No Pretense of Defense

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Time was when the United States went to pains to declare that its overseas military operations were either defensive or came at the behest of some country that was the victim of aggression and had called for our help. Often this was more pretense than reality, as with the Tonkin Gulf incident. But at least our leaders had the decency to make believe. Even the Persian Gulf war waged by Bush 41 had to wait for propaganda about the heartbreaking terror Saddam’s minions were inflicting on the innocent Kuwaitis.

No more. Merely displeasing our policy elites is now enough. President Clinton shattered the old self-defense paradigm with the bombing of Bosnia, then Kosovo, mounting what amounted to the invasion of a country that – though certainly reprehensible – had not ventured outside its own borders.

Bush has taken up the torch of imperial maintenance with enthusiasm. The two examples he mentioned of countries where U.s. forces are already involved or will be soon – the Philippines and Somalia – have only the most tenuous connection to international terrorism. The Abu Sayyaf group in the Philippines is a thoroughly nasty lot, engaged in kidnapping and extortion. But while it had some contact with al Qaeda in the middle 1990s, there’s almost no evidence of close contact between Abu Sayyaf and al Qaeda currently, and none at all that al Qaeda is somehow masterminding Abu Sayyaf, which has degenerated into something closer to a criminal gang clinging to a political pretext.

The same is true in Somalia. Certainly, this sad county suffers from organized crime, but there’s no widespread terror campaign and just a little contact with other terrorist groups overseas.

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