Bergen: Isn't It Wonderful We Have A President Who Wages Wars?

Peter Bergen continues his blatant PR efforts for the Obama campaign and his new book about the Bin Laden raid with an op-ed in the New York Times entitled “Warrior In Chief“, in which he writes that Obama is “one of the most militarily aggressive American leaders in decades.” In Bergen’s neoliberal, Beltway elite, opinion this is a good thing.

Soon after Mr. Obama took office he reframed the fight against terrorism. Liberals wanted to cast anti-terrorism efforts in terms of global law enforcement ”” rather than war. The president didn’t choose this path and instead declared ”œwar against Al Qaeda and its allies.” In switching rhetorical gears, Mr. Obama abandoned Mr. Bush’s vague and open-ended fight against terrorism in favor of a war with particular, violent jihadists.

The rhetorical shift had dramatic ”” non-rhetorical ”” consequences. Compare Mr. Obama’s use of drone strikes with that of his predecessor. During the Bush administration, there was an American drone attack in Pakistan every 43 days; during the first two years of the Obama administration, there was a drone strike there every four days. And two years into his presidency, the Nobel Peace Prize-winning president was engaged in conflicts in six Muslim countries: Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Yemen and Libya. The man who went to Washington as an ”œantiwar” president was more Teddy Roosevelt than Jimmy Carter.

No-one has asked an ordinary member of the citizenry of any of those six Muslim nations to pen an op-ed for the NYT on how wonderful Obama’s often-undeclared wars are.

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Steve Hynd

Most recently I was Editor in Chief of The Agonist from Feb 2012 to Feb 2013. My blogging began at Newshoggers and I’ve had the immense pleasure of working with some great writers there and around the web ever since, including at Crooks & Liars. I'm a late 40′s, Scottish ex-pat, now married to a wonderful Texan, with Honours in Philosophy from Univ. of Stirling, UK 1986. I worked most of life in business insurance industry (fire, accident, liability) including 12 years as a broker/underwriter/correspondent at Lloyd’s of London. Being from the other side of the pond, my political interests tend to focus on how US foreign policy affects the rest of the planet. Other interests include early and dark-ages British history, literature and cognitive philosophy/science.

9 CommentsLeave a comment

  • yuk. Yes, Mr Obama is a manly man who should give back his Nobel peace prize.

    Always keep an open mind and a compassionate heart. ~ Phil Jackson

  • …are that lead to conflict termination. Or is this – minus the Iraq / Afghanistan level of operations – the new ambient level of conflict? How does that compare to the many bush wars of the Cold War? Can supply side measures be taken?

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • But…

    1) As framed and currently supported by the DC Beltway set, there’s no possible de-escalation plan. There is wide, bi-partisan support at think-tanks and withing government for interventionist policy and for the military as the vehicle of those interventions. Absent some sea-change in the elite’s thinking, this is indeed the new ambient level of conflict.

    2) Why would we want to compare the proxy wars fought between two nuclear superpowers with the current “war on some goatherders”? It’s like comparing elephants to apples. But what I think you mean is “is there less war than there used to be?” and the answer to that is “yes”. That begs the question, though, of whether the current lower level of war is in any sense utilitarian and the answer to that is no, imho.

    3) Sorry, as I’ve indicated before I deliberately don’t understand econo-jargon, especially when applied to subjects other than economics. Can you translate the phrase “supply side measures” into plain English?

  • …is even something that could be striven for. This particular set of adversaries is pretty highly motivated. The dominant issues in my mind centre around whether other parties can be induced to constrain them and whether they can be induced to act against other parties. De-escalation when God tells you to do something is tough.

    One of the things that I’ve learned over the years is to respect goat herders as adversaries. The central challenge when fighting them is that generally one is largely required to fight their fight rather than fighting our fight. I bring up these proxy conflicts because a) they are the forms of conflict that were most similar to what we’re seeing right now and b) they tend to be overlooked by folks looking at the past though rose coloured glasses and c) they were pretty much chronic throughout the period. They’re different, ironically because they are less dangerous, but have quite variable intensities because of that lower level of danger. There’s little in the way of damping.

    Supply side in this context refers to whether it is possible to reduce the number of folks motivated to fight against the west. There’s a lot of well meaning talk to this effect, but it’s never particularly struck me as being informed by deep understanding of these folks – or of the drivers in their societies and what we can really do to address them. Essentially there’s a lot of buck passing going on and a lot of folks trying to direct pissed off actors onto other targets. A strategy of seeking to entangle these folks at home would appear most promising.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • harks back to whether the “War on some terror” or law enforcement is the best way to tackle the problem. I’m firmly of the belief that the latter is the answer – the way to “fight our fight” rather than their fight is quite probably not to go to their countries to fight at all – and also would over a few decades defuse much of the deep-history-laden reason for their picking on the West to fight.

  • …is this: law enforcement approaches work best against those militants who seek to fight the “near enemy” (i.e., the regimes that rule their countries) but they work much less well against those who seek to fight the “far enemy” (i.e., the west). With the latter, host governments have shown a pronounced tendency to buck passing (i.e., looking the other way as they act against the west) rather than diligent law enforcement.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

  • By “fighting them over there” we make ourselves the “near enemy” too. If we stopped it might take a couple of decades for those disposed to violence to decide its easier to be violent towards the clear and presnt “near enemy” of their local regimes rather than the “far enemy” that isn’t killing their sons and cousins any more but it would still be less time than the 100 years plus it has been estimated by officials that the GWOT will last.

    In the meantime, the money we would have spent on going over there ($1m per year per soldier in Afghanistan, for e.g.) could be spent on actual law enforcement and terrorism prevention measures at home (and I don’t mean the TSA kabuki). I recommend Bruce Schneier for an alternate vision based on a domestic-security and law-enforcement approach.

    The wish to “go there and do that” is, to me, full of implied but unstated premises about ango-american exceptionalism and the White Man’s Burden. To get a hint of what I mean – consider why we don’t use drones to wipe out entire evangelist camps to get at one abortion clinic bomber, or why it would have been unthinkable for the UK to bomb one Boston pub to get a single IRA member on a fundraising trip with impunity during the Reagan years.

  • …the tenor of this strikes me as too absolutist. If studying these guys has taught me one thing, it is that we don’t understand them terribly well – I don’t think that we can draw simple, linear narratives saying that any one approach is going to lead to success. I tend to think that it is necessary to have many overlapping approaches and that the central art of it is in determining the appropriate mix.

    Everything around you that you call life was made up by people that were no smarter than you and you can change it, you can influence it, you can build your own things that other people can use.” ~ Steve Jobs

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