The New Obama Doctrine, A Six-Point Plan for Global War [Tomdispatch.com]

Special Ops, Drones, Spy Games, Civilian Soldiers, Proxy Fighters, and Cyber Warfare
By Nick Turse

…The face of American-style war-fighting is once again changing.   Forget full-scale invasions and large-footprint occupations on the Eurasian mainland; instead, think:  special operations forces working on their own but also training or fighting beside allied militaries (if not outright proxy armies) in hot spots around the world.   And along with those special ops advisors, trainers, and commandos expect ever more funds and efforts to flow into the militarization of spying and intelligence, the use of drone aircraft, the launching of cyber-attacks, and joint Pentagon operations with increasingly militarized “civilian” government agencies.

Much of this has been noted in the media, but how it all fits together into what could be called the new global face of empire has escaped attention.   And yet this represents nothing short of a new Obama doctrine, a six-point program for twenty-first-century war, American-style, that the administration is now carefully developing and honing.   Its global scope is already breathtaking, if little recognized, and like Donald Rumsfeld’s military lite and David Petraeus’s counterinsurgency operations, it is evidently going to have its day in the sun — and like them, it will undoubtedly disappoint in ways that will surprise its creators.

The Blur-ness

For many years, the U.S. military has been talking up and promoting the concept of “jointness.”  An Army helicopter landing Navy SEALs on a Korean ship catches some of this ethos at the tactical level.   But the future, it seems, has something else in store.  Think of it as “blur-ness,” a kind of organizational version of war-fighting in which a dominant Pentagon fuses its forces with other government agencies — especially the CIA, the State Department, and the Drug Enforcement Administration — in complex, overlapping missions around the globe…

…Shedding Light on “the Dark Continent”

One locale likely to see an influx of Pentagon spies in the coming years is Africa.  Under President Obama, operations on the continent have accelerated far beyond the more limited interventions of the Bush years.  Last year’s war in Libya; a regional drone campaign with missions run out of airports and bases in Djibouti, Ethiopia, and the Indian Ocean archipelago nation of Seychelles; a flotilla of 30 ships in that ocean supporting regional operations; a multi-pronged military and CIA campaign against militants in Somalia, including intelligence operations, training for Somali agents, secret prisons, helicopter attacks, and U.S. commando raids; a massive influx of cash for counterterrorism operations across East Africa; a possible old-fashioned air war, carried out on the sly in the region using manned aircraft; tens of millions of dollars in arms for allied mercenaries and African troops; and a special ops expeditionary force (bolstered by State Department experts) dispatched to help capture or kill Lord’s Resistance Army leader Joseph Kony and his senior commanders, operating in Uganda, South Sudan, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, and the Central African Republic (where U.S. Special Forces now have a new base) only begins to scratch the surface of Washington’s fast-expanding plans and activities in the region…

…Back in the Backyard

Since its founding, the United States has often meddled close to home, treating the Caribbean as its private lake and intervening at will throughout Latin America.   During the Bush years, with some notable exceptions, Washington’s interest in America’s “backyard” took a backseat to wars farther from home.   Recently, however, the Obama administration has been ramping up operations south of the border using its new formula.   This has meant Pentagon drone missions deep inside Mexico to aid that country’s battle against the drug cartels, while CIA agents and civilian operatives from the Department of Defense were dispatched to Mexican military bases to take part in the country’s drug war.

In 2012, the Pentagon has also ramped up its anti-drug [sic]operations in Honduras…

…Still in the Middle of the Middle East

Despite the end of the Iraq and Libyan wars, a coming drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, and copious public announcements about its national security pivot toward Asia, Washington is by no means withdrawing from the Greater Middle East.  In addition to continuing operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. has consistently been at work training allied troops, building up military bases, and brokering weapons sales and arms transfers to despots in the region from Bahrain to Yemen…

…From Brushfires to Wildfires

Across the globe from Central and South America to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the Obama administration is working out its formula for a new American way of war.   In its pursuit, the Pentagon and its increasingly militarized government partners are drawing on everything from classic precepts of colonial warfare to the latest technologies.

The United States is an imperial power chastened by more than 10 years of failed, heavy-footprint wars.  It is hobbled by a hollowing-out economy, and inundated with hundreds of thousands of recent veterans — a staggering 45% of the troops who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq — suffering from service-related disabilities who will require ever more expensive care.   No wonder the current combination of special ops, drones, spy games, civilian soldiers, cyberwarfare, and proxy fighters sounds like a safer, saner brand of war-fighting.   At first blush, it may even look like a panacea for America’s national security ills.   In reality, it may be anything but.

The new light-footprint Obama doctrine actually seems to be making war an ever more attractive and seemingly easy option — a point emphasized recently by former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Peter Pace.   “I worry about speed making it too easy to employ force,” said Pace when asked about recent efforts to make it simpler to deploy Special Operations Forces abroad.   “I worry about speed making it too easy to take the easy answer — let’s go whack them with special operations — as opposed to perhaps a more laborious answer for perhaps a better long-term solution.”

As a result, the new American way of war holds great potential for unforeseen entanglements and serial blowback.   Starting or fanning brushfire wars on several continents could lead to raging wildfires that spread unpredictably and prove difficult, if not impossible, to quench.

By their very nature, small military engagements tend to get larger, and wars tend to spread beyond borders.  By definition, military action tends to have unforeseen consequences.   Those who doubt this need only look back to 2001, when three low-tech attacks on a single day set in motion a decade-plus of war that has spread across the globe.   The response to that one day began with a war in Afghanistan, that spread to Pakistan, detoured to Iraq, popped up in Somalia and Yemen, and so on.   Today, veterans of those Ur-interventions find themselves trying to replicate their dubious successes in places like Mexico and Honduras, the Central Africa Republic and the Congo.

History demonstrates that the U.S. is not very good at winning wars, having gone without victory in any major conflict since 1945.   Smaller interventions have been a mixed bag with modest victories in places like Panama and Grenada and ignominious outcomes in Lebanon (in the 1980s) and Somalia (in the 1990s), to name a few.

The trouble is, it’s hard to tell what an intervention will grow up to be — until it’s too late.   While they followed different paths, Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Iraq all began relatively small, before growing large and ruinous.  Already, the outlook for the new Obama doctrine seems far from rosy, despite the good press it’s getting inside Washington’s Beltway.

What looks today like a formula for easy power projection that will further U.S. imperial interests on the cheap could soon prove to be an unmitigated disaster — one that likely won’t be apparent until it’s too late.

Excerpted by Zuo Shou

Full article:  http://www.tomdispatch.com/archive/175557/

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