Sunday, February 14, 2016

Amy E. Eckert's "Outsourcing War"

Amy E. Eckert is Associate Professor of Political Science at Metropolitan State University of Denver. She is coeditor of The Future of Just War and Rethinking the 21st Century: "New" Problems, “Old” Solutions.

Eckert applied the “Page 99 Test” to her new book, Outsourcing War: The Just War Tradition in the Age of Military Privatization, and reported the following:
The involvement of private military companies (PMCs) in war often becomes apparent only through dramatic, typically violent, incidents like the killing and mutilation of Blackwater contractors by militants in Fallujah or the shooting of civilians by contractors in Baghdad’s Nisour Square. These incidents are undeniably attention-grabbing, and suggest that the principal problem PMCs pose for just war norms is that of how PMCs relate to civilians during conflict. This is an important and pressing problem, but page 99 of Outsourcing War is at the end of the chapter that looks at how PMCs also pose problems for the norms that apply to our decision to go to war. In other words, we have PMC problems to deal with before the first shot is even fired or the first contractor sets foot near the battlespace. These jus ad bellum norms have become centered around the assumption that war occurs only between state militaries.

Page 99 states in part:
Reliance on PMCs has become so pervasive that the state’s conduct in war cannot be adequately understood without taking into account the contributions of these private actors to the war effort…their participation alters the empirical context to which the just war principles apply.
This section goes on to argue that jus ad bellum principles are intended to act as a restraint on states’ more aggressive tendencies and to give us a basis for moral critique. In keeping with the spirit of this set of principles, I suggest that the capabilities of, actions by, and losses incurred among PMCs be attributed to the state that employs them so that when we try to assess the question of whether a war is just, we do so with an accurate picture of the war.

This is a central claim of the book and is, in this sense, representative of the book’s project of calling attention to the significance of PMCs, the places where the incorporation of private actors is at odds with assumptions of the just war tradition, and formulating just war arguments about assessing the ethics of privatized war. In this respect, I would agree with Ford Madox Ford’s claim that we can treat page 99 as representative of the whole book.
Learn more about Outsourcing War at the Cornell University Press website.

--Marshal Zeringue