Bill O’Reilly is fed up with ISIS. He’s fed up with the term “Boots on the Ground.” He’s fed up with the politics of it all. So, rather than talk about how Republicans would have destroyed ISIS by now, he’s proposed his own solution: A 25,000 man real-life equivalent of GI Joe. No, really. What’s more, he’s so sold on the idea of this being a solution that he’s been promoting it at just about every possible turn, and his logic in pushing it is pretty terrifying.
First, let’s begin with the brass tacks: Here is a transcript of O’Reilly’s original proposal, as laid out in the September 22nd Talking Points memo:
What about a mercenary army? Elite fighters would be well paid, well trained to defeat terrorists all over the world. Here’s how it would work.
The fighters would be recruited by America, and trained in the USA by our special forces. Army rules of engagement would be followed, strict discipline, formed by the Geneva convention. America would be in charge of selecting who makes the cut, and how they are deployed, with an eye on a 25,000 force. America and NATO officers would lead the mercenary army, and the USA would also provide logistical support, placing the first chosen soldiers in Kurdistan.
The force would be called the Anti-Terror Army, and the cost paid by the coalition that President Obama is putting together. That means that all countries who want protection from the USA and NATO would have to chip in. If they don’t pay, they get no help. The Elite force would be English Speaking, and because paychecks would be issued, soldiers already in armed forces around the world would not be eligible. Only American and NATO officers in command would be exempt from that. Each soldier would sign a contract, a three year contract, and they would be well paid.
And finally, it would help a lot if the US congress would formally declare war on terrorism, and stop trying to coax reluctant, sometimes cowardly countries into fighting Islamic terrorism.
Can’t you just imagine O’Reilly’s words over the opening title of GI Joe?
But since this isn’t a cartoon, here are three things I find really wrong with this proposal:
1) O’Reilly wants to give top-flight training and highly-confidential information to an army of mercenaries, who work per contract. How many ways did you see that going horribly, horribly wrong before you finished that sentence?
2) Despite being NATO run, America would be the only country running the recruitment, training, tactical, and logistics. Also, only English speakers and only officers above a certain rank can join from active duty? Once again…
3) If this requires a new, formally-declared “War on Terror” to be successful, wouldn’t the money be better spent on the CTU Special Forces we already have? If only because a group like, say… SEAL team Six didn’t need a formally-declared war to kill, say… Osama Bin Laden.
Other people have problems with this proposal, too. Fox’s own Charles Krauthammer demolished it as “off-the wall.” A group of military experts interviewed by Media Matters came to a similar conclusion.
Likewise, Professor Thomas Nichols, a professor of national security affairs at U.S. Naval War College, told O’Reilly that the idea is not only “morally corrosive,” but also impractical. O’Reilly was dismissive and condescending to Nichols, saying that history is full of examples of mercenaries being used by the U.S. However, Nichols pointed out they never did the bulk of our fighting.
Former National Security Council official Jillian Turner didn’t fare much better. When she told O’Reilly that she had concerns over the funding, O’Reilly cut her off to say that countries like Saudi Arabia would pay enough to fund it. “Believe me, they would put billions into this if they didn’t have to do anything!” he shouted. Turner continued to tell him that many countries would have a problem funding a global army basically controlled by the U.S., O’Reilly shot back “I think it can be done,” before ending the segment.
O’Reilly also took his campaign for a mercenary force to CBS where he received a polite but skeptical response.
However, O’Reilly was able to find someone to endorse his plan: Erik Prince. If you don’t recognize the name, here’s a little excerpt from a March, 2009 report from ABC News:
The CEO and founder of the scandal-ridden security firm once known as Blackwater USA resigned Monday morning as part of the company's attempt to rebrand itself after being fired earlier this year by the State Department from its job protecting diplomats in Iraq. The firm officially changed its name last month from Blackwater to Xe.
…Blackwater, now Xe, has been the target of at least four grand jury investigations and accusations of tax fraud, improper use of force, arms trafficking and overbilling. The firm has denied any wrongdoing.
…Five former Blackwater guards have pleaded not guilty to federal charges that include 14 counts of manslaughter and 20 counts of attempted manslaughter. No charges were brought against the corporation.
Prince expressed some initial doubts but he said mercenaries are as much a “part of American history as apple pie.”
Watch O'Reilly push his plan below.