Civilians in a war zone

By Jason Wojciechowski on February 23, 2004 at 6:44 AM

After reading this article in Esquire this month (must be a subscriber to get access - sorry) by Tucker Carlson, this story about a civilian helicopter shot down in Afghanistan caught my eye.

The idea of the Carlson piece is that the U.S. military is shrunken so much that for the government to keep fighting these wars and then rebuilding nations afterward, lots and lots of private contractors (and sub-contractors, and sub-sub ...) have to be brought in for things like police-work, training of native militaries, building roads and schools, etc.

My first reaction is a negative one, as most news involving corporations almost automatically makes me say, "Bad!" On the other hand, is there anything inherently wrong about delegating different tasks to different people? Is there any reason why the military should have to hire more workers to serve food and build houses, instead of paying someone else who already has that staff? There really isn't an obvious reason why not, though I'm welcome to hear dissenting opinions.

It really comes down to economics. Is this a cheaper option? It probably would be if the government actually had a fair bidding process set up for these jobs instead of just handing out contracts to cronies. In the end, I guess that this is yet another instance of, "Theoretically, fine, in practice, awful."