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Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Etymology 


Max Boot:

Mercenaries used to dominate warfare. The "Hessians" who served Britain in our War for Independence (many were actually from other German states) became notorious among the colonists, but foreigners formed a major part of every army in the world until the French Revolution. Their outlook was pithily expressed by a 17th-century soldier who said: "We serve our master honestly, it is no matter what master we serve."

And they did provide good service. It was thanks largely to "free lances" (the origin of that now common term) that absolute monarchs managed to consolidate their power in Europe and carve out vast overseas empires. Private entities like the Dutch and English East India Companies even marshaled their own armies and navies to defend their domains.

If you have access to the Wall Street Journal on line or in hard copy, read the whole thing. Otherwise, live for the day when you can accuse a "freelance" journalist of being "just another mercenary," and come back later for a more detailed discussion of Boot's recommendation that we send a force of mercenaries to police Darfur.

7 Comments:

By Blogger Dan Trabue, at Wed Oct 25, 11:19:00 PM:

I almost hate to point this out seeing how it only serves to make some folk angry at me, but hiring mercenaries is against our laws. Or so it seems to this non-lawyer...

In the Protocol Additional to the Geneva Conventions (GC) of 12 August
1949 and the Protection of Victims of International Armed Conflicts (Protocol I), 8 June 1977 it is stated:

Art 47. Mercenaries

1. A mercenary shall not have the right to be a combatant or a prisoner of war...  

By Blogger GreenmanTim, at Wed Oct 25, 11:29:00 PM:

Dan, it is my understanding that the US is actually not a signatory to the Protocol Additional GC 1977 (APGC77). Wikipedia, at least, seems to support this interpretation.  

By Blogger Final Historian, at Thu Oct 26, 02:57:00 AM:

I am surprised you brought up mercenaries without mentioning letters of marque and reprisal.  

By Blogger DEC, at Thu Oct 26, 03:35:00 AM:

It is time for people in this world to take responsibility for their own lives.

The most annoying things about the movie "Hotel Rwanda" were all the people running around, saying, "Save me, save me, save me."

Save yourself. On this planet you are either predator or prey. Make your choice.  

By Blogger TigerHawk, at Thu Oct 26, 06:23:00 AM:

FH,

Good catch. Arguably, privateers bearing letters of marque are worse than mere mercenaries, since they are after booty, yet our Constitution clearly authorizes their use.  

By Blogger skipsailing, at Thu Oct 26, 02:07:00 PM:

Letters of Marque have a long and glorious history. In my opinion England would now be a catholic country absent the daring sailors who harried the Spanish treasure ships.

As for the modern version of mercenaries, it is my understanding that many Americans act as mercenaries all over the world.

The impression I got from Kaplan's "Imperial Grunts" is that most UN officials who want real security hire Americans.

Further, I recall video footage of some blackwatch guys whacking mahdi army members during Najaf I. Perhaps they were in the employ of the Liberians or something?

somebody should investigate!  

By Blogger Dawnfire82, at Thu Oct 26, 09:27:00 PM:

"Good catch. Arguably, privateers bearing letters of marque are worse than mere mercenaries, since they are after booty, yet our Constitution clearly authorizes their use."

Bah. They are authorized to keep the booty they seize because they are not paid by the issuing government. It's not conceptually different from fighting for a salary.  

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