How many mercenaries do you get for $30 million?

This is a link to a story about how hostages were freed when their captors were paid a $30 million dollar ransom.,1008,679413a1540,FF.html

In a world full of private paramilitary and mercenary organisations like Sandline International, of SAS’s and SIS’s and MI5’s and MI6’s and CIAs (just about every 3 letter combination you can think of is espionage afiliated) why was this ransom necessary? Just how grounded in reality are men’s airport novels anyway? Remember the five travellers who were kidnapped by Sikh terrorists in the Kashmir district in India 3 or 4 years ago? One was cruelly killed and the rest were never heard from again. That was also an employment opportunity for soldiers of fortune with time to kill. What is it that I don’t understand?

Sorry - that link seems to be a failure. I’ve copied and pasted some of it:

New Zealand helicopter pilot Dennis Corrin, released by kidnappers after 4½ months in Ecuador’s Amazon jungle, was reportedly kept in chains every night during his long captivity.

Despite his ordeal, Mr Corrin was in “good spirits and keen to return to his Nelson family as soon as possible”, a New Zealand diplomat said on Friday.

He was one of seven foreign oil workers held by an unidentified armed group who were freed on Thursday, a week after their employers paid a $US13 million ($NZ30.33 million) ransom.

I know next to nothing about mercenaries, and certainly not what they charge, but two WAGs as to why a ransom was paid instead of hiring mercs to free the hostages:

  1. Paying money appeals more to the corporate mentality than using armed force. I don’t mean “corporate mentality” as an insult. I mean simply that these are people whose training and experience is as business people, not police officials or soldiers. Negotiation and spending money to get results are things they feel comfortable with; arms and force generally aren’t.

  2. Paying money is less likely to “go bad” and result in the death of the hostages than using force. If you send in the mercs, things go wrong, and one or more of the hostages die, then the hiring of the mercenaries is more or less a waste.

      • The US state department refuses to pay or give any assistance of any kind for paying ransoms, simply to avoid setting a precedent. I don’t know that they’ve never done it though.
  • Companies prefer the image of peaceful resolutions rather than violence, but even so mercenaries are not the easy solution you’d think. If you’ve got some minor group in Ecuador holding hostages (just to use an example), you need an infiltrator, a local native to give you information while the information is still useful; there’s no way a pasty white guy sitting at a desk half a world away is going to know very much about the group. Lots of times you’re not dealing with large organized ventures but just a dozen or two locals of some backwoods ****hole who had Che’s autobiography read to them and decided to “screw the imperialist pigs”.
    -Local ordinary folks are often no help; many times the local people agree with the kidnapper’s mentality of “foreign countries are rich, and they can afford it” and even if someone doesn’t agree with the kidnapper’s motives, they know that they have nowhere else to go and will have to deal with the aftermath of turing over a few of the local boys for some rich foreign assassins after the hostages and rescue team are gone. - MC

Hiring mercenaries isn’t necessarily a good idea. In 1997, Papua New Guinea entered into a contract with the notorious uber-mercenary corporation Executive Outcomes. According to the Danger Finder, the contract was for about $34 million US. That bought PNG about forty (other sources say sixty) South African mercenaries who, as it turned out, did not complete their mission (the army they were supposed to be training mutinied and incarcerated the mercs when they found out how much they were getting paid).

I think the best tactic would be to collect double the ransom, get the hostage back, and use the other half to hire a team of assassins to hunt down and kill the kidnappers, their families and friends, livestock and pets, to burn down their crops and villages and to pee in their wells. Think I’m kidding? How many Israelis were kidnapped in Yemen in the past eight years? None! Of course, Israelis might stay away from Yemen, but I still maintain that brutal, bloodthirsty revenge is the best course of action.

      • It is true that in most of the instances I have heard of modern mercs being used, they are used to train local “soldiers” instead of actually going off themselves and doing the dirtywork of pulling triggers, which I believe is illegal according to some international laws now. ~ I think what the OP meant was “why not hire some bad muthas to go out and rescue the kidnappees and bust some skulls?” -which is the solution I know I’d want (everything else being equal, I’d rather kill the kidnappers than make them rich), but it requires infiltrating the offending group, and that is usually no minor task -especially given typical time constraints.
  • And the failure quoted doesn’t surprise me: I have read more than once that trying to teach modern squad tactics to , -uh, “the locals”, in many of these kinds of places, -places with very little social cohesion, is (ahem) rather challenging. The tendency to break from coordinated tactics during battle and resort to “running around shooting stuff and watching out for #1” is rather strong.
    Call me what you will. - MC

I read an article a while back in which an ex MI6 employee recounted his experiences of working for that organisation. He said that in his time there he constantly had the feeling that the real MI6 surely existed elsewhere. The one he worked for was just a badly run business full of incompetents and mirrored any business in need of a good shake-up. I found that surprising and hugely worth knowing. I suppose it’s because I had always swallowed that whole John Le Carre thing - that the world is full of competent “crack” espionage people. They’re always crack. Crack this and crack that. It’s far better to be able to see them as ordinary people rather than miracle-working superheroes you want to understand why a lot of people stay kidnapped and lost.

Sofa King: You don’t expect people who look like hippies to say things like that you know.

well, at the very least you can have me for $30 mil.

I have no training but I am prepared to improvise.

Aren’t you supposed to be able to get sixty for that amount? Maybe I’ll wait until Mercenaries Are Us has a sale.

Many companies that send employees into high risk areas get kidnap insurance. It isn’t discussed much for obvious reasons but it does explain a few things.

Just as an addendum, I found this article which breaks down terrorism into a very simple relationship. Both sides are trying to force the bad end of this relationship upon the other:

Costs + Risks > Benefits

A great example of tossing the bad side of the relationship into the hostage-taker’s lap is the Israeli rescue of hostages held at Entebbe Airport. Three hostages and one soldier were killed, but all of the Ugandans on the scene that the Israelis caught were killed, many with an extra cap in the skull to make sure. The airport was trashed, 11 fighter aircraft–a significant proportion of the Ugandan Air Force–on the field were destroyed, a relieving column was shot up and Idi Amin himself, who happened to be on his way to the airport, narrowly escaped being deep-sixed. I have heard mention that booby-traps were also left behind, but I can’t find any verification for that.

But I still like my original suggestion better because it visits fear, anguish and death upon innocent people, just as the kidnappers have done, while it more safely secures the release of the hostage. Only a very few such incidents need occur before word gets out that hostage taking is less than profitable, so one might even be able to hide behind a “long view” moral argument. But really, I could care less about that. It’s all about payback.

Yep, I’m one baaaaad hippie.

It depends on how good of an agent they have - what kind of a deal you can negotiate. Also, how much of a reputation are you buying.

Carlos “The Jakal” might be pretty expensive. On the other hand, you could probably get “Joxer the Mighty” or Kevin “the Kitten” or Bubba and the Bubba-ites pretty cheap. Cooter’s Cutrate Cuthroats might give you a good deal, but then you have to wonder if you get what you pay for, and they aren’t up to snuff.


Ok, fine, I’ll trick a few of my friends into coming along with me. I’m sure I can get at least two to believe the old ‘wanna come to equador and check out the locals whilst running round the jungle, possibly doing glamorous (spelling?) stuff like you see in movies?’ line.

Probably even three.

How 'bout it?
:o (practising my smilies)

Sure, if your friends are Apotemnophiliacs they’d probably jump at the chance. That doesn’t sound right, I know. Did you realise that by choosing to become mercenaries (is contract soldier the politically correct term these days?) Americans lose their U.S. citizenship? It’s in the Danger Finder link. So, where would you live? Do mercenaries have their own little country somewhere I wonder? This thread (as all mine seem do at some point) seems to have degenerated somewhat. It has some interesting and useful things in it but what I still don’t quite understand is how it’s possible for even the richest people to hire enough private soldiers to accomplish anything worthwhile.

Sofa King: You’re more Apocalypse Noir than bad hippy, I would have thought.