Billionaire Blackwater founder Erik Prince is at it again. This time he's organizing a mercenary Legion in the deserts of Abu Dhabi. According to The New York Times, the function of the Emirates' new force is as obvious as it is ominous for the people of the region:
Mr. Prince, who resettled here last year after his security business faced mounting legal problems in the United States, was hired by the crown prince of Abu Dhabi to put together an 800-member battalion of foreign troops for the U.A.E., according to former employees on the project, American officials and corporate documents obtained by The New York Times.
The force is intended to conduct special operations missions inside and outside the country, defend oil pipelines and skyscrapers from terrorist attacks and put down internal revolts, the documents show. Such troops could be deployed if the Emirates faced unrest in their crowded labor camps or were challenged by pro-democracy protests like those sweeping the Arab world this year.
...former employees said that in recruiting the Colombians and others from halfway around the world, Mr. Prince’s subordinates were following his strict rule: hire no Muslims.
Muslim soldiers, Mr. Prince warned, could not be counted on to kill fellow Muslims.
...Although there was no expectation that the mercenary troops would be used for a stealth attack on Iran, Emirati officials talked of using them for a possible maritime and air assault to reclaim a chain of islands, mostly uninhabited, in the Persian Gulf that are the subject of a dispute between Iran and the U.A.E., the former employees said. Iran has sent military forces to at least one of the islands, Abu Musa, and Emirati officials have long been eager to retake the islands and tap their potential oil reserves.
This is very troubling, and you've given me some real food for thought. I'm a libertarian, and very strong on the free market and unimpeded free enterprise. But I confess I had not considered the issue of mercenaries before. I'm a non-interventionist (as opposed to an isolationist), but if the government is to follow that line (which it never will), we can't have private citizens blasting around in foreign countries. Thanks for a though-provoking post.
I first met mercenaries in a pub in southern England in 1970. They were just back from losing the Biafran war. They were quite engaging and piqued my interest in their trade ever since.
We've always had mercenaries but since WWII they've usually been small outfits selling their services on short contracts for limited campaigns.
What Erik Prince seems to be establishing is something more akin to the standing mercenary armies of 12th century Europe. This sort of organization could easily turn into a gang of freebooters.
It definitely seems like a hearkening back to the time when government was not seen as the sole organization that could legitimately use violence.
I should brush up on my knowledge of medieval private armies. You're right that there might be some interesting parallels.
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