Saturday, May 10, 2003
A soldier's story
Saturday's New York Times carries a thought-provoking dispatch from Michael Gordon about Army Pvt. Kelley Prewitt, who died fighting in Iraq with the 3rd Infantry Division. Pvt. Prewitt joined the Army to be a tanker -- 19K in Army parlance -- but wound up as a truck driver because his unit had all the M1 crewmen it needed. Nonetheless, Pvt. Prewitt came under heavy enemy fire, as the Iraqis learned to let the M1s drive by so they could ambush the lightly-armed supply convoys behind them.
It was a small episode in a big war. But it reveals a lot about the nature of that war.Analysis: This really does show a number of issues with American military doctrine -- both its strengths and weaknesses. In many ways, our armored forces resemble a hard-shell egg. The front-line units, made up of M1 tanks and M2 Bradleys, are virtually unstoppable. But once you crack those lines, or wait for them to pass, you find the softer side of the American army -- huge logistics units designed to keep the M1s and M2s in the fight. These logistics units carry light weapons, drive thin-skinned vehicles, and train more on logistics than on fieldcraft. They are extremly vulnerable to enemy fire. When the enemy regroups and fights unconventionally, as the Iraqi fedayeen did, the threat to these logistics units becomes especially acute. We saw this happen several times during the recent war, most dramatically with the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company convoy that resulted in the capture of several American POWs.
The risk of combat extends beyond those tankers and infantrymen who directly engage the enemy -- it includes the logistics personnel who supply them, the medics who heal them, the pilots who fly above them, the MPs who secure the rear area behind them, and the intelligence officers who brief them. One major implication of this is that the military has had a hard time creating a rule for women in combat. As a normative matter, the Pentagon would like to keep women out of direct-fire combat if possible. As a practical matter, it has had real difficult figuring out which jobs carry the risk of direct-fire engagement and which jobs don't. On the modern battlefield, rear areas become combat zones and there are few jobs immune from direct-fire combat, save those aboard ship or far back in the rear area (think Qatar).
Friday, May 09, 2003
Bush backs women in combat
Today's Washington Times reports that President Bush has decided to defer to military judgment on the issue of women in combat. Conservatives, such as Elaine Donnelly with the Center for Military Readiness, had decided to raise the issue after images of PFC Jessica Lynch and SPC Shoshanna Johnson in captivity hit the airwaves during the war. But today, the President said he was not ready to reverse a decade of gender integration in America's military since the first Gulf War, which has resulted in thousands of women in front-line positions.
Although Mr. Bush did not address the issue of women in combat during the 2000 presidential campaign, he came out against coed training in the military.Analysis: I wrote in December 2002 on this issue, predicting that thousands of American women would fight on the front lines if we went to war in Iraq. Several policy changes in the 1990s meant that more women would fight further forward in Gulf War II than in Gulf War I, and that this would force a renewed debate on the role of women in the military. Unfortunately, my predictions came true. I also wrote that their performance in combat would shape the public debate on this issue for years to come.
No one is quite sure how Americans will respond if significant numbers of women are killed in Iraq. "The real issue is, if greater numbers of women get captured, how will the country react?" asks Donnelly. "We would have to desensitize the entire nation to violence against women. Endorsement of women in combat means an endorsement of violence against women at the hands of the enemy." Perhaps. But even when women have died in combat, the public hasn't questioned their reasons for being there. The nature of public grief for soldiers like Marine Corps Sgt. Jeannette L. Winters, a radio operator who was the first female military casualty in the war against Afghanistan, may indicate that Americans will accept female casualties if they believe in the cause they're fighting for.All indicators point to women performing exceptionally in combat -- from PFC Lynch to the unknown women who flew deep into Iraqi territory as Army, Navy and Air Force pilots. Thousands of women served in the Army and Marines as MPs, engineers, chemical-warfare specialists, medics, fuelers, and in hundreds of other jobs. Like their warfighting brethren, they performed well under fire. At the end of the day, they proved their case by doing their jobs. In war, that's about all you can ask of a soldier.
Ms. Donnelly and others hoped that the social conservatives in the Bush Administration would back them on this issue, given the high-profile captures of two women by the Iraqis. They made a great miscalculation. President Bush has lauded his military for its strategy, its tactics, and its people -- he's not going to second-guess them on an issue like this, particularly when it's an issue where he can actually win moderate votes by appealling to women. (Can you think of many other issues where President Bush can appeal to moderate female voters?) Ms. Donnelly and other critics ought to see the performance of women in Iraq for the success that it was, and focus their efforts on improving opportunities for military women instead of destroying them.
Wednesday, May 07, 2003
Pentagon narrows the scope of TIA project
The New York Times reports today that the Pentagon has decided to sharply curtail the scope of its "Total Information Awareness" project, limiting it to only data already held by government agencies. Dr. Tony Tether, directed of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), told a Congressional subcommittee that the change was being made to avoid civil liberties problems that had led Congress to legislate limits on the project on February. The legislative limits entailed a reporting requirement which prohibited the Pentagon from moving forward with the project until they developed a plan to mitigate any civil-liberties risks. Dr. Tether's comments indicate that the agency has decided to sidestep these risks by using data -- like crime records -- that are already in government hands.
... the official said the program, the Total Information Awareness program, would rely mostly on information already held by the government, especially by law enforcement and intelligence agencies.Analysis: This last part is the most important. TIA is not about spying on American citizens or setting up some massive Big Brother apparatus. It's about bringing together information and using it more efficiently and intelligently. Have you ever seen a police background check on TV? Do you think it's really that easy? In reality, it's exceedingly hard to do a good background check on someone -- even if you have them in custody. No agency has the ability to call up information on demand -- even information like criminal records, which it should already have. Across the 50 states, police agencies and other agencies use varying databases to keep their information. Some of it has been put together, such as the National Crime Information Center (NCIC) system. But for the most part, it remains separate. TIA is about bringing this data together so that police officers and security agencies can use it more effectively.
There was some initial conceptual talk about gathering other data -- such as credit information, financial data, travel data, etc -- to make the TIA database even more comprehensive. The point of this was to gather the data points most relevant to international terrorism. Terrorists don't act like criminals, and they rarely have prior records or speeding tickets that can create a pattern of criminal activity. The salient indicators of terrorist activity tend to be financial in nature, or travel-related in nature. Thus, Pentagon officials designed the project to incorporate those data sources. However, this raised a firestorm of controversy, and many objected to the government's collection of this information. (Query why they'd rather let TRW or Equifax manage this data than the Pentagon) Thus, it's been cut out. I think this is a mistake, because this data remains invaluable for the detection and prevention of terrorist activity.
But perhaps we're seeing the first baby step here towards TIA, and the Pentagon needs to "proof" the concept first before the American public will accept the use of this data. The purpose of all DARPA projects, initially, is to prove the concept. But now, the Pentagon also needs to make the TIA project as criticism-proof as possible, if it has any hope of survival. The DARPA folks are testing TIA for their own security-oriented purposes, and that of other interested agencies (like DHS). But they also need to demonstrate this system to the public, in order to build public trust in the system and answer the criticisms thus far that it will infringe on civil liberties. More to follow...
Update: Eugene Volokh has some interesting thoughts on where this all may lead, based on his work on the dynamics of slippery slopes in law and policy.
...the slippery slope may well be in operation here -- I'd call it a mix of the simple attitude-altering slippery slope, either an erroneous evaluation slippery slope or an accurate evaluation slippery slope (depending on whether you think the public will correctly estimate the value of the project), and cost-lowering slippery slope (in the sense that providing the government with more experience about how to run TIA-type projects will lower the cost of broadening them in the future). But some slippery slopes are good, if you already think that what's at the bottom of the slope (e.g., the broader TIA) is good, or if you're not sure whether it's good but you think the first step might indeed provide useful information about the likely value of the next step, and you think that the political system will act soundly based on that information. And of course it's possible that the slippage won't occur, because the public will maintain the line between the government simply organizing the data that it already has, and the government also incorporating data from private sources.I think he's right -- these initial steps for TIA are designed to make the next ones easier. Starting TIA with a small data set is not intended to limit the project's eventual scope. Rather, it's designed to assuage concerns today about TIA, so that people will object less in the future to the project when it does acquire more data. If you object to TIA in its current prototype form, with its present data set, the time to speak up is now. If TIA proves itself with the government-owned data set, it will most likely be expanded to include medical information, credit information, and other indicators which may be valuable in the national security context. The slope becomes both steep and slippery from here.
Tuesday, May 06, 2003
Rumsfeld v. The Army
A number of stories in the last several days -- including those on Secretary White's resignation and General Shinseki's sacking -- have created the perception that the U.S. Army occupies Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's doghouse on the Potomac. The Pentagon has added fuel to this fire by releasing a slew of general officer transfer orders (like this one) for the Army, including this message today announcing that MG Ricardo S. Sanchez would take command of V Corps from LTG William Wallace. Already, the press is painting this as a decision to remove LTG Wallace for comments he made during the war that the Iraqis were fighting differently than the Army's planners had wargamed.
Today, Slate's Fred Kaplan adds his voice to the fray, predicting great conflicts between The Army (capitalized to represent the Army's establishment of generals, retired generals and major contractors) and the SecDef's office.
Now, with his postwar political favor riding high, Rumsfeld is turning the tables, using the triumph of the "light" force in Iraq as a weapon—the rhetorical equivalent of heavy artillery—in his renewed battles against the Army brass. And in that battle, James Roche will be the wedge that breaches through the line.My thoughts... First off, I can sympathize with the creative Army captain's position much more than the three-star general. I think the Army has grown to be too lethargic, too top heavy, and much in need of some churning at the top. Pick your metaphor -- sacred cows make the best hamburger, or you have to break a few eggs to make omelettes. Reforming the military requires officers who can shed old paradigms for new ones, and who are not afraid to take risks in the pursuit of excellence. So far, the Army's generals have not shown a great degree of audacity in pursuing transformation -- save a few generals at middle levels who have actually led the transformed units like the 4th Infantry Division. If the Army's leadership is unable or unwilling to transform the Army to meet the SecDef's vision, then he's right to fire them. (See Supreme Command by Eliot Cohen for an excellent study of civilian leadership in wartime)
However, I'm not sure the SecDef's vision is entirely right. Transformation is great -- it's a wonderful thing to be able to see yourself, see the enemy, and see the terrain. Total situational awareness -- and the ability to precisely hit the enemy -- enable the U.S. to dominate any foe on the battlefield. But warfighting isn't the only thing the American military does. America's military is chartered with conducting "full spectrum operations" -- everything on the continuum from peace to war. Whether they are conducting humanitarian work in Honduras, counter-drug training in Colombia, peace-keeping in Kosovo, nation-building in Afghanistan, or armored warfare in Iraq, our soldiers see more than just the kind of battle where it counts to put steel on target. Most of these missions are decidedly un-high tech; they rely on well-trained people more than high-tech gadgets. Secretary Rumsfeld and his team may have a great solution for winning America's wars in record speed. But the Army establishment may know something about transformation too, and their voices shouldn't be discarded so ruthlessly.
The great irony in all this is that Gen. Eric Shinseki has pushed harder than any officer in the Pentagon for transformation -- he's been doing it since 1999, before Rumsfeld came to town. After Kosovo, Gen. Shinseki saw the writing on the wall for the Army and started pushing them down the road of lighter, faster, more deployable forces. He pushed the concept of a rapidly-deployable medium brigade, and fought for the money to build a prototype at Fort Lewis. Yet, Gen. Shinseki also knew that you could not transform the Army without maintaining a "legacy force" at the same time to make current missions happen. He ultimately lost his job for that belief, and open clashes with Sec. Rumsfeld over the best way to transform the military. If Gen. Tommy Franks is to be his replacement, I hope he is able to carry on the torch of transformation as well as Gen. Shinseki -- and stand up to the SecDef when necessary.
Update: Tom Bowman reports in today's Baltimore Sun on many of the same things I discussed yesterday, including the sentiment within the Army that they're already doing a lot to transform themselves. A lot of this could simply be personality -- that Army Secretary Tom White and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld simply didn't/couldn't/wouldn't get along.
Update II: It's official. The Washington Post reports that President Bush has tapped James Roche to be the next Secretary of the Army, and Colin R. McMillan to be the next Secretary of the Navy.
Update III: I may have created the wrong impression with respect to LTG William Wallace's replacement as V Corps commander. First off, he was due to be replaced this summer anyway, having served two years in this position. Second, changes of command usually happen during the summer, so the actual timing is quite normal. Third, if he were being promoted to a new position, like J-5 (Plans and Policy) officer on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, he would have to leave command first. I don't think the Pentagon is as upset with LTG Wallace as the press thinks. Indeed, I think they're quite pleased with his performance in the Gulf as V Corps commander. He's also the kind of guy the Army needs to keep around. LTG Wallace commanded the Army's digitized 4th Infantry Division, he commanded V Corps in combat, and he arguably knows as much as anyone about transformation and where the Army needs to go from here.
Riot control -- a mission that can really stink
DefenseTech passes on a real stinker of a story about new non-lethal weaponry for riot control. Simply put, the technology uses chemically-enhanced concoctions that smell so bad they force rioters to disperse. Conceptually, this is similar to the use of CS tear gas, in the sense that it creates physiological discomfort in a certain geographic space in order to disperse a crowd. Of course, stink bombing a crowd can be a bit more messy than tear gas.
Pamela Dalton, an experimental psychologist at the Monell Chemical Senses Center in Philadelphia, says a military group approached her organization...to study odorants likely to offend everyone, everywhere. "We focused on odors that had biological origin, reasoning that they had the best chance of being universally recognized and reviled," she explains. "Vomit odor, the odor of human excrement, urine, human sweat odor, rotting fish, decomposing bodies, burned hair."One legal note: The U.S. military has tap-danced around this issue for sometime -- whether it can use non-lethal riot-control agents overseas. The Pentagon's legal answer is yes, in the context of peacekeeping, rear-area security, and other non-battle missions. But in the context of combat, such use would fall under the Chemical Weapons Convention and thus be illegal as a matter of international law. I think it's safe to say that we've entered the peace-enforcement/nation-building phase in Iraq, so we could start to use these kinds of agents there. But then the question becomes: do we want to? Given the collective memory of the Iraqi people towards chemical weapons, and their use by the Hussein regime, I'm not sure we really want to use this stuff on the Iraqi people at all. The last thing we want is to create grounds for comparison between our regime and the one we deposed.
Monday, May 05, 2003
Soldiers pump money into Iraqi economy
Since the end of the war, the military has started paying its soldiers and Marines on the ground in Iraq through a system called "casual pay." Without getting into the details, the system basically pays each servicemember a portion of his/her salary for incidentals that they may want on the ground, like sodas and snacks from PX vans that have been shipped into Iraq. (All soldiers have direct-deposit, so their pay automatically gets paid even if they don't see it while they're in combat, allowing families to support themselves while the soldiers are overseas.) Guy Taylor (an embed with the 4th Infantry Division) reports in today's Washington Times that this money is also being spent on the Iraqi economy -- and that it's creating a burgeoning market in Iraq to meet soldier demand.
In many ways, this reminds me of the informal economies of Peru that Hernando De Soto wrote about in The Other Path. This book has been heralded by market-minded economists as proof that market economies will take hold even when the state opposed them, because they remain the best system for the distribution of goods, services and wealth. I'm not so sure that's true, but the Peruvian and Iraqi cases combine to paint an interesting picture of how market economies flourish under adverse conditions. As the reconstruction effort gets off the ground, I think this story will become even more important. Building a capitalistic economy is not easy, as the Russians have found out. The informal market economy in Tikrit is not the kind of system on which a national economy can be based -- it's a rudimentary cash-based or bartering-based system at best. Most importantly, it revolves around transactions at arm's length, thus the problem of trust is significantly less. Issues of contract enforcement can be dealt with in person, without resort to courts. For a national economy to flourish, however, a national system of laws must take root. De Soto makes this point too -- no national economy can work unless businesses feel confident that their contractual obligations will be enforced, and that their property rights will be protected.
Sunday, May 04, 2003
One embed's perspective on the war
Los Angeles Times reporter David Zucchino had an extremely thoughtful Column One piece in Saturday's paper on his experience as an "embed" in Operation Iraqi Freedom. Zucchino reported from several different units during the war, eventually reaching Baghdad with the 3rd Infantry Division. He writes with startling candor about his experiences in Iraq, and his story provides a great collection of lessons for the good and bad parts of embedding.
During seven weeks spent with half a dozen units, I slept in fighting holes and armored vehicles, on a rooftop, a garage floor and in lumbering troop trucks. For days at a time, I didn't sleep. I ate with the troops, choking down processed meals of "meat, chunked and formed" that came out of brown plastic bags. I rode with them in loud, claustrophobic and disorienting Bradley fighting vehicles. I complained with them about the choking dust, the lack of water, our foul-smelling bodies and our scaly, rotting feet.The Post weighs in... The Sunday Washington Post's Outlook section has some thoughts & reflections from its embedded reporters -- also worth the read.
Did Clinton's military win the second Gulf War?
Slate columnist Fred Kaplan poses this question, and others, in his Friday piece titled "Bush's Army -- or Bill's?". The answer has to be part yes, and part no, according to Kaplan, who writes that President Clinton did preside over some of the innovations which played a big role this time around -- like the Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM). But in reality, presidents do little more than preside and give slight direction to the ship that is the military-industrial-congressional complex. The Pentagon's procurement programs move on despite the occupant of the White House, with some major exceptions (such as missile defense).
In other words, the military generally goes about its business, and it is often a mere coincidence which president pays for researching, developing, or deploying a particular weapon. It is doubtful that Clinton knew what a Predator was, nor is it likely that Bush could have passed an exam on the topic before the war in Afghanistan made it famous. Contrary to many Republicans' claims, Bill Clinton did not weaken the U.S. military—far from it. On the other hand, as defense analyst William Arkin put it, "If Jesse Jackson had been president, we would still have JDAM."Maybe... But if George Bush had won in 1992, or Bob Dole had won in 1996, it's not clear that we'd have the same military today. Fred Kaplan gets the technology piece right -- the Pentagon will buy stuff no matter who's in office. But he fails to draw the connection between foreign policy choices and the military, and the way today's missions shape tomorrow's military.
I believe that missions -- which reflect foreign-policy decisions by the President to deploy the military -- have a profound effect on the military as an institution. This effect is mostly qualitative, though it can also be reduced to metrics like "Number of soldiers who have been shot at in anger" or "number of officers who have deployed for a UN mission." The military expeditions of the 1990s -- driven by policy choices in the Clinton Administration -- had a major effect on the military as an institution. Today's military isn't just a collection of gadgets -- it's an organization of 1.4 million men and women. After Somalia (which was initiated by President Bush I), Rwanda, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, East Timor, and every other place you don't know about, our military learned how to embrace missions like "peace enforcement" and "nation building." Our military learned how to deploy quickly to hot spots, de-escalate a situation, build order from chaos, work with NGOs, and do the muscle work of diplomacy. In every battalion deployed to Iraq right now, there are dozens -- or hundreds -- of soldiers, sergeants and officers who have been on these deployments. This experience gives them an edge, because they've been on a tough mission with difficult rules of engagement and live ammunition in their load-bearing vests.
Today's military is qualitatively better because of the deployments it did in the 1990s; that makes the Gulf War II military a product of the Clinton Administration's policy choices. To the extent that people -- not hardware -- win wars, this may mean that those policy choices were even more important than the hardware procurement decisions which were made by any one administration. (See Stephen Biddle's brilliant piece Victory Misunderstood for an exegesis of the roles that skill and technology played in the first Gulf War.) Today's military reflects the missions it has run during the lifetime of its soldiers. Many have criticized the "OPTEMPO" of the Clinton Administration, saying that it deployed the military too far, too much, and without enough money. That may be true. But in Afghanistan and Iraq, we have seen the payoff from the heavy lifting our military did during the 1990s.
Friday, May 02, 2003
For the complete UC-Los Alamos story, see DefenseTech
Noah Shachtman has probably done more of the journalistic legwork than anyone recently on the security problems at the University of California-run Los Alamos Nuclear Laboratory in New Mexico. He's broken a bunch of stories (e.g. here and here) before any other reporter, and he's even broken into LANL on a story to see just how good the installation's physical security was. Now, it appears his journalism has had a real effect. The Energy Department announced this week that the contract to run Los Alamos -- something the UC system has had for 60 years (since the Manhattan Project) -- is being put up for bids. The University of Texas, Lockheed-Martin, and others are expected to compete with the UC for the contract, and many expect they will beat the venerable California institution. Already, Los Alamos is seeing a brain drain because of UC management issues and uncertainty over the lab's future. Today, he has even more reporting on the lab's shaky future. Kudos to Noah and his DefenseTech weblog -- your work has had a major impact.
Slightly less painful than having a boat propeller slice into my leg
I just finished my first exam of the term -- this one in Constitutional Criminal Procedure. I took the course from UCLA law professor Peter Arenella, who some may recall from the OJ Simpson trial as one of the original insta-pundits (apologies to InstaPundit). Overall, I'd give the exam a B+ -- it was generally fair, and it was quite broad in comparison to some law school "issue spotters" that only test one part of course (which means if you didn't study that part, you're toast). Unfortunately, the exam didn't test some of my favorite topics in depth, like the Fourth Amendment and searches/seizures. And the hypotheticals were somewhat trite. But it's law school -- not The New York Times. (For the record, I have had a boat propeller slice into both legs, and it's less than fun)
Next up: First Amendment law on Monday. I've been told that Eugene Volokh gives excruciatingly difficult exams in which he expects his students to write a Supreme Court opinion -- something Prof. Volokh did as a law clerk for Justice O'Connor. I'm not sure if he's scouting future talent or having a little professorial fun with us. In any case, it should be challenging.
Wednesday, April 30, 2003
Admin note - light blogging until May 7
Unfortunately, I can't just go to law school and learn the law for its own sake. UCLA has to test my knowledge, and unfortunately, they choose the all-or-nothing final exam to do so. Barring some major news story, like the capture of Saddam or Osama (alive), I'll be out of the net for the next 8 days. In my absence, please check out the blogs I recommend on the left side of the page -- especially DefenseTech, Casus Belli, Winds of Change, and CommandPost for military stuff.
State Department releases its annual report on "Patterns of Global Terrorism"
While researching a briefing for my reserve unit on terrorism, I found the State Department's 2002 report on Patterns of Global Terrorism, which was released today and placed on the State Department website. This is one of the most exhaustive (unclassified) surveys by the federal government on terrorism, and it's well worth the read.
This report is submitted in compliance with Title 22 of the United States Code, Section 2656f(a), which requires the Department of State to provide Congress a full and complete annual report on terrorism for those countries and groups meeting the criteria of Section (a)(1) and (2) of the Act. As required by legislation, the report includes detailed assessments of foreign countries where significant terrorist acts occurred, and countries about which Congress was notified during the preceding five years pursuant to Section 6(j) of the Export Administration Act of 1979 (the so-called terrorist-list countries that have repeatedly provided state support for international terrorism). In addition, the report includes all relevant information about the previous year’s activities of individuals, terrorist organizations, or umbrella groups known to be responsible for the kidnapping or death of any US citizen during the preceding five years and groups known to be financed by state sponsors of terrorism.
Tuesday, April 29, 2003
What happened in Falluja?
The first reports of the incident in Falluja, in which American soldiers appear to have shot and killed 15 Iraqi civilians protesting their presence, are almost certainly wrong. Or, at the very least, they are tainted by the adrenaline which corrupts all first reports in wartime. Yet, even if they are partially true, these first reports are disturbing. The New York Times reports, along with other media, that American soldiers received rifle fire from a crowd of Iraqi civilians protesting their occupation of a school in Falluja which occurred at night. The paratroopers of the 82nd Airborne Division returned fire, killing 15 and wounding more than 75, according to Iraqi medical officials.
There were few details about the shootings that the Americans and residents could agree on today, apart from the fact that it began with a demonstration of perhaps 200 people, some shouting slogans in support of Mr. Hussein on his 66th birthday. Soldiers said it was a night of far more gunfire and rock-throwing than had been usual in this city of mostly Sunni Muslims, many still loyal to Mr. Hussein.Analysis: The fog of war is thick in situations like this, more so because all of this happened at night. Sure, the 82nd Airborne had great night-vision optics (e.g. AN/PVS-14 and AN/PAQ-4C) and they trained on how to engage targets at night. But even the best shots would have trouble engaging moving riflemen in a civilian crowd at night from any distance -- particularly when the Iraqi shooters are concealing their weapons or hiding behind civilians. Responding to this kind of rifle fire from a crowd is extremely difficult; it's almost guaranteed to result in civilian casualties. I think it's likely is that such rifle fire was used by an instigator to provoke exactly this kind of incident. Someone wanted to make the American army look bad -- and they succeeded.
Looking forward, I suspect the CENTCOM staff is looking right now at its Rules of Engagement, trying to determine if it needs to restrict the use of force further now that hostilities have calmed down to a lower level of intensity. I also think that someone at CENTCOM HQ is looking at the troop mix, to see if we really want all this infantry doing the job of military police in Iraq right now. American airborne infantry are really good at their mission -- which is closing with the enemy by means of fire and maneuver to kill or capture him. But they're less good at the kind of fuzzy, graduated-levels-of-force nation-building that this mission has become. Units that deployed to Iraq for Operation Iraqi Freedom did not receive the same kind of pre-deployment training that units going to Bosnia would have, and I think we're going to see lots of incidents in the near future where it becomes apparent that the average American combat unit is not prepared for this kind of mission.
Judges and lawyers on the way
Jess Bravin reports in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that a team of federal judges and lawyers has been picked to build an Iraqi court system. The team includes 6th Circuit Judge Gilbert S. Merritt Jr., and U.S. District Court Judges Paul Magnuson of Minnesota, Stephen Orlofsky of Camden, N.J., and Donald E. Walter of Shreveport, La. According to the Journal, the team has "signed on for a 90-day project to assess the condition of Iraq's judicial system. It will complement a 13-member police-training team also heading to the region."
Putting it together
America's military plans dramatic changes to globe-straddling posture
A trio of articles from Reuters, USA Today and the Washington Post paint a picture today of an American military about to make major changes in the way it deploys its forces overseas. Reuters reports today that American forces will pull completely out of Saudi Arabia. The news comes as Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld travels around the Middle East to visit the troops and assess America's military missions there.
The announcement, made during a tour of Gulf states by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld focused on reducing the U.S. military presence in the region, followed Riyadh's refusal to allow air strikes on Iraq by some 100 Saudi-based U.S. aircraft.The next piece of the puzzle comes from USA Today, which reports that America's commander in Europe is planning to open new bases in Eastern Europe. This move comes in the wake of diplomatic difficulties with France and Germany over the war with Iraq, as well as increasing difficulties with the logistics of keeping troops in Western Europe. With the end of the Cold War, European civilians have become less tolerant of maneuver damage and other problems associated with the U.S. military presence. Eastern European countries, strapped for money and itching to become better members of NATO, may be willing to give the U.S. big concessions in exchange for American troops being garrisoned there.
The Pentagon is considering closing or shrinking bases — now chiefly in Germany — while opening smaller bases in eastern European countries such as Hungary, Romania, Poland and Bulgaria.The final piece of the puzzle comes from Washington Post reporter Bradley Graham, who essentially confirms the USA Today report and its analysis.
What could this mean? Secretary Rumsfeld has been working since 2001 on transforming the American military into the lighter, faster 21st Century force he thinks is necessary to win America's wars. If the Pentagon can operate more cheaply in Eastern Europe than Western Europe, that would certainly support his goals. Moreover, there's no love lost between Mr. Rumsfeld and Messrs. Chirac and Schoeder after he called them "Old Europe," and I'm sure that Pentagon planners would rather work with eager Eastern European officials than recalcitrant French and German ones.
However, I think something bigger is at work here. Moving bases from one part of Europe to another is small potatoes. Instead, I think we're going to see a transformation of the nature of these bases -- from permanent garrisons to "lily pads" from which the American military can leapfrog abroad. Instead of maintaining large units in Europe like we do today, I think we're moving towards a model where we keep all these units in the United States, with their equipment pre-positioned in places like Diego Garcia and Eastern Europe, ready to deploy with them as a package to anyplace in the world. This would substantially lower operating costs, and increase the quality of life for soldiers who would choose to live in the United States (there will still be plenty of overseas opportunities for those who want to go). Moving out of Western Europe, with its gargantuan Cold War-era bases, is one step towards this new vision.
Monday, April 28, 2003
"I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy..."
The Associated Press reports that America confirmed the identity of its last missing soldier from the war with Iraq today. Spc. Edward John Anguiano was killed in the same ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company that resulted in the capture of six American POWs, including PFC Jessica Lynch. His body was recovered a day later, but his identity was not confirmed until today by military officials.
Officials used DNA tests to confirm that the remains were Anguiano, according to the soldier's grandfather, and military officials notified the family late Sunday. The grandfather said he believed Anguiano was killed during the initial attack on March 23, when he disappeared.Thoughts... There's no such thing as "closure" in a situation like this. However, it should give his family some comfort that America worked as hard as it did to find these missing soldiers, recover their bodies, and confirm their identities. In today's military, every single serviceperson submits a DNA sample (usually in the form of a small blood sample) to a giant repository. It appears that SPC Anguiano was identified with DNA from that database, enabling his family to know his fate for certain. One ramification of this database is that America may never again bury remains in the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington. Already, we have exhumed and used DNA to identify the previously unknown soldier from the Vietnam War. Our commitment to bringing every soldier home, together with our ability to positively identify them with DNA, means it's unlikely that we will ever place remains in this sacred crypt again.
Marine investigated for possible misconduct in war
The Las Vegas Review Journal reported on Saturday that Marine Gunnery Sgt. Gus Covarrubias was under investigation by the Navy Criminal Investigative Service for comments he made to an LVRJ reporter in an interview. (Those comments ran in a Friday story.) The statements in question indicated that Gunnery Sgt. Covarrubias "double tapped" an Iraqi soldier after he was captured, a possible violation of the laws of war. Covarrubias, a Marine Corps reservists, was wounded in combat in Iraq, and flown back to his home near Las Vegas to recuperate.
During an interview at his Las Vegas home earlier this week, Covarrubias told a Review-Journal reporter the harrowing tale of an intense April 8 battle in Baghdad that he described as "a firefight from hell."The article correctly points out that Gunnery Sgt. Covarubbias' conduct -- if established to be true -- would be illegal under the laws of war. Put simply, you can't shoot a prisoner who poses you no threat to yourself or your unit. Of course, this incident happened shortly after a firefight, and it's not clear yet that this individual met those criteria. First reports are always wrong in these kinds of situations, and the adrenaline of combat taints every eyewitness account. The investigators will need to stitch each account together to form the best picture of the truth, one that may or may not vindicate Gunnery Sgt. Covarrubias in this instance. If the investigation shows that this killing happened outside the Marines' rules of engagement, and that Covarrubias acted with the requisite level of intent, he could face criminal charges for his action.
LT Smash to Jacques Chirac: "You, sir, have no honor"
In a note more thoughtful than anything I've read from the State Department's public affairs office lately, L.T. Smash (a reserve officer deployed to fight in Iraq) has some sharp words on his well-read blog for French President Jacques Chirac and his refusal to support the war.
For well over two centuries, we have been friends and allies.Legal Brief: Soldiers have First Amendment rights, though they are somewhat curtailed for operational reasons (i.e. "loose lips sink ships") and political reasons (we don't want an American military coup d'etat). (See, e.g., Goldman v. Weinberger, 475 U.S. 503, holding in another First Amendment context that the Air Force could burden a serviceman's Constitutional right to free exercise of religion by making regulations which proscribed the wear of his yarmulke.) The Uniform Code of Military Justice criminalizes some forms of vocal dissent in Article 88:
Any commissioned officer who uses contemptuous words against the President, the Vice President, Congress, the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of a military department, the Secretary of Transportation, or the Governor or legislature of any State, Territory, Commonwealth, or possession in which he is on duty or present shall be punished as a court-martial may direct.This punitive article has been upheld by the courts on Constitutional grounds. LT Smash's words don't criticize any of the named individuals in Article 88, and as such, he's probably not vulnerable to prosecution under Art. 88. Furthermore, he's an anonymous blogger, and it's not clear that anonymous blogging would count for this statute. And there are probably regulations in place for the use of military computing systems abroad that limit such use to work-related purposes or limited personal e-mail. He's also criticizing the head of a NATO country, and speaking out on an issue of current diplomacy. In this case, discretion may be the better part of valor.
Their final words
Letters home from America's fallen sons and daughters
Sunday's Washington Post ran a moving article quoting letters from fallen soldiers to their loved ones. The Post's website also has PDF versions of these letters available for viewing and download. Collectively, the letters offer a moving tribute to the men and women our nation sacrificed in Iraq. Most write of life in the desert, and mundane details like laundry or mail. Some write more openly about their fears, apprehensions and emotions. In many ways, this collection reminds me of For Cause and Comrades by James McPherson, which collected the letters of Civil War soldiers. In that war, American soldiers wrote with considered prose about their thoughts on military life, their unit and their cause. In this war, the letters from America's fallen heroes tell similar stories, updated for the 21st Century, in voices that are at once thoughtful, compelling, intelligent, and strikingly honest.
One soldier wrote to his mother: Send more M&Ms. Another scribbled hello to his Nanny and Pop-pop. A Marine asked his girlfriend to tie a yellow ribbon in her hair. A reservist told his sister that if he didn't make it back, please read Rudyard Kipling's "If" at the funeral.
Post-war force may equal 125,000 troops
USA Today reports today that Pentagon plans call for 125,000 soldiers to stay in Iraq for at least a year of initial nation-building efforts. The issue remains in play, however planners and military analysts say that initial estimates have already been used to mobilize reserve units and initiate deployment orders for units not already in Iraq.
The United States fielded a force of 260,000 for the Iraq war. That included ground, air and sea combat forces and tens of thousands of logistical support personnel.Analysis: If I'm reading this right, we're looking at three divisions of 10,000-15,000 troops on the ground in Iraq, with at least that number in support troops outside the country on ships, airbases and logistics bases in the region. This is roughly half the soldier footprint we have now in the region, but not that much of a departure from the combat forces we have in theater. Right now, America has the 3rd Infantry Division, 4th Infantry Division, 101st Airborne Division, 1st Marine Division, 173rd Airborne Brigade, and a number of special operations and support units on the ground in Iraq. If this plan is accurate, then I think we'll keep 4ID on the ground (since they just got there), and move 1-2 divisions from either Germany or the United States to Iraq to replace 3ID, 101ID and the Marines. After order is restored and a functioning Iraqi government is in place, the troop commitment should drop even further. But it's not altogether clear when American forces may exit the nation completely. That will depend on a lot of variables, many of which are too complex to even begin modeling today.
If it ain't broke, don't fix it
William Arkin wrote a great essay for Sunday's Los Angeles Times in which he argues that America's military needs a lot less new stuff after Gulf War II than its generals and defense contractors are likely to want. Indeed, the lessons of this war indicate that American firepower is overwhelming, and America's technological edge is a generation ahead of our closet ally -- the UK -- let alone our Third World enemies. Instead of focusing resources on newfangled gadgets, America's military should instead focus on polishing the finer aspects of warfighting, such as joint Army/Air Force air operations, Arkin writes.
So if our weapons and equipment are effective, does nothing need improving? When compared to Hussein's military, which was crippled by oppressive centralization and poor training, the U.S. military seems like a big, happy family. But much work still needs to be done before its separate institutions learn to love fighting "jointly" together.Analysis: I think it's too early to tell exactly what worked and what didn't work in Gulf War II. In the aggregate, we know that our weapons worked well, and that our ground forces accomplished their missions. But we also had hiccups in many of our sophisticated C4ISR ("Command, Control, Communications, Computing, Intelligence, Surveillance & Reconnaissance") systems, such as the ability to find Saddam's chemical and biological weapons (something which, in theory, can be done with technical means). The Pentagon ought to conduct a series of in-depth surveys of America's campaign, such as the Gulf War Air Power Survey done after the first one, to ascertain exactly what worked and what didn't.
America can't afford to hand the Pentagon a blank check for the mall of military contractors. However, America also can't afford to starve the military of what it needs. After-action reviews are the key to finding the middle path between those two opposite courses of action.
Slate turns a profit
The New York Times reports today that Slate, a publication to which I've contributed a few times, has turned a profit in the first quarter of this year. This is notable because Slate is an entirely online magazine, and one that many critics claimed would go the way of other .com ventures. Instead, Slate has gone the way of E-Bay, showing that the marriage of good content to the Internet can work. I'm an avid Slate reader, and I think the reason for the magazine's success is its content. You won't find names like Thomas Friedman or William Arkin on Slate's pages. But you will find outstanding writers like Dahlia Lithwick, Fred Kaplan, Jack Shafer, and others who constantly push the envelope to offer new and interesting perspectives on current affairs. To borrow the line from Field of Dreams -- if you build a news site with good content, they will come.
Saturday, April 26, 2003
Secretary of the Army steps down... finally
After months of speculation over when he would leave, embattled Secretary of the Army Thomas White resigned yesterday from the job he's held since 2001. White, a West Point grad and retired 1-star general, came into the office with great expectations. Everyone expected him to excel at leading the institution that many thought he might have led as a 4-star general, had he stayed on active duty. Unfortunately, White met with a firestorm of controversy early in his tenure as Enron crumbled, because White had left the Army to take a lucrative position with Enron energy services. After (barely) surviving that ordeal, White next took fire for guerilla political tactics by his Department of the Army legislative office that attempted to undercut the Secretary of Defense's decision to cut the Crusader artillery system. It's not clear why White stepped down now. My guess is that he was waiting for the end of the war in Iraq to step down, in order to minimize turbulence within the Pentagon.
Secretary White's uniformed chief of staff of the Army, Gen. Eric Shinseki, has also not fared well. He and Secretary Rumsfeld have been at loggerheads for some time. The two senior leaders are rumored to have deep disagreements over the strategic role of the Army, and the proper way to transform America's largest military service. Rumsfeld transformed Shinseki into a lame duck by letting his replacement's name be known -- nearly a year before Shinseki's retirement. (Since then, that officer has declined the job) Some have speculated that Secretary Rumsfeld's trip to Iraq this week is really to interview officers who might replace Shinseki -- Gen. Tommy Franks, LTG John Abizaid, or LTG William Wallace.
Update: Various news media reported the same thought -- that Secretary Rumsfeld's real purpose in visiting the Middle East this week was to make Tommy Franks an offer he couldn't refuse. Today, the Washington Post adds its voice to the fray, confirming that speculation and offering some thoughts on why the SecDef might want Franks for the job.
... Rumsfeld has had particular difficulty with the Army. Some senior officers resent what they see as the secretary's tendency toward micromanaging. He and some of his closest aides also are viewed by the Army as overly fond of air power and other high-tech weaponry, at the expense of ground troops.There's more to the story, of course. In the last two weeks, the Army's General Officer Mangement Office has put out a bunch of new assignment orders for 1- and 2-star generals in the Army, including change-of-command orders for the 3rd Infantry Division and 4th Infantry Division -- both currently in Iraq. Some of this can be written off to summertime job changes (the military likes to switch out officers in the summer for family reasons). But it could also be true that Secretary Rumsfeld is directing these personnel changes -- and that each new assignment represents his own personal imprimatur and stamp of approval.
Fighting SARS with the law
Today's Washington Post has an interesting article on the legal tools available for fighting public-health epidemics, such as the Sudden Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) virus that's currently racing around Asia. The general thrust of the article is that the legal tools are insufficient -- and that any attempts to quarantine American citizens or cities would quickly degenerate into Orwellian chaos. I'm not sure this latter part is true, but I certainly think the first is. The President does have broad power in this area under federal law, including the power to use military units to conduct such operations (like in the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman). Similarly, state governors have the power in many states (like California) to do so. What lacks is the ability in many states to pro-actively investigate such activities as crimes in themselves, as opposed to inchoate forms of murder or assault. Bottom Line: America still lacks the kind of preparedness for bioterrorism that we have in other areas, such as our airports. We need to put more resources -- legal, financial, political -- into this area.
Friday, April 25, 2003
Gen. Franks: We'll be there "as long as it takes"
In an interview with the St. Petersburg Times, Gen. Tommy Franks said that American forces could stay in Iraq for quite some time -- that the focus was on getting the mission done, not leaving by a certain date. He also said there's a great deal of uncertainty about how long this could be, and that it was premature to estimate any sort of exit from Iraq now.
"The fact is we don't know how long it'll take . . . because we do not yet know exactly how devoted the Iraqis themselves will be in getting over their own tribal and ethnic and religious difficulties," Franks said in a wide-ranging telephone interview with the St. Petersburg Times from his office in Qatar.The Times also provided an excerpt from the interview that quoted Franks repeating this assertion -- that we're in Iraq for the long haul.
Q: What do we have to accomplish in Iraq before we can declare victory and pull out our troops, and how long will it take?Analysis: Building a nation takes time, as Austin Bay and others have pointed out. Even the basic civil affairs work to get water, power, food and other infrastructural systems on their feet takes weeks, not days. Our experience in Haiti, Bosnia, and Kosovo showed that it takes a lot longer to win the peace than to win the war. Indeed, the war may be won with a few shots from the air, but the peace will take thousands of men (and women) on the ground to win. Gen. Franks won't estimate America's departure from Iraq. I will. I think we'll be there at least 5 years, possibly as many as 30. Our mission there could last a generation, and we should be prepared for that contingency.
Thursday, April 24, 2003
Does the Army need more military police?
Greg Jaffe reports in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that the Pentagon has undertaken a major study to see whether it should boost the size of the Army's military police, adjust the mix of active/reserve MPs, or privatize some MP missions like law enforcement to free up more MPs for peacekeeping. The study comes at a time when MPs are stretched across the world, guarding posts in the United States, enforcing peace in Kosovo, and building nations in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Military police have grown in importance since Sept. 11, 2001, as American troops have ousted regimes in two countries and faced chaotic aftermaths, while the terror threat at home has put more MPs on guard duty at domestic military bases. Last December, the Army was forced to mobilize about 9,000 National Guard infantry soldiers to replace MPs on that security detail at 163 Air Force bases; most Air Force MPs on the bases were reservists in their second year of active-duty service, and were about to be sent home.Analysis: Full disclosure: I served as an MP lieutenant and captain on active duty, so of course I think the Army needs more MPs. But honestly, I do think it makes sense. So many of the missions the Army has today are to do things that MPs are good at: nation-building, peacekeeping, anti-terrorism/force protection, and other police-style missions. In the Balkans, we've succeeded by hammering square infantry units into round MP holes for a long time, with significant training and institutional costs. I've thought for some time that the right answer would be to create larger, rapidly-deployable MP units that could be used for these kinds of missions. Current practice is to give peacekeeping missions to a large combat unit (e.g. an infantry brigade) with 1-3 MP companies attached in support. The MPs just get used for specialized missions, like riot control, while the infantry do the bulk of the MP-style missions like running checkpoints, patrols, etc. It might make more sense to invert this relationship, and build more MP brigades capable of managing peacekeeping missions with an infantry company as a quick-response force.
Unfortunately, the Pentagon doesn't have unlimited options. It'd be great to build more MPs, but military personnel strength is a zero-sum game. Those units would have to come from somewhere, and they would likely come from combat units. (The military's end strength is capped as a matter of law, and it takes Congressional approval to adjust this number, which has significant budget repercussions.) Moreover, the Army's done all right with combat arms units in these missions, provided they get extensive training prior to deployment. One thing that's different about the units in Iraq now -- as compared with combat divisions who have deployed to Bosnia or Kosovo -- is that the guys in Iraq did not go through an extensive pre-deployment training on peacekeeping and nation-building operations. Before any Balkans rotation, units go through such training, culminating in a "Mission Rehearsal Exercise" that's often held at one of the combat training centers. So while using combat units has worked to date, it may not work as well in Iraq.
Furthermore, moving units from the reserves to the active force isn't that simple either. It costs money to do so, and it would require an adjustment in the military's end strength (or cutting of personnel from other areas). Privatizing law enforcement on military bases sounds good, but it would have a real impact on MP training. The reason MPs are so good is because they practice their peacekeeping skills every day they're doing law enforcement. Granted, there's a big difference between patrolling Fort Hood and patrolling Baghdad. But there's a lot of similarity too, especially in the abilities to work within restrictive rules of engagement and employ forceful interpersonal communication skills. So it's not clear this is the answer either.
Bottom Line: If I were in the Pentagon, I'd recommend that the bill go to Congress to increase the end strength to buy more MPs. They're well worth the cost, along with some of the other specialty branches like Civil Affairs and Special Forces whose work often goes unnoticed after the infantry leave. Doing so would give the military much more of full-spectrum capability than it has today, by enlarging its capacity for dealing with missions and threats in the gray area between peace and war.
What about the guys at Gitmo?
Neil Lewis has a long piece in today's New York Times discussing the legal and political implications of our continued detention of Al Qaeda and Taliban members at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The issue has caused some amount of consternation worldwide, particularly with regards to the American decision to label these men as "unlawful enemy combatants". That label means they do not get the legal protections of the Third Geneva Convention, although the U.S. has followed most of the humanitarian provisions of that treaty for these men.
With the United States on the verge of releasing 7,000 prisoners seized during the war in Iraq, lawyers and human rights advocates say they hope the contrast with the long detentions here will put more pressure on the administration to deal with the people captured in Afghanistan and other countries in the campaign against terrorism.
Why hasn't Al Qaeda struck again?
The Washington Times has an interesting front-page story today that speculates on the reasons why Al Qaeda has failed to strike the U.S. during the war on Iraq. Some experts have gone so far as to question Al Qaeda's viability as an organization, saying its terrorist credibility has been shot by its failure to act.
Despite a few suicide bombings that targeted U.S. forces in Iraq, speculation that Saddam's regime would resort to widespread terrorist attacks to disrupt the coalition campaign also did not pan out.So... the question is still open. Has Al Qaeda really been crippled by the attacks on Afghanistan and Iraq? Or has Al Qaeda decided to exercise tactical patience? Personally, I think the latter is true, because of some of the reading I've done on terror networks and their ability to absorb repeated assaults. Certainly, now is no time to be complacent.
Wednesday, April 23, 2003
Baghdad wasn't built in a day
Civil affairs work takes time -- nations aren't rebuilt overnight
Austin Bay, who writes frequently for the Washington Times and other publications, has some good thoughts on the unrealistic expectations that beset American nation-building in Iraq. Like all such operations -- Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan -- the work in Iraq will take time. Moving thousands of men, millions of pounds of logistical support, and setting up complex infrastructural operations takes time. Federal Express couldn't establish mail service overnight, nor could WalMart set up distribution channels overnight in Iraq. Similarly, the Pentagon-led reconstruction effort will take weeks and months to build effective institutions in Iraq.
Garner's and the Iraqi people's task is truly a 21st century endeavor. Their sweat, vision and spine must surmount some of the 20th century's worst fascist and socialist depredations, while finessing 12th century religious attitudes. They must accomplish this under the harsh gaze of an insistent, antsy media with biases to feed and ratings to spur.
Pentagon plans massive workforce overhaul
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld sent over a legislative package earlier this month to Congress which outlined a number of ways he hopes to transform the way military and civilian personnel systems work in the Defense Department. Today, the Washington Post characterizes that package as one of the most ambitious civil-service reforms in American history. Having read the package, I tend to agree. Here's a sample of what it would do:
Defense officials said they hope to start implementing the plan as soon as this fall. They admit that they have not left lawmakers with much time, but said holding off until next year, an election year, would hurt the bill's chances even more.This is big stuff -- at least as big as the 1986 Goldwater-Nichols Act which transformed the command structure of the services and created the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commands (like CENTCOM) that we know today. It's also needed. The Pentagon is an incredibly bloated and top-heavy bureaucracy, and it's next to impossible for the Secretary to trim the fat with the way the civil-service laws exist today. There are bound to be cries from unions and others who claim these reforms go too far. But I think those cries are wrong. Today's world requires management flexibility, especially in the Defense Department. New and emerging threats demand new management approaches, new procurement programs, new command structures, and the Secretary has to have the flexibility to move manpower and resources to meet those threats. The current system doesn't let him do that.
Suspected terrorist-affiliated charity goes to court
Today's Washington Post reports on an attempt by the Holy Land Foundation to overturn its designation as a terrorist-affiliated organization, and to cancel out subsequent moves by law enforcement to close the charity and seize its assets.
...lawyers for the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development told a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit that the Texas-based charity had never given money to the Islamic Resistance Movement, or Hamas. That allegation is the foundation of the government's case.Analysis: Without the court documents, I can't go into detail on the actual facts or legal problem at issue. (I intend to get them, however, for my terrorism seminar because this is one of my case studies on 18 U.S.C. 2339b -- the "material support" statute.) I imagine a lot turns on the particular statutes in play, and the particular legal actions taken by the government (e.g. a seizure of assets).
However, there are larger issues at stake in this legal fight. Taking down terrorist-affiliated charities is a key component of America's war on terrorism. Charitable organizations -- whether they are legitimate or simply fronts -- enable terrorist groups like the IRA, PLO and Al Qaeda to move money, men and materiel around the world. With their legitimate ties to banks and financial institutions, they provide one major link for terrorist organizations to the global financial system. The United States must get this right, because these charities play such a key role in the financing of global, networked terrorism. That said, the potential for "blowback" is huge here. If we take down the wrong charities, and impede the good work that such charities do, we will only add more fuel to the fire of terrorism. Thus, we must take measured but deliberate steps in our financial war on terrorism. Make no mistake about it -- this aspect of the war is as important as the ground war in Afghanistan. Without these global financial networks, organizations like Al Qaeda lose their ability to project power and force around the world. They become, in essence, local organizations with local means. (For more, see my Writ essay "Al Qaeda and the Advent of Multinational Terrorism: Why 'Material Support' Prosecutions Are Key In the War on Terrorism.")
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.