There is nothing novel about mercenary soldiering. As a profession it vies with prostitution as the world’s oldest and, for most of the last hundred years or so, it has been no more respectable. Condemned by governments and international organisations such as the UN, mercenaries appeared to be in a slow decline. But the end of the Cold War in the last decade of the twentieth century brought about a resurgence in mercenary activity, in the form of ‘Private Military Companies’ (PMCs) like Blackwater and Aegis, and it is this phenomenon that journalist Stephen Armstrong examines in War PLC.
The first stirrings of this new industry actually emerged in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when Western intelligence services began to recruit entrepreneurial (and generally right-wing) ex-soldiers to run limited military operations in countries like the Yemen, the Congo and Angola. These small-scale, deniable, ‘back of a fag packet’