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

March 3, 2015 - 3:30 pm

1030 15th Street, NW, 12th Floor (West Tower)
Washington, DC
The Modern Mercenary: 
Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order

Remarks by:
Dr. Sean McFate
Senior Fellow, Africa Center 
Atlantic Council

A discussion with:
GEN Carter Ham, USA (Ret.)
Former Commander
US Africa Command

Mark Mazzetti
National Security Correspondent
The New York Times
The Way of the Knife

Moderated by:
J. Peter Pham
Director, Africa Center
Atlantic Council

Contractors are indispensable to modern war, and yet, little is known about the industry’s structure, operations, and future. Typically led by ex-military men, contractor firms are by their very nature secretive; even the US government—the entity that usually pays them—knows relatively little.

In The Modern Mercenary, Africa Center Senior Fellow 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 US Army paratrooper and private military contractor, McFate provides perspective into the nuts and bolts of the industry.

McFate’s book 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.

In its review of the book, the Economist called The Modern Mercenary“fascinating and disturbing… The worrying trends [McFate] describes makes this book a powerful call to arms to those who do not want a world awash with mercenaries.” ADM James Stavridis, USN (Ret.), former Supreme Allied Commander at NATO, added that “McFate helps us understand this complex world beyond the cartoon criticisms and film-inspired lore to see both the obvious dangers and the potential benefits provided by a shadowy industry.” 

Please join the Atlantic Council on Tuesday, March 3 for a discussion of this new security landscape, its historical origins, and what it means for the future of war. 

Sean McFate discusses the growing role of private security contractors in an interview with the New Atlanticist. Read here:‘Boom Time’ for Private Security Contractors.

DATE:              Tuesday, March 3, 2015

TIME:                3:30 p.m. - 5:00 p.m.

LOCATION:        Atlantic Council
                        1030 15th St. NW, 12th Floor
                        Washington, DC 20005

This event is on-the-record and open for press coverage; members of the media should contact to register.