Fabius Maximus website

We’re goading our enemies to attack America. Eventually we’ll succeed, and they will.

Summary: Our national security agencies have put us on course for a dark future, albeit one that greatly benefits them. We feel exceptional in our ability to kill people in far-away lands, yet fear the inevitable reprisals on the “Homeland”. Like similarly mad events a century ago in Europe, afterwards nobody will recall why we thought this was rational. Today let’s look at some evidence, trying to do so with the eyes of a future generation.

At almost the same time {Spring 1965} Phil Geyelin, a White House correspondent who knew Southeast Asia well, found himself troubled by the same kind of doubts about the direction of American policy and turned to William Bundy {Assistant Secretary of State for Far Eastern Affairs}. Did we really know where we were headed? he asked. Did we really know what we would do if the bombing failed, if he other side decided to match our escalation with its own?

Bundy reassured him; he said he had never been so confident about any undertaking before. Vietnam was no Bay of Pigs, he emphasized; he had never seen anything so thoroughly staffed, so well planned. It reeked of expertise and professionalism, it all gave one a great sense of confidence.

— From The Best and the Brightest by David Halberstam (1972).

New CIA Logo.

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More than a decade of studies in Pakistan by organizations such as Pew Research and the New American Foundation show that our drone assassins make people distrust, dislike, and often hate us. Scores of leaked intelligence agency documents and statements by experts report that they’re among the most effective recruitment tools of jihadist insurgents.

Even more obviously, we’ve fought jihadists for 13 years using such tools — spec ops kidnapping and executions, invasion and occupation of their lands, support for their corrupt and tyrannical rulers, and bombings bombings bombings. The result: a region set on fire, with the fire spreading to new lands (a welcome opportunity for DoD to expand Africom).

We have run this course before, obvious to anyone who has read The Pentagon Papers (or its excellent derivative The Best and the Brightest). Mindlessly brutal strategies, endlessly repeated and even expanded despite their failure, until catastrophic final defeat. This time we target a region and a major religion, not just the backwater of North Vietnam. We are exceptional in our FAILure to learn and drive to self-destruction.

Unlike during the Vietnam War, today we have heroes attempting to warn us: whistleblowers and leakers. Like so many heroes in history, they’re unappreciated by us (as bearers of bad news) and attacked by the government (especially by Obama, the Nobel Peace Prize-wearing leader of the “most transparent administration ever“). So far we have ignored their warnings.

What comes next? How long can we send flying robots to kill, with the inevitable “collateral damage” — blowing women and children into red mist — before people get angry enough to come over here to administer tit-for-tat? How many headlines like today’s: “U.S. airstrike in Syria may have killed 50 civilians“? Do we see this retaliation in our future, perhaps explaining our high level of fear?

We probably would respond intemperately to such an attack, perhaps with destruction of a Middle Eastern city — mass murder of people who had as little role in the attack on us as did the people in Iraq and Afghanistan on 9/11. Then we would have fulfilled bin Laden’s dream, starting a full-scale clash of civilizations between us and them. That’s a future our national security agencies lead us to.

The CIA fast-tracks us to disaster.

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“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!”
— Upton Sinclair, I, Candidate for Governor: And How I Got Licked (1935).

The new Voice of America.

The War on Terror runs on reports like this from the CIA. They eerily echo the confidently cold-blooded reports that ran the Vietnam War, proving that we have learned nothing.

“Making High-Value Targeting Operations an Effective Counterinsurgency Tool”
CIA, 7 July 2009, released by WikiLeaks.

A CIA review of high-value targeting (HVT) programs worldwide suggests that HVT operations can play a useful role when they are part of a broader counterinsurgency strategy. HVT operations are most likely to contribute to successful counterinsurgency outcomes when governments decide on a desired strategic outcome before beginning HVT operations, analyze potential effects and shaping factors, and simultaneously employ other military and nonmilitary counterinsurgency instruments.

  • Potential positive strategic effects of HVT operations include eroding insurgent effectiveness, weakening insurgent will, reducing the level of insurgent support, fragmenting or splitting the insurgent group, altering insurgent strategy or organization in ways that favor the government, and strengthening government morale and support.
  • Potential negative effects of HVT operations include increasing the level of insurgent support, causing a government to neglect other aspects of its counterinsurgency strategy, altering insurgent strategy or organization in ways that favor the insurgents, strengthening an armed group’s bond with the population, radicalizing an insurgent group’s remaining leaders, creating a vacuum into which more radical groups can enter, and escalating or deescalating a conflict in ways that favor the insurgents.
  • The insurgent group factors that shape the impact of HVT operations include the degree of leadership centralization, succession planning and bench strength, level of visibility, life cycle stage, strength of cause and popular support, and existence of sanctuary.
  • Several government factors, including the duration and intensity of HVT operations and the choice of HVT method, also affect the outcome of HVT operations.

We studied as cases Afghanistan (2001-present), Algeria (1954-62), Colombia (2002-present), Iraq (2004-present), Israel (1972 to mid-1990s, mid-1990s to present), Peru (1980-99), Northern Ireland (1969-98), and Sri Lanka (1983-May 2009). We drew additional examples from Chechnya, Libya, Pakistan, and Thailand.

The CIA’s analysts make the common but elementary mistake of conflating anti-insurgent activities by home governments (often effective) with those of foreigners (almost never effective). It’s important not to see this, as it destroys the core assumption of our foreign wars. Our national security experts keep their eyes closed, ignoring both warnings in the literature as well as the evidence of their failure since 9/11.

  1. Lies, damned lies and counterinsurgency“, Robert W. Chamberlain (Captain, US Army), Armed Forces Journal, May 200.
  2. War by Other Means – Building Complete and Balanced Capabilities for Counterinsurgency“, David Gompert and John Gordon et al  (2008).   In Appendix A Martin C. Libicki examined  “Eighty-Nine Insurgencies: Outcomes and Endings”, showing the different success rates of locals vs foreigners when fighting insurgencies.
  3. “The Perils of Third-Party Counterinsurgency Campaigns”, Doctoral dissertation by Erin Marie Simpson in Political Science from Harvard, 17 June 2010 (available through Proquest).

Almost no foreign armies have defeated local insurgencies since Mao brought 4GW to maturity after WWII, as Martin van Creveld explains in Chapter 6.2 of The Changing Face of War (2006):

What is known, though, is that attempts by post-1945 armed forces to suppress guerrillas and terrorists have constituted a long, almost unbroken record of failure … {W}hat changed was the fact that, whereas previously it had been the main Western powers that failed, now the list included other countries as well. Portugal’s expulsion from Africa in 1975 was followed by the failure of the South Africans in Namibia, the Ethiopians in Ertrea, the Indians in Sri Lanka, the Americans in Somalia, and the Israelis in Lebanon. … Even in Denmark {during WWII}, “the model protectorate”, resistance increased as time went on.

Many of these nations used force up to the level of genocide in their failed attempts to defeat local insurgencies. Despite that, foreign forces have an almost uniform record of defeat. Such as the French-Algerian War, which the French waged until their government collapsed.

Conclusions.

“Sooner or later, everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
— attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson

One future for America.

Our national security apparatus has gained much from arousing our fears since 9/11: massive increases in funding and power, with little scrutiny. They’ll do nothing to stop the gravy train, keeping us on this ride to Hell. If this has a violent ending, future generations might consider it an appropriate fate for a people so fearful and gullible. So easily led.

For More Information.

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About the utility of assassination:

  1. “Filling the skies with Assassins” by Tom Engelhardt, 12 April 2009.
  2. The march of technology brings “The Forty-Year Drone War”, 26 January 2010.
  3. James Bond is not just our hero, but the model for our geopolitical strategy, on the FM website, 18 May 2010.
  4. America plays the Apollo Option: killing from the sky, Chet Richards (Colonel, USAF, retired), 26 August 2010.
  5. Killing the leaders of our enemy. Is this the fast track to victory – or disaster?, 25 October 2010
  6. Killing Machines: Promises and Limits, 17 February 2011.
  7. The Psychology of Killer Drones – action against our foes; reaction affecting us, 28 September 2011.
  8. Obama + assassination + drones = a dark future for America, 1 August 2013.

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