Book Review: Privatizing War: Private Military and Security Companies under Public International Law

AuthorAlexander Akbik
Date01 February 2016
Published date01 February 2016
Subject MatterBook ReviewsInternational Relations
Book Reviews 83
theoretical lenses. The authors draw upon
Neoliberal Institutionalism and Liberal
Intergovernmentalism to provide more
explanatory power. In looking at the world of
diplomacy, two layers are at play: ‘order as
value’ and ‘order as fact’.
Part V, a normative approach to diplomacy
and the diplomat, is a collection of chapters
comprising normative interpretations of multi-
level challenges to traditional forms of diplo-
matic representation. The chapters in Part V
focus upon environmental (structural) changes
and actor-led changes in the diplomatic field.
However, given the opportunity structures that
have arisen since the end of the Cold War, pre-
ventive diplomacy is becoming increasingly
relevant and moving to the fore of international
One of the most valuable features of this
book as a tool for studies is the manner in which
it nests diplomacy, with its theory and practice,
soundly within the social sciences. The tools
have been taken, as noted by the authors, ‘from
inside and outside of political science and inter-
national relations, reaching into adjacent disci-
plines such as communications, economics, law,
ethics, psychology, and sociology’ (p. 203).
Moving beyond what readers might expect from
a book that deeply scrutinises instruments, insti-
tutions and processes, the authors step into what
they refer to as the ‘conceptual nemesis’ of
diplomacy: anti-diplomacy. Rich in case stud-
ies, the book is full of very current examples of
how political, social and economic issues inter-
act with state interests and foreign policy needs
and desires.
Scott Nicholas Romaniuk
(University of Trento)
Privatizing War: Private Military and
Security Companies under Public
International Law by Lindsey Cameron
and Vincent Chetail. Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 2013. 754pp., £99.99 (h/b),
ISBN 9781107032408
For better or worse, private military and secu-
rity companies (PMSCs) have become a reality
in domestic and international affairs. In
Privatizing War, Lindsey Cameron and Vincent
Chetail effectively engage with the question of
how public international law (IL) is currently
regulating the conduct of PMSCs. Through the
extensive use of International Criminal Court
and tribunal rulings, utilising the secondary lit-
erature as well as interpreting legal documents,
the authors deliver a comprehensive account.
In their rigorous work, they structure their con-
tribution by addressing the limits on the use of
PMSCs, describing the legal framework gov-
erning the use and actions of PMSCs in the
context of armed conflict and, finally, elaborat-
ing on the extent as well as the mechanisms by
which states can be held accountable for the
actions of PMSCs.
The authors manage to show that PMSCs
do not operate in a legal vacuum and that ‘there
is no overarching rule, explicit or implicit, that
prohibits recourse to PMSCs as a whole and in
general’ (p. 133) while arguing that their con-
duct should always be limited. Moreover,
under specific circumstances, PMSCs can be
considered part of state organs and regulated as
such (p. 143). Finally, regulation from the state
should always be more welcome than self-reg-
ulation from this industry (p. 662). If there is
one shortcoming in this book, however, it is the
failure to project future developments in the
field and provide instruments for a more com-
prehensive regulation of the conduct of
PMSCs. Despite a substantial account of cur-
rent law practices, one is left to wonder how
this can and should change in the future and
how it will be affected by new forms of war-
fare. The authors’ normative state centrism in
this regard can be interpreted as a hindrance
rather than part of the solution.
While being geared towards students of IL,
legal experts and practitioners in the field, this
book can also be recommended to students of
IR and world politics. Cameron and Chetail
manage eloquently to bring forth their argu-
ments and provide the fullest account of the
regulations of PMSCs in public IL to date. Its
main innovation is, therefore, neither methodo-
logical nor empirical, but the demonstration of
the extant international legal structure and its
capacity – contrary to many critical voices
arguing otherwise – to regulate the conduct of
non-state, non-individual actors.
Alexander Akbik
(Central European University)

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