War, what is it good for? In America, the answer is that, much of the time, you’ll probably never know what it’s good for — or, in some cases, even notice that we’re at war. Right now, the U.S. is ever more deeply involved in significant conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Somalia, Libya, and increasingly Yemen — at least five ongoing wars in the Greater Middle East. Yet, in the midst of Election 2016, with the single exception of the long-proclaimed, long-awaited Iraqi-Kurdish offensive against Islamic State militants in the city of Mosul (with U.S. advisers on the frontlines and U.S. Apache helicopter crews in the air), the rest of our spreading military actions might as well be taking place on Mars.
The Taliban has recently attacked two Afghan cities and is gaining ground nationwide; Afghan military casualties have been soaring; and American planes and advisers have been let loose there in a fashion unseen since 2014. Neither presidential candidate has offered a peep on the subject, nor has there been a question about that now-15-year-old war in any of the “debates.” (They must be rigged!) In Syria, the U.S. air campaign continues, largely unnoticed, while Washington tries to broker a deal between the Turks and the Kurds (think Hatfields and McCoys) for an offensive to take ISIS’s “capital” Raqqa. (Good luck on that twosome working together!)
The New York Times recently described the expanding but under-the-radar American war against the al-Shabab terror movement in Somalia this way: “Hundreds of American troops now rotate through makeshift bases in Somalia, the largest military presence since the United States pulled out of the country after the ‘Black Hawk Down’ battle in 1993… It carries enormous risks — including more American casualties, botched airstrikes that kill civilians and the potential for the United States to be drawn even more deeply into a troubled country that so far has stymied all efforts to fix it.”
As for Libya — oh, yes, Washington is in action there, too, even if you never hear about it — the U.S. Air Force (drones, jets, and helicopters) has doubled its air strikes against ISIS militants in the last month: 163 of them. And, of course, there’s Yemen where the U.S. seems to be stumbling directly into a new war without the slightest notice to Congress or the American people. American destroyers have been responding to “missile attacks” that — shades of the Tonkin Gulf incident of the Vietnam War era — may or may not have happened by firing Tomahawk cruise missiles at targets in territory occupied by the Houthi rebels. This in a country already under siege from a brutal American-backed Saudi air campaign, significantly aimed at its impoverished civilian population, and wracked by an expanding al-Qaeda operation. Even what those destroyers are doing so close to the Yemeni coast is never discussed.
Add it all up and one classic TomDispatch question comes to mind: What could possibly go wrong? Especially since, as TomDispatch regular William Hartung points out today, it’s all sunshine when it comes to one great war-fighting fact: the Pentagon’s budget is already coming up roses and no matter who enters the Oval Office, it’s only going to get bigger. So buckle up that seat belt, it’s war, American-style, and taxpayer dollars to the horizon.