Compensating foreign military workers in warzones

Authors: Adam Moore*, UCLA
Topics: Military Geography, Political Geography, Economic Geography
Keywords: Military, labor, contracting, citizenship
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/6/2019
Start / End Time: 1:10 PM / 2:50 PM
Room: 8216, Park Tower Suites, Marriott, Lobby Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Contracting is an inextricable facet of the U.S.’s present-day military campaigns, shifting the composition of labor from uniformed and American to, increasingly, civilian and foreign. In particular, the military is highly dependent on the labor and sacrifices of foreign workers in the realm of logistics—who are often subject to a range of exploitative labor practices, from wage theft to trafficking—to support overseas operations. After briefly outlining the contours of this phenomenon, this paper explores the following question: what does the U.S. owe this army of labor, in particular those it categorizes as third country nationals, or TCNs? Contracting severs the relationship between military work and citizenship, turning it into a purely market relation, and in doing so allows the U.S. to externalize, in part, the costs of its various wars by relying on a disposable global workforce. In contrast, other forms of military work performed by non-U.S. citizens—such as Arabic interpreters in Iraq or foreign residents in the U.S. that join the military through the MAVNI program—offer pathways to residency or citizenship-based on the concept of jus meritum, or citizenship for meritorious service. I argue that pathways for similar recognition should be offered in the case of labor performed by third country nationals in warzones.

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