Tuesday, June 10, 2003
Rumsfeld selects retired general to lead the Army
Fox News reports that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has tapped retired-Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker to be the next Chief of Staff of the Army. The appointment is suprising for a few reasons. First, Schoomaker is retired, which is an altogether unusual thing for someone who's about to lead the largest military service. Second, he's a "snake eater". Schoomaker is a long-time member of the military's secretive special operations community. (Rumsfeld's a big fan of special ops) Presumably, the President has already blessed this appointment; now it heads to the Senate for an advice & consent vote.
The AP confirms the story, and adds some more background & detail about Gen. Schoomaker:
The Army has suffered an unusual amount of turbulence in leadership positions this year.Analysis: I think this sends a very loud message from the Eisenhower Corridor (where Rumsfeld's office sits in the Pentagon) to the Army's leadership. The SecDef couldn't find his man in the Army, so he had to reach into the pool of retired officers for his man. Not only that, he didn't like any of the "establishment" Army generals from the infantry or armor branches, so he chose one from the special operations community -- the antithesis of an "establishment" general. It'll be interesting to see how this works out. More to follow...
Pentagon moves forward with major troop redeployments
Greg Jaffe reports in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that the Defense Department has started to execute plans which would move most of American forces out of Western Europe and into "hub" and "lilypad" bases elsewhere. Specifically, the new bases would be located in Eastern Europe, Africa and Central Asia, preferably near key strategic locations (like the Red Sea) or near major port facilities. These plans fit into Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's larger plan to transform the American military for the 21st century, making it lighter, faster, more mobile, and more lethal.
The moves come in the wake of Germany's opposition to the war in Iraq and are likely to be interpreted as a rebuke of Berlin. Pentagon officials, however, said the moves aren't related to Germany's antiwar stance and noted that the Germans didn't place any major restrictions on the U.S. troops operating from that country during the war to topple Saddam Hussein.Analysis: In theory, this may be a good idea. Deploying forces overseas from the United States is very costly and very time-consuming. Getting an invasion force to Iraq took months, and cost billions of dollars. A lot of that flows from the inefficiencies of having troops in landlocked locations (like Fort Hood, Texas) or from not having enough pre-positioned equipment. From a pure systems-analysis perspective, reducing cost and time expenditures and smoothing bottlenecks in the deployment system is a good idea. Having a number of "lilypad" bases to deploy from around the world, along with lots more pre-positioned equipment, might make this work a lot better.
That said, this move entails significant risk at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.
- Tactically, it's very difficult to secure bases overseas, and especially when they're in less-than-friendly places like Africa. Our terrorist enemies have sworn to hit American targets wherever possible, and they have shown a predilection to hitting us in "their world" rather than in Germany or the United States.
- Operationally, it's not entirely clear that we can predict how we will fight the next war, much less where or when. As we saw with Turkey's refusal to let 4ID attack through their country into Iraq, the decisions about where you put your forces often shape the battle plan you can execute on the ground. If we commit forces to a "hub" and "lilypad" system, we may constrain our future warfighting options.
- Strategically, the risk is quite large. Establishing a base network in the Third World will be seen as tantamount to an establishment of a new American empire abroad. The deployment of U.S. forces to fixed places like Korea and Europe represented a fixed commitment to the security and stability of certain places. In geopolitical terms, I think it was easier to sell that to the world. These deployments, particularly to places that cannot equitably bargain with the United States, will be seen in a completely different light.
Bottom Line: The U.S. military needs to shed some weight; to become more flexible and rapidly deployable. But there are lots of ways to unscrew that coconut. For one, the U.S. may consider investing in more strategic lift assets, like cargo ships and airplanes. These are the bread and butter of rapid deployment, yet they're not bought in high numbers because they're not sexy and they don't kill things. Notwithstanding those facts, they are the simplest and most cost-effective answer to making our military ready for the next war.
More on the redeployment in Korea
Fred Kaplan has this good piece in Slate regarding the redeployment of American forces in Korea. He opines, as I did a few days ago, that it's not entirely clear what signal this move will send to the North Koreans -- except that U.S. soldiers don't intend to be a speedbump en route to Seoul anymore. Kaplan also explores the possibility -- remote though it may be -- that this move foreshadows a more aggressive, pre-emptive stance against North Korea from the Bush Administration.
If Bush is contemplating a pre-emptive airstrike—on North Korea's nuclear facilities or a wider strike against a range of military targets—he would have to worry about the possibility of retaliation from thousands of North Korean artillery tubes, including 500 long-range tubes within range of Seoul. Therefore, he might want to get U.S. troops outside of that range.Some thoughts... I agree with Mr. Kaplan that this is a wise move, and one that should've taken place a while back. It will give us more flexibility in Korea, and make our forces there more survivable and effective no matter what may happen (war, North Korean implosion, etc). However, we should ensure our moves are taken the right way in Pyongyang -- not just the right way in Washington and Seoul. The North Korean government tends to look at some things in a way that defy logic. Worse yet, there are few diplomatic channels open to tell them our side of the story. We must work through all of those channels, particularly China, to make sure we send the right message to the heavily armed and dangerously fanatical Democratic People's Republic of Korea.
Friday, June 06, 2003
Infantry combat changes little in Gulf War II
Donald Sensing has some really good analysis of the trends in infantry combat over the last several decades, and how the recent war with Iraq was fought by the grunts on the ground. Contrary to popular wisdom, American infantry have not seen a fundamental shift in the application of their art, except for the ways they're able to rely on technologically advanced airpower and artillery. At the tip of the spear, where the rubber sole meets the sand, little has changed since WWI:
During the recent Iraq campaign, US Marine riflemen were interviewed about their experiences by after-action interviewers.More... Mr. Sensing also refines his thoughts, after some e-mails that he had ignored the influence of "rules of engagement" on American infantry in Iraq. I've written on ROE in the past, and I agree with his analysis here. The fact that our troops had restrictive ROE reinforced the fact that they fought at close range, since they were forced to positively identify targets before engaging them.
...infantry couldn't do recon by fire in Iraq, at least very much, because the potential for civilian deaths was too great. So Iraqi defenders retained the initiative of when to begin the firefight. As far as I can tell from my readings, firefights began at close range. That meant that half the advantage of machine guns, their longer accurate range, was usually obviated.
Thursday, June 05, 2003
U.S. officially announces troop realignment in Korea
The Washington Post and others report tonight that American officials have officially announced their decision to radically alter the United States military footprint in South Korea. Currently, the American 2nd Infantry Division sits astride and below the border with North Korea, in a position that's quite vulnerable to a North Korean first strike. American forces are also dispersed among several small camps, in an extremely inefficient arrangement. This redeployment would move America's main combat force in Korea to two, consolidated "hub bases" south of Seoul from where they could mount a response to any North Korean aggression.
A joint statement by U.S. and South Korean officials said American troops will be pulled back to positions at least 75 miles from the DMZ, and will abandon a large base they occupy in downtown Seoul. The move from the DMZ will free about 18,000 U.S. troops to be more mobile, and they will be replaced by soldiers in a modernized South Korean army, officials said.Analysis: As The Post says, this was not a surprise. Leaks made their way into the Los Angeles Times earlier this week about this move, and Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz presumably made his trip to Korea this week to confirm the details of the new arrangement. Also, the Bush Administration appears to be pursuing a policy of coercive engagement with Korea, and this move signals a de-escalation of military tensions on the peninsula which have persisted since the North Korean announcement that they had nuclear materials (and possibly nuclear weapons).
This move has larger implications for the rest of America's forces in the Pacific, and the world. First, it seems likely that we will pull other forces in Korea back from the war footing they sit on today. This makes sense tactically, because we're hopelessly exposed to North Korean attacks in these positions. It also makes sense strategically. In theory, a redeployed and consolidated 2nd Infantry Division could deploy its forces elsewhere in the Pacific theater when necessary, without remaining tied down in Korea. If unrest broke out in Indonesia, or we needed more combat troops in the Philippines, the 2ID soldiers could deploy from Korea to those locations.
Today's news may also represent a paradigm shift in the way the Army mans its Korea garrison. Currently, the Army uses an "individual replacement system" to send soldiers to and from Korea for 1-year unaccompanied "hardship" tours. This is a horrendously inefficient system that creates real problems for unit discipline, morale and cohesion -- to say nothing about soldiers' domestic relations. A number of forward-thinking officers have proposed adopting a unit-based manning model for the Army, and possibly a unit-rotation model for Korea like that used today for Bosnia and Kosovo. Moving America's forces to these new bases might support that plan if the new bases are designed as temporary way stations, rather than permanent garrisons like Camp Casey north of Seoul. More to follow...
More on Korea... At least one reader disagrees with my assessment that this move represents a signal of de-escalation to North Korea. Instead, this represents a consolidation and reorganization of American forces in preparation for imminent hostilities with the north. That's certainly one way to look at it, and a plausible one as well. American forces will certainly be made more efficient by this move. If greater efficiency frees up more resources (time, money, maintenance dollars, etc) for combat training, then American forces will also become more lethal and combat-ready. (This assumes that the Pentagon does not rob Korea to pay for Iraq.) In theory, American forces could also coil south of Seoul for an attack on the north, with the ability to assemble into combat formations outside the range of North Korean artillery.
However, I disagree with this net assessment. American and South Korean forces live on a hair trigger right now. One incident could escalate rapidly because of these forces' proximity to each other. I think that proximity has a deterrent effect, since U.S. casualties would probably have the effect of bringing us into a massive war that the North has already lost once. But the proximity is also dangerous. Having that many young soldiers, weapons and ammunition in such close proximity is a dangerous way to keep the peace. Pulling our soldiers back to a position south of Seoul may be a way to reduce the chances of something occurring there. At least, that's my gut feeling from my time there in the 2nd Infantry Division.
More on Korea II... What's the most likely scenario though for North Korea? I don't think it's for a North Korean invasion of South Korea, circa 1950. I think the most likely scenario is that North Korea collapses, sparking one of the largest humanitarian crises in history. If you think Iraq and Afghanistan were hard to rebuild, wait until you see North Korea. This is a country that, when night comes and satellites fly over the region, appears almost entirely dark from a lack of electricity. South Korea has even started to build hospitals and infrastructure near the DMZ in order to bear the brunt of the rebuilding effort, although I don't think it's enough. Given the problems we're having in Iraq right now with nation-building, I hope someone's thought long & hard in the Pentagon about how we'd do it in Korea -- especially if we had to do the two missions at the same time.
Pentagon briefing on al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility
Say what you will about the Pentagon's press office, they're pretty good about posting full transcripts of major briefings given to press inside the building. Today's briefing concerned the IAEA visit to the al-Tuwaitha nuclear facility, which was famously ransacked in the days following America's victory in Iraq. Speaking on background, three senior defense officials had a few interesting things to say. Here's a sampling:
Q: One of the concerns that has been expressed here is that radiological material may have been stolen from the site, dispersed in a way that could wind up in the hands of terrorists or other people. Is there any evidence that you have that that may have happened? Is that a possibility?Analysis: Some of this seems to contradict the MSNBC reports from a few weeks ago, which indicated that American forces had arrived at al-Tuwaitha and abandoned it soon thereafter. Those reports also indicated that the facility looked as if it had been looted when American forces returned. Of course, the worst possible scenario is that terrorists or Saddam loyalists absconded with nuclear materials after the regime fell, and that they used the ensuing chaos to mask their heist. I think the IAEA visit will help assess whether that happened or not, but it's still too early to tell.
Rumsfeld runs into Congressional opposition
Esther Schrader reports in today's Los Angeles Times that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's plan to transform Pentagon personnel systems has run into staunch opposition on both sides of the aisle in Congress. In a Senate Governmental Affairs Committee meeting yesterday, senators such as Ted Stevens (R-Alaska) and Carl Levin (D-Mich) grilled the SecDef on the issue, asking him why he should be granted such sweeping powers over hiring, firing and other employment decisions for the largest employer in America.
Lawmakers said Rumsfeld's plan, which would affect more than a quarter of the entire federal civilian workforce, would amount to a damaging shift of power to the executive branch. Senators said they are crafting an alternative aimed at preserving worker rights.Analysis: The Pentagon's personnel systems for military and civilian employees are indeed quite Byzantine. I remember trying to chapter soldiers out of my unit at Fort Hood; doing so seemed to take an act of God. (I have heard that discharging a civilian employee is even harder.) Some change is needed, both to streamline the system and make it more responsive to the needs of America.
However, I'm not sure that Rumsfeld's proposal is the right prescription for the patient. First, it's far too broad. Though he likens this proposal to the powers vested in the new Homeland Security Department, I disagree. I reviewed that bill for my class on Law & Terrorism, and I think the proposed DoD powers are substantially more broad. The final version of the Homeland Security Act did not contain the broad sweeping powers sought by the SecDef. Indeed, Sen. Lieberman and others stalled the bill during the Summer of 2002 on precisely this issue, holding up the bill until Nov. 2002 when a compromise could be worked out.
Second, I don't think these are the most essential reforms. America's military is trying to transform, but it's focusing right now on the hardware -- not the people. Transforming the Pentagon's personnel system is not the most important thing we have to do. We must first focus on the people on the front-lines -- those junior officers, sergeants and soldiers -- who actually look the enemy in the eye. The Army is starting to move towards this goal by adopting a unit-based system of manning, instead of its current individual-replacement system. Don Vandergriff and others (like former-SecArmy Tom White and retiring Gen. Eric Shinseki) are pushing this hard, but it's taking a long time to make this happen.
Bottom Line: Secretary Rumseld has a finite amount of political capital to spend right now, in the wake of our success in Iraq. That capital ought to be invested in the causes most worthy. In my opinion, transforming the personnel system at the top is less important than building personnel systems that set our platoons, companies and battalions up for success.
One of the toughest jobs in the world
Today's Wall Street Journal has an interesting front-page story (subscription required) on the challenges facing ORHA, the American agency led by L. Paul Bremer III which has the mission of rebuilding Iraq. The article paints a picture of an understaffed, underequipped, and undercapitalized agency trying desperately to impose order on a nation the size of California.
Few government agencies have ever tackled a task so daunting: rebuilding a foreign country ravaged by a brutal dictator and a war. Now, after some poor prewar planning and early stumbles, ORHA (pronounced ore-hah) is beginning to grapple with everything from security to traffic jams in Baghdad.Some thoughts... It appears from all accounts that ORHA is putting 110% of its effort into the job. I have no doubt that Bremer's staff is putting in 18-20 hour days and working as hard as humanly possible. However, the problems may be such that even such heroic efforts can't get the job done. If it's true that ORHA is underresourced, no amount of staff or command work can make up that shortfall. Without sufficient troops for security, money for contracts, contractors for projects, or other key resources, ORHA cannot meet the mission's requirements.
Going it alone is not the answer. America has no monopoly on nation-building or reconstruction experience. Our NATO allies, the United Nations, and various NGOs are extremely good at this too. One reason that the UN, civilian contractors, and NGOs have been reticent to deploy to Iraq thus far is the security situation there. It may pay dividends for the U.S. to focus singularly on securing the nation of Iraq, so that others may come in to do the soft work of nation-building. This would play to our military strength, and it would also set the conditions for the influx of 3rd party nations. We need to get these neutral parties into Iraq as fast as possible, largely for political reasons. The Iraqis need to see that we're a benevolent occupier, and that we have the support of the world. Sure, Halliburton and Bechtel can deliver medical services. But it would probably make the Iraqis feel less threatened if they got medical care from Medicins San Frontieres (Doctors Without Borders).
Tuesday, June 03, 2003
Weblogs worth your time
I've been derelict in adding new blogs to my link list on the left, and also in plugging other blogs. I'd like to remedy that now by sending my readers to some excellent weblogs I've discovered over the last couple of months, either by chance or e-mail.
- ChicagoBoyz. The pictures of famous U.Chicago professors on the top of the page gives away the ideological and intellectual character of this page immediately. I've found the page to have lots of great ideas on topics ranging from foreign policy to economics. Not surprisingly, those are some of the things U.Chicago minds are known for.
- Brad DeLong. He's an economics professor at UC Berkeley. As you'd expect from an economist, he's got one of the more rational minds out there on a lot of issues. More importantly, though, for an academic economist he writes with great clarity on a wide range of issues.
- Samizdata. An interesting weblog on "globalization and economics." The posts offer more than that though; worth a look.
- Archidamus. Run by a graduate student in history at U.Va., this blog focuses on military history and the Los Angeles Dodgers, among other things. I've been startled by the depth and thought in some of Wayne's posts -- he provides a perspective that you won't find elsewhere on a lot of stuff.
Wolfowitz tries to reassure South Korean on U.S. redeployments
Today's Los Angeles Times reports that Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz is trying his best to reassure the South Koreans that America will continue to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with them in defense of their nation from the North Korean hordes. His efforts come in response to reports in the Los Angeles Times and other papers that America was considering a major redeployment of forces in the Pacific theater -- possibly involving the movement of ground troops out of Korea, or at least down from the DMZ. American soldiers have remained in Korea since the end of the Korean War in 1953, and their presence has often been likened to a "tripwire" that would bring the U.S. into any second Korean conflict.
President Bush dispatched Wolfowitz on a five-day tour of Asia in part to keep a promise to President Roh Moo Hyun to explain to skeptical South Koreans the U.S. military's plans for a global realignment of forces.Analysis: The unnamed official is right on the money. I've served in the 2nd Infantry Division ; I'm roughly familiar with the tactical and operational scenario along the border with North Korea. It remains the most dangerous place on Earth. The situation is not necessarily improved by Americans' proximity to the DMZ. Way back when, American soldiers actually shared in the border security, conducting patrols in and around the DMZ. Today, only a tiny fraction of the U.S. Army actually patrols the DMZ. The vast majority today are garrisoned roughly 5-35 km from the border, training for the war they hope never comes.
My fellow lieutenants and I all thought our initial chances of survival were pretty low. This fatalism owed to our proximity to the thousands of artillery pieces in the North and the thousands of North Korean special forces already thought to be in the south. Working together, they could fire enough artillery in the first few minutes so as to massacre the American soldiers stationed north of Seoul -- and lay Seoul itself to ruins. Moving American forces south of Seoul would make a tremendous difference, because it would put them out of the range of North Korea's deadly blanket of artillery. That would give American units the critical hours they need to alert, assemble, upload and deploy to battle positions -- and survive to fight as something else than a speed bump.
The problem is that America's deployment north of Seoul is highly symbolic. Strategically, these garrisons represent a blood wager in the high-stakes game of poker with North Korea. If the North comes across, they will necessarily kill enough Americans to bring us into the war. That fact has tremendous deterrent effect, and is often credited with stopping a second Korean War over the last 50 years. South Koreans know this fact too, and they are especially reticent to allow any redeployment of American troops which may reduce the blood wager. Ultimately, redeploying American forces is right for us and it's right for Korea. But I'm not sure the South Koreans can be so easily persuaded. They may protest our presence in the streets, but when the chips are down, they still want us there.
Tension continues between Army and SecDef
Dave Moniz of USA Today reported today that former-Secretary of the Army Tom White has spoken out against his former bosses -- in a big way. Speaking from his position as a former 1-star general and former-boss of the Army, White predicted that American soldiers would have to occupy Iraq for some time to come, and that Secretary Rumsfeld (and his staff) failed to say so in public before the war.
Former Army secretary Thomas White said in an interview that senior Defense officials "are unwilling to come to grips" with the scale of the postwar U.S. obligation in Iraq. The Pentagon has about 150,000 troops in Iraq and recently announced that the Army's 3rd Infantry Division's stay there has been extended indefinitely.Analysis: There are a lot of pieces at work here. First, there is a dismal relationship between the Department of the Army and the Office of the Secretary of Defense -- two organizations which are supposed to work together in a parent-subsidiary relationship. The ouster of Secretary White, problems replacing outgoing-Chief of Staff of the Army Eric Shinseki (who retires on 11 June), and difficulty managing Army transformation efforts are all signs of dischord between the two shops. Suffice to say, this animosity is not good for America or its common defense.
Second, there are some real policy disagreements at work between the OSD and Army staffs. I wrote about some of this in the Washington Monthly, but I think the disagreements run even deeper than I believed. This morning, I talked with a senior Army official who shed some light on the high-level discussions in the Pentagon. It appears that the Rumsfeld camp and White/Shinseki camp were operating on completely separate assumptions about the nature of warfare and nation-building. Fortunately, Rumsfeld's predictions came true with respect to the war -- less troops could win. Unfortunately, White and Shinseki's analyses were far more accurate about the peace.
The problem today is that we built a nation-building plan with insufficient flexibility to react to a changing situation on the ground. America has no more "9-1-1" force it can rush to Iraq to add combat power on the ground. Fully 50 percent of the Army's combat power is already devoted to Iraq. Add in Afghanistan, Bosnia, Kosovo, Korea, and other missions, and you soon have an Army stretched to the limit. We do have reserve formations capable of nation-building. However, those troops require extensive time to mobilize and deploy -- on the order of 3-6 months. We needed to call these troops up months ago to make a difference today. The right plan would have called these soldiers up as a contingency force, just in case. I realize that would have meant hardship for thousands of reservists like me. But it would've been the prudent strategy for America to pursue.
Enough diagnosis... what's the prescription? (1) Mobilize National Guard divisions immediately for the job. We're going to be in Iraq for the foreseeable future, and we can't stay in denial any longer about what this mission will take. If we call these citizen-soldiers up today, they may be ready by Christmas to deploy. By then, the 4th Infantry Division and others will be ready to rotate out anyway. (2) Invite NATO to help with the mission, either with their rapid-reaction force or other assets. They may come with political headaches -- and maybe even an agenda. But they also bring a wealth of experience for this mission, and they bring boots that we don't have the capacity to put on the ground right now. (3) Tell the truth to the American people -- we're going to be in Iraq for a while. The President must make the case that this mission is worth it. He must make the case that we have a direct interest in creating a stabile and prosperous Iraq; that a well-governed Iraq will not provide a haven to terrorists; that a friendly Iraq is worth the cost we have already paid. Calling up National Guard soldiers requires tremendous political capital, since it means taking men and women from every part of America. To accept this challenge, the American people must know their cause and believe in it.
Saturday, May 31, 2003
Global war on terror continues -- in the Philippines
Today's New York Times passes on this report that Al Qaeda operatives have began to train in the Philippines with their affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah. In the past, these two groups were loosely affiliated -- more like two baseball teams in the same league than two subsidiaries of the same corporation.
For the last six to nine months, recruits mostly from Indonesia and Malaysia, but also a few from as far off as Pakistan and the Middle East, have received training at inaccessible, rough-hewn sites — basically a few huts and some tents — in a marshy region on the island of Mindanao, officials said.Analysis: Al Qaeda has purposefully built an organizational structure that is loose, networked, and able to respond to direct attacks on its leadership and infrastructure. The move to conduct operational training in the Pacific is significant, because it represents a major increase in the scope and importance of this relationship for Al Qaeda. Furthermore, it may represent the opening of a "second front" in the Pacific -- or at least a greater one than we've seen to date. Terrorists affiliated with Al Qaeda were responsible for the bombing in Bali last year which was purportedly targeted American interests through our proxies, the Australians. There has also been a significant, but low, level of terrorism in the PI, conducted by the Islamic terrorist groups MILF and Abu Sayyaf. We currently have American military and humanitarian aid to assist the Philippine government in fighting this war, but that may not be sufficient. If the Al Qaeda presence in the Pacific expands, and begins to threaten American interests, we may need to fight a campaign there similar to the one in Afghanistan.
Bottom Line: The war on terrorism is not over, and may only be marginally influenced by our success in Iraq. The real war on terrorism is still being fought by intelligence analysts, financial analysts, law enforcement officials, and soldiers, and it will continue in places like Sudan, the Philippines, Algeria, Indonesia, Pakistan, and everywhere else that Al Qaeda has spread.
Friday, May 30, 2003
U.S. to realign military footprint in Asia
Esther Schrader has this interesting report about the Pentagon's plans to alter its deployments in Asia. I'll write more on this later, but I think that Ms. Schrader has a real big scoop here. Asia has most of the emerging threats we will deal with in the next decade, and it is very significant that we are altering our footprint there. I think we will see a number of changes in the near future to respond to new and emerging threats, both of the conventional variety (e.g. China) and the unconventional variety (Indonesia and the Phillipines). More to follow...
American soldiers face increasing hostility in Iraq
I was not surprised to read this report in today's New York Times about increasing hostility towards American troops in Iraq. We have, in short, become an occupying army and one that appears to be there for the long haul. That's probably the right thing to do, given our imperatives to build lasting institutions in Iraq. But we must recognize this effect, and the increased risk it poses to our soldiers. It may necessitate the deployment of additional forces to manage the short-term security risk, either from the U.S. military or from our allies.
The complexity of postwar Iraq has led American forces into law enforcement tasks for which they are not well prepared. They are still searching for Mr. Hussein and his key officials. They are fighting hardened criminals freed from prison by an amnesty granted by Mr. Hussein late last year.Coda: I first heard that phrase "ugly American" in Korea, when my colonel exhorted us to not act that way as MPs on patrol in Tongduchon. Like a lot of things in the military, though, it's easier said than done. I'm not sure how you can maintain law & order, maintain security, and also be the nice guy (or respected guy) on the block.
Light Blogging: I'm away from Los Angeles for work so I won't have much to say until Sunday when I get back. I hope to have a good dump on the weekend's news then for everyone.
Tuesday, May 27, 2003
How effective was "shock and awe"?
Slate's Fred Kaplan asks some pretty tough questions in his War Stories column today about the conduct of America's second war on Iraq. Specifically, he focuses on the recently released statistics by the Air Force on sorties flown, bombs dropped, targets hit, etc. The numbers will make even a seasoned analyst's head spin. But Kaplan does a good job of putting them together in a larger picture of what really happened. Here's a sampling:
How smart were the smart bombs? During the war, most analysts assumed the majority of bombs were smart bombs and the majority of smart bombs were the new, cheap Joint Defense Attack Munitions or JDAMs. The old smart bombs, the ones used in Desert Storm, were laser-guided. In other words, a crew member would shine a laser on the target; the bomb would follow the beam. However, the beam could be deflected by dust, smoke, rain, even humidity. And the laser-guided bombs were expensive—around $100,000 apiece. JDAMs are guided by Global Positioning Satellites. The pilot punches the target's coordinates into the bomb's GPS receiver andthe bomb homes in on the spot; environmental conditions aren't a factor. And they're cheap—a JDAM kit can be strapped onto an old-fashioned "dumb bomb" for $18,000.
Iraq -- the most likely place for Al Qaeda's next attack
The Associated Press and others report that two American soldiers died today in an attack on a U.S. Army checkpoint in Fallouja. Two Iraqis reportedly emerged from their cars, automatic weapons drawn, and started firing on American soldiers manning a checkpoint. They killed two and wounded nine. Also today, in Baghdad, a rocket-propelled grenade wounded two Army MP officers working out of a Baghdad police station. In describing the attacks, 3rd Infantry Division commander Maj. Gen. Buford Blount III said they were seeing "very small groups — one or two people — in isolated attacks against our soldiers." Yesterday, an American soldier died in a convoy ambush in Northern Iraq. On Sunday, Iraqi guerillas ambushed an American HMMWV driving in Baghdad, detonating it as the vehicle drove past. Two other incidents targeted American soldiers on Sunday, but inflicted no casualties. The New York Times reports that anti-American attitudes and violent tendencies have become commonplace among Iraq's young male population:
As American troops keep flowing into Iraq to provide greater security and departures of other troops are delayed to strengthen police functions, military commanders continue to express private concerns about whether they have sufficient forces to re-establish a stable postwar environment.Analysis: Clearly, we are seeing an upswing in the level of insurgent activity in Iraq. Without access to the raw intelligence I might have in the field, I can't do any kind of reasonable trend analysis or predictive analysis. However, I can read the tea leaves from here somewhat. American units are seeing what appear to be frequent, widespread, pre-planned, deadly acts of violence. It's more likely than not that these are coordinated attacks -- possibly part of a larger anti-American strategy. It's impossible to tell (without better intel) who might be behind these attacks, or why they might be happening. I can speculate that Shiite factions are instigating the attacks as a way of destabilizing the American presence and hastening our departure. I could also speculate that the attacks come from Saddam Hussein's loyalists who retained their weapons from their military service.
But I'd like to suggest a more sinister possibility that must at least be considered by America's security and intelligence communities: Al Qaeda action in Iraq. It appears from a number of reports that Al Qaeda has been hobbled to some degree. The global terror network retains the ability to operate, but it has been constrained by America's war in Afghanistan and efforts elsewhere. Our military, financial, law enforcement, and prosecutorial efforts may have crippled the network's ability to act inside the United States -- it's hard to tell (see this Newsweek report). But one place where we have barely made a dent is in Al Qaeda's ability to operate in the Arab world. This month's attack on the American housing complex in Saudi Arabia are the best evidence of this, along with recent reports indicating the presence of an Al Qaeda cell in Iran. This is an organization that retains the ability to move men, materiel and money around the Arab world, at least, and retains the ability to plan and execute terrorist operations. In short, Al Qaeda remains a potent threat.
Why do I think they'll hit us in Iraq? First, Al Qaeda's stated goal is to remove American soldiers from the Saudi peninsula, and by extension, the Arab world. Osama Bin Laden deeply resents America's influence on Islam, and especially our efforts to build rapport with secular, moderate and fundamentalist governments in the region. Their doctrine cannot allow us to maintain a presence in Iraq, and it cannot allow us to successfully install a Western-oriented government in Iraq that disdains Islamic law in favor of democracy, capitalism, and individual liberty. (It may be possible for these things to live together, but at least for now, no one has figured out how to do that.)
Second, Bin Laden deeply hates American military imperialism, which is almost certainly how he sees our attack on Iraq in this second Gulf War. He has deliberately targeted our military deployments before (e.g. Somalia and the USS Cole), and it makes sense that he will do it again. Al Qaeda stands against a lot of things, but few institutions have inflicted as much pain on Al Qaeda as the American military. I think that Bin Laden has a blood debt to settle with the American military after Afghanistan, and he will attack American soldiers wherever he can (Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Afghanistan) to settle the score.
Third, the opportunities abound in Iraq for a terrorist -- particularly a terrorist who seeks to wage war through proxies. Large numbers of Iraqi soldiers melted away in the face of American firepower, and they took a lot of their weaponry with them. Those men would make great recruits for a terrorist sponsor. There's a lot of ordnance, weaponry, and stuff on the street in Iraq for a terrorist to buy. He wouldn't have to smuggle stuff in; he could probably buy it on the black market. On top of that, there's an abundance of American targets -- from well-protected American military bases to less-well protected contractors and relief organizations. Hitting Bechtel or Halliburton may not seem as sporting as hitting the 4th Infantry Division, but this enemy has never been one for chivalry.
The biggest reasons, however, are the large numbers of reporters inside Iraq and the amount of coverage that any such attack would receive. Nearly 30 years ago, terrorism expert Brian Jenkins wrote that "terrorism is theater." Without an audience, terrorism is mere violence perpetrated in the name of a cause -- but without an effect to justify the effort. The violent act is a mere precursor to the act's effect on society at large. Media coverage gives terrorism its audience, and most contemporary terrorism is scripted with the media in mind. It's possible that Al Qaeda might hit American soldiers in another part of the world -- the motive, means and opportunity certainly exist. But the presence of the media in Iraq all but guarantees that such an attack will happen there.
Monday, May 26, 2003
That's not the sound of a turkey -- it's the sound of large defense contractors gobbling up smaller tech firms and defense-related start-ups, according to this report in Monday's Washington Post. After a wave of consolidation during the 1990s in the defense industry, large conglomerate firms like Northrop-Grumman and General Dynamics have been semi-covertly buying up small firms that provide critical pieces of hardware and software for the large ships, tanks and planes they already build. The result is that the industry has become more consolidated than ever, with just a few large contractors (GD, Northrop-Grumman, Boeing) owning most of the business.
The buying spree is contributing to a fundamental change in the structure of the defense industry as the top players move away from their roles as mere weapons makers and increasingly cast themselves as "systems integrators" that produce high-tech networks for the battlefield. In the past three years, contractors have swept up about 180 small tech firms, mostly in Northern Virginia, a 25 percent increase from the previous three-year span.Analysis: I think the jury's still out as to whether this is a good or bad thing for America and its military. In theory, larger contractors can achieve economies of scale across the vertical and horizontal dimension. However, they can also act like a monopolist. Ultimately, I think what matters is getting the best rifle, ship, plane or tank into the hands of the warfighter. So far, they appear to be doing well, but it's hard to know whether a less consolidated industry might do better.
A chaplain's story of war
Chaplains play an important and unique role in the American military. Constrained by our First Amendment and tradition of separating church and state, they serve as part-adviser, part-chaplain, part-sage for battalions of soldiers in war and peace. John W. Brinsfield, who retired as a colonel in the Army's chaplain corps, has a thoughtful essay in Monday's New York Times on the meaning of war and remembrance -- from his perspective as a military chaplain.
In the 1991 Persian Gulf war, I was a senior chaplain assigned to the headquarters of Army Central Command in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. My mission was to help place 568 Army chaplains of all denominations throughout the combat zone so that our troops would always have one nearby. My ministry involved visiting hospitals, counseling the lonely and the fatigued, dodging Scud missiles, conducting worship services under the sky, and later, holding memorial services for the dead.Definitely worth a read... Ironically, the piece is juxtaposed in the same day's paper as this report from San Luis Obispo. There, it appears that fire department chaplains are making a bad name for themselves and their department, according to allegations of six firefighters who are suing over their quasi-official use of religion.
The middle-level officers brought the lawsuit earlier this year, saying that the chaplain's corps, run by an evangelical minister who is also a senior official of the department, was almost exclusively Christian and had improperly injected religious faith into a government organization.I can't speak for how the chaplains behave in the San Luis Obispo fire department, nor can I really speak with any authority about this case since I'm just an acolyte to First Amendment law. This case in SLO is not unique. In recent months, lawsuits have challenged their ability to function, and the military's ability to include prayer and religion in certain aspects of life like the meals at the Naval Academy.
While I support the Constitution and its intent to separate church and state, I do think these movements can go too far. There are times in the military when a little religion can be helpful -- regardless of which faith it comes from. America's military certainly embraces Christianity more than Judaism, Islam, or any other religion, somewhat to the detriment to whose who serve (like me) from those other faiths. However, the military chaplains I knew were especially aware of this fact, and they did everything they could to take care of my needs too. Whether they're checking on soldier morale, helping to run the casualty collection point, or providing religious support, chaplains play a key role in our fighting units. Ultimately, I hope that judges balance the interests on both sides to find a Solomon-like answer to the problem of religion in the ranks.
A short note on the meaning of Memorial Day
Veterans Day was established after World War I on the day of the Treaty of Versailles. After World War II, Congress passed a resolution extending the holiday's meaning to honor the veterans of that war. After Korea, Congress passed a third resolution, this time extending the holiday to "honor American veterans of all wars." Over the years since, Congress has updated its resolutions on Veterans Day, made it a federal holiday, and pushed the states to accept it as a holiday too. Veterans Day is properly celebrated on Nov. 11, to mark the day the treaty ending WWI was signed, but is usually observed on the first or second Monday in November.
Memorial Day has an older lineage, which traces back to the Civil War. Unlike Veterans Day, which commemorates living veterans, Memorial Day is expressly intended as a day to memorialize the sacrifice of men and women who have given their lives in uniform. General John Logan, national commander of the Union Army, published an order in 1868 which established Memorial Day. His soldiers placed flowers on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers buried at Arlington National Cemetery. New York recognized the holiday in 1873, and most northern states followed by 1890. Southern states were somewhat recalcitrant, and some even maintained a separate holiday to honor Confederate war dead. After WWI, Congress extended the holiday to honor American soldiers who died in all wars, not just the Civil War, and this tradition has endured until today. On Memorial Day, soldiers from the 3rd Infantry Regiment continue to place flowers on every grave in Arlington, honoring those who rest there.
It's not my goal to take anything away from the millions of Americans who celebrate this holiday more as a 3-day weekend and the start of summer. Our soldiers gave their lives in part for the American way of life, so such a tribute is fitting. However, we should all enjoy this holiday with the knowledge of what it's about, and at least take some time to think about those who have given their lives in our name.
Tuesday, May 20, 2003
I'm now working full-time at a law firm in downtown Los Angeles, and thus unable to devote the time I had for Intel Dump during the academic year. (The life of a grad student is significantly less demanding than the life of an apprentice attorney.) Intel Dump will be updated 3-5 times a week, with lengthier posts on the weekend when I read the Sunday papers and newsmagazines. I hope you'll continue to read this site, as well as my colleagues who I've linked to on the left side of the page. Thanks!
Monday, May 19, 2003
Faux Pax Americana
The lesson from Iraq is that using fewer troops can win a war, but can't keep the peace.
The Washington Monthly just posted a piece that I wrote on military transformation and peacekeeping, in which I argue that America had enough boots on the ground (barely) to win the war in Iraq -- but not nearly enough manpower to do the jobs of post-war occupation or nation-building. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his advisers have pushed hard for a vision of America's military that is lighter, faster and more lethal -- but also more technology-centered and less people-centered. I disagree with this vision, and think that the full spectrum of operations like peacekeeping requires more soldiers than gadgets.
When victory arrived, we lacked the troops on the ground to prevent Baghdad--and most of the rest of the country--from collapsing into anarchy. We had tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles galore in the capital, but not nearly enough soldiers to guard such facilities as the key ministries, hospitals, and the National Museum. Ministries torched and looted during the first days are now unavailable to house the planned interim government. The plunder of hospitals set the stage for a still very possible humanitarian crisis. Looters who ransacked the National Museum stole many of the priceless historic artifacts that connected contemporary Iraq with its ancient roots, inflicting a mammoth public relations disaster upon the United States.Coda: A couple of readers have e-mailed me to say this is all great, but could we have actually put more boots on the ground? From a logistics or manpower standpoint, did we have the capacity to do so? The answer is yes -- and no. America had the manpower in the active force to do so, and it surely had the manpower in the reserves. But for a variety of political, readiness and institutional reasons, those troops were not committed to the Iraq mission. Moreover, we were unable to tap into our NATO allies like France and Germany for peacekeeping support because of the animus between our countries. Still, the mission could have been accomplished with U.S. troops alone. We should have had the foresight -- in Oct. or Nov. 2002, when attacking Iraq became certain -- to mobilize enough of the National Guard to meet the post-war need. (Mobilizing these troops requires a long lead time)
Second, there's the issue of capacity. Could we have actually sent all these troops and their equipment to Iraq, and then staged them in Kuwait? The answer may be no. America has a finite amount of "strategic lift", defined as all the transportation stuff (ships and planes mostly) needed to move things in between theaters of operation (from the U.S. to Iraq). A lot of that finite lift capacity was used to move the existing force to Iraq, and subsequently to supply that force. The U.S. could have contracted for more shipping and aircraft support, but at a high cost. It's not clear that we had the political support in Congress to pay that bill.
Saturday, May 17, 2003
Three excellent pieces in the June issue of the Atlantic Monthly
The June issue of the Atlantic Monthly has a great collection of articles on topics ranging from the psychology of terrorism to the psychology of John F. Kennedy. Since subscribing a year ago, I've looked forward to reading the A.Monthly because of its writers' skill and editorial choice of subjects. This issue is probably the best I've read thus far. Here's a sampling of the pieces I liked:
The cover piece by Bruce Hoffman (not available online, unfortunately) dissects terrorism -- from the perspective of both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I've read a lot on this subject, and this is one of the most brilliant essays I've read to date. According to Hoffman, terrorism is not an amorphous phenomenon for either side; it's a mechanical, institutionalized, planned and financed act that is countered by the Israelis in well-planned, rehearsed, well-financed, institutionalized ways. Hoffman's well qualified to write on this subject. He's the foremost expert on terrorism in the world, having studied it for more than 30 years -- well before it became the subject du jour for academics. Hoffman now directs the Washington DC office of the RAND Corporation, and wrote what I consider to be the seminal book on the subject -- Inside Terrorism -- in 1999. (Also see this online discussion with Hoffman on the magazine's site.)
Buses remain among the bombers' preferred targets. Winter and summer are the better seasons for bombing buses in Jerusalem, because the closed windows (for heat or air-conditioning) intensify the force of the blast, maximizing the bombs' killing potential. As a hail of shrapnel pieces flesh and breaks bones, the shock wave tears lungs and crushes other internal organs. When the bus's fuel tank expodes, a fireball causes burns, and smoke inhalation causes respiratory damage. All this is a significant return on a relatively modest investment. Two or three kilograms of explosive on a bus can kill as many people as twenty to thirty kilograms left on a street or in a mall or a restaurant. But as security on buses has improved, and passengers have become more alert, the bombers have been forced to seek other targets.The next outstanding piece comes from James Fallows, one of America's leading journalists, on the shooting of Mohammed Al-Dura on the second day of the second Intifada. Many will remember the vivid images of 12-year-old Al-Dura's shooting -- allegedly by Israeli soldiers -- and his subsequent death in his father's arms. Since the incident, however, evidence has surfaced to add more than a reasonable doubt to this account. Unfortunately, most of the evidence has been buried, lost or destroyed, and no one trusts the outcome of any investigation run by the Israeli Defense Forces. Nonetheless, Fallows puts together a compelling account of the facts as he can best tell, and the story is worth a read.
Al-Dura was the twelve-year-old Palestinian boy shot and killed during an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators on September 30, 2000. The final few seconds of his life, when he crouched in terror behind his father, Jamal, and then slumped to the ground after bullets ripped through his torso, were captured by a television camera and broadcast around the world. Through repetition they have become as familiar and significant to Arab and Islamic viewers as photographs of bombed-out Hiroshima are to the people of Japan—or as footage of the crumbling World Trade Center is to Americans. Several Arab countries have issued postage stamps carrying a picture of the terrified boy. One of Baghdad's main streets was renamed The Martyr Mohammed Aldura Street. Morocco has an al-Dura Park. In one of the messages Osama bin Laden released after the September 11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, he began a list of indictments against "American arrogance and Israeli violence" by saying, "In the epitome of his arrogance and the peak of his media campaign in which he boasts of 'enduring freedom,' Bush must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Dura and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq. If he has forgotten, then we will not forget, God willing."The third piece I liked (also unavailable online) comes from Robert Dallek, a history professor who has written extensively on the American presidents of the mid-20th Century. It discusses the presidency of John F. Kennedy that might have been -- and derives in large part from his new 1-volume biography An Unfinished Life. The interesting parts to me were the discussions of JFK's rocky relationship with his military advisers, who, Dallek reports, Kennedy thought were either too audacious, too aggressive, or too dumb to give him good advice. Dallek speculates that Kennedy would have not "Americanized" the Vietnam War as LBJ did in 1965, and would have eventually pulled American advisers out before committing large units of ground forces.
A consideration of likely post-1963 Kennedy policies must begin with JFK's views on how political and military leaders should make decisions about armed action. Why England Slept, his Harvard senior thesis, which was published as a book in 1940, showed a healthy skepticism regarding the astuteness of both political and military officials in assessing foreign threats. He also doubted the effectiveness of a purely military approach to many political problems, especially in light of what he observed during his extensive travels to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia in the late 1930s and after World War II. "If one thing was borne into me as a result of my experiences in the Middle as well as the Far East," Kennedy said after a trip as a congressman in 1951," it is that communism cannot be met effectively by merely the force of arms." And his own military experience as a young man had convinced him that military chiefs were not necessarily the best judges of when and how to fight a war. As a junior naval officer in 1943 and 1944, he marveled at the incomptence of many of his superiors. In a letter to his parents from the South Pacific, where he was serving as a PT Board commander, he wrote that the Navy had "brought back a lot of old Captains and Commanders from retirement and... they give the impression of their brains being in their tails."Unfortunately, two of these three pieces aren't available online -- even to subscribers. However, I don't think you'll be disappointed if you buy the June issue of this magazine.