Its Max again saying it like it is and although I hate to say it fair play to the Guardian for giving him the space. We must fight our instinctive distaste for mercenaries The Iraq bubble has burst but the need for private security companies will not go away. They should be regulated by the state A recession is looming in a sector of the economy you may be barely conscious of, PSCs. Since 2003 private security companies have been a great British success story. Worldwide, but notably in Iraq, businesses founded by and employing ex-soldiers have coined it by providing armed protection. I sense that many readers will have little sympathy for hired guns who make huge sums of money from stricken societies. Arming men to kill and be killed is among the most sensitive prerogatives of the state. To subcontract such functions to commercial enterprises seems inherently dangerous and pernicious. When these people hit the headlines, like Mark Thatcher's merry band who sought to stage a coup in Equatorial Guinea, it is usually because they have been caught doing ugly and reckless things. Yet there is a growing belief in western governments that PSCs - and private military companies, which offer combat services - have a role to play that needs to be formalised. Most national armies, including those of Britain and the US, are undermanned and overcommitted. A wide range of national interests overseas demand attention and protection that uniformed soldiers are not available to provide. The holes will increasingly be filled, believe some senior service officers and diplomats, by the private sector. "Private security operates in the gap between state will and state capability," declares the pamphlet, After the Bubble: British Private Security Companies after Iraq, written by Aegis's Dominick Donald. He argues that such companies can operate in war zones with more freedom than national forces, partly because their casualties are less politically sensitive. But it seems almost inevitable that PSCs will become increasingly involved in the other functions mentioned above, because there is no one else to fulfil them. There are significant areas of the world where the staff of humanitarian NGOs dare not go. It is surely better for food and medical supplies to be delivered by PSCs than by nobody. Max Hastings Article in full - http://www.guardian.co.uk/comment/story/0,,1835067,00.html includes a very perceptive piece about PSC guards for journalists in conflict zones ('Kroll envy' mean anything to any of you green zone hacks?).