12/14/2010 11:10 pm ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Let's Call It PMCkeeping

Perhaps we should start calling it PMCkeeping. By that I mean letting the private sector become involved in peace operations in a more direct way than the current role of providing logistics support. At least that seems to be the thrust of a paper published earlier this year by two academics.

While PMC advocates has, not surprisingly, been arguing for many years that PMSC can be doing exactly that, their arguments have been greeted with skepticism; partly because it is what you would expect advocates to say, and partly because the arguments revolve around administrative and technical questions, as in how do you do it. Thus debates about PMC utility resemble an academic version of the Bionic Man television show, i.e., PMCS do it faster, cheaper, better, et cetera.

But not many people grapple with the central philosophical question, namely, should they do it.

But Deane-Peter Baker, Assistant Professor of Philosophy at the U.S. Naval Academy, and James Pattison, Lecturer in Politics at the University of Manchester, UK address that central issue in a paper published in January.

In their paper, The Principled Case for Employing Private Military and Security Companies in Humanitarian Interventions and Peacekeeping they consider two central questions.

First, whether there is a principled case for preferring PMSCs to other, state-based agents of humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping. Second, whether there is a principled case for rejecting the use of PMSCs for peace operations. They consider issues that relate specifically to humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping.

Their reasoning is complex and they detail reasons both to oppose and support the use of PMSC and their conclusion will not make either side totally happy. What they conclude is this:

Our tentative conclusion, then, is there are no fundamental problems, specifically related to using PMSCs for humanitarian intervention. If there were put in place a strong system of regulation that alleviated many of the contingent concerns, although there may still be some deeper problems with PMSCs more generally, there would be little reason to oppose their use because of the fact that they are engaged in a peace operation in particular. In fact, as we argued in the first part of the paper, there may be some reason to prefer the use of PMSCs to state-based forces. Yet, as we also argued, this is not an overriding reason. As such, contingent problems of the kind mentioned at the beginning of this paper may mean that other agents should be favoured for humanitarian intervention and peacekeeping.