The Iraq war will be seen as a turning point in the history of warfare. Not because of the illegality of the invasion or the unprecedented incompetence of the occupation, important though these were, but because it was the first modern public-private war. In the 1991 Gulf War there had been 541,000 US troops and only 9,200 private contractors in theatre; by the time of the invasion of Iraq in 2003 there were 140,000 US troops and 21,000 private contractors and by 2010 the number of private contractors outnumbered the US troops in the country (146,000 troops and 173,000 private contractors).
The waging of war had been privatised. War had become a hybrid affair waged by a public-private partnership. Outsourcing had taken place on such a massive scale that both the US and the British state were completely dependent on the private sector to put and maintain armed forces in the field. Indeed, so vital are they that the US contractor Kellogg, Brown and Root (KBR), a subsidiary of the giant Halliburton Corporation, had a team permanently embedded at the British Joint Forces Headquarters.