Saturday 2013-09-07

The Way of the Knife by Mark Mazzetti

Fairly straightforward historical account of the US's shift from conventional military and spy operations to a semi-unified tactical approach using drones and commando operations. In doing so, Mazzetti shows how the pain of failed attempts at detention facilities (Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, extraordinary rendition) shifted war tactics to prefer killing over capture.

This is a big topic, unfortunately Mazzetti can't hold back from making comments about matters he either trivializes or remains ignorant about:

  1. Target selection and authorization
    There is a process for this, Mazzetti just never gets around to discussing it and its pitfalls.
  2. Congressional oversight vs Security infrastructure
    Mazzetti complains that Congress has the authority but not the ability to quickly peer into the details of any operation or disbursement. Were it clear enough for someone from Congress to follow, it wouldn't be secure.
  3. Wherever the US security infrastructure turns its gaze, it throws lots of cash
    The US has a huge apparatus built up from dealing with the Soviets, with an equally huge budget. As it tries to pivot to handle new threats, it will fight to avoid downsizing, and it will ship money and arms to people it knows little about in order to avoid saying that it can't do anything about a threat right now. This destabilizes a region in ways similar to the corrosive influence of the US's drug policy on governance in Central and South America.

"How we apply lethal force, and where we apply lethal force -- that's a huge debate that we really haven't had," he said. "There seems to be no problem with a Hellfire shot against a designated enemy in a place like Afghanistan, the tribal areas of Pakistan, Somalia, or Yemen." In those places, he said, it seems like just another part of war.
But, he asked, what if a suspected terrorist is in a place like Paris, or Hamburg, or somewhere else where drones can't fly, "and you use a CIA or [military] operative on the ground to shoot him in the back of the head?"
"Then," he said, "it's viewed as an assassination."
-- Convergence
Rumsfeld had long been critical of the intelligence agency...
But now, in the midst of a new war, he realized he envied the spy agency's ability to send its operatives anywhere, at any time, without having to ask permission.
-- Rumsfeld's Spies
Me and my nation against the world. Me and my clan against my nation. Me and my family against the clan. Me and my brother against the family. Me against my brother. -- Somali Proverb
-- A War By Proxy
( No friends, No religions )