why no modern Lincoln Brigades?


July 4, 2003, 03:48 AM
I was reading Gourevitch's account of the genocide in Rwanda and at one point the Belgian UNAMIR 'peacekeepers' pull out of Kigali, leaving thousands whom they had been protecting to the Hutu machetes. The UNAMIR commander felt that with just 5000 troops and a 'free hand' he could have stopped the genocide. Of course, the UN insisted they leave, citing a variety of political reasons.

That got me thinking of Orwell's Homage to Catalonia and the thousands of volunteers from around the world who joined the various groups fighting the fascists. Of course, Franco won, but not without a bit of help from the Luftwaffe's Henkel bombers.

The question is - why is there no modern equivalent? Is there some US law preventing, say, Bill Gates and a group of other rich do-gooders from funding a 10,000 strong force that basically stepped in when it was clear that the politicians didn't have the stones?

There are plenty of circumstances when a volunteer force would do no good, and get chopped up, like in Chechnya. And other times, like in Chiapas, when the trouble is a bit too close to home and the oppressor is our neighbor/ally.

But there are times, in central Africa or Kosovo, for example, where a reasonably well-trained force could set up safe zones and provide escort for civilian groups that are being slaughtered.

I know that as recently as the late 60s in the war in Rhodesia/Zimbabwe, non-government groups fought on both sides. I would be interested in anyone's experiences (Preacherman?). Also, some Albanian Americans joined the KLA, but that was already in existance.

As it stands now, if no government or UN-type organization steps in, we have to stand by and watch as people die by the thousand. I find that an appalling idea.

Lest this sound absurdly naive, let me add that the volunteers in Spain were well aware of the horrors of war, having seen the results of WWI. But they went anyway. Sometimes it is necessary to step into the breach when things are sufficiently outrageous, but as it stands now, we can only hope that our politicians.

Aside from the fun of thinking about the tools (everyone gets either an M16 or an M14, your choice) and who might join (Previous Occupation: Mall Ninja), I wonder if anyone else here has thoughts about this.

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Mark Tyson
July 4, 2003, 08:09 AM
Under the new antiterror laws, I think it would be very difficult to openly fund a private armed force. What we do need is a foreign legion similar to France's which is composed of enlisted troops from other nations, non-US citizens to do our assorted dirty work overseas.

July 4, 2003, 09:16 AM
The Lincoln Brigade was an anomoly of the times, formed during the increasing international tension between fascists and communists that culminated in WW2.

No communist ideologues=no Lincoln Brigade--pretty simple. There hasn't been anything approaching its scale since, though there have been plenty of civil wars providing the opportunity.

BTW, Orwell got his first close-up look at the product of his then-revered Soviet system and didn't like what he saw. Orwell's experiences in Spain gave him the impetus to write Animal Farm.

July 4, 2003, 09:38 AM
foreign enlistment of this type was and is technically illegal - here anyway - and possibly in the U.S. as well. A well-organised and, inevitably well-publicised brigade-sized unit could hardly escape hostile media attention these days.

July 4, 2003, 11:11 AM
I don't see any government allowing a standing private combat unit on its soil during peacetime. I'm also fairly certain that if a such a unit were to show up in any nation uninvited, it would be considered a heavily armed band of mercenaries, terrorists or bandits and be dealt with accordingly.

Private combat units don't make that much sense either. Basic (poor) infantry isn't that hard to raise anywhere and armored or heavy mechanised units are very difficult to move over long distances. Consider shipping a tank to Bunia, for instance.

What's more likely to exist is what exists today, namely smallish groups of high value specialists. I'm thinking of pilots and ground crew, training officers and NCO's, logistics experts and the like. The most likely combat-unit-for-hire IMO would be a sniper or 'special forces' team.

What could exist is an company marketing combat and civil engineers with equipment. It would offer its services to NGO's, the UN and host nations in the fields of road (re)construction, demining and the building and running of airfields, ports and logistics facilities. Perhaps it could even provide offroad cargo transport (tracked carriers) and transportation escort (with APCs). When it's not in a warzone, the company could also offer its services as forest fire fighters and (natural) disaster recovery specialists. Weapons policy and rules of engagement would definitely be part of the contract negotiations.

What such a company would equip itself with is beyond me, but its heavy equipment would probably be small enough that all of it can be transported by C130s. The M113 and its many variants (cargo transport, recovery, engineering, etc.) would probably fit the bill.

ErikM :evil:

El Tejon
July 4, 2003, 12:24 PM
An excellent question!!!

I would love to see the socialist poltroons of Boston, New York City, Chicago and L.A. all put their blood behind their convictions and ship out to Africa immediately! Time to create the New Man, comrades.:)

Of course, I will volunteer as CQB instructor. Oddly they will learn everything incorrectly and INCREASE their chances of not coming back ever.:D

July 4, 2003, 12:26 PM
Being a merc is illegal almost everywhere. The UN, the Third World Debating club, whose member countries are where most merc work is happening, frown upon mercs. They get no protection under any of the Rules of Warfare. Considering most militaries are having trouble filling the spots they have, filling slots with untrained idealistic bone heads would be difficult to say the least.
Those foreign brigades in the Spanish Civial War got themselves chopped up quite badly as I recall.

Oleg Volk
July 4, 2003, 12:30 PM
It is my impression, that in the Spanish Civil War, the (relatively) good guys won. It was a case of "pity only one side can lose"...and the Communist side had USSR-supplied tanks and aircraft and LMGs and all sort of goodies, too. It wasn't like the underdog Loyalists lost to the overwhelming force of bad guys...it was two nasty regimes fighting for primacy and whichever one won, the populace at large lost.

July 4, 2003, 01:40 PM
i read a book about mercenaries not too long ago and if i recall correctly the US takes steps to reduce its citizens participation in that activity
ill check to book and find out

July 4, 2003, 02:11 PM
I'm sure there's all kind of national and international laws that would break up such an attempt.

But, beyond that - what side are you going to fight for? Look at some of these places and the opponents... It's hard to find a group who you'd want to fight with.
I suppose the same was true in Spain. Knowing what you know today, would you want to fight with the Fascists or the Communists? I'd fight for neither.


another okie
July 4, 2003, 05:18 PM
Orwell wrote directly about his experience in Spain in Homage to Catalonia, an excellent book. He was lying wounded in the hospital fighting for the side supported by the Soviets when he heard the Soviet goons were on their way to eliminate him because his militia was an anarchist one.

Marko Kloos
July 4, 2003, 05:33 PM
A private combat force would need to turn a profit to sustain itself. Intervening in war-torn hellholes is idealistic, but not very profitable.

July 4, 2003, 06:29 PM
A league of private firms has offered to deal with the Congo for $100-200 million from the UN.

Hired Guns

July 4, 2003, 06:59 PM
Actually, a sort of Lincon Brigades exsist. Except they are Radical Muslims.
Johnny Taliban joined up with such an organization. Why he is not swinging
from a Oak tree for treason is still beyond me.

Hamas in Lebanon. True they are funded by a gov of sort, but I'm sure that
the Lincoln Birgades had some Soviet funding. Al-Queda - Funded by a Saudi multi-millionaire. Plus all the non-afghan muslims who fought against the soviets.

Mike Irwin
July 4, 2003, 07:35 PM
Because idealism is largely dead, killed in the post-atomic Cold War.

July 4, 2003, 11:15 PM
Seeing as how the Lincoln Brigades were communist sympathizers, most of our current media would have no problem with them.
But as someone mentioned, where would they go?

July 5, 2003, 01:49 AM
what side are you going to fight for?
as someone mentioned, where would they go?

In the last 10 years, the Balkans and central Africa are two places where unequivocal genocide was occurring. There would not necessarily be a place to fight every minute, but a rapid response team could have made a huge difference in Rwanda where most of the killers were armed with machetes only. In the Balkans, while the arms embargo was hamstringing the Bosnians, or while the Kosovar Albanians were being herded out of their villages, a force could have slowed the Serbs while civilians had a chance to get away. East Timor is another place where a small, effective force could have resisted the untrained militas terrorizing the civilian population.

It is easy to sneer at the Lincoln brigades because many were socialists or communists. hops is right; it is interesting that the only modern counterpart are fundamentalist Muslim goups. Does that mean that, for the rest of us, we are content with the way our government(s) are handling things like genocide? Maybe so, or maybe it is just too much for us to put ourselves on the line for people we don't know.

It is the romantic in me, but I can't help thinking of Rick Blaine smuggling arms to the Ethiopians, so they could resist the Italians.

July 5, 2003, 10:20 AM
I checked my book and in it is a gaggle of UN verbage about how mercenary activities are illegal
in this "civilized" world we dont need mercenaries

July 5, 2003, 11:52 AM
Orwell was more of an anarcho-socialist who wound up on the wrong side because the Soviets were more interested in killing the opposition WITHIN their ranks than fighting Franco. He became disgusted early on when the Reds wound up "purging" the Anarchists in their midst. The difference in Spain is that the combatants were driven by ideology. There were volunteers from Germany, France, Ireland, and other countries on ALL sides.

I have heard that Greenpeace is using and funding snipers in Africa to take out poachers on game reserves. It is a dangerous undertaking because lots of the national game police are killed by poachers every year.

July 5, 2003, 11:59 AM
Here is a link on the environmental army:

July 5, 2003, 12:20 PM
Of course there's mercs.
Africa, Latin America, Asia, Chechnya - lots of jobs.

Question is - would you want to be one?

July 5, 2003, 01:02 PM

The Abraham Lincoln Brigades were not merecenaries. It was made up of Americans (mostly) who volunteered to fight against Franco in the Spanish Civil War. A lot of them were socialists, communists and anarchists, but some were people who thought facism was a bigger threat (like Roosevelt and Churchill thought during WWII). Of course, some were fools/dupes and some just wanted to be in a war. The Soviets did funnel money and equipment to the "loyalist" side, as the Gremans and Italians did for Franco. Although it started as a Civil War it ended up being a proxy fight between the USSR (Stalin) and the Third Reich (Hitler)...Hitler won. It was also a test bed for equipment and tactics later used in WWII.

A great many of the survivers of the ALB joined the British and Canadian army at the start of WWII (1939). I do know that having been a member of the Lincoln Brigade was grounds for denial of a security clearance in the 50's, 60's and 70's.

As far as why there aren't any now, in most countries, if a citizen volunteers to fight under another nation's flag is considered to be a renounciation of citizenship. The US does make exceptions, Israel is one.

Also, as someone else posted, we aren't as idealistic as we once were.

4v50 Gary
July 5, 2003, 02:08 PM
Like El Tejon says, why not? The extremists from CA can go and darwinize themselves and just like the American Civil War, they should elect their own leaders (thereby assuring politics prevails over tactical saavy). :) BTW, didn't a lot of "human shields" come home alive? Geez, what's with that? The committment ends when the bombs & bullets fly?

July 5, 2003, 03:36 PM
i occasionaly pick up a copy of "soldier of fortune". let me say right of i have no romantic visions of being some merc wannabe, its just an interesting read.

executive outcomes seems to be one of the bigger private military companys-




July 5, 2003, 04:25 PM
Agree on modern mujaheedin as most comparable to nationless units fighting for an ideal. Al Quaeda similiar.

Something that happened in the late 1960s to 1970s in Western countries was that anyone that fit the mold of a idealistic volunteer was recruited into local underground terrorist movements. Red Brigade, Baader Meinhoff, Weathermen, etc.

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