Saturday, February 28, 2009

Washington War Policy Unchanged?

U.S. soldiers leave one country, arrive at another; talk of "change" heats the air; the empire digs in for a long stay...

Given the efforts of the Pentagon to enhance the firepower and overall technical battlefield superiority of U.S. forces in pursuit of the goal of fighting a high-tech war that will minimize if not eliminate the death of U.S. soldiers, a good description of the military capabilities of a force of "only" 50,000 U.S. soldiers would be useful. I would modestly suggest that 50,000 U.S. soldiers is a rather large army. If the mechanics that keep the machines working and the cooks that keep the troops working happen to be locals or mercenaries, the destructive power of 50,000 U.S. troops would be quite sufficient to pose a real threat to just about any country that might consider itself to be a potential target.

So if Obama has now decided to keep up to 50,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, he has sent a message to the region that will be heard by all. Radicals will have justification for warning of an imminent U.S. invasion; militarists will have justification for demanding emergency armament programs; dictators will have justification for jailing democracy advocates in the name of national security. Those who wish to prevent cooperation with the U.S. will persuasively say that "nothing has changed" with the replacement of Bush by Obama.

Iraq appears subjugated, while Afghanistan definitely does not, so Washington makes a tactical shift of forces from the former front to the latter. The base archipelago in Iraq is built and remains occupied; that in Afghanistan is just now being laid out. In a year the U.S. will have about the same sized military force for its war to control the region that it has had since 2003 but standing firmly on two legs rather than balancing on one, with troops free to move back and forth for minor tactical reasons. These tactical shifts will of course be trumpted as major changes, neatly obscuring the fundamental stability of the overall policy: the Empire is in the Muslim world to stay.

On the other hand, Obama said:
  1. "by August 31, 2010, our combat mission in Iraq will end";
  2. "under the Status of Forces Agreement with the Iraqi government, I intend to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq by the end of 2011".
Taking Obama at his word, he appears to have said that:
  1. after August 31, 2010, the U.S. will no longer have the ability to conduct a war from Iraq;
  2. by January 1, 2011, the U.S. will have no troops in Iraq at all, including mercenaries hired from unemployed Latin American death squads.
However, he did not clearly state that the massive, city-like U.S. military bases in Iraq would be turned over to the Iraqi government, and he did not clear state that no military supplies would be stockpiled in Iraq for use in a possible future U.S. attack on neighboring countries. He also made no reference to mercenaries, civilian employees of the Pentagon, contract workers, or any other term that would cover the huge army of unofficial troops currently in Iraq. And he certainly did not condemn lying to the American people about the purpose of the war or apologize for torturing Iraqis or apologize for jailing Iraqis convicted of no offense. He did not condemn the policy of making war on cities. Most critically, he slid smoothly over the fundamental question of whether U.S. relations with Muslim societies should be based on force or reason.

Whether from the perspective of morality, security, or the strategic course of America's relations with the world's Muslims, what Obama omitted was far more important than what he said. Perhaps he is still thinking it through...

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