Tuesday, February 12, 2008


A manual for the empire

You have to be of a certain age to remember when the Secretary of State was second only to the President in managing foreign affairs. That role has now been replaced by the Secretary of Defense. The Army promises to adapt to its new function and hopes to produce diplomat-soldier-occupiers sometime soon.

Of course no one is making the point so bluntly, but what are we to make of the Army's new operations manual that is to be unveiled later this month? Michael R. Gordon reports,

Military officials described the new document, the first new edition of the Army’s comprehensive doctrine since 2001, as a major development that draws on the hard-learned lessons of Iraq and Afghanistan, where initial military successes gave way to long, grueling struggles to establish control.

What those military successes gave way to were occupations of the countries.

It is also an illustration of how far the Pentagon has moved beyond the Bush administration’s initial reluctance to use the military to support “nation-building” efforts when it came into office.

"Nation-building" is an odious, Orwellian euphemism for "invading and occupying." Our categories of thought are so imbued with this Newsspeak that I do not believe we have available a simple phrase that can accurately describe what we have done in Iraq and Afghanistan. A phrase that is still euphemistic but more accurate might be "creative destruction," if you understand the term "creative" in the same cynical sense as it is used in the phrase "creative capitalism." After all, all destruction is "creative" insofar as something new will eventually emerge.

The Pentagon has been told to expect more of the same—

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates has cautioned the Army not to assume that the counterinsurgency campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan are anomalies.

You bet!

The manual describes the United States as facing an era of “persistent conflict” in which the American military will often operate among civilians in countries where local institutions are fragile and efforts to win over a wary population are vital.

"Persistent conflict"? I like that. It sounds better than John McCain's "100 years of war."

“The operational environment will remain a dirty, frightening, physically and emotionally draining one in which death and destruction result from environmental conditions creating humanitarian crisis as well as conflict itself,” the manual states. It will be an arena, the manual notes, in which success depends not only on force in defeating an enemy but also “how quickly a state of stability can be established and maintained.”

Iraq and Afghanistan were in a state of stability before the invasion. We purportedly went there to establish "democracy." It will be interesting to learn, once the full text of the Army's manual is revealed, how much talk remains of that.

The manual is expected to be a “blueprint to operate over the next 10 to 15 years.”


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