Mercs in Iraq

The Iraqi army we trained is totally useless – training doesn’t impart motivation. Not our kind of training, anyhow. So how  should the Iraqi government deal with the Islamic State?

The obvious answer is mercenaries, many of which already know Iraq pretty well.  The Iraqi government has sufficient oil revenues to pay the sort of force I’m thinking of; at least they would if they could just moderate the corruption for a while.  You’d want to hire the better sort of merc as far as you could – ex-US and British. Avoid bottom-feeders like Colombians.

Although ISIS is far more effective than the Iraqi  Army, they’re far less competent than any Western army. They have plenty of enthusiasm, but so did the Dervishes at Omdurman. It’s not enough.

Of course the Iraqi government hates Blackwater types (who doesn’t?) , and might well stab them in the back after they take care of the the enemy. Still, I think that they could take care of themselves.

Ten Thousand should be enough for the job.



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46 Responses to Mercs in Iraq

  1. MawBTS says:

    They have plenty of enthusiasm, but so did the Dervishes at Omdurman.

    So did the folk who took part in the Peasants’ Crusade. It seems that aspiring martyrs are the only people guaranteed to get what they want in war.

    Where do Chechen mercenaries stand in the pecking order? Would the type deployed in Ukraine be a good match for ISIS?

    • Dale says:

      Heh. I saw vague hints in the local fishwrap that mercs had been imported to Nigeria, and the sudden success against Boko Haram pointed that way too. But I’d not seen an actual news report about it.

  2. dearieme says:

    Yeah, and if the ten thousand get let down in Iraq, they can always march across the mountains and make their escape by the Black Sea.

  3. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

  4. Bla says:

    Θ̶ά̶λ̶α̶τ̶τ̶α̶!̶ ̶θ̶ά̶λ̶α̶τ̶τ̶α̶!̶ Kuwait! Kuwait!

  5. I heard a wonderful addition to college athletics and a way to get topnotch mercenaries dirt cheap. At least a hell of a lot cheaper than what is paid to the blackwater employees. Give each major college a crack mercenary unit complete with their college mascot. Put cameras on their helmets and make a reality TV show out of it. We can watch the Texas Longhorns kick the shit out of ISIS. Of course it would be propaganda, war news always is, but it would be effective propaganda, a very highly rated TV show that easily makes these camera equipped units pay for themselves. Damn near a first person shooter game in real life, which not incidentally, would become it’s very own recruiting tool allowing for only the best of the best to be in these elite units.

    You aren’t good enough to be a Texas Longhorn. You have to have an IQ over 130, run under a 4.7 40 yard dash, bench press 300 pounds, have perfect vision, and you can’t learn a new language in two years. Sorry. If 80 of the 127 division 1 football teams had their own company of mercs then you would have more than your required 10,000. Sign em up for 10 years and give them a free college education. Send home most of those useless soldiers sitting around one of our 662 military bases located in foreign countries. If mercs, drones, and stealth aircraft can’t handle the problem then let the bloody fools kill each other without our help.

    Of course since this makes sense it will never happen. Military intelligence has always been a contradiction in terms.

    • I imagine we could have wealthy alumni competing to outfit the best units, and then Colonels instead of coaches would be the highest paid public employees in each state.

      • We could keep score. We could gamble on which unit would kill the most bad guys and minimize casualties. Top killers could sign lucrative contracts to sell hiking boots, hunting rifles, snack food, you name it. “I couldn’t have killed all those terrorists without the help of little chocolate donuts.”

    • You’d probably get a good crop of Longhorns. But half the men and 10% of the women at A&M would be trying to go anywhere for Aggie glory. They are nuts.

    • R. says:

      Have you ever seen brain splatter in real life? Or four crispy-burnt corpses in a somewhat worse-to-wear BMW? Check out, has most of that.

      It’d not be popular. Films don’t show naturalistic violence for the same reason slaughterhouses do not offer paid tours.

  6. pyrrhus says:

    Problem is, mercenaries don’t want to get killed, which negates the getting paid part of the deal. ISIS now has so much US equipment, abandoned in two separate waves by our ghostly Iraqi “army”, that they can’t be regarded as a soft target any more…..What to do, what to do…..Robots!

    • R. says:

      ISIS is still Arabs, and can’t be better armed or trained than the Iraqi Republic Guard.

      So, professionals would not be at that big of a risk of getting killed.

      Mercs are expensive though, IIRC, an experienced frontline mercenary pay is $400 a day. Per 10K. that’s $4 million a day just on pay.

  7. Martin says:

    The Iraqi government might want to get rid of ISIS, but the US government seems to want ISIS around to attack Assad.

    • Cpluskx says:

      Obama actually tried everything to not to attack Assad. He recognized Syria as Iranian sphere of influence to get a nuclear deal and maybe even make Iran a US partner. This won’t end up good.

  8. Whyvert says:

    “You’d want to hire the better sort of merc as far as you could – ex-US and British. Avoid bottom-feeders like Colombians.”
    About 300 aging South African mercs dealt with Boko Haram.
    Now, ISIS seems to be more of a challenge than Boko Haram, so it may need maybe 600 to do the job.

  9. ivvenalis says:

    I don’t know. I don’t think mercenaries would be effective at grinding through large, hostile cities like Ramadi or Mosul. They would have kept ISIS out in the first place, though. Then again, so would the DoD, for free at that, and Iraqis were too dumb to take the deal. Probably, the winning strategy is to use militias full of young, dumb Shia youth to spill blood in the cities, accept that they’re going to get out of hand when it comes to bystanders. Mercs would probably work best to crack strongholds, patrol the border, on defense, or for occasional combined arms needs since both the Iraqi Army and Shia street gangs are too incompetent, for different reasons, to do any of those things.

    The Iraqi Army can truck the militias around and provide standoff attack capability (if they can. It takes the Iraqi Army six months to train a mortarman, something the US Army can do in three weeks). Anything that doesn’t require actual fighting.

    By the way, a comparison between the types of armies the US has been putting together overseas recently and the frequently-derided ARVN is highly alarming.

    • Part of requiring only 10,000 mercs world wide is an intelligent president who knows how and where to use them. We don’t have one, we haven’t had one, and I seriously doubt we will get one. But it is possible, if the voting public made the mistake and for once voted someone into office who isn’t like themselves but actually comprehends complex situations. If and when that lucky event should occur then 10,000 mercs could be used like a scalpel cutting out the malignant cancer.

      A very bright president using good intelligence (I’m dreaming) would avoid the no win civil war situations, this small number of mercs could work if used right, but of course they won’t be.

      Street to street inner city fighting isn’t a surgical merc success strategy, it won’t work. That is civil war stuff, you stay out of it. Kill the leaders directly, or combat the enemy from your strength, out in the country and at night using the amazing array of high tech weapons now available.

      Numbers you send into battle barely matter anymore. People (and presidents) don’t get that. Cochran does.

  10. G.M. says:

    I see what you Anabasis-ed there. Enjoyed you & HH’s book & your lectures over at hceconomics. Thanks & regards, G.M.

  11. tanabear says:

    “Ten Thousand should be enough for the job.”

    Wasn’t that the same number of Greek mercenaries hired by Cyrus the Younger to overthrow his older brother Artaxerxes, King of the Persian Empire, in 401BC? It probably would have worked had Cyrus not gotten himself killed at Cunaxa.

    History repeats itself.

  12. Jaim Jota says:

    Expatriates are expensive. To put in the field Ten Thousand battle experienced soldiers (Brits, South Africans, Americans) will cost you 1.2 billion US dollars in advance, and about Irak1 billion annual operational costs. Iraq’s sole income is from sale of oil, and that money is disputed by the existing army, the government bureaucracy, food subsidies, etc. There are already several security contractors operating in the area and they are trying to sell their services all the time, and if they are not hired is for financial and other reasons. One of the reasons is that the potential employer, the government in Baghdad, has already given up half of the country (the oil-less half, of course). One thing we learn from Anabasis (“Going Up”) is that the Greeks won the battle they were hired for without even one casualty, yet half of them died in the “Going Down”, the escape from Persia.

  13. Sam says:

    You will be amazed how effective mercenaries from sub-Saharan Africa can be. Ask the Libyans. Before NATO began bombing Gaddafi’s government positions, his hired mercenaries were kicking the shit out of the militia that has risen against him. Things only started going downhill (militarily) when NATO started bombing.

  14. JB says:

    At first I thought this was a guest post by Victor Davis Hanson but then I realized he would have wrecked it by going on for another three sentences to explain the reference.

  15. Jim says:

    Japan is highly dependent on Mideast oil but the Japanese don’t seem to care who controls this or that tract of Middle Eastern real estate or which brutal dictator is ruling over this or that Middle Eastern hellhole. Why do we?

    • 1) selfish reasons. without military dominance or threat thereof how many more oil grabs like the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait in 1990 would there have been.

      2)humane reasons. pirates, bandits, warlords, crazy religious fanatics, and narcos really really suck to have living around you and they need to be checked.

      Cochran is proposing a means that is cost effective.

      • Jim says:

        The Japanese didn’t seem to care who controlled the Kuwaiti oilfields. Wouldn’t it be easier for the US to take over the Venezuelan oilfields rather than those of the Middle East? Or we could just annex Norway and make it the 51st state. They only have a population of 5 million.

        • Jim says:

          Brunei has a population of less than 500,000. Taking it over should be a genuine cakewalk.

        • Erik says:

          I think saying “only 5 million” overlooks some important factors. Oslo, the capital of Norway, lies on the south coast of Norway and is nonetheless north of the entirety of Ontario. You’re talking about a country whose warm end is roughly level with Kodiak, Alaska. And then it gets worse as you go north and inland and hit the Jotunheimen mountains, whose name translates roughly as “home of the frost giants” with good reason. One does not simply annex a frozen mountainous waste where the natives have a million hiding spots, day and night can be months long, and the weather piles up snowdrifts big enough to hide houses.

          • Jim says:

            Erik – If you are Norwegian, I was only joking. I love Norwegians! Trying to take over Norway probably isn’t such a good idea but trying to rule the Middle East isn’t much better. But Brunei – surely we could conquer Brunei? Now somebody from Brunei will tell me that any US invasion of Brunei is doomed to total destruction.

          • Like Alaska??? Isn’t Oslo average January temperature abover zero?

  16. Flinders Petrie says:

    They’d probably need to be backed up by about 20,000 Persians.

  17. IC says:

    Swiss mercenaries were famous historically. For right amount of money, they might do it again.

    At end, it is just one of high risk jobs which follows market of supply/demand for the correct price tag.

  18. Martin says:

    The mercs should do well in Shiite areas fighting ISIS, but they might have a tougher time in the Sunni areas. The Rhodesians did well fighting the ZANU militants when they had intelligence and cooperation from the rural blecks. But the ZANU militants eventually worked over the rural black population and their cooperation with the Rhodesian government dried up. Subsequently the Rhodesians had a tougher time with the ZANU.

  19. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    OT, but I found Nikolay’s Genetic Lessons on Youtube. He’s a bit more Putinesque than Greg or Henry.

  20. Fourth doorman of the apocalypse says:

    Would 10,000 be enough to deal with this guy who says:

    Evolution does not apply to modern humans

  21. Jay1 says:

    o/t: Greg, do you have anything to comment about the latest Toxoplasma gondii study?

    “Having pet cats can make your children stupid, scientists warn”

  22. ohwilleke says:

    The bigger problem is that we haven’t offered Sunni Arabs in Iraq a good alternative to ISIS. They don’t want to be ruled by chemical weapon mass killing Syria, or by Shiite/Iran dominated rump Iraq, but don’t have the votes to gain meaningful self-government in Iraq’s self-government.

    Shi’ite government troops, meanwhile, aren’t interested in shedding their blood for people who don’t want to be helped whom they have exiled from their own territory.

    If the alternative to ISIS were, for example, incorporation of ISIS territory into a Sunni Arab protectorate managed by the Sunni Arab King of Jordan, ISIS would have a much harder time maintaining backing (which is has, however reluctantly) from the locals.

  23. Pingback: Friday Night Fragments #32 – The Legionnaire

  24. SFC Ton says:

    Always interesting reading people discuss my profession when clearly most have no idea how it works.

    Chechens are the toughest version of hajjis to deal with but what would make us more effective then the DoD is rules of engagement. Yes we have them but at the same time they are old school and realistic vs what our active duty brothers deal with

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