Ted Koppel: Time for U.S. to Form an "Army of Mercenaries"? By E&P Staff Published: May 21, 2006 12:05 AM ET NEW YORK Little known to the American public, there are some 50,000 private contractors in Iraq, providing support for the U.S. military, among other activities. So why not go all the way, hints Ted Koppel in a New York Times op-ed on Monday, and form a real "mercenary army"? Such a move involving what he calls "latter-day Hessians" would represent, he writes, "the inevitable response of a market economy to a host of seemingly intractable public policy and security problems." The issue is raised by our "over-extended military" and inability of the United Nations to form adequate peace forces. Meanwhile, Americans business interests grow ever more active abroad in dangerous spots. "Just as the all-volunteer military relieved the government of much of the political pressure that had accompanied the draft, so a rent-a-force, harnessing the privilege of every putative warrior to hire himself out for more than he could ever make in the direct service of Uncle Sam, might relieve us of an array of current political pressures," Koppel explains, tongue possibly in cheek. "So, if there are personnel shortages in the military (and with units in their second and third rotations into Iraq and Afghanistan, there are), then what's wrong with having civilian contractors? Expense is a possible issue; but a resumption of the draft would be significantly more controversial.... "So, what about the inevitable next step â a defensive military force paid for directly by the corporations that would most benefit from its protection? If, for example, an insurrection in Nigeria threatens that nation's ability to export oil (and it does), why not have Chevron or Exxon Mobil underwrite the dispatch of a battalion or two of mercenaries?" Koppel notes that Cofer Black, formerly a high-ranking C.I.A. officer and now a senior executive with Blackwater USA, "has publicly said that his company would be prepared to take on the Darfur account." He concludes: "The United States may not be about to subcontract out the actual fighting in the war on terrorism, but the growing role of security companies on behalf of a wide range of corporate interests is a harbinger of things to come."