Reposted from TomDispatch.com and used by permission.
Someday, someone will write a history of the U.S. national security state in the twenty-first century and, if the first decade and a half are any yardstick, it will be called something like State of Failure. After all, almost 15 years after the U.S. invaded the Taliban’s Afghanistan, launching the second American Afghan War of the past half-century, U.S. troops are still there, their “withdrawal” halted, their rules of engagement once again widened to allow American troops and air power to accompany allied Afghan forces into battle, and the Taliban on the rise, having taken more territory (and briefly one northern provincial capital) than at any time since that movement was crushed in the invasion of 2001.
Thirteen years after George W. Bush and his top officials, dreaming of controlling the oil heartlands, launched the invasion of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq (the second Iraq War of our era), Washington is now in the third iteration of the same, with 6,000 troops (and thousands of private contractors) back in that country and a vast air campaign underway to destroy the Islamic State. With modest numbers of special operations troops on the ground and another major air campaign, Washington is also now enmeshed in a complex and so far disastrous war in Syria. And if you haven’t been counting, that’s three wars gone wrong.
Then, of course, there was the American (and NATO) intervention in Libya in 2011, which cracked that autocratic country open and made way for the rise of Islamic extremist movements there, as well as the most powerful Islamic State franchise outside Syria and Iraq. Today, plans are evidently being drawn up for yet more air strikes, special operations raids, and the like there. Toss in as well Washington’s never-ending drone war in Pakistan’s tribal borderlands, its disastrous attempt to corral al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula in Yemen (leading to a grim and horrifying Saudi-led, American-supported internecine conflict in that country), and the unending attempt to destroy al-Shabaab in Somalia, and you have at least seven wars and conflicts in the Greater Middle East, all about to be handed on by President Obama to the next president with no end in sight, no real successes, nothing. In these same years Islamic terror movements have only spread and grown stronger under the pressure of the American war machine.
It’s not as if Washington doesn’t know this. It’s quite obvious and, as TomDispatch Managing Editor Nick Turse, author of the highly praised Next Time They’ll Come to Count the Dead, points out today in his latest report on the U.S. military’s pivot to Africa, the pattern is only intensifying, something clearly recognized by key American commanders. What’s strange, however, is that none of this seems to have caused anyone in the national security state or the military to reconsider the last 15 years of military-first policies, of bombs dropped, troops dispatched, drones sent in, and what the results were across the Greater Middle East and now Africa. There is no serious recalibration, no real rethinking. The response to 15 years of striking failure in a vast region remains more of the same. State of failure indeed!
Be sure to read Nick Turse on how U.S. military efforts in Africa show more regress than progress.
2 thoughts on “State of (Military) Failure”
“Pivoting” again? Didn’t the U.S. military just “pivot” to Asia? What gives with the basketball metaphors as national U.S. military doctrine?
I feel like the exasperated Captain Kirk in the second new Star Trek movie when he says to Dr. McCoy: “Enough with the metaphors!”
Which reminds me of ten years ago when in utter exasperation at U.S. military “minds” making another unholy mess of things in several countries simultaneously, I wrote:
The Tipping Point Turns the Corner
Around the next corner the tipping point turns
As the good ship capsizes and sinks
While the mad metaphors and flawed figures of speech
Guarantee that no one really thinks
So the dots get connected with crayon lines drawn
By the journalists flogging clichés
Like astrologers linking the stars into shapes
Telling fortunes as long as it pays
At the end of the tunnel the dominoes fall
As the oil spots to flypaper stick
With his boots on, George Custer fights to the last man
Making even the strong stomach sick
As they stood up, we stood down — just not right away
With our shoulders to shoulders we marched
When the morning came corpses piled up in the morgues
Like some laundry loads unwashed and starched
Like the city that shines on the top of a hill
With a thousand or more points of light
Now the current flows only an hour a day
So in sweltering blackness they fight
They’ve a government, now, freely chosen at last
By the parties that somehow had won
Our ambassador, though, had to choose their PM
When we didn’t like what they had done
Sure, they can’t leave the Green Zone without getting killed
Our officials, too, travel by plane
Sneaking into and out of the country unseen
By the people who think us insane
But he won’t cut and run says the man who ain’t there
From his purpose he swears he won’t swerve
“Bring ’em on!” taunts the juvenile joker in jeans
Clearing brush on his Texas preserve
As the world watched in horror, he drove off a cliff
Then he stumbled around in a daze
Now he says – after three years of chaos and death –
That he might have misused a trite phrase
“It’s as easy as shootin’ a bird in a cage,”
Says the Texas stud hamster of quail
When the rodents ride roughshod the feathered will flee
From the drunken dudes gone off the trail
And we’ve got us some mantras from Vietnam days
Like “we’re there ’cause we’re there ’cause we’re there”
So when once we go somewhere, that means we can’t leave
Like that German boot-planting affair
And the logic swirls faster in circles that swim
Like our friends won’t respect a retreat
See, they’d rather we kept acting stupid and blind
Till we wind up a pile of dead meat
And our foes will not fear us if we should act smart
Which assumes that they fear us when dumb
An American innocence, surely, that comes
From a depth that you simply can’t plumb
The octopus fascist sings swan songs sedate
Reinventing the same words and tune
So the president babbles of going to Mars
When we can’t even get to the Moon
Like the light of an oncoming train in the dark
We see hopefulness ever draw near
We’re on track, can’t you see, to a glorious dawn
So we’ll stay the curse, never you fear
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2006
As we “pivot” to Africa, let us recall
How we make up new words for “defeat”
Did we not “pivot” smartly to Asia last year
From those desert lands where we got beat?
So away let us pivot from South China seas
Back to Africa where we first spawned,
For a basketball war that our generals play
In their heads where a thought never dawned.
Michael Murry, “The Misfortune Teller,” Copyright © 2016
I like this: And our foes will not fear us if we should act smart
Which assumes that they fear us when dumb
Exactly. Reminds me of the Bushies who said, You were right (in opposing the Iraq war) but for the wrong reasons (because you’re pacifist pussies) but we were wrong for the right reasons (because we’re real men who wear “big boy” pants).
I need to find my big boy pants article and re-post it.
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