. . . In 2001, Rumsfeld began his "revolution in military affairs", steering
the Pentagon toward a military-lite model of high-tech, agile forces. The
concept came to a grim end in Iraq's embattled cities. A decade later, the
last vestiges of its many failures continue to play out in a stalemated war
in Afghanistan against a rag-tag minority insurgency that can't be beaten.
In the years since, two secretaries of defense and a new president have
presided over another transformation - this one geared toward avoiding
ruinous, large-scale land wars which the US has consistently proven unable
Under Obama, the US has expanded or launched numerous military campaigns -
most of them utilizing a mix of the six elements of 21st-century American
war. Take the American war in Pakistan - a poster-child for what might now
be called the Obama formula, if not doctrine.
Beginning as a highly circumscribed drone assassination campaign backed by
limited cross-border commando raids under the Bush administration, US
operations in Pakistan have expanded into something close to a full-scale
robotic air war, complemented by cross-border helicopter attacks, CIA-funded
"kill teams" of Afghan proxy forces, as well as boots-on-the-ground missions
by elite special operations forces, including the SEAL raid that killed
Osama bin Laden.
The CIA has conducted clandestine intelligence and surveillance missions in
Pakistan, too, though its role may, in the future, be less important, thanks
to Pentagon mission creep. In April, in fact, Secretary of Defense Leon
Panetta announced the creation of a new CIA-like espionage agency within the
Pentagon called the Defense Clandestine Service. According to the Washington
Post, its aim is to expand "the military's espionage efforts beyond war
Over the last decade, the very notion of war zones has become remarkably
muddled, mirroring the blurring of the missions and activities of the CIA
and Pentagon. Analyzing the new agency and the "broader convergence trend"
between Department of Defense and CIA missions, the Post noted that the
"blurring is also evident in the organizations' upper ranks. Panetta
previously served as CIA director, and that post is currently held by
retired four-star Army General David H Petraeus."
Not to be outdone, last year the State Department, once the seat of
diplomacy, continued on its long march to militarization (and
marginalization) when it agreed to pool some of its resources with the
Pentagon to create the Global Security Contingency Fund. That program will
allow the Defense Department even greater say in how aid from Washington
will flow to proxy forces in places like Yemen and the Horn of Africa.
One thing is certain: American war-making (along with its spies and its
diplomats) is heading ever deeper into "the shadows". Expect yet more
clandestine operations in ever more places with, of course, ever more
potential for blowback in the years ahead. . . .