Article Title

Beyond Accountability: The Constitutional, Democratic, and Strategic Problems with Privatizing War

Publication Title

Washington University Law Quarterly


This Article proceeds in six parts. I begin in Part II first by tracing the modern evolution of military privatization and next by discussing six contemporary case studies. Then, I attempt to locate some of the normative impulses motivating this new wave of privatization and to situate them within the broader pattern of American privatization policy; this last section serves to frame the principal conceptual differences between combat-related and more conventional forms of privatization, which will be important in understanding the unique structural harms introduced by decisions to outsource military responsibilities. In Part III, I commence with the inquiry’s critical analysis: understanding these structural harms. Then, in Part IV, I characterize how the introduction of private troops, either integrated into a larger contingent of U.S. military personnel or instructed to operate independently, creates considerable institutional harms, strategic liabilities, and morale problems. In Part V, the penultimate part, I discuss the international/diplomatic harms privatization engenders. Part VI concludes by first roughly sketching out a set of reform measures that might help to reduce the legal and symbolic status differentials between contractors and soldiers that underlie many of the manifest structural harms described above. Having proffered some reform proposals, I then consider which status disparities may prove the most difficult to eliminate. Finally, I discuss whether these reforms, if successful, might actually reduce, if not altogether destroy, military privatization’s raison d’etre.