Obama’s ‘light footprint’ masks a war fueling deep hatred of the U.S.

Since President Obama was re-elected on November 6, there have been 15 drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen, including five strikes since New Year’s Day. This is the White House’s definition of a “light footprint” — a euphemism designed to imply that if the United States refrains from sending armies of occupation to foreign lands, then its military impact on the rest of the world is fundamentally benign.

Neoconservatives who seem to prefer the blunt force of American power and have a nostalgia for “shock and awe” are not impressed with light footprints. The idea that Obama employs a light touch seems designed to appeal to mainstream Democrats who like to believe that if America’s military actions pose no risk to American troops, then America is not at war. Drone strikes can continue, largely ignored by the press, and a public happy to remain ignorant can delude itself that the only people getting killed are “bad guys” and that Obama has a smarter approach to national security than his predecessor.

Assuming their nominations are confirmed, the two new pillars of Obama’s national security policy, John Brennan and Chuck Hagel, will likely further reinforce Obama’s approach which has much more to do with method than doctrine. Hagel will ensure that the troops stay at home while Brennan sends the drones overseas, effectively placing a light footprint on American consciousness and fostering an illusion of peace.

In an interview with Reuters, retired General Stanley McChrystal, who devised the U.S. counterinsurgency strategy in Afghanistan, voiced his concerns about the Obama administration’s practice of remote warfare.

“What scares me about drone strikes is how they are perceived around the world,” he said in an interview. “The resentment created by American use of unmanned strikes … is much greater than the average American appreciates. They are hated on a visceral level, even by people who’ve never seen one or seen the effects of one.”

McChrystal said the use of drones exacerbates a “perception of American arrogance that says, ‘Well we can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.'”

Drones should be used in the context of an overall strategy, he said, and if their use threatens the broader goals or creates more problems than it solves, then you have to ask whether they are the right tool.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reports: CIA drones killed up to 12 people near Mir Ali, North Waziristan, hours after President Obama announced his nominee for Director of the Agency was John Brennan, his chief counterterrorism advisor and a leading proponent of the drone programme. It was the fourth CIA drone attack in 2013 and the fifth in 12 days. If reports are correct it is the third consecutive attack on a TTP compound. However there were conflicting accounts of the strike. Several agencies said a single target was hit, with Associated Press reporting several missiles ‘slammed into a compound near the Afghan border’ killing eight. However multiple sources said targets in different villages were hit in quick succession. The first strike hit Khasso Khel shortly after midnight, according to Xinhua. Five were killed when eight missiles ‘completely levelled’ a building that subsequently caught fire. Witnesses said the casualty count could rise as they feared people were trapped in the rubble.

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4 thoughts on “Obama’s ‘light footprint’ masks a war fueling deep hatred of the U.S.

  1. Ian F Clark

    Considering Pakistani sensitivities and interests in preserving the Taliban. That is, not allowing US troops to perform hot-pursuit into Pakistan territory, or shouldering the burden themselves, making sweeps of Waziristan territory and through ISI, telegraphing their intent, I can understand why the administration has elected for drone-strikes.

    Similarly in Temen, where a weak government is unable to assert control over the radicals in Marib and Hadramaut, and sensitivities disallow US troops in a tribal battlefield, drones are expedient.

    As for robotic warfare being hated on a visceral level, get used to it people. We use robots for all kinds of warfare already, often with a human in the loop. The frustrating part for the people on the receiving end is that drones are an effective answer to their advantage of asymmetric warfare.

    I discount McChrystal’s opinion as he has an axe to grind, as do many of the Neo-cons. As for the bleeding hearts, give them flack-jackets, a ‘303, and draft them to Helmand for a stint.

  2. BillVZ

    Ian Clark ,
    The content of your opinion comment does show how you can understand why the administration has elected for drone-strikes. And other readers can by the same token understand your views for making them. Your comments are not new but certainly expressed in an interesting –all be it with rather delusional insight to those not imbued with the military mind set.
    McChrystal may have an axe to grind, as do you and the others of the robotic war fare set. An appreciation of drones as a field leveler in the tribal battlefields to justify the results of their civilian carnage and with a ‘get used to it” call to drone-bomb more says a lot about you. You have passed over the tens of thousands of well documented civilian casualties already caused by American military force in the Muslim world which causes extreme anti-American blowback. The bleeding hearts need not be sent to Helmond or anywhere else as they believe that the U.S. has no business in that nation –period. The military should not be responsible for the protection of Planet Earth or in promoting ‘democracy’ of the Empire.

  3. Ian F Clark

    The US has every business to be in Afghanistan as it was from there that the attacks on the WTC emenated. Of course that ignores the fact that seventeen of the plane hijackers we’re Saudi, but we can’t beat up on our major oil partner because of a few miscreants.
    It was Iraq in which we had no place, the result of which is a semi-independent Kurdistan and Iran possessing the luxury of a land bridge to supply Syria and Hezbollah with their military requirements.

    Of course it was US blundering which, in supporting Saddam Hussein in the Iran/Iraq war days, was intended to punish the Iranians for having thrown out the Shah and taken over our embassy for over a year. Remember, we overthrew their chosen Mussadeq. we had thwarted their democracy, supported an Iraqi tyrant, overthrew him, killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis…oh…and supported the Bantustanization of Palestine.

    …and you say I have passed over tens of thousands of civilian casualties — I assume in Afghanistan? Unfortunately, the initial thrust of throwing out the Taliban and AlQueda degenerated into a slugfest in which Karzai, the mayor of Kabul presided over corruption, the Pakistanis were duplicitous, and the Afghan forces incompetent. It was a lost cause. Using drones and killing AlQueda leaders was the clearest of all the tactics employed.

    The US is genuinely hated in the region, but not for drones. You just need to consider our blundering, supporting the Israeli apartheid state, ignoring justice in Bahrain and Saudi, our duplicitous actions in Iraq, and our being the root cause of the Iranian problem.

    Afghanistan will return to Taliban rule before long while we, like the British and Russians, will fade away. It has not been a question of empire, more of ill-educated blundering, the most incisive tactic if which has been drone warfare.

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