David Isenberg’s PMSC Writings

I have been observing, researching, and writing on private military and security contracting (PMSC) since the early 1990s, back when the only firms anybody paid attention to were Executive Outcomes, Sandline, and MPRI. But it is a whole new world out there now.  In the interest of letting people see how the PMSC world has changed the following is some of the commentary and speaking I have done on this issue over the years.


Researched and wrote book “Shadow Force: Private Security Contractors in Iraq.” Published Dec. 30, 2008.

Kindle edition:

Huffington Post articles:


Papers, Book Chapters and Monographs

Private Military Contractors and U.S. Grand Strategy, International Peace Research Institute, Oslo, PRIO Report 1/2009, October 2009.

“A government in search of cover: Private military companies in Iraq,” (book chapter. 5, pp. 82-93), in From Mercenaries to Market: The Rise and Regulation of Private Military Companies (Hardcover) by Simon Chesterman (Editor), Chia Lehnardt (Editor), Oxford University Press, publication date Sep. 3, 2007.

David Isenberg, Chapter Eight, Challenges of Security Privatisation in Iraq,” pp. 149-166 in Private Actors and Security Governance, Alan Bryden and Marina Caparini (Eds.), Geneva Centre for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces (DCAF), LIT Verlag, October 2006.

A government in search of cover: PMCs in Iraq. This paper was presented to the “Market Forces: Regulating Private Military Companies,” Institute for International Law and Justice conference held at the w School Of Law, March 23-24, 2006.

The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown: PMCs in Iraq, Presentation by David Isenberg given at the “Guns ‘n gates: The role of private security actors in armed violence” Cost Action 25 Working Group 3. Bonn, Germany February 9-10, 2006.

A Fistful of Contractors: The Case for a Pragmatic Assessment of Private Military Companies in Iraq, BASIC Research Report 2004.2, September 27, 2004.

“Combat for Sale: The New, Post-Cold War Mercenaries,” USA Today, March 2000 (Vol. 128, No. 2658) pp. 12-16.

“Have Lawyer, Accountant, and Guns. Will Fight: The New, Post Cold War Mercenaries,” A paper prepared for the Getting Guns Off the Streets of the Global Village panel (10:30 a.m. ­12:15 p.m., February 19, 1999, Embassy Room) of the International Studies Association Convention (One Field, Many Perspectives: Building the Foundations for Dialogue), February 16 20, 1999 Omni Shoreham Hotel, Washington, D.C.,

Soldiers of Fortune Ltd.: A Profile of Today’s Private Sector Corporate Mercenary Firms, Center for Defense Information Monograph, November 1997,

Asia Times

Missing in Action, Review of One Nation Under Contract by Allison Stanger, Dec. 19, 2009.

Sex and security in Afghanistan, October 6, 2009.

The good, and bad, news on contractors, Apr 29, 2009.

Security peddlers eye Afghan windfall, future, Feb. 4, 2009.

Touchy, feely in the kill chain, December 18, 2007.

Law is clear: Blackwater is not above it, Oct 16, 2007.

Slaving away for Uncle Sam,” August 2, 2007.

There’s a new sheriff in Kabul, April 13, 2007.

Iraq’s contracts to die for, Feb 21, 2007.

Mercenaries or ‘contractors’?, BOOK REVIEW: Licensed to Kill by Robert Young Pelton, November 4, 2006.

America’s unsung war dead, November 30, 2005.

It’s propaganda (shock, horror)!, Dec 3, 2005, 2005.

Protecting Iraq’s precarious pipelines, September 24, 2004,

· “The fog and dog of war,” Asia Times, August 21, 2004, http://atimes.com/atimes/Central_Asia/FH21Ag02.html.

· “Corporate Mercenaries: Part 2: Profit comes with a price,” Asia Times, May 20, 2004, http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/FE20Ak02.html.

· “Corporate Mercenaries: Part 1: Profit comes with a price,” Asia Times, May 19, 2004, http://atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/FE19Ak01.html.

· Firing blanks in Afghanistan, Asia Times, June 27, 2008

The secret world of corporate mercenaries, December 19, 2003.

There’s no business like security business, April 30, 2003.

Security for sale in Afghanistan, Asia Times, January 4, 2003.

Defense News

Private Contractors Still Lack Adequate Oversight, Defense News, June 29 2009.

Oxford Analytica

INTERNATIONAL: Private firms may have anti-piracy role, December 4, 2008.

US/IRAQ: SOFA deal may affect private contractors, November 4, 2008.

US/AFGHANISTAN: Private contractors play stopgap role, August 22, 2008.

United States: Pentagon contracting faces new scrutiny, May 29, 2008.

· Military Privatisation to Intensify, Nov. 22, 2007.

· Changes Ahead For Private Security Companies, Oct 16, 2007.

UPI Columns Jan. 2008 – March 2009

Wrote weekly “Dogs of War” column on private military contracting for United Press International

Contractors with no names, April 10, 2009.

Let loose the legal beagles of war, April 3, 2009.

Dogs of War: Have Have Ph.D., will travel, March 27, 2009.

Theory is fine, action is better, Dogs of War: Put up or shut up, March 20, 2009.

Can’t we all just get along?, Blue on white, March 13, 2009.

Contractors doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past, March 6, 2009.

Blue helmets and bottom lines, Outsourcing peacekeeping, Feb. 27, 2008.

Mercenaries are in the eye of the beholder: Now who is a mercenary?, Feb. 20, 2009.

Covering Contractors: Media to contractors: Who are you guys?, Feb. 13, 2009.

Private military contractors — mysterious No: Feb, 6, 2009.

That is the question: Contractors fulfilling a contract — imagine that, future, Jan, 30, 2009.

Slippery slope: Contractors impact on military culture, future, Jan. 23, 2009.

Reagan was Right: Codes of conduct — trust but verify, future, Jan. 16, 2009.

The future of contractor accountability — immunity or impunity, future, Jan. 12, 2009.

· Dogs of War: The culture of private security contractors, future, Jan 2, 2009.

Dogs of War: Bleeding heart contractors, future, UPI, 2008.

Ghosts of contractors past, present and future, December 19, 2008.

Lessons of the Blackwater indictments, December 12, 2008.

Private Shill Contractors, Dec. 5, 2008.

A contractor’s tale,  Nov. 28, 2008.

The global stability industry,  Nov. 21, 2008.

U.S. has paid $6 billion to 310 private security companies in Iraq, Nov. 14, 2008.

Contractors and Obama, Nov. 7, 2008.

Losing sleep over SOFA, Oct. 31, 2008.

Yaargh, here be contractors, Oct. 24, 2008.

When a contractor just isn’t good enough, Oct. 17, 2008, http://www.upi.com.

Busting the unaccountability myth, Oct. 10, 2008.

Will the last contractor to leave Iraq remember to please turn out the lights?, Oct. 3, 2008.

William Walker — the American Idol of the 19th century, Sep. 29, 2008.

The well-ordered worldliness of WPPS, Sep. 19, 2008.

· Dogs of War: From mercenary to security contractor and back again, Sep.12, 2008.

Micromanaging security contractors, Sep.5, 2008.

Contractor oversight is Improving, Aug. 29, 2008.

More contractors in Iraq, Aug. 22, 2008.

One-stop shopping at Blackwater, Aug. 18, 2008.

Blackwater to the rescue in Darfur?, Aug. 8, 2008.

Are PMCs POWs?, Aug. 1, 2008.

Life without Blackwater?, July 25, 2008.

The con side of contractors , July 18, 2008.

Immunity hype, July 11, 2008.

The founding contractors. July 7, 2008.

A small step for contractors, June 27, 2008.

CACI — Some publicity is bad, June 20, 2008.

Two little words, June 13, 2008.

The Holy Grail, part four, June 6, 2008.

Back to Africa, May 30, 2008.

Defense Base Act revisited, May 23, 2008.

Blackwater, Najaf — Take Two,” May 16, 2008.

Inherently governmental?, May 9, 2008.

Insurance? What insurance?, May 2, 2008.

Cost-effective: Myth or fact?, April 25, 2008

No justice on contractor rape, April 18, 2008.

Military justice and PMCs, April 11, 2008.

No gravy train for PMC grunts, March 28, 2008.

· Dogs of War: Life imitating art, March 21, 2008.

Employees, what employees?, March 14, 2008.

Round laws, square holes, UPI, March 7 2008.

No stinkin’ oversight needed,” February 29, 2008.

Modest proposals for reform, February 22, 2008.

The pay gap myth, February 15, 2008.

The importance of oversight, February 1, 2008.

Here to stay, January 25, 2008.

Ghost of outsourcing yet to come, December 27, 2007.

Emerging Threats – Analysis: “Blackwater — Guilty as charged?”, Sept. 20, 2007, .

PSA Blog posts

Contractors and Government: Till Death Do Them Part, March 30, 2010.
Can’t anyone here manage a contract?, June 9, 2009.

Less lawyers, more auditors: The lessons of Nisoor Square, Dec. 9, 2008 .

An officer and a media shill, April 21, 2008.
Blackwater Is Not The Issue, September 21, 2007.
Biden Channels Mencken, May 10, 2006.

Safeguard Review: A Journal for the Military Services Contractor

· “Trip Report: Interview with Doug Brooks, President, “International Peace Operations Association (IPOA)”, pp. 5-6; and “Global Outlook & Industry News, pp. 7-8, ” Safeguard Review: A Journal for the Military Services Contractor, January 2006, Vol 2, Issue 1.

· “Global Outlook” Safeguard Review: A Journal for the Military Services Contractor, December 2005, Vol 1, Issue 5, pp. 5-6.

· “Private Military/Security Services & Disaster Relief Missions” Safeguard Review: A Journal for the Military Services Contractor, October/November, 2005, Vol 1, Issue 4, pp. 2-3.

· “Contractors in Afghanistan & Iraq — “an Assessment” Safeguard Review: A Journal for the Military Services Contractor, September/October, 2005, Vol 1, Issue 3, pp. 3-5

Television Scripts

Conflict Inc.: Selling the Arts of War, 12/7197,

Question of the Week (CDI Radio Series)

“Who are you going to call when you can’t afford your own military to fight a war for you?,” 4/1/97.

Op Ed

“Regulated Private Military Firms Have a Role,” Defense News, March 11-17, 2002, P. 13.

“Welcome to the Postmodern Warfare Era,” Intellectualcapitol.com, Vol. 5,Issue 40 October 30- November 6, 2000.

Take the Dogs of War, Please!,” Intellectualcapitol.com, Vol. 5, Issue 24, June 15-22, 2000.

“The New Mercenaries,” Christian Science Monitor, October 13, 1998.

.Letters to the Editor

“Waging War With Private Forces,” New York Times, May 22, 2006.

David Isenberg responds” [response to November 5 letter to the editor by Jonathan Garratt of Erinys], Asia Times, November 6, 2004.

Public Speaking & Testifying

Participant in Contracting in Conflicts: Expeditionary Stabilization and Reconstruction Operations, Peacock Lounge, Center for a New American Security, Willard Intercontinental Hotel, Washington, DC, October 28, 2009.

Has the Privatization of National Security Gone Too Far? The Future of Military Contracting, November 14, 2008, 9:30-11:00am, New America Foundation, , Video here. My remarks here.

Participant in Expert Consultation: “Status of Nationality and Private Military and Security Companies, 4-6 December 2007, Geneva, Switzerland, sponsored by the Geneva Center for the Democratic Control of Armed Forces and the Directorate of International Law, Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs.

November 15, 2007, Film Screening: Force Provision, Wechsler Theater, 3rd Fl., Mary Graydon Center, American University, Screening followed by a panel discussion with: Rebecca DeWinter, of Amnesty International, Doug Brooks, of International Peace Operations Association, David Isenberg, of British American Security Information Council, Tommy Ross, Legislative Assistant for US Representative David Price.

· November 15, 2007, participant in one day unclassified, off-the-record conference The Future of the Global Private Security Market, sponsored by the Directorate of Intelligence, Office of Transnational Issues, CIA at SAIC campus in Tyson’s Corner. Conference explored how the global private security market might evolve in the near term-looking three to five years out.

Putting Round Pegs into Square Holes: US Government Oversight and Regulation of Private Military and Security Contractors, 31st October 2006, Grayston Centre, 28 Charles Square, London N1 6HT hosted by the British American Security Information Council.

“Putting round pegs into square holes: U.S. government oversight and regulation of private military and security contractors,” Regulating Private Military and Security Companies panel October 27, 2006, 7th Annual International Security Forum (ISF) 26-28 October, New Risks and Threats: The Challenge of Securing State and Society, Kongresshaus Zurich Switzerland.

Panelist at Capitol Hill Screening of Shadow Company documentary, Capitol Building – Mansfield Room S207, June 23, 2006.

Understanding the Privatization of National Security conference. Sponsored by the McCormick Tribune Conference Series and the American Bar Association Standing Committee on Law and National Security, May 11-12, 2006 at the McCormick Tribune Foundation’s Cantigny Estate in Wheaton, Illinois.

Conference on the Regulation of Private Military Companies, Institute for International Law and Justice, New York University School of Law, D’Agostino Hall, Lipton Hall, 108 West 3rd Street, NY, NY, March 24, 2006.

February 10. 2006. The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown: PMCs in Iraq, Presentation by David Isenberg, Senior Analyst, BASIC at the “Guns ‘n gates: The role of private security actors in armed violence” Cost Action 25 Working Group 3 Bonn Germany February 9-10, 2006.

July 1 and 2 2004, Seminar on “Privatisation of Warfare,” Netherlands Institute of International Relations, Cligendael Institute.

Private Military Firms: Myths and Missions: Security for a New Century, Joint Special Operations Intermediate Seminar, Joint Special Operations University, Hurlburt Field, FL, May 8th, 2001.

“Private Military Companies,” July 19th, 2000, Voice of America, Talk to America program.

Media Appearances

August 17, 2010, on C-Span III, spoke on private military contracting.

June 28, 2010. Controversy over CIA Blackwater contract,” The World ⋅ June 28, 2010.

Feb. 11, 2010, Al Jazzeera (English), re expulsion of former Blackwater contractors from Iraq.

Jan. 16, 2010, Roy Green Show, CKNW AM Radio, Vancouver, Canada, on private contractors.

Jan 7, 2010, Al Jazzeera (English), re charges against contractors in Afghanistan.

Jan 2, 2010, Al Jazzeera (English), re Judge Urbina’s dismissal of charges against Blackwater contractors.

December 22, 2009, Al Jazzeera (English), re Israeli private security contractors.

November 12, 2009, The Daily Debrief with Chris Dorobek and Amy Morris, Federal News Radio 1500 AM, “Examining the role of the military contractor.”

David Isenberg, UPI columnist and author of Shadow Force: Private security contractors in Iraq, on Combat Operator Radio discussing private military and security contractors.

December 29, 2008, CATO podcast – “Security Contractors in Iraq” featuring David Isenberg.

December 11, 2008, Al Jazzeera (English), re Blackwater, SOFA and contractors.

December 8, 2008, Al Jazzeera (English), indictment against Blackwater contractors.

August 20, 2008, Riz Khan show, Al Jazeera English, re contractors in Iraq, Part 1, Part 2.

April 29, 2008, WFED (Federal News Radio) , re Pentagon’s retired military analysts program.

October 23, 2007, one of five discussants on “Privatizing War” segment on “The Agenda With Steve Paikin,” TV Ontario.

October 18, 2007, Interview with Al Jazeera (English) re PMC industry.

October 8, 2007, Prerecorded interview on Al Jazeera (English) network re PMC in Iraq.

October 4, 2007, Interview on (primary) Al Jazeera network (simultaneously translated at their end) re FBI investigation into Blackwater and Rep. Price legislation on MEJA.

October 2, 2007, Interview on Al Jazeera re Oct. 2 congressional hearing on Blackwater.

September 17, 2007, Interview on Al Jazeera re shooting of Iraqis by Blackwater contractors.

September 3, 2007, Interview on Al Jazeera re British withdrawal from Basrah and Bush visit to Iraq.

October 19, 2004, WTOP-AM, Iraq. The British American Security Information Council says 20,000 private military and security company employees are in Iraq because the US military has downsized. Interview – David Isenberg, spokesman, says you don’t have the needed forces for stability and security operations. Chas. Henry reporting.

May 7, 2004, WWPR, with Henry Raines, Bradenton, FL (South Tampa Bay), 1490 AM, 20-30 minutes, Iraq and PMCs.

May 5, 2004, KXCI, 91.3, Tuscon, AZ with David Yerkey, host of A View From Slightly Off Center, www.kxci.com re PMCs in Iraq.

May 5, 2004, Jean Dean, WRVC, Huntington, W. VA, re PMCs in Iraq.

May 4, 2004, Voice of America, Talk to America radio show, re PMCs in Iraq.

May 3, 2004, Don Burnelle, WOON AM, Woonsocket, RI, 1240, Military Alternatives and Privatized Military Companies.

April 23, 2004, Truth From The Source with Dr. Ann West, KKCR FM, Hanalei, HI, 90.9, Military Alternatives and Privatized Military Companies.

April 22, 2004, Richard Kaffenberger Show, KZZZ-AM, Bullhead City, AZ, 1490, Length of Segment: 30 minutes, Topic: Private Military Companies, 1030.

April 21, 2004, Troy Derengowski, WHON AM, Richmond, IN, 930, 20 minutes, Military Alternatives and Privatized Military Companies.

April 15, 2004, Chris Kellog in Missouri (KFRU and KLIK) re Iraq and PMCs.

April 14, 2004, Mike Thornton, “KVMR’s Public Planet”, KVMR-FM, Nevada City, CA, 89.5, War without End  Mercenaries and Private Armies, 20 Minutes.

April 1, 2004 The Midday Show with Bernie Spigner, WCTC re attacks against US contractor personnel in Fallujah, Iraq.

March 23, 2004,The World Today, Islamic Broadcasting Network re Richard Clarke and Iraq.

March 17, 2004 Participant in discussion on Radio 786, Primetalk, South Africa, Capetown, South Africa, www.radio786.co.za re South African/Equitorial Guinea/Zimbawe situation.

March 10, 2004, CNN, “Thwarted Coup in Africa,” on mercenaries in Africa.

February 28, 2004, CBC Newsworld (Canada) at the national Press Club re espionage at the UN.

February 4, 2004, TV interview with Kate Wheeler of CTV News of Canada re Iraq intelligence inquiries/commissions.

February 2, 2004, WCTC-AM, NJ, Bernard Spigner Show on Iraq re Iraq intelligence.

January 27, 2007, radio interview with the Islamic Broadcasting Network Iraq Today show re “Unravelling The Knowns From The Unknowns”-The Lack Of Weapons Of Mass Destuction In Iraq.

Discussion participant, Changing The Culture Of Pentagon Contracting, A publication of the Privatization of Foreign Policy Initiative, New America Foundation, October 2008.