Sunday, April 23, 2006

Harvard scholar says Blackwater may have Darfur solution

A scholar at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government writes in the Boston Globe that Blackwater USA might have the solution to the human tragedy in Darfur.

The scholar, Rebecca Ulam Weiner, discusses the failure of the African Union, NATO and the United Nations to help bring an end to the Darfur horrors and other atrocities in Africa. She argues that private military companies are right for the job - but those she interviews say that world leaders don't have the political will.

"There's little question that companies like Blackwater could be more effective operationally than the African Union, which has been hampered by its peacekeepers' lack of command and control experience. Private military companies boast a roster of former special forces officers and law enforcement officers who are accustomed to volatile conflict and post-conflict areas like Sudan," Weiner says.

"Blackwater also subjects all of its personnel to an impressive array of extra training-whether they're training to work in Baghdad or the firm's North Carolina headquarters. They take classes in international humanitarian law, leadership, ethics, regional awareness, and ''customs and traditions.' They've recently approached Amnesty International about teaching human rights education classes. And the International Peace Operations Association [IPOA] boasts that its code of conduct was written by human rights lawyers.

"The industry also claims that it's far cheaper than its multilateral or military counterparts. ''We offer the ability to create a right-sized solution-which creates a cost savings right off the bat,' says Taylor. By contrast, [IPOA President Doug] Brooks notes, ''NATO is insanely expensive; it's not a cost-effective organization. Neither is the [African Union]. Private companies would be much, much cheaper. When we compared their costs to most UN operations, we came up with 10 to 20 percent of what the UN would normally charge.'"