Since the dawn of recorded history, mankind has fought wars in pretty much the same way: A country assembled a group of young men, gave them weapons, and sent them off to a battlefield to fight to the death against a group of young men from another country. The first country to run out of men or weapons lost.
Every civilization that wanted to succeed had to learn how to fight conventional battlefield war. Or else it would inevitably be conquered by a nation that did.
After six millennia of army to army battling, humanity is finally moving away from conventional battlefield warfare. And the greatest fighting force in the world – the United States military – is embracing the change.
“Dirty Wars” is an eye-opening documentary that explores – and criticizes – the revolutionary new way that we fight.
JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) was founded in the 80s as an independent branch of the military that reports directly to the White House.
Its first major mission came early in the Iraq War. Remember those trading cards with pictures of Saddam Hussein and his henchmen? Those were JSOC’s targets, and it got most of them.
According to the documentary, that is essentially what JSOC does: officers assemble “kill lists” and then they kill the people on the list by any means available.
In Yemen, JSOC targeted militant American cleric Anwar Al-Awlaki and took him and his teenage son out with two drone strikes.
In Afghanistan, JSOC soldiers go on night raids to shoot targets (and anyone else who gets in their way) in their homes.
In Somalia, JSOC enlists the aid of warlords and strongmen to track down and murder the locals on its kill list.
To the filmmakers, this is why this new brand of warfare is scary: because it knows no borders and respects no rules or limitations. When one kill list is complete, they just write up a new one.
As one interview subject memorably concludes: “In JSOC, we have created a hammer that is always looking for another nail.”
Obviously, the film condemns these Dirty Wars as being morally dubious and dangerous for humanity. I am going to play devil’s advocate here and suggest that maybe Dirty Wars aren’t as bad as conventional wars.
For one, far fewer people are getting killed in Dirty Wars vs. battlefield wars.
Also, one of the reasons why humanity accepted battlefield war as a normal part of life for six thousand years is that only a small percentage of the population were ever at risk of being sent to fight. The 80% of people who were either too young, too old, or too female to join the army could support a war without worrying too much about having their limbs sliced or shot off.
Dirty Wars, on the other hand, are no respecter of age or sex. Being female or elderly doesn’t protect you from a night raid or a drone. This is a ghastly and frightening development, but it might be the wake-up call that humanity needs to start seriously considering the concept of world peace.
I don’t support war in any form. However, if Dirty Wars mean the end of conventional battlefield wars, that is something to celebrate.