Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Why liberals should love Blackwater -- but don't

House liberals seem to be targeting private contractor Blackwater as a proxy for criticizing the war in Iraq. Henry Waxman's committee majority is determined to try to smear the security firm as a bunch of "cowboys" who are out of control, and it's also attacking the State Department for using them to protect VIPs. According to the Int'l Herald Tribune:
Representative Henry Waxman, the California Democrat who is chairman of a House committee that is studying the record of the firm in Iraq, said that companies like Blackwater amounted to an inadequately controlled private military force.

"If we don't have enough troops to do the job, then we need to get more troops," Waxman said at a hearing Tuesday of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. Privatizing security services was "causing us problems with the Iraqi people," he said.
Democrats have also been quick to point out that Blackwater has been involved in more combat incidents than the two other private security companies employed by the government to work in Iraq, although it also has over twice as many employees on the ground as the other two combined.

While Blackwater's employees aren't perfect, Waxman's sweeping generalizations are misguided. Contractors have always played an important role in supporting America's military. (Ever heard of Lafayette, Mr. Chairman?) Blackwater's employees in Iraq are facing the same sorts of threats aimed at our soldiers. The AP quotes CEO Erik Prince as making this strong rebuttal to Waxman:
Throughout the hearing, Prince defended his staff as courageously defending U.S. diplomats overseas. He said 30 Blackwater contractors have been killed in action and no Americans have died while in its protection.

"We're the targets of the same ruthless enemies that have killed more than 3,800 American military personnel and thousands of innocent Iraqis," he said, sitting alone at the witness table.
If liberal criticism of the war was really based on concern for our soldiers, then Democrats should rejoice that private citizens employed by Blackwater are willing to take jobs that would otherwise require more servicemen to step into harm's way. Liberals claim that the current volunteer military is unfair to racial minorities and the poor, who enlist at disproportionate rates due to lack of economic opportunities caused by capitalism and societal racism. For example, consider this 2003 statement from Rep. Charles Rangel:
The disproportionately high representation of the poor and minorities in the enlisted ranks is well documented. Minorities comprise 35 percent of the military and Blacks 20 percent, well above their proportion of the general population. They, along with poor and rural Whites do more than their fair share of service in our ground forces.
While Rangel's interpretation of military demographic data has been called into question, his claim does essentially represent liberal orthodoxy on the subject. As a professor from the Univ. of Maryland framed it, "The playing field outside the military is not level. Life structures you into certain choices, and you wind up in the military." This belief was also behind the NAACP's opposition to the Iraq war.

So given the liberal belief that society's poor and downtrodden are forced into the military, why is Waxman saying "we need to get more troops"? By their own logic, liberals should be happy that contractors like Blackwater are willing to fight alongside our brave soldiers.

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