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.

Cutting Egypt's Allowance

This weekend, a conference on fostering democracy in the Middle East was held in Bahrain with foreign ministers from the Middle East, the G-8, and others. This conference, set in motion by the US, was intended to culminate in the adoption of a plan to support democracy in the Middle East, including financial backing to democratic groups. At the last minute Egypt demanded wording that would give the state the power to decide what democratic groups would receive funding, co-opting the entire point of the plan to encourage the growth of democracy without interference.

With Egypt as the second highest recipient of US foreign aid, being second only to Israel, one has to wonder if this is truly money well spent. While aid has been essential in establishing peace between Israel and Egypt and keeping some calm in the Middle East, we have to wonder how effective our relationship with Egypt really is. The sinking of this weekend’s Middle Eastern democracy initiative raises the question of whether or not so much financial aid should be given to Egypt if it is not willing to cooperate with international democratic initiatives in the region. All other states at the summit were willing to adopt the plan as it stood, even other states which had supported Egypt’s desire for control of the money being filtered into democratic groups ultimately dropped this request and were willing to adopt the document. Egypt has previously shown its unwillingness to be fully cooperative with those seeking democracy in the Middle East, refusing to allow international observers for their recent “multi-party” elections. With support for democracy being a pre-condition for US aid and support in other states across the globe, perhaps stricter requirements or less support should be imposed on Egypt.

It is now a US value to see democracy spread, however it seems a higher priority value to have allies in the fight against terrorism. Egypt, Pakistan, and Saudi Arabia among others are examples of such relationships. With Egypt having been considerably cooperative in the US-led charge against global terrorism, it seems likely that no matter how much foot dragging and difficulty Egypt should kick up in the US-led initiative for democracy in the Middle East, we won’t be willing to threaten to tighten the purse strings. For now we’re getting support where we need it most from Egypt, combating terrorism, and as long as such cooperation continues, we will likely be wiling to overlook Egypt’s transgressions against democracy. While I am not advocating cutting Egypt off, I believe it would be best to play hardball with Egypt and threaten reduced aid if it continues to threaten democratic initiatives and openness in the region. If we continue to allow our friends to co-opt our values and initiatives, we will continue to lose legitimacy in the international community and especially in the Middle East were we so desperately need to fix our tarnished image.

Saturday, November 12, 2005


So we go to war to defend our values. So my question is, what do we do when our values conflict? We value economic stablity and liberal democracy. We used to value stopping communism. That's why we supported the shah in Iran, South Vietnam, and South Korea. The problem is, those regimes weren't democratic. In the case of South Vietnam and Iran, we failed partially because we were too dependent on the leaders. In South Korea, we forced the leaders to reform, which is partially why South Korea has turned out so well. Was sacrificing our belief in liberal democracy part of the reason we grew so dependent on a particular regime? And if so, doesn't that bode ill for our support for Saudi Arabia (among others)? We support an undemocratic regime there for economic reasons, and we lack the power (or will) to force them to reform.

Friday, November 11, 2005

HOOAH! on Veterans Day

The USA Today reports that the Army exceeded its military recruiting goals for October, the first month of the new fiscal year. Read more! The photo above (courtesy of is from today's Veterans Day ceremony at the tomb of the unknown soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

Seeds of Change in Iraq Strategy?

Krepinevich's argument may be getting some traction; see this Washington Post article.

For Ultimate Control of your Military

Don't feel like you have enough control of your military? Well, Nippon has designed a revolutionary product for the truly discriminating dictator who cherishes absolute control. No longer worry about coups or whether your soldiers will follow your orders to the 'T'. The Human Remote Control puts command and control directly at your fingertips. Be the first to order ten thousand units and get free synchronization of your units into a single remote control (comes in midnight black or faux cherry finish. Looks great on your coffee table!) The Human Remote Control will make your other dictator pals green with envy.

Grand Theft Auto: Paris

Porte Dauphine to Sacre Coure in 9 minutes in a Ferrari 275. Big download. Worth it.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

US-China Commission

Next Tuesday, the Honorable Patrick Mulloy will visit the University of Kentucky to speak on China. He is a commissioner on the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission, which earlier this week released its annual report. The general conclusion is that the United States lacks a single, unified China policy and that is harming our interests.

For more analysis of its conclusions, see:

Why join the military when you can fake it?

The number of people who lie about, exaggerate, or otherwise obfuscate their military history is growing. Sometimes it is just lower ranked soldiers that inflate what they did and which rank they achieved, but some guys just fake it completely. For example...In 2004, no less than six women revealed that they were romanced by a so-called Navy SEAL. The man was an insurance claim adjuster.

Although the Dept. Of Veterans Affairs does keep track of people who commit fraud while claiming veterans' benefits, it has no idea how many military impersonators are roaming the streets.

If the military is having difficulty recruiting, this does not help. If the military services want to maintain a good image, this does not help. Between Abu Gharib, Guantanamo Bay, and impostors running around, is the military's image in trouble?

Want to read about it...

Defense Budget

CBO recently released its FY 06 report on long term defense budget implications. Read it here. This may be a good addition to our readings for next week's class.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Jarhead Field Trip, Mark II

Because of the India-China talk on Thursday night, I think Saturday afternoon would be the best time to see Jarhead. A matinee would be ideal. Will make plans tomorrow in class.

Police Action vs. Military Action

There is a good editorial in the Financial Times today. It is behind the subscription wall, so I'll paste the best parts. If you want the entire text I'm sure it is in the Van Room.

Judging from official rhetoric, not just in France but elsewhere in Europe and America, many political leaders believe the solution for dealing with Muslim disaffection and Islamic extremism is to encourage moderate, liberal forms of Islam. But failure is inherent in this approach.


However noble in conception, Islamic liberalism is today at its lowest ebb since the 19th century. This is not because Muslims generally are more militant than before, but because the moderation hawked to anxious governments by Muslim notables is itself redundant. For one thing, their analyses of Islam’s problems are way out of date, concentrating on reinterpreting the Koran and reforming Sharia law to liberalise Islam in a systematic and collective way. The Koran, for example, had been read by traditional specialists in an indirect and unsystematic way.


Like other global movements, al-Qaeda possesses a moral autonomy beyond its political or economic causes. Its minions have already been exposed to liberal Islam and rejected it for something far more modern...This is why the “war on terror” should be conducted as a police operation rather than an ideological or even military struggle, as its enemy is not some external power but exists inside liberal as well as illiberal societies.

!!!This Week's installment of The Miseducation of Xerxes!!!

Mr. Burns: "Smithers, land the plane."
Smithers: "But Mr. Burns, you're the one flying."
Mr. Burns: "Excellent."

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

Set your phasars to stun!

No this isn't Star Trek...this could be the future weaponry of the American fighting man. Read more! If I were a grunt, I'd still favor the M-16 and an old "1911" anyday.

If you are interested in these futuristic high-tech weapons, Dr. Zimet's 2002 article on high energy laser (HEL) weapons is also must read!

Biddle on Iraq

In Defense News:

The conventional assumption that speed and precision weapons allowed U.S. forces to rapidly defeat the Iraqi Army in early 2003 demands reassessment in light of the large numbers of close combat battles fought by invading U.S. forces against unbroken Iraqi defenders, a U.S. Army War College expert said.

During a Nov. 2 Army War College conference, “U.S. Military Operations in Iraq: Planning, Combat and Occupation,” Stephen Biddle said all of the Iraqi cities were defended along the U.S. Army’s line of advance, which forced commitment of the American reserve, the 101st and 82nd Airborne divisions, to clear the cities and secure the transportation routes.

Biddle said the Iraqis’ poor fighting skills and inadequate defenses, particularly in the cities, allowed U.S. forces to exploit their armored protection and precision firepower. He believes the same tactics employed by American ground forces, armored raids inside Baghdad, likely would have resulted in much higher casualties against a more determined and better prepared foe.

Monday, November 07, 2005

Notes on Grading

The grades for the second memo set is in, and shows a significant improvement from the first set. The first set average was 3.31, and the second set average 3.48.

Thus far, the presentation grades have average 3.59. I haven't yet made any grading decisions regarding participation or blogging.

Jarhead Field Trip

Anyone interested in a field trip to see Jarhead? If so, respond in comments, and we'll try to put something together.

UPDATE: Besides Jacob, can anyone who's interested not make it after class? That would probably be the most convenient for me, although Saturday afternoon is another alternative. Can people make it on Saturday afternoon?

Hollywood & the Military: Established Jointness

This week’s movie release of Jarhead once again revisits the relationship between Hollywood filmmakers, the Department of Defense, and the American public. Written and based upon former Marine Anthony Swofford’s best-selling book about his training and experience in Operation Desert Storm, this film explores more so the individual’s dilemmas of warfare than the operation itself. Although the DOD did not provide any assistance towards the movie’s production, there still exists a complimenting relationship between filmmakers and the U.S. military.

For Hollywood, war movies have been the moneymakers from the beginnings of silent films. The portrayal of war on the big screen seems to naturally attract viewers due to the suspense, action, historical relevance, and more often than not, the love stories (which by the way runs the risk of ruining movies such as Pearl Harbor for the sake of satisfying a larger, more female oriented audience). Movies such as Saving Private Ryan and Men of Honor not only proved to be box office hits, but they also portrayed historical events in a realistic manner.

For the U.S. military, war movies and TV series can either become a recruiting powerhouse tool or a media nuisance. Classic films such Top Gun and Full Metal Jacket proved to be the most successful recruiting tools ever for the Navy and Marines respectively. In addition, they are often the cheapest ways of letting young America know what it is like to part of the military because such films are almost entirely financed by Hollywood but advertise the military for free. In fact, former Secretary of Defense William Cohen actively worked to support the film industry and once praised, “The film industry is important in shaping what people think about our military and supporting them. We in the Pentagon wanted to say 'Thank you' to Hollywood." (Cohen)

However, films that portray strong political views and often more realistic images of military events and service can produce negative identity effects. The DOD can and frequently does actively influence war film images and production by either offering or denying assistance. Assistance comes in the form of either by technical assistance on operational protocol or asset usage such as equipment, real soldiers, and on-site filming locations on military property. Director and publicly self-described political activist Oliver Stone was denied military assistance for his war movies Platoon, Born on the Fourth of July, and Heaven and Earth. Stone comments, “They [DOD] make prostitutes of us all because they want us to sell out to their point of view. They want a certain kind of movie made” (Stone). The script for Tom Clancy’s Clear and Present Danger was changed several times by the DOD to better portray the involvement of the State Department and national sovereignty recognition of Colombia before assistance was guaranteed (Stone).

Jarhead is Hollywood’s latest attempt to portray U.S. military involvement in the Middle East. Previous works have been hit and miss such as the profitable Gunner Palace and FX’s soon to be cancelled TV series Over There (AOL). Perhaps Jarhead will be more successful in the box office because it doesn’t have to compete with the daily, 24 hour news outlets. Nevertheless, this film is sure to get people thinking more about the changing realities of war and perhaps positively influence Marine recruitment. However, it will be hard to beat the line, “I feel a need, a need for speed”.

Sunday, November 06, 2005

Magic Shield

For years, there has been talk of a new Chinese ship protection system similar in capabilities to the American Aegis combat system. I, for one, have been skeptical. Whenever someone describes something as the "Chinese version of" something else, it is wise to be skeptical. Betel nuts (a nasty carcinogen) are commonly described as "Chinese chewing gum," for example. You can rest assured that any food described as "Chinese hamburger" or "Chinese pizza" will taste like your left shoe. If it tasted good, they would be proud enough of its Chinese origins as to tell you its Chinese name and encourage you to pronounce it (wrongly) at least ten or eleven times.

Why is all this nonsense relevant to this course, you might wonder? It turns out the reason the weapon system in question, the "Magic Shield," is described as Aegis-like because IT IS AEGIS! It was built using American blue prints. Four people out on the left coast have been selling China such defense secrets since 1990, according to this Washington Times article.

Also revealed were secrets about the Virginia-class attack submarine and they may have revealed information that would help China attack American aircraft carriers.

Welcome To The (Real) Suck

One of the original justifications for the war in Iraq was that Saddam was a bloody dictator who ruled with an iron fist. However, there were other countries in the world where that reasoning would have made more sense. Pre-war Iraq, even after a decade of sanctions, was a better place to wake up in the morning than in North Korea, Burma, Congo, Nepal or Sudan. Can we do anything to improve the lot of people who live in these countries? It is an important question to ask because we are the most powerful country in the world, and with our inherent power comes a great sense of responsibility.

Of those countries that I just listed, the one where we could make the most difference and be most effective is Sudan. I believe that the U.S., and any country that has the power, should intervene when a genocide occurs. This does not have to mean that we wage all-out war, but it does mean that we get involved, and more than diplomatically if need be. It is important that the U.S. is associated as a power for good, not the face behind Guantanamo Bay and Abu Gharib. Most importantly, if there ever is a justification for war it is to protect the innocent from slaughter, as Thomas Aquinas said. Plus, we've all heard that "Evil only triumphs when good men do nothing," to parapharase an Irish philospher.

What actions can we take with Sudan? Sudan's only real export is oil, and even if we don't buy it the Chinese will be more than happy too. Sanctions therefore won't work. Right now we have a proxy peacekeeping force there in the African Union (AU) troops. Yet, the AU is underfunded and not as effective as a U.S. force or European one. If America were to get involved in Sudan you would not hear cries of American imperialism since we are there to stop a genocide. No one would say that we are there to take their oil because we won't go any further from the Chadian border than 150 miles. This should be enough space to create a buffer between the refugees and the janjaweed. This type of operation would not require a large troop level if we use our technology well. Aviation could monitor potential janjaweed and let us know where we need to move. Meanwhile, the military would be given a clear mandate to actively protect the refugees, and target any janjaweed groups that come within the buffer zone. It is politically and operationally impossible at this point to deploy more than 10,000 troops, if that many. That is why we use diplomacy to get our NATO allies involved in order to share the burden. We would also use diplomacy to get the Darfurian resistance groups to lay down their arms and negotiate. They need to know we won't provide protection forever.

The most difficult issue is one of timeline. NATO forces should look to protect the buffer for a year to a year and a half, at which point NATO will begin to scale down. During that year and a half, the AU troops should receive training with NATO forces so that they can resume peacekeeping when NATO leaves. They probably won't have as aggressive a mandate, but they can still be effective if they are taught how to do their job well. The U.N. might also provide peacekeeping troops if it sees the good NATO has done.

Thoughts on the MacGyver Doctrine? Use up valuable bandwidth.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

I know jointness is the big thing. The question I have is this: how much jointness is a good thing? Nothing is free. The more jointness there is, the less specialization the services will enjoy. For instance, say the Air Force became really good at providing the Army with close air support. If the fighter-bomber pilots spend most of their time practicing supporting the Army (an unlikely prospect, but bear with me), how proficient will they be at the fighter role? Isn't there a point when the costs of jointness outweigh the benefits? While I don't see it happening soon, I'm concerned that the US may eventually sacrifice the benefits inherent in specialization for lesser benefits from jointness.

Friday, November 04, 2005

For Xerox, Parmesan, and the Rest of the Family: A Recipe for Jointness

Since in a few years time (approximately 20-25 years from now) we will be taking over the world, I think it's high-time we started conceptualizing how we want to structure our armed services.

In yesterday's class we discussed the merits and demerits of jointness. On the plus side, jointness involves the seamless integration of air, land, and sea forces to holistically combat an enemy. This approach has the potential to completely overwhelm our enemies, preventing them an opportunity to compete with our forces by crushing them from every angle at once.

On the downside, jointness may result in, as one future SecDef stated, "The lowest common denominator" of forces. Jointness could cut down on specialization, resulting in a lower quality military, potentially increasing a service's dependence and decreasing its dominance in a particular area. (Given our military's absolute advantages over every other military, this may not matter much.)

Besides the downsides of jointness itself, there are myriad problems in designing and implementing jointness, including beauracratic impediments. The questions remain: Is jointness necessary? Do the benefits outweigh the potential problems? If jointness is essential, how can we best design and implement it?

Now, I'm operating under the assumption that jointness is essential to our nation's continued superiority (hey, I'm a Renaissance man alright) and I'd like to provide you with my recipe for it.

The basic ingredients:

1 Part Army
1 Part Navy
1 Part Airforce
1 Part Marines
1 set of toys specifically designed for joint operations

Now, here's the secret ingredient that will truly make jointness work:

You take these individual ingredients (confiscate them from their current commands) and make them their own separate force. That's right, you make a rapid reaction joint force of say 40,000 men (a la the EU) that is, perhaps, semi-autonomous under the army's command. They will train together, practicing littoral warfare and close-in air support operations. They would be called in for such missions as those in Afghanistan. This will allow the other services to maintain their autonomy (and dominance) and concentrate on the big picture: war with Mother Russia, China, etc. It wouldn't be easy (it would take a pretty strong SecDef), but it could work. And in the end, the services may be happier with that than with jointness as it stands now.

Of course, I haven't taken account of all the pesky details, but those can be ironed out when we're in charge of things. So brainstorm with me here. How are you going to improve on the family recipe?

Thursday, November 03, 2005

Cheese-Eating Surrender Monkeys

Paris burns, and I don't feel bad for the French government. If you didn't know, for the last few days there has been rioting in some of the poor, immigrant neighborhoods in Paris The rioting started over the death of two immigrant muslims who may or may not have been indirectly killed by police. I'm not pro-rioting but...

I don't feel bad. I could not stand the self-righteous coming from France after Hurricane Katrina. I read an editorial at that time in Le Monde which basically went, "Here in France, we should be thankful that our government views all its citizens as equals." Hey France, where's your "liberté, égalité, fraternité" this week?

In fact, western Europe has a bigger problem with migrant poverty than the U.S. does. Migrants in Europe overwhelmingly live in poverty. Second generation immigrants aren't seen as European and when they visit their home countries they aren't seen as the nationality of their parents. They are alienated and therefore become radicals that bomb London buses or sneak into Iraq. American muslims aren't becoming violent radicals. Our government enriches immigrants faster than any other country in the world. If you got a decent job and don't live in squalor, you're satisfied enough not to take on the life of a jihadist. France should take a page from our playbook.

A Baathist Revival?

The Iraqi government has recently asked many former junior officers from Saddam Hussein’s army to return to the ranks. After Saddam’s regime was toppled the US purged the army of Baathist elements. However, this was seen as a mistake by many. Although many Shi’ites, include Chalabi, encouraged this measure, the loss of so many experienced officers meant the Iraqi armed forces had to be developed from scrap.

The question still remains whether this is a good idea. On one side having experienced officers would without a doubt improve the effectiveness of the Iraqi Armed Forces. This move may be a political ploy from the Shi’ite majority government to reach out to the Sunnis before the elections in December. However, a political ploy or not, this A balance should be struck between the factions in the armed forces so that no one group will have a preponderance in the military. However, despite possible reservations from some Shi’ite and Kurdish groups, getting Sunnis involved in the government and the army is critical.

The last question revolves around giving incentives for many of these former officers to rejoin the army. Many of these officers have spent the last 2 plus years fighting against the Americans in Iraq, and now they are expected to switch sides. On one hand, the return of the junior officers should enhance the army’s ability to provide security and therefore could expedite the removal of US troops. However, if these officers are unwilling to come back and fight with the Americans then the US will probably be involved in Iraq for a longer period of time.

So then, I ask, what is the best way to recruit these officers back into the army? Or, have I overstated the value of these officers both politically and militarily? Do we really need them and are there viable reasons why these officers should not be involved in Iraq’s new army like Chalabi argued?

Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A Brave New World or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Secret Detention Facilities

We've heard bits and pieces about secret detention/interrogation facilities for suspected terrorists since the WOT began, but today's Washington Post article was the most informative I've seen to date. According to Dana Priest, the CIA has been operating secret detention facilities in various Eastern European countries, Morocco, Egypt and Jordan (among others) where it keeps suspected terrorists and uses its "enhanced interrogation techniques" to (hopefully) obtain actionable intelligence.

Critics have alleged that the US is rendering (transferring) people suspected of terrorism to states where they will be subjected to harsh interrogation techniques prohibited in the United States, including torture (see a Congressional Research Service Report on the topic of rendition). While the Bush Administration has not disputed charges that persons have been rendered to foreign states believed to practice torture, officials have denied rendering persons to states for the purpose (italics added) of torture.

Clearly, these people are being held and interrogated abroad in order to avoid pesky domestic legal constraints like the US Constitution and Supreme Court and perhaps international legal constraints like the Geneva Convention. Even some US intelligence officials question the legality and, I daresay, the morality of such actions. I certainly understand the need for gathering intelligence, but is this the best way? Does this concern anybody other than me? What does a person have to do in order to land in one of these detention centers? And how long can they be kept there? For the rest of their lives? And who decides all of this? Is it acceptable for the most powerful nation in the international system to behave this way? Or do the Ends justify the Means in this Brave New World? I don't know, but there's something rather unsettling about all of this. Thoughts?

An even more different approach to military recruiting

In class last week we discussed the draft and whether it should be implemented to help waning recruit numbers in the military. Although most people probably disagree with the draft, is there no other option than the current plan which is basically throwing money at the problem? In Charles Moskos’s article Saving the All Volunteer Force he states that there is another option to improve military recruitment and that is a 15 month short-term enlistment.

With this option, short-term soldiers would serve in jobs that the incredibly taxed Army Reserves are doing now. These jobs would require only short-term or on the job training. Moskos gives the example of Military Police officers that could be trained in a 14 week period. And it just so happens that MP’s are a highly needed occupation in Iraq now.

One of the benefits of short-term enlistment is that it uses a previously untapped pool of qualified recruits: college students and recent graduates. A recent survey done at local universities found that 23% of college students would consider going into the military for a 15 month service, where as only 2% would consider it for the full four years. Short-term enlistment would offer soldiers $15,000 in educational benefits. This would allow the student the chance to pay back their student loans and it gives those who may not be exactly sure what they want to do right out of college more time to think about their career path.

Finally, by targeting college graduates and graduate-level students the army is no longer praying on the underprivileged. And it is giving the chance for more people to have a rewarding military experience that they can share in the civilian sector.

It makes me want to adorn myself in camoflauge and strap on some combat boots, what about you all?

Reading Change

The Hoffman reading is unavailable. Please read this article on Desert One by Charles Cogan instead.

Also, this JFQ article may help you interpret the CSIS Beyond Goldwater-Nichols report. It's short, and summarizes many of the major findings.

The Weiner article is available in the computer room.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

Sports Diplomacy

First there was ping pong in China. Then came wrestling in Iran. Now sports diplomacy is leading the way in thawing another cold relationship: the Koreas. According to the Beeb, North and South Korea are taking the first step toward reunification on the sports field. Who knows? Maybe they can soon end that pesky war going on between them.

Postscript: Did you know that the U.S. State Department has an Office of Sports Diplomacy?