In 2008, as Sen. Barack Obama campaigned for the presidency, he capitalized on anti-Iraq War populism to sweep the Democratic primaries and win the White House. However, his rhetoric and his actions as president have often conflicted on issues of war and peace. In fact, his administration’s actions might lead us into another unwanted foreign engagement.
Last week, in his second inaugural address, Obama declared that “We, the people, still believe that enduring security and lasting peace do not require perpetual war.”
This week, however, the U.S. military’s Africa Command announced its plan to establish a base for spy drones in North Africa. This is being done to support French efforts to dislodge Al Qaeda affiliated militants from northern Mali, which has been under Islamist control for the better part of a year.
The 2011 intervention in Libya is cited by the president’s sycophants as evidence of his wise, multilateral foreign policy. Without putting boots on the ground, an American-led NATO bombing campaign aided in the ousting of the country’s mercurial dictator, Col. Muammar Qaddafi.
After his execution, pro-Qaddafi foreign fighters fled Libya with their weapons on their backs. Among the fleeing fighters were Tuaregs, a Berber people with a strong population cluster in northern Mali.
Sensing the time was right for revolt, Tuareg rebels pushed government troops out of the northern half of Mali and founded an independent Tuareg state, which they named Azawad.
Mali’s woes were only compounded when an American-trained army captain ejected the civilian president from power, effectively ending 20 years of stable democracy.
However, the Tuaregs’ rebellion was later hijacked by an Al-Qaeda affiliated jihadist group, called Ansar Dine, a name that translates to “Defenders of the Faith.” Since wrestling control of northern Mali, the jihadists have embarked on a campaign of total Talibanization: banning music, forcing women to cover up, cutting off the hands and feet of criminals and destroying ancient “un-Islamic” artifacts, according to the New York Times.
When the jihadists recently started gunning for the Malian capital, Bamako, the French felt forced to come to Mali’s defense. Now, the U.S. is coming to aid France with advanced drone surveillance technology and maybe more. While this action may seem innocuous, it is not farfetched to assume that it may be used for missile strikes. Taking this action puts the U.S. one step closer to dipping our armored toes into another foreign conflict.
As Albert Einstein once said, “You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war.” These words carry even more weight when coupled with the fact that the Senate just authorized a $631 billion military budget for 2013, roughly double what it was in 2000, according to Defense Department figures.
Our dwindling presence in Afghanistan and our withdrawal from Iraq might assuage the fears of a war-weary electorate. Many people trumpet multilateral action coupled with unmanned military technology as the new way of war. However, the new way could easily lead us back to the old way again; the old way being deploying a large land army.
What if France has bitten off a little more than it can chew? What if the extremists fade into the populace and wait out the French? And even if the French succeed, what if the Malian government cannot keep its hold on the north? Will the U.S. be forced to jump in to finish the job? Our actions suggest so.
If our president is preparing us for another military expedition, then he cannot honestly position himself as the antiwar president.
Max Reinhardt is the Secretary of the UMW College Republicans