Conn Hallinan
Foreign Policy In Focus
May 29, 2011

  • A d v e r t i s e m e n t
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The assassination of al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden did more than knock off U.S. Public Enemy Number One. It formalized a new kind of warfare, where sovereignty is irrelevant, armies tangential, and decisions are secret. It is, in the words of counterinsurgency expert John Nagl, “an astounding change in the nature of warfare.”

This type of war requires a vast intelligence apparatus, which now constitutes almost a fourth arm of government that most Americans are almost completely unaware of.. According to The Washington Post, this murky world includes 1,271 government agencies and 1,931 private companies in more than 10,000 locations across the country, with a budget last year of at least $80.1 billion.

“At the heart of this new warfare,” notes The Financial Times,” is high-tech cooperation between intelligence agencies and the military” that blurs the traditional borders between civilians and the armed forces. This fits with the U.S. penchant for waging war with robots and covert Special Forces.

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But, by definition, the secrecy at the core of the “new warfare” removes decisions about war and peace from the public realm and relegates them to secure rooms in the White House or clandestine bases in the Hindu Kush. When the Blackhawk helicopters slipped through Pakistani airspace en route to bin Laden’s compound, they did more than execute one of the greatest U.S. bugbears — they essentially said another country’s sovereignty was no longer relevant and consigned Congress to the role of spectator.

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