Obama’s ‘secret war’ and diplomacy game plan

By Satur C. Ocampo
At Ground Level | The Philippine Star

“So whenever you look at what we say publicly, it’s always about maintaining the peace, the stability that’s critical to prosperity in the region but also urging all the claimants, including China, to follow… rules and international law.”

The quote is from Scot Marciel, State Department principal deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, referring to the US diplomatic posture vis-a-vis the territorial dispute between the Philippines and China, which has been heating up in the West Philippine/South China Sea.

Interviewed during a recent visit to Manila, Marciel essentially reiterated previous statements by former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and current Secretary John Kerry. He emphasized America’s avowed neutral stand on the territorial dispute (while backing the Philippine move — opposed by China — to seek peaceful resolution via the United Nations arbitration tribunal) and how the US values its relationship with China (as evidenced by Kerry’s visit to Beijing this week).

Note the qualifying phrase, “what we say publicly.” It puts in context America’s posture on “maintaining the peace (and) stability” in Asia-Pacific, as the Obama administration pursues a “pivot” or “rebalancing” towards the region of its overseas military forces.

The “pivot/rebalancing” entails deploying 60% of US maritime forces in Asia-Pacific by 2020 — while maintaining, says a 2012 White House-Pentagon document, US capability to: 1) defeat al-Qaida and its affiliates; 2) deter and defeat aggression by adversaries; 3) counter weapons of mass destruction; 4) effectively operate in outer space and cyberspace; 5) maintain effective nuclear deterrent; and 6) conduct counterinsurgency operations.

One factor impelling the pivot/rebalancing, the document admits, is China’s phenomenal rise as an economic power (world’s No. 2 largest economy, next to the US) and as a regional military power. US officials however routinely deny any intent to confront China militarily.

It’s a different matter altogether for what the US doesn’t say publicly: the covert deployment of America’s military forces across the globe to project itself as the only world superpower, and the types of war these forces undertake to achieve the six objectives cited earlier.

Through email recently, I received from the Peace for Life secretariat an article, titled “America’s Secret War in 134 Countries,” written by Nick Turse and published in The Nation on Jan. 16, 2014.

The article details how US Special Operations forces (SOFs) have become a “growing form of overseas power projection,” with their phenomenally increased deployment — 123% — to 134 countries under Obama’s watch, from only 60 countries towards the end of the Bush administration in 2008.

This new form of power projection, the article points out, is in addition to conventional wars and a CIA-led drone war (in Afghanistan and Pakistan), public diplomacy, and extensive electronic spying (as exposed by the National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden).

“Conducted largely in the shadows by America’s most elite troops,” it adds, “the vast majority of these missions take place far from prying eyes, media scrutiny, or any type of outside oversight.”

Using government documents and press reports, the article notes, TomDispatch (an online publication) has concluded that, in 2012-2013, SOFs were “deployed in or involved with the militaries of 106 nations.”

The SOFs were teams of Green Berets and Rangers, Navy SEALs and Delta Force commandos, specialized helicopter crews (like those that killed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan), boat teams, and civil affairs personnel.

While affirming these deployments, the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), headed by Admiral William McRaven, has declined to name the nations involved, in consideration of “host-nation sensitivities and the safety of American personnel.”

McRaven has explained, the article says, in a statement before the US House of Representatives armed services committee, his vision for “special ops globalization” thus:

“USSOCOM is enhancing its global network of SOFs to support our interagency and international partners in order to gain expanded situational awareness of emerging threats and opportunities. The network enables small, persistent presence in critical locations, and facilitates engagement (combat) where necessary or appropriate…”

Among such SOF missions, two involved the Philippines recently:

1. In September 2013, SOFs joined elite troops from the 10 ASEAN member-nations and Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South Korea, China, India and Russia “for a US-Indonesian joint-funded counterterrorism exercise held at the training center in Sentul, West Java.”

2. In November 2013, US SOFs conducted humanitarian operations to aid survivors of Typhoon Haiyan/Yolanda in Leyte and Samar provinces.

SOF globalization is a means to “project power, promote stability, and prevent conflict,” says McRaven in a blueprint titled “SOCOM 2020.” But what has been the experience?

Some SOF operations have resulted in “unintended consequences (that) have helped to sow outrage and discontent” in some regions. Examples:

• After US troops pulled out of Iraq, the latter’s government aligned with Iran (a former foe) and “two cities fly Al Qaida flags.”

• US intervention in the ouster-killing of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi .led to a coup in Mali, “a US-supported bulwark against regional terrorism;” and

• South Sudan, a “hush-hush” SOF base, is now torn apart and engulfed by civil war.

These unintended consequences are food for thought with regard to the impending US-PHL agreement on increased “rotational presence” of US troops and access to Philippine military facilities as part of the pivot/rebalancing plan.

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E-mail: satur.ocampo@gmail.com
February 15, 2014

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