Author: Mohlin, Marcus
Source: St Antony’s International Review, Volume 9, Number 2, February 2014, pp. 24-38(15)
It is frequently argued that the existence of Private Military Security Companies (PMSC) is a proof of weakened state authority, and indeed strategies involving the hiring of PMSCs contribute to a change of the world order. Still, some decision-makers view such companies as a very useful and necessary extension of foreign policy. This article investigates the role of PMSCs by analysing the contract awarded to Military Professional Resources Incorporated (MPRI) to train the Bosnian military in 1995. Even though the case investigated is well known, it is actually partly misrepresented in current scholarly writings. The subsequent analysis will shed new light on the MPRI contract with the Bosnian Federation Government by illustrating that the situation in Bosnia in 1992-95 had become the new battleground for a tug of war between America and Iran, and the hiring of MPRI to train the Bosnian military must be seen in that context. Drawing on personal interviews and previously classified telegrams between the US State Department and some of its embassies around the globe, it will be illustrated that the practice of using PMSCs gives world leaders a possibility to seem disconnected from specific regions when they, in fact, are deeply involved. Apparently, some world leaders regard private military firms as valuable tools, and while it is at times held that PMSCs undermine state authority, it is clear that they can strengthen states considerably. In the case investigated here, the US government would not have been able to thwart Iranian influence in Europe had it not been for the services of MPRI. In short, companies allow decision-makers to operate in the twilight space of world politics where they can participate in the reproduction of present global political and social power structures.