Future wars look sadly familiar
Up until at least Nov. 8, the nation’s attention will doubtless be focused on the “war” inside the country -- the tumultuous political conflict ripping us to pieces. But I am constantly amazed at how little attention we give to the wars outside that one can easily argue were the roots of the profound divisions and infantile diversions we so unhappily live with today.
It’s the media, many say (not thinking very deeply). It’s redistricting in the states, giving both Democrats and Republicans nearly total control over their regions. No, others will argue, it goes back as far as kindergarten when tykes get little or no training in being decent people, much less responsible citizens.
But now, when one would think all the arguments had been exhausted, forgive me if I put forward one more -- and let me back into my brief exposition with a little-noted article I spied on the front page of The New York Times recently.
“SOMALI STRATEGY REVEALS NEW FACE OF U.S. WARFARE,” the article was headlined, and then: “Using African Allies and Lessons From ‘93 to Strike Islamists.”
The article went on to make some very -- very -- interesting points: An as-yet “clandestine” war in Somalia over the past year (Did you know we were at war with and in Somalia, too?) is a “blueprint for warfare” in the future; it is already a “model” that the U.S. is employing across the Middle East and North Africa, from Syria to Libya. In fact, “hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the ‘Black Hawk Down’ battle in 1993.”
In short, what this well-documented and well-thoughtout piece is saying is that, once again, we have put aside the old fears about Vietnam. Those 50,000 American dead and the hundreds of thousands of others killed don’t seem to worry us anymore. And with no draft (thank you, Mr. Nixon!), our military actions become further removed and remote, more like something occurring on another planet.
Our American soldiers are, at this very moment, supporting Iraqi Sunnis, Kurdish peshmerga, Iranian Shiites (to a far lesser degree) and God only knows who else to take back the large Iraqi city of Mosul. After 15 long and unproductive years, we continue to fight in Afghanistan (mostly against the Taliban, which stemmed from the mujahedeen we trained to fight the Soviets in the 1979 war), with no end in sight.
Barack Obama came into the presidency -- wisely, I believe -- ready to keep American boots in American towns, but the dark realities of the situation -- an Iraq falling apart, an ISIS rising, an Iran ready to move in where Saddam had ruled, the Middle and Near East collapsing internally with no real spirit for reform -- were too much for him.
So, as this unwarlike president leaves the White House, he is leaving a new pattern of warfare -- Special Operations troops leading fights against countries we have no real fight with, airstrikes liberally applied, drones here and there, private contractors taking the place of militarily disciplined institutions and individuals. This is what the future will be, and it is time that the American people realize it.
If Hillary is elected president, I would expect the Somali pattern to be pretty close to hers. If The Donald is elected, I would expect a more quirky military policy, but less disciplined and far more violent.
We can dream of an America that has a more cautious and careful military foreign policy, one in which our blessed land stands as a prudent example and not a hungry emperor. But until the American people themselves pay attention to the bombs their government is dropping -- and I mean that figuratively, as well as actually -- that is not likely to happen.