I have seen a lot hype in the press and on social media networks about the modern-day mercenary. The mainstream media uses the term ‘mercenary’ to describe anyone other than the military or press in conflict zones.

I find this to be slightly irritating, because there have been many changes to the ways in which wars are fought today. In this day and age, we see private military contractors (PMCs), risk-management consultants, and the new trade of volunteer soldiers on the battlefield. Now, in some shape or form, all of these have a place in the modern conflict zone. PMCs are brought in to provide security, work as armed guards, provide close protection, and to train host-nation forces. The same applies to risk-management firms now, from what I can see, and this hardly means they should be branded with the title ‘mercenary.’

They are there providing security services to a client. It is no different from a security company here in the UK or U.S. providing security services to a client based in their home country. If not, then the security guard standing in my local shopping store is a mercenary, but from look of him I highly doubt that.

So why do we brand them with this “merc” tag like we did during the gold rush days of Iraq in 2003-2009? Back then, PMCs were brought in to fill a vacuum for the U.S. government, but even then, we’re not talking about direct operations. They were brought in to conduct security services for the government by providing things like close protection, static security guards, and convoy protection. All of these same services can be hired in the U.S. or the UK from a security provider.

So what’s the difference other than that they were armed? So, some guys were dressed for full combat operations while standing at a gate inside of the green zone. Some guys might have gotten into some firefights while defending the building they were assigned to protect. That’s good; they were doing the job that they were hired to do. This does not make them a mercenary; they are professionals providing services to a client. It is not like they were taking part in direct-action raids and hunting down high-value targets on their own. So why don’t we drop the dogma around PMCs? They aren’t mercenaries, let’s call them what they really are: security guards with guns.

The future of PMCs

The future for PMCs will be very different than what we have seen in the past. Just take a look right now at the state of the world: The Middle East is a wreck, Europe is destabilizing with conflict on its doorstep via Ukraine, and Africa is Africa—still with all sorts of problems, from drugs to terrorism to other large-scale conflicts. Meanwhile, the three major world powers (America, Russia, and China) are standing off with each other, and North Korea still poses a threat. The question is, what about the little guys that still need our government’s support to help stabilize their countries? There is no way that our governments can continue to support all the countries out there with military assistance, so they will have no choice but to turn to PMCs for help.

We need to stop looking at this as a bad thing and realize that PMCs can contribute a lot more to our global efforts and can offer a helping hand when we need it the most. There are guys out there and companies that would be willing to utilize their knowledge and deploy their personnel to places like Syria, Iraq, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Nigeria to conduct direct operations against terrorist organizations.