Civilian Warriors: The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on terror
by Erik Prince
Published in 2013
Thibault’s Score: 3/5
The author, Erik Prince, is the CEO of America’s largest private security contractor / mercenary company that did business during the Iraq war. He is also a former Navy SEAL. He came under fire by the media, and eventually quit Blackwater, disbanding his company and pursuing other ventures.
He has remained a very controversial figure sense. Some view him as a merchant of blood, eager to grab some dollars from the government and enrich himself at the misery of others. Others see him as a man who used the private sector to provide a high quality service at a low cost.
When I saw him speak at various events and do interviews, I realized he was a deeply intelligent man with a very good explanation of what he does (despite his use of Bush-era newspeak). As part of my attempts to understand the modern state, I decided to naturally turn to his book.
The book’s casual writing style was a bit off-putting to me. I was expecting the book’s target audience to be policy wonks, not football watching red state voters. I also think that the book was ghostwritten. Instead, the book focuses on Erik Prince’s fascinating personal story. I enjoyed hearing about how he grew his business.
Many parts of the book made me feel very skeptical of Erik Prince’s story. For example, his appeal to his grandfather’s humble origins and his remarks about his dying wife appear as if they are designed to appeal to the emotionality of the readers.
I also found it suspect that there are no criticisms of the war in Iraq or its motives. Erik Prince likely witnesses incredible amounts of corruption during his time in the war, and it would have been great if he would have exposed the corruption.
That being said, Prince makes a strong case for private militaries. He gives many examples where he contrasts the efficiency of Blackwater with the slow bureaucracy of the army. For example, there was a shootout where some Coalition personnel was under heavy fire. The Coalition forces didn’t send in any support due to the risks involved. Instead, Prince authorized Blackwater to send in helicopters which rescued the trapped personnel. Reactions in the army were mixed: many officials were glad that Blackwater had saved their allies, but others were furious to discover that a group like Blackwater had grown so powerful.
Civilian Warriors is a powerful critique of the fiscally inefficient American war machine, and an excellent defense of the free enterprise system. Ultimately, however, it is also a propaganda book written by the least objective player in the space.
I recommend Civilian Warriors to people who are interested in either private security or Blackwater.
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