The Gateway Podcast: Mercenary Warfare in the Middle East (An Interview With Sean McFate)

Published July 11th, 2018 - 08:00 GMT
(Rami Khoury/Al Bawaba via AFP/FILE)
(Rami Khoury/Al Bawaba via AFP/FILE)


By Ty Joplin

Many developed countries are getting warfare all wrong, according to Sean McFate, an expert on mercenaries.

In the latest podcast from Al Bawaba’s The Gateway, we spoke with McFate about how the proliferation of mercenaries and private military contractors are changing the paradigms of warfare, and how sluggish many countries have been in adapting to this phenomenon.

Exploring the ins and outs of private military firms, their ground operations, the euphemisms they use (including: ‘force projection’ meaning invasion), McFate goes in-depth about the history and growing power of mercenaries.

What was once the primary military tool of feudal kingdoms into the early modern era, mercenaries made a return in the mid-late 20th century when developing nations’ attempts at independence from their colonizing states were thwarted by hired mercenary forces.

Figures like Thomas Michael "Mad Mike" Hoare were hired to oust leaders or precipitate coups in order to install pro-Western politicians into positions of power. Mad Mike himself was hired by South Africa in 1981 to violently replace the leader of the Seychelles. The coup failed when one of Mad Mike's mercenaries accidentally ran a bag full of smuggled weapons through the security check at the airport.

Today mercenaries seriously influence both battlefields and larger strategies of war. 

In the beginning of the 21st century, private military firms like Blackwater and DynCorp, McFate’s former employer, are re-shaping battlefields in conflict zones under the noses of many experts and citizens.

“When you commodify conflict, you change international relations as we know it in profound ways. This is a creeping trend which I think is the biggest insecurity trends of the 21st century that everyone’s missing. It’s not terrorism, it’s not Russia or China. It’s not robots at war. It’s the privatization of warfare, because when you privatize war, it changes warfare in profound ways,” McFate says.

One man leading the charge for more mercenaries in wars is Erik Prince. The former CEO of Blackwater, Prince has traveled the world pitching various schemes to hire his mercenaries in a wide range of operations throughout Africa, the Middle East and Asia.

His latest project is helping to arm a private security force to better police ethnic and religious minorities in a restive region in China that is ground zero in China’s massive surveillance industry.

To listen to the full podcast, click here.

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