The paroxysmal ethics of private military ventures are in the news again after The Wall Street Journal’s recent “Saturday Interview” with Erik Prince. He is now “chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China’s largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group.” If you read the interview, then you know Prince is a savvy businessman, because he is a savvy like that. Why? Chinese trade surpassed American trade in Africa back in 2009. And, as WSJ’s David Feith is quick to point out, China-Africa trade could reach $385 billion by 2015.

It also comes with a video.

It is genuinely surprising that Prince would admit his motive for starting a business is to make money. Blackwater’s ex-CEO became a celebrity using liberal media platforms for his own unrevealing confessionals, self-improvement segments, and philanthropic forays into world affairs. Remember when he told Charlie Rose that the world needs private military contractors to prevent another genocide in Rwanda?

Of course he’s not the only one to try this angle: We started the #Bullshit Files to document  this kind of thing (the link is to the the actions of journalist-cum-adventurer Robert Young Pelton). And I’ve blogged here on the actions of Eeben Barlow, the former Apartheid soldier turned private military contractor.

Ironically, Feith seems concerned that Prince will start entrenching the world’s most oppressive governments now that he’s working with Beijing. There’s a long list of repressive regimes the US and its allies support because they are good for trade. As for private contractors, it is useful to recall Eeben Barlow’s logic:

If a government anywhere in the world is recognised as “the government”, regardless of where they are or what political system they adhere to, are they then actually not legit? After all, the USA recognised all the governments that contracted us as the legitimate governments of those countries – and note – they contracted us to help them. We didn’t invade them – and we still remain friends years after we left. But are you also telling me that these governments are therefore, in your opinion, not legitimate?

Further Reading

No more caricatures

Engaging seriously with Winnie Madikizela-Mandela’s life could help us understand how South Africa got where it is and where it’s going.