Tuesday, June 24, 2003
Dick Gephardt and Harry Truman -- at odds with the Supreme Court?
Eugene Volokh and Glenn Reynolds (among others) have rightfully questioned an assertion by Democratic presidential contender Richard Gephardt that he would "do executive orders to overcome any wrong thing the Supreme Court does." The statement was made, presumably, to persuade Democratic audiences that Gephardt would fight for their interests despite the conservatives appointed to the Supreme Court and lower courts over the last few decades. Eugene and Glenn were right to point out that "you can't overturn a Constitutional decision by the Supreme Court with an executive order."
Today, Gephardt's campaign responded to The Note, an ABC News weblog.
"The fact that this question comes from libertarian law professors should speak for itself," spokesman Erik Smith wrote in an e-mail. "Dick Gephardt knows the law. The president can not overturn a Supreme Court decision. That's not what he said. He was simply expressing his commitment to diversity and his willingness to use the tools of his office to promote affirmative action programs to the fullest extent possible. It's important to remember that Harry Truman used an executive order to integrate the military."Eugene responds, correctly I think, that Truman's executive order to desegrate the military came at a time when the Supreme Court was already moving in that direction. As a legal matter, the order also did not contravene any decisions of the Court, nor did it directly contradict anything passed by Congress. [Arguably, Congress did endorse a segregated military through its appropriations and oversight legislation, but it did not directly contradict President Truman's order once issued.]
My two cents... Harry Truman makes for an interesting choice of precedent for the Gephardt campaign. It is true that he issued Executive Order 9981, effectively ending segregation in the military, when Congress and the Supreme Court did not do so. This was an act of courage and principle for a President who had lots of both.
Harry Truman is also famous for another Executive Order -- one held to be unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Executive Order No. 10340 (16 Fed. Reg. 3503) directed Secretary of Commerce Charles Sawyer to seize the Youngstown Co. steel mill after its labor force threatened a strike during the height of the Korean War. The mill owners and labor unions sued President Truman, claiming this order was an unconstitutional extension of the President's power to make laws, execute laws, and act as Commander-in-Chief under Art. II. The Supreme Court agreed, holding that President Truman did not have the power to act as he did. To this day, the "Steel Seizure Case" (especially Justice Jackson's concurrence) remains the Court's primary guidance to the Executive and Legislative branches on the boundaries of their power.
The order cannot properly be sustained as an exercise of the President's military power as Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces. The Government attempts to do so by citing a number of cases upholding broad powers in military commanders engaged in day-to-day fighting in a theater of war. Such cases need not concern us here. Even though "theater of war" be an expanding concept, we cannot with faithfulness to our constitutional system hold that the Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces has the ultimate power as such to take possession of private property in order to keep labor disputes from stopping production. This is a job for the Nation's lawmakers, not for its military authorities.There is great irony in the assertion by Dick Gephardt's campaign that he would follow the example of Harry Truman with respect to Executive Orders. Harry Truman did some great things unilaterally, such as his desegregation of the military and recognition of Israel, among others. But we can also learn what presidents cannot do from Truman's experience in the White House. I hope that Mr. Gephardt learns those lessons as well.
How much did the "green brief" help the Court decide Grutter?
And what lessons can we learn from the military on issues of race?
Yesterday's decision by the Supreme Court in Grutter v. Bollinger simultaneously clarified and muddied the waters for affirmative action in the United States. The Court issued two doctrinal issues, which may be very helpful for lawyers and educators in the future:
1) The Court will look at affirmative action programs with "strict scrutiny", and that such scrutiny is not always "strict in theory, fatal in fact." This issue was somewhat clear after the Court's decision in Adarand v. Pena, but not entirely so because of the muddy way the Bakke case (the last case on affirmative action in education) applied its legal test.
2) Diversity can be a compelling interest for institutions of higher education to pursue with their admissions policies. This is very important, because it blesses one of the two main goals of affirmative action. (The other one being to remedy past disadvantage) However, the decision did not say whether colleges can use diversity as a compelling interest for the hiring of professors or other staff. That may become a battleground in lower courts on this issue.
However, to pass strict scrutiny, a program must be "narrowly tailored" to a "compelling government interest." On this second prong, the Court found the U.Michigan undergraduate program unconstitutional (see Gratz v. Bollinger), and the law school's program constitutional. In her majority opinion in the law school case, Justice Sandra Day O'Connor appears to have relied heavily on claims by business and military leaders that affirmative action in colleges helps them recruit a diverse work force.
The Law School’s claim of a compelling interest is further bolstered by its amici, who point to the educational benefits that flow from student body diversity. In addition to the expert studies and reports entered into evidence at trial, numerous studies show that student body diversity promotes learning outcomes, and “better prepares students for an increasingly diverse workforce and society, and better prepares them as professionals.” Brief for American Educational Research Association et al. as Amici Curiae 3; see, e.g., W. Bowen & D. Bok, The Shape of the River (1998); Diversity Challenged: Evidence on the Impact of Affirmative Action (G. Orfield & M. Kurlaender eds. 2001); Compelling Interest: Examining the Evidence on Racial Dynamics in Colleges and Universities (M. Chang, D. Witt, J. Jones, & K. Hakuta eds. 2003).Analysis: The amicus brief cited by the Court was called the "green brief" by many because it was submitted by a number of retired military officers, including Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf and others. (military = green) The brief was written by veteran Supreme Court litigator Carter G. Phillips. I found the brief to be exceptionally well written, and quite well grounded in facts. America's military is incredibly diverse, although a schism exists between the enlisted ranks and officers when it comes to racial and ethnic diversity. This has the potential to create social problems within the ranks. Recognizing this, America's military has conscientously recruited minorities for its leadership ranks (enlisted and officer), and developed programs to retain the best minority NCOs and officers as they rise through the ranks. Those programs implicitly depend on the presence of minority college graduates who can be recruited as officers.
However, I don't think Justice O'Connor's citation to the green brief in Grutter was necessarily right, for the following reasons:
1) It was odd to cite the green brief in the law school decision when the brief was clearly aimed at the undergraduate case. America's military takes some lawyers and professionals from graduate school, but not many. It recruits the vast majority of its officers from ROTC programs at public and private universities across the country. The next sizable chunk comes from the military academies. These schools, by virtue of their size, tend to rely on the sort of mechanical affirmative action programs the Court held unconstitutional in Gratz (the undergrad case). I understand that Justice O'Connor wanted to cite the most persuasive authority possible in her opinion upholding the law school's program, but the citation to the green brief seems misplaced to me.
2) The demise of U.Michigan's undergraduate program -- and all mechanical affirmative action programs like it -- will certainly create problems for the military and its recruitment of minority officers. As Eugene Volokh points out, large schools universally use such programs to sort through the thousands of applications they get each year. (I found this to be true when I wrote my thesis on affirmative action in the UC system in 1996) In the short term, colleges will have to figure out some other way to do affirmative action that looks more like the U.Michigan law school than the U.Michigan undergrad system. In the short term, that may result in less minority students being admitted to these universities, as we saw in California after the regents banned affirmative action in 1995 (and Prop. 209 passed in 1996). That, in turn, may result in less minority students for ROTC programs to recruit in colleges, particularly the top colleges like Berkeley, UCLA and Michigan. Ultimately, that's bad for the military, because such officers tend to bring a very important, liberalizing, intellectual component to the service.
3. Interestingly, the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia held some of these programs to be unconstitutional in Saunders v. White last year because the Army had gotten so good at diversity that it no longer needed some affirmative action programs. Sociologists Charlie Moskos and John Butler wrote a great book on the military's successes in this area called All We Can Be: Black Leadership and Racial Integration the Army Way. The military has come a long way since the days when then-LT Colin Powell faced discrimination while stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia, in the early 1960s. Today's force has roughly reached parity, where the percentages of minority officers equals the proportion of available in the college graduate pool (with some variations by ethnic group). The senior NCO corps is an even greater success story, where minorities are significantly overrepresented in relation to their percentage of American society.
In many ways, I think the Army provides a good road map for the rest of society on matters of racial and ethnic diversity. Our military has taken race into account over the last 30 years to correct imbalances at all levels, and it has worked. It may now be time to remove some of those programs, or target them more effectively at groups that remain disenfranchised from the Army leadership (Latinos and Asians, for example). The ultimate irony of the military's success is that it has done well by providing economic and educational opportunities to young Americans who would not otherwise have such opportunity in our colleges and businesses. The military has even taken fire critics who say that such opportunities disproportionately draw too many minorities into the line of fire. This was what fueled Rep. Charlie Rangel's call for a national draft earlier in the year.
Maybe this decision will open more doors to minorities in education and other areas, so that they don't have to choose between a life of economic hardship and a life of soldiering -- but I doubt it. America's military still offers opportunities for adventure, training and service that our colleges do not. For the foreseeable future, I think that young men and women will join the military for things they can't get in college, and they will leave the service enriched by their experience.
More to follow...
Monday, June 23, 2003
U.S. government detains a third "enemy combatant"
The Washington Post reports tonight (and on tomorrow's front page) that the Bush Administration has transferred another man from Justice Department custody to that of the Defense Department -- labeling him an "enemy combatant." Ali S. Marri was originally arrested in Dec. 2001 and charged with lying to the FBI about contact with known terrorists. He was transferred yesterday from a federal jail in Illinois to a military brig at an undisclosed location. Marri has been deemed an "enemy combatant" by the President, joining Yasser Hamdi and Jose Padilla as alleged terrorists who have been so labeled by the Bush Administration.
Bush designated Marri an enemy combatant yesterday morning after federal prosecutors in Illinois dropped charges of false statements to the FBI and credit card fraud. Alice Fisher, deputy assistant attorney general for the Justice Department's criminal division, said prosecutors were confident they could have prevailed in court. She said they decided to forgo the charges in an effort to deter terrorist attacks.More to follow tomorrow...
Time to bring home the 3rd Infantry Division
The Evening Standard, a British newspaper, has a disturbing piece on the soldiers of B Company, 3-15 Infantry, 3rd Infantry Division, from the sands of Iraq. This piece does not mince words about what's going on with these men in the desert. Instead, it lays out their thoughts and feelings on war and peace in the language of a soldier -- raw, coarse and honest.
What they told me, in a series of extraordinary interviews, will make uncomfortable reading for US and British politicians and senior military staff desperate to prevent the liberation of Iraq turning into a quagmire of Vietnam proportions, where the behaviour of troops feeds the hatred of an occupied people.Analysis: I can't condemn these men for saying what they feel, or feeling what any honest infantryman would feel after fighting his way into a nation like Iraq. They have seen carnage I can't imagine, both in the Iraqis they killed and the Americans they watched die. After training in the desert for 9 months and fighting their way to Baghdad, it's natural that these men would feel the way they do.
Those feelings can only be exacerbated by the weeks of "peace" keeping since President Bush declared an "end" to combat on 1 May. American soldiers have continued to fight a shadowy war since 1 May, chasing ghosts of Saddam and taking fire from the shadows. The armored dash across the desert may be over, but the fighting is certainly not. Arguably, the current military situation does more psychological damage to soldiers than open combat, where lines are more clearly drawn and safety can be calculated as a function of distance from the enemy. On the streets of Baghdad, there is no safe place -- no refuge for the mind or body.
In time, these men's minds and bodies will probably heal, although they will never again be whole. Unfortunately, American policymakers do not have the luxury of time. Every day we let these men patrol Baghdad represents a significant operational and strategic risk for our occupation of Iraq. B/3-15 Infantry is ready to come home. Their soldiers and leaders are fatigued, and stretched to the breaking point. It's a testament to American society and our Army's training that these men have not broken yet; that they have not committed some unspeakable act against the Iraqis for the world to watch on CNN.
Bottom Line: It's time to bring these men home. They've accomplished their mission, fighting what Max Boot called in the latest Foreign Affairs issue "one of the signal achievements in military history." But now they need to be relieved in place -- either by active forces, reservists, or our NATO allies. Studies of war have shown that fighting units need to be replaced after a period of days in contact -- no matter how elite, how well-trained, or how well-disciplined. (See, e.g., Acts of War by Richard Holmes and On Killing by David Grossman.) Morale, cohesion, and effectiveness simply break down after prolonged exposure to combat. This is true of low-intensity and high-intensity combat.
At some point, the 3rd Infantry Division will become combat ineffective as a result of stress and prolonged exposure to war. This is the human dimension of war, and it's often neglected by policymakers who would like for war to be something sterile fought by machines. We must recognize the human reality of war and bring these men home.
An American warrior
Americans are not warlike by nature, but our generals have always captivated us. From Washington to Jackson to Pershing to Patton to Schwartzkopf, our military has been led by colorful characters who, in turn, have inspired public pride in the military. (Others, such as McClellan and Westmoreland, have inspired contempt, showing that Americans can also show disdain for their generals when they want to.) Gen. Tommy Franks, commander of Central Command, fits squarely in this former category. Today, the Washington Post profiles the man who has led American forces to military victory in Afghanistan and Iraq.
The arc of his four-star career -- after the Army sent him back for his college degree -- took Franks to commands around the world. Those who know him have enjoyed the warm friendship of a guy who likes to give bear hugs, can shed tears over wounded soldiers, break into a country tune over a margarita, puff a cigar while strolling through one of Saddam's palaces with a pistol stuck in his belt, or pose for a snapshot after a swim in a Texas lake with fellow officers -- on horseback, and stark naked except for a Stetson.Thoughts... The American military has radically changed itself over the last 30 years since Vietnam. (See Prodigal Soldiers by James Kitfield for a great history of these changes.) It has become a more educated, professional, intellectual, and well-managed force. Its volunteer officers and senior enlisted soldiers are extremely good at what they do, and the military devotes an enormous about of resources to training/educating them to become even better. Tommy Franks had the raw material as a young lieutenant and captain to become a great leader. But he would not have become one if not for the mentoring, training and education he got along the way. When I read his profile, I was impressed by the way the Army plucked him like a diamond in the rough -- schooled and polished him -- and eventually produced a warfighter who could lead hundreds of thousands.
Looking for legal commentary?
The decisions handed down today by the Supreme Court are obviously what most newspapers will lead with tomorrow. I have some thoughts on the Michigan case, but I'll reserve them for later. Instead, I recommend turning to the following pages for intelligent commentary on these cases:
- The Volokh Conspiracy: run by Eugene Volokh, a constitutional law expert at UCLA Law School, with guest commentary from several other law professorsAs always, copies of the decisions are available on the Supreme Court's site and the Findlaw site, in PDF form. I will read the decisions later today and offer my thoughts afterwards. More to follow...
Sunday, June 22, 2003
Foreign fighters complicate the mix in Iraq
The New York Times reported on Sunday about a very ominous development in Iraq -- the presence of foreign guerillas in the midst of American forces. This is an extremely significant development, because the presence of foreigners tends to signify two possibilities. First, it signals that a transnational movement of young armed men is taking place -- and that they're migrating towards Iraq. Second, it may indicate a resurgence of Al Qaeda in Iraq. After all, Al Qaeda began as a transnational guerilla force of "Afghan Arabs" who successfully fought the Soviets in Afghanistan. The influx of foreign Arab guerillas to Iraq seems eerily familiar, given the institutional history of Al Qaeda.
Military officials say that American troops in Iraq have had to contend with Syrians, Saudis, Yemenis, Algerians, Lebanese and even Chechens.Analysis: This is going to become a major issue for America in the coming weeks and months. We must quarantine Iraq from the outside influences that may seek to push it down a particular path -- whether it's Shiite or Sunni fundamentalism, or some other plan. If nothing else, we must do so because these foreigners bring with them weapons and training that subsequently get used against our own soldiers. Given a finite amount of men and materiel inside Iraq, we will eventually root out the guerillas now harassing our forces. But as we saw in Vietnam, it's impossible to conduct a counter-insurgency campaign when the insurgents continue to multiply and resupply. These outsiders appear to be fulfilling that function inside Iraq, and it must be stopped.
Al Qaeda operative pleads guilty to charges
But what did the U.S. use as leverage to get the guilty plea?
By now, most have heard about the plea bargain by Al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris, a 34-year-old naturalized citizen from Ohio who was planning to bomb the Brooklyn Bridge. Apparently, detained-Al Qaeda leader Khalid Sheikh Mohammed fingered Mr. Faris for his inchoate plan to destroy the landmark bridge. (Mohammed is being held at an undisclosed location by American intelligence officers who, presumably, are interrogating him for every detail he knows about Al Qaeda.)
Prosecutors said Mr. Faris traveled in Afghanistan and Pakistan beginning in 2000, meeting with Osama bin Laden and working with one of his top lieutenants, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, to help organize and finance jihad causes. After returning to the United States in late 2002, officials said, he began casing the Brooklyn Bridge and discussing via coded messages with Qaeda leaders ways of using blowtorches to sever the suspension cables.Analysis: I was not surprised to see this news story hit the press. Our security agencies (CIA, FBI, DoD, et al) have done a lot to take down Al Qaeda and its ability to operate as a global terror network. However, I was surprised to see the method used by federal prosecutors to obtain this plea bargain:
The allegations against Mr. Faris bear similarities to the case against José Padilla, a Chicago man who last year was accused of plotting with Al Qaeda to plant a "dirty bomb" and who has been imprisoned in a military brig as an enemy combatant.Now, I'm no softie when it comes to dealing with terrorists, criminals, or enemy combatants -- however you may categorize these men. But this looks to me like an abuse of the government's power to designate someone as an "enemy combatant." Presumably, such a label should only apply in the obvious cases. An enemy combatant should be like obscenity as defined by the Supreme Court -- I'll know it when I see it. There shouldn't be a case where someone can be both a criminal and a combatant. If that's the case, then we ought to apply the presumptions in favor of the defendant and give them the constitutional process they're due. In this case, we appear to have held this label out there as a very big stick -- in order to induce Mr. Faris to take the measly carrot of criminal justice instead of the justice that Mr. Padilla now faces.
On the whole, I think this move delegitimizes most of the arguments made by the government to keep men like Yasser Hamdi and Jose Padilla in government custody as enemy combatants -- without communication to counsel or the outside world. These men are probably dangerous; I think they probably did what the government thinks they did. The government argues that enemy combatants like Hamdi and Padilla are unequivocal enemies of the United States. Their conduct has made them so, and we should give them no quarter (legally speaking). Most importantly, the government argues that it cannot get intelligence out of people that are given constitutional rights, because there are practical difficulties associated with interrogating someone who has assistance of counsel. (I can certainly see this point)
Yet, if that's true, why would we have accepted the plea bargains from Mr. Faris and from the "Lackawanna Six"? As Al Qaeda operatives inside the United States, these men may have some of the most actionable, critical intelligence available to our security community. Yet, we have accepted their plea bargains, given them counsel, and sent them to federal prison -- quite unlike Mr. Hamdi and Mr. Padilla.
Friday, June 20, 2003
Light blogging... I'm working on several large projects now, so blogging has been light this week. Intel Dump will have a digest on Sunday of several of this week's stories, including the Al Qaeda member's plea bargain in New York City and continuing stories in Iraq.
Wednesday, June 18, 2003
How best to end a war?
Slate's Fred Kaplan has a thought provoking piece on how the Army has struggled over the last several weeks to define "victory" in Iraq. The "end" of the war now looks increasingly uncertain, as guerilla forces clash with American units on a daily basis and American units mount massive operations such as Operation Peninsula Strike.
Huba Wass de Czege (pronounced HOO-ba VOSS de-say-ga) is a retired U.S. Army brigadier general who has given some thought to these matters lately. To the extent the Army has evolved into a more agile fighting force, Wass de Czege has been a major influence: In the early 1980s, he rewrote the Army's official field manual on operations, replacing the old book's doctrine of attrition and firepower with the ancient but forgotten concepts of maneuver warfare, deep-strike offensives, and combined air-land battle. He then founded the Army's School for Advanced Military Studies, an elite, yearlong postgrad program, to inculcate the new concepts in the next generation's officer corps.I'll have some more on this later in the week. I think there are important analytic points to be made about what "victory" means, how we quantify such a thing, and whether we can achieve such a thing when our strategic goals are so amorphous and ill-defined. Until then, ask yourself this question: What are we really trying to do in Iraq? If you can't answer that question, how can you possibly define when you've achieved the goal?
Tuesday, June 17, 2003
The crucible of PFC Lynch
Tuesday's Washington Post has a dramatic account of PFC Jessica Lynch's convoy mission, ambush, capture and subsequent rescue. The Post pieced the account together from interviews with Lynch's comrades in the 507th Maintenance Company, Iraqis in Nasiryah, and others. All the big papers and networks are in the hunt for this story, and I imagine that more details will leak out over the coming days and weeks. Eventually, I hope that PFC Lynch will tell her own story. But more importantly, I hope she recovers physically and mentally so that she may continue to serve and live her life as an American soldier.
U.S. stands shoulder-to-shoulder with 'Old Europe' in Afghanistan
This morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) also has a great piece on the work being done by American, French and German forces in Afghanistan. Despite the acrimony between Washington, Paris and Berlin, commanders on the ground have made peace between themselves -- and worked together over the last 2 years to get the job done. Indeed, according to one American commander, the mission simply could not get done without French and German support.
The U.S., despite peerless military might, can't tame an unruly world without its less-muscular and, in recent months, contrarian allies. From the Balkans to Afghanistan and the Persian Gulf, the U.S. military maintains formidable garrisons but neither wants nor is able to tackle the laborious tasks of nation-building alone.Analysis: Hmmm... maybe this is the blueprint we should use for Iraq? Our allies are really good at this low-tech, soft, humanistic nation-building stuff. That could owe to their colonial past, or progressive governments, or welfare-state experience, or some other factors. I also think it's because these countries are willing to assume operational risk in peacekeeping, by putting soldiers in harm's way to do critical foot patrols and person-to-person interaction. Whatever the reason, these guys are good. And we should take advantage of their skill when/where we can to achieve American strategic objectives, regardless of bad blood between America and 'old Europe.'
McCain queries Boeing regarding USAF tanker lease
Sen. John McCain tried hard over the last 2 years to block a lucrative $15 billion deal between Boeing and the U.S. Air Force for the lease of 100 aircraft to be used as in-flight refuelers. The Pentagon overruled Sen. McCain's objections, but it appears from this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that the fight is not over.
On Friday, Sen. McCain, an Arizona Republican who chairs the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, sent a two-page letter to Boeing Chairman and Chief Executive Philip Condit asking for related documents. The request for information included all communications between Boeing executives and government officials at the Pentagon, White House and the Office of Management and Budget related to the lease. Also being sought are all records of sales or leases between Boeing and commercial customers, specifically Continental Airlines and FedEx Corp., as well as foreign governments, specifically Uzbekistan.Analysis: There are good arguments on both sides here. Boeing wants to sell its planes and make a reasonable profit; there's nothing wrong with that. The Air Force wants a lease deal because it avoids some up-front capital costs and enables them to more easily replace these planes at the end of their service life. On the other hand, it looks like war profiteering, and that's what Sen. McCain is steamed about. We should be wary of the Bush Administration using its current political capital to ram things through Congress, especially in the area of defense procurement. Our sons and daughters in the field deserve the best gear money can buy. But we must make sure we're spending our money wisely, so that we don't throw money away that could have gone to buy our troops the things they really need.
Monday, June 16, 2003
Key military reformer set to retire
Franklin "Chuck" Spinney, a legend in the Pentagon who worked closely with the late-Col. John Boyd to reform the Pentagon in the 1970s and 1980s, has decided to retire. Spinney started as an Air Force officer whose maverick style and brilliance caught the eye of Boyd. He eventually provided a great deal of the intellectual support for Boyd's ideas, and fought as one of his most loyal foot soldiers ("Acolytes", to use Robert Coram's word) in the movement to reform the way America's military worked after Vietnam. (Among other things, Spinney has been instrumental in pushing the ideas of 4th Generation Warfare which have revolutionized thinking about post-state/non-state/trans-state threats.)
Since leaving the Air Force, Mr. Spinney has worked in the Pentagon for one of the top Air Force offices for testing and procurement. I don't know Mr. Spinney, except through his writing, so I can't speculate intelligently as to why he decided now was the time to retire. Certainly, age had something to do with it. This is a man who's ably served his country for three decades. Whatever the case, America should thank him for his service. I hope Mr. Spinney continues his regular "Blaster" updates, and that he plays an active role in mentoring young military officers and thinkers who might assume his role in the next generation.
Saturday, June 14, 2003
Soldiers face their new mission in Iraq
Sunday's New York Times has a well written front-page story on the 1st Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, whose soldiers have served in Kuwait and Iraq for nearly a year. As you might expect, these soldiers and their leaders are tired -- exhausted after training in the desert, fighting their way to Baghdad, and being yanked off the planes at the last minute to stay a little longer. Yet, for the most part, they now seem to accept their mission. The road home will be a little longer, but these men and women feel they have to stay in order to get the job done right.
The First Brigade received orders in May to prepare to go home via Kuwait. Late last month, Maj. Mark B. Nordstrom, the brigade chaplain, and Capt. Kevin A. Bayles, the brigade doctor, gave their briefings to soldiers about the emotional and physical adjustments they were likely to experience.One infantryman was particularly honest about his situation, and his desire to go home.
"You call Donald Rumsfeld and tell him our sorry asses are ready to go home," Pfc. Matthew C. O'Dell, an infantryman in Sergeant Betancourt's platoon, said as he stood guard on Tuesday. "Tell him to come spend a night in our building."After what he's been through, I can hardly blame him. It's time to rotate these soldiers home; to replace them with fresh troops from the National Guard or NATO who can pick up where 3ID left off.
Friday, June 13, 2003
A fallen American hero
Earlier this week, an officer I served with e-mailed me from Iraq to tell me about a memorial service he attended for Pvt. Jesse Halling of the 401st Military Police Company from Fort Hood. My old unit, the 4th MP Company, sits next to the 401st MP Company on Fort Hood. We used to do PT with the MPs from that unit, or challenge them to contests in sports or marksmanship. My friend's words from the desert really struck me; much more so than accounts of other deaths from the war:
". . . 720th MP BN had an MP killed at a local police station in an RPG & small arms attack. Memorial service was last night. Well done but do not want to do that again. Never seen so many officers, NCOs, & soldiers crying and hugging in my life. The kid was only 19. Way too young. Truly died a hero as he was trying to repel an attack and was in front of others who came out of the MP station to return fire."Today, the Washington Post reports on the gallant actions of Pvt. Jesse Halling, who died while protecting his buddies. What strikes me is that Pvt. Halling acted reflexively to an enormously dangerous situation, despite his youth and inexperience. He was just 19 -- little more than a year out of high school, with only basic training under his belt -- not some crusty old infantry sergeant. Yet he knew instinctively what had to be done, and he did it in the face of enemy fire to save his buddies. Pvt. Halling was truly one of America's finest sons, and I mourn his loss.
Around 2 a.m., the attack started with sporadic but accurate small-arms fire. Pop. Then silence. Then another crack of rifle. Then nothing but dogs howling.The paper reported that Pvt. Halling was posthumously promoted to Private First Class and awarded the Purple Heart. He has also been recommended by his commander for the Silver Star, America's third-highest award for valor under fire. The men in Pvt. Halling's unit have returned to their mission, although they remain shaken by the loss of their comrade.
Thursday, June 12, 2003
What is 'Operation Peninsula Strike'?
American commanders launched the largest operation in Iraq since the fall of Hussein's regime this week, according to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. The operation focused on Thuluya, a town thought to provide sanctuary for former-Iraqi soldiers still loyal to the regime. It appears that between 5,000 and 10,000 soldiers have been committed to the operation -- or two brigades plus supporting aircraft and artillery. According to the Los Angeles Times, the mission resembled a massive "cordon and search" operation, wherein American soldiers secured a large area and methodically searched every inch of it for paramilitaries and terrorists who might attack them in the future.
Dubbed "Peninsula Strike," it was the largest operation by U.S. occupation troops since the end of major combat activities in Iraq in late April. Air, ground and riverboat patrols isolated a mainly Sunni Muslim triangle northwest of Baghdad in the wake of what the military is calling "organized" attacks on U.S. soldiers in the past two weeks.Analysis: It appears from here that this operation was done in the classic way. Artillery and airpower destroyed key enemy locations and suppressed others while heavily armed infantry and armor formations secured the area. With the area secure, specialty teams of infantry and military police then move in to search every dwelling, shop, and crevice they can find -- and then some. The process is slow and methodical; these teams are extremely vulnerable while conducting their sweep. The goal is to find any enemy troops or munitions, and there are a myriad of places those things can be hidden.
Why now? This appears to be a response to increasingly violent attacks on American soldiers which have claimed a steady trickle of lives since the war's end. But it's more than that. American commanders now appear to have enough troops in place where they can simultaneously control Iraq and execute missions like this. When America just had enough to patrol the streets, we were on defense. But now that we have enough boots on the ground in Iraq, it appears that we're going on offense to find and kill the last remnants of Hussein's army. This is an extremely important phase of the war, and its import should not be minimized. It's also very dangerous. I think it's safe to bet that we will conduct missions like this in most major population centers of Iraq, because we need to ferret out resistance around the country -- not just in places like Tikrit. More to follow...
Can the Democrats do defense in '04?
Noah Shachtman thinks they can, and he has some ideas for how the Democratic Party can seize the offensive on national security issues for the next presidential election. The Washington Monthly and American Prospect have made this their issue as well, running sizable pieces in several of their recent issues on the subject. The problems are there; these pieces suggest some plausible solutions. It's now up to the Democrats to nominate the right person to carry their mantle of leadership -- and raise these issues in the national debate. [For the record: I'm not affiliated with either political party; I'd like to see these issues hashed out because I think the best solutions will emerge from a good fight.]
Hawks run amok?
Dan Drezner rightly points out that the Bush Administration -- and Pentagon in particular -- has a tremendous about of discipline when it comes to managing media leaks and staying "on message." Yet, in the last few weeks, there have been some serious breaches of that discipline. First has been Paul Wolfowitz' tussles with the media over WMD in Iraq and the ties between Al Qaeda, Iraq, and terrorism over the last decade. (The first has been somewhat discredited; the latter tussle remains an issue) Next, Dan points us to a press conference where Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith tried to re-spin the WMD story, with dubious success.
Today's breach: USA Today reports that a senior Pentagon official admits to poor predictive analysis before the war on Iraq for the post-war reconstruction/nation-building/humanitarian mission that everyone knew would follow. This isn't quite the same as saying "we botched it;" it's more akin to LTG William Wallace saying during the war that the enemy they were fighting was "a bit" different than the one they wargamed. Nonetheless, it's a major reversal for the Pentagon, which has maintained its "can do" attitude to this point about Iraq and refused to admit that it could've done things any differently.
A Pentagon official conceded Tuesday that planners failed to foresee the chaos in postwar Iraq, as another U.S. soldier was killed and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signaled that guerrilla-type attacks could continue there for months.So what's going on? It's hard to tell. I didn't spend much time at the Pentagon at all; all my active duty time was much, much lower in the military. But I have followed these guys for a while in the media so I have some guesses. The first is that this is a hard issue, and there is legitimate room for disagreement. If retired-Gen. Eric Shinseki and Paul Wolfowitz could disagree so publicly over the size of the Iraqi deployment, then I think there's probably room for reasonable minds to disagree on a lot of these issues. To the extent that these people are giving candid interviews to the press, they will occassionally reveal their true feelings, or at least their initial reactions before they've had time to vet their true feelings with the SecDef's office. Suffice to say, I think there are deep divisions within the Pentagon over how to unscrew the Iraqi situation.
The second thing I think we're seeing is a gradual easing on the reins by Secretary Rumsfeld and his personal staff. After being in office for a while, they've started to develop a comfort zone with senior officials. Senior officials, in turn, have carved out their own turf and developed their own portfolios. They may even be starting to freelance a little bit; working towards the post they hope to have in the next administration.
Finally, I think we're seeing the fruit of hard work by the reporters who cover the Pentagon (and many who don't). These reporters were there before Rumsfeld, and they will likely be there afterwards. But until recently, they have hit a brick wall when they tried to get past the Pentagon's spin. I think the reporters have changed tactics in two significant ways. The first is to develop personal sources that can be trusted and used anonymously to report on significant developments -- like Esther Schrader's scoop that America was about to radically alter its footprint in Asia.
The second is to develop independent sources in the field who could corroborate or dispute reports from the Pentagon. Even if the SecDef can manage the message inside the Pentagon, he can't possibly do so around the world. Moreover, the guys in the field usually tell the truth, if only to tell the story accurately to their loved ones back home. Embedding reporters in combat units helped media organization develop these sources. A certain bonding happens when you get shot at together. In 10-20 years, when the officers in Iraq roam the Pentagon as generals, I imagine they'll have a completely different view of the media than today's generals -- and probably the name of the guy who drove with them to Baghdad in case they want to tell a story.
I guess this is not entirely responsive to Dan's query... but it's my best guess as to why the Pentagon appears to have lost its touch for managing the press. Of course, I think this is a great thing. We've sacrificed an awful lot of spirit, blood and treasure to fight Iraq and build a new nation. It's about time the Pentagon started to speak in the press about the reasons for that sacrifice.
Another academy sexual assault hits the news
The U.S. Naval Academy joined the U.S. Air Force Academy today as the target of an investigation into sexual assault in its student body. (Thanks to Stop the Bleating for the tip) The Baltimore Sun reports that a Naval Academy senior is under investigation for allegedly raping a female Naval Academy plebe (freshman). The victim has since left the academy, while the senior has been retained at the school to take additional classes to graduate. (That itself is unusual)
The matter is currently in what's called the "Article 32" phase, where a senior officer conducts a hearing similar to an arraignment to determine whether enough evidence exists to charge the senior.
Because the alleged offenses took place on academy grounds, they are being handled through the military justice system.Quick thoughts... I'm not an academy graduate so I can't speak to the unique dynamic which exists at West Point, Annapolis and Colorado Springs. But I have served with academy graduates and two of my close friends are Annapolis grads. At first glance, this guy looks like a bad apple in an otherwise healthy bunch. It looks right to me that the Naval Academy is proscuting this guy in the military justice system -- that's the right thing to do, and it sends the right message of deterrence to the rest of the midshipmen. Navy has certainly done its share of soul-searching on the issue of gender integration, and I'm not sure that it needs another round of campus-wide investigation. On the other hand, if this incident is just one of many... then maybe that kind of look is appropriate.
Wednesday, June 11, 2003
Farewell to an old soldier
Today, Gen. Eric Shinseki retired from the Army and his position as the uniformed chief of America's oldest military service. Few officers have taken as many shots from politicians and other officers while serving in this job as Shinseki. His push to transform the Army into a lighter, faster, more deployable force met with considerable opposition from entrenched generals, defense contractors and military theorists. He presided over the Army's new "Army of One" recruiting campaign (aimed at Gen-X) that made a lot of old soldiers cringe. He also fought fierce battles with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, over procurement issues like the Crusader artillery system and operational issues like the size of the Iraq deployment. On this last point, it appears that Shinseki was more right than Rumsfeld was. America had enough troops to win the war in Iraq, but should have listened to this old soldier's guidance on what it would take to win the peace.
Today, Gen. Shinseki had some final words on the subject of civilian control -- and civilian abuse -- of the Army. Always the consummate diplomat, he does not explicitly blame Rumsfeld for the problems in Iraq, or castigate him for plans to cut the Army's size. But just as Ike warned against the rise of the military-industrial complex in his final address 42 years ago, Shinseki sounds a cautious note about the months and years to come.
LEADERSHIP IS ESSENTIAL IN ANY PROFESSION, BUT EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP IS PARAMOUNT IN THE PROFESSION OF ARMS - - FOR THOSE WHO WEAR THE UNIFORM AND THOSE WHO DO NOT. WE, IN THE ARMY, HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH TREMENDOUS CIVILIAN LEADERSHIP - - MOST NOTABLY IN THE SERVICE OF SECRETARY TOM WHITE, WHO WE FAREWELLED LAST MONTH. WE UNDERSTAND THAT LEADERSHIP IS NOT AN EXCLUSIVE FUNCTION OF UNIFORMED SERVICE. SO WHEN SOME SUGGEST THAT WE, IN THE ARMY, DON’T UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF CIVILIAN CONTROL OF THE MILITARY - - WELL, THAT’S JUST NOT HELPFUL - - AND IT ISN’T TRUE. THE ARMY HAS ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD THE PRIMACY OF CIVILIAN CONTROL - - WE REINFORCE THAT PRINCIPLE TO THOSE WITH WHOM WE TRAIN ALL AROUND THE WORLD. SO TO MUDDY THE WATERS WHEN IMPORTANT ISSUES ARE AT STAKE, ISSUES OF LIFE AND DEATH, IS A DISSERVICE TO ALL OF THOSE IN AND OUT OF UNIFORM WHO SERVE AND LEAD SO WELL.Sounds like good wisdom to me.
Two notes: (1) It appears that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was conspicuously absent from today's ceremony, while traveling in Europe. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, was in Washington but appears to have been absent as well. None of Rumsfeld's undersecretaries appear to have attended. (This AP report confirms this) Both Rumsfeld and his deputy are absent from the lengthy "thank you's" at the front of Shinseki's speech. I'm not sure whose breach of protocol and courtesy is greater -- Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz for missing the ceremony, or Shinseki for failing to thank them. In any case, there's no love lost between them, as evidenced by Shinseki's remarks on civilian leadership. I can hardly blame Gen. Shinseki though, after watching Secretary Rumsfeld undercut him for so long -- going so far as to leak the name of Shinseki's replacement a year before his retirement.
(2) "Beware the 12 division strategy for a 10 division Army." This note of caution should resonate around the Pentagon, because this is a real problem. America's military is stretched very thin right now, and Secretary Rumsfeld has proposed troop cuts and realignments which would cut it even further. I'm a huge fan of transformation and efficiency, wherever it can be done. But many missions require manpower -- boots on the ground -- to be accomplished. They can't be done with money or machines. Nation-building is one example. America needs to conduct another review, like the one Colin Powell did in 1993 for then-President Clinton, of America's global strategy and the resources necessary to meet it. I realize the Pentagon does these about every 2 months, but the system has broken down in the face of increasing commitments abroad. It's time for a new, broad assessment of our strategic and political goals. That assessment, in turn, should drive resoucing decisions for the military so that we do not have to cope with the problem that Gen. Shinseki wisely warns us against.
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.