Mercenarism Resurgent

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#1
The recent DSD thread on tracking got me thinking about a research paper I wrote in my first year at college:

Building on P.W. Singer's Corporate Warriors, I endeavored to explain why mercenarism (not used perjoratively) was on the rise by looking at the historical and social conditions in S. Africa. I've had a fascination with Rhodesia and S. Africa since I first encountered them by way of Wilbur Smith's Ballantyne series novels and a S. African Plt. Sgt. I had.

I got a chance to take a class on S. Africa my first year, taught by fantastic S. African scholar Max Rayneard. Today, he helps run the Telling Project, a performing arts non-profit for veterans. I'd recommend checking it out.

Anyways, it just hit me like a ton of bricks that we have a few notable members here that have personal insight into the events I investigated.

I'd love to get your thoughts!
 

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Ocoka

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#2
In the mid-70s there was active but very low key recruiting going on outside Camp Lejeune and Ft Bragg for the Rhodesian RLI...specifically for Vietnam combat vet NCOs, Marine and Army. I was introduced to a former FBI SA who was helping funnel support to Rhodesia out of the back room of a gun store in Jacksonville NC (on Hiway 17, I think.) I was one of the people invited into that back room and given the sales pitch. The money wasn't all that attractive but they paid for your flight (one-way) and you kept your equivalent rank.

Let me emphasize this was not "mercenary" recruitment. This was recruiting into a standing formation in the Rhodesian military. US and other foreign SF personnel were usually placed in special operations positions.

Nobody was going to get rich fighting in Rhodesia, the motivation in most cases was jonesing for the action.
 
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pardus

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#4
The Modern Mercenary really go going in the Early 60's with the Wind's Of Change wars in Africa, specifically the Belgian Congo, Biafra.
One of my old PL SGTs in NZ served in Rhodesia for a while. I know/have known many Rhodesian vets.

Members of the Rhodesian Military were not Mercenaries. Nor are modern contractors.


United Nations Definition of a Mercenary.

Article 1
For the purposes of the present Convention,

1. A mercenary is any person who:

(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an
armed conflict;

(b) Is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the
desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party
to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that
promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed
forces of that party;

(c) Is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of
territory controlled by a party to the conflict;

(d) Is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict; and

(e) Has not been sent by a State which is not a party to the conflict on
official duty as a member of its armed forces.

2. A mercenary is also any person who, in any other situation:

(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad for the purpose of
participating in a concerted act of violence aimed at:

(i) Overthrowing a Government or otherwise undermining the
constitutional order of a State; or

(ii) Undermining the territorial integrity of a State;

(b) Is motivated to take part therein essentially by the desire for
significant private gain and is prompted by the promise or payment of material
compensation;

(c) Is neither a national nor a resident of the State against which such
an act is directed;

(d) Has not been sent by a State on official duty; and

(e) Is not a member of the armed forces of the State on whose territory
the act is undertaken.

A/RES/44/34. International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries

 
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Board and Seize

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#5
Members of the Rhodesian Military were not Mercenaries.
Hey Pardus, I was hoping you'd pop over. In the paper, I take great pains to clearly lay out how I am using the word "mercenary" because it is so heavily laden with (usually negative) connotation.

I'm hoping that your post is responding to 'typical' reactions (not the paper itself), and that if you get a chance to read the paper you'd find it agreeable.

I'm unfamiliar with Winds of Change, or at least that terminology, and am checking it out right now. It's amazing to me what breadth of experience and expertise we have here at SS. I hope to learn more!
 

pardus

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#6
Hey Pardus, I was hoping you'd pop over. In the paper, I take great pains to clearly lay out how I am using the word "mercenary" because it is so heavily laden with (usually negative) connotation.

I'm hoping that your post is responding to 'typical' reactions (not the paper itself), and that if you get a chance to read the paper you'd find it agreeable.

I'm unfamiliar with Winds of Change, or at least that terminology, and am checking it out right now. It's amazing to me what breadth of experience and expertise we have here at SS. I hope to learn more!
I have not read the paper (I hate reading long stuff online).
South Africa passed a law a few years back banning their citizens from being mercenaries. The law was so broad that they many SA citizens serving in the British Army fell foul of the act.
I recall a similar bill trying and failing to pass in the UK, with one Member of Parliament commenting (with words to the effect of) "Mercenaries maybe be one of our greatest exports".

I suggest you read the book by Al J Venter "War Dog: Fighting Other People's Wars" A gruesome but fascinating read.
 

AWP

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#7
There are people, some in the military who have called contractors (hence my name here) mercenaries. Dictionaries are hard to read I guess.
 

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#8
There are people, some in the military who have called contractors (hence my name here) mercenaries. Dictionaries are hard to read I guess.
I'm not quite following you here. Are you claiming that military contractors can't be mercenaries or something?

In any case, dictionaries are descriptive, not normative. Attempts to use dictionaries and the like to fix language are the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of what language is and how it works.
 

pardus

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I'm not quite following you here. Are you claiming that military contractors can't be mercenaries or something?

In any case, dictionaries are descriptive, not normative. Attempts to use dictionaries and the like to fix language are the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of what language is and how it works.
They can be by definition, but generally the ones you think of now are not. See UN definition above.
 

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#10
I'm not quite following you here. Are you claiming that military contractors can't be mercenaries or something?

In any case, dictionaries are descriptive, not normative. Attempts to use dictionaries and the like to fix language are the result of a fundamental misunderstanding of what language is and how it works.
As an American citizen working for the DoD, I take umbrage with any comparison of guys like me with mercenaries. Can a contractor be a mercenary? Sure, but the vast majority of CTRs in theater are not mercenaries at all, shooters included.
 

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#11
but generally the ones you think of now are not
Ah, but then, you don't know what I generally think of as a mercenary. Which is why I go to some length early in the paper explicitly calling out what I am referring to with the word mercenary - and it isn't some cartoonish G.I. Joe running around the third world running guns and drugs.

As an American citizen working for the DoD, I take umbrage with any comparison of guys like me with mercenaries.
Don't. You're only giving credence to the negative connotations the word has accrued. A word, by the way, which long predates those connotations.

I'd like to forestall any further comments complaining about the word mercenary (without even having looked at the paper, where I detail exactly what I mean) as it's a total non-issue. I'm pretty sure that no one here, contractor or otherwise (and I've contracted as well) would object to my usage - if they bother to see what I'm saying.

For those not actually wanting to dive in, but are rankling at my usage of this word, here's a couple of short excerpts from the three and a half pages I spend dismissing a variety of facile arguments used to smear this word:

Furthermore, mercenaries have an ability to reject work that does not meet with their morals - an ability that soldiers in national militaries do not have. This actually allows the mercenary to be more moral than the soldier, by choosing to fight only in conflicts that the mercenary judges to improve the greater good.
The prolonged devastation of the Thirty Years’ War, due to the new nationstate self-defining partially as having a monopoly on military force, was blamed on mercenaries wholesale. This helped the new nations to create popular mandates for greater taxation to support standing armies, so that such mercenarism would never again occur. In reality, it allowed the nation-states to eliminate any forces that might challenge their legitimacy.
Due to a highly effective propaganda campaign waged by Benjamin Franklin, these ‘Hessian’ mercenaries came to be vilified in the colonial mind.
Once we have disentangled the concept from hundreds of years worth of emotional, political, and ideological baggage, we can then examine the circumstances surrounding the recent rise of this ancient profession.
Take a look.
 

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#12
Don't. You're only giving credence to the negative connotations the word has accrued. A word, by the way, which long predates those connotations.
Sorry, I wasn't as clear and that's on me. I mean in general terms, the perception/ thought that a CTR is a mercenary pisses me off. It wasn't directed at you, not at all.

As you pointed out, mercenaries go back "forever" including some of the "chivalrous" knights people gush on about. Despite that, they were an accepted and highly sought after solution going back hundreds of years (as you well know). Personally, I have no problem with mercenaries despite my anger at being called one. Perception is reality and the ignorant masses who can't be bothered to learn propagate BS.
 

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#13
the ignorant masses who can't be bothered to learn propagate BS.
Right on, and I completely agree. Addressing that largely false perception that many have is part of what I hoped to do with this paper.

Sorry if I came back too strong.
 
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Ocoka

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#15
The Modern Mercenary really go going in the Early 60's with the Wind's Of Change wars in Africa, specifically the Belgian Congo, Biafra.
One of my old PL SGTs in NZ served in Rhodesia for a while. I know/have known many Rhodesian vets.

Members of the Rhodesian Military were not Mercenaries. Nor are modern contractors.


United Nations Definition of a Mercenary.

Article 1
For the purposes of the present Convention,

1. A mercenary is any person who:

(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad in order to fight in an
armed conflict;

(b) Is motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the
desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party
to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that
promised or paid to combatants of similar rank and functions in the armed
forces of that party;

(c) Is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor a resident of
territory controlled by a party to the conflict;

(d) Is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict; and

(e) Has not been sent by a State which is not a party to the conflict on
official duty as a member of its armed forces.

2. A mercenary is also any person who, in any other situation:

(a) Is specially recruited locally or abroad for the purpose of
participating in a concerted act of violence aimed at:

(i) Overthrowing a Government or otherwise undermining the
constitutional order of a State; or

(ii) Undermining the territorial integrity of a State;

(b) Is motivated to take part therein essentially by the desire for
significant private gain and is prompted by the promise or payment of material
compensation;

(c) Is neither a national nor a resident of the State against which such
an act is directed;

(d) Has not been sent by a State on official duty; and

(e) Is not a member of the armed forces of the State on whose territory
the act is undertaken.

A/RES/44/34. International Convention against the Recruitment, Use, Financing and Training of Mercenaries
One of the things that surprised me reading Mike Hoare's account of his actions in the Congo, was that aside from some seasoned warriors, he was recruiting a lot of amateurs. I guess he just needed the bods and counted on his NCOs to train them.
 

pardus

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#16
One of the things that surprised me reading Mike Hoare's account of his actions in the Congo, was that aside from some seasoned warriors, he was recruiting a lot of amateurs. I guess he just needed the bods and counted on his NCOs to train them.
I was told many years ago that a military will reflect the effectiveness and competency of it's current enemy. With that in mind I guess you didn't need Spec Ops dudes fighting the Simbas.
 

Ocoka

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#17
I was told many years ago that a military will reflect the effectiveness and competency of it's current enemy. With that in mind I guess you didn't need Spec Ops dudes fighting the Simbas.
Yep.

And it raises another point germane to the discussion of "Mercenaries." And that is that the word itself is extremely broad. There are literally tens of thousands of gun-toting dudes in Central and South America, Africa and elsewhere, who have very little actual military experience who are being paid by various local bigshots for close protection, intimidation or to actually pull the trigger. Hired muscle. And not necessarily for bad people exclusively. I'd call some of those guys mercenaries, too.

I think the big differences between mercs and contractors is vetted legitimacy, professional experience and defensive rather than offensive ROE.
 
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pardus

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#18
Yep.

And it raises another point germane to the discussion of "Mercenaries." And that is that the word itself is extremely broad. There are literally tens of thousands of gun-toting dudes in Central and South America, Africa and elsewhere, who have very little actual military experience who are being paid by various local bigshots for close protection, intimidation or to actually pull the trigger. Hired muscle. And not necessarily for bad people exclusively. I'd call some of those guys mercenaries, too.

I think the big differences between mercs and contractors is vetted legitimacy, professional experience and defensive rather than offensive ROE.
IMO the biggest difference is that a contractor is fighting for/in his country's interests.
 
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