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David Isenberg
David Isenberg is the author of the book Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq. His blog is Isenberg Institute of Strategic Satire. He wrote the "Dogs of War" weekly column for UPI from 2008 to 2009. During 2009 he ran the Norwegian Initiative on Small Arms Transfers project at the International Peace Research Institute, Oslo. In 2011 he testified before Congress on labor trafficking by a KBR subcontractor. He is a Senior Analyst at Wikistrat. His affiliations include the Straus Military Reform Project and the Independent Institute. He is a US Navy veteran. His e-mail is

Entries by David Isenberg

Putting Credibility Into a Code of Conduct

(1) Comments | Posted January 28, 2013 | 10:37 AM

For those who are familiar with what was once Blackwater, which became Xe Services in 2009, and then Academi in December 2011, the saying the third time is a charm comes to mind. That's because Academi is about to release a new Code of Conduct, which should go a long...

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So Tell Us What You Really Think

(2) Comments | Posted January 15, 2013 | 3:58 PM

For all the commentary, opinions, fulminations, debate and demagoguery that has been lavished on private military and security contractors (PMSC) by journalists, academics, policymakers, industry trade groups and citizenry, one group, has been mostly hidden from view. That is the contractors themselves. How they think of themselves and the industry...

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A Third Way for PMSC Legal Accountability

(1) Comments | Posted December 27, 2012 | 10:39 AM

When it comes to legal accountability for private military and security contractors there are two categories to choose from, and they both have problems. They are national and international law. For example, U.S. national law is limited given that it primarily applies to crimes that take place in United States...

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Take My Neocon -- Please

(9) Comments | Posted December 26, 2012 | 11:40 AM

In case you are not aware, Jews have long been drawn to and practiced humor. It is just a plain matter of fact that in any listing of top U.S. komikers (comics) over half of them are going to be Jewish. Think Bud Abbott, Woody Allen, Hank Azaria,...

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The Ghost of Contracting Past

(0) Comments | Posted December 21, 2012 | 2:52 PM

There are numerous ways to consider private military and security contractors (PMSC): as a tool in a toolkit, policy option, force multiplier, and even strategic asset. But those are macro ways of looking. Let's try going granular, or micro, and think of them as weapons. And, as people who have...

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Intra-Masculine Bonds and Butt Cracks

(0) Comments | Posted December 16, 2012 | 10:07 PM

Gee, with all due apologies to Stephen Ambrose's famed book, the whole Band of Brothers concept of bonding may have gained new meaning when it comes to private security contractors (PSC).

To understand what I'm referring to travel back in time to 2009 when the Project on Government Oversight (POGO)...

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Putting the Principle in PMSC Use

(0) Comments | Posted December 10, 2012 | 1:39 PM

One longstanding argument for the use of private military and security companies is that they can facilitate undertaking interventions for human rights purposes, both for humanitarian and peacekeeping objectives. The argument has long been made that the genocide in Rwanda could have been prevented, or at least greatly reduced in...

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PMC = Protean Military Contractor

(0) Comments | Posted December 3, 2012 | 5:04 PM

There are many ways to think about private military and security contractor (PMSC) issues. They include, of course, military, but also business, law, the boundaries between public and private sectors, and human rights to name a few.

But one critical, if under-appreciated, way to view PMSC activity is from the...

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PMC = Private Military Costs

(0) Comments | Posted November 28, 2012 | 11:24 PM

One fiercely held, long asserted, if sparsely substantiated, talking point of the private military contracting (PMC) industry is that its cost-efficient. I've often said that such a point would be more convincing if there were some dispassionate studies actually backing up the point, but, for the sake of argument, let's...

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The Many PMC Faces of NATO

(0) Comments | Posted November 28, 2012 | 9:17 AM

Well now, let's see, the U.S. does it, the U.K. does it. France and Russia plan on doing more of it and China is planning to do a lot of it. Even the United Nations does it. By it, of course, I mean using private military and security contractors.

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Sex, Violence, David Petraues and PSC in Afghanistan

(2) Comments | Posted November 25, 2012 | 9:52 AM

Okay, I have to confess the above title is slightly misleading; there is no sex. But the other things are all there so read on.

For those who work on private military and security contracting (PMSC) issues one longstanding, and still vexing, issue is encapsulated in just three words, "inherently...

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What Role for PMC in Today's World?

(0) Comments | Posted November 19, 2012 | 11:33 AM

Is there an appropriate role for Private Military Companies (PMCs) in the contemporary security context?

Maybe, but less than you may think, according to the recently published dissertation, "Is there an appropriate role for Private Military Companies (PMCs) in the contemporary security context?" that was written by Clement...

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How Do You Handle 70,000 Unemployed Afghan PSC? Very Carefully

(2) Comments | Posted November 13, 2012 | 5:07 PM

Admittedly, just one of many factors affecting Afghanistan, but an important one nonetheless, is the state of its substantial private security contracting industry, which is made up of tens of thousands of Afghan employees, mostly armed guards.

Bear in mind that 2014 is the deadline for Afghanistan assuming responsibility for...

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The Latest Skinny From SIGIR

(0) Comments | Posted October 31, 2012 | 12:54 PM

Yesterday the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction released its latest quarterly report. Here are some of the important takeaways regarding private contractors in Iraq.

First, somewhat surprisingly, the U.S. government still doesn't know how many contractors there are in Iraq.

"Although Ambassador Beecroft told the Senate Foreign...
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Why Fighting Pirates Is Both Good and Bad for PSC

(1) Comments | Posted October 30, 2012 | 2:42 PM

If you have been paying any attention at all this year to the piracy situation off Somalia you may remember that the number of pirate attacks against commercial shipping is down. And while the exact causes have yet to be established with certainty, just about everyone who follows this believes,...

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The Changing State of International Relations: The PMSC Impact

(0) Comments | Posted October 22, 2012 | 12:42 PM

It has long been understood that today's private military and security companies are seen by governments that contract with them as a third option, between doing nothing and sending the troops off to war, and even possibly bringing back a military draft -- albeit against widespread public opposition.

But that...

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Predator Military Contractors: Privatizing the Drones

(0) Comments | Posted October 18, 2012 | 9:40 AM

About three and a half years ago I wrote that "One might note that with regard to future battlefields the use of contractors is like the use of robots. They promise both greater cost-effectiveness and less loss of life of government soldiers."

With the advantage of hindsight it...

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A Contractor, Wrapped in Mystery, Inside an Enigma

(0) Comments | Posted October 12, 2012 | 11:17 PM

The use of private contractors is not just for the Pentagon or the State Department. It is also for that frequently crashing collection of agencies euphemistically known as the intelligence community (IC).

I have written previously on this but let's consider some of the costs of using contractors in the...

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Getting Data for the Debate: All Hail DTM

(0) Comments | Posted October 5, 2012 | 2:34 PM

Let's suppose U.S. diplomats are serving in a dangerous, violent, conflict-ridden country. He or she obviously need to be protected in the course of performing the country's business. They could be protected either by government personnel, say, an agent of the State Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. Or they could...

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Deconstructing the PMSC Frame

(0) Comments | Posted October 2, 2012 | 3:41 PM

Sometimes, as the saying goes, it is not what you say, but how you say it. Or to put it contemporary terms, how you spin it. And for the past couple of decades the primary message for the private military and security contracting industry has been that as a creation...

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