“Too Big to Fail” for Military Contractors

Pay Any Price - James RisenFar more than any other conflict in American history, the global war on terror has been waged along free-market principles. In Iraq and Afghanistan, American soldiers actually on the payroll of the US Army were outnumbered by independent contractors working for private companies hired to provide services from meals to base security. From Pakistan to Yemen to Somalia, American counterterror operations have relied heavily on outside contractors to provide intelligence and logistics. As a result, the tenets of twenty-first-century American capitalism have become the bywords of twenty-first-century American combat. That includes the most infamous catch phrase of the global financial crisis — “too big to fail.”

When applied to banks, “too big to fail” referred to financial institutions that were so large and critical to the economy that they had to be bailed out by the government, no matter how execrable their past behavior or how badly they had been mismanaged. Letting them fail, refusing to bail them out, would only sink the American economy.

In the global war on terror as well, Washington has treated some of its biggest military and intelligence contractors as if they are too big to fail. The American enterprise in the Middle East has been so heavily outsourced, and the Pentagon, CIA, and other agencies have become so dependent on a handful of large corporations, that the government has been reluctant to ever hold those firms accountable for their actions.

—James Risen
Pay Any Price: Greed, Power, and Endless War

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