The world is sliding in a strange direction when a Prince wishes to become a viceroy.
That’s Erik Prince, the founder of the mercenary Academi, previously Xe, né Blackwater, who has been pushing a plan to privatize the war in Afghanistan. At 16 years, it’s the country’s longest war, it continues to cost huge sums of money—$40 billion this year alone—and there’s no obvious end in sight. So Prince’s plan is for the U.S. to turn the war over to mercenaries (perhaps, say, Academi) and to appoint a viceroy (perhaps, say, Erik Prince) to run the war.
USA Today reported Tuesday that Prince’s plan has the attention of the White House. One can see why that might be the case. Not only is Prince’s sister the secretary of education (she was Betsy Prince before she married and became Betsy DeVos), but President Trump has also reportedly expressed frustration about the war. “We aren’t winning. We are losing,” he said, according to NBC News, which also said he has considered sacking the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, General John Nicholson.
The president can “restructure” the war, similar to a bankruptcy reorganization. By aligning U.S. efforts under a presidential envoy, all strategic decisions regarding humanitarian aid, military support and intelligence become laser-focused on creating a stable, self-supporting Afghanistan. Stability would give our troops an exit ramp. The envoy’s focus would be to support Afghan security forces from within, providing professional military leadership, reliable air support and business administration assistance. Those resources would be procured in precisely the way U.S. forces acquire material and manpower support. They hire it.
When Prince first suggested the plan, former mercenary Sean McFate wrote in The Atlantic that it was a bad idea—even if one left out the many black marks on Blackwater’s reputation from the conduct of the war in Iraq, and also even if one left out the fact that his exemplar for the viceroy role, General Douglas MacArthur, was fired by the president for abuse of power. Those legitimate worries aside, McFate warned that there are plenty of other reasons to be wary: Mercenaries are susceptible to being hired away, tend to foment war where they go, and, essentially, lack the accountability that actual troops do.