We, the people of the United States of America, are obsessed with our military; our Executive and Legislative branches always opt for the military answer, no matter the international dilemma, while we sputter Support Our Troops slogans and idolize 4-star failures (ret.) like Petraeus. To remedy this collective disaster, a solution lies in the most unlikely of places: U.S. Special Operations Command. USSOCOM’s five tenets provide concerned U.S. citizens with lessons through which to restrain our elected officials.
Humans are more important than hardware. From this tenet, we learn that drones shouldn’t be glorified. We learn that we shouldn’t kill innocent Pakistani, Yemeni, or Somali civilians with lionized hardware. We shouldn’t kill children with hundreds of AGM-114 (even if each Hellfire purchase feeds Lockheed Martin’s coffers). We learn that we shouldn’t loosen the criteria by which Langley assassinates suspected bad guys from 25,000 ft. We learn that we shouldn’t send U.S. service-members on three, four, five, or six tours of duty in support of imperial misadventures. After all, humans are more important than hardware, and we have no right to deploy either in foreign lands. Finally, we learn that we should respect Palestinian humanity instead of allocating $3.1 billion in military hardware and cash-money to the Israeli military each year.
Quality is better than Quantity. Instead of pursuing numerous wars of aggression, we should pursue zero. We should use our military to protect the quality of our country, not engage in strategically debilitating alliances with numerous despotic regimes for the sake of petroleum or Israeli hegemony. After learning this lesson, we can rehabilitate the quality of our forces, not disperse them throughout the world in a flagrant display of empire. AFRICOM? Really? Then it’s acceptable for Khama to deploy the Botswana Defence Force to Providence, RI under the auspices of AMERICOM (est. 1 October 2007). We Americans would have no choice but to react positively. Quality over quantity also applies to NSA’s domestic spying operations. Instead of violating the civil liberties of every American, NSA could return to its original mission statement: “to gain a decision advantage for the Nation and our allies.” Finally, quality over quantity applies to funding priorities. A taut Pentagon on a tight leash with a $200 billion budget beats a sloppy, unbridled Pentagon with a $700 billion budget any day of the week.
Special Operations Forces cannot be mass produced. Neither can military victories. Operation Unified Protector? Not a victory, despite the U.S. corporate media declaring otherwise. Operation Enduring Freedom? Risible. Operation Iraqi Freedom? Only the Obama White House claims victory on that one (for domestic, political purposes). Need we go back further in time? Operation Desert Shield/Storm ’91, you say? Too many civilian casualties; mass pollution from depleted uranium munitions still ravages the Iraqi landscape causing birth defects galore; and the Kuwaiti monarchy (the alleged victim of Saddam’s wrath) continues to oppress its population. But we don’t know any of this, because the U.S. corporate media doesn’t mention it. Ever. Instead, we applaud crisp, clean wars presented by the Pentagon-media alliance. Panama ’89? Hardly a Just Cause, since Noriega was “our boy” only a few moons prior to invasion. Grenada ’83? Vietnam ‘75? Wouldn’t it have been nice if we desisted after pen hit paper in Potsdam and on the USS Missouri in 1945? (A thought that chills the hearts of beltway academics).
Competent Special Operations Forces cannot be created after emergencies occur. Likewise, claims of “progress” cannot be manufactured or sustained after Taliban and Haqqani (the most effective tag-team since Chief Jay Strongbow and Billy White Wolf) whoop up on Kabul. Many thanks to modern technology and courageous journalists for ensuring that these events are covered thoroughly. Kabul isn’t Gaza, and the U.S. cannot close Afghanistan to foreign media like the Israeli government did during the Gaza Massacre of ’08-’09. After a string of Taliban/Haqqani successes, “progress” is arrogated, but none exists.
Likewise, plausible pretexts cannot be created after emergencies occur. “Spreading democracy” and chasing al-Qaeda apparitions cannot obscure D.C.’s real reasons for picking fights: profit and unity. Our corporations profit from extended warfare and our politicians get to funnel billions in Pentagon contracts to their home districts.
Meanwhile, we unite against a stereotypical enemy and avoid any critical analysis of the political and economic motivators for global war. Without the glue of war, we might just scrutinize how vacuous our society has become or question the political corruption festering in D.C. But we don’t. During the Cold War, we let the Pentagon inflate the “communist” threat to justify military operations across the globe. Since 2001, we’ve let the Pentagon inflate the “terrorist” threat to justify military operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Pakistan, Iran (covertly), Syria (covertly), Yemen, Somalia, Kenya, the Philippines, Central African Republic, Uganda, Colombia, and elsewhere. Pliable labels of “communist” and “terrorist” allow our policymakers to justify any foreign policy, any incursion into sovereign lands, and any domestic crackdown. Fortunately, through grassroots knowledge-sharing that Occupy has embraced, these pretexts for war are slowly eroding.
Most Special Operations require non-SOF assistance. Twist this tenet slightly and we learn that most conflicts require non-military approaches. War on Drugs? The Pentagon has been tackling that one for more than 40 years, and all it cost us was thousands of indigenous lives abroad, mass incarceration at home, a new Jim Crow system through which to corral minorities, an untenable overload of government bureaucracy, and $1 trillion in U.S. taxpayer dollars. A non-military approach that favors legalization, taxation, treatment, and rehabilitation instead of war and incarceration is preferable. War on Terror? The Pentagon has been tackling (read: manufacturing) that one for more than 10 years. Should we give it another 30? Or perhaps it’s time to accept that terrorism ends when political grievances are addressed in a diplomatic fashion.
If we, the people, care to take a break from our strict regimen of “reality television” and military adulation, USSOCOM’s lessons provide a kick-start to tackle the collective irresponsibility of our Executive and Legislative branches.
Christian Sorensen is an Arabic-English translator and an American military veteran.