Both the NYT and the WaPo run reports on Obama's announcement today of plans for a leaner US military, a direct consequence of billions of dollars of funding cuts necessitated by the recent economic downturn. Both the Army and the Marines will be downsized - but the Navy will retain all of its huge aircraft carriers, and the enormously expensive Joint Strike Fighter program will keep perking along (much to the relief of the Lockheed Martin corporation, its plant employees, and the congressmen of the states where those plants are located).
Not to be cut, however, are cyberwarfare programs, and - take special note - Special Forces, which have already become primary actors in US military ventures, especially in Afghanistan but also in places where we seldom are told about their doings. I speak, for example, of Libya, Somalia, Yemen, Pakistan - all places for which we have cryptic reports of Special Forces' activity. Their teams move in, do their thing, kill people, blow up villages, terrorize the locals.
We've come a long way from doughboys and GI's - the conscripted ordinary-citizen armies of World War I and the World War II "greatest generation." After the humiliation that was Vietnam, the Pentagon decided that the draft was politically messy (and the draftees militarily unreliable). Hence, the all-volunteer army of Desert Storm and down to the present - and with it, a new American militarism that spawned a cult of American Rambo-style warriors who could be sent off to fight faraway wars while the American public carried on.
And now, a new model - one that couples expensive high-tech weaponry with super-elite Special Forces whom the public will be set up (as, indeed, they already have been) to idolize as America's best. And, truly, didn't we see this coming when Mr. Obama took General David Petraeus - the most touted and media-savvy US military commander of this generation, hero of the "Surge," godfather of COIN - and set him up as the director (read, commander) of the CIA?
Yet these warriors, their officers - and the CIA officials who will run much of their show - will be completely unaccountable to the American public. Why? Because their missions will be - well - "special ops": secret, completely off the public's radar, classified, unreported (and unreportable) by the US and world media.