An interesting article in The News makes a compelling case that outsourcing war by using private contractors is a losing strategy. This was most clearly proven in Iraq when the private security company Blackwater did more harm than good to efforts to bring peace to the country. The Blackwater mercenaries were accused of murder by Iraqi officials and a case against Blackwater agents continues in the US courts. More powerful than any specific action of Blackwater agents, though, was the way the use of mercenaries tarnished the world image of America’s fight against terrorists after 9/11. Using contract fighters like Blackwater that operated outside the laws undercut the moral authority of US and made even sympathetic minds question American intentions.
America may be the world’s super power, but it is not the only country to use mercenaries to fight its battles. Actually, close parallels can be drawn between groups like Blackwater and LeT, Taliban, and other militant groups used as proxies in Pakistan. Just as US guards its choice to use Blackwater and Dyncorp type proxy forces, some in our security agencies also jealously defend the right to keep lashkars on hand for future use against Indian aggression in Kashmir, Afghanistan, or anywhere else.
Our lashkars are different from the American lashkars in name only. We can claim that our militants are driven by ideology and not greed, but I suspect you would find the same answer from American apologists for Blackwater. All extremists resort to the excuse of ideology. If you wear a blindfold, separating the groups is harder than you might think. Both kill indiscriminately. Both operate outside the laws. Both have undercut the moral authority of the nations that sponsor them. For all of our complaints about America’s illegal and self-defeating actions, aren’t we doing the same thing? And for what? Kashmir is no more free today than it was before the lashkars were unleashed. In decades they have accomplished nothing but death.
There’s another part of this story that I think deserves an even closer look also. The author of the article in The News notes that “The idea that a personal army comprising soldiers-of-fortune will stay loyal in extremis may well be wishful thinking”.
This is something that our own experience is proving all too true. At Imran Khan’s dharna in Karachi there were SSP, LeJ and LeT flags flying. Surely this will get some sympathies from people fed up with drone strikes. But these groups also call Osama bin Laden as a martyr and murder innocent Pakistani citizens.
Outsourcing war is a self-defeating strategy for security. A man can keep rabid dogs in his home to keep thieves away, but eventually those same dogs will turn on him also.We may take the opinion that lashkars and militant groups are a necessary evil, but evil never produces any good. SSP flags flying at protests against drones send a strong message to the world that Pakistan tolerates extremism and murder of its own citizens. We lose any moral standing that we have to protest against violence when we march with perpetrators of violence. And while SSP will gladly march against American drones, tomorrow they will just as gladly kill some innocent Pakistani Muslims. Rabid dogs are in the house…