Sunday, February 29, 2004
Lessons learned from America's last excursion to Haiti: Amb. James Dobbins' recent book America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq has an entire chapter devoted to the 1994 intervention in Haiti, complete with a description of what happened and lessons learned. I'm sure the Marine Corps officers headed to Haiti right now have read this chapter, along with Max Boot's passages on Haiti in Savage Wars of Peace. It's a cliche to say that history repeats itself, but in this case, it may be true. It behooves us to study our history, so we can at least make new mistakes this time.
Amb. Dobbins also comments in this excellent article by Paul Richter of the LA Times on America's burden in Haiti. For better or worse, America has a special relationship with this troubled nation off our southern shore. Most experts on the subject agree that America cannot help Haiti with military force or nation-building alone. Making a difference in this country will take years of sustained economic aid and development assistance, as well as foreign direct investment and private industrial development. According to an officer I know who served there in the mid-1990s, the real problem in Haiti is not security -- it is poverty. Only a sustained development program, coupled with serious investment in Haitian infrastructure, will enable this country to stabilize itself in the long run, so that America doesn't have to intervene in Haiti for a seventh time.
UN authorizes force for Haiti
CNN reports that UN Security Council has authorized the deployment of a multi-national peacekeeping force to Haiti for the purposes of securing the country and facilitating humanitarian aid. The UN Security Council authorized an initial 3-month deployment, with the possibility of a follow-on deployment for longer if necessary.
Adopting a resolution under Chapter VII of the UN Charter, which allows for the use of military power, the Council mandated the operation to contribute to a secure and stable environment in the country, to facilitate the provision of relief aid to those in need, and to help the Haitian police and the Haitian Coast Guard maintain law and order and protect human rights.More to follow...
Update I: The Pentagon has a press release up describing the Haiti operation that's now underway, and circumscribing its scope to include just a few specific missions:
- Contributing to a more secure and stable environment in the Haitian capital to help promote the constitutional political process;That's not all -- the most interesting thing comes at the end of the release, which talks in vague details about the command structure for this force:
The United States, working with the United Nations, the Organization of American States and the Caribbean Community, is in contact with a number of countries that have expressed a willingness to contribute forces. The initial leadership of the multinational interim force will be the United States. The leadership of the final multinational force will be determined in the days ahead.Very interesting... The fact that we are working through international institutions is somewhat heartening after our difficulties with the UN over Iraq. But the surprising thing is that we may be willing to cede leadership over this mission to another country -- or the UN. Generally speaking, the United States doesn't like to put its soldiers or diplomats under a foreign flag, or a UN flag, unless a US general is in charge. This may be an important concession, though, in securing a large deployment of foreign troops. And with U.S. soldiers and Marines strung out across the world, we have to have foreign help in order to make the Haiti operation work.
Update II: Donald Sensing adds some useful information about "non-combatant evacuation operations" -- NEO in military parlance -- and how they might unfold in Haiti.
Haiti boils over
The New York Times reports that Jean-Bertrand Aristede has resigned as President of Haiti and fled by private jet to the Dominican Republic. In his place, Chief Justice of the Supreme Court Boniface Alexandre has taken over as head of an interim government until elections in 2005. Rebels continue to surround the capital city, but at this time, they have not attacked. The U.S. and other nations stand ready to dispatch some kind of military force in order to stabilize Haiti and prevent a humanitarian crisis there. <Update: President Bush has ordered a MAGTF (Marine Air-Ground Task Force) from Camp LeJeune to be flown to Haiti immediately, with a limited mission to secure the ports and provide other security assistance as directed by the embassy.>
The Bush administration decided in the past three days, as a senior administration official said Saturday, that "Aristide must go," regardless of his constitutional authority. That message was communicated directly to Mr. Aristide hours before he left this morning. France, Haiti's colonial occupier, also called for the president to step down.Analysis: I opined earlier this week that the U.S. couldn't meaningfully intervene in Haiti even if it wanted to, because of our commitments elsewhere.
However, one has to wonder just what is on the table in the way of U.S. contingency plans for Iraq. This is not 1994 -- we can't load the XVIII Airborne Corps onto planes to back up any sort of diplomatic initiative in Haiti. At most, we could probably muster a MEU to send to Haiti on short notice, or perhaps a piece of a unit that's already redeployed from Iraq. But doing so would have tremendously difficult secondary and tertiary consequences for America's military that's already stretched to its breaking point. Our commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan now constrain our foreign policy to the point that we cannot consider the deployment of troops to a place like Haiti as a viable option -- there just ain't any more to give. Ironically, our commitment in Iraq may now force us to pursue an internationalist policy in Haiti, and to support the deployment of an international police force.So, it appears that the contingency plan was to wait for Haiti to resolve its current leadership crisis and then to send some kind of peacekeeping force -- probably a MEU (Marine Expeditionary Unit). It won't be a very robust force, and it won't be able to patrol every part of Haiti or do everything we were able to do in 1994. But it'll have enough punch to at least make the interim government listen.
However, this may not be the appropriate force for this kind of situation. Several prominent thinkers have begun to argue for an expeditionary nation-building capability for the United States, and Haiti is a prime example of where you might send such a force. A MEU (or Army brigade) doesn't have the organic nation-building capabilities to do the job -- MPs, Civil Affairs, intelligence, logistics, medical, and plug-ins from State, USAID, NGOs, and CIA. It also has too much combat power relative to the job at hand, and not enough of the CS/CSS (combat support/combat service support) units needed for nation buildilng. Max Boot, author of Savage Wars of Peace and one of the leading thinkers of the 'neo-con' movement, wrote this in the LA Times this week:
Isn't it about time we got serious about dealing with failed states? If we did, we would have to devise both national and international remedies.I think he's right. America needs to create such a capability, either by standing up a separate agency and force for the job, or by building these capabilities into existing units. The current proposals on the table for "transformation" all speak of "full-spectrum operations" -- the ability to do everything on the spectrum from peace to war. But these plans don't put their money where their mouth is.
One last point to consider: even if we could intervene in Haiti with a meaningful force, would such an intervention be realistic? Or put another way, is there any sort of domestic authority in Haiti to work with, or do we have to build governments, infrastructure, social institutions, etc., from scratch? One member of the NSRT suggested in a discussion that we could not succeed in Haiti because of the lack of these things, and indeed, that we would squander what remaining U.S. military capability we have on a hopeless mission if we sent U.S. forces there. At least one expert quoted in the New York Times thinks roughly the same thing:
Robert Fatton Jr., a native of Haiti and chairman of the politics department at the University of Virginia, agreed.So, the appropriate analogy here is not to Haiti in 1994, but to Somalia in 1992, where U.S. forces has to work with a worthless de jure government and a de facto government of warlords and thugs. Haiti at least has an interim government, but that's not going to mean much if a) it can't control the rebel forces and b) can't control any sort of government apparatus in the rest of Haiti. There is no doubt that we are stepping into a cesspool. But since the mess is on our doorstep, we hardly have a choice.
Saturday, February 28, 2004
Inter Arma Silent Leges
In time of war, the law is silent -- or is it?
I just finished reading All The Laws But One, Justice William Rehnquist's history of American law in wartime. I've had this book on my shelf for some time, but I finally decided to read it for some background before I covered Quirin, Korematsu and the contemporary 'enemy combatant' cases with my Law & Terrorism class. Unfortunately, I found this book to be quite superficial and conclusory. It added little to the legal history that I have been able to glean from other sources, such as Lawrence Friedman's many books and the cases themselves.
Moreover, Justice Rehnquist's book obscures certain areas (e.g. the Lincoln Assasination trials) with too much detail and glosses over other important areas (like the WWII internments) with too little detail. He also devotes an inordinate amount of text to biographical detail about justices on the Supreme Court through history, ostensibly because those details reveal something about their character and jurisprudence. But in doing so, he downplays the legal reasoning and facts of these cases. Obviously, the sitting Chief Justice knows a lot about judicial decisionmaking, and maybe he thinks that these personalities are paramount. But it seemed odd to me, because I've learned in law school that facts and law have at least some bearing on the outcome of a case.
That said, this book did have some value. It provided me with a great deal of insight into the Chief Justice's views on law in wartime -- something which is quite relevant today, with cases before the Court relating to American detentions at Guantanamo Bay and detentions of U.S. citizens as enemy combatants. Here's what Justice Rehnquist had to say on page 205 (paperback edition) with respect to judicial deference to military authority in the context of Korematsu and the Japanese internment cases:
Several criticisms of the Court's opinions in these cases have been made. The most general is of its extremely deferential treatment of the government's argument that the curfew and relocation were necessitated by military considerations. Here one can only echo Justice Jackson's observation in his dissenting opinion that "in the very nature of things, military decisions are not susceptible of intelligent judicial appraisal." But it surely does not follow from this that a court must therefore invalidate measures based on military judgments. Eugene Rostow [former Dean of Yale Law School] suggests the possibility of a judicial inquiry into the entire question of military necessity, but this seems an extraordinarily dubious proposition. Judicial inquiry, with its restrictive rules of evidence, orientation towards resolution of factual disputes in individual cases, and long delays, is ill-suited to determine such an issue as "military necessity." The necessity for prompt action was cogently stated by the Court in its Hirabayashi opinion.So... the Chief Justice thinks the Supreme Court did the right thing in deferring to executive/military authority in upholding President Roosevelt's Executive Order 9066, the Japanese internment order. And presumably, he would apply the same logic today, where the government has articulated a similar need to pro-actively defend citizens (albeit on the basis of individualized suspicion) whom it deems to be waging war against the United States as an agent of Al Qaeda.Although the results of the attack on Pearl Harbor were not fully disclosed until much later, it was known that the damage was extensive, and that the Japanese by their successes had gained a naval superiority over our forces in the Pacific which might enable them to seize Pearl Harbor, our largest naval base and the last stronghold of defense lying between Japan and the west coast. That reasonably prudent men charged with the responsibility of our national defense had ample ground for concluding that they must face the danger of invasion, take measures against it, and in making the choice of measures consider our internal situation, cannot be doubted. [320 U.S. at 94]
After reading this book, I now see something about to happen in the Supreme Court this spring that I hadn't seen before. On the one hand, you have a movement within the law to overturn the precedents of Korematsu and Hirabayashi -- two stains on American jurisprudence that live on as "good law" (in a strictly precedential sense) to this day. Within the Court, I can count a few votes against the government in Hamdi and Padilla that partly rest on the desire to overturn these two decisions. On the other hand, I can also see a part of the Court (led by Justice Rehnquist) siding with the government's position in these cases, under the theory of judicial deference. Justice Rehnquist appears to have had no problem with such deference during WWII (when he served as a sergeant in the Army Air Corps). And the fight right now is not over the wisdom or efficacy of these policies -- it's over whether the President has the power to make them, and whether the courts have the power to review them. With the battle lines drawn that way, I think Justice Rehnquist's book makes it clear how he will come out.
Friday, February 27, 2004
H&R Block don't have nothin' on these guys: Stars & Stripes reports on the tax center established in Baghdad for soldiers of the 1st Armored Division, which is expected to net $1 million in refunds for soldiers within a week. As you may know, all the income earned by soldiers in Iraq is tax-free, making for some big refunds for soldiers who continued to have withholding taken out of their paycheck. Soldiers get an automatic extension from the IRS to file their returns, however, many have families back home who could use the return money now. Hence, the need to to have a tax-return center in a combat zone.
White House changes U.S. tack on land mines
The Washington Post reports this morning that the Bush Administration has reversed a pledge by the Clinton Administration to stop using land mines altogether by 2006, instead choosing to implement a selective ban by 2010 with exceptions for South Korea and smart mines. The move predictably enraged human rights advocates, but probably also comforted American military planners worried about maintaining the balance of power (terror) in South Korea.
The new policy, due to be announced today, represents a departure from the previous U.S. goal of banning all land mines designed to kill troops. That plan, established by President Bill Clinton, set a target of 2006 for giving up antipersonnel mines, depending on the success of Pentagon efforts to develop alternatives.Analysis: Actually, the biggest problem right now in places like Iraq, Afghanistan, Kosovo and Chechnya is not related to landmines. It is related to the use of cluster munitions, like the CBU-87. These are large bombs dropped from aircraft which, at a certain point close to the ground, break up into hundreds of little bomblets which are essentially the size of a hand grenade or RPG warhead. The dud rate for these bomblets inevitably produces a handful of duds from each bomb or sortie, which stay in the ground long after the bombing run. Some of these remain inert forever; others may eventually explode. But over the course of an air campaign, hundreds or thousands of these may be sown. And this treaty does absolutely nothing to address this problem. Notwithstanding that fact, if you look at the rhetoric of the anti-landmine community, they often talk about these unexploded munitions to make their case stronger, and to implicate the U.S. which generally uses a lot of cluster munitions but not a lot of landmines.
Land mines have some practical use, or else the Pentagon would not be fighting for them so hard. In a place like South Korea, they can be used to seal off mountain passes or maneuver corridors, and to make it very costly for any enemy attack. Are they a perfect deterrent? No -- landmines can be defeated through breaching activities or by an enemy willing to spend the soldiers on the minefield (e.g. Iran with its human wave attacks). But they are an effective mechanism for maintaining the status quo, and they have helped to secure the peace in South Korea. However, minefields are carefully marked in South Korea in order to prevent fratricide, and that is generally the norm for US/NATO minefields around the world.
In offensive combat, land mines can also be valuable. Generally, you only use "smart" mines in offensive operations because the battlefield is changing so quickly, and the last thing you want is a logistics convoy to get tied up in a minefield that was sown 24 hours before because the front lines move so quickly. So, U.S. commanders train on how to use mines with as short of a 4-hour duration in order to seal off their flanks and prevent enemy maneuver. If an enemy force is counter-attacking into your flank, a minefield can buy enough time to reposition your forces in order to respond. U.S. commanders are loathe to give up this capability. But again, we're talking about smart mines here, with GPS marking and a limited duration.
Everyone's always beating up on the U.S. for this issue, but I think that is misguided here. The U.S. does use cluster munitions and those create a problem, but that's not something that this treaty does anything about. Where land mines are concerned, the U.S. is far more conscientious about their use than most countries -- allies and enemies -- for reasons of fratricide and risk management. And, our EOD teams have done more to eliminate this problem in places like Iraq and Afghanistan than we often get credit for. Land mines continue to exact a terrible toll on civilian populations around the world. But by and large, that's due to their indiscriminate use by terrible governments like the Baath Party in Iraq, Khmer Rouge and Taliban -- not their military use by the U.S.
War crimes tribunals, politics and vengeance: I was able to attend a talk yesterday at UCLA given by Gary Bass, a former Economist writer and current Princeton professor who is the author of Stay the Hand of Vengeance: The Politics of War Crimes Tribunals. Unfortunately, the contents of the lecture were off the record, so I can't relay some of the interesting arguments that Mr. Bass made. But I have read his book, and I enthusiastically recommend it for anyone who's interested in the subject.
More background on the Perle resignation: Laura Rozen has an interesting report on her War & Piece website about Richard Perle, the neo-con hawk who recently stepped down from the Defense Policy Board, which reproduces a 1983 piece in the New York Times on a similar problem with Mr. Perle. Nick Confessore produces a list of Mr. Perle's more recent transgressions at TAPPED, begging the question as to why it took him so long to step down. Mysteriouser and mysteriouser, as the saying goes.
Speaking of which, what ever happened to that other lightning rod for criticism in the Pentagon: LTG William "Jerry" Boykin? Remember him -- the general who spoke in uniform at an evangelical event in favor of a holy war between the United States and Islam? (See notes one, two and three for background) Friends in Washington tell me that he's still working as a Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, and still responsible for a portfolio that includes a lot of Middle East-related issues. Was this general really allowed to just fade away, like the old soldiers in MacArthur's famous quote?
Thursday, February 26, 2004
Sex in the military
The New York Times carries this disturbing report today by Eric Schmitt on testimony given yesterday by the Joint Chiefs of Staff regarding the sexual assault/harassment issues the military is facing around the world. In the last 18 months, more than a hundred sexual misconduct reports have been filed by servicemembers in Southwest Asia; various surveys of soldiers overseas have also indicated this is a real problem. (Also see this transcript of a Pentagon press conference with Undersecretary of Defense David Chu on the 2002 Sexual Harassment survey.)
The Army has reported 86 incidents, the Navy 12, the Air Force 8 and the Marine Corps 6.Analysis: A large percentage of these reports grow out of fraternization charges -- that is, consensual sexual relations between servicemembers of different rank, or within the same unit, that is improper for reasons of good order and discipline. Fraternization is somewhat akin to sexual harassment in the civilian context, but not really, because the difference in rank/power is what makes the crime -- not a lack of consent. In a sense, the military's conception of fraternization embodies what many feminist scholars have said all along about sexual relations in the civilian workplace -- that it is harassment per se for a superior to have relations with a subordinate, because there can be no real consent in an uneven power structure. The military presumes coercion in such relationships, and bans them because of their deleterious effect on unit cohesion and military effectiveness.
So, I say that to say this: fraternization is not the same thing as sexual assault. These are not all rape cases, or sexual assault cases, as various headline writers say. It's still a bad news story, but it's important to note this distinction.
The sexual assault cases, on the other hand, are an extremely serious matter. They reflect a breakdown in unit leadership and unit cohesion at the most basic level, and if these go unreported/unsanctioned, they have the potential to destroy the unit. There are really two problems here. The first is that the assaults were probably committed by "bad apples" who need to be severely punished for their actions in accordance with the Uniform Code of Military Justice. This is not a matter for unit discipline, or for non-judicial punishment under Art. 15. This kind of conduct cannot be tolerated, and anything less than a general court martial for a soldier who rapes/assaults his fellow soldier is seting the wrong example. A lesser punishment will send a message of tolerance to other sexual predators in the ranks, where the message we should be sending is one of zero-tolerance for this behavior.
Second, there is the issue of military culture and command climate. Although these criminal acts were committed by bad soldiers with the requisite intent to harm their comrades, these acts were not committed in a vacuum. There may be systemic leadership issues or unit issues which created a climate of hostility towards women in the ranks, or allowed soldiers to behave badly in other contexts without sanction, such that they thought they could do so in this case. Women have come a long way in the military -- they now fly Apache helicopters, fight as military police, bridge rivers as engineers, decode enemy networks as intel officers, and survey the battlefield as chemical warfare officers -- but that doesn't mean that commanders can be lax when it comes to policing the friction between men and women in their units. Managing gender integration in the military is a hard job, and it takes constant vigilance by officers and NCOs.
Ultimately, the military has many of the same problems as any civilian employer or college would when it comes to sex. Indeed, the statistics that I've read indicate that the Army has less of a problem with this stuff, and that military leaders generally do a good job. But a good job isn't good enough where this is concerned. Sexual misconduct in the ranks can and will lead to a downward spiral in unit morale, cohesion and effectiveness. That's bad enough in peacetime; it can be fatal in wartime. More importantly, however, military leaders hold a sacred trust when it comes to the lives of America's finest sons and daughters in uniform. Incidents like these violate that trust, and commanders must take swift and certain action to prevent their reoccurence and send a strong message of deterrence.
Wednesday, February 25, 2004
Comanche cancellation will have secondary, tertiary effects
A pair of articles from the Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) talks about the effects that the Army's cancellation of the Comanche helicopter system will have on the defense industry. Bear in mind, this is an industry that has already gone through extensive consolidation and reorganization in the 1990s with the end of the Cold War. Nonetheless, someone in the Pentagon appears to be reading Fred Kaplan's stuff, because this was one of the program she recommended cutting in this influential Slate column. According to the WP:
The cancellation could spur a helicopter industry consolidation that some analysts say is long overdue. The only major players in the U.S. industry are Boeing, Sikorsky and Bell Helicopter Textron, a unit of Textron Inc. "The overcapacity of the helicopter industry warrants consolidation," Sam Pearlstein, defense analyst with investment bank Jefferies Quarterdeck, said in a research note yesterday.J. Lynn Lunsford adds in the Wall Street Journal:
Now that the Pentagon has axed what had been one of the most promising programs financially for the contractors, each helicopter maker will be forced to examine its future in an environment in which the role of helicopters themselves are being weighed against alternatives like unmanned vehicles.Analysis: The Comanche program was a big one, and as the articles say, it will likely lead to more consolidation in this industry. Look for one of the major contractor's helicopter arms to be dismantled, or sold to a competitor, within the near future. The guys who will be really hurt by this move, however, are the smaller smaller subcontractors that may not be able to avail themselves of the money that is being shifted from Comanche into other helicopter lines such as the Blackhawk and Chinook. The Comanche was a sufficiently new helicopter to have very little overlap in its design or parts with older helicopters, and the subcontractors that made those parts will be left holding the bag here. They likely won't be able to retool their lines to make parts for the UH-60, OH-58 and CH-47 lines that are about to be restarted. And even if they could, other firms already have the subcontracts for those lines, so they can't really walk in at this stage. This cancellation will be quite bloody, I'm afraid, for a lot of these subcontractors.
There is some value to efficiency in the defense industry. (See this survey by The Economist on the subject.) We obviously don't want to encourage a lot of bloat or inefficiency, because it drives up the cost of weapons systems and it slows the industry down. (See Chuck Spinney's analyses and statements at DNI for an explanation of how this happens; see also this GAO report on the Comanche.) However, there is also a down side to consolidation and reorganization -- the lack of surplus capacity and surge capacity. If the industry downsizes, consolidates and reorganizes too much, it may become too efficient for operational purposes. In such a state, the defense industry may no longer have the capability to rapidly produce certain items, such as JDAM bomb kits, Interceptor body armor, or up-armored HMMWVs, for immediate use in combat. That's a problem. Thus, I am very wary of any event that threatens further consolidation in the defense industry. Efficiency is a good thing, but in this area, you can certainly have too much of it.
Update: But the fight may not be won just yet. Michael Remez reports in the Hartford Courant that a team of Congressmen and defense contractors is rallying to fight for the Comanche program in Congress. It looks like there's going to be a fight over this one...
WASHINGTON -- The day after the Army announced plans to kill the Comanche helicopter, the top manager for the Sikorsky-Boeing program headed to Alabama to meet with Army officials on what lies ahead and Connecticut's senators met with the governor to plot efforts to keep the long-troubled program alive.Update I: Cindy Webb has a great roundup on this story in the Washington Post "Government IT" section. Like a 'blog, her story has lots of interesting links to other sources on the subject. Check it out.
Tuesday, February 24, 2004
America's 'force of choice'
That was the phrase used by former-Army Chief of Staff Dennis Reimer (now retired) to describe the Army's military police during the 1990s, where they proved their ability to conduct ambiguous operations somewhere in between peace and war in places like Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo. In Iraq, MPs have proven themselves so able that the Army has cannibalized several brigades of artillerymen in the National Guard to create new MP units. Now comes an anecdote from Iraq that bears testament to just how well trained MPs can be, and how they epitomize the notion of "full spectrum capability."
MOSUL, Iraq - Someone threw a grenade at Brig. Gen. Carter Ham's convoy on his way to a meeting Sunday morning with a local security commander.Just like they're trained to be. Without taking anything away from my infantry brethren and their combat abilities, I've always thought that MPs brought a unique capability to the force that other units would do well to learn for missions like Iraq. Specifically, I'm talking about the ability to rapidly transition from peace to combat, or from relative calm to the use of deadly force. MPs also know how to stop along the way, using varying degrees of force in accordance with the situation's demands. They are, without exaggeration, the ideal force for a mission like Iraq where the needs for force differ by the minute. In a situation like this, MPs are trained to respond to a convoy ambush with precise, lethal fires. The next day, the same MPs might engage local citizens in "police intelligence operations" to learn about this attack, using no force other than interpersonal communication skills.
Law School Veterans Organizations File Amicus Brief
in Support of Military's Right to Recruit on Law School Campuses
Three student organizations representing veterans of the armed forces have filed a "friend of the court" brief urging the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit to reject a lawsuit that threatens the ability of the military to recruit on campus, on the grounds that allowing law schools to ban on-campus military recruitment would hurt both the military and law students.
"[A]llowing law schools to exclude military recruiters without facing the consequences provided for in the Solomon Amendment would cause serious harm to the Nation, to those individuals who are now serving or who in the future will be serving in the military, and to law students with an interest in military service," the brief argues.The brief was filed by Howard J. Bashman, a Philadelphia-based appellate lawyer who edits the How Appealing weblog, on behalf of three veterans organizations: the UCLA School of Law Veterans Society, Washburn University Veterans Law Association, and the College of William & Mary School of Law Military Law Society. It marks the first time in the current series of court battles over this issue that a student organization has filed a brief supporting the military’s unrestricted ability to recruit on law school campuses.
Update I: The author of Law From the Center weighs in on this issue; he contributed a lot to the writing of this brief, and like me, is a fellow veteran enrolled at UCLA Law School.
Update II: The Harvard Crimson ran an unfortunate -- and somewhat erroneous -- story today about the brief and the participation of the Harvard Law Vets. Suffice to say, the position of the Harvard Vets in the story is substantially different than that articulated by that organization in e-mail traffic. Here's what Harvard's vets said in the story:
"Our organization maintains a strict policy of not taking sides on controversial issues," said the group’s president, second-year Harvard Law School (HLS) student Andrew S. Friedberg.I echo the sentiment of my colleague at Law From the Center, as well as Law Dork: this is not an issue for neutrality. Moreover, Harvard Law's vets have not taken a position of neutrality, according to non-vet friends of mine in their third year class. Instead, Harvard's vets have facilitated the administration's desire to exclude the military from campus by setting up alternate interview facilities and processes. In my opinion, that's a dangerous path to go down, because it just makes it easier for Harvard to cut all official ties to the administration. And as one HLS alum writes to me, it discourages the military from doing any meaningful recruiting on campus, because of the availability of this other path with less friction.
Update III: Finally, I think that Centrist has it just right when he talks about the unfortunate timing of our brief (which I support) and the President's announcement on a Constitutional amendment to prevent gay marriage (which I oppose). Our group intentionally avoided the issue of "don't ask/don't tell" for three main reasons. First, we felt that it was outside our expertise as law students (even though we're vets) to opine on the wisdom behind "don't ask/don't tell." It's a matter of federal law, and our opinion is that if you disagree with it, you should take it up with Congress and the President. Second, we felt that targeting military recruiting for this policy was a bad idea, and that it would have bad consequences for the military, for law students, and for veterans. Third, our group does not have a consensus on this policy; our opinions as veterans are as diverse as the rest of society. Our common ground is our belief in the value of military service, and that's what we chose to write about.
Update IV: The Daily Texan has a story on this brief in its Friday paper.
President orders military tribunals for two detainees
The AP reports that the President has designated two men, alleged to be close aids to Osama Bin Laden, for trial by military commission. The commissions were authorized by the President in a 13 Nov 01 executive order for non-citizens captured in the war on terrorism who met certain criteria.
Ibrahim Ahmed Mahmoud al Qosi, of Sudan, was a paymaster for al-Qaida, and Ali Hamza Ahmed Sulayman al Bahlul, of Yemen, was a propagandist for bin Laden, the government charged in military indictments unsealed at the Pentagon.This is big news -- I'll have an analysis of this move later in the day. More to follow...
Update I: The Pentagon's announcement of these charges has some useful details about the specific charges against these two detainees.
Al Bahlul and al Qosi are charged with willfully and knowingly joining an enterprise of persons who shared a common criminal purpose and conspired with Osama bin Laden and others to commit the following offenses: attacking civilians; attacking civilian objects; murder by an unprivileged belligerent; destruction of property by an unprivileged belligerent; and terrorism.
Congratulations to the 2004 Truman Finalists: The Harry S. Truman Scholarship Foundation announced the finalists today for its 2004 competition, which is often seen as a stepping stone to other prestigious scholarships like the Rhodes and Marshall Scholarship. I'm also proud to see the service academies represented on this year's list, as well as my school (UCLA). If I have any Truman finalists in my audience, please feel free to e-mail me with questions about the interview stage. (Robert Tagorda's also a Truman, and I'm sure he would extend the same invitation.)
This is one way to change the subject of the 2004 elections, and ensure that hard questions about Iraq, national security, terrorism, and fiscal responsibility play second-fiddle. The conventional wisdom says this is going to mobilize the President's base more than it hurts him, because pro-gay marriage folks wouldn't vote for President Bush anyway. I'm not so sure. I think this is worth millions of dollars in fundraising for the Dems, just like the AG's recent subpoena'ing of abortion records has been. I'm not savvy enough about national politics to predict what will happen, but I do think this is a gambit to shift fires from the White House over substantive issues of the kind I usually write about.
Here's a point to ponder: is this proposal by the President a tacit (or implicit) admission that the Constitution (as it stands today) allows for gay marriage? I mean, why else would you have to change the document? Proposing a Constitutional amendment means that the current Constitution doesn't do what you want, which in this case means that the current Constitution (as interpreted by the courts) probably allows gay marriage. And if that is true, then the President can't really call the judges in Massachusetts and the mayor in San Francisco "renegades" or "activists", because all they're is upholding the Constitution of the United States. Indeed, the real activists here are the ones who want to change the Constitution. I'm not the most sophisticated Constitutional Law scholar in the world, but it seems to me that the White House is all but saying that gays already have a right to marry under the Constitution.
Update: This whole issue may be moot. Josh Marshall reports that 34 Senators have pledged to oppose this amendment. And since a Constitutional amendment requires 2/3 majorities in each house of Congress -- that's all, folks. What heartens me most about this story is that 8 Republican Senators (Alexander, Chafee, Collins, Hagel, Lugar, McCain, and Snowe) have already pledged their opposition, in varying degrees. That's good news for moderates like me, who always like to see common sense on both sides of the aisle. But it's bad news for the White House, especially if this turns out to fracture the GOP the way right-wing ideology did in 1992.
Monday, February 23, 2004
U.S. sends Marine team into Haiti
The President called on his 9-1-1 force yet again today with the dispatch of a U.S. Marine Corps Fleet Anti-Terrorism Support Team (FAST) to secure the U.S. Embassy in Haiti. According to CNN, the Marines arrived without a hitch to secure the U.S. compound in Port Au-Prince; no word yet on their follow-on missions.
Approximately 50 Marines charged with protecting the U.S. Embassy and its staff against possible attack by rebels arrived in the Haitian capital Monday.Analysis: Securing U.S. embassies abroad is a bread & butter mission for the Marines, and they have decades of experience at doing it. We already had Marines in Haiti before this deployment to provide the security detachment for the embassy there. This deployment augments those Marines, and gives them a more robust capability should anything happen. It also lays the foundation for any subsequent Non-Combatant Evacuation Operations (NEO), or other operations that the Marines might execute in Haiti.
However, one has to wonder just what is on the table in the way of U.S. contingency plans for Iraq. This is not 1994 -- we can't load the XVIII Airborne Corps onto planes to back up any sort of diplomatic initiative in Haiti. At most, we could probably muster a MEU to send to Haiti on short notice, or perhaps a piece of a unit that's already redeployed from Iraq. But doing so would have tremendously difficult secondary and tertiary consequences for America's military that's already stretched to its breaking point. Our commitments to Iraq and Afghanistan now constrain our foreign policy to the point that we cannot consider the deployment of troops to a place like Haiti as a viable option -- there just ain't any more to give. Ironically, our commitment in Iraq may now force us to pursue an internationalist policy in Haiti, and to support the deployment of an international police force.
Army cancels Comanche program
The AP reports that the Army has decided to can its procurement program for the Comache helicopter -- a multi-billion dollar system that would replace the OH-58 Kiowa helicopter and replace some capabilities of the Apache helicopter program.
It is one of the biggest program cancellations in the Army's history and comes less than two years after the service's $11 billion Crusader artillery project was dropped after $2 billion had been spent.Analysis: This cancellation comes on the heels of heavy criticism about the amount of pork in the FY2005 Pentagon budget. It also reflects two sentiments within the American military and national security community: 1) America can't afford to spend massive amounts of money on current operations and big weapons programs, and 2) if the U.S. is going to invest in big weapons programs, they ought to be truly transformational -- not just an incremental improvement on existing capabilities. I couldn't agree more with the Army's decision here, both because I think the Comache didn't add much value to the Army's aviation capability and because I think the money is better spent on maintenance and recapitalization for the current helicopter fleet.
Note: An informed reader writes to let me know that my characterization of the Comanche as pork was inaccurate. "Pork", in its legislative connotation, properly refers to those items added by Congress after the President sends DoD's budget to the hill. (Interesting side note: the President actually proposes the majority of legislation considered in any year, under his Art. II, Sec. 3 power to "recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient", even though all legislative power is Constitutionally vested in Congress.) So, according to this definition, the Comanche, Crusader, Missile Defense, F-22, and other programs in the budget are not pork per se -- they're more accurately characterized as "fat". Fat, as legislatively defined, refers to bloat or largess in the original budgetary plan sent over by the executive branch. (Although, arguably such products can be considered "pro-active pork" because they seek to ensure passage by continuing projects already in members' districts.) Anyway, I will try to be more clear about when I refer to legislative pork and fat respectively in the future.
Spy Suspect Was Devoted to God, Guns: The LA Times has an interesting report on SPC Ryan Anderson, the Washington state National Guardsman accused of attempting to contact Al Qaeda to give them information about how to attack his unit and kill his buddies. If convicted, Anderson could face the death penalty, though his case is still in the preliminary stages and he hasn't even had an Art. 32 hearing yet.
Securing a free Iraq --
Going beyond 'talking points' to effect real change for Iraq's women
Erin Solaro, another NSRT member who frequently contributes articles to various newspapers, has a hard-hitting op-ed in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer about the need to enfranchise women in Iraq. As one might expect, there are fundamentalist forces in Iraq which seek to disenfranchise women and deny them their political and civil rights. Yet, Ms. Solaro argues that we ought not allow that to happen. Now that it's clear there are no WMD, our most compelling reasons for staying in Iraq relate to human rights, and the building of democratic government. For those reasons, we must ensure some amount of democratic equality for men and women in Iraq.
The issue in Iraq is no longer Saddam Hussein or weapons of mass destruction but the country's future and its soul. The neoconservative domino theory of democratic regime change is wrong: Democracy is spread not by proximity but a growing societal demand for the peaceful transfer of power and respect for inviolable civil rights. Unless these preconditions are met, elections merely mean one man, one vote, one time. For that reason, democracy cannot tolerate, much less coexist, with the disenfranchisement of women in Iraq or anywhere else.Analysis: So far, so good. It does make intuitive sense that we would want to establish equality as a fundamental principle of life in Iraq. This principle is an important part of American law, and though it wasn't always so, it is a good ideal to strive for. When an Iraqi Constitution is ultimately written, I hope that its Framers shape the document around principles like liberty and equality.
However, there exists a basic tension between these imperatives and the larger imperative of restoring Iraqis' right to self-determination. The latter is much more fundamental as a matter of international law. The very concept of state sovereignty (not to mention democracy) rests on the idea of free self-determination. It will be hard to reconcile the demands of self-determination with the U.S. desire to instill certain values as part of the new Iraqi government. In a sense, this is like parenting, where the U.S. wants certain things for its child -- but ultimately, it must let the child decide on her own what is right.
It has often been argued in the United States an informed citizenry is a necessary precursor to democracy, and that the right to self-determination is meaningless in the absence of an informed public. (This argument is often made by First Amendment lawyers seeing media access to things closed off by the government.) Presumably, such logic applies to the citizens of Iraq too. If we could only inform the Iraqi people; educate them about such principles as liberty and equality; enlighten them as to the rights of man and woman -- then, they would surely choose democracy and choose equality for the sexes. At least, that's the hope. But it's also a very Western hope. Iraq and the other nations of the Middle East have a long history, and their culture is engrained more deeply than many realize. It will be very hard to change these attitudes through education and enlightenment; it may take generations in Iraq to do so, and I don't think we want to stay there that long.
One final point -- a determined, overt American push to create equal rights for women in Iraq will inevitably create a backlash in the fundamentalist Muslim world. Paul Berman writes about the ideological conflict between terrorism and liberalism (small 'l') in his book of the same name, and the takeaway point is this: the terrorists stand against every principle of the liberal Western tradition, with equality and the secular state at the top of the list. Pushing the rights of women may be the right thing to do, but it will give our enemies more ammunition for their fight against us, and enable them to motivate more of their followers with evidence that we seek to destroy the Islamic tradition.
Sunday, February 22, 2004
Total Information Awareness lives on to die another day
The Associated Press reports that several subsidiary programs under the now-defunct Total Information Awareness program have been reconstituted, refunded, or moved to other agencies in an effort to continue research into data-mining systems and non-obvious relationship analysis ("NORA"). This is big news, and sure to spark protest from civil libertarians on the left and right -- not to mention Congressional leaders who thought they had put a spike through TIA's heart with several funding restrictions on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency ("DARPA").
... some projects from retired Adm. John Poindexter's Total Information Awareness effort were transferred to U.S. intelligence offices, congressional, federal and research officials told The Associated Press.Analysis: In addition to these quasi-TIA projects moving forward, there are two conceptually-similar projects that are moving forward under the auspices of the Department of Homeland Security and several state governments respectively. They're not as powerful (or threatening, to some) as TIA, but they share a lot of the same technologies and concepts. The first is CAPPS II, or the Computer Assisted Passenger Pre-Screening System which will sort airline passengers into levels of risk. The second is MATRIX, an interstate information sharing system designed to support state and local law enforcement and anti-terrorism work. These two projects aren't in the conceptual stage -- they're almost ready for implementation. (See this speech by Asst. AG Deborah Daniels for more on TIA-like projects in the works right now.)
Generally speaking, I support these projects. I believe in technology, and I think that technologies like NORA can exponentially increase the ability of the intelligence community to process information and produce intelligence. Pick your metaphor -- connecting the dots, looking for needles in haystacks, hunting for plankton in the deep sea -- they're all apt. There is more information in the anti-terrorism arena than any intelligence agency could ever hope to sift through. NORA offers one of the best shots we have for sifting through this information to see what our enemies are doing before they do it to us.
Is there risk? Yes, absolutely. There is always risk in pursuing a new capability like this. There is operational risk that the thing won't work. There is strategic risk that we may blind ourselves to new enemy avenues of approach because of the faith that we put in these systems. There is technical risk of failure. There is also great risk in the area of civil liberties -- a system like this has great potential for abuse, in ways that my Orwellian imagination can only dream about. But as with military operations, you weigh the risk as one factor -- but not the only factor -- in choosing a course of action. If you choose a course of action that entails risk, then you develop measures to mitigate and control that risk, and reduce it to an acceptable level. (See FM 100-14, Risk Management) I think the benefits here outweigh the risks, and that the risks can be mitigated. Whether that means establishing an oversight panel of federal judges (analogous to the FISA Courts) to look at these DARPA programs, I don't know. But I think the benefits are worth pursuing, and that the risks can be mitigated.
One final note: TIA (and its progeny) will not fix the intelligence community. It will only aid in certain areas of analysis that are very important, and produce better intelligence from the information that we gather through other means. However, TIA will not make up for a deficit of human intelligence ("HUMINT") or gaps in our intelligence collection abilities that prevent us from accurately detecting WMD in the hands of our enemies. TIA won't go out into the world to find Osama, or infiltrate North Korea to learn about their intentions. It may help us detect Osama's signature in world banking records, or find traces of North Korean arms sales there, but it won't actually gather the information. TIA has promise, but it's no panacea.
Similarly, TIA will only partially cure the bureaucratic problems in the intelligence community that have been faulted for the events of Sept. 11. TIA will not bridge the information gap between the FBI and CIA, nor will it foster cooperation between the two agencies. TIA may support efforts to assess indications and warnings of future attacks, but it will not provide the creative thinking necessary to plan for threats that are 20-30 years in the future. Ultimately, most of the issues underlying our failure on Sept. 11 were human, and TIA won't fix those.
Criminal Appeal is the name of a great new weblog by criminal law attorney Jonathan Soglin. Its stated focus is post-conviction criminal law in California and the 9th Circuit, but its entries cover a lot of related areas such as pre-trial criminal issues and interesting articles in major legal publications. This looks like an excellent resource for anyone who wants to stay current on this (constantly changing) area of the law.
Saturday, February 21, 2004
Alleged 2005 BRAC List Leaks
List is probably false -- but is there a sound methodology behind these proposed base closures?
Citizen Smash, another military blogger whose credentials include a recent tour in Operation Iraqi Freedom, posted a list of bases slated for the 2005 round of the Base Realignment And Closure ("BRAC") process. He also added the caveat, in big bold letters, that he could not verify the list or even its source. I sent a couple of e-mails on Friday to check this list, and the answer I got echoed some of his commenters: the posted list was bogus. Nonetheless, its leak portends a very bloody political battle over the next two years. The outcome of this battle will affect more than just where America's military bases are -- it will have a profound impact on military transformation and civil-military relations.
I've been discussing this issue with some smart folks on the National Security Round Table, and I think that this BRAC round may have more significant than past BRAC rounds. The reason is that it coincides with several other major shifts in American national security policy, such as a proposed shift in our European base footprint and South Korean base footprint. The Pentagon's current plan is to shift from its current Cold War-era posture to an expeditionary posture for the 21st Century. Instead of large overseas garrisons, we will maintain strategic "lily pad" bases from which U.S. forces can jump off to the next conflict. It only makes sense that we would realign our bases at home towards the same end.
Past BRAC rounds have focused on the micro/macroeconomics of base closure, and whether certain closures would make the military more or less efficient in fiscal terms. I don't think that we can afford to use fiscal criteria as our primary means for figuring out which bases to close in 2005. The needs of the military have changed a great deal since the current footprint of bases was established after WWII. America's bases ought to reflect the nation's strategic/operational realities, not shape them. Anything else is backwards.
More to follow...
Friday, February 20, 2004
Supreme Court Expands Review of 'Enemy Combatant' Rule: More on this later, after I'm done with some meetings today. My prediction is that the Court will announce some sort of judicial review for executive branch actions in this area, while leaving substantia discretionary authority to fight the nation's wars in the hands of the President. More to follow...
Wednesday, February 18, 2004
Task Force Ironhorse begins its journey home: The 4th Infantry Division, in which I served from 1999-2001, is on its way home after a year of duty in Iraq. The Army's first digitized division did not see action during the "combat" phase of the operation, due to diplomatic problems securing permission for 4ID to invade Iraq through Turkey. However, 4ID eventually saw more than its share of combat in the post-war phase of the operation, with responsibility for the area north of Baghdad known as the "Sunni Triangle". 4ID's 1st "Raider Brigade" conducted the operation to net Saddam, and the division's troops conducted a variety of operations from raids on insurgents to the establishment of local elections. Welcome home -- job well done.
Rebirth of the Armored Gun System
What current operations tell us about the Army procurement system
A friend passed along a story from Inside the Army that ran in yesterday's Early Bird about a push in the Army's airborne community to restart the procurement process for the "Armored Gun System". The push comes as the result of a need, perceived by officers on the ground in Iraq, to have mobile, light, air-droppable firepower that can quickly turn any firefight with Iraqi insurgents into an unfair one. The officers in the 82nd Airborne also want a mobile gun system they can deploy with if they're called to do a "forced entry" operation -- an airdrop into hostile territory.
... [T]he division recently passed along an "operational needs statement" to Army Forces Command that outlines the unfulfilled requirement, said Maj. Rich Patterson, a spokesman for the 18th Airborne Corps, which oversees the division. The Army’s operations and plans office, or "G-3," is reviewing the requirement with Training and Doctrine Command, but no decision has been reached, Patterson said.Analysis: Ironically, the Army is building a new variant of the Stryker light armored vehicle that has a 105mm cannon and could serve as the 82nd Airborne's direct-fire weapon of choice. I'm not sure if it's air-droppable or not, but it is C-130 capable, so presumably it could be brought in quickly once paratroopers secure an initial airhead. The first M1128 Strykers with 105mm cannon are slated to roll off the line in April 2005. Presumably, this program could be enlarged to accomodate an additional purchase for the armor needs of the 82nd Airborne and the rest of XVIII Airborne Corps.
However, what this episode highlights is a basic truth about the Army procurement system: that the battle labs and field tests of Army equipment until now have been woefully inadequate when compared to the crucible of combat. I'm not surprised for one minute that programs like AGS are getting a second look now. Some of this owes to the actual experience of combat, where the enemy gets a vote and you get to pay for your mistakes in blood. Some of this dynamic is also political. Army officers now have the political capital from experience in Iraq to use in their arguments for weapons system, instead of arguments about how well something did in testing, or at the National Training Center. Although the 11th ACR and 1/509th Inf are far superior to any Iraqi force, they're not the same in political terms. (See this note for more along these lines) And when it comes to procurement programs, everything is political because everything has to ultimately be funded by Congress.
In my lane, I've seen a lot of indicators recently that tell me the Army's force structure was broken -- specifically its allocation of personnel and equipment to combat support (CS) and combat service support (CSS) units. From the ambush of the 507th Maintenance Company to daily reports of life on Iraqi MSRs, it has been made abundantly clear that CS/CSS units lack the right vehicles, personnel and equipment to do their jobs. This is not to say that they should be refit to fight as infantrymen, or that we should use such units to conduct dismounted patrols as their primary mission. They shouldn't -- the Army needs these units to do their primary CS/CSS missions, e.g. setting up commo nodes, healing soldiers, and doing maintenance. But these units absolutely have to be able to protect themselves while they do it, and there are no more "rear areas" in which they can do these jobs in relative safety.
A couple of illustrative areas where the Army has to change its force -- specifically personnel, force structure and equipment -- to get the job done:
- Vehicles. The Army equips its CS/CSS units with soft-skinned HMMWVs and trucks, as well as the command echelons of its combat units. These vehicles are woefully inadequate for a theater where the "Improvised Explosive Device" is the primary threat. Consequently, units in Iraq now are bolting on after-market mod kits to armor their HMMWVs, putting sandbags on the floor of their vehicles, and taking lots of other steps to harden these soft vehicles against the IED threat. On top of that, the Army is buying a lot of new vehicles and armored HMMWVs to meet the threat. Wouldn't it make sense to procure vehicles that are suitable for dealing with a non-permissive, combat environment? The current fielding of vehicles is predicated on the assumption that CS/CSS units will work in a "rear area" where there is not a significant direct-fire threat. Daily events in Iraq show that's not going to always be the case, and if you buy into asymmetric warfare/4GW theory, it may never be the case again if our enemies always choose this mode of warfare to fight us. The Army must harden its CS/CSS units' vehicles to work in an environment where there are no more rear areas. Update: Also check out this Slate essay which makes roughly the same point about armored HMMWVs and the Army's failure to procure them in sufficient numbers for Iraq.
- Crew-served weapons. Currently, most CS/CSS units have only a few crew-served weapons, such as the M240B 7.62mm machine gun or the M2 .50 caliber machine gun. These are generally allocated on the basis of what it will take to secure a base cluster. However, they are not allocated on the basis of what it will take to secure these units as they do their job, or as they move in a convoy. The result is that most CS/CSS units don't have a crew-served weapon to use for these missions, and they either have to be given one ad hoc or have an external security element (i.e. MPs and infantry) attached to them for security. (Note: ad hoc fielding of weapons often doesn't work well because the soldiers in the unit don't get the chance to train with the weapons before deployment and incorporate them into battle drills.) This is a drain on manpower, and it would be far more efficient for the CS/CSS units to secure themselves.
- Individual weapons and equipment. Some soldiers in Iraq are equipped to conduct patrols, checkpoints, and other missions in the Iraqi operational environment. These include infantry units and MP units, in which the squad or team-sized unit has a good mix of individual weaponry, night vision goggles, GPS equipment, body armor, etc. to do its job. Unfortunately, these items are not allocated on the same basis to CS/CSS units. Indeed, they're sometimes not allocated at all to CSS units. For example, an MP team has 2 M4/M16 rifles, 1 M249 machine gun, 1 (sometimes 2) M203 grenade launcher(s), a GPS device, and 2 PVS-7 or PVS 14 night vision goggles per 3-man team. A comparable small unit in the CS/CSS community, such as a signal retrans team or a section of ambulances, probably only has its M4/M16 rifles. It probably doesn't have extra firepower, and the basis of issue for other items like NVGs and GPS varies widely. Typically, such items are allocated to platoons or companies, but not to the lower-level elements that actually need them. The result is that such units cannot defend themselves adequately while doing their CS/CSS mission. Not having NVGs and GPS also constrains them, forcing them to work with units that do have them, or curtail their operations significantly. But the real problem is the inability of these units to secure themselves with the equipment on their MTOE, whether they're running a convoy or manning a checkpoint or setting up a health clinic.
The list goes on, and includes such things as communications equipment and extra vehicles for MEDEVAC. But the basic point remains the same. The Army's procurement system has bought a lot of stuff over the last few decades that is now being used in Iraq. Most of it (like the Interceptor Body Armor) works very well. Some of this stuff (like soft-skinned vehicles) needs to be refitted in order to fight in the Iraqi operational environment. Other items, like the Armored Gun System, may merit a second look. Ultimately, what's needed is a bottom-up, holistic review of the Army's force structure to see what the lessons learned in Iraq mean for the way the Army builds and equips its units.
Monday, February 16, 2004
Why the President's Record Matters: I have an op-ed in Sunday's Chicago Tribune (registration required) on why I think the current controversy is important and relevant today. A full-text version is available on their website, as well as here in PDF form. Here's the first few paragraphs of the piece:
Leadership by example is a principle that's hammered into every newly minted American military officer. Soldiers want to follow leaders they trust, and the proven way to earn that trust is by force of personal example.
Friday, February 13, 2004
Out of the net: I'm traveling this weekend and won't have access to my e-mail, my laptop or my news feed. Intel Dump will pick up again on Tuesday.
President Bush orders the release of all National Guard records
The Associated Press reports that President Bush has authorized the release of his entire National Guard record to refute criticism that he did something less than his duty as a Texas Air National Guard officer during the Vietnam War. This after a week of sporadically releasing parts of his records, including his pay records, retirement point reports, and even dental records. In theory (and hopefully in fact), the truth about the President's military record lies within these hundreds of pages about to be released.
Hundreds of pages of documents detailed Bush's service in the Guard in Texas and his temporary duty in Alabama while working on a political campaign there in the early 1970s. Democrats have questioned whether Bush ever showed up for duty in Alabama.Analysis: This is the kind of full release that I think most people expected after the President's interview on Meet the Press, where he said:
Russert: Would you authorize the release of everything to settle this?Now that the pay stubs and retirement records have been released, we may have started to get a handle on the *quantity* of the President’s National Guard service. These records look inconclusive right now, especially about the summer of 1972, but let’s stipulate for the moment that this issue will eventually be resolved. The records being released tonight will probably shed a lot of light on this question.
The rest of the President’s personnel records – particularly his evaluation reports for the entire period of duty – are as important because they indicate the *quality* of his service.
- Was he really the kind of junior officer that we now want to be Commander-in-Chief?
- Was he, to use the term of art, a "sh*t-hot" pilot?
- Was then-Lieutenant Bush a natural leader? An effective officer?
- Did the President do his duty, or did he just show up for duty?
The evaluation reports will show all of this. Generally speaking, all such reports are written positively, with degrees of praise indicating the quality of an officer. (Example: a slacker officer's report says he "performed his duties well" or "met the standard", plus a lot of boilerplate language. A stud officer's report says he/she "performed his duties in an outstanding manner" and "always exceeded or set the standard".) Damning by faint praise is common in officer evaluation reports where an officer's performance is mediocre, but not so bad as to merit being spiked on the report. So you might have to engage in some interpretation to divine what his evaluations really mean. But the contents of these evaluations are relevant, because they will indicate the quality of the President's performance. And to me, these evaluations of his quality are more important than whether he missed an occasional drill.
Lies, damned lies and statistics
The Los Angeles Times has a tongue-in-cheek story today about romance and traffic -- specifically, how crosstown romances rarely work because L.A. traffic imposes such an opportunity cost on any such relationship. I was mildly amused by the story, having experienced my share of this situation in L.A. where getting from Santa Monica to UCLA (just 5 miles) can occasionally take 30-45 minutes. But when I got to this section, the article stopped me in my tracks:
Nationwide, 30.3% of males older than 15 have never married, according to the 2000 census. But in Los Angeles, 37.9% of the guys are stuck in bachelorhood. For women across the country, 24.1% of those older than 15 have never married. In Los Angeles, 30.5% are single.Huh??? Why would the statistic of marriage over the age of 15 be relevant? Are there really that many love-struck long-distance-romance high schoolers in L.A. that we should be concerned? I didn't even know that you could marry if you were 15, 16, or 17. And I'm certainly puzzled about why this would be relevant in a story about L.A. love angst. Why should we care if a 16-year-old hasn't married yet? Are they trying to make some statement about the love prospects of California's car-driving population? (This state's driving age is 16.) I just don't get it. Maybe the editor and reporter have a message they're trying to convey with this statistic, but it's lost on me. All I think after reading this article is how badly most newspapers use quantitative facts, and how right Mark Twain was about statistics.