The Value of Going Home

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CW’s blog, the Daily Timewaster carried this piece yesterday: La Légion étrangère Arabian. To cut to the chase, the New York Times reported that Eric Prince, founder of Blackwater, is organizing an 800 member mercenary force for the UAE. There have been a number of mercenary armies stretching back in antiquity to the Middle Ages, the Roman Legions, Ancient Persia, etc. It’s a proven formula for small rich nations with citizens who are too few or who lack motivation to fight for their national interests. The UAE and the oil nations of the Middle East all fit that category. 
Moving on, there are problems with this for US Citizens. Sure, you may lose your citizenship for fighting with a foreign army. That’s problem number one. Problem number two is how America views “civil rights abuses”. Middle Eastern sheikdoms have no problems with torturing or executing prisoners summarily. They stone women on the accusation of adultery. Americans who are even involved remotely with that (officers at a distant location) can be tried and convicted in the United States for the conduct of foreign soldiers under their command.  So while it may sound appealing to some of us, with more balls than brains, you simply can’t ever go home once you do this sort of thing. For many people, there’s not much of a home to go back to and you find your new home in the company of men who “live by chance, love by choice and kill by profession”.
I’m not saying that it’s an intrinsically bad life, though there is an expiration date — it’s a young man’s game. The pay is exceptional, you work out, shoot and train most of the day and there are vacations. You just may not be able to take them back home in the USA.
I saw The Gunman, a French movie staring Sean Penn, now in theaters. Yesterday began the weekend. Since I have no life, I had time on my hands and went there to pass the time. The theme of the film, as with all French movies is that “life is shit”. I don’t recommend it. Wait for it to come out on cable in two months or something. However, Penn’s character is somewhat emblematic of what you can get yourself into. The film over dramatized it by about 8,000%. But if you see the movie, you’ll take my point.

My personal sensibilities don’t include voluntarily being a pawn of an Arab state or hireling of a sheik, though various presidents have made Americans into that beginning (in my experience) with George H. Bush and Gulf War One. USGOV indentured me and mine as servants of the Al Sabah government in Kuwait, on loan from the American government. We did our duty. But I understood what the situation was from the outset — not unlike the Hessians being sold by the King or Prussia to King George III to go and fight in America. The difference was that as a serving American officer, I could go home when it was over.

After having been gone for some time, things at home had gone to hell in a hand basket in my personal life, but there is still value to going home. The consolation prize was one more gong (medal) to stack with a series of baubles of the same style in my drawer, in a box, now collecting dust.

There are a lot of issues with oil, gold, the Middle East and there are wheels within wheels within wheels…large cogs and small ones. And it’s easy to be ground to dust by the gears of war. Would be mercenaries need to keep all of those things in mind.

12 thoughts on “The Value of Going Home

  1. I had a friend – someone whose face I can see in my mind's eye but whose name has flown – who was killed in Africa. He was guarding some useless local prince (whatever) and, in an effort to save, him was killed and eaten by the locals. He was, at that time, with what was generally known as "Gurka Inc." Very nice chap; knew all the Soldier of Fortune guys.

    No body for the family to bury; all eat up, you know.

  2. But we know people who will go. The adrenalin junkies, the ones that want/need the big paycheck, the power trippers… It's been the same since time immemorial…

  3. One reason I could never be a mercenary (besides being chicken shit) is you will never be able to trust anyone, anywhere, anytime. They are paid to kill and you maybe in a bad need of killing by some deep pocket who decided he/she didn't like what you did or said. Meat a buddy, have a drink, a few laughs and he slaps you on the back with a knife in his hand.

  4. Indentured to a sheikh? Good luck with that… then again, being a servant of the Imam in the White House can't be much fun either.

  5. Being away from home will do that. Glad things are good with your daughters. After I retired in 1998 I turned down a opportunity to train cops in (choice of shit hole here) and stayed home. Glad I did.

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