Thursday, September 29, 2005
Bureaucratic organizations nearly always fall due to scandal or massive failure. The relief effort from Katrina was a disaster. The President is under a lot of pressure to do something to make sure next time won't be worse. I'm just not sure this plan will be effective or politically feasible. Thoughts?
(Warning: This piece was inspired by back to back music videos on MTV’s After Hours. Specifically Green Day’s “Wake Me Up When September Ends” and Audioslave’s “Doesn’t
Today there are over 120,000 American troops deployed in
It is understandable to debate the reasons for the
Today Americans, especially “Generation X,” take many of these freedoms for granted. We were born into it. We didn’t work for them; they were inherited. I’ve never had to shed blood for this country, up until this point I have chosen not to. Instead “the greatest generation” shed their blood so that I could inherit the world we know. So that I would have a choice.
The war in
Without the men and women of the
Sunday, September 25, 2005
create your own blog, remain anonymous and get round censorship.There is even a section comparing the effectiveness of various countries at censoring the internet (China is the "internet censor world champion").
Saturday, September 24, 2005
Friday, September 23, 2005
Thursday, September 22, 2005
Some experts believe the Army is living in a fantasy-land when it comes to FCS. Others site the program's vast amount of immature technologies as a sign of major concern. Indeed, FCS is one of the most complex and sophisticated acquisitions the American military has ever undertaken. FCS has already had to restructure its program in order to allow for extra schedule leeway. The Army is still dreaming when it states that Army brigades can be equipped with FCS in a decade. This brings us full circle...What exactly was the Army demonstrating in its show to HASC?
Undoubtedly, the demonstration was not representative of the true capabilities of FCS. Instead, the Army is hoping to sway a suspicious Congress to its side, while also buying time to play catch up in research and development. As the FCS program progresses, we can expect either more pep rallies (like this demonstration) or increased defensiveness/hostility towards those that question the FCS program.
When space-aliens come we may, conversely, need to employ guerilla skills…
There is, of course, history to suggest that relatively half-sized armies have confronted bigger opponents, but not without being attacked or having an otherwise desperate cause. I admit a developing memory for historical battles so please comment with mentions of battles that evidence to the contrary. I refuse to accept, anyway, that America will declare a war on any opponent soon of sufficient size to justify conventional combat. Steer clear of the brinkmanship diplomacy that Secretary Annan warned about (http://abcnews.go.com/International/wireStory?id=1135087) and we won’t get into a mess with a big power or alliance.
Thus, I would never advocate a mitigation of the training and development of conventional strategies, but I’m gonna have to express my assurance that drastically improving our techniques and training for low-intensity combat ought to be a top priority.
Biddle’s reading for this week claims that neither the air protection nor indigenous fighters were most important, but rather, the coordination between human intel, ground troops, and air support in the approach in Afghanistan. I was convinced, Biddle-haters, that fine-tuning our skilled force employment, smart soldiers connected to accurate weapons and wise air and human intelligence, is the way to go. Oh, and I read about Stryker-team success in northwest Iraq today. Let’s keep building those while we strategerize.
Tuesday, September 20, 2005
Monday, September 19, 2005
Friday, September 16, 2005
Thursday, September 15, 2005
It discusses just a few cases where companies have bowed to government demands in order to maximize profits. Check out what Cisco, Microsoft, Yahoo, etc. are doing in China.
Tuesday, September 13, 2005
In the weeks before the March 2003 invasion of Iraq, I made a call to a retired general who had served in the first Gulf war seeking information about General Tommy Franks, the head of US Central Command who would run the upcoming campaign.
The retired officer was still well connected with his former colleagues, and I asked what the uniforms were saying about Gen Franks. “A lot of senior military in the Pentagon don’t have a lot of confidence in him,” he harrumphed. “If you look at Tora Bora and Anaconda, you have the same leaders making the decisions now [who] did in that debacle.”
The comment surprised me. Tora Bora, the mountain complex in eastern Afghanistan that served as a redoubt for al-Qaeda fighters, was emerging in the public mind as the battle where US forces, overly relying on their Afghan allies, let hundreds of al-Qaeda operators slip away, perhaps including Osama bin Laden himself. But Operation Anaconda, a large-scale battle in the nearby Shahikot Valley three months later, was supposed to be just the opposite: a successful engagement in which US troops killed hundreds of enemy fighters.
Sean Naylor’s impeccably reported new book on the battle, Not a Good Day to Die, will lie to rest any residual belief that Anaconda was anything but a horribly planned mess of an operation in which commanders sent US troops into a battle they had not been prepared for, against enemies they did not know existed, without the weapons they needed. In the end, eight Americans would die and hundreds of al-Qaeda operators, some of them senior leaders, would escape into Pakistan.
Mr Naylor, a reporter for the Army Times who was embedded with US troops during Anaconda, has produced a gem in the mould of Black Hawk Down, Mark Bowden’s account of an ill-fated US operation in Somalia. But, at a time when the Pentagon is in the midst of one of its most important rethinks of military policy in a generation – the congressionally-mandated Quadrennial Defence Review, due to be issued in a matter of months – the book should be required reading for another, more important reason.
Mr Naylor’s account is a cautionary tale for those, including Donald Rumsfeld, US defence secretary, who believe that advanced weapons technologies can transform the US military into a smaller, lighter force using futuristic reconnaissance and communications equipment in place of heavy guns and boots on the ground. If Mr Naylor’s book illustrates one thing, it is that no amount of intelligence, satellite imagery and precision air strikes can take the place of a well-armed artillery unit when a battle begins to go wrong. It is a lesson that the Pentagon is still struggling to grasp in Iraq.
The chain of events that led to the failures in Anaconda started well before the battle was even conceived when Mr Rumsfeld ordered what Mr Naylor calls a “force cap” in Afghanistan, keeping the number of conventional troops in the country low. The rationale was that the army could, through modern technology, do more with less, a central tenet of Mr Rumsfeld’s transformational agenda. Senior commanders managed the Afghan campaign “under extraordinarily close supervision by Rumsfeld”, Mr Naylor writes, “who took it upon himself to ensure that not a single soldier was deployed to Afghanistan unless the defence secretary considered that soldier’s presence there absolutely necessary”.
The result was that battalions of the 101st Airborne, the first conventional army forces used in Afghanistan, were sent into Anaconda with almost no artillery – equipment that would have come in handy when it turned out that hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters, most of whom had not shown up on satellite imagery and spy plane reconnaissance, were waiting in the Shahikot with plenty of artillery of their own.
Under the doctrine advanced by Mr Rumsfeld, precision bombing from aircraft can make up for a lack of artillery. But soldiers found it difficult, sometimes impossible, to find available fighters and bombers. “For every air strike called in by [ground troops] that resulted in destroyed enemy position, there was a bombing run that couldn’t be arranged before the target had moved, that missed the target completely, or, in some cases, that hit right where it was supposed to, but failed to kill the enemy,” writes Mr Naylor.
Senior US commanders also displayed a disturbing over-reliance on intelligence gathered by satellites and spy planes – another favourite of Mr Rumsfeld’s. Not only would the soldiers who arrived in the valley find a landscape far more mountainous than the imagery led them to believe but they would also find about 1,000 enemy fighters when they had been told to expect 200 at most. Just as importantly, while the imagery suggested al-Qaeda fighters were housed in small valley villages, they were up in the mountains, the perfect position from which to rain down missiles on the US soldiers piling off Chinook helicopters.
In almost every respect, the doctrines and technologies pushed by Mr Rumsfeld’s transformationalists let down the men who fought in Anaconda. Communications gear failed, electronic intelligence misled planners, air support took hours to arrive, lightly armed men could not defend themselves. As Pentagon planners push on with Mr Rumsfeld’s revolution, they would do well to take to heart the lessons of an actual war.
The writer is the FT’s defence correspondent
Krepinevich explains why this was so hard for Americans to do:
Attrition is a product of the American way of war: spend lavishly on munitions, materiel, and technology to save lives... U.S. military leaders believed in the morale-raising and life-saving value of massive firepower whose success they had witnessed in World War II and Korea. Krepinevich goes on to show how the American strategy and tactics were completely inappropriate for a real counter-insurgent strategy, but instead were designed and implemented in such a way to achieve a maximum enemy bodycount. He also depicts America's force mixture as inappropriate for the type of war being waged. America's 'foxhole strength' of 80,000 out of a total force of 550,000, Krepinevich believes, illustrates an inefficient force mix (176, 197).
This is quite similar to the notion of a tooth-to-tail ratio, or the ratio of combatants to total forces. Most pundits would agree that a 1:6.88 ratio is poor. For Krepinevich's mission of protecting the population from the insurgents, the more ground-pounders the better. For Nagl's mission of turning the population, teeth per tail is a meaningless ratio.
I would like to propose an alternate measure: the ratio of people assisting the locals (whose hearts we seek to win) to the number assisting our own soldiers. Soldiers who are actively working to up the friendly count would include doctors operating on locals, engineers building schools, etc. Soldiers in the second category would include those protecting American soldiers, those providing services to American servicemembers, etc. The numbers will be somewhat imprecise because of difficulty determining if a soldier providing security is securing them or us. Some imprecision, however, does not reduce its relevance.
Nagl speaks to the importance of the economical use of manpower (40). Additionally, in a situation like Vietnam (or Iraq), the smaller footprint the less likely it is to alienate the locals. Therefore the more positive benefits reaped by the local population (represented by the number of troops actively engaged in helping them) per the size of the American footprint (represented here by the others), the more efficient our force.
Tooth-to-tail ratios may be relevant to attrition warfare, and possibly even to an oil-spot strategy, but it isn't helpful to analyze the efficiency of a force with a hearts-and-minds mission. Maybe this Helpers-per-footprint approach will be more clear.
What I'm looking for is a five page paper in general memo format. The paper should present a policy problem associated with the readings for the week in question. In addition to presenting a problem, the paper should posit at least two options for dealing with the problem, and conclude by advocating one.
This is a lot to do in five pages, so brevity and economy of language are virtues. I have no specific format requirements, so you should proceed with whatever format you are most comfortable with. The use of outside resources and citation will likely strengthen your paper, but is not required. It is up to you to determine how most effectively to marshal and use evidence in support of argument.
If you can get the paper to me more than a day in advance, I would be happy to take a look at it and note any major problems. I won't grade a draft, but I will tell you if I think there's anything seriously wrong with it that needs to be fixed.
I expect, of course, a strict adherence to rules of grammar, spelling, and professional forms of writing. While I strongly prefer a hard copy, I'll accept an electronic copy if no alternative exists. You are free to turn in the paper for this Thursday (9/15) electronically if you wish. I expect turn-around time on the papers to be one week.
If there are any questions, let me know.
Finally, as a reminder, we're having class today in the Van Room from 4:30-6:00.
Friday, September 09, 2005
Thursday, September 08, 2005
Tuesday, September 06, 2005
However, after reading Pollack's piece this week I'm at least beginning to give the edge to Biddle. Pollack seems to argue the same thing as Biddle but substitutes the term "force employment" for "military effectiveness." In Pollack's argument "military effectiveness" basically encompasses: unit cohesion, tactical leadership, morale, training, cowardice, logistics,k technical/weapon skills, and information management.
In the breakdown of the 6 Day War, Pollack traces the misteps back to Egypt's military effectiveness, primarily their unorganized retreat, unclear mission objectives in the Sinai, bad intelligence on Israeli forces, and lack of quality generalship. As Pollack says on page 81, "The Egyptians probably had the best strategy; they just did not execute it very well." Essentially the case for why force employment is imperative to modern combat.
This seems to be a classic case to support the theory. Egypt had numerical preponderance, technology was roughly equivalent between the two sides, but Israel was better trained and therefore prevailed. Even a defeated Egyptian general looking back "developed the conviction that the human element-the quality of the fighter-and not the weapon was what counted in victory" (100).
We also see the big difference that disciplined training and professional leadership made for the Egyptian army between the 6 Day War and the Yom Kippur War. Egypt performed well in taking the canals (even with Israeli numbers low-but hey, thats part of the excellent planning) and establishing a defensive front. Events after that they did not perform well, but that was because they still weren't properly trained for mobile combat, and thus were defeated.
On a side note if anybody has actually read to this point, I thought I'd give links to my favorite mlitary blogs that I recently discovered in a Wired magazine article:
http://avengerredsix.blogspot.com/ talks life in a tank squadron and about day-t0-day events. There's also detailed entries on the Battle of Falluja, as well as videos that the author has made.
http://thunder6.typepad.com/365_arabian_nights/ is not so much detail about actual combat, but the quality of the writing is extremely impressive, almost poetic. Check out the archive for the author's musings on everything from sandstorms to his wife. Good stuff.
Monday, September 05, 2005
Biddle says that Iraqi incompetence in force employment magnified the effects of technology in the war ("The New Theory" pp. 146-147). For instance, he says that the Iraqis left their forces exposed "to the full, proving-ground lethality of U.S. weapons." To me, his argument is tautological in nature. It implies that U.S. technology made it possible to inflict damage on the Iraqi forces in the locations of those Iraqi forces; conversely, if the U.S. didn't have the technology to attack those positions, the ineptitude of the Iraqis in their force employment wouldn't matter. That supports the importance of technology more so than force employment. In other words, it doesn't matter if the Iraqis were out in the open or hidden in a bunker, without the technology to attack either of those positions, the location is irrelevant.
Also, it seems to me that the technological gap between the U.S. and Iraq is so great that other factors just don't matter. For instance, an Egyptian (think Rameses, not Anwar Sadat) army with chariots held a huge advantage over smaller civilizations who did not have chariots. But, even with chariots, the Egyptians were not immune to a spear hurled by an adept foe, ergo the Egyptians probably still suffered quite a few casualties. Now fast forward to Desert Storm. When the Iraqis are using artillery and armor that cannot even penetrate U.S. tanks or IFVs and technology that cannot detect B-2s or other advanced "toys," the Iraqis will practically have no chance (1116 casualties out of 795,000 Coalition troops = 0.14%) regardless of their force employment, tactics, skill, or motivation.
Week 3: Open
Week 4: Evan Robertson
Week 5: John Fitzpatrick, Ryan Consaul
Week 6: Devon Miller
Week 7: Jacob Correll
Week 8: John Drury, Alan Patterson
Week 9: Ryan Quarles, Chris Pullela
Week 10: Matt Krebs
Week 11: Erin Hottel
Week 12: Doug Myers
Week 13: Jeff Greenberg
Week 14: Will Marshall
Week 15: Joey Hickner
Everyone thus far has received their first choice. If you have not submitted preferences, please do so ASAP. Those weeks with two presenters listed are to be considered closed. Also, on week 4 we will have only one presenter.
Finally, please note your presentation date, because after I get everyone set up, I plan to delete this post.
Have a good Labor Day!
The ascendancy of SOCOMM (Special Operations Command) and JSOC (Joint Special Operations Command) during Operations Enduring Freedom and Iraqi Freedom demostrate the primacy the Pentagon has placed on these skills. My question is, are we doing enough to make sure GI's acquire these skills?
Some members of the conventional military would rather not adopt the rubric of the special forces because such training is either too specific or requires a "cowboy" mentality (remember the pictures of Hamid Karzai's Delta Force bodyguards sporting beards and baseball caps?). Nevertheless, such skills have proved highly successful in winning hearts and minds from El Salvador to Iraq.
What gives? Is this another example of a military bureaucracy unwilling or slow to adapt? A rejection of the continuation of peacekeeping and nation-building many hoped would end with Clinton's leave of office? Comments?
Sunday, September 04, 2005
While progress has been made, the approach has not yet been embraced. After over two years, acquisition programs still do not fully understand the process behind JCIDS. JCIDS demands that the military make a “mental mindshift” requiring a complete cultural overhaul. As the Joint staff quickly discovered, the military is a systematic environment; documentation that was supposed to outline capabilities and analyze alternatives looked ever so similar to the old documentation. Even the senior leaders responsible for the policy, embodied in the Joint Requirements Oversight Council, are most likely biased towards the older system, having served their careers doing acquisitions a certain way.
Rather than just creating a new way of doing business, JCIDS has created nervousness and confusion for program offices. Programs view JCIDS as yet another hoop they must jump through; others such as the Joint Strike Fighter program view JCIDS as a further attack on their survival. The additional documentation which JCIDS requires adds yet another bureaucratic layer in which to burden programs. So the question remains: Is JCIDS necessary and will it be effective?
The goals of JCIDS are needed and the military must aspire to reach them. Interoperability will be a cornerstone of joint operations; the services must be able to work together (that includes their “toys” which will also have to be able to work and communicate together). JCIDS’s effectiveness is another matter; with DOD and Congress still appropriating budgets in a service specific manner, JCIDS will never have the “power of the purse” and will therefore remain somewhat ineffective. Some are even questioning whether DOD should continue with a capabilities based approach to weapon acquisitions and believe it should adopt a “threat based” approach (based on acquiring weapons that will target threats not perform broadly defined capabilities). As demands on the budget increase, the debate over JCIDS and its effectiveness will continue to grow.
Saturday, September 03, 2005
Today the military is engaged in "4th Phase" operations in New Orleans. The mission: Secure the streets, provide order, deliver goods. Most enlisted men don't sign up for such exercises, and if they do, they think that such events will take place in Liberia, not Louisana. According to the New York Times (www.nytimes.com) , "By Friday, about 19,500 National Guard troops had arrived in Louisiana and Mississippi, and 6,500 in New Orleans itself...Senior Pentagon and military officials said the Guard presence in the hurricane zone would grow to 30,000 in coming days."
Hopefully what all this means is that with troops in the city and a "shoot to kill" order, looting will cease and that stability will somehow start to restablish itself in a flooded city. Many of the reservists in New Orleans have just returned from Iraq where they gained first-hand experience in peacekeeping and "nation-building." Luckily for them, the radical elements in New Orleans are fewer in number than in Iraq, so their jobs should be easier, but very important nonetheless.
And at this point I am just going to vent and know that nothing below will have anything to do with low-intensity combat.
Why does it take 4 days to get essentials to a populace? Don't tell me logistics, when we can get a team of American experts to the far reaches of the Artic to save a dozen Russian submariners. Why does the head of FEMA have absolutely no experience in disaster relief? Oh yeah, he raised a lot of money for the President. Why didn't local authorities make evacuation mandatory before the hurricane, and provide school and public buses for the poor? To borrow an expression, the entire post-disaster planning has been "FUBAR" from both local and federal government. This hurricane has also been a case study in human nature: putting things off until disaster strikes. We don't do anything about islamic terrorism until after 9/11 even though we had Marine barracks, naval vessels, and embassies bombed, and we don't appropiate the money for New Orlean's levies until they're shattered.
I can start to see how Iraqis feel now. They are poor, hungry, and sick and all we want to do is promote freedom. Whats more important to the common man Iraqi: a constitution or a job and food? Could you imagine going to New Orleans yesterday and trying to get people to register to vote while bodies are in the streets, people are starving, and diabetics are about to run out of their insulin supply? This hardens my resolve in that democracy is not the basis of civilization, stability is.
Here is the Congressional Research Report on the subject.
Here is an Asia Times Article discussing the implications.
Friday, September 02, 2005
I have, thus far, received presentation preferences from six people. If you don't get yours to me ASAP, you run the risk of being assigned to a week of my (random) choice.
UPDATE: The Pollack selections are now available in the file in the computer room.