|President Trump's Secretary of Defense?|
"Erik Prince—ex-Navy SEAL, ex-CIA spy, ex-CEO of private-security firm Blackwater—calls himself an "accidental tourist" whose modest business boomed after 9/11, expanded into Iraq and Afghanistan, and then was "blowtorched by politics." To critics and conspiracy theorists, he is a mercenary war-profiteer. To admirers, he's a patriot who has repeatedly answered America's call with bravery and creativity.
Now, sitting in a boardroom above Hong Kong's Victoria Harbour, he explains his newest title, acquired this month: chairman of Frontier Services Group, an Africa-focused security and logistics company with intimate ties to China's largest state-owned conglomerate, Citic Group. Beijing has titanic ambitions to tap Africa's resources—including $1 trillion in planned spending on roads, railways and airports by 2025—and Mr. Prince wants in.
With a public listing in Hong Kong, and with Citic as its second-largest shareholder (a 15% stake) and Citic executives sitting on its board, Frontier Services Group is a long way from Blackwater's CIA ties and $2 billion in U.S. government contracts. For that, Mr. Prince is relieved.
"I would rather deal with the vagaries of investing in Africa than in figuring out what the hell else Washington is going to do to the entrepreneur next," says the crew-cut 44-year-old.
His advice for Washington: "Stop committing suicide." Lawmakers should "get out of their heads this idea that they can recklessly spend money that they don't have," he says. "The United States government is too big in all areas. . . . It's time to make the entire thing a lot smaller." That would include doing everything from allowing Americans to buy incandescent light bulbs to reining in domestic surveillance by the National Security Agency.
"Look," he says, grasping to end our talk on an optimistic note, "America can pull its head out at any time. That happens at the ballot box. Ballot boxes have consequences still in America." He continues: "But the American electorate has to actually pay attention, has to turn off the Xbox long enough to pay attention. Otherwise they're going to continue to elect the government they deserve.""