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Monopolizing War? What America Knows How to Do Best

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Posted on Sep 13, 2012
perpetualplum (CC BY 2.0)

By Tom Engelhardt, TomDispatch

This piece originally appeared at TomDispatch.

It’s pop-quiz time when it comes to the American way of war: three questions, torn from the latest news, just for you.  Here’s the first of them, and good luck!

Two weeks ago, 200 U.S. Marines began armed operations in…?:

a) Afghanistan
b) Pakistan
c) Iran
d) Somalia
e) Yemen
f) Central Africa
g) Northern Mali
h) The Philippines
i) Guatemala

If you opted for any answer, “a” through “h,” you took a reasonable shot at it.  After all, there’s an ongoing American war in Afghanistan and somewhere in the southern part of that country, 200 armed U.S. Marines could well have been involved in an operation.  In Pakistan, an undeclared, CIA-run air war has long been underway, and in the past there have been armed border crossings by U.S. special operations forces as well as U.S. piloted cross-border air strikes, but no Marines.

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When it comes to Iran, Washington’s regional preparations for war are staggering.  The continual build-up of U.S. naval power in the Persian Gulf, of land forces on bases around that country, of air power (and anti-missile defenses) in the region should leave any observer breathless.  There are U.S. special operations forces near the Iranian border and CIA drones regularly over that country.  In conjunction with the Israelis, Washington has launched a cyberwar against Iran’s nuclear program and computer systems.  It has also established fierce oil and banking sanctions, and there seem to have been at least some U.S. cross-border operations into Iran going back to at least 2007.  In addition, a recent front-page New York Times story on Obama administration attempts to mollify Israel over its Iran policy included this ominous line:  “The administration is also considering… covert activities that have been previously considered and rejected.”  So 200 armed Marines in action in Iran—not yet, but don’t get down on yourself, it was a good guess.

In Somalia, according to Wired magazine’s Danger Room blog, there have been far more U.S. drone flights and strikes against the Islamic extremist al-Shabaab movement and al-Qaeda elements than anyone previously knew.  In addition, the U.S. has at least partially funded, supported, equipped, advised, and promoted proxy wars there, involving Ethiopian troops back in 2007 and more recently Ugandan and Burundi troops (as well as an invading Kenyan army).  In addition, CIA operatives and possibly other irregulars and hired guns are well established in Mogadishu, the capital.

In Yemen, as in Somalia, the combination has been proxy war and strikes by drones (as well as piloted planes), with some U.S. special forces advisors on the ground, and civilian casualties (and anger at the U.S.) rising in the southern part of the country— but also, as in Somalia, no Marines. Central Africa?  Now, there’s a thought.  After all, at least 100 Green Berets were sent in there this year as part of a campaign against Joseph Kony’s Ugandan-based Lord’s Resistance Army.  As for Northern Mali, taken over by Islamic extremists (including an al-Qaeda-affiliated group), it certainly presents a target for future U.S. intervention—and we still don’t know what those three U.S. Army commandos who skidded off a bridge to their deaths in their Toyota Land Rover with three “Moroccan prostitutes” were doing in a country with which the U.S. military had officially cut its ties after a democratically elected government was overthrown.  But 200 Marines operating in war-torn areas of Africa?  Not yet.  When it comes to the Philippines,  again no Marines, even though U.S. special forces and drones have been aiding the government in a low-level conflict with Islamic militants in Mindanao.

As it happens, the correct, if surprising, answer is “i.”  And if you chose it, congratulations!

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