One has to wonder just how much longer the American people will silently permit the categorical failure of American foreign policy, both in theory and in practice. The evidence confirming the totality of our failure is breathtaking in scope and severity. Changes are needed to preserve US national security and economic prosperity.
Recent headlines have captured the character of this failure. Fifteen years after the invasion of Afghanistan, the Special Inspector General for Afghan Reconstruction (SIGAR) released findings that “corruption substantially undermined the U.S. mission in Afghanistan from the very beginning of Operation Enduring Freedom. … We conclude that failure to effectively address the problem means U.S. reconstruction programs, at best, will continue to be subverted by systemic corruption and, at worst, will fail.”
Earlier this month, a British Parliament study found that the result of Western military intervention in Libya “was political and economic collapse, inter-militia and inter-tribal warfare, humanitarian and migrant crises, widespread human rights violations, the spread of Gaddafi regime weapons across the region and the growth of ISIL in North Africa.”
Airstrikes and drone attacks are accidentally killing thousands of civilians, aid workers, wedding parties and now even the troops of a nation against whom we are not at war. Each of these mistakes, repeated hundreds of times over the past 15 years, creates more antagonism and hatred of the United States than any other single event. Whatever tactical benefit some of the strikes do accomplish, they are consumed in the still-worsening strategic failure the misfires cause.
Bottom line: The use of military power since 2001 has
Turned a previously whole and regionally impotent Iraq that balanced Iran into a factory of terrorism and a client of Tehran
Turned Afghanistan from a country with a two-sided civil war – contained within its own borders – into a dysfunctional state that serves as a magnet for terrorists
Turned a Libya that suffered internal unrest, but didn’t threaten its neighbours or harbour terrorists, into an “unmitigated failure” featuring a raging civil war, serving as an African beachhead for the Islamic State and a terrorist breeding ground
Contributed to the expansion of al-Qaeda into a “franchise” group, spawned a new strain when the Islamic State was born out of the vacuum created by our Iraq invasion, and seen major terrorist threats explode worldwide
Joined other nations in battles in Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and other areas within Africa, whose only result has been the expansion of the threat and the deepening of the suffering of the civil populations
These continued and deepening failures kill unknown numbers of innocent civilians each year, intensify and spread the hatred many have of America and incrementally weaken our national security. But these military failures have another, less obvious but more troubling cost.
Perpetual fighting dissipates the fighting strength of the armed forces. The non-stop employment of the US Air Force in flying sorties, bombing runs and strategic airlift has been orders of magnitude higher than what it was in the 15 years prior to 9/11, dramatically cutting short the lifespan of each aircraft, increasing the maintenance requirements and depleting stocks of bombs and missiles.
The US Army and Marine Corps have put thousands of miles of gruelling use on their tanks and other armoured vehicles and worn out countless weapons. The refurbishing and replacement costs for these vehicles have been enormous, and – like the Air Force – the Army has severely shortened the lifespan of its armoured fleet. But not only have these permanent military operations degraded the vehicles, the damage has come at the expense of conventional military training.
This might be the most alarming cost. The Army has recognised this problem and has belatedly begun to reorient some of the training time to high-end conventional battle. But it will take many years of focused training to rebuild the strength the military had prior to Desert Storm or even the opening operations of Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003.
Entire generations of leaders and troops at every level have grown up training almost exclusively on small-scale counterinsurgency (COIN) warfare.
As one who has fought in both high-end armoured warfare and small-scale COIN, I can tell you that creating effective battle units for conventional war is far, far more difficult and time-consuming.
Likewise, the Air Force has not fought against a modern adversary with fleets of effective fighter jets, bombers and potent air defence capabilities. Such operations are orders of magnitude more difficult than attacking insurgents on the ground who pose no threat to aircraft.
It is critical to understand that no insurgency or terror group represents an existential threat to viability of the United States. Failure in a conventional battle to a major power, however, can cripple the nation.
It is discouraging to see the administration, Congress and the Department of Defence fully tethered to the perpetual application of military power against small-scale threats. Terrorism definitely represents a threat to US interests, and we must defend against it. But the obsession with using major military assets on these relatively small-scale threats has not only failed to stem the threat, it has in part been responsible for expanding it. Meanwhile, the unhealthy focus on the small-scale has weakened – and continues to weaken – our ability to respond to the truly existential threats.
If the incoming administration does not recognise this deterioration of the military power and take steps to reverse it, the weakness may one day be exposed in the form of losing a major military engagement that we should have won easily. The stakes couldn’t be higher. A change in foreign policy is critically needed. Either change by choice or the change in the smouldering aftermath of catastrophic military failure.
Written By – Daniel L. Davis is a foreign-policy fellow and military expert at Defense Priorities. He retired from the U.S. Army as a lieutenant colonel after 21 years of active service. He was deployed into combat zones four times in his career, beginning with Operation Desert Storm in 1991, and also to Iraq in 2009 and Afghanistan twice (2005, 2011).
Darknet, also known as dark web or darknet market, refers to the part of the internet that is not indexed or accessible through traditional search engines. It is a network of private and encrypted websites that cannot be accessed through regular web browsers and requires special software and configuration to access.
The darknet is often associated with illegal activities such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services, although not all sites on the darknet are illegal.
Examples of darknet markets include Silk Road, AlphaBay, and Dream Market, which were all shut down by law enforcement agencies in recent years.
These marketplaces operate similarly to e-commerce websites, with vendors selling various illegal goods and services, such as drugs, counterfeit documents, and hacking tools, and buyers paying with cryptocurrency for their purchases.
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Access to Information: The darknet provides access to information and resources that may be otherwise unavailable or censored on the regular internet. This can include political or sensitive information that is not allowed to be disseminated through other channels.
Freedom of Speech: The darknet can be a platform for free speech, as users are able to express their opinions and ideas without fear of censorship or retribution.
Secure Communication: Darknet sites are encrypted, which means that communication between users is secure and cannot be intercepted by third parties.
Illegal Activities: Many darknet sites are associated with illegal activities, such as drug trafficking, weapon sales, and hacking services. Such activities can attract criminals and expose users to serious legal risks.
Scams: The darknet is a hotbed for scams, with many fake vendors and websites that aim to steal users’ personal information and cryptocurrency. The lack of regulation and oversight on the darknet means that users must be cautious when conducting transactions.
Security Risks: The use of the darknet can expose users to malware and other security risks, as many sites are not properly secured or monitored. Users may also be vulnerable to hacking or phishing attacks.
Stigma: The association of the darknet with illegal activities has created a stigma that may deter some users from using it for legitimate purposes.
AI, or artificial intelligence, refers to the development of computer systems that can perform tasks that would normally require human intelligence, such as recognizing speech, making decisions, and understanding natural language.
Virtual assistants: Siri, Alexa, and Google Assistant are examples of virtual assistants that use natural language processing to understand and respond to users’ queries.
Recommendation systems: Companies like Netflix and Amazon use AI to recommend movies and products to their users based on their browsing and purchase history.
Efficiency: AI systems can work continuously without getting tired or making errors, which can save time and resources.
Personalization: AI can help provide personalized recommendations and experiences for users.
Automation: AI can automate repetitive and tedious tasks, freeing up time for humans to focus on more complex tasks.
Job loss: AI has the potential to automate jobs previously performed by humans, leading to job loss and economic disruption.
Bias: AI systems can be biased due to the data they are trained on, leading to unfair or discriminatory outcomes.
Safety and privacy concerns: AI systems can pose safety risks if they malfunction or are used maliciously, and can also raise privacy concerns if they collect and use personal data without consent.