Petraeus, Panetta And The Arc Of Instability.

by Daniel Russ on October 16, 2011

David Petraeus, Sec Def


Leon Panetta, establishment cabinet level intelligence apparatchik announced earlier this year that the decade of special operations and drone strikes conducted against Al Qaeda had reduced the number of effective key command level leaders to a minimum. “That’s why I think the defeat of Al-Qaida is within reach,” Panetta told reporters. I couldn’t help but stifle a laugh. I mean in the last decade I have heard this blandishment painted over US combat operations at least thousand times.


Yet the results on the ground are different according to some. It is an important piece of information that doesn’t seem to get disseminated. The fact is when you look at the whole picture, while we are effectively knocking off key Al Qaeda leaders; we are not effectively slowing the insurgency. Even the Conservative leaning Washington had a key article about how the drone strikes create a number of new insurgents for each target we kill. The collateral damage of human beings, many of them innocent children and wedding attendees, are also helping to build a steady resistance to our agendas.


The secret drone war and the skillfully executed commando raids may be creating more enemies than we can handle. This may be a case of the US shooting itself in both feet. On the one hand, the visceral desire to protect ones home raises the hackles of indigenous neighbors of the terrorists when we strike down targets silently from above. You and I don’t see the results, we just hear a typical phraseology ubiquitous in limp dick US newsrooms: “Senior Al Quida personnel were killed in a US attack in Peshawar.” It is often bandied about in the war and political blogs that drone operators call the human beings running for cover during strikes ‘squirters’. This is redolent of a story that became true only by virtue of the fact that it has been fecklessly quoted from a number of increasingly vague sources. “Gosh they look like toothpaste when you step on the tube.” I don’t know if it’s true. But if nothing else, it perhaps reflects the clever locker room monikers bandied about between pilots and navigators, all living in a desert conducting the most impersonal warfare mankind has ever seen.


CIA Chief Leon Panetta

The reach of these operations extends far beyond the altitudinous craggy hills of Afghanistan or the verdant desert in Mesopotamia. In fact there is a term for the reach of US special operations. It’s called The Arc of Instability. It starts in Central Africa and extends through the north, and into the eastern Mediterranean and into Iraq and Iran and the entire Persian Gulf region to Central Asia down again to Malaysia and Indonesia. In fact our 60,000 special operations soldiers and CIA operatives are as described by Retired Colonel John Nagl as “an industrial sized killing machine.”


Hell forget Afghanistan or Iraq. Think Yemen, Burundi, Malaysia, Somalia, Maghreb. The arc is a swath that we keep operating in. Few Americans could find the countries on a map with an index where their taxpayer dollars are being spent. The results of these combat forays are rarely ever talked about in the media. No, you see, we have to cover Casey Anthony’s trial and Tiger Woods infidelity and Michael Jackson’s death even years afterwards. We have little time in American lives to intelligently discuss the role we are playing in keeping the world in a constant state of low-level warfare. In many ways, low level warfare has replaced major warfare. It’s not so much the major invasions these days. It’s a constant 24/7 intelligence war fought with proxies and robots. This is the new face of warfare.


Robert Grenier, the former counter intelligence chief said in the New York Times that the drone war has motivated jihadists and imprecated the operation by making the targets part of a bigger global war. Dennis Blair, a counterintelligence agent said that the drone war has already backfired putting out allies in high dudgeon. That’s the irony, the drone strikes aren’t scaring our enemies. They are scaring our allies. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to London says that the robot war is creating intense hatred for the United States.


The cost to the economy is almost completely off the table.  Yet less than 100 major Al-Qaida and Taliban leaders have been taken out at a cost that is so large and so unwieldy that it would be greater then the total GDP of many countries, and the violence is not abating. The fact that the American public is so in the dark and so unengaged in these conflicts enrages the Arab world and our Allies.


Petraeus isn’t the only commander who conducted a surge. His enemies have as well. You wouldn’t know it because it isn’t reported in this country except on the fringes of what’ s left of McClatchy and the New York Times. In fact, violence in the region increased four fold from 2004 to 2008. Petraeus himself will operate like a US corporation chief. And the irony here is so delicious. As such, he will not be held accountable if he fails or spends monies unwisely or makes things worse. And the reason for this is not that the American public doesn’t care. It’s that we simply don’t know enough about it to care.


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