Thursday, March 30, 2017

Perpetual War Comes Out of the Closet

What's interesting about the otherwise unremarkable "U.S. War Footprint Grows in Middle East, With No Endgame in Sight," by Ben Hubbard and Michael Gordon, is the public acknowledgement by one of the main organs of the prestige press, The New York Times, that current policy of the United States is to fight numerous wars in the Middle East indefinitely.

The story makes the point that the Middle East theater of perpetual war is not a Trump innovation but merely a continuation of an Obama administration policy. The U.S. military is actively participating in the wars in Iraq and Syria, with promises -- some tacit, others explicit -- that once ISIS is defeated troops will stay on in these countries. Trump's departure from Obama is that he appears to have placed the U.S. in a leading, rather than supporting role, in Yemen. The story is good at adding some detail here:
The complexity of these wars and the American role in them is clear in Yemen, where the United States has two distinct roles, both of which have increased under Mr. Trump.
The country, the Arab world’s poorest, has been split in half since militants known as the Houthis allied with parts of the military and seized the capital, pushing the internationally recognized government into exile.
Two years ago, a military coalition led by Saudi Arabia began bombing the rebels, hoping to weaken them militarily and restore the government. They have made little progress, while more than 10,000 people have been killed and large parts of the country are on the verge of famine, according to the United Nations.
Under Mr. Obama, the United States provided military support to the Saudi-led coalition, but halted the sale of precision-guided munitions over concerns that airstrikes by Saudi Arabia and its allies were killing too many civilians.
But since Mr. Trump took office, his administration has advanced some arms deals for coalition countries, while approving the resumption of sales of precision-guided munitions to Saudi Arabia, according to an American official familiar with Yemen policy.
Mr. Trump’s more muscular approach has been hailed by Gulf leaders, who felt betrayed by Mr. Obama’s outreach to Iran and who hope that they now have an ally in the White House to help them push back against their regional foe.
“It understands that it is uniquely positioned to play a unique role in bringing some stability to the region, and I think there is a meeting of the minds between the Saudi leadership and the Trump administration,” said Fahad Nazer, a political consultant to the Saudi Embassy in Washington who said he was speaking on his own behalf.
At the same time, since Mr. Trump’s inauguration, the United States has stepped up its long-running drone campaign against the Yemeni branch of Al Qaeda, believed to be the organization’s most dangerous.
Mr. Trump granted a Pentagon request to declare parts of three provinces in Yemen as an “area of active hostilities,” giving commanders greater flexibility to strike. Later, a Special Operations raid in late January led to the death of many civilians and an American commando.
So far this month, the United States has also launched more than 49 strikes across Yemen, most of them during one five-day period, according to data gathered by the Critical Threats Project at the American Enterprise Institute, a conservative think tank. That is more strikes than the United States had carried out during any other full year on record.
Some analysts note that this military surge has not brought with it a clear strategy to end Yemen’s war or uproot Al Qaeda.
That's because there isn't one. Sometime in the last 15 years planners realized that state building is no longer feasible, only state destruction. So that is the new normal. A steady state of destruction. Hubbard and Gordon don't include nearby Libya and Somalia in their analysis, but there is every indication that stepped-up U.S. military action with "no endgame in sight" is the case there as well. And then there is the rest of Sub-Saharan Africa.

To go with the souped up Global War on Terror there is simultaneously a New Cold War, definitely with Russia and in the beginning stages with China.

And where is the anti-war movement in the United States? Nowhere.

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