The Boston Globe reports,

UN’s plans to take control of the troubled peacekeeping operations currently being led by the African Union, and NATO recently stated publicly that a force of its own in Darfur is ”out of the question.” Meanwhile, refugee camps and humanitarian aid workers continue to be attacked, and the 7,000 African Union troops remain overstretched and ineffective.

But according to J. Cofer Black, vice chairman of the private security firm Blackwater, there is another option that ought to be on the table: an organization that could commit significant resources and expertise to bolster the African Union peacekeepers and provide emergency support to their flagging mission.

A few weeks ago, at an international special forces conference in Jordan, Black announced that his company could deploy a small rapid-response force to conflicts like the one in Sudan. ”We’re low cost and fast,” Black said, ”the question is, who’s going to let us play on their team?”

I did a Google News search for Blackwater and found stories like this one, about the company being sued by families of slain former employees. So the cynic in me says that maybe the company is looking for some good PR at the moment.

But Alex Tabarrok and Matthew Yglesias give serious consideration to the idea of private security contractors hiring out for “do-good” work.

My take is that this relates to a very basic debate in libertarianism: do you need a state in order to provide security? When Bryan and I last went at this, I took the Hobbesian view that you do need a state. Bryan took the more fundamentalist libertarian view that private security contractors could be sufficient.

From this perspective, Kofi Annan is hardly a disinterested party. He represents those who insist that security is the function of the state. If Annan were to support sending private contractors to help Darfur, that would be as shocking to me as the teachers’ unions coming out in support of school vouchers.