Summary: America celebrates today the killing of a foe. Our joy and pride at this show our degradation and (far worse) our inability to learn from experience. This is what losing looks like.
Something very big has just happened!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) October 27, 2019
In year 18 of our bizarrely named “War on Terror”, Americans again rejoice at the assassination of a foe: ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi. The history of the WOT suggests that the exciting accounts fed us about this event are probably false to a large degree – and that the benefits of this death will prove as small as with all the previous hits. That we do not see this is evidence of our inability to learn from experience, a weakness that can offset the strength of even the greatest power. If the reports are correct (a large assumption) that he killed himself before we could kill him (as we did bin Laden, see here and here), that’s a plus for their side. Brave martyrs are an asset. For more about this, see “Attacking the Leader, Missing the Mark” by Jenna Jordan in International Security, Spring 2014 – “Why Terrorist Groups Survive Decapitation Strikes.”
“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”
— Not said by Einstein. Said by Alcoholics Anonymous, people who know everything about dysfunctionality.
The amazing aspect of this history is that our foes have the good sense not to adopt our mad tactics and assassinate US leaders. We would certainly consider that the act of evil-doers. Just as we condemn “double taps” by our foes – attacking civilians, waiting, then attacking the rescuers – and forget that we also do it. But our aggressive, even belligerent, tactics against others will eventually produce an equivalent response. Eventually, someone will strike back at us, probably with something that makes 9/11 look like a cakewalk.
Now for the bad news: American history of the past century is one of tactics used against overseas foes becomes used against domestic foes, then becomes normalized – routinely used against us. The US seized the money of foreign foes. Then seized the money of organized crime networks. Now police routinely seize the money of people they arrest and release (or even don’t arrest). If that happens with killings, it will not be irony. It will be blowback, aka our just desserts.
We have been killing our foes’ leaders, foreign and domestic, since WWII. It hasn’t helped.
I and others have thoroughly documented this pitiful history. Here are some of the most useful posts in this long series. These posts overflow with warnings by our greatest experts that killing our foes’ leaders does not work, and probably helps our foes. Too bad we do not listen to them.
- Summary of the history, legality, and effectiveness of killing leaders: James Bond is the model for our mad geopolitical strategy.
- Why if fails: Darwin explains the futility of killing insurgents. It makes them more effective.
- Stratfor asks Why al Qaeda survives the assassination of its leaders?
- 14 years of assassinations: Stratfor describes the result.
Other posts about the futility of “decapitation tactics.”
- Don’t listen to the calls for more killing in the WOT.
- Obama + assassination + drones = a dark future for America — by Mark Mazzetti.
- Assassination as Policy in Washington: How It Failed Then and Fails Now — by Andrew Cockburn.
- Should we use our special operations troops as assassins? Is it right, or even smart?
- Another assassination of a jihadist leader. Here’s what comes next.
- Obama’s last gift to America: a global assassination program.
It didn’t work in Vietnam
By Nick Turse.
These things are more easily and clearly seen in the past than today. Scholars will write similar books about our wars. From the publisher …
“Americans have long been taught that events such as the notorious My Lai massacre were isolated incidents in the Vietnam War, carried out by just a few “bad apples.” But as award-winning journalist and historian Nick Turse demonstrates in this groundbreaking investigation, violence against Vietnamese noncombatants was not at all exceptional during the conflict. Rather, it was pervasive and systematic, the predictable consequence of official orders to “kill anything that moves.”
“Drawing on more than a decade of research into secret Pentagon archives and extensive interviews with American veterans and Vietnamese survivors, Turse reveals for the first time the workings of a military machine that resulted in millions of innocent civilians killed and wounded-what one soldier called ‘a My Lai a month.’ Devastating and definitive, Kill Anything That Moves finally brings us face-to-face with the truth of a war that haunts America to this day.”