Friday, March 21, 2003
A professor's work is sun to sun... but a grad student's work is never done
Despite the fact that there's a war on, I will be away from my laptop for most of the next 48 hours to grade undergraduate exams. (I'm working for a UCLA political science professor who's teaching an undergraduate course on Constitutional Law) Please tune in again on Monday. By then, some of the dust may have cleared and we'll have started to get some second reports in from the field (since first reports are always wrong.)
Slate: Antiwar protesters help the Iraqis
This is a point I've made facetiously for some time now. But William Saletan, Slate's chief political correspondent, makes it in a very articulate and thoughtful way today in Slate. Writing about the new style of 21st Century warfare that depends as much on public opinion and information as bullets, Saletan cites a White House official who said that "What they're trying to do right now is to punish the regime and give forces a chance to capitulate," this insider said. "It's a selective use of force to see if you can separate the people from the regime."
Maybe this strategy will fail. If it does, we'll have to go back to the usual strategy of killing people until the other side gives up.
But if it succeeds, consider the ways in which it will change the nature of warfare. Today's technology enables us to hit targets more precisely and from greater distances. It allows us to put fewer soldiers in the field, where they're vulnerable to conventional as well as chemical or biological weapons. It gives us the ability to communicate more quickly and widely with the population of a target country, making clear that we're after their dictator, not them. We don't have to roll tanks into their towns to show them our firepower. They know about it from television, radio, or their neighbors. We can win by "tipping," not crushing. We spent centuries developing the ability to kill people. Now we're developing the ability not to. Regime change is no longer a euphemism.
Better yet, this strategy works only against a repressive regime. If the people support the regime, it's much harder to separate the two. The nation's soldiers are more likely to fight, and the people are more likely to help them. Moral error produces military failure, forcing the politicians of the attacking country to worry as much about the former as about the latter.
The theory has one flaw. Just because we have the ability to spare people's lives doesn't mean we have the will. Our military is so powerful that our generals could massacre the Iraqis if they wanted to. That's where restraining institutions are needed.
If you're an anti-war protester or politician, this theory of warfare should change the way you think and act. Your efforts to generate resistance to the war before there is any evidence of killing, much less atrocities, contribute to the political strength of the enemy regime. You encourage uncertainty about the war's outcome, increasing the likelihood that the regime's soldiers will fight and die. You make it more difficult to separate the regime from its people. You frustrate the tipping and bring on the crushing.
If you want to minimize the killing, stop resisting the war. Instead, do what you can to make the war transparent and to hold your government accountable for unnecessary deaths. Help the media and human rights organizations monitor the battlefield. Help them get reports and pictures to the people of your country and the world. Build an incentive system that will strengthen your government's will to spare lives. Its ability will do the rest.
Encouraging signs in the Gulf
I've been intermittently following the news today while I attend classes and work on other projects that need to get done. From all accounts, it appears that Gulf War II is going even better than Gulf War I in the early hours. It's almost like we're in a game of one-upmanship here, where first the Israeli's won in 6 days, then we won in 4 days, and now we're trying to set some new land-speed record for warfare. Of course, our goals are more complex this time than either the Israelis in the Six Day War or the coalition in 1991. Even if we win the war quickly, we have a lot of work to do to ensure the secure future of the Persian Gulf region.
Nonetheless, here's a few encouraging signs from the news wire:
AP: Entire Division of Iraqi Army Surrenders. An entire division of the Iraqi army, numbering 8,000 soldiers, surrendered to coalition forces in southern Iraq (news - web sites) Friday, Pentagon officials said. Iraq's 51st Infantry Division surrendered as coalition forces advanced toward Basra, Iraq's second largest city. The mechanized division had about 200 tanks before the war, according to independent analysts and U.S. officials. The 51st was one of the better equipped and trained in Iraq's regular army forces and was the key division protecting Basra, a major transportation and oil shipment hub on the Shatt al-Arab waterway that leads to the Persian Gulf.
WP: Marines Seize Major Iraqi Oil Facility. NEAR BASRA -- Ground forces from the 1st Marine Division sped into southern Iraq today, seizing a major oil facility that commanders called the "jewel in the crown" of the early ground campaign. Crossing the border in broad daylight, more than 1,100 members of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine regiment, raced north through the Iraqi border village of Safwan to an oil complex west of Basra.
WP: Massive Air Assaults Hit Iraq. A massive U.S. aerial bombardment of Baghdad began today as the Pentagon escalated the war against Iraq into a new phase intended to “shock and awe” the Iraqis into submission. Television images from the Iraqi capital showed immense explosions and pillars of smoke all across the center of the city, on a scale that seemed to rival or even exceed the attacks of Operation Desert Storm in 1991. Dozens of government buildings could be seen going up in flames.
AP: U.S., U.K. Forces Seize S. Iraq Villages. U.S. and British forces took over the town of Safwan in southern Iraq and the strategic Gulf port of Umm Qasr as ground forces pushed farther into Iraq, military officials said.
CNN: Congress passes 'support the troops' resolution by overwhelming majority. WASHINGTON (CNN) -- Ending hours of debate, the House early Friday joined the Senate in approving a resolution expressing support for U.S. forces fighting in Iraq, but not without some partisan debate over its wording. The House resolution, approved on a 392-11 vote, "expresses the unequivocal support and appreciation of the nation" to the members of the U.S. armed forces and their families. And it also commends the president for "his firm leadership and decisive action in the conduct of military operations in Iraq as part of the ongoing global war on terrorism," a line that generated anger among some Democrats.
Note: this resolution pales in meaning when compared to the supplementary budget request that will come to Congress soon for this war. That piece of legislation will tell us how much Congress really supports this war.
Bottom Line: So far, so good. But first reports are always wrong, right?
WSJ Essay: Why America's on top
Daniel Henninger has a brilliant essay in this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) and the roots of American power. It's not the most definitive account of why America dominates the world industrially, economically, militarily, politically, and culturally. But given our recent tussles with France and 'old Europe', it provides a nice bit of insight.
Yes, the military inventory and tactical skills on display for all the world to see right now are one reason the U.S. has sole claim to the title of superpower, but that stuff's just one piece of it. Similarly, the Caltechs, MITs, Georgia Techs, Boeings, Northrop Grummans, and innumerable, small high-tech start-ups who made this extraordinary military technology possible are also just pieces of the more interesting American whole.
The whole is in fact a system -- a philosophy of foundational values going back to Ben Franklin and before. It's a social and political system rooted in mavericks, innovation, risk-taking, open intellectual argument, impatience, creative change, failure, the frontier spirit, competition and a compulsion to get ahead. Every American kid who doesn't sleep through school eventually knows how the system works. Some go into lifelong opposition to it. Most just go to work -- at jobs somewhere inside the tens of thousands of businesses or educational institutions painstakingly built up, piece by piece, year after year, in 50 separate states. That's the "power" that created the JDAMs and B-2 Stealth bombers.
We read that one source of the supposed tension now between the U.S. and the Continent is Defense Secretary Don Rumsfeld's remarks about "old Europe." Well, there was a time, centuries back, when Europe was the world's primary font of invention and innovation. Europe's intellectual and commercial values once mirrored those now ascendant in the U.S. Then, in the 19th century, France and Germany discovered corporatism and socialism and pulled the plug on homegrown entrepreneurs of the mind and commerce. Visiting Europe today, it's not hard to meet young, very smart Europeans in places like Belgium, Germany and Switzerland who say they enjoy traveling to the U.S. but find it too busy, too competitive for their tastes. Fine. Free world. Their choice. But having made that choice, it's a little difficult to accept their whining about an America that refuses to coast alongside.
* * *
If in the meantime one of the things America does with the system that made it a superpower is build a 21,000-pound Massive Ordnance Air Blast bomb, or MOAB, rest assured that has nothing to do with a desire to routinely throw its weight around in a resentful world. It's mainly done so that when the 25-year-old down the street ends up in a Kuwait, Kosovo or Iraq -- to personally dismantle weapons of mass destruction -- he has the best chance the system back home can provide that he'll return to his backyard barbecue and kids' soccer games. As history's superpowers go, the world could do a lot worse.
US, UK take strategic airfields in Iraq
The noose tightened a little bit today on Iraq as American and British forces seized two airfields (H-2 and H-3), according to CNN and other sources. No details are available about the tactics used to take the airfield, presumably because we may use those tactics again. (Thus, I refuse to speculate here) However, what is clear is how this will affect the US war plan. Seizing these "airheads" enables us to fly in resupply for the troops we have there, and fly in new units to fight -- leapfrogging them over hundreds of miles of desert. This will enable us to rapidly mass combat power where it's needed deep inside Iraq -- possibly for a siege of Baghdad.
U.S. casts aside Powell Doctrine for a doctrine of 'Calibrated Force'
Tom Ricks has an interesting piece in this morning's Washington Post discussing the strategy being pursued by the U.S. in its war against Iraq. He correctly points out that the measured use of force we're using is a stark contrast to the Weinberger and Powell doctrines. Both of those schools of thought preach the use of overwhelming force immediately to achieve clear military ends, and were conceived as institutional responses by the military to the half-measures and incrementalism of Vietnam. Yet, the U.S. appears to be using a calibrated strategy of striking specific things and seizing specific things. It's not year clear what the U.S. plan is, just as it wasn't clear in 1991 how the U.S. "left hook" attack would unfold until it did. But Ricks' article sheds some light on the subject.
Since the American policy of gradual "escalation" of military force ended in failure in Vietnam, a generation of officers has been shaped by the notion that when the nation goes to war, it must use its overwhelming power to decisively defeat enemies. But the opening phase of the latest Persian Gulf war has been marked instead by a few sharp, narrowly focused blows aimed at bringing down the government of Saddam Hussein without having to resort to a conventional, all-out attack.
Since yesterday, U.S. and British forces have launched about 60 cruise missiles at a few key "leadership" targets, dropped a handful of bombs, and sent Special Operations forces to reconnoiter key targets. Then they accelerated the timing of the ground war, sending several thousand troops across the border from Kuwait. Perhaps most importantly, the United States intensified a months-long psychological operations campaign aimed at turning the loyalties of the Iraqi army, or at least persuading it that resistance is futile. According to a senior Bush administration official, surrender negotiations were underway yesterday between U.S. officials and a number of Iraqi unit commanders.
"What they're trying to do right now is to punish the regime and give forces a chance to capitulate," this insider said. "It's a selective use of force to see if you can separate the people from the regime."
First reports are always wrong, II
The NY Times updates the story this morning about the Marines and British commandos who died on the CH-46 Sea Knight that went down last night. In addition to this loss, the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force appears to have had a Marine killed in action.
As the Pentagon expressed satisfaction with the results of the early stages of the war, military officials said 8 British royal commandos and 4 American marines were killed when their CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter crashed in Kuwait. No further details were immediately available, but early indications were that the crash was not caused by hostile fire.
Thursday, March 20, 2003
Update: Westwood protest
Fortunately, preliminary estimates by law enforcement of 20,000 protesters were very high. It appears that somewhere between several hundred and 4,000 protesters have taken to the streets in Westwood tonight to protest the war on Iraq. They are focusing their activism on the Federal Building, and old and quite ugly piece of government architecture that sits off the 405 freeway near the UCLA campus.
Speaking to reporters, L.A. County Sheriff Lee Baca made a very important point: "Do not divert law enforcement resources," Baca said. "It weakens our capacity to stay on high alert for the real enemy, and the real enemy is the threat of terrorism." He's right. This protest requires law enforcement agencies to shift resources from patrols that might ordinarily detect acts of terrorism directed at Los Angeles. One more reason why protesters should opt for more peaceful and less disruptive means to speak their minds.
CH-46 Helicopter Crashes in Kuwait; 16 killed
Various news sources pass on the report from the Pentagon that a CH-46 Sea Knight helicopter has crashed in the desert, killing all 16 personnel on the board. The aircraft was carrying a joint force of U.S. Marine Corps and British military personnel. Military officials declined to offer the details of the helicopter's mission, and also declined to give the cause of the crash. It is not clear whether bad weather, maintenance, terrain or enemy fire caused the helicopter to go down. These deaths represent the first allied casualties of Operation Iraqi Freedom.
In their memory, I would like to offer the Soldier's Prayer, which is printed in the Prayer Book for Members of the U.S. Armed Forces that I carried with me in my rucksack as an Army lieutenant in Korea and Texas.
God our Father
Help me to remain true to my ideals during my service to my country.
Help me be what is in America, the land of the free.
May I realize that I represent what our country stands for.
My uniform is a symbol of duty and valor both in peace and in war.
I take up arms to defend what all Americans hold dear: life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
Grant me the strength to live according to these ideals, the courage of my convictions, and the resolve to endure whatever dangers threaten.
With you at our side I fear no evil and resist every enemy, secure in the knowledge that you hold me in the palm of your hand.
Casus Belli: How U.S. will respond to Saddam's use of WMD
Paul MacDonald has some great thoughts at Casus Belli on what might happen if Saddam uses chemical or biological weapons against the U.S. in the desert. Paul's a doctoral candidate at Columbia University in international relations, so he's smarter on this issue than me. Here's a taste of what he has to say:
The most prudent option is to do absolutely nothing. If the chemical attack is not extensive and is mainly directed at military rather than civilian targets, then restraint is probably the best policy. Indeed, in a perverse way, Saddam using chemical weapons is a public relations boost for the Administration -- it validates their case that Saddam is aggressive if not insane, it demonstrates the overwhelming need to disarm him, and it will undoubtedly shift world opinion solidly behind Bush...
Massive protests planned for Los Angeles
After yesterday's protest, I decided to do some independent research on what we might expect protest-wise in the L.A. area. I surfed over to the websites for International ANSWER and their L.A. branch, and was rewarded with a wealth of operational intelligence on these groups' activities. Alas, we find the soft underbelly of these groups and their use of the Internet. By using their webpages to mobilize their members, these groups have also exposed themselves to the prying eyes of concerned citizens and law enforcement. In this battle of Observe-Orient-Decide-Act, the protesters lose.
Here is a schedule of L.A.-area protests for the next several days from this site. I recommend checking these groups' websites regularly so you can gather your own intel on their activities, and avoid the disruptive effects of these protests.
Thursday March 20th
Westwood Federal Building
5 pm - 10 pm
11000 Wilshire Boulevard at Veteran
Note: Police are expecting more than 20,000 protesters to attend this event. Protesters have made it clear that they intend to cause serious disruptions to the L.A. area, including shutdowns of Wilshire Blvd and the 405 freeway. My recommendation is to steer clear of this area entirely until midnight tonight.
Saturday March 22nd
Join thousands at Hollywood and Vine at 12 noon
for an anti - war rally and march to the CNN building
Saturday March 22nd
Assemble 11 AM in Lincoln Park
(Pacific at Broadway)
Rally: 1 PM at Bixby Park
(Ocean at Cherry)
Art. 32 hearing recommends against court martial for American pilots
The Associated Press reported a few minutes ago that the Air Force officer charged with investigating the accidental bombing and killing of Canadian soldiers in Afghanistan has recommended against a court-martial for those officers. The decision now rests with Lt. Gen. Bruce Carlson, commander of the 8th Air Force, as to whether to court-martial Majs. Harry Schmidt and William Umbach for involuntary manslaughter and other charges. But this recommendation is very important. The ultimate decision rests with Lt. Gen. Carlson, but convening officers almost always take the recommendation of their subordinate officers from the Art. 32 hearing.
The two Illinois Air National Guard pilots said they thought they were under enemy attack last April 17 and had never been told allied troops might be holding exercises in the area that night.
Schmidt, who dropped the bomb, blamed the "fog of war" and said he believed he and Umbach had been ambushed. Defense attorneys also suggested Air Force-issued amphetamines had clouded the pilots' judgment.
But a joint U.S.-Canadian investigation concluded the pilots were to blame. The head of the investigation testified the men showed "reckless disregard" for standing orders against attacking, ignored briefings about allied troop locations and could have simply flown their F-16s out of the area.
Schmidt and Umbach became the first Air Force pilots to face homicide charges as a result of combat when they were charged with four counts of manslaughter, eight counts of aggravated assault and dereliction of duty.
WSJ: War protesters intend to ratchet up their activity, seeking massive disruptions
Jim Carlton reports in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that anti-war activists have decided to escalate their tactics in protesting America's war on Iraq. To date, most protests have maintained a semblance of non-violence, although they have certainly disrupted traffic in major cities like L.A. and San Francisco. This began to change this week with the "non-violent" assault on the Pacific Stock Exchange. Rumors have abounded that protesters might try to block military rail routes (as they used to do for nuclear-weapons shipments) or even try to infiltrate military installations (such as Vandenburg AFB in California).
"We have decided to up the ante," says Zoe Mitchell, an organizer of Shirts Off Anti-War Coalition, a Washington, D.C., group that hopes to shut many federal buildings on the day after an Iraqi invasion; they plan to use bicycle brigades and human barriers to tie up capital traffic and keep employees from reaching work. The activists say they are left with little choice but to express their opinions through targeted disruption of commerce and government. After all, their months of more-benign demonstrations haven't dissuaded the Bush administration from its course of war.
Some smaller cities may get in on the act, too. Antiwar activists in Austin, Texas, for example, say they plan an attempt to shut down the Guadalupe Street retail strip in front of the University of Texas campus on the day after war breaks out. "We will for sure shut down the street, and some of our groups may try to block store entrances as well," says Missy Bolbecker, a protest organizer there.
* * *
At a council meeting this week at a union hall in nearby Oakland, Calif., about 300 activists pored over a map of downtown San Francisco to divvy up key intersections and buildings to block. Thousands of other volunteers have been receiving instructions via the Internet. On one Web site, activists are given a menu of disruption options, including use of one's own car: "Simply stop your car and refuse to move it as long as you are comfortable doing so."
Some demonstrations are being planned after careful studies of police tactics. In New York, police have refined a system of "swarming" protesters with masses of officers, a maneuver that corralled several recent large-scale demonstrations, including one at the World Economic Forum last year. As a result, organizers of New York's day-after protests are keeping many of their disruption plans secret until the last minute.
One thing they do say they'll try is to seize control of Times Square as a rallying point for antiwar protesters after hostilities break out -- something they say the police may actually help them accomplish. "The police will need to shut down streets in the area to deal with us, so that will help us in our effort," says Eric Laursen, a member of a group called No Blood for Oil, which is helping organize the demonstrations.
Analysis: Free speech is an important value, and one of the many that we are fighting for the desert. However, these protests appear to cross the line from free speech to criminal activity. I wholeheartedly embrace the concept of free speech and endorse these activists' right to speak their minds. But these plans appear to cross the line. Staging massive disruptions of traffic and infrastructure starts affecting the rights and livelihood of all of us. Imagine how many man hours are lost in traffic, or how much productivity is lost because workers can't get to work on time. Imagine the number of police who must be paid to protect these protesters, and arrest them when they run astray. Those resources could be devoted to other things, and average citizens should not have their rights and livelihoods trampled so that these protesters can speak a little more loudly.
WSJ: Saddam will use chemical weapons in Iraq
Greg Jaffe reports in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that Saddam Hussein has distributed chemical weapons to his troops and given subordinate commanders the authority to use them. American psychological-warfare operations have focused intensely on dissuading Saddam's commander's from such an action, letting them know they will be targeted with everything we've got if they do.
Intelligence reports suggest Saddam Hussein already has given his field-level commanders clearance to launch chemical and biological weapons, Pentagon officials say. Those reports have led defense officials to conclude there is a high probability the U.S. military will face them on the battlefield.
* * *
It is unclear precisely what orders field commanders have been given this time. One school of thought suggests that Mr. Hussein, realizing he will lose any international support the moment he unleashes his arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, would hold back using the weapons until his demise is all but certain.
* * *
...the Pentagon has sent large numbers of special-operations commandos as well as high-tech surveillance to western Iraq to hunt down and destroy mobile Scud launchers within range of Israel. The U.S. also has been conducting a large-scale psychological-operations campaign to warn Iraqi officers that they will be tried for war crimes if they follow orders and launch a biological- or chemical-weapons attack.
* * *
Pentagon officials say their best bet for stopping a chemical or biological attack is to destroy Iraqi Scud launchers, which are heavy trucks with missiles mounted on their backs. In the first Gulf War, the U.S. didn't destroy a single launcher, however, as their mobility made them hard to find.
Just as it did in that conflict, the Pentagon has sent large teams of special-operations commandos into western Iraq, where the launchers need to be located to be within range of Israel. In addition, the Pentagon has deployed new unmanned surveillance planes capable of loitering over a piece of ground for dozens of hours at a time and can beam live images to commanders, fighter pilots and special-operations soldiers on the ground.
Another major concern worrying war planners is that Mr. Hussein will send a small group of commandos to carry out a chemical or biological attack using a crop duster, a truck or a boat. Potential targets include U.S. bases in the Middle East, major Middle Eastern or Israeli cities and possibly the U.S.
Such an attack would be difficult to pull off. If wind and temperature conditions weren't exactly right, the cloud of chemical or biological agent might blow harmlessly out to sea or disappear into the upper atmosphere. Still, if the commandos were to strike a crowded base or city, thousands could die. To guard against this possibility, the Pentagon has quietly deployed large numbers of new chemical detectors, capable of detecting an agent in seconds, and biological detectors that can identify an agent in about 45 minutes, to U.S. bases abroad as well as the Pentagon and other potential targets in Washington. the Pentagon has called up hundreds of thousands of reservists to guard U.S. bases at home and in Europe.
Paradoxically, commanders are least worried about chemical and biological attacks against front-line ground troops pushing toward Baghdad. Because these troops will be fairly dispersed, they aren't a good target for chemical or biological weapons.
Query: How will the U.S. respond to Saddam's use of chemical weapons against U.S. troops? I was always taught as a soldier that we had a no-USE policy for chemical/biological weapons, and a no-FIRST-use policy for nuclear weapons. Our response to chemical and biological weapons has always been clouded in what's euphemistically called "strategic ambiguity." We have never taken a nuclear response off the table. Indeed, William Arkin reported earlier this year in the LA Times (along with others) that Pentagon planners were working on nuclear-response plans for just such a contingency. If Saddam slimes American troops in the desert, how will we respond?
First ground engagement between U.S. and Iraqi forces
The New York Times reports that a small Marine Corps reconnaissance patrol (probably platoon or company-size) engaged and destroyed two Iraqi armored vehicles today. The Marines encountered the Iraqis while patrolling in LAV-25 armored vehicles of their own, and were likely able to see, engage and destroy the Iraqis from beyond the range of the Iraqi's own weapons.
The first reported firefight between American and Iraqi ground forces occurred at 3:57 p.m. today, when a patrol of light armored vehicles from the Marine First Division encountered two Iraqi armored personnel carriers south of the border with Iraq.
The armored vehicles, called LAV-25's, engaged and destroyed the armored personnel carriers using 25-millimeter chain guns, a type of machine gun, and TOW guided missiles.
WP: CIA had fix on Hussein
Intelligence reports gave President Bush cause to launch early strike
Veteran Washington Post reporters Barton Gellman and Dana Priest report that the CIA had pinpointed Saddam Hussein at the spot struck by Coalition forces yesterday before the President's speech. It's still unclear whether Hussein was inside the buildings when the cruise missiles struck -- or whether he was injured or killed by those missiles. If accurate, this report would explain why we launched the attack when we did -- shortly before dawn in Baghdad on March 20, 2003.
Hussein and others in "the most senior levels of the Iraqi leadership," ordinarily among the most elusive of men, had fallen under U.S. surveillance. The intelligence was unforeseen and perishable, presenting what one administration official called "a target of opportunity" that might not come again. Not only did the agency know where Hussein was, Tenet said, but it also believed with "a high probability" that it knew where he would be for hours to come -- cloistered with advisers in a known private residence in southern Baghdad.
Bush listened calmly -- as his aides portrayed the scene -- as Tenet described the sources and limits of his information, the likelihood that it was true and the length of time Hussein could be expected to spend at the site before moving to his next refuge. The Iraqi president, a man of many palaces, avoids them at moments of maximum risk. There was no guarantee at all, Tenet said, that his whereabouts would be pinpointed again.
For the next three hours, Bush and his senior national security advisers tore up the carefully orchestrated schedule of violence that the U.S. Central Command had honed for months. Those present in the Oval Office, officials said, included Vice President Cheney, Secretary of State Colin L. Powell, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, White House Chief of Staff Andrew H. Card Jr. and Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
When Bush signed the launch order at 6:30 p.m., it had a hastily prepared insert. The first shots would strike through the roof and walls of an anonymous Baghdad home and deep beneath it in hopes of decapitating the Iraqi government in a single blow.
Analysis: This is a classic case study for Colonel John Boyd's theory of "OODA" -- Observe, Orient, Decide, Act. That theory holds that the side in any competition -- be it military, athletic, financial or other -- who orients/observes/decides/acts first will win. Colonel Boyd developed his theory to explain why American fighter pilots shot down North Korean fighter pilots in such great numbers during the Korean War. The answer was not that their planes were better or that they were more skilled. It was that the American planes were more maneuverable, thus enabling the pilots to transition from OODA loop to OODA loop faster, deciding and acting faster than their opponent. In essence, American pilots could act a step ahead of their adversaries. In the current conflict, we observed Saddam Hussein, oriented on him, decided to kill him, and acted by dispatching a cruise-missile attack. In this case, our OODA loop may have been too long, and we may have missed him. If that's true, we will probably find ways to shorten that process so that we can out-OODA Saddam next time and kill him.
Wednesday, March 19, 2003
"First reports are always wrong"
That's a lesson I had pounded into my head as a lieutenant at the Army's National Training Center in the California desert. The adrenaline and time pressure of combat combine to make initial reports extremely unreliable. So at this point, it's hard to assess anything that's happening in Iraq, because everything is a first report. That said, we have some information from the Washington Post that indicates this was not necessarily the start of the U.S. air campaign. It appears this may have been more of a "slap across the face" to get Hussein's attention, rather than a knife through the chest.
U.S. forces had spent the day preparing the battlefield by intensifying bombing and stepping up reconnaissance operations inside Iraq as legions of U.S. forces and their armor marshaled in northern Kuwait for a massive assault to destroy the rule of Hussein.
The movements in Iraq were carried out by an unknown number of Special Operations troops and specialized Marine and Army units, U.S. defense officials said. They were accompanied by a series of U.S. airstrikes across the breadth of southern Iraq, from the Jordanian border in the west to near the Iranian border in the east, the U.S. Central Command announced.
The airstrikes hit nine targets, including two long-range artillery emplacements and one surface-to-surface missile system, deployed between the Kuwaiti border and the city of Basra, 35 miles to the north, the Central Command said. Those targets were hit because U.S. commanders worry that the U.S. invasion force assembling in northern Kuwait is at its maximum vulnerability to attack by chemical weapons.
A senior defense official characterized the airstrikes as one of the heaviest bombings conducted in the two "no-fly" zones in Iraq since the areas were created after the Persian Gulf War in 1991. They continued a pattern of using enforcement of the no-fly zones as a way to bomb targets whose destruction is deemed useful in preparing for the full-fledged U.S. push into Iraq that now seems imminent.
The ground operations in Iraq, which were unannounced, laid the foundation for a U.S. and British invasion force of more than 250,000 troops, the bulk of which spent the day forming into "ground assault convoys" along the Iraq-Kuwait border. U.S. officials in Washington requested that details about the initial military operations be withheld.
Analysis: In other words, this may have been the "rolling start" that U.S. officials have alluded to over the past several weeks. The initial strikes today are not distinguishable in frequency, intensity or number from the strikes we have been conducting on Iraq for the past several weeks. What differentiates these strikes is the targeting. Coalition warplanes are not just hitting Saddam's air-defense network anymore; they're working over his command posts, infrastructure, and other targets as well. Again, remember my maxim about first reports: this too could be disinformation from the White House and Pentagon. More to follow...
FLASH FLASH FLASH -- America launches offensive on Iraq
The NY Times website is carrying a banner which says:
"White House Says Attack on Iraq Has Begun"
My local radio station (FM 93.1) reports that President Bush will speak to the nation at 10:15 Eastern Standard Time.
The AP is reporting that air-raid sirens and explosions are audible in Baghdad.
The deadline passed and nothing happened... or did it?
One of the problems identifying when hostilities start in Gulf War II is that the hostilities in Gulf War I never really stopped. America has flown combat missions over Iraq for the past 12 years to enforce no-fly zones in the south and the north. We have also bombed numerous sites in Iraq over the past several years -- and we have stepped up this campaign in the last several weeks. More recently, American warplanes have targeted Iraqi air-defense sites, command-and-control sites, and forward-deployed surface-to-surface missiles.
If you look back at Gulf War I, these are exactly the same sites we attacked on the opening night of the air campaign in 1991. (See Crusade by Rick Atkinson and The Commanders by Bob Woodward) The difference then was that we had not been bombing Iraq constantly for the past 12 years, and thus the first attacks on Jan. 17, 1991, appeared to be different. Today, the difference may simply be one of degree or of targeting. Unless CNN is counting actual aircraft leaving our airbases (a violation of OPSEC), or the military tells us that war has actually started, we may not know when this air campaign ratches up beyond UN-resolution-enforcement-mode to something else.
Analysis: America has continued its air campaign against Iraqi artillery, air-defense, C3, and other critical targets. CNN and the New York Times are also reporting the sound of artillery in the theater. Our Army and Marine Corps ground forces have uncoiled from their assembly areas to forward attack positions along the LD (Line of Departure). It's a safe bet that we've pushed out scouts in front of those ground forces, who may have already crossed into Iraq. I'd all but guarantee that we have deep reconnaissance in Iraq, including Special Forces and other assets. This is far more than we had moving on Jan. 17, 1991, and it clearly meets most military criteria for the start of a war.
As an epistemological matter, we may never "know" when this war has begun. But I think we can count the indicators on the ground, assess them, and make a subjective determination for ourselves that war has -- in fact -- begun.
Back home from the anti-war protest...
Huh? Didn't expect that one from me, did ya'? Well okay... I didn't actually attend the protest. I was held hostage by it as I sat in my Toyota pickup for an hour near the intersection of Wilshire and Westwood Bouelvards. I could see there was some kind of police activity in the street, and I guessed it was a protest from the location (next to the Federal Building) and the news helicopters overhead. I parked and walked over to check it out. Nothing spectactular, really. About 500 demonstrators lined the sides of Wilshire Boulevard with colorful signs decrying President Bush, the war, Israel, anti-union policies, environmental problems, and a few other subjects. A few protesters even waived Iraqi flags. It looked like roughly 50 protesters were arrested when they staged a "die in" in the middle of Wilshire Boulevard -- and then refused to move when the LAPD issued a dispersal order. All in all, however, the event looked small and peaceful in comparison to the larger anti-affirmative action protests I covered as a student reporter in the mid-1990s.
Bottom Line: I was initially upset at the display of anti-Americanism and some of the epithets thrown at our soldiers overseas, such as baby-killers, murderers, etc. But then I took solace in this fact. In West L.A. -- the cradle of California liberalism, the heart of Hollywood, where the military is a foreign culture to most -- the protesters could only get 500 people on the eve of war to show up. And of those, they could only convince 40 or 50 hard-core activists to get arrested. (I presume most are recidivist activists) Maybe next time, they should book Eminem for the protest -- the turnout would be better, and you'd probably have more arrests too.
More details on Iraqi surrenders; naval skirmishes
The New York Times has more this afternoon on the surrender of 17 Iraqi soldiers to U.S. forces along the Iraq/Kuwait border. Apparently, these 17 soldiers simply sauntered across the border and threw their hands up. My bet is that they received extensive U.S. psychological-operations literature via air-drop, and possibly on the advice of an Iraqi Gulf War I veteran, decided to check out what the U.S. had to offer.
They are believed to be the first Iraqis to have surrendered, something the American Air Force has been actively encouraging by dropping more than 1 million leaflets in anticipation of a ground invasion.
The soldiers — not technically prisoners of war, since the war has not yet started — are in the custody of the Kuwaiti border police, said Capt. Darrin E. Theriault, commander of the headquarters company of the division's First Brigade.
Also, the NYT reports that a series of naval skirmishes occurred last night between allied naval forces and small Iraqi boats in the Persian Gulf. Suspecting these craft might be suicide bombers (as in the USS Cole bombing), allied naval commanders opened fire and sent them to the bottom.
Out in the Persian Gulf, the commander of American and British naval forces, Rear Adm. John M. Kelly, expressed concern that Iraq was preparing attacks on coalition warships.
On Monday night, Iraqi Army troops sent a large number of fishing vessels from coastal ports and moorings and sent them into waters where aircraft carriers, destroyers and submarines were standing by to launch aircraft and cruise missiles against targets in Iraq. Military intelligence monitoring also detected the preparation of missile launching sites that could be directed at naval targets, he said.
Admiral Kelly said, "Our concern now" was that the Iraqi leaders "may be more inclined to act" against allied warships. Speaking aboard the carrier Abraham Lincoln, he added, "The game could begin at any time."
A soldier's prayer
Many of you have seen the Academy Award-winning movie Patton; a few of you may have read biographies of the man by Martin Blumenson or Carlo D'Este. As a young Army officer, I read them all, in order to learn more about my profession. One lesson stood out -- the importance of luck (or providence). During the Battle of the Bulge, allied forces were besieged by bad weather as they fought a German counter-attack in the Ardennes forest. The 101st Airborne Division was encircled at Bastogne, and without good weather, could receive neither aerial resupply nor bomber support. Patton ordered his chaplain to write a prayer for battle, to which the chaplain responded that he could not write a prayer asking God to support man killing his fellow man. Patton chided the chaplain, telling him that he certainly could in this case, since the American cause was just.
I've substituted "sandstorms" for what Chaplain Colonel James O'Neil wrote, but otherwise left the text intact. My thoughts and prayers are with America's finest sons and daughters as they cross the border into battle.
"Almighty and most merciful Father, we humbly beseech Thee, of Thy great goodness, to restrain these immoderate [sandstorms] with which we have to contend. Grant us fair weather for battle. Graciously hearken to us as soldiers who call upon Thee that armed with Thy power, we may advance from victory to victory, and crush the oppression and wickedness of our enemies, and establish Thy justice among men and nations. Amen."
Update: 15 Iraqis defect through the lines
NYTimes.Com is reporting that 15 Iraqi soldiers have crossed the line and surrendered to American forces. This is not a first-hand report; the news story reproduces an official statement from an Army captain running public affairs operations for one of our forward brigades in the 3rd Infantry Division. I pray this is a harbinger of things to come, and that the hardest job we face in the desert is building camps for all the Iraqi prisoners we stand to take.
...15 Iraqi soldiers guarding the border surrendered and crossed over to Kuwait this evening, officers here said.
They are believed to be the first Iraqis to have surrendered, something the American Air Force has been actively encouraging by dropping more than 1 million leaflets in anticipation of a ground invasion. The soldiers — not technically prisoners of war, since the war has not yet started — are in the custody of the Kuwaiti border police, said Capt. Darrin E. Theriault, commander of the headquarters company of the division's First Brigade.
The development was welcomed by troops here making the final preparations for an attack that could begin at any moment, some of whom whooped with relief when the word trickled through the brigade's new headquarters in northwestern Kuwait.
And so it begins...
Today's NY Times leads with an article by reporters embedded in the 3rd Infantry Division. They report that 3ID forces have moved forward to the Iraq/Kuwait border, ostensibly to establish a security zone and to begin uncoiling for an attack into Iraq. I imagine we are conducting some intensive deep operations right now as well, preparing the battlefield with artillery and air-delivered ordnance to pave the way for a U.S. assault.
By this evening, the Third Infantry Division's heaviest firepower had moved into place on the frontier, churning up swirling plumes of dust and sand as large columns of tanks, armored vehicles and other weapons left one threadbare desert camp for another even more desolate.
With the division's troops now in assault positions, commanders reported few signs of defensive preparations by Iraq's border troops - something that seemed to be confirmed by the surrender this evening.
* * *
The 130,000-member mechanized army in Kuwait formed a broad arc of thousands of vehicles, shoulder to shoulder in a sprawling phalanx facing north and visible to journalists scouting the area.
In the front of the formations, engineering battalions wheeled their bulldozers and heavy equipment into position to breach the ditches and earthen berms that lay between the army and the Iraqi desert.
Colonels and Captains in the Desert
Today's Washington Post leads with a great story about the speeches that Army commanders are giving to their soldiers in the desert. As can be expected, officers with more rank and experience use more polished words to communicate to their troops, such as:
Col. David Perkins, commander of the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team, told assembled soldiers that President Bush "has given Saddam Hussein and his regime 48 hours to get out of town or face military action. We are that military action."
I know Col. Dave Perkins; I served under him on active duty; he's a great American. But I'm not sure those words really resonate with the soldiers the way that Capt. Ronnie Johnson's words do. As a company commander, Capt. Johnson is only the second-highest officer in these troops chain of command -- he has only his lieutenants below him. Company commanders are the officers who see their soldiers' blood, sweat and tears. Company commanders are the ones who make it all happen, with the help of their sergeants. I like what Capt. Johnson had to say.
In Bravo Company of the division's 3rd Battalion, 15th Regiment, Capt. Ronnie Johnson, 37, of Dallas, put the message in less polished terms for infantry soldiers, armored vehicle crews and other troops as he spoke of his personal outrage over Sept. 11, 2001.
"This is going to be the biggest statement to the world that you are never going to [expletive] with America like that again," he said. "Take care of yourself, take care of your brother. Don't leave your honor in Iraq. Do what's right. Do what millions of American soldiers have done before you. Do the right thing. . . . What we do in life echoes in eternity. God be with you all."
CSM: U.S. changes from 2MRC strategy to "win-hold-win"
Today's Christian Science Monitor has a good story on a paradigm shift in U.S. military strategy which has been underway for some time -- but not reported heavily. The old strategy was dubbed "2MRC", for "2 Major Regional Conflicts) (and before that 2MTW, for 2 Major Theater Wars). This strategy said that the U.S. must be able to fight two major regional conflicts at the same time, say, in Korea and Iraq for instances. What this really meant was that the U.S. needed enough forces on active duty to fight two simultaneous conflicts. As one of his last acts in office as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Colin Powell established this methodology as a backstop against excessive cuts in the defense budget. Those cuts, Powell reasoned, could go no deeper than what was necessary to fight 2 major conflicts at the same time.
But now, Seth Stern reports that things have changed.
This massive (Iraq) deployment comes as US military strategy has evolved away from a strict "two-war" strategy. The new standard: being able to fight overlapping - but not necessarily simultaneous - conflicts. The 2001 Quadrennial Defense Review called for US forces "decisively defeating" an adversary in one theater, including the ability to occupy territory or change a regime.
This approach, known as "win-hold-win" supplanted a two-war approach that assumed the regional conflicts in Iraq and Korea. "You fight in one region, hold in one region and then go in and finish the fight in the [second] region," says retired Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, the former head of the Army War College.
Perhaps most the most significant Gulf-related strain on US capabilities is on air- and sealift capacity. The Pentagon invested billions during the 1990s in fast new "roll on/roll off" cargo ships capable of quickly transporting the Army's heaviest units. But about 45 of those 50 ships, owned by the military and manned by civilian merchant mariners, are either delivering materials to the Middle East or on their way back, says Cote.
What's driving this change? Several things, really. First, the U.S. military has standing commitments to places like Kosovo and Bosnia that take away forces from what's available to fight in Korea and Iraq. Though the military has dipped deeply into the reserves for these missions, it must turn to active-duty units for a lot of the combat-support and combat-service support missions. Second, as the article points out, there may be enough combat forces to go around -- but not enough deployment infrastructure (cargo ships and planes) to support multiple deployments at the same time. We may have invested too much in the trigger-pullers and not enough in the supporters who make these things happen.
LAT: Debate rages in the Pentagon over U.S. military future
Today's LA Times carries an interesting article on military "transformation" and how it is playing out in the current conflict. Before Sept. 11, President Bush and Donald Rumsfeld made transformation a priority, pledging to reallocate funds from personnel and equipment maintenance to research & development for new technologies that would "skip a generation" of military hardware. Since Sept. 11 -- and especially since Afghanistan proved the value of old-fashioned infantry -- the military has changed that tune. Now in the Gulf, advocates on both sides are fighting this battle again -- except with real consequences for those young men and women who must fight the plan in the desert.
The dispute has focused on how important a role to assign to armor and heavy infantry -- the 70-ton Abrams tanks used by the Army and the Marines, the armor-plated Bradley fighting vehicles, the mechanized artillery, the tank-killing helicopters and the vast supply train needed to keep them rolling.
On one side are Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and some of his closest aides, who consider the armed forces -- especially the Army -- too slow, too heavy and too inflexible to meet the challenges of the post-Cold War world.
Rumsfeld and his inner circle want what he once called "new ways of thinking, and new ways of fighting." That translates into greater reliance on high-tech weapons, especially air power, and on the light, fast-moving capabilities of special operations forces who won a quick, low-cost victory in Afghanistan.
In this view, the nature of the threat has fundamentally changed since the Cold War ended and the United States became the world's only superpower. Instead of conventional armies, the nation would now face unconventional forces using tactics that avoid head-on confrontations with U.S. power.
On the other side are many of the senior leaders of the Army and other ground forces. They, too, favor "transformation" to a lighter, more agile force, but they insist that this force must retain the overwhelming battlefield superiority of today's heavy ground units.
And, they have argued, until such new capabilities arrive -- sometime in the next decade -- there is a vital role for the tank brigades and heavy infantry designed decades ago for a war against the Soviet Union.
These military leaders say Iraq and other potential adversaries possess enough tanks and other conventional forces to threaten all but the strongest American units. They see over-reliance on Special Forces troops and other so-called "light" units as a dangerous infatuation.
A New Record - 2296 Hits
Thanks again to Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit for his link yesterday to my note on the duplicate stories in the NY Times and Washington Post. His link, and some of the others it generated, produced a whopping 2296 hits for me yesterday -- more than 20 times my average 60-100 hits/day. If today's count (250+) is any indicator, some of you have decided to check back for a second Intel Dump. Thanks!
Tuesday, March 18, 2003
Measuring success in Iraq
Slate columnist Fred Kaplan has some good thoughts on the metrics we ought to consider for success in Iraq. I suspect he's correct to assume that we will not seek unconditional surrender in this conflict, as we last did in World War II. Defining success has been problematic for the U.S. military in peace and war since that conflict, which ended with the Japanese surrender on the deck of the USS Missouri in August 1945. In the Cold War, we defined success by containing the Soviets, outspending them, and maintaining a qualitative edge over their numerically-superior forces in Europe. In Korea, we started by defining success as retaking South Korea, then pushed that victory too far, and eventually settled for reestablishing South Korea. I won't mention Vietnam, except to say that the "body count" metric was one misguided attempt by the Pentagon to measure success. In Gulf War I, we defined success as pushing Iraq out of Kuwait. But as this current conflict makes clear, that may not have been the smashing success we wanted.
Mr. Kaplan articulates several metrics that we should look for in the coming days, weeks and months, including:
- First, ignore all first-night commentary.
- Fireworks will fill the skies over Baghdad, but what about Tel Aviv?
- The battle of Basra
- Are Iraqi planes going up? Are U.S. aircraft going down?
- When is the ground war starting?
- Where's Saddam?
I think this is a useful start, and these are the types of questions that journalists should ask in their stories. However, I wouldn't stop here. I would also get into the weeds of the campaign, and ask things like:
- How many prisoners has the U.S. taken?
- How many civilians have been liberated?
- How many weapons of mass destruction have been located/secured by US forces?
- How many casualties have been sustained by the US and its allies?
Defining success in the aggregate will not be easy to do, and there will be conflicts between some of these metrics. (Do we devote troops to guarding prisoners and civilians, or to chasing Saddam's army?)_ Ultimately, however, we must develop our measures of success and hold our political leaders accountable to them.
A problem emerges with media embedding
NYT and WP writers duplicate the same vignette in their stories
Today's Washington Post carried an interesting profile by Rick Atkinson of MG David Petraeus, the commander of the Army's storied 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault). Atkinson follows MG Petraeus on a tour of the division, checking on unit readiness and soldier morale. He writes of one vignette:
Then, on the pier near the stern of the USNS Bob Hope, the 50-year-old Petraeus gets into a bantering exchange with a 19-year-old private first class. One thing leads to another and the commanding general challenges the soldier to a push-up contest. Both men drop to the pavement. Four, five, six . . . 10, 11, 12.
Neck veins bulge. Eighteen, 19, 20. The young soldier gasps and collapses after 27. Petraeus does 20 more, eyes locked on his opponent, and pops to his feet without breaking a sweat. "You can write that off on your income tax as part of your education," he says with a smile, and stalks off to hooah another platoon.
Also today, Jim Dwyer writes in the New York Times about the same encounter between MG Petraeus and Private Jonathan Aleshire. Dwyer is also embedded in the 101st Airborne Division and has been sending back regular dispatches on the unit's exploits in Kuwait.
CAMP NEW JERSEY, Kuwait, March 17 — "Stay with me," the general said to the private.
"Sir," the private said.
"Just stay with me," the general said.
David H. Petraeus, major general, 50 years old, was face down on a pier in the port of Kuwait, forehead to forehead with Jonathan Aleshire, a 19-year-old private.
* * *
At the port, what started out as a backslapping exercise by the general shifted after a good-natured jibe from one of the enlisted soldiers.
Suddenly, the slight general — he is 5 feet 9, 150 pounds — was challenging the brawny private to a push-up showdown. The general lost part of a lung when he was accidentally shot in the chest during a range accident; he broke his pelvis in a skydiving accident.
Private Aleshire immediately agreed.
"All right, here's the standard — chest touches the ground, arms out and locked," General Petraeus said.
"Sir, just make it how many you do," the private suggested.
"Stay with me," the general said.
The general dipped to the ground, level as a plank of plywood, but for his head, which was cocked up. He stared at the private as they rose and fell, the private perhaps a half-beat behind the general.
Up, staring, down, staring.
The other soldiers began hollering.
At number 24, a little gasp emerged from the private. The general never blinked. Private Aleshire did another push-up, more like a shove-up, arms wobbling. When he rose for his 26th, he buckled. He was through.
The general continued for at least another 20. When he stood, only a throbbing vein on his neck showed any evidence of exertion. "You can write that off on your income taxes as an educational expense," General Petraeus told the private.
Can you spot the problem? Two of America's best reporters for two of America's best newspapers carried the exact same story -- almost word for word -- in today's newspaper. The policy of embedding has led to a lot of great stories, such as Atkinson's earlier reports from the 101st. But it also has a downside, which is apparent today. Embedding can lead to group-think, particularly when a pool of reporters is exposed to exactly the same facts with little else to write about that day. I can imagine how this happened -- perhaps the reporters were herded around in a common Hummvee from place to place to gather stories. Or maybe the public affairs people have limited their access to the point where this vignette was the only thing available. Whatever the cause, this poses a real problem for the media and the public. If embedding is to work, writers and editors simply have to get better at reporting from the field. That means not reporting the same story, word for word.
Monday, March 17, 2003
With soldiers like this, we can't lose
I've been following the exploits of "LT Smash" for some time now. He's apparently an officer assigned to the U.S. Army somewhere in Kuwait, and he has been maintaining a weblog of the same name for several weeks. Below is a mock Q&A he posted after a rash of e-mail hit his inbox. This guy sounds like an outstanding officer, with just the right mixture of intelligence, humor and skepticisim. I wish him and his soldiers the best of luck in their coming endeavor.
Q: Is L.T. Smash your real name?
A: No. I borrowed it from The Simpsons.
Q: Where are you? What branch of the service are you in? What unit? What is your specialty?
A: This is an anonymous journal. I’m being intentionally vague about who I am and what I’m doing. Those who know me can fill in the blanks. The rest of you will have to use your imagination.
Q: Can’t you get in trouble for this sort of thing? Isn’t this a violation of Military Regulations?
A: I’m in the military -- I can get in trouble for just about anything. But generally speaking, this form of communication is bound by the same rules as email. Due to the open nature of this medium, however, I am voluntarily observing my own, stricter guidelines in regards to operational security. For example, I won’t give out my unit, location, or use any real names (except public figures like Tony Blair or Saddam Hussein).
Q: I’m a reporter for a major media outlet, and I have a few questions…
A: No comment.
Q: You’re such a brave man. Good men are hard to find. You military guys are into physical fitness, right? I like brave, strong men like you. I’ll bet you’re good looking, too.
A: Mrs. Smash sure seems to think so.
Q: Can I send you care packages?
A: No, thanks -- Mrs. Smash, Mom, and Dad send me everything I need, and a PX trailer recently opened up at my camp. We get so many cookie crumbs through the mail now that I’m worried about gaining all the weight that I’ve lost, and the hand-written valentine cards from all of the elementary schools have really brightened up the tent.
Q: What about that guy in your unit who never gets mail – can I shower him with cookie love?
A: He’s already taken care of. In fact, that guy now gets more care packages than most of the rest of us. We hate him now. But thanks for the gesture.
Q: Pay no attention to all those war protestors. Most of us are behind you 110 percent!
A: What war protestors? I have yet to see one out here. Not sure they actually exist.
Q: I’ve done some digging, and I think I know who you are.
A: Hmm… now might be a good time for me to thank Kevin and his brother in California again for registering and hosting this web site for me. And I apologize for swamping the server.
Q: You haven’t posted anything in a while. Are you OK?
A: I’m fine, thanks. I don’t always have the time to get on the Internet, although I do try to write something every day, and post when I can. I’m usually pretty busy -- I’m sure you understand.
Q: When does the war start?
A: Next question?
Q: Will we wait for the new moon to attack? Does it have to be high tide?
Q: I’d like to buy you a beer.
A: Thanks. You might have to wait a little while, though.
Q: You are such an excellent role model! I read your journal to my kids every night before bed.
A: Uh, thanks. This isn’t exactly Mother Goose, but I’ll be sure to watch my language for the kids.
Q: We are so proud of you! We say a prayer for you every day.
A: Thanks. Keep ‘em coming.
Q: We love you!
A: Right back atcha. That’s why I’m here.
An ominous report from the front
Steven Lee Myers, one of the New York Times' better reporters, has a colorful report from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division in Tuesday's paper. I served with Col. Will Grimsley when he commanded the 2d Battalion, 9th Infantry Regiment in Korea, and think he's one of the best and brightest officers I ever knew in the Army. I trained with the soldiers of 2/9 on several occasions, and ran with then-Lt. Col. Grimsley on Camp Casey on a couple of occasions. I would trust him with my life, and am confident that his brigade will do well under fire. At the end of his story, Myers writes a coda that seems to foreshadow the start of a ground offensive, or perhaps a security operation along the Iraqi border:
On the slight rise where the brigade's headquarters has temporarily sunk roots, soldiers began to pack up and dismantle parts of a mobile command center, which consists of a series of 557-class armored vehicles parked in two rows with a network of tents strung between them.
At the camps of the brigade's seven battalions, stretching out into the desert's featureless horizons, soldiers began to pack up, too.
A new order had arrived, but under ground rules imposed on journalists traveling with American forces, no details of future military operations can be discussed.
"You could call it relief, almost, that something is happening," said Capt. Andrew J. Valles, the brigade's civil-military operations officer, whose job is overseeing contacts with civilians during any conflict. "We're not just sitting and waiting anymore."
What can Puma do about offensive blogging?
First Amendment lawyer and blogger John Maltbie has some really good commentary about the recent dispute between Puma and a number of webloggers who have posted sexually suggestive parodies of the company's trademarked logo and advertisements. If you're interested in the intersection of media law and business, his blog is a great place to look.
President Bush: "The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."
Tonight, President Bush addressed the nation and made his case for war. I've been convinced since Secretary of State Colin Powell gave his now-infamous briefing to the UN Security Council which included transcripts of Iraqi officers talking about how to move weapons in order to evade inspections. But President Bush left little doubt tonight in my mind that we will attack Iraq -- sooner rather than later -- to disarm that nation and create a more stabile Middle East.
Two parts of the speech stuck out as I was reading it. The first struck me as a two-pronged argument for the legality of this attack. President Bush is arguing that we have the authority both under existing UN resolutions, and the authority as a sovereign state, to use force against Iraq. I think these are important arguments to make because they deny the moral high ground pro-diplomacy side of the debate. Without these arguments, the pro-diplomacy side could say that American action was cleary illegal. However, I think the legality of this action is not so clear, and that President Bush makes good legal arguments for it.
"The United States of America has the sovereign authority to use force in assuring its own national security. That duty falls to me as commander of chief by the oath I have sworn, by the oath I will keep. Recognizing the threat to our country, the United States Congress voted overwhelmingly last year to support the use of force against Iraq.
America tried to work with the United Nations to address this threat because we wanted to resolve the issue peacefully. We believe in the mission of the United Nations.
One reason the U.N. was founded after the Second World War was to confront aggressive dictators actively and early, before they can attack the innocent and destroy the peace.
In the case of Iraq, the Security Council did act in the early 1990s. Under Resolutions 678 and 687, both still in effect, the United States and our allies are authorized to use force in ridding Iraq of weapons of mass destruction.
This is not a question of authority, it is a question of will."
The second part of the speech that struck me was President Bush's argument for pre-emptive self defense. Again, I think he makes an excellent point. If we wait for Saddam to strike first in order to make our cause more just, we will be forced to sacrifice hundreds or thousands of American civilians. That is an unacceptable choice for the United States. We cannot wait for another Lusitania, Pearl Harbor, or Sept. 11 to occur -- especially if we have the opportunity now to attack the instrumentalities of that future attack.
"With these capabilities, Saddam Hussein and his terrorist allies could choose the moment of deadly conflict when they are strongest. We choose to meet that threat now where it arises, before it can appear suddenly in our skies and cities.
The cause of peace requires all free nations to recognize new and undeniable realities. In the 20th century, some chose to appease murderous dictators whose threats were allowed to grow into genocide and global war.
In this century, when evil men plot chemical, biological and nuclear terror, a policy of appeasement could bring destruction of a kind never before seen on this earth. Terrorists and terrorist states do not reveal these threats with fair notice in formal declarations.
And responding to such enemies only after they have struck first is not self defense. It is suicide. The security of the world requires disarming Saddam Hussein now."
Prediction: I think Matt at Stop the Bleating is right -- we will see an attack on 1 April (plus/minus 2 days) because that's when there will be a new moon over Iraq. Lunar illumination matters because it aids air-defense gunners significantly in their targeting if they can see the aircraft they're trying to shoot. In the desert, lunar illumination makes a huge difference. On a night like tonight, with 99% illumination, you don't even need night vision goggles. Moreover, this plays into our psychological war plan. Saddam's forces will be on razor's edge for the next week or so, but they will start to become complacent a few days after this deadline passes.
An anti-France provision in the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act
The largest piece of American legislation is the Pentagon's annual "National Defense Authorization Act." It starts out at around 300 pages, and usually swells to more than 500 pages by the time the President signs it. Of this, only a small part actually concerns budgetary authorizations and personnel strength (which drives salary payments) for the Pentagon. Most of the omnibus bill actually relates to policy changes for the Pentagon. Buried deep inside this year's bill is this gem of a provision:
SEC. 1032. REPEAL OF REQUIRED GRADE FOR DEFENSE ATTACHE IN FRANCE.
(a) IN GENERAL.—Section 714 of title 10, United States Code, is repealed.
(b) CONFORMING AMENDMENT.—The table of sections at the beginning of chapter 41 of that title is amended by striking the item relating to section 714.
The Pentagon's Office of General Counsel prepares a section-by-section analysis each year to go with the NDAA. That report gives the following explanation for this provision:
Section 1032 would eliminate the existing requirement that the U.S. Defense Attaché in France be a flag officer or selected to be a flag officer. Consistent with his existing authority, Secretary of Defense should fill this position as he determines appropriate.
As I read this, we want to downgrade the position to a full colonel or possibly even a lieutenant colonel. This position carries enormous diplomatic prestige, so this is a big deal. The American defense attache to Paris is the senior American military representative to the French government, responsible for all kinds of diplomatic and military contacts. I find it interesting that we’d want to downgrade this to anything but a general or admiral, particularly given the rank sensitivity of most European militaries. This could be a bit of legal housecleaning -- France is the only country to have its own special provision in Title 10 mandating a flag-rank attache. But the timing is pretty interesting, wouldn’t you say?
Addition to Noteworthy Books: American Empire
On the advice of the Washington Monthly, I bought Andrew Bacevich's new book >American Empire a few weeks ago. I'm about 2/3 of the way through the book now, and I've been impressed so far with Mr. Bacevich's articulation of American realism on the international stage. His ultimate argument is this: American grand strategy has been -- for at least the last century -- to pursue openness, globalization and liberalization however it can. Military power, economic power, political power, and moral power have all been used towards this end, and will continue to be used towards this end. America has indeed constructed an empire for itself, but a benevolent one where America seeks to exercise no control over its potentates -- only to trade with them, engage them, and work with them towards a secure and stable world of properity. This book makes a great companion to War in a Time of Peace, The Mission, and Savage Wars of Peace on my bookshelf -- it adds a useful and articulate perspective on the "why" behind contemporary American foreign policy.
War Dames redux
Time cover/headline: "When Mom Goes to War"
Time joins the ranks of newspapers and magazines to run lengthy features on the enhanced roles of women in the military this week with its cover story "When Mom Goes to War." (I'm pretty sure my cover article in the December 2002 Washington Monthly started this trend.) Time's article chronicles Lieutenant Colonels Laura and Jim Richardson, commanders of the 5th and 3rd Battalions of the 101st Aviation Brigade (101st Airborne Division) respectively. The piece also discusses some of the larger issues surrounding women in combat.
...in thousands of cases, the question years from now will be, "Mommy, what did you do in the war?" Women make up about 15% of active-duty soldiers, up from 11% in the last Gulf War—but numbers don't tell the story of their new role. In a war this time around, women will be flying F-18s, launching Tomahawk missiles and serving in front-line intelligence units. You still will not find women in the infantry or driving a tank, but changes in technology and in the very nature of war have blurred the front lines and the definition of being "in combat."
After the first Gulf War, in which five female service members were killed in action and two taken prisoner, Congress lifted the ban on women serving on combat ships. The Pentagon scrapped the rule that barred women from assignments with a high risk of facing enemy fire. Now women are excluded from only 9% of Army roles (though that represents nearly 30% of active-duty positions); 99% of all occupations and positions in the Air Force are open to women, and in the Navy, women are excluded from only SEAL teams and submarines.
The pressure on families is growing because longer and more frequent deployments make for wrenching choices. As the number of women on active duty reaches 200,000, of a total of 1.4 million, it means that more mothers are likely to discover what it really means to balance job and family under extreme circumstances. The commute is hell, the business trip can last six months or a year, and the note left for the baby sitter includes your power of attorney and your will. Those who have husbands staying behind while they deploy find themselves conducting a crash course in smooth braids and matching clothes. "I gotta tip my hat to women," says Robert Ward, 31, a father of three whose wife has just shipped out to the gulf from Fort Campbell. "I didn't know it was so hard. Really hard."
The Life of a Reservist
Time has a timely piece this week on Captain Stanley Echols, a middle school principal who also commands the 270th Military Police Company in the California National Guard -- and who has been called up to support Operation Enduring Freedom. The article discusses the tension between Echols' civilian career and military reserve service, as well as the family tension that his commitment creates. More reservists have been called up for longer tours than even Gulf War I since Sept. 11, and the strain is starting to show.
With this in mind, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, himself a former Navy reservist, is thinking of swapping some active and reserve missions—putting more tank units in the reserves because they're less likely to be needed on short notice, and transferring more MPs, who must be deployed quickly, into the active force. "It doesn't make sense to have the people who are required very early in a conflict in the reserves," Rumsfeld told the Reserve Officers Association recently.
The strain is showing. Military police whose voluntary enlistments are up have had their terms extended—involuntarily—for a year. Many earn less money while in uniform. (Echols' public-school employer makes up the shortfall, but he estimates that only half his troops are as lucky as he is.) And spouses can be left to tackle alone an overwhelming home life. Echols' wife Denise, who is studying to be a nurse, will have to take care of three kids—ages 8, 4 and 9 months—after he ships out. That's why, when her husband comes home, she plans to ask him to get out of the Guard for good.
Sunday, March 16, 2003
Great quotes from the Sunday New York Times
I try to spend part of every Sunday reading the 1 1/2-inch-thick New York Times; preferably at my local coffee shop, Peet's. The Sunday Times does a great job of canvassing the width and depth of American society -- from Travel to Business to International Politics. I also think the writing is fantastic. Although great writers work for other publications, few newspapers have the stable of thoroughbred journalists that the New York Times has. Thus, I've made it my newspaper of choice for Sundays.
Today's paper had a couple of quotes that struck me as I was reading. The first came in an article about the International Criminal Court, and its need for prosecutors. Some readers may know that the ICC swore its bench of 18 judges in last week, and that it has a docket of cases already. However, the court lacks a chief prosecutor and a prosectorial staff.
Some diplomats and legal experts here have speculated that an ideal prosecutor, in fact, would be an American, but they agree this seems unlikely because of the Bush administration's hostility to the court.
"Americans are terrific prosecutors — they have a very fine tradition," said Geoffrey Robertson, who has just been named president of the international war crimes court for Sierra Leone. "Having a top-flight American would clearly help reconcile Washington to the court."
I like that. Americans do, in fact, have a fine tradition of prosecutorial excellence. Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson served as one of the main prosecutors at the Nuremburg tribunals. More recently, Pierre-Richard Prosper served as the chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal-Rwanda, where he prosecuted the first case ever under the International Convention on Genocide. (Proper is a former L.A. County District Attorney) It almost makes intuitive sense. America's culture embraces lawyers and venerates them; many of our best and brightest become attorneys, and many of those become litigators or prosecutors. It makes sense that American prosecutors would do well on the international stage.
The second quote runs in a story about military field rations that appeared deep in the NYT Magazine. The article took a culinary approach to the "MRE", or "Meal, Ready to Eat," also known by aphorisms such as "Meal Rejected by Ethiopians". Apparently, the author thought the MRE menu was incredibly diverse, reflecting his preconceived notions that military cuisine probably meant a choice between spam and ham. To make this point, the author contrasted military food with a California law school -- attempting to argue that the former had diversity, while the latter did not.
Elizabeth Painter runs the Armed Forces Recipe Service at Natick, which tests the 1,700 recipes available for garrison dining. ''Since '81 we've been trying to get toward healthier eating,'' she says. ''The surgeon general is trying to keep us up with the rest of the country, so recipes have lower fat and cholesterol. Soldiers get meal allowances now and can go off base and eat fast food, so we have to be competitive.''
And though there may not be much at Berkeley Law, there's incredible diversity in the service. ''We've got people from all over the United States, all over the world, so we've come up with literally hundreds of ethnic dishes,'' she says. ''And vegetarian dishes. And there are 285 religions in the armed forces, so we have kosher and halal recipes. You know that we sent halal meals down to Camp X-Ray in Guantanamo Bay last spring?''
Wow... that's pretty audacious for a food critic. I can only imagine the repercussions of such a remark here at UCLA -- or up at Berkeley. I wonder if this comment will generate any letters to the editor.
UC Berkeley MBA Program: "Liars need not apply"
CNN carries an interesting AP report today about academic integrity, and how one of the nation's top MBA programs has been forced to audit student applications and deny admission to a number of students who lied on their applications. Apparently, the competition to get into the Haas School of Business at UC Berkeley is so fierce that applicants falsified schooling, job information, and other items in order to gain admission.
Of 100 students who have qualified for admittance to the prestigious Haas School of Business, five were rejected last month after staff found they had made false claims on their applications, said Jett Pihakis, director of domestic admissions for full-time MBA programs.
One applicant awarded himself promotions; the others mostly fudged how long they'd been out of work, Pihakis said.
All would have been admitted if they'd told the truth, he said.
My thoughts: Integrity counts. Whether you're a corporate CEO or corporate general counsel, you have to do the right thing or else the consequences will eventually catch up to you. Moreover, people learn how to do the right thing early in life, when the stakes are low. The primacy of early learning theory really matters here -- we carry our most basic lessons about integrity with us in life. If students and applicant's can't do the right thing in law school or business school -- when the stakes are just a grade or admission -- then how can such people be expected to do the right thing later in life, when the stakes are high and millions of dollars are on the line? They can't. Kudos to Berkeley's business school for auditing its students and setting the right example.
Warner calls for NATO/US peacekeepers in Middle East
The Associated Press reports that Sen. John Warner (R-Va) has called on President Bush to add the possibility of NATO/US peacekeepers to the negotiations process for peace in the Middle East. If peace can be achieved through negotiation, Sen. Warner said that NATO peacekeepers should be offered to both sides as a neutral third party to maintain the peace. The Europeans might support such a move, given their sympathy to the Palestinian cause; the Palestinians may accept such a force because of that fact too. On the other hand, the Israelis will probably not accept such a force without extensive U.S. involvement.
Interestingly, I wrote a column for the Los Angeles Daily Journal nearly a year ago expressing the same idea after a rash of suicide bombings against Israel. My point then was that peace cannot exist without security -- and that neither side trusts the other side enough to follow a peace agreement. Thus, a third party such as the United States is the only thing that can stop the killing in the Middle East, because we will provide the brute force to enforce the promises of both sides in a peace agreement.
Suicide bombers and snipers now duel in the Middle East while ambassadors and envoys wait helplessly in their hotels. Just as we used American soldiers to stop the killing in Bosnia, the time has come for the United States to propose a military solution to the current war between Israelis and Palestinians.
A mortar attack on a crowded Sarajevo market in 1995 changed our minds about the use of U.S. troops. CNN beamed bloody images of wounded civilians and blown-apart storefronts into our consciousness. This event forced the American public and its politicians to realize that something had to be done. America decided then to commit U.S. troops because we felt that peace could not be made in any other way. Something bigger was necessary to stop the war in Bosnia after words and treaties had failed.
That something was the deployment of the U.S. military. American soldiers crossed the Sava River in December 1995 to implement the Dayton Accords – by force if necessary. An entire armored division rolled southward into Bosnia and established a zone of separation and the other boundaries required by the Dayton Accords. Slowly, American and NATO soldiers established order where before there had only been chaos by setting up check-points, mine-free roads, safe zones and other measures designed to assure the Bosnia population that this peace would be permanent.
* * *
The Israelis and Palestinians have reached an impasse, just as the Serbs, Croats and Bosnians did in 1995. Neither party will trust the other to implement any peace agreement on its own. Neither the Israelis nor the Palestinians will ever back down, disarm or return to pre-uprising postures without some larger intervening force.
That force must be the U.S. military. No other force has the full-spectrum capability of the American Army, Navy, Air Force and Marines. Implementing a peace agreement in the Middle East will require every type of weapon we have, from high technology to individual soldiers. At times, we may have to strike a target with pinpoint accuracy. In other situations, our soldiers may have to mediate disputes over the price of produce. The known capability of the U.S. military to do both and everything in between gives our soldiers on the street substantial credibility on the street, where it counts. Partisans on all sides will know that the average American soldier has the ability to call in powerful armored response forces, devastating airstrikes or anything else necessary to resolve a situation.
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.