David Shearer on Mercenaries

Phil Goff has been shifting Labour more towards the centre, with the departure of Helen Clark and Michael Cullen. He is attacking National for not sticking with tax cuts, he let Clayton Cosgrove attack over Maori prison units and he is refusing to back Maori seats on the Auckland Council. Plus Labour are backing most of the RMA changes and voted to repeal the EFA.

But the extent to which Goff wants to pull Labour away from the left astonishes even me. As we all know, David Shearer is his hand picked candidate for Mt Albert – his former school friend and Ministerial advisor.

Now David shares none of the antipathy most of his Labour colleagues do towards the private sector. Most of them don’t want the private sector involved in corrections, work accident insurance, health or education. They say it has no role in core state functions. Us on the right are more relaxed and support private sector involvement if it is efficient and delivers good outcomes.

Anyway, while searching for Shearer’s Lincoln university thesis on Maori values and environmental decision-making (as had heard it was interesting) we came across a couple of articles David Shearer had written for foreign policy journals. And what are they on?

“Outsourcing War” and “Privatising Protection”

Let us first look at what he says in “Outsourcing War” published by “Foreign Policy” in 1998:

The principal obstacle to regulating private military companies has been the tendency to brand them as “mercenaries” of the kind witnessed in Africa 30 years ago,rather than to recognize them as multinational entrepreneurs eager to solidify their legitimacy

Legitimate multinational entreprenurs instead of mercenaries. Now that is music to my ears. Not quite so sure how aligned that is to current Labour Party activists and MPs.

Shearer goes on to recommend:

Consequently, regulation can be best achieved through constructive engagement.

I agree – far better than banning them. But Shearer has an even better idea:

The prospect that private military companies might gain some degree of legitimacy within the international community begs the question as to whether these firms could take on UN peacekeeping functions and improve on UN effort.

An excellent idea. I am sure the new UNDP Administator would whole heartedly agree that UN peace keeping forces should be replaced by Executive Outcomes and Sandline. I do hope someone asks her her view.

There is no denying that they are cheaper than UN operations. EO cost Sierra Leone’s governmen$t35 million for the 22 months it was there, versus a planned UN operation budgeted at $47 million for eight months.

And is it any more moral for the UN to be using Fijian peacekeepers than private mercenary armies?

Military companies may in fact offer new possibilities for building peace that, while not universal in applicability, can hasten the end to a war and limit loss of life. Moreover there is no evidence that private-sector intervention will erode the state.

Despite the commercial motives of military companies, their interventions, if anything, have strengthened the ability of governments to control their territory.

I think Rodney should grab David Shearer for ACT. I want this man to be our Defence Minister.

The full article is here – shearer-outsourcing-war. I’ll blog the second article tomorrow.

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