Monday, December 12, 2005

Who Cares When You Can Throw It All Away?

Kentuckians aren’t the only people who dump trash; the military does as well and now they are cleaning up the public mess. Recent discussion of innovations in military weapons systems, strategies, and technology prompted a reciprocal question: what happens to the old toys? Beyond selling them (secondhand goods by now) to other countries, a recent article on the AP reported that some 64 million pounds of chemical weapons were dumped between WWI and 1970 off U.S. coastlines (dump). In my previous presentation, you may recall that the measly 532 tons of chemical weapons stored at the Bluegrass Army Depot is currently a big deal. In fact, not only do dumping sites currently circle the U.S. mainland, but U.S. sites also exist in 16 other counties-most dumped after WWII.

However, other dimensions add interest to this issue-secrecy and destroyed evidence. Apparently the dumping practice-which seems so routine was kept secret until earlier this year when the Army released classified materials revealing the enormity of the weapons dumped. Furthermore, much of the paperwork detailing where the dumping had occurred has been destroyed. The Army only knows where half of the dumps are. Now, the military is seeking information from fishermen and victims of poisoning on where the missing locations may be. Some 200 serious injuries have occurred due to the leakage of chemicals from canisters worn apart after decades of the ocean’s salty abrasion (Daily Press).

These actions make one wonder what exactly was going on where classified materials had to be destroyed. Sure, sensitive materials are for selected eyes only, but why would the military want to purposely forget where it laid weapons? The Russians may have this trouble, but it is not the conduct of the U.S. Secondly, what should be done now? The U.S. is not liable for cleaning up the hazardous materials because a 1975 treaty banning the dumping of chemical weapons does not apply to pre-1975 dumping. Furthermore, those dumps in international waters carry increased complexity. Yet, fishermen and environmentalist believe it should be done for obvious reasons. Leaking mustard and nerve gas kills everything it touches in the water, and experts believe that even the WWI canisters pose serious threats for hundreds of years. In an era of billion dollar bombers and high tech revolutions, one should expect environmental cleanup to be an affordable higher priority of today’s mediocre EPA standards.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Heeeres.....Peter Gabriel?!?

This guy won a contest for: taking a movie and making a new trailer for it which gives the movie a totally different meaning. It's worth checking out... I can't stop watching it.

Blog, blog, blog, all day long

blog, blog, blog, the blogging song.

Second Verse?

Some Poor Bastard v. Tenet


It had to happen sooner or later: the CIA kidnapped and "interrogated" the wrong guy. This poor bastard's name is Khaled al-Masri. According to the lawsuit he filed against the CIA, al-Masri, a German of Lebanese descent, was leaving Germany for a New Year holiday in Macedonia when he was stopped at the border and arrested. He claims he was held for 23 days and then flown to Afghanistan (quite the vacation hotspot, I hear) where he was subjected to "torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment" at the hands of the CIA for five months. Eventually, the CIA confirmed his identity and decided they had the wrong guy ("Sorry about that, our bad") and then flew him to Albania of all places. Clearly, we don't know what happened in Afghanistan or what he considers "torture", but I'm pretty sure he wasn't given nightly back-rubs and gentle words of encouragement.

Obviously, this is one case, and I don't think policy should be decided on what may or may not have happened to one person. But this incident must surely give one pause. Even if you don't consider the morality of this policy to be a problem, there could be pragmatic implications: Are these renditions providing enough actionable intelligence to justify such terrible publicity? Could this policy cause our European allies to rethink their commitment to assist us in other intelligence gathering operations in their own countries? It's not outside the realm of possibility: The Europeans certainly aren't required to assist us, and in general, they feel far less threatened by Islamic terrorism than we do. Just food for thought.

Maybe RMA won't guarantee us victory this time

President Bush spoke to the Council on Foreign Relations yesterday regarding the administration’s National Strategy for Victory in Iraq. During his speech his discussed several examples of successful use of our military forces in establishing stability in Iraq with the assistance of Iraqi forces. Much of what he discusses are basic approaches by utilizing manpower and boots on the ground, not technology and precision weapons. President Bush’s description of successful initiatives in Iraq support what Dr. Kier argued in her paper that RMA is not providing any support to the stability or counter-insurgency operations in Iraq. While important in war, they have been relatively ineffective in establishing peace. Bush likewise discusses the success of embedding US military personnel with Iraqis to ensure that they can effectively maintain areas that have been secured. He has again support Dr. Kier’s point that working personal interaction with the Iraqis, as practiced by the British, is most effective in maintaining security, stability, and cooperation. Bush’s speech seems to indicate a change from the rather Rumsfeldian notion that our military superiority and advanced technology, much of which is provided through RMA, are enough to win the conflict in Iraq. Perhaps this acknowledgement of past mistakes, which the Bush administration has been more willing to make of late, will likewise provide for a slight change in RMA or at least the faith put in its ability to guarantee absolute victory. RMA or not there was never any doubt we could defeat the Iraqi army, but clearly RMA is no longer playing a role in whether we can help the Iraqis bring stability to their war torn country. RMA is important and should continue to be pursued, but we cannot allow belief in a RMA-guaranteed victory to blind us to the fact that some operations, such as the invasion and occupation of Iraq, will still need extremely large troop deployments to guarantee success no matter how many cool new toys we get.

Evan is the coolest, but not parmeaneidies+

In the article “Change and Transformation in Military Affairs”, Elliot Cohen argues that transformation from the bottom-up has been the most evident throughout military history.

Cohen believes that the greatest changes in war are brought about by spontaneous innovation in reaction to tactical problems. Obviously, this spontaneous innovation is a result of the soldiers on the ground fighting the war, rather than the political thinkers in Washington. We discussed at the beginning of the semester how the failure of junior officers to think on their feet have plagued militaries such as Egypt, but the flexibility of junior officers has typically been a strength in the US military.

Cohen goes on to state that the ability for soldiers to be innovative is linked to their culture, and is therefore the root of American soldiers success. “…Societies that do not see occasional failure as calamitous, that allows juniors to overcome or contradict seniors, and that do not value ‘face’ or reputation excessively are likely to transform themselves.”

However, it seems as though in some aspects American culture is not supporting these "cultural necessities" for innovation or transformation as it has in the past. First, the occasional failure that US troops have met with in Iraq have been seen as calamitous and has been met with demands of withdraw. On Cohen's second point, ( and someone please correct me if I am wrong ) I thought that American officers do stick strictly to their rank and that there is a strong emphasis placed on obeying orders from the officers above you. And finally, in terms of the importance of not relying on reputation excessively, it seems as though with the war in Iraq that there are many people who would have rather not gone at all if it meant a suffering of the US reputation.

Is American culture changing, so that in the future, it will not be as conducive to innovative thinking from its ground soldiers, those who are arguably the most important link in US military transformation?

Isn't that a Nietzsche niche?

Krepinevich argues that even in countries that cannot overcome the cost barriers to threaten the United States, they could become "formidable niche competitors."” Countries could concentrate their abilities in a particular area in order to prevent U.S. power projection. His assertion has considerable merit. Mountain tactics in Afghanistan and Pakistan have not been easy for the U.S. to combat. Asymmetric urban combat in Baghdad has shown to be a difficult tactic to deal with. The navy has realized that littoral combat in the Taiwan Strait may present a serious problem to the U.S. accomplishing its goals. Are we ready for a cyber attack?

As AmericaÂ’s relative military power increases versus other countries, their incentive to specialize will increase as well. To deal with specialization, the U.S. could use a threats based approach. If the number of countries that specialize is small, the U.S. can create plans to deal with each one without too much effort. But what happens if there are many small, specialized threats? The threats based approach will be very expensive and difficult to pursue. And a capabilities approach would certainly be less effective against a specialized enemy.

Is the revolution in military affairs, an impotent military?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

American Conservative on China

With all the talk of warring against China from the hawks in the class, one might wonder how that would turn out. The answer comes to us from the American Conservative. No, I don't mean that one guy in class who is always blathering about this or that from the right-wing of the class. I mean the magazine.

Here are a few excerpts to entice you to go read this dozen-page treatise:
The history of the United States is the history of confrontation, even conflict, with the other great powers of the earth. At the dawn of the 19th century, the young Republic found itself confronted with the two great powers of that world, Britain and France... [In] the 20th century... the U.S. soon found itself in wars hot and cold, against Germany, then Japan, then Russia. Now, in the 21st century, the looming great powers are China and India.
If that wasn't inspiringly bold enough for you, try this one on for size:
In the years since, the neocons have gotten themselves right where they want to be: tangled up in the Middle East. Yet some seem eager to open up a “second front”; the ever-belligerent Max Boot, for example, agitated in the pages of—where else?—The Weekly Standard for a policy of “internal subversion” against China. The goal, he crowed, waving the reddest possible flag, was to “Taiwanize” the People’s Republic. Some might be tempted to minimize the political weight of a mere scribbler, but after Operation Iraqi Freedom, is there any doubt that noisy neocons have the capacity to translate their warlike op-eds into war itself?

By the way, ignore the Toms--Friedman and Barnett--telling us that a war with China won't happen because of doux commerce (sweet commerce), the article explains the fallacies of their argument.

I better hurry, if I'm posting on the inevitabilty of great power conflict, I'd better get it posted before December 7 is over.

Two armies are better than one.

So we've got the Army developing RMA. That will give us the ability to bombard anything we see back into the Stone Age. That's fine and dandy, as long as our opponents stay out in the open. However, as Iraq and Afghanistan are proving, our enemies are rarely this courteous. They hide among innocent civilians, which means we can't really blow them to kingdom come without making the situation even worse. The solution proposed by the readings obviously encourages more infantry-based doctrine. Dismounted infantry are better at peacekeeping, counterinsurgency, and urban warfare. That would enable us to better fight the battles we seem to be facing now.

However, if we moved to a primarily infantry-based army, we would likely lose our advantage in high-intensity warfare. If we did that, China, North Korea, Iran, and others might take the opportunity to challenge American dominance in their region.

So what's a superpower to do? My solution is to split the Army in half. Light units could remain light units, specializing in counterinsurgency, urban warfare, and peacekeeping. Heavy units could continue to develop RMA. After all, heavy units are the most effective at delivering overwhelming firepower anyway; why not allow them to improve at this? I can't speak for medium units. I simply don't know enough about their primary functions to speculate on where they fit in.

The military will, of course, resist having half of its units reconfigured for low-intensity warfare. The Army doesn't like those kinds of fights. That's why it may be necessary to split the Army in half. By forming a new branch of the army, it might be possible to form a service that prefers those types of conflicts.

As a superpower, the US has to develop an array of capabilities. If it focuses narrowly on one area (high intensity warfare), its opponents will focus on other areas. Therefore, the US has to be at least competent in all areas. To do otherwise leaves the US open to attacks on its weakest areas.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Crisis Iran

There is a discussion of military options in Iran (or lack thereof) over at The Officers Club--a blog run by three graduates of the finest military school this country has ever seen. All three are now serving as junior officers (hence the name). Go give it a look.

Recruiting on Federally Funded Campuses

Returning to military recruiting tactics, the US Government is trying to establish its recruiting tactics onto college campuses that disagree with some of the ideals behind the functioning of the military. Many cite the Pentagon’s policy toward homosexuals as their point of contention. The article can be found at

The schools that are trying to continue denying recruiting on their campuses may face the withdrawal of federal funding for their school. In the same way that many private companies donate to schools and receive certain privileges for their donations, the government would like to have the benefit of using the campus to recruit.

As we talked about in class, recruitment efforts for the military need more outlets. With the need for more military personnel to continue the War on Terror, it would be beneficial to have recruiters in as many locations as possible, and able to reach as many students as they can.

Right now, the debate is whether or not the funding should require the schools to allow recruitment. I can understand the feelings of the government. It is paying to provide education for the students of the school, but is not necessarily able to reap any of the benefits of its investment. Without being allowed to recruit on the campus, they do not have access to as many individuals as they do by sitting in their recruiting offices in town.

As far as the schools are concerned, their problem is that they don’t allow organizations with discriminatory policies on campus, which would include the “don’t’ ask, don’t tell” policy of the military. They believe that the integrity of the school would be damaged if they were to being to allow recruiting. I think that if they are able to overlook this policy to accept federal money, they should be able to overlook it to allow recruiting on campus.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Have a coke and a chinook

How do you think decisions about billions of taxpayers dollars are being made? Would you believe major companies like Lockheed-Martin are relying not only on pricy bid proposals to the government, but also more economical radio adds complete with celebrities and sports references? Not exactly the intellectual argument that I had pictured.

This Washington Post article describes how Lockheed-Martin in an attempt to sway important defense officials to buy into their 10 billion federal law enforecment communications system, is buying up radio advertising not to reach the mass public, but about 50 employees in the Treasury, Justice, and Homeland Security departments. Lockheed Martin is not alone in this endeavor, as government contractors have surpassed the auto industry as the top revenue category for one popular Washington news-based radio station.

"And while there may be only a few dozen officials involved in the final decision on a contract, Calkins added, those people can be influenced by others -- like co-workers and bosses -- who might encounter an ad."

What? I realize that decisions about defense procurement are based on a variety of things including the much more fact based bid proposals. The idea that decisions could even be slightly affected by "peer-pressure" from co-workers who heard their favorite football player on the radio is fine for tennis shoes, but ridiculous for defense procurement. What is next- television adds with blondes in bikinis posting up against the Millennium Falcon?

Does anyone else find this as crazy as I do?

Am I having deja vu all over again?

Britain and the US are trying to get the rest of the permanent members of the UN Security Council to agree that Iran is in fact actively attempting to develop a nuclear weapons program. The hopes of this latest diplomatic initiative is to get Iran brought to the Security Council and to ensure that action will be taken against Iran by the UNSC. Convincing China and Russia of Iran's intentions are key as they would be the most likely to veto action by the Security Council against Iran.

My thoughts on this are that we're simply seeing history repeat itself as it did prior to the US invasion of Iraq. I'm not saying that the US is preparing to lead the charge into Iran, I would hope that logical reasoning and look at Iraq and domestic pressures would show that's not a viable option. What I am saying is that even if this does get taken to the Security Council, I wonder if some type of action be taken. No one argued that Iraq needed to comply with the UN and weapons inspectors, the trouble came in determining what to do and when to do it. When the UN didn't agree, the US, UK, and its "coalition of the willing" (don't forget about Poland) went their own way with it and invaded. There are greatly diverging views on how to deal with perceived threats to international security, and it doesn't seem clear that the UNSC will be able to be anymore decisive than it was leading up to the Iraq invasion. Can the UNSC tackle another major crisis over WMD and again run the risk of appearing irrelevant? Will squabbling be the end result of what to do with Iran? Once again the US is attempting to convince other states of the intelligence it and the UK possesses indicating a weapons program. Questionable intelligence will likely result in a divided response as it did with Iraq. Clearly the divide over Iraq still exists, and it seems unlikely that it will be bridged in the immediate future to the liking of all parties involved. Ultimately I believe that Iran will eventually be brought to the Security Council, but I question how effective a response will be enacted once the time comes.

Justify My Gov

This week we're reading about transformation within the military. Since 9/11, it is sad how little we have transformed. Just this week the 9/11 Commission gave the grade of a "D" on reform,

But let's focus on the military's problems: Washington still has multiple layers of rank heavy bureaucracy, there is the insertion of large cumbersome task forces in to every place; an over-emphasis on technology; and a lack of appreciation for the urgency of providing security, food, water, and electricity IMMEDIATELY so as to start the cycle of counter-insurgency information collection from locals.

Our bureaucracy has failed to provide the crucial linguistic skills, four years after 9/11, that are far more important to transformation than any weapons system. For example, the road to the Bagdad Airport, AKA Route Irish, suffers fewer attacks today, because Iraqis man the checkpoints. Reportedly, in Afghanistan even our translators don't have a firm hold on Pashtun, several years in. There are still too many delays in approving operations in the field that are associated with layered bureaucracies that come with joint task forces. The result is detrimental to fast moving tactical success at ground level.

If we really want to have a RMA, we need to work more on "people skills" then new technology. We need to learn difficult languages, allow the men on the ground to have more leeway in making decisions, rid ourselves of bureaucracy. One need only look at how the Special Forces and C.I.A. were allowed to operate in Afghanistan before and at the beginning of that war. Sure, the brass at the Pentagon didn't like seeing pictures of SFs with mangy beards riding horses, but they got the job done superbly; and their beards and horses were part of the reasons why.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Burritos are Better Protected than Military Secrets

Technological innovation due to military wants and the fat contracts that support otherwise uneconomical research may receive well deserved criticism, but there are numerous, often unrealized benefits that the public enjoys due to declassification and spin-off technologies-even right here in Kentucky. Innovations such as the internet (I thought Al Gore invented this?) and the global positioning system (GPS) were once closely guarded military secrets that were later integrated into the tech markets. WD-40 became and still is a wildly successful lubricant after it was invented for NASA applications. Modern conveniences related to the internet are taken for granted today, and companies such as OnStar and the slew of GPS receiving devices such as electronic driving maps are products of declassification. Although there usually is a considerable time lag between military/contractor invention and potential public use, these technologies would probably have taken longer to achieve if the research was done outside of government/DOD initiatives. Who else could have supported the 30+ satellites used for GPS today back in the mid-1980’s during its creation?

The effects of defense supported innovations via contractors being released for public use also raises internal security concerns. If the same technology that the military uses is available on the market, then just about anybody could obtain the otherwise disclosed materials with the intention of sabotage. Sure, sharing WD-40 with the world may not be a direct security risk today, but what about more sophisticated innovations?

One instance that illustrates this concern and spurred publicity occurred right here in Kentucky. In the late 1990’s, Lexington based contractor Mas-Hamilton produced locks for defense purposes (Locks). These same locks, used for doors and safes, were sold to the Pentagon, other defense contractors, and to Taco Bells (based in Louisville) across the nation. When a study revealed that a majority of the locks in the Pentagon were vulnerable to high-tech thieves using computer-based devices, the DOD requested updating their locks with a newer, electronic lock produced by Mas-Hamilton…the same locks that Taco Bell uses to protect its burritos. Along with this request came the demand that other defense contractors update their locks. However, many refused citing that if the locks could be available to fast-food workers, then the security tech is just as vulnerable as the old locks. In response, Kentucky Senators McConnell and Bunning sought to increase defense funding to retrofit all locks used to secure military information, including contractors (Bunning). As discussed in class, this move may have been more about the protection of local, defense-related jobs than security interests as Mas-Hamilton publicly expressed the intention of lay-offs if sales didn’t increase.

Nevertheless, the cycle of political protection of local defense contractors to force military spending is a reality-even here in Lexington. However, with the average U.S. defense contractor CEO salary rising 79% in just one year (2002), there is a clear concern that fat contracts for military procurement and innovation be revisited (CEO). Is there something wrong if defense CEO’s make 45% more than other U.S. company CEO’s? Yet when it comes to the public benefits produced with spin off applications after declassification, perhaps these fat contracts are well worth the money spent and the burritos’ saved.

Putting Politics Back Into Warfare

“All warfare is political.” In regards to Iraq, the British, according to Elizabeth Kier, have this right. The Americans do not. To use a line from Black Hawk Down—sorry, Dittosfan—“The moment the bullets start flying politics goes out the window.” This illuminates the American military’s attitude towards war. Completely decimate your enemy.

But, as Ms. Kier aptly shows, this attitude is antithetical to securing the peace. (Kryptos and Watson both comment on this in earlier posts.) In fact, not only is the Army’s approach antithetical, it is adversely affecting the outcome by creating greater sympathies for the insurgents (or whatever they are called now—‘displeased persons’ or ‘persons with complaints’).

“It’s a war the Army can’t win,” state the claimants. Why can’t it be won? Because it’s not the type of war the Army is used to fighting successfully. Congressman Murtha—the widely respected ex-Marine and Democratic Congressman from Pennsylvania -- recently created an uproar with his calls for the establishment of a timetable for the removal of troops. Our presence is, he states, making matters worse. And this is true—sort of. It’s erroneous to confuse our presence as what is causing the dismal peace dividends with the methods we are using to secure peace. And while I don’t agree that we should have invaded Iraq in the first place, I think pulling our troops out has drastic consequences, especially for our credibility. A state’s power comes not just from military and economic capabilities, but from the strength of its national will. As much for future conflicts (military and otherwise) as for the sake of the Middle East, we need to remain in Iraq until we have ensured the creation of a stable and viable state.

So what’s a SecDef to do? If the Army is making matters worse but withdrawal is damaging to the vital and strategic interests of the United States, how do we accomplish our goals? I think our potential to create a new service, as Kier advocates as one possible future option, is unrealistic in the immediate future. However, I do agree that we could train particular branches within the Army or Marines (perhaps with British assistance). I also agree that reliance on high technology could further serve to undermine our interests. There is something inherently distasteful to people about a big brother approach to security (such as the use of drones or pgms, which may actually minimize civilian casualties) that may spur even further collusion with/support for the enemy.

The answer therefore lies in a military force whose primary responsibility is to protect and interact with civilians. (Much as cops are now returning to street walk in the most degraded neighborhoods, building bonds with residents.) It is not simply the security that is provided, but the relationships that are built with the civilian population that will undercut support for the insurgents. This will undoubtedly result in a temporarily (I use that term with uncertainty) higher body count. However, it’s the only way we will ever achieve success, secure our interests, and enhance our credibility.

The case for the status quo

So I went into class thinking that we should close down the excess production capacity in the US arms industry. After all, it seemed like the major reason those plants were still open was because of political patronage. After listening to the arguments in favor of keeping the situation unchanged, I went home and thought about it some more. I reread my notes. And you know what?

I don't see any real alternative to keeping the plants open. Yeah, it's wasteful, but given the alternatives, I don't really see another option. It's painful. I don't like it. I hate spending money (ANYBODY's money), but like I said, what other options do we have?

A case for Guantanamo Bay

The New York Times published an article today detailing an escape by four detainees from the Bagram Theater Internment Facility in Afghanistan in July of this year. Two of the men, Omar al-Faruq and Muhammad Jafar Jamal al-Kahtani, are considered former high level al-Qaeda operatives. Apparently:
According to military officials familiar with the episode, the suspects are believed to have picked the lock on their cell, changed out of their bright orange uniforms and made their way through a heavily guarded military base under the cover of night. They then crawled over a faulty wall where a getaway vehicle was apparently waiting for them, the officials said.
More disturbingly:
One American intelligence official said the prisoners also took advantage of "a perfect storm" of mistakes by the military guards.
A theory also exists "that American intelligence officers had once proposed staging an escape to release a detainee whom they wanted to act a double agent against Al Qaeda." But, this theory has been denied by American officials.

The question remains about how this could happen. I realize that this detention facility is not Alcatraz, but how does the military allow high level al-Qaeda members escape from one of its prisons? Shouldn't keeping terrorists detained be something our military takes seriously in this War on Terror/Global Struggle Against Extremism?

Although I am not in the military and would never claim I could do better, I hope we would all expect better security than this. Maybe putting them on an island isn't such a bad idea.

Update: I didn't see Dr. Farley's post on this at LGM until after I posted this one.

Friday, December 02, 2005

It's time to get drunk!

We are done!

Let's do the damn thing!

Here we go...t-minus 25 minutes and counting. Who am I kidding? I'm gonna fail.

Thursday, December 01, 2005

I'm Turning Japanese (I really think so)

Koizumi is looking to call a spade a spade. Japan will finally be able to call its military a military and use it. (for peacekeeping that is) If they can change the constitution, no easy task. Koizumi's more proactive stance on the Japanese military has consistently increased over time. He sent troops to Iraq and even though a Japanese hostage was recently executed, he is leaving them there. Although Japan continues to be a staunch ally of the U.S., will this constitutional change affect other areas of Japanese foreign policy? Todd believes a resurgent Japan will join with Europe and Russia to balance the U.S. Is that the real reason for a change in Japan's military identity or is it the fear of China injecting large amounts of money into its military? I think I know the answer.

Flaming Stamos

I read Doris Goodwin's new tome, "Team of Rivals" over the Thanksgiving holiday (I have a strong dislike for my immediate family) and it was really good. It is basically the story of how Abe Lincoln appointed to his cabinet men he had run against to become the President. I had no idea that Abe rolled like that.

These men (William Seward, Salmon Chase, and Edward Bates) were all nationally known and presidential. These accomplished men were extremely angry at being beaten by a relatively unknown. Yet Lincoln not only convinced them to join his administration--Seward as secretary of state, Chase as secretary of the treasury, and Bates as attorney general--he ultimately gained their respect as well.

It's an incredible story because Abe was able to forge alliances with these men to win the most important war this country has ever fought. Abe could have picked campaign contributors or partisans, but instead he picked the men who deserved the job the most. Abe transcended personal bitterness in order to run a country.

As we all know, this isn't the case anymore. I'm not going to use my penultimate post to bash the Bush adminstration-because we all know about former heads of Arabian Horseman Federation becoming FEMA Directors- instead our entire society needs to be examined. When did we start to sacrifice the best route of managing a country for helping out the few? There seems to be little honor in political appointees anymore. Would the U.S. have been able to wage war in Iraq or the Balkans with a more diversified cabinet? I definitely don't believe that groupthink would have been as prevalent in the run up to the Iraq war.

I'm not advocating a constitutional amendment addressing the issue of political appointees, but government would benefit so much more if the right men/women were picked for the job over the most convenient.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Rumsfeld Thinks He's Clever

As the Washington Post article states, “He declared that the insurgents would, henceforth, no longer be called insurgents.”

So, with what he called an epiphany, Rumsfeld has decided that these groups do not deserve the legitimacy that calling them insurgents granted them. However, the organizations are there. Simply changing what we call them will not change the way they operate, nor the way we need to react to them. I’m glad he feels proud of this accomplishment, but really, what does it prove? Nothing, if you’re looking for a change in our operations (or theirs). These groups are not going to think “We’re no longer ‘insurgents’, so we can’t do certain things anymore. They don’t play by any rules but their own, and certainly aren’t going to notice a little thing like an alteration of what we call them.

Rumsfeld also seems to have forgotten that if there’s going to be an actual name change, people should be informed:

“Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Peter Pace, standing at Rumsfeld's side, evidently didn't get the memo about the wording change. Describing combat in Iraq, he paused and said, "I have to use the word 'insurgent' because I can't think of a better word right now."”

" 'Enemies of the legitimate Iraqi government' -- how's that?" Rumsfeld proposed”

Even with this new name given to the former insurgents, the General forgot and called them by their old name again during his speech.

The article goes on to discuss Rumsfeld’s shortcomings as defense secretary. There are other ways in which he has attempted to change rules to suit his views, and they were not followed, either. If his strategy involves changing names and not really understanding what is going on in Iraq,

( “When Aldinger protested that the question was not hypothetical, Rumsfeld replied that Iraq is "a sovereign country" and suggested the death-squad allegations could be politically motivated. "I just don't know," he said. "I can only talk about what I know." With an exaggerated shrug, he added: "That's life."”)

perhaps it is time we get someone in the position who will pay attention to the important aspects of what is actually occurring on the ground, rather than agonizing over what we should call the enemy.

Divided We Fail?

A recent article in the Washington Post by Brookings scholar Michael O'Hanlon concentrates on what he sees as a growing divide between civilians and the military over Iraq. This is very interesting coming on the heels of the Iraq panel debate last week here at the university in which basically every panelist in one way or another said the US is basically losing the war. This point is contentious just because some cite the actual conventional war the US won in a number or days whereas others describe the war as the overall incursion and goal of making Iraq into a democracy and safe from insurgents. Hailing from the second camp, Professor Horace Bartilow claimed that "there is no such thing as winning the war and losing the LOST the war!"

It was curious that no one from the optimistic side of the aisle could be found at UK, but if O'Hanlon is correct it might be because most of them are actually in Iraq right now. O'Hanlon claims that only a few of the numerous military officers he's interviewed have any doubts whatsoever about the war, whereas at home the civilian population grows ever more "fatalistic" about the war. O'Hanlon is concerned that the ever growing divide between the military and civilians on the contentious Iraq issue could lead to both sides ignoring important good/bad signs in Iraq (seeing what you want to see), and that this could be very important at the midterm elections next year if the US elects a "more fatalistic" Congress.

I'm not sure if the US is "winning" or "losing," whatever either of those terms mean at this point. I don't know if Bush's declining poll numbers are a sign of a civilian population becoming more worried the US is losing or whether the people are just worried about his ability as Commander in Chief to finish the job. There are a lot of uncertainties and I believe O'Hanlon is right that the growing military-civilian divide over this issue doesn't do a whole lot of good for anyone. Empty rhetoric should be replaced by actual indicators of progress or lack there of in Iraq. Maybe then the debate can become more fruitful on how best to deal with the situation in which we currently find ourselves, one that requires input from those on both sides of the divide.

Tuesday, November 29, 2005

A Democratic Rebel with a Cause

Sen. Joe Liberman rejected an early withdrawl from Iraq today in an op-ed piece in the WSJ. Liberman is just the latest Democrat to come out in favor of staying the course (others including Sen. Hillary Clinton and Gov. Mark Warner). Many like to talk about Iraq being the achilles heel of the GOP, but how do these "defections" play out for the Democratic party? If the Dems embrace a candidate in 08 that did not support immediate or gradual withdrawl, will there be a split in the party?

Collapsing Governments

The other day the Canadian government voted itself incompetent or something along those lines. Along the same vein, here is a thought-provoking analogy:
Perhaps what we are witnessing in Europe, but what the politicians and the media dare not say aloud, is the implosion of the (welfare) state. The Soviet Union suddenly collapsed in 1989, when owing to the inability of communism to create wealth, the state went bankrupt, was unable to maintain its army and hold its empire together. In France, the same thing might be happening. The socialist welfare state is no longer able to maintain law and order and is abandoning entire neighbourhoods to anarchy.
Where do I go to vote France's government incompetent?

Hey, you can't give that to them

The US government is protesting the Spanish sale of military boats and planes to Venezuela. US opposition to the sale is based on the fact that the boats and planes contain US technology and parts. Venezuela argues that the acquisition is a means of modernizing the military and acquiring technology to use to combat drug trafficking. Acknowledging our opposition to the socialist Chavez and his questionable "democratic" practices and close ties to Castro, I question our right to become involved in the sale. If the United States chooses to refrain from selling weapons to Venezuela that is completely justified, however opposing the sale of these defensively armed ships by Spain seems a major overstepping of protection of our technology. We've discussed some of the concerns which are raised by our recent endeavors to develop military capabilities jointly with other states. The US has long been fearful of sharing technology and intelligence for exactly this reason, that it might end up in the hands of those with whom it would rather not cooperate. It is however a reality of the present day that the US cannot simply impose its will on other states, especially in the economic realm. In a globalized world we run the risk that our technology, including military tech, can be passed on to numerous states. There is no reasonable threat to the United States or the stability of the region by Venezuela possessing these ships and boats, especially considering that they are defensive in nature. Had these technologies been considered that important, arrangements would have been made with Spain to preclude them from being passed on to parties which the United States disapproved of. The reality is that this is yet another situation through which the United States is indicating its opposition to the Chavez regime in Venezuela. I doubt this is about technology, we're not talking about protecting the Manhattan Project here, its parts of planes and ships.

Monday, November 28, 2005

We want the Russians to do what?

An op-ed piece in today's Wall Street Journal makes an interesting point about Russia's offer to enrich uranium for the Iranians. According to the Volcker Report, Russia was the largest recipient of kickbacks coming from the oil for food program; Russian institutions from the Kremlin, to academia, to the military received funds, contracts, etc., all in exchange for Russia's veto in the UNSC. The question is, therefore, why should we trust the Russians this time? I think this argument has some purchase, though France also benefited from Iraqi largesse, and yet we publicly suported their involvement in negotiations with the Iranians. Still, corruption is, supposedly, a way of life in Russia, and Moscow would supply Iran with uranium for its declared nuclear sites.

Unfortunately, I think the signifiance of the Russian proposal extends beyond the parameters of our national security and puts into question the effectiveness (some would argue sanity) of the IAEA. Then again, the IAEA has been in hot water since 1998. Any thoughts and comments are greatly appreciated.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Dr. Farley goes to Washington

Maybe the good ole boys at the Department of Defense need to review their Dip 750 notes. A recent Washington Post article sights some of the failures of the US Special Operations as poor defense planning (check out the quote at the bottom of the article especially) as well as lack of coordination with other government organizations (think Goldwater-Nichols).

The article states that the after September 11, Rumsfeld gave the Special Operations Command (SOCOM) the heavy responsibility of being in charge of US counter-terrorism efforts. This is a huge change from the supporting role that they were set up as in 1987 to a leading role. A recent meeting in which the participants were trying to show the downfalls of SOCOM in order to acquire more funding, prompted Rumsfeld to basically asked the question: “What have you all been doing the past few years?” This move to increase funding seemed to backfire as Rumsfeld began to question what happened to the money already spent and set up a panel to asses SOCOM’s performance.

I was more than a little confused as to why Rumsfeld is attacking SOCOM. Rumsfeld’s primary focus since 9/11 has been the war on terror and if he was assigning SOCOM to be the major player to combat terrorism, shouldn’t he have been involved constantly since 9/11 into making sure SOCOM was developing its new mission properly, instead of three years later asking- hey what have you been up to?

In my naiveté, I also assumed that since SOCOM was to have this new increased mission, it would have the budget to match. But I was surprised to see that its budget is only 8 billion dollars (which in terms of 87 billion plus for a war doesn't seem like a lot if special ops is the most important), a 2. 4 billion increase from pre 9/11 and that its forces have only increased by 5,700 to a mere 54,000 total.

If the United States is pouring billions of dollars and tens of thousands of troops into the war and post-war effort in Iraq, why wouldn’t they put these efforts where it would be most effective- which is in Special Ops? We have already learned that conventional armies can’t really fight asymmetrical warfare, but isn’t that exactly what the Special Ops are for? They were used effectively in Afghanistan, but where are they in Iraq? One military officer said: "You have some of our real elite units doing some lesser-type missions, and then you have some units that should be doing more training doing direct-action.” Maybe I am missing something, but it seems like the DOD just needs to revisit the basics of defense statecraft.

FCS and Force Employment

Check out this presentation on Future Combat Systems and the future of the US Army.

Retro Sunday: Back to Basics with an FCS Twist

What do Stephen Biddle, Donald Rumsfeld, and Arnold Schwarzenegger have in common? They’re all advocates of the modern system as the single most important element to the Army’s success. (Yes, as with everything else, preponderance and technology play a role, and need to integrated, but are certainly not on par with the quality of force employment.)

Biddle advocates the ability to cover, conceal and disperse one’s forces, as well as the ability to suppress the enemy’s fire, as the key to success. If you don’t do this (or don’t do it well), your opponent, using such a system, will win virtually every time, regardless of your advantage in technology and preponderance (unless extreme). Rumsfeld acknowledges the necessity of quality force employment. His decision to have brigades restructured into smaller forces, thereby increasing their ability to disperse, conceal, and cover, gives them the ability to mobilize, making them more suitable for both differential concentration and deep defense. He also acknowledges the necessity of junior officers being able to make their own judgments due to changing battlefield conditions. Finally, he downsizes the value of technology. Why? For two reasons: 1) your enemy may be able to match your every move with a technology of his own, thus keeping the playing field level; and 2) technology can not be relied upon. It breaks down. If you rely too much on technology, and it breaks (as a lot of vehicles have become susceptible to sand in the Iraq War), you may be required to fall back on something less desirable. If you’re not properly trained, you’ll be unable to adapt and risk losing the battle. If you are, you can adjust and conquer. This brings me to Arnold and how he supports my case.

Last night I sat on the couch watching Predator (it’s even better on tryptophan), a movie in which an alien hunts humans for sport. Yet even though the alien possessed vastly superior technology (precision guided laser weapons, infrared heat detection), Arnold (“Dutch”) is able to defeat it. “How is this possible?” you ask. It is possible because Arnold adapts his tactics, incorporating the modern system. Preponderance, which he had at an earlier stage, did not help. (The alien killed his entire squad.) He succeeds because he learns to conceal and cover himself against his enemy’s technology. (And what happens to the alien’s cloaking device? It breaks down. The bane of technology.) And while he can’t disperse himself (that would be neat, wouldn’t it?), he does use suppressive fire, at one point using a small explosive to distract the alien, then moving to another location from which to launch his offensive. Were Dutch unable to employ the modern system (or if he did not understand it) he would have lost to the alien (and the movie would’ve been kind of pointless). This scenario can be expanded to include squads, regiments, and battalions. The modern-system would prevail every time. Force employment should be every military’s foundation, to which technology is added.

So my question to those in the know (Ryan Consaul) is how will the Future Combat System (FCS) affect force employment? The goal of FCS is to improve force employment, but what will happen if the network breaks down (or is jammed)? Will soldiers know how to react? Or will training with the FCS create an unhealthy reliance/dependence on technology? (For more info visit: Will the Army be neglecting some core element in its training when it switches to an integrated training approach with automotive technologies? I like technology, but I'm wary of an over-reliance on it.

Is Hakim Right?

Abdul Aziz Hakim, head of the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq, believes that it will not be until the US forces leave that the Iraqis will finally be able to truly fight the insurgencies. Whether or not to agree with this claim is what is up in the air. This man does know his country, but he may be mistaken about what it will take to rid the country of insurgents. If he is wrong in his assumptions and more freedom is given, with negative consequences, the US will have to back track to reestablish the progress that had already been made in the country. The Washington Post examines his stance.

“In more than an hour of conversation at his Baghdad home and office, Hakim denied accusations that the Shiite-led government's security forces -- with alleged involvement by his party's armed wing -- have operated torture centers and death squads targeting Sunni Arabs. He also renewed his call to merge half of Iraq's 18 provinces into a federal region in the oil-rich, heavily Shiite south, and he played down Iran's interests in Iraq, saying that the Shiite theocracy to the east wants only what the United States claims to want: a stable Iraq.”

These accusations make the situation even more touchy. If we trust the word of a man with these accusations pointed toward him and we are wrong, we will have another policy disaster on our hands. The administration has already been wrong about so much. However, if he is telling the truth and we stay on, it will be hard to live down the fact that we could have been out of Iraq much earlier than we actually were.

“Hakim oversees the party's armed wing, formerly known as the Badr Brigade. Its fighters are widely feared for what even many Iraqi Shiites say are habits of torture and other ruthless tactics learned from Iranian intelligence and security forces. Now officially converted into a private security detail and political group, the renamed Badr Organization is widely alleged to control many command-level and the rank-and-file officers in the Interior Ministry -- police, commandos, intelligence agencies and other branches.”

If the resulting government from the Dec. 15 elections includes this man, it is likely that the US may not be welcomed in Iraq any longer, as anything other than an aid to building the security forces. If this is the case and he is a corrupt man, we may need to implement some covert operations in order to help to keep this man out of office, where he may undo everything that we have been doing during our occupation. The article mentions that we are taking the accusations against this man very seriously, in which case we need to do what we can to see that his influence over the Iraqi people is minimized. This is a man who blames the terrorist killing of his brother on the American forces.

“Hakim charged that the United States, evidently fearful of alienating Sunnis, was blocking the arrests of Sunni political leaders who had ties to insurgents. "The mixing of security and political issues" was just another U.S. mistake, he said. 'Terrorists should know there would be no dealing with them.'"

There is a link between political and security issues. However, security cannot come in second, it must be the first priority. The fact that this man is a Shiite, and the claim is about protection of Sunnis makes me question the validity of the statement. This is a very vocal man, and his claims should be taken seriously. However, there are strong claims against his intentions, as well. Further investigation is needed to determine whether or not his is right, but this is an important question when deciding whether or not to change the American objective just because of one man’s views.

Friday, November 25, 2005


The city of Harbin, in northeastern China (see map) has no water. It now appears that a chemical spill at the local oil refinery poured 100 tons of benzene into the Songhua River. Why is this any different than any other industrial accident? As federal agents often say in bad Hollywood movies: "Its the cover-up that gets you!"
  • The BBC reports on the cover-up here.
    The water crisis in Harbin involves a cluster of difficult issues for China - poor governance, industrial accidents and, perhaps most crucially, official determination to control information.

  • To see how the information about the crisis leaked out over time, EastSouthWestNorth (a blogger who translates Chinese news sources into English) has been following the story since the beginning. He is looked to in the blogosphere when stuff like this happens because he gets the news first. From his earliest report:
    What is known is that the water supply system will be shut down for approximately four days as of noon, November 22. This has caused panic buying of bottled water at supermarkets. What happened here? The official explanation was that it was routine maintenance [of the water system].

  • The Financial Times writes about the effect of the spill on nearby businesses. Anheuser-Busch is even providing the locals with free drinks... but alas it is just water.

  • The Peking Duck is also watching the crisis. More often than not the commenters are as interesting as the news stories at PKD because they are long-time China watchers, an advantage journalists rarely have.

As if that wasn't enough trouble for one day: Another chemical plant has exploded and is polluting the Yangtze River. The Sydney Morning Herald has the story.

Let's all take a moment this holiday to think of the people of Harbin and pray (if you do that) for those people. If nothing else cross your fingers that these people will one day get a government who cares enough about them to be honest when there is an enormous chemical slick heading their way.

Thursday, November 24, 2005

So...what now?

Okay, we know that the military operates in a cartelized system to get their budgets. My question is this: what do we do about it? The various branches have allies in Congress who keep their favorites healthy. Many Americans have immense faith in the military, so they command strong domestic support. Donald Rumsfeld is attempting to tighten civilian control of the military, but his stance on Iraq (whether or not you agree with it) is costing him domestic support. Furthermore, from what I've heard, Rumsfeld isn't exactly a popular guy within the military. Will the next SecDef try to differentiate himself/herself from Rumsfeld by giving the military more power to choose its own path? I don't know the answer to this. I'm asking all of you.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Some argue that surgical air strikes against Iran’s nuclear facilities will stop Iran from producing nuclear weapons and that further negotiations will only give the Iranians time to fully develop its nuclear weapons program. The model for such strikes would be the Israeli air strikes against Iraq’s Osiraq reactor in 1981. Air strikes would certainly be successful in destroying Iran's known nuclear facilities: A number of the facilities involved in Iran's nuclear program have already been identified and located, most notably the facilities at Natanz, Arak, Isfahan and the light-water reactor at Bushehr. However, air strikes also carry several risks. First, such unilateral air strikes would almost surely produce international protests and further damage the United States’ international standing. Second, air strikes could severely weaken the Iranian reform movement and improve the position of hardliners among the general populace. Third, there would likely be negative consequences for the U.S. struggle against Islamic terrorism worldwide: Islamic nations could find it more difficult to assist the U.S. in its counterterrorist efforts, and air strikes may encourage attacks and recruitment by various Islamic terrorist groups. Fourth, air strikes would likely enrage the Iranian regime and perhaps even large portions of the populace which are otherwise unsupportive of the regime; this in turn could provide justification and political cover for Iranian reprisals including destabilizing Iraq and other Gulf states with significant Shi'a populations and pressuring Lebanese Hezbollah to launch rocket attacks against Israel.

The most pernicious possibility, in my opinion, would be the destabilization of Iraq through incitement of Shi’a rebellion and confrontation against U.S. forces in Iraq. This would be relatively easy to accomplish, provide the best opportunity to inflict damage against the U.S. and could be done with little direct and obvious involvement of Iran. To date, most Shi'a in Iraq have shown restraint and have avoided being dragged into a civil war, reasoning that the Shi'a majority will be the primary beneficiary of popular elections. And so far, Iran and its allies in the region have encouraged the Iraqi Shi'a to continue to show restraint and work for social stability in post-war Iraq. However, it would not be difficult to encourage many Iraqi Shi’a to rise up against the Americans: Most major Iraqi Shi'a groups have considerable connections with Iran due primarily to common religious, cultural and historical bonds. Additionally, considerable numbers of Iranian intelligence agents are already operating in Iraq. The consequences of Shi'a unrest in Iraq are obvious.

Even if military strikes were successful, which I’m sure that they would be, military strikes can only delay Iran’s development of nuclear weapons; chances are low that strikes can prevent Iran from eventually obtaining nuclear weapons. Given the relatively recent discovery of Iran’s nuclear facilities and the resultant controversy, it is highly likely that Iran may have other clandestine facilities hidden underground or in caves for secrecy and increased protection against attack. Additionally, air strikes would likely accelerate whatever nuclear ambitions Iran already has. According to a senior Iraqi nuclear scientist, Dr. Khidir Hamza, the Israeli attacks on Iraq’s reactor in 1981 sent Saddam Hussein's nuclear weapons program into overdrive and convinced the Iraqi leadership to initiate a full-fledged nuclear weapons program immediately afterwards; the number of scientists working on the program and the amount of money budgeted increased dramatically after the attack.

Options are limited, but the best option currently available is to press for multilateral negotiations through the EU (notably France, Germany, and Italy) and other trade partners (e.g. Japan and Russia) with the threat of economic sanctions and support for Security Council punitive actions. Over the past fifteen years, the only things that have caused Iran to change its behavior have been the threat of military action by the United States and the threat of sanctions by the Europeans in 1997 and 2003. American sanctions have inhibited Iran’s actions to a degree, but because Iran has always been able to turn to its trading partners in Europe, Russia and Japan, American sanctions have had little effect on Iranian actions. Unfortunately, the Europeans have been loath to do anything to jeopardize their trade relationships with Iran in the past, so the U.S. will have to marshal all available diplomatic leverage in order to convince the Europeans to go along.

However, even if we get the Europeans to go along (which is unlikely), it is possible that no amount of pressure will convince Iran to give up its nuclear program. Iranians staunchly believe in their right to develop nuclear power and enrich uranium and have said so repeatedly. Iran’s nuclear program is seen by many in Iran as a matter of national pride, and American resistance has only unified Iranians’ desire to develop nuclear technology. Should Iran develop nuclear weapons, the United States will have to rely on its formidable nuclear and conventional arsenal to deter Iranian aggression against it; Israel will have to do so as well. While the Iranian regime can be characterized as aggressive and anti-American given its record of terrorism sponsorship, Iran has not mounted a terrorist attack against the United States since 1996. Additionally, there is little to suggest that the regime is irrational or undeterrable; after the Khobar Towers attack in Saudi Arabia, Iran backed away from its terrorist activities directed toward the United States when threatened with military reprisals. Even assuming an aggressive Iranian regime, in the face of a credible nuclear response, Iran is highly unlikely to directly attack the Unites States or Israel with nuclear weapons. In a perfect world, Iran would not develop nuclear weapons. However, given the risks and costs of air strikes, the distasteful fact is that we may have to learn how to live with a nuclear Iran.

Happy Turkey Day!

Don't eat too much.

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

Governor of Tokyo Is Insane

Shintaro Ishihara, the controversial author of The Japan That Can Say No and governor of Tokyo, is in the news again. He is the only named source in an article entitled "East Asia allies doubt U.S. could win war with China" from Insight on the News.

Among the unsupported assertions from this jewel: "U.S. ground forces, with the exception of the Marines, are 'extremely incompetent'." Read the rest.

Iraq and Vietnam again

I want to take up the issue of comparing Iraq to Vietnam for a minute.

In short, I think the comparison between the two conflicts is wrong in the assertion that they are fated for the same outcome. It is, however, notable that they appear to be on parallel courses.

I thought to consider first the number of casualties. I’m not sure how many soldiers were killed in Vietnam in the first three years, maybe someone can help me with that. But from the time combat troops went in (1965) to the pullout (1973), the average over eight years was 7,250 deaths per year (21,000 in three years). So far 2000 soldiers, and a few this past week, have been killed in Iraq. We feel every loss, but for that reason I think it is careless to claim that the two wars are the same. By my ad hoc calculations, ten soldiers died in Vietnam (so far) for every one soldier who has been killed in Iraq. That doesn’t seem very comparable to me.

One important similarity is the lack of domestic support. I agree with Niall Ferguson on this point (see Colossus). He lists seven characteristics of engagement that Vietnam (and other US engagements) clearly followed(47). The basic story is one of guns blazing on the way in and domestic economic considerations bringing the job to a premature close in the end. In Iraq we seem to be on the fast track to withdrawal – that is, Americans have lost the enthusiasm much quicker in this case. The administration has not made it any easier to support the cause, even though they seem determined in it. Vietnam was somewhat different in that each of the presidents seemed to have domestic reasons for not pulling out, even though they might have wanted to. Anyway the two wars are similar so far in their lack of domestic support.

Iraq is not Vietnam, but there are some similarities. The differences in even loss of life, however, show that the comparison should not be made thoughtlessly. We can learn lessons, but solutions are never more than similar for two foreign policy questions.

The "Dirty Bomber's" Day of Reckoning.....Finally

The “dirty bomber” has been officially indicted by the US Department of Justice. Jose Padilla, a former Chicago gang member with jihadist credentials, was charged with “supporting and participating in, armed confrontations in specific locations outside the US, and committing acts of murder, kidnapping, and maiming, for the purpose of opposing existing governments and civilian factions and establishing Islamic states under Sharia.” In 2002 Padilla was arrested upon reentry to the US from Pakistan. The purported terrorist was then detained as an “enemy combatant” for attempting to detonate a dirty bomb on American soil.

The 31 page indictment accuses Padilla of a variety of crimes but interestingly it does not mention the phrase “dirty bomb.” But that is exactly the reason he was detained. It seems odd to me that it took over three years for the Department of Justice to issue Padilla’s indictment and then failed to push the “dirty bomb” issue. If there was sufficient evidence to prosecute Padilla on the charges put forth today by the USDOJ, why wasn’t it done earlier? Did it take this long to gather the evidence against Padilla? Or did the US Attorney’s office simply not have “enough” evidence to convict him? If this is the case I am in the wrong profession. Hello Law School!

Obviously in the post-9/11 world counterterrorism measures have heightened the US government’s sense of urgency. Decentralized militant cells continue to exist within the US and many of the Patriot Act’s provisions attempt to enhance the FBI’s ability to effectively combat these cells. Many of these tools have been in the tool kit since the passage of the Patriot Act. So why weren’t these tools used to prosecute Padilla in the first place? Padilla is an American citizen and has the same rights under US law as other notorious terrorists such as Eric Robert Rudolph, Timothy McVeigh, and Ted Kaczynski. (you know the whole innocent until proven guilty thing)

I understand the difficulties of fighting terrorism in 2005. The US will always fight this battle with one hand tied behind its back. This is a harsh reality but one that protects the rights of all American citizens. US citizens have the right to trial by jury whether they are hate spewing radicals or not.

After reading the indictment, I hope Padilla is in fact convicted. I think the case against him is strong, but the charges released today do not justify his lengthy detention. I am not an apologist. But I think it is a sad day in American history when citizens can be detained indefinitely by simply being labeled “enemy combatants.” This ability in itself provides the President with undue discretion in legal matters.

Who is to blame for this predicament? Well when all else fails blame Congress. Oh and the justice system. After 9/11 the US Congress acquiesced giving the President wide ranging powers to conduct the current “war on terror.” Additionally, the Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit upheld the President’s power to detain enemy combatants. In this case, the system’s checks and balances “worked” but the checks seem to be running out of steam.

Now that I am done I request that all you Johnny Cochrans find the two precedents for detaining individuals as “enemy combatants.” Ok, just kidding, I will cite them for you: Ex parte Quirin and In re Territo.

Democracy Holding in Kenya

A proposed new constitution was rejected in Kenya in a vote on Monday. The Washington Post article on the event discusses the test that this vote placed on the country’s democratic stability. The campaign leading to the election had been heated, but the election itself proved mostly peaceful. Much of the controversy was based in a division between tribal cultures. During the campaigns, sides sometimes became violent with each other, resulting in the deaths of 9 people during rallies.

The proposed constitution would have given massive amounts of power to the current president, Mwai Kibaki. Although he was, obviously, a strong supporter of the proposed constitution, he has accepted the vote as the will of the people and will not challenge it.

President Mwai Kibaki was elected for a fresh start after an autocratic rule. The proposed constitution would have given him more power and he would have been able to appoint cabinet members from his own tribal affiliations. However, because of this vote, he will be required to include members from opposing opinions and tribes. Therefore, his power will be greatly reduced. The people of Kenya, with the rejection of this constitution, have shown that they want more of an actual democracy, rather than an all-powerful ruler.

I think this is a good sign for Kenya, and Africa, in general. This is very promising when looking at the country’s stability. Even though there were strong opinions on both sides of the campaign, the people have let the vote stand. The people may have not yet figured out the most effective way to campaign, but they do understand the voting system and that the votes dictate the decisions. If Kenya can transform into a democratic society, it is possible that other African societies may be able to do the same.

Blog Assignment


Remember to start thinking about which five posts you want me to assess for the blog grade. Additional blogging and commenting is great, and will have a positive effect on your blog and participation grades, but the really important thing is to identify five posts.

If you already know which ones you want me to look at, copy the URLs of the individual posts into an e-mail and send it along.



I've altered the readings slightly for weeks 14 and 15. The upshot is that one of the week 15 readings in now in week 14, and two week 14 readings have been deleted. Long story short, less reading for all.

Congrats Dr. Farley!

Welcome to the team.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Put It (the War) on My Tab Please, Thanks

Recent discussion and readings about military budgeting prompted a closer look into how the defense budget addresses the finances of war. Conflict, it seems, is not afforded under annual budget requests. Rather, current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan-which cost $5-6 billion a month-are mostly financed through supplemental spending in addition to the $420 billion Pentagon budget (Higgs).

One must wonder that since the operations in Iraq and Afghanistan are known to be ongoing for the next year(s) to come, why not put it directly into the budget? Companies spend millions on consultants to determine anticipated costs to incorporate into their upcoming budgets. Other government agencies do not act with this ad hoc fiscal behavior. This is not to say that other departments have as much on the line, but that budget officers from the smallest of agencies to the largest are trained to keep the costs up front. Perhaps adding this expense into the next budget is too speculative an item to predict or better yet, it is too politically advantageous to pass up.

Nevertheless, the political ramification of supplemental requests puts Congress in a press. With exception of the relatively few members on the House Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, members of Congress generally show their support for the troops regardless of executive leadership by approving requested supplemental packages. Sure, Congressional press conferences or statements that disagree with the war are easy to find, but few actively support cutting off the juice and do so at great risk. Sen. Kerry’s opposition and “flip-flop” on an $87 billion supplemental request (as mentioned in Gunner Palace) in 2003 created lingering political baggage during his presidential campaign. Earlier this year, all 100 Senators voted for an $82 billion request (Request). As Dr. Farley pointed out in lecture, Army operations in Iraq are almost entirely financed by supplemental spending today. Who would vote against this?

Finally, war is a costly business to be in-both fiscally and in terms of life. Supplemental funding allows for the flexibility to change funding needs as often as reasonably needed. Dragging direct war costs into the overall defense budget would just invite problems that could ultimately delay or alter what the troops need in the field immediately. The $5-6 billion a month for Iraq and Afghanistan may be expensive to critics, but as long as American troops are engaged in conflict the will of American voters and politicians will support the costs involved, no matter what the price.

President Bush campaigned in 2004 against what he described as a “Tax and Spend Liberal”. Judging by the reality of his administration’s overall fiscal behavior, Bush could easily be described as a “Just Ask and Spend Conservative”.

Time For Regime Change?

President Robert Mugabe has said Zimbabwe will process recently discovered uranium deposits in order to resolve its chronic electrical power shortage, state radio said Sunday. Mugabe, who has close ties with two countries with controversial nuclear programs, Iran and North Korea, made the announcement Saturday, the radio station reported. It was not clear how Mugabe intended to use any uranium deposits since the country does not have a nuclear power plant.

Robert Mugabe was heard today asking, "I hear there is an opening on the Axis of Evil, where do I apply?"

Any geography nuts here know what month has the best weather for an invasion of Zimbabwe?

21st Century Risk

Stocking stuffer?

Saturday, November 19, 2005

Hollywood and the Military: Entertaining but No Substance

In his book, The New American Militarism, Andrew Bacevich explores the depths of America's fascination with the military. He reveals a transformation in the perceptions of the American soldier from the stereotyped drug abusing ruffins of the Vietnam era to today's selfless heroes and patriots of Iraq. Interestingly, he uses Hollywood, specifically three movies, to show how our perceptions have changed. He begins with Gere's portrayal of officer candidate Zach Mayo...the quintessential loner/loser who has no hopes for his future...his only redemption lies in becoming a naval officer. From his troubled inadaquacies, Mayo is tempered into a model officer. Bacevich then notes the evolution of the hero in Rambo II. No longer the loser, the soldier is reborn yet lost...John Rambo is a man lost in a world he cannot understand. He feels that the country he loved committed the highest betrayal and once again he is deceived into yet another fight. What unfolds is the absolute divison between the military and the civilian leadership. In the end, Rambo confronts the civilian buracracy head on only to leave once again bitter, disillusioned and betrayed. The evolution of the military hero ends with LT. Pete Mitchell as Maverick in Top Gun. Discarded is the belief that war is a dirty, bloody, and difficult enterprise. No longer must the soldier use brawn to win his and brains are the weapons of the day. One must only hop into their multi-million dollar machinery, rub in some slick hair gel, put on some shades and get a bomber jacket.

What Bacevich is driving home is just how different our perceptions of the military are from the past. Bacevich cautions that there could be trouble in creating a super human mystique in all that is military. Soldiers are people with the same flaws and inadequacies as civilians.

The trouble with this type of examination is that while this discussion may be really interesting...because we all love fun movies, Bacevich's analysis here lacks real substance. Hollywood's products are not reality and do not represent American attitudes about the military. In defense of Bacevich, the rest of his book is quite interesting and in it he makes a persuasive case for how Americans have been seduced by war. This hollywood analogy however by itself falls short of the real analysis we should all strive for in our work.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Sky is the Limit: The Rising Costs of Major Weapon Systems

The following article from Defense News (posted below) reveals an unnerving trend in major weapon programs. Increasingly, programs are incurring cost growths higher than recent years. We can only expect that this will continue as DOD most certainly wont clean up its act overnight. This is thus incredibly irresponsible to the future budget constraints facing America.

So what has DOD done about the problem? DOD revised its acquistion policy to incorporate commercial "best practices" such as an evolutionary acquisition approach. What has been the effect? Little. DOD does not strictly implement its own policy and programs continue to operate business as usual. What else has DOD done? Well, it created JCIDS and the JROC, both of which don't solve the problem of reducing flyaway costs.

So what should DOD do about the problem?
November 16, 2005

Cost Of DoD's Top 85 Programs Rise $65B

By Gopal Ratnam and Greg Grant

The estimated cost of the largest U.S. weapons programs increased by $65 billion, or 4.4 percent, between June and September, according to a Nov. 15 update to the Pentagon's Selected Acquisition Report, which covers all future development and acquisition costs for 85 programs.

Most of the rise — from $1.474 trillion to $1.539 trillion — was attributed to the restructuring of the U.S. Army's Future Combat Systems (FCS) program, an ambitious effort to create a network of manned and unmanned ground and air vehicles.

The report said FCS's estimated price tag has risen from $98.8 billion to $161 billion in nonconstant dollars, or about $120 billion in constant, inflation-adjusted dollars.

Army Secretary Francis Harvey said on Oct. 20 that FCS would cost about $122 billion in constant dollars though 2025, including $27.7 billion for research and development and $94 billion to equip 15 brigades.

Army officials declined immediate comment.

Officials with Boeing, which runs the FCS program with SAIC, also declined to comment.

The report attributes the FCS rise to a "program restructure" that will cost $54 billion and a four-year "extension of schedule" that will cost $8.2 billion. Both figures were given in nonconstant dollars. The FCS program was launched in 2003 with an estimated cost of about $92 billion.

The report also offered the first cost estimate for the Army's Armed Reconnaissance Helicopter, at $3.6 billion. The program received approval in July to enter the next phase of development.

Cost estimates for two major space programs also went up between June and September, according to the report. The average unit cost for both the National Polar-Orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System, or NPOESS, and the Space Based Infrared System (SBIRS) High increased by 15 percent during the last six months, triggering a Nunn-McCurdy review.

The Nunn-McCurdy legislation requires the Pentagon to certify a program's importance when its unit cost increases beyond 15 percent during a reporting period.

The Selected Acquisition Reports, which are prepared for Congress by the Office of the Undersecretary of Defense for Acquisition, estimate the total acquisition cost of programs, including past and predicted expenditures on research and development, procurement, military construction, and acquisition-related operation and maintenance.

Unbounded Expenses

In “The Mission” Dana Priest makes it very clear that the military is taking upon itself a great amount of tasks beyond traditional war-time combat. The United States has 329,061 personnel outside of the US. Increasingly, those soldiers are asked to fight unconventional wars against dynamic threats. While these changes are happening, and there is war in Iraq and active operations in Afghanistan, we continue to be guided by a National Security Strategy that is seeking out targets and vowing to prevent threats.

From readings this week, it seems clear that defense budgets are going to fall short of even limited estimations of what will be needed for defense given current priorities. The CBO report showed that Congress can expect to spend more and more money every year. Their 2004 projection for even that rate of increase had grown from their startling 2003 projection. CBO provided a dotted line for "cost risk," but it remains to be seen whether Congress has the stomach for those kinds of outlays. Either the scope of expenses or the strategy itself is going to have to change because we simply will not be able to sustain the military in its global posture given projected spending expectations, which I think are aimed low anyway.

I like the way JROC seems to work: joint planners can talk about projects with an eye to what the CINCs see on the ground in their respective theatres. That’s one option for focusing and trimming spending. What do you all think, is it going to come down to simply stepping back from the unpredictably expensive “action” approach to taking down forces opposing the US? Or is there a better way to manage the unbounded expenses that are sure to grow for national security?

Quite funny

A little avian flu humor in the morning.

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

To Set a Date or Not to Set a Date?

As we all know, much of the scrutiny of Bush’s actions in office lies in our involvement in Iraq, and our reluctance to set a date for withdrawal. While that may be something that many believe should happen immediately, there are many reasons it should not. One of which is that we are in the middle of rebuilding the country and leaving it now could leave it so unstable that everything good that the US has done to create a democratic society could be reversed.

An article in today’s Washington Post addresses the desire of many US Senators to have a solid timeline of how much longer our troops will be stationed over in Iraq. While they may want to be able to tell their constituents when their family members will be returning, it is still impossible to pinpoint exactly when the country will become stable. I do believe that being able to see the end much more clearly would relieve much of the anxiety felt by many Americans opposed to the war. However, it could very well be a false light at the end of the tunnel and could lead to even more unrest toward our administration if that deadline had to be extended.

The Senate is increasing pressure on the White House to get them to end the war (the proposal for a set date only lost by 18 votes). While it is definitely important to get the job done as quickly as possible, something as delicate as a new form of government cannot be rushed, or it will likely be just a flash in the pan.

Perhaps some of the pressure comes from promises from claims by insurgent groups that they will back down if American troops pull out. However, it seems to me that this is much like negotiating with a terrorist. These groups are not known for keeping their word to the United States (except when that word revolves around attacks). Aborting a mission because they say that they will back down is not something that the US will likely do. It is better to make sure that they have lost their place in the country, rather than backing out and hoping that they stay quiet.

While the Senate and many Americans may want a date to look toward for the end of the war, the military Commanders believe that it would be a mistake to put a time on it. I think that Bush is doing the right thing by listening to those who are in the battle and leading the troops. These are the men who are in the line of fire and seeing first hand what can and cannot be done in the country. Those of us here in the States who are not on the frontlines and simply want the whole thing to be over are probably not the best authority on what would be the best situation for withdrawal from Iraq.

Apuro en Paraíso

As many of you may know, accusations have recently come up that CIA planes transporting terrorist suspects have made stopovers on the island of Majorca off the coast of Spain (NY Times). Spain's Interior Minister José Antonio Alonso has been very outspoken that if these claims are true, they would not be tolerated. His outspokenness is seen as a sign of major strains in Spain-U.S. relations. Spain's Prime Minister José Luis Rodríguez Zapatero has been critical of the U.S.'s War on Terror and war in Iraq since he took office in April 2004.

In light of the terrorist attacks in Madrid in March 2004, shouldn't Spain have a looser opinion about dealing with terrorists and possibly be willing to help the U.S. in its efforts? Does this represent a possible shift by previously cooperative countries away from U.S. doctrine?

My take on the situation is that a country like Spain sees its ties with the U.S. more of a threat than terrorism. If Spain is willing to cut ties with the U.S. and criticize our tactics, it obviously views close ties with the U.S. as dangerous and bad for its image. Frankly, should we even care that Spain is mad at us for transporting terrorism suspects through its country? I'm beginning to think not. We can fight the war on terror with or without Spain and if stopping off in Majorca helps us out, then they can get over it.

Our esteemed professor has posted his opinion on this subject here.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Everything Old is New Again

A Washington Post article today announced that Russia and Uzbekistan have formed (again) a military alliance which could in the future mean that Russia will have a military base on Uzbekistan’s soil. This is ironic as Uzbekistan has shifted between alliances with Russia and the US. Uzbekistan until very recently hosted a US air force base that was crucial in the war against terrorism. However, the relationship turned sour after an uprising on May 13.

Uzbekistan says it was an attempt by Islamic militants to seize power in which 173 people were killed. (The government also hinted that they believed the US supported these militants…which makes perfect sense seeing as how supportive the US government is of Islamic terrorists.) However, the US believes that in reality hundreds of civilians were killed when they were protesting poverty and government repression in the streets.
In response, the US government began to threaten to withhold aid due to this and other human rights violations by the government. This prompted the Uzbeks to give the US six months to leave the base.

The danger may not necessarily be that we are losing Uzbekistan to Russia. After all, the Cold War is over right? Uzbekistan seems to be the unique case of a former satellite reverting back to the “motherland”. Georgia, Ukraine, and Kyrgyzstan all have western-leaning governments. However, can the US afford to lose a base in such a valuable geographic location? Although the US still has a “temporary” base in K-stan, the loss of the base in Uzbekistan means that operations in Afghanistan will be more difficult, it might compromise any future operations in Pakistan or India, there is a general loss in regional dominance of Central Asia (something Russia and China couldn’t be happier about), and don’t forget that Uzbekistan has lots of oil to boot. MacGyver talked about Bush being a hypocrite, but this is one example of the US standing up for human rights violations and suffering the consequences for it. However are the consequences too great? In the interest of national security should the US just turn the other cheek to these violations of human rights?

Does anyone else think this situation is crying out for a steel cage match?

Mexico has recalled their envoy from Venezuela after insulting comments aimed at el Presidente Fox by Venezuelan President Chavez. The two countries are on opposite ends of the spectrum over the United States' proposed Free Trade of the Americas. However, often times leaders can still act professionally even if they fundamentally disagree on an issue. Well, not in this case. Apparently Chavez said something about Mexico and Fox demanded an apology and then Chavez said something about Fox. Maybe these guys would feel more comfortable on Laguna Beach.

This situation may be amusing but it's also a little worrisome. The idea that two important countries in Latin America could de facto cut off relations simply because the leaders don't get along seems juvenile. Fox's demands seem a little stiff, especially since Chavez has a proclivity to run his mouth. Apparently this time Hugo found someone to take him seriously for some reason other than his oil.

Monday, November 14, 2005

Bush in the World's Biggest Red State

This week President Bush is in Asia. His trip will include stays in Japan, South Korea, China, and Mongolia ("Damn you Mongolians. You tore down my City Wall"). In Japan and Mongolia, he'll be received more or less warmly, but in South Korea and China he'll be received with some apprehension; although it will be done so respectfully.

What is the most important aspect of this trip? The Bush Doctrine as applied to China. Bush's people have already stated that his big democracy speech will be in Japan, not China. You would think someone who talks about freedom curing the world of all its ills would make that speech in China. To see how far things have gone, just look at last week when Bush met the Dali Lama in the White House to discuss Tibet. The press wasn't told of the meeting until after it happened and only the official White House photographer took a handful of pictures. Furthermore, the pictures and the meeting weren't posted on the official White House website. This White House is being very sensitive towards China. Is it possible that the business lobby within the Republican Party, led by Assistant Secretary of State Robert Zoellick, has won out over the ideological neocons-Cheney, Bennett, and Libby? Well, maybe not the last one.

Personally, I'm glad Bush has decided to take this track. I already knew that he was a hypocrite, so I'm not happy for that reason; instead I'm glad to see that Bush has become a little less of an idealist and a little more of a realist.

!!!This Week's Miseducation of Xerxes!!!
"I was going to kill the world's greatest lover, but then I realized that it was commit suicide."
-Sideshow Bob

Sunday, November 13, 2005

Values Annually Assessed Around Veterans’ Day

Each year November 11 (thank you Kryptos) serves as the official day of recognition and remembrance for our nation’s veterans, but it also provides an annual forum for people to reassess our values and the military’s role with them. From the President laying a wreath at the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in Arlington to main-street parades in small-town America, citizens become more publicly aware (more so the case during peacetime) of what the military does and of the costs of defending American values during Armistice Day than other times of the year.

Though supporting the troops is not politically dividing, the constant re-examination of the reasoning of why we engage in military force is contentious. Are the values that were used to justify the Vietnam War the same for the Iraqi War? As our esteemed colleague “Cavour” points out, values certainly change over time, as does the public support of war. Evidence of this annual public feedback can be found in most any newspaper spread over this past weekend. The Herald-Leader, for example, featured a plethora of Veterans’ Day contributions including Bob Dole’s encouragement to send troops reminders of home (Dole), the long term psychiatric effects of war on individuals and families, an opinion on troop deployment schedules, and even an article on a Revolutionary War veteran grave maintained on a local farm (Herald-Leader). Cable channels featured military film marathons and radio stations (at least the country stations that I jammed out to this weekend) played selected patriotic songs. This public highlight of such a wide range of military issues raises public awareness and spurs discussions of why America supports an active military role in world affairs.

Of course, these discussions may not make it out of the family living room or the quiet content of having a day off work for another federal holiday, but this annual exposure does what it is designed to do: get people to at least entertain the notion of remembering those who sacrificed for all of us. This summation may seem too idealistic and naïve to be appreciated by all, but then again the values that guide our parameters of threats are ideals themselves.