Shadow Force

Private Security Contractors in Iraq

by David Isenberg


This work offers an examination of the role that private security and military contractors have played in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

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December 2008


Pages 264
Volumes 1
Size 6 1/8x9 1/4
Topics Military History/Conflict and Wars

From their limited use in China during World War II, for example, to their often clandestine use in Vietnam ferrying supplies before the war escalated in 1964 and 1965 when their role became more prominent-and public-private military contractors (PMCs) have played made essential contributions to the success and failures of the military and United States. Today, with an emphasis on force restructuring mandated by the Pentagon, the role of PMCs, and their impact on policy-making decisions is at an all time peak. This work analyzes that impact, focusing specifically on PMCs in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003. Isenberg dissects their responsibilities, the friction that exists between contractors and military commanders, problems of protocol and accountability, as well as the problems of regulation and control that PMC companies create for domestic politics.

Isenberg organizes his work thematically, addressing all facets of PMCs in the current conflict from identifying who the most influential companies are and how they got to that point, to the issues that the government, military, and contractors themselves face when they take the field. He also analyzes the problem of command, control, and accountability. It is no secret that PMCs have been the source of consternation and grief to American military commanders in the field. As they work to establish more routine protocols in the field, however, questions are also being raised about the role of the contractors here at home. The domestic political arena is perhaps the most crucial battleground on which the contractors must have success. After all, they make their corporate living off of taxpayer dollars, and as such, calls for regulation have resonated throughout Washington, D.C., growing louder as the profile of PMCs increases during the current conflict.

Series Description

Praeger Security International

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Table of Contents

AcknowledgmentsPrefaceChapter 1: Overview of the military issueChapter 2: PMCs in IraqChapter 3: The playersChapter 4: Control and Accountability at Abu GhraibChapter 5: Control and Accountability IssuesChapter 6: Conclusions



"As a careful, sober survey of PMCs, Shadow Force is a valuable contribution to the public debate about contracting...Isenberg's arguments are solid...His book should be on every activists' and researchers' shelf."

"Without significantly scaling back US geopolitical commitments or vastly expanding the US military, private military contractors will remain a part of the forces deployed in US military commitments, argues the author, who on that basis surveys the major issues and lessons concerning the operations of private military contractors in the US occupation of Iraq, focusing on private security contractors, such as Blackwater, more than contractors that serve logistical functions, such as KBR. He surveys the major players in the industry and then discusses issue of control and accountability, particularly in reference to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal, conflicts between contractors and military commanders, and the
problems of regulation and control in US domestic politics."Reference & Research Book News

". . . thoughtful and thorough analysis of the rise of PMCs as actors in modern conflicts. . . . Although much has been written about this topic, the balanced discussion provided by Isenberg is an essential read for those seeking to learn more about the role and implications of PMCs."Journal of Peace Research

"Isenberg provides a detailed overview of the local situation with striking precision and figures. First, he outlines the origin and path of what he calls the 're-emergence of an old phenomenon,' explaining the long-term U.S. policy of military outsourcing and its often controversial nature. The author then examines the consequences of such a strategy during Operation Iraqi Freedom."Journal of International Peace Operations


"David Isenberg has been a tireless chronicler of the birth, growth and rise of the private military phenomena. Shadow Force is a new addition to the must have list of books on the privatization of violence."—Robert Young Pelton, author of Licensed to Kill

"David Isenberg was among the very first serious researchers to recognize a unique industry among the many firms providing services to governments in conflict in post-conflict environments. While others dismissed the phenomenon or soon departed into populist conjecture, David grasped the history and recognized both the long-term value and sober implications of this maturing sector. His research and articles in the mid 1990s helped stimulate a cottage industry of scholastic and journalistic research on the topic-often more absurd than serious. No one else considers this topic with the same breadth of knowledge or rational understanding, and few are as good at discerning genuine areas of concern from great gobs of absurd speculation."—Doug Brooks, Founder and Director of the International Peace Operations Association

"They are not mercenaries and they are not soldiers. So what are they? That is the question increasing numbers of people, both government officials and the general public, have been asking since the United States invaded Iraq. In this book David Isenberg, one of the earliest and most perceptive observers of the private security contracting industry explains who is operating in Iraq, their benefits and liabilities, and their impact both nationally and globally. If you have to read just one book on the subject make it this one."—Lawrence J. Korb, Senior Fellow, Center for American Progress, Senior Advisor, Center for Defense Information

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Other Titles of Interest

Never Will We Forget cover imageMilitary Occupations in the Age of Self-Determination cover imageIsrael and Syria cover image
To the Last Man cover imageIraq's Insurgency and the Road to Civil Conflict cover image

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