A mercenary is a person who takes part in an armed conflict, who is not a national or a party to the conflict and is "motivated to take part in the hostilities essentially by the desire for private gain and, in fact, is promised, by or on behalf of a party to the conflict, material compensation substantially in excess of that promised or paid to combatants of similar ranks and functions in the armed forces of that Party".
Science Fiction Novelist David Drake wrote a long series of novels about a future mercenary band called Hammer's Slammers. If the price was right and the planet was within reach, you too could hire your very own column of armored vehicles to rearrange the terrain to something that better suited your personal tastes. Our present leadership in Washington, DC isn't that crass and won't be funding NASA quite enough to make that happen. Yet Secretary of State John Kerry made a comment to the US Senate that makes me wonder if our venal national leadership isn't travelling that road in its hopes to get their Syrian adventure approved by a balking and angry Congress.
You see, Secretary of State Kerry was attempting to get people to stop worrying about the cost of all the ordnance and OPTEMPO required to bomb targets spread throughout Syria. So he uncorked some comments that made me think he was a character from one of David Drake's old pulp military sci-fi novels. Unless he was committing the Mother of All Gaffes, I'm now less worried about Syria than I am about how we intend to finance it.
According to Secretary Kerry, Arab rulers not fond of Iran's influence over Syria are ready to pay the bill to have the United States go in there and yank Bashir Al-Assad out as if he were a rotten tooth. It leads Patrick J. Buchanon to raise the following alarm.
Has it come to this – U.S. soldiers, sailors, Marines and airmen as the mercenaries of sheikhs, sultans and emirs, Hessians of the New World Order, hired out to do the big-time killing for Saudi and Sunni royals?
Buchanon is amusingly histrionic. It helps him sell books. He also raises a more important question than just the one of whether we go after Syria. How about "Are we now for hire?" Or maybe "Do we kill on contract?" "Should we put a 25% fee and G&A charge on top and rent out the 82nd Airborne to help pay for all the funerals and finance the current account deficit?"
While I'm no fan of our plans to bomb Syria and needlessly enrage the Russians over a tragic situation that is no more an American fight than the ongoing slaughter in the Congo, I don't think pecuniary matters should top our list of concerns over whether we unleash hell over the City of Aleppo. It is either our moral obligation to penalize anyone who gasses large crowds of people or it is not. The cost of administering said penalty should become an issue when it grows far more exhorbitant than the typical cost of military adventurism.
I'm not usually in the Pat Buchanon fan club. He is too isolationist for my tastes. That doesn't mean that the man doesn't raise a vital question. Are American military asssets now for rent to anyone who pays to have some dirty deeds done dirt cheap? If this is the Pandora's Box our feckless Secretary of State now opens, we have much bigger military issues than just whether or not we should go after Syria.
The US Consititution would probably permit an amoral President to rent out our military in a manner reminiscent of Hammer's Slammers. It is up to the US Congress to disapprove and stop such a travesty before it even starts. If Genghis Kahn were alive today and were watching Secretary Kerry offer up the idea of our military fighting Saudi Arabia's rent-a-war against Syria, he would spit on anyone who acted in a manner reminiscent of John kerry.