Notes on Military Planning

Thanks to Nick Mottern and KnowDrones.com for publishing my notes from a talk I had planned to give a few months ago on the future of US military operations. Unfortunately I was unable to deliver these notes at the conference due to health issues, but Nick published them in the most recent KnowDrones.com bulletin and I have pasted them below. They primarily concern future US military operations in North Africa, the Middle East and Central Asia, but also pertain to other parts of the globe, particularly Africa and potentially the Philippines. One additional thing to note and consider is the high degree of unmanned or drone systems being sold to other nations which will enable those countries to conduct autonomous and remote killing in the (near) future just as we, the United States, do now.

Additionally, below the notes, is an example of the type of television commercials that Nick and KnowDrones produce and run in areas near US Air Force drone command bases urging drone pilots and crew members to listen to and follow their consciences.

NOTES ON U.S. MILITARY PLANNING

In the notes below, prepared for the Conference on U.S. Foreign Military Bases, held in January in Baltimore, Matt Hoh https://matthewhoh.com/ outlines what we can expect from Pentagon planners, and the role of drones, in the evolving U.S. scheme for war on the down low.  These notes, edited slightly for clarity, provide a context for forthcoming bulletin articles dealing more specifically with drone war.

-My concern is where the US military presence is headed in the Greater Middle East, and Muslim world: Less footprint, greater use of remote or standoff (U.S.- based) attack measures, satellite/space based resources and the use of proxy forces to do the killing and destruction.

-Major bases such as the CENTCOM headquarters in Qatar and the Naval headquarters in Bahrain will remain. Necessary for headquarters staff, refueling and logistics, and as a command hub for operations.

-Necessity of and reliance on other bases outside Greater Middle East will grow.  Variety of reasons, but technological limitations and environmental limitations, such as that atmospheric and curvature of the earth issues limit relay of communications. For example, drone strikes in Middle East that are controlled by Air Force and CIA in  the U.S. are not possible without relay station at Ramstein Air Base in Germany, see Norman Solomon’s article on this in The Nationhttps://www.thenation.com/article/the-most-important-us-air-force-base-youve-never-heard-of/or consult drone whistleblowers like Cian Westmoreland or Lisa Ling. Larger bases outside of Middle East are and will be greater utilized for warehousing and basing of equipment, supplies, munitions and personnel. “Just in time” utilization of logistics allow for lower footprint.

-Exception is example of basing of American combat troops in Kuwait that can be quickly, and secretly, sent into Syria and Iraq. Will see more of this type of pre-positioning of combat soldiers. Keeps deployments quieter, i.e. when troops leave US bases they are going for training and potential peacekeeping” in a country not at war, so less media attention/scrutiny (not like there is much anyway)

-Defer to Bruce Gagnon http://www.space4peace.org/and Will Griffin http://thepeacereport.com/on the following, but continued development of long-range drones and space-based weaponry will limit requirement of drone and manned warplanes stationed in Middle East. Drones will ultimately be able to be launched from bases outside of Middle East, including from the U.S., and be able to orbit/stay on station for 24 hours or longer. Allows for permanent presence of drones overhead and ready to drop bombs/missiles. Space-based weaponry is becoming a reality, particularly with increase in funding and development and desire to have weapons always ready to be dropped on people and buildings without needing aircraft or drones. Also, these cannot be shot down by forces in Middle East or interfered with as easily through electronic countermeasures. New generation of very fast, long-range missiles will be able to be launched from the U.S. to hit and kill in the Middle East.

-Current drone bases are being constructed outside of Middle East in Africa, bases are limited in size and scope, small personnel and size footprint, in areas away from population, they are hidden. Eventually these bases won’t be needed but will be necessary for next ten years or so.

-Construction of new aircraft carriers and submarines emphasize American commitment to utilizing sea-based air and missile attacks. As well as continued use of Marine forces based on ships that can be flown in and out of combat. Such Marine forces have been utilized in Syria and Iraq, particularly to provide artillery and missile attacks. Easy to insert and take out, they are considered “temporary” and are kept away from populations, not meant to be occupation forces. Also, special operations forces based on ships for raids, such as we have seen in Yemen, Somalia, Libya, etc. They fly in by helicopter and murder or kidnap as needed. Persons who are seized are kept aboard US ships to avoid acknowledgment or legal issues.

-Use of proxy forces, whether allied governments: Iraqi army and militias in Tigris and Euphrates River valleys, decimated Iraqi cities and people, and Saudi and UAE forces in Yemen destroying all infrastructure, blockading medical, fuel and food supplies, and causing starvation and disease; or proxy non-government forces such as rebels and Kurdish troops throughout Syria, or militia forces in Libya. Also utilizing outside nations to intervene such as Kenyan, Ugandan and Ethiopian forces in Somalia. Goes into larger shift in American military policies in Muslim world, to simply subjugate and punish people and areas not receptive to American hegemony rather than utilizing political, economic, diplomatic measures to control populations and regions (can speak later on this shift in Trump policy as opposed to Obama/Bush policies in Q&A)

-American forces are of course with these proxies, they help to train, and go on missions. For example, U.S. commandos took part in over 2000 missions in first six months of 2017 in Afghanistan. However, they don’t have their own bases and won’t be doing occupation. They will remain “hidden” from populations as much as possible.

-With exception of the Army, all three services, plus the CIA, gain from these shifts and lower US footprint in Middle East/Muslim world. Army of course gets it due prominence and money in Europe with Russia hysteria and in Korea.

-This reduces US presence in Middle East to a smaller level, allows U.S. forces more flexibility, and lowers the cost. It makes the generals and admirals appear smarter and concerned with the impact of U.S. military in Middle East, however it still deals the same, or greater levels of death, destruction and chaos to the people of the region.

-With understanding of importance of U.S.- located bases to operations in Middle East, how the killing, the pulling of the trigger, is done from the U.S., more actions against U.S. bases located in US, as well as working with partners in other countries, such as Germany, to shut down and limit operations, particularly pushing illegality and unconstitutionally of much of this killing. Although I urge more direct action, to include physical disruption of military operations in order to save lives.

Thoughts on Yemen and the Middle East

Here are some of my thoughts on Yemen and our foreign policy in general in the Middle East:

Institute for Public Accuracy:

“You don’t have to be an expert on Yemen, the Middle East, Islam or foreign policy in general to realize that what is occurring in Yemen is similar to what is occurring throughout the Greater Middle East. Decades of American interventionist policy, that can be at best be described as inept meddling, with roots going back to the overthrow of the democratically elected government of Iran in 1953 and the establishment of the Shah’s authoritarian police state, have created, fostered and sustained sectarian, ethnic and religious conflicts that have birthed repressive regimes, extremist terror groups and genocidal civil wars throughout the Middle East. Yemen is one more glaring example of failed American policy in the Middle East, perhaps all the more tragic and absurd as Yemen was cited as an example of success by President Obama when he authorized his seventh bombing of a Muslim nation, Syria, last year.”

Inter Press News Service:

“I don’t know if Yemen will split in two or not. [But] I believe the greater fear is that Yemen descends into mass chaos with violence among many factions as we are seeing in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya and Syria, all nations that have been the recipient of interventionist U.S. foreign policy.”

“Based upon the results from decades of U.S. influence in trying to pick winners and losers in these countries or continuing to play the absurd geopolitical game of backing one repressive theocracy, Saudi Arabia, against another, Iran, in proxy wars, the best thing for the Yemenis is for the Americans not to meddle or to try and pick one side against the other.”

American foreign policy in the Middle East, he said, can already be labeled a disaster, most especially for the people of the Middle East.

“The only beneficiaries of American policy in the Middle East have been extremist groups, which take advantage of the war, the cycles of violence and hate, to recruit and fulfill their message and propaganda, and American and Western arms companies that are seeing increased profits each year,” said Hoh, who has served with the U.S. Marine Corps in Iraq and on U.S. embassy teams in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Iraq War Veterans Should Know Better

With my friend and fellow Iraq War vet, Matt Southworth, in The Hill:

We read with disappointment the comments in The Hill (Iraq vets on Hill call for stronger response to ISIS, August 17, 2014), by Reps. Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.) on the ongoing civil wars in Iraq and Syria and the accompanying desire by many in Congress, including Gabbard and Kinzinger, to re-enter the United States militarily into the middle of the Iraq Civil War.

Rather than promote stability and resolution to the conflicts that rage in the Middle East, expanded U.S. engagement—a brand new war for Americans—will only harden the resolve of the extremists, drive those looking for security into the clutches of these groups and further entrench the dynamics of the broader conflict.

While we have both become accustomed to the short-sighted advocacy of politicians towards the deployment of American bombs and troops to crises overseas, our disappointment, in this case, results from Gabbard and Kinzinger’s biographies as veterans of America’s war in Iraq. Simply put, both Gabbard and Kinzinger should know better.
As combat veterans ourselves, we experienced first-hand the failure of United States’ policies in the Middle East—policies that in our lifetimes have been nearly exclusively military in their orientation, make-up and execution. Not surprisingly, the result of these policies has been greater conflict and less stability across the Middle East.

That there is no evidence of the American military-first policy in the Middle East bearing positive outcomes over the long term is clear. While there may be examples of limited achievement, such as the removal of Saddam Hussein’s forces from Kuwait in 1991, such events are temporary and ephemeral in their impact. Similarly, current calls to action in Syria and Iraq must be viewed and measured against the totality of the civil wars in both countries.

The U.S. cannot wash its hands of millions of dead, injured and displaced Iraqis created since its 2003 invasion. Re-entering the Iraqi Civil War, or the broader regional war, under the guise of civilian protection is a course of action that will only exacerbate the violence. The Islamic State is actually quite small. Their strength comes from the support of the Iraq Sunni population, who, often as a measure of self-preservation, align Islamic State. American bombs will only further this cycle.

Entering the conflict on behalf of the Kurds, as promoted by Gabbard, (and coincidentally, the one million dollar a year Kurdish lobby industry in Washington, DC) in order to help the Kurds protect the oil-rich territory they hold would put the United States, again, into direct combat with non-Kurdish Sunni and Shia communities throughout Iraq.

Such combat will not force the political compromise necessary for the reduction and eventual cessation of violence, but will make such a compromise much less likely. Why would the Kurds be inclined to make concessions while they enjoy robust US military support and greater autonomy from Shia governed Iraq?

Kinzinger’s suggestion of “all options on the table”, which includes putting young Americans back into Iraq, is even more problematic. Groups like the Islamic State, as well as Muqtada al-Sadr’s Shia militias, will realize a recruitment windfall if foreign troops re-enter Iraq and American troops will once again find themselves trying to pick winners and losers in a foreign land. After 4,486 US casualties in Iraq, is one more American life worth this fight?

The Islamic State is barbaric and heinous, but, as veterans of the war in Iraq, we can attest that all sides in that conflict, all ethnicities and sects, have been brutalized, tortured and murdered. Events unfolding today are the latest in thirteen years of mass atrocities in Iraq and the result of nearly a quarter of a century of US military led policies there. If a political solution is not found, one that is inclusive to all sects and groups within Iraq, then, most surely, more atrocities will occur.

A re-introduction of American troops into Iraq to fight the Islamic State will find American boots once again in the middle of fighting Iraqis. Continued arming, funding and training of all warring parties in the Middle East by international and regional powers will only continue to undermine any long term prospect for peace and stability.

To advocate American military involvement again in Iraq simply makes no sense. By advocating for such, Gabbard and Kinzinger fail in their responsibilities not just as elected leaders, but also as veterans of the Iraq War.

Hoh is a senior fellow at the Center for International Policy. Southworth is the Major Gifts officer for the Friends Committee on National Legislation. Both men are Iraq War veterans.