Tuesday, April 22, 2003
UCLA law faculty file dissenting opinion on the war
Three professors at my law school have written a dissenting opinion of sorts to last week's vote by the UCLA Academic Senate condemning the war against Iraq. The essay ran in today's Los Angeles Times on the op-ed page. I admire these men for the stand they made at the faculty's meeting, and for their decision to air their views today.
Why did we do it?My thoughts... I agree with this dissent. The UCLA vote took place at a contentious meeting of just 200 faculty members -- out of 3,300 UCLA faculty. The Academic Senate's procedural rules allow such a small number to suffice as a quorum, and this vote appears to be an abuse of that rule. A small vocal minority of the faculty instigated this emergency meeting and vote. They did not seek broad faculty input; indeed, they sought to vote as quickly as possible with their engineered quorum and mini-majority. Setting the actual resolution aside for a moment, the means employed by the UCLA faculty cabal make America's UN diplomacy look chivalrous by comparison.
However, you can't set aside the resolution's text. It goes too far, even for a liberal faculty that wanted to make a statement of conscience against the war. Unlike other resolutions, like the L.A. City Council resolution, this one makes no statement of support for our soldiers. It sharply criticizes the Administration, its war, and the means for carrying it out.
We, the faculty members of the University of California Los Angeles, say to the President of the United States, that we:I also did my undergraduate work at UCLA, graduating in 1997 with a bachelor's degree in political science. While an undergraduate, I joined Army ROTC and took classes in the Military Science department. I always felt then that I had the support of my faculty, and even their admiration, for my pursuit of an Army officer's commission after graduation. Today, I do not think I would feel the same way. If I were an undergraduate today in ROTC, with my nation at war, I would see this resolution as open hostility. Knowing my faculty openly opposed the military institution and my future career choices would have a substantial impact on me. Indeed, I would certainly feel chilled in any classes taught by the minority faculty members who voted in this resolution. A "support the troops" clause can be dismissed as empty rhetoric. But such a clause would also soften the blow for the hundreds of UCLA students, faculty and staff who have ties to the military.
Ultimately, the 1960 California Master Plan for Higher Education gives the University of California three missions: research, teaching and public service. I'm not sure this resolution serves any of those missions, and I think it may frustrate at least two of them. Such resolutions interfere with faculty teaching insofar as they chill debate on issues that ought to be discussed in a university. When the faculty -- who have tremendous power over junior faculty, grad students and undergraduates -- go on the record like this, it affects the speech of those they supervise or teach. I'm sure that some brave (or ignorant) students and junior faculty will speak their mind without reference to the consequences. But many will curb their speech, lest they clash too violently with these anti-war faculty.
To the extent that such resolutions add a polemical and uninformed voice to the public debate, I'm not sure they provide a public service either. Certainly some UCLA faculty know a lot about war, strategy, international affairs and other related issues. But this resolution didn't come from those faculty -- it came from the most radical members instead, who sought to stamp their views with the imprimatur of the UCLA Academic Senate. It didn't contribute anything meaningful to the debate, besides the additional voices of those who could have easily spoken as individuals instead of hijacking their faculty organization. Everyone ought to have the right to speak their mind. But I believe the UCLA faculty should use its voice with more measured judgment in the future, lest it squander the value of its collective voice on issues like this.
More security problems at Los Alamos
Normally, security problems at one of America's three major nuclear research labs would be a matter of concern. In the age of multinational, well-financed, apocalyptic terrorism, it's substantially more of one. Noah Shachtman has been reporting on this story for some time, and he has another update on the security problems at America's Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory in New Mexico. (Thanks to Instapundit for the tip)
A new look at Posse Comitatus?
David Morris reports in National Journal's CongressDaily that Sen. John Warner (R-Va) has indicated he may hold hearings on whether to revise the Posse Comitatus Act, a Civil War-era law which bans federal troops from civilian law enforcement. Sen. Warner, who chairs the powerful Senate Armed Services Committee, "remains concerned about making sure Posse Comitatus is not limiting legislation," a spokesman said, adding that " "He remains open to re-examining and reviewing it."
Warner raised the idea of hearings in 2001 and repeated it late last year, when election results gave Republicans control of the Senate and put him in line to chair the Armed Services panel. He revisited the issue while questioning Paul McHale, assistant Defense secretary for homeland defense, during an April 8 committee hearing. While McHale said protecting the country "requires an unprecedented level of cooperation throughout all levels of government," he said Rumsfeld has decided the law should not be changed. Gen. Ralph Eberhart, commander of the military's Northern Command, took a similar position at a House Armed Services hearing in March. "We believe the act, as amended, provides the authority we need to do our job, and no modification is needed at this time," he said.Analysis: This issue got a lot of attention in July 2002 when the New York Times spun a quote from Gen. Eberhart suggesting that this law needed revision to support some of the military's roles in anti-terrorism law. After a great deal of debate, Congress eventually added a provision to the Homeland Security Act (creating the new Department of Homeland Security) which affirmed its belief in the Posse Comitatus Act and the exceptions already in existence. That provision read:
(1) Section 1385 of title 18, United States Code (commonly known as the `Posse Comitatus Act'), prohibits the use of the Armed Forces as a posse comitatus to execute the laws except in cases and under circumstances expressly authorized by the Constitution or Act of Congress.Moreover, a substantial number of exceptions already exist in Title 10 that enable the Defense Department to get around the Posse Comitatus ban if it wants to aid law enforcement in certain circumstances. Most of these exceptions were carved out during the "War on Drugs" during the 1980s, but they remain in force today. Indeed, such exceptions were used to justify the recent use of an Army surveillance plane by Washington-era police in their hunt for the DC sniper. I wrote a piece in July 2002 which laid some of these exceptions out.
Title 10 is the part of the United States Code that covers the federal military. It authorizes the domestic use of military assets to support law enforcement in numerous areas. Most of the Title 10 exceptions allowing military involvement in domestic policing were carved out during the Reagan Presidency for the so-called "War on Drugs."Ending thoughts: I still think this is the right balance. We don't want our military (even our military police) to get into the actual law enforcement business. The line that exists today is not an especially clear one, but it does effectively prevent the military from getting into the most invasive parts of law enforcement that implicate 4th Amendment rights. Sen. Warner can hold all the hearings he wants on this bill, but I think both the Pentagon and ACLU would agree that this is one path they don't want to walk down. Enough exceptions already exist in Title 10, enabling the military to provide intelligence support, training, WMD support, and equipment when necessary to aid law enforcement. Any more exceptions would certainly swallow the rule, and would certainly destroy the American tradition of separating military and civilian law enforcement.
After-action review on the 24 Mar 03 Apache attack
Today's Washington Times has a great report analyzing the "deep attack" on Republican Guard positions that was carried out by Apache AH-64D helicopters on the night of 24 March. Heavy ground fire turned back that attack, damaging dozens of helicopters and and causing one to crash land in a farmer's field leaving the two pilots to be captured as POWs.
The attack was designed to penetrate Iraqi-held territory, find and kill key elements of the Republican Guard divisions then facing the Army's 3rd Infantry Division and 101st Airborne Division. In theory, such attacks (combined with artillery and high-altitude bombing) decimate the enemy to the point where they can't offer any resistance once ground forces actually make contact. The practice is pejoratively known as "setting the conditions" for a ground assault. Artillery and airpower pound the enemy until the odds are so in favor of American ground forces that we can afford to launch the ground assault with low to moderate risk.
Pentagon Reporter Rowan Scarborough reports in today's Washington Times that the military has begun to pick apart this attack for the critical issues that led to its failure. This is common practice in the military -- every training exercise, operational mission and deployment gets picked apart afterwards in what's called an "after action review". Units that didn't fight this time scrutinize those "lessons learned" so they can benefit from the mistakes made, and avoid them during their first taste of combat. Scarborough focuses on one crucial mistake -- the failure to integrate the Apache attack with other services and units to suppress enemy air defense that would fire back at the Apaches.
Military officials say Pentagon testers are examining the Apache damage to check for any design flaws or potential enhancements. The Army is looking at its deep-penetration tactics.Analysis: Scarborough points out that LTG Wallace and V Corps learned from this mistake and changed their tactics for future deep attacks. It's also useful to point out that the 11th Aviation Regiment got lucky -- it lost just one helicopter, and no pilots were killed in the attack. Nonetheless, one officer points out that this Apache unit was "decimated at a critical time of war." The fight against the Republican Guard might have been easier if all of the Apaches had been able to fly missions continuously during the war, having not been shot up on this mission. I'm sure that an incredible logistical effort went into getting them back in the air as soon as possible. Judging by the war's outcome, it's not clear that this would have made a difference. But it might have. And these are all issues that the Army must address in its after-action reviews of the 24 March attack.
Will we or won't we seek bases in Iraq?
Rumsfeld squares off against the New York Times
On Sunday, the New York Times front page scooped the competition by reporting that America planned to establish a long-term military presence -- consisting of four bases -- in Iraq. The article, by Thom Shanker and Eric Schmitt, reported that America would retain bases it had already seized in the war -- such as the H-1 airfield in Western Iraq -- and use them both for nation-building operations and future operations in the region. Most of the article appeared to come from unnamed sources within the Bush Administration.
American military officials, in interviews this week, spoke of maintaining perhaps four bases in Iraq that could be used in the future: one at the international airport just outside Baghdad; another at Tallil, near Nasiriya in the south; the third at an isolated airstrip called H-1 in the western desert, along the old oil pipeline that runs to Jordan; and the last at the Bashur air field in the Kurdish north.Yesterday, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld vehemently denied this report at a Pentagon press conference, specifically calling out the New York Times report as an inaccurate story based on irresponsible leaks within the Administration.
Rumsfeld called a New York Times story that suggested such a thing "unhelpful." He said such articles left people in the Middle East with the impression that the United States is planning to occupy the country. "Not so," he said as he thumped the lectern at the Pentagon briefing studio. "It's flat false."The dissonance between Rumsfeld's comments and the New York Times report is immediately apparent. The Washington Post reported on the reversal, but did not offer any analysis of who's truth was correct. Honestly, it's very hard to tell. Leaking "trial balloons" in Washington is somewhat like an official sport, although less so in this administration than the last. Moreover, both stories seem plausible -- the U.S. is trying to reduce its military footprint in the Middle East, and it does want to leave Saudi Arabia if possible, so it makes sense that we would seek these bases in Iraq. On the other hand, we already have a substantial presence (with few problems) in Kuwait, Bahrain, and Qatar. I think the likely outcome here is that we retain bases in Iraq for as long as the nation-building mission lasts. Of course, that could be a generation (30 years). At that point, there may be just a semantic difference between calling these permanent bases and bases dedicated to rebuilding Iraq.
Monday, April 21, 2003
Restoring the rule of law to Iraq
UCLA professor and Islamic law expert Khaled Abou El Fadl has a great essay in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) on something I've written about before: the rule of law in Iraq. Prof. El Fadl brings a wealth of knowledge on Islamic law to the subject, as the preeminent American scholar on this subject, and he has some great descriptions of the problem and prescriptions for its remedy.
Iraq has had a long and rich jurisprudential experience. Before Saddam came to power, the country, along with Egypt, was one of the most influential in the development of the legal institutions and substantive laws of the Arabic speaking world. A high level of education was enjoyed by the Iraqi elite, and Iraqi legal thought was characterized by a lack of xenophobic nativism. Being geographically at the intersection of Arab, Persian, Kurdish, and Turkish cultures, the country has been home to both Shiite and Sunni centers of religious study.Analysis: I had no idea that Iraq had such a rich legal tradition. But it makes sense. Iraq, after all, can trace its legal lineage all the way back to Hammurabi's Code. Tradition matters a great deal in the law, and having such legal myths to ground Iraq's future laws in will make a big difference. It may be easier to build a new legal tradition grounded in the old; such a system will inherit the legitimacy of this old system if done correctly. Rather than simply graft an American Constitution onto the Iraqi people, we should take care to heed Prof. El Fadl's advice.
Why casualties were so low in Iraq
USA Today provides a good analysis today of the reasons why American casualties were relatively low in Iraq. Among other things, the American strategy of sending firepower instead of manpower combined with the skill of American soldiers on the ground to produce such a lopsided victory -- with very low casualties. As I've written before, American officers have learned for two generations since Vietnam that it's better to send a bullet than a man. Rather than fight toe-to-toe slugfests, American military officers prefer to back off, pound the enemy with precision airpower and artillery, and "set the conditions" for a ground assault. This is basically what we did with respect to the Republican Guard, and it worked.
The reason for the decline in casualties: A soldier-saving approach permeates the post-Vietnam War military. The philosophy starts at the top with strategy, tactics and expensive weaponry. It extends to the battlefield with better communication, improved equipment and state-of-the-art medical care.
Soldiers "do lunch" with Iraqi leaders
Guy Taylor, who's embedded in the Army's 4th Infantry Division, reports from Iraq that American officers have taken the initiative to set up lunch meetings with local leaders in Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein. The meetings are designed to built rapport between the American and Iraqi leadership, and to forge cooperative agreements for future governance and security.
Similar to the daily whirl of conferences under way in Baghdad between military officials and community leaders, the meeting in Tikrit was the first of many in a town where garnering support for Operation Iraqi Freedom may prove difficult.Analysis: To the casual observer, these meetings may seem like innovations on the ground by the 4ID leadership. Without taking anyway from my former comrades, I think these guys are acting from the Army's playbook. At the National Training Center, Army brigade combat teams train on exactly this kind of thing during the 5 days before they head into the maneuver box. There, Army officers learn to meet with local leaders, establish rapport, trade favors, and build the kind of civil-military relationship necessary to bridge the gap between two cultures. Specifically, when I went through this training experience I learned how to build liaison with local police to ferret out terrorists and supporters in the host-nation population. I imagine that's exactly what's going on now, in Tikrit and Baghdad. Even if Washington and Baghdad don't see eye-to-eye, junior officers can still make this happen at their level, where American lieutenants and captains talk to Iraqi lieutenants and captains.
Reducing the size of America's footprint in the Middle East
Esther Schrader reported in Sunday's Los Angeles Times about some interesting plans within the Bush Administration to reduce the American presence in the Middle East. The plans follow in the wake of America's victory over Iraq, which until now, has provided the reason for a constant U.S. presence in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Bahrain and Turkey.
Last week's quiet removal of 30 of the 80 fighter jets and almost half the 4,500 personnel from Incirlik Air Base in Turkey, where the U.S. has maintained thousands of troops since the 1991 Persian Gulf War, is just the beginning, officials said.Analysis: This is an extremely important development on so many levels. In one sense, it may seem like a capitulation to Arab anti-American sentiment, particularly the calls by Osama Bin Laden for America's expulsion from Saudi Arabia. On another level, this could be a calculated move by the United States to reduce its connections to the Middle East in order to fence American interests from that turbulent region. If followed by moves to reduce American reliance on fossil fuels (especially those from the Middle East), this could be a very positive long-term development. The wild card in the deck is the Israel/Palestine issue. America has to seize this opportunity now to push a peace process forward, or else that region will form the next flashpoint for conflict in the region. Until now, American troops in the region have had a stabilizing effect on that conflict, especially on the Israelis. Pulling American soldiers out of these countries may destabilize the region, and we must counteract that trend with diplomacy and force as necessary.
Sunday, April 20, 2003
Good after action review
William Branigan of the Washington Post traveled with the 3rd Infantry Division during their advance to Baghdad. Looking back on that campaign, he writes about three pivotal engagements that sealed the U.S. victory over Iraq.
Looking back on the battles, commanders said they realized that in the irregular Iraqi forces, they faced a more committed enemy than they had seen before, more persistent than the Republican Guard divisions that were supposed to be the most potent in the Iraqi defenses. They also saw signs of a strategy based on the success of Somali militiamen against Army Rangers a decade earlier: cut off the attacking U.S. troops from behind, isolate them on city streets and pour in reinforcements to inflict maximum casualties.Looks like good book material to me... I think we're going to see a lot of Black Hawk Down-style books that come out of this war, especially from the reporters who were embedded with the infantry who fought their way into Baghdad.
Saturday, April 19, 2003
Rumsfeld after the war
The New York Times and the Washington Post each feature a post-war look at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in their Sunday editions. Each article says a lot of the same things -- that Rumsfeld was on his way out before Sept. 11, that he's been a great wartime "SecDef" (kind of like a wartime "consigliere" in Puzo's Godfather novel), that he's fought the media as well as the enemy, and that he's become the face of American foreign policy. Each article draws different conclusions, however, about Rumsfeld's ability to politically capitalize on his victories abroad. Definitely worth a read.
After two years in office, he has his own people in top slots across most of the military establishment. He has triumphed in a military success in Iraq that featured an audacious war plan he helped to shape. He also looms large outside the Pentagon, injecting himself far more into intelligence matters than his predecessors and playing an unusually large role in shaping Bush administration foreign policy. He even has turned around a sour relationship with Congress.
A welcome the size of Texas
America welcomed seven men and women home today from the war who, until recently, were prisoners of the Hussein regime. The first reports indicate all seven fought -- and served in captivity -- with distinction. A friend of mine serves in 1-227 Aviation with the two captured pilots, and I'm sure his wife (also a friend) was there at the Hood Army Airfield in Killeen to welcome them home. I wish I could've been there too. Massive crowds also met the soldiers from Fort Bliss who returned home, as the AP reports:
Thousands of well-wishers hoisted American flags and burst into cheers as the C-17 plane landed on a wind-swept runway. Two servicemen poked their heads through a hatch on top of the plane, holding an American flag and waving to the crowd as the plane taxied along the tarmac.Update: Fort Hood is just a stone's throw away from Crawford, Texas, where President Bush has his Texas ranch. The AP also reports that President Bush has plans to spend Easter Sunday on Fort Hood, the largest military installation in the United States, and to meet with the two pilots just returned from Iraq. I think that's a fitting tribute by this commander-in-chief to the men he's sent into harm's way.
First seeds of democracy: a protest in Baghdad
The Washington Post and others report today on a large protest in the streets of Baghdad against the United States presence. Specifically, the protesters want a Muslim government to take the reins of Iraq as quickly as possible.
The protesters, who were led by a well-known Sunni scholar, began their march at one of Baghdad's largest Sunni mosques after Friday prayers. They called on U.S. troops to leave quickly and for a new government to be based on Islamic laws. Although those demands appeared to reflect growing frustration with the pace of U.S. aid and reconstruction programs in Iraq, they also were overtures to Shiite leaders, who have made similar requests, and an indication of how Islamic politics is starting to fill the political vacuum left by Hussein's downfall.Analysis: Some have already seized on this as more evidence of American imperialism. They would be wrong. A classmate of mine with extensive State Department experience thinks, as do I, that this is the best sign yet of a new day in Iraq. Just days after the demise of Hussein's regime, we're seeing protests in Baghdad that seem more like Berkeley or Santa Monica. (Next thing you know, Sean Penn will fly back to Baghdad to join the protests) Who knew the Iraqis had such a democratic spirit? Who knew these people would resort so quickly to the sort of free speech we cherish in America? I think we ought to heed the popular sentiment in Iraq and let this nation create its own institutions of governance in the very-near future. Notwithstanding that, I think this is an incredibly positive development. It's quite stunning that the Iraqi people would embrace freedom this quickly. Once they've had the first taste of such freedom, I think they will never embrace (or accept) tyranny again.
Update: Mark Kleiman points out some reasons why I might be naively rushing to judgment on the progress of Iraqi democracy. Of course, it's too early to tell whether either one of us is right. He's got a point though -- national self-determination is not necessarily a good thing, particularly in this part of the world.
Well, the Iranians had a taste of freedom in overthrowing the Shah, but it turned out that the mullahs were able to impose another, and far nastier, tyranny instead. There's every reason to think that Iraq is less ready for democracy than Iran was, and yet if Iran manages to throw off its theocracy in the next couple of years, that will mean a quarter-century between the first taste of freedom and a full meal.At least I'm not alone in my optimism... President Bush attended Easter services this morning at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial Chapel on Fort Hood in Texas. While there, he met the two helicopter pilots recently recently held as POWs by Iraq, and scores of military families with loved ones currently in Iraq. After the services, President Bush spoke to the assembled press, where he had this to say:
Q Mr. President, there have been some anti-U.S. demonstrations stirred up by religious leaders in Iraq. Are you worried that's going to hurt the rebuilding effort?
CSC DynCorp wins law & order contract for Iraq
USAID awarded a major contract on Friday to DynCorp, a subsidary of Computer Sciences Corp., for the creation of law enforcement and judicial agencies in Iraq. DynCorp has a long history of contracting with the Pentagon, including some very interesting (and secretive) contracts for security missions in Colombia and elsewhere.
Under the contract, DynCorp will provide technical advisers with 10 years of law enforcement, corrections and judicial experience, including two years in specialized areas such as police training, crime scene investigation, border security, traffic accident investigation, corrections and customs.Analysis: When I saw the first leak of this story by Mark Fineman in Thursday's Los Angeles Times, I was only surprised that it took so long to award this contract. Recent experience has shown that law & order is absolutely critical to the building of all other institutions -- economic, infrastructural, political, and social. Until people feel safe to walk their streets, they will not feel safe to do business or interact with one another, particularly in the wake of a repressive dictatorship. DynCorp has experience in this area. But what will make the difference is who they actually hire to do the job. A company spokesman said they have already received a flood of applications from police officers around the country to do this mission. It's critical that DynCorp select the best of those officers, especially the ones with some higher education, to rebuild the law enforcement apparatus in Iraq. Similarly, DynCorp must take care to select the best attorneys -- liberal and conservative -- to build lasting institutions of law in Iraq. This will have implications for every other area of reconstruction we undertake in this war-torn nation.
Friday, April 18, 2003
The human side of war
Los Angeles Times reporter Geoffrey Mohan has an eloquent "Column One" piece on today's front page that recounts the passage of Cyclone Company, 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment through combat. Mohan pulls no punches as he tells these men's (there are no women in a tank company) stories, from the company commander down to his junior soldiers. Like war, Mohan's story has no happy ending -- except that these young American men accomplished their mission and lived to tell their stories.
For some of the younger men of Cyclone Company, it is hard to piece together war memories into a coherent story. "Did this look like a war to you?" asked Spc. Royce Arcay, 26. "I've never been to a war, but it sure didn't seem like what they put on TV.... It's just kind of weird looking at dead bodies. They don't look real. I never thought I'd see dead bodies like that, or body parts."
Pentagon picks lead attorneys for Al Qaeda tribunals
The Washington Times reports today that the Pentagon is one major step closer to starting the military tribunals authorized by President Bush in his infamous 13 Nov 01 Executive Order.
Army Col. Frederick L. Borch III is the top contender to lead the prosecution staff, and Air Force Col. Willie A. Gunn is in line to be chief defense counsel, Legal Times reported this week. Line prosecutors, defense lawyers and trial judges will be drawn from all uniformed services, although defendants may have private attorneys.Analysis: The personnel piece is one of the major ones which has been missing from the puzzle until now. The Pentagon has its procedural rules in place; it also has specific "crimes and elements" in place according to the Wall Street Journal. Presumably, it has a location set up in Guantanamo near where these prisoners are being held. And it has the people in the respective military services who can fall in on this operation as attorneys, support staff, public-affairs staff, and security. I think we'll see these tribunals in the next 6 months, because all the major pieces are pretty much in place. All that remains is the decision to actually start the tribunals, a decision which must come from the White House.
America's quiet professionals rebuild Iraq one town at a time
James Dao has a great piece in the New York Times today on an Army Special Forces "A Team" that's working to rebuild the small town of Diwaniya, Iraq. Since the end of the Cold War, the "Green Berets" have conducted hundreds of such missions around the world, acting as the muscular arms of American foreign policy. Whether they are building armies for other nations (called "foreign internal defense") or conducting raids behind enemy lines (called "direct action"), these teams almost always work in secrecy, garnering no headlines. However, they do important work, as reported in The Mission by Dana Priest and now by James Dao in The Times.
It is a battle against chaos instead of bullets. The Green Berets have had to wade into angry crowds. They have mediated between rival tribes locked in blood feuds. They have tried to hold together the city's thin threads of social order, not always with success.
Civil-military relations in the age of the armchair general
Retired Colonel and West Point Professor Don Snider has a great column in today's Chicago Tribune on the state of civil-military relations after the war on Iraq. There has been much debate on this subject since President Clinton took office in 1993. His administration was sharply criticized by many (in and out of uniform) for its handling of the gays in the military issue and Somalia. After those episodes, the Clinton Administration took a "hands off" approach to running the Pentagon. President Bush's administration has swung the other way, leading the military with a much firmer hand that has caused friction at many points since January 2001. Snider's column leaps into the fray and discusses the role played by retired officers -- like retired-Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- in the civil-military relations during Gulf War II.
So, does this group of retirees speak for the military? Should the public accept the retired officers as authoritative? Is it retired McCaffrey, et. al. or active-duty Myers and current military leaders? Given the degree to which they disagree, it obviously can't be both. We should be deadly serious about the answer to this question, because it touches on one of the greatest treasures of the Republic.Definitely worth a read...
Thursday, April 17, 2003
Lingering questions at the end of the war
Slate’s Fred Kaplan has some provocative questions for the Pentagon and CENTCOM in the wake of our successful campaign in Iraq. I think these questions are important for two main reasons. First, we owe some transparency to the world so that they can see our motives were pure, and that American foreign policy is not imperialistic. Second, our military (and its civilian leadership) must answer “after action review” questions like these in order to learn from this war – and get better for the next one.
I'm not sure if or when the Pentagon will answer these questions. I have some insight into a few of them though, and would like to offer what I think are the likely answers to these questions.
1. "What did happen between the first and second week of the war?" Clearly, the U.S. adjusted its plan in response to the tactics employed by Iraqi soldiers as they faced American ground forces. We took a more deliberate approach in response to their guerilla tactics, taking to care to clear areas instead of simply securing them. We also took the time to pound the Republican Guard divisions and "set the conditions" for our assault before engaging in a toe-to-toe slugfest. LTG William Wallace's infamous quote that "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different from the one we war-gamed against..." will go down in history, not so much because it was said, but because the U.S. noticed this fact and reacted to it faster than the Iraqis could react themselves.
2. "...the Karbala Gap turned out to be the proverbial cakewalk. Or at least there were no reports of fighting. What happened? Did the U.S. troops feign an advance to draw out the Iraqis, then blast them with artillery and airstrikes?" Probably. Again, why fight the Iraqi's "vaunted" Republican Guard in a head-to-head tank fight if you have aircraft and artillery that can do the job instead? In economic terms, American military strategy always seeks to substitute capital for manpower when possible -- send a bullet, not a man. (See discussion of "shaping operations" in Army doctrine) Or in some cases, send a precision-guided munition, not a tank round. More details will emerge when our soldiers come home and go through extensive debriefing by the Center for Army Lessons Learned. I anxiously await those reports.
3. "Given how relatively easily the 3rd Infantry and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force barreled into Baghdad, just what was the Army's 4th Infantry Division slated to do in this war?" I'm not sure I agree with the "relatively easy" part; there wasn't much that was easy about it. That said, I think the 4th Infantry Division would have made the assault easier. If they were applying pressure from the north, we might not have dropped the 173rd Airborne Brigade into Northern Iraq. In doing so, we took a huge operational risk by putting those light infantry on the ground without a substantial armored or mechanized force. 4ID probably would have moved in from the north, taken Mosul and Tikrit, and applied pressure on Baghdad from the north. 4ID might have also forced a redeployment of Republican Guard from the south of the city, taking forces away from the mix that fought 3ID and the Marines as they advanced to the city.
4. "Why weren't U.S. troops ordered to stop looters or guard more ministries, hospitals, and museums?" Mr. Kaplan thinks we could have airlifted hundreds or thousands of MPs to Baghdad after taking the city. Maybe... but not likely. The U.S. military is fairly stretched right now, and we didn't have large numbers of soldiers ready for this kind of mission. (Maybe we should have) As far as MPs go, they're in short supply, and maybe that's something to look at too as we adjust the Army's force structure for the nation-building mission it's now going to be shouldered with for the forseeable future. The answer here boils down to priorities. We had a finite number of boots on the ground. Security and force protection were the top priorities; security of critical infrastructure and other key buildings came before the hospitals, ministries and museums. Maybe this formula should be adjusted, but I think the military's calculus was more right than Mr. Kaplan gives them credit for. In choosing between critical infrastructure (like a water storage site) and a museum, I think you have to secure the infrastructure first.
5. "The Pentagon never likes to discuss my fifth question, but at some point, somebody is going to have to assess civilian casualties." Yes. This is going to be a really hard question for a lot of reasons. But we must answer it, if for no reason than this will have significant ramifications for post-war reconstruction. Our air strategy deliberatively avoided critical civilian infrastructure and our bombing did not hit major residential areas, but there were doubtless many civilian casualties as we fought up from Kuwait. Some accounting is necessary.
6. "Question 6 is a geeky military one. How big a role did the high-tech drones play in this war? ... to what degree were the targets spotted from the air—and to what degree by soldiers or special-operations forces, old-fashioned boots-on-the-ground human beings? I have no idea what the answer is here, but it's more than an academic question. The drones in question were acquired for billions of dollars, and the entire future of military transformation hinges on how well this strategy worked in Iraq. Defense contractors stand to win or lose billions of dollars from the way we draw lessons from this war. For more on this answer, see this piece by Eric Schmitt in the April 18 New York Times. (Thanks to DefenseTech for the tip)
7. "Saddam never did fire Scuds, at Israel or anyplace else. Was this because special ops found missiles and took them out? Or was it because Saddam never had any Scuds to begin with?" As Mr. Kaplan writes, this is a very secretive area. Until this mission is complete, I don't think we'll see much coming out of the Pentagon because it might compromise the units still conducting such missions in Iraq. We know that Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Air Force combat controllers and PJs, and Marine reconnaissance units all worked inside Iraq before and during the war. The Pentagon said that this effort was the largest use of special operations forces in history. I look forward to reading the accounts of their exploits.
8. "Did Saddam Hussein have weapons of mass destruction?" Your guess is as good as mine. I think he had them, because of Secretary Powell's infamous briefing to the UN before the war and because I don't think we would have launched this war without some pretty good proof. Phil's opinion is that we ought to invite UNSCOM back into Iraq to resume its inspections ASAP. Without the Iraqi government playing shell game, they ought to be able to find them. Then again, maybe we should use American soldiers for the inspection mission. That way, we would control the inspection process, but we would also be accountable for its results.
USAID awards major contract to Bechtel
The Bush Administration awarded Bechtel Corporation a major contract today for the reconstruction of Iraq. Initially, the contract is worth just $34.6 million for initial planning and surveys of the situation, but it could bloom to as much as $680 million over the next 18 months. As the prime contractor, Bechtel is expected to make heavy use of subcontractors for specialized needs it identifies in its initial survey. Bechtel has a history of working with the government on major projects, including the Hoover Dam and Channel Tunnel between Britain and France. According to USAID:
The contract calls for the repair, rehabilitation or reconstruction of vital elements of Iraq's infrastructure. This includes assessment and repair of power generation facilities, electrical grids, municipal water systems and sewage systems. There is also a provision in the contract for the rehabilitation or repair of airport facilities, and the dredging, repair and upgrading of the Umm Qasr seaport, in close cooperation with other USAID contractors working in those sectors. The contract may also involve responsibility for the repair and reconstruction of hospitals, schools, selected ministry buildings and major irrigation structures, as well as restoration of essential transport links. It is anticipated that Bechtel will work through subcontractors on a number of these tasks after identifying specific needs. Through all of its activities, it will also engage the Iraqi population and work to build local capacity.Don't get sticker shock yet... $680 million is just the start. This reconstruction effort is going to cost a lot more than that. I can't begin to list all the essential pieces of infrastructure that must be rebuilt in Iraq for that nation to join the world economy. Suffice to say, it's not as easy as flipping a switch and flooding that country with dollars. The costs of policing and rebuilding Iraq will rise into the tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years -- and we will be in Iraq for at least that long. I think there's a cogent argument to be made that such money would be better spent on domestic projects inside the U.S., such as our own schools. But we have made the national decision to bear this burden, and we must now follow through on that decision.
PS: This is a big contract. But think of all the things that aren't included in the Bechtel contract. Where, for example, is the money for a new legal system? Okay, maybe I'm a self-interested law student looking for my profession. But seriously... Iraq will need a new legal system constructed from the ground up, starting with its Constitution. (See this interesting essay by Michael Dorf on that subject) And as we know, legal systems aren't cheap. Constructing courts, training attorneys, judges, administrators, police, etc, will cost a lot of money. (It's a fair bet that Iraq has plenty of police stations and prisons already.) Sending a delegation from the Justice Department and/or Art. III courts to supervise that mission will also cost money. This is just one example -- I think we're going to see an awful lot being spent on this mission in the future.
More on Abu Abbas
A diligent reader (and smart attorney) wrote to remind me that the ICC would in fact be a poorer choice than I opined yesterday for Abu Abbas, the Achille Lauro hijacker we captured in Baghdad. He writes:
"The ICC isn't an option, for several reasons. 1) its jurisdiction began July 1, 2002, so a 1985 crime isn't covered. 2) it is a court of last resort and can only initiate an action if a national court can't or won't act. Since Italy has acted against Abbas, and the US probably will as well, there's really no basis for ICC to do anything. 3) it's unclear whether the hijacking and murder would fall under ICC jurisdiction, which is limited to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide."My reader's first two points are certainly accurate as a matter of law. The third is open to interpretation. Terrorism may be a war crime, depending on one's reading of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions and other international covenants on the laws of war. Specifically, the hijacking of a civilian ship may be a war crime under various piracy treaties and laws of the sea (I'm no expert on admiralty law though). Thus, if this crime were committed today, and no state asserted jurisdiction, the terrorists could be tried by the ICC under the Rome Treaty.
For some really good analysis of this issue, see today's piece in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) by Gary Fields. This piece breaks down some of the legal issues, in sequence, and clarifies some of the jurisdictional mud on the subject.
Mr. Abbas's detention is raising questions about U.S. jurisdiction, however, and already pressure is mounting for his release. Italy says it will seek his extradition on the hijacking charges, for which he was convicted in that country in absentia. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority demanded his release, saying his detention violates the 1995 Oslo Middle East peace agreement that gives Palestinian activists and leaders immunity for acts that occurred before the agreement was negotiated in 1993.Some thoughts... I think the best venue to try Mr. Abbas would be a federal district court in the United States, for a number of reasons. First, no court in the world offers the procedural protections of a U.S. criminal court, and it will be objectively fair. Second, this man killed a U.S. citizen, and it's a fairly settled principle of international law that a nation has the right to protect its citizens abroad with its laws. Third, as a conceptual matter, terrorism exists on the seam of law and war. Some acts look more like crime (e.g. the raising of terrorist funds in the United States), while some acts look more like war (e.g. the World Trade Center attack). We ought to treat this hijacking as a matter of law -- not war -- and try this man as a criminal. The end result may be the same -- I think he can still be given the death penalty under the federal murder statute. However, there is are procedural and political benefits to using a system that's tried and true, with recent precedent for the fair trial and execution of terrorists (e.g. Tim McVeigh).
Wednesday, April 16, 2003
1. Intel Dump will resume its regular coverage now as the war shifts into its next phase. Instead of exclusively focusing on the war, as I largely did for the past 4 weeks, I will now return to issues of both law and war. Over the next few months, I will probably focus back on issues of law and terrorism. I have been selected to teach a seminar for UCLA undergraduates next year on American Law & Terrorism; I plan to focus the majority of my academic attention on that subject during the next several months.
2. Final exams are approaching for me at the law school, so Intel Dump will draw down to less frequent posts over the next three weeks until May 7. Please continue to tune in regularly, but I can't promise the same tempo of 5-10 posts/day that I've been averaging until now.
3. Please check out the blogs I've listed on my blogroll for more good analysis and commentary on current events. For war coverage in particular, I recommend Command Post, Winds of Change, DefenseTech, SGT Stryker and LT Smash.
Homeland security department fills key civil liberties post
The Washington Post reports that the Bush Administration has appointed Nuala O'Connor Kelly, a 34-year-old attorney formerly of ad giant DoubleClick, to be the "privacy czar" in the new Department of Homeland Security. The article was vague on details, but I think this is the position created in the new department under Secretary Tom Ridge to oversee protection of civil rights and civil liberties. In November 2002, I guessed that an attorney would be appointed to this position, though that certainly wasn't a prerequisite in the Homeland Security Act. Kelly currently works for the Department of Commerce as an attorney, but before that, she helped DoubleClick navigate some troubled waters on issues of user data storage.
1st Cav cut from deployment orders?
While reading the transcript of yesterday's Pentagon press conference, I noticed that the Secretary inadvertently mentioned a cut in the troop deployment list to Iraq.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said that you had taken one element, one unit out of the queue to replace or reinforce the troops you now have. Can you describe your evolving philosophy of the kind of forces you now want in? It would seem that heavy armor is less and less necessary. So why are -- what have you taken out of the queue, and sort of what is your thinking at this moment as you begin to reassess what is in that queue and what you may need in terms of the type of things?Analysis: Wow. This is big. 1st Cav is a really heavy division that could be really useful in the Gulf if we need more boots on the ground to do peacekeeping. Granted, it's stuck in Texas and it's also stuck in the same Force XXI digitization process that the 4th Infantry Division just completed. But it still has enormous mission capability. If this inadvertent statement is true, then we're holding an awfully big force in reserve, possibly for use in other parts of the world. Or maybe we're moving forward with a lighter plan for the post-war occupation, or one that incorporates more allied support. More to follow...
Civilian casualties and the Pentagon
Oxblog has a provocative note on civilian casualties and the Pentagon, as well as an article by Oxblog proprietor Josh Chafetz that ran today on the Weekly Standard's website. This issue is going to become big in the next several weeks and months, especially in the international communities that didn't support the war to begin with (e.g. the international human-rights community). NGOs are almost assuredly on the ground right now, trying to assess damage and estimate casualties. It's in their interest to inflate the numbers because it will help generate sympathy and donations, as well as general ill will towards the United States. It's in our interest to count the casualties right because that has all sorts of practical implications for nation building down the road.
Moreover, future U.S. use of military force will be hamstrung by the precedent of killing it has set in Gulf War II. If the U.S. can positively establish that it did, in fact, discriminate between civilians and combatants, its future use of force will be more acceptable. Second, if the U.S. can positively demonstrate that it complied with the principle of "proportionality" and only bombed as much as necessary to accomplish specific effects, its future use of force will be more acceptable. These studies have major future implications, and the Pentagon ought to look at its long-term self interest as well as its short-term self interest in spinning the issue.
Winds of Change on Passover: Joe Katzman has some interesting thoughts on the Jewish Passover tradition today on his weblog, and its applicability to the current situation in Iraq. The analogy has merit -- the ancient story of Jewish exodus from Egypt carries lessons for all modern day instances of oppression and liberation. Thanks Joe for giving me something to talk about with my family this Friday at our seder.
Body armor keeps casualties low
Noah Shachtman links to an interesting AP story on the role of body armor in keeping American casualties low in the war on Iraq. Nearly all American soldiers and Marines went into combat with newer, lightweight armor that had been developed, tested and fielded since the military's experience in Gulf War I and Somalia.
"Hands down, body armor is much more effective at saving lives than any medicine we've brought to the battlefield," said Col. Clifford Cloonan, a doctor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington.One more thing... There something else that the article hints at but leaves out: the discipline of American soldiers and Marines in combat to wear this stuff. That's the mark of a true professional soldier, and something I'm not sure you'd see in a less well-trained or well-led force. American soldiers train hard, do lots of PT, and condition themselves to wear this stuff in peacetime training. In war, soldiers wear the gear because sergeants and officers tell them to, and because they know it's in their self-interest. The same logic applies to chemical-protective gear and other stuff -- the weight adds up. In a lesser force, such as a conscription-based force without a professional corps of sergeants, this discipline tends to break down. The human of dimension of war is something we should never forget. Giving the soldiers the gear is one thing; training soldiers to use it is another; leading them to wear it in combat is another.
4ID joins the fight... finally
After waiting for months in the states and watching their equipment float off the coast of Turkey for weeks, soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division today made contact with the enemy somewhere north of Baghdad. According to an embedded reporter from the Associated Press, elements of the 1st "Raider" Brigade (my old unit) encountered paramilitaries while securing an airfield. The enemy force was tiny in comparison to the armored fist of the Raider Brigade -- 2 armored battalions of 44 tanks each and 1 mechanized infantry battalion of 44 Bradleys. Nonetheless, Col. Don Campbell wasn't taking any chances in first combat mission.
''Mostly we're just destroying their equipment as we secure the airfield,'' said Col. Don Campbell, commander of the 4th Infantry's 1st Brigade. As of midday, he said, U.S. forces had destroyed a truck, three anti-aircraft guns and two surface-to-air missile systems near the airfield. ''We've encountered six to eight paramilitaries, but we think there will be more when we get to the airfield,'' Campbell added.Analysis: It's very eerie to see my former unit go into combat without me. I know a lot of the captains and sergeants in the Raider Brigade, as well as the division headquarters and MP company. They are unbelievably professional and good at what they do. I sure wouldn't want to be an Iraqi waiting in his hole for 4ID to come knocking.
If I were calling the shots... I'd use the fresh troops from 4ID to police the streets of Baghdad. Despite their long wait in Texas, these units just arrived in Kuwait and didn't sit through 8 months in the desert before fighting for 3+ weeks. As such, they're going to be a lot safer, a lot more deliberative, and a lot more intelligent about basic decisions. Safety incidents have already claimed several soldiers' lives this week, and 4ID's soldiers are likely to be a lot more alert to those hazards having just got off the plane. Moreover, 4ID's troops have not seen the same intense combat as the Marines, 101st and 3rd Infantry soldiers. That makes a big difference for civil-military operations, because they can approach the policing mission without the hostility of combat. I can't know this for certain, but there's bound to be some pent-up hostility in the units that saw action still -- especially in squads and platoons that took heavy casualties. Those are not the soldiers you want policing the streets if possible. Maybe small towns and villages where the threat of major insurrection is more slight, but definitely not Baghdad. For a major mission like Baghdad, you need fresh soldiers and units. 4ID is already in theater, and it looks like the deployment order has gone out to the 1st Armored Division and 1st Infantry Division in Europe (among others). Those units are exactly the right ones to tap for this mission.
Terror alert drops from orange to yellow
The White House today announced a drop in the nationwide threat condition from orange to yellow, apparently in response to a successful campaign in Iraq. Presumably, we have intelligence reports telling us that the threat is lower now than it was last month. I opined a few months ago that an attack on Baghdad may increase the chances of an attack on U.S. citizens at home or abroad. Thankfully, that prediction did not come true. However, I think today's decision represents something else that's not being widely reported: a resource conservation decision. I don't think we would have made this change without intelligence telling us it was okay to do so. But I think we're making this change now, so quickly after the success in Iraq, because maintaining a high state of alert for extended periods of town is really expensive -- in terms of men, materiel and money. America's security infrastructure -- including police, fire, medical, and other agencies -- has been stretched to the limit by staying at orange for so long. Today's decision is as much about them as it is about intelligence.
American forces establish zones of responsibility for Iraq
On Monday, I wrote that "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." Today, the Washington Post reports that "U.S. forces in Iraq will begin redeploying Thursday to set up occupation zones as they enter into a postwar phase of enforcing security and restoring services around the country." The article goes on to say that Marines (together with British troops) will occupy Southern Iraq as units from the Army will occupy Baghdad and the North.
The division into three zones will roughly correspond to the tripartite geographic organization set up by retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, who will oversee reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Iraq. Garner will report to McKiernan, military officials said. While the military will focus on building stability, Garner's fledgling organization, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, will take the lead on infrastructure, governance and basic services.Analysis: This segmentation of Iraq is enormously important. First, it has big security implications. Segmenting the country into smaller and smaller zones of responsibility is a way of focusing resources on the places where Saddam's last fighters remain. Each zone will have its threat level assessed, and forces will be allocated to reconnaissance and security missions within that zone accordingly. Second, it's enormously important because this segmentation could eventually form the blueprint for an Iraqi federal system. Gen. Garner's comments that this division mirrors his own segmentation hints that aid, reconstruction support and other resources will be targeted using a similar scheme. The more lines we draw in the sand, and the more we reinforce those lines with resources, the more these lines start to matter.
Update: Esther Schrader reports in the LA Times that the American force in Iraq is also transitioning from a war posture to a police posture, and that specialized units are being rushed to Iraq to help with this mission.
"You can control a city of 5 million people, but you can't police it," said a senior defense official of the challenges facing U.S. troops in Baghdad. "We gave a lot of medals in the last three weeks to guys who know how to pull a trigger and hit something. It's hard to turn around and tell those same guys not to pull the trigger but read them their rights instead."As the article says, two kinds of units really matter here: Military Police units and Civil Affairs units. MPs know how to deal with law and order issues, how to deal with civilians, and how to use graduated levels of force better than any combat unit. They can also work in small teams, or train U.S. units how to do these missions, thus becoming a force multiplier. (One MP battalion can train/assist a whole division to do these missions) Civil Affairs units are almost entirely made up of reservists, and they are the Army's nation-building specialists. In any situation like Iraq, they're trained to assess the situation, make recommendations, and supervise the implementation of those reconstruction plans. The problem is that the Army has finite numbers of these units -- and they've been stretched very thin by ongoing deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and now Iraq.
America captures Achille Lauro hijacker in Iraq
Yesterday provided compelling evidence that Iraq provides safe haven for terrorists of all stripes, besides Al Qaeda. The Washington Post (and others) report that American special operations troops captured Abu Abbas, the man responsible for the 1986 Achille Lauro hijacking. American tourist Leon Klinghoffer was shot and pushed overboard in his wheelchair after it was discovered he was Jewish during that incident. This incident came at a time when America was starting to face international terrorism for the first time, with this hijacking and that of TWA Flight 847. Reports indicate that Abbas was captured with intelligence from Syria, and possibly from captured Iraqi intelligence officials.
After a search by troops of several locations in the Iraqi capital, Mohammed Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Front, was taken into custody along with a small group of other people in a house in the city. The former Palestinian leader, who is also known as Abu Abbas, had tried to flee to Syria, but was turned back, a senior Bush administration official said.Analysis: It shouldn't be that hard to obtain an indictment in this case, however. The facts are fairly well established, after the debriefings of witnesses on the Achille Lauro. Even federal criminal law allows American authorities to detain this man for a period of hours/days until an indictment is secured. European officials and members of the international human rights community may suggest that Mr. Abbas be tried by the International Criminal Court. I think that would be a mistake. First, the ICC is in its infancy and not equipped yet with the prosecutors, defense attorneys or staffs to manage a terrorism trial. Better to cut their teeth on something else first. Second, this man allegedly killed an American citizen in cold blood. He has earned the right to be tried in an American court, and if convicted and so sentenced, to be executed by an American warden.
Update: According to Mr. Klinghoffer's daughters, this is exactly what they want. "Bringing Abbas to justice will send a strong signal to terrorists anywhere in the world that there is no place to run, no place to hide," they said in a statement, adding "We hope the U.S. prosecutors will be able to revive a federal indictment against Abbas for piracy, hostage-taking and conspiracy, and we urge them to do so."
U.S. Army tackles safety problems in the wake of several deaths
USA Today reports today that LTG William Wallace has had sharp words for his commanders after six soldiers died in V Corps during the last 72 hours -- but not due to combat. The accidents are somewhat characteristic of combat -- half involved live ammunition which would not be so available in peacetime, and the others involved equipment that's been pushed to the limit during the last month. Nonetheless, I think LTG Wallace is right to do this. This is an aberrational number of deaths in such a short period, and it may represent an adrenaline letdown after combat that has led to complacency in the ranks. There still are enemy soldiers out there, as well as safety issues, that threaten these young soldiers' lives. (Historical note: traffic accidents killed more soldiers in Gulf War I than hostile fire.)
The Army is dealing with a rash of accidents. On Monday, six soldiers died, not at the hands of the enemy, but apparently because of safety problems. There was a truck crash, an accidental firing of the weapon on a Bradley armored vehicle, a grenade explosion inside a Humvee truck and the collapse of a refueler.
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.