Secret Armies, Shadow Wars, Silent Unaccountability

  • Headline:
    “Obama Embraces Special Operations Forces”
  • Headline:
    “Did U.S. Forces Commit Atrocities in a Key Afghan Province?”
  • Headline:
    “US Special Forces Kill ISIS Commander and Capture Wife in Syria Raid”
  • Headline:
    “Failure to Rescue Foley Shows Special Ops Limitations”
  • Headline:
    “US, Somali Commandos Nab Valuable Al-Shabaab Figures, Spokesman Says”
  • Headline:
    “US Special Operations Forces Screwed Up in Mali”
  • Headline:
    “US Special Forces Raids Target Islamist Militants in Libya and Somalia”
  • Headline:
    “U.S.-Backed Forces in Syria Accused of Human Rights Violations”

We live today
in an era of postmodern war. It’s a two-front war – the first being the virtual
front of threats, posturing, and arms buildups we persist in waging, Cold War-style,
against state-based mirror-images of ourselves (Russia and China); the second
being the dirty front we wage in the shadows against irregular, non-state thugs
and pygmy tyrants who use their weaknesses as strengths, asymmetrically, to
turn our strengths into weaknesses.

The first
front is the martial opiate that self-satisfied, complacent politicians and
bureaucrats (civilian and military) impose to their own advantage on the unsuspecting,
addicted masses. It is the vehicle for perpetuating the dead myth of America’s
preferred way of lethal, destructive war, along with the gluttonous defense
spending and antediluvian institutional prerogatives that go with it.

The second front is the more serious, proximate arena of conflict, the moral
equivalent of a crack epidemic that should, but doesn’t, command our attention.
The weapons of choice America’s political and military decision-makers have
chosen to employ for this purpose are essentially three – special operations
forces (SOFs), private military and security companies (PMSCs), and drones –
though it is the first of these – SOFs – that most seriously threatens much
of what America professes to stand for and thus warrants our singular attention,
here, now.

The Postmodern Earthscape

The era of
modern, industrial war took us from the Civil War (with discontinuous detours
through various banana republics and the Philippines) through World Wars I and
II to the Korean War. The Cold War introduced us to the two fronts of the postmodern
era, the first front having now occupied us, thanks to arms merchants, unimaginative
bureaucrats and politicians, and the institutional inertia of the national security
establishment, for the past 70 years; the second front having silently matured
over time to full adulthood today.

The key features
of the postmodern era that define us, set the contours of our political discourse,
and motivate our political masters are several:

  • Due largely to the planetary shrinkage wrought by…

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