The Instapundint links to a post and subsequent Boston Globe article proposing that the UN/international community hire mercenaries for peacekeeping operations in Darfur etc.
I think this is an excellent idea if done properly. Unfortunately I doubt it will in fact actually fly because of two reasons
The poor reputation of mercenaries with NGOs and other tranzies
The dependence of certain 3rd world armies on peacekeeping missions
Reason number 1 is the public reason that will be used to stop any serious attempt at doing so. The problem is that while the top mercnary forces are undoubtedly well disciplined etc. etc. there seems to be a significant drop off in quality once you go beyond the top dozen or so. In other words the reputation of mercenaries as potentially corrupt abusers is not entirely unearned, although that needs to be put against the also well-earned reputation of (UN) peacekeepers for abuse, corruption etc. In practical terms it seems unlikely that a force of mercenary peacekeepers would be worse than UN sponsored ones but you can be sure that the biases within the various NGOs and transnational organizations as well as the MSM would mean that abuse by mercenaries would be highlighted a la Abu Ghraib/Guantanamo whereas abuse by UN peacekeepers tends to get the Duranty/Stalin famine whitewash.
Reason numebr 2 is why many people at the UN would use reason number 1 to block the idea. In May 2005 there were 105 nations providing peacekeepers and:
16 peacekeeping operations underway with a total of 66,058 personnel, and the top contributors of military and civilian personnel to current missions were Pakistan (9,880), Bangladesh (7,932), India (6,001), and Nepal (3,562).
(Note that missions like Darfur are not under UN auspices at present and hence may be extra to this count)
For many of the countries involved the UN money provides a significant portion of their military budget (ignoring any unoffical opportunities for graft in country) and hence it seems unlikely that these nations would be willing to let competitive alternative get established, despite the fact that, as the globe notes, the mercenaries would probably be cheaper:
The industry also claims that it's far cheaper than its multilateral or military counterparts. ''We offer the ability to create a right-sized solution-which creates a cost savings right off the bat," says Taylor. By contrast, Brooks notes, ''NATO is insanely expensive; it's not a cost-effective organization. Neither is the [African Union]. Private companies would be much, much cheaper. When we compared their costs to most UN operations, we came up with 10 to 20 percent of what the UN would normally charge."
Needess to say if the AU is that expensive it almost certainly means that someone is raking off a significant take because it is 100% certain that the soldier's salaries are lower than the mercenary equivalents.
The third problem is one about mission definition. As the globe article noted:
In the mid and late '90s, the South African firm Executive Outcomes and British firm Sandline International offered direct combat support to the governments of Angola and Sierra Leone. In Angola, 500 ex-special forces officers working for Executive Outcomes conducted sophisticated airstrikes and commando operations to help the Angolan military retake its diamond mines and oil fields from the rebel group UNITA. In Sierra Leone, Executive Outcomes and later Sandline were hired to combat the RUF insurgency. With targeted helicopter attacks and ground assaults, both firms dominated tactically, but fighting broke out soon after their respective contracts ended.
This could be fixed if the mercenaries were also given a proper training role and that simply isn't going to be acceptable to the NGOs and tranzies. The problem is that the sure fix is to arm and train the villagers into militias following the Swiss model, unfortunately that means that you end up with a highly armed society and that, in turn, threatens all the "democratic" leaders involved who can see that their armies will no longer be able to terrorize the population into giving them what they want. The NGOs and tranzies would also object firstly on philosophical grounds because they are statists pure and simple and secondly on the pracitcal grounds that they generally can't cope (literally, as in they don't have the mechanisms in place) with individuals or small communities but only with nations or other larger bodies.
In addition the NGOs also have a classic dependancy problem. The NGOs are effectively dependant on the goodwill of the local rulers to operate and hence cannot afford to support, even if they wanted to, anyone who threatens the incumbent ruling elite because if they do they will see their access denied and, probably, their in-country assets looted.
As a result of all this, while I think that a mercenary peacekeeping force would be a damn good idea, I'm sceptical that it will ever be seen except under the sorts of circumstance that practically guarantee its preceived failure.
Update:Justoneminute helps illustrate the impracticality of the idea.