Wild Geese, Winged Daggers, and Leopards in the Jungle

In perfect keeping with my academic ventures, the initial plan for my paper was quite interesting to me, very very ambitious, and on the whole more than a little high-minded and obscenely impractical. While the study of mercenary soldiering’s evolution from the Congo to the modern age would be interesting and very much in line with my academic pursuits, it would also be nigh well impossible to cut down to a mere 14 or so pages.

So I decided to chop things down a bit and to focus merely on the Congo, and to try to gauge the effectiveness of the three main mercenary units that served for the duration of the Simba Rebellion. This actually made matters much easier for me, as the number of primary source documents about the Congo is considerably higher than those of, say, Biafra or Angola.

Granted, that’s as much of a curse as it is blessing. Due to the lack of secondary source documents, I have to use a lot of “source triangulation” to confirm the veracity of statements—fact-checking documents against one another. Considering the obvious self-interest of memoirs, this could have proven problematic were it not for the accounts of two players who had little to no emotional investment in the mercenary leaders. Frederic Vandewalle and Jerry Puren’s memoirs act as a sort of a baseline to judge the others off of, something that has proven quite useful.

Another benefit to the tightened focus is being able to devote greater pagespace to elements of the topic that interest me rather than rushing through them so as to ensure I cover everything possible. Overall, I feel that this new paper will be considerably more successful than the other one potentially could have been.

Vive la mort, vive la guerre, vive le sacré mercenaire

Mercenary soldiers are hardly a new phenomenon on the world stage, but in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries they’ve acquired a new notability, starting with the large operations in the Congo and today with the booming private military contractor industry. My paper aims to take a look at the driving forces behind this resurgence of mercenary work, analyzing the evolution of modern mercenary soldiering from large-scale warfighting to more technical, consulting and security work, along with the motives and politics behind mercenary work.

My work will include primary sources from the Congo, Biafra, Angola, the Sierra Leone Civil War, and several other coups and operations. These sources are all easily attainable, and this paper ought to prove quite fun to write.