TCS Daily

My Own Private Foreign Policy

By Robert Haddick - February 5, 2007 12:00 AM

Have you ever been frustrated with your country's foreign policy? Since the creation of the modern nation-state system four centuries ago, the formulation and execution of foreign policy has been the province solely of each nation-state's national government. A citizen of a western democracy displeased with his country's foreign policy can either petition his government to change its ways, or attempt to replace the government at elections with a new one. Other countries might change their governments and their foreign policies through the barrel of a gun. Private entities such as corporations, trade associations, and interest groups attempt to influence the foreign policies of governments around the world. But foreign policy in the modern era has always been a matter of state, never a private venture directly implemented.

This state of affairs may now be changing. The long era of the nation-states' monopoly on foreign policy may coming to an end.

Stateless Militaries, Stateless Actors

Recently at TCS Daily, contributing writer Josh Manchester explored the subject of stateless armies. In Al Qaeda for the Good Guys: The Road to Anti-Qaeda, Mr. Manchester examined the growing variety and effect of stateless military organizations as varied as Al Qaeda, Moqtada al-Sadr's Mahdi Army militia in Iraq, and Blackwater, a large private security company based in North Carolina. Mr. Manchester then described how nation-states might find such "off the books" organizations useful.

In a follow-up article titled Realizing Anti-Qaeda, Mr. Manchester wondered whether stopping Al Qaeda would require an organization similar to Al Qaeda -- a stateless, borderless, decentralized network operating without geographic, bureaucratic, or even legal constrains. Such an organization could be completely untethered from state control, being both self-financed and self-directed. Mr. Manchester questioned whether modern Western nation-states could, within the constraints they place on their actions, be as effective as they need to be in order to defeat a stateless network such as Al Qaeda.

Al Qaeda has shown how a stateless actor can formulate and implement its own foreign policy and by doing so dramatically upset the previous international order. Osama bin Laden and his followers had their grievances about the foreign policies of Saudi Arabia and other Arab countries. Bin Laden could not change the foreign policies of these nation-states to his liking so he implemented his own. We should not be surprised to see other actors, at every point on the political spectrum, begin to see direct private action as the best way to achieve their own foreign policy goals.

Frustrations with the Modern Nation-State

All manner of interest groups can find frustration with the limitations and compromises inherent in the functioning of the modern nation-state. Environmentalists will conclude that many governments are doing too little to protect certain parcels of critical wildlife habitat. Interest groups concerned about public health in the developing world may conclude that less corruption, better governance, and better local security are needed in many situations to make further progress. Human rights activists may be appalled that the world seems to ignore gross human rights abuses in Sudan, Congo, the Balkans, China, North Korea, and elsewhere. Other private individuals or groups may be frustrated that the U.S. government seems to be permitting Al Qaeda to maintain a sanctuary in northwest Pakistan, or is otherwise pursuing the War on Terror with what they perceive to be too little vigor. The list of perceived foreign policy shortcomings, from every point on the political spectrum, is endless.

In each of these cases, solving the problem to the satisfaction of the activists in question will ultimately require the threat or the actual use of force. Current political theory informs us that legitimately constituted governments should have a monopoly on the exercise of force. In the view of the activists, nation-states should use their monopoly power over force to solve these problems. The activists lobby and cajole their governments to do so. But governments, bound by the limitations of law, resources, political compromise, and diplomacy, will usually disappoint the activists.

If an activist believes the stakes are high enough and the prospect of effective legitimate government action too remote, could the activist do something directly? Can he do something to protect that patch of rain forest from loggers, or protect that ethnic group in Sudan from marauders, or ensure effective distribution of medicines and clean water in Africa, or do any number of other tasks that require the protection of men with guns? Can an activist implement his own private foreign policy?

What Does an Army Cost?

Military expeditions are expensive. Salaries for trained men are only the beginning. Soldiers need food, water, ammunition, weapons, mountains of expensive equipment, and a variety of other consumables. They need transportation: specialized vehicles, cargo aircraft, and helicopters.

How much does this cost? In this memo written last summer by the U.S. Congressional Budget Office, budget analysts estimated the extra operations, maintenance, and procurement costs of maintaining a 40,000 man U.S. force in Iraq in 2011 would total $20 billion per year (see page 20 of the memo). That is $500,000 per soldier per year, or about $1,400 per soldier per day. Using this same daily cost estimate for a hypothetical private military expedition and adding in a hired mercenary's salary of $600 per day gives a round figure of $2,000 per man per day. $2,000 per man per day is a rough guess of what a private activist would have to spend on his own military expedition.

There is obviously much room for discussion about this estimate. The CBO estimate is for how the U.S. military would fight in Iraq in 2011: tanks, infantry fighting vehicles, fleets of helicopters, tactical aircraft, and generous logistical support. A light infantry mercenary force would be much more austere. On the other hand, the U.S. government enjoys both economies of scale and quantity discounts on consumables a private venture might not get. But with a budget of $2,000 per man per day, a private venture force, like the U.S. Army, would hopefully be able to afford modern communications equipment and optics, tactical vehicles, cargo aircraft, and attack and transport helicopters. As described in P.W. Singer's book "Corporate Warriors," Executive Outcomes, a now-defunct private security contractor, employed this list of equipment during its famous venture in Sierra Leone in 1995.

Putting these tools in the hands of trained and experienced men can yield an impressive capability. The West now has an abundance of highly-trained and experienced combat veterans. Over a million Americans have served in Iraq or Afghanistan, many several times. There are now thousands of special operations qualified combat veterans from the U.S., Great Britain, Poland, Germany, France, Denmark, and elsewhere. And then there are the contractors, such as those from Blackwater, deepening the pool of experience.

Who Can Afford His Own Army?

Still, $2,000 per man per day adds up quickly. A 500-man mercenary force composed of 350 shooters and 150 aviation and other support personnel would run $1 million per day, or $365 million per year. What private activist could afford such an expense?

Quite a few. A glance at the bottom of the Forbes 400 list of richest people in the world finds numerous people with a net worth of $2 billion. Assuming a modest investment return of 5% per annum, such a person could employ the 500-man air and ground-mobile mercenary force described above for over three months, spending only his annual investment earnings and without ever touching his investment principal.

This list of the 50 largest private foundations in the United States shows a similar finding. Number 50 on this list has the financial capacity to employ, using only the foundation's annual investment income, the 500-man force for almost two months. On the other end of the spectrum, the $60 billion Bill Gates/Warren Buffett foundation could, in theory, employ a 4,100-man air and ground-mobile brigade for a year, using only the foundation's annual investment income. Such a brigade of former special forces men would have the capability of removing just about any government in Africa, many in Asia, and more than a few in Latin America. When Mr. and Mrs. Gates and Mr. Buffett seethe with frustration over the corruption, incompetence, and tribalism that interfere with their public health efforts in Africa, one wonders whether the thought of more direct measures ever enters their minds.

The Twilight of the Nation-State?

In his recent speech at the American Enterprise Institute, Mr. Philip C. Bobbitt, a constitutional law professor and former U.S. National Security Council staffer, described how the traditional nation-state structure of the world is giving way to the "market-state," the self-organizing global networks and associations that now make the world function. Not all "market-states" are virtuous. Mr. Bobbitt describes how Al Qaeda will be the first in a long line of "market-state terrorists."

And so it should be no surprise if others actors and activists, including those with the most noble and humane of intentions, adopt the "market-state" model to achieve the outcomes they seek after becoming exasperated with what they will conclude is the unsatisfactory performance of the traditional nation-state.

I am not predicting that Mr. Gates, Mr. Buffett, or any other particular individual or foundation in the lists cited above is about to turn "rogue" and begin organizing military expeditions employing mercenaries. What I am showing is that the trained military manpower, the equipment, and the financial capacity exist to organize these ventures.

What remains to simmer is the idealism of noble intentions, frustration with the shortcomings of nation-states, and the urgency and will for someone, somewhere to act on his beliefs. All of the other tools are there for a wealthy activist, of which there are many, to implement his own private foreign policy.

The author was a U.S. Marine Corps infantry company commander and staff officer. He was the global research director for a large private investment firm and is now a private investor. His blog is Westhawk.



One may add..
What about the possibility of hiring recruits from the world labor market? They could serve under the command of of experienced officers. If the language barriers were overcome, soldiers from many areas of the world would enlist for as little as $15/day. An operation where a private army could deploy would probably require occupation troops.

The Sovereign Individual
It is a book.

Check it out on Amazon.

It does a fair job of predicting the future decline of the nation-state.

Buying guns, not butter
More specifically, foreign policies are not carried out by nations but by administrations. And more than once the decision to take the nation to war has been motivated by industrialists who have their president's ear.

Germany might well have been less inclined to take on the world were it not for Baron Krupp's urging. His military-industrial empire could have no better market than a huge machine, mobilizing to take on Europe and the world.

Likewise America's own military-industrial complex became alarmed when Communism fell, and began work immediately to create a new menace, so their output could continue to be sold to the American government. And after a while it becomes absurd to sell more and more weapons when there is no war.

Hence the creation of an elective war that drags on forever, requiring unimaginable amounts of expensive materiel. Major initiatives in foreign policy, in the absence of any real threat against the state (what happened on 9/11 was an isolated terror strike), must be driven by the push of weapons waiting to be purchased. They do not require the pull of international events to propel them forward.

You'd be trading skill for cost, though
Probably would be a place for it. Still, you'd want to use the high quality Western troops for, say, knocking over a government. Save the local recruits for security patrols and guard duty and such.

Hasn't the Evil Military Industrial Complex been cliche for at least a decade?

Getting OBL
Rewards have been offered for OBL and other outlaws in his organization. Maybe the “bounty” for OBL is too low given the difficulty and the risk. The rewards should be raised incrementally to whatever level is required to get the job done.

The MIC was first referred to by that name in Eisenhower's farewell address, on stepping down from the presidency. But it's beside the point to call it a cliche. The most important thing is that it is a fact. It was the principal fact behind Hitler's rise to power and it is a principal fact behind our own supposed "war on terror".

Terrorists amount to small groups of hotheads throwing bombs-- about like the anarchists of a century ago. It makes no sense to use their existence as the pretext to drum up wars against a list of countries we don't like, to undertake a program to weaponize space, even though no one else is threatening us there, etc.

The pretext for our military expenditures is an idiotic one, and easily seen through. We make war simply because people like our vice president make a lot of money from the endeavor.

The bounty on OBL's head
The reward for fingering OBL is what, $25 million? For an Afghani that's about ten zillion years' income. If no one is talking it only means that they, unlike us, place some values above money. Raising the bounty to fifty million, or to an even one billion, isn't going to change anything.

We are making no earnest attempt to find him-- zero. And the reason is that without him we have less of a pretext to continue the Global War on Terror. And without the necessity for this war, the entire plan falls apart.

It's about running this country, not erasing everyone on earth who doesn't like us.

Not private merely plausibly deniable
I think it highly unlikely anybody much is going to start their own warlike activities - Bill Gates doing so would run the strong risk of arrest for breaking the laws of their home country. What is more likely is officially private enterprises which are de facto government authorised by somewhat deniable - for example MPRE's supplying of US officers on sabbatical to help the croatian ***** genocide in Krajina or Caritas' (Roman Catholic charity) smuggling of mortars & ground to air missiles, officially "stolen" from NATO to the KLA.

Roy, come on
I worked on systems development for the Army. To claim thatthey invented enemies to sell more weapons is absurd. In fact the movement has been towards lighter and more mobile divisions abandoning the cold war strategy of large armored divisions. In addition, many cold war era programs have been canceled. The main thrust I see nowdays is towards high technology systems to provide tactical and survivability to the troops. Unmanned systems are just one area that allows us to lower troop exposure whil gather intel, etc. The issue is not phantom enemies but ongoing development to insure are troops are the finest and best equipped in the world to meet ever changing threats. Would you prefer we just give up?

Making money by promoting fear
Since the demise of the Cold War, defense spending has continued going up. While the existence of actual enemies with the intent and capability to do lasting harm has gone down. There is no credible military threat to the United States. None.

And won't be, until our aggressive buildup of military might, and our bellicose assertion of the right to preemptively attack an nation we choose, compels other nations to band together in defense against us. So yes, an excellent case can be made for the thesis that industrialists in the military area have a vested interest in selling us tales of the threats we can counter only by purchasing their products.

The weaponization of space is just such an instance. No nation but our own has expressed the slightest interest in weaponizing space. In fact they've tried their best to convince us to lead the way to the moral high ground, by signing a treaty banning space weapons. We, of course, have not done any such thing.

As a result, China is finally making efforts to respond to the threat the United States poses in space. So the race is now on-- we must improve to counter the Chinese "threat", and they must improve to counter ours, and so on.

Anyone not involved in making money off this charade would see through it, and agree instead to a treaty banning such research.

Plus, in anticipation of your reply that some countries cannot be trusted, we would propose transparency, where every major industrial power agree to inspections. This has worked very well with the former Soviets, hasn't it?

"There is no credible military threat to the United States"

Let's disarm and party!

One small example
Ross Perot hired mercs to resucue his people from Iran when Carter could not.

"Making money by promoting fear" Al Gore? AGW?
Who would think you can make money by promoting fear?

asymmetric warfare, American style - - - -
Good points, mar.

The author is asking the right questions. The Ruskys have shown us the way during the cold war. The answer is 'subversion' (good guy subversion). Every dictator and warlord has internal "dissidents", these days even democratic dissidents, who will give their lives for freedom in their respective societies. It's part of the human equation.

Recall the recent Afghani conquest, half way 'round the world, in the middle of wintery, landlocked, mountainous Asia, in a matter of months, we effected regime-change, by joining the Northern Alliance dissidents, and adding a few thousand special ops and CIA troops and air power to their effort.

We need to appropriate the USSR's subversion doctrine and support rebellions, including recognizing governments-in-exile inside; China, Iran, Syria, Venezuela, Cuba, North Korea, France (just kidding, ha, ha),Al Queda, Hizbollah, etc., etc. whenever and wherever appropriate. We can provide diplomatic and moral support, intelligence, training, arms, navy and air force support, and a few special ops guys, as needed. This is defending western civilization on the cheap, and will turn the attention of international baddies toward internal policing, instead of outward agression. And; it will give the CIA and State Dept. something to do, besides interfere in our own nation's politics.

Good Idea
You're talking smart business. I agree wholeheartedly! What I was saying is: occupation troops are required in most situations. The threat of an insurgency or insurrection is often very real.

Taking over Zimbabwe is feasible, for example. The land is rich in natural resources, but potential enemies can hide in a very large land area. A small elite force isn't nearly enough. An occupation army is required for a considerable length of time- even with seizure and control of all mass communication.

The Soviets were so open. Thats why the cold war lasted so long. As Reagan stated "Trust but verify".

Come on Roy, do you really think every problem the world over is caused by our nation? By your premise if we just totally disarmed then all the problems of the world will disappear.

As to premption, can one always assume only a defensive posture? Had ANYONE stood up to Hitler in 1938 or 1939 WW2 could have likely been avoided in Europe. The appeasers are what led to his rise, not confrontation. While I agree we should not go around picking fights we should always be prepared to defend ourselves. If this means premption than so be it. Were in a age of nuclear weapons, not stones. I understand your position and yes, there is tremendous largess in the industry and military. However, do you think other agencies lack the same? At least defense is a legitimate function of the government as outlined in the Constitution. How may other agencies can claim the same?

Consider also that a substantial portion of the military budget is for personnel and support. These "human" costs rise every year without respect to weapon systems.

Despite the steady, sizable annual increases in real defense spending since 2001 and despite the post-World War II record level of national-defense outlays that was established last year, military spending in fiscal 2006 still accounted for only about 4 percent of gross domestic product. Defense spending totaled an estimated 19.6 percent of the entire fiscal 2006 federal budget.

Add in the fact that Clinton made cutbacks due to the mythical "peace dividend" and 9-11 you have a groeth in spending to bring the DoD back to current levels.

It seems you are still protesting Vietnam...

OBL and Terror
So when or if he is dead terror ends. Nice, I didn't think it was so simple.

What is the plan you refer to?

Nero fiddles while Rome burns. What a joke
The US spend a great deal on arms more in fact then the rest of the world. Just imagine if the US moved to have army of average size. How would that affect the economy?
More importantly the US is doing exactly what it's real competitors want. You know the ones that can in the near future acutely threaten the US, China and India are still always off from being first world , But the US is as much as if can to close the gap. Just think when the dust settles and you pull out of Iraq how much money would you have spent and would it have been worth it. Sure you would have stimulated your economy arms contractors and fake reconstruction firms have made a mint. The corruption has been shocking but as usual the US just sweeps it under the carpet. I think the US should spend more time fixing it's self up then worrying about anybody else.
PS I wouldn’t be surprised if this piece and other by the author are simply adverts for Blackwater which he may or may not have involvement.

"US spend a great deal on arms more in fact then the rest of the world."
Don't worry, China plans on catching up.

Then the USA can stop spending money on defense and let China, India and Vezuela take their turns.

Defending us from dragons
Included in the new proposed federal budget is $481 billion in ordinary garden variety military spending, plus $165 billion for fighting actual wars. Do you know of anyone who's making that kind of money talking about global warming?

These may just seem like ordinary numbers to you. But in terms of the taxpaying public to actually have to pay down that principal, plus all the interest required, it is backbreaking debt. And we do not get a lot of bang for the buck.

Bush has made certain no one will have to pay any of this money on his watch-- it's just all going on the card. But unless we decide to take the country to a state of default, some government down the line will have to address the issue of runaway military spending. And I think it will be particularly hard to defend, given that there is no credible military threat to the United States.

Lots of people will make money and acquire power
How much money is Chavez making in Venezuela?

How much money did Castro make?

Power is more valuable to socialists like yourself and Gore than money.

Fate of the State

May appear to be a little dated, but in fact, a lot of what he says has come true, and perhaps more such changes are on the way.

Revolutionary or Devolutionary?
The arise of the nation-state ended centuries of feudalism. Would it's decline not portend a return to same? Imagine George Soros as feudal warlord for the left! Who would be his mortal enemy from the right?

Independent or Complement
See Dan Henninger's piece in WSJ/Opinion Journal - - for a real world example of how "my own foreign policy" can operate from within the US armed forces and/or as a complement to it.

From a venture capital/entrepreneurial standpoint, it's about locating the key leverage points in the competition to tame Iraq. Instead of applying American's strength - entrepreneurialism, we apply the world's most ineffective and inefficient organizing principle - bureaucracy!

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