Top positive review
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Don't be fooled by the main title - this is a serious work
on 8 February 2011
Written by a very experienced, top journalist, this volume has all the hallmarks of a thoroughly researched subject.
Starting with a general overview of the activities of the hired soldier, Tony Geraghty quickly covers in matter-of-fact style, mercenary activity in the post colonial, African continent of 1960 onwards, middle east action in the 1970's, and South/Central American activity thereafter. Iraq up to the new millenium is considered, along with the requirement to find future international agreement on curbing some of the worst excesses of private military activities. Drawing on his inside acquaintance with British members of the private military community, most of the events covered are those involving predominant, or exclusive British involvement. The book is likely to appeal primarily to members of the military, retired soldiers, and, perhaps, those considering a change of occupation to PSC operative (primarily non-combatant roles, such as security advice, hostage negotiation, etc.), or PMC operative (Private Military Company (usually armed protection, military advisers, and even battlefield soldiers).
For those too young to remember the sixties and seventies, some of the names and events may seem like dusty history; but for those of us who remember the contemporary media accounts of massacres and mutilations, this book will remind us of some harrowing times. Those who are more sensitive, could find some of the matter of fact descriptions of atrocities quite disturbing.
For me, what makes this book fascinating is not mercenary involvement in large, set-piece battles, but their place in the complexities of the modern geopolitical scene. Where governments are politically sensitive to the costs, both in warriors' lives and their equipment, the use of Private Military Companies to augment the activity of regular forces, is a convenient, lower profile method of protecting national interests. Also of interest, and perhaps more controversial, is Mr Geraghty's frank examination of the concept of the "deniable warrior" - allowing governments to intervene in security situations for their own benefit, whilst being able to deny involvement plausibly, where overt action is polictically unacceptable or inexpedient.
Perhaps most disturbing, is the past record of western governments in use of the deniable warrior, to destabilise regimes of which they disapproved. It is salutary to remember that the role of the military is not to exercise political power, but to defend, and project force, on behalf of the legitimate government. Thus, a nation's armed forces, both visible and deniable, exist to act on behalf of you and me.