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date: 26 January 2021

Outsourcing War and Securitylocked

  • Ori SwedOri SwedDepartment of Sociology, Anthropology, and Social Work, Texas Tech University
  •  and Daniel BurlandDaniel BurlandDepartment of Behavioral Sciences, University of Saint Mary

Summary

The phrase outsourcing war has been used since the late 1990s to describe the trend toward the hiring of private military and security companies (PMSCs) by national governments to perform functions that previously had been assigned only to members of national military forces. These private companies, in turn, hire employees, usually on limited-term contracts, to carry out the missions that the companies have agreed to accomplish. PMSCs may undertake combat missions independently or in direct cooperation with deployed national military forces. They may be assigned to security missions in secret or to meet a highly visible demand, as in the case where the United States contributed private military contractors to the United Nations peacekeeping force in Kosovo in 1998. This was an early case in which privately contracted military employees were hired by one nation to function cooperatively with uniformed members of other national military forces. During the 20th century, private military forces had been considered a form of organized crime populated by mercenaries, a delinquent group at the fringes of the social order who traded in violence to advance the interests of anyone willing to pay them. By the beginning of the 21st century, however, the outsourcing of war and security functions to private companies had become commonplace, transforming the previously prevailing belief that only states had the right to wage war. States often deployed their militaries alongside PMSCs who were contracted to provide support to forces on the ground. In other cases, private companies would pay representatives of other private companies to defend their assets, such as oil fields or diamond mines. During this period at the turn of the 21st century, PMSCs came to be perceived as representatives of a legitimate industry. With this transformation, the nature of security and modern conflict changed as well. Private military and security companies became an important instrument in war-making and the projection of power.

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