I hope I wasn’t the only one startled last year when U.S. and British forces suddenly blitzed Libya with more than 100 Tomahawk missiles and other shock-and-awe stuff, a barrage that presaged the overthrow of Moammar Gadhafi.
Last April, another surprise: Someone in the Obama administration deigned to inform the public that the U.S. Army had boots on the ground in the Central African Republic, where special forces are hunting for warlord Joseph Kony.
Only 100 pairs of boots, but live American soldiers fighting in a poorly understood foreign country nonetheless. (There had to be only 100 pairs of U.S. boots in Vietnam at some point, right? I happen to know that some savvy combat soldiers at Joint Base Lewis-McChord are getting nervous.)
Now I read in The Washington Post that the military is operating a network of piloted spy planes across Africa’s midriff, whose surveillance flights are sometimes followed by drone attacks.
I’m not necessarily questioning the wisdom of any one of these particular mini- and micro-wars, but they do seem to be proliferating without a lot of public debate or even disclosure. I wasn’t surprised when Clinton started bombing Serbia, nor when Bush sent troops into Afghanistan and Iraq – Americans were already arguing about those military adventures, which (in theory) is what’s supposed to happen in a democracy.
The United States reportedly has a military presence in more than 100 countries. Ron Paul – who doesn’t like military presences in foreign countries – puts the number at 130, counting the places that don’t want anyone to know they’re in cahoots with the American infidels, yanquis, imperialists, etc.
This isn’t mission creep, exactly, because that implies a single mission getting out of control. It’s more like keeping gerbils: One day there’s two, next day there’s more than you can count. A president has to do some things – like nailing Osama – without advance notice. For the most part, though, the public ought to be kept in the loop before the gerbil gets pregnant.