The present-day U.S. military qualifies by any measure as highly professional, much more so than its Cold War predecessor. Yet the purpose of today’s professionals is not to preserve peace but to fight unending wars in distant places. Intoxicated by a post-Cold War belief in its own omnipotence, the United States allowed itself to be drawn into a long series of armed conflicts, almost all of them yielding unintended consequences and imposing greater than anticipated costs. Since the end of the Cold War, U.S. forces have destroyed many targets and killed many people. Only rarely, however, have they succeeded in accomplishing their assigned political purposes. . . . [F]rom our present vantage point, it becomes apparent that the “Revolution of ‘89” did not initiate a new era of history. At most, the events of that year fostered various unhelpful illusions that impeded our capacity to recognize and respond to the forces of change that actually matter.

Andrew Bacevich

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Update for Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Three U.S. citizens kidnapped in Baghdad in January are released. While details of the incident have yet to be revealed, it is being interpreted as a power play by a Shiite militia, demonstrating defiance of the government.

Baghdad government proposes to pay salaries of Kurdish government workers on condition that Kurdistan stop its independent sale of oil. One wonders whether Kurdish secession can happen if oil prices do not rebound.

Iraqi forces launch an offensive to retake Hamidiya, east of Ramadi.

IS said to have attacked Kurdish forces with mustard gas last year. Of course, that's probably no worse than blowing people up or shooting them, but it is currently against international conventions. It is not clear whether the weapons came from an overlooked Syrian government stockpile, or if the militants have the capacity to manufacture them.

Azam Ahmed reports for the NY Times that Afghan government is complicit in opium growing. He says that local officials tax the opium crop just as the Taliban do, and that revenues are kicked up the hierarchy to Kabul.

In other news in the annals of good government, Defense Department officials are hopeful that by the end of this year they’ll be paying for salaries of only Afghan soldiers who actually exist. Lest we forget, the Afghan government does not pay for its own army, U.S. taxpayers do. Salaries of "ghost soldiers" are pocketed by officers.