Monday, July 07, 2003
The ugly face of war
Embedded reports from the Marines' 1st Reconnaissance Battalion
A lot has been made of the reports that came from embedded reporters in the recent war with Iraq. For the most part, I think they did a good job of reporting on a part of war that has often been neglected for operational security reasons. Some reporters, such as the Washington Post's Rick Atkinson and William Branigin, and the LA Times' Tony Perry and David Zucchino, did a particularly good job of covering the units they were with. But until now, I haven't read any stories that hit me the force of some first-person accounts I've read.
Evan Wright's reports in Rolling Stone are different. For the entire war, Mr. Wright traveled with a platoon of the elite 1st Reconnaissance Battalion of the U.S. Marines. The 1st Recon Marines were not used as stealthy infantry scouts, the way such a unit might normally be employed. Instead, these Marines were employed like an Army light cavalry unit, fighting their way in Hummvees north from Kuwait to Baghdad. Mr. Wright reports on the entire journey of these men, over the course of three outstanding pieces in Rolling Stone magazine. Here's an excerpt from the second piece:
It's not a good day for god in Iraq. Lt. Cmdr. Christopher Bodley, chaplain for the First Reconnaissance Battalion, is trying to minister to fighting Marines, now resting for the first time since the invasion of Iraq began more than a week ago. They have set up a defensive camp by the airfield they seized near Qal'at Sukkar, in central Iraq. After their initiation into urban-guerrilla warfare in An Nasiriyah to the south, followed by three days of continual fighting against an enemy they seldom actually saw, the 374 Marines of the elite battalion have been given forty-eight hours of downtime to recuperate. Their camp is spread across two kilometers of what looks like a fantasy Martian landscape of dried-out, reddish mud flats and empty canals. Each four - to six - man team lives in holes dug beneath camouflage nets placed around its Humvee. Throughout the day, Bodley walks around the camp and attempts to minister to his flock of heavily armed young men. Although the Marines in First Recon have already killed dozens, accidentally wounded civilians and taken one casualty of their own (a driver shot in the arm), the chaplain encounters few troubled by war itself. "A lot of the young men I talk to can compartmentalize the terrible things they've seen," he says. "But many of them feel bad because they haven't had a chance to fire their weapons. They worry that they haven't done their jobs as Marines."I hope that Mr. Wright takes this material and writes a book about the experience these Marines went through. I suspect his detached view would make a great companion to first-person accounts like that of Anthony Swofford in Jarhead. If he writes it, Mr. Wright's book will join Mark Bowden's Black Hawk Down on my bookshelf as two of the best journalistic accounts of war that I have read. Rolling Stone has also put the first and third articles online; I recommend them to anyone who wants to see the ugly face of war up close, without censorship.
Attacks on U.S. troops raise specter of guerilla war
Was an urban insurgency the Iraqi strategy all along?
Tom Ricks, probably the best defense reporter out there, reports today in the Washington Post (along with Rajiv Chandrasekaran) that Iraqi attacks on American troops in recent days have spurred concerns about the conflict that just seems to keep going in Iraq. Despite the declaration by the President that major combat operations have ended (see below), and the repeated declarations by Pentagon officials that we are not in a guerilla war, that seems to be exactly the case.
Recent Iraqi attacks on U.S. troops have demonstrated a new tactical sophistication and coordination that raise the specter of the U.S. occupation force becoming enmeshed in a full-blown guerrilla war, military experts said yesterday.Keeping the peace is just one problem. Fighting the war is another. Peace and war are not like pregnant and not-pregnant -- it's not a binary choice. Conceptually, I think there's more of a spectrum from peace to war, along which you have law enforcement, peacekeeping, peace enforcement, low-intensity conflict, and war. (This isn't just my thought; it's also what official U.S. Army doctrine says.)
So what are we seeing in Iraq? I don't think we're just seeing criminal activity or the activity of out-of-work soldiers. I think we're seeing the start of a real guerilla war, in which we will fight a determined, well-equipped and organized enemy in the streets of Iraq for some time. Ricks' article alludes to this trend:
Retired Army Col. Richard Dunn, a former head of the Army's internal think tank, agreed, saying, "I'd like to be wrong on this, but we may be seeing a classic insurgency situation developing." At the same time, he said, it is possible that "we may just be seeing a surge of activity that they're unable to sustain."Analysis: What if this was their strategy all along? What if, instead of fighting America in the desert, the Iraqi command authority made a conscious choice to suck us into their cities and fight us 1 platoon at a time, with small-unit ambushes and such? This looks an awful lot like classic insurgency warfare; what some call 4th Generation Warfare. It reflects an old maxim most recently stated by Chinese leader Mao Zedong: "The reed bends with the wind, and then snaps back up again."
I do not think we're seeing low-level criminal activity anymore; I also don't think we're seeing uncoordinated attacks. I think that our enemy has coalesced into something larger and more menacing. Of course, I don't have the on-the-ground intelligence to make this assessment, nor do I have access to anything but open-source reports. But the tea leaves look clear to me. The Iraqis have strategically withdrawn from the desert and regrouped in the cities, and instead of fighting us where we are strong (the desert), they are now fighting us where we are weak. Their ultimate goal is to mimic Somalia. The Iraqis hope to inflict enough casualties on us that we will go home with our tail between our legs. Ultimately, this is a dubious strategy, given our national level of commitment to Iraq as compared to our commitment to Somalia. But in the short-term, it means that Iraqi guerillas will seek to kill as many Americans as possible wherever they present targets of opportunity.
If I were a planner again... I'd recommend three main courses of action:
(1) Boost the U.S. troop presence, because you're going to need a lot more boots on the ground in order to properly secure the American footprint in Iraq.
(2) Ratchet up the force protection level significantly, to the point where U.S. troops conduct their nation-building operations as if they are still at war. This will hamper and delay much of the nation-building, as it's more difficult to conduct business at rifle's length that an arm's length. But we cannot let our guard down like we have been in recent weeks.
(3) Go on the offensive, as we did with Operation Peninsula Strike and Operation Scorpion. Find the Iraqi guerillas, their weapons caches, and their leadership -- and take them out. Again, these offensives require more soldiers, because you have to have enough for basic security and offensive missions. But if you let the enemy seize the initiative, you're toast. We absolutely have to take the fight to these Iraqis before they take the fight to us, and fight them on terms favorable to us.
Update: I've been asked to comment on this issue and the situation in Iraq tomorrow morning between 9 a.m. and 9:30 a.m. on WCTC, New Brunswick, NJ (AM 1450). If you're in that area, I hope you can tune in.
Update II: David Adesnik at Oxblog has some thoughts on the relationship between stories like this and soldier morale. For what it's worth, I think that criticizing the mission and the cause can create a self-fulfilling prophecy of failure. We ought do that for the sake of the mission and our soldiers in the field. But I think we should recognize this conflict for what it is -- something in the gray area between peace and war -- and devote the resources necessary to win it.
Back from the holiday weekend... blogging will resume at my regular summer pace. Thanks for stopping by; more to follow.
Thursday, July 03, 2003
You make the call...
May 1, 2003 -- Remarks by the President from the USS Abraham Lincoln At Sea Off the Coast of San Diego, California.
"Thank you all very much. Admiral Kelly, Captain Card, officers and sailors of the USS Abraham Lincoln, my fellow Americans: Major combat operations in Iraq have ended. In the battle of Iraq, the United States and our allies have prevailed. (Applause.) And now our coalition is engaged in securing and reconstructing that country."Jul. 2, 2003 -- Press Conference by LTG Ricardo Sanchez, Commanding General, V Corps, Baghdad (as reported in the New York Times).
"We're still at war," Army Lt. Gen. Ricardo S. Sanchez, the commander of coalition forces in Iraq, said in a news conference today. While saying the attacks did not appear to be centrally or even regionally coordinated, he asserted that there had been an "increase in sophistication of the explosive devices used" against American forces.Who's right? It's really hard to tell. The President is correct that major combat operations have ended, insofar as American tanks are no longer charging across the Iraqi desert. But it appears that we are now fighting a new kind (or a very old kind) of war -- a counter-insurgency campaign against hardened guerillas and terrorists who attack with unconventional weapons and tactics. I think LTG Sanchez is right to say the war has not ended -- it has merely begun a new phase. This phase will look a lot more like Somalia than Gulf War I, but hopefully with a better result. More to follow...
Hasta la vista, Saddam
USA Today reports that America has deployed Arnold Schwarzenegger to Iraq as part of a USO tour to visit American soldiers there and elsewhere in the Middle East. It's not clear whether Arnold will merely entertain the troops, or also lend his expertise as demonstrated in the movies Commando, Predator and Terminator.
Is America's Army broken?
The answer, according to Brookings Institute expert Michael O'Hanlon, is "yes". Writing on the op-ed page of today's Washington Post, O'Hanlon says the current operational commitments for the Army have all but sapped its ability to do anything else that might crop up -- like say, a deployment to Liberia. Without an authorization of additional soldiers by Congress, or a significant change in America's commitments abroad, the Army will not be able to deploy anywhere for some time.
This total of nearly 250,000 deployed troops must be generated from an Army of just over 1 million. The active-duty force numbers 480,000, of which fewer than 320,000 are easily deployable at any given moment. The Army Reserve and Army National Guard together include 550,000 troops, many of whom already have been called up at least once since 9/11.Analysis: O'Hanlon offers some suggestions to fix the mess, like "Make a higher percentage of Army troops deployable" or "Approach a broader range of allies, especially larger countries such as France and Germany and even Japan and South Korea, for substantial troop contributions." I've been saying this for some time too. But these prescriptions are easier said than done. The short-term fix is probably to lean on our allies to provide some additional soldiers for our commitments in places like the Balkans and Iraq. But that will require our compromise on some of our strategic goals, since our allies may not see entirely eye-to-eye with us on every single issue. Given a choice between that, and a broken Army, I would choose the former. Our world is too uncertain for America to face with a force that needs 2-3 years to rebuild itself. We must start posturing now for the threats we can see, and those we can't see, and that means rebuilding our military capacity to deploy as rapidly as possible.
White House plans new aid push for Afghanistan
Elaine Grossman reports in Inside the Pentagon that the Bush Administration has decided to boost the aid it's giving to the infant nation of Afghanistan. The boost will include more money, as well as additional American boots on the ground. Presumably, this comes in response to a deteriorating situation in Afghanistan, which many critics have attributed to a lackluster U.S. effort there to secure and rebuild the country.
Concerned that hard-won security and political successes in Afghanistan may be at risk without fresh support, the Bush administration's national security team is crafting what officials describe as a major new aid initiative to bolster that nation's central government in Kabul, Inside the Pentagon has learned.
Wednesday, July 02, 2003
Happy 30th Birthday, All-Volunteer Military
America's military celebrates an important birthday this week -- the 30th anniversary of its transformation from a conscription-based force to an all-volunteer force. For a generation now, America's finest sons and daughters have volunteered for military service instead of being pressed into service by force of law. The change has been spectacular. America's military could not train, deploy and fight as it does if not for the high caliber of people in the ranks. Gadgets don't win wars -- people do.
Thirty years ago today - a full generation back - the United States put the military draft behind it.Analysis: Earlier this year, Rep. Charlie Rangel suggested a return to the draft for a variety of reasons. Some were flatly political -- he wanted to embarass the members of Congress who called for war without a personal stake in the venture. But he also wanted to return to the days where Americans shared the burdens of military service, and felt the sacrifices. I think that's a noble goal. But it's not the ultimate goal of the military. We have a military to fight and win our wars, and also to prevent war by deployments such as those in Bosnia and Kosovo. Our military is not a social experiment, nor is it a way to promote national bonhomie or civic pride. I agree that military service does promote those things, and most veterans have a certain sense of patriotism that non-veterans can't themselves enjoy. But that's not a good enough reason to resume the draft, and destroy the hard-won gains of our professional military.
There are problems that stem from the existence of an all-volunteer force; these must be mitigated. A professional force may separate itself from civil society, in order to promote the martial virtues necessary for military success. We mitigate this by encouraging short-term enlistments (like mine), where citizen-soldiers rotate through the military for a few years at a stretch.
A professional force also has the potential to become a mercenary force. This has not occurred yet, but it may occur someday if America becomes sufficiently distanced from its military so as to cavalierly send it into harm's way. Our military could also become a mercenary force if it divorced itself from the Constitutional ideals of our nation, or the norms and values of American society. The constant rotation of junior personnel through the ranks makes this unlikely, as does the oath of office sworn to by every soldier and officer. But it is a danger we should be cognizant of.
Tuesday, July 01, 2003
Why Lawrence may have an effect on the military
A partial response to Jacob Levy of the Volokh Conspiracy
Jacob Levy writes a lot of things in his post on the military. It's clear at the outset that there is room for disagreement between reasonable and intelligent people on this issue. Notwithstanding that, I think he's wrong about a few things.
1. The Uniform Code of Military Justice isn't precisely the issue here; 10 U.S.C. 654 is. Nonetheless, I have some issues with the way he characterizes the UCMJ. First, he writes that "The internal governance of the military isn't quite a black box as far as constitutional law is concerned; but it's very close." That's not exactly right. For starters, the UCMJ is subject to the constraints of the U.S. Constitution. Criminal adjudications under the UCMJ are reviewable by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, a court which has the same stature (although not the same prestige) as any Art. III appeals court. Military convictions are subject to the same Constitutional rules that civilian convictions are, and indeed, many are overturned in the military context.
1a. He also writes that "The Uniform Code of Military Justice authorizes court-martial and other internal legal proceedings that are very clearly not as advantageous to defendants as the (currently-interpreted-) Constitutional minumum for civilian trials." It's also unfair to say the military system is more punitive or less fair than the civilian system. In many ways, the military system is more fair than the civilian system because it must compensate for the overarching coercive nature of the military environment. For example, the military privilege against self-incrimination is substantially stronger than that in the civilian world, and indeed was cited in the Court's Miranda decision as a model for the protections articulated by the Court in that decision. (For more on this, see my piece in Writ at Findlaw.Com on the military justice system.)
2. The UCMJ exists in Title 10 as a creation of Congress; it's codified in Chapter 47 of Title 10 in the United States Code. However, Congress has delegated the administration of the UCMJ to the President, and executive branch attorneys actually revise the UCMJ every two years and promulgate the rules of evidence and procedure that go along with the actual punitive articles. There is a great deal of deference to the UCMJ because it is very much an executive-branch creation; a product of the respective service JAGs.
3. 10 U.S.C. 654, on the other hand, is somewhat different as a matter of law and politics. It is a creature of Congress, not the Pentagon, and can only be changed by Congress or the courts. As a federal statute, it is due the deference that the Court would give to the political branches on any legislative matter. It may also be due some Constitutional deference in accordance with the delegation of powers in Art. I, Sec. 8: "To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces." I don't think it's a slam dunk to say this is a matter of national security and military deference, therefore the courts will defer. For starters, it's not clear whether this ban is in America's national security interest. (See, e.g., the discharge of Arab-speaking linguists from the Defense Language Institute earlier this year) Second, it's not clear that a statute like this will receive the same deference, given its legal context and legislative history, as a regulation promulgated directly by the Pentagon. Third, I'm not sure that this policy will get the 100% backing of the Pentagon today.
4. I cited to Goldman v. Weinberger for exactly the opposite proposition that Jacob points out, with help from a couple of other cases like Rostker v. Goldberg. The point is that the military is allowed to make certain regulations that do not heavily burden the exercise of fundamental rights. The military can burden such rights on the margins, such as requiring Jewish soldiers to wear earth-tone yarmulkes or shave their beards in order to achieve a proper seal with their M40 protective mask. But it cannot flatly tell these servicemembers not to engage in their conduct. In other words, a little burden is okay; a big burden is not. The military has gotten away with burdening fundamental rights in a small way, and it has been deferred to by the courts. But it may not get such deference when it heavily burdens fundamental rights that have been recognized by the court.
This is somewhat of a slippery slope problem, on which I am grateful to Eugene Volokh's thoughtful piece in the Harvard Law Review. (Full disclosure: I'm still trying to understand the full argument of Eugene's article) However, the point is that the military's conduct may be okay at one point on the slope, while not being okay at a subsequent, lower point on the slope. As I understand fundamental rights analysis, the extent of the burden plays some role in determining the outcome. To the extent that the policy on gays burdens the rights of gays much more heavily than any other military policy does with respect to a fundamental right, this policy may be struck down.
5. Jacob writes that the military policy does not directly prohibit sodomy, and since that's what the Supreme Court recognized, the Supreme Court's decision does not directly delegitimize the military's policy. I can see this point, but I think it's wrong as a matter of Constitutional law. For starters, Justice Kennedy's opinion did not just strike down the Texas sodomy statute; it recognized a fundamental right of intimate conduct for homosexual persons. The fundamental rights analysis does not require an exact fit between the facts of Lawrence and the facts of a military case in order to work. Once the Court recognizes a fundamental right, the analysis works quite differently. The burden shifts to the government to show a compelling interest for its policy which burdens the right, and that the policy is narrowly tailored to that compelling interest. The right recognized by the Court was not just sodomy -- it was "intimate conduct". 10 U.S.C. 654 may not directly speak to sodomy per se, but it certainly speaks to "intimate conduct" of homosexual persons.
Thus, I believe this policy cannot stand as a matter of Constitutional law. But as I said before, this is an area where reasonable people can disagree, and it's certainly no slam dunk.
Update: Jacob has a response at the Volokh Conspiracy, which he slyly calls a "couple of quick rejoinders". Hah. Remind me never to pick an intellectual fight with an academic again. Jacob has a long and well-researched note that I frankly don't have time to respond to. Even if I could, it looks like he's probably right on some of the important legal issues that will decide this fight in the courts. I may write on this later, if I get some time after work tonight or tomorrow. But until then, it's back to the salt mines (law firm) for me. . .
Will Lawrence have any effect on the military?
Jacob Levy thinks I'm wrong (along with Mark Kleiman) about Lawrence and gays in the military. He shares his reasons why at the Volokh Conspiracy. I agree with some of his arguments, but disagree with his conclusions.
More to follow tonight ...
Monday, June 30, 2003
'An army of builders'
Fareed Zakaria writes in Newsweek that America may need to reorient its military towards nation-building in the wake of our experiences in Afghanistan, Iraq, and maybe now Liberia. The point is one that I also made in my essay on nation-building in the Washington Monthly. Our 21st century military force has transformed itself to fight with more lethal precision and efficacy than any military in history. But it has not effectively transformed itself to deal with the challenges of nation-building. Zakaria writes:
Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld is rightly proud of having pushed the military toward thinking about war in the 21st century. He has made it fight wars of the future, not the past—except in one crucial sense. America’s future conflicts are all likely to be short on war and long on nation-building.Thoughts... Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has pushed the military to realign its force structure in some small ways towards this end. The FY2005 Pentagon budget bill will include legislative provisions to shift manpower in key specialties (MP, Civil Affairs, engineers, etc) from the reserve forces to the active forces. That will help a great deal. But it's still not enough. We have invested an awful lot in the information architecture of way, and the precision firepower of war. We have not built human organizations capable of managing the complex operations after the war's completion. If the current trend continues, and America continues to deploy its military to failed states, we may need to build some type of constabulary force that's organized and equipped to deal with this precise situation. If we don't, we will continue to pound square combat units into round nation-building missions and suffer the consequences.
Also see this piece by Frederick Kagan in the current issue of the Weekly Standard. He writes, as I have before, that:
It is time to stop pretending that the United States can prosecute a war on terror, conduct peacekeeping operations in Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo, and Bosnia, and maintain the security of the homeland without a substantial increase in the size of the armed forces. General Shinseki, the recently retired Army chief of staff, warns us to "beware the 12-division strategy for a 10-division army"--and even he understates the problem. In truth, the armed forces need an increase in size of at least 25 percent.
Friday, June 27, 2003
A U.S. led permanent peacekeeping force?
Esther Schrader reports in the Los Angeles Times that this is exactly what Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has in mind. Such a force could be deployed in hotspots like East Timor, or as a follow-on force to places like Iraq.
The force would operate outside the auspices of the United Nations and NATO and would include thousands of U.S. Army troops trained for, and permanently assigned to, peacekeeping work.
Such an undertaking would represent a major reversal by the Bush administration, which came into office deeply opposed to tying up U.S. military forces in international peacekeeping operations.
The plan would probably be opposed by the Army, which has resisted efforts to have its troops drawn into peacekeeping duties.
There are other obstacles as well. Some analysts question how many nations would sign up for such a force if it were under the control of the United States, whose willingness to collaborate with other countries is highly suspect in many parts of the world.Query: Why doesn't the Army just do this on its own? Why not realign part of the force structure to build brigade-sized task forces of MPs, Civil Affairs, Engineers, Medical and other specialty units needed for peacekeeping? I think the multilateral component is useful for political reasons. But if we see a need for this kind of force, we ought to build it ourselves.
Coda to my note on Lawrence
Several learned readers wrote me with questions and critiques related to my thoughts on Lawrence. I'd like to address a couple of them, since I thought they were particularly good.
1) Doesn't a challenge need a plaintiff? Yes, it does. Various judicial doctrines require someone to actually be affected by a policy in order to sue the federal government. In this case, that means that someone who challenges the "don't ask, don't tell" policy needs to have been affected. I see two classes of potential plaintiffs:
- Gay men and women currently serving in the military who feel the current policy burdens their fundamental rights to intimate sexual relations, but who have not been detected or discharged yet.
- Gay men and women who served on active duty but did come to the attention of their superiors, either by statement, act or marriage. (See 10 U.S.C. Sec. 654 for its definition of what counts)
Unfortunately, there are no shortage of either group of plaintiffs. I knew a few gay soldiers and officers in the Army, and I imagine there were many more I did not know. The latter category includes several thousand men and women from the last decade alone, according to the Servicemember's Legal Defense Network. (See, e.g., the 7 military linguists discharged from the Defense Language Institute.)
2) The decision doesn't expressly overrule the military's policy -- how can it apply? The Court went further in Lawrence than it ever has before in the area of personal liberty, and specifically, sexual liberty. Justice Kennedy's opinion includes extremely broad language of the sort I remember reading in Brown v. Board of Education, or Miranda v. Arizona. This language will now form the foundation of any legal challenge to the policy, and lower courts will be bound by the parameters set forth by Justice Kennedy:
"Liberty protects the person from unwarranted government intrusions into a dwelling or other private places. In our tradition the State is not omnipresent in the home. And there are other spheres of our lives and existence, outside the home, where the State should not be a dominant presence. Freedom extends beyond spatial bounds. Liberty presumes an autonomy of self that includes freedom of thought, belief, expression, and certain intimate conduct. The instant case involves liberty of the person both in its spatial and more transcendent dimensions.This is extremely broad language for the Court, and I think it's all but certain that it would help a plaintiff overturn the ban. Remember, this is not the kind of case where you would need to analogize between the facts of Lawrence and the facts of a challenge to the military's ban. Once the Court recognizes the fundamental right, the challenge may occur in all sorts of contextual contexts. Subsequent courts need only apply the "strict scrutiny" test to the law burdening the fundamental right in order to see if the law will stand. I'm no expert on the subject (for real expertise, see Eugene Volokh and Jack Balkin), but I'm pretty sure this decision is the death knell for the military's current policy.
3) What about discrimination in other contexts? Some lower courts have upheld decisions by adoption agencies and other administrative bodies to deny certain rights and privileges to gays because, inter alia, their conduct could be criminalized. I think that Lawrence also means the end of these laws as well. If you cannot criminalize this conduct anymore, and indeed, if such conduct is a fundamental right, then it follows that these kinds of policies can't stand either. However, there may be some more to these laws that I don't understand, so I defer to the real experts in the family law area.
4) What about colleges who don't want ROTC? I agree with Mark Kleiman here -- I think this is going to be the battleground on this issue in the next 5 years. Universities like UCLA currently accept the military's presence because federal law threatens the withholding of their federal research and financial money if they don't let them on. In many situations, e.g. UCLA and Berkeley, the requirement to allow the military on campus clashes with the university's policy against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. It's as if federal law required these colleges to allow a law firm on campus to recruit when that firm refused to hire minorities. I think it's likely that some universities will now challenge that federal law, known as the "Solomon Amendment", on the basis that it is unconstitutional per Lawrence. I'm not sure whether the underlying policy would need to be banned first, or whether the universities could challenge the Solomon Amendment beforehand. But I think it's a safe bet that we will see this issue resurface on college campuses in the near future.
That would be unfortunate, both for the universities and the military. Here, I speak not from a legal perspective but from that of an Army officer who graduated from UCLA with a liberal education. The institutions most likely to kick the military off campus are the institutions we most need represented in our military. When the Harvards and Berkeleys no longer produce military officers, the military suffers a great deal. In many ways, these officers raise the intellectual bar within the military, liberalizing it on the margins and adding something that would not otherwise be there. To be sure, West Point is a fine institution that produces amazing leaders. But they do not come to the Army with the same diversity of perspective and experience that officers from civilian universities do. That experience can be useful when building a cohesive unit to fight a war. But this diversity of experience critically important when dealing with complex nation-building missions like the one in Iraq right now. I hope that university leaders pursue a path of moderation on this policy, seeking the best answer for their institutions and for the military.
Thursday, June 26, 2003
What will the Supreme Court's decision mean for the military?
Today, the Supreme Court held that the Constitution protects the liberty of homosexual persons to engage in "intimate conduct" in accordance with their personal preferences. Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy effectively demolished the Court's precedent from Bowers v. Hardwick, expressly overruling it and its holding that states could regulate the conduct of homosexual persons.
What does this mean for the current law banning gays in the military?
That ban exists as a matter of federal law -- 10 U.S.C. 654 -- and presumably can be overruled by a decision of the Supreme Court. I think that one of the first effects of Lawrence will be to trigger a challenge in U.S. District Court to the current policy banning gays in the military. That challenge will essentially cite Lawrence for the proposition that homosexual conduct is a fundamental right that the state cannot burden without some compelling interest -- and that the restrictions must be narrowly tailored to that compelling interest. The plaintiffs will argue that this policy (the "Don't ask, don't tell" policy) burdens the right of gay soldiers to engage in the conduct they want to, and that such a burden on a fundamental right is unconstitutional. Given the Court's holding today in Lawrence, I think that a lower court would almost certainly side with the plaintiffs.
The only possible savior for the military's ban will be the "national security" deference sometimes given to the Executive Branch and the military by the courts. In recent cases, such as challenges to President Bush's war on Iraq, the courts have expressly deferred to executive judgment on military matters, and left such issues to be decided by the political branches. Such "national security" deference was also invoked by the Supreme Court in Korematsu v. United States, where the Court upheld the detention of Japanese-Americans during World War II.
However, I don't think such deference will save the ban on gays in the ranks. The Court has held in religious freedom cases that the military can curtail certain personal freedoms, such as the right of Jews to wear certain religious garb. However, this is different. This ban places much more of a burden on the rights of gays than the military's uniform policies do, and this ban has a much more drastic effect (automatic discharge). After reading the Court's opinion in Lawrence, I think it's likely that this ban will be struck down as unconstitutional.
Read 'em yourself!
Slowly, like a glacier, our government is opening itself to the public. I've already praised the Pentagon's webpage as a great resource for reporters and citizens alike. Today I'd like to call your attention to the Supreme Court's site, which should get a lot of traffic today as the Court announces some major decisions.
The Court posts its recent opinions on this page, in PDF form, as they will look in the official U.S. Supreme Court case reporter.
Two other sites also deserve mention. The Legal Information Institute at Cornell has a great repository of Supreme Court cases, and I like the way they break up their cases by type of opinion (majority, concurrence, dissent, etc), and post them in both HTML and PDF format. Findlaw.Com is also a great resource for those who want to read these pieces of history themselves. Findlaw also has a great Constitution page that contains an annotated version of the Constitution -- in case you want to know the legal rulings behind a particular clause.
So when the Supreme Court announces its decisions (and maybe retirements) today, don't take my word for it -- see for yourself. And them read them for yourself. Our society claims to live by the rule of law. I think it's a great idea for everyone to understand how the way these laws are translated into living documents by the Supreme Court. There's no better way to do that than to read the Court's decisions.
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?