A Real-Life War Novel With No Plot and No End

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TomDispatch.com

A Real-Life War Novel With No Plot and No End

If all goes as planned, it will be the happiest of wartimes in the U.S.A.  Only the best of news, the killing of the baddest of the evildoers, will ever filter back to our world.

After all, American war is heading for the “shadows” in a big way.  As news articles have recently made clear, the tip of the Obama administration’s global spear will increasingly be shaped from the ever-growing ranks of U.S. special operations forces.  They are so secretive that they don’t like their operatives to be named, so covert that they instruct their members, as Spencer Ackerman of Wired’s Danger Room blog notes, “not to write down important information, lest it be vulnerable to disclosure under the Freedom of Information Act.”  By now, they are also a force that, in any meaningful sense, is unaccountable for its actions.

Although the special ops crew (66,000 people in all) exist on our tax dollars, we’re really not supposed to know anything about what they’re doing -- unless, of course, they choose the publicity venue themselves, whether in Pakistan knocking off Osama bin Laden or parachuting onto Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard to promote Act of Valor.  In case you somehow missed the ads, that’s the new film about “real terrorist threats based on true stories starring actual Navy SEALs.” (No names in the credits please!)

Of course, those elite SEAL teams are johnnies-come-lately when compared to their no less secretive “teammates” in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Somalia -- our ever increasing armada of drones.  Those robotic warriors of the air (or at least their fantasy doppelgangers) were, of course, pre-celebrated -- after a fashion -- in the Terminator movies.  In Washington’s global battle zones, what’s called our “traditional combat role” -- think big invasions, occupations, counterinsurgency -- is going, going, gone with the wind, even evidently in Afghanistan by 2013.  War American-style is instead being inherited by secretive teams of men and machines, both hunter-killers who specialize in assassination operations, and both of whom, as presented to Americans, just couldn’t be sexier.

And we’ll all be just so happy -- as a recent poll indicates we are -- with our robotic warriors and their shadowy special ops teammates, if with nothing else in our fraying world.  They present such an alluring image of the no-pain, all-gain battlefield and are undoubtedly a relief for many Americans, distinctly tired -- so the polls also tell us -- of wars that aren’t covert and don’t work.  So who even notices that, as Andrew Bacevich points out in his latest piece, “Scoring the Global War on Terror,” we’re being plunged into a real-life war novel that has no plot and no end.  How post-modern!  How disastrous, if only we have the patience to wait! 

Tom Engelhardt

Tom Engelhardt, co-founder of the American Empire Project, runs the Nation Institute's TomDispatch.com. His latest book, co-authored with Nick Turse, is Terminator Planet: The First History of Drone Warfare, 2001-2050. His other most recent book is The United States of Fear (Haymarket Books). Previous books include: The End of Victory Culture: a History of the Cold War and Beyond, The American Way of War: How Bush's Wars Became Obama's, as well as of a novel, The Last Days of Publishing.  To stay on top of important articles like these, sign up to receive the latest updates from TomDispatch.com here.

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