Wednesday, March 31, 2004
Atrocities in Fallujah
Iraqi insurgents kill American contractors, then defile and display their bodies
Iraqi insurgents escalated the war of violence and images today by attacking a U.S. government contractor convoy in Fallujah, extracting the bodies of the killed Americans, and defiling them in full view of the mob and media present. In images reminiscent of Somalia, the mob towed one body throughthe street, burned others, beat one with a metal pole, and strung up two full corpses and other body parts from a bridge across the Euphrates. Also today, five Army combat engineers who were attached to the Marines also killed by an IED, according to the LA Times. (Correction: I double-counted the IED casualties earlier today due to conflicting reports.)
Every major news outlet -- NYT, WSJ, CNN, WP, LAT -- is running this as their top story right now, and they all have the graphic images displayed on their respective websites so you too can see the horror. Here's how Edmund Sanders of the LA Times described events in Fallujah:
The two burgundy SUVs were attacked at a stoplight with small arms fire and rocket-propelled grenades around 9:30 a.m. in Fallouja, a Sunni Triangle city about 35 miles west of Baghdad and the scene of some of the worst violence since the beginning of the American occupation a year ago.CNN added these gory details about the treatment of the Americans' bodies after the attack:
Cheering residents in Fallujah pulled charred bodies from burning vehicles and hung them from a Euphrates River bridge.Finally, Jeff Gettleman of the New York Times puts the attack in the context of recent U.S. operations in Fallujah:
... [American] generals have been saying that their main focus in the conflict has shifted to Islamic terrorists who they believe to have been responsible for many suicide bombings and other attacks on the Iraqi police, civilians and foreigners. These attacks, they say, have effectively carried the Iraqi conflict into a new landscape that makes the fighting here part of the worldwide war on terrorism.Analysis: Capt. Logan is certainly right about one thing: this attack is designed to test American resolve. Insurgents and terrorists around the world have incorporated the lessons of Mogadishu into their doctrine. Indeed, they have an almost religious belief that they can win if they inflict grievous and gory casualties on American soldiers. Such a strategy is designed to undermine our national will; it assumes that we don't really have the stomach for this fight or its cost, and that we will pull out at the first sign of adversity. Unfortunately, the U.S. did that once. And like it or not, our enemies learned from Beirut and Mogadishu that they could prevail using similar tactics in the future. (See this interesting article on America's history of casualty aversion from the Naval War College Review.) But I don't think we will turn tail and run here. We have invested far too much in Iraq in terms of spirit, blood and treasure -- we will not cede victory to these bandits and reward them for their atrocities.
At the tactical level, this attack may have destroyed one American convoy. But news of this attack, and the Iraqi mob's behavior, has likely reached every American and coalition soldier now serving in Iraq. Just as the news of the Malmedy massacre during WWII enraged U.S. troops and gave them a reason to fight harder, so too will this event. I don't want to suggest for one minute that American troops will commit an atrocity to respond in kind. This isn't Vietnam, and our junior officers and NCOs are too professional to let that happen. But you can bet that every American fighting man and woman in Iraq feels the rage from this incident, and their leaders will now seek to focus and apply that rage constructively to dismantle and destroy every remaining part of the Iraqi insurgency. Payback will be swift, severe and certain.
The hardest part of any counter-insurgency operation, as Army LTC Gian Gentile and MAJ John Nagl have observed, is properly calibrating force to destroy the insurgency without losing the hearts and minds of the civilian population. The challenge for American commanders in Iraq will be to devise an appropriate response for this incident that effectively targets and kills the Iraqi insurgents without causing too much collateral damage. For what it's worth, there is enough anti-American sentiment in Fallujah that we don't have that much to lose there, and thus a heavy-handed approach will not risk much. However, I am confident that American planners are working on this problem right now.
More to follow...
Update I: I corrected an earlier lead paragraph where I indicated two separate IED attacks which killed five Marines and five soldiers. Those two attacks were actually just one attack, which killed five Army engineers attached to the Marines in the Sunni Triangle.
Update II: Neil King and Greg Jaffe add some more context to the incident in Fallujah today in a story that will appear in tomorrow's Wall Street Journal. Specifically, the WSJ article reports on the implications of this attack for the government contractors now working with U.S. government agencies to rebuild Iraq.
For now, the administration is sending a mixed message, issuing billions of dollars in contracts and encouraging companies to join in reconstruction while warning Americans against traveling in Iraq on their own and requiring contractors to provide their own security, which the government pays for. Army and Marine officers, for their part, are debating what tactics hold the most hope for gaining control of the seething Sunni Triangle area to the north and west of Baghdad.In government contract terms, those requests are called "changes". (Finally, a government term that makes intuitive sense.) It is very likely that major contractors and smaller subcontractors will request a change to the terms of their contract to cover the increased costs of security for the more threatening environment in Iraq. The government basically has no choice here -- either it supports the contractors here, or faces the likelihood that the contractors will walk away from their work. Ultimately, these changes will add to the cost of the Iraqi rebuilding effort, both in terms of money and time. Additional security measures will impede rebuilding efforts by limiting the exposure of contractors to situations where they can be secured. For example, instead of 5 food convoys, you might now see 1 or 2 being run.
Though American taxpayers will pay the bill, it is the Iraqis who will suffer. The deteriorating security situation will disproportionately hurt contractors, relief agencies and non-governmental organizations much more than it hurts the military. The US Marines and US Army can adjust to a more threatening environment much more easily than these civilian agencies can. And it is these civilian agencies that do the majority of good for the Iraqis. The tough task now is to convince the Iraqi population of this fact, so that they take the lead in stopping their own insurgent brethren.
New reservist civilian employment program announced by DoD
The Pentagon announced today that it would require all reservists to register in its Civilian Employer Information database. The new database will pull information from reservists about where they work, what skills they have, and what they do in order to aid the deployment process and help DoD and other federal officials interface with civilian employers about mobilizations.
Guard and Reserve members are required to register information about their civilian employer and job skills, in order for the department to meet three different requirements defined in law. The Department of Defense is required to: give consideration to civilian employment necessary to maintain national health, safety and interest when considering members for recall; ensure that members with critical civilian skills are not retained in numbers beyond those needed for those skills, and; inform employers of reservists’ of their rights and responsibilities under the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act.Analysis: Ideally, we'd have had this program in place in Sept. 2001, because it would have been enormously helpful for DoD to have visibility of this stuff as it has mobilized 300,000+ reservists since then for the war on terrorism and the war in Iraq. But given some of the issues (such as reemployment problems upon redeployment) now surfacing with respect to reservists, this is a good step. The first step when solving any problem is to gather more information, and this program will ideally gather lots of information about reservists and their civilian employment. I hope that the Pentagon continues to work this issue once it has the information, developing policy ideas and options to better manage the reserve force with this information.
In the wake of the past two years' reserve mobilizations, a number of academics and policy officials have speculated about the proportion of reservists who work as civilian first responders, or the proportion of reservists who work in other critical areas. The idea was that we might be doing harm to our civilian consequence-management community by calling up so many reservists, and a number of news accounts surfaced from small towns where the police or fire department was decimated by a mobilization. This program will tell us once and for all what the ground truth is about that problem, and it should enable the Pentagon to develop better policies for managing this problem so that its federal mobilizations don't harm the anti-terrorism readiness of state and local governments across America.
Tuesday, March 30, 2004
Winning hearts and minds in Afghanistan: I missed it earlier today because I was focused on other projects, but David Rohde has an exceptional article in today's New York Times on the efforts of one light infantry company in the mountains of Afghanistan to win the allegiance of the civilians who live there.
A new exception to the 4th Amendment: The AP reports that the Supreme Court has issued a ruling in United States v. Flores-Montano, holding the government may search, dismantle and inspect gas tanks of individuals driving into the United States at border checkpoints without any particular probable cause about that individual or car. The decision effectively expands the existing regulatory exception to the 4th Amendment, and it also limits the privacy expectations (in a 4th Amendment sense) of individuals in public spaces. "The government's interest in preventing the entry of unwanted persons and effects is at its zenith at the international border," Rehnquist writes for a unanimous court.
More to follow...
Another exodus of the military's 'best and brightest'
America's special operations community may soon lose many of its operators
In what seemed like another world, I wrote about the junior officer and NCO exodus that was affecting America's Army in 2001 and early 2001. Simply put, this exodus had the potential to strip the military of many of its best junior officers, and was being driven by a frustrating Army bureaucracy and better opportunities on the outside. Mark Lewis and Don Vandergriff also wrote on the subject, describing the effects on the Army of what appeared to be a serious attrition problem among Army lieutenants and captains.
That problem has been overtaken by events since Sept. 11. But today, Eric Schmitt and Thom Shanker report in the NY Times that America's special operations forces may be facing an exodus of their own. This exodus is being driven by an unbelievably high operational tempo (OPTEMPO), coupled with economic opportunities on the outside driven by demand abroad for American special ops training and personnel.
Senior enlisted members of the Army Green Berets or Navy Seals with 20 years or more experience now earn about $50,000 in base pay, and can retire with a $23,000 pension. But private security companies, whose services are in growing demand in Iraq and Afghanistan, are offering salaries of $100,000 to nearly $200,000 a year to the most experienced of them.Analysis: First, let's be clear about what's happening here. There is no data which presently indicates there is a special ops exodus underway. The NYT is reporting on the basis of a few anecdotal examples, and the sense of the Special Operations Command's top generals that an exodus may happen as its operators return from overseas. So, the first thing is to gather data about what's going on here, and to make policy based on that data.
The second thing is that we should not be too worried about a natural level of attrition in our military, even in our special ops units. Every soldier is valuable, and that's even more true of these guys because of their training and experience. However, we have an all volunteer military, and our system is designed to accomodate a reasonable level of attrition. Often, it's better to let guys get out if they're feeling disenchanted or overused, because they may be less than motivated about future missions. I do think it's a problem if the special ops community loses its best soldiers, but there's no evidence yet that this is happening. So I go back to point #1 -- we need to see what the actual attrition numbers say, because this may just be natural post-deployment attrition. (Stop loss policies have prevented attrition in these units for a while, so it may even be natural to expect a surge right now.)
Third, I think it's interesting to note that the CIA is one of the leading employers taking personnel away from military special ops. That's probably a net positive thing for the United States, because presumably, these guys (and a few women too) are being hired to rebuild America's "human intelligence" ("HUMINT") capabilities in the CIA's Directorate of Operations. The CIA desperately needs these operators' experience to build more reliable and robust HUMINT capabilities -- the kind of capabilities that can gather the intel we need about emerging threats in the 21st Century.
Finally, I think we should be very careful as we go about expanding special operations -- which includes everything from Delta Force and the SEALs to Army Civil Affairs -- in order to meet the demands of current and future operations. The key to special ops success is people; they wholeheartedly endorse the John Boyd saying of "People, Ideas, Hardware -- in that order!" Special operations puts an enormous amount of resources into its people, and into building its units into the most professional and effective teams imaginable. Expanding special operations too quickly will almost certainly affect the quality of the special operations community, and that would be a very bad thing. It might make a lot more sense for the Army, for example, to make more of its units "special operations capable" like the Marines presently do with their MEUs prior to deployment. Similarly, it might make more sense to give Army units more full-spectrum capability in the area of low-intensity combat and stability operations, rather than standing up more Civil Affairs units and Special Forces units. The right answers are not necessarily apparent, and it may not be wise to simply throw money at the problem.
New banner ads at latimes.com: "New careers come to those who speak Arabic -- U.S. Army: click here for more". This ad banner is running on the top of the latimes.com home page in bold black/gold colors with arabic script behind the text of the ad; it's also featured prominently on story pages inside latimes.com. The Army generally doesn't do MOS-specific recruiting like this (except for recruiting JAGs in law schools, doctors in med schools, etc)., so it struck me as interesting.
Monday, March 29, 2004
Legislative update: government contractors may
soon be sanctioned for failing to take care of their reservists --
Citizen Smash lobbies for legislative proposal to aid reservist-employees
Last week, I wrote a note describing the disturbing treatment of Oregon National Guardsman CPL Dana Beadine by Securitas Corporation, following CPL Beaudine's redeployment from Iraq as a combat-wounded veteran. The essence of the story was that CPL Beaudine suffered injuries in combat, to include a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, and his civilian employer displayed a startling unwillingness to take care of him after his discharge from active duty. Even the Department of Labor thought that CPL Beaudine was being mistreated in this case, yet the employer stood firm. The detail that stood out to me, and to several other mil-bloggers, was that Securitas was the holder of several major government contracts. It seemed incongruous and unjust that a government contractor should be allowed to break the law, mistreat a reservist, and profit from taxpayer money.
One of my readers now deployed to Iraq suggested that there ought to be a law proscribing such war profiteering by recalcitrant government contractors. I agreed, and wrote the following note:
Update II -- Memo to Congress: One of my readers now deployed to Iraq had an excellent suggestion -- why not amend federal law (and/or the Federal Acquisition Regulation in the CFR) to provide for suspension or debarment (or both) as penalties for government contractors who violate the USERRA or SSCRA protections for their employees who are mobilized as reservists? I think this is a great idea, and I hope that some Congressional staffer reads Intel Dump and recommends this to his/her boss. I don't think we should reward this kind of bad corporate behavior with government contracts and the money from American taxpayers. Congress already attaches all kinds of conditions to the receipt of taxpayer money, and it seems like proper treatment of reservists should be one of them.Several of my MilBlogs colleagues -- including Citizen Smash, Donald Sensing, BlackFive, GreyHawk, and others -- added their voices to the fray. But Citizen Smash (who himself served in OIF as a reservist) took the issue one step further. At a recent event in San Diego, he cornered Congresswoman Susan Davis and her legislative aide on this issue; here's what happened.
When she had finished speaking, she opened it up for questions. The first guy she called on asked, "Is there any way we can get Bush impeached?"Here's what you can do: If you support us on this issue, please write to your representative in Congress to make your voice heard on this issue. I think this one cuts across party lines, so write to your representative regardless of his or her party. Let them know that you support the full rights of reservists to reemployment under federal law, and that you don't want your taxpayer dollars going to corporations who mistreat their reservist-employees. Also, write your state legislators too, because plenty of reservists work for state and local government contractors, and they need legal protection too. In an ideal world, we'd have nothing but good corporate citizens, and there'd be no need for this kind of law. Indeed, I believe that most American corporations do the right thing when it comes to their reservist-employees. Yet, there are companies out there that don't do the right thing, and it adds insult to injury when we allow those companies to profit from taxpayer money.
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"Sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress"
Update: Unless the White House says it's okay for them to do so after a public furor erupts
National Security Adviser Condoleeza Rice invoked the time-honored principle of executive privilege yesterday in defending the White House's decision not to allow her to testify to Congress or the 9/11 commission. (Thanks to Tapped for the pointer to this quote)
"Nothing would be better, from my point of view, than to be able to testify. I would really like to do that. But there is an important principle here ... it is a longstanding principle that sitting national security advisers do not testify before the Congress."For what it's worth, this principle is something that Presidents on both sides of the aisle agree with, starting with President Eisenhower and moving forward. As a general rule, the President's decisionmaking staff cannot be forced to testify before Congress. (Past NSAs have voluntarily testified though.) I agree with this rule, because I think it safeguards the national security process and increases the candor of those people giving advice to the President -- both political appointees and professionals.
However, two obvious questions emerge.
- First, Ms. Rice has said that she would step down as National Security Adviser by the end of 2004, either by virtue of an administration change or of her own volition. After that happens, she will no longer be a "sitting" adviser to the President. Will she then testify before the 9/11 commission, or another body such as the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence?
- Second, it is a well-settled principle that no adviser to the President can be compelled to testify before Congress; such compulsion is considered to violate the executive privilege. But there is no such legal rule against voluntary testimony before Congress, either in open or closed session. Thus, Ms. Rice misstates the rule in her comments on CBS. The absence of compulsion would remove the major separation of powers problem here. Presumably, this commission is supposed to be bigger than politics. (Yeah right) If the White House supports the goals and objectives of the 9/11 commission, so much so that it will volunteer the President himself to testify in closed session, why not allow the NSA to testify too? If we're all on the same team, trying to prevent another 9/11, what's the right thing for the White House to do here?
Update: The White House has answered that the right thing to do here is to let the National Security Adviser testify in public, under oath, before the 9/11 commission.
The decision was conditioned on the Bush administration receiving assurances in writing from the commission that such a step does not set a precedent and that the commission does not request "additional public testimony from any White House official, including Dr. Rice," White House counsel Alberto Gonzales said in a letter to the panel.
A very interesting First Amendment case study in Iraq
CPA officials shut down an Iraqi newspaper, citing "incitement"
Actual incitement cases in the U.S. -- where some legislature criminalizes speech that advocates crime -- tend to be rare these days. After the Supreme Court's ruling in Brandenburg v. Ohio, most legislatures realized that these speech restrictions would have a really tough time in court. Prosecutors now target some of the same conduct with other statutes, such as conspiracy statutes and inchoate crimes, in order to accomplish the same goal of preventing extremist groups from acting on their ideologies. Nonetheless, the issue remains, and occasionally comes up in court.
Now, it appears that incitement law has made an appearance in Iraq. According to the LA Times, the U.S. Coalition Provosional Authority has decided to close a newspaper run by a popular anti-American cleric because it thinks this newspaper is inciting violence against coalition troops.
It was unclear why officials chose this particular moment to close the paper, but one senior coalition official said the publication had been warned several times before Sunday. "This is not the first time. We've given them a chance to retract and clean themselves up," the official said. "But if they continue to spew vitriol, well?. "Analysis: My First Amendment law professor, Eugene Volokh, is surely the better person to comment on this story. Obviously, American constitutional law doesn't directly apply to this case in Iraq. But considering that we are trying to export the rule of law generally to Iraq, and that we want to build a lasting democracy in that nation, I wonder if we might reconsider our instincts here to suppress the presses. Dissent -- even dangerous dissent -- often serves a valuable role in free societies by letting dissident groups blow off steam peacefully. Moreover, the best test for bad ideas is to let them fight for airtime in the marketplace of ideas, as Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes observed in his famous Abrams v. United States dissent:
. . . Persecution for the expression of opinions seems to me perfectly logical. If you have no doubt of your premises or your power and want a certain result with all your heart you naturally express your wishes in law and sweep away all opposition. To allow opposition by speech seems to indicate that you think the speech impotent, as when a man says that he has squared the circle, or that you do not care whole heartedly for the result, or that you doubt either your power or your premises. But when men have realized that time has upset many fighting faiths, they may come to believe even more than they believe the very foundations of their own conduct that the ultimate good desired is better reached by free trade in ideas -- that the best test of truth is the power of the thought to get itself accepted in the competition of the market, and that truth is the only ground upon which their wishes safely can be carried out. That at any rate is the theory of our Constitution. It is an experiment, as all life is an experiment. Every year if not every day we have to wager our salvation upon some prophecy based upon imperfect knowledge. While that experiment is part of our system I think that we should be eternally vigilant against attempts to check the expression of opinions that we loathe and believe to be fraught with death, unless they so imminently threaten immediate interference with the lawful and pressing purposes of the law that an immediate check is required to save the country. . . . [250 U.S. at 626]That said, I can see substantial security interests at stake here, and I can certainly understand the motivations of the CPA authorities who made this call. It's entirely possible that the prohibition of this speech meets the test from Brandenburg, and that even in America the authorities would be able to outlaw this newspaper as a brand of incitement. Clearly, it doesn't help the security situation in Iraq to have a firebrand publishing doctrine and operational edicts in a newspaper, and it's even worse if this newspaper is actually being used to religiously sanction and order attacks. I'm sure the CPA authorities are cognizant of the blowback potential here, and the risk that this move may actually incite more protest and violence. But I think they probably assessed that risk as less than the risk of letting this newspaper continue to publish, and made their decision accordingly. Was it the right call? Only time will tell. Perhaps this will be one of the first legal issues for the nascent Iraqi court system to decide.
Update I: Jack Balkin, a constitutional law professor at Yale Law School, has a note on this incident, complete with an excerpt from the part of the Iraqi Constitution dealing with free speech.
New trends in the Al Qaeda threat
Global terror network demonstrates new features in Madrid operation
Monday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) carries a very provocative article about the tactical and operational changes apparent in Al Qaeda's Madrid operation, and how they represent a more advanced and lethal terror organization. (I wish I could excerpt the entire thing, but federal copyright law won't allow that.) The essence of the story is that Al Qaeda has evolved again, into a more decentralized, less predictable, less hierarchical terror network that retains some operational capability to strike at Western targets abroad.
Evidence in the Madrid train bombings points to the participation of a new breed of Islamic holy warrior, unfettered by many of the religious and ideological constraints that defined Islamic terrorism in the past.Analysis: There is a lot of great material in this article; I recommend buying today's Journal in order to read the whole thing. As I said above, the essence of the story is that Al Qaeda's offshoots have evolved into something different -- and potentially more dangerous -- than the Al Qaeda that attacked the USS Cole and conducted the WTC/Pentagon operation.
The decentralization of Al Qaeda is an especially important development because of its implications for U.S. policy. Until now, American counter-terrorism policy has focused mostly on decapitating and dismantling the Al Qaeda organization proper -- the parts that used to reside in Afghanistan, the parts that conducted the 9/11 attack, and any parts that had a footprint on U.S. soil. If there are now Al Qaeda-inspired affiliates in Spain, the Philippines, Algeria, and other places, that calls into question our entire decapitation/dismantling strategy. What purpose would it serve now to capture Osama Bin Laden? It would not impede the operational effectiveness of these splinter groups one iota. At best, it will remove some of the spiritual and operational coherence which has enabled this global terror network to remain viable. But I think it's more likely that it will have only a tangential operational effect, and that there are more than enough lieutenants willing to carry on OBL's guidon.
The moves to secular tactics, techniques and procedures also represent an important trend. We saw this with the 9/11 hijackers, and it enabled them to blend into U.S. society for so long to conduct their pre-mission training and reconnaissance. This trend has several implications. Primarily, it means that we must reevaluate our indicators of terrorist activity, and look deeper into backgrounds and connections. That may eventually necessitate some sort of Total Information Awareness-like program capable of non-obvious relationship analysis. Or it may require redoubled efforts to penetrate this world with HUMINT assets; something which has eluded Western intelligence agencies for decades.
Stories like this one paint a fairly bleak picture of the enemy, but it is one we must understand nonetheless. The enemy of terrorism will not go away anytime soon; there will likely be no end to the global war on terrorism. Terrorism is a methodology that small groups and states will use to asymmetrically attack large states and powerful interests. Its success hinges on the ability of the terrorists to see opportunities, develop TTPs, and to strike before states can develop appropriate countermeasures. The key, for us, is to develop institutions capable of observing this threat, assessing it, and reacting on a faster timeline than the enemy. Building large agencies like the Department of Homeland Security won't cut it. We have to create new models of organization and action that combine intelligence, analysis, decisionmaking and action.
L.A. chapter of the Nathan Hale Society: We had our first meeting last night near Beverly Hills and spent the better part of the time discussing American "grand strategy" -- what it is, what it ought to be, and what it's not. As you can imagine, the discussion ranged from the war in Iraq to U.S. foreign aid policy to conceptual discussions of what a grand strategy actually is. The discussants brought a good mix of backgrounds and experience to the table, and it was a very interesting evening. Our next discussion is scheduled for April 25, with possible topics including intelligence reform, North Korea, and democracy promotion. If you're interested in learning more, surf over to chapter president Robert Tagorda's site, or e-mail him.
Sunday, March 28, 2004
Good and bad news from the "band of sisters"
WP survey of military families paints a mixed picture for military retention
Tom Ricks reports on the front page of today's Washington Post that a sizable percentage of military spouses are having doubts about continued service by their husbands or wives in uniform. The survey was conducted by The Post in conjunction with the Kaiser Family Foundation and Harvard, and it talked to more than 1,000 military spouses on ten separate installations. Mr. Ricks' lengthy article discusses the survey's findings, and includes many actual responses from military spouses; it also discusses some of the ways the military plans to mitigate this issue in the coming months and years. One point that quickly becomes evident is that military spouses don't speak with one voice:
Large majorities of Army wives said that coping with their spouses' deployment had been a problem, but that they were proud of their service to the country. Many resented media coverage that portrays them as not handling it well. "It's not fair to us, or to the guys over there, to say that we're all having nervous breakdowns, because we're not," said Holly Petraeus, wife of the commander of the 101st Airborne.The story also included a really interesting discussion of the way that technology has affected this issue. Military spouses in previous wars had nowhere near the information flow as those in OIF -- especially from e-mail and embedded reporters.
Technology -- not only 24-hour news, but also e-mail -- has kept this generation of spouses extraordinarily close to their husbands' lives. But that, they have discovered, is a mixed blessing. The Iraq deployment has been the U.S. military's first war fought in an interconnected environment, in which even front-line soldiers generally have access to e-mail and the Internet. "It's the 'kitchen table to the battlefield' war," Morgan said. "Something happens -- between cable news, the cell phone, the Internet, e-mail -- it goes back and forth instantly."One other trend in the responses was the perception of a civil-military gap among military spouses. This is very interesting for military scholars like me, because it's one of the pitfalls inherent in an all-volunteer force where the burden of service is not universally or equitably distributed. It also has significant social, economic, political and cultural implications, both for the military and for civil society.
... military wives see a gap between themselves and the civilian world. About 90 percent of spouses said they were satisfied with the respect the American public shows soldiers. But Davis, wife of the 101st Airborne Division lieutenant, spoke for many when she said: "The farther away you get from post, the less understanding there is."Ultimately, Mr. Ricks comes back to the basic policy issue undergirding this story: will military families push their men and women in uniform to leave the service when their term is up? On this point, the data is inconclusive. Many families think there will be a problem with military retention, but when pressed on this point in terms of their family, they seem less adamant about leaving the service.
About 76 percent of those polled said they believe the Army is heading for personnel problems as soldiers and their families tire of the post-9/11 pace and leave the service.Analysis: So, the conclusion to be drawn from this story is that there is an issue here, but that the Army needs more data before it can establish exactly what is going to happen as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Anecdotal reports from the field indicate that redeployed units have not experienced an exodus of soldiers or officers as some have predicted, and that the majority of exiting soldiers have been those kept on active duty involuntarily through "stop loss" policies. Indeed, other surveys of military morale conducted by the Army have shown fairly high levels of job satisfaction and reenlistment intentions, although there is a significant gap between responses from active-duty soldiers and reservists.
Mr. Ricks does a good job of reporting on family support groups, but I think this point deserves some more emphasis. A major reason the military is doing well here is because it has learned how to deal with family issues in the 1990s. In the first Gulf War, the Cold War-minded military did a less than stellar job at managing these kinds of issues, and it did not have the benefit of institutionalized processes like the Family Readiness Groups in every company and battalion-sized unit. However, the Army learned during the deployments of the 1990s how to manage these issues, as well as a host of other deployment-related issues, and the result is that it now has a pretty good system. It will never be perfect -- deployment is necessarily hard on families, and there is no way to minimize the emotional and physical strain on familymembers from the actual separation and risk involved. But by forming "band[s] of sisters" (and brothers) for military spouses around the country, the military has gotten a lot better at taking care of its families at home while it fights abroad.
Saturday, March 27, 2004
Marines find violence in Fallujah
Engagements test the 'kindler, gentler' Marine strategy planned for Iraq
Before leaving for their second rotation in Iraq, the leaders of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Pendleton said they were going to do things differently from the Army. They would use more kindness and diplomacy; less armor and firepower. The edict issued from the top brass was "First, Do No Harm." Now, the Marines have deployed to Iraq, and taken responsibility for one of the baddest towns in the country: Fallujah. There, they have encountered stiff resistance from Iraqi insurgents who seem hellbent on perpetuating chaos and undermining U.S. efforts to create a civil government in Iraq. The Los Angeles Times reports that the violence in Fallujah is becoming the crucible for the Marines' tactics in Iraq:
FALLOUJA, Iraq — U.S. Marines on Friday engaged in their first major military confrontation since returning to Iraq, as a daylong series of firefights left one Marine and 18 to 20 insurgents and others dead, according to military and hospital officials.Analysis: The Marines have a long an illustrious history of dealing with small wars, as chronicled in the recent book Savage Wars of Peace by Max Boot. (For more, see this note, this note and this note.) The Marines' infantry-centric organizations can also be quite good at dealing with these kinds of situations, provided they have the training in low-intensity combat and peacekeeping ops (and the 1 MEF Marines got that during their pre-deployment ramp-up.) However, the essential challenge still remains: when to use firepower, and how much to use. The calibration of firepower is the hardest challenge in any counter-insurgency operation. In response to the Marines' statements about their "kindler, gentler" approach for Iraq, LTC Gian Gentile wrote in the Washington Post that it would be much tougher than they thought to get this right. Similarly, Army MAJ John Nagl (now serving in Iraq) has written some brilliant stuff on counter-insurgency warfare which focuses on this problem, and its difficulty. None of this means that the Marines won't be able to do it. Only that this is really difficult stuff -- "graduate level stuff" as one general I know used to put it.
It will take time, and mistakes, for the Marines to adjust to the Iraqi operational environment and to learn how to properly calibrate their use of force for that situation. We should expect more Fallujah-type battles in the near future, and we should not be surprised if the Marines err on the side of force because that is the natural tendency of combat units when they are attacked. However, as this mission matures and the Marines gain situational awareness about their battlespace, I would expect to see a gradual lowering of tensions in this area, accompanied by a reduction in violence. In other words, the violence this week in Fallujah is not a setback -- it's cyclical in nature, and to be expected.
Update I: Matt Rustler passes on a letter from the CG of the 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. James Mattis, over at his blog Stop the Bleating. It's always interesting to read the writings of the commanders in Iraq, to try and get inside their head.
Letter to All Hands,
Friday, March 26, 2004
Looking for a few good corporate citizens
One of my regular readers wrote me to ask if I would publicize those good corporate citizens who do well by their reservists, in reference to my note about one bad corporate citizen who was apparently mistreating a returned reservist in blatant violation of federal law. My answer: absolutely! If you have a good news story to share about a company treating its reservist-employees right, please let me know. And when you do, please send a copy of your e-mail to Donald Sensing, Citizen (formerly LT) Smash, and Glenn Reynolds.
The Pentagon's National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) has constructed a list of good corporate citizens on this issue. Amazingly, it includes Securitas, the company alleged to be mistreating CPL Dana Beaudine, although it doesn't say whether they offer additional benefits like continued civilian pay after mobilization or health benefits. The other observation I have about this list is that it appears to disproportionately include public employers (states, cities, etc.)
Nonetheless, if you have a good news story, please let me know.
Update I: A friend wrote me to let me know that the Dow Jones Corporation, parent company of the Wall Street Journal, has a fairly robust military leave policy on the books.
We want to let all our employees know that Dow Jones will support those who are called into military service, or who voluntarily enlist in uniformed military service. The Company will ensure that you are not disadvantaged upon your return to work and you will suffer no discrimination or retaliation because of your service. Our current corporate policies regarding Military Leaves of Absence are summarized here for your reference.At first glance, this goes beyond the legal requirements of the SSCRA and USERRA. The part about voluntary enlistments is especially notable -- it supports those reservists who might volunteer for mobilization because of patriotism or other motivations; it also supports employees who might choose to enlist for the first time. My friend at the WSJ didn't tell me about any examples of Dow Jones doing a good job, but I imagine there have to be some. It doesn't surprise me to see a media corporation doing the right thing here; they're probably more sensitive than other corporations to public relations issues.
Any other good corporate citizens out there? Let me know.
Rumsfeld on Primetime Live: For those of you who missed it last night, ABC's PrimeTime Live did a very interesting special on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his "Rumfeld's Rules". The piece was somewhat flattering, although it included some pointed criticism from former DoD officials and senior military officers like former Army Sec. Tom White and retired LTG Greg Newbold. The Pentagon's press office has a full transcript of the show available online. Here's an excerpt from one of the more interesting segments of the show:
MR. MCWETHY: Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are close friends of 30 years, but it did not start that way. When they first met, Rumsfeld was a young congressman; Cheney a graduate student who wanted an internship.
A sad end to a warrior's story
A while back, I relayed the story of Dwayne Turner, an Army medic who was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His actions clearly demonstrated courage under fire. This guy was no hero in the sense that everyone who goes and does his job is a hero -- he really went above and beyond to take care of his buddies in the best tradition of a combat medic.
"I didn't figure myself a hero. I just wanted to make sure everybody came home," Turner said after the medal and 101st Airborne coin were presented to him. "Nobody was going to die on my watch."Unfortunately, there's more to the story. In the award ceremony, a friend of mine noticed that Turner had no rank on his collar -- which would mean he was an E-1, an unusual rank for someone with his time in service. Now, the AP reports why he was wearing E-1 rank: he was busted for going AWOL and smoking pot, and on his way out with a general discharge:
The smile he beamed at the medal ceremony masked months of problems he says he had since returning home with battle wounds: a suicide attempt along with flashbacks and nightmares so bad he resorted to binge drinking to fall asleep.Analysis: This is a really hard case in my opinion, and I'm sure it was hard for his commanders to handle too. On the one hand, you have a bona fide hero -- a man whose actions under fire earned him the nation's third-highest award for valor, and who many of his buddies think saved their lives in combat. Those are big things in the warrior community. On the other hand, going AWOL is a serious offense in the military; so is smoking pot. Both threaten to undermine unit cohesion and effectiveness; the drug use may put his buddies at risk. Pvt. Turner's commanders took a middle road here -- they didn't court martial him, as they could have. Instead, they probably gave him non-judicial punishment, a rank reduction, and a discharge for his conduct. I probably agree with that course of action, although I disagree with the character of his discharge. These incidents were serious, but I think his actions in combat merit a more honorable characterization of service. The rules for administrative actions exist largely for a peacetime Army, and I don't think they give guys like this enough credit for what few of us have the courage to do. If it were up to me, I would've tried to get this guy an honorable discharge so that he could keep his veterans' benefits. A discharge is supposed to reflect the totality of a soldier's service -- not the one incident that results in the discharge. In this case, I would've tipped the scales towards an honorable discharge.
Thursday, March 25, 2004
The mother of all contractual disputes: This front-page story in Friday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) chronicles the massive insurance dispute which has arisen out of the ashes of 9/11, where billions of dollars are stake over the meaning of the word "occurrence". The whole issue may be decided on the basis of what contractual form was in effect at the time. The stakes are huge -- one interpretation will generate a $7 billion payout; the other a $3.55 billion insurance payout -- a loss for WTC leaseholder Larry Silverstein may kill several of the current WTC reconstruction ideas. Keep your eye on this case... it will have a huge impact when it's ultimately decided or settled.
"The problem is, when everything is a priority, nothing is."
Mark Kleiman quotes some comments from Amy Zegart, one of his faculty colleagues at the UCLA School of Public Policy, regarding the prioritization of intelligence about terrorism in the Bush Administration. Prof. Zegart knows quite a bit on this subject, having written the excellent book Flawed by Design on the national security process, and having had Condi Rice for a thesis adviser, among other things. She has this astute observation about the national security process, and what happens when you fail to establish clear priorities for the intelligence community:
... The Commission asked the wrong question. Was terrorism a priority? Of course it was. The real question is how many other priorities both administrations were confronting. I'll tell you: too many. Clinton wrote a Presidential Decision Directive in 1995 that sought to establish clear priorities for the intelligence community. There were so many in the top tier, they actually divided them into Tier 1A and Tier 1B. But it gets better (or worse). There was also a Tier 0, apparently for the very very very top priorities. Note to self: when you can't list priorities with regular numbers, you haven't really made priorities.Analysis: Absolutely, positively, right on the money. I haven't had much experience at the upper echelons of the national security community, so I'll take Prof. Zegart's word for the applicability of this logic to the National Security Council. However, this is a fundamental principle of intelligence operations at the tactical level as well -- if you prioritize too many things, then you prioritize nothing. And if you don't establish priorities for intelligence collection and analysis, your scouts and analysts will work very hard on a lot of disparate things that may or may not add up to a complete and accurate picture of the battlefield. Our observer/controllers used to tell us on the 4ID plans staff that we should have no more than 10 priority intelligence requirements for the division -- those things the general absolutely had to know in order to defeat the enemy. In theory, the same principles of simplicity should apply at the national strategic level too, although with much greater consequences and implications.
The cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom for the Brits
The London Daily Telegraph (registration required) reports today on testimony by the Chief of Defence Staff that Britain's Army will not be ready to mount another major combat operation for five years because of what it has expended in spirit, blood and treasure to fight with America in Iraq. Like the U.S. Army, the British Army has been stretched to its limits by its worldwide deployments -- many in support of the global war on terrorism.
Gen Sir Michael Walker told the Commons defence committee that the Army in particular would not be able to recover from operations in Iraq until 2008 or 2009.I think we can take this estimate at face value -- the British senior military leadership has a reputation for candor, especially when testifying to Parliament, and this report tracks what I've read in other sources. But it gets worse, according to the Daily Telegraph:
The problems have already affected the deployment of extra troops to Afghanistan to back up the American-led hunt for Osama bin Laden. Defence chiefs have been considering sending 1,400 commandos and paratroopers to support the SAS and US special forces' operation in Afghanistan.Analysis: So, America's closet ally has also paid a high cost for Operation Iraqi Freedom in addition to the cost in blood. One of my smart colleagues thinks this is an example of incurring security related costs in pursuit of the war in Iraq, and I agree. As he says: "Sure, Britain is safer in the sense that [Saddam Hussein] did pose some measure of threat. The question is about cost - unit of security gained per unit of effort expended. If they really can't fight again for 5 years, that is significant strategic risk. Since we are their allies, presumably their risk is our risk."
Right. The cost of the war in Iraq shouldn't just be measured in terms of dollars or lives spent -- it should also be seen as an expenditure of American military power that precludes the expenditure of American (and allied) military power for other purposes. It's like you've got a six-shooter and several targets -- if you're smart, you pick the most threatening targets and shoot them first, and as accurately as possible, to conserve ammo for future targets and hopefully to survive. America and her allies have a finite military capacity, just like the bullets in a revolver, and if we shoot up our bullets at one target (Iraq), we will have less to shoot at others (e.g. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, the tri-border region of South America, etc.) Ultimately, this means that the U.S. may be less secure in the future for expending its military capacity on Iraq today.
Query: We know what the British are saying about their future capacity to conduct major combat operations -- what are the American projections on this issue? Assuming we can eventually leave Iraq, how much time will the U.S. military need to consolidate, reorganize and reconstitute before it's ready to fight again? My hunch is that it will take less time, because of the rotational readiness systems being adopted in the Army and the pressure to get redeployed units ready for the next OEF/OIF rotation. But the question remains -- what will the long-term readiness cost be of Operation Iraqi Freedom?
More to follow...
Major U.S. military realignment planned
Bradley Graham has a really good report in the Washington Post today about the planned realignment of American military units and bases overseas. In total, he reports that roughly half of America's 71,000 troops in Germany may come home to the states -- and that our Cold War-era bases in Germany may be shifted within Europe to Romania and other nations more receptive to the U.S. and more strategically situated. As you can imagine, this plan has massive political, strategic and operational implications for the U.S., its allies and its enemies.
Under the plan, which is nearing approval, smaller, relatively spartan bases would be established in Romania and possibly Bulgaria, and designed for the rapid projection of U.S. military power against terrorists, hostile states and other potential adversaries.Analysis: There are lots of things at work here, and it's hard to tell which one is really driving this change. The first and most obvious driver is cost. It's very expensive to station U.S. forces overseas, particularly in an advanced Western country like Germany where the cost of living is relatively high and the costs of doing business are also high. It costs a lot (either hundreds of millions or billions) more to keep American forces there than it would cost to keep similar units in the U.S. It used to be that you could justify this cost because these forces were "forward deployed" -- you knew where they would fight, and accepted these costs because they got these units close to the battlefield. But after the end of the Cold War, our military has started to transition away from being a forward deployed force to an expeditionary force -- and we never know where we're going to deploy next. Thus, it may make much more sense from a cost standpoint to find the most efficient place to garrison our troops (inside the United States), and then to purchase additional strategic lift assets like C-17 aircraft to fly them wherever they need to go on a moment's notice.
Efficiency is related to cost, and it's also driving this move. The garrisons in Germany and South Korea require a huge amount of institutional overhead and force structure. Shifting from the Cold War garrison model to the "lilypad" model will eliminate the need for large logistical and infrastructural systems in those locations. Consider South Korea. The 2nd Infantry Division (minus its 3rd Brigade) is stationed there, complete with its division headquarters, aviation, artillery, and other support assets. To support one infantry division of roughly 15,000 soldiers, we have a total force package on the Korean peninsula of 37,000. Granted, much of this exists to support follow-on forces from CONUS that would deploy to Korea for a contingency. But a lot of these forces could be eliminated by changing the nature of the South Korea garrison to either a rotating brigade-sized deployment model, or a pre-positioned equipment model. The same concept applies to Germany, except that there are more combat forces in Germany and proportionally more support units as well.
The second major driver is probably politics. Without getting into the details, Germany and the U.S. do not have the warmest and fuzziest relationship right now. This will pass... but there may come a day when Germany might not allow U.S. troops to even deploy from its soil to a war they don't approve it. (Not likely, but possible) More importantly, there has been a gradual tightening of restrictions on American forces over the past generation in Germany. Whereas they could once maneuver freely around the countryside, they now must stay in small maneuver areas that barely can contain a battalion task force, let alone two brigade-sized units in a force-on-force engagement. Gunnery has been restricted; so have the activities of Army and Air Force aircraft. Overall, Germany has become less hospitable to American forces, and the net result is that American forces in Germany have a tougher time training for combat than their stateside peers. Politically, nations like Romania and Bulgaria going to be much more receptive -- at least initially. They will welcome American bases (and dollars) with open arms. And the greater power differential between the nations will ensure that these other nations do less to impede U.S. military activity than Germany.
Finally, the third driver behind this shift is related to the first -- a need to create a more expeditionary model of basing that supports deployments, not large forward-deployed units. The current model of basing in South Korea (especially) and Germany (less so today) was designed to fight sequels of wars in those two locations. Trying to consolidate units for training or deploy them from those locations is like trying to pound a very square peg into a very round hole. A shift to a "lilypad" model of basing would presumably place a premium on deployability. New bases would be built around seaports and large air transport facilities. Major consideration would (or should) be given to future hotspots, and also to overflight permissions and other tricky details that could frustrate future operations in 10-30 years. The idea is to create a military infrastructure to support an expeditionary military, instead of the current situation where we are trying to use a Cold War military infrastructure to support an expeditionary force.
What are the risks? The first and obvious one is cost. Though this plan will achieve some net efficiencies, it's not entirely clear that it will cost less in the short-term or long-term to pursue this option. The success of the lilypad model hinges on other expenditures, such as the purchase of strategic lift capability and the short-term construction of new bases in CONUS and overseas. Those equipment and capital expenditures will run into the tens of billions of dollars, and it's unclear how long it will take to balance the ledger under what we would've paid for the current Cold War model of basing.
The second major risk is security. A lilypad model may be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, particularly during critical deployment times, because there are less forces at these bases to secure them and because they're more dispersed. Say what you will about the ponderous Cold War basing model -- it certainly left spare manpower with which to run force protection operations. Additionally, we will be throwing away generations of cooperation with the German polizei and South Korean national police. I know first-hand just how valuable these relationships can be for passing criminal intelligence and preventing future threat operations.
The third risk is political -- this plan may not fly in Congress. There are a myriad of reasons why Congress may torpedo this plan. In theory, the members should embrace it -- more bases = more money in their districts. But there may be significant disruption too, especially if DoD proposes to cut some stateside bases in order to make this plan work. (Schumpeter would probably justify that as "creative destruction", but it's still a tough sell politically.) Also, the purchases of C-17 and C-5 aircraft will be hard to get through Congress unless the Pentagon kills other costly projects to offset the multi-billion cost of buying more strategic lift. While I personally think that's a good trade, it's going to be a very tough fight politically.
Update I: The Pentagon tried to spin this issue as uncertain today, and still subject to a great deal of change. In a press conference, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld backed off the story as reported by The Post, putting things in a much less categorical way. Here's an excerpt from the Q&A:
Q. My question is, under the proposed realignment of forces that you advocate and the Pentagon is sending up to the White House, there is talk about moving troops out of Europe and moving them to Central Asia and taking down -- going down some forces in the Pacific. But there's nothing in there that we know about, about possibly withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea. Would you like to withdraw U.S. forces? If so, how many and when?And there's more, specifically related to the realignment of forces in Korea and what that might do to the strategic balance there--
Q. Would you tell us, sir, how it will affect the security of South Korea against the military threat from North Korea?Analysis: I happen to agree with the Secretary here; you don't want to do things that tip the strategic scales in the wrong direction simply for the sake of efficiency. Korea is a special place, and there are smart operational planners in the Pentagon who understand the balance of terror there as well as I do. Even though South Korea may have 1/2 million men under arms, it still needs us for symbolic and political protection, if not actual combat power. And we should be careful in pursuing this strategy too quickly, because haste will undermine old alliances and create opportunities for our enemies.