Billedet er hentet fra Bruger: (vhmh)

Private Military Companies

A new and different challenge to Just War Theory, or really not that special?


In 2005 more than 20.000 private military company (PMC) personnel[1] performed military functions in the Iraq War. In 2009 PMC personnel constituted the next largest group of armed personnel after the US army (Hedahl 2009:19). Modern mercenaries thus form a very large part of the reality of war, yet orthodox Just War theory (JWT) cannot adequately accommodate them. Although the US government employs most of the PMCs in Iraq, the Pentagon still does not keep track of ‘non-military casualties’, a category that includes PMC personnel. They are part of a grey area designated ‘unlawful combatants’ in international law and ‘non-state actors’ in orthodox JWT. Recently, different accounts have revised the orthodox JWT principles, allowing them to incorporate the reality of modern mercenaries.

     In this article I discuss these accounts, investigating whether PMCs are a true challenge to JWT. I conclude that the job of PMCs is neither morally wrong nor in contravention of the JWT and that by following a revisionist and individualist account it is possible to incorporate PMCs in JWT on an equal footing with other actors in war.

     In the first two sections I introduce some of the principles of the orthodox JWT, and present the privatization of military force. After that I discuss two objections to the use of PMCs, one from the principle of ‘right intention’, the other from the principle of ‘legitimate authority and declaration’. The latter objection raises the problem of the status of PMCs and PMC personnel and this will be dealt with in the final part of the article.

     The aim of the article is to deal only theoretically with the incorporation of PMCs in JWT. Contingent and empirical issues will thus largely be left out. This will undoubtedly strike some readers as rather convenient but, since the debate over PMCs tends to be quite heated and passionate, this theoretical approach seeks to weed the arguments and evaluate them on theoretical, rather than passionate, grounds. Furthermore, the theoretical approach is common in the JWT debate (e.g. Fabre 2009 and 2010; McMahan 2005), and hence this article is in agreement with that tradition.


Traditional Just War criteria

Walzer’s 1977 book Just and Unjust Wars is the modern foundation of just war thinking. Walzer’s aim is to investigate JWT and its application to modern wars, arguing that, though war sometimes is ‘worse than hell’, it is possible to formulate non-ideal moral norms for how and when to fight it. This is the central tenet in JWT. Certainly Walzer’s book has been much disputed but, since it continues to be, it may be considered a classic in just war thinking. For this reason I too will take Walzer’s principles as the point of departure, naming it the ‘orthodox’ field in JWT.

     The orthodox JWT distinguishes between just principles for going to war, ‘jus ad bellum’ (JAB) and principles for just means in war, ‘jus in bello’ (JIB). Only the principles I consider most relevant to the present discussion will be introduced in the following. The important JAB principles are: ‘just cause’, ‘legitimate authority and declaration’, and ‘right intention’ (Orend 2009:7-12). The first principle, ‘just cause’, is traditionally viewed as the most important JAB principle and what constitutes a just cause is widely held to be self-defence. The second principle, ‘legitimate authority and declaration’, requires that wars can only be legitimately declared by the appropriate authority, such as a democratic government, and must be done so publicly. The third principle, ‘right intention’, holds that the intention of war must be right, which is closely connected to the requirement of just cause – the intention must be to achieve the war’s just aim.

     The important JIB criteria are: ‘Discrimination and noncombatant immunity’ and ‘benevolent quarantine for prisoners of war (POWs)’ (ibid. 13-15). The principle of ‘discrimination and noncombatant immunity’ holds that only combatants can justifiably be targets of military action, and the principle of ‘benevolent quarantine for POW’s’ requires that prisoners who have surrendered not be killed or maimed and, furthermore, that their legal rights according to international law be secured.

     All the criteria have been debated and contested and, as already indicated, I intend to join the debate by discussing these principles in relation to PMCs. Furthermore, in addition to these JAB and JIB criteria, there have recently been discussions on internal JIB, which concerns the issue of how to treat one’s own citizens and military during the war (Orend 2009). That turns out to be of great importance to the relationship between JWT and PMCs, as I will discuss below.


Privatization of military force

The orthodox account of JWT does not explicitly deal with the use of PMCs, but recently the theorists P. W. Singer (2005), James Pattison (2008), and Céline Fabre (2010), amongst others, have done some work on the subject. This article will rely on their work as they each touch on important issues concerning the moral questions relating to PMCs.

     First and foremost it is important to define PMCs. Pattison uses the following definition: “Firms providing services outside their home states with the potential use of lethal force, as well as of training and advice to militaries that substantially affects their war-fighting capacities.” (Pattison 2008:144) This definition is quite narrow and excludes firms contributing to war by, e.g., maintaining military equipment. However, I will follow Pattison’s definition since it encompasses the purpose of the article and the common understanding of PMCs. The tasks for which PMCs are used are, plainly speaking, the tasks a national military force otherwise would have performed. And since PMCs engage in warfare, the moral rules of war ought to apply to them as well as to a national military force.

     There are, however, specific problems in the use of PMCs in relation to the JWT principles. I do not claim that the following list is exhaustive, but these issues strike me as especially important. The first problem relates to the principle of ‘right intention’, the second to the principle of ‘legitimate authority and declaration’, and the third to the problem of the status of PMCs and the PMC personnel in relation to warfare generally and JWT specifically. I will now turn to an investigation of these three issues.


Right intention

One of the critiques of PMCs and their personnel is that they lack a ‘right intention’ for going to war. This is the case since the PMCs themselves are profit-maximizing corporations, having a broadly financial goal, and the PMC personnel are said to take up tasks solely for the money (e.g. Pattison 2008:145). In other kinds of businesses this financial motive is not considered problematic, but some theorists argue that, since warfare includes inflicting harm upon others, a financial motivation is morally wrong (ibid.).

     The principle of ‘right intention’ is traditionally seen to be a JAB criterion, and thus it is a principle for the intention of resorting to war to begin with. Furthermore, in the orthodox account, JAB and JIB are clearly distinguished, leaving the responsibility for JAB to the politicians deciding to go to war, and JIB to the combatants fighting the war (Walzer 1977:38). If this orthodox account is true, then the criticism of PMCs and PMC personnel is clearly unwarranted, since neither PMCs nor their employees, to the best of our knowledge, have a say in the decision to resort to war.

     Recently, some theorists have rejected this total separation of JAB and JIB and Pattison (2008) seems to support this view. Pattison applies the criterion of ‘right intention’ also to those undertaking the war, arguing that their intention in doing so must be right, as well as the intention of those deciding to go to war. This is relevant since even when politicians initiate a war with the right intention, that of PMCs and PMC personnel as private contractors can differ significantly from that intention (Pattison 2008:149).

     If this revision of the JWT principles is correct, the principle of ‘right intention’ applies not only to the politicians initiating the war, but also to soldiers and PMCs and personnel undertaking the war. As a consequence of this revision, the criticism of PMCs and personnel not having a right intention also becomes important. This raises two questions. Firstly, whether a case can be made that a national army and its soldiers can claim superior ‘right intention’ for participation in war than PMCs and personnel and, secondly, whether PMCs and personnel have wrong intention.

     Following the orthodox formulation, ‘right intention’ is the intention of a state to fight the war solely for the sake of its just cause (Orend 2009:11). With Pattison’s revision, where this applies as a JIB criterion as well, this means that national armies and soldiers and PMCs and personnel engaged in war must have as their only intention the defence of its just cause.

     A just cause for war is widely agreed to be that of self-defence, and the question is now whether soldiers are more inclined toward that intention than PMC personnel. Walzer argues for a distinct military servitude, which is the professional call of self-defence, defending “rights that are worth dying for” (Walzer 1977:53). Military servitude is then the demand on a national army and its soldiers to protect their nation from aggression and readiness to sacrifice their lives for the rights of that nation. If Walzer is correct in this description, it appears that soldiers have right intention for going to war since self-defence is a just cause to secure; that this is the case is further confirmed by military theorists like Marcus Hedahl (2009) and William C. Latham (2009).

      Similarly, it can be argued that PMCs and personnel have right intention. Since PMC personnel are largely made up of former national army soldiers, it may well be the case that following an early retirement they wish to continue the work of protecting the rights of the nation (Fabre 2010:551), thereby securing a just cause and having a right intention. Furthermore, assuming that PMC personnel as employees in a private corporation have greater control over their working conditions than do national soldiers, it can be argued that they are in a better position to ensure participation only in wars with a just cause (ibid. 553). If that is the case, the likelihood that PMC personnel will fight with the right intention is in fact greater than that of national soldiers.

     This last point applies to PMCs themselves also since they, as private corporations, existing independently from the given state, have every opportunity to only offer their services in just wars. That stockholders in PMCs, as in other corporations, might be more interested in profit-maximizing strategies than in ethics would be a contingent matter, and it could also be the case that the two aims of profit maximization and ethical conduct could be perfectly coincident if states and other potential customers prefer PMCs with good reputations. It is then not the case that PMCs by definition engage in unjust wars.

     If one is still not convinced and suspect that basic financial motivation lurks beneath, it has been pointed out that individuals undertake all kinds of jobs motivated mostly by the financial gain (Fabre 2010:552). Furthermore, if a distinction can be made between ‘intention’ and ‘motivation’, PMCs’ and personnel’s motivation might be the financial gain, while they at the same time have the intention of defending a just cause.

     Thus, it is not clear by definition that PMCs and personnel lack right intention which national armies and soldiers possess. Rather, both can have right intention just as they can have wrong intention. It then seems a contingent issue to ensure that all people fighting a war do so with right intentions and that excluding the use of PMCs does not safeguard this principle.

     There are then good theoretical reasons to reject the criticism of PMCs with regard to the principle of ‘right intention’. I now turn to the criticism regarding the principle of ‘legitimate authority and declaration’.


Legitimate authority and declaration

The principle of ‘legitimate authority’ is important to enable the regulation of warfare and to secure the democratic control (Pattison 2008:150), the latter of which is supported as well by the demand for ‘declaration’. I will discuss the two parts of the JWT principle separately but the discussion of PMCs emphasizes how they are morally closely connected.

     Traditionally a ‘legitimate authority’ in JWT is understood to be either states or the UN Security Council. When there are only two possible kinds of legitimate authority warfare can be regulated by legal and political instruments. The criticism of PMCs is that if those current restrictions on who legitimately can initiate and wage war are breached, the frequency and awfulness of warfare can no longer be limited, and there will be less control and stability in the international system (ibid. 151).

     Pattison (2008) has put forward this criticism, and he again follows a revisionist path of intertwining JAB and JIB. What Pattison seems to mean is that the legitimate authority initiating the war also ought to be the authority governing the troops waging the war, and that this is presumably more assured when only state actors are deployed. Since PMC personnel are employed in private corporations, they are not in the same chain of command as national army soldiers, and hence they are not subject directly to the government in the same way that soldiers are. This results, according to Pattison, in PMC personnel being less likely to adhere to JIB criteria (Pattison 2008:151). Moreover, if they have violated the criteria it is difficult to punish them since they, as non-state actors, are not subject to the same war conventions as national army soldiers. Finally, when PMCs are not included in the chain of command governing a given state’s warfare, the democratic control is endangered.

     These three issues are clearly important. Pattison, then, possibly argues for a revision of the ‘legitimate authority’ criterion in the suggested form where the authority initiating the war must also be in command of waging the war. The principle of ‘legitimate authority’ would thereby be extended to also encompass JIB. What is not clear, however, is why the use of PMCs would in any case inherently be in violation of this revised principle.

     The first two issues concern the external JIB criteria and how they are handled in international and domestic law. The principles of JIB apply to everyone fighting a war and there are no moral reasons why PMC personnel should by definition be more likely to violate the principles than soldiers. What Pattison is drawing attention to is a problem of monitoring how closely PMC personnel adhere to the criteria because they are not covered by the state-based systems of regulation (ibid.), but that is more so a criticism of the fact that the regulations are inadequate. Regulations should therefore be established to mitigate this problem, ensuring that PMC personnel do not violate JIB criteria and, in instances where they do, ensuring that they are punished as regular soldiers are (Fabre 2010:556).

     The third issue concerns internal JIB. If it is in fact the case that PMCs and personnel are not sufficiently controlled by the employing state, the war lacks democratic control. This lack of democratic control was very much the case with regard to the horrors of Abu Ghraib where the American public were shocked when those crimes were exposed (Singer 2005:4). In his book Corporate Warriors Singer seems to praise this situation as an advantage:

The possible advantage of a shift toward privatized policy means is that by avoiding public debate or legislative controls, the government executive body may be able to undertake a much more “rational” foreign policy. It can fulfil geopolitical interests without risk to public forces. (Singer 2003:211)

By employing PMCs states can avoid being held accountable to the public, either for the war and the way it is fought, or for loss of soldiers. This is a disturbing, though contingent, situation and it may explain why PMC personnel are not included in the military’s chain of command – they are intended to be an additional set of actors on the battlefield so as to cover up certain operations. If Singer is correct in this it raises two important issues: Firstly, the need for a reformulation of ‘declaration’, which I endeavour to do now and, secondly, the need for clarification of the status of PMCs and personnel, also discussed below.

     ‘Declaration’, as one half of ‘legitimate authority and declaration’, is traditionally seen as a JAB criterion, but what the present discussion may show is the need to revise it so that it applies to internal JIB as well. If the principle of ‘declaration’ is taken seriously as a JAB criterion as well as an internal JIB criterion, a state going to war will have to publicly declare so in advance and ensure internal transparency during the war which then forces the state to be in control of all troops, PMC personnel and soldiers. Consequently there is a trade off between the two halves of the revised principle ‘legitimate authority and declaration’, and both will then secure the ground for democratic control.


The status of PMCs and personnel

As already indicated, the status of PMCs and personnel is not quite clear, and the quotation from Singer stated above seems to suggest that they have a status quite different from other parties in a conflict. They are businesses and individuals who can achieve public ends through private means and, being unlabelled individuals, PMC personnel are in reality neither civilians nor soldiers (Singer 2005:5). This grey area of PMC personnel is found in international law also which categorizes them as ‘unlawful combatants’, liable to be killed without having the rights and privileges of soldiers (Fabre 2010:547). If such categorization is morally justifiable, it must be able to show either 1) that individuals cannot legitimately take up employment as PMC personnel, or 2) that states cannot legitimately employ PMCs, thereby making use of PMC personnel.

     Fabre, however, shows that both claims are false. Assuming one has a freedom of occupational choice, it must be the case that one legitimately can take on a job of justified defence of other people’s lives, and of other states’ national interests (ibid. 544). Similarly, if states have the right to self-defence, as JWT states, it follows that they have the right to a standing army to enforce that right, and if states have the right to pay for a standing army to enforce the right of self-defence, it further follows that they also have the right to pay for a private army to enforce the right of self-defence (ibid.). The critical point in examining whether an individual can legitimately be employed at PMCs, and whether a state can legitimately employ PMCs, is then whether the war is a self-defensive war, i.e., whether or not it is just.

     According to this account, PMC personnel should not then be treated as unlawful combatants but rather, Fabre suggests, on an equal footing with soldiers (ibid.). But this raises the issue of how soldiers should be treated and Fabre’s account furthermore counters the orthodox view of the JWT principles, i.e., JIB’s independence from JAB, and the moral equality of soldiers that follows. This is the case because Fabre emphasizes the justness of a war, traditionally a JAB matter, as a determining factor for JIB when she argues that the legitimacy of PMCs and the use of them is determined by the justness of the war. JIB is then dependent on JAB. Pattison too, as already indicated, intertwines the JAB and JIB criteria and so could also be seen as a revisionist. Whether this ‘revisionist’ account is justifiable is thus important and I now focus on the discussion between the orthodox view and this revisionist view.

     Walzer argues for the orthodox view of distinguishing sharply between JAB and JIB, saying that the two sets of principles are logically independent (Walzer 1977:21). That is, it is possible for a war to be unjust at the outset according to the JAB criteria, but be fought justly according to the JIB criteria and, likewise, a just war can be fought unjustly. When the principles of JIB are independent from JAB, JIB applies equally to both sides of a conflict, which is to say that, once the war has begun, it is no longer important who the aggressor was but important only to act in accordance with the JIB criteria. As mentioned in the introduction, Walzer then leaves the responsibility for JAB with the government initiating the war and the responsibility for JIB with the army and combatants fighting the war. This is why Walzer can claim the moral equality of soldiers, since none of them are morally responsible for the war.  On neither side are the soldiers criminals since they as a group are the ‘human instruments’ of the political entities responsible for the war (ibid. 36).

     Walzer furthermore argues that soldiers, qua soldiers, are ‘liable’ to be attacked. Liability means:

To say that a person is liable to be attacked is not to say that there is a reason to attack [her] no matter what; it is only to say that [she] would not be wronged by being attacked, given certain conditions. (McMahan 2005:7)

According to Walzer, soldiers are not wronged by being attacked: “The right [to be immune] is lost by those who bear arms “effectively” because they pose a danger to other people” (Walzer 1977:145). One is then liable to attack if a part of the group of ‘threatening people involved in harm’, and people who are not threatening are not liable to attack. Consequently, according to Walzer’s account, the distinction between liable and not liable is coincident with the distinction between combatants and noncombatants, i.e., combatants are liable to attack whereas noncombatants are not. This distinction is also articulated in the JIB principle of ‘discrimination and noncombatant immunity’ as stated in the above JWT introduction.

     Summing up Walzer, civilians are noncombatants and thus immune to attack, whereas soldiers as combatants are subject to attack at any time, unless wounded or captured – and this is all combatants on both sides of the conflict, due to the moral equality of soldiers (ibid. 138). Soldiers are liable to be killed qua being part of the group of people who are dangerous combatants. Thus Walzer’s view is collectivist, which he further emphasizes by specifying soldiers as a class of liable persons (ibid. 144). The soldiers therefore have an equal right to kill and what the JIB principles then signifies is who, and how, they can kill. Since PMCs and personnel are neither soldiers nor noncombatants they are not encompassed in this collectivist account.

     McMahan (2004; 2005) challenges this collectivist view, arguing that liability is not determined by being ‘threatening’, but by being individually ‘morally guilty’. If one were liable to being attacked the moment one poses a threat, the police would not be wronged if a criminal attacked them during an arrest. (McMahan 2004:698). But this conclusion seems unsound, since the police have a moral right to arrest criminals.[2] Even if the criminals are coerced, they can at best be excused for unjust attacks, not justified (ibid. 700).

     Walzer’s account has unsound consequences when it comes to war as well. What Walzer argues is that the moment combatants threaten enemy combatants they lose their moral innocence and are liable to being attacked. The consequences are that if state A decides on a surprise attack against state B for no good reason other than to expand its territory, the moment the army of B begins fighting back in self-defence, A actually becomes justified in fighting and from that moment the soldiers are morally equal in Walzer’s view. This moral equality McMahan finds wrong and when McMahan’s ‘liability by moral guilt’ is substituted for ‘liability by threat’, ‘just cause’ becomes the cornerstone principle of JWT since ‘just cause’ determines whether one is morally guilty or innocent (ibid. 700).

     According to this individualist account, the unjust side of the war is liable to attack whereas the just side is not liable to attack and thus would be wronged if attacked. Consequently, there is no moral equality of soldiers and the soldiers on the unjust side have 1) no right to attack the just side and its soldiers and 2) no right to defend itself against attack from the just side. The unjust soldiers should thus be treated on a par with other criminals, and on this account there is thus no special morality governing killing in war (Frowe 2011). If one is morally responsible for unjust killing, one is a criminal, and war or coercion is not a mitigating factor changing that.

     Where Walzer argues for moral equality of soldiers, McMahan then argues for a moral asymmetry, following from JIB’s dependence on JAB. This moral asymmetry Fabre agrees with and individuals can legitimately hire themselves out to PMCs when the latter engages in a just war, as states can legitimately employ PMCs when fighting a just war. According to McMahan and Fabre’s account, the same is true for soldiers – they ought to take part in only just wars. From this viewpoint, then, it seems morally unproblematic to treat PMC personnel equally with soldiers and both unjust PMC personnel and unjust soldiers are thus equally liable to being attacked. Similarly, just PMC personnel and just soldiers are not liable to being attacked. It is thus possible to include PMC personnel in JWT using this individualist revision where contributors to war are guilty/not guilty according to their individual contribution and not depending on particular group memberships.

     There is, however, at least one further complication. PMCs typically do not primarily take care of ordinary warfare, but rather other ‘security jobs’ like personal security teams (Latham 2009:5). Thus, we need an account for liability that can also encompass those not involved in ordinary warfare.

     It is clear that even PMC personnel not directly involved in warfare are somehow contributing to the war if they are employed to take care of some warfare-related tasks. Fabre argues that if one contributes causally to unjust harm, one satisfies a necessary condition for liability (Fabre 2009:42-43) and from this perspective it seems that everyone involved in an unjust war is liable to be killed. This is the case since, though each of them perhaps makes only a tiny contribution to the unjust war, such as providing security for a not so important ambassador, collectively they make a significant contribution to the unjust war (ibid.). If no one were providing personal security, food, etc., it would surely not be possible to fight the unjust war.

     Fabre, however, finds that this ‘causal contribution’ might be a necessary condition for liability but that it is not a sufficient one. In addition to making a causal contribution to harm, the individual contribution must meet a threshold for causal significance before its author is liable (Fabre 2009:61). And that threshold exempts, by Fabre’s account, civilians in general from liability since their individual contribution will be marginal even though their collective contribution is significant. But it also follows that civilians of any kind contributing directly to the war and meeting the threshold for causal contribution are liable to attack and that combatants who do not contribute significantly to the war are not liable to attack. Thus, the moral significant distinction does not completely coincide with that of combatants vs. noncombatants.

     By this individualist account one is liable to being attacked if one’s individual contribution to threat meets a causal threshold. Where this threshold should be is a difficult question and it has also been contested whether such a threshold is morally significant at all (Frowe 2011). What is important for the present purpose, however, is that we now have an account where liability is assigned to individuals and not groups. It is, thereby, a theory where PMCs and personnel can be included, and where their individual status can be determined from their individual contribution to the war. In other words, they can be treated on a par with other contributors to war.

     This status of PMC personnel implies both duties and rights. The duties are to act in accordance with the principles of JWT and when those duties are not performed, the belligerent state has the duty to punish the PMC personnel just as they punish their uniformed soldiers. The difference between PMC personnel and national soldiers is that the former might be placed under two different sets of duties, whereas the latter are only under one (Fabre 2010:549). This is the case since PMC personnel have to both obey orders from the officers in charge of military operations and they have a contract with the PMC they work for. However, the contracts could be formulated so as to accommodate this difficulty, making sure that PMC personnel obey the people in charge of the given operation, and that they furthermore will never be under contractual duty to act in contravention of the law of war (ibid.).

     The status of the PMCs themselves is certainly important as well and, when noncombatants can be liable to be killed on meeting the threshold of causal significance, there must surely be cases where the PMC executives are liable to be killed. It must be possible also to punish PMCs’ executives for war crimes, since they support wars not only with military equipment, but also with combatants (ibid.). Furthermore, if we can talk of corporate responsibility for acts committed by individual employees, PMC executives can be held accountable for acts committed by their employees.

     As mentioned above, this clarification of status leads also to a clarification of rights. Three PMC employees, employed by the US government, have been held prisoner in Columbia since their plane crashed in rebel-held territory in 2003 with no protections of any kind (Singer 2005:5). They do not have the protections of the Geneva Conventions, since they are not recognized as combatants; the US government does not protect them, since they are not part of the US army personnel; and they are not protected by the PMC that they work for, since PMCs have no clear responsibilities in the matter. If PMC personnel involved in combat have the moral status of soldiers as argued, they clearly ought to be treated as such, both in domestic and international law. That is, they ought to have the same legal rights as soldiers, including being treated benevolent as POWs.

     If PMC personnel are really treated on a par with soldiers, the above stated quote by Singer can in one further way be rejected as morally false. The quote indicates that governments and citizens do not care about PMC personnel the way they care about national soldiers. But this ought not be the case since PMC personnel are as right in taking part in a just war as national soldiers are and they should thus be equally appreciated for doing so. Furthermore, a government should be held neither more nor less accountable for missions where only PMCs take part than missions including national soldiers, this also following from the revised criterion of ‘declaration’ discussed above.

     By clarifying the status of PMCs and personnel, it seems that the objections from the principle of ‘legitimate authority and declaration’ can now fully be rejected. PMC personnel can from a moral perspective be incorporated in the same chain of command as national soldiers and thus can be monitored and punished for violations on the JIB criteria. Furthermore, as the work of PMCs and personnel is fully in control by the employing state, the democratic control is secured. Finally, both the revised principles of ‘right intention’ and ‘legitimate authority and declaration’ discussed above relies on JIB’s dependence on JAB, and they are thus fully coherent with this revisionist and individualist account.



The recent boom in the use of PMCs points to the need for discussing the moral issues they raise in the field of JWT. That said, PMCs do not pose a new and different challenge to JWT – what they show is rather the inadequacy of the orthodox account of JWT. By adopting the more plausible individualist account, PMCs and personnel can be treated on a par with other actors contributing to war.

     In this article I have discussed and rejected firstly the critique of PMCs from the principle of ‘intention’; I have then discussed the critique from the principle of ‘legitimate authority and declaration’, which to some extent can be rejected as a contingency, but nevertheless a contingency pointing to a large grey area of the status of PMCs and personnel. That grey area I have sought to illuminate in the final section, and my discussion suggests that the status of PMCs and personnel can be treated equivalently with other actors in war, adopting the individualist account.

     What I have argued in this article is that the use of PMCs and PMC personnel is not inherently morally problematic, seen from the perspective of JWT. I have thus not argued that the use of PMCs and personnel is altogether unproblematic, since quite a few issues have presented themselves in recent years which point to the contrary, e.g. the Blackwater case. What the present argument seems to show, then, is that just war theorists wanting to abort the use of PMCs solely through the use of JWT are wrong. Further research might thus usefully investigate the institutions and real politics governing war – or otherwise accept that PMCs can be a part of modern warfare.



- Fabre, C. (2009): “Guns, Food, and Liability to Attack in War”, Ethics; 120, pp. 36-63; The University of Chicago Press.

- Fabre, C. (2010): “In Defence of Mercenarism”, British Journal of Political Science (B.J.Pol.S) ; 40, pp. 539-559; Cambridge University Press.

- Frowe, H. (2011), Lecture held at Aarhus University, Aug. 10.

- Hedahl, M. (2009): “Blood and Blackwaters: A Call to Arms for the Profession of Arms”, Journal of Military Ethics; 8, pp. 19-33.

- Latham, W. C. (2009): “Not My Job: Contracting and Professionalism in the U. S. Army” in Military Review; March-April, pp. 40-50.

- McMahan, J. (2004): “The Ethics of Killing in War”, Ethics; 114, pp. 693-733; The University of Chicago Press.

- McMahan, J. (2005): “Just Cause for War”, Ethics & International Affairs; 2005; 19, 3, pp. 1-21.

- Orend, B. (2000): “Jus Post Bellum”, Journal of Social Philosophy; 31, pp. 117-137. Blackwell Publishers.

- Orend, B. (2009): “War” in Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, online entry

- Pattison, J. (2008) “Just War Theory and the Privatization of Military Force”, Ethics and International Affairs; 22, pp. 145-164.

- Rodin, D. (2002): War and Self-Defence; Oxford University Press, pp. 122-161.

- Singer, P. W. (2004): Outsourcing War: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry; Cornell University Press, pp. 200-250.

- Singer, P. W. (2005): “Outsourcing War” in Foreign Affairs; March/April 2005; Council on Foreign Relations.

- Walzer, M. (1977): Just and Unjust Wars – A Moral Argument with Historical Illustrations; Basic Books, New York

[1] In the essay I distinguish between ‘PMCs’ as the private corporations, and ‘PMC personnel’ as the individuals employed in these corporations.

[2] Walzer would probably agree here, but he objects to liking soldiers to criminals.