September 28, 2007


Hired Gun Fetish (Paul Krugman, 9/28/07, Der Spiegel)

Sometimes it seems that the only way to make sense of the Bush administration is to imagine that it's a vast experiment concocted by mad political scientists who want to see what happens if a nation systematically ignores everything we've learned over the past few centuries about how to make a modern government work.

Thus, the administration has abandoned the principle of a professional, nonpolitical civil service, stuffing agencies from FEMA to the Justice Department with unqualified cronies. Tax farming - giving individuals the right to collect taxes, in return for a share of the take - went out with the French Revolution; now the tax farmers are back.

And so are mercenaries, whom Machiavelli described as "useless and dangerous" more than four centuries ago.

Private Security Contractors and the American Tradition (Michael Waller, 9/28/07, Real Clear Politics)
In the wake of the recent shooting deaths of 11 Iraqis in Baghdad, many critics are now claiming that allowing private contractors to operate in Iraq is inconsistent with American tradition. This is demonstrably untrue.

Private security contractors, or PSCs, have been part of building the civilization that became the United States for 400 years. They are a founding part of the American entrepreneurial tradition of risk-taking and civic duty.

The first PSC on our shores was little more popular than his descendants today. Captain John Smith, a professional soldier who was paid to protect the interests of the Virginia Company of London in 1607, was accused of conspiring to subvert legal authority and locked in irons during the voyage to America, only to be exonerated and made chief of the expedition that founded the colony at Jamestown.

A few years later, English refugees seeking freedom of worship set off for America to establish their own shining city. They contracted the services of Captain Myles Standish to defend them, loaded a small arsenal of weapons in the lower hold, and sailed the Mayflower to make history at Plymouth Colony.

Posted by Orrin Judd at September 28, 2007 7:21 AM

"Der Spiegel"

Great. Thanks Paul. Can I also assume that if you were writing for the 'Jonestown Gazette' in 1977, you would drool over yourself extoling Jim Jones' greatness?

But the mnost interesting thing to note here is that Bush will (Hellooooo, Paul.....) be gone in one year plus change, a Democrat MIGHT be in charge, and within two years, one could deforest the Amazon re-printing the idiocy wriiten about this President that will have NO MEANING WHATSOEVER by then, except for future political scientists (and biologists) saying, "What the hell got into these people? Was BDS a virus? Might there be a genetic record perhaps?"

Ah, but Paul, my old friend. Unfortunately for you, the Internet saves ALL, far and away more than was saved during the 90's, and it's all gonna be draped around your neck, yours and your Kossy ilk.

That will be interesting, and rather unprecedented. Stick around.

Posted by: Andrew X at September 28, 2007 8:55 AM

Gee, professor, do you think "mercenaries" might be of a higher quality than they were 400 years ago, like nearly everything else? I'll bet Machiavelli had a low opinion of doctors, too.

And do you know that it is the State department that insists on private contractors for security in Iraq, because they don't want the Defense department to do it? How does that fit your thesis?

Posted by: PapayaSF at September 28, 2007 10:43 AM

In a world where army snipers get court-martialled for taking out known terrorists who have been specifically approved for assassination, private mercenary forces certainly are not going to go away...

Posted by: b at September 28, 2007 10:54 AM

Let me get this straight: He's saying that President Bush is a slick and selfish politician and, as an alternative, he wants us to listen to the wisdom of Machiavelli?

Posted by: Matt Murphy at September 28, 2007 2:23 PM

Dumb effs.

Not knowing about Pinkerton and the Pinkertons is almost as bad as not knowing that just maybe another country, i.e. France, gave us a little help in the Revolutionary War, calling to mind the way Hanoi Jane Fonda once said that we had no business helping South Vietnam fight for freedom, because nobody had helped us.

On those sniper cases, I continue to hold that a breach of rules of engagement is an orders violation only, and does not make such a killing murder.

Posted by: Lou Gots at September 28, 2007 3:33 PM

Maybe if the Germans had helped instead of creating political cover for terrorists, the US would not be short on manpower. As long as we are into what ifs.... What if Germany and France had helped early and massively?

Posted by: Joe Greer at September 28, 2007 4:28 PM

Short on manpower? Privatizing government work is a strategic choice.

Posted by: oj at September 28, 2007 7:13 PM
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