Corporate Armies

During the War on Terror, the rise of private military contractors (PMCs) became an international story, with their exploits in Afghanistan and particularly Iraq filling column inches in newspapers across the world and sparking a host of bestselling books. The reason was obvious: this was a new trend that raised all sorts of questions about the accountability mechanisms for the use of force in the modern era, as well as the future of the military as an institution.

But what was ignored and lost in the hype about Blackwater and Dyncorp was the fact that these companies, and many other like them, had been expanding rapidly all over the world well before the War on Terror, often operating in states that were not at war.

A massive corporate army has been built up around the world, not to fight traditional wars, but to protect assets around the world, and help in disciplining local populations. From Chiquita in Colombia allegedly paying paramilitaries and private security corporations to kill opponents of their programs to G4S manning Israeli checkpoints, the corporate takeover of security operations for some of the biggest companies (and states) is a story that is sure to dominate the future.

Globally the role and power of private military and private security companies have exploded over the last two decades. Some say these shifts have fundamentally challenged the monopoly on force, defense and security seen as a core tenet of state sovereignty. In this project, Matt Kennard and Claire Provost examine an industry that deals in services that have long been considered duties of national police and military forces—from the training of local patrol officers to the management of prisons, maritime security, surveillance and investigations.

Britain’s Warfare State

Britain sought to retain its imperial clout as the Empire crumbled after the Second World War by seeking to dominate the arms industry. This is a major investigation of the contemporary results.

This Week: The Rise of the Corporate Army

This week, an investigation into the privatization of government armies in Palestinian territories, a glimpse of life in North Korea, and our video "Facing Risk" highlights the dangers of freelance journalism.