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Money for Mayhem

Mercenaries, Private Military Companies, Drones, and the Future of War
Table of

Gazes into the crystal ball to forecast what the future of war looks like in a world dominated by private armies.

The way war is waged is evolving quickly—igniting the rapid rise of private military contractors who offer military-style services as part of their core business model. When private actors take up state security, their incentives are not to end war and conflict but to manage the threat only enough to remain relevant. Arduino unpacks the tradeoffs involved when conflict is increasingly waged by professional outfits that thrive on chaos rather than national armies. This book charts the rise of private military actors from Russia, China, and the Middle East using primary source data, in-person interviews, and field research amongst operations in conflict zones around the world. Individual stories narrated by mercenaries, military trainers, security entrepreneurs, hackers, and drone pilots are used to introduce themes throughout. Arduino concludes by considering today’s trajectories in the deployment of mercenaries by states, corporations, or even terrorist organizations and what it will mean for the future of conflict.

The book follows private security contractors that take on missions in different countries with a variety of challenges. First-hand data and intimate knowledge of the actors involved in the market for force allow a fully grounded narrative with personal input. Through this prism, readers will gain a better understanding of the human, security, and political risks that are part of this industry. The book specifically reveals the risk that unaccountable mercenaries pose in increasing the threshold for conflict, the threat to traditional military forces, the corruption in political circles, and the rising threat of proxy conflicts in the US rivalry with China and Russia.

Dr. Alessandro Arduino has two decades of experience in China encompassing risk analysis and crisis management, focusing on Belt & Road Initiative security, cyber security, private military and security companies, combat UAVs, and Chinas political economy in Africa, Middle East, and Central Asia. He is a consultant to several organizations on security, risk assessment, and mitigation. Arduino is a principal research fellow at the Middle East Institute, National University of Singapore, co-director of the Security & Crisis Management International Centre at the Shanghai Academy of Social Science, and an affiliate at the Lau China Institute, Kings College London. Arduino is the author of several books, including Securing the Belt and Road Initiative and Chinas Private Army. Protecting the New Silk Road, and he has published papers and commentaries in various journals in Italian, English and Chinese languages. He has been appointed Knight of the Order of the Italian Star by the President of the Italian Republic.

Chapter 1: Private Armies

Chapter 2: From Russia with Love: Mercenaries Fit the Bill

Chapter 3: Russian Grey Is the New Black

Chapter 4: Mercenaries Russian Roulette

Chapter 5: Private Security with Chinese Characteristics: No More Local Guards, Not Yet Wolf Warriors

Chapter 6: Defending the Belt and Road Initiative from Africa to the Middle East

Chapter 7: How China Sees Its Own Private Security Sector

Chapter 8: The Evolution of a New Chinese Security Actor

Chapter 9: Turkeys New Janissaries

Chapter 10: Drone Mercenaries: A New Security Paradigm from China, Russia, and Turkey

Chapter 11: Drone Warfare: Lessons Learned?

Chapter 12: Drone Casus Belli

Chapter 13: Cyber Mercenaries: From Boots on the Ground to the Metaverse

Chapter 14: Two Opposites: None-Combatant Contractors and Jihadist Mercenaries

Chapter 15: Mercenaries, PMSCs, and the Future of Warfare

Appendix I: From Mercenary to Cyber-Mercenary: A Timeline

Appendix II: The Duma and Russian PMSCs

Appendix III: The Evolution of Chinese Private Security Laws and Regulations and the Data Security Law




Security consultant Arduino debuts with an exhaustive examination of governments’ increasing reliance on mercenaries, arguing that a new ‘anarchy’ is taking hold internationally.... He covers major state players in the mercenary market, including the U.S., China, Russia, and Turkey, and describes the typical uses for mercenaries, including operating as private security contractors, aiding citizens during natural disasters, and maintaining ‘plausible deniability’ in foreign military engagements. Arduino discusses each country’s history with mercenaries, assesses the strengths and weaknesses of the available troops, and highlights unique issues such as China’s problem with impostors—mercenaries who falsely identify themselves as former Gurkhas or Mossad agents.... He also addresses new developments in warfare, mainly cyberattacks and drone assassinations, that further obfuscate just who is fighting whom, and which are increasingly outsourced to contractors.... Readers will be intrigued to learn about this understudied phenomenon.
— Publishers Weekly

This is an important and timely book on an emerging issue. China is now a major player in foreign investment, regularly in places with considerable risk. It is no surprise that private security is part of this, but high standards and professionalism are key to avoid reputational risk.
— Bert Hofman, Director, East Asian Institute, National University of Singapore; former World Bank Country Director for China

Move over Blackwater and Eric Prince. Russian, Chinese, and Middle Eastern mercenaries and private armies demand their share of the pie. That is the story of Money for Mayhem. With unique access, Alessandro Arduino weaves a tale that is must-reading for understanding the way warfare is evolving with mercenaries, private armies, and technological innovation taking centerstage.
— Dr. James M. Dorsey, author of the syndicated column and blog, The Turbulent World

The most consequential book Ive read in some time about mercenaries. Arduino lays out many of the actors and why they fight, and his knowledge of China’s emerging private security industry is second to none.
— Sean McFate, professor of strategy, National Defense University; author of The New Rules of War: Victory in the Age of Durable Disorder

Money for Mayhem is a very timely and exceptionally important contribution to today’s understanding of the new wave of private military contractors in armed conflicts globally. A must-read for a better understanding of the trends, challenges, and possible solutions to manage the impact and fallout of the activities of these private actors.
— Jamie Williamson, Executive Director, International Code of Conduct for Private Security Service Providers Association (ICoCA)

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