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Debate: Private Security Contractors

Council on Foreign Relations

Discussants: Doug Brooks
Erica Razook

Updated: December 13, 2007

The use of private security contractors in war zones has come under intense scrutiny since guards from U.S.-based Blackwater Worldwide killed seventeen Iraqis in Baghdad in September 2007. U.S. officials and supporters have argued private firms are necessary to conduct some non-military security missions, while critics contend legal loopholes make contractors unaccountable.

Doug Brooks, president of the International Peace Operations Association (IPOA), which represents security firms, and Erica Razook, a legal fellow for the Business and Human Rights Program at Amnesty International USA, debate the practical and legal issues surrounding the privatization of war zone security.

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December 13, 2007

Doug Brooks

When I make the conceptual point that we “want” the private sector working in peace and stability operations I speak as someone who visits these places and has witnessed the irreplaceable value private firms offer. But oddly left out of your response was any mention of international peace operations at all. If someone is going to imply the private sector is not necessary, they should articulate realistic alternatives. Otherwise they are condemning international peace and stability operations to certain failure—with all the humanitarian implications.

The Pentagon terms operations in conflict and post-conflict environments as “complex contingency operations” or CCO’s - for good reason. Obstacles and problems are inevitable, and are not limited to the private sector. Governments, militaries and even NGOs frequently face accusations of improprieties, corruption and crimes—real and exaggerated. No one should have impunity, especially in CCOs where populations are particularly vulnerable. IPOA was formed to ensure professional and ethical private sector support to international peace operations and ensuring effective legal structures has been a central focus. Ultimately good oversight and accountability only benefits our industry and companies are regularly held accountable financially and contractually although it rarely makes headlines.

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Copyright 2007 by the Council on Foreign Relations. This material is republished on with specific permission from the Reprint and republication queries for this article should be directed to

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