Tuesday, April 08, 2003
Women in combat -- an online dialogue
Slate started an interesting online discussion today between two noted authors on the subject of women in the military. Debra J. Dickerson is the author of An American Story, and presumably want to see more women serving in combat positions. Stephanie Gutmann is a writer living in New York and the author of The Kinder, Gentler Military. From the stuff I've read, Ms. Gutmann opposes the broadening of women's roles in today's military. Here's a short excerpt from Ms. Gutmann's first note:
So, our question is, Should the Army and Marines be forced to change policies that prohibit women from taking combat jobs in their infantry and artillery units? The question was brought up ad nauseam after Gulf War I (since we'd entered a period of peace and prosperity and had time to address nonessential concerns), and if we're lucky enough to have bought ourselves more peace and prosperity I think we're gonna hear it again.My thoughts... This is something I've researched and written about, including this cover piece for the December 2002 Washington Monthly. It's also something I dealt with first-hand as a Military Police platoon leader in the Army. I led MP platoons in the 2nd Infantry Division (in Korea) and the 4th Infantry Division (in Texas) -- both times attached to a mechanized infantry brigade. Our missions as MPs included a lot of things that scouts and infantry do, including "hasty attack" and "area reconnaissance". With good training and good leadership, my female soldiers did just fine. I'll be interested to see whether this dialogue tackles the tough issues in this debate, because it's a really hard nut to crack. Some of those tough issues include:
- Standards. If the military maintains its current standards of performance, say for Ranger School, a certain amount of women will graduate. (There are undoubtedly some women who can meet the most demanding of standards) However, if that happens, the number is likely to be quite small. That will create strange group dynamics on the back end, where too few women will have graduated to form peer networks, support networks, mentoring arrangements, etc. Sociologists and others call this a "critical mass" problem. To ensure success on the back-end, the military will have to reverse-engineer standards for schools like Ranger School to ensure that a "critical mass" of women graduate. However, that creates real problems. Certain standards in the infantry community are immutable -- such as the ability to carry a pack for long distances, or carry a wounded buddy to medical aid. At a certain point, the standards cannot change, or else we will suffer diminished performance in combat.
- Sex. At some point, the discussion about women in the military must always return to sex. Soldiers are young, hormonally-imbalanced, physically-active people who engage in copious amounts of sexual activity. Any serious consideration of gender integration must include a serious discussion of the risks and control measures for sexual activity in the ranks. If the infantry, armor, and artillery branches are to be opened up, more thought also needs to be given to fraternization rules -- particularly within units at the same rank. Current rules proscribe relationships between soldiers of different rank, or soldiers and officers. But this may be a real issue if we let women into infantry squads and Bradley crews.
- Female POWs. This is a non-issue, as far as I'm concerned, despite the attempts by some in the media to make it one. It may be distasteful to say this, but men can be raped just as well as women once captured by the enemy. There are countless was to defile a male body, and countless ways to defile a female body. Differentiating men from women on account of their treatment as POWs is a false dichotomy. It reflects a normative judgment that we don't to think of our daughters in this way; that we don't want to expose them to the horrors of captivity. Ironically, various studies on female performance in captivity and survival situations (e.g. the Donner Pass journey to California in the 19th Century) have shown that women have a greater tolerance for these situations than men.
Bottom Line: This is a hard issue that deserves serious debate. Slate has chosen two good authors to discuss this issue, and I hope they will do it justice.
More on future war crimes trials in Iraq
Jess Bravin has a piece in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) dissecting this issue further, in light of the press conference yesterday where State Department and Pentagon officials discussed the prospect of war crimes trials in Iraq. I said yesterday I was waiting to see what some other reporters wrote on this subject, and now I have it. Jess has covered this story for a while, and has broken some of the key aspects of the story such as the publishing of the crimes for the military tribunals. His article today clarifies the path the Administration plans to take with regards to Iraqi war crimes trials after the war ends.
U.S. officials want Iraqi exiles, aided by American experts, to lead an effort to punish Saddam Hussein's regime for alleged crimes against humanity during the past two decades, with little involvement from the United Nations or other countries.Analysis: This may sound flippant, but I don't think the U.S. cares that much about "victor's justice" -- I think it cares about victory and justice separately. We obviously want to win this war, and I think we're on our way to doing so. And we care about justice in the abstract, because enforcement of UN resolutions and removal of an unjust regime together form our raison d'etre for this war. Frankly speaking, the U.S. does not enjoy a lot of support right now from the international human rights community, especially the part of that community in Europe. With our rejection of the International Criminal Court, treatment of the Gitmo prisoners, and other issues, we have already offended them. I think this legal strategy is being crafted with an eye towards Iraq -- and not towards Europe. The ICTY trial of Milosevic has not gone well, and we do not want to repeat that performance in Iraq. Our end goal now is a stabile Iraq with a functioning public/private infrastructure. Anything that detracts from that -- including showpiece trials in Europe of Iraqi officials -- runs contrary to American grand strategy.
Taking the fight to the Fedayeen
CNN reports that infantry from the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division have engaged elements of the Fedayeen in a fierce firefight near Hillah, south of Baghdad. The soldiers from the 101st appear to have made contact during a patrol of the city, in which they were actively looking for the Fedayeen.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, 3rd Brigade engaged in an hour-long firefight with Iraqi soldiers believed to be members of Saddam Fedayeen 50 miles south of Baghdad, said CNN's Ryan Chilcote, who is travelling with the unit.Analysis: This is the kind of infantry fighting that America has hesitated to engage in since Vietnam, because it's incredibly costly in time and blood. American military commanders always prefer to send a machine or bullet instead of a man -- hence the use of artillery, aircraft and other means before the use of infantry. Nonetheless, it sometimes remains necessary to use brave young men as infantry to clear restricted terrain like urban areas. America has learned this lesson before, when fighting over the ragged mountains of Korea. Following World War II, America's military shrank to nearly nothing, and acquired a sense of lethargy in the wake of the nuclear-powered victory over Japan. Colonel T.R. Fehrenbach, a combat veteran of the Korean War, wrote a gripping history of the conflict called This Kind of War, in which he describes the tension between American techno-military strategy and the essential nature of infantry warfare:
"Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it, and wipe it clean of life--but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud."No one has said it better since Col. Fehrenbach, and the statement rings true today. We may bomb Iraq, fly planes over it, pulverize its palaces, and destroy its infrastructure. But to truly control it -- and effect the kind of change we want -- we must send our brave young men and women into the mud.
One more sign that Baghdad is in American hands
Despite the firefight described below by the Washington Post, organized resistance appears to be crumbling in Baghdad. CNN.Com has a picture on its front page of two AH-1 Cobras (presumably from the Marine Corps) flying over the heart of Baghdad. Another officer I know pointed out that low-flying, slow helicopters like the Cobra don't fly over areas when there's a lot of anti-aircraft fire. In both Gulf War I and II, Baghdad has been heavily defended by anti-aircraft fire -- both surface-to-air missiles and guns. These Cobras' flight seems to indicate that a great deal of that has been silenced, or at least, that it does not pose a significant threat. Similarly, the use of Baghdad International Airport seems to indicate the same thing. It's still too early to declare victory... but this is one more indicator that we're heading in that direction.
Monday, April 07, 2003
Almost another Mogadishu in Baghdad
There was no mission to abduct an enemy commander; no Blackhawk shot down by enemy guerillas. But this riveting story in tomorrow's Washington Post paints a vivid picture of an intense battle at a key intersection in Baghdad. Here's a brief excerpt:
An Iraqi rocket-propelled grenade slammed into a U.S. ammunition truck at the intersection. As mortars aboard the ammunition truck exploded, they set a nearby fuel tanker truck ablaze, sending clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. With the cloverleaf now an inferno, soldiers dove for cover or ran for their vehicles. Two Special Forces vehicles -- Toyota pickup trucks -- went up in flames.
Observe, Orient, Decide Act
U.S. gets "actionable" intelligence and launches B-1 strike on possible Hussein location
Various news sources including the New York Times and CNN are reporting that the U.S. dropped four large bombs on a Baghdad residence late today in an attempt to kill Saddam Hussein.
Military and national security officials said that the four two-thousand pound, satellite guided bombs had left what one official called "a huge smoking hole," but it was still unclear who was inside at the time or whether anyone was injured or killed.This is a perfect vignette of John Boyd's OODA loop in action. Except that instead of happening at the tactical level, where it's grunt-on-grunt or fighter pilot-on-pilot, this is happening on the national level. American C4ISR (Command, Control, Communication and Computing = C4; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance = ISR) systems are so advanced that they can:
1) Observe. Detect indicators of Hussein meeting at a specific time and place.This isn't a linear process -- it's an OODA loop. It's critical that we now gather information to feed back into the OODA loop in order to make subsequent decisions. Initially, this means doing "bomb damage assessment", called "BDA" by military pundits. If the report is right and there's just a smoking hole in the ground, that's going to be kind of tough. We may only be able to confirm Hussein's death in this attack by his absence, and future statements by Iraqis that he is, in fact, dead. Even with American special forces on the ground, it's going to be really hard to do BDA on this strike and take the next step to eliminate Mr. Hussein.
Winds of Change has a great photo on their site of American soldiers taking a break from the war in one of Saddam's palaces. Judging by the shoulder patches, these are soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. They've certainly earned the quick break, and I hope the entire division is able to make use of Saddam's palaces. If I'd just fought up from Kuwait through sandstorms, I'd want a crack at one of his gold-plated showers. Now that's what I call a Ba'ath party!
Update: It's been suggested that the use of Saddam's palaces by American soldiers amount to criminal trespassing -- that it may be an unlawful form of wartime looting. That might be true if soldiers start taking Saddam's stuff and auctioning it on E-Bay, but it's not true today. The laws of war allow belligerents to make use of civilian buildings when necessary and/or expedient. (Of course, we couldn't take a hospital and convert it to a military command post, nor could we hurt civilians by choosing to occupy a food store for this purpose.) Given the state of the Iraqi civilian economy, I'm going to guess that few structures come close to Saddam's place when it comes to construction quality, durability, space, survivability, etc. It makes sense that 3ID would choose to encamp there. At some point, the U.S. will have to start putting Iraqi assets into some sort of general fund for the subsequent Iraqi government. But during the conduct of war, our soldiers and commanders are allowed to make use of these palaces for legitimate purposes, so long as no outright theft or profiteering takes place.
With that said, let the showers commence! Hopefully, Saddam's kitchens are in working order still. Maybe 3ID's cooks can get in there to fire up something decent for the soldiers after two weeks of non-stop Meals, Ready to Eat.
America plans to try Iraqis for war crimes
In a briefing today, Pentagon and State Department officials said they have decided to try Iraqi officials whom they believe to be guilty of various war crimes, once the war is complete. Significantly, the officials said they would not turn to an international body, such as the International Criminal Court, to adjudicate these cases. Also, the U.S. said it would not pursue an ad hoc tribunal, like the International Criminal Tribunal-Yugoslavia, that's currently trying Slobodan Milosevic, for use in this situation.
W. Hays Parks, special assistant to the Army Judge Advocate General, said trials could be handled by U.S. military commissions, military courts martial, or in civilian federal courts. Parks accused Iraq's government of three specific violations of the Geneva Conventions and related laws of war, and said others were being investigated.
Analysis: This is something I've been following for a while, since it dovetails with some of my research and writing here at UCLA. At a symposium last month, I asked Mr. Prosper what he thought about this issue, and he debate that answer with David Scheffer, who was President Clinton's ambassador for war crimes and Mr. Prosper's predescessor. This is a tough issue to decide, since it really does cut both ways. On the one hand, international tribunals lend a sense of legitimacy in some situations, particularly when crimes against humanity and other similar offenses are charged. Similarly, local tribunals can give the Iraqi people a real stake in the procedure and the outcome of these trials. On the other hand, the desire to use U.S. courts (of some type) also makes sense, since our legal system has a great deal of protection for defendants and because it will allow us to control the classified information we use in the trials. (See the Classified Information Procedures Act) Personally, I think this issue is still very much in play. Until we see an actual defendant in court, I don't think the Administration has really decided on a course of action.
Update: Tomorrow's Washington Post story clarifies this issue a little bit, drawing a line between those crimes committed by Iraqis during the war with America and those crimes committed before the war (such as the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds). The former is to be tried by U.S. military or civilian proceedings; the latter is to be tried by a local ad hoc tribunal, similar to the one being used in Sierra Leone. Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin reported on this some time ago, hinting that this would be the model for the Bush Administration if any Iraqis were tried down the road for war crimes. Now, the Post reports this is exactly what may happen.
In an announcement that drew warnings about the danger of "victor's justice" from human rights organizations, officials said the United States would contribute backing and would encourage other countries to help, but would not seek to establish an international tribunal.Update II: The Pentagon has posted the full transcript of the press conference on this issue. I always find these transcripts to be useful, because you get to read the actual remarks by the men and women who work these issues -- instead of the filtered words of news reporters. They're also useful for context; sometimes it's useful to hear the reporter's question in addition to the answer.
Oakland police use force to quell protest
Various news sources report that police officers used a significant amount of force in Oakland today to respond to anti-war protesters who were demonstrating near the Port of Oakland. Among other things, police opened fire with various non-lethal projectiles such as "rubber bullets", bean bags, and wooden dowels. Police also used tear gas and officers in riot gear to disperse the protesters and arrest those who would not move. "Some people were blocking port property and the port authorities asked us to move them off," said Deputy Police Chief Patrick Haw, justifying the police intervention. "Police moved aggressively against crowds because some people threw rocks and big iron bolts at officers."
Most of the 500 demonstrators were dispersed peacefully, but police shot the projectiles at two gates when protesters refused to move and some of them allegedly threw rocks and bolts. The longshoremen, pinned against a fence, were caught in the line of fire.Analysis: I've done some riot control work as a military police lieutenant, and it's not easy. It's not easy to tell from this story whether the police were justified in using such force against the protesters or not. If they're blocking the port entrance, I'd say that doesn't qualify. If they did throw rocks and heavy objects at police officers, then that probably may be enough justification. The thing about non-lethal projectiles is that they cause a lot of unintended consequences. Against a healthy young protester, they'll cause a welt and some pain. But if you hit the wrong person (such as one with a heart condition) or hit someone in the wrong place, you can do a lot of damage. This use of police force has to be carefully measured. I might've used something less than this, such as tear gas, if I were in this situation.
Ironically, this has happened as the protests have started to die down. Here in Los Angeles, we have not had any major protests like the ones before the war and during the first few days. In San Francisco, they have not had any more breaches of the peace like the non-violent intrusion on the Pacific Stock Exchange, or coordinated "die-in" which shut down that city's traffic. I'm not sure why the protests have abated so much around the country. I suspect it has something to do with not wanting to protest so vehemently as young American men and women put their lives on the line in combat.
Update: In case you're trying to plan around the upcoming protests, I recommend surfing the International ANSWER website to find out when the big ones are coming to your hometown. These protests disrupt traffic a great deal, so I recommend doing some intelligence gathering of your own to minimize the impact of these events on your life. The group has big protests scheduled for this weekend in DC, San Francisco and L.A.
Update II: I was going write something about the protester's targeting decision -- why did these choose to picket this corporate site? It would have made much more sense to picket someone like Boeing or Northrop-Grumman, if your goal is to disrupt the American military-industrial complex. However, Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy beat me to the punch. Here's what he had to say:
If this protest was an effort to persuade Americans to be sympathetic to the antiwar cause, I think it failed, to put it mildly-- even putting aside the stuff about throwing metal bolts and blocks of wood at police officers. Just focus on what the protesters were targeting. Unless I'm missing something, the protesters in Oakland were trying to interfere with a company that is going to help rebuild Iraq, and even to bring in humanitarian aid. [See the update below for a different view, however.] Apparently the protesters targeted the company because they see it as part of a broad corporate effort to profit from the war. As one of the protesters put it, "This is the march I've been most excited about . . . . It actually got some outcomes. It's direct. Here, we're actually trying to shut the place down for a day, to take a strike straight at the actual machine of the war.'' But how is the company part of the 'actual machine of the war'? True, the company here is part of a corporate effort to profit from a U.S. government plan. The only trouble is, that plan is not a plan to wage war, but rather a postwar plan to bring peace, democracy, and prosperity to a nation that has suffered under a brutal dictator. If the protesters are against that, I don't think they'll find much company.
U.S. finds alleged chemical weapons site
American soldiers near Karbala found barrels that may contain chemical agents, according to reports from the New York Times and other sources. The soldiers' mission was to raid an abandoned training camp and search for weapons. Sure enough, they found them -- but much more than expected.
"We're treating it as real, we're reporting it as real" said Col. Tim Madere, the top chemical officer in V Corps, referring to the containers, which he said may hold the chemical/biological weapons.Analysis: If I'm reading this story right, Colonel Madere is the V Corps chemical officer and he's exactly the right guy to be commenting here. Without knowing his specific bio, I can say that officers assigned to be the Corps Chemical Officer are either full colonels or senior lieutenant colonels with about 20-25 years of experience. I trust his statements more than I trust the initial reports from the field, because such reports will have been filtered and clarified by the time they got to V Corps headquarters -- and because he has the knowledge to sort reality from puffery.
So here's how such a scenario might have unfolded. Infantrymen on the ground found something and got suspicious -- maybe the barrels, maybe some noxious smell. They probably backed off and used the chemical-detection equipment at their disposal to figure out what was around. At the same time, these soldiers probably donned their complete chemical suit -- mask, suit, gloves, boots. The initial field-level detectors appear to have registered "positive" for GB, a non-persistent nerve agent, and mustard gas. (GB is roughly synonymous with sarin) These detection systems aren't designed to be very detailed -- they're designed to tell soldiers when to suit up, and when it's clear. Once the soldiers sent this report up the chain of command, the division headquarters launched a specialized team from the 51st Chemical Company to do more samples and analysis. They probably drove up in a Fox vehicle, with some pretty sophisticated gear capable of making these findings.
So does this prove the U.S. case? Technically, yes. These are prohibited materials under various UN Security Council resolutions. However, I don't think these quantities are sufficient to make the U.S. case in the court of world opinion. We still need to find more. I suspect that thousands of American and British soldiers are working towards that end right now.
First reports are always wrong? ABC News and other sources are reporting that tests on these chemicals indicate the U.S. has found barrels full of pesticide.
A military intelligence officer for the US 101st Airborne Division's aviation brigade, Captain Adam Mastrianni, told AFP news agency that comprehensive tests determined the presence of the pesticide compounds.How could this happen? Well, a few ways. First, as stated above, these field chemical-detection devices are not the most exact things in the world. They tend to err on the false positive side, because soldiers lives are at stake and you'd rather put on your chemical suit and sweat than not put it on and die. Second, I think there are some chemicals in pesticides that are closely related to nerve agent. I'm not a chemical weapons specialist, but it's an old joke in the Army that using RAID in your house violates the chemical weapons treaties because it contains some nerve gas. If this is true, it certainly explains the mixup in the desert.
For more details... Read this Washington Post account of the incident, and the way the military is responding by Rick Atkinson and Barton Gellman from Iraq. They have some good follow up.
Another great intel dump on the war
Winds of Change has a daily report for 7 April that provides a great roundup of news/blog coverage on the war. It's so good that I'm using it to catch up on the weekend's events I missed while down at Camp Pendleton. Check it out.
Iraqi missile hits U.S. tactical operations center
CNN and others report that an Iraqi missile has struck the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. Early reports list two soldiers and two reporters as dead, and more than a dozen injured. The 2nd Brigade TOC was located south of Baghdad as the brigade conducted combat operations in and around the city. I'd like to use this incident to explain a couple of things about Army command systems.
1. What is a TOC? Brigades usually have three command posts -- the TOC, the "TAC", and the ALOC. The TAC is the "tactical" TOC, called a TAC because TTOC would be stupid. It's essentially a mini-CP that operates closer to the front lines than the TOC, and commands operations that are happening now. It may include 2-4 armored vehicles and some security, and doesn't have great capacity to plan operations. In my brigades, the commander and operations officer fought from the TAC. The ALOC is the "Administrative and Logistics Operations Center", and it usually operates far back in the Brigade Support Area where the maintenance, medical, supply and other support missions get done. The TOC is the main command center for the brigade. It tracks the current fight, plans the next fight, synchronizes brigade resources, coordinates with higher headquarters, and a lot more. The brigade TOC usually includes "plug-ins" from every unit in the brigade, such as engineers, artillery, air-defense, signal, and intelligence.
2. Can this brigade fight with the TAC and ALOC? Yes, but not as well. The TAC can track/manage the current fight and the ALOC can handle some of the functions of the TOC. But neither has the communications capabilities, size, planning staff, or equipment of the brigade TOC. They can certainly manage the fight for the next 24-48 hours, but at some point the TOC must the reconstituted to assume these functions. Also, the TAC and ALOC have their own functions, which will be somewhat neglected if they have to devote too much time to the TOC's missions.
3. How could such an attack happen? It's not clear from initial reports whether this was a lucky hit, or a targeted strike. If it's a lucky hit, then there's not a lot the U.S. can do. Whether this unit was moving or stopped, a moving missile can always find it by luck. Generally, such units move their command posts regularly for security purposes. It's also possible that this TOC was targeted by the Iraqis. American units look for enemy command posts with sensitive systems that can detect radio transmissions and other signatures that TOCs give off. It's possible -- but not likely -- the Iraqis used those technologies to find 2nd Brigade's TOC. We may never know the answer to this question. However, it's a fair bet that U.S. command posts are redoubling their efforts to hide from such detection. Some counter-measures include setting up below the crest of a hill to mask radio transmissions, and using one-direction antennae.
4. Why were reporters in the TOC? One of the things in every TOC is a giant map of the battlefield, updated with friendly and enemy-unit information in real-time. Some units have a digital map system for this; others use a paper map with plastic overlays depicting various pieces of information. The TOC is one of the few places where a reporter (or commander) can get an accurate, somewhat complete picture of the battlefield. Even in the heavily digitized 4th Infantry Division, I still had to go to my brigade TOC when I wanted a complete intel dump or picture of the battlefield. There's a lot of information out there, and it's hard to bring it all together. The TOC has a staff of dozens that spend their days doing just that, and it makes sense that reporters would hang out there to see the forest and not just the trees.
Admin note: I just got back from a great weekend of reserve training last night, so my blogging may take a few hours to catch up today. Intel Dump will have a decent set of analyses up by this evening. Thanks for your patience, and your readership.
Sunday, April 06, 2003
Are American (and allied) commando tactics legal?
That's the question that Kevin Drum poses in a disturbing post; Mark Kleiman has one set of answers here. I've written a fair amount on this, and will probably have some thoughts tomorrow after I get settled from my weekend of reserve duty. Mark's analysis looks pretty much right on. There are some legal details on the margins, such as the problems with choosing how to define lawful combatants (form or function?). I think the U.S. needs to be careful about this issue, among others. We need to scrupulously observe the laws of war in order to own the moral high ground during this conflict, and during our post-war governance of Iraq. As good as America's shadow warriors are, we can't afford to be seen as using these soldiers in any sort of illegal way.
Why the Recent Civilian Shootings Near Karbala, While Tragic, Were Probably Lawful
Writ published an essay of mine over the weekend on the incident where American soldiers shot and killed 10 Iraqi civilians as they approached their checkpoint near Karbala, Iraq. The general thrust of my essay is that such an incident -- while tragic -- will likely be ruled "legal" by the Army's lawyers because the soldiers were probably acting in self-defense. Here's a short excerpt from the piece:
Several determinative facts which have appeared in multiple news reports on this incident suggest that the soldiers did, indeed, act in self-defense. Accordingly, that is the conclusion the investigators are likely to reach.
I don't claim to have a monopoly on the facts. Indeed, I think there are several different truths about this incident that will come to light during the investigation. In writing this, I relied on the Washington Post accounts of William Branigan, because he was actually there to see the carnage. Whatever those investigations ultimately find, this vignette promises to reveal a great deal about the ways the U.S. fights under the laws of war.
Thursday, April 03, 2003
More fun than blogging
I'll be away from my newspapers, laptop and Internet connection this weekend to train with my reserve unit in Southern California. We're going to the field to train basic soldiering skills -- dismounted land navigation, basic rifle marksmanship, patrolling, and tactical mission planning. I can't wait to ruck up and go out to the field again; it's been a while since I got mud on my boots. Please come back on Sunday for more analysis and commentary on the issues of the day.
Friendly fire isn't
The Associated Press reports on a series of fatal fratricide incidents during the U.S.-led assault on Iraq, which apparently have killed more than 10 soldiers. Details remain hazy, however the Pentagon is looking into reports that a Patriot missile battery shot down an American fighter jet; reports that another jet fired on American ground fires; reports that American forces killed an American infantryman near a destroyed Iraqi tank; and reports that a Blackhawk helicopter might have been downed by friendly fire while hovering over a battle between U.S. and Iraqi forces. These incidents are certainly tragic, however I think the Pentagon's leadership got it right when they said:
"There are portions of this battle that are enormously complex, and human beings are human beings," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said. "And things are going to happen, and it's always been so and it will be so this time — it's always sad and tragic and your heart breaks when people are killed or wounded by (it)."That's about right. These incidents are tragic, but they're almost inevitable when you have thousands of soldiers and machines interacting in a combat environment. In peacetime, without bullets flying, the Army loses soldiers to fatal incidents caused by maintenance problems, equipment malfunctions, fatigue, poor planning, terrain, and a host of other causes. (It should be noted that military personnel have a lower fatality rate overall than the rest of the population, even from causes like driving, because of the intensive safety programs in all troop units) Those incidents in peacetime are tragic, but an intense effort is made after each one to learn the lessons from the event so that the death or injury is not in vain.
As a platoon leader, I did a "risk assessment matrix" before every mission that identified the risks, assessed them, and developed control measures to keep my soldiers safe. This is Army doctrine, and every platoon leader and company commander in the Army probably does some variant of this. My company commander always told me that "Nothing we do in peacetime is worth the life or limb of one of our soldiers." He was right -- these great young Americans are our most treasured resources. I'm confident that our junior leaders are doing everything they can to bring everyone home alive, and that these incidents are not the result of any deliberate indifference or negligence.
Another part of the story: Samizdata has some interesting insights into this issue, and disproportionately high numbers of fratricide incidents occurring between U.S. and British forces. (Thanks to Instapundit for the tip.)
Coda: The Army deployed for Gulf War II with an assortment of battlefield digitization equipment, including FBCB2 and other systems. In basic terms, these systems enable front-line commanders to see themselves, see the enemy, and see the terrain in real time with near-perfect fidelity (when they work). One major reason for pouring billions of dollars into these systems was to reduce the amount of fratricide from the levels in Gulf War II. When this war ends, I will definitely look for reports analyzing the effectiveness of these systems. I want to know whether they lived up to their promise, and actually reduced the amount of fratricide. More to follow.
Corrections & Amplications
1. This morning's New York Times carried a startling correction for a quote that both the New York Times and Washington Post made the centerpiece of a big story this past weekend. LTG William Wallace, commander of the Army's V Corps, told reporters that the war plan was being adjusted to fit new realities on the battlefield. Jim Dwyer and Rick Atkinson (The New York Times' and Washington Post reporters embedded in the 101st Airborne Division) ran with the story, using it to draw the larger conclusion that America's war plan was slightly off course. The Washington Post reported his quote like this:
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHELL, Iraq, March 27 -- The Army's senior ground commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, said today that overextended supply lines and a combative adversary using unconventional tactics have stalled the U.S. drive toward Baghdad and increased the likelihood of a longer war than many strategists had anticipated.The New York Times today printed a correction for what was presumably the same quote, and they have updated Jim Dwyer's story on the same press conference with LTG Wallace.
A front-page article on Tuesday about criticism voiced by American military officers in Iraq over war plans omitted two words from an earlier comment by Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of V Corps. General Wallace had said (with the omission indicated by uppercasing), "The enemy we're fighting is A BIT different from the one we war-gamed against."The Washington Post has not yet printed a correction for this story, and it's unclear whether they will.
Analysis: First off, accuracy is important. I reported this quote on Intel Dump because it ran in a prominent (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) reporter's story in a very respectable newspaper (The Washington Post). I regret having to post this correction. Second, I can't tell what exactly happened in the desert during this press conference. It's possible that both reporters heard the quote differently; it's possible that one was writing without a tape recorder; it's possible that LTG Wallace gave similar quotes at two different press conferences. I'm sure this incident will provide grist for journalism scholars after the war.
However, what is clear is that this minor correction -- just two words -- does affect the substance of the quote in some measure. Whether "a bit" means "a little" or whether it's pejorative for "a lot" is unclear. LTG Wallace is a pretty laconic guy, and I can imagine him leaning back in his chair and using "a bit" to underscore something that's big -- or the exact opposite. The Pentagon has vigorously backpedaled from LTG Wallace's comment, but I'm not sure what to make of that either. At the end of the day, we only know that the enemy is somewhat different than what we wargamed. Not to be flippant... but is there ever an enemy who fights exactly as we've wargamed? (Thanks to Eugene Volokh, citing Instapundit and PowerLine, for calling my attention to this.)
2. A reader wrote me to say that my riot-control agent note linked to an article in the New York Times that did not exist on the New York Times website. Instead, it's being run by "Common Dreams", which advertises itself as "Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community." My diligent reader thought I might be the victim of psychological operations, or a hoax. I checked the article out on Lexis, and it appears that this piece ran as an International Herald-Tribune article in the New York Times. (NYT now owns 100% of the IHT after buying out the Washington Post's stake in the joint international newspaper venture.) I'm not sure why the NYT website omitted this article, but it did. But at least I know for certain that this article actually ran, and you can rest assured that it is, in fact, a New York Times article by two of their better reporters (Nicholas Wade and Eric Schmitt).
Citizenship and service
Today's Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has awarded posthumous citizenship to two Marines killed in action before their citizenship paperwork could be completed. This administrative decision follows a July 2002 Executive Order from President Bush granting expedited citizenship to those serving in uniform. The two U.S. Marines -- Lance Cpl. Jose A. Gutierrez and Cpl. Jose A. Garibay of Costa Mesa -- died in action during the first 3 days of the conflict. Both of these young Americans have compelling stories, which I'd like to share:
Gutierrez was orphaned as a boy in Guatemala. He hopped railcars across Mexico and entered the United States illegally in early 1997. He told authorities he was 16, ensuring him special consideration as a minor with no parents. That cleared the way for him to become a dependent of Los Angeles County and receive permanent residency, according to Juvenile Court records unsealed after a request by The Times.My thoughts: I remember reading about President Bush's order in July 2002 while working in the Pentagon last summer, and thinking to myself that it was about time we did this for our so-called "green card soldiers." These men and women volunteer to serve their nation in a way that many native citizens take for granted. The executive order also reminded me a great deal of my family's history. My grandparents fled Nazi Germany in 1942, but waited in the Dutch West Indies for 10 years while U.S. immigration officials processed their application for entry. (America was less than kind to Jewish immigrants during and after World War II.) My father was 10 when he finally came to America. After he turned 18, he chose to enlist in the Army, partly to earn college money but also to pay back our family's debt to America. A generation later, I joined the Army for these reasons as well. I imagine that many of these immigrants joined for the same reasons -- educational opportunity, economic opportunity, and a chance to repay this nation for allowing them to pursue the American Dream. We owe these men an enormous debt -- the award of citizenship is a fitting tribute to these great Americans who died in action.
President approves use of riot-control agents in Iraq
The New York Times and other media report that President Bush has authorized American forces to use chemical riot-control agents, commonly known as "tear gas". (The Pentagon does not appear to have authorized the use of "pepper spray".) Presumably, such agents will be used to defend U.S. units in urban areas from large crowds of civilians without resorting to lethal or physical force.
The U.S. Defense Department said that tear gas, which has been issued to American troops but not used by them, would be used only to save civilian lives and in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by the United States in 1997. Critics say any battlefield use of tear gas would violate the convention, offend crucial allies including Britain, and hand Saddam Hussein a legal basis for using chemical weapons against the United States.Analysis: This is significant, because the U.S. doesn't authorize the use of these agents lightly. As the article points out, many legal scholars think such usage violates international law since it's hard to distinguish riot-control chemical agents from other chemical agents -- lethal or incapacitating. Moreover, tear gas can have a lethal effect on some people, particularly the very young and very old. Still, I think this is the right decision, because we want to use as much restraint as possible in Baghdad. When conducting this kind of peacemaking and nation-building operations, you need as many levels of force as possible, instead of the simple binary choice between shoot or no-shoot. If a soldier has several levels of force available, he/she can use the appropriate level when necessary to respond to the threat -- hopefully solving the problem without resorting to physical or lethal force. Non-lethal force major cornerstone of contemporary Army doctrine. I think the President is making the right decision to authorize this extra tool for our soldier's arsenal.
Update: I'm going to be interviewed on this subject by CJAD radio (Montreal, Canada) for the Ric Peterson show in about 15 minutes. The show is supposed to run from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.
Leading U.S. units don chemical gear for final attack on Baghdad
The Associated Press reports that lead units of the 3rd Infantry Division (and presumably other ground units as well) have gone to "MOPP Level 1" after crossing into the "red zone" around Baghdad. CENTCOM officials stress this is a precautionary measure, and not tied to any specific indicator that Saddam's about to launch a chemical or biological weapon at U.S. troops.
The units were both well within the 50-mile "red zone" defensive cordon around the ancient city, heightening concerns of a possible chemical attack by the Saddam Hussein regime. Marine helicopter pilots were advised to be ready to don chemical suits at a moment's notice after they moved into the range of the guns and missiles defending Baghdad.Explanation: Some background is in order here. First, what is MOPP? The term stands for "Mission Oriented Protective Posture," and MOPP levels 0 - 4 represent gradual increases in the amount of MOPP equipment you wear.
- MOPP 0 is the lowest -- it means carrying your MOPP gear, or sometimes having it readily available. This is what I lived under for most of my year in Korea.
- MOPP 1 is what these soldiers are in now; it's where you wear your chemical protective suit but carry your mask, gloves and boots. Soldiers go to MOPP 1 before battle often, because it's hard to get the suit on in the heat of combat. Soldiers are trained to don gas masks in less than 9 seconds, but putting on the suit can be quite an ordeal -- especially if you're wearing a load-bearing vest, body armor, helmet, rucksack, kneepads, and carrying a rifle.
- MOPP 2 is an incremental increase from MOPP 1; it involves putting on your rubber overboots. Again, this is often done before combat because putting these boots on can be a hassle.
- MOPP 3 is where soldiers wear their chemical gloves, but not their mask. At this point, they are just one step away from full protection.
- MOPP 4 is the level where soldiers wear their entire chemical protective ensemble -- mask, suit, boots and gloves. Suffice to say, this is not a comfortable way to fight. I usually sweated profusely in my suit, whether in the Mojave Desert or Korean mountains. Soldiers can drink through a special tube in the mask, and relieve themselves in the suit if need be, but MOPP 4 is not recommended for extended periods of time because of dehydration and fatigue risk. Also, the mask cuts down the oxygen content of inhaled air, making it harder to breathe in MOPP 4, and contributing to fatigue.
Okay... so what's a "red zone"? The first time I heard the term was in a class given by then-Brigadier General James Grazioplene in Korea to the officers of the 2nd Infantry Division. It refers to a highly contested area that the enemy wants to hold onto -- and that he has focused his defensive preparation and effort on. In the red zone, combat units can expect to encounter enemy artillery, mines, anti-tank fire, obstacles, and other problems as they attack towards the objective. One Army "lessons learned" paper defines it this way:
RED ZONE: the enemy's direct fire battle space. A dynamic, physical area that expands or contracts in relation to the ability of the enemy to acquire and engage with direct weapons fire. It is graphically characterized, in an (American) deliberate attack, as the area between the probable line of contact and the limit of advance, within enemy direct fire range. In other words, it's a bad place to be.What makes the chemical threat more likely in the red zone? There are a couple of reasons, actually. The first is the effect that chemical weapons have on American maneuver. As stated above, it's tough to get into MOPP gear. Once its on, soldiers become less nimble and more fatigued; movement becomes more difficult. Firing a chemical weapon at U.S. forces as they attack through the red zone reinforces the effect of all the obstacles like mines and concertina wire -- it slows the U.S. assault down. It also disrupts the U.S. assault, because it's harder to see things out of a gas mask, harder to drive, harder to talk on the radio -- this causes some disruption. (Note: some combat vehicles today like the M1A1 tank have an "overpressure" system that seals the tank and allows the crew to fight without MOPP 4) The second reason is more strategic in nature. If the U.S. is charging through the red zone, and clearly heading for victory, the Iraqis don't have a lot of options. If they want to survive to fight another day, they have to slow the U.S. down and delay the U.S. advance. Chemical weapons, in many ways, are regarded as a last-ditch weapon to seal escape routes and slow the attacker while the defender retreats. In many ways, chemical-weapon use is almost an indicator of U.S. success.
Bottom Line: If Iraq launches chemical weapons at U.S. forces, it will probably not kill many soldiers. (It may, however, cause a number of psychological casualties based on history and U.S. Army predictions) U.S. soldiers are trained to fight in MOPP gear and they will mostly survive such an attack. However, it will slow us down a great deal. Ultimately, however, such a move would certainly backfire for Saddam Hussein, for it would prove the American raison d'etre for entering this conflict in the first place.
Coda: Today's analysis by Tom Ricks and Jonathan Weisman in the Washington Post is worth reading for a lot of reasons, but one is that it contains some insight on this issue:
In a war whose rhythms have been erratic, the unpredictability of the situation seemed to be peaking yesterday. "We're approaching the time of desperate measures, of the maximum risk of chemical weapons, or of a political coup," said Jeffrey White, another former DIA expert on the Iraqi military.
Satellite imagery of Baghdad
Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has some great satellite photography shots of Baghdad after the bombing campaign. I'm no satellite photo analyst, but I know how to read overhead imagery of terrain. I think Glenn is right to say that "This is a useful antidote to Iraqi propaganda and to "peace" activists' hopeful fantasies of mass destruction due to U.S. bombing."
Wednesday, April 02, 2003
Interesting note about embedded reporters
First Amendment attorney John Maltbie has some background on the policies the Pentagon has promulgated for the reporters who have been "embedded" in American combat units fighting their way into Iraq. These policies have been questioned a lot lately after the quasi-expulsion of Geraldo Rivera from the region by the Pentagon for reporting on operational details of the 101st Airborne Division. John has the actual policy from the DoD on media embedding. He also has the "Release, Indemnification, and Hold Harmless Agreement and Agreement Not to Sue" signed by reporters and their media outlets before their entry into the combat zone. Both documents I(which come from official DoD sites) illuminate some of the trends we've seen in embedded coverage thus far.
An "Ivy League Soldier"
Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a well-written essay by the mother of a young infantry lieutenant in the Army's 10th Mountain Division who just received his orders to deploy overseas. She writes of a "typical Cambridge, Mass., dinner party" where the guests were discussing the war and their general opposition to this war and most things connected to the Bush Administration. The chef began a particularly virulent attack on President Bush and the war, saying ""The war won't accomplish anything. It is all about money. The Bushes are in bed with the oil industry. We are fighting to protect their interests."
My husband broke into the conversation. "This is not an academic discussion for us," he noted. "Unlike most of his Harvard College 2000 classmates, our son Alex chose to serve his country as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Infantry. Stationed at Fort Drum, New York, he has just received deployment orders."Indeed... Soldiers don't choose the wars they fight; they do their duty and fight until their missions is accomplished. An infantry lieutenant -- no matter what his political connections or pedigree -- has no say in the ultimate justice or wisdom of the wars he fights. His mission is to win, and to bring his soldiers home alive. Our democracy has depended for more than two centuries on young men (and increasingly women) who were willing to step into the breach -- whether on the battlefields of Europe or frozen mountains of Korea. In peace and war, these soldiers voluntarily choose a life of hardship and sacrifice knowing they will have little control over their deployment. One friend of mine who's still serving as an Army captain wrote me today with this eloquent thought:
"The choice to serve at all is the only choice a soldier truly makes in his/her Army career; the rest are choices made FOR him by the politicians of the day. Therefore, assuming that most of the soldiers in the Gulf truly believe in the higher political purpose may be incorrect. Many, I believe, have reconciled it just like the American people have: I did not believe in this purpose (to fight in Iraq), but the choice was not mine to make. Therefore, I will now focus on what I DO believe in (whether it's anger at Sept 11, saving your buddy, supporting your son, makes no matter)."My friend also made the point in her e-mail that many Americans have intellectually separated their support for the troops from their opposition to the war. Much of this traces to post-Vietnam guilt about the horrible way that young Americans were treated as they came home from that unpopular conflict. I'm still not sure I can reconcile the two positions. I think that criticizing a soldier's purpose ultimately hurts that soldier's morale. However, I recognize that many people have to draw this line in order to reconcile their political views with their support for our soldiers. My parting thought is that I wish more Americans would serve in uniform, especially in the elite parts of American society. That way, more Americans would appreciate the way this Ivy League mother feels about her son, the infantry lieutenant, and the sacrifices they make on our behalf.
Update: The Wall Street Journal has posted a free copy of Regina E. Herzlinger's piece on Ivy League soldiers at its OpinionJournal.Com website.
Update II: It's a small blogosphere! The host of Unlearned Hand apparently knows 1LT Alex Herzlinger well, having gone to Harvard with him and graduated from the same crosstown Army ROTC program at MIT that hosts Harvard cadets. Mr. Hand, who's a 1L at the University of Virginia's law school and a future Army JAG officer, has some personal thoughts on the WSJ piece and the larger issue of military service:
What is particularly paradoxical to me is that I see positions on both the left and right which suffer from the same disconnect with soldiers and the realities of military operations. As I've noted before, the leaders of both the current and prior administration have a notable lack of military experience, and I think we've seen as a result a notable lack of restraint in using the military to solve global issues. The same goes for most of the speakers at the various sit-ins and protests, who are unable to recognize the humanity of the American soldier and his desire to serve his country proudly and justly. Why this disconnect? Because both groups are drawn from the elite part of society, which as Phil notes, no longer contribute significant numbers to our military ranks. They don't serve in the military, and they don't have friends or family who do. I've long thought of taking a more academic look at this phenomenon, and may still do so. It is a topic that needs addressing, for the good of our military and thus our country.
Success has a thousand fathers; failure is an orphan
Mark Kleiman has a provocative pair of posts (here and here) on the war plan and those who are criticizing it, taking credit for it, and analyzing it. In the latter one, Mark also offers his own thoughtful commentary on the war's progress to date.
Luck and unit cohesion at the 'tip of the spear'
Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a great piece on the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, that's been leading the 3rd Infantry Division's charge into Iraq. Helene Cooper describes the legendary status this battalion has earned thus far in the war, and I think she paints a great picture with words.
Most American troops in Iraq have seen only snippets of action. But the 2-69 -- the Second Battalion of the 69th Armor Regiment of the Third Infantry Division's Third Brigade -- led the invasion across the Kuwait border, and it has been the tip of the spear ever since. It has undergone a steady barrage of artillery and mortar attacks and close fighting as it moved north. As of Tuesday night, it had suffered no fatalities and just a handful of injuries, one of which required a soldier's evacuation from Iraq.Analysis: Two notes on this battalion. First, luck matters in combat. The fact that 2-69 has suffered no fatalities owes a lot to great training, leadership and equipment -- but it also flows from good luck. Second, good units aren't born, and they're not made overnight. Good units are built by solid officers, sergeants and soldiers over a period of months and years. The fact that 2-69's officers have been "stabilized" for so long is very important -- these soldiers have trained under the same leadership for a long time, and trained together for a long time. That time forms the foundation of this unit's cohesion -- which ultimately matters a great deal for its effectiveness in combat.
Today's Army does not emphasize unit cohesion with its personnel policies. Officers and soldiers are transferred around the world as individuals, and Army policies have only recently started to focus on building competent, stable teams in units. Leaders at the platoon, company and battalion level fight a constant battle against personnel turnover. Maintaining this kind of unit cohesion is very tough in the peacetime Army. (See Path to Victory by Don Vandergriff for more on this problem and some solutions for the Army) If the leaders of 2-69 did one thing right before deploying, it was to build a good team for the fight ahead. This battalion has also benefitted from being deployed in Kuwait so long. Over there, they were able to practice the art of warfare without the distractions of home, and build the kind of skill and unit cohesion normally only seen in elite units. 2-69 Armor has been successful for many reasons -- great equipment, great support, great tactics, etc. But in the end, I think its leaders and soldiers are what make the difference at the tip of the spear.
U.S. "destroys" Republican Guard division
The Associated Press reports that CENTCOM is claiming victory over a Republican Guard division that American forces pummeled throughout the night and day. In their drive to Baghdad, parts of the 3rd Infantry Division appear to have made contact with the Baghdad Division -- and they appear to have "destroyed" it by direct fire (tank guns, missiles, etc) and indirect fire (artillery, aircraft).
U.S. forces had entered what U.S. commanders call a "red zone" near Baghdad, and Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks warned that it might be an area where the Iraqis would consider using chemical or other weapons of mass destruction.Primer: What exactly does "destroyed" mean in Army-speak? Believe it or not, it's a difficult question that military commanders haggle over all the time. It has a specific meaning according to military doctrine; destroy is not the same as "defeat" or "neutralize." According to FM 101-5, the military defines destroy as:
destroy - 1. A tactical task to physically render an enemy force combat-ineffective unless it is reconstituted. 2. To render a target so damaged that it cannot function as intended nor be restored to a usable condition without being entirely rebuilt. Artillery requires 30 percent incapacitation or destruction of enemy force. (See also defeat.)What do these definitions mean so far as the Baghdad Division goes? First, it means that the U.S. has not completely wiped out the Baghdad Division; it's only attrited it down to 70% or less. That figure rests on an assumption about what casualty percentage is necessary to make a unit fold and stop fighting. As we've seen thus far, such assumptions may be flawed if this enemy fights more tenaciously than we expect. Second, CENTCOM's use of the term "destroy" mean mean that we've met their trigger criteria for the final assault on Baghdad. Remember when I talked about setting the conditions? It's a safe bet that one of the conditions was "The Baghdad Division is destroyed." American forces have now met that condition, and I think we will see a series of operations launched as a result.
Update: The New York Times reports that American forces have given the famed Medina Division of the Republican Guard "a severe mauling." I'm not quite sure what this term means in doctrinal terms -- it's hard to quantify exactly what a "severe mauling" means. (If I lost a hand, I'd consider it a severe mauling, despite the fact that I've lost less than 10% of my body weight.) Later in the story, a Pentagon spokesman says "the Medina and Baghdad divisions of the Republican Guard are being pounded so badly that they are 'no longer credible forces.'" Again, I'm not sure what this means. I hate to sound like an Army schoolhouse instructor, but the military has jargon for a reason -- each word (like "destroy") carries a specific and established meaning. Sometimes, it'd be nice if the Pentagon used a little more jargon so we knew exactly what they were saying.
Two excellent pieces in Writ on war coverage and decisionmaking
Writ is an online journal of legal analysis and commentary run by the staff at Findlaw.Com. I've written a couple of pieces for the journal. I think it provides a great deal of cutting-edge legal analysis that's too current to make it into law journals, yet too legalistic for most mainstream media. The two pieces represent some of the better work I've seen thus far on this site, and I think both are worth reading.
1. Supreme Command: Who Should Be In Charge Of Operation Iraqi Freedom?
This piece comes from John Dean, who served as White House Counsel in the Nixon Administration, and has written extensively on legal and political affairs since that job. Dean writes mostly about the book Supreme Command, written last year by Eliot Cohen and allegedly read by President Bush last summer.
To make the case that the politicians who head democracies should make the decisions in times of war, Supreme Command examines the wartime leadership of four eminently successful war leaders: Abraham Lincoln, Georges Clemenceau, Winston Churchill, and David Ben Gurion.2. Can the Means by Which War Is Covered Be Changed to Be Less Biased?
Julie Hilden, a First Amendment attorney and author, has a provocative essay about the pitfalls of press reporting from Gulf War II. (Full disclosure: Julie is also my editor at Writ) She writes that embedded reporters have come to dominate press coverage of the war, and that this coverage has been almost entirely pro-war and pro-Coalition.
The embedded reporter program lets journalists travel with troops to report what they are seeing, while simultaneously restricting what they can report (to prevent classified information from leaking). As a result, reporters who are "embeds" inevitably tell primarily the story that the U.S. military wants viewers to see.Read the rest of Julie's essay for the answer, and some more interesting analysis of how blogging has become an inherently anti-war medium of communication in this war (notwithstanding Intel Dump).
Tuesday, April 01, 2003
With friends like these...
Matt at Stop the Bleating thinks I may be suffering from a blogger's affliction known as "hit addiction". He may be right. After writing that I would be slowing down to focus on my law school coursework, I've managed to pen more posts than I should have. So once again, I renew my pledge to slow down the blogging... I'll probably go to once/twice-a-day commentaries as final exams consume my time.
Winds of Change summary
If you only check one 'blog a day... it probably should be one like Winds of Change. Their daily "On the Battlefield" summary does a great of bringing together news reports, weblog postings, commentaries, and other pieces of information that you'd have to surf a long time to find.
Pentagon and McCaffrey exchange broadsides
Earlier in the day, I recommended a Wall Street Journal essay by retired-General Barry McCaffrey, in which he criticized the Bush Administration and Rumsfeld Pentagon for trying to fight this war on the cheap. I read excerpts from a Pentagon press conference today indicating that the Pentagon was quite unhappy with these comments, and that current-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers in particular had something to say to Mr. McCaffrey and others who have criticized the American war plan lately.
"I don't know how (the reports) get started, and I don't know how they've been perpetuated, but it's not been by responsible members of the team that put this all together," Myers said.Tonight, the New York Times reports that retired-Gen. McCaffrey has fired back, speaking from his office as a professor at West Point.
"I'm a professor of national security studies, and I know a lot more about fighting than he does," General McCaffrey, who led a mechanized infantry division during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, said of Mr. Rumsfeld. "The problem isn't that the V Corps serving officers are commenting or that retired senior officers are commenting on television. The problem is that they chose to attack 250 miles into Iraq with one armored division and no rear-area security and no second front."Analysis: Wow. That's quite an explosion between some of America's senior statesmen. I'm not sure what to make of these fireworks between America's current military leadership and one of its most respected old soldiers. I think these exchanges can be healthy if they ultimately produce a better plan and a better picture of the enemy. If the Pentagon has fallen victim to "group think", McCaffrey's perspective may be just the thing to break the malaise among the current leadership. However, dissent may also make the decision-making process less efficient. It may also detract from the political support the President needs to continue leading and funding this war. It's too early to tell how this dispute will turn out. I think we will see more fireworks tomorrow.