Soldiers of Fortune: A History of the Mercenary in Modern Warfare

Overview

The freelance soldier, or mercenary, whether fighting for money or reputation or an adopted cause, has always been a fascinating and controversial phenomenon. Now, as a result of the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has become not simply a mercenary but a vital part of modern and privatized warfare. For some, he is a heroic figure, doing the work governments are too squeamish to admit to; for others, he is a bloodthirsty killer.

In Tony Geraghty’s startling history, he ...

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Overview

The freelance soldier, or mercenary, whether fighting for money or reputation or an adopted cause, has always been a fascinating and controversial phenomenon. Now, as a result of the situations in Iraq and Afghanistan, he has become not simply a mercenary but a vital part of modern and privatized warfare. For some, he is a heroic figure, doing the work governments are too squeamish to admit to; for others, he is a bloodthirsty killer.

In Tony Geraghty’s startling history, he sheds new light on their activities, which has until now been shrouded in secrecy. Many of the soldiers have spoken to the author about their experiences for the first time, revealing details of operations that have never before been reported in the media.

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Editorial Reviews

London Herald
“Geraghty clearly demonstrates that as the major powers have been cutting their regular forces, the freelance soldier may well turn out to be the supreme arbiter of outcomes in such trouble areas as Iraq, Afghanistan, and throughout the Third World.
One of the best and most authoritative books on the subject.”
The New York Times Book Review
“The subject is fascinating. . . . A shadowy, brutal world.”
Library Journal

Covering the 1960s to the present, with revealing interviews, Geraghty looks at the virtues and failings of the world's second- oldest profession. Mercenaries are controversial, but the many conflicts of the past five decades have created a demand for them. Are they tough men who do hard work for money or bloodthirsty renegades? This serious study should find its way to most readers of military history.


—Edwin B. Burgess
Kirkus Reviews
Unsettling accounts of private, quasi-military organizations that played a surprisingly important role in countless post-World War II conflicts and then flourished to become front-page news after 9/11. Veteran British war correspondent Geraghty identifies three traditions of freelance soldiering: the "traditional mercenary," common during the chaotic days of postcolonial Africa; the "plausibly deniable warriors," who carry out covert missions for legitimate governments; and "modern private security operators," which include Blackwater, DynCorp and dozens of others prospering in Iraq and Afghanistan. Caught up in the anarchy in Congo in the 1960s after the sudden Belgian withdrawal, white mercenaries received rare positive PR by rescuing large numbers of whites from the widespread massacres. Soon the United States, South Africa, Cuba and the Soviet Union supported mercenary armies, both black and white, in a vicious bloodbath in Angola lasting into the 21st century. America's not-so-covert '80s support of the Contras fighting the leftist Nicaraguan government is an example of "plausibly deniable" warriors, but Britain enjoyed greater-and less publicized-success sending men to Yemen in the '60s to frustrate Egypt's efforts at control, and to Oman to stabilize the government. Readers may be surprised to learn of Britain's leading role in the plausibly deniable aid to mujahideen fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Geraghty also notes that the American invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan produced a vast expansion of private security services. Despite well-publicized episodes of trigger-happy behavior, such services remain essential in chaotic nations with ineffective police. Because Britainenjoyed more success in keeping its covert operations covert, the author's British viewpoint offers a unique perspective on the role of mercenaries in modern warfare. A lively and entertaining but sometimes nasty journalistic look at modern soldiers-for-hire.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781605981420
  • Publisher: Pegasus
  • Publication date: 3/15/2011
  • Pages: 420
  • Sales rank: 789,280
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 1.20 (d)

Meet the Author

Tony Geraghty has a lifetime’s experience as a soldier, airman, and war correspondent. He is the author of Soldiers of Fortune and Black Ops, and is a writer for The Guardian and The Sunday Times in London.
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