Frank Babb

Author & Adventurer

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Militarization, Electronic Spying, and Drone Warfare, Part 1

Several days ago I questioned our reliance on military action on foreign policy issues instead of seeking diplomatic solutions in the context of President Obama’s threat to “punish” Assad militarily for using chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war. The negative public opinion in our country and congressional opposition forced the President to explore – successfully it appears – a diplomatic alternative to bombing Syria.

Starting with our headstrong, blundering into war in Iraq, we seem to ignore the diplomatic implications and resulting adverse consequences of relying on military solutions for complex situations. Throughout our lives we have opportunities that seem attractive, legal, and affordable, yet after consideration we decide not to take advantage of because they may harm our personal or social values. So, we decide they’re “not the right thing” to do.

Among the nations of the world we have the largest and most powerful military forces on which we annually spend almost as much as the rest of the world together and the power to take any military action we wish to take. But does the power to do anything we want mean we should do it? Or, as in our personal lives, are there situations in our national life when other factors should restrain us from doing what we have the power to do at will?

Our mainline media seldom mention the Joint Special Operations Command (the “JSOC”) currently headed by Admiral William McRaven. This year he testified before the Senate Armed Services Committee that JOSC had forces operating in 92 different countries around the world. In 2010 the Washington Post reported that JOSC had expanded its operations from some 60 countries during the Bush administration to about 75 under President Obama, and Admiral McRaven’s testimony indicates a further 20% increase since 2010. In most instances these operations are approved, sometimes tacitly, by the governments of the countries hosting them. The operations conducted by the JOSC or in conjunction with the host countries’ forces create publicity in those and other countries that impacts our reputation. Drone killings in the Middle East, Pakistan, and Afghanistan, while tacitly approved by the host nations, inflame the local population and encourage scores of young people to become jihadists desiring to kill Americans. These military actions are successful, but are the views of the State Department and other presidential advisers considered in evaluating their overall costs and  consequences? Was our triumphant revenge when we killed Osama bin Laden worth the hundreds of millions, if not billions, of dollars spent on tracking him down and the hatred created in a new and dangerous generation of jihadists?

How would we feel and what would our position be if Russia or China had similar operations in 90 countries? In 1983 the Cubans building an international airport in Grenada gave President Reagan an excuse to invade that country. In 1954 buying arms from Czechoslovakia was the final wrongdoing committed by the democratically elected president of Guatemala resulting in our orchestrated removal of him from power.

I don’t think the last ten years of war have improved our nation’s position politically or economically.  How do you feel?

One Response to Militarization, Electronic Spying, and Drone Warfare, Part 1

  • Walter Hurley says:

    With regard to President Obama’s threat to respond militarily to Syria’s use of chemical weapons, it is curious that amidst all the related clamor, the legal basis for a threat or attack was largely missing from media commentaries.

    Chapter I, Article 2.4 of the Charter of the United Nations provides: “All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

    The UN Charter is a solemn treaty, and thus privileged by Article VI of our Constitution as the “supreme law of the land.” Given this clear language, how can we not conclude that President Obama, who had taught constitutional law at the University of Chicago Law School, violated the law by threatening the government of Syria with military attack? And how is it that when these threats or attacks occur, the UN prohibitions are always the elephant in the room? Do journalists have a blind spot about the U.S. committing illegal acts?

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I'm Frank Babb, author, traveler, and adventurer. I look forward to connecting with you!

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