A Piece of the Action

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"A Piece of the Action"


It should really come as no surprise that the US Navy is producing sloppy strategic documents that run together Somali pirates, Somalia’s Shabab Islamist insurgency, and the hazily defined issue of “terrorism.” One of the most pernicious aspects of the “war on terror” theoretical construct is that it’s created strong institutional and financial incentives for elements of the bureaucracy to characterize whatever it is they do as somehow really part of the war on terror. Hence a missile defense program designed to allow for a massive first strike on the no-longer-extant USSR becomes transmogrified into an anti-Iranian initiative with Iran part of a fuzzy “Islamofascist” ideological bloc.

The Navy, in particular, has been feeling like they’re left out of the action since terrorists—inconveniently from a budget request point of view—don’t seem all that interested in taking to the high seas. Somalia, where there are both pirates in the water and violent Islamists on land, seems like a good opportunity to get in the game if you just fudge things a little.

This is all a shame if you ask me, since at the end of the day neither the Navy nor the Air Force nor the Army nor the Marines have all that large a role to play in fighting terrorism. The very essence of terrorism is that it’s a tactic you deploy against militarily strong adversaries because a strong military is of limited utility in fighting it. And if you try to think of a more plausible account of what our giant military is for—providing global public goods, hegemonic stability, etc.—it’s the conventional peacetime Navy that seems to have the best claim to be achieving the mission.


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