The Modern Mercenary, Shadow Wars and the Future of World Order

Sean McFate

Sean McFate
Professor, National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service

Dr. Sean McFate is an expert in national security, foreign policy, terrorism and the future of war. He is a professor at the National Defense University and Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service. He is also a Senior Fellow at the Atlantic Council and an adjunct social scientist at the RAND Corporation, both think tanks.

McFate has an unorthodox career. He was a paratrooper and officer in the U.S. Army’s 82nd Airborne Division. After this, he worked in Africa as a private military contractor—mercenary to some. In Liberia, he demobilized warlords and spearheaded efforts to raise a new army following the country’s long civil war and Charles Taylor’s exile. In Burundi, he trained the Presidential Guard to fight off a genocidal threat in 2004. In South Sudan, he supported the Sudan People’s Liberation Army. He also transacted arms deals in Eastern Europe, and conducted advanced logistics across Africa.

McFate also worked in human rights. He was an advisor to Amnesty International on armed conflict, and researched mercenaries for Harvard University’s Carr Center for Human Rights. He was also a Bernard L. Schwartz Fellow at the New America Foundation, a think tank, studying the future of war. In the private sector, he was a Vice President at TD International, a political risk consulting firm with offices in Washington, Houston, Singapore and Zurich. He was a Business Advisor at BearingPoint (now Deloitte Consulting) and an Associate at Booz Allen Hamilton, specializing in defense issues.

McFate co-wrote the novel Shadow War: A Tom Locke Novel (William Morrow), the first in a series and based on his experiences in the field as a paratrooper and private military contractor. Among its kudos, retired Admiral James Stavridis, former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO, called the novel and its main character “an American James Bond meets the twists and turns of ‘Homeland.’ ”

He also authored the non-fiction book The Modern Mercenary: Private Armies and What They Mean for World Order (Oxford University Press) which the Economist called a “fascinating and disturbing book.”

A coveted speaker, he has spoken at the British House of Commons, top universities and think tanks. He has appeared in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, NPR, BBC, The Economist, Fox News, Bloomberg, Discovery Channel and other outlets. He has published articles in Foreign Policy, The New Republic, African Affairs, Military Review, Daily Beast, Vice, Salon and War on the Rocks. He has authored eight book chapters in edited academic volumes, a monograph for the US Army War College on how to raise foreign armies, and was a contributor to The Encyclopedia of Intelligence and Counterintelligence and also War Crimes and Trials: A Historical Encyclopedia.

McFate holds a BA from Brown University, a MPP from the Harvard Kennedy School of Government, and a PhD in international relations from the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE).

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