In the aftermath of 9/11, the bread and butter of the defense industry shifted in many ways from focusing on big-ticket Cold War items like tanks and fighter jets to the world of counterterrorism and counterinsurgency. With this new paradigm came waves and waves of self-appointed experts, clueless academics, and hucksters trying to sell crap to the Department of Defense. This trend continues to this day, although it has been shifting into the even more nebulous area of cybersecurity, which is even better for contractors given that the 60-year-old men who run the Pentagon don’t know anything about computers. The situation is so bad in the Department of Defense that when you come across an “expert” who dubs themselves a COINista, you should run, not walk, away. These folks are the reason why we are fighting the same war today that we were fighting in Afghanistan 16 years ago.
One person who I always appreciated for having an actual track record of success is Eeben Barlow. Having served in the South African Defense Forces as a sapper in the Infantry and Special Operations, Barlow went on to found a private military company called Executive Outcomes. EO beat back UNITA in Angola for the democratically elected government before driving the barbarous Revolutionary United Front to their knees in Sierra Leone. Today, Barlow serves as the chairman of STTEP, a PMC that took the fight directly to Boko Haram. Oddly, the United States government puts pressure on the host governments to remove Barlow’s people just as they begin experiencing success in defeating anti-government forces.
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