Because it's the U.S. Army's Energy Awareness Month, it may be a good time to remind President Obama of oil's importance to economic security, and the role that wartime leadership and image play in getting your hands on it post-victory. He can't just quietly outsource and downplay war because it's icky, then call dibs on victory, as he has just done with Libya. Something has to give.
When Libya's Muammar Gaddafi was killed in the fog of war last week, Obama was quick to praise the "strength of American leadership around the world," while simultaneously bragging: "Without putting a single U.S. service member on the ground, we achieved our objectives, and our NATO mission will soon come to an end."
Let's cut through the spin: By "American service members," Obama means soldiers in American uniforms deployed by the U.S. military. He didn't choose those words by accident. Americans working for private security firms contracted by the U.S. government are currently present in Iraq, Libya, Afghanistan and elsewhere, but conveniently don't technically count as U.S. soldiers.
There's nothing wrong with the government outsourcing of military efforts to arms-length entities -- many talented Special Forces and intelligence personnel have joined these private firms for the higher pay and greater freedom in mission choice. Not all of them are mall security guard types looking to play Lawrence of Arabia. The free market applies to their performance with competent firms ultimately getting more and renewed opportunities. But outsourcing cannot be a substitute for strong, visible, top-down leadership.
The flip side of outsourcing is that when the commander in chief of the American Armed Forces can say, as with the Libyan mission, that America had no troops in American uniform officially on the ground, while the French were sending both hardware and hundreds of uniformed military ground personnel, it's then difficult to lay equal claim to the spoils of victory. In contrast to Obama, French President Nicolas Sarkozy appointed himself CEO of this war, made a trip to the region with Britain's David Cameron, and his secretary of state for foreign trade, Pierre Lellouche, is already making repeated visits to ensure payback.
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