Having worn out my copy of Paul Balor's (aka Mitch Wer-Bell) seminal MANUAL OF THE MERCENARY SOLDIER, a text that I have been referencing within my own books and articles for the past quarter of a century (a book rarely more than five feet away from my desk), I tore into this book with a great deal of anticipation, perhaps unnervingly setting an all-time record for speeding reading. The haste did not disappoint me.
While definitely not as, say, "ground breaking" as Balor's book, this particular option should not disappoint anyone seeking information about the privatization of modern warfare (wars, incidentally, have always been privatized to a degree). That said, I personally cringe whenever the terms Mercenary and/or Soldier of Fortune are used today. The industrialization of war and private security, through PMC/PSCs, I feel, has abandoned the concept of the private soldier in exchange for simply another degree of bureaucratization. And this remains the distinction between Balor's original text and this latest entry into private soldiers penned by Mr. Davies.
First, for the benefit of the reader, permit me to outline the book's chapters:
1. Some friendly advice;
2. What a "Soldier of Fortune" Needs to Know;
3. The Enemy;
4. VIP and Personnel Protection;
5. Assessment, Assignments, and Contingencies;
6. Force Protection;
7. Maritime Protection;
8. Weaponry and Equipment;
9. Know When to Get Out (and Know When to Run);
10. PMC Medic.
This remains a decent and well-illustrated book that should remain within any professional's library (in the words of Balor, we are ALL very literate within this particular field). That said, permit me to play Devil's advocate a bit and suggest some relatively minor faults within this book, as no decent review fails to consider criticism as well as support.
#1. On Page 63, Mr. Davies writes "...but I cannot understand why some people believe that their religion is superior to another. In the West, we tend to see the Islamic militant world as the enemy, but this is not so. I have visited many Islamic countries, and to be honest, their societies are little different from our own. Brunei, Malaysia, and Oman are just three examples of Muslim societies where I could happily live out the rest of my days. In the end it is down to the individual state and its people, not the religion."
At face value, the author is correct. However, he overlooks several fundamental problems with this analysis. First, religion - representing man's dealing with God, as opposed to politics, which represents man's dealing with other men - requires an adherent to believe that his or her faith remains superior to all other beliefs. Otherwise, we fall into collective progressivism. Second, as I pointed out within one of my own intelligence journal articles, it remains the "minority" of any particular ideology that remains true to the core doctrine. Compare, say, Islam with Roman Catholicism. Muhammad and Jesus ended their respective lives within diametrically opposed manners. Within a professional course on assassinations at my alma mater, we spent an entire week examining the assassinations carried out by or on orders of, Muhammad. Today, I would argue that the vast majority of Muslims do not adequately understand the violence of their faith's founder. In comparison, we could also argue that a similar percentage of Roman Catholics fail to understand their Church's doctrine (just consider how many "Catholics" support abortion, gay marriages, female priests, etc.). Mr. Davies singles out Brunei, Malaysia, and Oman, but I view these nations as more "Westernized" than traditional Muslim states. They are not Iran or Saudi Arabia. A minor complaint about the book, sure, but any professional soldier needs to understand the deepest aspects of any enemy that he is confronting. One must be a historian before he can remain a tactician.
#2. Paul Balor's book was about the professional soldier evolving into "something unique" that he could offer a client. Mr. Davies's book borders upon conventional PMC wisdom. That is, this particular book remains more about fitting into an existing team and understanding the technology that exists rather than understanding what might happen should one find himself within another primitive war. Again, a minor squabble, but we are threatening to dissipate the demarcation between "mercenary" and national soldier. As discussed within Balor's book, mercenaries continue to exist because the "Western Way" of war has always fallen short. PMCs are simply war bureaucratized through private means rather than political oversight.
#3. The inherent value of this book - its wide range of photographs and illustrations - serves to suggest that warfare will continue to be a high-tech industry. While basically true, there is the danger that a less-trained, mercenary-to-be will assume that being technologically fluent eases one's acceptance into the field. Again, the growth of PMCs and the massive influx of money hamper wars leading to little difference between, say the British or American Armies and private contractors such as Blackwater/Xe and others. Mercenaries did not aid the British outcome within the American Revolution and they are compounding the situation in Iraq today. Think of today being more "security provision" whereas past mercenaries actually fought "wars". A rose by any other name still bears thorns.
In conclusion, this book represents Paul Balor's work brought into the modern age. That cannot be bad or a waste of money. Add it to your professional library.
Author, SKILLS OF THE ASSASSIN: UNDERSTANDING THE TACTICS OF THE PROFESSIONAL KILLER