Tuesday, January 21, 2003
The Soldier's Place in Society
America's finest sons and daughters are deploying for war as anti-war protesters lead rallies in various U.S. cities for their cause. Can the two be reconciled? Yes, they can. America's military is the only military organization in the world which swears its oaths to a legal idea -- the Constitution. Most nations swear their allegiance to the sovereign or to the nation. But every American soldier raises his/her right hand and swears to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic. That makes the American military unique. Its soldiers fight for the rights of protesters who would not themselves go into harm's way. It's a very powerful idea, and one we ought to remind ourselves of often.
Two generations ago, an eloquent military chaplain penned the following prayer.
"It is the soldier, not the reporter,
who has given us freedom of the press.
It is the soldier, not the poet,
who has given us freedom of speech.
It is the soldier, not the campus organizer,
who has given us the freedom to demonstrate.
It is the soldier,
who salutes the flag,
who serves beneath the flag,
whose coffin is draped by the flag, and
who allows the protester to burn the flag."
--Father Denis Edward O'Brien, USMC
[A Guadalcanal Veteran of WWII, 11th Marines, and the Chaplain for the 1st Marine Division Association]
Monday, January 20, 2003
4th Infantry Division heads to Persian Gulf
The Pentagon announced on Monday that it was sending Task Force Ironhorse, a composite force built around the Army's 4th Infantry Division, to the Persian Gulf. I served in 4ID for nearly three years, mostly as a Military Police platoon leader in the Army's experimental digitized force. This division is nothing short of awesome -- it is qualitatively and quantitatively more lethal and powerful than any other division in the Army. The core of 4ID's strength is its digitization. Nearly every vehicle -- tanks, Bradleys, tracked artillery pieces, Humvees -- has a system called "Force XXI Battle Command for Brigade and Below" installed inside. This is like a laptop system which is wired to a GPS and FM radio. Every one is connected via a secure FM "tactical internet". Everyone has the real-time ability to see themselves, see the enemy, and see the terrain. It's an awesome capability. At the higher levels of command, this capability enables senior commanders to see through the fog of war and make decisions about what's actually happening in real-time.
The Army hasn't sent 4ID anywhere in a long time, because it's been testing equipment for the Army and developing new ways of fighting. This movement is significant. It means that America means business in a big way. We don't send our elite fighting forces, particularly when they're heavy/mechnized like 4ID, unless we intend to fight. 4ID is so advanced that it can execute the combat operations of 3 Army divisions from the Gulf War. This is a major commitment of combat power.
I'm somewhat sentimental about this deployment, since many of the soldiers I led and trained still serve in the 4th Infantry Division. These are America's finest sons and daughters; every single one is a great American citizen. I am confident they will serve with distinction in the Gulf, and will hold them in my thoughts until they return.
Friday, January 17, 2003
SCOTUS Blog - Best analysis I've seen yet of the briefs filed thus far in Grutter/Gratz v. Bollinger, the U.Mich. affirmative action case.
Thursday, January 16, 2003
Diversity as a compelling interest -- but what kind of diversity?
President Bush decided yesterday to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the pair of cases known as Grutter v. Bollinger. Those cases emerge from challenges to the University of Michigan's system of race-based preferences in admission for undergraduates and law students. Legally, these cases raise two questions: 1) whether diversity can be a compelling government interest for the use of race-basd preferences, and 2) whether such preferences (as used by the University of Michigan) are properly tailored to reach that compelling interest. If there's no compelling interest, the Cour must strike down the preference; if the policies aren't written narrowly enough, the Court must strike them down.
Racial diversity has been put forward by many liberals and conservatives as an unassailable goal. University administrators and faculty like to argue that racial diversity leads magically to intellectual diversity, and that it creates a vibrant marketplace of ideas in the university. Learning and personal growth expand exponentially in such a diverse environment, this argument goes, because the multiplicity of viewpoints adds more perspectives to any particular debate, thus enriching the debate and the learning experience.
However, my experience at UCLA (as an undergraduate and law student) has not borne that out. If anything, this university cares much more about racial diversity than intellectual diversity – far more. When it comes to presenting balanced perspectives on any particular issue, from foreign policy to local land-use regulation, I have found UCLA to be quite lacking. Of course, this carries great benefits for me as a conservative, since it allows me to test my opinions and arguments in hostile territory. But it does many – including liberals – a disservice by creating a relatively homogenous environment when it comes to intellectual diversity.
If diversity is really what administrators at U.Michigan, UCLA and elsewhere care about, then they ought to consider exactly what it is about diversity that they want to bring into the classroom. If it's intellectual diversity, then race makes a poor proxy. Saying a black man has one perspective because of his race is specious -- it also cuts both ways. You can use that argument for positive and negative inferences about his character and perspective. The principle remains the same -- the use of race as proxy employs dangerous stereotypes and boils us all down to the quotient of our skin color.
If intellectual diversity is something truly prized at Michigan, then the facts of Grutter v. Bollinger make a very compelling argument for Barbara Grutter's admission:
"As Barbara Grutter sees it, she embodies the kind of diversity that most law schools want.
"The 49-year-old mother of two had worked in the health-care information technology field and operated her own consulting business for 16 years. She had lived around the country as well as in Canada. On top of that, she boasted a 3.8 undergraduate grade-point average and law school admission test scores in the 86th percentile.
"In Grutter's opinion, there was only one flaw on her application to the University of Michigan Law School: She is white."
-- Chicago Tribune
But that's the point. Michigan, like many other schools, does not really care about intellectual diversity. They only parrot that argument before the Court because they know the court won't buy their purely racial argument. Without a clear nexus to the classroom and pedagogical purposes, affirmative action falls flat. Thus the need to link racial diversity to intellectual diversity -- at tenuous connection at best. University admissions officials ought to develop admissions systems that actually look for intellectual diversity if that's what they're truly after. In the absence of such initiatives, I find it highly questionable that university administrators actually care about intellectual diversity. It seems that university leaders only care what their student body looks like -- but that this diversity goes skin deep.
Citizen soldiers report long tours, little support:
The continuing decline in post-9/11 support for the military in America
The USA Today front page contains a very good story today on American military reservists and the challenges they have faced in this new war on terrorism. Among other things, reservists have been called up for longer tours than anytime since Korea, sometimes exceeding a year; they have conducted missions from mundane gate security in the U.S. to actual combat in Afghanistan. In doing so, they have ably answered their nation's call to service. However, reservists have not received much support at home -- from the Pentagon, from their employers, and from American society. The U.S. military does not resource reserve units to anything near its active-duty standard. Some reserve units have radios and equipment that are 40 years old. Employers also support reservists -- but only as far as they have to. Though federal law protects mobilized reservists, it only sets a minimum level for that support -- a low level. Many reservists still take a massive pay cut, sometimes lose their health benefits, and face all sorts of other economic challenges because they've chosen to do something that too few Americans do anymore.
That all might be okay if American society still supported reserves and everything associated with the military. Unfortunately, they don't. I live in Santa Monica, one of the most wealthy and liberal communities in America. I live among a part of society that benefits tremendously from America's security and stability; these people could not live their lifestyles without American military sacrifice. Yet, most wouldn't lift a finger for a soldier if they had the opportunity. All the flags from 9/11 have come down. The NYPD and FDNY shirts have gone away. When I put on my uniform for reserve duty, I see the difference. It used to be that I could not buy a cup of coffee anywhere -- not Peets, not Starbucks, nowhere. Now, I don't even get the same policeman's discount (which I usually put back in the tip jar).
Their lives today revolve around the near certainty he will return to combat somewhere within the next year. With America at war with terrorism and possibly at war with Iraq in the weeks ahead, the nation relies increasingly on citizen soldiers such as Denis McCarthy, who are members of either the National Guard or the Reserves.
Before Sept. 11, they were much more civilian than soldier. About 130,000 have been called up since the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and that includes 58,894 who remain on active duty today. An additional 100,000 could be mobilized for a war with Iraq. A relatively small number are in true combat, although all are at varying risk of terrorist attack.
As a ready source of manpower, Guard and Reserve men and women are a bargain. They number more than 1.2 million and allow the nation to nearly double its armed forces if necessary while accounting for just 8.3% of the defense budget.
Last December, in remarks to American troops stationed in Qatar, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that "the Guard and the Reserve is so enormously important to this country because it does enable us to have a total force concept."
But unlike their active-duty counterparts, these citizen soldiers who are being called up increasingly find themselves between two worlds.
They work and even fight in a military that is taking casualties in places such as Afghanistan, dealing with all the wartime trappings of separation and sorrow. But their spouses and children, who were never part of a self-supporting military culture the way most active-service families are, remain in a civilian world where neighbors and friends have long since put away the flags they flew after 9/11 and are going about their daily lives.
* * *
"You have people who are willing to give whatever their country asks ... while also trying to live the American dream," says Jay Farrar, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former Marine Corps officer and Department of Defense official.
"They're the ones in the middle," he says. "And most other Americans don't have a clue."
Tuesday, January 14, 2003
Washington Post: U.S. Acts to Thwart Missile Threat Against Airliners
On Dec. 1, 2002, I wrote the following in response to an alleged Al Qaeda attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet in Kenya with handheld surface-to-air missiles:
...the general idea of anti-terrorism is that you have to adjust your counter-measures to the threat. As the threat appears in one area, you have to shift resources to that area. If I were a decisionmaker, I'd be shifting TSA employees from screening baggage to conducting sweeps of airport tarmacs in response to this threat. If this new threat (SAM attacks) is real, then it makes little sense to continue to fight the old threat (hijacking).
...The U.S. has successfully responded (albeit too late) to the threat of hijacking and we have hardened our airports to the point where no terrorist can effectively hit them. Given our national experience on Sept. 11, it is unlikely that a terrorist could ever hijack a plane again. But this does not mean that our aircraft are safe -- it only means that certain avenues of attack have been denied to our enemies. We must continue to refine our intelligence about our enemy and dynamically employ new counter-measures as we see our enemy developing new means of attack.
Wednesday's Washington Post leads with a story that the U.S. government has listened. The Post reports that the U.S. government has rapidly instituted a comprehensive review of airport and airline security in response to this emerging threat.
Top federal officials, increasingly concerned that terrorists will attack U.S. commercial aircraft with shoulder-fired missiles, are developing plans to thwart such strikes with measures that range from sophisticated anti-missile technology to simple changes in takeoff schedules.
An interagency task force that reports to the National Security Council is also coordinating emergency inspections of every large U.S. airport to determine their vulnerability to the small, portable missiles, senior government officials said. And the task force is planning a public education campaign designed to teach police departments and citizens who live and work near airports to identify the missiles if they see them being assembled.
While acknowledging their alarm at the danger posed by portable missiles that may be fired at the approximately 6,700 commercial aircraft operating in the United States, administration officials stressed yesterday that the highest echelons of the U.S. government are focused on the threat and are determined to maximize the traveling public's safety.
* * *
The attack confirmed the belief of U.S. intelligence experts that al Qaeda has access to a supply of the weapons and may now be uncrating them as a new terrorist tactic. The interagency task force stepped up its meetings just days after the failed shoot-down of the Israeli jetliner.
* * *
The interagency task force -- led by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and including representatives of the Pentagon, the FBI and the State Department -- held two days of meetings on the missiles in December. Last week, the group sent a preliminary report, weighing various government actions, to a top-level panel convened by the White House's NSC.
"The key finding is there is no single answer to this threat, no silver bullet," one ranking government official said. "We'll have to consider a number of things to reduce this threat, in a multilayered approach."
Bottom Line: This is outstanding work by the federal government in response to a dynamic, evolving, innovative threat. Now, the federal government must take this to the next level. The TSA must radically alter its strategic posture to focus on this new threat, instead of fighting the old one (hijacking). If that means taking baggage screeners and putting them out on the flight line, then that's what it means. Intelligence drives operations!!! We must adopt counter-measures that respond to today's threat and tomorrow's threat, not the threat of yesterday.
NYT: Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka were the real pioneers of suicide bombing and 4th Generation Warfare
Today's NY Times contains a front-page article on the Tamil Tigers, a violent terrorist group in Sri Lanka seeking independence. The article confirms what many terrorism experts have said for some time: terrorism can be institutionalized, and when it is, it can become much more deadly. The Tigers have created a institutional system for training, doctrine, equipment and personnel-selection relating to the use of suicide bombing for terrorism. Here's an excerpt:
The Tigers did not invent the suicide attack, but they proved the tactic to be so unnerving and effective for a vastly outmanned fighting force that their methods were studied and copied, notably in the Middle East.
"Of all the suicide-capable terrorist groups we have studied, they are the most ruthless, the most disciplined," said Rohan Gunaratna, a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He said the group was responsible for more than half of the suicide attacks carried out worldwide.
* * *
The Tigers evolved ever more sophisticated suicide bodysuits, and more refined surveillance. They skillfully insinuated themselves within striking distance of their targets. They professionalized, and institutionalized, suicide bombing.
Monday, January 13, 2003
Pentagon slams Rangel's draft idea; DoD official presents case for all-volunteer force
I just read through the briefing transcript from a "senior Defense official" on the all-volunteer force, and what it would mean if Congress adopted Rep. Charlie Rangel's ill-considered idea for a military draft. In the Pentagon, the moniker "senior Defense official" is often used for a high-ranking policy official who's a career public servant and does not want to have his/her name in the press. It usually means this information is pretty accurate, because it's coming from an expert instead of a political appointee. And in this case, I highly recommend this particular SDO's comments.
Here's an excerpt:
Q: I think he may -- I think if Charlie Rangel were sitting here -- and not to take his side, but to play devil's advocate, is in some ways your numbers are kind of proving his point that the very elite class in this country -- and again, pick your number on that, $75,000, $60,000 and up, $75,000 and up, and even higher -- are not who is sending people into enlisted ranks, combat troops, not going to get --
Senior Defense Officer: Well, let me remind everyone that combat and enlistment are two different statements.
Q: Of course.
Senior Defense Officer: The United States Air Force, the United States Navy, if it is largely going to be an air operation, it will be principally officers whose lives are at risk. Further, I think we have to, in an age of terrorism, rethink what we mean about combat exposure.
Let's take the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. More civilians died than military. In one service it was more women civilians died than military.
So this whole issue of who is exposed to risk, I'm struck in this debate -- Mr. Rangel and others who are raising this question are a bit of an echo out of the past. It's not really a description of current situations and current risks and who is bearing the burden. And I would argue that if -- once we look at the officers, you're going to see a different pattern than the critics are raising. Now, I don't have the officer numbers here this morning; I apologize for that point. But it's going to look a little different once you include the officer class in this.
Q: Rangel's basic point is that the powerful elite who make campaign contributions and who make decisions about war and peace don't have children that are represented in the military, by and large. And you don't have anything that sort of --
Senior Defense Officer: I don't think -- well, now we get down to sort -- almost the idiosyncratic level of debate, you know, who are the power elite? You know, if you look at the classes at our military academies -- West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs -- many people would argue you're looking at a future power elite there. And these are young men and young women who are quite willing to put their lives on the line, and do so, as you can see from the inscriptions on the various memorials at those institutions.
So there is no lack of willingness on the part of Americans from more privileged backgrounds -- to deal directly with Mr. Rangel's question -- to serve. And we see that also in the Reserves. I would urge each of you, you know, if you want -- no one has really done all this research in the comprehensive way that I think we'd all like to see, but I'd urge you to take the biographies of the flag officers in our Reserve and Guard establishment, and on any metric you like in terms of socioeconomic status, look at whether or not you think they qualify as being in the power elite. These are people who are often successful businessmen, businesswomen now increasingly, successful figures in their community; includes doctors who have joined Reserve units, are willing to serve; have been sent forward in some cases, mobilized a number of these people and sent them to Southwest Asia, are quite willing to expose themselves to the risks that I think Mr. Rangel is concerned.
Sunday, January 12, 2003
NYT: Officials Reveal Threat to Troops Deploying to Gulf
Thom Shanker reports in Monday's NY Times that the U.S. government has learned of "credible threats" to U.S. forces as they deploy to the Persian Gulf. The phrase "credible threat" is a term of art -- it means intelligence that comes from trusted sources with enough information (time, place, type of attack) to make it something that can be acted on. These threats should come as no surprise. Anti-terrorism planners have seen U.S.-based deployment infrastructure (airports, seaports, planes, ships, trains) as a critical vulnerability in any major war that would require the U.S. to deploy its forces overseas. When you add our prospective adversary, Iraq, it only makes sense that we would start to detect threats against this infrastructure. Iraq and Al Qaeda play on the same team, and any terrorist actions against our deployment infrastructure would help Iraq by delaying the American buildup.
Within the past three weeks, American intelligence gathered what officials described as credible evidence of a planned bombing of a passenger airliner contracted to fly troops and freight for the military.
To counter what senior commanders call the growing threat of attack on those mobilizing for a possible war with Iraq, the American military has begun for the first time to share classified intelligence warnings directly and quickly with commercial transportation companies ferrying United States forces toward the Middle East from here and abroad, the senior officials said.
Military officials removed from the report details that might have revealed the source of the warning or the methods by which it was gathered. Then, rather than risk any delays from working through domestic law enforcement authorities or federal transportation safety agencies, the military gave the secret threat assessment directly to the private airline company.
Security officials at the company took pre-emptive steps, including changing the date and time of the flight and the route it followed.
This is exactly the right answer, and both the U.S. military and the private carriers ought to be commended for their actions. This is a textbook case of gathering information, analyzing it to produce intelligence, and acting on it in time to stop a terrorist attack.
Friday, January 10, 2003
Military communities across America gird for war
Jeff Gettleman, formerly of the LA Times, has an extremely moving article in Saturday's New York Times about the human impact of deployment on the small town of Hinesville, Ga. The same rhythms and routines are being repeated in base towns across the country, from Fayetteville, NC, to Oceanside, CA. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are saying goodbye to loved ones, children, and their pacific way of life. Towns are saying goodbye to soldiers and their families, as those left behind leave the base communities for the comfort of home and parents. Businesses close early, or close altogether. And the community's morale rises and falls with every dispatch from the front. Casualties aren't abstract to communities like Hinesville -- every casualty is a real person who won't come home; a neighbor who will no longer be there to share a BBQ.
With Stitches and Concerns, Base Town Prepares for War
By Jeffrey Gettleman
HINESVILLE, Ga., Jan. 10 — The needles are flying, the sewing machines are chugging and the
uniforms are piling up. In heaps.
Abraham. Baca. Chambers. Courtland.
"I try to say a prayer every stitch," says Curley Bradley, pumping her pedal and attaching a
name tag to the breast of a jacket.
Davis. Delvin. Finocchiaro.
"You do it with love," says Janice Mann, another seamstress, clipping a thread. "Even if you
think war is stupid."
May. McCall. McDaniel. McGee.
"Names, names, names," says Tina Peavey, manager of Ranger Joe's surplus shop. "We're
so darn busy, you almost forget they're people."
It's 10:15 p.m. and there are still acres of creamy desert fatigues to go for the 12,500 soldiers
pushing off for the Middle East. The three women, hunched in a back room of the surplus shop,
have been labeling uniforms since sunup. One cuts, one measures, one sews.
Not far away, a young cashier cries behind the counter of the Flash Foods minimart. A little
girl twirls in a pink princess shirt, asking for Daddy. Artillery rumbles.
This is the anxious deployment dance before the big, long hush.
The Army's entire Third Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, is leaving, and few corners of
the country are turned as inside out by the showdown with Iraq as Hinesville, Ga.
It is a little town with a big base, a place where the military creates the weather townsfolk live in.
"When Hinesville breathes in, Fort Stewart breathes out," said Allen Brown, a real estate broker
whose apartment business has already been hurt because of the deployment. "That's how close we are."
* * *
War Dames, the Draft, and the Supreme Court
Boston civil-rights lawyer Harvey Schwartz filed suit in federal court yesterday challenging the Selective Service Act on the basis that it discriminates against women. The crux of his argument is that women play a crucial role in ground-combat units in the American military, and thus Selective Service Act is anachronistic because it only requires men to register for the draft. This will seem eerily familiar to anyone who read my article "War Dames" in last month's Washington Monthly. Women do, in fact, play a critical role in Army and Marine Corps ground-combat units, and old rules which assumed their absence from combat ought to be relooked.
In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld the all-male Selective Service registration process in Rostker. The reasoning of that case, however, hinged on the assumption that women did not fight in combat, even when they served in the military. “The existence of the combat restrictions clearly indicates the basis for Congress' decision to exempt women from registration. The purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops. Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft, and therefore decided not to register them.” Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57, 77 (1981).
Therefore, “men and women, because of the combat restrictions on women, are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft.” However, this is no longer the case. Women today play a critical role in our ground combat forces, often going into harm's way right alongside men. Indeed, female pilots are arguably more at risk of death or capture than their brethren on the ground.
Ultimately, this lawsuit may have little practical effect because we have no draft today. We are also unlikely to bring back conscription in the near future, despite what Rep. Charlie Rangel has proposed. However, Mr. Schwartz' lawsuit raises a very important argument for the rights and privileges of women in our society. Mr. Schwartz' lawsuit recognizes the crucial role that women play in today's military and pushing for the revision of an anachronistic statute -- the Selective Service Act. Female soldiers share the risks of combat with men in today's Army, and they ought to receive the social benefits for that burden.
Prediction: The federal court will decline jurisdiction here or find some other reason to dismiss this case in the early stages. Why? The courts have historically deferred to the Legislative and Executive branches on military matters. The text of the Constitution clearly lays the task of raising the Army and Navy at the feet of Congress. Members of Congress could read my article if they wanted to, and they could change the Selective Service Act if they wanted to. For a litany of reasons, neither Congress nor the President have proposed enlarging the Selective Service Act to include women. The courts will likely find this fact to be dispositive.
Baker beats the AP; predicts Marine deployment before anyone in the media
Last night, fellow UCLAW blogger Chris Baker read the tea leaves about the Marines cancelling several exercises and correctly surmised that this particular group had deployment orders to Southwest Asia. Sure enough, this morning, the Associated Press reports that 7,000 Marines from Camp Lejeune are headed for Southwest Asia. Either Chris is actually making decisions for the Marine Corps, or he does a better job reading tea leaves than anyone in the press. I think it's the latter, but sometimes his predictions are so accurate that I'm not sure.
Thursday, January 09, 2003
Army preparedness for biological warfare
Today's New York Times (and a number of other papers) contains a story about the U.S. Army's research into biological warfare, and the state of its defenses should an enemy (Iraq, Al Qaeda, North Korea, etc) use a biological agent. This story is important. Our military is the most prepared institution in American society for a biological attack. The fact that they are less-than-fully prepared is disturbing, especially since the majority of these biological agents have existed for a long time. These threats are not new, yet the Army has not responded to them by developing appropriate counter-measures.
Some of this owes to fiscal constraints -- both in the public and private sector. The Pentagon has not pushed enough resources into institutions like USAMRIID, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infections Diseases. Imagine a cross between Berkeley, the CDC, and NIH, and you have USAMRIID. It's a tremendously important academic and scientific institution that grew out of the ashes of America's offensive biowarfare program. (See generally, Judith Miller & William Broad, Germs, 2002) USAMRIID is where the U.S. military does almost all of its basic science research and applied research on biological warfare. (This institute was dramatized in the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman) It's where the military first weaponized anthrax, where it tested it and numerous other agents, and where the military developed its vaccines for most agents. Unfortunately, however, USAMRIID has never been high on the Pentagon's shopping list. It does not receive the funding or the authority to contract for research at civilian universities that it needs. Thus, we have a public failure to invest economic resources in the fight against biological warfare.
Second, we have a market failure. Vaccine makers don't want to invest resources in the development or production of already-developed vaccines for bioterrorism because of several reasons. First, it's expensive. Second, the sales of these vaccines are far from certain, and likely only in the event of an attack. Third, most of these vaccines would be purchased under a government contract if ever, thus making their profitability dubious. Fourth, the potential liability for these vaccines is enormous. A combination of these factors has meant that private drug companies have not produced massive stockpiles of vaccines in the past, nor have they developed any surge capabilities for producing them in the case of an attack. This has meant, for instance, that our society has a) no stockpile of smallpox vaccine and b) no ability to mass-produce it should an attack occur. I'm usually a free-market guy, but this is one place where government must step in to address a market failure to provide a crucial public good.
Wednesday, January 08, 2003
Breaking news: 4th Circuit upholds detention of Yaser Hamdi as enemy combatant
The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that the President could designate Yaser Yamdi as an enemy combatant, notwithstanding his U.S. citizenship, and detain him indefinitely as such. The text of the opinion is available here at www.findlaw.com. Prof. Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School has done an excellent job of analyzing this opinion. His analysis is available here.
I would add one major point of analysis, and it applies to this decision and the recent U.S. District Court decision in Padilla v. Bush. In each case, the Article III federal courts have told the Article II executive branch "Hey, we have the power to review your decision." In holding that the courts can review the President's designation of enemy-combatant status, the courts have told the President they have a role to play in this process. However, in each case, the courts have withheld their authority to exercise this review. Or more accurately, the courts have declined to tell the President he was wrong in his designations of Padilla and Hamdi. However, the statement of jursidiction still stands, and it remains for the next case.
The Supreme Court used the same tactic famously in Marbury v. Madison, its first major decision establishing judicial review. In that case, the Court held that it had jurisdiction, but declined to exercise that power. Such a move connoted the Court was motivated by purely legal concerns, not the pursuit of power. It was a master chess move by the Supreme Court.
These recent decisions in the Padilla and Hamdi cases do the same thing. The courts have laid down a marker before the executive branch -- they have staked out their procedural position. In declining to exercise that power, the courts have actually increased their legitimacy, and solidified their power for future cases regarding enemy combatants.
U.S. Forces in Korea Face Increasing Hostility
Today's NY Times front-page contained a well-written article on the increasing hostility between U.S. soldiers and Korean civilians. In recent weeks, this hostility has led to several violent attacks on U.S. soldiers, including the stabbing of one U.S. colonel stationed in Seoul. This most-recent outbreak of anti-American sentiment is nothing new. Koreans have resented and protested the U.S. presence in their country for some time. However, the recent acquittals of two U.S. soldiers for negligent homicide in the death of two girls north of Seoul has stirred the pot, and caused an eruption of anti-American sentiment and protest. At the same time, U.S.-Korea relations have soured as the Bush Administration has taken an adverse position against North Korea in a manner somewhat out-of-step with South Korea's government. All of this has led to the worst state of U.S.-Korean relations in decades.
I have some experience here, having served in Korea from 1998-99 as a Military Police platoon leader in the Army's 2nd Infantry Division in Tongduchon, Korea (40km north of Seoul). This experience leads me to conclude that both sides have a reasonable reason to be upset. For their part, the Korean population do suffer some harm from the continuing U.S. military presence. Our maneuver vehicles cause traffic jams, cause damage, and generally cause a nuisance. (However, we do pay claims for damages when they occur.) This is not made better by U.S. soldiers who behave like "ugly Americans" in Korean cities, drinking to excess and acting disruptively. But for our part, we do ask 37,000 of America's finest sons and daughters to serve in Korea every year -- usually for a hardship tour. Our soldiers stand as a human trip-wire against North Korean aggression, and their lives are very much at risk. They deserve respect and fairness from the Korean population. Like all things, the truth is somewhere in between both camps.
Ultimately, I believe both nations must make strides towards the middle.
1. The U.S. must look at ways to reduce its military footprint, and make itself less onerous to the Korean population. Principally, this means moving the U.S. Army headquarters out of Seoul to a location outside the city. The Yongsan Garrison, which sits on the Han River in the middle of Seoul, is an eyesore and continuing offense to the Korean population. It is the vestige of a military occupation, and it ought to be removed. There may be other ways to reduce the U.S. footprint as well, such as adopting a unit-rotation system in Korea which might qualitatively change the way U.S. soldiers operate in the Korean countryside.
2. The U.S. and Korean governments must do a better job of explaining the North Korean threat to the Korean population. Today's Korean population does not perceive a credible threat from North Korea, and thus they are unwilling to suffer the misfortunes of a continuing U.S. presence. This is not correct. North Korea poses as much of a threat today as ever -- perhaps more now that it purports to have nuclear weapons. Korean citizens ought to appreciate the fact that these soldiers exist to secure their nation, and to encourage the stability of the entire East Asian region.
Bottom Line: The U.S. cannot withdraw its forces from Korea. They serve a very important role; a role whose importance trancends the current problems there. American troops in Korea (as well as Okinawa and Japan) deter North Korean aggression. They also represent a tangible commitment of American political and military will to the East Asian region. Our troops don't just secure Korea; they ensure the security of Japan, Taiwan, China, Australia, and the rest of the region. Our troop commitment ensures continued stability in an area that directly affects the interests of the United States.
Tuesday, January 07, 2003
Breaking News: UK anti-terrorism squads foil bioterrorism plot
CNN and other sources report that British police have arrested several men of North African origin after connecting them to a terrorist plot. The British police also found traces of ricin, a deadly toxin derived from castor beans, at the arrest location. Ricin is known in the bioterrorism world as "low-hanging fruit" -- it is one of the toxins which can be developed and weaponized relatively easily by terrorists with some financing and knowledge. It is quite deadly, and depending on its method of employment, can be used to kill hundreds or thousands. The worst case scenario would be for a terrorist to weaponize ricin in aerosolized form and use it against some mass of people, such as subway riders or stadium attendees.
UK: Terror suspects, poison seized
Tuesday, January 7, 2003 Posted: 11:50 AM EST (1650 GMT)
LONDON, England -- Six terror suspects are being questioned by police after traces of one of the
world's deadliest poisons, ricin, were discovered at a London address.
Scotland Yard said the six men of north African origin were arrested after an operation by the anti-
terrorist branch in north and east London.
A spokesman said "equipment and materials" were found at an address in Wood Green in the British
capital where one of the men was also arrested.
A woman who was also arrested has been released.
Ricin is twice as deadly as cobra venom and experts have seriously assessed its use as a weapon of
mass destruction. There is no known antidote, treatment or vaccine.
It was the poison used to murder a Bulgarian exile, Georgi Markov, in a political assassination in
London in 1978.
Ricin is so powerful that a single molecule inside a cell can shut down protein synthesis, killing the
cell off. A small dose produces `flu-like symptoms with death following in a few days.
The poison is derived from the seeds and pods of the castor bean plant and may be inhaled, ingested
The next skirmish in the battle over gays in the military... will happen at UCLA law school
By accident, the U.S. Air Force sent 20 copies of the same e-mail announcing its new Summer Internship Program for the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps -- to every student at the UCLA Law School. The Air Force sent these e-mails through Eattorney.Com, a web-based employment system for law students and attorneys. Each e-mail appears to be an individual e-mail, sent from Major Charles Plummer in the Pentagon, addressed to individual students. A copy is available here. As an Army officer, of course I decided I wasn't interested. (Okay, enough inter-service rivalry) Truthfully, I'm not interested because I like muddy-boots soldiering more than JAG work.
However, the majority of UCLAW students will have a different reaction. At best, I think they're ambivalent towards America's military. At worst, I think some are incredibly hostile towards America's military and towards the idea of the military recruiting at UCLA. Some don't like the military because of American foreign policy, and its role in executing the Bush Administration's policies. But primarily, UCLAW students object to the military because it discriminates against gays. Under Title 10, Section 653, United States Code, the U.S. military does not allow gays to serve openly in uniform. Any person who commits a homosexual act, proclaims himself/herself to be gay, or marries a person of the same sex, will be deemed a homosexual and discharged from the service.
Forget for a minute the normative argument over this policy (whether it's good or bad). Members of the UCLA community think this policy conflicts with the university's policy on non-discrimination. UCLA does not discriminate against gays; indeed, its non-discrimination policy forbids such discrimination. However, the military does discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Therefore, these people argue, the university ought not let the military on campus to recruit, just as it wouldn't let a law firm on campus to recruit if it discriminated against racial minorities or women.
UCLA (and most other universities) have been forced by the federal government to let military recruiters on campus, on penalty of losing their federal money if they don't. (At UCLA, this would mean more than $1 billion in lost federal funds, including Medicare and research funding for the hospital) The UCLA Law School dean sent an e-mail to all students last semester announcing his policy, and saying that he regretted having to let the military on at all. (Ironic, considering that he's a Vietnam veteran himself.) Thus, we have an uneasy truce between the two camps: the military comes onto campus, albeit begrudgingly, and the students/faculty who oppose them continue to protest.
Enter the Air Force e-mail. This is sure to stir the pot a little; it's akin to kicking over a hornet's nest. I predict that we'll see a rash of student protests, possibly spread beyond UCLA if the Air Force did the same thing with all law schools. (Nearly all national law schools use eattorney.com) Ultimately, I think most schools will continue to allow military recruiting, because they can't afford to lose federal money. But we'll see.
Monday, January 06, 2003
What the U.S. Army teaches us about affirmative action
Monday's New York Times editorial page appropriates the U.S. Army as a case study to support the argument for race-based university admissions. The writer (Brent Staples) attempts to argue that affirmative action worked in the military, an important public institution, and it ought to be allowed to work in higher education, another important public institution. Unfortunately, I don't think the writer understands either institution nor the ways that both use race. Higher education and the U.S. military are very different, and you cannot analogize between the two for the following reasons:
1. The military and U.S. universities exist for fundamentally different reasons. The military exists to fight and win America's wars, and all other normative goals (fairness, equity, justice, non-discrimination, etc.) are subordinated to that end. It so happens that the military saw it needed to integrate in order to fight America's wars better, and that it could not run an effective conscription-based or all-volunteer force without fully integrating racial minorities. But this all flowed from the normative goal of military effectiveness, and the importance of unit cohesion for meeting that goal.
Universities, on the other hand, exist for far different reasons. Here in California, the 1960 master plan for higher education says the UC system exists for three reasons: teaching, research, and public service. These are significantly different from the goals of the military. There is no analog to combat effectiveness or unit cohesion in higher education. Indeed, many argue the reverse -- that we want universities to be diverse (intellectually and demographically), and we want to encourage civilized conflicts of ideas in the university. Thus, the arguments that exist for integration of the U.S. military do not work for the institutions of higher education.
2. The analogy also does not work for a very basic reason that goes to the heart of race relations in America. In civilian society, the government can tell schools, businesses and country-clubs to integrate, but they can't force individuals to actually get along. Put simply, the courts can tell a school district to admit minority children, but they can't force the teachers to like these kids, nor can they force the children to play together. In the military, things are different. Not only can the President order integration (as President Truman did in 1948), but senior officers and sergeants can order soldiers from different backgrounds to get along. Indeed, they must do so, in order to foster the kind of unit cohesion necessary to fight and win America's wars. More than any other place in society, the Army forces members of different groups to actually get along -- instead of just to tolerate one another.
3. A more concrete reason exists for why the military can't be used as an analogy to support the affirmative action fight. Last year, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia issued a very long and thoughtful order in Saunders v. White telling the Army to stop using race as a criteria for promotion. Why? Because the Army had done so well at using race-conscious measures to remedy past discrimination that it had effectively leveled the playing field in the Army for minorities. African-Americans and Latinos are now represented at proportional levels (or higher) at nearly all levels of command. In the NCO corps, minorities are actually overrepresented in the senior ranks. The time had come, the court held, for the Army to reconsider its use of race in light of the progress it had made since the 1948 Truman order. Today, the Department of Defense continues to use race, but in very circumscribed and targeted ways.
Bottom line: I wouldn't say that colleges have made as many strides as the Army when it comes to leveling the playing field. But they've certainly come a long way since the late 1960s and 1970s when they first created race-based preferences in the admissions process. This is especially true in graduate and professional programs, where admissions pools necessarily include the graduates of undergraduate programs that already level the playing field. If the undergraduate systems of race-based preferences are working at all, then we ought to seriously reconsider our use of extensive preferences at the graduate level. And we ought to imagine some future end-state where race-based preferences are no longer necessary at any level.
Saturday, January 04, 2003
Rumsfeld knocks heads in Pentagon -- a task which is long overdue
Esther Schrader's article in today's LA Times reminds me of two old proverbs: "You have to crush a few eggs to make omelettes," and "Sacred cows make the best hamburger."
Our current Secretary of Defense cares little for sacred eggs or sacred cows -- he only cares about results. Primarily, I believe that Secretary Rumsfeld cares about the defense of America, and the transformation of America's military to perform that task in the 21st Century against a myriad of threats. However, Rumsfeld's vision has created tension between his office and the uniformed services -- tension driven largely by the self-interested, career-driven, procurement-minded officers and civilians who have a stake in the current industrialization and capitalization of the military. Ultimately, Secretary Rumsfeld's vision must prevail if we are to be ready to fight the next war, and not keep buying machines to fight the last one.
Tough, skeptical and dismissive, Rumsfeld is convinced a modern military can't be truly effective
until it reforms itself from the bottom up.
Surrounded by a small council of trusted civilian advisors, Rumsfeld has shaken up the Pentagon
senior military brass with a style that disdains bureaucracy and demands that military commanders
adopt new ways of fighting.
But in the process he has created a rift so intense between high-ranking Pentagon civilians and
senior officers that it threatens to slow military reform.
Rumsfeld's approach, his supporters say, is the only way to prod an intransigent bureaucracy into
transforming itself, and to force military commanders Rumsfeld believes have become averse to risk
to update fighting techniques that have grown stale.
Friday, January 03, 2003
Final thought on Rep. Rangel's proposal for a draft --Why the rich can't hide in the National Guard the way they did in Vietnam
During the Vietnam War, many young men sought refuge from ground combat in the National Guard and Army Reserve. Strategic and political concerns during Vietnam led President Johnson (and later Nixon) to abstain from calling up the reserves to fight the Vietnam War. Consequently, these massive units became safe-havens from the draft, because they satisfied the military-service requirement with little risk of actual combat.
After the Vietnam War, then-General Creighton Abrams radically changed the force structure of the American military. The two biggest changes were the "All Volunteer Force" concept and "Total Force" concept. The AVF is a simple concept -- our military is made up of volunteers who enlist for various reasons (economic opportunity, college money, patriotism, etc). The Total Force concept is less known, but just as important to American foreign policy. General Abrams created a military force structure which heavily relied on the reserves. Indeed, some capabilities are only found in the reserves. His intent was to force any future President intent on fighting a war to call up the reserves, and thus force any President to have popular support to fight a war. (Reserve callups are politically costly, since they take men and women away from their homes across the country.)
This latter change has major implications for a draft, specifically for the equity of how a draft might work. During the Vietnam War, rich kids evaded the draft by using their privilege and connections to get into the National Guard; there was sometimes fierce competition for limited numbers of slots in these units. If there were a draft today, rich kids could still opt for the reserves. But the odds are today that they would actually be deployed as reservists. Indeed, in some specialties like Military Police or Medical Service Corps, reserve units deploy just as often as active-duty units.
The irony is that the Total Force concept has worked. It has tied the hands of the Pentagon in making deployment plans, and required them to carefully consider the politics of any reserve callup. The deeper irony of the Total Force concept is that it might make a draft more equitable. Rich kids who might otherwise hide from combat in the reserves can no longer do so. If the call goes out, the reserves go too.
Thursday, January 02, 2003
This commentary ran in Thursday's Wall Street Journal.
Felipe, U.S. Marine
By David Asman
NEW YORK -- Three years ago, on the night of his 19th birthday, my wife and daughter and I took my stepson to dinner. The restaurant was one of Manhattan's best. But none of us at the dinner remember even tasting the food. This was not just a birthday celebration. Felipe had decided about a month earlier that he was going to quit college to join the Marines. The very next day he was heading off to boot camp. Dinner went down hard that night.
At 4 a.m. the next morning, Felipe stood at the door, ready to head off to Parris Island, S.C. I still wasn't convinced he knew exactly what he was getting himself into. Like many families with teenagers, we had been through rough times in the preceding years. Through all the lectures about responsibility and discipline and the standard non-response of rolling eyeballs, there were few moments of mutual understanding or tenderness. So when Felipe looked me square in the face and told me he loved me, I was completely caught off guard. It wasn't just that I hadn't heard that from him in years; this was an expression of love from a man who had a full measure of its meaning. I realized then that he knew exactly what he had committed himself to.
* * *
Like other affluent youth who've joined up, Felipe's decision baffled his friends and teachers. In fact, no one in his Upper West Side prep school could remember the last graduate who had joined the Marines. But what made Felipe's decision particularly remarkable was that he wasn't even a citizen when he joined.
I had brought Felipe and his mother to the U.S. from Nicaragua in 1988. Because of enormous snafus with the INS, Felipe had turned 18 without having his papers for citizenship approved. The INS had misplaced documents that had been sent to them two years earlier by my wife. When I asked him whether he was bitter that the country he was about to serve had fouled up in granting him citizenship, he mused that maybe it was better this way: "Now I can earn my citizenship."
My pride in him practically burst at that moment, though there were to be many other days of feeling such pride, not the least of which was watching him graduate as a Marine private after three months of boot camp.
His mother's appreciation of Felipe's decision to join up took a bit more time to develop. In her experience growing up in Nicaragua, the military was almost always the enemy -- whether fighting the National Guard of the Somoza dictatorship or the secret police of the Sandinistas. So when Felipe expressed interest in joining the Marines, we had to introduce her to the very different world of the U.S. Armed Forces. With time, and the help of good friends who had served, she warmed up to the idea and was as giggly as I was at Felipe's advances and promotions -- until September 11, 2001.
On that morning, I was sitting at my desk when I noticed the sound of a low flying plane just outside my midtown window. A few minutes later I got a call to rush down to the newsroom floor to broadcast a report to our affiliates about a plane crash at the World Trade Center. Just as I ran into the studio, the second plane hit the south tower. At that point we all realized this was no accident. I could see the shock and anguish in the faces of the producers just outside the glass enclosed, soundproof studio. That one moment of shock -- lasting perhaps a few seconds before the adrenaline kicked in and folks sprang into action -- has become a frozen tableau that I can't shake.
I spent the rest of the day sucking in my own feelings, trying to report on air as coolly and calmly as I could whether our airspace had been secured; whether our reporters were safe, and whether our nation was still under attack. When I finally went home that night, my wife and I were emotional wrecks, barely knowing what to say. But my daughter was clear: her concern was that her Marine brother might be sent into action. "I don't want to become an only child," she cried to her mother and me. That started us all crying and provided a target on which we focused our anxiety, our sadness and our prayers.
Felipe was in Okinawa at the time of the attack. He called us shortly after to say that he was likely to be shipped with fellow Marines "to the region." He wouldn't say exactly where that was, but we figured out when he added, "I'm willing to make the full sacrifice if I have to." My wife had been holding up pretty well until that point.
But then Felipe said something that should be considered by all those with children in the military. "I'm prepared to fight under any condition and fire practically any weapon," Felipe began. "And I'm not the target. You aren't prepared for war and you are the target. So who should be afraid for whom?" That simple wisdom stopped us cold. For a brief moment he had forced us to stop worrying about him and consider the risks of simply living in a free country.
Today Felipe is a corporal. He is an expert marksman and has no doubt that he will carry out every order as a Marine in the difficult days ahead. But he's not a gung-ho airhead. He remains a thoughtful sensitive man, who wants war no more than Barbra Streisand (and has far more to lose than she).
Like most Marines, he is an extremely hard worker, putting in long hours for little direct compensation. He's modest about his faith, in practice and expression. But he knows it is faith that will see him through. He is generous to a fault, and his generosity extends beyond his circle of friends and loved ones.
* * *
In short, Felipe embodies those notions of U.S. citizenship that the world used to acknowledge and in which we all used to take pride. Those who would describe us today as greedy and self-centered should look around and try to find another group who would sacrifice as much and fight as hard for others to share our liberties.
And those among us who would deny immigrants the opportunity to join in our good fortune should ask whether they have earned their citizenship with as much grit and passion as this 22-year old Marine corporal. In the days of an all-volunteer military, not bloody likely.
But to paraphrase Felipe, we're all in it together now. Neutrality is not an option when all those who favor freedom have been targeted. I'm just glad Felipe realized freedom was something worth fighting for three years ago.
Mr. Asman is an anchor at the Fox News Channel and the host of "Forbes on Fox."
More thoughts on Rep. Rangel's Draft Proposal
After talking with some friends about Rep. Charlie Rangel's idea, I've developed an even deeper sense that we should not pursue this option. I've already argued the military reasons (below). But I have two more arguments which I'd like to offer:
1. The rich and powerful avoided service before through a variety of means, and there's no reason to think things would be different this time. Whether through medical ailments, college deferments, or other means, the sons and daughters of America's elite largely avoided the draft, or sought refuge in the National Guard, during Vietnam. So few members of this upper crust of society have volunteered for military service; it's possible that they would continue to avoid military service through other means once conscription began. Even since 9/11, the numbers haven't changed.
If this is true (and more research ought to be done as to why rich kids won't/don't serve), then this poses a major problem for Rep. Rangel's draft proposal. After all, his entire argument for the draft hinges on "shared sacrifice," and the moral imperative to spread the human cost of war across all American racial and socio-economic classes.
If the rich and powerful can avoid service, then Rep. Rangel's bill may have an unintended consequence of spreading the human cost more unequitably. A draft may actually bring in more of the poor than the current volunteer system; it may add more distance between the military and America's elite. We need only look to Vietnam for such an example.
2. We have all been drafted already, in a sense, in this war against terrorism. The front-lines in this war do not just exist in Afghanistan, Indonesia or Iraq. The front-lines include New York, Chicago, Dallas, and other cities across America. Our police, firefighters, EMTs, ER doctors, nurses, sanitation workers, janitors, postal workers, and many others have become front-line soldiers in this war. We already have a feeling of shared sacrifice; 9/11 did that, and the subsequent anthrax and sniper attacks added to it. If Al Qaeda strikes again, it will turn more of us into foot soldiers in this war -- or into casualties. There is no need for conscription to create this feeling of "shared sacrifice". We already have sacrificed enough of our own citizens to know that feeling.
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.