American militarism has gone off the rails – and this middling career officer should have seen it coming. Earlier in this century, the US military not surprisingly focused on counterinsurgency as it faced various indecisive and seemingly unending wars across the Greater Middle East and parts of Africa. Back in 2008, when I was still a captain newly returned from Iraq and studying at Fort Knox, Kentucky, our training scenarios generally focused on urban combat and what were called security and stabilization missions. We’d plan to assault some notional city center, destroy the enemy fighters there, and then transition to pacification and ‘humanitarian’ operations.
Of course, no one then asked about the dubious efficacy of ‘regime change’ and ‘nation building,’ the two activities in which our country had been so regularly engaged. That would have been frowned upon. Still, however bloody and wasteful those wars were, they now look like relics from a remarkably simpler time. The US Army knew its mission then (even if it couldn’t accomplish it) and could predict what each of us young officers was about to take another crack at: counterinsurgency in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Fast-forward eight years – during which this author fruitlessly toiled away in Afghanistan and taught at the US Military Academy in West Point, New York – and the US military ground presence has significantly decreased in the Greater Middle East, even if its wars there remain ‘ infinite .’