Winning Battles, Losing Wars
I thought that this piece by Victor Davis Hanson was so good that I would post it here. That way readers are more likely (a little) to read it … or – better – go to his own site:

Posted By Victor Davis Hanson On May 20, 2012 @ 1:43 pm
Can We Still Win Wars?

Given that the United States fields the costliest, most sophisticated, and most lethal military in the history of civilization, that should be a silly question. We have enough conventional and nuclear power to crush any of our enemies many times over. Why then did we seem to bog down in Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan? The question is important since recently we do not seem able to translate tactical victories into long-term strategic resolutions. Why is that? What follows are some possible answers.
No—We Really Do Win Wars
Perhaps this is a poorly framed question: the United States does win its wars—if the public understands our implicit, limited strategic goals. In 1950 we wanted to push the North Koreans back across the 38th parallel and succeeded; problems arose when Gen. MacArthur and others redefined the mission as on to the Yalu in order to unite the entire Korean peninsula, a sort of Roman effort to go beyond the Rhine or Danube. Once we redefined our mission in 1951 as one more limited, we clearly won in Korea by preserving the South.
In Vietnam, the goal of establishing a viable South was achieved by 1974. Congress, not the president or the military, felt the subsequent peace-keeping commitments and air support were too costly. They allowed a renewed Northern invasion that led to a second and lost war, and then were surprised that the North Vietnamese proved to be not campus radicals but hardcore Stalinists.
Panama, Grenada, and Serbia were successful small enterprises. In the first Gulf War, the strategic aim was to oust Saddam from Kuwait—or so we said. That succeeded, though it did not solve the problem of what Saddam would in the future do with his vast oil revenues. In the second war, the mission was to remove him, birth a democracy, and then leave Iraq better than before. That more ambitious aim too succeeded—not, however, without enormous costs.
Our strategic objective in Afghanistan was to oust the Taliban and ensure that it did not return to host terrorists on Afghan soil. The former mission was done over a decade ago, the latter hinges on the Afghans themselves after we leave. We vowed to rid Libya of Gaddafi and we did—and did not exactly promise that what followed would be immediately better than what we removed. In such special pleading, the U.S. has won its wars as it has defined them. Note the great success of the Cold War that ended with the destruction of the Soviet Empire.
Not So Fast
But wait—North Korea was on the ropes and now over a half-century later still threatens our interests, and with nukes no less. Should not the destruction of that system have been the real aim of the Korean War? North Vietnam united the country under a communist government, whatever way you cut it. Iraq was a mess, and its democracy may in time prove no more than an Iran-backed Shiite autocracy. In Afghanistan, does anyone think our Afghan partners will keep out the Taliban after our departure? Are the Libyan riffraff that took over all that better than Gaddafi as they kill tribal rivals, hunt down blacks, and desecrate military cemeteries? What exactly were we doing in Lebanon and what did we do after terrorists killed 241 of our people?
Strategy, What Strategy?
Why, then, does the use of American military forces not guarantee sure victory? The most obvious answer ib why we argue over the results of our interventions is an inability to articulate our strategic objectives—what exactly do wish to see follow from our use of force and for how long and at what cost? Do we wish to rid the world of Bashar al-Assad? We could do that quite easily and probably without ground troops. But would the region be more or less stable? Would Iran suffer a blow or find ways to fund more terrorists? Would the collateral damage from funding insurgents or bombing be worse or not as bad as the current Assad toll? Would the insurgents prove reasonable, or more like those in Egypt and Libya—or even worse? Many of our problems seem to hinge on explaining to the public what we wish to do, why so, how, at what cost it is to be accomplished, and what we want things to look like when we’re through.
Off the Table
Then there is the question of restraint—the inability to use our full forces to their full effect, in the manner that we did in World War I or World War II. From 1945 to 1989 the Cold War defined and limited the rules of engagement, given the nuclear arsenal of the Soviet Union and its various trouble-causing clients who hid behind it. In Vietnam and North Korea there were certain options that were off the table because of fear the Soviets or Chinese might strike elsewhere or the fighting could descend into a nuclear exchange. “Limited” wars are now the new normal when so many countries can claim a nuclear patron.
Law, not War
But in the last twenty years there is an even greater restraint to operations—a moral, if not smug, self-restraint that has turned fighting from a quest for victory into a matter of jurisprudence in which how we fight a war is more important than what we actually achieve. The old Neanderthal formula — we will level your cities, defeat and humiliate your military, impose our system of government upon you, and then give you our aid and friendship as you reinvent yourself as a free-market capitalist democracy — certainly worked with Germany, Japan, and Italy.
But does anyone believe that we could have bombed Saddam as we did those in Hamburg? The country that tore itself apart over waterboarding three confessed terrorists who had an indirect hand in the murder of 3,000 Americans seems ill-equipped to inflict the sort of damage on enemies that in the past made them accept both defeat and redemption. War is now a matter of legality, or nation-building before, not after, the enemy is fully defeated, and that means, given the unchanging nature of man, that it is very difficult to win a war as in the past. Note, in this context, Obama’s drone campaign, which he expanded seven- or eight-fold upon inheriting it from Bush. Is it not the perfect liberal way of war? There is no media hand-wringing over collateral damage; no burned faces, charred limbs, headless torsos on the evening news; no U.S. losses; no prisoners at Guantanamo. There is only a postmodern murderous video game and a brief administration chest-thump that “we’ve take out 20 of the top 30 al-Qaeda operatives.”
Wars of Choice
We are forgetting yet another wild card: since World War II, all our serial fighting in Asia, Central America, the Pacific, and Africa has involved optional wars—fighting that did not question the very existence of the U.S. Other than a few stand-offs with the Cold War Soviets at places like Berlin or Cuba, the United States had not faced an existential threat since the end of World War II. September 11 might have posted such a challenge, since had bin Laden or his epigones been able to repeat the initial attacks, then air travel as we know it would have ceased, along with the idea of an open, modern commercial economy.
But other than the efforts to go after al-Qaeda, most of our fighting has been optional—whether in Somalia or Libya—and that makes it hard to galvanize the American public. (Which also explains why administrations try to hype WMD, or Saddam, or al-Qaeda, or Gaddafi, or the monstrous Assad in order to turn these peripheral threats into existential enemies.) In optional wars, the public can disconnect, as fighting can be conducted without disruption of the civilian economy. Victory or defeat does not immediately either please or endanger the public at home. And the result is that our leaders do not necessarily wage these wars all out, with the prime directive of winning them. (Note how the monster-in-rehab Gaddafi, whose children were buying off Western academics and putting on art shows in London, by 2011 was back in our imaginations to the 1986 troll, and how the Assads of Vogue magazine are once again venomous killers.)
Too Rich to Fight?
Then there are classical symptoms of Catullan otium: societies that become leisured like ours grow complacent (otium et reges prius et beatas perdidit urbes). They see military activity of all sorts coming at the expense of social redistributive programs: each dollar in aid campaigning abroad comes at the loss of one less new expansion in Medicare or Medicaid. Why then spend money overseas, when we could redistribute it for bread and circuses at home? A cruise missile is not seen as a wise investment in deterrence, but as a boondoggle that means one less Head Start center.
In postmodern America, we are all removed from mayhem, the killing of game for dinner, the sight of blood altogether. War is something “they” do, not our far more sophisticated selves, who have far greater claims on the federal treasury. Given that the therapeutic society of iPhones and Facebook believes that human nature has transcended violence, and no longer is prone to Thucydidean irrationality like fear, honor, or perceived self-interest, we believe that Libyan rebels are sort of like errant protestors of Occupy Wall Street, or the sometimes corrupt Chinese communist apparat that can be persuaded to be nice to Tibetans. That means war no longer involves good and evil, much less the elemental dirty means of using the former to destroy the latter.
Or Too Poor to Fight?
But wait, we are $16 trillion in debt, with serial $1 trillion budget deficits. Indeed, we are $9 trillion more in debt than when we went into Afghanistan. Any intervention now requires us to borrow the money from someone else. The truth is that for years we have been like Rome around AD 300 or Britain circa 1950—lots of supposed responsibilities, not enough money budgeted to fulfill them. The idea of a nation gearing up to smash an enemy when it has borrowed over $16 trillion on mostly social entitlements and pay-outs makes war a bad, if not absurd, investment.
On to Syria—or not?
With all this in mind, consider Bashar al-Assad. There is a growing movement in the press and Congress to go into Syria—either by arming the rebels, training them, or providing them air cover. But while we know that we have the power to do so (or rather can borrow the money from the Chinese to do so), do we have a strategic aim? What should Syria look like after the war (a constitutional state that would not support Iran, fund Hezbollah, undermine Lebanon, start a war with Israel, or build another reactor)?
Are U.S. arms and influence without ground troops able to see those laudable aims realized, or would a post-Assad Syria end up like Libya or Egypt—and would that still be better or worse than the present-day Syria, for us, for Christians and other minorities, for Israel, etc.? It is not enough to state the obvious: Assad is a U.S. enemy and a monster who is killing his own; we have the ability to take him out; ergo, we should.
Yet the same calculus applies to dozens of renegade states. If some advisor, pundit, general, or senator wants to go into Syria, then he must explain why Syria is more important than, say, the Congo or Somalia or the Sudan (or that we are following strategic self-interest in the Middle East, not humanitarianism)—and why we can leave the nation a far better place than under Assad, and how that is possible, given the nature of the dissidents and the fact it is the Middle East.
Remember, there is also an ironclad law about the Middle East, one we keep forgetting: Arab intellectuals (many of them educated or residing in Western universities) hate the U.S. for backing dictators; they hate the U.S. for intervening to remove them; they hate the U.S. for trying to impose postbellum democracy upon them; and they hate the U.S. for staying clear and letting Arabs be Arabs on their own.
Take out Saddam—”you created him in the first place”; stay to rebuild the country—”a neo-imperial enterprise to impose your values on a traditional society”; stay away and let him kill his own, or allow his successors to kill each other—”a callous disregard for the suffering of innocent others.”
Remember the critiques of Gulf War I and Gulf War II:
Gulf War I: a needlessly large coalition that curbed our options, a hyped-up war that did not warrant the huge forces we deployed, a shake-down of our allies to turn war into a money-making enterprise, a cynical disregard for the Shia and Kurds who yearned for democracy, a video-game war in which we slaughtered the inept without incurring much risk or danger;
Gulf War II: a too-small coalition that did not win international respect, too few forces deployed for the mission, a wasteful enterprise that did not demand monetary contributions from our allies, a naïve romance that Arabs could craft their own democracy, a dirty war in which we needlessly exposed our troops to mayhem and death.
Common denominator: whatever a Bush was for, critics were against.
We should posit one simple rule about intervening in the Middle East from now on. Please some honesty: we intervene for strategic advantage (no apologies for that), not humanitarianism. If those who advocate taking out Assad claim that it is to stop the bloodshed, then they must explain why there—and not where far more are slaughtered in Africa.
Again, state the proposed mission, debate the need and envisioned cost, articulate the strategic outcome, and then obtain it with overwhelming force—or otherwise forget it.
Article printed from Works and Days:

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What is it to be a Mercenary?

A Piece – 26th December 2011

(Requested by a socialist political weekly, but not printed by them)

What is it to be a Mercenary?

By his steel-harsh, two verse poem, ‘Epitaph to an Army of Mercenaries’ 1917 AE Housman (1859 – 1936) honoured the British Expeditionary Force of 1914. These soldiers were the Old Contemptibles, so-named by the crazed Kaiser himself. The men of this British Expeditionary Force were nearly all killed, or wounded.

No finer ever fought.

But what has Housman’s use of the word mercenary to do with that of others?

Very little, when put next to the 1977 ‘Convention of the Organisation of African Unity for the Elimination of Mercenaries in Africa.’ This was a convention that set out to make being a mercenary a hanging matter – fall out from the civil wars of Biafra (1967-70) and the Congo (1997-9) where there was large-scale use of mercenaries, and where atrocities were carried out by them.
Within this mercenary spectrum come many shades, with great scope for moral argument – like the word whore.

The word soldier itself comes from the Old French ‘soudier’ (1250-1300) … a sou per day.

Better paid at least was Kipling’s old soldier of 1892, the tramp of Tramp’s night club:

“… A shillin’ a day … ETC … / but think where ‘e’s been, think what ‘e’s seen.”

So, what is the difference: between being a professional soldier for one’s own country (like those of the US and British Armies of today) or being a professional soldier for someone else’s country? The British Army Ghurkas, for example, or the French Foreign Legion? According to that 1977 African convention there is no difference: you are not a mercenary, by their rules, if you fight in the duly enrolled service of the armed forces of a combatant sovereign state.

However nasty a sovereign state that may be.

Perhaps the idea of soldiering at all is what is so unpleasant; is what turns people against such a well used and ancient trade.

Shakespeare thought that the soldier fought for fame: ” Seeking the bubble reputation, Even in the cannon’s mouth” (Jaques in As You Like It). Except that Othello, a highly praised mercenary general fighting in the pay of Venice, is painted black by the Bard, not for being a mercenary, but for his weakness in love, for his vile revenge.

Samuel Johnson thought better: “Every man thinks meanly of himself for not having been a soldier” (Although he went on: “… but being in the navy is like being in prison, with the added likelihood of a death by drowning.”)

Winston Churchill was clear in his orders to the 6th battalion of the Royal Scots Fusiliers which he commanded in 1915, in the trenches of the Western Front: “War is a business that must be carried out with a smile on the face.” For his part he took his soldiering seriously, even taking time off RMA Sandhurst to take part in the skirmish of USA vs Spain, in Cuba 1895.

The Duke of Wellington had an unsentimental view about his own soldiers. When riding out to the field of Waterloo, while passing the British infantry marching there, he commented to a Staff officer: “I don’t know what these people do to the enemy, but by God they frighten me.”
And yet, earlier in English literature, questions about soldiering for pay do arise, even if one skirts around the ‘rewards-for-fighting’ mechanism, held dear by Beowulf’s henchmen, or the tale that it was unpaid Saxon mercenaries who set off the Saxon invasion of Britain, by taking parts of Kent, in lieu of back-pay.

There is no question that the many knights from all over Europe who joined William’s invasion of England did so mainly for the loot. Geoffrey Chaucer was a soldier, and a prisoner of war, well before he became a spy for the King of England. Even if his soldiering was all for the crown then that of his ‘perfect gentle knight’ was not.
A reader of that day would have known that this Knight had fought for monarchs and masters far from those of his birth. (And surely they would have queried the Knight’s rust stained tabard – the shirt worn under the armour? How was it possible not to have enough time to change one’s shirt? Or, more likely, was it being worn as a cheap bragging prop?)
There is a story that Chaucer’s inspiration for his Knight was a famous English mercenary of the 14th Century – John Hawkwood – who led a mostly English mercenary outfit, charmingly named The White Company. These, it seems, were a force to be reckoned with – in the course of the precise campaigns carried out by the then Princedoms of Italy.

With the White Company on his payroll this Prince was going to win.

This happened well before two most famous men, both soldier’s of fortune in their way, came onto the scene: Leonardo Da Vinci (1452-1519 always trying to dream up some new war winning method or device for his master, the Duke of Milan) and Niccolo Macchavelli (1469-1527, and likewise).

It was also around that time (in 1506) that the use of Swiss Guards for defending the Pope became the custom. The Swiss were then a well thought of source of mercenaries, or condottieri. Their country was dirt poor, but they were hardy mountain folk.

A revealing parallel to the business of soldiers for hire is to be found in the practices of Naval warfare. Before Henry VIII there were no naval ships of the Crown. All ships had to be ready to defend themselves. Most would become pirate ships the moment they thought they could win the fight in view. Later, while even in war being a pirate was a hanging matter, governments would encourage privateers.

These were privately owned vessels set up to harass the trade of the enemy: legal piracy. If such a ship were captured then the difference, between being run up the yardarm with a rope around your neck, or being treated with the courtesy due to a prisoner-of-war, lay in whether or not a Letter of Marque could be shown. This was the document, signed and stamped by the Crown, that made you a Privateer. No Pirate.

The British led the way in these matters. The entire Indian sub-continent fell to the British at the hands of a privateer outfit: the East India Company. Admiral Lord Cochrane (the model for much of Patrick O’Brian’s Jack Aubrey) did such great private work in the South America of the early 19th Century that, as a result of Spanish fury, the British parliament passed an as yet unused law, against the plotting of wars in England to overthrow governments overseas.

Many of these Imperial privateer actions ended badly, however, and not just for the locals. It was said, for example, that the Queen Empress, Victoria herself (always short of money) had backed the disastrous Jameson Raid, an incident shortly preceding the Boer War in 1895/6. The Raid was not a bad business prospect. At stake was the Witwatersrand Reef, from which 60% of the world’s gold has since been mined.

A more up-to-date specimen of all this daring-do is the Oman war of the 1960s and 70s. Having carried out what is jokingly called the Foreign Office’s last coup in 1970 it was necessary to ensure that their newcomer to the Omani throne, the present HRH King Qaboos, should not lose the war then being hard fought to overthrow his anachronistic kingdom.

But this war was being lost: the Adoo, the Moscow and Beijing backed Yemeni communist insurgents, were winning. At stake were the Oman, and the Straits of Hormuz.

A secret UK help plan was hatched. As a result, a British Army officer of that time could take part in the fighting in Oman in any one of several different ways. You could be seconded from the British Army into that of the Sultan. You could be commissioned into the Sultan’s Armed Forces. You could be in Oman as a Troop Commander of 22 SAS Regiment, taking part in what was called Operation Storm. You could take the work as a contract officer, through a company called Airwork Services Ltd (who would interview you in an anonymous London Hotel room).

The jebel firefight that you would then find yourself in, as a result of any of this temerity, would be just the exact same. So … the moral nuances are hard to fathom. If the firefight was worth fighting as a UK commissioned but seconded officer then what was wrong with fighting it as a contractor?

Today there are many recruits into the British Army from Commonwealth countries. This is a good deal for both parties. Their pay is the same and, after sufficient service, they can become a UK citizen. To some, however, these men are mercenaries. They are fighting or are ready to fight for a country that is not their own, and which may have very different policies. In some cases, such as those from South Africa, these recruits may be breaking the law of their homeland.

After I left the British Army for the 2nd time, in 1985, I became bodyguard to the Finance Minister of Samuel Doe, the Liberian president. This was an exciting adventure that could have cost me my life, but was Private Security Company work – not Private Military Company work.

Not so long after that, May 1992, I left the British Army for the 3rd and last time. I had re-joined again because of the first Gulf War (in 1990) to serve on the staff of General Sir Peter de la Billiere. When I left I joined Heritage Oil and Gas, or HOG.

HOG in those days was Tony Buckingham, me and our secretary. The company had one project: Block 4/24 off-shore Angola, for which the operating base was a small port called Soyo, perched on the southern lip of the mouth of the great Congo river itself. When, in November 1992, UNITA, the old guerrilla force in Angola’s long civil war, lost the elections, they went back to fighting.

This was in direct breach of their promises and signed treaties, and despite the UN and other bodies having judged the elections to have been free and fair. UNITA’s attack on Soyo was an attack on HOG – an attack on our company, our men and equipment, and our livelihood. It was also an act of thuggery, a crime.

Tony Buckingham and I persuaded the Angolan government – the MPLA – to allow us to re-take Soyo, which we did. In the process a South African company, Executive Outcomes, came into being.

Executive Outcomes, or EO, was the first modern Private Military Company (or PMC) in that it was openly willing to fight. The old Private Security Companies (or PSC’s) had on occasion fought, but that was not something in their sales brochures. These were companies like Defence Systems Limited, KMS, and Control Risks.

Having won the battle of Soyo for the MPLA, the government of Angola then and now, asked if EO could help them not lose the war as a whole – a defeat that would have brought about the execution of any MPLA politician unable to escape. EO took on the challenge, expanded, made a lot of money and – many adventures later – won.

Along the way EO also entered into the terrible Sierra Leone civil war, in which they had to take on the ghastly Foday Sankoh and his RUF: world leaders in nasty atrocities.

That war EO also won. The Sierra Leone EO fighting was paid for by Buckingham and myself. We could afford the USD $400,000 per month that it cost to wage this private war only because of what we were doing in Angola.

During all this I was a part of EO, and one of the four people that set EO down the path they took. Sitting around our campfires, or – more often – sitting in one of our Boeing 727 aircraft, we would talk of the future.

Would EO become a role model for other companies?

Could EO become the UN’s African fire-force?

Would multi-national fight multi-national – in proxy wars, fought out between two EO’s?

My view was always, No. The circumstances that set off EO were unique. They would never come again … and anyway: these things were better left to the forces of sovereign states, or the UN.

The others asked: how could I – of all people – say that? When I had been a founder of EO and had done so much to make the EO story happen?

I would use the analogy of a house on fire. If I am asked to put out a house fire, or if it is my house, then I am not going to stand around waiting for the fire brigade – in other words the UN, or an international task force. In Angola and Sierra Leone the UN had been an expensive, but useless, presence. They had stopped nothing.

But then, if I am to help someone put out their fire, using men and equipment that I have to hire and buy, then I need to be paid for doing so. (As in Angola). Or, if there is an advantage to me in putting out another’s house fire, then I may do it at my expense. (As in Sierra Leone).

But neither of those examples mean that – as a general rule – City owned and run Fire Brigades should be abolished, done away with. Publicly funded Fire Brigades remain a good idea.

The Iraq invasion of 2003 proved me wrong about PMCs. Following the downfall of Saddam, the Americans wanted PMCs aplenty. PMCs were a way of upping troop levels without it being clear to the public. They were off-balance sheet reinforcements.

PMC contractors don’t get Royal Wootton Bassett turned out to welcome home their coffins. Contractors will be lucky if they get coffins: that would be another cost coming off shareholder dividends.

Another reason is that fighting some parts of a war with PMC troops instead of regular ones is cheaper, too. (That is the traditional wisdom at least, although it is now being challenged by some US academics.)

Today the PSC / PMC world is booming, despite the pullout from Iraq. American and British companies rule, with the US government responsible for 80% of the total PSC / PMC spend. Despite that UK companies do disproportionately well. This is especially true of Aegis and New Century, owned and run by Tim Spicer and Michael Grunberg respectively. Both of these men were big players in the EO story.

PMC’s today are deployed in many theatres and in an increasing range of roles, but call them mercenaries if you like. The management of human intelligence gathering in Afghanistan is mostly by PMC. Such companies are already deployed in the growing narco COIN operations along the US / Mexican border.

For years Bahrain has used Pakistani and Baluch contractors, and that is now a growing trend. Abu Dhabi recently shipped in eight hundred Colombians to act as a Special Forces battalion: a UAE Foreign Legion, so to speak. This was done with the help and management of a South African ex- EO team. The same team is preparing to deploy against Somali pirates. It is Abu Dhabi who plan to foot that bill too.

In the Libyan revolution further lines of demarcation – between government forces and PMC forces – became more blurred. From Tripoli it has been reported that UK ex-Special Forces were used, in some places, instead of regular troops. This came about because of the uncontrolled and the ‘everywhere’ presence of war correspondents, accredited and otherwise. Their prying eyes made the covert deployment of SAS and SBS troops difficult.

Even so, the need for trained laser designator operators to bring in air dropped laser bombs, with as much precision as possible, had to be met. Therefore designator kits were supplied to ex- UK SF contractors. These were men whose salaries were being paid for by the oil companies, for oil field site security. They were already in country, already on contract.

Whether or not the controllers or crews of NATO in-bound fast jets (French, let us say) knew that their weapon release was being designated by mercenaries isn’t known.

Then there is the business of the South African contractors working for Gaddafi XXXX. It seems that there were three phases in the Gaddafi escape plan: wives and children out to Mali then points South, Saif Al Islam next, then Gaddafi himself. The first two phases went well, the third less well, for those involved at least.

It seems that some of the third phase contractors were men who had been in prison with me. (Chikurubi Maximum Security, Harare, Zim). They were with Gaddafi when he was hit. Some escaped, some were killed, some captured, wounded or unscathed. This story becomes stranger because of more than one report that the escaper contractor mercenaries had NATO approval.

Why would they have had that?

Because – according to this line of thought – even NATO would rather have a Gaddafi on trial, than a Gaddafi hanging from a lamp-post.

After all this, where do I stand now, and for the future?

My feeling hasn’t changed. When a truly democratic country sends its duly enrolled troops into action there is a clear moral and legal chain that mandates the soldier to squeeze his trigger if appropriate. This is true whether the policy that sends the man into action is right or wrong, or whether the trigger-squeeze itself is right or wrong. Running military operations without that moral and legal chain is hard enough. Juggling life and death operational priorities with one eye on a profit & loss account is impossible.

The Blackwater incident in Iraq showed how hard it is for a contractor to defend itself when things have gone wrong. Nobody wanted to hear the Blackwater side of that story so, whatever the rights and wrongs, they were guilty before any proof of that guilt was established.

Mai Lai massacres are bad enough when carried out by regular troops. When carried out by a contractor they would be worse by an order of magnitude. (The fact that EO, in the course of all its war fighting, was never once accused of wrong-doing is neither here nor there, even if it does matter to those who took part.)

Whenever I was with the British Army in Northern Ireland I could see how any army of occupation is loathed. Even by those it is there to help.

How much more loathsome then is ‘The Contractor’?

BUT … despite this feeling – that some things are always better done by duly enrolled government forces – realpolitik, will apply.

Amanda, my wife, asked me on the morning of 9/11, “What does this mean? What will happen?”

I replied: “I don’t know … but the last people that carried out a major surprise attack on the American homeland had two nuclear weapons dropped on them … before it was over …”

The world changed at 9/11: The War on Terror began. In the course of that war a PMC industry has come into being. So now I have been asked to act as technical consultant on a reality TV show about a PMC, and their rivals. This comes at the same time as I am being asked to do more PSC / PMC security work and consultancy.

Elsewhere something odd is happening: while I was touring around Hollywood – pitching for the development funding to take my book into being a movie – three sensible seeming people told me, in all seriousness, how loved ones of theirs had set their sights on becoming a ‘Mercenary’! They asked me how this could be best achieved. Would I help?

(The book is called Cry Havoc, published by John Blake – the movie is to star Gerard Butler, and be directed by Sir Ridley Scott. Bob Edwards is to write the screenplay.)

So where does this lead?

In the last century, when it mattered, the UK proved itself to be the master of grand strategy. Twice the London commanders, political and military, managed the key issue, that of bringing the USA into the war as quickly as possible, with great skill. It is that same grand strategy that to this day steers much of the UK’s otherwise hard to fathom defence policy.

Thus, while the USA carries on with its growing use of PSCs and PMCs, in the execution of its many worldwide theatres of ‘Low Intensity Operations’, the UK will follow. The on-going deployment of British troops in Afghanistan stands out as an example of how this works. The only good justification as to why the UK is still fighting in Afghanistan is that the USA, our best ally, want us to be still fighting in Afghanistan.

The UK FCO stated policy on the future regulation of UK PSCs / PMCs on contracts overseas is to follow the United Sates Standard (ANSI) on private security companies. This is due to be published sometime in the first half of 2012. This document is to have a ‘UK implementation annex’.

This standard is to become the ‘primary regulatory standard for UK companies’. This trend, towards the government use of PSCs / PMCs is unlikely to be halted, but it will mature, becoming more finely shaded, specialized, and forced into stricter and stricter sets of required compliance rules. For example: the UK will also follow the US in making it possible for contractors’ troops to be prosecuted in the UK under UK law for offences they have committed in foreign jurisdictions whilst on contract.

This goes to the heart of the matter. How a soldier or unit is labeled – Regular, Reservist, Military Contractor, Security Contractor – is not important. What counts is whether the deed is done, and done well … and done in an appropriate manner. The UK is already moving this way in one major sense, if promises are upheld, because a major build up of reservist (TA) troops is planned. In an out-sourced world why not out-source an army?

However all this evolves and works one thing is sure. For the PMC’s an enforced set of rules is needed, from the level of higher command down to the foot soldier contractor on the ground.

His Rules for Opening Fire in his head. His copy of the Rules in his left top pocket.

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An All Greek Wheeze

Simon Mann Copyright
15th November 2011

An All Greek Wheeze

A piece paid for but never published by a National Sunday Newspaper

Thursday night is the night for a coup d’etat. That’s when you catch a national capital at its turning point. The working week is dragging to a tired conclusion yet the big players, the politicians, and the money men, are still in town. It’s not yet time for the armoured Mercedes and the high speed dash to a weekend villa. When it comes to rounding up your opponents, you’ll know where to find them on a Thursday: changing to go out, or at dinner, watching telly, at home.
I have some experience in the realm of Assisted Regime Change. Twice I led counter-insurgencies with battle-hardened groups of mercenaries, once in Angola and then in Sierra Leone. Then, there was the ‘Wonga Coup,’ my infamous attempt to overthrow the despotic regime of Teodoro Obiang in Equatorial Guinea. I was jailed for my pains and very nearly killed.
So I know enough to know that Greece is not EG, let alone Angola. Toppling a Western democracy, even a shambolic one, takes more than a battalion of South African hard-nuts with bazookas. Seizing Athens is a job for the Greek generals. They are the men with the means, the know-how. And, it is said, the inclination: last week, as Greece’s plight reached new depths of desperation, Athens was rife with rumours that the army is poised to intervene.
Yet the basic principles apply: secrecy, surprise, speed of preparation, speed of execution, timing, propaganda and cold hard cash. Lots of wonga. These are the four pillars of a good coup. Most powerful of all is the selection then maintenance of the aim: whatever it takes, grab power.
And it is the propaganda, the ‘branding’, that must come first. Insurgents need good packaging. People must believe in what you’re doing.
The Greek army needs a Cause, but it has a starting point – the country is in chaos – but that is not enough. Greek citizens must feel that the fabric of their world is under threat. Unrest must be stirred up from within.
So strikes, riots, and insurrections are weapons every bit as useful as Kalashnikovs and Uzis. There are plenty of street mercenaries and troublemakers for hire if the price is right. Disorder is needed so that order can be restored – on favourable terms.
An ambitious Greek colonel might, for example, think about deploying agitators in Turkish Cyprus, a place of continuing sensitivity, to fuel a sense of national anger.
Maybe a couple of Al Qeda suicide attacks in Athens, aimed at Embassies.

Maskirovka: that Russian military principle: Camouflage. Deception.

The flickering screens of Facebook, Twitter and YouTube have their uses, too. As the Arab Spring made clear, ‘social media’ help spread tentacles of trouble to new and dangerous places. This software can be used by the military also, not just by the masses: for intelligence, for deception, for entrapment.
Greece is a vast and sprawling land with a network of islands, another reason why change could only realistically emerge from its own hierarchy. In this case the Greek navy. But the army has done it before: the Colonels launched a coup in 1967, ushering in a series of ruling right wing Juntas who governed for seven years. They were not popular. Military rule rarely is.
But their execution was flawless. The coup leaders placed tanks in strategic positions throughout Athens, gaining complete control of the city, while dispatching small mobile units to arrest leading politicians and figures of authority.
The world has changed since then, but not completely. Speed is of the essence, still. Parliament, the central Bank, the main television stations, transport and telecoms Vital Points must all be ‘secured’ – seized, in fact – within a matter of hours.
It takes Speed, Aggression and Surprise – the three letters of the SAS.
Which brings us back to Thursday evening. At this time of year, we’d pick 7.30 pm as the witching hour, when day has rolled firmly into night.
We’d deploy my troops swiftly – into Parliament, into the Telephone exchanges, into newspaper and TV offices and into the homes of the country’s politicians. A news blackout would follow. Road blocks. Curfew. By dawn, the city would be under coup command. Borders are closed: roads, ports, airports. Telecomms dead.
Then, and only then, would we slowly restore access to vital services, while emphasising that this is the start of a long term, orderly plan. There will be an interim civilian government, we proclaim. It will be backed by the military and followed by free and fair elections – or the appearance of them. If our execution has worked, we will find a population grateful for the restoration of calm, despite the cost to their liberty.
To get that far, of course, requires luck as well as planning. The cat must stay firmly in the bag. The ‘Need to Know Principle’, as it is called. Discretion is essential, yet help and support are necessary, too. You can’t operate in a vacuum. (It’s a conundrum, as I found to my cost. The moment I showed a South African arms dealer my list of requirements (for the Equatorial Guinea coup), he knew what I was trying to do. Not ‘where’, but he knew ‘what’) The secret is bound to get out, and quickly.
A 3am door-knock is never far away.
There are wider risks. Little fires become infernos; small acts of deliberate agitation can have uncontrollable, maybe terrible, consequences. Overturning a democracy is a gamble even for an ambitious Greek colonel.
The lure of money and power – the motivation for any coup – are potent. Hopefully, there is the notion of a greater good, as well. When I am asked to defend what I tried to do in Equatorial Guinea I always point out that it was a chance to depose an outrageous tyrant. And by that measure, I do not remotely condone such extreme action in Greece.
Others, of course, some of them in uniform, might take a different view.

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This is from < > and is what we’ve been working on:

EXCLUSIVE: While the material marketplace has cooled as the holiday approaches, studios have been tempted by a pitch for a fact-based thriller that has Ridley Scott attached to direct and produce through his Scott Free banner, Gerard Butler to star, and Robert Edwards (The Bomb In My Garden) to write the script. Scott will produce with Giannina Facio and Alan Siegel. Butler wants to play Simon Mann, a former British army officer who in 2004 put together a band of mercenaries to attempt a coup against the president of Equatorial Guinea. The coup attempt was thwarted in Zimbabwe, where Mann went to pick up weapons. He spent five years in a harsh prison there before being taken to Equatorial Guinea where he was sentenced to 34 years–but spared that sentence when he received a presidential pardon in 2009.. His backers –Mann said one was Mark Thatcher, son of British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher—disavowed involvement with Mann after the coup failed. Both Mann and his wife Amanda have been making the rounds at studios the past several days along with Edwards, and insiders say there are high hopes this will end in a deal. Scott and Facio are also developing a biopic of Middle East pioneer Gertrude Bell and Gucci, the Fox 2000 focusing on the volatile relationship between Maurizio Gucci and ex-wife Patrizia Reggiani, who drew a 26-year sentence for plotting his 1995 murder. Angelina Jolie has been mentioned for Gertrude Bell and Natalie Portman for Gucci.

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Three topics plus some ramble …

The book – ‘Cry Havoc’ ( – order your copy now on Amazon – comes out 5th OCT ) …. That’s at the top of the agenda, and the first topic of today’s BLOG post.

Second up: What do I think about Libya and Syria.

Third: policing the inner city …… – so: ‘ …fools [do] rush in where angels fear to tread …’

….. while all of the above – please understand – have to remain bland. It’s part of the process. Give too much away and the book (and possible serialization) won’t do so well. So I’m told.

In the meantime I am in Tatler, October and September, with a photo in each. In the old days, when I was a Scots Guards officer (non swanks) that would have been expensive. A case of champagne each time. To be swigged by my dear brother officers. What a rough business it was.

‘Non swanks’ was one of the pet jokes of dear old Colonel Sir David Stirling. He was the founder of the SAS and a Colditz old boy and much else …. He was also my friend and mentor. It was David who proposed me as a member of White’s Club. He had to say non-swanks often: he had plenty to swank about, but was modest.

In the October Tatler there’s my photo: with Tim Spicer and David Stirling. All three Scots Guards.

‘Cry Havoc’ (– order your copy now on Amazon – comes out 5th OCT –) is proving to be a trial of patience. Having won the copy edit battle, whereby the changes they wanted to make were mostly rejected, we are into the legals ….. and that’s despite everything having been said and discussed at my trial in an open court of law in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea (IE qualified privilege) …. and despite the rooms and boxes full of evidence that are now legally in my possession …

‘Cry Havoc’ ( – order your copy now on Amazon – comes out 5th OCT – ) is still hard work.


How wonderful. I am happy for the people of Libya. I congratulate them on having won their freedom, however rocky the road ahead. Anyone who doubts the overriding need to be free hasn’t had to live under tyranny.

Tyranny is assault. That is in English Common Law back to the 17th C, Sir William Blackstone. Tyranny is assault, and therefore can be fought off. Tyranny is assault, and therefore – on behalf of those in peril – can be fought against.

Check out the old British Army Northern Ireland Yellow Card: entirely based on Common Law. You can shoot someone assaulting another person, if that I sthe only way to stop death or serious injury.

Tyranny is assault. To do nothing about tyranny is to walk past a mugging.


Same detail.

Policing the inner city

What’s my qualification to write about that? Three years in Northern Ireland with the said British Army. Over the years we became better at it.

Firstly, you have to do foot patrols. That’s Bobby’s on the beat, ON FOOT. Nothing else comes close to exercising proper control over an area or a bunch of people. As the situation worsens the minimum number for each patrol goes up.

In Belfast it was often two eight man patrols working together. That’s one outfit carrying out one patrol.

Secondly: no NO_GO areas. Once they come into being then the Security Forces are on a hiding to nothing. For that reason we used to go into every Pub & Club almost every night. If we hadn’t done that then – whenever we did go into one – would have turned into a riot.

Thirdly: the hovering helicopter watching over the scene. The bad guys don’t know how good or bad the technology is. It is a psychological threat at all times. If the shooting is going to start then the gunman has one tght uppermost: his escape after the shot. That’s why you patrol in bricks. The sound of a helicopter overhead will always put that escape into doubt.

….and – to wind up: The book – ‘Cry Havoc’ ( – order your copy now on Amazon – ) comes out 5th OCT.

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Buy the book and follow the tweets!

BOOK: ‘Cry Havoc’ : out 5 OCT

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Giving birth …

This is how it must feel to give birth. The book – Cry Havoc (publishing date 5th OCT 2011, by John Blake Ltd) rushes towards its due date. All I will feel as Mother is relief. The legal issues go on, as do the copy editor’s likes and dislikes, but the due date ticks closer day by day. Thank God.

Thinking that PR and promotion would be everything at this time was wrong. For the sake of serialization my campaign of silence will carry on. As when dealing with the censors in Chikurubi Max’s security section, ‘Bland must be Bland’.

Amazing to think that much of Cry Havoc was written back there in Chikurubi in 2005 … 2004 even.

So much to learn too. How does a book find its way to the US for example. There are two quite different ways that can happen, it seems. Then there is the e-book, for Kindle, the possibility of a Digi-book (a different animal), and the audio book (that I am going to read out myself …. Why give someone else the fun?)

Then there are the exotic places: Interpreters please! China Russia Japan … Maybe some good trips there?

Meanwhile I Twitter away (@CaptSFM). I enjoy it.

Great trip to New York this last week (week of 22 AUG) to meet a possible screenplay writer for a possible movie. The writer was great, and the week a success …. apart from the earthquake on Tuesday lunchtime (clearly felt) and the Hurricane Irene warnings by the time we left, Friday.

We stayed at the Soho Gran, 310 West Broadway. Very good. Amanda took off on Wednesday to stay with friends on Nantucket. We met up back at JFK for our Virgin flight home. Also very good.

Writing this I am in Newquay with Freddy (15) and Arthur (6). It’s the last blast of the summer hols so we hope that Irene or somebody can kick a good swell our way. I’ve warned the boys: come publication day (5th OCT) life will change. Busier. More public.

Next week is back to work. Finish the maps and photos for Cry Havoc, if we go with maps or photos at all, and agree the final proofs. It’s also back to work for the security consultancy that I have started – with a top line and heavily backed security start up.

It maybe that my future lies in books and movies, but even if it does it still makes sense to keep my hand in with the security / Private Military Company game. From the look of things we might get work on the UK streets coming up soon.

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The book moves on …

Cry Havoc is now the book title. The publication date is 5th October 2011. It’s already there, on Amazon. At this point the book is undergoing a legal review by the publisher’s lawyers. That’s no joke, given the wish amongst a few powerful and wealthy people that this book never sees the light of day.

Luckily, I have plenty of friends, and stuff – mostly paperwork – that back up what I have to say.

Other than deal with the lawyers I am putting together photos and pictures. (Tricky, as I have spent most of my life avoiding cameras).  Then there are the maps. I hate books that talk of places without telling the reader where to find them. I have always loved maps. An army nickname of mine was ‘Maps Mann’ … so, I want the maps to be good.

With my son Freddy (who wanted to learn how to stand-up surf) I had an amazing trip to Santa Monica and then Hollywood. There, I expected that – while they would like my story – they would say that it lacked an American angle. That wasn’t the case. I met great enthusiasm … so … time will tell if all that energy leads to a feature movie.

Back here in the UK I have a lot of interest in TV documentaries of various sorts and – of course – computer games.

Mixed in with all this I am doing some security / Private Military Company (PMC) work. It is gentle. It is all UK based consultancy. It is also interesting, and fun to see how the landscape has changed, since I was arrested back in March 2004.

The press reported that I am doing security consultancy on the payroll of President Obiang of Equatorial Guinea. Not true. I have been helping the EG government authorities with their investigations into the attempted coup plot, just as I have been helping those of the UK government. Scotland Yard.

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Welcome to the blog

Working on my book – as yet without a title – I am entering the www arena: facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, my web site, this blog.

Why? Because I must give to what I want to say in the book, and what I want to say about similar issues, as good an airing as possible. These www applications allow such an airing to be bigger and better.

The working title of the book is still ‘Cry Havoc’, chosen over many others: ‘Man Trap’ ‘Fortune of War’ etc. ‘What a Cock Up !’ – I’m told – just won’t work. John Blake Publishing Ltd are the publisher. I’m working with them on the title, and on the book.

Writing this is tough. The target publication date is 3 October this year (2011) and that means the first week in June is the effective deadline. Horribly close. In this case the work is editing – and pushing a quart into a pint pot. I have written more than 200,000 words already. 150,000 of those were written while in Chikurubi Maximum Security Prison.

When asked what sort of book I want it to be, as I have been by the publishers, I say that I want to write a book that is entertaining and – although it will tick the biographical boxes – is as close to being an adventure thriller as an autobiog can be.  For example: my five years at Eton are dealt with in one paragraph.

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