Tuesday, November 18, 2003
America's new military plans for the world
Bradley Graham reports in the Washington Post about an extremely important strategic/operational development in the Pentagon: the creation of new operational plans for such major theaters as the Middle East and Korea. Unfortunately, news of the sniper's conviction and Arnold's swearing-in pushed this story from page A1 to A18. But I think this is probably the most important story to come out of the Pentagon in weeks. The most important change is that the new operational plans assume America's ability to "do more with less" -- that is, to fight a military campaign with fewer boots on the ground and more airpower/artillery guided by "C4ISR" (command, control, communications, computing, intelligence, surveillance, reconnaissance).
U.S. military commanders, working with the Pentagon's Joint Staff, have revised plans for potential wars on the Korean peninsula, in the Middle East and elsewhere based on assumptions that conflicts could be fought more quickly and with fewer American troops than previously thought, senior officers said.Analysis: In essence, these changes take the alleged lessons learned from Iraq and incorporate them into updated and revised operational plans. We all watched the way that American firepower and intelligence capabilities worked together in Iraq to defeat the Iraqi army in three weeks. I haven't seen these new operational plans (obviously, they're classified), but I would guess that these plans assume a lower number of infantry, armor and combat-support troops on the ground as well for the mission, either because those troops may be tied up elsewhere (e.g. Iraq) or because there won't be time in future conflicts to deploy them before the balloon goes up.
What's wrong with this plan? Well, I see two glaring areas where the operational plans assume substantial amounts of risk -- at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.
Risk Area 1: Security. The decision to fight a war with less of a ground footprint leaves you with less manpower to protect those things that you do actually put on the ground. Although the initial stages of a war may be fought entirely by airpower, I think it's still true that you must eventually commit ground troops in order to seize, hold or occupy terrain -- or to truly impose your will on an enemy government. As T.R. Fehrenbach said so brilliantly in This Kind of War:
"You may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it and wipe it clean of life," wrote Fehrenbach. "But if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground, the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud."This is still true. The problem then becomes one of force protection. Our enemies have learned to hit us asymmetrically because they know that they cannot hope to succeed against the combined-arms effort of American infantry, armor, artillery and air support. Indeed, if Gulf War I and II are any indicator, they will lose thousands of soldiers in any such effort. However, they have also learned from Somalia, Afghanistan and Gulf War II that asymmetric tactics can be highly effective -- particularly against those parts of the American war machine that are less well-protected: supply lines, logistics bases and command posts. Such units are absolutely critical to the American way of war, because our front-line units can't operate without the support of a heavy logistics tail -- and they will be less effective without the assistance of a command post to direct close-air support and artillery, among other force multipliers. Asymmetric attacks on these targets will likely produce American casualties, which in turn will make Americans question the war effort and possibly hasten our withdrawal from any endeavor, according to this theory. They will also reduce our effectiveness and slow our advance.
As we saw recently in Iraq, such attacks will eventually rise to the point where the operational commander must pull front-line troops out of the fight to secure the lines of communication and critical American high-value assets. The asset requirements for force protection will sap combat power from the fight, where it's needed. And if the decision was made before the fight to deploy less troops to the theater, it's often too late during the fight to get them there, since American units typically require weeks to deploy anything heavier than a paratroop battalion to war. If this problem grows bad enough, it will necessitate an operational pause. But at that point, the whole point of moving fast and light is lost, and you should've just deployed enough troops when you had the chance.
Risk Area 2: Troops to Secure the Peace. As this article states, the new operational plans don't fully consider the post-war requirements in each respective theater of operation. In Iraq, those post-war requirements were assumed away too, according to excellent reports in the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post, among other sources. The result was a hasty effort to secure the peace in the immediate aftermath of the war, compounded by a lack of resources (boots on the ground) to do the job in April and May. The result was chaos. If there is one lesson that operational planners (and I've been one) should take away from Iraq, it is this: don't assume the post-war phase of the operation out of the planning process. You simply can't afford to assume a d*mn thing when it comes to planning, and failing to plan such a major part of the operation is planning for failure. The post-war phase in Iraq is turning out to be far more important, far more costly, and far more lengthy than the war itself.
But that's always been the case. In every war we have fought since WWII, the ends have been messy. After WWII, we had to occupy Germany and Japan for years. We're still in Korea, although the nation-building efforts were largely complete by 1960. Vietnam ended quite messily, though we're now returning there to rebuild the nation's economy with the foot soldiers of capitalism. Somalia, Bosnia, Haiti, Kosovo, Afghanistan, Rwanda, East Timor -- every recent nation-building op has shown that it takes more troops to secure the peace than to win the war (or change the regime, if that's the case). I made this point in May in the Washington Monthly, and Amb. James Dobbins made it more elegantly in the RAND study America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq.
If you commit less troops to the fight, then you will have less troops on the ground at the moment the mission changes from war to post-war stabilization. Moreover, America lacks the strategic-lift (think Air Force cargo plane) capability and rapid-deployment (think 82nd Airborne) capability to rapidly get troops to the battlefield in the time it will take to affect the situation on the ground. In Iraq, the situation deterioriated in a matter of days, and even if we had made the decision on 9 Apr 03 to deploy additional forces, it would've taken weeks to get them there. The pre-war decision to commit less troops to battle has profound post-war implications, and these operational plans appear to miss that point.
I don't think these are necessarily fatal flaws. The combatant commands (e.g. CENTCOM) can scrub these plans, generate their own requirements, and request more resources for operations when the order is given. But they really don't have the resources -- or the asset visibility -- to do so as effectively as the Joint Staff and the service staffs (e.g. Army and Navy). Plus, they will be under significant time pressure to execute the mission, and it will be hard to request more resources if and when the balloon goes up in a place like Korea. The right answer would be to incorporate the real lessons learned from Iraq into these operational plans. History has shown us that winning the peace is often more difficult than winning the war, and we should plan for that. Depending on your perspective, such an event may be a contingency or an eventuality. But a good planner plans for both.
Sunday, November 16, 2003
Novices at nation building
Stanford Professor Stephen Krasner writes in today's Los Angeles Times that American difficulties in Afghanistan and Iraq should come as no surprise to observers around the world, because frankly, America and the world lacks experience in building democracies.
What we do know — or should know — is that getting from here to there will be hard. The states we're most interested in helping to transform today generally have low per-capita incomes, limited experience with democracy and long histories of autocratic and sometimes brutal rule. These are not conditions that tend to foster democracy.Analysis: I think this is a powerful argument, and one that's not without a shred of truth. I suppose it's debatable whether democracy should emerge first -- and set the conditions for a liberal society -- or whether the liberal society and market economy must come first. In many ways, it's a classic chicken/egg problem. I happen to think that the market economy, infrastructure, and educational systems must come first in order to set the conditions for the emergence of democracy. You have to build a class of educated persons with a personal economic incentive to become stakeholders in society; to defend what they have acquired by means of civil government. Towards that end, America can create the conditions for the emergence of democracy in Iraq by building roads, schools, markets, hospitals, and other institutions to help Iraqi society reestablish itself. Self-determination will take over at that point, and while we may not get the government we want, I think that the Iraqi people ought to be trusted to decide their own destiny.
"A citizen check on war"
Active/reserve mix in American military effectively checks the President's war powers
Former Air Force pilot Janine Davidson has a well written essay in today's Washington Post Outlook section on the "total force" concept, which is the term of art to describe the mix of active and reserve forces in today's American military. Ms. Davidson lays out the history behind this concept, and the way this concept has developed into a check on Presidential warmaking and deployment power.
The current U.S. military structure -- known as the "Total Force" -- was implemented after the Vietnam War. The system was designed to require activation of Guard and reserves personnel in order to wage war. Defense officials ensured that war-fighting capabilities were integrated across the active and reserves components to such a degree that, as an Army chief of staff, Gen. Creighton Abrams, is said to have claimed, "they're not taking us to war again without calling up the reserves."Analysis: Indeed, Gen. Creighton Abrams' total force concept has become a more effective check on presidential warmaking ability than either the Art. I power of Congress to declare war, or the potentially unconstitutional War Powers Act. This check works because it's closely tied to the Art. I power of Congress to fund the military. Mobilization decisions also require political capital, and even in this gerrymandered age of safe Congressional seats, decisions to send large numbers of Americans into harm's way translates into lots of political pressure on Congress to manage those deployments.
On the other hand, this force balance effectively ties the SecDef's arm behind his back, because it limits his ability to deploy certain critical units such as Civil Affairs, Military Police, Military Intelligence and logistics. And, America's reserve system was designed for a WWIII-style scenario where the entire nation would mobilize to fight the Soviet hordes as they streamed through the Fulda Gap. It does not work well for the constant level of peacekeeping deployments we had in the 1990s, and it is about to break down from the strain of repeated, long-term deployments to support the Global War on Terrorism. There is a good argument for moving some of the most critical units into the active force, such as Civil Affairs, at least in sufficient numbers to give America a 9-1-1 capability in these specialties.
The travels of LCPL David C. Botti
Sunday's New York Times carries an exceptional personal essay from David Botti, a Marine reserve infantryman who was mobilized first for post-9/11 security and later for combat duty in Iraq. LCPL Botti answered the call both times, taking himself away from his nascent writing career and dreams of living in New York City. But he took his journal with him to war, and captured a number of the stories of his comrades while deployed. The result, I hope, will eventually be some sort of war memoir (or work of fiction) that accurately characterizes the experiences of Marines in Iraq. His essay today marks his journey from New York to Iraq and back again to the big city.
The August night I returned to the city from Iraq, I found myself drunk in the bathroom of an East Village bar. As I steadied the wall, I wondered how this skin of mine, tanned brown from the Iraqi sun, could now soak up the atmosphere of a good, seedy city bar. Wondered how the people in line behind me could enjoy the night while their peers still slept with rifles, halfway around the world, where I had been just the week before.
Saturday, November 15, 2003
Is the NYT rewriting Time's copy?
2 stories on combat casualties seem eerily familiar, down to the details
Time had an exceptionally well-done piece in last week's issue (with Russell Crowe on the cover) about America's wounded from Iraq, and the long road they travel from wound to recovery. I was about to comment on it, and some of the advances (like body armor and medical corps doctrine) that have led to this paradigm shift in casualty evacation, treatment and recovery. Then I saw this piece by Neela Banerjee in the New York Times, scratched my head, and said "Gee... these look awfully similar." The stories are so similar, they even talk about the same computerized prosthetic limb that costs $100,000 each. And what's even odder is that the 16 Nov 03 New York Times story bears a 10 Nov 03 dateline, leading me to believe it sat in the editor's hopper for a while.
After the Blair incident, I doubt the NYT is actually lifting Time's copy or story ideas, and Ms. Banerjee is known as a good reporter. But it still struck me as odd that these two flagship publications would run what is basically the exact same story. What do you think?
Friday, November 14, 2003
Jessica Lynch and women in combat
Why Elaine Donnelly gets it wrong in the National Review
A lot has been said so far about Jessica Lynch, from the date of her capture through her rescue, recuperation, return home, discharge, and release of her book. Now, the inevitable charge has come from Elaine Donnelly, chair of the Center for Military Readiness, that Lynch's story exemplifies why women should not be sent into ground combat. Moreover, Donnelly argues in the National Review that Lynch was sent into harm's way because of 1994 reforms by the Clinton Administration that changed the Pentagon's policies for women on the battlefield. Here's an excerpt:
How did Lynch get to the frontlines, many Americans may wonder. Under rules issued by the Clinton administration, female soldiers in support units are now being forced into areas involving a "substantial risk of capture." This policy is inconsistent with privacy rules that deny information about what happens to women who are captured — unless a victim of sexual abuse decides to write a book months later.Analysis: This argument is wrong on several levels. As an initial matter, I should say that good things happen to bad units (sometimes it's better to be lucky than good) and bad things happen to good units. I have analyzed the 507th Maintenance Company ambush and I think that this was the predictable result of training, resourcing and leadership decisions made which sent a poorly prepared unit into combat and put them too close to the front lines. At the end of the day, though, the 507th was unlucky, and they paid a heavy price for that misfortune.
1. Jessica Lynch's position in the 507th Maintenance Company was not opened to women as a result of then-SecDef Aspin's rule change in 1994. (See the actual memo here) The 507th Maintenance Company habitually supports a Patriot missile unit. Doctrinally, this unit exists at the echelon above corps level. Doctrinally, they should fight far back on the battlefield, beyond the reach of enemy artillery and well behind the battalions, brigades, and divisions which actually fought the ground war in Iraq. PFC Lynch's supply clerk billet would have been open to women in 1990 for Gulf War I. PFC Lynch was not a front-line position, such as that in the 3rd Military Police Company or 1-227 Aviation (Attack) -- two units where women fought as MP soldiers and Apache helicopter pilots respectively. Instead, she held a supply clerk position in a rear area logistics unit where the risk of combat was thought to be low.
The 1994 rule change opened up a number of jobs for women, as I explain in this December 2002 cover article in the Washington Monthly. This rule changed allowed women to lead the way to Baghdad as MPs, intelligence officers, Apache pilots, front-line surgeons, and many other specialties. But this rule change had nothing to do with the 507th Maintenance Company, which even under the old Reagan-era rules, would have been open to women. Even under the "risk rule" that Ms. Donnelly writes of, the 507th would have been open to women.
2. So what happened? Well, the 507th Maintenance Company stumbled into combat as the result of many factors. Most importantly, CENTCOM planners built a warplan that called for a rapid advance through Iraq to Baghdad -- an advance which stretched American supply lines and left main supply routes unprotected. This allowed Iraqi guerillas to attack American logistics convoys and wreak havoc in our rear area. In addition, the "bypass criteria" was set very high on the advance to Baghdad, meaning that American tanks and infantry would bypass enemy platoons and companies as they fought on. These bypassed units were then faced by lightly-armed MPs and logistics units in the rear area, and also caused problems. At one point, GEN Tommy Franks had to pull entire brigades of infantry out of the fight in order to secure his rear area, because the dual problems of enemy guerillas and bypassed units had become so threatening to logistics and command units. The 507th Maintenance Company convoy was in this rear area, and they suffered as the result of an ambitious operational plan that lacked effective planning for security in the rear area.
On top of this failure, PFC Lynch's unit failed her. CPT Troy King, the company commander for the 507th, failed to effectively lead his company on the day in question. He wrote his route down wrong, got his convoy lost, and then failed to take effective actions on contact when the ambush was initiated -- at least, according to the Army's report on the subject. PFC Lynch paid the price for her company commander's dereliction of duty and poor performance, as have soldiers throughout history for the failures of their commanders. (Note: CPT King has not been officially disciplined by the Army, which appears to have taken the position that his bad luck should not be punished with criminal or administrative action. I beg to differ, and have a hard time reconciling the prosecution of men like LTC Allen West when the Army lets a commander like this escape the blame. Good or bad, company commanders are responsible everything that happens to their unit. The buck stops with the man or woman who wears captain's bars.)
3. Ironically, had PFC Lynch been assigned to a front-line unit like the 3rd MP Company, she probably would have been better prepared for combat. The 1994 reforms did open up a number of opportunities for women, including service in front-line MP units assigned at the division and brigade level. In these MP units, male and female soldiers conduct missions such as route reconnaissance and area security -- missions which often require them to train and fight as infantry or scouts. My last unit, the 4th MP Company, trained hard on these missions, and was well resourced to conduct them. We often trained with the scouts and infantry of our brigade, and even shot gunnery with our brigade's reconnaissance troop. That training has paid off. Despite seeing as much fighting as any unit on the battlefield, MP units have experienced relatively light casualties -- including no fatalities in my old unit. (Thank God) The best way to take care of soldiers and bring them home alive is to train them hard, and front-line units at the brigade level and below train hard with that in mind.
PFC Lynch was not assigned to such a front-line unit. She was assigned to a rear-echelon unit that likely had never done an NTC rotation, had never done a live-fire exercise, and had never done a field exercise longer than 2 weeks. Indeed, I doubt that PFC Lynch had effectively trained for combat since she graduated from basic training. The 507th certainly did not train effectively with the 3rd Infantry Division, under which it fought in Iraq. None of the 507th's officers or sergeants had experience with 3ID orders, maps, or TTPs. This lack of training and readiness was to blame, according to the Army, for the chain of events that led to the 507th being ambushed.
Jessica Lynch herself had this to say in an interview with Time Magazine:
What did they tell you to expect? "What you trained for [maintenance and supply] obviously wasn't what happened. We had to do the whole weapons qualification again to make sure that we knew how to operate a weapon, but also we did a lot of training with gas masks. In a sense we were ready, but we weren't ready for an ambush attack."As I stated earlier, it's impossible to know whether good training and leadership would have made the difference when the 507th was ambushed. But we can certainly point to the absence of such training as a key factor in the 507th's failure to respond to its ambush. As PFC Lynch herself has said -- she didn't even get off a shot. Why? Because her weapon jammed. Why? Because it was poorly maintained and poorly lubricated and poorly cleaned. Why? Because the NCOs and officers in her unit lacked the training, experience and fieldcraft to effectively lead their soldiers in combat. The results were all too clear. If you want to fix these problems, don't take women out of these units. Make every soldier a rifleman instead, led by competent officers and NCOs who have what it takes to accomplish the mission and take care of their soldiers.
Bottom Line: PFC Lynch and her unit were not ready for combat when they went into harm's way. Too many of the soldiers in the 507th paid the price for that readiness. PFC Lynch was no front-line soldier, and she was no Rambo. But PFC Lynch was no further forward on the battlefield than thousands of other women -- women who have served ably and effectively for more than 15 years. Her ambush and capture should not be used to judge the 1994 reforms which opened up more positions to women, because frankly, those reforms had nothing to do with where PFC Lynch was on the battlefield.
If you want to draw lessons from the 507th Maintenance Company incident, you should do so. But draw those lessons from what actually happened, as reported by the Army's after-action review and its forthcoming 15-6 investigation; draw those lessons from the facts about the 1994 policy change, and how it allowed women further forward on the battlefield than ever before. But don't draw conclusions about the 1994 policy changes that let women into front-line units, when those policy changes had nothing to do with the 507th Maintenance Company or PFC Lynch. Doing so is disingenuous, and takes liberties with the facts and the policy of this matter. It also does a disservice to the thousands of women in Iraq today who have ably and effectively served their nation in uniform, and deserve to be recognized for their accomplishments.
John Keegan's latest work
Joseph E. Persico reviewed John Keegan's latest book this past weekend in the New York Times, titled Intelligence In War: Knowledge of the Enemy From Napoleon to Al-Qaeda. (The Times also has this excerpt from the first chapter of the book) The book looks like a must-buy for anyone interested in military history, intelligence, or operational art. (In other words, it's on my list to buy/read) Mr. Persico's review makes the book look even more appealing.
Though ''Intelligence in War'' carries the subtitle ''Knowledge of the Enemy From Napoleon to Al-Qaeda,'' Keegan has written not a history, but several case histories, measuring the contribution that intelligence made to victory. He is put off by the romantic notion generated by espionage fact and fiction that spies somehow win battles, even wars, by ruses, pilfered secrets and cracked codes. His own conclusion, hammered home again and again, is that ''decision in war is always the result of a fight, and in combat willpower always counts for more than foreknowledge. Let those who disagree show otherwise.''
A letter from Kabul
Patrick Belton also has this report at Oxblog from his correspondent in Kabul, Afghanistan, which gives a pretty interesting slice of life from a country that's largely been forgotten by the major newspapers. Interestingly, my military friends send back two kinds of e-mail. Those stuck on the major bases (e.g. Bagram Air Base) for force protection reasons write about a dreary existence, much like the movie Groundhog Day. Those allowed to move around the country, such as civil affairs officers, paint a much more dynamic and interesting picture of the country.
Language analysis, gender and blogging
Patrick Belton has an interesting report at Oxblog on the results of a language analysis he did on several blog posts, using the internet Gender Genie. He also plugged in some female authors, including Maureen Dowd and Virginia Postrel. Suffice to say, the results were less than stellar. I imagine that an analysis of Intel Dump would look about the same, although it would certainly reflect the language used by my sources (NYT, WP, WSJ, LAT, etc) as much as my own prose.
Mark Kleiman on Clark's ideas to enlist Saudi commandos in search for OBL
My UCLA mentor/colleague Mark Kleiman has some thoughts on the comments by retired-Gen. Wesley Clark that he would like to attach Saudi commandos to U.S. special operations units looking for Osama Bin Laden. Mark things it's a no-lose proposition, insofar as we would gain diplomatically and maybe even catch the guy.
Operationally, I'm not so sure. There is the risk of sharing too much of our special operations capabilities -- things the Saudis, Egyptians, and Pakistanis have no idea about. This is a lot like the reticence showed by spooks about revealing "sources and methods". We don't want to show countries (who aren't our really close allies like Britain or Australia) what we can do with units like the Army's Special Forces or the Navy's SEALs. A lot's been made about the "blowback" from American support for the Afghan rebels during the war with the former Soviet Union. Well, if we taught the Saudis to do special ops and then the Saudis had a regime change of their own (not an improbable thing), we'd see a whole lot of blowback.
Then there's the matter of Saudi special forces themselves. I'm no expert on the subject, but I've never heard of Saudi commandos extolled along with the great commando forces of the world, like the British Special Air Service or the Israeli commandos who took down the airliner at Entebbe. Surely, the Saudi military has some intelligence and language/cultural capabilities that we would love to add to our special operations community. But I'm not sure the Saudis could really add anything in operational terms to our own American special operations forces.
Still, this idea has some appeal. I would bet that Wes Clark got this idea from an old special ops veteran that he knows, and that it's an idea being seriously considered in the military's "black" community right now. Though a 4-star general, Clark has very little special operations experience of his own. "Good ideas" that are ill-considered tend to get people killed in this line of work, and Clark knows at least that much. I think he would have vetted this idea with some of his special ops friends before offering it up for public debate.
Update: Apparently, operational capabilities mean a lot more to the Pentagon than language or cultural abilities. The Korea Times reports that American officials are interested in deploying the South Korean special forces units known as "Sangnoksu'' to Iraq.
Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, will inspect South Korea's Special Forces Command Tuesday--a symbolic move indicating that the United States is eyeing the crack contingent for dispatch to Iraq.Interesting... more to follow.
Thursday, November 13, 2003
Did Iraq plan to fight a guerilla war all along?
Vernon Loeb and Tom Ricks suggest in Thursday's Washington Post that the Iraqi plan all along might have been to fade away in the face of the American-led onslaught, and to launch a 4th generation guerilla offensive with Iraqi troops and weapons not used to fight the Americans on the open field of battle. If true, the Iraqis are running a classic play from the insurgency playbook. As Mao wrote more than 50 years ago, the reed should bend with the wind and then snap back up again. In this case, the Iraqi reeds bent down low while American armored vehicles swept through the country, and have now begun to snap up as guerillas where they can inflict the maximum potential damage on America's efforts to build a new Iraq.
Knowing from the 1991 Persian Gulf War that they could not take on the U.S. military with conventional forces, these officers believe, the Baath Party government cached weapons before the Americans invaded this spring and planned to employ guerrilla tactics.Analysis: I think this article is dead on. The longer the Iraqi insurgency goes on, the more sophistication it demonstrates, and the more and more it looks like a concerted, planned, resourced effort to fight the U.S. with asymmetric means. This is no ad hoc insurgency thrown together by amateurs. Recent operations against the UN compound, the American "green zone", and other locations have shown that we are facing a well-led and well-resourced enemy with substantial intelligence and a relatively coherent operational plan.
However, it does not look like we face a hierarchical, centrally-planned and controlled enemy force. Instead, it looks like the Iraqis issued mission-style guidance to their subordinates sometime back in March or April. At a certain decision point -- the "tipping point" of American success -- the Iraqi command probably decided to activate this branch plan and fade away to fight asymmetrically. The Iraqi army cached war materiel and established a network of insurgent cells around the country -- possibly mirroring the former Iraqi Army command structure. The result is a highly decentralized, cellular, insular network of enemies that cannot be decapitated or stopped by the excision of a single cell. Indeed, this type of enemy presents itself much like the Hydra of mythological lore -- when you cut off one head, another grows in its place.
This type of Iraqi insurgency does not preclude the possibility of foreign terrorists operating inside Iraq. Indeed, this operational construct would embrace such a possibility. In the threat doctrine promulgated by the Army's intelligence community, the enemy almost always embraces some sort of terrorist or paramilitary organization to do its "wet work", and to conduct sensitive or political operations beyond the capability of its conventional forces. In the instant case, it appears that the Iraqi insurgent networks have incorporated at least some aspects of Ansar Al-Islam or Al Qaeda -- if only by embracing those groups operational doctrine and expertise. (See this LAT piece by Esther Schrader on that threat) The recent simultaneous suicide bombings, mortar and RPG attacks illustrate these common tactics, techniques and procedures. But the jury's still out as to whether Al Qaeda or Ansar Al-Islam is actually conducting operations inside Iraq.
Bottom Line: If the intel picture painted by Loeb and Ricks is shared by CFLCC and CENTCOM, it could explain the recent statements by LTG Sanchez and GEN Abizaid that they plan to resume offensive operations in Iraq. Last night, the 1st Armored Division (among other units) launched a new operation in Iraq directed at destroying this nascent insurgency. It could also explain Paul Bremer's visit to the White House this week. Fred Kaplan and Josh Marshall both seem to think that nation-building operations are about to take a back seat to a new phase of combat operations. If it's true that we're facing a planned Iraqi insurgency of this magnitude, that may be the right thing to do.
Update I: The insurgency may be working in at least one sense: it's isolating America from our allies and keeping a number of nations from sending troops to Iraq. Korea has stalled its deployment of a brigade to support the American-led occupation of Iraq, and now Japan has balked too. The deteriorating security situation in Iraq continues to deter nations who are interested in nation building -- but unwilling to incur casualties -- from joining our effort in Iraq. At this rate, the Iraqi insurgency may succeed simply by exhausting the American military's force structure (we can't occupy Iraq indefinitely with our current force structure) and preventing our allies from helping out. Of course, a political change in the U.S. could change this calculus, particularly if a committed multilateralist like Wes Clark were elected. But this appears to be the Iraqi end game: inflict casualties and cause chaos for as long as it takes to exhaust America.
Update II: GEN Abizaid, the CENTCOM commander, estimates that America faces roughly 5,000 insurgents in Iraq, according to the LA Times. The CENTCOM commander also paints this fight in terms very similar to those in the Ricks & Loeb piece quoted above:
"The goal of the enemy is not to defeat us militarily," Gen. John Abizaid said at a news conference in Baghdad today. "The goal of the enemy is to break the will of the United States of America, to make us leave."Right. The question presented by this latest escalation in violence is whether tactical actions by the Iraqi insurgents will inflict such losses so as to diminish the American public's "patience, perseverance and courage". This, in turn, will create political pressure to minimize casualties at the cost of mission accomplishment, placing the imperative of force protection over mission accomplishment. Over time, this will translate into political pressure to withdraw from Iraq entirely. The only way to forestall that strategy is for the White House to justify these sacrifices to the American public. In Churchillian fashion, we must let our enemies know that we will pursue victory at any cost. Only then will the Iraqi insurgency's strategy fail.
Update III: Another tea leaf has been uncovered today that points toward the resumption of major combat operations in Iraq. According to ABC News, GEN John Abizaid has directed CENTCOM to deploy a major headquarters element to Doha, Qatar, where GEN Tommy Franks operated during the war earlier this year.
By moving his headquarters back to Doha, Qatar, Abizaid will be able to move in and out of the war zone, making it easier for him to keep track of the situation, the sources said. He will also be in the same time zone, allowing him and his staff to act more quickly on intelligence, the sources added.
Update IV: The Washington Post reports that the Army has uncovered a large Iraqi weapons cache in Tikrit and captured or killed a number of Iraqi guerillas in its renewed offensive. This appears to be a tactical success, and will certainly help the coalition reverse the deteriorating security situation.
Wednesday, November 12, 2003
The changing definition of American heroism in battle
Tuesday's edition of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) had an excellent article by Jonathan Eig on the daring wartime exploits of Captain Zan Hornbuckle of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. The article makes the point that while you've heard of PFC Jessica Lynch -- and probably heard many describe her as a hero -- you probably haven't heard about many heroic warriors like CPT Hornbuckle, whose actions were credited with turning the tide at a key point in the battle for Baghdad.
Capt. Hornbuckle's name has never appeared in a newspaper or on television. He has received no book deals, no movie offers, no trips to Disneyland. In September, when he went to see his parents in Tifton, Ga., his mother called the local Holiday Inn and asked the manager to put her son's name -- he goes by Zan -- on the hotel marquee. That has been his most public recognition so far.Analysis: I think this story nails it on the head. Our society has changed a great deal since WWI (when Alvin York was called a hero), WWII (when Audie Murphy earned the same title), or even Vietnam. We live in an age when merely serving in uniform sets one apart from the crowd. Survivorship is something which is exalted. We call PFC Lynch a hero even though she did not do anything particularly valorous or heroic in the tragic 507th Maintenance Company ambush, which left her grievously wounded. We call her a hero because of what she suffered through while in captivity. While her acts were certainly courageous, they can be distinguished from the type of heroism and valor demonstrated by CPT Hornbuckle, and prized by warriors throughout the ages.
On some level, every man or woman who serves in uniform is a hero, because they have volunteered to serve in a job that could place them in harm's way. On another level, every soldier, sailor, airman and Marine who deploys to war and does his/her job is a hero. And on a final level, we can certainly exalt those who made the ultimate sacrifice as heroes. But all of these definitions depart from that of warriors throughout history, who have defined heroism as something different; something that goes above and beyond the call of duty.
There are those situations, such as the battle for Objectives Larry, Moe and Curly, or other engagements, where every soldier steps up to perform in a heroic manner. Admiral Chester Nimitz said it best when he said that "[a]mong the Americans who served on Iwo Island, uncommon valor was a common virtue." From what I've read of that terrible island battle, Admiral Nimitz was certainly correct in his assessment. Similar comments can probably be made about other battles, from Little Round Top in 1863 to Shah-i-kot Valley in 2002. But in most situations, I think we lose something when we devalue the word "hero", and use it to describe the masses. Heroes are something special; they provide an inspiration and an example for us. We should keep it that way, and reserve this label for only the most deserving acts.
Tuesday, November 11, 2003
There aren't many non-fiction books that you can start and finish on a cross-country flight. The War on Our Freedoms: Civil Liberties in an Age of Terrorism is one of them. Despite the ominous title, this is not a series of tirades against John Ashcroft or the Bush Administration -- it's a series of moderate, well-written, well-researched essays in each aspect of the legal war on terrorism. I liked it so much that I plan to assign it for my class on American Law & Terrorism next quarter. If you're looking for a one-stop-shop book that covers everything from the USA PATRIOT Act to FISA to 18 U.S.C. 2339b, this is it.
Air Force sends forward non-capital charges against Gitmo interpreter
Senior Airman Ahmad I. Al Halabi will face non-capital charges before a general court-martial at Travis Air Force Base in California, according to the Air Force. Some of the charges were dismissed against Airman Halabi. The most important part of this news release is that the Air Force will not seek the death penalty for Airman Halabi, as it theoretically could have done under the UCMJ articles for espionage and aiding the enemy.
Charges referred include seven specifications alleging the accused failed to obey a lawful general order or regulation in violation of Article 92 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ); one specification alleging the accused aided the enemy in violation of Article 104; four specifications alleging espionage in violation of Article 106a; five specifications alleging the accused made false official statements in violation of Article 107; two specifications charged under Article 134 alleging the accused willfully retained documents without authority in violation of 18 U.S.C. 793; and one specification charged under Article 134 alleging the accused executed a fraudulent credit application scheme in violation of 18 U.S.C. 1344.Analysis: Despite the dismissal of certain charges and command decision to forgo the death penalty, I still think these are serious charges. Airman Halabi may still spend the rest of his life behind bars for the crimes he is alleged to have committed. We have no way of knowing -- based on the information that's been made public -- how much damage he did to America's national security at Guantanamo Bay. Presumably, that kind of evidence will be part of the trial in this case, and the members of Airman Halabi's military jury will have to weigh the facts of those crimes in determining whether he should be found guilty or not. Even then, we (the public) may never learn of these facts, if they are considered too sensitive to release to the public that they remain classified for the duration of the trial. We'll see.
1,300 reservists allege job discrimination after demobilization
The Washington Post carries this disturbing report today on complaints filed with the Department of Labor by soldiers who allege discriminatory treatment by employers upon their return from duty. Mobilized reservists enjoy the protection of two major laws -- the Soldiers and Sailors Civil Relief Act, and the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act. More than 1,300 reservists have filed complaints with the Department of Labor saying their employers may have violated those laws, up from 900 in 2001.
Concerned about the rise in complaints, Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao has released a televised public service announcement reminding employers that they must reinstate workers called to military duty. "They did their job -- now let's do ours," Chao says.Analysis: These two laws provide a lot of protections for active-duty and reserve soldiers, including protection from creditors and employers while overseas. But the protection is imperfect, as this story illustrates. The USERRA in particular contains loopholes through which employers can restructure themselves to eliminate jobs, or take other measures which have an adverse impact on the soldier. At the end of the day, our soldiers pay a heavy price for their decisions to serve in the military, especially those with jobs in the private sector. If we want reservists who are able to make a good living as civilians and serve their country as part-time warriors, we need to take a hard look at these legal protections and see if they need adjustment for today's reservists. The laws were written at a time when a major mobilization was only expected in the case of another world war -- that's no longer the case. Today's reservist must live with constant mobilizations, and I think these legal protections are probably insufficient for that situation.
Veterans taking care of veterans
The Washington Post carries a moving report this morning about a group of older veterans of past wars who have taken it upon themselves to greet American soldiers coming home on leave from Iraq through Baltimore-Washington International airport. Many of these men are Vietnam veterans who want to ensure that these men face a better homecoming than they received.
"Welcome back. Good to have you home," said Bill Self, a Vietnam War veteran, extending his hand to each soldier arriving for two weeks of home leave. Beyond him, a second line of veterans was waiting with telephone cards allowing the soldiers to make free calls across the country.
Older veterans who hold their own
The Los Angeles Times has an interesting article this morning about a couple of older gentlemen serving in the Florida Army National Guard -- and now fighting in Iraq. Warfare has historically been a young man's endeavor, largely for the physical toll it exacts on the body. But these men are proving that they're tough enough to hang in there.
A few days ago, resting on his cot after a nighttime patrol in the brutal streets of Baghdad, [Sgt. James] Flores, a grandfather, sat bolt upright: "It hit me all of a sudden. I said, 'Oh, Lord, I turn 50 tomorrow.' I never thought in my lifetime that I'd be at war at that age."
Veterans Day message from Intel Dump
Veterans Day is always a solemn occasion to reflect on and to show our gratitude for those who have fought to preserve the freedoms all Americans enjoy today.
This day was designated as "Armistice Day" after World War I to pay tribute to those who served in that war. This holiday was originally commemorated on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month to mark the anniversary of the agreement which ended WWI. In 1954, the day's significance was expanded by Congress to honor all the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, coast guardsmen, and merchant marines who have worn our Nation's uniform. By pausing to remember, we recognize the many diverse and difficult circumstances that our Veterans have faced. However, no matter what the time or the uniform, they are united by the same ideals: life and liberty, peace and prosperity, service and sacrifice.
There are currently more than 25 million living American veterans, many of whom put their lives on the line to preserve our freedoms. Through each of these challenges, the members of the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, and Coast Guard have protected our country and liberated millions of people around the world from the threats of tyranny and terror.
On the observance of Veterans Day in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower called on all citizens to not only remember "the sacrifices of all those who fought so valiantly..." but also to rededicate themselves "to the task of promoting an enduring peace...." Today, almost 50 years later, we remember the dedication of our veterans, and resolve ourselves to upholding their legacy of justice, liberty, and opportunity for all.
I ask that you set aside a moment this Veterans Day to remember the service and sacrifices of American veterans, past and present.
(I cobbled this message together from past messages sent by the President and JCS Chairman to send to the UCLA law school student body and faculty.)
Monday, November 10, 2003
Supreme Court grants cert to Gitmo cases
The AP reports that the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear a pair of cases arising from America's detention of more than 600 men at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. They are currently held there as "unlawful enemy combatants", just outside the reach of the 3rd Geneva Convention, but with most of the humanitarian protections found in that document. The narrow question presented by these appeals is whether U.S. courts have jurisdiction to hear the appeals from these men.
The appeals came from British, Australian and Kuwaiti citizens held with more than 600 others suspected of being Taliban or al-Qaida foot soldiers. The court combined the appeals and will hear the consolidated case sometime next year.Analysis: As with nearly every Supreme Court case, the real issue is whether the Court will decide this case narrowly or broadly. If the court rules narrowly on the jurisdictional question alone, that may not necessarily derail the Bush Administration's legal strategy for dealing with detainees in the war on terrorism. Moreover, such a narrow legal ruling might not affect the detentions of U.S. citizens at U.S. military prisons, such as Jose Padilla. However, if the Court decides to issue a sweeping decision (a'la Lawrence v. Texas) addressing all aspects of the war on terrorism, then I think this could be significant. In this decision, the Court will have the opportunity to hear and address many aspects of the war on terrorism, and the larger question of balancing liberty with security. If the Court takes the opportunity to address those larger questions, then this could really be a monumental decision.
What are the odds that they'll do that? I don't know. But my hunch is that the Court will seize this opportunity to issue a decision larger than the facts of this case. In a Q&A session I attended last year at the Reagan Library, Justice Anthony Kennedy hinted that he felt such issues would ultimately be decided by his court. Also, there appears to be a circuit split growing between the 2nd Circuit and 4th Circuit on the issues of unlawful combatants and access to counsel, among other issues. The law in this area is somewhat messy and outdated, and the Court may want to clarify its precedent for lower circuits. In the end, I still can only make an educated guess, but I think the court will issue a broad holding in this case when they ultimately decide it.
Will Justice Rehnquist have to recuse himself from this vote? I'm not all that clear about the rules of judicial conduct as they apply to justices of the Supreme Court. But there is an argument to be made that the conservative Chief Justice might have to step down for this case because of his past writings on civil liberties in wartime. Justice Rehquist is the recent author of All the Liberties But One: Civil Liberties in Wartime. To some extent, I think his research and writing in this area reveals some bias on the issue, and his bias appears to be against the petition in this case. If Justice Scalia recused himself for his remarks on religion and the state, then I think there's at least an argument to be made that Justice Rehnquist should recuse himself on this case. We'll see.
Update I: Robert Greenberger and Jess Bravin of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) correct one of my statements about the breadth of this decision to grant cert. The Supreme Court will only look at the narrower question of whether the courts have jurisdiction to hear petitions from prisoners detained at Guantanamo Bay. The Court's order limits the case to "[w]hether United States courts lack jurisdiction to consider challenges to the legality of the detention of foreign nationals captured abroad in connection with hostilities and incarcerated at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba."
In accepting the case, the Supreme Court limited its review to whether federal courts have any jurisdiction over Guantanamo, rather than some of the broader legal issues raised by the detentions. Mr. Ratner said the court may "look at this as a Guantanamo vs. Bagram question," referring to the Afghan military base where the U.S. also detains and interrogates suspected terrorists.So...we're not likely to get a major decision about the balance between liberty and security, or something which might apply to the Padilla and Hamdi cases. However, this decision will certainly impact the American decision to detain men at Guantanamo Bay. Suffice to say, it would be a major complication for the administration if prisoners there were allowed to bring suit in federal court to challenge their detention. My prediction echoes that made by Eugene Volokh -- the Court will likely follow Johnson v. Eisentrager and hold that enemy combatants outside the United States do not have the right to petition for habeas corpus in U.S. courts. But this case could easily go another way.
Update II: The Washington Post's article on the Supreme Court's decision to hear this case has a couple of interesting links on the right side of the page:
Military Commissions, and the Findlaw.Com repository of documents from the war on terrorism. The latter is probably the best repository for primary legal documents on terrorism.
Thursday, November 06, 2003
Admin note: I am in the middle of grading undergraduate exams this week and several other projects, so I'll be away from my news feed for most of the day. Please check back infrequently over the next few days, and come back for regular analysis & commentary on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Thanks.
Pentagon calls up 43,000 reservists for duty in Iraq
Active-duty, Marine contingents also alerted for deployment
The New York Times reports this morning on an alert order issued by the Pentagon yesterday to reserve and National Guard units around the country, letting them know they will be going to Iraq. 397 units in nearly every state are affected by this order, which includes both combat troops (such as infantry and armor) and support units (such as logistics and communications).
Pentagon planners have sought to limit additional call-ups of National Guard and Reserve forces beyond combat units identified months ago, but ultimately realized that, at the very least, logistics units would be required in the next rotation.Analysis: This is a large chunk of the reserve force. Here in California, this deployment is tapping into a unit which has not deployed for combat since the Korean War. When you add up Operation Noble Eagle (homeland security) deployments, Balkans deployments, and other missions, you soon see that we have run through a very significant portion of the reserve force. What's left is basically a hollow shell of a force. Moreover, each deployment since Sept. 11 has tended to decimate the units called up. After being called away from their jobs and families, thousands of reservists have decided not to re-up for more time in the reserves. And the cycle goes on and on.
America's reserve force is a precious resource. It has done yeoman's work since the end of the Cold War in supporting the active force and in deploying itself for missions like Bosnia and Kosovo. But if we continue down this road, we will absolutely destroy the reserve force and render it mission incapable. I'm not sure the mission in Iraq is worth that price. However, I'm not sure what the answer is. We're committed to the Iraq mission now, and short of conscription, there's no other way to make ends meet than with reserve forces. But we should start developing mitigation plans to ensure that in 3-5 years, we'll still have a reserve force capable of doing something. Whether that means additional educational benefits or VA benefits for reservists, or additional reenlistment bonuses, we should probably do it.
Update: Even the Pentagon acknowledges the "challenges" in managing our reserve forces for the Iraq mission. "Challenges" is a great euphemism. It's a way to say something is incredibly difficult while still sounding positive about the endeavor. That's the kind of "can do" attitude I'm used to seeing in the military officer corps, and I'm not surprised to see it in the upper ranks of the Pentagon. However, I would add that some challenges are more challenging than others, and that this issue (management of reserve forces) will be a really tough nut to crack. A positive attitude can help, but it will only do so much.
Wednesday, November 05, 2003
NYT: Iraq tried last-minute diplomatic effort to avoid war
Update: Is this story really what it appears -- or is it more smoke & mirrors?
James Risen has a startling report about Iraqi efforts to engage in back-channel diplomacy via influential DoD adviser Richard Perle to avoid war. The lengthy article describes the networks used to make the contacts, what was said, and how the U.S. responded to the Iraqi requests for more diplomacy.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 — As American soldiers massed on the Iraqi border in March and diplomats argued about war, an influential adviser to the Pentagon received a secret message from a Lebanese-American businessman: Saddam Hussein wanted to make a deal.Analysis: I think there are two basic ways to look at this. Either the Iraqis were trying to delay the conflict via diplomacy, in order to shape the outcome by engaging in more defensive preparation. Or the U.S. was trying to deny the Iraqis that opportunity by spurning diplomacy after it had committed to war. My gut tells me that these are not mutually exclusive, and that both interpretations are probably correct. This may all be a moot point. But my gut also tells me that a little bit more time would have helped us now in Phase IV, by allowing us to put more troops on the ground and lay the groundwork more for the post-war phase of the operation.
Update: Josh Marshall is more skeptical than I am about this story, given a line that's buried far down in the story about the leaker's motivation for speaking with the Times. Here's the all-important paragraph:
Senior Pentagon officials said Mr. Durnan relayed messages he received from Mr. Maloof to the appropriate officials at the Pentagon, but they said that Mr. Durnan never discussed the Hage channel to the Iraqis with Mr. Wolfowitz. (In May, Mr. Maloof, who has lost his security clearances, was placed on paid administrative leave by the Pentagon, for reasons unrelated to the contacts with Mr. Hage.) [emphasis added]Josh is very savvy about these things. (I consider him to be one of the smarter reporters inside the Beltway.) Here's his analysis of this story and how it "leaked" to the press:
Let's say I'm a career defense bureaucrat struggling to get my security clearances restored because it's very hard for me to be a defense bureaucrat without them. And let's say one of the reasons I can't get them restored is because of some unauthorized contacts I had with a Lebanese-American businessman under investigation for running guns to Liberia. And let's further add to the mix that my whole mess with the security clearances is part of a larger struggle between different factions in the national intelligence bureaucracy. Oh, and one last thing: let's say I'm a protégé of Richard Perle.If true, this certainly diminishes both the newsworthiness and veracity of this story. Unfortunately, like the recent Rumsfeld memo that was leaked to the public, it's getting hard to see through all the smoke and mirrors to what the truth actually is. I'd like to take newspapers like the New York Times at something close to face value, because I rely on accurate news from prestigious sources for information that shapes my view of the world. Unfortunately, this incident and others makes it clear that I can't afford to rely on any one source of news -- and indeed, that I do so at my own peril.