In this fast-moving account of his life, Tim Spicer describes the events in Papua New Guinea when he was captured at gun-point and held in captivity—and came away with his life, his men, and the company's honor intact. Here too is the full truth about the notorious "Arms for Africa" affair which tied the Foreign Office in a knot over whether Sandline had broken a UN embargo on supplying arms to the legitimate government-in-exile of Sierra Leone. Spicer's entertaining account of modern soldiering in peace and war looks at the creation of private military companies—the modern, legitimate version of the old mercenaries—and concludes with his troubling forecast for the dangerous world that lies ahead in the new millennium, making this an essential guide to life as it is lived in some of the world's trouble spots, as well as a glimpse of the intrigue that lies behind the British political scene.
This is a brave book, free of the bitter blood and guts filling current works in the category. There's a lot more serotonin than testosterone here. The work isn't about bravery under fire; it's about the ideas a very professional man has about his occupation, Soldiering. And his industry, - War.
In our present international state Spicer's Peace Making makes more sense than the U.N.'s Peace Keeping. In a world where our leaders run around like rock stars continually checking their popularity poles, Tim Spicer takes a hard look at the best way to save lives, civilian and military. He lays out how war actually works covering the necessary facts and not drowning the reader in details. There's no harping on the cold hard facts of being a soldier; he relates the conditions as if it's of no more importance than a weather report.
While the world leaders are busy ranting and consoling, the man with the gun seems to be the only one thinking. Spicer's case for P.M.C's is well organized and placed in relevant areas within the story of his experiences as a soldier. It brings up important questions that eventually must be dealt with. The logic is irrefutable, men are a P.M.C.'s assets; companies don't waste assets the way governments have been known waste soldiers. The cold logic of his arguments is like the truths he reveals, a little hard to take at times.
Far from being the unfeeling hard [nosed] commander, his anguish bleeds through when he tells the tale of how badly two of his men were treated in Ireland and his frustrated anger is clear when dealing with several government double crosses. He seems to find these more insulting than frightening because they are so hopelessly flawed. It's almost as if he were saying, "And these are the guys running things?"
Throughout it all there is humor, passion and suspense and not all questions are answered. I find myself still wondering where the knife, compass and money was? Spicer doesn't tell us or the enemy everything.
All said, though this might not be considered a woman's book, I found Spicer's work strangely comforting, even hopeful.
By Gerard McLennan (Mosman, NSW Australia)
This book is an interesting story covering the military service of Lt Col Tim Spicer as an Officer in the Scots Guards and later as the Managing Director of Sandline. Colonel Spicer saw active service in Northern Ireland and the Falklands and was awarded the OBE for service as the OC 1st BN Scots Guards during a deployment to Northern Ireland. He also served in Bosnia as Staff officer to General Rose during the Serbian encirclement of Sarajevo and other cities when the UN attempt to keep the warring factions apart.
Although it is interesting to read the view of a protaganist the book is a thinly disguised advertisement for Private Military Companies (PMC) as a potential solution for security issues faced by legitimate Governments in Third World countries.
Colonel Spicer gives a brief coverage of the Sandline operation in Papua New Guinea which failed when one of the major stakeholders, the PNGDF Commander, changed sides and promoted a mutiny by his troops which resulted in the Sandline Contract being cancelled by the new PNG Government.
He also brushes over the Sierre Leone affair which caused upheaval in UK when Sandline was accused of illegal arms shipments.
The reader is also asked to accept that PMCs provide an efective solution for many of today's security problems. Colonel Spicer maintains that a professional, self regulated private miliatry force under legal contract to a legitimate government can provide earlier resolution to emerging security problems and thereby reduce the reliance on the UN and Major world powers to provide the military resources required to control the situation.
It is necessary to read between the lines to identify that the future for Soldiers of Fortune will be more closely linked to PMCs which can be regulated and therefore provide a higher quality of service.
I recommend the book to those interested in the profession of arms for a glimpse into the future where the mercenary or professional soldier will be used more often then the "levy" or conscript.