Lawrences of Wherever
August 12, 2011 10:38 AM   Subscribe

The US military's secret military. 'Last year, Karen DeYoung and Greg Jaffe of the Washington Post reported that US Special Operations forces were deployed in 75 countries, up from 60 at the end of the Bush presidency. By the end of this year,' 'that number will likely reach 120.' 'Unknown to most Americans', 'in 120 countries across the globe, troops from Special Operations Command carry out their secret war of high-profile assassinations, low-level targeted killings, capture/kidnap operations, kick-down-the-door night raids, joint operations with foreign forces'. US Special Operations forces are 'approximately as large as Canada's entire active duty military. In fact, the force is larger than the active duty militaries of many of the nations where the US' elite troops now operate each year, and it's only set to grow larger.'

'US Special Operations Command (SOCOM) was established in 1987.' 'Since then, SOCOM has grown into a combined force of startling proportions. Made up of units from all the service branches, including the Army's "Green Berets" and Rangers, Navy SEALs, Air Force Air Commandos, and Marine Corps Special Operations teams, in addition to specialised helicopter crews, boat teams, civil affairs personnel, para-rescuemen, and even battlefield air-traffic controllers and special operations weathermen, SOCOM carries out the United States' most specialised and secret missions. These include assassinations, counterterrorist raids, long-range reconnaissance, intelligence analysis, foreign troop training, and weapons of mass destruction counter-proliferation operations.'

'Special Operations forces have been growing exponentially not just in size and budget, but also in power and influence. Since 2002, SOCOM has been authorised to create its own Joint Task Forces - like Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines - a prerogative normally limited to larger combatant commands like CENTCOM. This year, without much fanfare, SOCOM also established its own Joint Acquisition Task Force, a cadre of equipment designers and acquisition specialists.

With control over budgeting, training, and equipping its force, powers usually reserved for departments (like the Department of the Army or the Department of the Navy), dedicated dollars in every Defense Department budget, and influential advocates in Congress, SOCOM is by now an exceptionally powerful player at the Pentagon. With real clout, it can win bureaucratic battles, purchase cutting-edge technology, and pursue fringe research like electronically beaming messages into people's heads or developing stealth-like cloaking technologies for ground troops. Since 2001, SOCOM's prime contracts awarded to small businesses - those that generally produce specialty equipment and weapons - have jumped six-fold.'
posted by VikingSword (133 comments total) 27 users marked this as a favorite
 
The day when an American citizen gets green-lit to be assassinated by American Spec-Ops is just around the corner, the way things are going.
posted by Renoroc at 10:40 AM on August 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


And yet people still hate us.
posted by Daddy-O at 10:41 AM on August 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


Some of this is WaPo hype. The headline says "secret war" but then you read that the operation in Pakistan has been
hindered in Pakistan -- where Special Operations trainers hope to nearly triple their current deployment to 300 -- by that government's delay in issuing the visas.
Those are the special "spy" visas no doubt.
posted by Jahaza at 10:42 AM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Also, it's the web, there's (practically) no space limit. Why no sidebar with the lists of countries.
posted by Jahaza at 10:43 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Can we at least get these guys some sort of marketing specialist that can do away with all the scary-sounding acronyms? I mean really, "Joint Acquisition Task Force"? Fuckin' Orwell couldn't have dreamt up doublespeak shit like that.
posted by GuyZero at 10:50 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The day when an American citizen gets green-lit to be assassinated by American Spec-Ops is just around the corner, the way things are going.

That day has already arrived. But Obama is still awesome, amirite?
posted by IvoShandor at 10:52 AM on August 12, 2011 [14 favorites]


If they are made up of units from other branches it isn't really a secret military is it? That makes it sound like they are dedicated units that are in addition to the current forces.
posted by zeoslap at 10:55 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait, did you say Joint Acquisition Task Force?

Man, if that's all they're looking for they should have chilled out and said something. I could have called a guy.
posted by loquacious at 10:59 AM on August 12, 2011 [41 favorites]


Some of this is WaPo hype. The headline says "secret war" but then you read that the operation in Pakistan has been

hindered in Pakistan -- where Special Operations trainers hope to nearly triple their current deployment to 300 -- by that government's delay in issuing the visas.

Those are the special "spy" visas no doubt.


"Secret war" - primarily secret from the public.

But in the case of Pakistan, sometimes also secret from the Pakistani government. After all, they did not inform the Pakistanis of an ongoing operation - the assassination of Bin Laden, for example.

As to visas - note, that these forces are officially stationed in those countries, hence the visas. Nothing secret in that. But, it has consequences, and secrecy does enter that, not just from the public but from the government in question. Just as if you invite a snake into your household, it may bite when you least expect it - and so it happens regularly, that the special forces stationed there, do not inform the host countries of their ongoing operations (as happens in Pakistan).
posted by VikingSword at 11:02 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


But Obama is still awesome, amirite?

I'm glad that the world isn't as simple as you think it is.
posted by goethean at 11:05 AM on August 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


I'm glad that the world isn't as simple as you think it is.

I'm glad you can read my mind based on an off the cuff remark on the internet.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:07 AM on August 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


@ IvoShandor: I was not aware Awlaki was an American citizen; I guess if a person thought to be awful enough, they will be killed without a trial in the land of the free...
posted by Renoroc at 11:07 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


The day when an American citizen gets green-lit to be assassinated by American Spec-Ops is just around the corner, the way things are going

I assume you mean inside the United States. Otherwise the day has long since passed.
posted by humanfont at 11:08 AM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I was not aware Awlaki was an American citizen; I guess if a person thought to be awful enough, they will be killed without a trial in the land of the free...

Don't worry, there is no shortage of folks around here to tell you why this is OK.
posted by IvoShandor at 11:09 AM on August 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


So, honest question, why is this worse - or even bad compared to - the actual military. To me, it seems like this is actually a far better allocation of resources and more accurately reflects the changing landscape of 21st century warfare. I'd have much preferred we use Special Forces to take down the Taliban and Saddam, coupled with indigenous resistance and democracy movements. Invasion doesn't work, but we still have enemies. If after 9/11, we could have rapidly assaulted Al-Qaeda and related terrorist networks in dozens of countries, wouldn't that have saved lives, world opinion, and been a far more suitable military response?
posted by Chipmazing at 11:11 AM on August 12, 2011 [17 favorites]


your talking about fatty arbuckle humanfont, a great american.
ok can we can the sniping. One factor is the changing aspects of force deployment that other countries have asked for. Another change in military deployment is the re-assessment The Loss of Strength Gradient, for example, drones and joint operations with another countries forces, in this light it is the antithesis of secret.
posted by clavdivs at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2011


stop
posted by clavdivs at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2011


There really is something incredible about the American psyche and its seemingly limitless willingness to pay for prisons and executions and foreign wars and bases and secret ops squads spread around the globe and border fences and airport security, and bubble with outrage at the costs of social welfare checks and scientific research and schools and food stamps and foreign aid and trains and environmental protection

Something not good
posted by crayz at 11:14 AM on August 12, 2011 [77 favorites]


US Special Operations forces are 'approximately as large as Canada's entire active duty military.

Aw crap, did they have to word it this way? If Harper reads this he's going to take it personally and hand MacKay the credit card.
posted by Hoopo at 11:15 AM on August 12, 2011 [11 favorites]


So, honest question, why is this worse - or even bad compared to - the actual military. To me, it seems like this is actually a far better allocation of resources and more accurately reflects the changing landscape of 21st century warfare. I'd have much preferred we use Special Forces to take down the Taliban and Saddam, coupled with indigenous resistance and democracy movements. Invasion doesn't work, but we still have enemies. If after 9/11, we could have rapidly assaulted Al-Qaeda and related terrorist networks in dozens of countries, wouldn't that have saved lives, world opinion, and been a far more suitable military response?

Some of us have a different perspective. Take your "invasion doesn't work, but we still have enemies". Perhaps we wouldn't have as many - or any - if we refrained from exploiting or interfering in other countries affairs? With fewer enemies, less need for an all-consuming military. When you have to conduct operations in a 120 countries, something is wrong somewhere. Other countries seem to manage not to have to do this, and don't seem to have the kinds of enemies we do. And so on. But of course, it's an old argument. If you attack another country, yes, you are right, you will need a military. And when that country defends itself, yes, you'll need more military. But I'm sure the arms manufacturers and assorted United Fruit, oil and various global corporations can tell you all about bad brown people and the best way to defend yourself against them. Who knows, maybe Al Queda would not even exist, without our valiant efforts.

The problem is that the more you grow this military-industrial complex, the more you frame your relationships with the world through this MO. And that is unsustainable in the long run.
posted by VikingSword at 11:22 AM on August 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


"going to"??? Did you notice that thing with the military jets? (Not the ones in Winnipeg)
posted by GuyZero at 11:23 AM on August 12, 2011


But Obama is still awesome, amirite?

As far as I'm concerned, Obama's use of drones and targeted assassinations to deal with enemies abroad, as opposed to large-scale wars and regime change, is one of the things that makes his presidency great. He's fighting a smarter, more directed war on terror that goes after individuals who pose a danger to the U.S., not against whole countries that the U.S. doesn't like. I've never understood why Americans think that it's okay for the U.S. to kill foreign terrorists who are waging war on the U.S., but that killing Americans who go abroad to wage war on the U.S. is some sort of no-no. I appreciate that some people think that all drone strikes are wrong; I'm not sure what they think the alternative is. Possibly they think that al Qaeda will go away if the U.S. stops attacking them (though they are perhaps not familiar with a decade known as "the 1990s.")
posted by Dasein at 11:33 AM on August 12, 2011 [12 favorites]


But Obama is still awesome, amirite?

I'm glad that the world isn't as simple as you think it is.


The ends justify the means.
posted by DU at 11:33 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Snark snark snark, snark vile snark, snark witty ending.
posted by cavalier at 11:34 AM on August 12, 2011


why is this worse - or even bad compared to - the actual military.

No public accountability. No guarantee that they're working within the framework of international law. No way to know wether or not they're working hand in hand with oppressive military forces or local private militias. You don't know who you're in bed with.

No way to know when/if the soldiers are only being sent out to make the world safer for American corporations.
posted by bonobothegreat at 11:36 AM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


though they are perhaps not familiar with a decade known as "the 1990s."

Obligatory
posted by lalochezia at 11:37 AM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Another way to look at this: how much takes place that the Wash. Post does not have access to?
posted by Postroad at 11:38 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


So, honest question, why is this worse - or even bad compared to - the actual military.

This is the actual military. That's why "secret" is in scare quotes in the WaPo article. These guys wear uniforms (at least the vast majority), go to work on military bases, and don't have cover stories (e.g. there are no secret SEALs). Some of them are in the National Guard (19th and 20th Special Forces Groups).

The U.S. has clandestine paramilitary capabilities in the C.I.A. and the D.I.A. (and perhaps other places), but these guys are not that.
posted by Jahaza at 11:38 AM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


I've never understood why Americans think that it's okay for the U.S. to kill foreign terrorists who are waging war on the U.S., but that killing Americans who go abroad to wage war on the U.S. is some sort of no-no.

The problem is that the US no longer trusts its own Constitution enough to risk putting criminals on trial. Instead, we shoot them, no trial.

Killing citizens without due process is one of those Founding Father kinds of things that the Tea Party loons are actually in the right about criticizing Obama over.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 11:38 AM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Blazecock Pileon: "Killing citizens without due process is one of those Founding Father kinds of things that the Tea Party loons are actually in the right about criticizing Obama over."

Cite? That sounds like far too reasonable of a position for the TP to take.
posted by schmod at 11:44 AM on August 12, 2011


But Obama is still awesome, amirite?

I'm glad that the world isn't as simple as you think it is.

The ends justify the means.


No. He's one of ours; that makes him pragmatic.
posted by ZenMasterThis at 11:45 AM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


My problem with it isn't the the narrow more targeting portion. I agree that is much better policy. My problem is treating what is essentially a global policing issue as a military one. This is a worldwide problem that impacts the worldwide society. There should be a set of rules, standards and procedures for addressing it in a legal manner.

What we have now is the U.S. acting as vigilante justice on the world stage. That can only go on for so long before it causes more problems than it solves. Where that line comes likely depends on your point of view.
posted by meinvt at 11:46 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


My problem is treating what is essentially a global policing issue as a military one.

If there were police in the Pakistani tribal areas and the Yemeni hinterland capable of arresting these guys, then I would agree. But there just aren't - terrorists operate deliberately in regions beyond effective state control. And I'm not sure it's entirely correct to look at it as a policing matter - these terrorists see themselves not as criminals, but as soldiers waging war against the United States. It seems to me that they have put themselves beyond the reach of the law, and into a sphere where their expectation is that they will kill and be killed.
posted by Dasein at 11:51 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


there are no secret SEALs

How do you know that?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:56 AM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


I hope that no one is surprised by this; this is exactly the kind of armed forces that defense types have been requesting for years. Never mind the army of the future--the army of the present isn't composed of rifle companies made up of ordinary Joes who sit around playing poker with their platoon of ethnically-diverse buddies while they're waiting for Johnny [random ethnic group] to make the first move.
posted by Halloween Jack at 11:59 AM on August 12, 2011


these terrorists see themselves not as criminals, but as soldiers waging war against the United States

The US degrades itself by capitulating to a terrorist's redefinition of criminal behavior, even more so by discarding its citizens' civil rights in the bargain.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:00 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


He's fighting a smarter, more directed war on terror that goes after individuals who pose a danger to the U.S.

Says you. The legality doesn't matter I guess as long as he's on "our side". Give me a break.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:02 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


there are no secret SEALs

How do you know that?


Well there sort of are, it's just that they're not officially SEALs anymore, but according to wikipedia at least SAD/SOG recruits from the SEALs.

But I dunno, how secret can they be if there's a wikipedia page about them? Tinfoil hat mode says there's other off-the-books black projects that no one's talking about.
posted by juv3nal at 12:03 PM on August 12, 2011


I am immediatly drawn to parallels with the Praetorian Guard. How long before they decide they can elect their own emporer...err, I mean president? Most of the History of the US the military has been a faithful arm manned by citizen soldiers who had a disdain for elite forces due to their actually being taught history and the downfall of previous republics. We are sowing the wind.
posted by bartonlong at 12:06 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


It seems to me that they have put themselves beyond the reach of the law, and into a sphere where their expectation is that they will kill and be killed.

Both U.S. and International law are quite explicit in the requirement that enemy soldiers not be killed in cold blood. Enemy soldiers are explicitly not beyond the reach of the law.

What is interesting to me is that the legal issues here -- the Constitutional, legal, moral issues -- are utterly irrelevant. It is illegal to order that our soldiers shoot an enemy in cold blood, yet we openly aknowledge that we do just that.

That's the real amazing thing for me about the current state of affairs. Our National Security has been blatantly "illegalized" -- National Security considerations are considered so important as to be "beyond the reach of the law" in the very real sense.
posted by Avenger at 12:06 PM on August 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


The legality doesn't matter I guess as long as he's on "our side".

I don't think there's anything illegal about what Obama is doing. Since when is it illegal to kill people who are at war with you, and plotting to committ mass murder of civilians?
posted by Dasein at 12:07 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Since when is it illegal to kill people who are at war with you, and plotting to committ mass murder of civilians?

IIRC targeted assassination has been against U.S. law (just like torture) for quite some time. But whatever. I'm stepping out of this apologist filled thread. These wars are bunkum and anyone who supports them is no friend of mine.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:10 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Since when is it illegal to kill people who are at war with you

It's not even a war, at least not one that was authorized by any legal process.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:11 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Both U.S. and International law are quite explicit in the requirement that enemy soldiers not be killed in cold blood.

They're not. These people are not prisoners, they're men on the battlefield - it's just that the battlefield has evolved from what it used to look like. It's no longer soldiers who are part of national armies with tanks and artillery, it's men living clandestinely plotting the best way to sneak explosives into our cities or airplanes.

It strikes me that the inability of so many in the human rights community to appreciate that the nature of war has changed, and to insist that a war that doesn't fit into the traditional mold is therefore illegitimate (i.e. drone strikes instead of armies on European battlefields), risk sacrificing their credibililty in the eyes of the public. Their approach effectively gives free reign to terrorists and handcuffs governments charged with protecting their populations. The alternative it leaves them is...what? Invade and occupy the Pakistani tribal areas to conduct arrests instead of drone strikes?
posted by Dasein at 12:13 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


"as large as Canada's entire active duty military"... Man I'd love to see the travel miles those four guys rack up to hit that many countries!
posted by Mike D at 12:14 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


These wars are bunkum and anyone who supports them is no friend of mine.

What a sad, narrow-minded thing to say.
posted by Dasein at 12:14 PM on August 12, 2011


Both U.S. and International law are quite explicit in the requirement that enemy soldiers not be killed in cold blood. Enemy soldiers are explicitly not beyond the reach of the law.

Then please enlighten us, what the fuck is the point of "war" exactly?

Yes, the futility of war and all that. I was raised on literature, too. But here's the reality: countries develop and maintain military forces as means to engage threats to their security. This involves targeted killing. Pacifists need to rein in their ideology.
posted by stroke_count at 12:14 PM on August 12, 2011


I wouldn't get too worked up about this. This is the entire point of Special Forces, at least in the narrow sense of the term, i.e. the Green Berets. They're supposed to travel around the world training indigenous guerilla forces to fight tyrants and other nasty characters. When they do their job properly, we're able to promote our national interests while avoiding getting mixed up in foreign engagements.

It's practically impossible for the US to avoid interfering in foreign affairs; I would much rather that interference came in the form of Spec Ops teams than infantry and armor divisions.
posted by Nahum Tate at 12:16 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


"as large as Canada's entire active duty military"... Man I'd love to see the travel miles those four guys rack up to hit that many countries!

Mike D, nothing personal, but maybe this comment from orange swan will explain why comments like that really bother a lot of Canadians, including me.
posted by Dasein at 12:16 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


As far as I'm concerned, Obama's use of drones and targeted assassinations to deal with enemies abroad, as opposed to large-scale wars and regime change, is one of the things that makes his presidency great.

That kind of "great' can go fuck itself, sans lube.
posted by metagnathous at 12:18 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


U.S. 'secret war' expands

Strange. Obama doesn't look like him...
posted by dersins at 12:21 PM on August 12, 2011


What a sad, narrow-minded thing to say.

Not really. It helps me avoid hanging around the kind of people I don't want to be around, namely people who support wanton killing.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:23 PM on August 12, 2011 [7 favorites]


I am immediatly drawn to parallels with the Praetorian Guard. How long before they decide they can elect their own emporer

The Praetorian Guard were not special forces, secret or otherwise. They were the palace security services, essentially. Proper parallel would be to be concerned that the Secret Service was going to play kingmaker. Different sort of military/security elite.

Most of the History of the US the military has been a faithful arm manned by citizen soldiers who had a disdain for elite forces due to their actually being taught history and the downfall of previous republics.

I find it highly doubtful that US soldiers were on average previously better educated regarding (or for that matter, more interested in) history or political theory or whatever. Recall that a sizable chunk of the US officer hierarchy chose to support "their own" president back during the Civil War.

That said, the United States has developed and maintained a strong culture of civilian control, and furthermore created a military system which has benefits for soldiers (temporary and professional) outside of the loot-and-land model that prevailed in Roman times. Even were they so ideologically inclined, there's not a sufficiently large chunk of the military - officers or enlisted men - that benefits from destabilizing the present system.

These wars are bunkum and anyone who supports them is no friend of mine.

You must live a very sad and isolated life.
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:24 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


You must live a very sad and isolated life.

Jesus, because I don't hang out with war supporters (which is the minority of people in my country) I am sad and isolated? Project much?
posted by IvoShandor at 12:25 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


They're supposed to travel around the world training indigenous guerilla forces to fight tyrants and other nasty characters. When they do their job properly, we're able to promote our national interests while avoiding getting mixed up in foreign engagements.

It's practically impossible for the US to avoid interfering in foreign affairs; I would much rather that interference came in the form of Spec Ops teams than infantry and armor divisions.


This is some kind of a mirror universe. Because throughout our history, we have overwhelmingly trained the security forces of tyrants, and not noble fighters against tyrants. Read up on the history of Central America, South America, Asia, the Middle East, and what we did there.

And speaking of Pakistan, which so many bring up here. It's very instructive to look at the history of our engagement there. Because it was exactly that - our relentless support for anti-democratic dictators there, which bought us the undying enmity of so much of the populace. And now we reap what we sowed. It would have been so much better, not to interfere in Pakistan to begin with - plenty of countries managed to do that.

And "promoting our national interests"? Are you kidding? Most of the time, it was promoting the interests of our corporations, frequently a mere handful in a given country - United Fruit and Central America come to mind, where we overthrew democratically elected leaders for the sake of UF and in the aftermath started a civil war that took the lives of tens of thousands. The CIA even had torture schools there.

Mirror universe indeed.
posted by VikingSword at 12:26 PM on August 12, 2011 [16 favorites]


<> These wars are bunkum and anyone who supports them is no friend of mine.
posted by IvoShandor

It's attitudes like that that makes enemies and starts wars.
posted by buggzzee23 at 12:28 PM on August 12, 2011


It helps me avoid hanging around the kind of people I don't want to be around, namely people who support wanton killing.

Right now, it's these special ops types (which presumably would include the navy seals killed by the recent helicopter "crash" in Afghanistan) that are being wantonly killed, so it's not a one-way street, and there are obviously at least some real people on the other side treating what they do as part of a war, since they took down a helicopter.

Is the timing of this story related to the recent helicopter downing? It seems to me we should be clear we're talking about the same thing here.
posted by saulgoodman at 12:30 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


It's attitudes like that that makes enemies and starts wars.

Hyperbole. And useless to boot. I've never known anti-war convictions to start wars. Enlighten me, please.
posted by IvoShandor at 12:32 PM on August 12, 2011


For those against targeting Anwar al-Awlaki for assassination I would like to see your solution to rogue like him; he's a brilliant, dangerous psychopath. He has resources to keep himself hidden; he has found a way to manipulate the horrific conditions of the more antiquated and radical parts of Islam.

The one thing that troubles me about American policy is that so much of it is focused on defense - with much of that defense focused on radical variables that would threaten the American lifestyle. And, I say "lifestyle", as opposed to "democratic principles". The great tragedy is that the continuation of our unsustainable ways requires more and more control of smaller and smaller variables; it's only a matter of time before the need to exercise supreme control starts to seep into our own culture; that is already happening. How far can we go in controlling the destiny of other people, including ourselves? It's an open question, and one we should be asking ourselves in open debate (like, here).
posted by Vibrissae at 12:33 PM on August 12, 2011


The model here seems to be: let's go over the hill to the neighboring village, kill people there and steal their stuff, and when the outraged villagers come after us, we can run back to our place and point to the oncoming pitchforks and scream "see?! that's why we need a military to defend ourselves! Let's go over there and kick some ass!".

It's practically impossible for the US to avoid interfering in foreign affairs;

And there you have it. Somehow, tons of countries manage not to interfere in other's affairs in such ways. We could try ordinary - mutually agreed to - relationships, like, for example Finland has. You know, like trade. But no, somehow, for us it's necessary to involve assassinations, murders and covert wars.
posted by VikingSword at 12:37 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


We could try ordinary - mutually agreed to - relationships, like, for example Finland has.

The rest of the West free-rides under the umbrella of American military supremacy. They're happy to see the U.S. attract the terrorism for its role in securing the oil supply for everyone else; then they blame the U.S. for interfering in other countries' affairs.
posted by Dasein at 12:40 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


there are obviously at least some real people on the other side treating what they do as part of a war, since they took down a helicopter

I think it's pretty clear that the "other side" of this does in fact consider their relationship to the US military to be a war, and that their definition of war does not necessarily jive with our own - differences in how civilians and prisoners are treated, for example.

That said, I don't think the question is whether or not we're fighting a "war" but rather what's the best way to fight it (covert or overt) and whether "winning" a war (i.e. killing all or a majority of the present enemy actors) in and of itself will solve the underlying problems. And what the costs will be at home.

After (finally) RTFA-ing I have to put myself down as thinking that the expansion of Special Forces is not the dark conspiratorial nightmare the WP writers are portraying it as. It makes a lot of sense, in a world where we're not facing traditional battlefields with traditional armies, to take a hard look at the sort of opponents we are facing and adapt our own forces.

I wonder whether SOCOM will keep expanding with the upcoming budget cuts, or whether the traditional services will circle the wagons to protect their fiefdoms at the expense of the newcomer.
posted by AdamCSnider at 12:44 PM on August 12, 2011


The rest of the West free-rides under the umbrella of American military supremacy. They're happy to see the U.S. attract the terrorism for its role in securing the oil supply for everyone else

LOL
posted by Hoopo at 12:46 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


The rest of the West free-rides under the umbrella of American military supremacy. They're happy to see the U.S. attract the terrorism for its role in securing the oil supply for everyone else; then they blame the U.S. for interfering in other countries' affairs.

No. It's a neocolonial model of international relationships and one which the world can ill afford. We managed to abandon colonial relationships (largely), and this is next. This is not sustainable on any level - moral or practical. The U.S. economy as a percentage of the world economy keeps shrinking. We will no longer be able to afford to make so many enemies and then wage war against them. The sooner we realize this, and re-orient our approach, the better off the world (and we) will be.
posted by VikingSword at 12:46 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


For those against targeting Anwar al-Awlaki for assassination I would like to see your solution to rogue like him; he's a brilliant, dangerous psychopath.

Suggested reading.
posted by Trurl at 12:47 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


For those against targeting Anwar al-Awlaki for assassination I would like to see your solution to rogue like him; he's a brilliant, dangerous psychopath. He has resources to keep himself hidden; he has found a way to manipulate the horrific conditions of the more antiquated and radical parts of Islam.


We can't put him on trial after we capture him? We can't present evidence of his crimes and sentence him using our laws? He is an American citizen after all. He's so dangerous he has to be killed on sight?

Why don't we let the domestic police kill anyone they feel is a dangerous psychopath? It would make our streets safer too, right?
posted by Renoroc at 12:48 PM on August 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


We can't put him on trial after we capture him?

If you were president, would you risk the lives of American soldiers in an operation to capture him?
posted by Dasein at 12:53 PM on August 12, 2011


"Give us six months, and if we haven't ended the war by then, you can come back and tear down the White House fence."
posted by clavdivs at 12:53 PM on August 12, 2011


If you were president, would you risk the lives of American soldiers in an operation to capture him?

I would, because it's their job.
posted by Hoopo at 12:57 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


If you were president, would you risk the lives of American soldiers in an operation to capture him?

This is a bit of a non sequitor. The president does risk the lives of soldiers, every day, in all manner of military operations, most being somewhat more trivial than capturing an enemy combatant.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:59 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Fair enough. I guess for me it would depend on the value of the intelligence he might provide. I wouldn't put their lives at risk in order to say that we captured him rather than killed him.
posted by Dasein at 12:59 PM on August 12, 2011


If you were president, would you risk the lives of American soldiers in an operation to capture him?

The risk to our soldiers is the same whether we send them in to kill a man or to capture him. So yes, I would.
posted by Renoroc at 1:06 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


One wouldn't even need to capture Anwar Al-Awlaki if federal law would legalize trial in absentia in the instance that the accused refuses to appear in court for serious crimes. IANAL, but it certainly seems a lot better than legalizing the assassination of US citizens under allegations that have not been proven in the court of law.

fuck...

You know, despite his "let's re-introduce the gold standard" kookiness, Ron Paul's comments about the US military and terrorism are remarkably lucid and frank.
posted by lemuring at 1:07 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


AdamCSnider -- You think they are still in the *learning as we are going along* stage? It's been ten years since 9/11 and no matter how grandiose the "universal umbrella of security" wants to be no security apparatus can't keep burning people and money as it has.
posted by lslelel at 1:07 PM on August 12, 2011


Metafilter: Q - How do you know that? A - Well... according to wikipedia at least...
posted by modernnomad at 1:08 PM on August 12, 2011


No matter how evil one person seems to be (which has to be valued relative to how many non-evil people there are) there are not unlimited budgets and time to spend capturing them.

Also, what does "the drug war" really mean if we have the capacity and desire to harness an extralegal vindication machine in the War against Stupid Muslims With Too Much Time On Their Hands.
posted by lslelel at 1:09 PM on August 12, 2011


What is particularly sad, is how so much of the populace buys into the sordid fiction that all our military engagements are "in our national interests". This is perfectly illustrated in this thread, down to the very phrase "our national interests". We expended taxpayer money and spilled blood and subverted whole countries in Central America, not because of "our national interests", but for the narrow monetary interests of United Fruit fatcats.

Such blatant pursuit of monetary returns for our moneyed elites result in the very opposite of "our national interests". For the sake of robbing and killing to fill the coffers of those few, we expend not only our blood and treasure (of ordinary citizens), but we create enemies in the afflicted countries, enemies who then strike at us - ordinary citizens. At which point we again have to expend blood and treasure to defend against these enemies we created. All for what "national interest"?

We laugh and deride the tea baggers for identifying their interests with the the narrowest and most selfish interests of the very wealthy, but here we are doing exactly the same thing, on a giant scale.
posted by VikingSword at 1:09 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't be as concerned if so many of these Special Forces guys weren't being trained up to be world class killers by the US military and then leaving for the better pay of private military contractors. The United States' secret military is not nearly as scary as the United States private military.
posted by FeralHat at 1:10 PM on August 12, 2011


You know what was amazing? Watching the Norway shooting from over here in the states.

Their handling of the situation stands in stark contrast to current US military and police policy and tactics, and yet is at the same time a perfect example of the ideal we supposedly support.

First, the "dangerous psychopath" killer was apprehended and arrested without shooting him or killing him.

But was was most inspiring was listening to some interviews with Norwegian citizens.

Even our NPR station, a supposedly liberal organization, was horrified of a possible maximum 21 year sentence.

"He may only get 21 years in prison. Don't you want to see this killer in prison forever?" The response: "No, the greatest punishment would be seeing him get out in 21 years and come home to a Norway filled with multiculturalism, with people of all races living together."

That's how you deal with terrorists. You build a better world, not a better bomb.

Because if we keep putting our resources into building better drones and killers, soon that's all we're going to be good at.
posted by formless at 1:11 PM on August 12, 2011 [30 favorites]


And I would add that there's a difference between "free-riding" and indirectly benefiting. I apologize for the snarky "LOL" upthread, that argument always seems a bit too close to the "Canada doesn't pull its' weight, you'd be invaded if you weren't so close to the USA" I used to hear all the time when the US went to Iraq and Canada didn't. As if it wouldn't be easier, cheaper, and safer for any country that wanted our resources to just buy them.
posted by Hoopo at 1:13 PM on August 12, 2011


The risk to our soldiers is the same whether we send them in to kill a man or to capture him. So yes, I would.

The whole point of drones is to make it viable to kill a man without sending American soldiers anywhere near him. You can argue with the morality of that solution, but to say the risk is the same is simply untrue in many cases. Even in cases where soldiers are involved, there are operational differences between a bunch of Special Forces folk moving themselves and themselves along and the same bunch trying to move one or more captives, resisting or not, as well.

no matter how grandiose the "universal umbrella of security" wants to be no security apparatus can't keep burning people and money as it has.

You think they are still in the *learning as we are going along* stage? It's been ten years since 9/11 and no matter how grandiose the "universal umbrella of security" wants to be no security apparatus can't keep burning people and money as it has.

There has traditionally been a certain amount of resistance within the military hierarchy to the lessons being learned since the end of the Cold War, so yeah, I'd say we're in the *learning* stage insofar as new ideas are still being pounded through people's heads. And I don't disagree that we can't keep up the military budget as is, I was just idly wondering who will survive the coming Pentagon knife-fight when cuts start being made.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:20 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Pacifists need to rein in their ideology.

Pot, meet kettle.
posted by OverlappingElvis at 1:21 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


themselves and themselves alone, that should be.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:21 PM on August 12, 2011


Pacifists need to rein in their ideology.

Pot, meet kettle.


Both sides could profitably rein in their snark.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:21 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


I wouldn't put their lives at risk in order to say that we captured him rather than killed him.

It seems then that the nature of the battlefield has changed sufficiently to now encompass "any volume of space occupied by alleged* Supervillain X".

*I must insist upon the qualifier. I'm just not in much of a "we can take the government's word for it" mood these days. If his guilt as is obvious as we keep being told, you can enjoy the slam dunk when prosecuting him in absentia.
posted by Trurl at 1:33 PM on August 12, 2011


Metafilter: Both sides could profitably rein in their snark.
posted by Dasein at 1:36 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


I wouldn't put their lives at risk in order to say that we captured him rather than killed him.

I think this is a really weird way to look at this issue. I think of it this way: According to the law, which is the framework within which government must operate, we can either attempt to arrest him and try him or we can ignore him. Given those two options, would you risk soldiers' lives in order to attempt arrest? If so, then do so. If not, then ignore him, because I guess he isn't a big deal.

Why is breaking the law a solution to this problem? That makes no sense.
posted by shakespeherian at 1:39 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


According to the law, which is the framework within which government must operate, we can either attempt to arrest him and try him or we can ignore him.

Well, I obviously disagree with that, but your point is well taken.
posted by Dasein at 1:42 PM on August 12, 2011


Out of curiosity, what are the other options within the law?
posted by Hoopo at 1:47 PM on August 12, 2011


I'm sure we all agree that we ought to love one another and I know there are people in the world that do not love their fellow human beings and I hate people like that.
posted by brokkr at 1:49 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to the law, which is the framework within which government must operate, we can either attempt to arrest him and try him or we can ignore him

But again, are we treating this person as a criminal (civil law) or a soldier on the battlefield? If the latter, there's no law against killing him (although there are laws regarding how to treat him if he is captured). Which leads us back to the question of how individuals who view themselves as at war with us and conduct themselves as such should be treated.
posted by AdamCSnider at 1:57 PM on August 12, 2011


or developing stealth-like cloaking technologies for ground troops.

Hopefully they'lll be more reliable than the stealth jets: Entire U.S. Stealth Fighter Fleet Grounded

Grounded Stealth-Fighter Jocks Could Lose Clearance to Fly
posted by homunculus at 1:57 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Out of curiosity, what are the other options within the law?

He's an enemy waging war against the United States from abroad. The U.S. is perfectly within its rights to kill him. I'm not sure why that's so controversial, except that some people seem to want to use the "law" not to protect innocent lives, but to make the U.S. out to be the bad guy in every conceivable situation. Anwar al-Awlaki is not simply a criminal, even if he is plotting war crimes.

The other nations, by the way, don't object to the U.S. taking this action within their borders, though even if they did it wouldn't affect the moral calculus - the job of the U.S. government is to protect the lives of American citizens. It would affect the political calculus.
posted by Dasein at 1:59 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


According to the law, which is the framework within which government must operate, we can either attempt to arrest him and try him or we can ignore him.

Your view of the law would seem to be at odds with the interpretation of the courts, legislature and executive. Perhaps it ought to, but it doesn't.
posted by humanfont at 2:08 PM on August 12, 2011


He's an enemy waging war against the United States from abroad. The U.S. is perfectly within its rights to kill him. I'm not sure why that's so controversial,

Because it would be somewhat chaotic if we let every country do it and there is no defensible policy where we only let one country do it.

Would the US agree it would be legal for France to assassinate someone they consider a terrorist in the US without even notifying us? This is why it's controversial.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:12 PM on August 12, 2011 [6 favorites]


Counterpoint to Greenwald's article on Alawlaki discussion Alawlaki's pre-911 radicalization and views.
posted by humanfont at 2:13 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


But again, are we treating this person as a criminal (civil law) or a soldier on the battlefield?

He's an enemy waging war against the United States from abroad.


Is he? I mean, I gather he gives sermons and acts as a "spiritual leader" to a bunch of people who are waging war.
posted by Hoopo at 2:13 PM on August 12, 2011


He's an enemy waging war against the United States from abroad.

I guess I don't understand how any of Awlaki's actions constitute war. What does it take to be at war with the US? Awlaki represents no nation or state.
posted by shakespeherian at 2:14 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would the US agree it would be legal for France to assassinate someone they consider a terrorist in the US without even notifying us? This is why it's controversial.

If France was flying drones out of bases in the US with the consent of the US then it would be ok. Even if the US government was publically condemning the actions. If Alwlaki were given official assylm in Yemen or some other country it would become a matter of state to state diplomacy. We might still try to bomb him, but it would require entering into a warlike situation with that country.

Is he? I mean, I gather he gives sermons and acts as a "spiritual leader" to a bunch of people who are waging war.

It was alleged when he was added to a capture or kill list that he had moved to an operational role in the organization.
posted by humanfont at 2:23 PM on August 12, 2011


It was alleged when he was added to a capture or kill list that he had moved to an operational role in the organization.

Alleged, eh? Well I'm convinced.
posted by Hoopo at 2:25 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Would the US agree it would be legal for France to assassinate someone they consider a terrorist in the US without even notifying us? This is why it's controversial.

If France was flying drones out of bases in the US with the consent of the US then it would be ok.


But it is established fact we are launching some operations without informing them.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 2:26 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Awlaki represents no nation or state.

He represents Terror! We're at war with Terror, right?
posted by Pants McCracky at 2:27 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


He represents Terror! We're at war with Terror, right?

The Duchy of Terroir, to be specific.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:28 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Terror: It Isn't A Legal State, It's A State Of Mind
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 2:29 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait so if we also have a War On Drugs, will someone get a medal for shooting me?
posted by shakespeherian at 2:30 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Wait so if we also have a War On Drugs, will someone get a medal for shooting me?

That depends on whether somebody alleged something about you.
posted by VikingSword at 2:39 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


As far as I'm concerned, Obama's use of drones and targeted assassinations to deal with enemies abroad, as opposed to large-scale wars and regime change, is one of the things that makes his presidency great.

Is this logic contained to the US, or a general principle? I can think of several nations to which the US is a great threat, and hence would probably like to use drones to target specific Americans, equally inclined to disregard civillian casualties.
posted by klue at 2:40 PM on August 12, 2011


NO ONE ALLEGE NOTHIN
posted by shakespeherian at 2:42 PM on August 12, 2011 [2 favorites]


Operation Treadstone Blackbriar.
posted by kawika at 2:47 PM on August 12, 2011


Is this logic contained to the US, or a general principle? I can think of several nations to which the US is a great threat, and hence would probably like to use drones to target specific Americans, equally inclined to disregard civillian casualties.

What principle? The only principle the U.S. ever employed is "because we can". Might makes right. Why do you think it was that the former U.S.S.R. and China raced so fast to get ahold of nuclear weapons? Because they understood perfectly well the principles the U.S. operates under. See North Korea. And then see Iraq - and Libya. Now see what Iran is doing and why. It's all about that principle. Do you imagine for one second that we could be galavanting all over Russia with killer drones?

As soon as those against whom we use superior technology get ahold of devastating countermeasures, our principled principles will change. Suddenly we'll grow reasonable and expend a great deal of energy on negotiations (like we did with the Soviets and are doing with N. Korea).

This applies as much to state as non-state agents btw. what with further inevitable developments with bio-weapons.
posted by VikingSword at 2:50 PM on August 12, 2011 [4 favorites]


ugh, sorry again. Put less snarky, the controversial element of this is that taking your position here allows the government to kill people based on allegations that it has to prove to no one, using justifications like "war" and "enemy combatant" to mean things they never have before. It's very, very problematic.
posted by Hoopo at 2:53 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


Yeah, I'm conflicted on this one because I support things like the bin Laden raid but not so much the increased amount of drone bombings. There are some decent arguments both ways but it's impossible to not see the problems and controversy here.
posted by furiousxgeorge at 3:00 PM on August 12, 2011


Counterpoint to Greenwald's article on Alawlaki discussion Alawlaki's pre-911 radicalization and views.

The link challenges Greenwald's depiction of the pre-9/11 Awlaki.

It does not challenge Greenwald's observation that in Brandenburg v. Ohio:

The Court [unanimously] ruled that "except where such advocacy is directed to inciting or producing imminent lawless action" -- meaning conduct such as standing outside someone's house with an angry mob and urging them to burn the house down that moment -- "the constitutional guarantees of free speech and free press do not permit a State to forbid or proscribe advocacy of the use of force" (emphasis added).

Yet it is al-Awlaki's advocacy of violence against the United States that is the basis of the claim for our having the right to kill him*.

* At least it was originally. Now the government claims he provides material support to al Qaeda. But I can promise you that we don't have hours of YouTube video supporting that.
posted by Trurl at 3:24 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


"Mike D, nothing personal, but maybe this comment from orange swan will explain why comments like that really bother a lot of Canadians, including me."

Sigh... Dad served in the Royal Canadian Air Force for 20 years. This guy is hilarious and has a great routine that pokes fun (emphasis on that word) at the size of Canada's military -- all done out of what we north of the 49th like to call "self-deprecating humour". It's one of the things I like about being a Canadian. My apologies for offending you. It wasn't intended and, frankly, you'll have to go some distance to find someone in my age group who can better (equal, for sure -- we are Legion) my respect for the men and women in Canada's armed forces who put themselves in harm's way on our behalf.
posted by Mike D at 3:36 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Well at least they can't shut down the internet......
posted by edmo at 3:40 PM on August 12, 2011


I am too lazy, and too easily depressed, and indeed too employed, to compile such a list for the UK, but i would love to know it, especially one including our activities at one remove, via nato, eu etc.
posted by maiamaia at 3:55 PM on August 12, 2011


The other nations, by the way, don't object to the U.S. taking this action within their borders...

They don't?

Oh, but they do.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:57 PM on August 12, 2011


Re some points above.
1) There are laws about the conduct of war that the US and other countries are signatory to. Therefore, if we break them, we've broken that law. This is not a question of different cultures' perceptions of war, but of whether, having seen us break a law which we signed in the hope that others would treat us well in return for us treating them well, the other parties are likely to in future honour it? And of our willingness to flout openly promises we make. Can we fairly protest if say Yemen executes without trial on american soil an american secret service operative who they suspect of working against Yemen? Not without hypochrisy.
2) Most arabs despised america for not arresting bin Laden and subjecting him to trial and conviction; therefore it backfired, if the aim was to have an affect on the arab public, as opposed to merely 'taking him out'.
3) In Pakistan's tribal areas, Balochistan etc, a long-drawn-out civil war of rebellion by the said tribes has been brutally suppressed for a long time by the Pakistani secret service/military etc - think lots of people disappearing and turning up dead from obvious torture, that kind of war. Al Qaeda spotted a good hiding-place/recruiting ground over the mountains from being-bombed Afghanistan and ran some training camps. America waded in with drones that kill lots of the local populace. Not very humanitarian, and not very to the point, not least because we're being seen to support an extremely cruel reign of terror and helping the recruitment drive.
4) The more military is funded and authorised in secret by government not open before the people or by parliament, the less democracy you have in the system. Personally i want a say in whose killed in my name, i don't trust anybody with that.
posted by maiamaia at 4:16 PM on August 12, 2011 [1 favorite]


Do you imagine for one second that we could be galavanting all over Russia with killer drones?

August 2013 +/- 3 months by executive order of President Bachman. I discovered that she is actually just Stephen King in a wig and heels by the way. Apparently he did this whole Bachman stunt once before, Colbert put him up to it this time.
posted by humanfont at 4:58 PM on August 12, 2011


Sometimes it seems like the people here want so badly to analyze and view the War on Terror in some semblance of objectivity that no one actually believes anything. I am capable of this objectivity, I worked as a journalist for some time (I hated it) but still I have analyzed and looked at many wars objectively (I was a history/journalism major). But I also served in the Army. And I think the line we've been fed on this all along is so filled with lies, double-speak and nonsense that anytime someone defends our military actions overseas it betrays the trust that our troops have put in us, as a nation, in our political leaders. A sacred trust. "Don't send me off to die, if it isn't absolutely necessary. I'm not a pacifist, by definition. But I do not support these extravagant wars we have been waging and I cannot just let my beliefs by the wayside. If that means I miss out on some in depth discussion with a war supporter so be it, that's why I have a MeFi account, because I can hear the other side even if i don't associate with it IRL.

I'm often left wondering what happened to the American ideals that I heard about, that I studied, where we did have a moral standing above many other nations. Where we didn't openly condone things like torture and assassination. It seems like mainstream has been so narrowly defined on the left that those who oppose policies that Obama has strengthened from the Bush Era are seen as Bill O'Reilly's "far left nuts" even though the same people that decry opinions like mine were up in arms over the same policies when they were wielded by Bush's administration.

Can someone please tell me why? Why is it OK? Why is OK for Obama to continue like a despotic ruler, ignoring the rule of law and everything that we once claimed to cherish. I am sorry if I was a jerk. I don't hate any of you, and if I came across as such, I am truly sorry because I do love MeFi and all the opinions it brings, I'm just really passionate sometimes.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:57 PM on August 12, 2011 [8 favorites]


I know I was gettin' pissy, that's why I stepped away from the thread.
posted by IvoShandor at 5:58 PM on August 12, 2011


The political pundits and very serious people in the media don't take your position seriously. You don't buy ads in their newspapers like their corporate customers do and they don't fear you. They learned in the 1950s if you threatened them try could red scare and blacklist your ass into poverty.

What happened to Obama? The same thing that always happens. To get anything accomplished, even something small required exhausting levels of effort. Look at the fiasco of just trying to close Gitmo. Not release everyone even, just relocate them. Congress wouldn't fund it.
posted by humanfont at 6:43 PM on August 12, 2011 [3 favorites]


It strikes me that the inability of so many in the human rights community to appreciate that the nature of war has changed, and to insist that a war that doesn't fit into the traditional mold is therefore illegitimate (i.e. drone strikes instead of armies on European battlefields), risk sacrificing their credibililty in the eyes of the public. Their approach effectively gives free reign to terrorists and handcuffs governments charged with protecting their populations.

The nature of war has not changed terribly. Terrorism is not new. Urban warfare is not new. Targetted strikes and assassinations are not new. The only thing new here is drone technology.

If anyone stands to lose credibility it should be those who would deem anyone who would speak out against them an enemy waging war, and deem anywhere they might find such an enemy a battlefield. But yes, the human rights community may lose credibility in the eyes of the public as long as the public continues to lose its humanity.
posted by Hoopo at 10:25 PM on August 12, 2011


Just reading wikipedia on targeted killing gives you a clearer picture than these pieces.

Anyone seen the actual "kill list"? Primary source? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller?
As far as I know most of the news sources allude to it as being classified. It's a "program in which names are added to a list though a secret bureaucratic process."

Stands to reason - if it's a secret bureaucratic process, how do they know about it? (more on that in a bit)

As far as I've seen, apart from Greenwald et.al are repeating that it is "targeted assassinations" over and over and excluding the "capture" bit from what they originally referred to as the "capture or kill list."
Not that I have a problem with going after the M.I. complex at all. Quite the contrary, I'm on board with the usual gang concerning executive power, corporate collusion, etc.

On the very narrow topic brought up in the FPP, there's some deception here.

For the most part the CCR, ACLU, et.al. have been calling the list the "kill list." (And again, tangentially, I have serious beef with it being illegal to provide services such as legal representation for the benefit of someone on the list, but that's a different, albeit related, topic. So's the Jose Padilla thing which is an f'ing travesty. I'm not addressing all that. Just this sliver.)

And that's where the newspapers have been getting it.
So how did they find out about it?

Well, let's step back in time - when Dana Priest from the Washington Post first wrote on this story they said the CIA had "kill lists" of approved American and non-American targets.
Then they corrected that to say the CIA list doesn't include any Americans but JSOC had a list parallel which did.
M'kay. So there's no CIA list then.

Didn't stop other newspapers from repeating it without the correction ("Both the C.I.A. and the military maintain lists...")
along with the usual quotes from the ubiquitous "unnamed American official."

Frontline did a piece calling it a "capture/kill" program. Nifty. Used "capture." Of course, the focus was mostly on the JSOC integration with the conventional effort and is a counterinsurgency campaign. Little different.

Stepping back a bit more, the al-Awlaki lawsuit is covered, capture is mentioned but "kill" comes first.
'Kay. So there's a JSOC list with Americans on it.

So where'd that come from?
Well, in 2009 a Senate Foreign Relations Committee Report (CNN link) talked about targeting drug traffickers. The list is mentioned as the joint integrated prioritized target list.
(Most sources quote this report and reference this list (which evolved) as the list we're talking about: "According to the report, ‘[t]he military places no restrictions on the use of force with these selected targets, which means they can be killed or captured on the battlefield . . . standards for getting on the list require two verifiable human sources and substantial additional evidence."
Here's the quote without the SNIP - quote: "The precise rules are classified,but two U.S. generals in Afghanistan said that the ROE and the internationally recognized Law of War have been interpreted to allow them to put drug traffickers with proven links to the insurgency on a kill list, called the joint integrated prioritized target list. The military places no restrictions on the use of force with these selected targets, which means they can be killed or captured on the battlefield; it does not, however, authorize targeted assassinations away from the battlefield." Whole report here.)

The testimony, elements of the report, disappointed some people when it was leaked to the public. Apparently there are some people in public who might misrepresent or seek to reframe the picture to serve their own ends.
DNI Dennis Blair is quoted as saying (paraphrasing) "Yeah, we can kill anybody we want to at any time, Congress can't do shit to us, and you can all suck our balls faggots"
When in fact he said: "The reason I went this far in open session is I just don’t want other Americans who are watching to think that we are careless about endangering … lives at all. But we especially are not careless about endangering American lives, as we try to carry out the policies to protect most of the country and I think we ought to go into details in closed session.”

More info than you need:
A 'target list', to the military, is a list maintained by senior officer staff of targets that can be engaged as opposed to a 'list of targets' which any level can maintain more informally (suspected or confirmed or possibles) for information and planning.
A JIPTL is used by the joint force commanders (say where you have an intelligence/military fusion cells operating in a forward area like the ones Pakistan kicked out) and targets are named and priorities are set by recommendation from whatever components to support the commander's objectives.
Without getting too far afield in combat intelligence your 'fusion' is one commonly understood picture of the battlespace and it's neat if it occurs as close to real time as possible. But you also have stuff going on like intelligence reports and briefings, intelligence collection requests, tracking leadership, and target recommendations.

So we can see it's useful to have a list of people you make plans to get close to with lots of smart people using really expensive high spec equipment.
The reason there's a "kill" variable is that some of those people have lots of guns and might not come quietly. So your planning takes into account proportionality in force.
But you need a list first. The fact that it is 'bureaucratic' in the sense that it's a planning document means that it's inert as far as policy goes. JSOC has no command and control authority over policy, it's misleading to allude that it does. They operate under the law and the rules of engagement.
Actualizing a plan or authorizing an execution is a policy matter and commanders are responsible to civilian leadership.

All that said, policy is a different story.
You can't kill your way to victory. It might be necessary, even justifiable under certain circumstances, but we're not fighting just those people, we're fighting an ideology that depends on the failure of secular justice.
That makes it all the more urgent we comport ourselves like Caesar's wife, above even the appearance or suspicion we are unjust.
That's a war in itself.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:46 PM on August 12, 2011 [5 favorites]


One thing I wonder about with the increased focus on Special Forces is where they're getting the soldiers from. Special Forces are known for their rigorous testing to find soldiers best suited for their roles, and, with it reducing standards, it seems like it would be hard to suddenly find more recruits that could pass something like SEAL school.
posted by drezdn at 6:28 AM on August 13, 2011


Some of this is just tactics and training. The marines like to say they are all special forces.
posted by humanfont at 8:05 AM on August 13, 2011


That makes it all the more urgent we comport ourselves like Caesar's wife, above even the appearance or suspicion we are unjust.

That was a nice trick, very powerful dude broke into popes house and mingled with the guests only to have the plan backfire and dude dies not long after, all honor lost.
posted by clavdivs at 9:03 AM on August 13, 2011


with it reducing standards, it seems like it would be hard to suddenly find more recruits that could pass something like SEAL school.

All NSWC has done is make sure people are fit before they enter (pull ups and flutterkicks) and upped the motivation level of the goon squad to keep people from dropping. And further operationalize BUD/S, which has been going on for a while. So they learn the basics in training instead of going out to the teams to learn.
So it's actually the reverse problem. Not getting people to pass, but you have to find the time to push people to their mental and physical limits, while also training them.

Why is OK for Obama to continue like a despotic ruler, ignoring the rule of law and everything that we once claimed to cherish.

It's systemic. All the more reason Obama is not the point.
When Bush was president, the problem was that more and more power was hooked into the POTUS office and while people complained, nothing was done.
The president can imprison people because here's this weird loophole we finagled - well, uh, grumble, blah, harumph, cough.
Nothing got straightened out.

Obama tries to shut down Gitmo, same response even though it's a completely opposite agenda.
Because no one wants to divest the office of power, even when it's not their guy in it.

It's sort of like the One Ring in Lord of the Rings. Except with party politics.

Greenwald (et.al) is not at all objective.
This is not a problem, he does get to the heart of things sometimes, but more generally speaking this kind of rhetoric can get in the way of seeing the actual problem. Which is consolidation of power vs. spreading it out. Responsibility naturally follows. Not everyone likes that. Which is why there's so much argument in the details.

You get a sort of "I'm not the president" bullshit from senators who can support something (through their party) but lay off responsibility for it.
A lot of people have vested interests in keeping the flow of power elusive and the exercise of it invisible.
I believe in the constitution, but it's like the gods to the Romans in the practical workings of power. The common reference that everyone pays lip service to but seeks in practice to work around.
“God looks at the clean hands, not the full ones.” - Publilius Syrus

Would the US agree it would be legal for France to assassinate someone they consider a terrorist in the US without even notifying us?

&
"And there you have it. Somehow, tons of countries manage not to interfere in other's affairs in such ways."

Offhand, the French killed Moumie in Switzerland.
Félix-Roland Moumié They may have killed Joseph Doucé
The DGSE is routinely involved in intelligence and military operations. They went into Columbia to rescue a journalist (Betancourt?)

Assassination is fairly ubiquitous.
Ioan P. Culianu
Yahya El Mashad
Georges Besse
Meir Kahane
Mehmet Baydar
Ali Akbar Tabatabaei
Henry Liu
Katrina Leung was a straight spy, but there's tons of stuff that's disavowable like Chi Mak or Yi Qing Chen who was looking to smuggle anti-aircraft missiles into the U.S.
And countries interfere with each other all the time.
Pakistan bribes U.S. officials, Russia sends out hit men, China steal everything not nailed down.

Where it gets political is where things get really dangerous. The only time you have to worry about the military and covert operations is where there's the potential for larger scale democide.
And I do think that's a genuine concern. But those things all have political bases. And the more concentrated power gets the more likely it will get abused.
The U.S. military is a long way off from being any kind of threat itself. Perhaps in another generation when everyone who is ingrained in respecting civilian leadership is gone. You would have to purposefully eradicate it from the military.
Politically, we're getting to where the office of president is the ONLY office. And people are getting habituated to treating it that way.
That's dangerous no matter who the president is.
posted by Smedleyman at 1:39 PM on August 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


Realpolitik is necessary to confront great dangers, the difficulty is that often it is not the right tool. We are really poor at judging the right circumstances.
posted by humanfont at 1:58 PM on August 13, 2011 [2 favorites]


FYI, SOCOM is made up ENTIRELY of service men and women from the four services. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. Probably/maybe some Coast Guard, too.
posted by legweak at 6:34 AM on August 14, 2011








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