Secretary of Defense Mark Esper has imported into the American military lexicon a new rationale for U.S. military actions in the Middle East. It’s called “mowing the lawn,” but it has nothing to do with keeping the grass trimmed. “To mow the lawn,” Esper recently remarked to reporters, “means, every now and then” giving your adversary a good, swift kick in the shins. “You have to do these things,” he explained “so that a threat doesn’t grow, doesn’t resurge.” You mow the lawn not to eliminate a threat but to manage it.The phrase itself is of Israeli provenance and describes that country’s prevailing approach to dealing with the militant groups Hamas and Hezbollah. Unable to eliminate the threat posed by these organizations, Israel accepts the necessity of periodically employing force to keep them weak and off balance. Mowing the lawn, in other words, is a euphemism for attrition warfare that accepts low-level hostilities as inevitable and permanent.Esper’s endorsement of this concept is striking for two reasons. First, his boss does not accept war as inevitable and permanent. In speeches and at rallies, President Trump routinely promises to “end endless wars.” Mowing the lawn as a tactic for dealing with Islamic… Read full this story
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