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Brooks, who insists that his goal is "to help end wars," brims with excitement about the private sector's potential to save lives in conflict zones around the world. But the conduct in the Iraq War of companies like Blackwater, an IPOA founding member accused of multiple indiscriminant shootings in Iraq, has proven to be a distraction, as have accusations against other companies (not all of them IPOA members) of human trafficking, overbilling, corruption, and shoddy work. Though at times Brooks can make hired guns sound like U.N. peacekeepers, few people doubt his good intentions. "I've known Doug for a while, and I take him very seriously when talks about his focus on private peacekeeping. It's not just marketing," says Singer. The reality, he adds, is that ever since the Iraq invasion the IPOA "has been forced to steer in a completely different direction. You can see that in the press inquiries that Doug is having to answer all the time. He's doing a lot more talking right now about Blackwater and Baghdad than about using contractors in Congo or Darfur." It's a conflict that is perhaps unavoidable as Brooks struggles to ensure that recent contractor scandals "don't hamstring the humanitarian potential" of the IPOA's member companies. But according to Avant, the Iraq War has made it harder, not easier, for Brooks to promote standards in the private military industry. She points out that, especially early in the war, companies that bent the rules typically did better for themselves than companies that followed them. The premium placed on good behavior was weakened as a result. Still, she says, IPOA standards are a good first step. "The industry does have an incentive to say, 'Look, we're not just a group of cowboy mercenaries. This is the law we operate on; these are the standards.'"
story--Jason Zengerle