Wednesday, 11 August 2010

Book Review: Fortune's Warriors, by James R. Davis (2000)

The world of private soldiers-for-hire, and, on a grander scale, for-profit corporations that provide security or wage war on behalf of clients, is examined by James Davis.

A former soldier himself, Davis served in the Canadian Armed Forces and was deployed in Rwanda and the former Yugoslavia. Since leaving the Canadian Army, he has dabbled in the private security business. His observations and analysis are those of an insider, looking to bring some light to the murky and often misunderstood world of mercenaries.

Fortune's Warriors is patchy. The sections of the book (and there are many) where Davis attempts to dissect the world of mercenaries into sub-categories are tediously long. Equally tiresome is a long chapter where Davis proposes, in excruciating detail, a well-intentioned but unlikely United Nations-administered system to regulate the world of private security and combat corporations.

Much better are the chapters that describe the colourful history of mercenaries serving in Europe throughout the ages. Davis also hits his stride in unveiling exactly what happened when Executive Outcomes, the South African mercenary company, delved into the brutal conflicts in Angola and Sierra Leone.

Davis is not shy about revealing his admiration for the skills of the professional soldier, and he sees a role for professionally managed private security firms and even private for-hire armies. He is equally not afraid to reveal his attachment to Sierra Leone, and his heartfelt pain for the brutal tragedy that has befallen that country. Davis cries out for efficient, private sector solutions to dirty wars that suck the life out of a country like Sierra Leone for generations.

Although crisply written, Fortune's Warriors has relatively few points to make, and a limited number of stories to tell. Davis clearly struggles to fill the pages and expand his thoughts into book length. Ultimately, all of Fortune's Warriors is a prelude to the world conditions that allowed a company called Blackwater to flourish in the years after the book was published. As with many initiatives, the initial idea may be from anywhere in the world, but it only goes big when the Americans adopt it.

Subtitled "Private Armies And The New World Order".
222 pages, plus Index.
Published in hardcover by Douglas & McIntyre.

The Ace Black Blog Book Review Index is here.

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