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US Is Increasing Its Hegemony As the "Global War Gladiator" Under Obama

What to watch for in 2010 from the country that spends more on war than the next 25 combined.

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7.  Will Yemen become the fourth major front in Washington’s global war?

George W. Bush unabashedly proclaimed himself a “war president.”  President Obama seems to be taking up the same mantle.  Right now, the Obama administration’s war fronts include the inherited wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, a not-so-covert war in Pakistan, and a potential new war in Yemen.  (There are also rarely commented upon ongoing military actions in the Philippines and a U.S.-aided drug war in Colombia, as well as periodic strikes in Somalia.)  Though the surge in Afghanistan and Pakistan was supposed to contain al-Qaeda there, the U.S. now finds itself focusing on yet another country and another of that organization’s morphing offspring.   

In 2002, a USA Today article about a targeted assassination in Yemen began: “Opening up a visible new front in the war on terror, U.S. forces launched a pinpoint missile strike in Yemen...”  Just over seven years later, following multiple U.S. cruise missiles launched into the country and targeted air strikes by the air force of the U.S.-aided Yemeni regime against “suspected hide-outs of Al Qaeda,” the New York Times announced, “In the midst of two unfinished major wars, the United States has quietly opened a third, largely covert front against Al Qaeda in Yemen.”  In the wake of a botched airplane terror attack by a single young Nigerian Muslim, and credit-taking by a group calling itself al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula, the usual cheery crew of U.S. war advocates are lining up behind the next potential front in the war on terror.  ( Senator Joseph Lieberman:  "Iraq was yesterday's war. Afghanistan is today's war. If we don't act preemptively, Yemen will be tomorrow's war.")  What began as a one-off Bush assassination effort now threatens to become another of Obama’s wars. 

The U.S. has not only sent Special Forces teams into the country, but is now pouring tens of millions of dollars into Yemen’s security forces in a dramatic move to significantly arm yet another Middle Eastern country.  At the same time, U.S.-backed Saudi Arabia -- whose alliance with Washington ignited the current war with al-Qaeda -- is aiding the Yemeni forces in a war against Houthi rebels there. 

This is a witch’s brew of trouble.  Keep your eye on Yemen (with an occasional side glance at Somalia, the failed state across the Gulf of Aden).  Expect more funding, more trainers, more proxy warfare, and possibly a whole new conflict for 2010. 

8.  How brutal will the American way of war be in 2010? 

When it comes to war, American-style, the key word of 2009 was “counterinsurgency” or COIN.  Think of it as the kindly version of war the American way, a strategy based on “clearing and holding” territory and “protecting” the civilian population.  Its value, as expounded by Afghan War commander McChrystal, lies not in killing the enemy but in winning over “the people.”  On paper, it sounds good, like a kinder, gentler version of war, but historically counterinsurgency operations have almost invariably gone into the ditch of brutality.  So here’s one word you should keep your eyes out for in 2010:  “counterterrorism.”  Consider it the dark underside of counterinsurgency.  Instead of boots on the ground, it’s bullets to the head. 

General McChrystal was, until recently, a counterterrorism guy.  He ran the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Iraq and Afghanistan.  His operatives were referred to, more or less politely, as “manhunters.”  Think:  assassins.  With McChrystal, a general who credits his large-scale assassination program for a great deal of the Iraq surge’s success in 2007, it was just a matter of time before counterterrorism -- which is just terrorism put in uniform and given an anodyne name -- was ramped up in Afghanistan (and undoubtedly Pakistan as well).  Though the planes may still be grounded, the special ops guys who kick in doors in the middle of the night and have often been responsible for grievous civilian casualties will evidently be going at it full tilt. 

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