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.
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?