Outsourced Empire

Outsourced Empire : How Militias, Mercenaries, and Contractors Support US Statecraft

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Andrew Thomson rethinks the history of US imperialism, from the Cold War to today, to reveal how paramilitaries, militias, mercenaries, private armies, and contractors have always been central to US-sponsored insurgencies and US counterinsurgent statecraft.

Examining a broad range of events from the Bay of Pigs to the occupation of Iraq, and from the Soviet-Afghan war to the ongoing conflict in Syria, Thomson offers an analysis of the evolution of US support for various para-institutional actors or non-state armed forces. He demonstrates how and why militias, mercenaries, and private military companies have increasingly formed a central part of US imperial strategies designed to influence political and economic conditions abroad.

Drawing on declassified documents including military training manuals, CIA communiqus, and national security documents, Outsourced Empire reveals new evidence that helps us understand these institutions and their collective role in maintaining global order.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 256 pages
  • 135 x 215 x 22.86mm | 276.69g
  • London, United Kingdom
  • English
  • 0745337031
  • 9780745337036
  • 1,496,253

Table of contents

List of Abbreviations and Acronyms


1. US Imperial Statecraft and Para-Institutional Forces

2. Covert Regime Change in the Early Cold War: 'Power Moves

Involved in the Overthrow of an Unfriendly Government'

3. Counterinsurgent Statecraft: Militias, Mercenaries, and Contractors

4. Reagan, Low-Intensity Conflict, and the Expansion of

Para-Institutional Statecraft

5. Continuity After the Cold War and the Consolidation of

Para-Institutional Complexes

6. The War on Terror, Irregular Warfare, and the Global

Projection of Force



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Review quote

'A very important and timely contribution' -- Jasmin Hristov, University of British Colombia, author of Paramilitarism and Neoliberalism (Pluto, 2016) 'Existing works which seek to explain US foreign policy in imperial terms do not pay sufficient attention to the consistent use of para-state networks. Thomson corrects this lacuna, through detailed empirical analyses ... an original and distinctive book' -- Sam Raphael, Department of Politics and IR, University of Westminster 'A timely and critical look at the evolution, formation, and role of US propelled paramilitarism ... a vital study' -- Jeb Sprague, University of California, Santa Barbara, author of Paramilitarism and the Assault on Democracy in Haiti (Monthly Review Press, 2012)
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About Andrew Thomson

Andrew Thomson is a Lecturer at Queen's University Belfast and Research Fellow at the Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice. He is the author of Outsourced Empire (Pluto, 2018). He researches in the areas of pro-government militias and paramilitaries, dynamics of violence in civil wars, US foreign policy, the Colombian conflict and peace process, and US counterinsurgency and 'irregular' warfare.
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