Thursday, July 31, 2003
Another casualty in the DARPA wars, part II
John Poindexter isn't the real reason DARPA programs keep dying
After being scooped by the Wall Street Journal (see below), the New York Times catches up with this report by Eric Schmitt on Poindexter's resignation, based on a background briefing from an anonymous senior defense official.
"It's fair to say that the secretary understood what Admiral Poindexter understands, which is that it's difficult for any work that he might be associated with to receive a dispassionate hearing,'' said the official, who spoke to a group of reporters at the Pentagon today on the condition of anonymity.Huh? That's like the classic Rumsfeld-ism that the absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence. (Tell that to a judge on a summary judgment motion and you're toast.) Frankly though, I'm not sure that Poindexter is the issue here. Even if PAM fell outside the purview of his DARPA IAO shop, the project would still have been dead on arrival in the Senate.
Why's that? Because the real issue here isn't John Poindexter -- it's the deep mistrust of the Bush Administration on issues of civil liberties that runs through American society like a cold stream. Since Sept. 11, the administration has leaned really far forward in its foxhole on issues of liberty and security, and I think the American people are a little spooked. Part of this owes to a successful campaign by the ACLU and others to frame these issues as a choice between liberty and security; part of it owes to deep divisions in American society over the Bush Administration itself. But in general, I think that DARPA's projects fail because the American people simply don't trust the administration to try anything that might further affect the balance between liberty and security.
Let's be honest -- few people actually understand how Total Information Awareness, LifeLog, Genoa, or the Policy Analysis Market will actually work. These are very complex programs that are mostly still in the conceptual stage. Even without knowing those details, people find themselves opposed to these programs. I have seen among my friends in Santa Monica a visceral reaction to these programs -- even after I explained their details. I think this all traces back to trust.
Bottom Line: the Bush Administration no longer has the trust of the American people when it comes to civil liberties. This is the "blowback" from the administration's aggressive stance towards anti-terrorism since Sept. 11. The administration aggressively implemented a long list of anti-terrorism laws and policies, including:
- The USA PATRIOT Act
- The Homeland Security Act
- Military commissions
- The presidential power to designate "enemy combatants" and hold them indefinitely without counsel
- Detention of 600 combatants at Guantanamo without Geneva Convention protection
- Broader surveillance powers under FISA
- Use of the "material witness" statute to detain citizens
- Use of immigration laws to detain and deport U.S. residents
Right or wrong, I think the public perception is that these measures collectively encroach on American civil liberties. At some point, the administration had to have known that the American public would say "Enough!" That day has come. Until the administration regains the public trust on these issues, the American people and their legislators are going to torpedo every DARPA program that leaves the Pentagon.
Congratulations: Donald Sensing at One Hand Clapping has something to be very proud of: his son enlisted yesterday in the U.S. Marine Corps. Don has an MPEG video of the event posted on his weblog. As a retired military officer, Don was able to actually administer the oath of enlistment to his son, which must have been a proud moment. (My parents pinned my 2LT bars on me in June 1997, and I will never forget how that felt)
Trigger pullers and video games
Noah Shachtman has this interesting article in Wired about the military's decision to buy video games for soldiers stationed overseas. The move is driven largely by morale considerations, but is also geared towards the generation of young men and women now serving in uniform.
Just out of high school, thousands of miles from friends and parents, and isolated by language and culture from the people around them, young airmen stationed on a U.S. Air Force base in Europe can find life pretty lonely.
Another casualty in the DARPA wars
First Total Information Awareness; then the Policy Analysis Market -- now John Poindexter. The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports on A2 today that the retired Admiral and Iran-Contra figure will leave the Pentagon's DARPA team within the next several weeks. His resignation comes as Congressmembers on both sides of the aisle took the Pentagon to task for even conceiving of a "betting parlor" for terrorism.
John Poindexter , director of the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or Darpa, is expected to resign in a matter of weeks, a senior Defense Department official said. The office sought $8 million from Congress to help a private group set up a Policy Analysis Market as a way to provide the Defense Department with "market-based techniques for avoiding surprise and predicting future events."How's this for irony? CNN/Money reports that you can now speculate on John Poindexter's future in at least one global market.
What are the chances that Poindexter is still around at the end of next month? About 70 percent according to the Poindexter contract that began being traded on Dublin-based futures exchange Tradesports. Yep, Poindexter is about to serve as an example of how accurately a futures market can predict future events -- the very idea that he was espousing.I don't know if this is anything more than a glorified office pool -- no different from betting on the NCAA championship or when a co-worker's family might have their next child. But economists are convinced that markets can be harnessed for decisional purposes, as a quantification of collective intelligence and rational-choice. Maybe, but I'm not convinced yet.
Wednesday, July 30, 2003
A tough break for Gulf War I POWs
U.S. District Judge Richard W. Roberts handed a defeat today to 17 American POWs from the first Gulf War who sought to attach Iraqi assets currently held by the U.S. government. (Thanks to How Appealing for the link) The decision seemed like the only option for Judge Roberts as a matter of law, but he made his distaste for the outcome clear in his opinion:
Plaintiffs immediately offered to compromise their awards in an effort to settle the case amicably with their government which they had served so well and for which they honorably endured severe torture. It was an unrequited gesture. According to the government, the President has the authority to designate a variety of assets seized from Iraq as available for satisfying the compensatory awards to the POW torture victims, but has not chosen to do so. Instead, the Secretary argues that he is entitled to summary judgment on plaintiffs' TRIA claim because Congress in a supplemental appropriations bill authorized the President to make TRIA inapplicable to Iraq, and because the President in a Presidential Determination issued May 7, 2003, exercised that authority.This decision looks like the legally correct outcome, but I don't think Judge Roberts thought it was the right outcome. Unfortunately, that can't change the law, and you can't win an appeal on the basis of sentimentality when the law's against you. This appears to be one case where the right outcome and the legal outcome don't quite match up.
Update: The Washington Post reports today that these ex-POWs have no plans for surrender after their temporary setback in the D.C. District Court.
Attorneys for the POWs called the decision "incredibly disappointing" and said they would immediately appeal it to the U.S. Court of Appeals.
ACLU challenges USA PATRIOT Act in federal court
The AP reports that the American Civil Liberties Union has filed a challenge to the continued use of Section 215 of the USA PATRIOT Act in a Detroit federal court. This section broadens the authority of the Justice Department to request documents, library records, and other items about persons connected to foreign intelligence or criminal investigations. It has been the subject of much controversy since the passage of the act in Oct. 2001. The ACLU argues that this provision runs afoul of the Constitution. The suit asks the U.S. District Court to permanently enjoin the Justice Department from using Sec. 215; here's an excerpt:
153. Section 215 violates the Fourth Amendment by authorizing the FBI to execute searches without criminal or foreign intelligence probable cause.First off, there are a lot of hurdles this suit must pass in order to get in the door of a federal court. The federal judiciary can choose to avoid disputes for any number of reasons -- jurisdiction, abstention doctrines, mootness, standing, ripeness, etc. The ACLU is essentially suing on behalf of an amorphous group of individuals who may have been injured. The lawsuit itself admits that it does not know of any Constitutional violations under Sec. 215 because of the secretive nature of the violations themselves. This is a Catch-22 situation, because Sec. 215 prohibits disclosure of searches to the targets of those searches, or to anyone else. The ACLU's complaint does set forth statements by AG Ashcroft and others that Sec. 215 has, in fact, been used in various criminal cases. But I still think these jurisdictional and jurisprudential obstacles will be very hard to get over in this case.
Furthermore, the District Court may decline jurisdiction because matters under the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act ("FISA") belong to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court. Moreover, the FISA Court of Review has exclusive appelalte jurisdiction over FISA issues, and that body which decided last year that several parts of the USA PATRIOT Act were constitutional. The Supreme Court declined a request by the ACLU to review this decision.
Whatever the outcome, this is going to be a really interesting skirmish in the battle over the USA PATRIOT Act. I suspect that neither side will back down until the Supreme Court rules on the matter, and that may take years.
Recommended reading from RAND
The RAND Corporation -- a private think-tank that does the bulk of its work for the Defense Department -- has put out two outstanding and timely pieces of research that deserve a look. RAND has also recently put its incredible terrorism database online, in a way that's accessible to the public.
- America's Role in Nation-Building: From Germany to Iraq. Abstract: "In Iraq, the United States is facing its most challenging nation-building project since the 1940s. The authors draw lessons from seven case studies—Germany, Japan, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan—then apply these to the Iraq case. The results suggest that nation-building will be difficult but possible. Success will, however, require investing sufficient financial, military, and political resources—and time." Hmmm... sounds eerily familiar, doesn't it?
- New Challenges, New Tools for Defense Decisionmaking. "The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War—and then the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001—transformed the task of American foreign and defense policymaking. This book outlines the dimensions of that transformation and sketches new tools for dealing with the policy challenges—from modeling and gaming, to planning based on capabilities rather than threats, to personnel planning and making use of "best practices" from the private sector." This book surveys some of the most current thinking out there on how to best plan for the defense sector. I'm not sure all these ideas are right, but they're certainly provocative and worth reading.
- The RAND-MIPT Terrorism Incident Database. The RAND Corporation has finally put its outstanding database on terrorism incidents online. "The MIPT Terrorism Database System acts as a "one-stop shopping place" where authorized users can go online to find comprehensive information and intelligence on terrorism. . . . The system includes two RAND databases, the RAND Terrorism Chronology Database and the RAND-MIPT Terrorism Incident Database. The RAND Terrorism Chronology Database records international terrorist incidents that occurred between 1968 and 1997, while the RAND-MIPT Terrorism Incident Database records domestic and international terrorist incidents occurred from 1998 to present."
Alright... so it's a pretty wonkish list. But I guarantee you'll come away from reading this stuff well informed, if not well entertained. If you do choose to read these two books, you may also want to order a copy of Harry Potter for balance.
An organized enemy or a decentralized enemy?
Which one is better for U.S. forces fighting a guerilla war in Iraq?
Mickey Kaus raises that issue in his Slate column, and I think he's right on target. The question has come up in relation to the shape of the enemy we face today in Iraq. Some have argued that we currently face a hierarhical, coordinated enemy force that is choosing to fight us by means of guerilla warfare. I think the evidence points more towards a loosely organized network of guerillas that share common goals, but no recognizable command structure. Fareed Zakaria of Newsweek agrees, as this transcript from This Week shows, but I disagree with him about the implications of this conclusion.
[M]y sense is that the resistance is also getting less centralized and more sporadic, which is the crucial issue because clearly we are facing guerrilla operations but this is not a guerrilla war because you do not have the same kind of central control. If you think of the Vietnam analogy, which many people are foolishly making, that was the case where you had an inexhaustible supply of people, long supply lines into North Vietnam and the guerrillas were being helped by not just the north Vietnamese government but two superpowers, China and Russia. None of that applies here. Here you have isolated bands of Fedayeen who kind of decide let's look at this road and see if you -find Americans coming down, take them out. Terrible tragedy but a very different circumstance. ... [snip] By and large the attacks do not seem to have the character of an organized resistance in the sense they're not advancing any objectives and finally, frankly, I mean, the people I've talked to say there's absolutely no, within the Pentagon, say there is absolutely no evidence that it's centrally directed.Zakaria's right about the threat, but wrong about the implications. Mickey has some great thoughts on this, but I'd like to offer another reason why Zakaria's conclusion is off. It's clear that these two organizational models present *different* threats, but it's not clear what threat is better for U.S. forces. I would argue that a networked, decentralized enemy is far more dangerous for American forces than a hierarchically organized enemy, regardless of what our experience was in Vietnam.
A bunch of folks at RAND and the Naval Postgrad School have done work on network-centric warfare that looks at the implications of decentralized, network organizations in the conduct of warfare. The general conclusion is that it takes a network to fight a network. (See, e.g., the work by John Arquilla and Bruce Hoffman in particular) If this is true, this is very bad for the U.S., because our command structure is anything but a network. The U.S. military command structure is incredibly structured and hierarchical, and this handicaps us in many ways (beyond the scope of this note) for dealing with agile, flexible, decentralized, networked threats.
Similarly, our homeland security apparatus is bureaucratized and hierarchical in a way that hobbles it. I hate to keep beating the John Boyd "OODA Loop" horse, but this is the best framework for understanding the core problem. That core problem is this: how can a large, cumbersome, heavily regulated, bureaucracy like the DHS (or DoJ or DoD) respond to an agile, flexible, small, decentralized, networked, innovate threat like Al Qaeda? Answer: it really can't.
A decentralized enemy that fights from many different directions with loose coordination is precisely the kind of threat we are not organized to defeat. We may be able to do so with brute force and ignorance, but doing so will be quite costly.
More to follow on the implications of network-centric warfare for the war in Iraq and the war on terrorism...
Senate panel throws Pentagon official on the barbie, so to speak
The Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post both report the "grilling" of Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz yesterday by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Frustrated by American progress in Iraq and upset by obfuscation on the part of Wolfowitz and Undersecretary of State Josh Bolton, several senators engaged in pointed exchanges with the two men in the open committee meeting. Here's a sample of the discourse from the LA Times:
Sen. Joseph R. Biden Jr. of Delaware, the ranking Democrat on the committee, twice got into heated exchanges with Wolfowitz over the question of how much the Iraq operation is costing.Here's a sample of what the Washington Post reported:
"I agree with the rest of the members of this committee that I think you, Mr. Bolten, should be more forthright in terms of what the costs are going to be so that we have some idea, and the American people [know], how long, how much," said Sen. George V. Voinovich (R-Ohio).Exactly. I've said this over and over. America is sacrificing a lot in Iraq on a daily basis. These sacrifices are not abstract; every casualty represents some American son or daughter with parents and friends in the communities from which they came. The Army's plan for Iraq calls for large numbers of National Guard soldiers to be mobilized, which equates to further sacrifice on the part of the American people. I don't think it's too much for these senators to ask:
- Why are we in Iraq?
- What will it cost to succeed in Iraq?
- What is the end state for our mission in Iraq?
- What is our plan to get to that end state, and how long might that plan take?
Enemy Combatants II
Today's Washington Post has the second article in a two-part series on law and terrorism -- this time on the case of alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla. The article discusses the Padilla case from the perspective of Padilla's lawyers, so it has some slant towards that perspective. Nonetheless, it does frame the legal issues correctly:
Court battles in these cases have centered on two primary questions. First, does the president have the constitutional authority to designate citizens suspected of terrorism as enemy combatants and hold them incommunicado, without charging them with crimes? So far, courts hearing the Hamdi and Padilla cases have ruled that he does, though the challenges continue.Issues of law and terrorism have been subject to a great amount of spin over the last two years since Sept. 11. To many, the issues have been reduced down to a deceptively simple balancing between "liberty" and "security". Unfortunately, it's not that easy. I highly recommend reading some of the original documents in these cases, such as Judge Michael Mukasey's December 2002 order in the Padilla case, for a greater understanding of how all the important issues play out in these cases. Findlaw.Com has built an incredible repository of documents on terrorism, and it's a great resource for this endeavor.
Tuesday, July 29, 2003
The threat of "enemy combatant" status
Prosecutors delegitimize this status by using it to extract plea bargains
Today's Washington Post has a really good article on the case of the "Lackawanna Six" -- six men that pled guilty to providing support to Al Qaeda and attending terror raining camps in Afghanistan. As someone who teaches and writes on issues of law and terrorism, my eyes got wide when I read the piece of the story describing the tactics used by the government to get the plea bargain:
Why would six of their young men so readily agree to plead guilty to terror charges, accepting long prison terms far from home?This is not an isolated incident. On June 22, I wrote about another instance of the government using this tactic to extract a guilty plea from a defendant in federal court. The New York Times reported this in their story about alleged Al Qaeda operative Iyman Faris, who was accused of plotting to blow up the Brooklyn Bridge.
Prosecutors said Mr. Faris traveled in Afghanistan and Pakistan beginning in 2000, meeting with Osama bin Laden and working with one of his top lieutenants, Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, to help organize and finance jihad causes. After returning to the United States in late 2002, officials said, he began casing the Brooklyn Bridge and discussing via coded messages with Qaeda leaders ways of using blowtorches to sever the suspension cables.Analysis: There are several implications for this kind of behavior for the government:
The first is that it really does extend the threat of "enemy combatant" status to a broader segment of the population than was previously thought. When the men at Guantanamo were labeled enemy combatants, we could rationalize it by saying "They were picked up in Afghanistan, on a battlefield, with some plausible connection to the war on terrorism." When men like Jose Padilla were so designated, we could arguably say he was an enemy guerilla seeking to wage war on the streets of America. But when we start to see men charged in federal court, treated as civilians by the system, and then threatened with this status, I think it casts doubt on the protections afforded to those in the criminal justice system.
Second, I think this delegitimizes the label of "enemy combatant" itself. That term has tremendous weight in court. The government is arguing in the Hamdi and Padilla cases that it should not even be questioned by the courts about this designation. Yet, the government casually uses this label as a threat in cases where the defendants are being charged in civilian court.
Third, the casual use of "enemy combatant" status will hurt the government as it tries to win the trust of the American population. A lot has been written about the proper balance between liberty and security since Sept. 11. It takes political capital to pass measures like the USA PATRIOT Act and Homeland Security Act, and it will take more political capital to pass future anti-terrorism laws. That political capital is built on a foundation of trust between the people and the government; that the people trust the government to abuse their liberty in the name of security. I think the average American will see this story and think the government is abusing its public trust, and going too far in its war on terrorism at the expense of civil liberties.
Update: An informed reader writes with a link to a story in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) from April 2003 reporting this same story about the Lackawanna Six. When something appears in the New York Times, Washington Post, and Wall Street Journal (papers which lean to the left, center and right, respectively), you can pretty much take it as true. Scot Paltrow adds an interesting dimension to this story that I hadn't considered:
In the Lackawanna case, there were indications that the government's case wasn't as strong as officials in Washington had characterized it after the arrests. The government had called the arrests a major victory in the fight against terrorism. But Michael A. Battle, the U.S. attorney in Buffalo, confirmed the government has found no evidence the defendants were involved in any violent plot.A similar issue came up in the John Walker Lindh case, where U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III held that the material support statute (18 U.S.C. 2339b) did not unconstitutionally infringe on Lindh's rights. But Lindh did a lot more than merely attend a training camp -- he admitted to carrying weapons and explosives as part of the Taliban. Jess Bravin reported at the time of Lindh's plea bargain that this threat was made in his case as well, and that it was probably a factor in Lindh's decision to plead guilty in exchange for a 20-year sentence.
Lawyers in the case said informal talks about a plea bargain began six weeks ago, and that the defense initially proposed a 10-year sentence. President Bush approved a 20-year term Thursday. The two sides spent the weekend hammering out the particulars, and signed off on the terms around 1 a.m. Monday.Final Thoughts: It's not clear how the courts will treat 18 U.S.C. 2339b when it comes before them. First, some defendant has to challenge the government and not be carted off to a military brig as an enemy combatant. Second, the defendant will need to overcome all of the judicial deference issues which have dominated the major terrorism cases to date. Third, the challenge will need to be made on the right facts -- someone who purely provided nominal material support to a terrorist organization, such as speech or advocacy on their behalf.
Had the Lackawanna Six not pled guilty, they might have been the first defendants to take this issue up through the courts. But the issue for these six men is now moot.
Interesting stories at DefenseTech
Noah Shachtman has some great stuff at his site this morning, including:
- An excerpt from his Wired news article on LifeLog, a Pentagon project which would create a system capable of recording everything you see, hear, sense, and know. The object is a personal digital assistant capable of supporting field commanders and bolstering their memories. But the implications resemble a cross between Total Recall and Minority Report...
- A note on the Pentagon's new policy analysis market project -- also run by DARPA, the folks who brought you the Internet, Total Information Awareness, and Lifelog. My first reaction to this was that it was absurd. But Noah has some interesting links on the subject, including some economics studies that lend credibility to the effort.
Update: CNN reports that the Pentagon has cancelled its "terrorism betting parlor" project.
Still not enough troops to do the job right
Retired General Barry McCaffrey argues in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that we need to bolster America's military by quite a bit in order to meet our current global commitments. McCaffrey's no amateur at this stuff -- he commanded the 24th Infantry Division in Gulf War I, and after retiring with 4 stars, served as President Clinton's drug czar. You also can't dismiss McCaffrey as a "liberal critic" who wants to see us fail in Iraq -- a brush which has been used by some (e.g. Ann Coulter) to tar moderate and liberal politicians on this issue. In blunt language, he writes that we don't have the resources to get the job done.
Right now, U.S. active and reserve force-structure of infantry, military police, civil affairs, special operations, aviation and field logistics formations are inadequate. Contractors and allies (now a tiny 7% of the coalition supporting the effort) can mitigate some of the burden in Iraq. And if everything goes to plan, an additional 40,000 allies, organized in three multinational divisions, will be on the ground in Iraq by September. But we should be skeptical about their military effectiveness, independent funding, and logistics support. The only long-term solution is to create a well-trained and -equipped Iraqi police, civil defense corps, border guards, army and contract security force. L. Paul Bremer, chief administrator, and Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, commander of U.S. ground forces, are seized of this effort. We must see to it that they have the cash, equipment and training resources required for the mission.McCaffrey's plan is to mobilize an extra 7 National Guard brigades on top of the 2 included in Gen. Keane's rotation plan. After those reservists demobilize at the end of a 1-year tour, McCaffrey would keep those "units" on active duty, but man them with additional soldiers recruited/trained in the intervening year. It's a viable concept, but it's also one that would cost a lot of money. This plan would also take congressional approval, since the end strength of the military is limited each year by the National Defense Authorization Act. This may be the right answer -- but it will require tough choices (e.g. missile defense funding vs. troops) and hardball politics to make it happen.
Monday, July 28, 2003
Update on 3ID decision to remove embedded reporters
Fred Kaplan writes in Slate that this move may be one of the first public signs that the Bush Administration knows things are going badly in Iraq. (The other sign is an attempt to enlist James Baker as the new proconsul for Iraq.) I wrote on this decision by MG Buford Blount last week, after seeing the news in the European Stars & Stripes:
On Monday, the 3rd ID commander, Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, decided to stop allowing reporters to spend time with his troops, other than to gather information for pre-approved “news features,” according to an e-mail response from Lt. Col. Birmingham, 3rd ID spokesman in Baghdad.Fred Kaplan thinks something is rotten in the E-Ring, and I think he's right. In his Slate piece, he implies that the Bush Administration sees saturating media coverage as a hindrance to further nation-building efforts. In short, too much coverage of casualties, adverse conditions, unfriendly locals, and griping soldiers may hurt American resolve to persevere in the face of all that adversity.
Now, however, the story has turned sour, to the point where two soldiers with the 3rd I.D., who had grown all too accustomed to talking freely with the press, publicly lambasted not just the brass but the political bosses—on network television, faces exposed, names on the record—in startlingly stark language. One of the soldiers told ABC News, "If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I'd ask him for his resignation." The other said, "I've got my own 'Most Wanted' list. … The Aces in my deck are Paul Bremer, Donald Rumsfeld, George Bush, and Paul Wolfowitz."There's some irony to this... The most pro-military coverage of the war -- arguably of the last decade -- came from the reporters who were embedded with the troops on the march to Baghdad. Even when covering bad news, like the shooting of Iraqi civilians at a checkpoint, the embedded reporters generally told the story from a grunt's perspective in a way that would make their parents proud. The most skeptical coverage came from the rear, from reporters at HQ in Kuwait or further back in Washington.
Removing the embedded reporters is likely to result in less "candid camera" moments for our troops in the field. (No more quotes asking for the SecDef's resignation) But it may result in a more negative spin in general for the military. That would be ironic, given the reasons the administration has for removing the embedded reporters from 3ID.
Congratulations to Joe Doherty and his colleague Lynn Lopucki of UCLA Law School for their research on bankruptcy which earned them this mention in the Hearsay column of The Washington Post.
According to researchers at the UCLA School of Law, bankruptcy costs for the largest U.S. companies in Chapter 11 reorganization have dropped 57 percent in real dollars since the 1980s. But the length of time that cases are in bankruptcy has decreased almost as much -- 50 percent -- which the researchers say roughly correlates with the drop in costs.
Notes on the offense of treason
Stop the Bleating, another military/legal affairs blog, has a great note today on the history of the treason clause in the U.S. Constitution. Matt takes on the thorny issue of whether you can prosecute someone for espousing views that might amount to treasonous speech, whatever that may be. He concludes:
. . . I'm not entirely sure that we need to resort to any new rules of law to resolve the issue that Bell identifies. You see, in my own research on the topic I came to the realization that the overarching purpose of the Treason Clause was primarily to protect peaceful political dissent. But we have something in the Constitution now that wasn't present when the Clause was enacted, and it protects such dissent quite well. It's called the First Amendment, and I think it may be up to the task of dealing with situations like the Al Qaeda Al scenario that Bell proposes.
Going on the offensive
Tom Ricks has an outstanding piece in today's Washington Post, which he wrote from Iraq where he is currently reporting on the Army's 4th Infantry Division. The piece assesses the latest campaign by American forces to quash the Iraqi insurgency. Using a mix of unconventional tactics and intelligence-driven operations, American forces appear to be winning some significant victories -- but at a cost. The whole story's worth reading for an understanding of what's going on over there right now.
Despite their losses, Army officers and soldiers asserted that they are making solid gains in this region, where most of the fighting has taken place and where about half the 150,000 U.S. troops in the country are posted.Update: Mark Kleiman, a UCLA professor who I know and respect, thinks this is unethical conduct -- and possibly unlawful under the laws of war.
Mark (with an assist from Atrios) cites to Art. 75 of Protocol I to the Geneva Convention, as his support for the contention that this is unlawful. Unfortunately, the U.S. has not signed Protocol I, and thus cannot be bound by it by the conventions of positivistic international law.
Of course, that's just a legal footnote about Protocol I. The U.S. did sign the 4th Geneva Convention of 1949, and it explicitly precludes hostage taking in armed conflict:
Art. 34. The taking of hostages is prohibited.There is also a norm of international law known as "distinction" -- which literally means distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants. This principle would probably preclude the kind of conduct conducted by COL Hogg in Iraq, since the Iraqi Lt. Gen.'s family members are unquestionably non-combatants.
Doing what's unlawful is one thing; doing something which is counter-productive is quite another. We're trying to rebuild Iraq as a kinder, gentler place -- a nation that contributes to regional stability, economic growth, personal liberty, etc. To accomplish our mission, we need to win the Iraqis' hearts and minds. Kidnapping the wives and daughters of our adversaries is not a way to win hearts and minds -- it's a way to squeeze their private parts. This is the kind of tactic that can backfire, bigtime. Especially if your opponent is willing to go a step further in his atrocities than you.
America's finest sons and daughters
Ruth Voshell Stonesifer writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer this morning about her son -- Kristofor Stonesifer -- who was killed in combat during the first days of combat in Afghanistan. Her essay discusses some of the reasons her son went to war, and some of her feelings since his death in 2001.
My son was a quiet and thoughtful patriot. When I questioned him about Sept. 11, while he was still at Fort Benning, Ga., and before he went overseas, he spoke only about his fellow Army Rangers chomping at the bit to right the wrongs perpetrated on America that day. But Kris expressed no such zeal.Steve Lopez, one of the Los Angeles Times' best columnists, also writes today about the mother of a soldier killed in combat.
Evan Ashcraft was killed last week. He was 24 and an Army sergeant in the 101st Airborne Division. When his mother invited me to visit with her, she had only one purpose. She wanted to honor her boy, and to put a human face to the daily tally of casualties.Thoughts... I think the essential question is precisely "Was this for a good cause?" America has sacrificed a great number of its sons and daughters on the fields of Iraq for some cause -- whether it's WMD, regional stability, prevention of terrorism, oil, humanitarian goals, or something else. Some people have questioned the efforts of reporters (such as Josh Marshall) in seeking out the truth about the Bush Administration's casus belli -- our reason for going to war with Iraq. I don't think such queries are misplaced. If we are going to send our finest sons and daughters into harm's way, then we deserve to know as a nation the reasons for doing so.
The lawfulness of killing in war
John Yoo, a UC Berkeley law professor who recently served as a political appointee in the Justice Department, opines in the Weekly Standard that there is no reason to wring our hands over the killing of Saddam's sons. This essay is one of the better ones I've seen on the subject. It concisely sums up the law and states why no legal problem exists with last week's targeted killing of the two Hussein men.
No law prohibits the targeting of specific enemy leaders in war. Assassination is different: the murder of a public figure for political reasons. The murders of Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, and Abraham Lincoln were assassinations. By contrast, the killing of the enemy in combat is protected by the laws of war. As Hugo Grotius, the father of international law, observed in 1646, "It is permissible to kill an enemy." Legitimate military targets include not just foot soldiers, but the command and control structure of an enemy's military, leading up to its commander in chief.
Assessment: women in combat
A semi-official after-after review of Gulf War II has concluded that women performed effectively in combat, after a decade of policy changes that opened up a myriad of opportunities close to the front lines. Women in all four services saw combat in Iraq, whether as helicopter pilots, MPs, chemical warfare specialists, or logisticians. Anthony Cordesman, now a professor at CSIS, wrote the study, which says:
Women made up roughly 15 percent of U.S. military forces during the Iraq War, ranging from a high of 19 percent in the Air Force to 6 percent in the Marines. The number of women in high-risk jobs increased strikingly compared to those in the Gulf War, although women are still barred from ground combat positions. Perhaps the most striking aspect of this change is that there are no meaningful reports of gender problems in combat or high riskpositions. While scarcely unexpected, this experience is a further refutation of the arguments that women cannot perform such duties or will disrupt operations in wartime.Analysis: Notwithstanding the ordeal of PFC Jessica Lynch, I think this conclusion is right on. In general, women performed effectively in the gulf, proving the wisdom behind the policy changes in the 1990s that opened more combat and combat-support roles to women. I wrote about this in December 2002 in the Washington Monthly, saying essentially the same thing as Cordesman.
Indeed, if mixed-gender units perform as they have in the California desert--and in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, and Afghanistan--it would strengthen the integrationist trend in several ways. The least likely possibility would be the elimination of all rules barring women from full combat service, from special forces to light infantry. But even if this were to happen, surveys suggest that only a small number of women would apply. And only a fraction of those who do would have the physical ability and fortitude to make it through, say, the crucible of Army ranger school, from which a majority of qualified men wash out before graduation.Bottom Line: Women went to the gulf, they fought, and they did as well as the men they served with. Today's military is a remarkably diverse organization, and it knows how to build cohesive winning teams regardless of the backgrounds of the soldiers in those units. Male, female, black, white, brown -- it makes no difference. Everyone wears green (or desert camo), and that's what counts.
Sunday, July 27, 2003
LANCE WINS HIS FIFTH CONSECUTIVE TOUR DE FRANCE!
Lance Armstrong, the gifted athlete who battled testicular cancer and won, added a fifth consecutive Tour De France title to his long list of accomplishments today. This tour was tougher for Lance than previous ones. He faced fatigue, dehydration, French citizens, crashes, and near wipeout during the grueling 2,130-mile race. But in the end, his experience and endurance enabled him to win the race, supported by the strong U.S. Postal Service team. Lance already ranks with the best American athletes of all time -- Jim Thorpe, Jackie Robinson, Bruce Jenner, Mark Spitz -- to name a few. But this title puts him in the rarefied ranks of cycling. Only one man (Miguel Indurain) has ever won 5 consecutive Tour De France titles.
Maybe Lance will go for six?
Friday, July 25, 2003
More on the impact of killing Odai and Qusai Hussein
Speaking by video teleconference from Iraq, 4th Infantry Division commander MG Ray Odierno said today that the killing of Saddam Hussein's two sons in Mosul on Monday had little practical effect on the threat he was seeing arrayed against him.
Q: General, Eric Schmitt with the New York Times. What's been the effect of your region in the last few days since the deaths of the two Hussein sons? What impact has it seen in your area?Analysis: This sounds very similar to what I wrote on Tuesday. I opined that America would not see a significant dropoff in guerilla attacks because Odai and Qusai probably spent more time hiding than exercising command and control over insurgents. Moreover, the evidence tends to indicate a loosely connected network of guerillas in Iraq -- not a hierarchical organization controlled by former Saddam henchmen. Ultimately, I think the killing of these two men will probably have a marginally positive effect on our operations in Iraq, but not a large one. MG Odierno agrees:
. . . What I would say is -- to comment on that -- I think there will be more of a long-term effect. It's very important that this operation occurred and that we have shown them that no one of the old regime's going to survive. And I think it's going to have a long- term effect. It will take a little bit of time. Might take months, might take weeks, might take three months, four months, but it's going to have an effect overall on the overall outcome. But I have seen no immediate impact based on the specific attacks.Sounds like a very prudent commander, and one that I'm glad we have over there. Taking these men out was the right thing to do, but it's not the end of our mission in Iraq. We must continue to persevere, to take the offensive, in order to prevail over the guerillas who aim to thwart our goals in Iraq.
3ID commander orders an end to media embedding
In response to the controversy this month surrounding some out-of-school comments by his soldiers to the media, MG Buford Blount has put the 3rd Infantry Division "off limits" to embedded reporters from the states, according to Lisa Burgess in the European Stars & Stripes. The move appears to be calculated to reduce troop contact with the media, giving them a chance to blow off steam without having their comments picked up by a journalist and transmitted around the world. This move comes after one soldier candidly told an ABC News reporter: "If Donald Rumsfeld was here, I’d ask him for his resignation."
On Monday, the 3rd ID commander, Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, decided to stop allowing reporters to spend time with his troops, other than to gather information for pre-approved “news features,” according to an e-mail response from Lt. Col. Birmingham, 3rd ID spokesman in Baghdad.It would be a shame if the "media embedding experiment" ended on such a low note after the second Gulf War. For the most part, I think this experiment worked very well. It gave the American public a grunt's eye glimpse of the war and exposed a generation of reporters to the military. If anything, media embedding created problems because news reports from the field were largely positive, and most media did not offset that coverage with quality analysis from the rear. (The Washington Post is the notable exception to this criticism)
Nonetheless, this may be the right thing to do now, with so many media "flooding the zone" in Iraq to find stories of disenchantment and quagmire. Our soldiers need to blow off some stress, and they don't need a reporter embedded in their unit to hear them do that. Furthermore, there's nothing preventing a reporter from covering the news as a "unilateral" in Baghdad or any other part of Iraq -- they don't need to be embedded anymore.
Was it legal to take out Saddam's sons?
Corollary: was it legal to show their post-mortem photos?
Slate provides an excellent explainer on this subject, citing to Executive Order 12333 and other relevant authority on the subject. The basic answer is "yes -- it was legal to kill Odai and Qusai Hussein". The legal analysis boils down to one question: were these political leaders, or military leaders? Political leaders (e.g. Yassir Arafat) cannot be killed because it would be an assassination. Military leaders (e.g. Admiral Yamamoto in WWII) can be killed lawfully in wartime. Whether Odai and Qusai were military or political targets is a matter of argument, but I think the administration is on firm ground in saying that they were not legitimate political leaders now, after the fall of the Hussein regime.
During wartime, it is generally acceptable to attack figures who are involved in military operations, and it is widely believed that Odai and Qusai were helping to coordinate resistance to the American occupation. As long as the brothers weren't killed by treacherous means—say, by luring them to a peace conference, then shooting them—they are legitimate targets. A close parallel is the 1943 killing of Japanese Adm. Isoruku Yamamoto, who planned the attack on Pearl Harbor. When U.S. aircraft* ambushed his plane, Yamamoto was the mission's sole target. However, because the admiral oversaw military operations against the United States at the time, the killing is generally not considered to have been an assassination.The Slate explainer goes on to tackle a more pressing issue: the legitimacy of our decision to publish photos of the two men's corpses.
The military claims that the publication of Odai's and Qusai's photos was necessary in order to prove to the Iraqi public that the pair were dead. But as Explainer noted in March, the Geneva Convention prohibits the public airing of pictures that might humiliate a combatant—the same justification the United States used to object to broadcasting interrogations of American POWs.As a matter of law, the Third Geneva Convention does indeed prohibit anything that would expose POWs to "public curiousity". Of course, one can argue that these were corpses, not POWs, and that at no time were they alive and in the custody of the United States. Some have also suggested that the U.S. might have given the bodies and photos to the Iraqis for dissemination -- or for public display as was done for Mussolini when he was killed. Though that may technically sidestep the Geneva Convention problem, I think it's still wrong. Using our agents and surrogates to do our dirty work is not a good answer. Furthermore, doing so would make the Iraqi "government" look more like our puppet.
The Moral Dimension of War: We've dealt with this issue in other contexts, such as the "rendering" of captured suspects over to allies (like Pakistan) for interrogation, or the use of foreign interrogators in American detention facilities to do things that our guys can't do. Those things don't sit well with the American public, let alone the international human rights community. And I'm not sure that the marginal gains are worth the loss in political capital and moral capital.
One of John Boyd's ideas that really intrigued me was his perspective on the moral dimension of war. I think this is one of the defining characteristics of 4th Generation Warfare. If you can define the moral dimensions of a conflict and the norms/rules of conflict, you can dominate it. To date, we have been able to do so by casting asymmetric means like terrorism and guerilla warfare in a negative light. But the more we employ unconventional tactics, and the more we step into the gray area of international law, the more we will cede the moral high ground to our opponents. I think it's something we need to be cognizant of.
Thursday, July 24, 2003
The Art of War
Jess Bravin has a fascinating piece in this morning's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) on the combat artists who accompanied allied forces in Iraq. These men went as soldiers first, artists second, and captured some incredible images of the war that simply transcend what photographers were able to capture.
Britain started the modern practice of appointing war artists in 1916. Hungry for propaganda to shore up the war effort, officials sent such leading painters as John Singer Sargent and Paul Nash to the front lines. Britain's World War I allies, including the U.S., Canada and Australia, followed suit with combat artists of their own.The Journal has one of the Marine Corps artists pencil sketches embedded in the story on its website, of a Marine cleaning his rifle in Kuwait while wearing chemical protective gear. The elegant simplicity of the sketch is quite powerful. I recommend reading this piece if you can, and looking for these artists' work over the next several months.
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In one note (see below), I excerpted parts of a story that altered the balance that the writer attempted to achieve between conflicting viewpoints. At the editor's request, I have posted the entire story in order to provide that balance. Normally, I would not post the entire text of a story because doing so would infringe on the copyright of the publication. However, I have received permission to do so in this case.
Finally, some of the publications I cite to include the notation (subscription required) after the link (such as the Wall Street Journal). That means that these journals require a subscription in order to see the full text of the article. I am typically more careful about borrowing text from these publications, since they have made a conscious decision to sell their content instead of giving it away online. If you want to read the full text, then I ask that you purchase a one-time subscription or general subscription. Good reporting is worth paying for.
Wednesday, July 23, 2003
Recruiting and retaining top talent in the FBI
Today's Los Angeles Times has a great Column One piece on their front page about the difficulties the FBI is facing with recruiting and retaining its best agents despite a meager salary scale. Unfortunately for all of us, the difficulties appear most acute in urban areas like Los Angeles, San Francisco and New York -- where the threat of terrorism is greatest.
While the FBI plays a lead role in the war on terrorism, many agents say they are waging a private battle against financial hardship. An outdated pay structure has left many agents struggling to make ends meet, especially in high-cost cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.Analysis: This problem is not unique to the FBI. Lots of public agencies are having difficulty with recruiting and retaining the best and brightest Americans they can. Nick Thompson had a great piece in the Washington Monthly on this issue in June. Federal judges (including Chief Justice Rehnquist) have also expressed their discontent with the federal salary structure. Although they're making as much money as any federal employee save the President, the differential between the pay for a federal judge and a private law firm partner can run into the thousands of dollars. This has been an issue for America's military as well, with an exodus of junior officers from all four services in the late-1990s due to chronic problems in the military and opportunities in the outside world. (This exodus has slowed somewhat due to world events, but it may resume when large units redeploy from overseas and "stop-loss" orders come off.)
So how do we encourage more public service? That's a really hard question. I'm not in favor of a draft, nor am I in favor of compulsory public service. However, I do think that we should create an opportunity-based system (like military enlistment) where young Americans can serve in various capacities in return for college scholarships, graduate-school scholarships, and other benefits.
In the age of terrorism, our lives depend on the FBI's abilities. The FBI's abilities, in turn, depend on the people it can recruit and retain. Given the importance of these agents to our national security, it may be wise to pursue some sort of housing allowance or cost-of-living offset for the agents we put in high-threat/high-cost areas like New York and Los Angeles.
Better terrorism intelligence -- or a longer OODA loop?
That's the question posed by members of Congress in today's Los Angeles Times. The Times reports that several lawmakers have taken the new "Terrorist Threat Intelligence Center" (TTIC) to task for being just another piece of bureaucracy instead of an effective clearinghouse for the gathering and analysis of intelligence.
The intelligence center, staffed by more than 100 agents from all three agencies as well as the State and Defense departments, was established to remedy a widely acknowledged failure of the CIA and the FBI to share critical intelligence in the months leading up to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.Analysis: These members of Congress are on to something, but they're not there yet. The central problem is this: how can the large, bureaucratic, federal security apparatus (DoD, CIA, DHS, DoJ, etc) compete with a nimble, agile, networked, flexible foe like Al Qaeda? How can it possibly react to intelligence reports fast enough to actually do something before a terrorist attack?
The best conceptual framework for this problem comes from the late-Col. John Boyd, whose ideas redefined military strategy over the last 4 decades. Boyd also developed the "Observe, Orient, Decide, Act" (OODA for short) model of military decisionmaking. He developed this model to map the competitive mental processes of fighter pilots in the Korean war, largely to explain why U.S. pilots did so much better with ostensibly inferior aircraft. The answer was that they had slightly more maneuverable aircraft, and better training, which enabled them to move through their OODA loop faster and react faster than their opponents. Though designed for 1-on-1 combat in the skies, the OODA loop can be used to illuminate almost any competitive endeavor, from corporate decisionmaking to warfighting.
In the context of terrorism, it provides the perfect framework for understanding the difficulties of the U.S. government in dealing with a threat like Al Qaeda. We now face a global terror network capable of rapid innovation and adaptation to our actions. They, in short, have a very tight OODA loop. It is imperative that we construct organizations capable of rapidly gathering intelligence on Al Qaeda, analyzing it, and exploiting it. The TTIC can be such an organization, if given the chance. But it must be embraced by its colleagues in DoD, DoJ and DHS, who ultimately must act to exploit the intelligence from TTIC.
Tuesday, July 22, 2003
U.S. confirms the death of Uday and Qusay Hussein -- now what?
The Washington Post (and others) report that American military officials in Baghdad have confirmed the deaths of Uday and Qusay Hussein -- sons of the former Iraqi dictator. The two men died after a fierce firefight with American infantry who surrounded a residence they had sought refuge in. After pounding that house with rifle, machine gun, and other fires, American infantry entered the building to find the two Husseins dead.
[Lt. Gen. Ricardo] Sanchez, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq, gave few details about the operation, but he said it lasted about six hours and involved troops from the Army's 101st Airborne Division, Special Forces and others. U.S. officials became aware of the location when a "walk-in" informant came to them last night and said that several high-ranking suspects could be found there.So what does this mean for our Iraqi endeavor? Well, it depends. If these two men were providing some of the command and control behind the ongoing guerilla attacks on American forces, then some of that activity may drop off, assuming they did not have a redundant command structure. However, it's not clear that these two men were directing those attacks, or doing anything other than trying to hide from American forces along with their father.
Optimism is good, but realism is better. We need to consider all possible scenarios in Iraq, including the possibility that the guerilla resistance we're seeing is not the result of a coordinated, shadow command structure led by Mr. Hussein or some other "Mr. Big". (American forces in Bosnia, Kosovo, Somalia, Haiti and Afghanistan have been predisposed to see this organized crime-style model even in the absence of evidence indicating its truth) It's very possible, given the diffuse locations and tactics of these guerillas, that we are seeing a loosely connected network of enemies in Iraq. If that's the case, then we may not see any drop at all from this latest success.
Bottom Line: The jury's still out on this one. This success may have some effect on the guerilla activity in Iraq, but I don't think we're going to see it disappear entirely anytime soon. Relentless pursuit of the Hussein regime (and Hussein himself) will help the infant government now forming, and add to the sense that the Hussein regime will never return to power. But it's hard to tell anything else with a great deal of certainty.
Did we plan for success in Iraq?
"Maybe," according to a report in today's USA Today, which mirrors a story in the Los Angeles Times last week. Barbara Slavin and Dave Moniz make the point that U.S. planning for post-war Iraq was less-than-stellar, largely due to faulty assumptions and group-think about what post-war Iraq would look like.
Baghdad fell just 21 days after the initial assaults, and military analysts describe the campaign as historic, even brilliant.Apparently, Bush Administration knew the post-war phase would be the toughest. The USA Today report notes the advice given by the Army's leadership -- former-SecArmy Tom White and retired-Gen. Eric Shinseki -- that the occupation would require "several hundred thousand" troops. The USA Today report also notes a National Security Council memo analyzing past nation-building operations and projecting a need for 500,000 troops for this one:
As late as February, barely a month before the war began, the question of how many troops to send to Iraq to stabilize the country after the war was unsettled, according to a high-ranking Defense Department official involved in the planning process.Shortly after American troops entered Baghdad, I wrote a piece similar to this memo in the Washington Monthly, arguing that our recent experience with nation-building should be a guide for doing it this time around.
The architects of the war might be forgiven for misgauging the number of troops required had the war come a dozen years ago, when the United States had little experience in modern nation-building. But over the course of the 1990s America gained some hard understanding, at no small cost. From Port-au-Prince to Mogadishu, every recent engagement taught the lesson we're now learning again in Iraq: America's high-tech, highly mobile military can scatter enemies which many times outnumber them, in ways beyond the wildest dreams of commanders just a generation ago. But it's not so easy to win the peace.So what's the bottom line? I think we can draw some conclusions from today's article, the LA Times article last Friday, and some of my writing.
(1) The U.S. knew what it would take to do the job right in Iraq, because of our recent experiences in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and Afghanistan. Indeed, our top officials knew what it would take, based on studies done by the Army War College and National Security Council.
(2) Senior officials in the Pentagon and White House appear to have chosen courses of action which were contraindicated by the advice mentioned in (1). It's not clear why this choice was made. It may never be possible to pin down the exact decision calculus inside the minds of the top leaders in the Pentagon. However, it appears that the Pentagon made a conscious decision to accept risk in the planning and execution of its post-war plan, in order to start and fight the war faster. That may have been an acceptable tradeoff, given the effect that our high operational tempo had on the Iraqis. But it's clear now that the risk on the back-end (in the post-war phase) was significant, and possibly larger than planners anticipated. (More on operational risk and planning later...)
(3) The entire post-war plan was given relatively short shrift by planners and commanders at the top levels, apparently because of assumptions at the highest levels of government that "we will, in fact, be greeted as liberators." (Vice President Cheney, March 16) This assumption drove every other aspect of the plan, from mobilization of additional reservists for security to contracts for additional civilian security forces. When this assumption proved to be false, it was too late to change those other aspects of the plan. Without a contingency force already sitting in Kuwait ready for commitment, it was impossible to rapidly mobilize one from the states to get there when they were needed.
The result: American soldiers have not been set up for success in Iraq. The Administration has not yet done all it can do to set them up for success, and we must. Our mission in Iraq is important, notwithstanding questions about our casus belli. (See Josh Marshall's Talking Points Memo for the best reporting on this issue.) We must succeed there in order to create regional stability and prevent the kind of threats from emerging in Iraq that have emerged in other failed states (e.g. Afghanistan). Going to the U.N. on bended knee to get official U.N. sanction and peacekeeping support is one answer. Mobilizing sufficient numbers of reservists to implement a long-term rotation plan with enough boots on the ground is another. Contracting with Iraqis for civilian security forces is a third good option. Ultimately, we must prevail. But we must get smarter about our planning in order to do so.