Today, the essence of U.S. military “strategy” is targeting. The enemy is treated as vermin to be exterminated with the right bug bomb. As if those bombs had no negative consequences; as if we learned nothing from the overuse of DDT, for example.
You might recall DDT, the miracle insecticide of the 1950s and 1960s. It wiped out bad bugs (and a lot of good ones as well) while leading to DDT-resistant ones. It also damaged the entire ecology of regions (because DDT is both persistent and bio-accumulative). Something similar is happening in the Greater Middle East. The US is killing bad “bugs” (terrorists) while helping to breed a new generation of smarter “bugs.” Meanwhile, constant violence, repetitive bombing, and other forms of persistent meddling are accumulating in their effects, damaging the entire ecology of the Greater Middle East.
The US government insists the solution is all about putting bombs on target, together with Special Forces operating as bug zappers on the ground. At the same time, the US sells billions of dollars in weaponry to our “friends” and allies in the region. Israel just got $38 billion in military aid over ten years, and Saudi Arabia has yet another major arms deal pending, this time for $1.15 billion (with Senator Rand Paul providing that rare case of principled opposition based on human rights violations by the Saudis).
Of course, the US has provided lots of guns and military equipment to Iraqi and Afghan security forces, which often sell or abandon them to enemies such as ISIS and the Taliban. The special inspector general in Afghanistan reported in 2014 that “As many as 43% of all small arms supplied to the Afghan National Security Forces remain unaccounted for – meaning more than 200,000 guns, including M2s, M16s, and M48s, are nowhere to be found.” A recent tally this year that includes Iraq suggests that 750,000 guns can’t be accounted for, according to Action on Armed Violence (AOAV), a London-based charity. The Pentagon’s typical solution to missing guns is simply to send more of them. Thus the US is effectively arming its enemies as well as its allies, a business model that’s a win-win if you’re an arms merchant.
The essence of US strategy makes me think of a Warren Zevon song lyric, “Send lawyers, guns, and money.” As we’ve seen, US lawyers can authorize anything, even torture, even as US guns and money go missing and end up feeding war and corruption. The tag line of Zevon’s song is especially pertinent: “The shit has hit the fan.” How can you flood the Greater Middle East with U.S.-style bureaucracy, guns and money, and not expect turmoil and disaster?
Back in World War II, the USA was an arsenal of democracy. Now it’s just an arsenal. Consider Bill Hartung’s article on US military weaponry that’s flooding the Middle East. The business of America is war, with presidential candidates like Donald Trump just wanting to dump more money into the Pentagon.
There is no end to this madness. Not when the US economy is so dependent on weapons and war. Not when the US national security state dominates the political scene. Not when Americans are told the only choices for president are Trump the Loose Cannon or Hillary the Loaded Gun.
William J. Astore is a retired lieutenant colonel (USAF). He taught history for fifteen years at military and civilian schools and blogs at Bracing Views. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Reprinted from Bracing Views with the author’s permission.