ESRC: RES-000-22-4042

Project on the Morality of Private War (£97,875), from Sept 2010 to Sept 2012.

SUMMARY: The private military industry has been growing rapidly since the end of the Cold War. Private military and security companies (PMSCs) provide a myriad of services, including the training of troops and security forces, the provision of transportation and logistics, and a number of roles more likely to involve direct combat, such as the protection of state officials. Given its extent, the increased reliance on PMSCs is often claimed to be one the most significant changes in the military profession over the past three decades.

Although the potential benefits and disadvantages of using PMSCs are often discussed, the ethical considerations are rarely fully elaborated.

This research project will therefore use normative political theory to assess the leading normative objections to the use of private military and security companies. It will develop a normative framework (the Moderate Instrumentalist Approach) on the justifiability of private force for individual contractors and those employing the services of PMSCs (e.g., states).

It will also develop two themes: first, the use of PMSCs raises a number of deeper, more fundamental normative difficulties, in addition to the more obvious contingent problems; second, the use of PMSCs can, nevertheless, sometimes be morally acceptable, even in combat roles.

To do this, the research will consider six central issues:

(i) if and when individual contractors can permissibly use and assist military force;
(ii) private contractors' liability to attack;
(iii) the legitimacy of states that employ PMSCs;
(iv) whether military services should be viewed as a public good;
(v) the possibility of using PMSCs to augment the international community's capacity to undertake humanitarian intervention; and
(vi) the use of PMSCs by humanitarian organisations to protect their personnel and infrastructure in the field.

Work associated with the project on PMSCs:

James Pattison (2014) The Morality of Private War: The Challenge of Private Military and Security Companies  (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2014).

James Pattison (2013) "When Is It Right to Fight? Just War Theory and the Individual-Centric Approach", Ethical Theory and Moral Practice, 16 (1), pp. 35-54.

Deane-Peter Baker and James Pattison (2012) "The Principled Case for Employing Private Military and Security Companies in Interventions for Human Rights Purposes", Journal of Applied Philosophy, 29 (1), pp. 1–18.

James Pattison (2012) "The Legitimacy of the Military, Private Military and Security Companies, and Just War Theory", European Journal of Political Theory, 11 (2), pp. 131–54.

James Pattison (2010) "Deeper Objections to the Privatisation of Military Force", Journal of Political Philosophy, 18 (4), pp. 425–47. This article is also available from the copyright holder here.

James Pattison (2010) "Outsourcing the Responsibility to Protect: Humanitarian Intervention and Private Military and Security Companies" International Theory, 2 (1), pp. 1–31. This article is also available from the copyright holder here. 
James Pattison (2008) "Just War Theory and the Privatization of Military Force",   Ethics and International     Affairs, 22 (2), pp. 143–62. This article is also available from the copyright holder  here.