Stock prices for Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon and Northrop Grumman set all-time record highs last week as it became increasingly clear that President Obama was committed to a massive, sustained air war in Iraq and Syria.There's also the business of "training moderate rebels" whatever a moderate rebel might be. We do know the moderate rebels will be trained and armed in one of the world's most repressive and extremist countries.
U.S. officials said a critical component of the plan to train and equip the Syrian insurgents, who have received only modest American backing so far and have failed to coalesce into a potent fighting force, was the Saudis' willingness to allow use of their territory for the U.S. training effort.It's important to keep in mind that we're training and arming these people, in part, because we like to be able to say we're not putting very many "boots on the ground." This is good for morale because we aren't putting as many of our soldiers in harm's way.
"Now what we have is a commitment from the kingdom of Saudi Arabia ... to be a full partner with us in that effort, including by hosting that training program," a senior U.S. official told reporters in a conference call.
The Saudi decision came to light after Obama spoke by phone earlier in the day with Saudi King Abdullah.
But it's also good for business because of who we send instead of soldiers.
Analysts say hiring contractors is a way to avoid deploying such forces.
David Johnson, a former Army lieutenant colonel who is executive director of the Center for Advanced Defense Studies in Washington, said contractors aren’t considered “boots on the ground” in conflict zones.
“The government always seeks to minimize boots on the ground to reduce domestic political risk,” he said in an email. “The American people and media do not consider a paid contractor to represent them in the same way that they do a soldier.”
Using contractors, who, most studies show, are cheaper than soldiers, trims the official presence and still accomplishes the logistical and security objectives, he said.
Defense contractors have plenty of experience in Iraq. During the U.S. occupation, thousands of armed security contractors and support personnel worked alongside foreign and Iraqi troops to help stabilize the country.
That is good for business even if it means your business does only one thing.
Destroying what Obama calls the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant won’t create an effective and legitimate Iraqi state. It won’t restore the possibility of a democratic Egypt. It won’t dissuade Saudi Arabia from funding jihadists. It won’t pull Libya back from the brink of anarchy. It won’t end the Syrian civil war. It won’t bring peace and harmony to Somalia and Yemen. It won’t persuade the Taliban to lay down their arms in Afghanistan. It won’t end the perpetual crisis of Pakistan. It certainly won’t resolve the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
All the military power in the world won’t solve those problems. Obama knows that. Yet he is allowing himself to be drawn back into the very war that he once correctly denounced as stupid and unnecessary — mostly because he and his advisers don’t know what else to do. Bombing has become his administration’s default option.
Because it isn't necessary to "solve those problems" so much as it is to just make sure you get to stay in business.
Though the militants of ISIS would undoubtedly be horrified to think so, they are the spawn of Washington. Thirteen years of regional war, occupation, and intervention played a major role in clearing the ground for them. They may be our worst nightmare (thus far), but they are also our legacy—and not just because so many of their leaders came from the Iraqi army we disbanded, had their beliefs and skills honed in the prisons we set up (Camp Bucca seems to have been the West Point of Iraqi extremism), and gained experience facing US counterterror operations in the "surge" years of the occupation. In fact, just about everything done in the war on terror has facilitated their rise. After all, we dismantled the Iraqi army and rebuilt one that would flee at the first signs of ISIS's fighters, abandoning vast stores of Washington's weaponry to them. We essentially destroyed the Iraqi state, while fostering a Shia leader who would oppress enough Sunnis in enough ways to create a situation in which ISIS would be welcomed or tolerated throughout significant areas of the country.Probably, Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, Raytheon, Blackwater and Northrop Grumman know it as well. They've been in this business a long time. And it's still quite good to them.
When you think about it, from the moment the first bombs began falling on Afghanistan in October 2001 to the present, not a single US military intervention has had anything like its intended effect. Each one has, in time, proven a disaster in its own special way, providing breeding grounds for extremism and producing yet another set of recruitment posters for yet another set of jihadist movements. Looked at in a clear-eyed way, this is what any American military intervention seems to offer such extremist outfits—and ISIS knows it.