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Old 12-29-2018, 09:33 AM   #10
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Default Re: Mercenary Nationalities and Background

Originally Posted by johndallman View Post
People who'd been released from Western militaries as they shrank after the end of the Cold War are one major source. Several PMCs were founded in the 1970s and 1980s, and checking their history may give more clues.
Yes. I probably should have specified my period more narrowly.

With the end of the South African Border Wars in 1989, thousands of experienced, elite, professional soldiers who had been fighting in African civil wars for years already were released. Many of them felt betrayed, rootless and landless, especially with the ongoing political changes of the 1990s. Instead of becoming freelance mercenaries, as happened in similar circumstances in the past, they were instead mostly employed by increasingly professional Private Military Contractor firms, the most iconic of which was Executive Outcomes.

Such professionalized PMCs were a fairly recent development, at least on such a large scale, though antecedents in the form of small companies of expert consultants, executive protection specialists and military trainers, can be found dating back to the 1960s. For some reason, ex-SAS chaps seem to have dominated this niche market and one might speculate whether the unofficial policy of Whitehall and British mandarins in other offices to use 'former' special operators to advance official policy through unofficial means might not have been a key to the market-leading position of British and Commonwealth PMCs during the time of transition from the chaotic era of freelance mercenaries toward the era of PMCs/PSCs as licensed and regulated entities owned by powerful multinational conglomerates.

Of course, the enormous Reductions-In-Force that Western militaries saw in the wake of the end of the Cold War and the utter collapse of many of the former Warsaw Pact militaries meant that in 1990 and onward, the landscape of military contracting was irrevocably altered. At one and the same time, the ability and inclination of former Cold War powers to carry out military interventions with their own forces was sharply curtailed, while literally millions of professionally trained military and security personnel became available due to the RIFs, dwarfing the previous sources of trained fighting men from Rhodesia, South Africa and the like, in their mere thousands.

I can find plenty of sources for the rise of the PMCs in the period from 1989 to the modern day, and, actually, for other campaigns I have run, I have familiarised myself somewhat with that subject. I probably should have confined my query exclusively to the decade of the 1980s. Before the end of the Cold War, the end of the South African Border Wars and the changes in South African politics combined to fuel the meteoric rise of the modern PMC/PSC, what was the state of the mercenary market?

It seems that by the 1980s, the traditional freelance soldier of fortune was in decline, but his replacement had not yet emerged. There were South Africans fighting in other African countries, but they were doing so for what they saw as ideological reasons, and usually with the support of their own government and armed forces. The end of Rhodesia seems to have provided a pool of rootless, stateless white veterans, many of whom either emigrated to South Africa or fought in the Border Wars in Angola and Namibia on behalf of South Africa, against Communism.

But aside from this (and, indeed, one PC actually is a former Rhodesian who joined the French Foreign Legion after 1979), I don't seem to find much material on the state of the international mercenary market in 1982-1989. There was an emerging high-end PSC market led by ex-SAS chaps out of London, many of whom still seem to have been carrying out British policy, and then there were the South Africans and Rhodesians, at this time still mostly funded and controlled by South Africa for distinct military and political goals in neighbouring countries, not independent of national policy and oversight as they became in 1989 and later.

What other backgrounds and ethnicities seem plausible for the people who were hired by Kessler at this time?

For example, in the background story of the Rhodesian PC, Edward Alvin Smith, he met J.R. Kessler in 1986, in Mali, when Smith and some other members of the French Foreign Legion were engaged in a confused and terrifying firefight alongside mercenaries in Kessler's service in a cave system in the Land of the Dogons. Kessler was there investigating reports of rich uranium deposits, which he planned to acquire for one of his companies, but as he had a (mystical) reason to believe that some threat to his life would occur in Mali, he not only used political influence to get a detachment of the Legion sent in to provide security for his scientific teams and prospectors, but he also hired his own personal team of hardened mercenaries.

In 1986, who would those mercenaries have been?
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Last edited by Icelander; 12-29-2018 at 11:29 AM.
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