Friday, August 13, 2004

 

Wolfowitz, Pentagon want $500 million to build network of "friendly" foreign militias

Why have I not heard more about this in the US press? Here are two reports from foreign newspapers: The Straits Times, The Manila Times. The Daily Star reports that:
the weirdness meter is bursting through the roof in Washington this week - to judge by the Pentagon's proposal to Congress to provide $500 million to build a network of friendly militias around the world to purge terrorists from "ungoverned areas." The man who pressed this case before Congress earlier this week was Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz, a key architect of the Iraq war and the wider neoconservative ideology that underpins it. The rationale behind this idea is that conventional American armed forces - despite their impressive technical prowess, political will and human determination - cannot fight or win wars against small bands of irregular guerrillas or terrorists who find sanctuary in remote regions in lands like Afghanistan, Pakistan or Yemen. Smaller local militias, this thinking goes, would have a better chance of fighting such battles and winning such wars.
This is sick. I think that Rumsfeld and Wolfowitz et. al. have had enough of the US government trying to make the US military "play by the rules." The easiest solution? Funnel money to armed groups that have no state oversight and can do as they please. The Daily Star rightly points out:
The United States has funded and used such militias for years, including legitimate patriots but also criminal gangs and terrorists in places like Central America and Asia. The most embarrassing example of this strategy was the American funding and support for the Afghan jihadists who fought with Osama bin Laden against the Soviet Union in the 1980s. Lesson: funding and using foreign militias is a short-sighted strategy because these groups take on a life of their own and they use Washington as much as it uses them. They can develop into organizational Frankensteins that turn against their masters, and in the end they do more harm than good.
Even if they don't turn against us they can still wreak horrific damage to the countries that they operate in. A look at Latin America offers a pretty clear illustration. The Daily Star chalks the effort up to desperation in the Pentagon, but says:
Desperation is a poor driver of a great power's global strategy, and Wolfowitz and his Pentagon colleagues would do well to explore other routes to reach their reasonable objective: rooting out terrorists and making the world a safer place. A better approach than promoting militias that often verge on the edge of criminality and lawlessness is, rather, to affirm the rule of law and the universal application of a single standard of legality and legitimacy. This can be done by Washington implementing all UN resolutions with equal vigor, supporting democrats instead of tyrants in Asia and the Middle East, and, most importantly, promoting the rule of law in our lands instead of funding lawlessness in the form of militias.

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