devised the “light footprint” strategy of limiting American interventions, whenever possible, to drones, cyberattacks and Special Operations forces. All are advocates of those low-cost, low-American-casualty tools, and all have sounded dismissive of attempts to send thousands of troops to rewire foreign nations as wasteful and ill-conceived.
- More Special Forces deployments to the region. President Obama and his new appointees share a fondness for Special Operations Forces: elite, highly trained, mobile military units used for non-traditional, often clandestine missions ranging from hostage rescues to hunting down wanted individuals to intelligence-gathering and “defense diplomacy.” Special Forces are likely to see their numbers increase despite upcoming defense budget cuts, and as the Afghanistan drawdown proceeds, there will be even more of them available to carry out missions in Latin America. Last year, the New York Times noted, Adm. William McRaven of the Special Operations Command was “pushing hard” to “expand their presence in regions where they have not operated in large numbers for the past decade, especially in Asia, Africa and Latin America.”
A greater intelligence community presence
is another likely consequence of a “light footprint” in Latin America.
We can only speculate, but it is reasonable to expect fewer CIA assets
in Afghanistan to mean more personnel focused elsewhere, including Latin
America. Even more significant may be an increase in the presence of
the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the Defense Department’s spy
agency. As the Washington Post reported
in December, the DIA expects to roughly double the number of
clandestine operatives it deploys worldwide over the next few years.
Greater use of drones and robotics.
The Obama administration has expanded the CIA and Defense Department
use of armed unmanned aircraft to hunt down suspected terrorist targets.
Brennan, the new CIA director, is known
for being intimately involved this practice, which is extremely
controversial because of reports that the drone program may have killed
hundreds of innocent people in Afghanistan, Pakistan and elsewhere.
- More emphasis on cyber-security. As today’s New York Times piece noted, cyber-warfare is an interest of all three of the Obama administration’s nominees. While it is unclear how this will play out in U.S. national security policy toward the Americas, it is reasonable to expect more resources devoted to cracking open, and even sabotaging, the computer networks of countries or organizations that the U.S. government views as a threat. (For more on cyber-security in the hemisphere, see the work of James Bosworth at Bloggings by Boz.)