Walzer on Mercenaries

Let me join Daniel Davies in expressing disappointment in Michael Walzer's badly underreasoned article on mercenaries in The New Republic. The whole crux of the argument comes here:

Whatever Blackwater’s motives, I won’t join the “moral giants” who would rather do nothing at all than send mercenaries to Darfur. If the Comintern could field an army and stop the killing, that would be all right with me, too.

Look. Of course if you make the alternative to "do nothing" sending in Comintern (or whomever) to "stop the killing" then sending in Comintern looks good. But when you're considering the wisdom of sending a Stalin-directed military force into the situation you don't get to stipulate that doing so is going to work. Similarly with Blackwater. There aren't people sitting around saying "wow, the situation in Sudan sure is terrible and for a reasonable fee Blackwater could make it all better but I'm against that because it's, like, wrong man." Rather, I highly doubt that introducing a bunch of heavily armed unaccountable mercenaries into the situation would actually make things better.

I do think it's worth asking if we can come up with mechanisms of control and accountability that would make dispatching mercenaries into situations where troops are needed but nation-states are unwilling to send their national militaries into an attractive option. It's clear, however, that we do not in fact have any such mechanisms in place. Under the circumstances, you don't just unleash a plague of mercenaries somewhere in order to demonstrate your good intentions.

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Matthew Yglesias is a former writer and editor at The Atlantic.

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