Mercenary (Private Armies)

Since there are standing armies, there are also mercenaries who for sufficient pay in the service of foreign masters and countries for a certain period of time occur. The reputation of the mercenaries has not changed much since ancient times, but even today they are under another guise, find and are used.



Article 47 of the first Additional Protocol of 1977 to the Geneva Convention of 12 August 1949 on the Protection of Victims of Internationally Armed Conflicts contains the following definition of mercenary:

Being a mercenary

  1. who is recruited domestically or abroad for the special purpose of fighting in an armed conflict,
  2. who actually participates directly in hostilities,
  3. whoever participates in hostilities, principally out of pursuit of personal gain, and who has actually obtained from him or on behalf of a party to the conflict the promise of material compensation far greater than that of the combatants of that party in comparable rank and function promised or paid remuneration,
  4. who is neither a national of a party to the conflict nor resident in an area controlled by a party to the conflict,
  5. who is not a member of the armed forces of a party to the conflict and
  6. anyone not officially dispatched by a non-conflicting State as a member of its armed forces.

Article 1 (1) of the Convention on the Elimination of Mercenary Affairs in Africa provides a nearly identical definition. But this convention has only regional significance.



Mercenaries under the law of war:

According to international martial law, mercenaries are not considered persons entitled to war, such as Correspondingly, regular soldiers are not considered or subject to the special treatment of prisoners of war, but as civilians who have illegally participated in an armed conflict, they can be brought before an international court and severely punished.

In some countries, mercenary service is even punishable. Thus, in the case of a conviction, e.g. Mercenaries are deprived of nationality in Austria, Switzerland or Germany.



Mercenaries through the ages:

Mercenaries have been around since antiquity. These were extremely popular with the then rulers, as the mercenaries already had military experience and brought their own weapons and equipment. In addition, mercenary armies were in the long term cheaper than a standing army to maintain. So underwent in the 6th century BC. under Cyrus the Persian cavalry of Iranian mercenaries. In the 3rd century BC. Celtic mercenaries served the Ptolemies in Egypt or even rulers of Asia Minor.

Whole armies also formed the Vikings, which reached the Byzantine Empire via the waterways. In the 10th century they formed the Varangian Guard with several thousand men. Turkish warlords also offered their services to Islamic rulers at this time.

From the 14th to the 17th century, in addition to national armies, private companies providing military services emerged in Europe over time. Some mercenaries specialized, for example alongside the Swiss pikemen, the German mercenaries.



Deutscher Landsknecht mit Kommandeur

German Landsknecht with commander



In the 19th century, mercenary activities shifted mainly to the regions of Latin America and China, where European and North American specialists were needed.

In the 20th century, however, mercenaries were mainly in use on the African continent. These were also used there by the Western governments in the fight against communism or guarding the gold and diamond mines.



Today's mercenaries:

In 1989, a resolution was adopted by the UN against the general mercenary system. In October 2001, this resolution came into force prohibiting the use of so-called private military companies. As a result, these companies re-formed as security companies and were once again involved in armed conflicts, albeit not actively engaged in combat operations, but primarily in property and personal protection. One of the best known companies is e.g. the US company "Black Water".



Employee of the company Black Water


Employee of the company Black Water






You can find the right literature here:


The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order

The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order Reprint Edition

It was 2004, and Sean McFate had a mission in Burundi: to keep the president alive and prevent the country from spiraling into genocide, without anyone knowing that the United States was involved. The United States was, of course, involved, but only through McFate's employer, the military contractor DynCorp International. Throughout the world, similar scenarios are playing out daily. The United States can no longer go to war without contractors. Yet we don't know much about the industry's structure, its operations, or where it's heading. Typically led by ex-military men, contractor firms are by their very nature secretive. Even the U.S. government-the entity that actually pays them-knows relatively little.

In The Modern Mercenary, Sean McFate lays bare this opaque world, explaining the economic structure of the industry and showing in detail how firms operate on the ground. A former U.S. Army paratrooper and private military contractor, McFate provides an unparalleled perspective into the nuts and bolts of the industry, as well as a sobering prognosis for the future of war. While at present, the U.S. government and U.S. firms dominate the market, private military companies are emerging from other countries, and warlords and militias have restyled themselves as private security companies in places like Afghanistan and Somalia. To understand how the proliferation of private forces may influence international relations, McFate looks back to the European Middle Ages, when mercenaries were common and contract warfare the norm. He concludes that international relations in the twenty-first century may have more in common with the twelfth century than the twentieth. This "back to the future" situation, which he calls "neomedievalism," is not necessarily a negative condition, but it will produce a global system that contains rather than solves problems.

The Modern Mercenary is the first work that combines a broad-ranging theory of the phenomenon with an insider's understanding of what the world of the private military industry is actually like.

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Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry

Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry, Updated Edition (Cornell Studies in Security Affairs) Paperback – November 29, 2007

Some have claimed that'War is too important to be left to the generals,'but P. W. Singer asks'What about the business executives?'Breaking out of the guns-for-hire mold of traditional mercenaries, corporations now sell skills and services that until recently only state militaries possessed. Their products range from trained commando teams to strategic advice from generals.

This new'Privatized Military Industry'encompasses hundreds of companies, thousands of employees, and billions of dollars in revenue. Whether as proxies or suppliers, such firms have participated in wars in Africa, Asia, the Balkans, and Latin America. More recently, they have become a key element in U.S. military operations. Private corporations working for profit now sway the course of national and international conflict, but the consequences have been little explored.

In this book, Singer provides the first account of the military services industry and its broader implications. Corporate Warriors includes a description of how the business works, as well as portraits of each of the basic types of companies: military providers that offer troops for tactical operations; military consultants that supply expert advice and training; and military support companies that sell logistics, intelligence, and engineering.

The privatization of warfare allows startling new capabilities and efficiencies in the ways that war is carried out. At the same time, however, Singer finds that the entrance of the profit motive onto the battlefield raises a series of troubling questions'for democracy, for ethics, for management, for human rights, and for national security.

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Mercenaries: A Guide to Private Armies and Private Military Companies

Mercenaries: A Guide to Private Armies and Private Military Companies Revised ed. Edition

Mercenaries have been active in battle from the beginning of military history and, as private armies and military support firms, they are a major component of warfare today.  Security, military advice, training, logistics support, policing, technological expertise, intelligence, transportation―all are outsourced to a greater or lesser degree in the U.S. military.  However, privatization is not a uniquely American phenomenon.  Countries as diverse as Saudi Arabia and Australia rely on privatization in one form or another.  Historically, heads of state, politicians, and other administrators have justified use of mercenaries on the basis of their effectiveness, and cost-savings.  These reasons and others continue to serve as rationales for use of private military companies in military strategy.

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China's Private Army: Protecting the New Silk Road

China's Private Army: Protecting the New Silk Road Hardcover – December 17, 2017

This book illustrates the role that Private Security Companies (PSC) with ‘Chinese characteristics’ play in protecting people and property associated with the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI). The revival of the ancient Silk Road economic “belt,” combined with the 21st Century sea lanes of communication known as the “road,” is intended to enhance global connectivity and increase commercial activity. However, the socio-political risks associated with Chinese outbound direct investments are often overlooked. Terrorism, separatism, kidnapping and other risks are mostly new to Chinese companies, some of which are operating abroad for the first time. Economic globalization and the transnational exploitation of natural resources have increased the need for Chinese-owned PSCs in spite of the disdain for the profession of “a lance for hire.” Due to peculiar geo-strategic and geo-economic features, the “belt” from Central Asia to Pakistan and the “road” from the Somali coast to the Strait of Malacca are characterized by a high level of insecurity. This book’s focus on how the state’s monopoly of force privatization can play a significant role in protecting the New Silk Road will be of interest to policymakers, journalists, and academics.

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