While the military has built up troops in an ongoing campaign to secure Baghdad, the security companies, out of public view, have been engaged in a parallel surge, boosting manpower, adding expensive armor and stepping up evasive action as attacks increase, the officials and company representatives said. One in seven supply convoys protected by private forces has come under attack this year, according to previously unreleased statistics; one security company reported nearly 300 "hostile actions" in the first four months.
About the only difference between these contractors and what we would traditionally refer to as "mercenaries" is that they are not being employed to engage in offensive operations against the insurgents. That is however, about the only mission they are not being employed to do, and traditional mercenaries in centuries passed also earned a living guarding supply lines, guarding private actors trying to move around securely in a zone of conflict, and guarding leaders of the host nation.
This represents the convergence of three phenomena: one, the trend towards privatization that has invaded all aspects of governance, including military operations. Two, the close ties maintained between members of the Bush administration and these private firms. And three, the lack of manpower in Iraq that creates a need for private security forces to carry out "routine" operations so more of our soldiers are freed up for offensive operations against the insurgents and Shiite militias. An important point to note:
The majority of the more than 100 security companies operate outside of Iraqi law, in part because of bureaucratic delays and corruption in the Iraqi government licensing process, according to U.S. officials.
Also in part because the owners of the private firms desire to operate outside the law, and the Bush administration has accommodated them. Reliance by state actors upon mercenaries has declined largely because it became more efficient for statues to use their own citizens as soldiers, but also because mercenaries acquired an unsavory reputation throughout history, a reputation that persists to this day because of their involvement in third world conflicts. We would have done better not to reinstituted what had become a declining tradition.