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Don't Be Fooled. Airstrikes Are War.

Despite evidence they may make things worse, airstrikes are mistakenly seen as a perfectly reasonable response.

It is a bizarre and dangerous quirk of American politics that U.S. airstrikes are accepted as a moderate step between diplomacy and war.

Take a look at the Philippines, where Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said Monday the United States may begin airstrikes against local Islamic State-linked militants. Does this mean we're at war in the South Pacific? I suspect most Americans would say no. It's "just" airstrikes, after all. It is by that same calculation we are not "at war" in Yemen, Pakistan, Somalia, or Libya—all countries that have been subject to U.S. airstrikes this year.

Or consider new poll results published by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Participants were asked what response they would support to North Korea's development of nuclear weapons. Options ranged from inaction, negotiation, sanction, broader sanction, airstrikes on nuclear facilities to boots on the ground.

The real point of the survey, our dangerous quirk, wasn't the percentage of support for each of the various options, but that airstrikes are presented as some sort of intermediate option, somehow substantially different from more conventional warfare.

What we ignore at our peril is that airstrikes are war, as is evident with a moment's reflection. Dropping bombs on foreign territory is warfare whether we talk about it in those terms or not.

This defining statement is not as pedantic as it may seem. Washington has a well-established history of using sloppy language in civic conversation to pull fast ones on the public. Former President Obama was a master where airstrikes were concerned: By prioritizing air war over ground troops, Obama was able to pay lip service to his campaign-era promises of reform and restraint while, in reality, maintaining and in some cases escalating the very interventionist foreign policy he was elected to repudiate.

During Obama's final year in office, the United States dropped more than 26,000 bombs in seven nations (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Syria, and the four listed above), though for only for three of them (Afghanistan, Iraq, and Pakistan) did the executive branch have anything even remotely resembling congressional authorization for war required by the Constitution.

There are many reasons for that failure of basic procedural accountability—congressional fecklessness and presidential overreach not least among them—but the inaccurate way we think of airstrikes as War Junior is surely one of them.

With President Trump in Obama's place, the consequences of our messy conception of airstrikes grow more serious still. In his first half-year in office, Trump has ordered airstrikes at five times Obama's incredible pace. That escalation, coupled with this week's announcement about the Philippines (not to mention April's strike on regime targets in Syria, the first of its kind), suggests we are due to see more airstrikes against more targets in more places in days to come.

Whether those strikes are necessary, prudent or right are subject to debate. There is a long history of warnings from U.S. military and intelligence officers plus independent studies that airstrikes exacerbate security threats by radicalizing ordinary people who have lost innocent family members to American bombs.

As conservative columnist Jim Antle has argued, "Just like government stimulus spending might end up hurting the economy, Obamacare might cancel your health insurance, welfare policies might prolong a cycle of poverty, military interventions aimed at killing terrorists might actually create them."

These unintended consequences deserve more serious consideration than short-sighted politicians have been inclined to give them. Airstrikes are a form of war. That isn't up for debate. This means we must demand the same constitutional due process and oversight, realistic risk analysis, and open deliberation about our aims and interests that we ought to require before more traditional war-making.

Airstrikes are not a step to war but war itself, and it is time we acted—and demand Washington do its job—accordingly.

Photo Credit: Mc John Philip/ZUMA Press/Newscom

Bonnie Kristian is a fellow at the American Security Initiative Foundation. She is a contributing writer at The Week and a columnist at Rare, and her writing has also appeared at Relevant Magazine and The American Conservative, among other outlets.

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  • Hugh Akston||

    It's only war if people die, and nobody dies as a result of airstrikes. They land their planes and hit the showers.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    A 30 million dollar had better f***ing be waterproof as well as stealthy.

  • Dillinger||

    is it war if nobody's shooting back?

  • Chipper Morning, Now #1||

    I think they call that genocide.

  • Longtobefree||

    Hell, yes.
    That just means you deployed your assets correctly.

  • IceTrey||

    War is peace.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    No no. Peace is war. You wanna peace of me, well c'mon then!

  • BYODB||

    I guess it turns out that all American's are really against, by and large, is American's being killed while being engaged in war. That's really it. I bet if they included 'drone strikes' people would be super OK with it over even piloted aircraft strikes (although nowadays when you hear 'airstrike' I assume they mean 'drone strike' in most cases.)


    Of course, the reason why we're able to use glorified R.C. cars to wage war is because we're waging war against 3rd world hell-holes who simply don't have the basic technology required to drop those drones without firing a single bullet, but whatever. That shit won't fly with China/USSR/Anybody-with-a-brain-istan.

  • Charles Easterly||

    I guess it turns out that all American's are really against, by and large, is American's being killed while being engaged in war.

    Sadly, I have formed this opinion as well.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Um, welcome to the club. For my part, I wish potbellied Kim, Putin, the PRC regime, various African/South American despots, and the Kardashians would all die hideous deaths, but not by my hand.

  • JFree||

    And it turns out that a few guys with boxcutters and the willingness to die can turn our civilian airplanes into virtual attack drones too. Course that's not a lesson we care to learn.

  • Rich||

    "Well I got a smile for everyone I meet
    As long as you don't try dragging my bay
    Or dropping the bomb on my street"

  • Bgoptmst||

    Air strikes can't be war because that would require Congress to do its job ...

    .... my bad AMUF covers it. We're good!

  • Diane Reynolds (Paul.)||

    Something about this post struck me in regards to the subject of gun control. Now, I don't want to get all 'whataboutism' on everyone, but you notice that we don't drop bombs as a foreign policy strategem on countries like China or Russia. It's because they can shoot back-- and do so effectively. So if you're a small country that might have issues with the US (or any major foreign power for that matter) it makes a lot of sense to be armed to the teeth, because we don't drop bombs on North Korea either.

  • Charles Easterly||

  • Charles Easterly||

    Oops:

    The United States government/military...don't drop bombs on North Korea either.

    Evidently this may change, Paul: "Military solutions are now fully in place, locked and loaded, should North Korea act unwisely," Trump said. "Hopefully Kim Jong-un will find another path!"

    The use of the "locked and loaded" term for being a trigger squeeze away from firing indicated Trump is ignoring the advice of allies and, reportedly, top advisers to tone down the rhetoric in an effort to defuse the crisis on the Korean peninsula.

  • Bgoptmst||

    North Korea is funny because their conventional deterrent is strong enough it has kept us from trying to unify the pen since the 1950s.

    I agree with you though. We don't drop bombs on peer or near-peer countries because they can retaliate. It's why it makes sense, in a perverted way, that Nk or Iran would want nuclear weapons. The more we do for security the less secure we become.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    North Korea is funny because their conventional deterrent is strong enough it has kept us from trying to unify the pen since the 1950s

    Their "conventional deterrent" is Chinese support. That's what stopped the US from driving to the Yalu and its what's kept the South from saying "fuck it" and marching in.

    During my tour in Korea, I remember hearing plenty about the Norks supposed elite special forces that would invade the South through the sewers if the shooting ever started up again, but I also remember how much Iraq's "battle-hardened" elite Republican Guard was going to leave the desert littered with American bodies. I suspect in a conventional war (and there's no reason to think that Trump just nuking the place isn't on the table anyway), it would all boil down to whether the Chinese think letting Fat Boy go under would result in a loss of face for them or not.

  • Longtobefree||

    OK, falling for the bait.
    Just for the record, we DID drive to the Yalu.
    THEN the Chinese came flowing over.

    I think then as now, the main deterrent to US action is the fact that we would win. Then what? Food stamps for all of NK?

  • Bgoptmst||

    I should have been more exact in what I meant. As a previous member in Korea you will get what I was driving at.

    The Nk artillery that can range Seoul would cause a massive humanitarian crisis by severely damaging the political and cultural center of Sk. That is what I meant by conventional deterrent. Even without nuclear weapons the Nk regime has a massive reason for the South to not want war, and for unilateral action by the US to be unlikely short of a catalyst such as putting nuclear warheads on ICBMs. Launching missiles at Guam as a show of force would also be poor.

  • Red Rocks Baiting n Inciting||

    The Nk artillery that can range Seoul would cause a massive humanitarian crisis by severely damaging the political and cultural center of Sk. That is what I meant by conventional deterrent.

    You're right, that's a hell of a lot more likely than the Norks launching an ICBM.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    By that logic, the last Iraq war should have been a cakewalk, and places like Cuba should pose no threat to anyone whatsoever (except Venezuela). Hellholes like N.K., Cuba owe their existence to powers like China and Russia, and they are more formidable because of the continued support of China. Don't get fooled into believing otherwise, regardless of what you favorite clique of self-appointed experts say. Their militaries may generally be even worse than those of China, but conventional warfare has been out of fashion for the better part of a century for some reason or other. In any case, NK has been preparing for years to turn Seoul into 1945 Dresden, and that has always been the reason the Korean war hasn't reignited.

  • Bgoptmst||

    North Korea is funny because their conventional deterrent is strong enough it has kept us from trying to unify the pen since the 1950s.

    I agree with you though. We don't drop bombs on peer or near-peer countries because they can retaliate. It's why it makes sense, in a perverted way, that Nk or Iran would want nuclear weapons. The more we do for security the less secure we become.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Bullshit. The only thing that's kept those shit gas in power is their relationship with China. If China wasn't backing them up, they would have been gone decades ago.

  • JFree||

    And you could just as easily say that the only thing keeping South Korea going is a)the state of war that b)keeps the US commitment to SK.

    The objective of DPRK has always been get the peace treaty signed so that US troops withdraw. Once that happens then it is the North v the South and the North then has a whole bunch of advantages. Notably that while the South is richer - rich people ain't known for their willingness to actually fight for anything. The whole point of being rich is that one can supposedly pay poor people to do the fighting/dying for you.

    Like it or not, thats China's neighbor and it always will be China's neighbor and there is nothing the US can do to change that geographic reality. It is simply stupid/arrogant to assert that the US can decide what China's neighbors are going to look like and which direction they will face for their security. And if the US makes the same stupid mistake that MacArthur (easily the most overrated general in US history) made way back when, then the same outcome will occur.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    No, I think the big lesson since the Soviet Union collapsed is that authoritarian hellholes are remarkably stable, even if they don't have tacit support from a superpower, and whatever supplants one odious regime is usually about as bad.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    " it makes a lot of sense to be armed to the teeth" AKA Qaddafi's folly.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Qaddafi's folly was thinking that Libyans (or rather the armed forces) couldn't turn against him. But I take it that he was trying to recover from international pariah status right up to the time that the so-called arab spring hit and his stock portfolio went south in a hurry.

  • Rich||

    Options ranged from inaction, negotiation, sanction, broader sanction, airstrikes on nuclear facilities to boots on the ground.

    What about "still broader sanction" and "incredibly broad sanction"?

  • BillEverman||

    You forgot "mother of all sanctions."

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    They overlooked the option of "containment with large quantities of wet concrete'.

  • Longtobefree||

    Being at war is binary; you are or you aren't.
    The number of military actions doesn't matter; one airstrike or a dozen, or a hundred, war is war.
    Airstrikes or cruise missiles or special forces or a corps assault, war is war.
    A sniper bullet to the head of ISIS, or a nuke on a city, war is war.
    (There haven't been "innocent civilians" since Lincoln approved the concept of total war on the Confederacy)

    What we have allowed to happen without a proper political debate of the impact, is that war is now conducted by groups other than nation-states. The Geneva convention does not directly address this.
    Since "the enemy" is an ideological group, and does not wear uniforms or engage in open combat, is it really war? Since "the enemy" ignores political boundaries, is it really criminal activity?
    Does an "authorization of use of military force" really bring into play all the aspects of "war"? For instance, if we are "at war" with ISIS, the "enemy combatants" are not wearing uniforms and are therefore subject to summary execution as spies, per the Geneva conventions.
    This really should not require all the quote marks. We should all know if we are at war or not.

  • Charles Easterly||

    Longtobefree,

    I remember attempting to make a few similar points in the months and years following the attacks that were carried out on September 11 2001 against our country-persons.

    Perhaps one of the least inflammatory responses that I received began similarly to this:"We live in a Post-911 World, and you liberals...."

    You might not be surprised to also read that when I criticized President Obama's decisions to drop bombs and send missiles to kill the residents of other nations (nations which Congress did not declare war upon) that I received a very different type of criticism despite my anonymity/physical appearance. However, some of the criticism was familiar in that many individuals operated from the misunderstanding that I was only complaining because there was a Democrat in office, whereas when a Republican was in office I would have supported him blindly, being the equivalent of a party hack.

    When I attempted to point out that my views had not changed because of who was in charge of the Un-Constitutional wars while their's had I was often labelled a liar. Other individuals ignored my comments - especially if I posted evidence for my neutrality.

  • Longtobefree||

    Well, it's an open forum.
    But the actual point is that this situation needs to be addressed by nations and by supra-national agencies to bring "the rules of war" up to date. Either "terrorism" (Islamic or other) is a crime to be investigated by police and prosecuted in courts, or it is a war, to be defended against by national military forces. Either way, there are issues of jurisdiction crossing national borders, and of the assistance by nation states to the non nation state actors.
    If police, they need international jurisdiction, and support at the level of military force. If military, then there are still issues of jurisdiction. Can (for example) US forces, in pursuit or not, cross international borders to combat terrorists? I can see where lots of nations would not like to see military forces of other nations wandering around "looking for bad guys". Yet, if Iran is actively, or even 'just' financially, supporting terrorists, what is the international authority for action against Iran?
    And so on and so on. I do not have a solution, just bringing up the fact that 'the war on terror' doesn't fit into any current legal framework. But in short, if your military is killing people at the direction of the national command authority, you are at war.

  • JoeBlow123||

    This is spot on. I have been thinking this for a long time, our use of special forces and planes to destroy/capture individuals ideologically opposed to the United States / the West seems to be more analogous to policing actions than war. Granted, it is more like Wild West capture/kill with not a huge preference for either, but it seems more like policing that war. And I absolutely 100% agree that our legal structures and international frameworks have not adjusted to deal with this reality. The American military truly is acting like a world police with our special ops guys fulfilling a role I do not think they were designed for or should be filling.

    Good post.

  • Gaear Grimsrud||

    I also enjoyed reading your insightful post. But as you pointed out above, any pretense that the U.S. would be bound by "rules of war" ended with Lincoln and were completely obsolete by the time we were fire bombing Tokyo. There is no current legal framework. The idea that the U.S. would be bound by new rules promulgated by supra-national agencies seems a little naive. It doesn't matter if the commander in chief is Trump, Hilary, Pence or Sanders. We are the world police until the empire collapses. And it will. Shortly.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Even the Roman empire took centuries to collapse. People seem to have a morbid fascination with impending doom even though they fear it. Some may blame all the worlds problems on a handful of prominent apocalyptic religions and yet fail to recognize those same faults in various strains of atheism and anarchism.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Whether anyone can win any war is debatable in forums where debate is permitted and people aren't busy shooting at each other, but wars aren't won by following rules.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    The Confederacy? Warriors have been killing and enslaving civilians since time immemorial. Lincoln did nothing extraordinary.

  • Longtobefree||

    Except specifically authorize it as head of state. A significant distinction from prior looting and pillaging.

  • JFree||

    Actual historical cite needed if you are going to assert 'specifically authorized it'. Otherwise, you're just another neoconfederate hack pursuing the usual BS 'Lost Cause' mythology.

  • JFree||

    Because re the 'specific authorizations' of even Sherman's March (and Sherman is NOT Lincoln) - here's his actual orders to troops:

    http://bit.ly/2wDXNjq
    nb - The army will forage liberally on the country during the march...Soldiers must not enter the dwellings of the inhabitants, or commit any trespass, but during a halt or a camp they may be permitted to gather turnips, potatoes, and other vegetables, and to drive in stock of their camp.

    In districts and neighborhoods where the army is unmolested no destruction of such property should be permitted; but should guerrillas or bushwhackers molest our march, or should the inhabitants burn bridges, obstruct roads, or otherwise manifest local hostility, then army commanders should order and enforce a devastation more or less relentless according to the measure of such hostility.

    As for horses, mules, wagons, &c., belonging to the inhabitants, the cavalry and artillery may appropriate freely and without limit, discriminating, however, between the rich, who are usually hostile, and the poor or industrious, usually neutral or friendly.

  • Longtobefree||

    Sherman had reviewed his plans with both Lincoln and Grant. After discussions of their reservations, Grant authorized Sherman to proceed.

    Here is the field order 120; includes a bit more detail, like impressing negroes.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ Special_Field_Orders_No._120

    With thanks to Bruce Catton;
    The March to the Sea was devastating to Georgia and the Confederacy. Sherman himself estimated that the campaign had inflicted $100 million (about $1.4 billion in 2010 dollars) in destruction, about one fifth of which "inured to our advantage" while the "remainder is simple waste and destruction." The Army wrecked 300 miles (480 km) of railroad and numerous bridges and miles of telegraph lines. It seized 5,000 horses, 4,000 mules, and 13,000 head of cattle. It confiscated 9.5 million pounds of corn and 10.5 million pounds of fodder, and destroyed uncounted cotton gins and mills.
    Military historians Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones cited the significant damage wrought to railroads and Southern logistics in the campaign and stated that "Sherman's raid succeeded in 'knocking the Confederate war effort to pieces'."

  • Longtobefree||

    From Noah Trudeau;
    Slaves' opinions varied concerning the actions of Sherman and his army. Some who welcomed him as a liberator chose to follow his armies. Jacqueline Campbell has written, on the other hand, that some slaves looked upon the Union army's ransacking and invasive actions with disdain. They often felt betrayed, as they "suffered along with their owners, complicating their decision of whether to flee with or from Union troops." A Confederate officer estimated that 10,000 liberated slaves followed Sherman's army, and hundreds died of "hunger, disease, or exposure" along the way.

  • Longtobefree||

    Will his signature on the Lieber Code (general order 100) suffice?

    http://avalon.law.yale.edu/19th_century/lieber.asp

  • JFree||

    No it won't. Because Lieber explicitly and purposely wrote that to codify LIMITS to what soldiers could do - and risk court martial if they violated them. He had witnessed uncodified warfare during Napoleon - had witnessed the antebellum Souths uncodified treatment of 'slaves in revolt' - and had studied exactly what uncodified total war on civilians looked like (Thirty Years War).

    Maybe you have convinced yourself that the mere act of putting rules/codes in writing somehow enables something more evil than before. And you would be wrong. The reality is that the Lieber Code was, almost verbatim in many parts, the source for what became the 'laws of war' (first Hague Conventions and then Geneva Protocols and, if violated, adjudicable now as 'war crimes' - see Nuremberg).

  • Longtobefree||

    I cited the Lieber Code in response to your request for citation of Lincoln's involvement in the manner of war conducted on Sherman's march. It contains many restrictions on the military at war. However, it also authorizes many of what had previously been excesses in warfare. Many articles have tags at the end that say in different ways "unless the army say otherwise".
    Section I
    Article 5 To save the country is paramount to all other considerations.
    Article 12 but sentences of death shall be executed only with the approval of the chief executive, provided the urgency of the case does not require a speedier execution,
    Article 15 it allows of all destruction of property, and obstruction of the ways and channels of traffic, travel, or communication, and of all withholding of sustenance or means of life from the enemy;
    Article 17 War is not carried on by arms alone. It is lawful to starve the hostile belligerent, armed or unarmed, so that it leads to the speedier subjection of the enemy.
    Section II
    Article 37 This rule does not interfere with the right of the victorious invader to tax the people or their property, to levy forced loans, to billet soldiers, or to appropriate property, especially houses, lands, boats or ships, and churches, for temporary and military uses
    Section III
    Article 60 but a commander is permitted to direct his troops to give no quarter, in great straits, when his own salvation makes it impossible to cumber himself with prisoners.
    But you know the rest.

  • KBeckman||

    Literally got into in argument on twitter about this last night. The war powers act was just Congress giving away it's ability to declare war. If the President spends up to 60 days bombing a country then a state of War exists whether Congress declares one or not.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I read somewhere that the difference between marines and soldiers is that marines are an expeditionary force, used temporarily, such as rescuing embassy staff or citizens trapped overseas, and thus without the implication of invasion that an army would bring. I suppose this may have been true when marines were just another part of the ship's company, police in fact.

    Does this make airstrikes the modern equivalent of marines, with ICBMs being the army?

    What a weird world people create.

  • Longtobefree||

    Almost.
    The Marines are an expeditionary force, specializing in amphibious assault. As a self contained force, once delivered, they can secure an area and hold it until reinforced, or relieved. So they are exactly an invasion force.
    Just ask one.

  • Bgoptmst||

    TLDR: The Marines are a conventional force of light infantry with their own air force.

    Pretty accurate. We like to bill ourselves as the nations force in readiness but the lines have blurred during the GWOT. Expeditionary operations from the sea is our bread and butter, and we are structured into Marine Air Ground Task Forces (MAGTF) of various levels to accomplish this. At the basic level we deploy as a MEU on ship, which is a battalion size element with attached Air Combat Element (ACE) and Combat Logistic Element (CLE) assets. Doctrinally a MEU is supposed to be able to maneuver for 30 days without "extra" support. In past years we have seen Marine Expeditionary Forces (MEFs) hold battle space in Iraq and Afghanistan.

    The Marines also have elements forward deployed to support AFRICOM and CENTCOM which are called Special MAGTFs (SPMAGTF) that are more purpose driven. We have company size elements (used to be FAST) that are designed to go forward to help secure threatened embassies, or provide security in the event of a USS Cole bombing.

  • Scarecrow Repair & Chippering||

    I meant back 200 years, when they were usually less than 100 men. Not now.

  • JuanQPublic||

    "Non-interventionist" Trump is now musing about US military involvement in Venezuela.

  • Elias Fakaname||

    Oh, no! Not MUSING! So far he hasn't been in a hurry to get us in a new war. Which he indicated he was not so hot for during the campaign. We can live with a little rhetoric, which so far is all it is.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    Well, it ain't likely we'd make matters WORSE.

  • ChipToBeSquare||

    A fact that doesn't get mentioned enough with respect to North Korea: they tell everyone in their concentration camps that whenever the US Imperialists (that's what they always call us) finally invade, all of them will be slaughtered in order to hide the evidence. That's somewhere near 100,000 people who will die almost immediately after we taken any aggressive action

  • ||

    These unintended consequences

    Or very much intended consequences. If the military-industrial complex can justify its bills with fighting terrorists and guerillas, then creating terrorists and guerillas is rational behaviour from the military-industrial complex.

  • JoeBlow123||

    Watch out for that evil industrialist with the twisty mustache and top hat and cane, he is out to take over the world with his Bilderberg buddies too!

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Yeah, he was last seen in 1933 dining alongside destitute blue collar Germans in a display of heartwarming egalitarian social justice and patriotism.

  • JFree||

    airstrikes exacerbate security threats by radicalizing ordinary people who have lost innocent family members to American bombs.

    This is one of the consequences that really should be debated more. The two sorts of war that create the most blowback are a)videogame war and b)war-by-proxy. In both cases, we comfort ourselves into pretending that we aren't really doing anything harmful/bad since we aren't risking anything. So there is quite literally nothing that those on the receiving end can do to strike back except to go after our own civilians/kids/etc. No one here wants boots-on-the-ground cuz no one wants bodybags coming home but that is exactly the sort of skin in the 'game' that is necessary if we want war contained to combatants (broadly defined).

    And the crappy idea being raised to privatize/outsource the Afghan war to mercenaries combines both elements of 'risk-nothing' that create blowback.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    "This is one of the consequences that really should be debated more. The two sorts of war that create the most blowback are a)videogame war and b)war-by-proxy."

    Mmmm. We should demand a UN resolution banning all videogame and proxy wars. Acts of terrorism tend to generate their own blowback, and a public that doesn't want another damn war can undergo a sea change after a couple of unfortunate headlines.

  • JFree||

    Terrorism is the blowback by non-nationstate actors against nations pursuing the types of war I mentioned. Saudi citizens were easily recruited for 9/11 because Saudis were the ones who lived next to the airfields in Saudi that 'hosted' permanent USAF operations (Southern Watch, Desert Fox, Vigilant Warrior, Desert Strike, 1993 unnamed) against Iraq from 1991-2003. And they chose 9/11 as the symbolic date (11 years after Bush' New World Order speech to Congress).

    Both factors seem to still be a complete surprise to most Americans 16 years later - and thus pretty much define 'blowback'.

  • C. S. P. Schofield||

    If we would CONSISTENTLY hit nations that annoyed us past a certain fairly clear point with airstrikes, they might be a useful tool. We don't. Gunboat diplomacy was amoral, but it also had a good record of working.

    We could also use to ashcan the idea that going after the head of state of a nation that annoys us is in some way unsporting. There is nothing sporting about international relations anyway, and we couldmsave everybody a lot of trouble if any time some third world pissant got beligerant with 'great satan' ere was,a,decent chance he would shortly vanish in a puff of high explosive.

    If internationalism had a better record than Victorian Paternalism, I would be against clobbering troublesome pestholes. It doesn't.

  • Released||

    Exactly my view! High Imperialism (say, between the Napoleonic and the world wars) was the best era ever for human kind! Scientifically, industrially, culturally, in every way. The East and Southern Asians have in the last few decades industrialized only thanks to that era, or they would still be starving rice farmers.

    Now that the US has gun boats like no one ever before, they should be used as the diplomatic tools which is the only way for the investment in them to be returned. That the US military doesn't make a huge profit for the US citizens, is a tremendous scandal! What do you think that the Romans lived off? Exporting safety could in itself balance the US trade deficit.

  • Sevo||

    So "Kinetic Military Action" isn't going to pass muster anymore? Everyone will agree that Obo was a war monger?

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Give war a chance. it's the health of failed states everywhere, and is, for that reason alone, quite fashionable in the first world, even among conceited posers like Obama.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    Trying to get everyone to agree on anything is as deluded and futile as trying to ending all wars.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    No shit. I'm glad you're here to educate us. No wonder I don't subscribe anymore.

  • Sanjuro Tsubaki||

    It's war, but with reduced fat.

  • Released||

    The point with the US only striking the Norks from Guam or from its aircraft carriers (to bomb its nuclear and missile capabilities and coal export ports), is that the Norks get to choose weather they want all out war with South Korea or not. Either they fire back at the US (the only limited option, but one that is not executable for technical reasons). Or they attack South Korea and gets extinguished (after South Korea has paid its price for not having created safety for its people). Or they do nothing and survives for another day, to planlessly see what Trump does next.

    Nork GDP is $18B. That's 1/6 of the cost of building a single one of the US 11 aircraft carriers. South Korea's GDP is 80 times higher. This conflict is created only by lack of political will to defend oneself. The South Koreans will pay that price for that democratically decided will of their own, and hopefully learn something from it for the future. Choosing to remain defenseless means being killed, and the injured survivors will live in poverty in the ruins AND they will have to pay for all of the reparations themselves, including reimbursing all of the expenses of, and the savior's fee to, their US protector. But Koreans' like it tough, that's how they entertain themselves, so let'em have it.

  • Released||

    I bet that this ends up within four years with a US puppet government in North Korea that threatens China with nuclear strikes everyday. Unless China pays them $200B a year for its continuing investments in nuclear weapons capabilities, NOKO will threaten to nuke China's 50 largest cities today. That's the kind of neighbor the Chinese will have created for themselves. The NOKO regime realizes that it cannot survive being an enemy of the US, but only by becoming its most obedient friend. And threatening China is, for pure technical and geographical reasons, NOKO's strongest bargaining chip. They can't hit the US. They don't like killing brother Koreans per se since they are all extreme nationalists. But they can kill a million in Beijing! How much is that worth?

  • CE||

    Was it war when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Because those were airstrikes.

  • Itchyvet||

    It's only war, if an American gets injured or killed. Anything else, is simply "maintaining our interests".

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