in fact, become ever more foreign (as in “foreign legion”) and ever more mercenary (think Hessians).  The intelligence services of the national security state would similarly outsource significant parts of their work to the private sector.  According to Dana Priest and William Arkin of the Washington Post, by 2010, about 265,000 of the 854,000 people with top security clearances were private contractors and “close to 30% of the workforce in the intelligence agencies [was] contractors.”

No one seemed to notice, but a 1% version of American war was coming to fruition, unchecked by a draft Army, a skeptical Congress, or a democratic citizenry.  In fact, Americans, generally preoccupied with lives in which our wars played next to no part, paid little attention.


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Remotely Piloted War

Although early drone technology was already being used over North Vietnam, it’s in another sense entirely that drones have been heading into America’s future since 1973.  There was an eerie logic to it: First came professional war, then privatized war, then mercenary and outsourced war—all of which made war ever more remote from most Americans.  Finally, both literally and figuratively, came remote war itself.

It couldn’t be more appropriate that the Air Force prefers you not call their latest wonder weapons “unmanned aerial vehicles,” or UAVs, anymore.  They would like you to use the label “remotely piloted aircraft” (RPA) instead.  And ever more remotely piloted that vehicle is to be, until—claim believers and enthusiasts—it will pilot itself, land itself, maneuver itself, and while in the air even choose its own targets.

In this sense, think of us as moving from the citizen’s army to a roboticized, and finally robot, military—to a military that is a foreign legion in the most basic sense.  In other words, we are moving toward an ever greater outsourcing of war to things that cannot protest, cannot vote with their feet (or wings), and for whom there is no “home front” or even a home at all.  In a sense, we are, as we have been since 1973, heading for a form of war without anyone, citizen or otherwise, in the picture—except those on the ground, enemy and civilian alike, who will die as usual.

Of course, it may never happen this way, in part because drones are anything but perfect or wonder weapons, and in part because corporate war fought by a thoroughly professional military turns out to be staggeringly expensive to the demobilized citizen, profligate in its waste, and—by the evidence of recent history—remarkably unsuccessful.  It also couldn’t be more remote from the idea of a democracy or a republic.

In a sense, the modern imperial age began hundreds of years ago with corporate war, when Dutch, British and other East India companies set sail, armed to the teeth, to subdue the world at a profit.  Perhaps corporate war will also prove the end point for that age, the perfect formula for the last global empire on its way down.

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project and the author of “The American Way of War: How Bush’s Wars Became Obama’s” as well as “The End of Victory Culture,” runs the Nation Institute’s His latest book, “The United States of Fear” (Haymarket Books), has just been published.

Follow TomDispatch on Twitter @TomDispatch and join us on Facebook.

© 2012 Tom Engelhardt

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LocalHero's avatar

By LocalHero, March 30, 2012 at 12:53 am Link to this comment

Night-Gaunt, if “mentally defective people” weren’t welcomed into the military, there wouldn’t BE a military.

As Kissinger said, “Military men are just dumb stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy.”

I hate the guy but that’s about right.

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By Night-Gaunt, February 27, 2012 at 5:21 pm Link to this comment

When was the last time you heard Corporate MSM news talking directly or indirectly about the corporate military forces working for the Pentagon an DoD? Their disposition, their casualties? Interviews from spokesmen? Maps of deployment? The numbers? The cost to us the tax payer? An through robots an armed remotes in operations as a force multiplier an extension force. Where, what types are in use an how much in deaths an cost to us an the country being attacked? So what we have is a de facto secret wars. But on a far wider scale than even the two official world wars.

Vietnam was a piker militarily for US with Cambodia an Laos secret bombing going on. Here they are in over 120 countries today! Our Special Forces have American Nazis in them again. The setting is so low for recruitment that gang bangers, Nazis, an mentally defective people are welcomed in.

With the on going Depression they are getting plenty people of nearly all ages applying since their job prospects are dim. That is a Depression draft in action.

I’m waiting for the Republic to fall.(With shudders.) The empire is just getting started. All they need do now is to take over. An economic disaster could put the billionaire religious an Libertarian fanatics in charge of us. We can still lose this. (Look at Rome when it shifted from a Republic to an Empire inside an out. It was an external empire, like we are, for some time before Caesar took over.)

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By gerard, February 26, 2012 at 11:57 am Link to this comment

You know, it’s strange to me that I am the only one on any comments I have read that complain about the feeling of cowardice that drone-weaponry instantly brings to my mind.  There is something missing in the souls of people who are willing to invent these things, manufacture them, deploy them,, advocate them and tolerate them. Even I who (have nothing to do with them—famous last words!) feel dirty because my country employs them without so much as a shiver! Not that other weapons are any better—just somewhat more overt.
  Another irony while we’re at it: My country spends billions “surveilling” me and my neighbors daily, destroying our precious rights with the same kind of covert activity it seems to suspect we are about to employ against it! Thus the snake eats its own tail—drones creating drones to turn us into drones (worker bees).

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By PatrickHenry, February 26, 2012 at 11:48 am Link to this comment

Spot on post by you Cliff.

In 2008, I jumped from Independent to Republican so I could vote for Ron Paul in the Republican primaries here in Maryland. I had seen the writing on the wall then.  He didn’t beat McCain so I voted for Obama.  Obama has proved to be a liability to the Constitution and the Bill of Rights in these past 3-1/2 years and his time is up.

The number one priority for this country has to be the demilitarization of America and its overseas empire,  The taxpayer should not fund groups like Xe, Blackwater and all the other quasi-military groups making problems to Americas foreign policy.

I already pay for an non-drafted supersized military with my ever expanding myriad of taxes, I do not want to pay for more unaccountable mercenaries a second time around.

I do not agree with alot of Ron Pauls domestic policies, however that is why we have a Congress and State Governments and why a Presidential veto can be overridden.

The president is our point guy for foreign policy and that policy has sucked for a long time.

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By Cliff Carson, February 26, 2012 at 9:12 am Link to this comment

On Corporate Armies and Robot Weapons

PatrickHenry,  I agree with your statement. The following is a Commentary I wrote in August 2007 that was published on the Populist Site to be later picked up and ran on a Ron Paul site concerning this very issue.

What I see is a continued decline in our rights as Americans, an increasing re-distribution of the wealth of the average American Citizen to the Elite 1%, the declaration from an Elite managed Supreme Court that Corporations are considered as persons, through the influence of the Republican dominated ALEC group - a management of Corporate written Laws to impose on the people of America (except for the Elite 1% of course), resulting in an increasing drive to a Kleptocracy.

And this Corporate future managed America will have their own Armies and Robot weapons to control the masses.  That’s you and me.

We the people of America need to seriously began to demand and work for a return of our Government to the people of America.

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By balkas, February 26, 2012 at 9:03 am Link to this comment

this piece is illuminating
i began to think of the ‘private army’ as the regular US army after US invaded and occupied iraq.
the socalled private army was, to me, just as private as the other US army.
but, then, is there anything of import in US that the ONE PERCENT don’t own?
how about schooling, MSM, banking, MIC, congress, w.h., judges, ‘educators’, sacerdotals, fbi, cia, city police, bounty hunters,
constitution, ‘laws’....?
so, what we have in US is the greatest diktatorship ever developed, but not of the proletariat or serving classes, but of the master
classes; the latter consisting perhaps of just 10% of US pop. 
and it did not require special knowledge to come up with the idea that the best way to get rural, uneducated, unemployed,
unemployable, patriotic americans to go soldiering, would be first to wage poverty to a sufficient degree and then the younguns would
gladly and proudly join the army to defend mom and pop; oops, amerrika, from the uncivilized world.
but what if rural [i am assuming that it is mostly rural boys and girls who have been joining the army since late seventies or later]
would stop joining the army in great numbers? not to worry! there are lots of dirt poor people in s.america, e.europe, asia, and afrika.
what if they’d not come? well, what would be wrong with hunting for them like they did for afrikans some 4 Cs ago?
—-and, of course, there will be always better weapons and better nukes available and then to be used in some disobedient and
defenseless regions, countries.

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By PatrickHenry, February 26, 2012 at 6:54 am Link to this comment

The day after ‘The Terminator’ came out I’m sure some weapons designers were busy on this.

This type of warfare is taking foreign policy out of the hands of the Government and placing it into a number of boardrooms across America where justified killing and treaty compliance are unknown.

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By Cliff Carson, February 25, 2012 at 10:38 pm Link to this comment

The thing about Corporate Armies and War Machines is that the incentive for war is manifested by its affect on the corporate bottom line.

No war, no profit to be made.  And Corporations are in business to make a profit.  A Corporation irrespective of what the Supreme Court says, is nothing more than an unthinking, unfeeling, entity, in essence an entity programmed to seek profit doing any action evil or not without remorse.

As to the Robots machines there is a problem.  They are remote controlled and can in-mass be defeated in at least two ways:

1.  Decode the telemetry and assume control of the robot.  Turn it upon its handlers.

2.  Destroy the communications Link.  Instructions to the robot must go thru a transmission device, in our current time that most likely will be Earth Link Satellites.

These can be blown out of Orbit as some Nations have already demonstrated.  China, one of the Nations, along with America has done just that. Destroy the Transmission link and the Robots go dark.

Either scenario is absolutely dangerous to the citizens of the country possessing robot war machines.  And a reliance on such war machines is the perfect death wish.

The only unhindered use of these methods of war that can be successful is against undeveloped Countries.

The little guys.  Those that have no way of fighting back.  Those that will never be a threat to America.

You know, like those we slap around now.  Those we want to impose Democracy on while we steal their resources.

Seems to me there is a moral issue here.

But as one Senator was overhead saying in those hallowed halls one day.  “War is the most profitable scheme ever invented-that is as long as you win.”

One more thing.  Drones owned by the Corporations may have a use on the future citizens of a once beacon of Freedom -  the United States.

Seems that I recall that Drones have already been approved to be used over American skies.

That sends a chill down my spine - how does it affect you?

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By gerard, February 25, 2012 at 5:14 pm Link to this comment

I completely understand Kerryrose here, but alternately, I found this article robust and conclusive concerning the abject immorality and irresponsibility so characteristic of our recent recurring ventures at empire.  Another way of looking at these recent wars is “clean” war versus blood and guts—in that we can’t see the people who die except as “pictures.  “Sleight of mind.
In other words, the more virtual the less virtuous.
  For me the article is a “call to arms” of a very precise kind—that is, a “war” against corporatism
as such, divested as it is from responsibility for the havoc it wreaks—on the environment, on our bodies, on our very genes, thoughts and hopes for a humane future.  Now we simply have no way out except through—in other words, if we cannot find ways to be “through with violence”, then violence will certainly work through us till it disintegrates our brains and our spines and we disappear from the face of the earth. Ironically, the most “developed” nations will be the first to go.

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By kerryrose, February 25, 2012 at 2:47 pm Link to this comment

‘Of course, it may never happen this way, in part because drones are anything but perfect or wonder weapons, and in part because ....’

It is not fair for a writer to build a plausible scenario, and ask us to follow it with him to it’s logical conclusion—- and then in the last paragraph lose his balls and abandon the whole endeavor—leaving his readers out to dry.


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