Erik Prince didn?t have to go into the military at all, but he?s ended up as the leader of America?s shadow army, Xe (formerly known as Blackwater). CNN executive producer Suzanne Simons? detailed new book, Master of War, chronicles the story of the 40-year-old Navy SEAL who left the military after his entrepreneurial father (who made the family a boatload by inventing automobile sun visors that light up) died and his wife was diagnosed with cancer. Prince took his inheritance and started Blackwater in 1997 to simply provide training sites for law enforcement and the U.S. military. Instead, he?s frighteningly changed the nature of war. Simons traces the company?s dramatic growth and changing mission, as well as the rise of the billion-dollar military-contracting business that Blackwater has come to represent. The government can now outsource many of its nastier military assignments to a once virtually unchecked band of well-armed former cops and soldiers from across the globe. Prince, who recently stepped down as CEO of the company, ran Blackwater with the same industrious zeal his father embodied: ?The lion wakes up in the morning, he knows he has to outrun the gazelle, or he?s gonna starve,? Prince says in the book. ?The gazelle wakes up and knows he has to outrun the lion, or he?s gonna be eaten.? Whether you?re the lion or the gazelle, when you wake up, you?d better be running.? All that running and explosive growth can get you in some trouble, though. In the past few years, Blackwater has brought the U.S. some controversial black eyes in Afghanistan and Iraq and has become a symbol of the gunslinging, tough-talking Bush administration. While the world is changing, the outsourced military isn?t going away anytime soon. Simons? book offers a tremendously important look into the hidden corners of that world.
About the Author
Mark J. Miller writes a daily sports column for Yahoo! His writing has also appeared in ESPN, Men's Journal, Glamour, The Washington Post, Runner's World, and Salon, among others.