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The New Obama Doctrine, A Six-Point Plan for Global War

The administration is now carefully developing and honing a new Obama doctrine, a six-point program for twenty-first-century war, American-style.

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Still in the Middle of the Middle East

Despite the end of the Iraq and Libyan wars, a coming drawdown of forces in Afghanistan, and copious public announcements about its national security pivot toward Asia, Washington is by no means withdrawing from the Greater Middle East.  In addition to continuing operations in Afghanistan, the U.S. has consistently been at work training allied troops, building up military bases, and brokering weapons sales and arms transfers to despots in the region from Bahrain to Yemen.

In fact, Yemen, like its neighbor, Somalia, across the Gulf of Aden, has become a laboratory for Obama’s wars.  There, the U.S. is carrying out its signature new brand of warfare with “black ops” troops like the SEALs and the Army’s Delta Force undoubtedly conducting kill/capture missions, while “white” forces like the Green Berets and Rangers are training indigenous troops, and robot planes hunt and kill members of al-Qaeda and its affiliates, possibly assisted by an even more secret contingent of manned aircraft.

The Middle East has also become the somewhat unlikely poster-region for another emerging facet of the Obama doctrine: cyberwar efforts.  In a category-blurring speaking engagement, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton surfaced at the recent Special Operations Forces Industry Conference in Florida where she gave a speech talking up her department’s eagerness to join in the new American way of war.  “We need Special Operations Forces who are as comfortable drinking tea with tribal leaders as raiding a terrorist compound,'' she told the crowd. “We also need diplomats and development experts who are up to the job of being your partners."

Clinton then took the opportunity to tout her agency’s online efforts, aimed at websites used by al-Qaeda's affiliate in Yemen.  When al-Qaeda recruitment messages appeared on the latter, she said, “our team plastered the same sites with altered versions… that showed the toll al-Qaeda attacks have taken on the Yemeni people.”  She further noted that this information-warfare mission was carried out by experts at State’s Center for Strategic Counterterrorism Communications with assistance, not surprisingly, from the military and the U.S. Intelligence Community. 

These modest on-line efforts join more potent methods of cyberwar being employed by the Pentagon and the CIA, including the recently revealed “Olympic Games,” a program of sophisticated attacks on computers in Iran’s nuclear enrichment facilities engineered and unleashed by the National Security Agency (NSA) and Unit 8200, Israeli’s equivalent of the NSA.  As with other facets of the new way of war, these efforts were begun under the Bush administration but significantly accelerated under the current president, who became the first American commander-in-chief to order sustained cyberattacks designed to cripple another country’s infrastructure.

From Brushfires to Wildfires

Across the globe from Central and South America to Africa, the Middle East, and Asia, the Obama administration is working out its formula for a new American way of war.  In its pursuit, the Pentagon and its increasingly militarized government partners are drawing on everything from classic precepts of colonial warfare to the latest technologies.

The United States is an imperial power chastened by more than 10 years of failed, heavy-footprint wars.  It is hobbled by a hollowing-out economy, and inundated with hundreds of thousands of recent veterans -- a staggering 45% of the troops who fought in Afghanistan and Iraq -- suffering from service-related disabilities who will require ever more expensive care.  No wonder the current combination of special ops, drones, spy games, civilian soldiers, cyberwarfare, and proxy fighters sounds like a safer, saner brand of war-fighting.  At first blush, it may even look like a panacea for America’s national security ills.  In reality, it may be anything but. 

 
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