When a nation deploys ground forces, an inverse relationship exists between the number of military deaths and public support. This stark and monolithic metric, which economists call the “casualty sensitivity” effect, requires close examination today. On the modern battlefield, contractor personnel die at rates similar to—or indeed often in excess of—soldiers, yet the U.S. public… Continue reading Dead Contractors: The Un-Examined Effect of Surrogates on the Public’s Casualty Sensitivity
Over the past decade, the United States has radically shifted the way it projects its power overseas. Instead of using full-time employees of foreign affairs agencies to implement its policies, the government now deploys a wide range of contractors and grantees, hired by both for-profit and nonprofit entities. Thus, while traditionally we relied on diplomats, spies, and soldiers to protect and promote our interests abroad, increasingly we have turned to hired guns. Contrast the first Gulf War to later conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
With the drawdown of standing armies following the end of the Cold War, the United States and other Western governments have increasingly used civilian contractors in support roles to free up limited military forces to perform combat missions. Since the initiation of hostilities under the rubric of the global war on terror, however, this extensive reliance on civilian support, coupled with the increasing technological sophistication of the contemporary battlefield, has pushed these civilians ever closer to performing tasks historically reserved for uniformed personnel.