In this chapter of the forthcoming E-International Relations book Remote Warfare: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, Christopher Kinsey and Helene Olsen present a comprehensive look at the utility of private contractors in remote warfare. As “the original remote warfare instrument,” private contractors are nothing new in warfare, however their importance has ebbed and flowed over time. Today, they are a regular feature.
This chapter is split into five sections covering key terms; the use of private contractors in the contemporary security environment; the different rationales of different types of contracting; new insights pertaining to their use in remote warfare; and concluding remarks.
Where private contractors were once the “invisible hand of diplomacy,” today they operate in many parts of the world as an open and legitimate business. Improving operational efficiency remains the enduring rationale for their use, which has obvious relevance to the wider trend towards low-risk and low-cost forms of fighting we know as Remote Warfare.
In many cases today, private contractors are no longer as shadowy or secretive as they once were. Nevertheless, states enlisting private contractors are a step removed from the violence waged in their name. Questions over political accountability, transparency and public consent in their use therefore remain an enduring concern.
This chapter from Kinsey and Olsen is a welcome and highly current overview of the key ideas concerning the use of private military and security contractors. It is essential reading for all those interested in the practice of remote warfare today.
For another chapter from the same book Remote Warfare: Interdisciplinary Perspectives, see The Remote Warfare Paradox