Tuesday, December 31, 2002
3rd Infantry Division ordered to Persian Gulf -- A Major Muscle Movement
The Associated Press reported on New Years Eve that the Pentagon had ordered the Army's 3rd Infantry Division from its bases in Georgia to set sail for Kuwait in the next few weeks. "3ID", as it's known in the Army, already has one brigade of roughly 4,000 soldiers on the ground in Kuwait. The deployment of the division's two additional brigades, plus its divisional headquarters and support structure, represents a major step in the march towards a ground war. In relative terms, it's easy to move an airborne or light-infantry force to the Gulf -- you can do it by air. Moving a heavy division like 3ID requires an extraordinary logistical effort -- ships, aircraft, trains, etc. It's also very costly. The U.S. does not deploy heavy divisions unless it intends to send a clear message that it's seriously preparing for war.
Infantry Div. Ordered to Gulf
WASHINGTON (AP) --An infantry division from Georgia has been ordered to the Persian Gulf region as a part of the military's preparations for war with Iraq, military officials said Tuesday.
The troops, from the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), received prepare-to-deploy orders earlier this week, Army officials said. A defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed they were going to the Persian Gulf region as a part of the U.S. military's buildup of forces there.
It is the largest single ground force sent to the region since the Bush administration indicated its willingness to go to war against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein more than a year ago.
The division's 2nd Brigade - several thousand soldiers based at Fort Stewart, Ga. - is already in Kuwait on a regular troop rotation, officials said.
The division's 1st and 3rd Brigades, from Fort Stewart and Fort Benning, Ga., respectively, and its aviation brigade, from Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Ga., will begin moving to the region in the coming weeks. Officials declined to provide their precise destination. All told, between 15,000 and 17,000 soldiers from the division will go to the region, officials said.
Monday, December 30, 2002
Universal military service? Or politics by other means?
According to CNN on Monday, Rep. Charlie Rangel plans to propose legislation to bring back universal military service, known less fondly by my dad's generation as "the draft." In doing so, Congressman Rangel intends to force America to act more cautiously and judiciously with its military, since a conscript-based army would include the sons & daughters of all Americans -- rich, middle class and poor.
In an interview with CNN, Rangel said: "When you talk about a war, you're talking about ground troops, you're talking about enlisted people, and they don't come from the kids and members of Congress." The Korean War veteran added "I think, if we went home and found out that there were families concerned about their kids going off to war, there would be more cautiousness and a more willingness to work with the international community than to say, 'Our way or the highway.' "
In general, I agree that military service is a great thing. I got a lot out of my service, and think that more young Americans ought to take advantage of the opportunities the military has to offer. And in general, I agree that few members of Congress (or Fortune 500 CEOs) identify with the great Americans who serve every day in uniform -- and there ought to be more of a connection there. However, universal conscription is a bad idea, for at least three reasons:
1. The U.S. military is the most advanced force in history, due in no small part to the expertise and professionalism of its all-volunteer force. The resurrection of a conscript-based force would destroy the elitism and professionalism of this force and reduce it to the lowest common denominator of a conscript army. Conscription would not produce the high-quality military we have today, which is the product of self-selection. The military could not invest as much education in conscripts as it does now, because their tours of duty would be shorter.
2. Historically, conscript armies have fought more, not less; they have sustained more casualties, not less. Why? Because the leaders of conscript armies have more manpower than they know what to do with. Historically, conscript armies have had too much human capital and too little technological capital. The consequence has been tremendous waste of human lives. Napoleon invented the mass conscript army, and used it to fight a war of attrition against the rest of Europe. Wars of attrition have been the norm since, with few exceptions, when conscript armies have faced each other. The U.S. military is moving away from wars of attrition to maneuver-based warfare today, and thus it ought not re-embrace this obsolete tool of manpower used to field armies for wars of attrition.
3. Conscription is not the right way to encourage national service. For one thing, military service isn't for everyone. Some Americans are probably better suited for other forms of service, like the Peace Corps or teaching in the inner city. For another thing, conscription tends to produce more resentment than nostalgia, at least from my interaction with the conscripted college students I led in South Korea. There are far better ways to encourage my generation to serve, such as through positive incentives (like college money) and other means.
Al Qaeda 2.0 -- The Next Threat
In the wake of our successful campaigns in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Al Qaeda has adapted and evolved into a more virtual, less geographically-constrained organization. Terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, journalist Peter Bergen and others have described this new incarnation and the ways it threatens America today in new and more lethal ways. From the use of chemical and biological weapons to the employment of unconventional means for border entry, this new threat represents a much more potent and lethal version of Al Qaeda. Our nation's security apparatus has successfully responded to the last threat -- that of legal immigration and aircraft hijacking. It is not clear that we have strategized, planned and evolved to meet this new threat.
Tuesday's Washington Post leads with a story by reporter John Mintz on an especially troubling development: the acquisition of 15 seagoing freighters by Al Qaeda, and potential American inability to track them. The implications are clear. If Al Qaeda has merchant-shipping capability, it can move men, materiel and weaponry around the world through legal means of commerce. Without sophisticated technology to screen cargo or legions of human inspectors, these freighters mean Al Qaeda has the capability to put terrorists and weapons of mass destruction on U.S. shores. Historically, this kind of strategic-movement capability has only been held by nations and their governments -- not small terrorist groups. The development of this capability represents a significant increase in the capabilities of our enemy.
15 Freighters Believed to Be Linked To Al Qaeda
U.S. Fears Terrorists at Sea; Tracking Ships Is Difficult
U.S. intelligence officials have identified approximately 15 cargo freighters around the world that they believe are controlled by al Qaeda or could be used by the terrorist network to ferry operatives, bombs, money or commodities over the high seas, government officials said.
American spy agencies track some of the suspicious ships by satellites or surveillance planes and with the help of allied navies or informants in overseas ports. But they have occasionally lost track of the vessels, which are continuously given new fictitious names, repainted or re-registered using invented corporate owners, all while plying the oceans.
As they scramble to keep tabs on the largely unregulated and secretive global maritime industry, U.S. officials have no end of worries about how nautical terrorists could attack U.S. or allied ports or vessels, officials said. They cite such scenarios as al Qaeda dispatching an explosives-packed speedboat to blow a hole in the hull of a luxury cruise ship sailing the Caribbean Sea or having terrorists posing as crewmen commandeer a freighter carrying dangerous chemicals and slam it into a harbor.
Bottom Line: The U.S. must adapt to fight this new enemy, not continue to waste money on its old incarnation. We ought to reallocate money from fighting the last threat (airline hijacking, car bombing, etc) to fighting the next threat. We are spending billions of dollars to reorganize the federal government for its war on terrorism. It's unclear whether that reorganization will translate into any net gains in efficiency down the road. It's very clear that this reorganization will result in substantial decreases in capability now, when the threat is high. We ought to take stock of the situation and let the intelligence picture of the enemy drive our strategy. It appears our threat has developed new capabilities -- we must develop the counter-measures for these new capabilities. Instead of wasting billions of dollars on TSA screeners, we ought to be spending billions to rapidly field nuc/chem/bio detectors at every seaport in America. Instead of wasting billions on reorganizing federal agencies, we ought to be spending money on building our HUMINT capabilities in foreign countries. We must fight the next threat, not the last one.
Monday, December 23, 2002
I'm going over the fence --
From 23 Dec 02 (today) until 30 Dec 02, I will be away from my office, my laptop, my Internet connection, and my news fix while I travel to New York and New Jersey. Feel free to e-mail me with any comments or holiday wishes, but I probably won't reply or add any new commentary until I return. Happy Holidays!
Sunday, December 22, 2002
Smallpox and Dark Winter
The RAND Corporation recently issued a study in the New England Journal of Medicine arguing against mass smallpox vaccinations. Unlike most RAND research, which provides illuminating and valuable policy advice, this report gets the story and recommendations wrong. In an age of terrorism and 4th Generation Warfare, mass vaccination against this potent weapon is an absolute imperative. UCLA Professor Mark Kleiman blogged something about this earlier, but I wanted to add some thoughts based on my experience in the field.
The words "Dark Winter" will bring a shiver to anyone who has read about the exercise and the results & recommendations it produced. "The Dark Winter exercise portrayed a fictional scenario depicting a covert smallpox attack on US citizens. The scenario is set in three successive National Security Council (NSC) meetings (Segments 1,2 and 3) which take place over a period of 14 days. Former senior government officials played the roles of NSC members responding to the evolving epidemic; representatives from the media were among the observers of these mock NSC meetings and played journalists during the scenario's press conferences (see Participant List). The exercise itself was held at Andrews Air Force Base, Washington, D.C. on June 22-23, 2001." (see the Dark Winter website at Johns Hopkins University)
This exercise produced some staggering results; an unclassified summary is available in the February online Journal of Clinical Infectious Diseases. Among the results were:
- Leaders are unfamiliar with the character of bioterrorist attacks, available policy options, and their consequences.
- After a bioterrorist attack, leaders' decisions would depend on data and expertise from the medical and public health sectors.
- The lack of sufficient vaccine or drugs to prevent the spread of disease severely limited management options.
- The US health care system lacks the surge capacity to deal with mass casualties.
- To end a disease outbreak after a bioterrorist attack, decision makers will require ongoing expert advice from senior public health and medical leaders.
- Federal and state priorities may be unclear, differ, or conflict; authorities may be uncertain; and constitutional issues may arise.
- The individual actions of US citizens will be critical to ending the spread of contagious disease; leaders must gain the trust and sustained cooperation of the American people.
ANSER, another organization involved with this exercise, had this "lesson learned" from the exercise: There is no surge capability in the US health care and public health systems, or the pharmaceutical and vaccine industries. This institutionally limited surge capacity could result in hospitals being overwhelmed and becoming inoperable; could impede public health agencies’ analysis of the scope, source and progress of the epidemic, the ability to educate and reassure the public, and the capacity to limit causalities and the spread of disease.
Bottom Line: There is significant risk in the smallpox vaccination program. But there is a much larger risk in choosing not to go forward with a mass vaccination program, or to only vaccinate 1st responders and health-care workers. Anti-terrorism operations all boil down to a systematic allocation of risk. The results of Dark Winter -- the most advanced simulation of a smallpox attack on the U.S. -- argue strongly for mass vaccination as a way of managing this risk.
Breaking news - French reporter killed during U.S. exercises in Kuwait
I just read the terrible news that a French reporter covering the U.S. Army's exercises in Kuwait was killed by an M1 tank. The Associated Press reports:
During exercises Saturday, French journalist Patrick Bourrat was struck while crossing the path of an incoming tank and thrown 15 feet into the air. He died at a hospital early Sunday of massive internal injuries.
Military exercises, like war, are inherently dangerous. Even the most skilled units and competent leaders make mistakes in exercises; soldiers often get hurt or killed in such exercises. But realistic exercises in peacetime are important. The harder our troops train in peace; the more they sweat and push the envelope -- the better they will do in combat. We will lose less lives in combat if we take risks in training. The average Army or Marine officer takes these risks very seriously, because they value the life of every one under their command. They manage these risks as much as possible. But the risks are still there.
Reporters ought to cover such training exercises, and they ought to report on them for the global audience. However, reporting on military exercises (like reporting on war) carries certain risks. This accident is tragic. But it must be seen in its proper context, and understood as a necessary and unfortunate consequence of military training.
Friday, December 20, 2002
OPSEC and the Media, Part II
If you ever wanted to see an example of U.S. media supporting the Iraqi war effort, check out this operational graphic from the Washington Post. Do you think it's possible that they have a grant from the Iraqi government? This illustration has probably been blown up and pasted up on the walls of every Iraqi SCUD missile detachment as the likely target locations for their first strikes.
America deserves to know the truth about its military for two big reasons. First, America's sons and daughters serve in uniform and the public deserves to know about their commitment, especially if it's in harm's way. Second, the Constitution sets up a system for civilian control of the military. The civilians who control the military are in turn controlled by the civilians who vote -- all of us. If we don't have good information, we can't make informed decisions about foreign policy.
However, these requirements don't require the kind of detailed operational graphics or troop listings prepared in recent weeks by the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, LA Times, and others. Such detailed information is sensitive; it puts American lives at risk. News editors ought to exercise more prudence and responsibility in their choice of graphics and information. Get the story right -- but balance the need to tell the story with the need to protect American lives
The calendar of war in Iraq
Today's Los Angeles Times contains a prescient analysis of the prospects of war in Iraq. January 27 appears to be the date set by the United States for Iraqi compliance -- or else. While America's diplomats seek compliance with the UN resolution, America's warriors continue to build up a tremendous amount of war materiel in the Persian Gulf region. It is possible that by January 27 (six weeks away), the U.S. will have an offensive capability built in the Gulf which will enable it to launch a ground offensive against Iraq.
When you take the diplomatic activity and military deployments together, it becomes clear that the former is buying time for the latter. A major concern of the U.S. military after Gulf War I was that it would never have that much time again to build up its forces in theater, thus, it had to concentrate on building rapid-deployment capabilities. The situation in Gulf War I was different though, because Saddam Hussein had already started a war (by invading Kuwait) and there was no peace to be broken if he lobbed a SCUD at the U.S. forces massing in Saudi Arabia. Here, the case is different. There has been no breach of the peace -- yet -- and thus Saddam cannot justifiably attack the U.S. forces across his border without providing the very provocation the U.S. needs for a unilateral attack. Consequently, the diplomatic calendar gives the U.S. the time it needs to build up its forces without fear of being attacked in their assembly areas.
This turns conventional Clausewitz-based doctrine on its head. Clausewitz wrote that war was a continuation of politics by other means. Yet now, it seems that American diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means. The U.S. is employing diplomatic efforts to shield the buildup of its forces -- to provide time and force-protection. Every day that America delays Iraq with diplomacy means more tanks, artillery, troops, and aircraft on the ground in Kuwait and the rest of the region. Every day of diplomatic delay tilts the military calculus a little bit more in favor of the United States. In essence, the diplomatic efforts are shaping the military conflict to come, by providing the U.S. military with the critical time it needs to deploy.
Ultimately, Saddam's between a rock and a hard place. If he preemptive attacks the U.S. buildup now, he will be the aggressor and he will be attacked with cause. If he waits the diplomatic waiting period out until 27 Jan 03, the U.S. will have such a substantial Gulf presence that Iraq will have no chance of survival. Either way, Saddam faces a lose-lose situation if he fails to comply with the UN resolution. Nonetheless, he's a slippery bastard, and I suspect he'll figure out a way out of this dilemma.
A modest suggestion for how to fix the U.S. military presence in Korea
As has been widely reported, South Korea just finished a presidential election in which it elected Roo Moo Hyun, a liberal candidate from the ruling party who favors gradual redeployment of U.S. forces out of Korea, revisions to the U.S./Korea Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and other changes in the military relationship between America and South Korea.
He’s sure to push for several things which have been discussed over the years – but never implemented. First among these will be a relocation of the U.S. Army’s massive headquarters in the middle of Seoul. Yongsan Garrison is an affront to Korean sensitivities, as well as a strategically poor position for a headquarters. (It’s within tactical artillery range of North Korea, for one) Korea and the U.S. haven’t been able to reach an agreement on where to move it south of Seoul, or who would pay. The new President is likely to make this an issue, and get it done.
The corollary problem is what to do about the large U.S. presence throughout the rest of Korea. Few think that America will withdraw its combat troops north of Seoul, because their commitment serves as a visible and potent deterrent to North Korea. But the U.S. presence pervades the entire country, from the DMZ in the north to Pusan in the south. Much of this structure exists to support the 2nd Infantry Division in the north, and to support a corps-sized headquarters in Seoul. The bulk of the 37,000 U.S. troops in Korea are not combat soldiers – they’re infrastructure to support an even larger force that would fall in on them in case of war.
The time may have come to reduce this infrastructure; to downsize the U.S. presence to a more austere one, while maintaining the same combat capabilities. The political pressure in the Korean population is sustained and real – it won’t dissipate over the next several months. (Protest is like a national sport in Korea, and it usually heats up every summer, but this time appears different) Larger political and demographic shifts are underway in Korean society – the average Korean no longer sees the North as a significant threat, and thus is unwilling to put up with the size of the U.S. presence.
So here’s where Don Vandergriff’s ideas (and those of Bob Krumm, Mark Lewis, and others) come in. What’s one easy way to reduce the U.S. footprint in Korea while maintaining the same combat capability? Well, you could adopt a brigade-rotation model there with a Joint Task Force headquarters instead of the current model. Doing so would potentially solve a lot of problems. First, it would reduce the infrastructure footprint for U.S. forces, especially the logistical footprint. Hundreds -- if not thousands -- of U.S. personnel exist simply to support the institutions necessary for an individual-replacement system. Second, it would increase the unit-cohesion and combat-effectiveness of the deployed units, especially if you implemented an 18-month USMC/WestPac-style model for the trainup/deployment/recovery from this 6-month rotation.
Third, it would potentially solve some of the social issues of the Korean deployment. One “soft” problem in Korea is that individual soldiers deployed their for a year at a time often have tremendously high rates of family problems, alcohol problems, discipline problems, etc – many of which spill over off post and into the Korean community. Deployed BCTs could operate much more like they do in Bosnia, with less drinking and carousing and more training. Plus, their social networks would remain in Korea, so the old notion of “What happens in Korea stays in Korea” wouldn’t apply. It’s less likely that a deployed soldier would engage in drinking and whoring if he knows his buddies will go back with him.
Now may be the ideal time to implement a brigade-rotation model for Korea. The political situation is ripe for a change in the structure of U.S. forces which will reduce the American footprint and achieve higher levels of discipline among U.S. troops. Moreover, the world situation may require such a move. Eliminating the permanent U.S. footprint in Korea will free up thousands of active-duty combat soldiers that can be committed elsewhere, such as to fill units to 100% that are headed towards Iraq. And the brigade-rotation model will mean better unit cohesion, and consequently, better combat effectiveness. The Korea-rotation mission may be tailor-made for the National Guard's enhanced brigades, which would take a lot of strain off the active-duty force. Or it may remain an active-duty mission, like the rotations through Kuwait. Regardless, the transition of this mission from a permanent individual-replacement system to a unit-rotation model will have long-term positive results for the Army, and for the American relationship with South Korea.
Thursday, December 19, 2002
Pentagon mulls deployment of troops inside the U.S. for bioterrorism response
Elaine Grossman has an excellent piece in today's Inside the Pentagon on the discussions inside the Pentagon on the option to deploy American soldiers on American soil to enforce quarantines in the event of a bioterrorism attack. Clearly, such a situation would be an extreme one, and no one has contemplated such a deployment in anything short of a doomsday scenario.
The Bush administration is taking initial steps to plan for a potential military role in enforcing a massive quarantine, if smallpox or another highly contagious virus were to break out somewhere in the United States, defense officials tell Inside the Pentagon.
Talks have begun among various federal agencies that could delineate a role for U.S. troops, should local and state law enforcement authorities become overwhelmed, officials say.
* * *
Existing public health plans call for local and state officials to institute and enforce a quarantine, if necessary, in which individuals who may have been exposed to a contagious disease -- but show no symptoms -- are confined and physically separated from those who have not been exposed.
But some federal officials, public health analysts and national security experts anticipate a large-scale quarantine would almost surely incite public panic and could require the use of federal troops to restore order. Defense officials emphasize military forces would act solely in a support role to federal civil authorities in such a domestic mission.
* * *
In the case of even a limited outbreak of a highly contagious disease like smallpox, plague or yellow fever, health officials may call for a broad geographic area to be sealed off, officials say. That is because an infected individual might come into casual contact with dozens of people days before developing or identifying symptoms. Simply breathing within six feet of another person can spread the smallpox virus.
A common example of a large quarantine is the creation of a perimeter around a city like Cincinnati, OH, so that no one may leave or enter on foot or by vehicle, train, aircraft or boat. Such a quarantine might be lifted for individuals who remain symptom-free for a period of time, or could be eliminated en masse after an outbreak has been contained, sources said.
But depending on the extent of the outbreak, a quarantine could remain in place -- potentially in multiple U.S. cities or regions simultaneously -- for weeks, months or even years.
* * *
Title 42 of the U.S. Code says health regulations "may provide for the apprehension and examination of any individual reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease in a communicable stages," who is moving from one state to another or in contact with a person in transit. "Such regulations may provide that if, upon examination, any such individual is found to be infected, he may be detained for such time and in such manner as may be reasonably necessary," states the law.
Title 42 suggests the U.S. surgeon general, with approval from the secretary of health and human services, has the authority to make and enforce regulations in this regard. However, experts say in the case of a bioterrorism attack, health policy decisions that begin on a local or state level would likely elevate quickly to the U.S. president.
The Posse Comitatus Act, which generally prevents U.S. military forces from engaging in domestic search and seizure, includes exceptions that allow the use of federal troops to restore civil order in national emergencies. Legal experts believe an outbreak of smallpox may well justify the involvement of U.S. troops.
In general, that's true. The Posse Comitatus Act forbids the use of federal troops for specific law-enforcement functions like searches and arrests. However, federal law authorizes the deployment of U.S. soldiers for a variety of other missions, from supporting law enforcement during the DC sniper hunt to a litany of counter-drug missions. Exceptions also exist for the U.S. of military in 1) public-health emergencies like a natural smallpox outbreak, and 2) chemical or biological attacks on the United States.
Some civil libertarians may question this use of the military, or insist that strict procedures govern the employment of the military in such situations. My operational experience leads me to think that's a mistake. If terrorists attack us with smallpox, our most valuable commodity will be time. Procedural delays in the deployment of soldiers to enforce a quarantine will mean more casualties -- deaths which could've been prevented by decisive and rapid action. I am willing to risk the hasty/rapid deployment of American soldiers in such an extreme situation.
Closer to war -- two major developments in the Persian Gulf...
The Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal contained articles today by Esther Schrader and Greg Jaffe (two of the best defense reporters in Washington) respectively about events in the Persian Gulf. Ms. Schrader reported on the deployment of Iraqi forces near Baghdad to more of a war footing; Mr. Jaffe reported about a previously-undisclosed increase in the boots-on-the-ground count for U.S. forces in the Gulf. Together, these stories are the most reliable indicators this week that the U.S. is still marching towards a war with Iraq.
Pentagon Detects Iraqi Troop Movement
Hundreds of soldiers are involved. Meanwhile, some predict Hussein will target his own oil fields and food supplies and then blame the U.S.
By Esther Schrader, Times Staff Writer
WASHINGTON -- Armored units of the Republican Guard have moved from their garrisons near Baghdad to an area about 40 miles west of the capital in the most significant deployment by President Saddam Hussein in two years, Pentagon intelligence officials said Wednesday.
The movement of what appears to be several hundred soldiers, along with tanks and artillery, to the new location appears to be an effort by the Iraqi leader to flex his military muscles in response to increased U.S. preparations for war.
"When you move this size of force, it's a great strain to the military, it's a great signal of resolve," a U.S. official said. "This is the largest defensive preparation that we've seen since 9/11."
* * *
Number Of U.S. Troops In Gulf Is Expected To Nearly Double
By Greg Jaffe, Staff Reporter Of The Wall Street Journal
WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is gearing up to nearly double the number of U.S. troops in the Gulf region by early February, accelerating its military buildup to be ready to launch an attack on Iraq.
A defense official said more than 50,000 U.S. ground troops are likely to flow into the Gulf region, in addition to the 60,000 now there, in a move designed to ratchet up the pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The British are likely to send as many as an additional 15,000 to 20,000 troops to the region.
U.S. defense officials said that if pushed into action, an allied attack to disarm Baghdad could begin within days just with U.S. troops in the region now, though that would be less than ideal. Of the force there now, about 15,000 are U.S. Army and Marine ground troops, most positioned in Kuwait; the rest are Air Force and Navy personnel.
But the January buildup would allow a far more potent attack. The move also is likely designed to put pressure on the rest of the United Nations Security Council to push for more aggressive inspections, and to suggest the U.S. patience for the inspection process is limited.
The officials cautioned that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hadn't formally signed off on the order to notify troops of likely deployment to the region, though his approval is expected in the coming days.
* * *
The troops would consist of combat forces, maintenance and logistics troops, and would flow into the region from bases in the U.S. and Europe. They would include a mixture of active-duty and reserve units.
The U.S. military has slowly been building up its stores of equipment in the region during the past six months. Currently, the Pentagon has enough tanks and armored personnel carriers to support about four brigades or 55,000 ground troops. "We already have a whole lot of equipment in the region, and equipment will continue to flow in the coming weeks," said another senior defense official.
Moving the additional 50,000 troops to the region will allow the Pentagon to get soldiers acclimated and allow them to do some limited training in the desert before a possible war.
Air Marshals criticize program; say it's ineffective
USA Today leads today with a disturbing story about problems in the Transportation Security Administration's sky marshal program. Several large personnel problems have become such issues that they threaten the operational effectiveness of the air marshals. If these allegations are true, then the TSA has a serious problem on its hands.
- Despite policies that require at least two marshals on each assigned flight, marshals in the New York field office were told they would have to fly alone if their partners call in sick, documents show. Marshals who completed a recent training regimen in Atlantic City say they also were warned they could fly solo.
- Marshals must accept any seat an airline offers, "even if your assigned seat is not 'tactically' sound," a memo sent Nov. 22 by managers to marshals in New York says. Marshals who recently completed training also say they were told of the new policy.
Such a policy contradicts the program's standard operating procedures. Those rules call for marshals to have unobstructed access to the jet's aisle and, preferably, to sit near the cockpit to protect it from hijackers.
- Even if they believe their cover has been blown before a flight, marshals in the Atlanta field office have been told they must continue with their missions, documents show. "The actual or perceived compromise of your identity is never a sufficient reason to abort your assigned flight," a memo sent Dec. 10 by the acting head of the Atlanta office reads.
- Some marshals say they use over-the-counter stimulants such as No-Doz to stay awake during flights. Others take what they call "power naps" just after takeoff and battle vertigo. When marshals were hired earlier this year, they were promised four-day workweeks to compensate for the rigors of constant travel.
- The agency also has yet to address marshals' concerns that a dress code requiring "business attire" easily identifies them. Rodriguez says passengers often spotted him and his partner in airports and flashed them a thumbs-up as they passed. Such episodes reinforced his fear: Wearing business clothes makes marshals too conspicuous.
One note about this matter. If air hijacking remained a likely threat, then I would say this was a major problem -- especially heading into the holiday travel season. But the reality is that this threat is not a major one anymore, for several reasons. First, American (and probably international passengers) will never let a plane be hijacked again. In the past, they might have sat out the hijacking, knowing they would eventually be traded and released (e.g. TWA #847). Passengers today know that may not be the case; that they may be turned into a cruise missile against their will. It's unlikely that any group could ever hijack any plane again. Passengers will resist, as will aircrew, and it would take an impractical number of terrorists to take over a plane. Moreover, given the events of Sept. 11, a hijacked plane would probably be shot down in flight today, thus making this a less attractive option for hijackers.
As I've stated before, intelligence must drive operations. We continue to fight the last threat -- airline hijacking -- at the expense of current threats. How many dollars has the U.S. spent on programs like air marshals, carry-on screening, airport security -- all the name of fighting the last threat? Have we poured in enough money to the new and developing threats, like chem/bio defense? Unfortunately, I think the answer is no. While I'm concerned about these problems with the air marshal program, I'm more concerned with macro-level decisions about resources and where they're being put in the U.S. anti-terrorism fight.
Wednesday, December 18, 2002
Latest wrinkle in the land mine debate: US-dropped cluster bombs in Afghanistan equate to "de facto antipersonnel landmines"?
The Washington Post reports that Human Rights Watch has decided to issue a report criticizing the U.S. air campaign in Afghanistan because of its residual effects -- namely, the leaving behind of large numbers of "bomblets" in populated areas.
"While U.S. modifications in targeting and technology appear to have reduced the adverse humanitarian side effects of the cluster bombs used in Afghanistan to some degree," the Human Rights Watch report said, "the weapon still poses a danger to civilians in future conflicts because of its broad footprint, lack of accuracy, and high number of explosive duds left behind."
However, as the U.S. military points out, the use of these weapons was both legal and highly constrained. The U.S. does not indiscriminately use any munition -- least of all the kind of cluster bomb that HRW is talking about. Targeting and ordnance decisions are made at a very high level in the U.S. military, and these decisions are always advised by experienced attorneys who specialize in international and operational law. Indeed, the U.S. devotes more manpower and resources to complying with international law in its warfighting than any nation in history.
Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, denied that the United States indiscriminately uses cluster bombs and faulted the Taliban and al Qaeda for conducting military operations in populated areas.
He said the use of cluster bombs requires higher-level approval than the use of noncluster munitions. He noted that the United States had dropped thousands of leaflets in Afghanistan warning civilians to stay away from the unexploded bomblets.
"The biggest casualty in this misleading report is the truth," Wilkinson said. "The truth is, no military in the history of war has done more to protect the innocent than we have in Afghanistan. On many occasions, legitimate targets were bypassed because of potential collateral damage. The U.S. restrained its force well beyond that required by the law of armed conflict."
Mr. Wilkinson's comments hint at the most likely reason why the U.S. did not use such munitions indiscriminately: self-interest. The war in Afghanistan included a very real war for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. To topple the Taliban government and build a new nation afterwards, the U.S. needed to build good will among the Afghan civilian population and not be seen as another wave of Western conquerors (like the Russians). This was a major part of the U.S. campaign, as evidenced by the way the U.S. used Special Forces and Civil Affairs/PsyOps troops in the early stages of the conflict.
Tuesday, December 17, 2002
Law and Politics -- Is there any way to split the two when it comes to affirmative action?
The answer, according to a story by White House reporter Dana Milbank in tomorrow's Washington Post, is no. Political considerations drive even the most principled legal decisions in the White House, and the Bush Administration has tied itself in knots trying to decide its position regarding the University of Michigan affirmative action case now before the Supreme Court. Sen. Trent Lott's recent missteps and mea culpas have only added to the tension in the White House.
Bush Aides Split on Bias Case At U-Mich.
Administration Weighs Taking Stand on Issue
By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer
President Bush's legal and political advisers are split over whether to take a stand on the racially charged subject of affirmative action as the Supreme Court prepares to take up a landmark case on racial preferences.
The case -- actually two suits filed by white applicants against the University of Michigan -- is the highest-profile affirmative action case in a quarter-century and will determine whether racial diversity is a "compelling government interest" that can guide publicly funded schools' admissions.
According to people with knowledge of the deliberations, a number of administration lawyers, led by Solicitor General Ted Olson, are eager to take a position against the Michigan programs. But the sources said Bush's political aides and White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales oppose an administration stance against affirmative action because it could impair Bush's efforts to woo Hispanics and other minorities to the Republican Party.
The argument has become complicated by the Senate leadership battle provoked by Republican leader Trent Lott's words in support of Strom Thurmond's segregationist 1948 presidential campaign. In his bid to save his post, Lott on Monday proclaimed himself a supporter of affirmative action, a program long derided by conservatives as racial quotas.
LAT: Suspects Arrested in France with Possible Chemical Weapons and Gear
Tuesday's Los Angeles Times leads with the breaking news that a terrorist cell has been arrested in France -- with unknown chemical substances and a chemical-protection suit in their protection. This is very big news, and it will likely become a major story over the next several days. An old military maxim holds that "first reports are always wrong". In this case, we must wait and see what the real story is -- whether these chemicals were some sort of deadly chemical agent, and what this group's intentions were. French law enforcement and intelligence agencies know terrorism all too well from their Algerian experience, so I suspect they'll get to the bottom of this.
If this stuff turns out to be a chemical agent like sarin (non-persistent nerve agent), or if this group has a link to Al Qaeda or Iraq, this development could have staggering consequences:
1. Any nexus between this group and Al Qaeda or Iraq could radically alter the European stance towards America's war on terrorism. Suffice to say, if the worst case is true and this stuff somehow came from Iraq, the U.S. may move more quickly (and with European support) to disarm Saddam Hussein).
2. If this stuff turns out to be sarin, VX, or some other sophisticated chemical weapon, then a new front will have been opened by the terrorists. Until now, they have fought largely with conventional weapons, with some exceptions (the Tokyo subway attack). The development of weapons of mass destruction -- specifically chemical weapons -- by terrorists means that they have crossed a major threshold in international action. The world must now contemplate the possible effects of a chemical attack on civilians who have no means of protecting themselves. A chemical strike with VX or GB (sarin) against a major city like Paris could kill thousands of civilians in a matter of hours.
NYT: Personal Truths & Legal Fictions
Dahlia Lithwick, who covers legal affairs for Slate, wrote perhaps the best Supreme Court dispatch I have ever read last week about the oral argument in Virginia v. Black, the cross-burning case before the Court. Today, Ms. Lithwick wrote a more thoughtful piece on the same subject for the New York Times, and this essay is even better than her first.
Ms. Lithwick draws a connection between personal experience and legal discourse (see below), and the ways that the former can shape or even destroy the latter.
But with his personal narrative, Justice Thomas changed the terms of the legal debate. After he spoke, members of the court took turns characterizing burning crosses as uniquely threatening symbolic speech — as threatening as a gun, according to Justice Antonin Scalia — and as therefore undeserving of First Amendment protection. The dynamic is familiar to any former law student: a criminal law class on the definition of "consent" in a rape case is paralyzed when a woman in the back row says she was raped. A policy debate about whether to try juvenile offenders as adults stops when a student blurts out that his brother was killed in a gang fight.
These awkward silences happen when legal analysis and personal narrative (often of victimization) collide. At these moments, law school professors are rendered speechless — and Supreme Court justices, evidently, jettison their three-part tests to reassure their distressed colleague that indeed burning crosses are uniquely symbolic of imminent violence.
Identity and personal experience have long shaped political discourse, but we have always engaged in the legal fiction that these things do not -- or ought not -- shape legal discourse. Cases ought to be decided on legal principles, and not anecdotal personal stories or encounters. Ms. Lithwick argues persuasively that identity and experience do in fact shape legal discourse, and that this legal fiction is a fraud.
Monday, December 16, 2002
MANHUNT - The Bush Administration's new strategy in the war against terrorism.
Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who wrote on Vietnam and more recently on Barry McCaffrey's misadventures as a Persian Gulf division commander, has a story in the current New Yorker on the CIA's new policy of targeted killings. As can be expected, he takes a fairly skeptical view of this policy. It's worth a look, given Mr. Hersh's considerable reporting talents and experience in the field of national security.
Here's one excerpt discussing the skepticism of experts in the field about the new policy:
The Hellfire attack in Yemen was applauded by many Americans, and also by the media, as progress in the war against terrorism. There were only a few public complaints. Anna Lindh, the Swedish foreign minister, declared that the American military attack, even with Yemeni approval, "is nevertheless a summary execution that violates human rights." She added, "Even terrorists must be treated according to international law. Otherwise, any country can start executing those whom they consider terrorists." Amnesty International also questioned "the deliberate killing of suspects in lieu of arrest, in circumstances in which they did not pose an immediate threat."
However, even American legal experts who were critical of the attacks did not challenge their legality. "It's not a question of law," Michael Glennon, a professor of international law at Tufts University, said. "It's a matter of policy. Is it wise? Do such attacks increase the possibility of retaliation at home and abroad on the American political and military leadership?" A similar point was made by Philip Heymann, a professor at Harvard Law School. "I don't think Richard Nixon signed the treaty outlawing biological warfare just because he had a deep aversion to biologicals," Heymann told me. "He signed it because it was against U.S. national interests to have a lot of little guys running around with biological agents that could not be deterred by our nuclear arsenal. Assassination is in the same ballpark—it doesn't take much to assassinate a U.S. Secretary of State or another Cabinet member." The American goal, he added, should be to outlaw "any weapon that even a small country can use against the big guys." Jeffrey H. Smith, a West Point graduate who served as the C.I.A.'s general counsel during the Clinton Administration, said, "I'm not opposed to shooting people, but it ought to be a last resort. If they're dead, they're not talking to you, and you create more martyrs."
Other military officials I spoke with had similar concerns. "You might be able to pull it off for five or six months," a Pentagon consultant said. "We've created a culture in the Special Forces—twenty- and twenty-one-year-olds who need adult leadership. They're assuming you've got legal authority, and they'll do it"— eagerly eliminate any target assigned to them. Eventually, the intelligence will be bad, he said, and innocent people will be killed. "And then they'll get hung." As for Rumsfeld and his deputies, he said, "These guys will overextend themselves, and they'll self-destruct."
Sunday NY Times: Bush Has Widened Authority of C.I.A. to Kill Terrorists
Veteran reporters James Risen and David Johnston led the NY Times' front page on Sunday with a revelation that President Bush has authorized the CIA (and presumably other federal agencies) to pursue and kill terrorists wherever they may be.
I had two initial reactions to the legal issues posed by this story:
1. The labeling of Al Qaeda leaders as enemy combatants, instead of political leaders, matters greatly. If these terrorists were political leaders, their assassination would remain prohibited by the Executive Order outlawing assassination. The Bush Administration has chosen to keep that policy in effect, notwithstanding the new policy. Clearly, this reflects a policy judgment that these terrorist leaders are more akin to warlords/generals, and their killing is more analogous to the intentional killing of a military commander. Such tactics are known as "decapitation" strikes, and have existed in military strategy since the days of Sun Tzu. In modern times, the U.S. has used such tactics with great success (and international approval), such as the use of U.S. Navy fighter planes to shoot down Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto during WWII.
2. Presumably, this policy applies to U.S. proactive killing of enemy combatants abroad, as well as at home. And judging by the language in Mr. Risen and Mr. Johnston's article, this rule would also apply to U.S. citizens who were high-ranking members of Al Qaeda, like the U.S. citizen killed in Yemen by a CIA-launched Hellfire missile. If those two assumptions are true, then the federal government may have the power/authority to kill U.S. citizen-terrorists on U.S. soil under this policy. That would put quite an edge on the Adminstration's decision to label someone an enemy combatant.
Excerpts from article:
"President Bush has provided written legal authority to the C.I.A. to hunt down and kill the terrorists without seeking further approval each time the agency is about to stage an operation. Some officials said the terrorist list was known as the "high-value target list." A spokesman for the White House declined to discuss the list or issues involving the use of lethal force against terrorists. A spokesman for the C.I.A. also declined to comment on the list.
Despite the authority given to the agency, Mr. Bush has not waived the executive order banning assassinations, officials said. The presidential authority to kill terrorists defines operatives of Al Qaeda as enemy combatants and thus legitimate targets for lethal force."
* * *
Intelligence officials said the presidential finding authorizing the agency to kill terrorists was not limited to those on the list. The president has given broad authority to the C.I.A. to kill or capture operatives of Al Qaeda around the world, the officials said. But officials said the group's most senior leaders on the list were the agency's primary focus.
The list is updated periodically as the intelligence agency, in consultation with other counterterrorism agencies, adds new names or deletes those who are captured or killed, or when intelligence indicates the emergence of a new leader.
The precise criteria for adding someone to the list are unclear, although the evidence against each person must be clear and convincing, the officials said. The list contains the names of some of the same people who are on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's list of most wanted terror suspects, although the lists are prepared independently.
Saturday, December 14, 2002
Book Recommendation: Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (by Robert Coram)
Mr. Coram's book deserves a look for several reasons. The first is that it is well written and researched. Unlike a number of policy-oriented biographies, this one does not require massive amounts of caffeine to read. The pages turn almost of their own will, as Coram tells the story of Boyd's exploits in combat and the halls of Pentagon.
The second reason to select Mr. Coram's book is Colonel Boyd himself. Few thinkers have influenced American military strategy -- indeed decisional science for all disciplines -- as Colonel Boyd has. "OODA" remains the theory for which he is best known, though it was not his biggest theory in lifetime. OODA stands for "observe, orient, decide, act". Colonel Boyd originally developed this theory for describing how fighter pilots' minds work in the heat of combat, and why American fighter pilots seemed to beat their adversaries (their planes were more maneuverable and they had more training, among other reasons). However, Colonel Boyd's theory grew to encompass much more than than single-pilot combat. It has become a general framework for looking at decisionmaking in any competitive environment -- from combat to corporate America. The competitor who has the shortest OODA loop -- who can act the fastest -- wins. This theory was quite revolutionary for its time, because it threatened the entire bureaucratic system of the U.S. military and its relevance to warfighting.
The third reason for reading this book is its relevance to our current war on terrorism. As a small terrorist network, Al Qaeda has a small OODA loop in comparison to the White House and Pentagon. It is able to exploit vulnerabilties faster than the U.S. bureaucracy can react to them. Al Qaeda can even develop capabilities faster than the Pentagon can identify them and develop counter-measures. The net result is a war of OODA loops, where America remains vulnerable because its adversaries can adapt/innovate faster than we can. If Boyd were alive today, he would point this out to the leaders in the Pentagon as the single largest American vulnerability. This is perhaps the most compelling reason to read this book. Colonel Boyd's theories provide a useful framework for understanding the relationship between organizations and action, and illuminate precisely why American defense organizations have been unable to act decisively against terrorism.
Friday, December 13, 2002
Former 9/11 detainee files $20 million civil rights suit
Remember the guy who was alleged to have a two-way radio transceiver in a hotel that overlooked the World Trade Center on the morning of 9/11? A hotel employee had mistakenly fingered Mr. Abdallah Higazy, saying he found such a radio and a Koran in his room. (In fact, the transceiver belonged to an amateur pilot in a room on the floor above) But it didn't save Mr. Higazy the fate of being arrested by the FBI, interrogated for 10 days, during which time he ultimately confessed.
Higazy is suing FBI agent Michael Templeton, who administered a disputed lie detector test that was central to the aborted prosecution. He is one of the five named defendants in Higazy's complaint filed in Manhattan federal court.
Templeton "extracted a false confession ... through coercion, threats, and intimidation," Higazy alleges.
If those allegations are true, then Mr. Higazy should sue the FBI and federal government under Title 42, United States Code, Section 1983, for deprivation of his civil rights under color of authority. There is ample precedent for such suits, and that would be the proper corrective mechanism in this case. If those allegations are true, then FBI Special Agent Templeton should be disciplined by the FBI as well.
The other defendants are Ronald Ferry, the former hotel security guard who framed Higazy by claiming to find a pilot's radio in the safe in his room; the Millennium hotel, across the street from the World Trade Center, where Higazy stayed on the 51st floor; the hotel's chief of security, Stuart Yule; and the Hilton Hotels Corporation, which manages the Millennium.
Higazy's suit accuses the Millennium Hilton of negligence in its hiring and training of Ferry and Yule, who passed Ferry's information to the FBI.
Ferry was convicted in March for lying to federal agents and sentenced to six months worth of weekends in prison.
Higazy is seeking $10 million in compensatory damages and $10 million in punitive damages.
This is more problematic. If Mr. Higazy can prove actual negligence, or worse, actual malice on the part of the hotel, then I think this suit is justified. If all he can prove is a simple mistake, compounded by the fact that he is of Middle Eastern descent, then this suit amounts to nothing more than a money-grab. Through the legal theory "respondeat superior", Mr. Higazy is targeting the Millenium Hotel and its parent corporation, Hilton, for the acts of its employee, Mr. Yule. Such a legal tactic makes sense, since Mr. Yule likely does not have the money to pay such a verdict. But it also smacks of a money grab.
Mr. Higazy's suit also raises a more problematic issue for the world of anti-terrorism. If his suit survives summary judgment and goes forward, then it will pose tremendous costs to Mr. Yule and the Hilton Corporation (presumably, Hilton will defend Mr. Yule too or pay for his defense). The prospect of those litigation costs will have a chilling effect on all future citizens and businesses who might think to call in a tip about terrorists in the United States. Hotel maids will be instructed to ignore suspicious-looking packages and materials in hotel rooms. Taxi drivers will have similar instructions from their corporate parent about airport fares, lest they incur liability for their parent corporation for mistaking a Yemeni businessman for a Yememi terrorist. This chilling effect will cause a significant problem for law enforcement, which relies as much on vigilant citizens as anything for the generation of tips that could lead to the prevention of terrorism.
Honest mistakes are part of the anti-terrorism business. This enemy fights in a clandestine and secret manner. Often, the only indicators of terrorist activity are indicators which could have multiple meanings -- a radio transceiver, for example, which could either be used to direct hijackers or simply to communicate with friends. A large amount of cash, which could be used to finance terrorism or it could be used to buy a wedding ring. Sorting between these indicators to find the ones that matter is the job of law enforcement and intelligence agencies. By analyzing these indicators, they transform them into useable intelligence. What happened Mr. Higazy was most likely an honest mistake -- people trying to do the right thing by reporting suspicious activity to the FBI days after the 9/11 attack. If lawsuits like this are allowed to proceed, then the average citizen will err on the side of caution and avoid such mistakes -- by staying silent about their suspicions. Ultimately, that puts us all at risk if terrorists are able to exploit that silence to move more freely in our society.
Thursday, December 12, 2002
Bush criticizes Lott -- a good first step
The Associated Press reports that President Bush criticized Senator Trent Lott today during a speech in Philadelphia, saying he was right to apologize.
"Any suggestion that a segregated past was acceptable or positive is offensive and it is wrong," Bush said. "Recent comments by Senator Lott do not reflect the spirit of our country."
Unfortunately, President Bush's comments don't go far enough. Mr. Lott deserves his censure -- and more. Just as President Bush was willing to fire Paul O'Neill and Larry Lindsey for threatening the American Dream and President Bush's reelection prospects, he should also be willing to oust Mr. Lott. In fact, I think the continuing service of Mr. Lott as Senate Majority Leader poses *more* of a threat to President Bush's reelection chances than Mr. O'Neill or Mr. Lindsey. If morality and doing the right thing aren't enough, then maybe self-interest can motivate the President to quietly (or publicly) insist on Mr. Lott's departure.
Another perspective on Senator Lott and his statements--
Bob Herbert of the New York Times has a powerful column in today's newspaper about this subject. He makes a strong argument for why the GOP needs to dump Lott as fast as possible -- for reasons of political self-interest.
"The Republican Party has become a haven for white racist attitudes and anti-black policies. The party of Lincoln is now a safe house for bigotry. It's the party of the Southern strategies and the Willie Horton campaigns and Bob Jones University and the relentless and unconscionable efforts to disenfranchise black voters. For those who now think the Democratic Party is not racist enough, the answer is the G.O.P. And there are precious few voices anywhere in the G.O.P. willing to step up and say that this is wrong."
It doesn't take a macroeconomic genius to read the census data to see why the GOP should do this. America is becoming more diverse -- racially, ethnically, and otherwise. No political party can survive as the last redoubt of white guys who hope to bring back the 1950s. The Republican Party loses credibility with minorities with every day that Senator Lott remains its Senate Majority Leader.
States' rights as cover for racism -- how conservatives and others used 'legitimate' Constitutional arguments to mask their real intentions.
In defense of Trent Lott and his support for Strom Thurmond and Bob Jones University, many have argued that Mr. Lott was simply advocating for "states' rights", or that he was simply fighting for the 1st Amendment. On one level, that is true. But those were simply the legal arguments used to fight against integration and social progress by Southerners in the courts and Congress. To truly appreciate the depths of Mr. Lott's racism, we need to understand the nature of this "states' rights" argument and how it relates directly to the perpetuation of segregation in the South.
In his third volume on Lyndon Johnson, biographer Robert Caro writes extensively on Sen. Richard Russell, who before LBJ was the greatest Senator to ever walk the halls of Congress. He served as a legendary legislative advocate for the South, largely because of his ability to fight against civil-rights bills and progressive policies. (His successful stands against these acts helped to cement Southern legislators into a solid political block) More often than not, Sen. Russell fought these bills on the "moral high ground", as he put it. Rather than simply stand up for racism, Sen. Russell and his minions stood for principles like states' rights -- in the theory that the federal government shouldn't make social policy, and that should be left to the states. In reality, this was just a smokescreen. States rights on the national level meant that national norms -- like racial equality -- would not be enforced in the South. States rights meant that Southern whites could continue to perpetuate segregation in their states, without interference from the Justice Department or federal courts. States rights meant that certain parts of the Constitution, such as the 14th Amendment's equal-protection clause, would be read to give deference to states who developed their own meanings behind equal. In short, states rights meant that "separate but equal" was still okay, and that Brown v. Board of Education was a mistake.
Polite speakers (then and now) never spoke in the open about their support for segregation; they always cloaked their true feelings in discourse about "states rights" or "freedom of association". The protection of states' right to discriminate and segregate was always the real issue. But it was never framed that way in public discourse, because doing so would alienate the rest of the country. Framing the issue as an arcane debate over Federalism vs. states rights made the issue less visceral for most Americans; it removed it from the front pages and put it on the legal pages. It also helped the Democratic party at the time, which included Southern bigots like Richard Russell and northern liberals like Hubert Humphrey, to get along.
So today, when Trent Lott tries to defend his views as supportive of "states' rights" -- don't believe him. He's really talking about states' ability to perpetuate racial subordination and segregation. When he talks about Bob Jones University and their 1st Amendment rights -- don't let his arguments persuade you. He's really talking about a religious institution's right to ban interracial dating and other social norms it disagrees with. Seeing through Mr. Lott's discourse is imperative for understanding the depths of his racism, and the reasons why he is no longer fit to serve as Majority Leader in the United States Senate.
Wednesday, December 11, 2002
I highly recommend a look at Chris Baker's blog today for a discussion of why the U.S. remains reluctant to disclose its knowledge of Iraq's WMD programs. Here's an excerpt:
In contrast to the Sept. 11 scene...the Administration has adamantly contended that with respect to Iraq's WMD, it "has the goods." This brings me to my second point: if we have the goods, why don't we tell everyone else to shore up our position and strengthen international resolve to go after Iraq? The simple answer is this: if the U.S. reveals the details of why it knows Iraq is lying, the people that are responsible for compiling the intelligence about Saddam's WMD program start dying. Suppose we reveal that we know scientists at Iraq's missile complex in Wazireyah were in the process of designing a new germ agent that looked and tasted like pepperoni (silly, yes...but hang with me). Disclosing this level of detailed information would lead Iraq to ask "how does the U.S. know that?!", and almost certainly, Iraq would be able to "connect the dots" and discover a "source", or uncover a "method". If the source is traced to the defection of a scientist or engineer who is outside of Iraq's reach, Saddam's bad guys hunt down the source's family. If the source is unlucky enough to still be living in Iraq, Saddam's bad guys first hang the source by his neck in the town square, and then they hunt down his family.
Headline: U.S. set to use mines in Iraq
WASHINGTON — The Pentagon is preparing to use anti-personnel land mines in a war with Iraq, despite U.S. policy that calls for the military to stop using the mines everywhere in the world except Korea by 2003.
USA Today led with a story today stating the obvious -- that the U.S. would use its air-delivered, ground-delivered, and artillery-delivered land mines in a war with Iraq. These devices make up an important part of the U.S. arsenal, especially in the wide-open desert, because of their ability to shape terrain and restrict certain avenues of approach to the enemy.
So why the fuss? Two reasons. First, there's a crowd of people that get upset over any weapons system, no matter how traditional international law regards it. These people get upset over the use of bayonets, rifles, tank ammunition, smart bombs -- even tear gas used for riot control. Second, land mines can cause collateral damage for decades after a conflict. The dumb land mines used by many armies remain armed indefinitely, and they are often not marked or fenced off. Thousands of civilians in places like Vietnam and Bosnia are grievously wounded by these leftover devices.
However, there's one big glaring hole in the USA TODAY story that any recent vet can easily spot. Today, the U.S. almost exclusively uses "smart mines" -- not dumb land mines. These mines are usually set to detonate 4 to 48 hours after emplacement, and they are precisely targeted and marked on maps so as not to pose an obstacle to friendly forces. They do not remain in the soil for decades after the conflict -- they are usually blown in place immediately so they don't pose a threat to U.S. rear area troops. The dumbest land mine the U.S. uses today is the M18A1 "Claymore" mine, a command-detonated device made famous by movies like Platoon. (Yes, it's Vietnam vintage) But these are still not the kind of dumb mines that sit waiting in the ground for someone to go by. And because of their danger to friendly troops, they're not left armed after the battle's over.
(The U.S. does employ air-delivered and artillery-delivered submunitions, also known as ‘cluster bombs.’ These small bomblets can stay armed in the ground long after use, just as a dud bomb can. However, those munitions are neither covered by the Land Mine Treaty nor the Clinton Administration’s pledge.)
Consequently, this story is much adieu about nothing. The move to minimize civilian suffering during/after war is a noble one, and I support it. But this article tells the story inaccurately; the U.S. has already done more than most nations to control the risks of using land mines. Indeed, the U.S. military does more than any military organization in history to comply with the international law of war -- going so far as to assign lawyers to brigade-sized troop formations in order to advise field commanders on the law of war.
Tuesday, December 10, 2002
What is OPSEC? Operational security -- it's something that most journalists ought to learn something about.
In general, I believe the American people have a right to know about their military, and their sons and daughters who currently serve in harm's way. In general, I believe the American press does a good job of reporting on military issues, especially some of the more experienced military reporters (e.g. Tom Ricks of the Washington Post and Greg Jaffe of the Wall Street Journal). Unfortunately, recent stories have shown that a staggering number of media outlets care more about making news than safeguarding information that could put American lives in danger. In short, they care more about headlines than OPSEC.
I honestly believe that the Pentagon would give the media more access if it trusted the media not to print obscenely detailed information about troop movements, locations, disposition, etc. Unfortunately, today's media doesn't seem to want to play that game, as evidenced by numerous leaks of war plans in the New York Times and Washington Times, and the story below from the Christian Science Monitor. This ran as part of James Taranto's 'Best of the Web' column on Wall Street Journal online. It starts with a joke from the Gulf War, and then a real excerpt from a today's news.
Finally, an Answer
From "Gulf War Briefing," a "Saturday Night Live" sketch that aired Feb. 9, 1991:
Reporter #8 (Adam Sandler): Yes, Farud Hashami, Baghdad Times. Where are your troops, and can I go there and count them?
Lt. Col. William Pierson: Nope! Last question.
From the Christian Science Monitor, Dec. 10, 2002:
There are approximately:
- 12,000 Army troops in Kuwait, which are protected by two Patriot missile batteries;
- 3,300 Army troops at Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, including an armored brigade. Some 1,000 additional forces arrived over the weekend for the test of Internal Look, the newly deployed portable command-and-control center;
- 500 Air Force troops and the 380th Air Expeditionary Wing at Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates;
- 800 Marines in Djibouti, plus a CIA control center for the Predator drones;
- 3,800 Air Force troops and 60 aircraft at Incirlik Air Base in eastern Turkey;
- 2,000 Air Force troops and 224 aircraft at Al Seeb Air Base in Oman;
- 4,200 mainly naval troops at the 5th Fleet headquarters in Bahrain;
- The 50th Expeditionary Wing and two naval squadrons on Diego Garcia, an island in the Indian Ocean. It is also now able to accommodate as many as six B-2 stealth bombers;
- 10,000 mainly Air Force troops at Prince Sultain Air Base in Saudi Arabia, which is protected by two Patriot missile batteries;
- The USS Abraham Lincoln carrier battle group, which includes nine ships with 5,963 personnel and 70 aircraft, is deployed in the Persian Gulf region; the USS Washington carrier battle group, which includes 13 ships with 6,250 personnel and about 75 aircraft, is deployed in the Mediterranean; the aircraft carrier USS Constellation, with 50 warplanes, is on its way to the region; and the USS Harry S. Truman, which includes 10 ships and 8,000 personnel, as well as 80 aircraft including EA-6B electronic warfare jets, left Norfolk, Va., at the end of last week and is steaming toward the region.
It's possible that the editor had some noble idea that he/she was contributing to an informed American population, and that such information might inform the public debate over a future war in Iraq. But that goal has to be weighed against the potential harm this information could cause. This kind of detailed information is exactly the kind of targeting information I'd want to know as a terrorist, and exactly the kind of strategic intelligence I'd want as an Iraqi. With war looming, it's time for the media to be more responsible about the detail of information they report, lest they put America lives at risk.
I wrote a commentary for the Los Angeles Times in February 2002 about the need to fund basic things for our foot soldiers in the field -- bullets, batteries, boots, CamelBaks, etc. David Wood of the Newhouse News Service had a piece on Friday making a number of these same points, in light of the recently-signed FY2003 National Defense Authorization Act -- the largest in U.S. history. Here's an excerpt:
FORT BENNING, Ga. -- U.S. military technology, accelerating American dominance over allies and rivals at a dizzying pace, is driving enemy forces to scatter and hide where they are vulnerable only to that most humble and low-tech weapon -- the infantry grunt.
The lessons emerging from the global war on terrorism suggest the Pentagon will come to depend heavily on infantry to track down and root out terrorists and guerrillas, to assault Saddam Hussein's last defenders in their hide-holes, to provide security and stability in postwar nations like Afghanistan, and to offer a reassuring American presence in volatile regions from the Korean peninsula to southern Europe and Africa.
Yet the infantry, whose troops have streamed forth from this training base for generations, is undermanned, cash-poor and ill-equipped, senior officers acknowledge.
From the dusty, sunburned veterans of firefights with al-Qaida in Afghanistan to the parka-swathed GIs on guard along Korea's frozen DMZ, infantrymen already have borne a heroically heavy burden. In combat, they suffer disproportionately heavy casualties.
But there's barely a dribble for the infantry in the new $392 billion defense spending bill.
"We have chosen to do other things," says the Army's chief of infantry, Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, with a touch of ironic sourness.
For instance, just the overrun this year on the Air Force's new F-22 fighter program, $690 million, is enough to outfit about 87,000 infantrymen with brand-new stuff including boots, desert camouflage fatigues, helmets, flak vests, weapons, ammo, night vision goggles, chem-bio protective suits and a day's worth of MRE rations.
While the Air Force is paying $204 million (not including overrun) for each new F-22, GIs in Afghanistan are forced to buy their own gloves, cushioned socks, cargo belts, flashlights, padded rucksack straps and CamelBak hydration systems, Army investigators found.
Garmin satellite position-finders, preferred over the scarce, military-issue Pluggers, are popular gifts for soldiers in the field; they're $99 at Wal-Mart.
Bottom line: we owe it to our men and women in the field to give them everything they need for success. Making them buy their own high-quality boots, lightweight GPS receivers, and CamelBaks is unacceptable. These men and women volunteered to go into harm's way to protect our way of life, and we owe them the equipment to do the job.
The New York Times front page included a story this morning on ‘domestic spying’ and its implications. It’s an excellent story, and I recommend reading it for some concrete examples of how the U.S. government is implementing the enhanced surveillance provisions of the USA PATRIOT Act and other anti-terrorism legislation.
There is a maxim in military operations that “intelligence drives operations.” This must be true in anti-terrorism operations as well. Information, the raw material, and intelligence, the product of analysis, must drive everything the government does in the war on terrorism. The reason is quite simple. America does not have the resources to chase every lead out there, nor do we have the ability to withstand more attacks in order to determine which leads are accurate and which ones are not. On the battlefield, a commander faces the same calculus, but can usually afford some losses in order to determine the enemy’s strategy. Anti-terrorism is different. Not only do we not have the law enforcement resources to chase every lead – we cannot afford even a single civilian casualty in this war.
Intelligence is critical because it informs the decisions which are made about where to allocate scarce anti-terrorism resources. Intelligence about the enemy tells us when to beef up airport security; when to put National Guardsmen on bridges – and when to stop those patrols and move TSA personnel to airport perimeters to look for terrorists with surface-to-air missiles. The threat we face today is dynamic and innovative. Intelligence is the only thing which will enable us to stay ahead of this threat, and develop counter-measures before our enemy can act.
How best to gather this information? Our enemies (Al Qaeda and others) have tried to use our infrastructure against us. We must use our infrastructure against them. We must use our tremendously well-networked infrastructure against their agents who might attack us on our soil; we must use this infrastructure to identify, interdict, and stop them before they can act. We must do so in the most effective way possible.
The types of electronic information gathering and ‘data mining’ are the least intrusive means available for this purpose. It would be far more intrusive to have heavily armed FBI agents storm every potential terrorist’s home, especially when the majority of these leads turn out to be fruitless. Instead, our government has chosen a less intrusive path. The Justice Department’s rules allow it to gather information about large groups of people to look for indicators of terrorist activity. Once it sees indicators, it gathers more information, in order to confirm or deny whether the targeted person is a terrorist or not. If the government can confirm the person’s terrorist activity, it acts. But if not, there has been no harm done – no sullying of public reputation, no physical invasion, no serious invasion of privacy.
We face an unfortunate situation today where our enemies may attack us from within. They may appear as U.S. citizens, permanent resident aliens, temporary immigrants, student immigrants, or undocumented immigrants. Information is the only thing which can discern our friends from our enemies, and the nature of the threat requires that we gather this information about ourselves in order to find this threat and stop it.
Monday, December 09, 2002
This week's US News and World Report leads with an article on the American military-justice system. This article startled me with its inaccurate statements of fact and law, and its taking of quotes out of context. I went through the piece and summarized the most egregious errors in the analysis below. I’m not naïve enough to think that US News will print a correction. However, I hope to my critique helps illuminate the truth about the military justice system. This system, though different from the civilian criminal system, is not as Draconian as US News would have its readers believe.
Quote: “At a moment when many of the 2.7 million men and women who serve in the active-duty armed forces, Reserves, and National Guard units may be called to put their lives on the line, it is an issue of particular urgency. Why is it, critics ask, that these men and women are governed by a system of justice that provides a standard of fairness inferior to that guaranteed to even the most hardened criminals who appear each day in America's civilian courts?”
Analysis: The line “standard of fairness” is inaccurate. In many respects, the military-justice is significantly more fair than the federal or state criminal systems. First, the caliber of defense attorney is far superior in the military system. JAG officers in the Trial Defense Service are better trained, better resourced, and have more access to prosecutorial evidence than even the federal public defenders. Moreover, the Military Rules of Evidence are as fair as the Federal Rules of Evidence, since they are 95% the same rules. (FRE rules become military rules by default unless the President or Congress specifically says no to a new federal rule being incorporated as a military rule.)
Quote: “The question is not without foundation. A six-month investigation by U.S. News has documented a flawed crim- inal justice system in which injustices can easily occur. Though the cases almost never make headlines, every day across this land, and at American installations abroad, the Pentagon's legal bureaucracy gears up and tries a soldier, sailor, marine, or aviator by court-martial. Many are guilty as charged. Almost all are first-time offenders. Overwhelmingly, the accused are enlisted men and women–not general staff or flag officers. The odds, overwhelmingly, are that the accused will be convicted.”
1. “Many are guilty as charged.” Really? 96% of defendants charged in the civilian system are guilty too, so it should come as no surprise that a similar proportion get convicted in military court.
2. “Almost all are first-time offenders.” Really? Maybe that’s because the military discharges almost all felons at the end of their sentence, thus precluding any second-time offenders. Funny how the article fails to mention that.
3. “… the accused are enlisted.” The odds are the enlisted will be prosecuted/convicted because they make up the majority of the service. And just as college-educated professionals don’t make up the majority of civilian felons, the same is true in the military. Officers don’t commit the majority of crimes. But when officers do commit minor crimes, like DUI, they’re more likely to be hammered than EMs for the same offense.
Quote: “The law that governs the proceedings in the nation's military courts is the Uniform Code of Military Justice. Congress created the code 52 years ago to eliminate widespread injustices that occurred in court-martial proceedings through- out the nation's armed services in World War II. Lawmakers have not thoroughly reviewed the system in more than 30 years and seem in no mood to do so anytime soon. As a result, critics say, the code has failed to embrace key procedural safeguards available in civilian courts and to keep pace with the military justice systems of some U.S. allies, including Britain. "There is a shocking lack of interest on Capitol Hill,'' says Eugene Fidell, a Washington attorney and expert in military law. Kevin Barry, a retired Coast Guard captain and former chief military judge, is more pointed. "The code badly needs a face-lift,'' he says. "It either should be reformed, or it should be abolished.''”
1. Regarding “key procedural safeguards,” the military has embraced more of them thatnthe federal criminal system or states have. In many situations, the military has embraced these first. Case in point: Miranda warnings. The Supreme Court took the Miranda doctrine from Art. 31 of the UCMJ. Case in point: unlawful command influence. The military system forbids this, and appellate courts often reverse cases for it. The rule works a lot better in the military system than the 'ex parte contacts' rule in the civilian courts. Case in point: Art. 32 hearings. Unlike a civilian grand-jury proceeding, the accused gets to present evidence and make a case before the military equivalent of a grand jury, the Art. 32 hearing.
2. Congress created the code 52 years ago to fix the kind of subjective military justice this article seems to ask for. Commanders played even more of a role in courts martial during WWII, and justice was often swift and not quite fair. 2 million courts martial were conducted during WWII (in a population of roughly 16 million servicemen). The Draconian nature of that old system led a lot of former draftees to lobby Congress after WWII for a better system. They came up with the UCMJ. Today's military-justice system is regarded by practitioners as more fair than many states' criminal-justice system. Maybe US News should report that.
Quote: “Commanding officers, known as convening authorities, wield far more power than any prosecutor in any of America's civilian courts. They decide whether to prosecute a service member. They handpick jury members. They decide whether to approve, disapprove, or amend guilty verdicts and sentences issued by juries and military judges. Critics say the power to pick jurors is the Achilles heel of the system, likening it to allowing a prosecutor alone to pick the jury in a civilian case. Military appeals courts have criticized commanders for "unlawful command influence,'' or manipulating the process to convict an accused member. Despite those warnings, legal experts say, military lawyers have prosecuted only one command-influence case–and that was nearly 50 years ago.”
Analysis: This is a fair criticism. Unlawful command influence is the biggest problem in the military justice system. And the power to pick jurors is probably one that ought to reside with military judges, not commanders. But remember: this is a system designed for wartime, not designed for peacetime. In either situation, you have a finite amount of prospective jurors available to a command. Military commanders don’t have the luxury of voir dire where attorneys can interrogate each other and dismiss them for cause. Other goals, namely winning America's wars, have to come first. Personally, I’m comfortable with the military jury system, because studies have shown that these officers and senior NCOs actually pay more attention in court and apply the rules better than their undereducated and underemployed civilian counterparts (see, e.g., the OJ Simpson case).
Quote: “All the armed services have a real, if unwritten, double standard for criminal prosecutions. Military prosecutors can throw the book at enlisted men and women, but the services tread lightly when it comes to generals and admirals. Some have been disciplined and forced to retire, but the military has court-martialed only three general officers–two Army generals and an admiral–in the past 50 years. Says Glenn MacDonald, a retired Army major who runs a Web site, militarycorruption.com:"We call it 'different spanks for different ranks.' "”
Analysis: This is a real spin on the facts. The book almost always gets thrown at officers these days, especially for minor infractions like DUI, domestic violence or AWOL. Conversely, the book does not always get thrown at enlisted personnel. These situations are almost always resolved with Art. 15 non-judicial punishment for enlisted soldiers, especially junior ones. But officers and senior NCOs always get the book tossed at them. True: officers and senior NCOs sometimes get to “Resign In Lieu Of” (RILO) court martial. But that’s akin to the plea bargains given out in civilian court all the time, and it’s a fair consideration for some senior officer or senior NCO with lots of service and one minor infraction.
Quote: “On paper, the Pentagon's criminal justice system is an impressive one. There are prosecutors, defense lawyers, and rules of evidence. In addition to appellate review courts for each service, there is a supreme court of sorts–a five-member civilian panel, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.”
Analysis: Here, the article just gets it wrong. The military-justice system actually has an additional level of review when compared to the civilian system. In the civilian system, you get the trial court (U.S. District Court), intermediate court of appeals (e.g. 9th Circuit), and then the Supreme Court – but only when they take the case. In the military, you get the trial court martial, then an intermediate court of review, then you get the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces – equivalent to a 9th Circuit. On top of that, you still get the right of petition to the U.S. Supreme Court. The CAAF is not a “supreme court of sorts” – it is an appellate court that sits just below the Supreme Court. (However, it is an Art. II court, not an Art. III court, and this creates interesting separation-of-powers issues) This is a glaring error in the article, and it belies a lack of research or consultation with JAG officers and civilian lawyers who know how the federal judiciary is organized.
Quote: “Some commanders and their aides go too far, however, and unlawful command influence–what the appellate courts have called the "mortal enemy of military justice''–remains a touchy subject in the military legal hierarchy. In an October 2001 memo to subordinates at Fort Hood, Texas, Army Maj. Gen. Raymond Odierno laid it on the line: "Unlawful command influence continues to be an insidious problem in our military justice system and is of grave concern to me.''”
Analysis: Unbelievable. This quote from MG Odierno was taken completely out of context. First, this quote is from his command-policy memo on military justice, which FORBADE any unlawful command influence in the command. Second, that memo was not written in response to any incident or the climate under the previous 4ID Commanding General(now-LTG Ben Griffin) -- it was done as a pro forma matter. In fact, I served in that division headquarters in the Provost Marshal’s shop, close to the military justice system. There were no unlawful command influence problems in that division headquarters. If ever there was a place with a strong SJA and no unlawful influence, it was the 4th Infantry division under then-MG Griffin.
Quote: “More often than not, investigations and prosecutions have little to do with military operations. The military still prosecutes personnel for conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman, for going absent without leave, for violating orders, and for disrespecting superiors. But it also prosecutes personnel for adultery and sodomy and for crimes like rape, child molestation, larceny, robbery, assault, burglary, and murder. Given service members' dependence on one another in the military, drug use is a one-way ticket to a dishonorable discharge, the brig, or the military's only long-term prison, the U.S. Disciplinary Barracks in Leavenworth, Kan.”
Analysis: Really? Crimes like rape, child molestation, robbery, and murder have no effect on military operations? No effect on the bedrock of discipline that’s so necessary to effective military organizations? This paragraph illustrates just how poorly the author understands the phrase “prejudicial to good order and discipline” which exists as an element in every UCMJ offense.
Bottom line: this is a poorly-researched and fact-checked article that should have been heavily edited before publication. It mischaracterizes the military justice in many places, and flatly misstates the facts and law in others. The old proverb that "military justice is to justice as military music is to music" may be true. But that's not to say the system is unjust -- just that it is different.
Friday, December 06, 2002
I guess this doesn’t qualify for justifiable homicide, even in Texas.
Reuters (from www.yahoo.com)
Texan Killed Friend Who Drank Last Cold Beer
Fri Dec 6,10:15 AM ET
BANDERA, Texas (Reuters) - A jury on Thursday handed a life prison sentence to a Texas man who shot and killed a longtime friend he accused of drinking the last beer in his refrigerator.
Jurors deliberated for less than two hours before passing the sentence on Steven Brasher, 42, for the murder of Willie Lawson, 39, on Nov. 5 last year.
"There was only two beers left, so I took one, and I told Willie not to take my last beer," Brasher said in a taped statement that was played during the trial.
Testimony showed Brasher shot Lawson in the head with a pistol after the two began arguing over the missing beer. Brasher maintained the shooting was an accident.
More on reservists and the requirements driving their callup...
This story from GovExec.Com is related to the Wall St Journal/NY Times stories on reservist callups. One major reason for calling up so many reservists after Sept. 11 was the greatly increased requirement for "force protection" at U.S. military bases. With the Pentagon now authorized to hire civilian guards for this purpose, the number of reservists required for long-term security needs may drop significantly.
Generally, this is a good thing. We don't invest thousands of dollars (and man hours) in training soldiers how to be infantrymen and military police to be gate guards. The assignment of troops to these jobs has a enormously destructive effect on unit morale -- and long-term unit readiness. Serving in these capacities saps a unit's ability to train on its warfighting tasks, especially those complex collective tasks that require weeks of focused training. 'Gate guard' duty also destroys the morale of reserve unit. It's hard to tell a soldier who is pulled away from his job and family for 6-12 months that his service is relevant when he's pulling guard duty outside a base in Central Texas.
December 5, 2002
Law Allows Contractors To Help Guard Military Bases
By Jason Peckenpaugh
The Defense Department can use contractors to guard military bases in limited cases under the 2003 Defense Authorization Act signed Monday by President Bush.
Section 332 of the law allows military installations to hire contract security guards to meet new base security requirements prompted by the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The provision amends an existing statute (Section 2465 of Title 10 of the U.S. Code), which prohibits Defense from using contractors as security guards or firefighters.
Contractors may not be hired for security jobs that existed before Sept. 11, and cannot be used to replace civilian Defense employees under the new measure.
But Defense can use contract guards to relieve military personnel who have logged increased guard duty since Sept. 11. Defense officials pushed for this flexibility, which they argued would aid readiness and improve security at some bases.
Contractors were pleased by the measure, although it is unclear how much work could go to the private sector as a result of the law. “Everybody has had new security requirements, and it will be interesting what kind of opportunities might be out there,” said Mark Wagner, vice president of government relations for Johnson Controls, Inc., a Florida-based contractor.
Authority to use contract guards would expire after three years under Section 332, so Defense could not award long-term security contracts. The new law does not affect the existing ban on hiring contract firefighters.
These curbs made the new provision more acceptable to federal unions, according to Joe Lopes, a legislative representative with the American Federation of Government Employees. “We like having the sunset clause, and we like having it limited to meeting specific needs created since Sept. 11,” he said. “So with those limitations we stomach it better than we would have otherwise.”