Outsourcing in the Spanish military

Spanish reluctance to implement American-style planning, and claims of a uniquely Spanish approach to counter-terrorism.

FTB receives a small but steady flow of clients with a professional interest in large limestone and other formations populated by an anti-American peasantry and flocks of suspiciously taciturn sheep. Analysis of the failure of the Spanish military to make any real contribution to the effort in Afghanistan tends to conclude that they are incapable of fighting, even if the politicians would let them. Like the British army, they’ve reduced costs and political risk by employing 6-7% of foreign nationals (no Fijians, however, so no rugby team) and by ensuring that expendable foreigners are over-represented on dangerous missions, but they haven’t yet introduced American-style outsourcing. An interesting piece here by David Rivas, boss of High Security Solutions, one of a new crop of Spanish security and defence contractors, seeks to change that state of affairs.

The dreadful problems that arose in Iraq as a result of poorly-planned outsourcing are grist to the mills of critics like Lucas Marco, but it’s difficult to see the trend being totally halted. The boilerplate cautionary quote to support the the view that mercenaries only work effectively when integrated (as were the Hessians who fought for the British in North America) remains Machiavelli:

Troops which serve for the defence of a state are either national, foreign, or mixed. Those of the second class, whether they serve as auxiliaries, or as mercenaries, are useless and dangerous; and the prince who has a reliance on such soldiers will never be safe, because they are always ambitious, disunited, unfaithful, and undisciplined. Brave amongst friends, but cowardly in the face of an enemy, and neither fear God nor keep faith with man; so that the prince who employs them can only retard his fall by delaying to put their valour to the proof, and in short they plunder the state in time of peace as much as the enemy does in time of war, How, indeed, should it be otherwise? This kind of troops can never serve a state but for the sake of pay, which is never so high as to induce them to purchase it by the sacrifice of their lives; they are willing enough to serve in time of peace, but the moment war is declared it is impossible to keep them to their colours.

Athena Intelligence, which posted Rivas’ paper, is Spanish, although modelled on US example. Its domestic focus sometimes leads to some rather startling conclusions. Fernando Celaya (who isn’t afaik really associated professionally with King’s, London) writes:

Spanish political elites and law enforcement have come to understand, according to Conde and Gonzalez, that ‘terrorism is not a conjunctural phenomenon but a structural one, and as a result, it cannot be confronted militarily (as in the US) or with exceptional and extraordinary norms (as in the UK), but through ordinary legislation in compliance of the rule of law’. As a result, Spain’s law enforcement and security-intelligence services have found in the legal principles that underpin Spanish counter-terrorism practices a successful tool to counter the internal terrorist threat as well as international terrorism.

Some might argue that the Spanish judicial system, by permitting the long-term detention of suspects on the say-so of investigating officers, and by failing to provide fair or rapid resolution of conflicts, incorporates de jure and de facto exceptional and extraordinary norms, and that the use of the Spanish gendarmerie, the Guardia Civil, in the Basque Country is clear evidence of militarisation. But then they probably wouldn’t be tendering for Spanish defence contracts anyway.

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  1. Really, to describe as “ordinary legislation” what is enforced upon terrorists here in Spain ( much deservedly, if you ask me) is a bit of a joke. I am really a hardcore right wing sonofabitch supporter of the Spanish way of dealing with etarras, but don’t feel we can give lessons, and even less when nobody has asked us to.

  2. I completely agree with you. I’m also deeply suspicious of the reverse process – figures in Sinn Fein and in the British administration treating the Basque conflict as if it can be solved by the same means that have kind of worked in Northern Ireland.

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