Summary: What is the face of America, the image we present to the world? In many of the key areas we’re conducting a massive effort to re-brand America. Perhaps still as a force for order, but as a dark force.
The image we project to the world is an important aspect of our grand strategy. As marketing managers know, the brand is a company’s most important asset. In many of the key areas of the world we’re creating a new brand — a new face — for America. One that will influence our grand strategy for generations.
I’ll be the good guy. You be the American special ops assassin.
The CIA has long had a dark reputation overseas, overthrowing democratically elected governments that dare to oppose America — installing tyrants, training their secret police (e.g., Chile, Iraq). Now our finest soldiers indelibly stain their reputations — Green Berets, Seals, Rangers, etc — becoming assassins. And America’s technology becomes Skynet — running drones, cowards that kill from cushy seats on the other side of the globe.
The occasional hit might be forgiven or overlooked. But as the Romans said Dosis facit venenum. It is the dose that makes the poison. Too many hits and our special ops forces might as well adopt “America’s Sword and Shield” as their motto. If the KGB will lend it to us.
Of course we have great reasons for our actions. As if anybody on the other side of our firepower cares. As if even the peoples watching from the sideline will feel sympathy for assassins. For Skynet.
This is the real value of COIN theory: providing a happy face to our counter-insurgency programs. Which in practice violate its key maxims by undercutting the host government’s legitimacy and trashing America’s reputation.
The DoD and Homeland Security Departments have initiated a large, bold experiment. Can we kill leaders of the Pashtun tribes faster than they can recruit new ones? Can the al Qaeda franchise spread virally faster than we kill its leaders? It’s a thoughtless experiment, run by an out-of-control military-intelligence apparatus. Without plan or calculation. Without consultation with our foreign service officers or the President. Certainly without advice let alone consent from Congress. And the American people are the last to know.
That last point deserves attention. Much of the national security state-within-a-state exists to keep the American people ignorant of its deeds. After all, our enemies know. Just as Eisenhower lied about U-2 flights over the Soviet Union (everybody involved knew but the US public). The primary target of government info ops: us. That’s why Wikileaks must be stopped, by hook or crook. It’s an existential threat to the national security state, which relies on secrets and lies to survive.
Looking to the future: what will we say when our enemies assassinate our leaders? That will be terrorism — but also tit-for-tat. Will we get sympathy from the rest of the world?
Winning requires a sound grand strategy
The late American strategist Col. John Boyd (USAF) said that a grand strategy focused our nation’s actions — political, economic, and military — so as to:
- Increase our solidarity, our internal cohesion.
- Weaken our opponents’ resolve and internal cohesion.
- Strengthen our allies’ relationships to us.
- Attract uncommitted states to our cause.End conflicts on favorable terms, without sowing the seeds for future conflicts.
— From Patterns of Conflict, slide 139.
Read TomDispatch to learn more about these things
- “Terminator Planet – Launching the Drone Wars“, Tom Engelhardt, 7 April 2009
- “Killing Civilians — How Safe Do You Actually Want to Be?“, Tom Engelhardt, 23 April 2009
- “War of the Worlds: London, 1898; Kabul, 2009“, Tom Engelhardt, 8 October 2009
- “The Shadow War – Making Sense of the New CIA Battlefield in Afghanistan“, Tom Engelhardt and Nick Turse, 10 January 2010
- “The Forty-Year Drone War“, Nick Turse, 24 January 2010
- “The Secret Killers: Assassination in Afghanistan and Task Force 373“, Pratap Chatterjee, August 2010
Posts about these things on the FM website
- “Filling the skies with Assassins” by Tom Engelhardt, 12 April 2009
- James Bond is not just our hero, but the model for our geopolitical strategy, 18 May 2009
- America’s dominance of the sky slowly erodes – inevitable or avoidable?, 22 September 2009
- The march of technology brings “The Forty-Year Drone War”, 26 January 2010
- Stratfor looks at “The Utility of Assassination”, 26 February 2010
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