Friday, 27 November 2009

Lost: advanced preview of series six

Security contractors in the final series of Lost? Well, when commercial interests meet risk, we will always find security contractors. Not just now, as the use of contractors has been a constant throughout modern history. However, we are not talking here about Lost, the popular TV series in which security contractors have featured. We are talking about the new “lost generation” because of the global financial downturn. There have been previous similar lost generations. Let’s recap some of the outcomes of having lost generations with relation to issues of war and peace, and contractors.

Lost (generations), the historical series

Series 1: the lost generation after the Great Depression. Growing up in the interim period between the First and the Second World Wars, this generation learned to love the idea of peace while always been aware that another great war could happen. The suspicion was confirmed when the United States entered the Second World War.

Series 2: the lost generation after the Second World War. This generation respected the notion of the president taking the country to war when he judged it necessary. There was little awareness that contractors have become part of the machinery of war by then. After all, defense was a matter for the state and people had to obey the call to arms when raised by the president.

Series 3: the lost generation as a result of the Vietnam War. Please remember that there was conscription for this war and enormous casualties. This lost generation learned of activism. There were an escalating number of protests as it became clear there was no foreseeable horizon to bring this war to a successful conclusion. The lesson learned by this generation was that the president could take the country to war, but he had to take people’s concerns into consideration when making such decision.

Series 4: the lost generation after the depression of the early nineties. The Cold War was over and conscription seemed to be a practice belonging to previous eras. Government learned that military undertakings abroad had to rely on the professional and voluntary army. However, the killing of soldiers in Mogadishu, Somalia’s capital (the so-called Black Hawk incident), prompted a rethink of the involvement of soldiers in distant conflicts. In simple terms, people were not comfortable with the idea of casualties anymore. The rise of Private Military Companies (PMCs) was in full force by then. Yet people did not have the faintest idea that force could not be deployed anymore without massive help from contractors.

Series 5: the first lost generation of the 21st century. Our generation has been exposed to something bewildering: the unexpected inability of many people to find a job even after attaining a university degree or when well-qualified. Questions are also increasingly asked about the previous unquestionable presidential prerogative to take the country to war without sound justification for it. These are the echoes of the Iraq war, which will be heard for a generation or two.

Series 6: The Afpak lost generation. Young people are increasingly asking government, do you really need to spend all those billions over the next decade in the wars in the Middle East. Here, we are not debating the rights or wrongs of the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan, the broader engagement in the Afpak theater (involving Afghanistan and Iraq), and who knows where else in the future (maybe Yemen or Iran). We are simply highlighting an issue that is in the mind of the soon to emerge lost generation, the ones who will be running the world when some of us are old.

This is a particularly lost generation. On top of the people that make it suffering from an early realization about the future struggle to find a dreamed job or any job at all upon entering working age, these young people do not hear answers to their questions about the reasons behind military deployment and do not take no answers as the status quo of things for granted anymore. There is also a broader realization not fully identifiable in previous generations about the costs incurred by the taxpayer during wars, and their future implications for the national economy. Series six of the lost generation promises to be full of surprises and we can only hint some of the issues involved here.

1 comment:

Matt said...

Boy, heavy topic. Although, you forgot some 'lost' generations. If you are to use only US history, then why not go back to the colonies and the Revolutionary War? Because historically speaking, we have been involved in a lot of US history. Especially the privateers during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. Good stuff, and you should check out my blog sometime if you are interested in this stuff. It is called Feral Jundi, and I write about the security contracting industry.