Friday, February 23, 2007

The Gettysburg Powerpoint

Not to bite the hand that feeds us; the class does feature an awful lot of ppt. But DOD does a lot of planning via powerpoint; and it's important to keep in mind the limitations of the medium.

Would we be better off if they were communicating plans in actual sentences, rather than this sort of thing?

"Here may be the clearest manifestation of OSD’s contempt for the accumulated wisdom of the military profession and of the assumption among forward thinkers that technology—above all information technology—has rendered obsolete the conventions traditionally governing the preparation and conduct of war," commented retired Army Col. Andrew Bacevich

I get the graphic from some old blog posts, and I haven't read the book quoted; so take it for what it's worth.

We've read the Army's counterinsurgency manual; and though we noted a lot of material that looked like a sociology 101 text, it's a thorough document, with actual ideas contained therein.

But decisionmaking at the political levels learned its lessons from the ppt-rich, communication-poor corporate world.

For all the misgivings sociology profs might have at their work being used in an army manual, isn't it miles better than military decisions made and communicated in incomprehensible gibberish?

Cheney’s Analysis of China’s Rise

Vice President Cheney said in a speech in Sydney Austrailia February 23rd that, “Last month's anti-satellite test, China's continued fast-paced military buildup are less constructive and are not consistent with China's stated goal of a peaceful rise.'' The location of this speech is not trivial either, as the Chinese have begun demonstrable efforts to strengthen their leadership in bilateral and multilateral ties with their Asian neighbors and in ASEAN.

Pardon me Mr. Vice President, with all due respect, its called deterrence. Deterrence is a key element to maintaining peace, and thereby to a peaceful rise. A state’s capacity to remove an object from within the airspace over its sovereign territory is simply a vertical extension of its national security. A state demonstrating this capacity for the flock of spy satellites perched to keep an eye on that state is simply manifested deterrence.

If the Chinese had dropped 5 JDAM’s into a US Embassy in Europe, or had been conducting spy operations all over the US airspace and coast line, perhaps I could be convinced the Chinese had aggressive rather than defensive motivations. However I can’t help but notice that it is the United States and our dwindling allies that are conducting the warcapades around the world.

Mr. Vice President, I don’t mean to imply that you’re not a reliable source of intelligence data or analysis, but I think I’ll wait until China begins to develop some power projection capabilities that could reach beyond greater China before concluding that China’s rise is anything but peaceful.

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Troop Commander Wales

The United Kingdom is withdrawing 1,600 of their now 7,100 troops in Iraq. Even while Prince Harry is being voluntarily deployed to Southern Iraq, Parliament is discussing a complete withdraw of British troops by the end of this year. Troop Commander Wales must be quite the soldier. I can’t help but assume that the White House was aware of this and other allied withdrawals when planning the recent troop surge. I'm wondering, what is the implication for the United States when cornerstone of the “coalition of the willing” is no-longer willing?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

New Plan for Iraq

With the new plan of increasing troops in the Iraq, yesterday, Gen. Fil claimed a new strategy----“clear, control and retain”. He explained,

“The first objective within each of the security districts in the Iraqi capital is to clear out extremist elements neighborhood by neighborhood in an effort to protect the population. And after an area is cleared, we're moving to what we call the control operation. Together with our Iraqi counterparts, we'll maintain a full-time presence on the streets, and we'll do this by building and maintaining joint security stations throughout the city. This effort to re-establish the joint security stations is well under way. The number of stations in each district will be determined by the commanders on the ground who control that area. An area moves into the retain phase when the Iraqi security forces are fully responsible for the day-to-day security mission. At this point, coalition forces begin to move out of the neighborhood and into locations where they can respond to requests for assistance as needed. " [1]

Let’s see the former strategy, “clear, hold and build”. Condoleezza Rice explained,
“Clear the toughest places, no sanctuaries to the enemy, and to disrupt foreign support for the insurgents. We are working to hold and steadily enlarge the secure areas, integrating political and economic outreach with our military operations. We are working to build truly national institutions by working with more capable provincial and local authorities. We are challenging them to embody a national compact, not tools of a particular sect or ethnic group. These Iraqi institutions must sustain security forces, bring rule of law, visibly deliver essential services, and offer the Iraqi people hope for a better economic future. " [2]

Compared with the former strategy, the new plan requires more role of the Iraqi government. The new plan focuses not only on “we” but also on the allies. Having been trained for years, the Iraqi military and police have the capability to share some burden of the US troops. Second, the “clear” task is accomplished in the form of small warfare, which is defined as “neighborhood by neighborhood”. The new tactic may be more suitable for the current Iraqi situation. Third, the Iraqi military is needed in the second phase and security forces are needed in the third phase. They can improve the relationships between Iraqi populace and Coalition Force. Iraqi forces understand the culture, and know how to get along with the populace. More importantly, when they secure and help the area develop, the populace regards them as representative of government, and will respect and support them. If the securing and building job is done by the US army, the Iraqi government cannot establish its own foundation from its people. On the other hand, with the new plan the US can deploy the skilled troops whose positions are handed to Iraqi security forces to achieve the first phase in the new front.

Another interesting stuff is that the new plan gives up the “build” task. Isn’t the status quo situation ready for rebuilding, or does the US want to let Iraqi people develop with their own hands? If the US doesn’t want to help Iraqi economic development, then I think the Iraq War will be a failure, because with the economy deteriorating, Iraqi people can be easily influenced by the extremists and terrorists. If it is not ready, then when is the appropriate time? The moment when all the extremists are cleared out or when the certain area is controlled, or when the area is retained?

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Response to Several Responses

In response to the third and fourth comments of the "We Need More Time, Not Major Shift" post, I see and understand the points both arguments are making. If you look through history, there are many conflicts, both conventional state-on-state, and unconventional; but I believe the fututre holds something different.

Gen. Zinni made the point that conventional battles is the exception, I believe in the future that is true. Iraq and Afghanistan are obviously insurgent battles. If a conflict with Iran irrupts, then that too will be an insurgent battle. They have already threatened the use of tens of thousands of terror style attacks on US interests throughout the world. Terror style attacks in my opinion is not a conventional form of fighting. You may thinik of cases where US, or other state militaries had used this form of attack, but I would argue that they were not fighting conventional battles.

Insurgency is the way of the future I believe, it will certainly be the type of fighting in Iran, and using Iraq and Afghanistan as examples, any leader of a rogue or otherwise enemy state would be folish to do otherwise. It is the only way that does not gaurantee downright defeat. Maybe eventual defeat, but not without taking many lives of their enemy.

North Korea may be the exception, with its vast armies and years worth of targetting and placement of forces. But I would not doubt that Kim has plans at the ready for insurgent tactics. It would be irrational for him not to learn from history. America cannot quickly and successfully fight unconventional wars. It takes much more time and bloodshed to win. This would seem right up Kims ally, he knows he could never win against the US, what else would he have to fall back on. The only other thought would be that he uses his remaining nukes incase of invasion. He could use them tacticly on the battle field. But, do not think for a second he has not thought about, or planned to fight using insurgency tactics.

The fourth comment points out that insurgency is the exception. That might have been true in the past, but not for the future. There a few formidable state militaries could stand against the US, though not successfully. The rest will rely on the only proven tactic they have left; insurgency. Counterinsurgency is a tactic our forces must learn and learn quickly, because it is the battlefield of the future.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

A New Threat

With the introduction of China’s new weapon system that can successfully destroy an orbiting satellite, the United States is going to have to reevaluate its intelligence, communications, and military systems. There has been a long running controversy over the use of weapons in space, though the technology is available, it is not known with certainty that there are active weapons systems in space at this time. However, if the reports are true of China’s test, this could bring a new era of a space arms race; one aimed at combating the new technological threats.

Through out the past decade, the United States has increasingly relied on satellite systems for the nation’s national security. They are not only used to protect the home front, but used extensively for military engagements through out the world. The Department of Defenses (DoD) unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) program relies on GPS and satellite systems to conduct their missions. Smart bombs to pinpoint and strike targets, as well as troops on the ground to know exactly where other forces are located in real time rely on GPS and satellite communications. Additionally, these systems are used for intelligence gathering. The National Security Agency (NSA) uses satellites for surveillance, and most all other radio detection and interception. The Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) uses them for surveillance on foreign locations and intelligence collection. Most all communications systems for intelligence and military units on the ground are made through the use of satellite systems.

If this new technology is exploited further, there are many concerns that would need to be addressed. The path our national security agencies have been traveling could have leaded us in the wrong direction. We have come to rely on satellites, that if they can be destroyed when we need them most, we do not have a reliable system in place. If America got in a conflict with China regarding any number of issues particularly Taiwan, our satellites would be in grave risk and so would our strategic capability. America needs to be researching and developing new technologies for its communications and intelligence gathering needs. Satellites that are undetectable or that create ghosts to conceal its true location are a few of the defenses our satellites currently have. But new, more secure ways must be developed.

Finally, this new Chinese system may be the start of the new space arms race. Undoubtedly, our intelligence agencies are working to acquire information regarding this Chinese technology. Though America has been the leader in developing new defense technology, it is still necessary to know your opponents full capabilities. A whole new type of weaponry and communications is in the future. Even if this technology is not pursued further, the fact the capabilities are present is something the United States cannot ignore. The Chinese are in the lead when compared to the United States since they have developed this technology first and they likely are already developing ways to combat it. America must make every effort to be at the forefront of this race, if not, our national security policy could be much different than it was just a month back.

Monday, February 12, 2007

New Approach

The blog posting is now going bare-knuckles. This could get interesting.

Friday, February 09, 2007

Security Needed, Inquire Within.

While we are contemplating an insurgency operation against the U.S. in Iraq, let’s look at the counter-insurgency Iraq itself faces…aka: civil war. What teeth does the young government have to effectively conduct a counter-insurgency of its own?

Pivotal is the establishment of a legitimate government that can effectively provide for the people…and here is the catch…it must be viewed as legitimate by all the people. So what is job one? SECURITY

Much to Thursday’s speaker’s chagrin, Iraq needs some effective force loyal to the government that is capable of maintaining a stable environment which all Iraqi’s feel secure. Anything short of this provides fodder for those groups or individuals that can provide security to its base.

So what folks be might an Iraqi enlist support?

a) Shiite Militias come to mind. Wow…they are already organized, trained and tacitly supported by a big country full of resources. I wonder if those Shiites would try to use their influence to take control of the government…by means other than popular election.

b) Sunni. Small, effective at guarding turf through terror tactics. Hardly the guys I would want to protect the resource-rich land that I have and they don’t.

c) Kurds. They’re nice guys. They have somewhat of an organized security force (when it’s not busy in Turkey). They could cover down on the rest of Iraq and provide security. But what is the incentive…besides that… they have to work on getting ready to defend Kurdistan.

d) The Americans!!! That’s it. They started this thing. Why don’t they hang around indefinitely and do it. Nnaaa. Their public will never support it…especially with media trolling the streets. Besides…they have other world wide operations and elections to worry about.

e) Hey…how about some of the neighbors. They would love to help out in Iraq. Eyeeee…it could just be a repeat of a, b, and c.

Well, I guess we are just going to have to go with the Iraqi Security Force. Yep..definitely. The trick will be to build a strong enough loyal force and eliminate, or render them ineffective, the partisan forces that could pose future threats and derail the government. But how do we do that?

I would imagine that we have to increase the effectiveness of our bureaucracy. That could be real tough and time consuming considering we have not had an effective government bureaucracy that tended to all the populace’s needs in nearly 40 years. That of course will require an organizational culture change at a minimum. Secondly, perhaps some mentorship would help. Are there any effective governments out there that could really help us with our lower echelon bureaucratic workings and issues at the local (not provincial) level? Sounds like the U.S. is running short.

Train Iraqis?

One of the more controversial points in Thursday’s presentation was the recommendation for the US to abandon, temporarily at least, the training of Iraqi security forces. The argument is that training Iraqis at this time has a higher opportunity cost than does focusing solely on a US led counterinsurgency. This viewpoint has a few flaws.

It is argued that the US should exercise caution in training and equipping Iraqi forces since such accoutering may be turned against the US down the road. But unless the US plans to provide security in Iraq indefinitely, it must eventually outfit and train an effective Iraqi security force. The longer this is delayed, the more turbulent will be the transition from a predominantly US military administration to an Iraqi one.

A well trained Iraqi security force would also provide a strong boost to the counterinsurgency. An Iraqi force would come naturally equipped with local knowledge—language ability, cultural and geographical awareness, understanding of community norms—and would also enhance domestic support for the war, two advantages that are highly valuable (perhaps vital) to waging counterinsurgency.[1] Indeed, Krepinevich argues that a key error in General Westmorland’s approach to the Vietnam war was his reluctance to improve coordination between the US and the ARVN. While there are salient differences between Vietnam and the current situation in Iraq, the principle of cooperating with indigenous anti-insurgency forces still applies.

Finally, training Iraqi forces is consistent with the nature of the ongoing conflict. The US is fighting a counterinsurgency, not against itself, but on behalf of another government. Accordingly, making full use of that government’s forces, cooperating with them and training them, is not only judicious but more or less demanded by the conventions of interstate relations. By relegating the role of Iraqi forces in the defense of their own nation, the US will only give credence to the criticisms of those who have described Iraq as a pawn on the US chessboard of international statecraft.

It may be that training Iraqis decreases the resources available for a purely US counterinsurgency. But the advantages that would be realized through an effective Iraqi force, not to mention the satisfaction it would give to international opinion, more than compensate for the loss.
[1] Joes, Anthony, Resisting Rebellion, The University Press of Kentucky, 122-155.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Public Perception of the War on Terror

The hunt for Al Qaeda to the general public has been focused mainly in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, it must be realized that this hunt does not solely reside in this region, but expands across all regions of the world. The reason for this lack of knowledge could be traced back to the operational tactics used by US and other ally forces. Additionally, this could also be a cause for the lowered support for the war on terror.

Under a White House directive, the Pentagon after September 11th was given the “authority to hunt and kill suspected terrorists around the globe”. [1] Though the hunt continues to this day yielding very few “high value targets”, these operations are conducted by highly trained special operations units, many of which have been redeployed from Iraq and Afghanistan. Aside from these units’ roles as forward military operators, they also conduct operations very similar to those of intelligence officers. This dual role has called into question their use as spies, rather than as a military fighting force.

These special operations units have come increasingly in the public eye since Islamic forces have fought against the Ethiopian military in Somalia. The United States has been giving the Ethiopian forces updated intelligence reports to almost assure the Ethiopians success in their operations. Recently, an American gunship was used to strike a position believed to be that of several senior level Al Qaeda members in Somalia. Later, American special operations units were used to secure the air strike sight and collect evidence.

The tactics used for fighting the various al qaeda groups vary greatly when comparing Iraq and Afghanistan to those in Somalia. The first two consist of a large military force, the troops are overt in military dress, gear, and they are transported in large convoys obvious to al qaeda fighters. In Somalia, the tactics are much more discreet. These unites are trained in covert counterterrorism forms of combat. They execute their duties covertly whether it is a military operation or an intelligence operation. The styles and tactics used is a major cause for the lack of information the general public has about counterterrorism operations in other parts of the world.

Support for the war on terror has been dwindling and in order to gain it back, the public must have a clear picture of what the tasks at hand are. There is much attention from the news and political leaders about what’s going on in Afghanistan and Iraq, that it is forgotten where else the fight is also taking place. Due to the nature of the warfare taking place in Africa and in order for the public to understand the magnitude of the fight against terror, there must be special attention made to inform the public about other areas of the world where the war on terror is also taking place. Perhaps with an increase in knowledge and understanding, public support may raise to levels seen in years past.

[1] Pentagon Sees Move in Somalia as Blueprint, MARK MAZZETTI, January 13, 2007

Friday, February 02, 2007

In Just and Unjust Wars Michael Walzer gives some moral guidelines concerning war. But neither Walzer nor just war theory provides clean cut rules for military behavior. There is always a degree of uncertainty in warfare, and this uncertainty is centrally important to just war analysis, particularly the principle of proportionality.

Just war theory usually has two “in war” guidelines: discrimination and proportionality. Discrimination argues that military force ought only to be applied against combatants, and civilians should be exempt. There does not seem to be much uncertainty here. It is generally incorrect to kill people, and even in war, the logic goes, civilians should be spared since they pose no direct threat to combatants. Fair enough. But the waters become murkier when we make the jump to proportionality.

Proportionality argues that the use of force should be limited such that the achieved goal justifies the injury inflicted. This injury, Walzer tells us, may sometimes include civilians. Now at first this sounds utilitarian: if the object seems useful enough, proceed with your destruction. But in fact “proportionality” is a blend of principle and uncertainty and is not utilitarian. There are actually two principles at work: the first is to avoid destruction. However, since we are currently engaged in war it is assumed we believe there is some higher principle at stake—perhaps our territorial integrity or the protection of our population.

Thus there is a collision of principles: the principle to avoid human destruction versus, say, the right to territorial integrity. This is where uncertainty comes alive. Just war theory will say that the right of national territory is in fact the higher principle. But how “higher” is it? And what level of retaliation does it justify? Are we allowed, morally speaking, to lie to the enemy? Can we kill the enemy soldiers? Bomb his cities? Invade his country? And after we win, can we devastate his country to remove a future threat? The answer, to all of these questions, is: we’re not sure. There is no rule. So, we introduce proportionality, which in a reworded definition could read: “keep your application of violence at the lowest level possible that will still allow you to achieve your goal in fighting.” We are uncertain how much violence we can morally employ in response to their aggression, so let’s limit it all we can.

To borrow from Clausewitz, the “fog of war” encompasses more than strategic and tactical moves; it also includes the realm of moral decision-making. Since we are never certain what exigencies justify violence against human life, nor the level of that violence, we are well advised at all times to proceed cautiously. This is the principle of proportionality.