Another of our mini-episodes, this is actually a followup to a previous episode. Jad and I get into a small discussion about mercenary groups, their history, and how the United States has been increasingly relying upon such groups in the Middle East. We discuss Academi (formerly known as Blackwater) and the role they play in the modern battlefield.

About half-way through the episode we find ourselves in a tangential discussion of the acclaimed HBO series, Game of Thrones. Of course, we always find ways to connect the gaps.

If you’re a big TV fan, let me be the first to tell you that this episode contains a few spoliers!

Material from Podcast


Transcript of Podcast

Kevin: Hello, and welcome to another episode of our ongoing weekly discussion. This week we’ve done something a little different. Typically, Jad and I engage in a one to two hour discussion on various topics, and then edit those down to the material we call a podcast. Usually we wind up with extra material that doesn’t really have a place, and so it’s just tossed to the side. But this week, we’ve decided to keep some of those table scraps. After a short and seemingly tangential discussion on mercenaries, we straight even further then got into a brief discussion on the hit HBO series, “Game of Thrones”. If you’ve not seen the show, it’s an amazing production based on the series, “A Song of Fire and Ice”.

Having seen it, I would highly recommend the show. Although I’ve never read the books, Jad is actually reading them for the second time now. If you’ve never met him before, he’s one of the nicest and most patient people you’re likely to encounter – essentially my polar opposite in that regard – and at the moment is actually reading the books to his wife, Elisa, just so they can watch the show together.

Jad: I’m actually – I’m reading with Elisa, I’m reading them again to her because she refuses to watch things until she reads the books, but there are certain things where I’m like, “okay, I really want to watch this so I’m reading you the book.”

Kevin: If you’ve neither read the books nor watched the television show, there are a few spoilers in this episode – I repeat, some of the story will be revealed to you. I do provide another warning before those spoilers, but you have been warned. Until then, here’s a short discussion on mercenary groups.

Probably a whole different topic that we could get into at some point, but I think that’s what’s really interesting about all these private groups that have come about you know, like The Black Waters, which – I forget what they changed their name to – but that group you know, where you basically have private mercenaries that the government is essentially just hiring professional mercenaries at these unbelievable rates to go in and do their business for them because now, you basically remove the entire government system from the equation, and yet the government is still very much in control of those systems.

From a government point of view – and from the most evil of mindsets – it’s quite brilliant actually. For us, it’s one of the most terrifying things I can think of, actually, that this is all of a sudden permissible and encouraged, no less.

Jad: Right.

Kevin: I don’t know what we should do with that though.

Jad: Yeah. The Mises[?] Institute has a whole bunch of stuff on mercenary groups. It’s really fascinating because they’re very ambivalent about the stuff. These are historians that have read stuff that I haven’t read, so I don’t know how to evaluate it exactly, but they’re talking about like, the treaty of West [?], up to the first World War, so like 16 – whatever it is – 48 or something – there’s this period of time where like you know, villages are burned and cities are burned, and it’s just like this – like the 100 years war and all that sort of era of religious conflict, where civilians are legitimate targets and you know, populations centers are decimated and it’s just awful, and all of the armies are national armies – or you know, armies of thiefdoms really.

But then it transitions into a stage of the early nation state, where they make these rules where they say, don’t kill civilians, and the armies are supposed to meet out in a rural area for their fighting so that no one gets hurt, no property is destroyed, blah, blah, blah. And mercenary armies are used a lot, so it ends up in these conflicts between you know, these cousins who happen to be like the Archduke of Bavaria, and you know, whatever, Franz Ferdinand or something –

Kevin: Right.

Jad: – in [?] Hungarian empire[?]. Their mercenary armies come out and they negotiate with each other because they’re getting paid by one side, and now they’ve got money from the other side, and they might do a small engagement or whatever but they’re in it for the money – they’re not in it for the nation’s state, or for their god, or for whatever, so they’re very reasonable about walking away and letting their guy lose. And since the price of losing isn’t losing your country because that again is you know, is sort of frowned upon by this structure of the nation state, [?] usually just pay a penalty and you lose some you know, peripheral lands and pay reparations or something and then you’re done, and then you get to still be the Archduke of Bavaria or whatever.

So it’s this weird period of time where warfare is like, not that scary you know? And then the industrial revolution like the Civil War is kind of supposedly the end of that period, and then the 1st World War, it’s all gone. Anyway – as a total tangent – they have all this literature on mercenary armies just being like maybe, potentially you know – they have an upside and a downside I guess. The downside being you don’t have to convince anyone in your country to start a war, you can just hire mercenaries.

Kevin: Right.

Jad: And mercenaries are always present at the end of empires – the British hired the Hessians to fight the United States, and the Romans actually were sacked by mercenary armies that they have previously employed and just weren’t happy with the terms that they separated on, so they just went to Rome and picked up their money. So –

Kevin: I guess that’s one way to do it.

Jad: Yeah. So – and that’s kind of the scary part – to me – of Black Water / Xe[?], or whatever they are –

Kevin: Since neither Jad nor I were certain what this group is calling itself these days, here’s a short history from Wikipedia. In 1997, the organization was founded by a former Navy Seal named Eric Prince, under the name it’s probably best still known as Black Water. In February of 2009, the name was changed to Xe – spelled like the chemical element for Xenon, Xe.

Finally in December of 2011, the company changed its name once again – this time to Academy[?]. If you’re curious, that name is in reference to Plato’s Academy, a somewhat unconventional name for a private mercenary firm. According to the company’s new CEO, Ted Wright, that was chosen specifically to sound more, “boring”.

Jad: – is that yeah, what happens – what happens when they don’t get paid anymore, but there’s still a cohesive military unit like, hanging out somewhere in the southeastern United States.

Kevin: Yeah.

Jad: That’s problematic, but as far as like, I’m not that convinced by people who say we should have a national army again, you know? I don’t really give a shit if the government pays a bunch of poor, newly immigrated people to go murder people, or if they pay you know, ex navy seals to go murder people like, that – I don’t think that’s an essential part of the equation.

Kevin: Yeah, I agree.

Jad: It just ends up with different dynamics, and yeah –

Kevin: The end game is the same, I agree. I don’t think that matters one bit. You know – as a random aside – have you watched or read perhaps, “Game of Thrones”?

Jad: I’ve read it.

Kevin: I’ve not read the books, but if you get an opportunity I would highly, highly recommend the show – it’s very good.

Jad: Oh cool, yeah.

Kevin: They’ve done I mean, an unbelievable good job about it, but it’s – this entire episode has really reminded me of the show because it’s so well illustrated in the show as well.

Jad: Yeah, yeah.

Kevin: And I’m sure the books probably tell it even better.

Jad: Well I’m not going to ruin it any for you, but –

Kevin: Please don’t.

Jad: – it gets even crazier with Vankers[?], so season 2 is out on video right now, right?

Kevin: Yeah, season 2 is done, so we’re waiting on season 3.

If you are following the show, season 3 premiers on March 31st, 2013. The season is set to follow the first half of the book, “Storm of Swords”.

The end of season 2 I assume is the end of book 2, but –

Again, if you have any intention to watch the show or read the book, please stop listening to the podcast right now. The following conversation does contain a few spoilers.

– basically – the dwarf – has basically saved the kingdom with his brilliant tactics, which that whole scene is – holy shit, it is awesome.

Jad: I’ll bet it’s pretty impressive.

Kevin: It’s really, really well done. And then it kind of ends with you know, he still gets cast to the side and his father comes back and he’s treated as nothing, even though he saved everything. So, anxious to see where part 3 picks up.

Jad: Oh yeah man, yeah. It should be good. Yeah, yeah. So we’re almost – we’re halfway through book 2, so I’m hoping to catch up. I guess we can start watching season 1.

Kevin: Well season 1 is exquisite. Season 2 – and maybe this is just the way the book goes – season 2 starts off really awesome and it never gets bad, but there’s just a whole lot –

Jad: It does drag.

Kevin: There’s a whole lot more exposition yeah, that happens. So it’s10 episodes each season, I would say episode – maybe like, 2 or 3 through 6 or 7 are kind of slow, and then the last 3 of it though are just – it’s worth the exposition at that point.

Jad: Yeah, yeah. We’re at that part of the book actually, the part where everyone’s kind of just sitting, waiting for – supposed to do something, you know?

Kevin: Yeah. That just happens, like every one of these feudal groups – well, that’s just what made me think about it is that we were talking about like, what happens with the power struggle and of course, well here’s what happens – you get all these little groups that splinter off, they’re all seeking power, they all want to be king and they’re all leading their own people. Inevitably, they have disharmony between them for stupid reasons, but I understand that that’s just a natural byproduct of humans – and then they fight to the death over it. Sorry, it’s interesting.

Jad: Yeah.

Kevin: So, that’s about it. As promised, quite a bit shorter than our normal episodes, but hopefully not any less compelling. Thanks as always for tuning in, and we hope you enjoyed the content. We do have our website set up at, where we keep all of our recordings and show notes. Please take a look if you haven’t already, and feel free to send anybody in that direction. If you’d like to reach either of us directly, visit our websites – either – J-A-D dash D-A-V-I-S dot com, or Thanks again, and we’ll be back with a longer show next week.