University of Miami National Security & Armed Conflict Law Review

Document Type



In response to gritty accounts of firefights involving private forces like Blackwater in Iraq and Afghanistan, many legal scholars have addressed the rising use of private forces——or mercenaries——in the 21st century under international law. Remarkably, only a few have attempted to understand why these forces are so objectionable. This is not a new problem. Historically, attempts to control private forces by bringing them under international law have been utterly ineffective, such as Article 47 of Additional Protocol II to the Geneva Conventions. In Silent Partners, I propose utilizing the norm against mercenary use as a theoretical framework to understand at what point private forces become objectionable and then draft a provision of international humanitarian law to effectively control their use. Such a provision will encourage greater compliance with international law by these forces and reduce their negative externalities by ensuring legitimate control and attachment to a legitimate cause.