Month: July 2008

Privatizing war

War plcI recently interviewed Stephen Armstrong for Faber about his new book, War plc. The book takes the reader into the world of the private security companies, which have mushroomed in the last few years to the extent that the military effort in Afghanistan and Iraq would be impossible without them.

The development is not accidental. To get a sense of the ideological drive that lies behind the emergence of these private companies on the battlefield, here is an extract from an extraordinary speech (quoted in Stephen’s book) which US defence secretary Donald Rumsfeld gave the day before 9/11:

“The topic today is an adversary that poses a threat, a serious threat, to security of the United States of America. This adversary is one of the world’s last bastions of central planning. It governs by dictating 5 year plans. From a single capital it attempts to impose its demands across time zones, continents, oceans and beyond. With brutal consistency it stifles free thought and crushes new ideas. It disrupts the defence of the United States and places the lives of men and women in uniform at risk.

“Perhaps this adversary sounds like the former Soviet Union, but that enemy is gone: our foes are more subtle and implacable today. You may think I’m describing one of the last decrepit dictators of the world. But their day too is almost past and they cannot match the strength and size of this adversary. The adversary’s closer to home. It’s the Pentagon bureaucracy.”

What’s the big idea?

Festival of Ideas logoIn May I made a number of recordings for this year’s Bristol Festival of Ideas, a series of very popular events which brought some high-powered thinkers to the city to stimulate discussion on subjects as diverse as the legacy of ’68 to why the human brain is not quite ‘fit for purpose’.

I’m editing my interviews now for a series of podcasts sponsored by The Philosophers’ Magazine, which will be appearing over the next few months. The first one is downloadable now from iTunes here. Read More