Tuesday, August 05, 2003
Rebirth of the Weinberger/Powell doctrine
Remember the Powell doctrine? It was really an adaptation of the Weinberger doctrine, which itself was a response to Vietnam. The Powell doctrine essentially said the U.S. would not get involved anywhere militarily without a clear mission, a clear end-state, and a large enough force to do the job with minimal U.S. casualties. The doctrine has become the mantra of the U.S. military officer corps, and in general, I think of it is as pretty good planning guidance.
Today, in a press conference, Joint Chiefs Chairman Gen. Richard Myers used this doctrine in a discussion of Liberia, and troop constraints presently facing the Pentagon.
Q: General Myers, on the Liberia. If the U.S. commits a brigade set of soldiers, there's going to be inevitable cries from analysts and commentators that the U.S. is stretched too thin militarily and this is another example of them being stressed. From a purely military perspective, what problem would that cause, if you sent 2(,000) or 3,000 soldiers to Liberia, from just that military stress on the force perspective?So... we're not going to do any missions where:
- We don't have a clear mission
- We don't have a clear end state
- We don't have sufficient force to do the job
Does this apply to Iraq? Were these principles printed out on a PowerPoint slide and posted in the work cell of the planners who fashioned the occupation force? There appears to be a disconnect between this doctrine -- which has served us well -- and what we are now doing in Iraq.
A failure of the imagination
That's how Slate columnist Fred Kaplan describes the Pentagon's failure to effectively or adequately plan for the security and stability of post-war Iraq. Kaplan argues that the Pentagon's leadership should have known what was coming, because of recent experience in previous nation-building endeavors. The sad part is that there were thinkers in the Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz circle who knew these things, and even wrote about them, but their ideas were dismissed before the war.
Through much of the Bush administration, Wolfowitz could merely have picked up the phone and called a colleague named James Dobbins.Analysis: I recommended Mr. Dobbins' new book last week because I thought it was a good study of an important aspect of American foreign policy -- "nation building". Until reading today's War Stories column, I didn't know about the close connection between Mr. Dobbins and the Bush Administration. A number of scholars have convinced me in recent years that the most dire threats to America's security in coming years will come from failed states (e.g. Iraq and Afghanistan) as opposed to powerful states (e.g. China and Russia). If that's true, then an awful lot of nation-building may be our future to pre-empt these threats. Mr. Dobbins' book seems like awfully good reading for this summer.
But with all due respect to Mr. Dobbins, this isn't something you need a PhD to figure out. I wrote in May 2003 that American planners had failed to adequately incorporate the lessons from Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan into the plan for Iraq, in this piece for The Washington Monthly.
The architects of the war might be forgiven for misgauging the number of troops required had the war come a dozen years ago, when the United States had little experience in modern nation-building. But over the course of the 1990s America gained some hard understanding, at no small cost. From Port-au-Prince to Mogadishu, every recent engagement taught the lesson we're now learning again in Iraq: America's high-tech, highly mobile military can scatter enemies which many times outnumber them, in ways beyond the wildest dreams of commanders just a generation ago. But it's not so easy to win the peace.Coda: It's hard to tell exactly how well (or how poorly) things are going in Iraq. We appear to be gathering, analyzing, and exploiting intelligence in the hunt for Saddam and his henchmen. We also appear to be building some institutions, and moving closer to a free, stabile and prosperous Iraq. On the other hand, we continue to take casualties from guerilla attacks on a daily basis. (Footnote: the media tends to only report fatalities. This masks the numbers of non-fatal attacks that are either fought off by our well-trained soldiers or that don't result in a fatality because of outstanding medical care and body armor.)
I still think we have insufficient numbers of troops in Iraq to do the job right. Mr. Dobbins' research appears to confirm this. But getting more troops is a challenge of Herculean proportions. It does not appear that the reserves and National Guard can sustain this deployment for more than a few years. The active-duty force certainly cannot do so. Our only option is to seek support from our allies in NATO and elsewhere. That means going back to the UN for support, since our allies (namely France, Germany, India and most of NATO) will not send troops without the UN's blessing. It may be tough; it may take a lot of political capital; it may result in a large plate of crow being eaten by several senior administration officials. But if we truly care about getting the job done right in Iraq, it must be done.
Congratulations to UCLA professor, fellow blogger, and friend Mark A.R. Kleiman for this piece in Slate. Mark has one of the most brilliant minds around when it comes to social policy, and he's also no Ivory Tower wonk -- he's actually practiced in this field as a policy consultant and analyst. In his Slate piece, Mark dissects the reported success of one of President Bush's faith-based initiatives to reduce recidivism among criminals.
You don't have to believe in faith-healing to think that an intensive 16-month program, with post-release follow-up, run by deeply caring people might be the occasion for some inmates to turn their lives around. The report seemed to present liberal secularists with an unpleasant choice: Would you rather have people "saved" by Colson, or would you rather have them commit more crimes and go back to prison?Interesting... and worth a read. I also recommend Mark's book Against Excess, which remains one of the seminal works on drug policy, and his weblog for continuing commentary on various issues.
PS: The recently-passed California budget contains no salary increase for UC faculty, as well as hefty fee increases for me. I appreciate the decision by Slate's editors to accept this article from Mark, since their stipend will help to offset the legislature's inability to adequately fund the university. I hope Slate continues to help the UC retain quality faculty in this way, since the Ivy League schools are probably chomping at the bit to exploit California's budget crisis as a way to lure top faculty to the East Coast. If only I could sell a few more articles, I could offset this fee increase too . . .
Update to "The downside of outsourcing"
Several smart readers wrote me to criticize this note as naive, saying that in essence, this was a business deal and these contractors should be able to walk away from a bad business deal at the cost of any purely contractual damages. That's one perspective, and it's a valid one. But I admit to being a little more moralistic than this, especially where contingency contracting is concerned. I think these contractors did a great disservice by backing out of contracts where they could reasonably foresee the risks involved.
However, there are two caveats that are important to note as a matter of goverment contract law:
- The great majority of clauses in a government contract are specified by the Federal Acquisitions Regulation ("FAR") and agency versions such as the Defense Federal Acquisition Regulation ("DFAR"). These terms are generally incorporated into every government contract, and they are not open to negotiation. A contractor would have very little ability to change these terms during negotiations with the government. Essentially, government contracts are a package deal, and you can't negotiate the terms the way you can a private document.
- The contractors' decision to scrap their contracts probably took place in the context of a "change". (See Notification of Contract Changes, 48 CFR 43.104) I don't know this, but it's an educated guess. At some point after April 9, the contractors probably looked at Iraq and said that the security situation did not look as good as the Army promised when they agreed to the contract. That situation necessitated increased security and insurance, which increased the cost of the contract. The contractors probably argued that they deserved more money in order to cover these costs, and the Contracting Officer probably rebuked them. Rather than lose money in Iraq, the contractors decided to abandon the contracts, seeing execution as more risky than breach of contract. That may have been a wise business decision.
Ultimately our soldiers are the ones left holding the bag. But that does not reflect so much on these contractors as it does on our political leaders who have made the conscious decision to outsource so much of America's defense capability. Put simply, our military cannot go to war today without a legion of contractors in support -- to maintain everything from computers to helicopters to latrines. It should come as no surprise that the current Pentagon leadership wants to outsource even more of the military's support missions -- possibly as many as 320,000 uniformed positions. As we consider this proposal, I think we should carefully weigh the risks, as demonstrated by the problem with getting contractors to go to war.
Update II: For more on the art and science of contingency contracting, see this webpage hosted by the Army Materiel Command on the subject.
Update III: I've beat up on government contractors a little, and perhaps unfairly. The AP reports today that an American civilian contractor was killed in Iraq by a remote-detonated explosive as he traveled in a convoy of trucks.
The contractor was employed by Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Halliburton, a Houston-based oilfield-services and construction company. Halliburton, the former company of Vice President Dick Cheney, has major contracts for reconstruction in both Iraq and Afghanistan.Clearly, there are risks to doing business in Iraq.
Monday, August 04, 2003
Culture Clash: CIA v. Homeland Security
Bruce Berkowitz, a former CIA official himself, writes today in the New York Times that there are fundamental differences in the ways that the CIA and Department of Homeland Security use information -- and that these differences will continue to complicate the use of intelligence for domestic security operations. Berkowitz writes from a position of authority, and this argument sounds a lot like what he wrote in The New Face of War.
Talk to intelligence professionals about their work, and you will hear them bat around this term: tradecraft. It's the combination of skills, procedures and, especially, the culture that guides them in their jobs. Tradecraft is similar to what people in the private sector call a business model, and just like any corporation, an intelligence organization develops its own tradecraft.Analysis: Ultimately, Berkowitz concludes that the culture gap is too wide and that a new intelligence center is a better answer than trying to pound the square CIA into a round hole. I'm not so sure. The CIA has a great deal of institutional knowledge and competence that can't be built overnight in a new domestic security agency. It may be the case that the two cultures cannot effectively be combined under the same roof. But starting a new agency to deal with a professional threat is like letting the Bad News Bears go up against the Dodgers -- not a good idea. In the long term, this may be right. But until such time as we can create an American version of MI-5, we need the CIA and FBI to work together and shoulder the load.
CONGRATULATIONS to Prof. Norman Abrams, who was selected as interim dean for UCLA's law school. Prof. Abrams is an expert on federal criminal law and evidence law, and has served on the UCLA faculty since 1959. I helped him put together a casebook on Anti-Terrorism and Criminal Enforcement, and he is advising me on the course I'm teaching on that subject next year. I think Prof. Abrams is the right choice for the job, and think the school will do well with his hand on the rudder.
The downside of outsourcing
Soldiers in Iraq learn to live without contractors who failed to show up or perform
David Wood reports for the Newhouse News Service from Washington that a number of government contractors have gone AWOL on the Army. Specifically, contractors that were supposed to deliver goods, provide ervices, build facilities, and perform other tasks have declined to a) enter the combat zone or b) do the job once there. Some of this may owe to the ongoing guerilla conflict, and the unwillingness of contractors to have their employees shot at. But our sons and daughters in Iraq are the ones left holding the bag.
Though conditions have improved, the problems raise new concerns about the Pentagon's growing global reliance on defense contractors for everything from laundry service to combat training and aircraft maintenance. Civilians help operate Navy Aegis cruisers and Global Hawk, the high-tech robot spy plane.Analysis: First, it should be said that some contractors are doing an outstanding job in Iraq. But this last quote is certainly true. The government cannot order these contractors into combat the way they can order soldiers there. All the Army can do is sign a contract based on a mutual agreement between the parties. However, the government does have a whole host of penalties available to them, including suspension and debarment from competition from future government contracts, and substantial penalties. I would hope that our Justice Department looks into this story, and the conduct of government contractors with respect to Iraq. Where proper, I think the government should pursue civil actions to recover damages from contractors who agreed to these missions and then reneged. Our soldiers deserve better.
Could the DARPA terrorism market have worked?
Lou Dobbs, the prominent financial news anchor, argues in U.S. News that the planned terrorism futures market may have been the best predictive tool available for the complex irrational phenomenon of terrorism. Dobbs isn't a terrorism expert, but he is an expert on market behavior, and he thinks that markets make a good tool for quantifying collective opinion where a "swag" (super wild a**ed guess) is all you've got.
There is a minor problem with all their declarations about the Policy Analysis Market: It just might have been the most accurate predictor of terrorist activity available to us in the war against radical Islamists. Instead of asserting the all-too-familiar orthodoxy of both Washington and New York, the capitals of politically correct-inspired conformity, Wyden, Dorgan, and the editors of the New York Times might have asked how useful a tool the market could have been in the war on terror.Analysis: This may well be right, but it's irrelevant. PAM failed because the powers that be failed to understand the political reality of the situation. DARPA's program officers failed to gauge how much the public would tolerate, and how much distrust lay dormant within the American public towards the government at this moment in time. The program concept itself was probably sound -- especially if the planned market would have been open by invitation only to experts and market professionals. But as the maxim goes: "politics is the art of the possible." You can't do what you can't pass, and in this case, DARPA didn't have a prayer of passing PAM.
Friday, August 01, 2003
American military stretches to get the job done in Afghanistan
Greg Jaffe and Christopher Cooper report in this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that the U.S. Army is experiencing significant difficulty in making ends meet across all of its global commitments. Specifically, the mission in Iraq is taking away critical specialty units from the mission in Afghanistan -- civil affairs, MPs, Military Intelligence, and others necessary for nation-building.
Frustrations such as this are becoming more common as the Pentagon rejiggers its forces to fight terrorism, handle the reconstruction in both Afghanistan and Iraq, and prepare for potential new missions in places such as Liberia. That is a broader portfolio than the Pentagon used to plan for; prior to Sept. 11, 2001, its strategy was geared to simultaneously handling two intense wars of limited duration. "I've been telling my soldiers the truth: You do need to understand that this is a changed world," says Gen. James Helmly, commander of Army reserve forces.Analysis: Josh Marshall criticized the facile argument that the war on Iraq took away from domestic security funding, e.g. federal sky marshals. For the most part, I agree with him that this is a useless point to make, because the federal appropriations process is much more complicated than that. You can't simply pull money out of the National Defense Authorization Act or DoD emergency supplemental act and put it into the Department of Homeland Security's budget. (But maybe you should be able to, if you really want to be adaptive and flexible enough to respond to a nimble threat like Al Qaeda. . . )
That said, this military resources problem is a zero-sum game where this argument holds water. There are a finite number of Civil Affairs, Military Police, and Intelligence soldiers in the Army -- both active duty and reserve. That finite number is set by Congress every year in the National Defense Authorization Act and by the Pentagon in its force structure documents. It cannot be altered without an act of Congress and a subsequent revision by the Pentagon of the force structure. SecDef Rumsfeld is trying to alter this mix right now, bringing more of these "nation building" units onto active duty. But that will be a tough fight, and we're not there yet.
The point is this: the mission in Iraq deprives the mission in Afghanistan of resources like these "nation building" units. There are so many go to around, and the Pentagon has designated Iraq as the priority location right now. It would be a shame if that prioritization caused the situation in Afghanistan to deteriorate. Iraq is an important place for a lot of reasons. But Afghanistan is the place where Sept. 11 came from, and it's the failed state that we ought to be most concerned with.
Thursday, July 31, 2003
Another casualty in the DARPA wars, part II
John Poindexter isn't the real reason DARPA programs keep dying
After being scooped by the Wall Street Journal (see below), the New York Times catches up with this report by Eric Schmitt on Poindexter's resignation, based on a background briefing from an anonymous senior defense official.
"It's fair to say that the secretary understood what Admiral Poindexter understands, which is that it's difficult for any work that he might be associated with to receive a dispassionate hearing,'' said the official, who spoke to a group of reporters at the Pentagon today on the condition of anonymity.Huh? That's like the classic Rumsfeld-ism that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. (Tell that to a judge on a summary judgment motion and you're toast.) Frankly though, I'm not sure that Poindexter is the issue here. Even if PAM fell outside the purview of his DARPA IAO shop, the project would still have been dead on arrival in the Senate.
Why's that? Because the real issue here isn't John Poindexter -- it's the deep mistrust of the Bush Administration on issues of civil liberties that runs through American society like a cold stream. Since Sept. 11, the administration has leaned really far forward in its foxhole on issues of liberty and security, and I think the American people are a little spooked. Part of this owes to a successful campaign by the ACLU and others to frame these issues as a choice between liberty and security; part of it owes to deep divisions in American society over the Bush Administration itself. But in general, I think that DARPA's projects fail because the American people simply don't trust the administration to try anything that might further affect the balance between liberty and security.
Let's be honest -- few people actually understand how Total Information Awareness, LifeLog, Genoa, or the Policy Analysis Market will actually work. These are very complex programs that are mostly still in the conceptual stage. Even without knowing those details, people find themselves opposed to these programs. I have seen among my friends in Santa Monica a visceral reaction to these programs -- even after I explained their details. I think this all traces back to trust.
Bottom Line: the Bush Administration no longer has the trust of the American people when it comes to civil liberties. This is the "blowback" from the administration's aggressive stance towards anti-terrorism since Sept. 11. The administration aggressively implemented a long list of anti-terrorism laws and policies, including:
- The USA PATRIOT Act
- The Homeland Security Act
- Military commissions
- The presidential power to designate "enemy combatants" and hold them indefinitely without counsel
- Detention of 600 combatants at Guantanamo without Geneva Convention protection
- Broader surveillance powers under FISA
- Use of the "material witness" statute to detain citizens
- Use of immigration laws to detain and deport U.S. residents
Right or wrong, I think the public perception is that these measures collectively encroach on American civil liberties. At some point, the administration had to have known that the American public would say "Enough!" That day has come. Until the administration regains the public trust on these issues, the American people and their legislators are going to torpedo every DARPA program that leaves the Pentagon.
Congratulations: Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping has something to be very proud of: his son enlisted yesterday in the U.S. Marine Corps. Don has an MPEG video of the event posted on his weblog. As a retired military officer, Don was able to actually administer the oath of enlistment to his son, which must have been a proud moment. (My parents pinned my 2LT bars on me in June 1997, and I will never forget how that felt)
Trigger pullers and video games
Noah Shachtman has this interesting article in Wired about the military's decision to buy video games for soldiers stationed overseas. The move is driven largely by morale considerations, but is also geared towards the generation of young men and women now serving in uniform.
Just out of high school, thousands of miles from friends and parents, and isolated by language and culture from the people around them, young airmen stationed on a U.S. Air Force base in Europe can find life pretty lonely.
Another casualty in the DARPA wars
First Total Information Awareness; then the Policy Analysis Market -- now John Poindexter. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports on A2 today that the retired Admiral and Iran-Contra figure will leave the Pentagon's DARPA team within the next several weeks. His resignation comes as Congressmembers on both sides of the aisle took the Pentagon to task for even conceiving of a "betting parlor" for terrorism.
John Poindexter , director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, is expected to resign in a matter of weeks, a senior Defense Department official said. The office sought $8 million from Congress to help a private group set up a Policy Analysis Market as a way to provide the Defense Department with "market-based techniques for avoiding surprise and predicting future events."How's this for irony? CNN/Money reports that you can now speculate on John Poindexter's future in at least one global market.
What are the chances that Poindexter is still around at the end of next month? About 70 percent according to the Poindexter contract that began being traded on Dublin-based futures exchange Tradesports. Yep, Poindexter is about to serve as an example of how accurately a futures market can predict future events -- the very idea that he was espousing.I don't know if this is anything more than a glorified office pool -- no different from betting on the NCAA championship or when a co-worker's family might have their next child. But economists are convinced that markets can be harnessed for decisional purposes, as a quantification of collective intelligence and rational-choice. Maybe, but I'm not convinced yet.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
A tough break for Gulf War I POWs
U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts handed a defeat today to 17 American POWs from the first Gulf War who sought to attach Iraqi assets currently held by the U.S. government. (Thanks to How Appealing for the link) The decision seemed like the only option for Judge Roberts as a matter of law, but he made his distaste for the outcome clear in his opinion:
Plaintiffs immediately offered to compromise their awards in an effort to settle the case amicably with their government which they had served so well and for which they honorably endured severe torture. It was an unrequited gesture. According to the government, the President has the authority to designate a variety of assets seized from Iraq as available for satisfying the compensatory awards to the POW torture victims, but has not chosen to do so. Instead, the Secretary argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on plaintiffs' TRIA claim because Congress in a supplemental appropriations bill authorized the President to make TRIA inapplicable to Iraq, and because the President in a Presidential Determination issued May 7, 2003, exercised that authority.This decision looks like the legally correct outcome, but I don't think Judge Roberts thought it was the right outcome. Unfortunately, that can't change the law, and you can't win an appeal on the basis of sentimentality when the law's against you. This appears to be one case where the right outcome and the legal outcome don't quite match up.
Update: The Washington Post reports today that these ex-POWs have no plans for surrender after their temporary setback in the D.C. District Court.
Attorneys for the POWs called the decision "incredibly disappointing" and said they would immediately appeal it to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
ACLU challenges USA PATRIOT Act in federal court
The AP reports that the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a challenge to the continued use of Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act in a Detroit federal court. This section broadens the authority of the Justice Department to request documents, library records, and other items about persons connected to foreign intelligence or criminal investigations. It has been the subject of much controversy since the passage of the act in Oct. 2001. The ACLU argues that this provision runs afoul of the Constitution. The suit asks the U.S. District Court to permanently enjoin the Justice Department from using Sec. 215; here's an excerpt:
153. Section 215 violates the Fourth Amendment by authorizing the FBI to execute searches without criminal or foreign intelligence probable cause.First off, there are a lot of hurdles this suit must pass in order to get in the door of a federal court. The federal judiciary can choose to avoid disputes for any number of reasons -- jurisdiction, abstention doctrines, mootness, standing, ripeness, etc. The ACLU is essentially suing on behalf of an amorphous group of individuals who may have been injured. The lawsuit itself admits that it does not know of any Constitutional violations under Sec. 215 because of the secretive nature of the violations themselves. This is a Catch-22 situation, because Sec. 215 prohibits disclosure of searches to the targets of those searches, or to anyone else. The ACLU's complaint does set forth statements by AG Ashcroft and others that Sec. 215 has, in fact, been used in various criminal cases. But I still think these jurisdictional and jurisprudential obstacles will be very hard to get over in this case.
Furthermore, the District Court may decline jurisdiction because matters under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") belong to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Moreover, the FISA Court of Review has exclusive appelalte jurisdiction over FISA issues, and that body which decided last year that several parts of the USA PATRIOT Act were constitutional. The Supreme Court declined a request by the ACLU to review this decision.
Whatever the outcome, this is going to be a really interesting skirmish in the battle over the USA PATRIOT Act. I suspect that neither side will back down until the Supreme Court rules on the matter, and that may take years.
Recommended reading from RAND
The RAND Corporation -- a private think-tank that does the bulk of its work for the Defense Department -- has put out two outstanding and timely pieces of research that deserve a look. RAND has also recently put its incredible terrorism database online, in a way that's accessible to the public.
- America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq. Abstract: "In Iraq, the United States is facing its most challenging nation-building project since the 1940s. The authors draw lessons from seven case studies—Germany, Japan, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan—then apply these to the Iraq case. The results suggest that nation-building will be difficult but possible. Success will, however, require investing sufficient financial, military, and political resources—and time." Hmmm... sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it?
- New Challenges, New Tools for Defense Decisionmaking. "The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War—and then the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—transformed the task of American foreign and defense policymaking. This book outlines the dimensions of that transformation and sketches new tools for dealing with the policy challenges—from modeling and gaming, to planning based on capabilities rather than threats, to personnel planning and making use of "best practices" from the private sector." This book surveys some of the most current thinking out there on how to best plan for the defense sector. I'm not sure all these ideas are right, but they're certainly provocative and worth reading.
- The RAND-MIPT Terrorism Incident Database. The RAND Corporation has finally put its outstanding database on terrorism incidents online. "The MIPT Terrorism Database System acts as a "one-stop shopping place" where authorized users can go online to find comprehensive information and intelligence on terrorism. . . . The system includes two RAND databases, the RAND Terrorism Chronology Database and the RAND-MIPT Terrorism Incident Database. The RAND Terrorism Chronology Database records international terrorist incidents that occurred between 1968 and 1997, while the RAND-MIPT Terrorism Incident Database records domestic and international terrorist incidents occurred from 1998 to present."
Alright... so it's a pretty wonkish list. But I guarantee you'll come away from reading this stuff well informed, if not well entertained. If you do choose to read these two books, you may also want to order a copy of Harry Potter for balance.
An organized enemy or a decentralized enemy?
Which one is better for U.S. forces fighting a guerilla war in Iraq?
Mickey Kaus raises that issue in his Slate column, and I think he's right on target. The question has come up in relation to the shape of the enemy we face today in Iraq. Some have argued that we currently face a hierarhical, coordinated enemy force that is choosing to fight us by means of guerilla warfare. I think the evidence points more towards a loosely organized network of guerillas that share common goals, but no recognizable command structure. Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek agrees, as this transcript from This Week shows, but I disagree with him about the implications of this conclusion.
[M]y sense is that the resistance is also getting less centralized and more sporadic, which is the crucial issue because clearly we are facing guerrilla operations but this is not a guerrilla war because you do not have the same kind of central control. If you think of the Vietnam analogy, which many people are foolishly making, that was the case where you had an inexhaustible supply of people, long supply lines into North Vietnam and the guerrillas were being helped by not just the north Vietnamese government but two superpowers, China and Russia. None of that applies here. Here you have isolated bands of Fedayeen who kind of decide let's look at this road and see if you -find Americans coming down, take them out. Terrible tragedy but a very different circumstance. ... [snip] By and large the attacks do not seem to have the character of an organized resistance in the sense they're not advancing any objectives and finally, frankly, I mean, the people I've talked to say there's absolutely no, within the Pentagon, say there is absolutely no evidence that it's centrally directed.Zakaria's right about the threat, but wrong about the implications. Mickey has some great thoughts on this, but I'd like to offer another reason why Zakaria's conclusion is off. It's clear that these two organizational models present *different* threats, but it's not clear what threat is better for U.S. forces. I would argue that a networked, decentralized enemy is far more dangerous for American forces than a hierarchically organized enemy, regardless of what our experience was in Vietnam.
A bunch of folks at RAND and the Naval Postgrad School have done work on network-centric warfare that looks at the implications of decentralized, network organizations in the conduct of warfare. The general conclusion is that it takes a network to fight a network. (See, e.g., the work by John Arquilla and Bruce Hoffman in particular) If this is true, this is very bad for the U.S., because our command structure is anything but a network. The U.S. military command structure is incredibly structured and hierarchical, and this handicaps us in many ways (beyond the scope of this note) for dealing with agile, flexible, decentralized, networked threats.
Similarly, our homeland security apparatus is bureaucratized and hierarchical in a way that hobbles it. I hate to keep beating the John Boyd "OODA Loop" horse, but this is the best framework for understanding the core problem. That core problem is this: how can a large, cumbersome, heavily regulated, bureaucracy like the DHS (or DoJ or DoD) respond to an agile, flexible, small, decentralized, networked, innovate threat like Al Qaeda? Answer: it really can't.
A decentralized enemy that fights from many different directions with loose coordination is precisely the kind of threat we are not organized to defeat. We may be able to do so with brute force and ignorance, but doing so will be quite costly.
More to follow on the implications of network-centric warfare for the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism...
Senate panel throws Pentagon official on the barbie, so to speak
The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post both report the "grilling" of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz yesterday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Frustrated by American progress in Iraq and upset by obfuscation on the part of Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of State Josh Bolton, several senators engaged in pointed exchanges with the two men in the open committee meeting. Here's a sample of the discourse from the LA Times:
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the committee, twice got into heated exchanges with Wolfowitz over the question of how much the Iraq operation is costing.Here's a sample of what the Washington Post reported:
"I agree with the rest of the members of this committee that I think you, Mr. Bolten, should be more forthright in terms of what the costs are going to be so that we have some idea, and the American people [know], how long, how much," said Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio).Exactly. I've said this over and over. America is sacrificing a lot in Iraq on a daily basis. These sacrifices are not abstract; every casualty represents some American son or daughter with parents and friends in the communities from which they came. The Army's plan for Iraq calls for large numbers of National Guard soldiers to be mobilized, which equates to further sacrifice on the part of the American people. I don't think it's too much for these senators to ask:
- Why are we in Iraq?
- What will it cost to succeed in Iraq?
- What is the end state for our mission in Iraq?
- What is our plan to get to that end state, and how long might that plan take?
Enemy Combatants II
Today's Washington Post has the second article in a two-part series on law and terrorism -- this time on the case of alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla. The article discusses the Padilla case from the perspective of Padilla's lawyers, so it has some slant towards that perspective. Nonetheless, it does frame the legal issues correctly:
Court battles in these cases have centered on two primary questions. First, does the president have the constitutional authority to designate citizens suspected of terrorism as enemy combatants and hold them incommunicado, without charging them with crimes? So far, courts hearing the Hamdi and Padilla cases have ruled that he does, though the challenges continue.Issues of law and terrorism have been subject to a great amount of spin over the last two years since Sept. 11. To many, the issues have been reduced down to a deceptively simple balancing between "liberty" and "security". Unfortunately, it's not that easy. I highly recommend reading some of the original documents in these cases, such as Judge Michael Mukasey's December 2002 order in the Padilla case, for a greater understanding of how all the important issues play out in these cases. Findlaw.Com has built an incredible repository of documents on terrorism, and it's a great resource for this endeavor.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
The threat of "enemy combatant" status
Prosecutors delegitimize this status by using it to extract plea bargains
Today's Washington Post has a really good article on the case of the "Lackawanna Six" -- six men that pled guilty to providing support to Al Qaeda and attending terror raining camps in Afghanistan. As someone who teaches and writes on issues of law and terrorism, my eyes got wide when I read the piece of the story describing the tactics used by the government to get the plea bargain:
Why would six of their young men so readily agree to plead guilty to terror charges, accepting long prison terms far from home?This is not an isolated incident. On June 22, I wrote about another instance of the government using this tactic to extract a guilty plea from a defendant in federal court. The New York Times reported this in their story about alleged Al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris, who was accused of plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge.
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: There are several implications for this kind of behavior for the government:
The first is that it really does extend the threat of "enemy combatant" status to a broader segment of the population than was previously thought. When the men at Guantanamo were labeled enemy combatants, we could rationalize it by saying "They were picked up in Afghanistan, on a battlefield, with some plausible connection to the war on terrorism." When men like Jose Padilla were so designated, we could arguably say he was an enemy guerilla seeking to wage war on the streets of America. But when we start to see men charged in federal court, treated as civilians by the system, and then threatened with this status, I think it casts doubt on the protections afforded to those in the criminal justice system.
Second, I think this delegitimizes the label of "enemy combatant" itself. That term has tremendous weight in court. The government is arguing in the Hamdi and Padilla cases that it should not even be questioned by the courts about this designation. Yet, the government casually uses this label as a threat in cases where the defendants are being charged in civilian court.
Third, the casual use of "enemy combatant" status will hurt the government as it tries to win the trust of the American population. A lot has been written about the proper balance between liberty and security since Sept. 11. It takes political capital to pass measures like the USA PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security Act, and it will take more political capital to pass future anti-terrorism laws. That political capital is built on a foundation of trust between the people and the government; that the people trust the government to abuse their liberty in the name of security. I think the average American will see this story and think the government is abusing its public trust, and going too far in its war on terrorism at the expense of civil liberties.
Update: An informed reader writes with a link to a story in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) from April 2003 reporting this same story about the Lackawanna Six. When something appears in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal (papers which lean to the left, center and right, respectively), you can pretty much take it as true. Scot Paltrow adds an interesting dimension to this story that I hadn't considered:
In the Lackawanna case, there were indications that the government's case wasn't as strong as officials in Washington had characterized it after the arrests. The government had called the arrests a major victory in the fight against terrorism. But Michael A. Battle, the U.S. attorney in Buffalo, confirmed the government has found no evidence the defendants were involved in any violent plot.A similar issue came up in the John Walker Lindh case, where U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III held that the material support statute (18 U.S.C. 2339b) did not unconstitutionally infringe on Lindh's rights. But Lindh did a lot more than merely attend a training camp -- he admitted to carrying weapons and explosives as part of the Taliban. Jess Bravin reported at the time of Lindh's plea bargain that this threat was made in his case as well, and that it was probably a factor in Lindh's decision to plead guilty in exchange for a 20-year sentence.
Lawyers in the case said informal talks about a plea bargain began six weeks ago, and that the defense initially proposed a 10-year sentence. President Bush approved a 20-year term Thursday. The two sides spent the weekend hammering out the particulars, and signed off on the terms around 1 a.m. Monday.Final Thoughts: It's not clear how the courts will treat 18 U.S.C. 2339b when it comes before them. First, some defendant has to challenge the government and not be carted off to a military brig as an enemy combatant. Second, the defendant will need to overcome all of the judicial deference issues which have dominated the major terrorism cases to date. Third, the challenge will need to be made on the right facts -- someone who purely provided nominal material support to a terrorist organization, such as speech or advocacy on their behalf.
Had the Lackawanna Six not pled guilty, they might have been the first defendants to take this issue up through the courts. But the issue for these six men is now moot.
Interesting stories at DefenseTech
Noah Shachtman has some great stuff at his site this morning, including:
- An excerpt from his Wired news article on LifeLog, a Pentagon project which would create a system capable of recording everything you see, hear, sense, and know. The object is a personal digital assistant capable of supporting field commanders and bolstering their memories. But the implications resemble a cross between Total Recall and Minority Report...
- A note on the Pentagon's new policy analysis market project -- also run by DARPA, the folks who brought you the Internet, Total Information Awareness, and Lifelog. My first reaction to this was that it was absurd. But Noah has some interesting links on the subject, including some economics studies that lend credibility to the effort.
Update: CNN reports that the Pentagon has cancelled its "terrorism betting parlor" project.
Still not enough troops to do the job right
Retired General Barry McCaffrey argues in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that we need to bolster America's military by quite a bit in order to meet our current global commitments. McCaffrey's no amateur at this stuff -- he commanded the 24th Infantry Division in Gulf War I, and after retiring with 4 stars, served as President Clinton's drug czar. You also can't dismiss McCaffrey as a "liberal critic" who wants to see us fail in Iraq -- a brush which has been used by some (e.g. Ann Coulter) to tar moderate and liberal politicians on this issue. In blunt language, he writes that we don't have the resources to get the job done.
Right now, U.S. active and reserve force-structure of infantry, military police, civil affairs, special operations, aviation and field logistics formations are inadequate. Contractors and allies (now a tiny 7% of the coalition supporting the effort) can mitigate some of the burden in Iraq. And if everything goes to plan, an additional 40,000 allies, organized in three multinational divisions, will be on the ground in Iraq by September. But we should be skeptical about their military effectiveness, independent funding, and logistics support. The only long-term solution is to create a well-trained and -equipped Iraqi police, civil defense corps, border guards, army and contract security force. L. Paul Bremer, chief administrator, and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground forces, are seized of this effort. We must see to it that they have the cash, equipment and training resources required for the mission.McCaffrey's plan is to mobilize an extra 7 National Guard brigades on top of the 2 included in Gen. Keane's rotation plan. After those reservists demobilize at the end of a 1-year tour, McCaffrey would keep those "units" on active duty, but man them with additional soldiers recruited/trained in the intervening year. It's a viable concept, but it's also one that would cost a lot of money. This plan would also take congressional approval, since the end strength of the military is limited each year by the National Defense Authorization Act. This may be the right answer -- but it will require tough choices (e.g. missile defense funding vs. troops) and hardball politics to make it happen.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Update on 3ID decision to remove embedded reporters
Fred Kaplan writes in Slate that this move may be one of the first public signs that the Bush Administration knows things are going badly in Iraq. (The other sign is an attempt to enlist James Baker as the new proconsul for Iraq.) I wrote on this decision by MG Buford Blount last week, after seeing the news in the European Stars & Stripes:
On Monday, the 3rd ID commander, Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, decided to stop allowing reporters to spend time with his troops, other than to gather information for pre-approved “news features,” according to an e-mail response from Lt. Col. Birmingham, 3rd ID spokesman in Baghdad.Fred Kaplan thinks something is rotten in the E-Ring, and I think he's right. In his Slate piece, he implies that the Bush Administration sees saturating media coverage as a hindrance to further nation-building efforts. In short, too much coverage of casualties, adverse conditions, unfriendly locals, and griping soldiers may hurt American resolve to persevere in the face of all that adversity.
Now, however, the story has turned sour, to the point where two soldiers with the 3rd I.D., who had grown all too accustomed to talking freely with the press, publicly lambasted not just the brass but the political bosses—on network television, faces exposed, names on the record—in startlingly stark language. One of the soldiers told ABC News, "If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I'd ask him for his resignation." The other said, "I've got my own 'Most Wanted' list. … The Aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, and Paul Wolfowitz."There's some irony to this... The most pro-military coverage of the war -- arguably of the last decade -- came from the reporters who were embedded with the troops on the march to Baghdad. Even when covering bad news, like the shooting of Iraqi civilians at a checkpoint, the embedded reporters generally told the story from a grunt's perspective in a way that would make their parents proud. The most skeptical coverage came from the rear, from reporters at HQ in Kuwait or further back in Washington.
Removing the embedded reporters is likely to result in less "candid camera" moments for our troops in the field. (No more quotes asking for the SecDef's resignation) But it may result in a more negative spin in general for the military. That would be ironic, given the reasons the administration has for removing the embedded reporters from 3ID.
Congratulations to Joe Doherty and his colleague Lynn Lopucki of UCLA Law School for their research on bankruptcy which earned them this mention in the Hearsay column of The Washington Post.
According to researchers at the UCLA School of Law, bankruptcy costs for the largest U.S. companies in Chapter 11 reorganization have dropped 57 percent in real dollars since the 1980s. But the length of time that cases are in bankruptcy has decreased almost as much -- 50 percent -- which the researchers say roughly correlates with the drop in costs.
Notes on the offense of treason
Stop the Bleating, another military/legal affairs blog, has a great note today on the history of the treason clause in the U.S. Constitution. Matt takes on the thorny issue of whether you can prosecute someone for espousing views that might amount to treasonous speech, whatever that may be. He concludes:
. . . I'm not entirely sure that we need to resort to any new rules of law to resolve the issue that Bell identifies. You see, in my own research on the topic I came to the realization that the overarching purpose of the Treason Clause was primarily to protect peaceful political dissent. But we have something in the Constitution now that wasn't present when the Clause was enacted, and it protects such dissent quite well. It's called the First Amendment, and I think it may be up to the task of dealing with situations like the Al Qaeda Al scenario that Bell proposes.
Going on the offensive
Tom Ricks has an outstanding piece in today's Washington Post, which he wrote from Iraq where he is currently reporting on the Army's 4th Infantry Division. The piece assesses the latest campaign by American forces to quash the Iraqi insurgency. Using a mix of unconventional tactics and intelligence-driven operations, American forces appear to be winning some significant victories -- but at a cost. The whole story's worth reading for an understanding of what's going on over there right now.
Despite their losses, Army officers and soldiers asserted that they are making solid gains in this region, where most of the fighting has taken place and where about half the 150,000 U.S. troops in the country are posted.Update: Mark Kleiman, a UCLA professor who I know and respect, thinks this is unethical conduct -- and possibly unlawful under the laws of war.
Mark (with an assist from Atrios) cites to Art. 75 of Protocol I to the Geneva Convention, as his support for the contention that this is unlawful. Unfortunately, the U.S. has not signed Protocol I, and thus cannot be bound by it by the conventions of positivistic international law.
Of course, that's just a legal footnote about Protocol I. The U.S. did sign the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, and it explicitly precludes hostage taking in armed conflict:
Art. 34. The taking of hostages is prohibited.There is also a norm of international law known as "distinction" -- which literally means distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants. This principle would probably preclude the kind of conduct conducted by COL Hogg in Iraq, since the Iraqi Lt. Gen.'s family members are unquestionably non-combatants.
Doing what's unlawful is one thing; doing something which is counter-productive is quite another. We're trying to rebuild Iraq as a kinder, gentler place -- a nation that contributes to regional stability, economic growth, personal liberty, etc. To accomplish our mission, we need to win the Iraqis' hearts and minds. Kidnapping the wives and daughters of our adversaries is not a way to win hearts and minds -- it's a way to squeeze their private parts. This is the kind of tactic that can backfire, bigtime. Especially if your opponent is willing to go a step further in his atrocities than you.
America's finest sons and daughters
Ruth Voshell Stonesifer writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning about her son -- Kristofor Stonesifer -- who was killed in combat during the first days of combat in Afghanistan. Her essay discusses some of the reasons her son went to war, and some of her feelings since his death in 2001.
My son was a quiet and thoughtful patriot. When I questioned him about Sept. 11, while he was still at Fort Benning, Ga., and before he went overseas, he spoke only about his fellow Army Rangers chomping at the bit to right the wrongs perpetrated on America that day. But Kris expressed no such zeal.Steve Lopez, one of the Los Angeles Times' best columnists, also writes today about the mother of a soldier killed in combat.
Evan Ashcraft was killed last week. He was 24 and an Army sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division. When his mother invited me to visit with her, she had only one purpose. She wanted to honor her boy, and to put a human face to the daily tally of casualties.Thoughts... I think the essential question is precisely "Was this for a good cause?" America has sacrificed a great number of its sons and daughters on the fields of Iraq for some cause -- whether it's WMD, regional stability, prevention of terrorism, oil, humanitarian goals, or something else. Some people have questioned the efforts of reporters (such as Josh Marshall) in seeking out the truth about the Bush Administration's casus belli -- our reason for going to war with Iraq. I don't think such queries are misplaced. If we are going to send our finest sons and daughters into harm's way, then we deserve to know as a nation the reasons for doing so.
The lawfulness of killing in war
John Yoo, a UC Berkeley law professor who recently served as a political appointee in the Justice Department, opines in the Weekly Standard that there is no reason to wring our hands over the killing of Saddam's sons. This essay is one of the better ones I've seen on the subject. It concisely sums up the law and states why no legal problem exists with last week's targeted killing of the two Hussein men.
No law prohibits the targeting of specific enemy leaders in war. Assassination is different: the murder of a public figure for political reasons. The murders of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln were assassinations. By contrast, the killing of the enemy in combat is protected by the laws of war. As Hugo Grotius, the father of international law, observed in 1646, "It is permissible to kill an enemy." Legitimate military targets include not just foot soldiers, but the command and control structure of an enemy's military, leading up to its commander in chief.
Assessment: women in combat
A semi-official after-after review of Gulf War II has concluded that women performed effectively in combat, after a decade of policy changes that opened up a myriad of opportunities close to the front lines. Women in all four services saw combat in Iraq, whether as helicopter pilots, MPs, chemical warfare specialists, or logisticians. Anthony Cordesman, now a professor at CSIS, wrote the study, which says:
Women made up roughly 15 percent of U.S. military forces during the Iraq War, ranging from a high of 19 percent in the Air Force to 6 percent in the Marines. The number of women in high-risk jobs increased strikingly compared to those in the Gulf War, although women are still barred from ground combat positions. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this change is that there are no meaningful reports of gender problems in combat or high riskpositions. While scarcely unexpected, this experience is a further refutation of the arguments that women cannot perform such duties or will disrupt operations in wartime.Analysis: Notwithstanding the ordeal of PFC Jessica Lynch, I think this conclusion is right on. In general, women performed effectively in the gulf, proving the wisdom behind the policy changes in the 1990s that opened more combat and combat-support roles to women. I wrote about this in December 2002 in the Washington Monthly, saying essentially the same thing as Cordesman.
Indeed, if mixed-gender units perform as they have in the California desert--and in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan--it would strengthen the integrationist trend in several ways. The least likely possibility would be the elimination of all rules barring women from full combat service, from special forces to light infantry. But even if this were to happen, surveys suggest that only a small number of women would apply. And only a fraction of those who do would have the physical ability and fortitude to make it through, say, the crucible of Army ranger school, from which a majority of qualified men wash out before graduation.Bottom Line: Women went to the gulf, they fought, and they did as well as the men they served with. Today's military is a remarkably diverse organization, and it knows how to build cohesive winning teams regardless of the backgrounds of the soldiers in those units. Male, female, black, white, brown -- it makes no difference. Everyone wears green (or desert camo), and that's what counts.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
LANCE WINS HIS FIFTH CONSECUTIVE TOUR DE FRANCE!
Lance Armstrong, the gifted athlete who battled testicular cancer and won, added a fifth consecutive Tour De France title to his long list of accomplishments today. This tour was tougher for Lance than previous ones. He faced fatigue, dehydration, French citizens, crashes, and near wipeout during the grueling 2,130-mile race. But in the end, his experience and endurance enabled him to win the race, supported by the strong U.S. Postal Service team. Lance already ranks with the best American athletes of all time -- Jim Thorpe, Jackie Robinson, Bruce Jenner, Mark Spitz -- to name a few. But this title puts him in the rarefied ranks of cycling. Only one man (Miguel Indurain) has ever won 5 consecutive Tour De France titles.
Maybe Lance will go for six?