President Obama’s demeanor was calm, cool, and calculated as he walked up to the podium with an air of authority and assurity on September 10th. However, as he began to speak his skin began to whiten, his voice became more privileged, and he started to sound more like a Texas Oilman than a community organizer from Chicago. His tone was eerily reminiscent of those who’d gone before him: Bush 1, Clinton, and W (pronounced “dub-ya”). We all knew what he was going to say, that the US military was going to war with “ISIL” (or “ISIS” or the “Islamic State” or whatever the hell they call themselves these days), but what we didn’t know was the extent to which the “greatest military in the history of the world” would engage.
First off, I am sure everyone and their mother noticed that President Obama did not say that “we are going to war.” Why? Because according to his tone and rhetoric we are going to do something substantially less. We are only participating in “targeted air strikes” and a “sustained counter terrorism strategy… like we have been doing in Yemen and Somalia for years.” I had to stop.
“Wait, what? Did he really just hold up Yemen and Somalia as shining examples of the New American War?” (More on this later)
President Obama is a very deft politician and knows how to sell a red plan and make it look blue. He was not so foolish as to attempt to tell the American people that he was putting “boots on the ground” in Iraq again, but he did very slyly change the way that Presidents sell war policy in the public eye. No longer do we live in the era of “speak softly and carry a big stick.” We are now living in the Age of the Obama’s Doctrine: Modern Warfare.
If I may, I would like to outline this new X-Box-like destruction philosophy to examine each of its components for their import on global stability.
The 21st Century War Machine
Both Bush Presidents and Clinton have all gone on national TV to announce aerial campaigns in the Middle East, but none of their strategies contained the air power now available to the US military. In his speech President Obama reassured Americans that he would not put Americans in harms way in this campaign because the military would employ strategies similar to those “in Yemen and Somalia that we have been doing for years.” He glossed over those two campaigns but let’s evaluate them a little, shall we? What has happened in Somalia and Yemen in the past few years that they should be held up as shining examples of New American Warfare? Well, first off they have been conducted via drone.
Though fighter jets are still researched, produced, and used, our military has not had to put “boots on the ground” in Yemen and Somalia because they have been able to put robots in the sky. While the Politicians would have you believe that these robot-led campaigns are quick, precise, and surgical, they hide the fact that they are illegal, imprecise, and messy. Civilian casualties are not rare in these operations. As a matter of fact, they are so frequent that they have their own designation: collateral damage. Even an American citizen, Anwar Al-Awlaki, was killed on foreign soil without the benefit of a trial, which is guaranteed in the US Constitution. Furthermore, Congress, those who are supposed to represent you, have no say in these policies. The Patriot Act gave explicit powers for the President to hunt down Al-Qaeda after 9/11 but those (ill advised) privileges have evolved into an accountability-free pass for the President to kill whomever he/she deems a threat.
All that to say that President Obama’s tone seemed to indicate that these “targeted air strikes” were less than significant. “It’s no big deal. At least we’re not sending in the infantry. So, trust me,” he seemed to be implying. No, we do not trust you, Mr. President, because yours and W’s Death-By-Terminator strategy is just as brutal as your ground game. Maybe even more so because they cause you to dismiss the deaths of innocents as an acceptable side effect, no matter how numerous they are.
INCREASED GROUND SUPPORT
Secondly, Mr. Obama claimed that he was going to (ironically) increase ground support. (I don’t want to gloss over the fact that sending in troops, no matter their role, is technically putting “boots on the ground,” but for the sake of brevity I am going to have to let it be.) Mr. Obama lauded his efforts so far in the current crISIS by claiming that the couple of hundred strategy staff that he sent to Iraq so far had already given them and the Iraqi and Kurdish armies a significant strategic advantage. Now he is going to send 475 more to train “moderate Syrian rebel forces” in the ways of Modern Warfare. Where are they going to do this? Saudi Arabia, a country with ties to “state-funded terrorism”. And who are they training? Some of the same moderate Syrian rebels that have now (as I am sure some will in the future) allied themselves with ISIS. (By the way, in case you have forgotten Osama Bin Laden’s original reason for declaring jihad on the US was due to the presence of US military personnel in the Holy Land a.k.a Saudi Arabia.) It is not even eerie how similar this situation is to the past CIA training of the Mujahadeen, Taliban, and Al-Qaeda; it is history repeating itself.
SUSTAINED COUNTER TERRORISM STRATEGY
Thirdly, Mr. Obama mentioned that he would employ a “sustained counter-terrorism strategy”. What does this actually mean? In actuality your guess is as good as mine. The White House released a statement that basically reduced this broad definition to include i) cutting off funds to ii) strengthening allied defenses to iii) stemming the flow of fighters to and from the battlefield internationally. What they did not say is the other components that they will most definitely be using including, but not limited to, their spying apparatus in the NSA, their CIA assets in the regions, and their aforementioned drone capabilities.
Lastly, the President pointed out that the campaign against ISIS would have humanitarian goals. What? Really, what? I applaud the effort of any government who would open its borders to a flood of refugees or would use its wealth to provide for those seeking refuge from violence, but a supply drop every now and then to remote areas does not whitewash the civilian casualties that will inevitably result from this so-called “sustained counter-terrorism strategy”. In other words, the few you save with MRIs do not justify the thousands you kill with drone missiles.
World War Always
A few days after President Obama’s address Secretary of State John Kerry traveled to the Middle East to try to drum up support from “regional allies.” Why? Because otherwise the campaign would look very Crusade-y. The President referenced a collation of friendly nations who would ally themselves (without naming any names), but he knew he needed Arab nations to participate as well. Otherwise the coalition would look a little too pasty in the faces of soldiers from France, Poland, Italy, Denmark, Canada, and Australia walking around Arrakis. Britain, America’s closest ally, along with Germany, decided that they would not participate. Iran also decided to join the party. (Wrap your head around that for a minute: Iran and the US are allies in this campaign). Mr. Kerry’s attempt to gain the cooperation of more Arab states is simply a legitimization tactic aimed at not making this an East vs. West conflict. He succeeded in part by gaining the support of the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Kuwait, Bahrain, Oman, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Iraq (not Turkey), but they did not specify the extent of their commitment. (UPDATE: Since writing this piece Mr. Kerry also has succeeded in drumming up the support of some 40 or so countries in a Monday [9/15] meeting in Paris, some of which have committed to support roles and others [Saudi Arabia and U.A.E. included] to active engagement such as air strikes.)
Every war is world war three these days. The Internet has made it possible to share information, and consequently emotional reactions to information, at the speed of light. Therefore, a Nigerian problem becomes an American problem; an Egyptian problem becomes an Israeli problem; and a Russian problem becomes a French problem all at the same time. Not all of these consequences are bad, but they do define a new world order that has not been set in stone by the willing engagement and sanction of the People of Earth. What used to happen in wartime situations is that country X would encounter problem Y and then seek solution Z, possibly with the help of allies A, B, and C. Now, information travels so fast that both traditional allies and enemies receive the same information about what happens to country X as fast as country X itself. Therefore, the whole world is instantly demanded to take sides. In a world where one to three countries have all the gold, and therefore make all the rules, this is a very dangerous situation. Because country X’s problems become the world’s problems.
The problem is that country X in our situation, the US, is not the moral leader of the world it fancies itself to be. In fact, it is the polar opposite. The US military is the part, parcel, and cause, directly and indirectly, of a lot of the suffering that goes on in the world today. Hell, the guns, tanks, and mortars that ISIS is using have “Property of the US Government” written on the side of them. Therefore, what role does the US military have in setting the world to rights when it is their presence and toys that have destabilized the world in the first place?
“BREAKING NEWS: Such and such happened. What is the US response? Stay tuned to fine out.” (God, I hate the fucking sensationalist say-anything-to-turn-a-profit-on-advertising mass media.)
I think Mr. Obama’s approach is a bit wiser than his predecessors, but it still reeks of imperialism. In his address he spoke of America’s “responsibility to lead”. Where did this responsibility come from? Did the world hold a referendum that I didn’t know about where they voted the US as their sovereign? No, but that doesn’t stop our government from basing their emotional reaction to world events as a personal attack on their credibility as the world “peace keepers”. In reality, the United States has wrought more destruction upon the world than any people group in history, but the modern communication systems have made sharing information so fast and easy that every world problem becomes a US problem in real-time.
President Obama’s speech to the nation was clear: the US military will not put infantry on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Instead it will simply use its arsenal of space age fighter jets and drones to blow shit up; send “military advisors” to continue to convince these Eastern peoples that thinking like a US trained soldier is the way to peace and prosperity (by the way, what do you want to bet these some of those “advisors” are actually “Call Of Duty”-esque Special Ops soldiers with covert missions?); maintain a “sustained counter-terrorism strategy”, which is code for using a lot of high-tech gear that will most likely result in scores of civilian causalities; and provide humanitarian aid. I cannot even buy into that last one enough to be snarky about it.
What he was not clear about is that the US and the world have moved into a new realm of international conflict. Countries don’t fight countries anymore. Now, you either get with the Business-Civilization Program of development (BCP) for the Earth or you go on a terrorist watch list and are subject to the full wrath and power of the US military. President Obama said it himself, “if you threaten America you will find no safe haven.” The scary part is that I am threatening America just by disagreeing with the BCP by writing this post. Am I now a terrorist? Do I now have no safe haven? There was a time when such questions were laughable. These days, not such much.
In an era where Presidents can kill even citizens with impunity and robots and the Police stand as a ready military against any voice of dissent, no one is safe. Sure, today the target is ISIL. Tomorrow, who knows? What is for certain is that wars are no longer fought eye to eye on battlefields. From September 10th, 2014 until the American military machine is dismantled, wars will be a matter of westernized business-nations allying and mobilizing almost instantly against any person or group that threatens the stability of the New World Order. It’s not dystopian fiction anymore, people. We are living it.