Engelhardt on Obama’s 6 Wars

Iraq: Now largely the dregs of a counterinsurgency operation, this war will not end in 2011.  At his confirmation hearings, for instance, Panetta cited the existence of al-Qaeda in Iraq as a reason for U.S. troops to remain beyond an agreed-upon year-end withdrawal date.  Should those troops actually leave, however, the war will still go on, even if in quite a different form.  A gargantuan, increasingly militarized State Department “mission” in that country, complete with its own “army” and “air force” of perhaps 5,100 mercenaries, will evidently keep the faith.

Afghanistan: This remains a full-scale U.S. Army-run counterinsurgency war, backed by a major special operations/CIA counterterror war.

Pakistan: A full-scale CIA-run drone war in the Pakistani borderlands is actually expanding.  In the post-9/11 era, this has been the first of Washington’s “covert” or “shadow” wars (which no longer means “secret” — it’s all over the news almost daily — but something closer to “off the books,” as in beyond the reach of any form of significant popular or congressional oversight or accountability). Panetta is calling for more emphasis on such off-the-books wars in which U.S. military operatives might, as in the bin Laden operation, temporarily find themselves under the command of the CIA.

Libya: Officially a NATO air war, this one is nonetheless partially run by the Pentagon with targeting assistance from various U.S. intelligence agencies.  It involves both direct U.S. air strikes and support for strikes by various NATO and Arab allies fronting the operation.  It is also, for Americans, a “war” in name only since, except in the case of engine malfunction, there is essentially no way the Libyans can harm a U.S. pilot.  It is also an example of another air war that, while destructive, has proven itself incapable of fulfilling its stated aims.  Months later, Gaddafi remains alive and more or less in power, while NATO flags.

Yemen: Another of those “covert” air wars, being run, according to the Times, by the Pentagon’s Joint Special Operations Command, closely coordinated with the CIA out of a secret office in the Yemeni capital.

The Global War on Terror: While the Obama administration officially discarded the Bush-era name, it expanded the war and the forces meant to fight it in places like Somalia.  U.S. special operations forces now pursue war-on-terror tasks in at least 75 countries and who knows how many CIA and other intelligence agents are involved as well.

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