Contracting Out War? Private Military Companies, Law and Regulation in the United Kingdom
(2005) 54 International & Comparative Law Quarterly 651-689
40 Pages Posted: 26 Apr 2018
Date Written: 2005
It was Robert Nozick who, distinguishing the classical Liberal ‘night-watchman state’ which protected citizens against violence and enforced contracts on their behalf, conjured instead the ‘ultraminimal state’ in which the task of the state is confined to the monopolisation of violence rather than the actual provision of security (unless paid for by citizens by choice). On the face of it, it seems that Western governments are increasingly keen to move towards this model of the ultraminimal state and to allow even the provision of force to be assumed by private enterprise on a contractual model in which the rich or the desperate may choose to avail themselves of fortifications at the going rate while the rest take their chances in life. The ultramininal state is left with a residual steering, policy role in which the parameters of contractual engagement for protection can be set. In short, it appears that nothing is sacrosanct in the onward march of the principles of neo-liberalism. Even the ultimate bastions of establishment – Her Majesty’s armed forces – are not immune from processes of commodification and marketisation that have previously been applied to core functions such as policing and imprisonment.
Evidence for this assertion comes, inter alia, from recent policy discussions concerning the use and regulation of private military companies (PMCs). Rather like the police, the numbers of PMC personnel who perform functions which could be undertaken by state military personnel may now exceed the public complement. The trend is entirely consistent with current United Kingdom defense strategy, whereby directly employed personnel will be gradually reduced in order to shift resources to more expensive and more remote weapons systems.
This paper analyses and explains these developments in the context of neo-Liberalism and will subject them to a critique based upon principles of constitutionalism. It will therefore explore the implications for democratic accountability of the expansion of the private military industry.
Keywords: private military companies, mercenaries, contracting out
JEL Classification: K10, K14, K33, K19, K30, K33, K42, N40
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation