Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Rules of engagement - fighting the non-war

Us President Obama has just squared the circle: he announced the end of the war and all combat operations in Iraq by the end of the month and in the same breath stated that most of the US soldiers currently engaged in those operations would remain in the country to assist the Iraqi army and to involve in counter-terrorism operations. Since his predecessor Bush had foolishly declared the war over prematurely, the entanglement of US army personnel in Iraq has continued for years with numerous military and civil casualties, and there is no real end in sight. The US is legally required under international law to withdraw from Iraq since its mandate under already doubtful UN authorisations has already run out, and now the extension granted by the Iraqi puppet government is also coming to an end. Back at home, Americans are equally weary of the constant drain of the Iraqi operations on American lives and funds.

Basically, what Obama is telling us is that he thinks - and knows - that the people who elected him are stupid and will fall for whatever rhetoric they are given, at least for some time. Moving the goal post, redefining objectives, relabelling facts has become the government response to any situation which has become unpalatable.

Any child can do the maths that if 65,000 American troops are currently stationed in Iraq involved in combat operations and to train the Iraqi army, and 50,000 of them will stay on to involve in counter-terrorism operations and train the Iraqi army, then nothing much has changed, except that the enemy has been relabelled from a combatant under the laws of war to a terrorist or "illegal combatant", the term first coined for the detainees held in limbo, and illegally under international law, in Guantanamo Bay, which Obama also promised to close but didn't.
Those 15,000 soldiers leaving Iraq are actually being redeployed since the US is boosting its presence there by an additional 30,000 troops as, according to Obama, they face "huge challenges" there.

Afghanistan is an even more deadly place for American soldiers where they are fighting yet another war that isn't officially a war but another counter-terrorism operation with equally unclear and non-defined objectives. No doubt the US government knows only too well that it can't win on either of the two battle fields, but the logic is that if you don't define your operations as a war and don't state a clear war objective, then you can't possibly loose either. So it is not until the casualties keep mounting that the American public will eventually put more pressure on their government and tell them that rhetoric is not enough as an exit strategy.