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Panel to Discuss Contract Combatants at ODU Tonight

As the pressures on the modern military increase, U.S. forces have been challenged with a smaller military, and private military companies have often been hired to fill the gap. In stories ripped from today's headlines, these companies have been both demonized with charges of fraud and abuse and heralded by others for playing an integral and necessary role in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Old Dominion University's Institute for Ethics and Public Affairs will explore these companies and their role in national security during a panel discussion, "Contract Combatants: The Ethics of Private Military Companies," at 7 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 10, in Chandler Recital Hall of the Diehn Fine and Performing Arts Center. The Institute is housed in ODU's Department of Philosophy and Religious Studies.

The panel includes Deane-Peter Baker, assistant professor of philosophy at the U.S. Naval Academy; J.J. Messner, director of the Association of the Stability Operations Industry; and Virginia Patton Prugh, of the Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, U.S. Department of State. David Earnest, ODU associate professor of political science, will moderate the discussion.

Rather than producing the goods of modern warfare, such as weapons, ammunition and uniforms, private companies instead provide the services of warfare, including armed combat. Earlier this month, a U.N. panel called for greater oversight and regulation of private military contractors working in war zones such as Afghanistan.

For Dale Miller, associate professor and chair of the ODU philosophy and religious studies department, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have brought these issues to the United States in full force. "We've seen a marked increase in the use of private military companies by countries and non-state actors around the world. This panel is an opportunity for us to reflect on the ethical significance of our growing reliance on for-profit military," he said.

The panel discussion is free and open to the public. For more information call 683-3866 or email demiller@odu.edu.

This article was posted on: November 10, 2010

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