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Welcome to America's Thirty Years War.
June 2, 2013 3:03 AM   Subscribe

Why did an American counterterrorism agency map the entire Muslim world as a terror zone? And why was their map 500 years out of date.(via)
The United States is not at war with Islam,” President Obama said last week at the National Defense University, in a speech that declared an end to America’s “wartime footing” in the fight against terrorism.
Meanwhile two weeks ago "Asked at a Senate hearing how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, 'At least 10 to 20 years.' . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today - atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted.
posted by adamvasco (45 comments total) 13 users marked this as a favorite

 
"Gates of Janus remained open for the next 400 years until after the First Punic War...This closure lasted about eight years."
posted by poe at 3:19 AM on June 2, 2013 [15 favorites]


More Americans were killed by their own furniture in 2012 than by terrorism, but in the absence of a credible, Soviet scale threat your security apparatus has to justify its enormous expense somehow.

I mean, we can't have people looking around at the crumbling infrastructure and failing schools and asking questions about how much this war on terror thing really costs.
posted by mhoye at 4:00 AM on June 2, 2013 [62 favorites]


I'm glad you mentioned that mhoye.
US tax dollars have just contracted 4 helicopters for $435,000,000.
posted by adamvasco at 4:19 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


One might get the idea these wars are undertaken as a way to make war profiteers money.
posted by tarvuz at 4:31 AM on June 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


Of course there's no real conflict between the US and Islam, terrorism or even Al Quida and a sane country would treat terrorism as a law enforcement issue, not war.

Note: few European countries are this sane either.
posted by MartinWisse at 5:01 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


When has the US not been at war? Never?
posted by five fresh fish at 5:02 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


We have always been at war with Eastasia.
posted by jquinby at 5:14 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


I'm glad you mentioned that mhoye.
US tax dollars have just contracted 4 helicopters for $435,000,000.


That's good economics adamvasco. Australia will buy them from the US for double that come September 2013, and Australia won't even demand prompt delivery. Take a decade.
posted by de at 5:25 AM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


All part of our vital regional security strategy, de. We can use them to tow the boats back!
posted by Jimbob at 5:34 AM on June 2, 2013


but in the absence of a credible, Soviet scale threat

"Narco-terrorism", featuring Manuel Noriega as Goldstein, had to fill in as the existential threat to Our Way Of Life for a few years. It was embarrassing, it obviously was not ready for the big time.
posted by thelonius at 5:35 AM on June 2, 2013 [7 favorites]


More Americans were killed by their own furniture in 2012 than by terrorism

I'm so looking forward to the "war on furniture".
posted by iotic at 6:16 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I'm so looking forward to the "war on furniture"

Which will no doubt result in the accidental drone-bombing of the Chippendales dance troupe.
posted by kewb at 6:22 AM on June 2, 2013 [10 favorites]


When has the US not been at war? Never?

It is amazing to examine the timeline of US military operations.
posted by Seymour Zamboni at 6:34 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


It is easy, of course, to point out what we do in our nation that is bad bad bad, and also forget that, hey, we helped beat the Axis in WWII, rebuilt Germany with the Marshall plan, etc etc. Yes, we have an endless war on terror that then gives loads of money and authority to those who weill keep us safe from the enemy etc.
How to end this? actually, fairly simple. Demand there be a draft of both women and men for this and any future "wars." then you will see mommies and daddies getting in touch with elected officials.
posted by Postroad at 6:45 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


That's not a map, it's a business plan.

I'm sorry to keep posting What Barry Says in threads like this, because it's simplistic and biased. But I really think it has a point.
posted by sneebler at 6:47 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Al Qaeda has a stated goal of re-establishing the Islamic caliphate over the Muslim world. Bin Laden spoke of reclaiming Andalusia in Spain. The US are not at war with the Muslim world, but Al Qaeda is. The map got on the website because it is the map used by Al Qaeda.
posted by humanfont at 7:18 AM on June 2, 2013 [5 favorites]


What the last 10 years tell us about what kind of military we'll need in the future

"Small wars," "stability operations," CT giving way to COIN.

Most conflicts have not been between states, most have not even been between equal or near-equal strength groups. A "war on terror" is like a "war on maneuver doctrine," and terror will always be a workable strategy as long as states react in predictable ways to it.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:31 AM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


I wonder what sort of thing they envision happening in ten to twenty years, so that victory will be declared.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:32 AM on June 2, 2013 [4 favorites]


A review of Fred Kaplan’s ‘Insurgents,’ on David Petraeus
“The Insurgents” proceeds like a whodunit starring a fringe community of officers who resisted the military’s post-Vietnam embrace of mediocrity. It’s breathtaking to realize just how hidebound and doctrinaire the Pentagon had become in the decades before 9/11. Though the cold war had ended, most top generals still believed the military should be training to block Soviet tanks at the Fulda Gap. Even while American “advisers” fought in minor shooting wars all over the globe, the brass officially denied these were genuine combat missions, calling them first “low intensity conflicts” and then, even more laughably and misleadingly, “operations other than war.” Kaplan explains how officers bent on preserving their careers and avoiding “another Vietnam” happily parroted nonsense to climb the ladder. Insurgencies and occupations were not a Pentagon priority; anyone who prepared for them was committing career hara-kiri.

All along, however, a small fraternity of independent thinkers nurtured a running critique of the way America conceived of, and actually fought, war. Though few in number, they were sprinkled throughout the Pentagon bureaucracy, the military ranks and the world of research institutions. This network grew into a powerful cabal, and Kaplan traces their work in meetings, military journals, commands and conflict zones over four decades. Their poster boy was David H. Petraeus, who distinguished himself by ambition, self-promotion and intellect. Eventually he almost single-handedly elevated counterinsurgency doctrine (known by its military acronym COIN) into a sort of gospel. For a brief period, COIN held sway in Washington.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 7:41 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The one thing that the US actually could do to secure its future is the one thing that it refuses to do: demonstrate a capacity to manage its own affairs; live within its means; set its own house in order. In Washington, talk about global strategy provides an excuse to avoid doing what needs to be done.
Obama’s new foreign policy team must beware of generals bearing predictions.
posted by adamvasco at 8:22 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


[folks, don't do the "All Americans are like this" thing here, it's toxic to discussion.]
posted by jessamyn at 8:29 AM on June 2, 2013


Jimbob: "All part of our vital regional security strategy, de. We can use them to tow the boats back!"

Michael, tow your boats ashore, 'alleluuuuujah....
posted by symbioid at 8:31 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


"An undeclared war within Islam is at play in Syria, as popular uprisings get entangled in old religious disputes across the region. In the remaking of the Middle East, it's not just geopolitical, it's religious."


Adam not bad advise but alot of countries pay us to have bases in their county. It does not cover the cost but it helps...but they pay us to be there and they can ask us to leave anytime.
posted by clavdivs at 8:34 AM on June 2, 2013


The question clavdivs is who is using who.
The US is delighted to be in these places described as “the skeleton upon which the flesh and muscle of operational capability [can be] molded.''
Fox says US reportedly footing more of the bill for overseas bases.
It's not cheap.
posted by adamvasco at 9:07 AM on June 2, 2013


In the 90s when the Soviet Union ended we had a decade of near unparalleled prosperity and actually balanced our budget. In response the Republicans tried to impeach the president.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 10:07 AM on June 2, 2013 [9 favorites]


We're not at war with Islam. The religion of the societies that are sitting on vast amounts of "wealth" in the form of natural resources happens to be Islamic. Ron Paul had it right on when he said “They came over here because we were over there.”

It's interesting that the extracting nations call it Islamic terrorism and pinpoint idealogical reasons for terrorism. Like jihad. If one were to look from the other side, one would see two things. The first are advanced weaponry and drones. And the second are foreign logos on the vehicles extracting resources. I doubt it has much to do with religion for them, as much as it has to do with dead family members, and all of their wealth being carted off.
posted by nickrussell at 10:27 AM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The other day I read that Obama wants to spend 400 million to make nuke bombs more accurate.

He's the greatest disappointment of my political life.
posted by wrapper at 10:38 AM on June 2, 2013


adamvasco: I'm glad you mentioned that mhoye.
US tax dollars have just contracted 4 helicopters for $435,000,000.
I read this and I thought to myself that the article must be mistaken. It has to be more than four helos. It isn't. It's four. Four goddamned helicopters. Each Sikorsky CH-53K Super Stallion costs US$84.9M (US$115.9M with the amortized R&D added in).

God Bless America.
posted by ob1quixote at 11:42 AM on June 2, 2013


It could be worse. Did the U.S. Military Plan a Nuclear First Strike for 1963?
posted by Karmadillo at 11:56 AM on June 2, 2013


The one thing that the US actually could do to secure its future is the one thing that it refuses to do: demonstrate a capacity to manage its own affairs; live within its means; set its own house in order.

But does that mean we should adopt Jeffersonian non-interventionism? The classic counter-example that's usually pointed to would be World War II: Not only no entry into the war, but also no assistance to the Allies in the form of Lend-Lease (which was probably significant in helping them).
posted by FJT at 12:38 PM on June 2, 2013


One of the least heralded things about American foreign policy is how since the Iraq surge of 2006-2007 it has allied itself with moderate Sunni religious dominance (Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, etc.) in a hope to beat both Shia-affiliated extremism (Iran, Hezbollah, the Assad regime) and Sunni extremism (al Quaeda, Hamas). I do wonder if in Syria there is any safe way to tell the Sunni moderates from the Sunni extremist.

(Also, mind-boggling that last week Hezbollah publicly decreed Sunni extremism to be its religious enemy number one and Syria the place to fight it, after being primarily an anti-Israeli force for 30 years.)
posted by MattD at 1:37 PM on June 2, 2013


I do wonder if in Syria there is any safe way to tell the Sunni moderates from the Sunni extremist.

Given what appears from afar to be the increasing involvement of Sunni extremist groups (of course, since they're on "our" side, we don't use the T-word if we can avoid it, but you can damn well bet if they were on the other side they'd be terrorists), it looks like Afghanistan 2.0. Not Afghanistan circa 2001, but Afghanistan circa 1985. Because we all know how that turned out...

The key problem with arming guerillas is that if they win, there's a good chance that not all of them will go the Cincinnatus route. But the temptation to use them will always be present, since it allows us to meddle militarily in conflicts without actually risking the lives of our own or allied soldiers.

It would probably be better all around if we just stopped messing around with religious extremists and just hired mercenaries to do our dirty work; at least mercenaries generally stop fighting if they stop getting paid, and you can always outbid the rest of the market if you don't like what they're doing later on. The same cannot be said of religiously-motivated (or even some politically-motivated) insurgent groups that we've opened up the war chest to.
posted by Kadin2048 at 2:35 PM on June 2, 2013


Isn't it really an indefinite conflict? Just like the war on drugs. I've always looked at it as, how long do we want to stay engaged...
posted by wearejustalkin at 2:45 PM on June 2, 2013


Al Qaeda has a stated goal of re-establishing the Islamic caliphate over the Muslim world. Bin Laden spoke of reclaiming Andalusia in Spain.

Aims and capabilities are not the same thing. I would rather like to annex a smallish country (one on the Mediteranean might be nice) but my chances of achieving this are fairly limited. So are Al Qaeda's.
posted by the duck by the oboe at 4:06 PM on June 2, 2013


Naming Our Nameless War: How Many Years Will It Be?
posted by homunculus at 4:24 PM on June 2, 2013


Al Qaeda has a stated goal of re-establishing the Islamic caliphate over the Muslim world.

My daughter has the stated goal of growing up to be a dinosaur. By the standards the U.S. political security apparatus applies to Al Qaeda, this means I need to pull her out of daycare, start reinforcing the walls of her room immediately, and maybe think about buying an island to relocate to.
posted by mhoye at 5:46 PM on June 2, 2013 [3 favorites]


Their prospects of re-conquest do not seem to have deterred Al Qaeda from trying to attack Spain. See: Madrid 2004.
posted by humanfont at 6:18 PM on June 2, 2013


And the Madrid perpetrators killed themselves when surrounded by police. They did not in fact reclaim Al Andalus for the Caliph. Why act like they have any chance of succeeding?
posted by the duck by the oboe at 6:47 PM on June 2, 2013 [2 favorites]


Our tactics are an obstacle to victory in the Long War, as the Darwinian Ratchet works against us - "Our wars in the Middle East show the rapid development of military theory. Unfortunately, most of this takes place in the minds of our enemies"
posted by the man of twists and turns at 11:02 PM on June 2, 2013 [1 favorite]


The Cold War Redux?
Are Washington, Moscow, and Beijing Using the Global Arms Trade to Create a New Cold War?
posted by adamvasco at 1:31 AM on June 3, 2013


Arms Control Wonk: Every War Must End
Since 1945, the United States has generally failed to end wars victoriously and decisively — with the exception of the first Gulf war against Saddam Hussein and small-scale military operations like Grenada. Exit strategies have sometimes been embarrassing affairs in search of decent intervals. The worst of the lot was Vietnam. The image of a small helicopter air-lifting a few fortunate exit-seekers from a long line atop a building in Saigon is etched on my brain. It remains a haunting coda for a war waged to demonstrate resolve and inflict punishment.
Every War Must End (cont.)
In a previous post, I asked the question whether the use of drones for targeted killings could be become habit forming. President Obama’s speech on U.S. counter-terrorism policy at the National Defense University constituted a good-faith effort to answer this question. I appreciate that he avoids bumper-sticker answers to hard problems. So please bear with me for an overlong post.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 9:49 AM on June 3, 2013 [1 favorite]


That is the question adam, who is using who. But don't you find that interesting that the U.S. is the only country to do this on any large scale...I mean why doesn't Russia get into the game huh? or China.

Oh.
posted by clavdivs at 6:35 AM on June 4, 2013



The key problem with arming guerillas is that if they win, there's a good chance that not all of them will go the Cincinnatus route.

I do not mean to offend but ole cinnci is a bad example for this discussion, no middle East leader with any power comes close to cinnci. You want these countries run by aristos and Che wanna-bez because that will prolong the conflicts.
posted by clavdivs at 6:39 AM on June 4, 2013


Drones And The Law: Restoring Checks And Balances

Speaking of the 30 Years War...

Brad DeLong writes
According to John Reeves, author of the History of English Law from the Time of the Romans to the End of the Reign of Elizabeth, a declaration of outlawry—that such-and-such a man could and should be shot or knifed on sight—proceeded according to a legal process in front of judges at least since the reign of Henry III Plantagenet.
...
What steps have you taken while in government to reverse this trend, and return the law of outlawry to something that would not have caused the justiciars of Henry III to raise their eyebrows and suggest that we remember what the common law is?
Juan Cole has some things to say as well.
Targeting The Twenty-First Century Outlaw.
posted by the man of twists and turns at 8:44 PM on June 4, 2013


But don't you find that interesting that the U.S. is the only country to do this on any large scale
The difference being that neither Russia or China have large numbers of boots on the ground and armed hardware in so many places, nor are they involved in overseas wars.
China's moves on Africa will give them much more leverage there than the US and its ''String of Pearls'' is beginning to cause concern to India.
America thanks to its Military Industrial complex is fixated with the Middle East and has basically declared war against Arabs and Muslims forever excepting its Saudi friends (21% of $66bn in 2011 - last figures).
posted by adamvasco at 12:10 PM on June 6, 2013


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