Saturday, January 4, 2014

A Great American Success Story

Civilian Warriors – The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror – Erik Prince (Portfolio Press)

So much as been written and said about the private security and military training company, Blackwater, much of it negative, that I was interested to read the companies story from the perspective of its founder Erik Prince. In Civilian Warriors – The Inside Story of Blackwater and the Unsung Heroes of the War on Terror Prince attempts to set the record straight by offering up a point of view that is contradictory to most of the negatively slanted press the company has received from the mostly liberal and often lazy media.

Contrary to the media’s take, Blackwater wasn’t founded as some shoot first ask questions later band of gun crazy mercenaries for hire. In actuality, Blackwater, like many companies, was founded to fill a need; by creating a dedicated training facility for military special operations and police special response units. Prince, a former spec ops guy himself, saw the need for a facility that could be utilized for the intensive training needs of special operators. Along with a small group of fellow operators he set out to build just such a facility.

That facility filled a need and became successful and like many successful businesses, Blackwater continued to look for opportunities to fill new needs; including the need for special response training for police to tackle situations like the Columbine High School shooting. Unlike too many people who believe that government is set up to respond to these special military, security and law enforcement situations, the exact opposite is true. Rather than setting up a series of useless blue ribbon panels and commissions to study the problem and report, private enterprise, like Blackwater identifies the need and responds with solutions.

The War of Terror truly showcased how unprepared the government is to respond to the rapidly changing needs of the battlefield. Often flat-footed and slow to respond, the government needed to turn to much more nimble and responsive private sector. Prince clearly articulates the Blackwater can do attitude when it comes to developing new products and services to fill the need in a rapid, direct fashion. This part of the Blackwater story is one of a true American success story.

Critics point to the billions of taxpayer dollars that have been spent on private contractors to fight the war on terror, claiming that companies like Blackwater are getting rich on the taxpayers dime. I find it interesting that these same critics are the folks who claim that the government is the answer to all of our problems, which this book clearly proves is not the case.

While some may disagree with Prince’s accounts of actions on the battlefield, keep in mind that perspective everything and I think that Prince is even handed in presenting the mistakes as well as the successes of his company and his own choices.

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