Tuesday, April 15, 2003
News media rankings -- post-war thoughts
On March 10, I offered my rankings of major newspaper coverage of the events leading up to the war. That date seems like a long time ago, given all that's happened in the last 5 weeks. I decided to revisit my rankings today to offer my thoughts on how these papers did with their war coverage.
My original rankings listed the papers as:
1. The Washington Post
2. The Wall Street Journal
3. The Los Angeles Times
4. The Washington Times
5. The New York Times
with honorable mentions going to: Army Times, Slate, the Associated Press, Stars & Stripes, and CNN.Com
Here are my updated rankings:
1. The Washington Post. (The winner and still champion)
What I said then: "Simply put, the paper has the best team in the best places...The Post deployed some of its best reporters -- including famous author Rick Atkinson -- to the Gulf. In Washington, they have an all-star team of anchors including Tom Ricks, Vernon Loeb, and Dana Priest."
My thoughts now: The Post had great coverage because it had great reporters covering every aspect of the story -- from the Pentagon to the Persian Gulf. It didn't send its green reporters to war, nor did it leave its stale reporters at home. Rick Atkinson consistently produced great work in the desert, as did William Branigan with the 3rd Infantry Division. But no one could compare to the news analyses produced by Tom Ricks and Vernon Loeb (among others) in Washington. These men clearly had their fingers on the pulse of the war, and their analyses were where I turned first for strategic and operational predictions about the war.
2. The Wall Street Journal. (Holding steady at #2)
What I said then: "The Journal, like The Post, has deployed some of its all stars to the Gulf to be embedded with troop units. And like The Post, the WSJ has an outstanding anchor in Greg Jaffe, who reports from the Pentagon."
My thoughts now: The WSJ produced some of the best embedded reports of the war, especially from Helene Cooper with the 3rd Infantry Division. The Journal also did some of the best work to look beyond the war towards reconstruction. Neil King (and others) tenaciously followed the reconstruction contracts story, and broke it before anyone else with more depth than anyone else.
3. The Los Angeles Times. (Steady in third place)
What I said then: "My hometown paper has some outstanding talent on the story too... They have produced some of the best articles to date on the Washington politics behind the war."
My thoughts now: The Times reporters in the field really excelled, as did the Times staff in Washington and L.A. Tony Perry has been covering the Marines for some time as part of his San Diego beat, and he deployed with Camp Pendleton's Marines to the desert. He delivered outstanding reporting from there. The Times also delivered a lot of great reporting on the internal machinations within the Pentagon on the war.
4. The New York Times. (Up one place to #4)
What I said then: "The Times' best reporting comes from its veterans like John Burns and C.J. Chivers, but they're not the ones covering the war directly. Instead, the Times has put these people behind enemy lines to tell stories of the Kurds and other groups. Their Washington coverage is less than you'd expect from the New York Times."
My thoughts now: I think this prediction really bore itself out. However, the NY Times' editorial judgment to put its best people behind enemy lines led to some of the best reporting of the war from those locations. John Burns did a great job in Baghdad, and C.J. Chivers provided insights that no one else had from his vantage point in Northern Iraq. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the military analyses from chief military correspondent Michael Gordon in Kuwait. His insights did not offer anything that I couldn't get elsewhere -- or think of myself -- and I think he would've been better deployed in Washington to smoke out stories in the Pentagon.
5. Slate. (On the list from the honorable mention category)
What I said then: Just an honorable mention.
My thoughts now: Slate hired some outstanding reporters to do continuing analysis on its site of the war, and it really paid off. Fred Kaplan's War Stories column provided some of the best insight out there into "Shock and Awe" and other subjects. William Saletan's "Bloghdad" offered good running commentary as well, with a healthy dose of political insight. I think Slate deserves to knock the Washington Times off the list.
- Army Times: Look for some of the best post-war analyses to come from Army Times. After other media leave the story, the Army Times will be in the trenches interviewing redeploying soldiers. The Army Times will also have most of the good "action action review" stories leaked from inside the Pentagon or the Army's schoolhouses.
- The Washington Times: Anyone frustrated with the Bush Administration who's a conservative is going to leak their stories to the Washington Times. Some critics of women in combat have already promised to fight the Pentagon after the war on that issue, and they will probably start their effort on the editorial pages of the Washington Times and National Review.
- The Associated Press: The AP has to make the list simply because of their breadth -- if not their depth. Robert Burns, the AP military correspondent in the Pentagon, deserves notice too. Lots of other writers (including me) rely on his first reports to start their deeper coverage.
- CNN.Com: The CNN website provided a great wire service for those who wanted a second opinion after seeing the AP's first report. Their website also had great video/audio footage from embedded correspondents, such as Martin Savidge.
Okay, that's it -- Phil Carter's updated, unofficial top 5 list for the best war coverage. I'll relook the subject again in a few weeks, as the reconstruction effort kicks into high gear.
Beating .coms into swords, and other economic benefits of war
I've come to expect good economic analysis and insight from the Wall Street Journal, and today was no disappointment. Since the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act was proposed with $380 billion in defense spending, I've wondered just how much of a benefit our economy might see from the global war on terrorism. According to an article in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required), not much.
In a strong economy, the additional billions almost certainly would have led to the expansion of facilities and to increased hiring. That isn't happening much this time. The reason? Companies have excess capacity. So, while defense spending is staving off layoffs and keeping firms profitable, some industries are still facing a paucity of private-sector orders and don't need to add workers or open new factories to accommodate the increased business.Indeed, the current war on terrorism does not match the levels of spending for past American wars, according to some experts. This may be because the U.S. has maintained such a large standing force during the Cold War and afterwards, in contrast to the demobilized force that had to be rebuilt for the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Today, defense spending is a constant presence in the economy, whereas back then it represented much more of a shot in the arm.
During earlier conflicts, the economy benefited more from security outlays: The spending was larger than what is anticipated now and the U.S. economy was less diverse. During the Korean War, for instance, increased defense spending between late 1950 and the end of 1951 equaled 8% of the economy, according to Yale University economist William Nordhaus. That is about $800 billion in today's dollars.Finally, the article points out that the war may even hurt some parts of the economy, such as base towns that depend on the presence of soldiers and families to sustain local businesses.
While war usually is seen as good for military areas, the opposite can be true. With a population of about 30,000, Hinesville, Ga., has been hit by mobilization of nearly all of the 16,000 soldiers at nearby Fort Stewart. Many spouses decided to wait out the war elsewhere, too, though officials are urging families to stay put.True enough... but I suspect that after the 3rd Infantry Division comes home, Hinesville will see a boom like never before. Many 3ID soldiers have been gone for nearly a year, and those without families have saved thousands of dollars during their deployment. I'd love to be a new car dealer in Hinesville when these men and women come home from their deployment.
Goals shift in new phase of the war
The Washington Post has an interesting article today on the new goals of American forces in Iraq. With the Pentagon saying that major combat operations are over, the new focus is on enforcing law & order and finding Saddam's nuclear/chemical/biological stockpiles. Secondarily, it also appears the U.S. wants to lay the groundwork for post-war reconstruction and nation-building efforts, insofar as it's beginning to award contracts for those areas.
As one reader reminds me, this "shift" to "new goals" is really more of a reprioritization than anything. In March, Secretary Rumsfeld outlined the goals for this campaign, which included things like searching for chemical weapons and rebuilding Iraq. While fighting through the Republican Guard, those tasks fell in priority when compared to tasks like defeating the Iraqi army. With that task near completion, the priorities have changed. In war, commanders express their intent in terms of purpose, key tasks (or method), and end state. Secretary Rumsfeld outlined a number of key tasks in March, and what we're seeing now is not the articulation of "new" ones, so much as the shifting of emphasis towards the ones that were already there but not at the top of the list.
D.C. area firm wins contract to build school system in Iraq
The New York Times and others report that Creative Associates International has received a $62 million contract from USAID to improve primary and secondary education for Iraqi children. Creative Associates already does work in this area for USAID in Morocco and Afghanistan, and will presumably build on those templates in Iraq. When the situation calms down some more, the firm will start by sending advance teams to assess the situation in the country. I'm going to guess this contract is the tip of the iceberg too, since you can't do a lot for $62 million besides make an assessment and an initial foray. If we're serious about rebuilding Iraq's schools (and we ought to be), this is going to cost more money.
Monday, April 14, 2003
Pacific Northwest man pleads guilty to providing material support for terrorism
Earnest James Ujaama, accused under 18 U.S.C. 2339b for providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations, has decided to plead guilty to the charges arrayed against him. Ujaama, a Muslim convert, was accused of trying to raise money for Al Qaeda and other organizations inside the United States, as well as trying to build a terrorist training camp in Oregon. His prosecution came at the same time as several others for this crime, including the "Lackawanna Six" in upstate New York and former-Prof. Sami Al-Arian in Florida. All were accused of providing various forms of logistical and financial support to foreign terrorist organizations. Critics said these prosecutions went after "small fish" in the terrorist world, and that they prosecuted people for otherwise innocent financial transactions. However, I have argued (along with others) that such prosecutions are key to dismantling global terror networks like Al Qaeda, which depends on its ability to move men, materiel and money around the world through men like Mr. Ujaama.
Correction: A diligent reader wrote me to say that Mr. Ujaama hailed from Seattle, not Oregon, and that I should correct my reference to him. After reading the indictment, I agree with my reader and disagree with CNN.Com's story. Thus, I've changed my headline. The same reader also said that Mr. Ujaama's sentence may wind up being less than one year in prison, with credit for time served. I'm going to dig into this issue, and the exact charges that he pled guilty to, both because I'm curious and because I'm teaching a class at UCLA next year on law and terrorism and this is one of my case studies. More to follow...
More forces on the way to Iraq
The Associated Press reports that America's 4th Infantry Division has entered Iraq, and that the 1st Armored Division has begun to move its equpiment from Germany to sea ports in preparation for deployment there.
The Army's 1st Armored Division is moving its equipment to ports for shipment to the Gulf region, and its troops will follow by air in a couple of weeks, a division spokesman, Maj. Scott Slaten, said Monday. The division is sending two armored brigades and one aviation brigade from bases in Germany, and one brigade is going from its base at Fort Riley, Kan., Slaten said.Analysis: Details are intentionally being left out right now by the Pentagon because the operational timelines for these deployments are somewhat sensitive. However, my best guess is that 4ID will fully enter Iraq within one week, and 1AD will be fully in Iraq within 4 weeks. The bulk of 4ID's equipment appears to have reached Kuwait after sitting off the coast of Turkey. 1AD's soldiers will deploy as their equipment floats down from Germany (with one brigade floating over from the United States). The AP article hints that one division may be rotated out of theater. That would probably be the 3rd Infantry Division, which deployed first to the region and has had some elements there for almost a year.
My next guess is that these forces are coming in with a heavy security focus. That is, their first mission will be to secure key cities and areas in Iraq and establish order where now there is chaos. Each division has also been plussed up with a great deal of combat support and logistical assets, including extra military police and engineer units that are essential for nation-building work. I also expect that we'll start to see an operational blueprint for Iraq emerge in the next two weeks, where the country is divided into some type of sector system with responsibility divided between American and British forces for their respective sectors.
American Marines build a government in Iraq
Victor Hanson wrote a great military history book in which he argued that democracies produce better armies because their soldiers believe in their cause, have a voice in selecting their leadership, and develop a sense of personal independence that enables them to adapt, innovate and prevail on the battlefield. According to this article from The Washington Post's Jonathan Finer, American liberal (small L) society may have another benefit for our soldiers in the field: it teaches them how to create democracy.
BAGHDAD, April 13 -- The new "mayor" of Katarrah, a bustling commercial and residential neighborhood in central Baghdad, is a 29-year-old Marine lieutenant from Totowa, N.J., named Adam Macaluso.Almost no training... except for being born and raised in a democratic society where the values of freedom, liberty, and equality were taught and followed every day. Our young men and women in Iraq have learned democracy by living it, and they are now well suited to impart those lessons to the Iraqi people. If I had to choose between crusty diplomats from the State Department (or worse the United Nations) to teach this stuff, and young soldiers like Lt. Cerroni, I'd choose the latter every time.
First steps from chaos to order
Today's Washington Post carries an interesting article on the practical problems American soldiers and Marines are facing in Iraq as they begin to enforce law and order. In many cases, infantry units are being tasked with police missions because there are so few Military Police to go around. After watching looting for a few days, composite units of infantry, MPs and Civil Affairs specialists are taking their first furtive steps towards establishing a civil police force in Iraq.
Although U.S. military officers here say they want to have Iraqi policemen patrolling the streets, Iraqi electricians fixing the power grid and Iraqi engineers working on the water supply, making that happen has turned out to be far more complicated than saying: "Back to work."
This is hard stuff. Baghdad's a big city, and it's a city with an awful history of repression. It also just suffered a cataclysmic change in government. Imagine that the Los Angeles Police Department was summarily fired on one day, and you had to build a police department from scratch the next. Sure, you could hire some of the senior officers back, and many of the lower ranking police officers. But there's an awful lot of bad applies in the LAPD, as there probably were in the Iraqi police agencies, and you have to screen them out. This is going to take time; it's not going to happen in time for May sweeps month to boost TV ratings. Building law and order is a manpower, capital and time-intensive endeavor. And we've just started.
Sunday, April 13, 2003
Pentagon: Toppling of Saddam statue recalls the fall of the Berlin Wall
The Pentagon's official website has a veritable cornucopia of news items on it, from press releases announcing reserve mobilizations to "news articles" on top Pentagon officials. (It also has more spin than a laundromat) One of those articles quotes Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as saying to foreign media that the toppling of Saddam's statue last week in Baghdad by U.S. Marines was like "seeing the Berlin Wall come down all over again." Mr. Wolfowitz, who's an avowed hawk on Iraq-related issues and widely regarded as the intellectual architect of Gulf War II, added that the Iraqi people had a great opportunity today in the wake of Hussein's removal.
"The people of Iraq now have it within their power to establish a constitution and a political system that will reflect their real wishes and interests," Wolfowitz said. He added that the task is the Iraqis'; the United States is just there to support their efforts.Analysis: This is a very interesting choice of metaphor by Mr. Wolfowitz. First, it should be said that the imagery itself does not quite support such an analogy. For one, the crowds near Brandenburg Gate in 1989 were far larger than in Baghdad's square last week. Also, there was no attendant looting or breakdown in law & order after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Second, the teardown of the Berlin Wall came as a relatively peaceful event -- not after any great war on Berlin. Granted, the event marked the end of the Cold War, but there's quite a big difference between a cold war and a hot one.
That said, the comparison may have much larger implications. The reunification of Germany was a massive undertaking in every sense -- politically, economically, socially, legally, and otherwise. It dragged down the former West German economy for a number of years, and required extensive foreign direct investment in the former East Germany. Despite being the crown jewel of the Warsaw Pact, East Germany's social and economic infrastructure lagged far behind that of West Germany. Though the wall's collapse was a major step forward, it heralded a great deal of work that had to be done during the 1990s to make this more than a symbolic event. Similarly, the toppling of Saddam's statues in Baghdad heralds much more than a regime change. Every aspect of Iraqi society must be rebuilt from the ground up -- for the current systems are built on the foundation of a repressive regime. Iraq has no legal system, no property system, no civil police, no public school system, and no government separate from that of Saddam Hussein. The Ba'ath Party infected every one of these institutions before the war, and they must either be cleansed or rebuilt. This promises to be a massive undertaking -- perhaps so large that even America alone cannot manage it. If the fall of the Berlin Wall is to be our historical reference, then we know we have at least 10 years of hard work ahead of us in Iraq.
Post script: German leaders are less than pleased by the comparison of Baghdad to Berlin, according to Reuters. Wolfgang Thierse, president of Germany's Parliament, thought such comparisons were historically inaccurate, and inappropriate given German opposition to this war.
"When East Germans and other Eastern Europeans knocked down the statues, the people did it by themselves and not with the troops of a victorious war participant," added Thierse, who as president of the parliament is second only to President Johannes Rau as the leading representative of Germany.
If you only read one article on the war, this should be it
Rick Atkinson, Peter Baker and Tom Ricks have an outstanding analysis of the high-intensity phase of the war in today's Washington Post. Just to reiterate, both Atkinson and Ricks have won the Pulitzer Prize for their writing on the military (two times in Atkinson's case), Peter Baker is one of The Post's all-stars as well. Their analysis has consistently been better than any other newspaper, largely I believe because of their intimate knowledge of the military institution and its inner workings. Today, they describe a war plan that started out as confused, misdirected and troubled -- but eventually led to the end of Saddam's regime.
On March 27, outside the city of Najaf, Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of the U.S. Army's V Corps, met with Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. As they sat on gray folding chairs in the desert wasteland, the war seemed to be in dismal shape.
America rescues seven of its own
I woke up this morning to the outstanding news that we had rescued seven American prisoners of war -- five from the 507th Maintenance Company and two from the 1-227 Aviation Regiment (Attack). Once again, our military has upheld the creed that "I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy..." The details of their rescue are still somewhat hazy, and may not fully be known for several days. Nonetheless, I think this probably gave a tremendous shot in the arm to every man and women serving in the Gulf right now. Knowing that your buddies will come for you -- no matter what -- means a lot to the American soldier.
The rescued prisoners were reported in good condition, although two had suffered gunshot wounds, the officers said. The soldiers were flown to a military medical facility near Baghdad.Analysis: There's a better piece of news in this rescue that a lot of pundits have not jumped on yet. It appears that Iraq has decided to follow the laws of war, at least insofar as treating prisoners of war goes. American soldiers found PFC Jessica Lynch being tended to in a crude hospital, and found these soldiers in relatively good condition. It appears that some of the 507th's soldiers were shot and killed in the ambush, or immediately afterwards, probably by the front-line soldiers who conducted the ambush. Their bodies were recovered with PFC Lynch. However, these 7 POWs were recovered in relatively "good shape", according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. That's significant. Despite all of the this Iraq has allegedly done in violation of the laws of war, such as hiding its soldiers in civilian areas and civilian clothes, it has at least respected the Third Geneva Convention with respect to American POWs. My best guess is that our psychological operations campaign worked -- that Iraqi military commanders at the senior levels became genuinely concerned with war crimes prosecutions after the war. Thus, when these POWs were transferred to higher headquarters, their treatment improved. We may learn in subsequent debriefings that they were mistreated. But the first reports of their condition seem to indicate some measure of decent treatment.
Sidebar: The Pentagon has an interesting briefing here on the medical care we've giving to Iraqi POWs in American military facilities. Of course, we are prioritizing our own casualties before these enemy soldiers. But according to this brief, we are also giving them some state-of-the-art medical care that these men would otherwise not see in their lifetimes.
First tests for Total Information Awareness
Noah Shachtman reports at DefenseTech that the Pentagon has performed its first tests on Total Information Awareness, the program that critics called Orwellian and proponents called the answer to information-fusion problems in America's security community. (Original story from AP)
Lt. Col. Doug Dyer, a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), told a privacy conference that the recent test examined records of over-the-counter drug purchases, "which could indicate planning of a bioterrorist attack."Analysis: Last we heard, TIA was blocked by a Congressional "reporting requirement" that forbade the Pentagon from moving forward until it found ways to mitigate civil-liberties concerns and reported to Congress on those measures. However, it appears from this report that parts of TIA are moving forward. I've gone on record several times as a TIA supporter, mostly because I'm familiar with the need to gather/integrate/analyze information from so many different sources in the homeland security area -- and the tremendous difficulty we face today in doing so. However, I also support the idea of placing controls on the program to mitigate any Constitutional risk that exists. More to follow...
Friday, April 11, 2003
Admin note: A diligent reader just reminded me to republish my archives in order to make my permanent links work. Thanks for the reminder. I just republished all of Intel Dump's pages, so all my permalinks should work now.
At some point, the chaos and looting must end
The New York Times and others report today that Mosul has fallen to allied forces. Mosul fell without a fight as Iraqi defenders either fled the city or deserted to join the civilian population. Allied forces entered the city to find massive displays of looting and disorder, largely directed at the former bastions of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Residents said that it appeared that most of the Iraqi fighters had fled by 7 p.m. Thursday. With their departure, the city fell into a frenzy of looting and lawlessness.Analysis: I wrote earlier that this looting may be working to our advantage in Iraq. That is, that American-led forces may encourage civilian looting (particularly of government buildings) as a way of empowering Iraqi citizens and demonstrating the end of the Hussein regime. However, at some point, the looting must end. American and British commanders must select a point at which the looting goes too far -- a point when order must be restored. From that point forward, U.S.-led forces must do everything in their power to stop this kind of behavior. Clearly, no major reconstruction or humanitarian efforts can proceed while looting and chaos reign in Iraq. It goes without saying that Iraq's economy cannot begin to function again while such chaos exists. America's ultimate goal is to build a peaceful and stabile Iraq. Iraqi society will not function so long as this behavior continues. This disorder may serve American purposes today, but that expediency will not last for long.
Analysis II: In a few days, I should have a longer analysis on the subject of law and order in Iraq. But here's a quick summary. In short, Iraq has not known true civil order without repression for at least a generation. Saddam's regime maintained order with the tactics of a police state, and as such, the looting we see today is only natural because the yoke of that police state has been thrown off. In the coming weeks and months, America must carefully build the artifice of civil society from the ground up. Presumably, this means Iraq needs a Constitution, a judiciary, a civil police force, and so on. Imagine all the institutions we take for granted in Western society that promote law and order -- none of those exist in analogous form within Iraq. This will be a critical task for the American reconstruction effort, and I hope we have some of our best military, legal and law-enforcement minds at work on the solution.
Embedded reporters hop out of bed with units
Bill Carter (no relation) reports in today's New York Times that several news organizations have pulled their reporters from the units they were traveling with to cover other stories in Iraq -- or to leave the country altogether.
At least 20 of the more than 500 so-called embedded reporters have left their current postings in recent days, many of them reassigned to begin reporting independent of military oversight.Analysis: Clearly, there is a conflict between what the media wants and what the Pentagon wants. (What else is new?) Embedding was a great way for these reporters to get the close-up stories they couldn't get during Gulf War I, and to see the action first-hand with some protection from U.S. forces. Now that the high-intensity phase has died down, I can see the logic in the media's position. They want to cover the new stories, and they want to do it from a more objective vantage-point than with U.S. forces. Some reporters will undoubtedly stay with the troops, because there are still good stories to be gained that way. All in all, I don't see much of a problem with this shifting around of news resources.
Coda: Moreover, the embedded media have already paid off for the Pentagon -- bigtime. First, the number of Ernie Pyle-esque stories from these embedded reporters has been staggering. As a veteran, I've really enjoyed this kind of coverage, because it's put a human face on the war for me (and because lots of my friends have made the news this way.) Second, the embedded media were there to capture the big events in Baghdad as they happened. America still has no official surrender from Iraq. But we do have the vivid footage of Saddam's statute being torn down by an M-88 armored vehicle. That footage alone is priceless -- and something that may not have happened if not for embedded media.
Post Script: Several readers have written me to remind me of an important geographic point: the Saddam statue toppled by our M88 on live television was right across the street from the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad where scores of journalists spent the war. Thus, even without embedding, "neutral" media crews would have captured this footage for the world to see. This much is certainly true. Except that they would not have been privy to the American plan, or had easy access to the American Marines who carried out the mission, to get the full story. Perhaps the best example of embedded coverage working was William Branigan's reporting for The Washington Post on the shooting of several Iraqi civilians at a checkpoint. By virtue of his proximity to the incident and the trust he had built with the 3rd Infantry Division's soldiers, Mr. Branigin was able to gather the facts on that incident and provide an accurate account of what happened. He was also able to contextualize that incident in terms of what the soldiers were thinking and what they were briefed on, since he was privy to those insider details. This -- and many other vignettes -- make the point that embedding has been a resounding success for the Pentagon.
U.S. disseminates list of "Iraq's Most Wanted"
The Associated Press reports that CENTCOM is distributing decks of cards to soldiers with names, pictures and descriptions of some of the worst of the worst within Saddam's toppled regime. The idea is to put this information out at the lowest level so that soldiers have the information they need to capture these men. Ironically, the deck of cards really is a playing deck of cards -- complete with Saddam Hussein as the ace of spades. (Who's the joker?)
The cards, with pictures of the most-wanted figures, were distributed to thousands of U.S. troops in the field to help them find the senior members of the government. The names also were being put on posters and handbills for the Iraqi public, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said.Analysis: This is a great idea, and the officer who thought of this probably deserves a commendation for creativity. The "black/gray/white" list of "good/okay/bad" people I got as an MP platoon leader were usually pretty hard to read black/white photocopies with awful pictures and bad descriptions. Playing cards are pocket-sized, easy to use, and it looks like the photos have pretty good fidelity. Moreover, soldiers are likely to hold onto these decks, both because they want to play cards and because they want to do their mission. (Also, such decks will fetch a hefty price on E-Bay after the war) But the real important thing is this: we're making a commitment to finding and capturing these men (and possibly women). In the Balkans, American commanders (and political leaders) refused to take on such a mission. In Iraq, we realize that bringing these men to justice is important for the post-war stability we hope to build. Presumably, such men will be tried by the local tribunals set up by the United States -- but run by Iraqi civilians. This will empower the new Iraqi judicial system and invest the Iraqi people in the justice meted out to these men.
Firms rush to market "shock and awe"
Noah Shachtman at DefenseTech passes along an interesting story about the number of businesses -- from Sony to pesticide makers -- trying to trademark the phrase "shock and awe" for their respective marketing campaigns. "Shock and Awe" originally came from a 1996 book by Harlan K. Ullman, so presumably he owns some stake in this phrase. However, it's been used so pervasively by public figures and media pundits that I'm not sure anyone has a clear claim to this anymore. Of course, I'm no intellectual-property expert. I'm sure media-law blogger John Maltbie will have some interesting thoughts on this -- and other battles over intellectual property -- that occur as a result of the second Gulf War. Hasbro (the maker of GI Joe), Nintendo, and the rest of the toy/gaming market are likely to engage in some pretty fierce fights over this stuff. I'll skip the larger social commentary about the way that war toys affect children. Suffice to say, war toys and war games are big business. The stakes in this kind of IP litigation are huge -- we're talking billions of dollars.
Thursday, April 10, 2003
Support for military families
A mentor of mine at UCLA Law School sent this note to me today. Please join me in donating to these worthy organizations. In my experience leading soldiers, AER did a lot to help young soldiers in need. At this moment, I imagine they're quite busy, and in need of our support.
Dear Colleagues: As you know, dozens of America's young people serving in the military in Iraq have been killed in the past three weeks. This is a special problem for Southern California, because a large number of the fatalities come from Camp Pendleton. Many of them leave little in the way of resources. This is especially the case for young enlisted personnel. For those of you who feel inclined to support the families they leave behind, let me suggest two websites where a credit card donation may be made: www.nmcrs.org; www.aerhq.org. These organizations are the Navy-Marine Corp Relief Society and the Army Relief Society, respectively. Thanks.Update: Friday's Washington Post has a story on the various aid organizations that support men and women in the Army, Navy, Air Forces, Marines and Coast Guard.
Is it over?
While it looks like the high-intensity phase of the war has ended, the fighting still looks far from over. Baghdad erupted in fits of violence today, as a suicide bomber injured four Marines and one other Marine was killed when his unit tried to seize a mosque in the city. The official word is that formal resistance has "crumbled" -- that Saddam Hussein's regime is no more. That may be true. But it's equally clear that unorganized resistance -- and chaos -- both continue to threaten the American mission to build a lasting peace in Iraq.
So... the answer is that it's not over -- whatever it is. The demise of law and order poses a major threat, as soldiers can find themselves the victims of looters and violent mobs. The war to liberate Iraq has now entered the next phase; a more difficult and protracted phase of peacemaking and nation-building. The threat remains, particularly from those elements of Saddam's regime that now feel they have nothing left to lose. Before his regime fell, these elements fought for a piece of the nation they felt they still had. Now that America has triumphed, they may fight with renewed vigor -- flinging themselves at American and British troops to achieve martyrdom in the twilight of their failure to defend Iraq. To date, we have only seen a few suicide attacks on U.S.-led forces -- many fewer than experts predicted in an attack on a Muslim nation. Those attacks may increase, both in frequency and intensity. Then open war of tanks and artillery may be over. But in many ways, the messy war of infantry, military police and intelligence has just begun.
"Speed and violence of action" -- What won the war II
In training for urban combat, one of my NCOs used to preach the value of "speed and violence of action." Move to a building. Throw a grenade through the entry window. Throw soldiers in. Clear the first room; move to the next. Keep moving. Hit 'em as hard and fast as possible, so the enemy can't react. The key to success was moving fast with the right amount of force. Anything less would get you bogged down in the enemy's defense.
The same theory appears to have been applied to American and British strategy in the war on Iraq. A pair of articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times essentially summarize the U.S. plan as "speed and violence of action." The ultimate idea, according to Michael Gordon in the New York Times, was to hit the Iraqi defenses so fast that they couldn't react.
American forces began the campaign without the northern front called for in the strategy and with fewer troops than had been planned. They were forced to advance the date of the land attack, and they fought battles in the southern cities of Iraq that had never been anticipated.Similarly, Greg Jaffe reports in the Wall Street Journal the war illustrated the Rumsfeld Doctrine in action -- a strategy where lighter, more agile, rapidly-deployable units with superior information technology are employed against older, heavier, more lethargic enemies. The triumph of this strategy, Mr. Jaffe adds, will add fuel to the debate over how to best transform America's military to be lighter, more agile, and more digitized.
The success of the U.S. strategy in Iraq, with its emphasis on speed, is likely to have immediate consequences. Instead of concentrating ground forces in Germany and Korea, Pentagon planners are likely to spread them around so they can be deployed quickly to hotspots. Mr. Rumsfeld has noted that Austria's refusal to allow Germany based U.S. forces to pass through that country hindered the Pentagon's ability to get a force to the Persian Gulf quickly. If the U.S. had had a larger presence in Eastern Europe or Central Asia, Austria's refusal would have had far less impact.Analysis: This last point is extremely important. We took on a substantial amount of operational risk in the Gulf. If Saddam's defenses had been more flexible, or if the fedayeen had fought with any coordination, or if we had encountered chemical weapons en route, the whole plan might have come unhinged. Speed and violence of action have the potential to shatter an enemy defense. But speed also has the potential to cut the other way -- to leave too many enemy units behind in your rear area. CENTCOM had to adjust its plan for this contingency, devoting combat power from the 101st and 82nd divisions to securing American and British lines of communication en route to Baghdad.
Military officers often speak of the "art" and "science" of wartime leadership separately, because each requires a different kind of judgment. The "science" of war involves calculations about force ratios, bomb-damage predictions, etc. The "art" of war refers to the subjective, qualitative leadership decisions made by a commander and staff based on their experience, and intuitive feel for warfare. Decisions on operational risk definitely fall more into the "art" category; they require a feel for the pulse of the war. It turns out that Gen. Franks made the right decisions about where and when to accept risk, and his plan worked. By striking at the heart of the regime (Baghdad) instead of conquering the entire country, we were able to topple the regime. However, speed may not be the answer now, as we begin the intensive nation-building operations necessary to build a new Iraq. Instead of speed and violence of action, we may now want to move deliberately, with measured force.
Wednesday, April 09, 2003
What won the war?
With bullets still flying in Baghdad, pundits are speculating about the key things in America's military that caused such a resounding victory over the Iraqi military. Tom Ricks has a good summary of these factors in his Thursday news analysis on the war: "People, plan, inept enemy." More than technology, more than precision bombs, it was the relative strengths of the American fighting man and woman -- in stark contrast to the ineptitude of Iraqi leaders and soldiers -- that won the war.
Retired military officers and defense experts have discerned two aspects to the U.S. military's role in the war. One was the people and equipment, and the other was the plan they carried out.Analysis: Five years after the Gulf War, Stephen Biddle wrote a piece in International Security called "Victory Misunderstood, in which he dissected the lessons most had learned from Gulf War I. Specifically, he broke apart the assumptions about the role that technology played in the coalition's victory, using complex models of ground battles built at the Institute for Defense Analyses. Dr. Biddle's research found, among other things, that technology alone did not explain the overwhelming victory in 1991 over the Iraqis. Instead, it was the synergistic combination of skill and technology that won the war. Here is a brief excerpt from Dr. Biddle's brilliant paper:
The standard explanations of the Gulf War's outcome are wrong. The orthodox view explains the war's one-sidedness in terms of the Coalition's strengths, especially its advanced technology, which is often held to have destroyed the Iraqis' equipment or broken their will without exposing Coalition forces to extensive close combat on the ground. The main rival explanation emphasizes Iraqi shortcomings, such as their weak morale, poor training and leadership, or numerical inferiority in the theater of war. Both schools appeared within a few months of the cease-fire, and have changed surprisingly little since then. The information base on the war's conduct, however, has changed substantially with the recent appearance of the first detailed official and semi-official independent histories of the war. This new information, combined with the results of counterfactual analysis using new computer simulation techniques, undermines both schools' conclusions.Since "Victory Misunderstood", Dr. Biddle's views have influenced a new generation of military reformers. This reform movement, led by men like Chuck Spinney and Don Vandergriff, argues that the key to transformation lies with people and ideas -- not hardware. Dr. Biddle's study of Afghanistan confirms once again that leadership and soldiering -- people -- make the difference even when overwhelming technological difference exist. I suspect the same thesis will be borne out by subsequent studies of Gulf War II. Even in those cases where American infantry ostensibly went head-to-head with equivalent Iraqi infantry, the Americans came out on top. Why? It's not because of any inherently superior infantry technology -- boots, rucksacks and rifles haven't changed much over the years. (Though American and British forces could "reach back" to call for aircraft and artillery if needed.) The real reason why American and British infantry prevailed was their training, doctrine and leadership. Iraqi soldiers made dumb mistakes, like building fighting positions on the surface instead of digging them into the ground. Allied forces didn't make those mistakes -- and had the leadership and training to exploit them when made by their enemy. At the end of the day, I think that was enough to win.
A long way to go...
Despite vivid footage of Americans tearing down statutes of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proclaimed that American-led forces still had a number of key missions ahead of them before victory could be declared. In a press conference today, the secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs clearly appeared happy that the war plan had gone so well, and that Baghdad had not become another Mogadishu or Beirut. However, both remained cautiously optimistic about the future.
The secretary pointed out that there are many missions that coalition forces still need to finish. "We still must capture, account for or otherwise deal with Saddam Hussein and his sons and the senior leadership," he said.Analysis: Ultimately, I think this last task is the most important -- perhaps even more so than getting Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Our mission will be judged in the court of world opinion by the way we govern Iraq in the early days of our occupation, and by the government we leave behind. If Iraq rises from the ashes to become a functioning, modernized, liberalized nation, then we may well call this mission a success. Ensuring such a future for Iraq will provide the best answer of all to those naysayers -- particularly the French, Germans, Russians and others -- who felt that war was not the answer and that diplomacy should have been given more chances.
The days and weeks ahead... America's military will have a lot to do as it consolidates its successes in Iraq and mops up the remnants of Saddam's regime. Isolated pockets of resistance continue to exist. We have not killed every last fighting soldier, nor have we disarmed them all. American forces must remain alert, and they must continue to hunt down those parts of Saddam's regime that might threaten our post-war nation-building. As relief supplies and aid organizations flow into Iraq, we must secure them too, to ensure the aid gets to the people who need it -- not the people with the most guns.
Coda: Paul McDonald, a doctoral student at Columbia University in international relations, has some good advice for the Bush Administration for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.
(1) Do Not Withdraw. Given the relative ease by which the coalition achieved victory, there may be a temptation on the part of the Administration or the American public to withdraw early from the Iraqi situation...
"Machines don't fight wars. People do, and they use their minds."
--Col. John R. Boyd
Noah Shachtman reports in Wired (and his blog DefenseTech) that high technology was less of a panacea for American soldiers in Iraq than widely believed -- especially in large cities like Baghdad and Basra. Specifically, Noah writes about the communications gear used by American forces, and the problems it experienced in urban combat.
Most of the radios used by American ground forces are FM, like a car stereo. And that means they're subject to the same static that someone gets when they drive between big buildings or through a tunnel.Analysis: Battlefield communications is hard stuff -- it's something that very good units spend a lot of time working on in order to master. I used various versions of the SINCGARS radio system on active duty in Korea, Texas and the Mojave Desert; I also tested some of the Army's Force XXI communications systems as part of the 4th Infantry Division. Its performance varied widely based on terrain, atmospheric conditions, and surrounding buildings. At the muddy boots level, this can create real problems. Hollywood movies depict "calling for artillery" as a pretty easy thing to do. Just pick up your radio handmike, dial up the artillery battalion, and call for fire support. If only it were that easy... The military communications system is really complex, and just getting on the right frequency with the right COMSEC is hard enough. Add in the complexities of terrain, buildings, etc, and you start to have real problems. Suffice to say, commo with a supporting artillery unit is something no infantryman can take for granted.
One other reason why it's extremely important to have communication in urban combat: fratricide. Battles happen at closer range in cities than in the desert. Battle lines also shift faster. It's very important to maintain constant communication with friendly units to know where they're at all the time, in order to avoid accidentally targeting a building where friendly forces have advanced.
Many have predicted that America's future enemies will turn increasingly to urban combat as a way of offsetting American technological advantages. These problems with FM-based radios show one way that urban combat does that. Another way is by hampering American surveillance and target acquisition systems. Most of those systems, e.g. Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or scouts equippped with LRAS3, use their eyes (or cameras) to detect the enemy. If an Iraqi guerilla squad hides in a building, they become effectively invisible to these tools of surveillance. Even if we use sophisticated detection systems like thermal imaging, the guerillas can move down to the basement where they will evade even those means of detection. Other systems, like JSTARS, use radar to detect enemy ground forces. But the "clutter" of urban areas frustrates those systems as well.
Bottom Line: urban areas frustrate most of America's high-speed technological advantages. At the end of the day, urban combat requires tough, well-trained, well-equipped infantry who have the ability to close with and destroy the enemy by means of fire and maneuver.
The human mind at war
Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a great piece on the psychological impact of war. Among other things, it predicts a rise in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnoses in veterans after this war concludes, due to the violence and intensity of the war on Iraq.
PTSD, the most prevalent psychiatric condition resulting from the traumas of war, often doesn't manifest itself until long after veterans return home. According to studies, the rate of PTSD among combat vets averages about 15%, more than double that in the general population.Analysis: Today's Army has obviously learned a lot since World War II, where combat stress casualties were treated with a mix of ignorance and disdain. Today's military attaches mental-health officers to every brigade-sized unit in combat, with larger numbers of psychological personnel further back in the medical system. Stress casualties are taken seriously, because of the contagious effect that one stress casualty can have on an entire unit. Today's military also understands the strong relationship between unit cohesion, leadership and combat stress. Good units and leaders take care of their soldiers' minds as well as their bodies.
I'm no expert on this subject, having only read a couple of books in this area (On Killing by David Grossman and Acts of War by Richard Holmes). However, my reading and my military experience make me think that American veterans from this war will have it both better and worse than their predescessors. They will have it better because today's deployed units have paid a lot of attention to unit cohesion and combat stress. But they will have it worse because this war has been extremely violent and intense. Soldiers driving through Iraqi cities have seen gruesome sights of Iraqi men and women pulverized by allied weaponry. Many have fought in cities, or against guerilla forces, which has a qualitatively different effect on the mind than desert warfare where units fight each other from a distance. They have also been fighting for a sustained amount of time with no rest. Holmes' book analyzed battle records and found that soldiers' minds start to break down after prolonged exposure to combat. We're now 21 days into the war, and most of this has been continuous combat with the enemy. Holmes opined that units started to break down between 30-40 days of continuous battle, and that most were combat ineffective by the 60th day. It does not appear that this war will last that long. But if it does, we may see psychological fissures emerge in some of our most hardened soldiers and units.
Law and order in Iraq
The New York Times reports on debates raging within the Pentagon over how best to police Iraq after the war's conclusion. Most of the discussion right now focuses on the command structure for this mission, and which specific general will actually run the policing operation. However, the debate also rages over exactly how Iraq is to be policed after the war -- with an iron fist, a heavy hand, or a gentle push.
The size and scope of any postwar security force has already stirred debate on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon. There are more than 125,000 allied troops in Iraq now, with more than 100,000 Army troops — including the Fourth Infantry Division, First Armored Division and First Cavalry Division — moving into the region or on the way from the United States and Europe.
Analysis: This last point really can't be minimized. In 1991, the American military had very little experience in its ranks with "peace enforcement" and "nation building". 12 years later, America's military has a wealth of experience and valuable "lessons learned" from places like Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and other countries where the deployments are not so well known. Put simply, America's military has learned how to conduct operations across the military spectrum, from low-intensity peacekeeping operations to high-intensity combat operations. The fact that this discussion is happening at all -- and that America conceives of multiple ways to accomplish its post-war mission -- is itself significant. This discussion signifies an awareness of the complicated issues surrounding this kind of mission.
Ultimately, I think the debate will focus on how to best adapt a previously used model for use in Iraq. Haiti seems to stand out as the best example, where we displaced Gen. Raoul Cedras in favor of an elected President Aristide. However, we have no government-in-exile here to install in Iraq, and we must build a lot of political support from the ground up. In that sense, maybe this mission is more like Afghanistan, where we displaced the only legitimate government with one that was cobbled together from existing factions in and outside the country. Building a lasting peace will be difficult, but thankfully, it's something the U.S. has extensive recent experience with. Eight years ago, no one could have predicted the success of our mission in Bosnia. Eight years from now, I think we'll feel the same way about Iraq.
The spoils of war
Today's Los Angeles Times carries an interesting piece on the looting which has taken place in various Iraqi cities since their capture by allied forces. Specifically, such looting appears to be rampant in Basra, where British officials seem to be encouraging certain kinds of looting -- especially of former-Baath Party buildings and other centers of power. In Baghdad, American soldiers are also seeing extensive looting, especially of buidings that used to belong to Saddam's regime like the Justice Ministry.
Down the wide boulevards of the city center, beneath murals and statues of Saddam Hussein, American tanks moved at will, almost parading as they rolled across the city, treads grinding, the crews relaxed and smiling. Looters waved casually as they toted their booty home.Analysis: Why would the U.S. encourage looting? I think a few things are at work here. First, we have a strong desire to paint the Hussein regime as kaput. Allowing civilians to loot the remnants of his regime, such as the Justice Ministry, empowers these Iraqis and makes them feel they have some personal autonomy and power over that regime. It also boosts these civilians' support for the Americans, particularly if we're letting these people loot things for their own personal gain (either personal use or sale). We'd look bad in the Iraqis' eyes if we preserved this stuff for the Ba'ath Party itself, or for some government-in-exile that these Iraqis have no tangible connection to. This all goes to the moral dimension of war. America needs to be win the hearts and minds of Iraq, and it needs to turn those hearts and minds against the Hussein regime. One way to do that is to co-opt the Iraqi population into helping to destroy his regime. Letting them loot Hussein's political apparatus is one way to accomplish that.
Coda: It's more than that. Right now, the U.S. has neither the combat power nor the time to police this kind of behavior. Doing so would require an inordinately large constabulary effort -- thousands of soldiers would have to give up fighting for policework. We may choose to do that in a few weeks or months when the combat dies down. But for now, we need our soldiers in the fight. I think Major Jewell's comments reflect this impetus. He wants to focus on combat operations right now. Security is the first thing on his mind, as it should be, for there can be no lasting peace and order without security. Only after America wipes out Hussein's remaining combat forces can any semblance of society take hold.
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.