Saturday, March 15, 2003
U.S. drops plans to launch attack from Turkey
Warships and troop transports reposition to Red Sea; U.S. adjusts war plans
Sunday's Los Angeles Times reports that the United States has withdrawn its proposals to base troops in Turkey and launch attacks through Turkish airspace. Indeed, the U.S. is now concerned that Turkey may seize an opportunity in this war to launch its own assault into Northern Iraq to pacify the Kurdish population there.
...the administration is now trying to dissuade Turkey from plans to send its own army into Kurdish-controlled northern Iraq, warning that such an incursion could lead to "a war within a war" and further damage Turkey's relations with the United States.
The shift in the administration's position came nearly two weeks after Turkey's parliament refused to authorize a deployment of 62,000 American troops and after its top political leader, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, balked at a backup proposal to open Turkish airspace to U.S. missiles and warplanes for a bombing campaign in Iraq.
In response, the Pentagon on Friday sent some of the 12 warships that were in Mediterranean waters near Turkey to the Red Sea, where they can fire through Saudi Arabian airspace instead. Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld ordered the repositioning Thursday night, Pentagon officials said.
NYT: On terror and spying, Ashcroft expands reach
Saturday's NY Times has a lengthy -- but well-written -- piece on the expansion of power within the Bush Administration by John Ashcroft and his Justice Department. The article includes descriptions of how the Justice Department has expanded into "lead agency" positions on most of the domestic war on terrorism, and how Ashcroft himself has embraced the role of "lighting rod" for the Administration. This hasn't happened without its discontents, however, and the article quotes a number of those too.
The latest imbroglio flared last month when an 80-page draft of a Justice Department plan to expand the department's counterterrorism powers was leaked in the news media. The plan, a proposed sequel to the Patriot Act, would seek legislative measures to broaden the Justice Department's authority for granting intelligence warrants and invalidate local consent decrees that curb police spying, among other ideas discussed.
Justice Department officials say the ideas were only in their early discussion stages. "Percolating ideas into the system is very important," Mr. Ashcroft said in the interview.
Still, many lawmakers were incensed because they said the Justice Department told them repeatedly that no such plan was even in the works. Senator Patrick J. Leahy, Democrat of Vermont, accused department officials of lying to his staff, and he said in an interview that the department's secrecy worries him because it suggests that when a formal proposal is prepared, "we're supposed to roll over and play dead and just pass it."
Groups like the American Civil Liberties Union, meanwhile, see the document as a dangerous expansion of powers they believe have already grown too vast.
"John Ashcroft has clearly abused his power," said Laura W. Murphy, director of the A.C.L.U.'s Washington office. "He is supposed to be the chief enforcer of the Constitution for the executive branch, but he has given lip service to constitutional rights and has systematically eroded free speech rights, privacy rights and due process rights, in the context of fighting the war on terrorism."
Friday, March 14, 2003
What role will American play in our war on Iraq?
Tomorrow's Washington Post has a pair of articles on women of America's Army and Navy, respectively, who will play critical roles in any military campagn on Iraq. The first article describes life in F Company, 12th Aviation Regiment, where female pilots, mechanics and door gunners will fly alongside their male brethren in any assault. Indeed, these women will fly as far forward as any infantry units -- sometimes beyond -- since a major part of their mission includes supporting air assaults (such as those by the 101st Airborne Division) and inserting reconnaissance teams.
Women are not assigned to front-line ground combat, but Henzie knows that combat could assign itself to her. She will fly with three door-gunners in the back manning M-60 light machine guns and carrying flares to deflect missiles. For a worst-case scenario, she'll pack a Beretta M-9 pistol.
"When we take off in the Chinooks, we'll be flying into combat territory. It's a reality," shrugs Henzie, a native of Edwardsville, Ill.
Henzie's five barracks mates in Female Room No. 1 here at a makeshift U.S. base know they could come under fire. Some embrace the thought.
Sgt. Mikaela Fahey, 23, a graduate of the Army's Air Assault School, is a mechanic who might be pressed into duty as a door-gunner. Sgt. 1st Class Cyndee Carnes, 36, expects she will drive into Iraq close behind advancing U.S. troops to work at a helicopter operations center. Sgt. Chris Cossette, 27, a mechanic, will be driving in a convoy, too. She tries not to think about snipers.
As the United States prepares for war with Iraq, more women are doing combat-related jobs than ever before. After the 1991 Persian Gulf War, Congress expanded opportunities for women in the military, allowing them to fly most combat aircraft. Women now make up 15 percent of active-duty forces, compared to about 1 percent at the end of the Vietnam War.
The second article chronicles life aboard the USS Abaham Lincoln, one of the aircraft carriers now in the region to support an attack on Iraq. In the Navy, women now fill virtually every role except for SEAL teams and submarine crews. On aircraft carriers, they serve as fighter pilots, intelligence officers, surface-warfare officers, and logisticians. Despite the opening of such billets to women, hurdles remain for those women who want to serve in the Navy. Characteristically, however, the women on the Abraham Lincoln brush aside such obstacles and persevere.
Years after the first woman joined the crew of one of the Navy's largest aircraft carriers, women are gaining in numbers but remain very much a minority in a male-dominated environment -- about 10 percent of a crew of 5,655.
* * *
Like many women in the crew, Petty Officer Theresa Pickard enlisted as a way to pay for education. The need arose after she graduated from high school in Columbus, Ohio, seven years ago.
"I wanted money for college, a reliable job and a way to travel and experience new places," she said as she sat in camouflage pants and a grease-covered white jersey. Pickard was studying for an advancement exam in the ship's library, surrounded by seamen playing loud video games on three television sets.
"Maybe there is discrimination, but I've never felt it," said Pickard, 26, an aviation electrician's mate. "People pretty much care about whether you can do the job, not what your gender is."
Bottom Line: Frequent readers know that I've written on this subject too, and lived this subject as an MP lieutenant and captain in the Army. One of the major policy consequences for this conflict will be the test of women on the front-lines. As soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines, women will fight closer to the front-lines in this war than any previous war in American history. Their performance -- good or bad -- as well as their casualty counts will provide ammunition for future debates over the role of women in the military.
Are they demonstrators or terrorists?
Chris Baker has an excellent riposte at Half Baked to my assertion that the anti-war protesters in San Francisco might be crossing the line into becoming terrorists themselves.
...there is no legal recourse for holding these particular suspects as terrorists. Descriptively, they are indeed engaged in a form of "financial terrorism," but even in the government's haste to drastically expand the net for which it can cast over terrorist suspects, it has been careful to limit its definition of "domestic terrorism."
* * *
The next question (or a rephrasing of the initial question)...would it be in our best interests for the government to further broaden its definition of "domestic terrorism?" I suspect Phil would heartily lobby for such an extension...but I'm not so sure I would agree. ... I'm not sure what we gain by branding the village idiots of the civil disobedience crews "terrorists" when there are ample existing legal channels to punish those who take their protesting one step too far. However, I think there's a threat that our general fight against terror may be undermined from within if we are too quick to brand every objectionable act of protest as "terror."
Chris has a good point. I'm split about whether we need to criminalize this further as terrorism, or simply prosecute them with existing laws for trespassing, disturbing the peace, etc. Existing laws already criminalize the behavior of these demonstrators, and do a good job of deterring most protesters from taking their activism to the next level. There is probably no need to legally categorize these actors as terrorists, especially given the enormous potential for "blowback" that such a definition would have.
However, I still think that defining this conduct as terrorism has some utility. If nothing else, it helps anti-terrorism professionals to think broadly about all the possible threats to critical infrastructure and critical sites -- whether they come from bona fide terrorists like Al Qaeda or fringe activist groups like Earth First! or International Answer. Assuming away these protesters as non-terrorists may blind us to the next threat from them, which could be something like a Distributed Denial of Service (DDOS) attack over the Internet. In anti-terrorism, you simply can't afford to assume away the threat.
Slate produces a "Field Guide to Iraq Pundits
The editors of Slate have a great piece today on their website which lists the most prolific war pundits on the street -- in order from hawk to dove. A lot of these talking heads look alike and sound alike, so this is a great scorecard for putting their remarks in context. Here's a few excerpts:
1. Richard Perle
Aka: The Hawk's Hawk
Authorized bio: Chairman of the Pentagon's Defense Policy Board. American Enterprise Institute fellow.
Unauthorized bio: Easily mistaken for an actual administration official. Suing Sy Hersh, who criticized him in The New Yorker for establishing a company that would allegedly profit from war.
His take on war: Liberate Iraq, allied and U.N. objections be damned. The Iraqi people will rejoice at Saddam's downfall.
Like a broken record: "The Iraqis will welcome the liberators with open arms."
Connections: Godfather of the oust-Saddam movement. James Woolsey and Henry Kissinger serve on his Defense Policy Board. Like Frank Gaffney, a hawkish former Reaganite and aide to former Democratic Sen. "Scoop" Jackson. In the neocon clique with Kagan and Kristol.
Don't tell Jacques Chirac: Vacations at a French summer house.
10. Gen. Wayne Downing
Aka: The Go-to General
Authorized bio: Retired Gulf War general and special-ops expert. Former adviser to the Iraqi National Congress. Appointed by Bush to head the White House Office for Combating Terrorism in October 2001; resigned 10 months later.
Unauthorized bio: TV general who explains why current U.S. military plans make sense.
His take on war: War is a given. U.N. support would be nice, but we have the military might to carry it off alone, although we might suffer more casualties than in '91. All that Pentagon griping that Rumsfeld is a meddling micromanager? Hogwash. Military planning always requires back-and-forth.
Like a broken record: "We all have this conception that we're going to stick the videotape into the VCR, and we're going to see Desert Storm as it was in 1991 play out. This is different. … This is about regime change."
Connections: Fought under Schwarzkopf in Desert Storm.
Mystery resignation: Why did he quit the Office for Combating Terrorism so suddenly? No one is talking.
15. Thomas Friedman
Aka: The Earnest Reformer
Authorized bio: New York Times Pulitzer-Prize-winning foreign affairs columnist.
Unauthorized bio: Along with Pollack, the guy who can make the (reluctant) liberal case for war. Now a charter member of the balking hawks club.
His take on war: Bush has been too unilateral about preparing for the war and too casual about preparing for the aftermath. Still, regime change is the right thing to do, not because Saddam is an imminent threat, but because it might reform the Middle East. But we must do what it takes to get our allies involved.
Like a broken record: "Iraq is a war of choice—a legitimate choice …"
Best attempt to distance his vision of a reformed Middle East from the neocons: "Some things are also true even if Richard Perle believes them."
Anti-war protesters cross the line in San Francisco
Arguably, their move to close the Pacific Stock Exchange makes them terrorists
The Associated Press reports that a group of anti-war activists today tried and failed to close the Pacific Stock Exchange by force of "non-violent" protest. I say "non-violent" because these protesters tried to force their way into the PSE's building and into the exchange in order to force its closure. This is a far cry from the paradigmatic non-violent protests I've studied. I think you can draw a line between sitting in a cafe or trying to attend school -- and forcing your way into a business with the stated intent of shutting it down. After failing in this attempt, the protesters then moved out into the streets of San Francisco to stop traffic. In this endeavor, they succeeded, snaring traffic in an already congested part of the city.
After failing to close the Pacific Stock Exchange, antiwar protesters did shut down a major financial district intersection this morning before police began making dozens of arrests.
Dozens of protesters dispersed from several stock exchange entrances and settled into an intersection as police in riot gear watched and some commuters drove onto the sidewalk to get through. Though their goal had been to prevent workers from entering the exchange, "we had absolutely no disruptions to trading," said stock exchange spokesman John Werts.
San Francisco police said nearly 70 people were arrested. Traffic was back to normal by mid-morning.
Analysis: I support free speech, and think it's important for all views to be heard. This, however, crosses the line between activist speech and criminal conduct. By trespassing on the PSE's property, these activists broke the law. When they tried to close the PSE, they attacked all of us. This was clearly an act of financial terrorism. Their tactics targeted a piece of critical financial infrastructure, seeking to achieve political ends through the disruption of this financial node. Their attack sought to inflict financial harm on all of us, which in turn, would cause us to raise our voices against the war. Though these protesters used moderate force and sought to kill no one, they sought to inflict violence on our financial infrastructure and damage our economy by disrupting that system. Make no mistake about it -- this protest was an act of terrorism.
New noteworthy blog: ActualMalice
Media Attorney John Maltbie has a great new weblog called Actual Malice in which he covers "First Amendment and Media Law issues, including libel, privacy, newsgathering, and intellectual property." If you're interested in this area, I recommend a look.
Palos Verdes residents show their patriotism
Today's Los Angeles Times reports that the residents of Rancho Palos Verdes, an affluent beach suburb of L.A., have forced their city manager to approve a plan by the Marine Corps to conduct assault exercises on "Marineland," an appropriately-named waterpark that has been closed for nearly two decades but not developed. The city manager had initially denied permission for this exercise. But the residents heard about the denial and complained -- vehemently -- that they ought to support the Marines as they train for war.
Word of his decision spread through town, and by the time Evans arrived at work a little past 7 a.m. Thursday, the local citizenry was quick to express its concern about the perceived lack of patriotism.
"Right now, public opinion is running 6 to 1 against me that I should cut my throat," Evans said.
Evans is a veteran of the Navy Seabees who served in Vietnam. It didn't matter. In his first minutes at work, he received six phone calls from angry residents and two more calls from members of the City Council.
* * *
Marines from Camp Pendleton have used the 100-acre site since the early 1990s because they can approach it by land, sea or sky. Marineland is usually a make-believe city or country in the exercises. A small number of troops -- usually fewer than 100 -- "invade" the park and recover either a person or valuable object, said Col. Pat O'Donogue.
"We'll have some troops approach Marineland by small rubber boat and then we'll have some troops out there looking for them to make sure their military field skills are up to par," O'Donogue said.
Breaching charges are used to blow open entranceways to Marineland during the exercise, and flash-bang grenades and paintball rounds are used to subdue "the enemy." After accomplishing their mission, troops are picked up by helicopter.
Coda: This is great evidence that the entire West Coast isn't filled with stereotypical anti-military people, as you might think from watching recent protests in San Francisco or celebrity awards ceremonies. Granted, Palos Verdes is an extremely affluent area and fairly conservative too. But still, it's heartening to see citizens support their military like this, even when noise from helicopters and explosions may cause them to lose sleep. Maybe they sleep better knowing the U.S. military is well-trained and ready to defend them at home or abroad.
Dissent on the Potomac III
Most people know that the Department of Defense building, commonly called the Pentagon because of its shape, sits next to the Potomac River approximately 500 meters from the shore. It's in Virginia, not Washington DC per se. The Potomac River separates it from Washington. But apparently, neither physical distance nor the presence of running water separates the Pentagon from politics, or the kind of internecine struggles that go on in other parts of the government.
The latest skirmish between the Army and the Pentagon leadership appears in today's Los Angeles Times. Gen. Eric Shinseki triggered this battle when he testified to Congress that occupation of Iraq might take "several hundred thousand" troops. The Pentagon's leadership backpedaled on that number, but Secretary of the Army Thomas White stood by Gen. Shinseki, the Chief of Staff of the Army, and said "Gen. Shinseki has some experience in this, having run the stabilization in Bosnia, and he's a very experienced officer... You have two views on this right now, and expertise in support of each view." Not quite the smack-down the Pentagon wanted. Secretary Rumsfeld has already announced Shinseki's replacement, 12 months ahead of his retirement date, making him a lame duck. Now, it appears that Rumsfeld wants White gone too, according to a Robert Novak column yesterday (that was probably driven by a Pentagon leak).
White previously came under fire in connection with his stint as an executive at Enron Corp. He left shortly before it declared bankruptcy, when top officials were still collecting big paychecks. He later was taken to task for the Army's Capitol Hill lobbying efforts to save its planned Crusader artillery program even after Pentagon budgeters planned to cut it.
Recently, he again irked the Pentagon's civilian leaders by refusing to challenge Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki's prediction that it could take "hundreds of thousands" of U.S. troops to keep the peace in a postwar Iraq.
A defense official close to White described the secretary as "apoplectic" Thursday after he read in a piece by syndicated columnist Robert Novak, who has ties to administration hawks, that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld wanted him out.
Through a spokesman, White immediately questioned the timing of the apparent leak.
"The secretary of the Army's unconditional view is that when the nation prepares for war, we should rally around the leaders entrusted by the Constitution to make decisions affecting the security of our beloved country," White spokesman Charles Krohn said. "There must be some who draw advantage from putting the secretary of the Army and the secretary of Defense in opposite corners of Pentagon politics."
Analysis: As John Hendren points out in the Times article, this is the second major battle between White and the Pentagon leadership. The first occurred when White and Shinseki tried to save the Crusader artillery system, and inadvertently had the Army legislative office fax "talking points" over to Congress for their allies to use in questioning Pentagon officials on the cancellation. All of the services, especially the Marines, conduct their own guerilla campaigns on Capitol Hill to fight for their slice of the defense budget. But the Crusader incident was such an egregious and open break from the Pentagon leadership that it landed White in really hot water. Now, it appears that he may be on his way out.
That would be a loss for the Army. Secretary White, despite his connections to Enron, is perhaps the best Secretary of the Army in recent memory. He knows soldiers because he was one. And not just a 5-year-and-out man like Louis Caldera (or me). Secretary White served for nearly thirty years, from the Vietnam War through the end of the Cold War, commanding units from platoon-size to regimental-size, eventually retiring as a 1-star general. Soldiers love him -- they see him as a leader. His policies bear that out. When operational or soldier needs require a policy, he acts on it -- whether it be stop-loss for deployed units, or extra notice for reservists about to be mobilized before the order actually comes. Though he may be a political liability to Secretary Rumsfeld, I think that White's a good executive who probably does a lot of good for the Army.
Thursday, March 13, 2003
President Bush announces new medals for war on terrorism
Today, the President signed an Executive Order establishing two new medals for the men and women in uniform who have served as part of the global war on terrorism. The Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal will be awarded to servicepersons who participate in an overseas expedition to fight terrorism, such as Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan. The Global War on Terrorism Service Medal will be awarded to soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who serve in some other capacity but don't deploy -- such as on a domestic-security mission under the auspices of Operation Noble Eagle.
"Any member who qualified for those medals by reason of service in operations to combat terrorism between September 11, 2001, and a terminal date to be determined by the Secretary of Defense, shall remain qualified for those medals," the executive order reads. "Upon application, any such member may be awarded either the Global War on Terrorism Expeditionary Medal or the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal in lieu of the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or the Armed Forces Service Medal."
* * *
DoD and military service officials, including the Coast Guard, are working on provisions to award the medals.
What's the big deal? Cynics may say that the military hands out medals like Boy Scout merit badges, and there's a grain of truth in that for some services and units. However, these medals have concrete legal consequences for the servicepersons who receive them. Several years ago, the federal government's rules for awarding veteran's preferences changed. Veterans who served honorably on active duty but did not receive a campaign medal did not get any type of veterans preference under the new rules. To get a veterans preference, you had to meet certain specific criteria, such as having a campaign medal. That meant you had to deploy overseas for an operational mission, such as Grenada, Panama, Southwest Asia, Somalia, Bosnia or Haiti. Regular deployments to Korea or Okinawa didn't count; neither did overseas service in Europe. You had to have a campaign medal. Paradoxically, this meant an MP lieutenant friend who deployed his platoon to Naples, Italy, during the Kosovo conflict got a medal while I did not for my year of service in Korea near the DMZ.
So... here's the bottom line: This new campaign medal will enable the hundreds of thousands of personnel now serving overseas for Operation Enduring Freedom -- and the thousands of reservists who served at home -- to get a veteran's preference when they leave the service. I think this is the right thing to do, and I commend President Bush for signing this Executive Order.
UCLA's basketball team just defeated the vaunted Arizona Wildcats in overtime, 96-89. I watched the last few minutes of the game from the gym, after leaving class today with UCLA trailing the Wildcats in the second half. What a great game. Unfortunately, this may mean that Coach Steve Lavin remains another year when he really ought to be let go. But who knows? Maybe UCLA will go all the way...
Dissent on the Potomac II
Robert Novak has an interesting and provocative column in today's Washington Post (link unavailable) on the dispute between the Army leadership and the Pentagon's leadership. He sees the same rift emerging that I do, but thinks that it could lead to some high-profile terminations in the near future -- including Secretary of the Army Thomas White.
In his latest policy disagreement with Rumsfeld, Shinseki testified to Congress on Feb. 25 that "several hundred thousand soldiers" might be necessary for post-war occupation of Iraq. Last week White did not join the Pentagon's civilian leadership in contradicting Shinseki's estimate but endorsed the general's credentials. Not only did this undermine Rumsfeld's efforts to gain control of the officer corps that he felt ran wild during the Clinton days,it also raised the specter of a long and difficult occupation of Iraq.
* * *
White anticipated the inevitable question and had carefully drafted an equivocal answer: "General Shinseki has some experience in this, having run the stabilization force in Bosnia, and he's a very experienced officer." Pointing out that "there are others" who disagree, White concluded: "You have two views on this right now, and expertise in support of each view." That surely was no ringing affirmation of the Rumsfeld-Wolfowitz line at an hour when White's future was shaky.
White and his closest associates were not aware of how close he came to being fired last week, and not even normally well-informed U.S. senators had any hint. Naturally, nobody at the Pentagon will confirm a possible sacking. Not speaking for quotation, White's critics in the Office of the Secretary of Defense portray him as an impediment in the goal of reforming the Pentagon. His admirers see him, in contrast to a long line of lackluster service secretaries, as committed to the Army institutionally.
Actually, the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act took the Army secretary and other civilian service secretaries out of the chain of command, so that White is largely a symbolic figure. If he is dismissed on the eve of war, it will happen because Don Rumsfeld insists on the symbolism of everybody at the Pentagon singing the same song without dissent.
More dissent on the Potomac
Army chief repeats his high-end estimate for a post-war occupation force
Gen. Eric Shinseki, the Chief of Staff of the Army, repeated his estimate yesterday that a post-war occupation of Iraq might require "several hundred thousand" soldiers. He made his earlier comments to the Senate Armed Services Committee in response to a pointed question from Sen. Carl Levin about the possible size of an occupation force. This time, speaking on the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act to the House Armed Services Committee, Gen. Shinseki repeated his estimate.
Army Chief of Staff Gen. Eric K. Shinseki told a House subcommittee on defense appropriations the military could only estimate what forces might be needed after any invasion of Iraq. "It could be as high as several hundred thousand," he said, but added, "We all hope that it is something less."
Shinseki explained to reporters after the hearing that he did not mean to suggest the postwar force would be all U.S. troops. "That doesn't presume that it will be done all by us," he said. Shinseki told reporters yesterday: "This is just an estimate of what it might take. There are no specifics about what it [the postwar force] would do; those tasks are yet to be determined."
I haven't seen a rebuttal/retraction yet from the Pentagon, but I'm sure one is coming. This is one area where we've seen major rifts emerge between the Pentagon's leadership (including Gen. Franks in CENTCOM) and the Army's leadership. As I stated earlier, the Army's leadership doesn't have an operational role in the conflict as a matter of federal law. The chain of command runs down from the President and Secretary of Defense to Gen. Franks -- not through the Army. The Army has a big stake in this though, because they are responsible for recruiting, training, equipping and providing the forces to Gen. Franks. There's some high-stakes politics here -- more to follow.
Experts debate what could go wrong in Iraq
Today's USA Today leads with an article on the risks of combat in Iraq. The U.S. has a clear and overwhelming advantage in military technology, military personnel, and military doctrine. But Murphy's Law is omnipresent, especially in combat. Things that can go wrong often do go wrong, and the sheer complexity of warfare often means that little problems blossom into big ones.
"No plan survives contact with an enemy, no matter how positive or optimistic you can be about a conflict," says Andrew Krepinevich, executive director of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, a defense think tank in Washington, D.C.
"There is a nearly 100% probability that actual combat will not neatly conform to any scenario developed before the war," says Anthony Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "Many expert arguments over how to structure given (war) scenarios are largely irrelevant."
"There are any number of things that can go wrong," Secretary Donald Rumsfeld told PBS's The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer. "There are also a number of things that can go right, and what one has to do is to look at them all with a cold eye." Rumsfeld said he has shared the list with "everyone who works with me," including President Bush and the National Security Council.
The article forecasts the following possible complications for the war in Iraq:
- Destroying crucial dams
- Setting oil wells on fire
- Interfering with communications and targeting devices
- Using weapons of mass destruction
- Fighting between the Turks and the Kurds in northern Iraq
- Launching Scud missiles against Israel, possibly with chemical or biological warheads
- Urban warfare
- Fighters in civilian clothing
I'll add two more: 1) the presence of Iraqi civilians on the battlefield and 2) the likelihood of a humanitarian disaster resulting from our deliberate targeting of Iraqi infrastructure (water, power, roads, etc). All of these risks will require extensive mitigation efforts, but these last two will have major consequences for our post-war occupation and reconstruction of Iraq.
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
Book Recommendation: Crusade by Rick Atkinson
With Gulf War II on the horizon, I decided to reach back into recent history to read more about Gulf War I in order to learn more about how our next conflict might unfold. I chose Crusade by Rick Atkinson, a veteran Washington Post reporter and Pulitzer Prize winner who has also written The Long Gray Line and An Army at Dawn. Crusade is a bit long -- around 500 pages. But it has to be one of the most readable, best researched, best written history books I've ever read. Atkinson tells the story of Gulf War I at multiple levels, from the discussions in the White House between President Bush and Gen. Powell to the radio traffic in the desert between tank commanders. He also weaves in accounts gathered after the war, such as those of Col. David Eberly, an American pilot shot down early in the air campaign and held as a POW in Baghdad for the duration of the war. All in all, this was an amazingly written book that I highly recommend to all who are interested in American military history.
More on the Air Force Academy scandal
Today's Los Angeles Times has an excellent story about the personal side of the sexual-misconduct scandal at the U.S. Air Force Academy. The story chronicles the case of Andrea Prasse, a senior who says she was victimized both by a fellow cadet and by the Air Force Academy itself.
COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. -- Andrea Prasse, U.S. Air Force Academy Class of 2002, was one of just two women graduating with a degree in aeronautical engineering. Her grades were exemplary, her record unblemished. Fresh-faced and physically fit, she had been singularly focused since age 12 on learning to pilot into combat an A-10 Warthog attack plane.
But along the way, a male classmate seemed to become singularly focused on Prasse. He stalked her for nearly a year, she said, demanding to know where she was going, whom she was with. She said he showed up at her dorm room uninvited, and she took to shoving towels under the door so he wouldn't know her light was on.
When she complained, she said, her superiors refused to intervene. Soon after, the cadet whom she had reported charged her with violating the academy's honor code by lying on a project. Eight days before graduation, Prasse was recommended for expulsion, her degree withheld.
The 22-year-old is one of dozens of current and former cadets who in the last decade have reported crimes ranging from harassment to rape, only to be met with retribution or indifference by their commanding officers.
* * *
Last month, Lt. Gen. John R. Dallager, the academy superintendent, offered to allow Prasse to return on a six-month "honor probation" to complete training, graduate and be commissioned as a second lieutenant. He called it "the best and most fair decision for Cadet Prasse, the academy and the Air Force."
Given her classmates' hostility — several chat room missives on the cadet Web site read like threats — Prasse says she is not eager to go back. If she refuses, however, she faces three years of service as an enlisted person or repayment of $130,000 in tuition costs to the Air Force.
She has joined the local volunteer fire department to keep busy. Her dreams of piloting a Warthog are dead. And her career as an aeronautical engineer is uncertain. Meanwhile, she said, the cadet who harassed her has graduated and is an Air Force officer, with a secured slot in pilot training school.
Bottom Line: If her allegations are true (and they sound like they are), we have a disturbing problem at the Academy. Soldiers and cadets may misbehave, and they deserve to be punished for their individual conduct. But the systematic treatment of these complaints is much larger problem. It indicates an institutional sentiment towards women in uniform that they don't belong; that somehow, they're inferior to men in uniform. From my veteran's perspective, that's a crock of sh*t. I served with outstanding female officers as an Army military police lieutenant and captain -- officers who were equal or superior to me in every way. Each earned her commission and place in the ranks. (There were some female poor performers, but no more than there were male poor performers). The general sentiment of informal discrimination against women in the military is wrong. It's based on flawed premises that they cannot serve as warriors, when in fact, women have proven their ability to do so.
McCain: "The Right War for the Right Reasons"
Men like John McCain and Colin Powell take their integrity quite seriously. Maybe it's the years of military service, where military officers learn to lead by example and hold themselves to a high standard in order to set that for their troops. Or maybe it's the burden of responsibility each man now shoulders; McCain as Senator, Powell as Secretary of State. Regardless, I trust these men. So when Sen. McCain writes in the New York Times that the time has come to disarm Saddam Hussein, I listen.
The main contention is that we have not exhausted all nonviolent means to encourage Iraq's disarmament. They have a point, if to not exhaust means that America will not tolerate the failure of nonviolent means indefinitely. After 12 years of economic sanctions, two different arms-inspection forces, several Security Council resolutions and, now, with more than 200,000 American and British troops at his doorstep, Saddam Hussein still refuses to give up his weapons of mass destruction. Only an obdurate refusal to face unpleasant facts — in this case, that a tyrant who survives only by the constant use of violence is not going to be coerced into good behavior by nonviolent means — could allow one to believe that we have rushed to war.
These critics also object because our weapons do not discriminate between combatants and noncombatants. Did the much less discriminating bombs dropped on Berlin and Tokyo in World War II make that conflict unjust? Despite advances in our weaponry intended to minimize the loss of innocent life, some civilian casualties are inevitable. But far fewer will perish than in past wars. Far fewer will perish than are killed every year by an Iraqi regime that keeps power through the constant use of lethal violence. Far fewer will perish than might otherwise because American combatants will accept greater risk to their own lives to prevent civilian deaths.
* * *
Many also mistake where our government's primary allegiance lies, and should lie. The American people, not the United Nations, is the only body that President Bush has sworn to represent. Clearly, the administration cares more about the credibility of the Security Council than do other council members who demand the complete disarmament of the Iraqi regime yet shrink from the measures needed to enforce that demand. But their lack of resolve does not free an American president from his responsibility to protect the security of this country. Both houses of Congress, by substantial margins, granted the president authority to use force to disarm Saddam Hussein. That is all the authority he requires.
Update: Writ has posted the full column its website titled: "Al Qaeda and the Advent of Multinational Terrorism: Why 'Material Support' Prosecutions Are Key In the War on Terrorism." I look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback on the piece.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
An ignoble end to Operation Kuwaiti Field Chicken
The St. Louis Post Dispatch reports that Operation KFC has met an untimely death -- literally. All 43 chickens ordered by the Marine Corps to serve as backup chemical/biological-agent detectors have died in the desert from unknown causes. Malice is not suspected, however, there is sure to be an investigation. (Little known fact: the military medical community has a veterinary branch charged with, among other things, safeguarding the military food supply.)
Just more than a week after 43 chickens were brought here to ride into battle with the Marines, all but two have died. Most were buried in the soft sand outside of regiment headquarters. Small, wooden tombstones mark their graves.
There is one for Captain Popeye, one for Pfc. King, another for Lance Cpl. Pecker and, finally, one marking the grave of The Unknown Chicken.
* * *
Nobody in the camp Friday knew whether the Marines would buy new chickens. But Griffin had another idea, while ferrying about 25 reporters around the camp last week when something triggered the base's alarm for a chemical or biological attack.
"This is not a drill!" Marines shouted. "This is not a drill!"
Griffin said most of the journalists panicked because only about five of them had brought the gas masks that the military has repeatedly told them to have. Fortunately, the alarm proved false.
"Hell, we don't need chickens," Griffin remarked Friday. "We can just use you journalists."
Writ (Findlaw.Com's commentary page) is running a piece of mine tomorrow on their website titled "Al Qaeda and the Advent of Multinational Terrorism: Why “Material Support” Prosecutions Are Key In the War on Terrorism". In the piece, I explain some of the operational reasons why the Justice Department is devoting so much energy to prosecuting so-called "little fish" in its war on terrorism, like Enaam Arnaout or Sami Al-Arian. Here's a short excerpt:
Some have argued that these prosecutions are a diversion and distraction from the real task of prosecuting terrorists. They could not be more wrong. Assuming the government’s allegations against them are accurate, men like Ujaama, Arnaout and Al-Arian are as important to terror networks as the men who actually carry out terror attacks – perhaps even more so. Without such individuals raising money, arranging immigration, and providing other forms of support, the terrorists in Al Qaeda could not conduct the kind of operation we saw on September 11.
America faces a dangerously amorphous adversary in Al Qaeda. Defeating this enemy will require more than a head-on military strategy, or a crime-busting legal strategy. Instead, it requires a subtle combination of both – and it requires prosecutions not only of terrorists, but of those who fund them. We must analyze Al Qaeda to find its most vulnerable parts, and then attack those parts relentlessly using every tool at America’s disposal – cutting each of the heads off the Hydra, and making sure it never re-grows.
To ultimately prevail, the United States must attack every part of the Al Qaeda organization – especially its global infrastructure that enables it to strike across borders and oceans. Those who knowingly support that infrastructure are more than merely innocent individuals who gave money to the wrong cause – “small fish” caught in a big net. They are as much the authors of terrorism as those who do the bombing and the killing, and they are rightfully prosecuted as such.
Separating the sexes at the Air Force Academy
UCLAW classmate and fellow blogger Chris Baker has some well-written thoughts on the recent Air Force Academy scandal at Half Baked. His insights count for a lot -- Chris graduated from the U.S. Naval Academy and served for 7 years as a Marine Corps infantry officer. He's led Marines through some awful spots, and he knows a few things about leadership as a result.
(2) The reality of today's military is mixed-gender units that live and train in close proximity to each other. With the exception of some ground combat specialties, men and women officers and enlisted serve together, work for and under each other. There are inherent challenges peculiar to the military environment that this arrangement presents, and it is the young leaders of our service academies who will be responsible for managing those challenges. The sooner cadets/midshipmen are exposed to the issues first hand, the more experience they will gain recognizing problems that attach to a mixed-gender military. Separating "boys from girls" at the service academies will only frustrate the process of teaching young officers how to manage problems that arise when men serve with women.
This last point is something I've written on too. Women serve in today's military in virtually every unit and position -- excluding just a few ground combat positions. If we can't train Ameirca's best and brightest to live together in college, we have problems.
Federal judge orders Justice Department to allow access to Padilla
In a blunt order reminiscent of a hammer dropping on a bug, U.S. District Judge Michael Mukasey (Chief Judge, Southern District, New York) ordered the Justice Department today to allow attorney Donna Newman to meet with her client, Jose Padilla -- the alleged "dirty bomber" terrorist now being held by the Defense Department. This order comes after a lengthy order in Dec. 2002 in which Judge Mukasey authorized visits by Ms. Newman so that she may gather facts with which to file a habeas petition in federal court. The Justice Department fought that order by requesting more time to appeal the decision, and special dispensation for its continuing interrogation of Mr. Padilla. Today, Judge Mukasey slammed the door on such efforts.
"Lest any confusion remain, this is not a suggestion or a request that Padilla be permitted to consult with counsel, and it is certainly not an invitation to conduct a further `dialogue' about whether he will be permitted to do so. It is a ruling -- a determination -- that he will be permitted to do so," the judge said.
Update: The U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York has the full opinion available here. Several other U.S. District Courthouses have done the same thing with their opinions in these terrorism in cases, most notably, the U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Virginia for its Moussaoui and Lindh cases.
More Detainees May Be Freed From Guantanamo
Various wire services are reporting that the U.S. may release a few more detainees held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Pierre-Richard Prosper, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes, said that "another handful of people" who are deemed no longer a threat may be returned to their home countries. About 650 prisoners from 43 countries are in custody. All are accused of links to al-Qaeda or the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.
"We have freed some detainees in the past, and we are looking at another handful of people. There are some people that the United States, after further review, considers ... no longer pose a threat to the international community," Ambassador Prosper told reporters.
Prosper made the comment on the first of two days of talks with Danish officials on the fate of a 29-year-old Dane who has been held at Guantanamo Bay since he was captured at Kandahar, Afghanistan, in February 2002.
Query: are we making room in Guantanamo for prisoners we expect to capture in Iraq or elsewhere?
U.S. continues to offload equipment, improve bases in Turkey
Next time: deploy soldiers first and ask for permission second?
The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) recapitulates a story that's been floating in the Turkish press and wire services for some time. American military units have offloaded vehicles and equipment at Iskenderun, and begun their march into Southern Turkey to build bases from which they will launch the assault into Northern Iraq. I've seen photos on the AP wire to this effect, confirming both the existence of U.S. troops and equipment on the ground in Turkey. It does not appear -- from those photos -- that the U.S. has offloaded the entire 4th Infantry Division. Instead, it looks like the U.S. has deployed an advance party of engineers, infantry and military police to establish forward bases and secure them.
The U.S. Embassy in Ankara declined to comment on the reports. But U.S. and Turkish officials have insisted that all movements of U.S. military equipment are authorized under an agreement reached earlier this year to upgrade Turkey's military bases and ports in preparation for a possible war.
* * *
U.S. cargo ships began off-loading military vehicles and equipment in the Mediterranean port of Iskenderun last week, and moving it by road to the southeastern town of Mardin. Turkish media say Mardin is the site of one of the planned logistics bases and the first to be up and running. Convoys of U.S. military equipment were also sighted arriving at Gaziantep airport, not far from Iskenderun on the main road to the Iraqi border.
WSJ: What might OBL face if captured?
After speculating on military tribunals for Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Iraqis captured in the desert, today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has taken up an old subject with a new spin: what will the U.S. do if/when it captures Osama Bin Laden? The options range from shooting him on sight to trying him in federal court. (OBL is currently under indictment for his bombings of U.S. embassies in Africa in 1998). However, as the authors point out, the more likely option is to pursue a military tribunal or other ad hoc proceeding against Mr. Bin Laden and his terrorist associates.
U.S. officials have effectively ruled out returning Mr. bin Laden to the U.S. for a civilian trial, though he has long been under indictment for al Qaeda terrorist acts culminating in the 1998 bombing of American embassies in Kenya and Tanzania. Such a trial would pose too many national-security problems because it would require turning over government secrets to Mr. bin Laden's defense, officials say.
Still, a military tribunal -- which Mr. Bush authorized to try international terrorists for war crimes -- would raise some similar issues and risk becoming a platform for the defendant to incite his followers around the world. At the same time, authorities couldn't hold such a prominent figure in seclusion for interrogation indefinitely.
While Washington has been in no hurry to prosecute other al Qaeda prisoners, some of whom have been held without charges for more than a year "there would be a hue and cry for his head on a stake, and it would be really hard politically to stem the tide on that front," says one person involved setting up the tribunals.
"Bin Laden is the most wanted person of all time in U.S. history," says a Federal Bureau of Investigation official familiar with the discussions. "I don't think there's been a more notorious bad guy, so there are no precedents for trying to handle somebody like this."
Some administration officials would like to see Mr. bin Laden killed outright, something Mr. Bush authorized -- but did not order -- in a secret directive issued after the Sept. 11 attacks.
Dropping a bomb on Mr. bin Laden's hideout or shooting him on sight, however, would foreclose a reckoning for the Sept. 11 attacks and raise questions about American justice both here and abroad. "There has never been any consensus, because it's such a sticky issue," says one official involved in the administration's internal debate.
If he takes the question off Washington's hands -- by refusing to be taken alive -- other problems could emerge. "There may always be an 'Elvis' phenomenon," says a Justice Department official, with followers always asking, "Is he really dead?"
If Mr. bin Laden survives to stand trial, he can hardly expect mercy from a U.S. military tribunal, which can impose death sentences by unanimous vote.
* * *
The Justice Department official says it may make sense to have a joint trial of Mr. bin Laden alongside other captured al Qaeda figures, including Mr. Mohammed, Abu Zubaydah, Ramzi Binalshibh and perhaps Zacarias Moussaoui, whose civilian trial for the Sept. 11 conspiracy is now on hold. Mr. Moussaoui, charged in an Alexandria, Va., federal court, has used his court appearances and legal filings to rail against the U.S.
"With all these guys in custody, I'm starting to picture a Nuremberg-style trial with all them in the dock, on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan somewhere in the Indian Ocean," the official says.
Hmmm... that's something I'd like to see too. It reminds me of President Bush's remarks on Sept. 20, 2001, where he said "Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done." Justice on the deck of the USS Ronald Reagan seems fitting.
Monday, March 10, 2003
And the prize goes to... The Washington Post
My friends make fun of me because I read too many newspapers. In my book, a good day is one that starts with two newspapers and a good cup of Peet's coffee. A great day is one that starts with three newspapers and a cup of Peet's. It's hard to get four or five good newspapers on one day unless you live in New York or DC, so I usually stop there. In any case, I've read most major newspaper coverage of the war since Jan. 1 and I've developed a sense for who's got it and who doesn't. I've decided to rank the war coverage of each paper, based on entirely subjective and personal criteria like whether they get stories right.
1. The Washington Post. Simply put, the paper has the best team in the best places. They've devoted an entire portion of their website to the reporters who are 'embedded' with combat units, and they have run one of their stories on the front page for the last two weeks. The Post deployed some of its best reporters -- including famous author Rick Atkinson -- to the Gulf. In Washington, they have an all-star team of anchors including Tom Ricks, Vernon Loeb, and Dana Priest. You'd be hard pressed to find better coverage of any event, let alone a war. [Full disclosure: I've read books by Rick Atkinson, Dana Priest and Tom Ricks; those books form the basis of my judgment that this all-star team is better than the others.]
2. The Wall Street Journal. The Journal, like The Post, has deployed some of its all stars to the Gulf to be embedded with troop units. And like The Post, the WSJ has an outstanding anchor in Greg Jaffe, who reports from the Pentagon. A friend of mine writes for the WSJ, and on his recommendation, I started my subscription in December. Now I look forward to sitting down every morning with a cup of Peet's and the Journal. (If only the Post were offered on the West Coast...)
3. The Los Angeles Times. My hometown paper has some outstanding talent on the story too, though not the sheer numbers of the Post or Journal. One of their best is Tony Perry, who used to cover the San Diego area but has now deployed with the Marines to the Gulf. In Washington, the Times relies on Esther Schrader, John Hendren, and a few others to write the hard-hitting policy stories about the Pentagon. This is the Times' strong suit. They have produced some of the best articles to date on the Washington politics behind the war.
4. The Washington Times. Okay, so it's not really a national paper. But for a variety of reasons, the Washington Times consistently runs some of the best "insider" pieces about the Pentagon that are out there. Why? I'd guess it owes to two reasons. First, their team of reporters (Rowan Scarborough and Bill Gertz) know the military as an institution and understand all of its nuances. Second, as a conservative paper, the Washington Times and its reporters have developed sources that the other (left-leaning) papers simply don't have. Thus, if you want to find accurate leaks from the Bush Administation, see the Washington Times.
5. The New York Times. Really? How can the "newspaper of record," sometimes known as "the first draft of history," be fifth? Easy. Their reporters don't know the military, don't know tactics, don't know equipment -- and it shows in their articles. The Times' best reporting comes from its veterans like John Burns and C.J. Chivers, but they're not the ones covering the war directly. Instead, the Times has put these people behind enemy lines to tell stories of the Kurds and other groups. Their Washington coverage is less than you'd expect from the New York Times. If it weren't for their spectacularly comprehensive international coverage, I'd probably leave them off the list entirely.
Honorable Mentions: Army Times, Slate, the Associated Press, Stars & Stripes, CNN.Com
Okay, that's it -- Phil Carter's unofficial top 5 list for the best war coverage. I'll relook the subject in a few weeks, or once the air campaign starts, whichever comes first.
America to France: "Phooey!"
Majority of U.S. respondents support war on Iraq, regardless of UN vote
Okay, that's a little tongue-in-cheek. But the lead story for tomorrow's New York Times reports that "Growing Number in U.S. Back War, Survey Finds" -- notwithstanding what the U.N. says.
The poll found that 58 percent of Americans said the United Nations was doing a poor job in managing the Iraqi crisis, a jump of 10 points from a month ago. And 55 percent of respondents in the latest poll would support an American invasion of Iraq, even if it was in defiance of a vote of the Security Council.
But a majority of respondents, 52 percent, say inspectors should be given more time to search for evidence of nuclear, biological or chemical weapons on the ground in Iraq. Still, that number has dropped over the past month, and there has been an increase in the number of Americans who say the United States has done enough to find a diplomatic solution in Iraq.
It's hard to deduce the true state of public opinion from surveys, because you never quite know how the questions were posed or what the respondents were doing (e.g. cooking dinner) when the call came. Nonetheless, I think this is a sign that President Bush has turned a corner in selling the war to the American public. That said, 55 percent in favor of a war is not enough. The President ought to make a stronger case for this war to the American people. Americans need to know that their sons and daughters are walking into harm's way for all the right reasons.
WP: Sunni Muslim scholars call for "jihad" against U.S. in case of war
Tuesday's Washington Post leads with a disturbing article out of Cairo, reporting that a prominent group of mainstream Sunni Muslim scholars has decreed a "jihad" against the United States if it pursues its war plans against Iraq. The scholars have declared that such a war would threaten all Arabs and Muslims.
The statement, published in Egyptian newspapers today, said the U.S. military buildup in the Persian Gulf, from where an invasion will likely be launched, is part of a "new crusade," a highly emotive word in an Arab world where memories of the medieval Crusades still frame relations with the West.
"According to Islamic law, if the enemy steps on Muslims' land, jihad becomes a duty on every male and female Muslim," said the statement by the Islamic Research Academy, the center of religious scholarship at the 1,000-year-old university. It "calls upon Arabs and Muslims throughout the world to be ready to defend themselves and their faith," the statement added.
Although commonly translated as "holy war," jihad has far broader meaning in Islamic law. While it can serve as a call to arms, and is often articulated that way, it is also commonly used to invoke a more spiritual, inward-looking devotion. In that light, some scholars said the statement was not necessarily advocating violence.
"The meaning of jihad means a lot of things, not just fighting," said Abbas Ahmed, a spokesman for Al-Azhar in Cairo. "It's not necessarily war." But he added that any attack on Iraq would, in fact, "be a strike on Islam."
War question: an answer to Mark Kleiman
On Sunday, UCLA professor Mark Kleiman posed four questions to us "war bloggers" about the upcoming campaign in Iraq. I’ll focus on #3, since that’s the one I’ve been reading about lately. (Just finished a couple of great pieces in International Security on this subject, including Stephen Middle's masterpiece "Victory Misunderstood.") Mark asked:
3. There's no question that we could conquer Iraq on the ground. But that would cost us a significant number of casualties. So instead the plan seems to be to start by raining bombs on Baghdad in hopes of so demoralizing the leadership that they just stop fighting. As we all know, the smartest of smart bombs is an idiot studying to be a moron: a large number of civilians are certain to die if we really use the "Shock and Awe" approach. Do we really think that's ok?
Legend has it that the air campaign in Gulf War I was spectacularly accurate – more so than any air campaign in history. The latter part is true; the former is not. The Pentagon spun this story well, and fed CNN enough tapes of smart bombs to make everyone think that’s all we used. In reality, we used very few precision munitions in the Gulf – somewhere between 10-30% of total air-dropped munitions in that war. The first reason was cost. Our Tomahawk missiles cost $2 million a pop, and our air-dropped smart bombs (e.g. AGM-65 Maverick) were pretty pricey too. The second reason was that the Gulf War I generation of smart bombs were primarily laser-guided, and those lasers only worked in good weather under good conditions. The Gulf War I campaign was better than Vietnam, but it was not the precision-guided campaign of popular lore.
Kosovo was much more of a precision-guided campaign, and Afghanistan improved even on this. Major failures in these campaigns generally traced to human error – either on the ground or in the air. Sometimes, as in the bombing of the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, the human error happened all the way back at CIA HQ in Langley, VA. However, for the first time in history, the overwhelming majority of munitions dropped were precision-guided munitions.
Why? Because for the first time, the U.S. military had a cheap precision-guided bomb called the “JDAM” – Joint Direct Attack Munition. This was nothing more than a GPS-and-guidance kit that was bolted onto a dumb bomb, thus transforming a dumb bomb into a smart bomb the way that UCLA transforms a dumb… never mind. Anyway, this made precision warfare cheap. Also, the JDAM kit worked in day or night, because it ran off satellite GPS signals instead of lasers. Thus, the military now had a cheap, all-weather, extremely accurate bomb. And it used it.
That’s a long build up to say this: the “shock and awe” approach in Iraq will look a lot different from the images we remember from Gulf War I. Don’t expect any highways of death or strikes on Baghdad housing areas as a way of demoralizing our enemy. Instead, expect lots of attacks on Iraqi infrastructure – bridges, railways, power stations, phone networks, water plants, etc. Expect lots of attention to collateral damage, for two reasons. First, CNN is watching. Second, we have to govern these people after the war, and we don’t want them more pissed off than necessary. Expect every target to be vetted at very high levels, as they were during Kosovo and Afghanistan. (See Waging Modern War by Wesley Clark, for a description of the painstaking targeting and clearance process that went all the way to the White House.)
Finally, expect a great deal of the bombing campaign to be directed at very discrete targets like the Iraqi military and political structure. They’re who we want to leave drooling in a state of “shock and awe” – not the Iraqi people.
WSJ: U.S. plans to award $900 million Iraq reconstruction contract
This morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports that the Bush Administration has quietly farmed out "requests for proposals" on the post-war reconstruction of Iraq. These RFPs went to several prominent government contractors, including Bechtel, Parsons Corporation, and Brown & Root (a subsidiary of Halliburton, which Vice President Dick Cheney used to run).
The work would form the core of a plan that Bush administration officials say is meant to demonstrate its resolve to immediately improve the quality of life in Iraq if, as appears increasingly likely, that country is invaded by U.S.-led forces. The plan is laid out in a 13-page document, "Vision for Post-Conflict Iraq," which USAID has distributed only to a limited circle in Washington, in addition to the handful of American companies. The Wall Street Journal reviewed a copy of the document.
The administration is expected, after the onset of any hostilities, to ask Congress for money to reconstruct Iraq as part of a package of supplemental spending requests to finance the war and its consequences. The maximum value of just the initial contract would be more than double what the U.S. is spending in fiscal years 2002-04 to rebuild Afghanistan. And the proposed work schedule is ambitious, especially compared with the sluggish pace of large-scale reconstruction efforts in Afghanistan, a bone of contention between the U.S. and the fledgling government there.
The plan sees starting reconstruction in Iraq immediately after a war ends and restoring essential water systems, roadways, ports, hospitals and schools. Planners envision wrapping up the rebuilding in 18 months, creating "a new framework for economic and governance institutions," the document says.
"We are attempting to do something unusual, which is to begin humanitarian assistance and reconstruction simultaneously," said USAID Administrator Andrew Natsios, who otherwise declined to discuss the matter in detail. "We have never done anything on this scale before."
Analysis: This is a crucial part of the war plan. If done right, it could take the moral high ground away from the French and German appeasers. How's that? It goes back to the perennial question that's always asked in political campaigns: "Are you better today than you were four years ago?" Instead of asking that question on the world stage, we'll ask the question: "Will Iraq be better off in four years than they are today, given this plan?" The answer has to be yes. Removal of Saddam and implementation of a reconstruction plan would certainly create a better Iraq for its people, and a better region for Iraq's neighbors. A detailed reconstruction plan would seriously undercut French and German claims that they're acting on behalf of Iraq's people. This plan would also show -- in detail -- American intentions for Iraq and erase many concerns that we're in this to steal Iraq's oil.
Sunday, March 09, 2003
Noteworthy Books - What are they?
I've added a new series of links to my permanently links on the left side of your screen. My "Noteworthy Books" section includes the titles that I've read in the last several months and feel comfortable recommending to my readers. I generally finish a book every week or two, and will update this list in accordance with that pace. Of course, I will only recommend books that I think are good.
Book Recommendation: Jarhead by Anthony Swofford
As Mark Bowden wrote in his New York Times review, Jarhead is not for the faint of heart. It's a no-holds barred tale of life in the U.S. Marine Corps as a STA (surveillance and target acquisition) platoon infantryman, also known as a "Scout/Sniper." Swofford served as a Marine during the late 1980s and early 1990s, and his service included a combat tour in Operation Desert Storm. He writes of his experiences in the Marines, on deployments and in combat. This last part is the most compelling, for Mr. Swofford gives us a grunt's eye view of Operation Desert Storm -- a conflict experienced by most through sterile imagery on CNN.
War stories have been told by soldiers for as long as there have been conflict, but they were typically told rather than written due to the education level of the average soldier. The genre of "war story" really took off during WWI, when Oxford and Cambridge-educated Brits entered the military and came home to write tell their experiences via the written word. Since that conflict, many soldiers have added their voices, and today there exists a rich library of war stories from WWI to Afghanistan. Swofford's book earns its place among the best of the war stories, and I highly recommend it.
Excerpt from Mark Bowden's review:
Anyone who has ever been a soldier, or spent time around them in an informal setting, knows that the unvarnished experience -- and the unvarnished language -- would take more than an army of punctilious editors to make presentable to polite society. Take a group of healthy, testosterone-drenched young men away from home, subject them to daily indignities, abuse and hardship; nurture their youthfully grandiose sense of omnipotence and invincibility and then arm them with terrifying modern weaponry (and teach them how to use it); move them from one remote place to another around the world (so old community and family ties are broken, and new ones outside their military unit have little chance to form); feed them a steady diet of macho conditioning and pornography and give them just enough money to get drunk, go forth and act out; immerse them in the astringent cynicism of the veteran grunt; thrust them into war zones where they must either kill or be killed; and you begin to understand the need for harsh codes of military justice.
Part II - A just war or just a war?
UCLA professor Mark Kleiman has some interesting questions on his blog today about the proposed war and its wisdom. I'm jamming on a deadline now so I don't have time to think through the answers... but will have some by tomorrow morning. More to follow...
A just war or just a war?
Former-President Jimmy Carter (for the thousandth time in my life, no relation) has an eloquent comment in today's New York Times on the justice and wisdom of America's looming war on Iraq. I don't agree with America's senior statesman on his conclusions, but it's a well-written piece.
WP: America intensifies its air campaign against Iraq
Bradley Graham reports in Sunday's Washington Post that American warplanes have all but obliterated the Iraqi air-defense network, in advance of an expected air and ground assault on Iraq. The targets include air-defense radars, missile sites, and surface-to-surface missile sites.
The commander of U.S. air forces in the Persian Gulf region said yesterday that several months of intensified U.S. airstrikes had hit all fixed air defenses in southern Iraq known to American officials. But he added that mobile antiaircraft guns and missiles remained a threat to U.S. pilots.
* * *
More than 400 U.S. planes are now operating from about 30 locations in the gulf and elsewhere, according to other officials. In the past month, U.S. pilots have struck from seven to 14 targets in Iraq a week.
* * *
... the increasingly aggressive U.S. targeting in the southern and northern no-fly zones established a decade ago has been widely seen as reflecting an American plan for the systematic destruction of Iraqi air defenses and, more recently, surface-to-surface missiles in a fashion that would ease the way for an invasion. The surge in sorties, which now number well in the hundreds daily -- and reached a record 1,000 one day last week -- has transformed what was once a limited patrolling operation into a broader, more intense prelude to a possible full-scale war.
The first sign of the widened campaign came in September when Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld disclosed that he had directed commanders to focus retaliatory strikes not just on Iraqi radar and missile systems, but also on air defense communications centers, command posts and cable relay sites to eliminate all elements of Iraq's air defense network in the no-fly zones.
Lately, the strikes have widened further to include surface-to-surface missiles, which Iraq has moved into the southern zone within range of Kuwait, the key staging area for the bulk of U.S. ground forces massing in the region. Such weapons, which include Ababil-100 missiles, Frog-7 rockets and Astros-2 multiple rocket launchers, have also been shifted north of Baghdad presumably to attack U.S. or Kurdish forces coming from that direction, according to defense officials.
As with the airstrikes on weapons and facilities related to air defense, the U.S. justification for hitting the surface-to-surface weapons is enforcement of U.N. resolutions prohibiting Iraq from enhancing its military capabilities in ways that would threaten Kurds in the north or Shiites and the neighboring countries of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia in the south.
Analysis: I don't think we've been at peace with Iraq since 1990. America has aggressively maintained a containment posture towards Iraq since Gulf War I. Enforcing the no-fly zones over Iraq has been the most aggressive part of that containment strategy. Over the last decade, the U.S. has flown thousands of sorties over Iraq, mapping its terrain and getting to know its air defenses. The U.S. has hit air-defense sites before, usually after such a site has painted a U.S. plane with radar or launched a missile. The fact that we're seeing this kind of activity now does not surprise me. It could indicate an increase in the Iraqi threat posture, or an increase in the U.S. bombing, or both. It does not necessarily signal an imminent air campaign on Iraq, though this would be one of the first steps taken before any such campaign.
College reporter heads to Kuwait
Today's Los Angeles Times reports on a graduate student from Cal State Fullerton who's in Kuwait now as an "embedded" reporter. Ronald Paul Larson, a former soldier who is a master's student in history and writer for the Cal State Fullerton Titan, earned his credentials from the Pentagon and scraped together the money to buy his own Kevlar vest and anthrax shot before departing for Kuwait. He says he's chasing after the opportunity of a lifetime, and I can't say I blame him. Covering a war as a reporter is an opportunity that doesn't come around often, and I wish Larson all the success in the world.
This week, Larson, 39, a graduate student in history, plans to fly to Kuwait and join soldiers in an engineering group -- the only college journalist credentialed by the Pentagon as a war correspondent in the Middle East.
"Sometimes, I think I've gotten in over my head," Larson said. "I just hope that what I send back is decent. Guess we'll find out."
Saturday, March 08, 2003
Ethics and War: Do Good Guys Finish Last in War?
The New York Times' Arts & Ideas section has a very interesting article today on the launch of a new publication: the Journal of Military Ethics. Among other things, the journal takes up such issues as the legality of the NATO intervention in Kosovo and the decision to court-martial Army Captain Lawrence P. Rockwood for his insubordinate investigation of Haitian prisons in the 1994 intervention in that country. I've often written that the U.S. and NATO militaries undertake a historically unprecedented level of discussion about topics like the justice and legality of war. No nation in history has ever devoted the institutional attention to the law of war as the United States. At first glance, this peer-reviewed journal appears to add another voice to these discussions, and one that should be welcome.
Determined skeptics — like Groucho Marx, who joked that "military justice is to justice what military music is to music" — can roll their eyes. But serious talk about the proper moral conduct of combat has been around almost as long as war itself.
The immediate impetus for the journal, which made its debut last spring, was the 1999 NATO intervention in Kosovo. Observing the ethics controversy that the NATO bombing provoked, Bard Maeland, a chaplain in the Norwegian army, decided that a scholarly forum for such debate was urgently needed. "I found there was nothing like a journal of military ethics in English," said Dr. Maeland, who became the journal's co-editor after persuading an Oslo publisher to take on the project and the Norwegian Ministries of Defense and Foreign Affairs to provide financial support.
* * *
Occasionally, Greek terminology gives the journal an archaic air. "Did NATO's air strikes against Yugoslavia, undertaken without a mandate from the Security Council, constitute a valid instance of epieikeia?" asks Gregory Reichberg, a senior researcher at the International Peace Research Institute in Oslo, in one essay. (Epieikeia, Greek for equity, was used by Thomas Aquinas to designate a ruler's right to exercise moral authority in the absence of legal imperatives.)
"We are consciously committed to showing the moral tradition relating to war is very old and embedded in Western culture," explained James Turner Johnson, a professor of religion and political science at Rutgers University and the journal's co-editor. Among armies operating today, he said, the United States has led the way in making ethical concerns a priority, and not just in cadet classrooms.
"It's pretty clear if you look around at the various militaries," Mr. Johnson said. "People think war is mainly about the technology, but the point is that it's not the technology that determines whether a particular war is discriminate or indiscriminate. It's the strategy and tactics behind that, and the training aimed at discriminating between combatants and noncombatants. The U.S. military has always said we do not directly target noncombatants."
Notes from the desert
"On the Internet," the famous New Yorker cartoon goes, "no one knows you're a dog." (The cartoon depicts two dogs typing at a computer terminal) I guess the same could be true for Internet weblogging, and specifically, war weblogging. No one knows you're a "dogface", an affectionate term for infantryment developed during World War II. But from all indicators, it appears that L.T. Smash is an actual military reservist deployed to Southwest Asia. (Thanks to Eugene Volokh for the heads up about his site) His posts seem authentic, as does his disclaimer on the site:
This is not an official US Department of Defense website.
L.T. Smash is a reserve officer in the United States Military who has been recalled to active duty and deployed overseas in support of Operation ENDURING FREEDOM. This website is an online journal of his adventures. It is meant primarily for the use of his family and friends, but all are welcome to visit.
In order to protect those close to him from possible harm, the writer desires to remain anonymous. Please respect this wish.
To preserve operational security, the writer must also remain somewhat vague about his unit, mission, location, and movements. Some messages may be posted several hours or days after being drafted for security reasons. These messages may or may not be backdated. The writer apologizes for any confusion this practice may cause.
I look forward to reading his notes from the desert, and encourage you to do the same.
NYT Review of Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War
I've written before about Colonel John Boyd and his theories of decisionmaking and warfare. Suffice to say, Boyd's ideas have changed warfare more than any piece of technology or development in the 20th Century other than nuclear weapons. One of my favorite Boyd quotes is "People, ideas, and hardware -- in that order." He understood that people and ideas were what revolutionized warfare -- not expensive gadgets.
Boyd's ideas themselves deserve study by anyone who's seriously interested in the great endeavor of warfare. His decisional theory of "OODA" -- for Observe, Orient, Decide, and Act -- is one of the most eloquent insights on warfare in history. It also carries great relevance to other competitive endeavors, like business or athletics. The Sunday New York Times reviews Boyd, and discusses the development of this idea and how Boyd fought the Washington bureaucracy for thirty years to teach it. Ultimately, Boyd's life is a tragic Greek story. He was never promoted to General, and he retired to a small apartment in Florida for his final years. But his ideas went on to inspire the American military and transform the way it would fight forever.
John Boyd, Robert Coram declares in his biography, ''was one of the most important unknown men of his time.'' That he is unknown cannot be doubted. Even in the Air Force, where he served 24 years, he is a virtual nonperson. At the Air Force Academy, ''when a group of graduating seniors was polled not a single cadet knew the name of Col. John Boyd.'' Yet on Capitol Hill, in the Pentagon and at many high-level military schools during the 1980's, Boyd was famous. He was not famous for achievements in aerial combat, although he was widely known as one of the best fighter pilots of his time, or for introducing new tactics or weapons, although his ideas strongly influenced both. Rather, Boyd was famous for a briefing.
Back in those far-off days, when Boyd and his disciples still roamed the halls of the Pentagon, a senior officer once attempted to give me a short orientation. ''You academics may write articles and books, but in this building the preferred mode of communication is the 30-minute briefing with view graphs.'' If the briefing was a literary art form, then John Boyd was its Dickens or Tolstoy -- or perhaps its Franz Kafka. His briefing, entitled ''Patterns of Conflict,'' was six hours long. There were no short or abbreviated versions. The subject was how victorious commanders throughout history had achieved their successes. Boyd discerned a common pattern of thought and action among all of them, from Hannibal to Patton. The key to success was time. A successful military organization operates at a higher tempo than its opponent and can change its actions or maneuvers more quickly. The opponent is thus confronted with a series of unexpected actions and becomes confused and disoriented; his reactions are always too late.
* * *
Combining the traditional self-confidence of the aviator with extraordinary intellect and crusading zeal, Boyd was a difficult, eccentric individual who attracted devoted admirers and made lots of enemies. He welcomed both. ''There are only so many ulcers in the world and it's your job to see that other people get them,'' Boyd once told a young disciple.
NYT: CIA warns U.S. troops in Southwest Asia of terror attacks
Today's New York Times leads with the CIA report to American troops abroad that terrorists may pose a threat to them now -- or in the future as they begin operations against Iraq. Intuitively, this sounds right. Iraq's military cannot hope to challenge American military might in the open desert, so it must use unconventional means of warfare to target critical American targets if it hopes to prevail. North Korean special operations forces would employ a similar tactical scheme, attacking our rear areas, command posts and supply lines in order to disrupt the activities of front-line troops. The Iraqis can't stop an M1A2 tank, much less a battalion of 44 M1A2 tanks. But they can stop a lightly-armed fuel convoy, thus starving the M1A2 of the gas it needs to run.
The assessment goes beyond the threat posed by Saddam Hussein's military forces, predicting for the first time that groups that the Bush administration has said are given haven by Mr. Hussein's government may become engaged in the war, even if Iraq's military is defeated and the government overthrown. The administration has said that terrorists operating inside Iraq are affiliated with Al Qaeda, and that they are either tolerated by the Baghdad government or are based in parts of the country where the government exercises little control.
The conclusions are based on recently collected intelligence in the form of intercepted communications, "glimpses" of four to eight midlevel Qaeda operatives said to have been spotted in Iraq and an analysis of the organization's prior tactics, according to administration officials.
"The Al Qaeda network is intent on attacking U.S. interests throughout Iraq, as are other extremist Islamic groups," said one official who has read the C.I.A. threat assessment.
Analysis: The presence of external terrorists is significant. If Al Qaeda -- or allied terrorist groups like Hamas and Hezbollah -- are operating in concert with Iraq, we have a problem that may become infinitely more complex. First, these groups may not just be planning attacks on U.S. troops. They may be planning attacks on U.S. interests, including Israel, should we commence our war on Iraq. Second, this adds a layer of complexity to sorting soldiers, guerillas, civilians, and government officials out from the crowd of Iraqis we will capture during the war. It's hard enough to tell them apart. This development all but guarantees that Iraqi and Iraqi-allied terrorists will seek to infiltrate our rear areas as civilians and refugees.
Finally, this development may pose great danger for any subsequent peace operations in Iraq. As we've seen in Bosnia, terrorists will continue to fight long after the conflict is officially over, wreaking great havoc on civilian populations and infrastructure. It takes a much larger troop contingent to pacify such a situation, in comparison to a scenario where they are no such terrorists. America must now plan for the worst-case scenario, where an occupation of Iraq will exist somewhere on the continuum between peace and war.
Friday, March 07, 2003
Ad hoc tribunals for Iraqi war criminals?
I just got home from a very engaging symposium hosted by UCLA Journal of International Law and Foreign Affairs on the International Criminal Court. The best session of the day was this morning, where we heard from Terree Bowers, a former prosecutor in the Int'l Criminal Tribunal-Yugoslavia; David Scheffer, U.S. Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes under President Clinton, and Pierre-Richard Prosper, the current Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes. These distinguished guests discussed the reasons why the U.S. should or should not embrace the International Criminal Court. I came away convinced that both sides are right.
During the Q&A, I raised my hand and asked the panel what they thought was the most prudent (and the most likely) course of action for the U.S. in trying Iraqi war criminals. The New York Times and Wall Street Journal have speculated in recent weeks that such criminals might be hauled before the International Criminal Court, a U.S. military court or tribunal, an ad hoc tribunal like the one in Sierra Leone, or something like the ICT-Yugoslavia that's been used to try Slobodan Milosevic and others.
Ambassador Prosper, who presumably speaks for the Bush Administration, said he would like to see a local tribunal empowered to try the majority of Iraqi people. I think he was referring to the Sierra Leone model, or possibly the Rwanda model in which he personally worked as a prosecutor. In his opinion, this would give justice to the Iraqi people -- the victims of Saddam Hussein's rule during the last three decades. By investing the Iraqi people with the power to judge these war criminals, Prosper argued that they would feel empowered and vindicated by the legal proceedings. Such a move would help promote the rule of law in a post-war Iraq.
Ambassador Scheffer disagreed, saying that the professionalism and institutional competence of the International Criminal Tribunals was more important than this local effect. Justice would be a complicated, messy affair, and it would be better served by an institution like the ICTY which has arbitrated complex disputes before and has the staff to do it in Iraq. At ths point, Terree Bowers waded in to make the point that the U.S. might consider an international legal solution to this problem particularly attractive, because it would defuse charges of "unilateralism" and "victor's justice". All panelists agreed that a U.S. judicial option was unlikely.
International Law Conference at UCLA
Justice & Sovereignty: Implications of the International Criminal Court
I'll be away from my laptop for the majority of the day attending this conference at the law school on international law. The speaker list looks absolutely first-rate, and I'll probably write a few notes later about the discussion that takes place. Here's an idea of who's speaking:
Keynote lecture on the expected process and function of the ICC by:
- Terree Bowers (Former prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia and Rwanda)
Discussing America's absence:
- Ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper (Current Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues)
- Ambassador David Scheffer (Ambassador-at-large for War Crimes Issues in the Clinton Administration)
Discussing the controversial concept of universal jurisdiction:
- Stephen Krasner (Professor of International Relations, Stanford University
- Ruth Wedgwood (U.S. Representative to the United Nations Human Rights Committee, Professor, Yale Law School, Professor, Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies)
Rumsfeld: US to pull troops back from DMZ in South Korea
Speaking to a town hall meeting in the Pentagon, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said yesterday that he was seriously considering three proposals to shift U.S. troops south in South Korea. Currently, the Army's 2d Infantry Division sits north of Seoul, with the majority of its forces encamped less than 20km from the DMZ (and well within artillery range). The Pentagon has known for some time that these troops are vulnerable, but has kept them in place as a "trip wire" for any North Korean aggression.
They have also stayed there because of historical momentum. When U.S. bases were constructed in Korea near the DMZ, that area was nearly depopulated from the Korean War. Today, Seoul has expanded north almost all the way to Tongduchon, the location of America's main base (Camp Casey). Urbanization has encroached on other bases, such as Camp Stanley and Camp Red Cloud near Uijongbu. Many Koreans now want to use these bases -- with their tremendous swaths of flat land -- for further housing and urban development.
"I suspect that what we'll do is we'll end up making some adjustments there," Mr. Rumsfeld said.
He described at least three options: Move troops farther south on the Korean Peninsula, place them elsewhere in Asia or send them home.
Mr. Rumsfeld's most explicit statement to date that the United States will reposition some of its 37,000 troops in South Korea could ease heightened tensions between Washington and the North. He made his remarks during a "town hall" meeting with Pentagon employees.
Analysis: I think we're going to see a quantitative and qualitative change in the nature of the U.S.presence in Korea. Quantitatively, we're probably in for another draw-down of U.S. forces there. The South Korean army can handle the threat by themselves, and they really don't need another U.S. division to help them do anything tactically. Strategically, our presence still matters, but we can still serve that purpose if we pull south of Seoul. That raises the second issue: U.S. troops are extremely vulnerable where they're at now. North Korean artillery could wipe out the American 2d Infantry Division before it ever deployed a combat force. By pulling these troops south of Seoul, we transform this force into a strategic reserve, instead of the speed bump it is now. If 2ID is south of Seoul, it can't be taken out in the first shot, and it will survive intact to contribute its combat power to any fight. Aside from historical momentum, there's really no reason to keep 2ID north of Seoul. But history matters a lot... so we'll see how long it takes Secretary Rumsfeld to make these changes.