Andrew Bacevich’s latest says a lot in very few words. He argues that whereas Bush II tried to lead the U.S. into a policy of endless war by fearmongering, and for a while succeeded, Obama is taking a different route.
A people untouched (or seemingly untouched) by war are far less likely to care about it. Persuaded that they have no skin in the game, they will permit the state to do whatever it wishes to do. This is the approach the Obama administration is now pursuing: first through the expanded use of aerial drones for both intelligence gathering and ”˜targeted’ assassination; and, second, through the expanded deployment of covert special operations forces around the world, such as the team that killed Osama bin Laden. The New York Times reported today that the head of the Special Operations Command ”˜is seeking new authority to move his forces faster and outside of normal Pentagon deployment channels’.
Drones and special forces are the essential elements of a new American way of war, conducted largely in secret with minimal oversight or accountability and disregarding established concepts of sovereignty and international law. Bush’s critics charge him with being a warmonger. But Obama has surpassed his predecessor in shedding any remaining restraints on waging war.
I’d add that just as COIN was supposed to be the Bush era “kindler, gentler” way of war as a sop to American sensibilities – but turned out to be unworkable as practised by the U.S. military – so R2P is now being touted as the “kindler, gentler” reason for war. It will prove just as liable to blow up in our faces. We all know Iraq and Afghanistan are messes, but Libya isn’t finished it’s implosion yet and an intervention in Syria would fare no better.