With a considerable budget, the U.S. is today active in more than 75 countries. (Courtesy New America Media)
José de la Isla
Hispanic Link via New America Media Op-ed
Traducción al español
MEXICO CITY — Opinion pieces appeared in two of this city’s daily newspapers that would not normally reach U.S. audiences and are worth mentioning.
One by Luís Gutiérrez Esparza, appearing Dec. 28 in the Excelsior newspaper, recaps disclosures that have been trickling out about U.S. military policy since last year. Gutiérrez Esparza reminds readers that the Washington Post had disclosed during mid-2011 that the Obama government intensified a secret war on hostile countries and organizations.
With a considerable budget, the U.S. is today active in more than 75 countries, 15 greater than in 2009. Investigative reporter Jeremy Scahill wrote that the Obama administration has sent special forces units to Iran, Georgia, Ukraine, Bolivia, Paraguay, Ecuador, Peru, Yemen, Pakistan, the Philippines, and since 2006 to Venezuela, Colombia and Mexico.
We have, of course, already been massaged into understanding our military policy is gearing up for new kinds of engagements, should they become necessary. The new policy is asynchronous, which means confronting the adversary on the same basis it operates. Who or what comprises the opposition, and the method of engagement is situational. In this world, the military can do police actions and police do military work. Aid workers (like USAID, National Endowment for Democracy, Freedom House) serve as leverage.
Last May, Gutiérrez Esparza, who heads the think-tank Latin American Circle of International Studies (CLAEI, by its Spanish initials), said a German authority had revealed that NATO had 29 Latin American military bases, stretching from El Paso, Texas, to Tierra del Fuego, just above Antarctica.
Ten of these bases are reportedly secret, details even kept from some national congresses. Sixteen of the 29 are U.S. The number of U.S. soldiers deployed is secret.
The UK maintains three bases in the Falklands, South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands. The U.S. air base in Palanqueto, Colombia, is a point of departure to Africa. Honduras, Panama and El Salvador also have bases.
But all of this preparation for war is like saddling a horse backwards. You can’t get to where you’re going that way. Which brings up Farid Kahhat’s thought piece in Reforma’s Dec. 31 edition, which focuses on interventions by great powers.
In fact, wars are actually diminishing, he says, due to UN peace missions. In a cost-benefit calculation, the average intervention costing $8.5 billion saves $18 to $75 billion when the mission alone is nation-building.
He notes a Rand Corporation study that shows that eight peace-keeping UN missions attained a sustainable peace in seven. Meanwhile, of eight U.S. led interventions only four led to a sustainable peace. The entire cost of UN peace missions since the end of the Cold War up to 2005 came to the equivalent of one month’s cost of the Iraq occupation.
The reasons causing conflict need to be factored in. They include poverty, economic and social inequality, and changes in regimes giving rise to “anocracies,” countries where lack of central authority causes a power vacuum, which is taken up by competing elites, warlords, pirates and criminals.
The announced strategy and budget changes in military policy by President Obama and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta are driven by the need both see to save about $450 billion over 10 years and the ending of the U.S. interventions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Still, even with a new “asynchronous” strategy and new sights set on the Pacific and Asia, there are limits to what violence accomplishes. Sometimes it takes a UN posse, economics and most of all, strategic intelligence — not breaking the bank — to accomplish what it was believed only a John Wayne could do.
The two opinion pieces seem to urge a comprehension of the limits of power. This mirrors the message espoused by one-time ranking Arkansas U.S. Senator and Foreign Policy Committee Chairman J. William Fulbright, who wrote about the issue in 1967 and named his book, “The Arrogance of Power.”
José de la Isla, a nationally syndicated columnist for Hispanic Link and Scripps Howard news services, has been recognized for two consecutive years for his commentaries by New America Media. His forthcoming book is “Our Man on the Ground.” Previous books include “DAY NIGHT LIFE DEATH HOPE” (2009) and “The Rise of Hispanic Political Power” (2003). Reach him at email@example.com.