Good reporting from the NY Times today on the increasing activity of the United States’ armed forces in wars in Yemen, Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia. Civilian casualties are on the rise and evidence suggests we are at least partly to blame.
Here is a succinct summation of events in the Middle East by NY Times’ reporters Ben Hubbard and Michael R. Gordon:
“Two months after the inauguration of President Trump, indications are mounting that the United States military is deepening its involvement in a string of complex wars in the Middle East that lack clear endgames.”
While the move to allow more local control of airstrikes and strategy began under the Obama administration, Mr. Trump’s oft stated gung-ho military aggressiveness coupled with a lack of faith/resources for diplomatic work suggests that a much more reckless, ill-considered use of military might is now underway.
This more militaristic philosophy is most clearly seen in Somalia, where the NY Times reports that Mr. Trump has “relaxed some of the rules for preventing civilian casualties when the American military carries out counterterrorism strikes in Somalia, laying the groundwork for an escalating campaign against Islamist militants in the Horn of Africa.” Parts of Somalia have now been declared a “war zone” where greater liberties can be taken, or, as General Thomas Waldhauser of the U.S. Africa Command put it:
“It allows us to prosecute targets in a more rapid fashion.”
“Prosecute targets” is a lovely euphemism, isn’t it, for killing people. Under the new Trumpian rules, strikes against Shabab fighters can be launched if our military forces think they are Shabab fighters, whether or not they pose any immediate threat to Americans.
As for killing innocent bystanders, there is now more room to do so, if such “collateral damage” is “necessary and proportionate” according to our military leaders. Which of course what is necessary and proportionate is in the eye of the prosecuting targeters. Similar rules of engagement are now in force in Yemen as well.
Why might the U.S. not want to escalate war in the Middle East and Africa? Because it is likely to backfire, as the entire “war on terror” has indicated. The NY Times article quotes a Syrian resident of Raqqa:
“Daesh [or ISIS] is happy about the American attacks against civilians to prove its slogans that the Americans want to kill Muslims everywhere and not only the Islamic State’s gunmen.”
To contain terrorists the U.S. can instead fight with diplomacy, foreign aid and education to deprive them of the propaganda they need to recruit and thrive. War in the Middle East and other troubled areas of the globe has failed to bring peace, stability or good will. The Obama administration was more cautious but still too dependent on drones, airstrikes and military tactics. Trump & Company are proving to have far fewer qualms about giving military force freer reign. This start does not bode well, and Democrats and anti-war libertarians should be preparing to resist Trump’s foreign as well as domestic policy.