PMCs and NGOs

Two quick notes. First, Adam at Simulated Laughter posted on PMCs and NGOs last week. I responded, as did Shane Deichman (in Adam’s comments here). Adam’s follow up pulled together my comments, as any good reporter would, in this post and asked me to clarify a point.

…And abuses in wartime are inevitable, either by UN blue helmets or Blackwater polo shirts. The difference, though, is that the UN has an established brand as an multilateral institution that largely insulates it from lasting public criticism, something neither NGOs or PMCs will be able to call on.

In the middle, I disagree with Adam’s blanket statement that “organizational cultures, motivations, and priorities of PMCs and NGOs, are also strikingly different.” If you want to make a buck, don’t start a PMC, start an NGO, fewer people are shooting at you and the profit margins are greater and you’ll be the subject of many cocktail conversations and enjoy side benefits.”

Given that the sentence that immediately follows seems to prove my point (different motivations and organizational cultures), it would be helpful if Mountainrunner could clarify his point.

To clarify, Adam read too much into my suggestion that one start an NGO for profit and fun instead of a PMC. The organizational culture is remarkably similar, as is the quest to do good. There will be profit seekers in both, but my comment highlighted that NGO “profit” margins are greater and being a part of an NGO makes for better conversation. The base motivation is similar if expressed through different paths to end up at the same geographic place with the same thought of helping somebody.

To add to this, I agree with Adam’s point that the UN has established a brand that helps insulate it against “lasting public criticism”, but that is immaterial except that it means the UN may be less motivated to prevent bad things from happening than money driven NGOs and PMCs. There’s always a different NGO and PMC willing to accept your money…

The second quick note is a response to Wiggins:

Adam’s doing important work pushing the ball forward on one of the tricky puzzles of SysAdmin work. While Matt’s argument against arming NGOs or providing them with armed escorts makes sense, I’m curious what responses he thinks NGOs ought to taken, given the observed motives for anti-NGO violence. A more indirect approach, perhaps, relying more heavily upon legitimacy and the moral force of non-violence?

I think peacekeeping and peacemaking operations should be more effective, which means both better manpower and more of it, as well as stronger international support. Holding hands and signing songs as you march into village won’t work, regardless of any blessing by Bishop Tutu, the Dali Lama, the Pope, or the Security Council. It’s less about legitimacy than about effectiveness. Legitimacy w/out effectiveness is a waste of everyone’s time and simply results in more death and probably more enjoyment in the killing by the killers.

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