Friday, December 20, 2002

OPSEC and the Media, Part II

If you ever wanted to see an example of U.S. media supporting the Iraqi war effort, check out this operational graphic from the Washington Post. Do you think it's possible that they have a grant from the Iraqi government? This illustration has probably been blown up and pasted up on the walls of every Iraqi SCUD missile detachment as the likely target locations for their first strikes.

America deserves to know the truth about its military for two big reasons. First, America's sons and daughters serve in uniform and the public deserves to know about their commitment, especially if it's in harm's way. Second, the Constitution sets up a system for civilian control of the military. The civilians who control the military are in turn controlled by the civilians who vote -- all of us. If we don't have good information, we can't make informed decisions about foreign policy.

However, these requirements don't require the kind of detailed operational graphics or troop listings prepared in recent weeks by the Washington Post, Christian Science Monitor, New York Times, LA Times, and others. Such detailed information is sensitive; it puts American lives at risk. News editors ought to exercise more prudence and responsibility in their choice of graphics and information. Get the story right -- but balance the need to tell the story with the need to protect American lives
The calendar of war in Iraq

Today's Los Angeles Times contains a prescient analysis of the prospects of war in Iraq. January 27 appears to be the date set by the United States for Iraqi compliance -- or else. While America's diplomats seek compliance with the UN resolution, America's warriors continue to build up a tremendous amount of war materiel in the Persian Gulf region. It is possible that by January 27 (six weeks away), the U.S. will have an offensive capability built in the Gulf which will enable it to launch a ground offensive against Iraq.

When you take the diplomatic activity and military deployments together, it becomes clear that the former is buying time for the latter. A major concern of the U.S. military after Gulf War I was that it would never have that much time again to build up its forces in theater, thus, it had to concentrate on building rapid-deployment capabilities. The situation in Gulf War I was different though, because Saddam Hussein had already started a war (by invading Kuwait) and there was no peace to be broken if he lobbed a SCUD at the U.S. forces massing in Saudi Arabia. Here, the case is different. There has been no breach of the peace -- yet -- and thus Saddam cannot justifiably attack the U.S. forces across his border without providing the very provocation the U.S. needs for a unilateral attack. Consequently, the diplomatic calendar gives the U.S. the time it needs to build up its forces without fear of being attacked in their assembly areas.

This turns conventional Clausewitz-based doctrine on its head. Clausewitz wrote that war was a continuation of politics by other means. Yet now, it seems that American diplomacy is a continuation of war by other means. The U.S. is employing diplomatic efforts to shield the buildup of its forces -- to provide time and force-protection. Every day that America delays Iraq with diplomacy means more tanks, artillery, troops, and aircraft on the ground in Kuwait and the rest of the region. Every day of diplomatic delay tilts the military calculus a little bit more in favor of the United States. In essence, the diplomatic efforts are shaping the military conflict to come, by providing the U.S. military with the critical time it needs to deploy.

Ultimately, Saddam's between a rock and a hard place. If he preemptive attacks the U.S. buildup now, he will be the aggressor and he will be attacked with cause. If he waits the diplomatic waiting period out until 27 Jan 03, the U.S. will have such a substantial Gulf presence that Iraq will have no chance of survival. Either way, Saddam faces a lose-lose situation if he fails to comply with the UN resolution. Nonetheless, he's a slippery bastard, and I suspect he'll figure out a way out of this dilemma.
A modest suggestion for how to fix the U.S. military presence in Korea

As has been widely reported, South Korea just finished a presidential election in which it elected Roo Moo Hyun, a liberal candidate from the ruling party who favors gradual redeployment of U.S. forces out of Korea, revisions to the U.S./Korea Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA), and other changes in the military relationship between America and South Korea.

He's sure to push for several things which have been discussed over the years - but never implemented. First among these will be a relocation of the U.S. Army's massive headquarters in the middle of Seoul. Yongsan Garrison is an affront to Korean sensitivities, as well as a strategically poor position for a headquarters. (It's within tactical artillery range of North Korea, for one) Korea and the U.S. haven't been able to reach an agreement on where to move it south of Seoul, or who would pay. The new President is likely to make this an issue, and get it done.

The corollary problem is what to do about the large U.S. presence throughout the rest of Korea. Few think that America will withdraw its combat troops north of Seoul, because their commitment serves as a visible and potent deterrent to North Korea. But the U.S. presence pervades the entire country, from the DMZ in the north to Pusan in the south. Much of this structure exists to support the 2nd Infantry Division in the north, and to support a corps-sized headquarters in Seoul. The bulk of the 37,000 U.S. troops in Korea are not combat soldiers - they're infrastructure to support an even larger force that would fall in on them in case of war.

The time may have come to reduce this infrastructure; to downsize the U.S. presence to a more austere one, while maintaining the same combat capabilities. The political pressure in the Korean population is sustained and real - it won't dissipate over the next several months. (Protest is like a national sport in Korea, and it usually heats up every summer, but this time appears different) Larger political and demographic shifts are underway in Korean society - the average Korean no longer sees the North as a significant threat, and thus is unwilling to put up with the size of the U.S. presence.

So here's where Don Vandergriff's ideas (and those of Bob Krumm, Mark Lewis, and others) come in. What's one easy way to reduce the U.S. footprint in Korea while maintaining the same combat capability? Well, you could adopt a brigade-rotation model there with a Joint Task Force headquarters instead of the current model. Doing so would potentially solve a lot of problems. First, it would reduce the infrastructure footprint for U.S. forces, especially the logistical footprint. Hundreds -- if not thousands -- of U.S. personnel exist simply to support the institutions necessary for an individual-replacement system. Second, it would increase the unit-cohesion and combat-effectiveness of the deployed units, especially if you implemented an 18-month USMC/WestPac-style model for the trainup/deployment/recovery from this 6-month rotation.

Third, it would potentially solve some of the social issues of the Korean deployment. One "soft" problem in Korea is that individual soldiers deployed their for a year at a time often have tremendously high rates of family problems, alcohol problems, discipline problems, etc - many of which spill over off post and into the Korean community. Deployed BCTs could operate much more like they do in Bosnia, with less drinking and carousing and more training. Plus, their social networks would remain in Korea, so the old notion of "What happens in Korea stays in Korea" wouldn't apply. It's less likely that a deployed soldier would engage in drinking and whoring if he knows his buddies will go back with him.

Now may be the ideal time to implement a brigade-rotation model for Korea. The political situation is ripe for a change in the structure of U.S. forces which will reduce the American footprint and achieve higher levels of discipline among U.S. troops. Moreover, the world situation may require such a move. Eliminating the permanent U.S. footprint in Korea will free up thousands of active-duty combat soldiers that can be committed elsewhere, such as to fill units to 100% that are headed towards Iraq. And the brigade-rotation model will mean better unit cohesion, and consequently, better combat effectiveness. The Korea-rotation mission may be tailor-made for the National Guard's enhanced brigades, which would take a lot of strain off the active-duty force. Or it may remain an active-duty mission, like the rotations through Kuwait. Regardless, the transition of this mission from a permanent individual-replacement system to a unit-rotation model will have long-term positive results for the Army, and for the American relationship with South Korea.

Thursday, December 19, 2002

Pentagon mulls deployment of troops inside the U.S. for bioterrorism response

Elaine Grossman has an excellent piece in today's Inside the Pentagon on the discussions inside the Pentagon on the option to deploy American soldiers on American soil to enforce quarantines in the event of a bioterrorism attack. Clearly, such a situation would be an extreme one, and no one has contemplated such a deployment in anything short of a doomsday scenario.

The Bush administration is taking initial steps to plan for a potential military role in enforcing a massive quarantine, if smallpox or another highly contagious virus were to break out somewhere in the United States, defense officials tell Inside the Pentagon.
Talks have begun among various federal agencies that could delineate a role for U.S. troops, should local and state law enforcement authorities become overwhelmed, officials say.
* * *
Existing public health plans call for local and state officials to institute and enforce a quarantine, if necessary, in which individuals who may have been exposed to a contagious disease -- but show no symptoms -- are confined and physically separated from those who have not been exposed.
But some federal officials, public health analysts and national security experts anticipate a large-scale quarantine would almost surely incite public panic and could require the use of federal troops to restore order. Defense officials emphasize military forces would act solely in a support role to federal civil authorities in such a domestic mission.
* * *
In the case of even a limited outbreak of a highly contagious disease like smallpox, plague or yellow fever, health officials may call for a broad geographic area to be sealed off, officials say. That is because an infected individual might come into casual contact with dozens of people days before developing or identifying symptoms. Simply breathing within six feet of another person can spread the smallpox virus.
A common example of a large quarantine is the creation of a perimeter around a city like Cincinnati, OH, so that no one may leave or enter on foot or by vehicle, train, aircraft or boat. Such a quarantine might be lifted for individuals who remain symptom-free for a period of time, or could be eliminated en masse after an outbreak has been contained, sources said.
But depending on the extent of the outbreak, a quarantine could remain in place -- potentially in multiple U.S. cities or regions simultaneously -- for weeks, months or even years.
* * *
Title 42 of the U.S. Code says health regulations "may provide for the apprehension and examination of any individual reasonably believed to be infected with a communicable disease in a communicable stages," who is moving from one state to another or in contact with a person in transit. "Such regulations may provide that if, upon examination, any such individual is found to be infected, he may be detained for such time and in such manner as may be reasonably necessary," states the law.
Title 42 suggests the U.S. surgeon general, with approval from the secretary of health and human services, has the authority to make and enforce regulations in this regard. However, experts say in the case of a bioterrorism attack, health policy decisions that begin on a local or state level would likely elevate quickly to the U.S. president.
The Posse Comitatus Act, which generally prevents U.S. military forces from engaging in domestic search and seizure, includes exceptions that allow the use of federal troops to restore civil order in national emergencies. Legal experts believe an outbreak of smallpox may well justify the involvement of U.S. troops.

In general, that's true. The Posse Comitatus Act forbids the use of federal troops for specific law-enforcement functions like searches and arrests. However, federal law authorizes the deployment of U.S. soldiers for a variety of other missions, from supporting law enforcement during the DC sniper hunt to a litany of counter-drug missions. Exceptions also exist for the U.S. of military in 1) public-health emergencies like a natural smallpox outbreak, and 2) chemical or biological attacks on the United States.

Some civil libertarians may question this use of the military, or insist that strict procedures govern the employment of the military in such situations. My operational experience leads me to think that's a mistake. If terrorists attack us with smallpox, our most valuable commodity will be time. Procedural delays in the deployment of soldiers to enforce a quarantine will mean more casualties -- deaths which could've been prevented by decisive and rapid action. I am willing to risk the hasty/rapid deployment of American soldiers in such an extreme situation.
Closer to war -- two major developments in the Persian Gulf...

The Los Angeles Times and Wall Street Journal contained articles today by Esther Schrader and Greg Jaffe (two of the best defense reporters in Washington) respectively about events in the Persian Gulf. Ms. Schrader reported on the deployment of Iraqi forces near Baghdad to more of a war footing; Mr. Jaffe reported about a previously-undisclosed increase in the boots-on-the-ground count for U.S. forces in the Gulf. Together, these stories are the most reliable indicators this week that the U.S. is still marching towards a war with Iraq.

Pentagon Detects Iraqi Troop Movement
Hundreds of soldiers are involved. Meanwhile, some predict Hussein will target his own oil fields and food supplies and then blame the U.S.

By Esther Schrader, Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON -- Armored units of the Republican Guard have moved from their garrisons near Baghdad to an area about 40 miles west of the capital in the most significant deployment by President Saddam Hussein in two years, Pentagon intelligence officials said Wednesday.
The movement of what appears to be several hundred soldiers, along with tanks and artillery, to the new location appears to be an effort by the Iraqi leader to flex his military muscles in response to increased U.S. preparations for war.
"When you move this size of force, it's a great strain to the military, it's a great signal of resolve," a U.S. official said. "This is the largest defensive preparation that we've seen since 9/11."

* * *

Number Of U.S. Troops In Gulf Is Expected To Nearly Double

By Greg Jaffe, Staff Reporter Of The Wall Street Journal

WASHINGTON -- The Pentagon is gearing up to nearly double the number of U.S. troops in the Gulf region by early February, accelerating its military buildup to be ready to launch an attack on Iraq.
A defense official said more than 50,000 U.S. ground troops are likely to flow into the Gulf region, in addition to the 60,000 now there, in a move designed to ratchet up the pressure on Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein. The British are likely to send as many as an additional 15,000 to 20,000 troops to the region.
U.S. defense officials said that if pushed into action, an allied attack to disarm Baghdad could begin within days just with U.S. troops in the region now, though that would be less than ideal. Of the force there now, about 15,000 are U.S. Army and Marine ground troops, most positioned in Kuwait; the rest are Air Force and Navy personnel.
But the January buildup would allow a far more potent attack. The move also is likely designed to put pressure on the rest of the United Nations Security Council to push for more aggressive inspections, and to suggest the U.S. patience for the inspection process is limited.
The officials cautioned that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld hadn't formally signed off on the order to notify troops of likely deployment to the region, though his approval is expected in the coming days.
* * *
The troops would consist of combat forces, maintenance and logistics troops, and would flow into the region from bases in the U.S. and Europe. They would include a mixture of active-duty and reserve units.
The U.S. military has slowly been building up its stores of equipment in the region during the past six months. Currently, the Pentagon has enough tanks and armored personnel carriers to support about four brigades or 55,000 ground troops. "We already have a whole lot of equipment in the region, and equipment will continue to flow in the coming weeks," said another senior defense official.
Moving the additional 50,000 troops to the region will allow the Pentagon to get soldiers acclimated and allow them to do some limited training in the desert before a possible war.

Air Marshals criticize program; say it's ineffective

USA Today leads today with a disturbing story about problems in the Transportation Security Administration's sky marshal program. Several large personnel problems have become such issues that they threaten the operational effectiveness of the air marshals. If these allegations are true, then the TSA has a serious problem on its hands.

- Despite policies that require at least two marshals on each assigned flight, marshals in the New York field office were told they would have to fly alone if their partners call in sick, documents show. Marshals who completed a recent training regimen in Atlantic City say they also were warned they could fly solo.

- Marshals must accept any seat an airline offers, "even if your assigned seat is not 'tactically' sound," a memo sent Nov. 22 by managers to marshals in New York says. Marshals who recently completed training also say they were told of the new policy.

Such a policy contradicts the program's standard operating procedures. Those rules call for marshals to have unobstructed access to the jet's aisle and, preferably, to sit near the cockpit to protect it from hijackers.

- Even if they believe their cover has been blown before a flight, marshals in the Atlanta field office have been told they must continue with their missions, documents show. "The actual or perceived compromise of your identity is never a sufficient reason to abort your assigned flight," a memo sent Dec. 10 by the acting head of the Atlanta office reads.

- Some marshals say they use over-the-counter stimulants such as No-Doz to stay awake during flights. Others take what they call "power naps" just after takeoff and battle vertigo. When marshals were hired earlier this year, they were promised four-day workweeks to compensate for the rigors of constant travel.

- The agency also has yet to address marshals' concerns that a dress code requiring "business attire" easily identifies them. Rodriguez says passengers often spotted him and his partner in airports and flashed them a thumbs-up as they passed. Such episodes reinforced his fear: Wearing business clothes makes marshals too conspicuous.

One note about this matter. If air hijacking remained a likely threat, then I would say this was a major problem -- especially heading into the holiday travel season. But the reality is that this threat is not a major one anymore, for several reasons. First, American (and probably international passengers) will never let a plane be hijacked again. In the past, they might have sat out the hijacking, knowing they would eventually be traded and released (e.g. TWA #847). Passengers today know that may not be the case; that they may be turned into a cruise missile against their will. It's unlikely that any group could ever hijack any plane again. Passengers will resist, as will aircrew, and it would take an impractical number of terrorists to take over a plane. Moreover, given the events of Sept. 11, a hijacked plane would probably be shot down in flight today, thus making this a less attractive option for hijackers.

As I've stated before, intelligence must drive operations. We continue to fight the last threat -- airline hijacking -- at the expense of current threats. How many dollars has the U.S. spent on programs like air marshals, carry-on screening, airport security -- all the name of fighting the last threat? Have we poured in enough money to the new and developing threats, like chem/bio defense? Unfortunately, I think the answer is no. While I'm concerned about these problems with the air marshal program, I'm more concerned with macro-level decisions about resources and where they're being put in the U.S. anti-terrorism fight.

Wednesday, December 18, 2002

Latest wrinkle in the land mine debate
: US-dropped cluster bombs in Afghanistan equate to "de facto antipersonnel landmines"?

The Washington Post reports that Human Rights Watch has decided to issue a report criticizing the U.S. air campaign in Afghanistan because of its residual effects -- namely, the leaving behind of large numbers of "bomblets" in populated areas.

"While U.S. modifications in targeting and technology appear to have reduced the adverse humanitarian side effects of the cluster bombs used in Afghanistan to some degree," the Human Rights Watch report said, "the weapon still poses a danger to civilians in future conflicts because of its broad footprint, lack of accuracy, and high number of explosive duds left behind."

However, as the U.S. military points out, the use of these weapons was both legal and highly constrained. The U.S. does not indiscriminately use any munition -- least of all the kind of cluster bomb that HRW is talking about. Targeting and ordnance decisions are made at a very high level in the U.S. military, and these decisions are always advised by experienced attorneys who specialize in international and operational law. Indeed, the U.S. devotes more manpower and resources to complying with international law in its warfighting than any nation in history.

Jim Wilkinson, a spokesman for the U.S. Central Command in Tampa, denied that the United States indiscriminately uses cluster bombs and faulted the Taliban and al Qaeda for conducting military operations in populated areas.

He said the use of cluster bombs requires higher-level approval than the use of noncluster munitions. He noted that the United States had dropped thousands of leaflets in Afghanistan warning civilians to stay away from the unexploded bomblets.

"The biggest casualty in this misleading report is the truth," Wilkinson said. "The truth is, no military in the history of war has done more to protect the innocent than we have in Afghanistan. On many occasions, legitimate targets were bypassed because of potential collateral damage. The U.S. restrained its force well beyond that required by the law of armed conflict."

Mr. Wilkinson's comments hint at the most likely reason why the U.S. did not use such munitions indiscriminately: self-interest. The war in Afghanistan included a very real war for the hearts and minds of the Afghan people. To topple the Taliban government and build a new nation afterwards, the U.S. needed to build good will among the Afghan civilian population and not be seen as another wave of Western conquerors (like the Russians). This was a major part of the U.S. campaign, as evidenced by the way the U.S. used Special Forces and Civil Affairs/PsyOps troops in the early stages of the conflict.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Law and Politics
-- Is there any way to split the two when it comes to affirmative action?

The answer, according to a story by White House reporter Dana Milbank in tomorrow's Washington Post, is no. Political considerations drive even the most principled legal decisions in the White House, and the Bush Administration has tied itself in knots trying to decide its position regarding the University of Michigan affirmative action case now before the Supreme Court. Sen. Trent Lott's recent missteps and mea culpas have only added to the tension in the White House.

Bush Aides Split on Bias Case At U-Mich.
Administration Weighs Taking Stand on Issue

By Dana Milbank
Washington Post Staff Writer

President Bush's legal and political advisers are split over whether to take a stand on the racially charged subject of affirmative action as the Supreme Court prepares to take up a landmark case on racial preferences.

The case -- actually two suits filed by white applicants against the University of Michigan -- is the highest-profile affirmative action case in a quarter-century and will determine whether racial diversity is a "compelling government interest" that can guide publicly funded schools' admissions.

According to people with knowledge of the deliberations, a number of administration lawyers, led by Solicitor General Ted Olson, are eager to take a position against the Michigan programs. But the sources said Bush's political aides and White House counsel Alberto R. Gonzales oppose an administration stance against affirmative action because it could impair Bush's efforts to woo Hispanics and other minorities to the Republican Party.

The argument has become complicated by the Senate leadership battle provoked by Republican leader Trent Lott's words in support of Strom Thurmond's segregationist 1948 presidential campaign. In his bid to save his post, Lott on Monday proclaimed himself a supporter of affirmative action, a program long derided by conservatives as racial quotas.

LAT: Suspects Arrested in France with Possible Chemical Weapons and Gear

Tuesday's Los Angeles Times leads with the breaking news that a terrorist cell has been arrested in France -- with unknown chemical substances and a chemical-protection suit in their protection. This is very big news, and it will likely become a major story over the next several days. An old military maxim holds that "first reports are always wrong". In this case, we must wait and see what the real story is -- whether these chemicals were some sort of deadly chemical agent, and what this group's intentions were. French law enforcement and intelligence agencies know terrorism all too well from their Algerian experience, so I suspect they'll get to the bottom of this.

If this stuff turns out to be a chemical agent like sarin (non-persistent nerve agent), or if this group has a link to Al Qaeda or Iraq, this development could have staggering consequences:

1. Any nexus between this group and Al Qaeda or Iraq could radically alter the European stance towards America's war on terrorism. Suffice to say, if the worst case is true and this stuff somehow came from Iraq, the U.S. may move more quickly (and with European support) to disarm Saddam Hussein).

2. If this stuff turns out to be sarin, VX, or some other sophisticated chemical weapon, then a new front will have been opened by the terrorists. Until now, they have fought largely with conventional weapons, with some exceptions (the Tokyo subway attack). The development of weapons of mass destruction -- specifically chemical weapons -- by terrorists means that they have crossed a major threshold in international action. The world must now contemplate the possible effects of a chemical attack on civilians who have no means of protecting themselves. A chemical strike with VX or GB (sarin) against a major city like Paris could kill thousands of civilians in a matter of hours.
NYT: Personal Truths & Legal Fictions

Dahlia Lithwick, who covers legal affairs for Slate, wrote perhaps the best Supreme Court dispatch I have ever read last week about the oral argument in Virginia v. Black, the cross-burning case before the Court. Today, Ms. Lithwick wrote a more thoughtful piece on the same subject for the New York Times, and this essay is even better than her first.

Ms. Lithwick draws a connection between personal experience and legal discourse (see below), and the ways that the former can shape or even destroy the latter.

But with his personal narrative, Justice Thomas changed the terms of the legal debate. After he spoke, members of the court took turns characterizing burning crosses as uniquely threatening symbolic speech — as threatening as a gun, according to Justice Antonin Scalia — and as therefore undeserving of First Amendment protection. The dynamic is familiar to any former law student: a criminal law class on the definition of "consent" in a rape case is paralyzed when a woman in the back row says she was raped. A policy debate about whether to try juvenile offenders as adults stops when a student blurts out that his brother was killed in a gang fight.

These awkward silences happen when legal analysis and personal narrative (often of victimization) collide. At these moments, law school professors are rendered speechless — and Supreme Court justices, evidently, jettison their three-part tests to reassure their distressed colleague that indeed burning crosses are uniquely symbolic of imminent violence.

Identity and personal experience have long shaped political discourse, but we have always engaged in the legal fiction that these things do not -- or ought not -- shape legal discourse. Cases ought to be decided on legal principles, and not anecdotal personal stories or encounters. Ms. Lithwick argues persuasively that identity and experience do in fact shape legal discourse, and that this legal fiction is a fraud.

Monday, December 16, 2002

MANHUNT - The Bush Administration's new strategy in the war against terrorism.

Seymour Hersh, the Pulitzer-prize winning journalist who wrote on Vietnam and more recently on Barry McCaffrey's misadventures as a Persian Gulf division commander, has a story in the current New Yorker on the CIA's new policy of targeted killings. As can be expected, he takes a fairly skeptical view of this policy. It's worth a look, given Mr. Hersh's considerable reporting talents and experience in the field of national security.

Here's one excerpt discussing the skepticism of experts in the field about the new policy:

The Hellfire attack in Yemen was applauded by many Americans, and also by the media, as progress in the war against terrorism. There were only a few public complaints. Anna Lindh, the Swedish foreign minister, declared that the American military attack, even with Yemeni approval, "is nevertheless a summary execution that violates human rights." She added, "Even terrorists must be treated according to international law. Otherwise, any country can start executing those whom they consider terrorists." Amnesty International also questioned "the deliberate killing of suspects in lieu of arrest, in circumstances in which they did not pose an immediate threat."

However, even American legal experts who were critical of the attacks did not challenge their legality. "It's not a question of law," Michael Glennon, a professor of international law at Tufts University, said. "It's a matter of policy. Is it wise? Do such attacks increase the possibility of retaliation at home and abroad on the American political and military leadership?" A similar point was made by Philip Heymann, a professor at Harvard Law School. "I don't think Richard Nixon signed the treaty outlawing biological warfare just because he had a deep aversion to biologicals," Heymann told me. "He signed it because it was against U.S. national interests to have a lot of little guys running around with biological agents that could not be deterred by our nuclear arsenal. Assassination is in the same ballpark—it doesn't take much to assassinate a U.S. Secretary of State or another Cabinet member." The American goal, he added, should be to outlaw "any weapon that even a small country can use against the big guys." Jeffrey H. Smith, a West Point graduate who served as the C.I.A.'s general counsel during the Clinton Administration, said, "I'm not opposed to shooting people, but it ought to be a last resort. If they're dead, they're not talking to you, and you create more martyrs."

Other military officials I spoke with had similar concerns. "You might be able to pull it off for five or six months," a Pentagon consultant said. "We've created a culture in the Special Forces—twenty- and twenty-one-year-olds who need adult leadership. They're assuming you've got legal authority, and they'll do it"— eagerly eliminate any target assigned to them. Eventually, the intelligence will be bad, he said, and innocent people will be killed. "And then they'll get hung." As for Rumsfeld and his deputies, he said, "These guys will overextend themselves, and they'll self-destruct."

Sunday NY Times: Bush Has Widened Authority of C.I.A. to Kill Terrorists

Veteran reporters James Risen and David Johnston led the NY Times' front page on Sunday with a revelation that President Bush has authorized the CIA (and presumably other federal agencies) to pursue and kill terrorists wherever they may be.

I had two initial reactions to the legal issues posed by this story:
1. The labeling of Al Qaeda leaders as enemy combatants, instead of political leaders, matters greatly. If these terrorists were political leaders, their assassination would remain prohibited by the Executive Order outlawing assassination. The Bush Administration has chosen to keep that policy in effect, notwithstanding the new policy. Clearly, this reflects a policy judgment that these terrorist leaders are more akin to warlords/generals, and their killing is more analogous to the intentional killing of a military commander. Such tactics are known as "decapitation" strikes, and have existed in military strategy since the days of Sun Tzu. In modern times, the U.S. has used such tactics with great success (and international approval), such as the use of U.S. Navy fighter planes to shoot down Japanese Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto during WWII.
2. Presumably, this policy applies to U.S. proactive killing of enemy combatants abroad, as well as at home. And judging by the language in Mr. Risen and Mr. Johnston's article, this rule would also apply to U.S. citizens who were high-ranking members of Al Qaeda, like the U.S. citizen killed in Yemen by a CIA-launched Hellfire missile. If those two assumptions are true, then the federal government may have the power/authority to kill U.S. citizen-terrorists on U.S. soil under this policy. That would put quite an edge on the Adminstration's decision to label someone an enemy combatant.

Excerpts from article:
"President Bush has provided written legal authority to the C.I.A. to hunt down and kill the terrorists without seeking further approval each time the agency is about to stage an operation. Some officials said the terrorist list was known as the "high-value target list." A spokesman for the White House declined to discuss the list or issues involving the use of lethal force against terrorists. A spokesman for the C.I.A. also declined to comment on the list.
Despite the authority given to the agency, Mr. Bush has not waived the executive order banning assassinations, officials said. The presidential authority to kill terrorists defines operatives of Al Qaeda as enemy combatants and thus legitimate targets for lethal force."
* * *
Intelligence officials said the presidential finding authorizing the agency to kill terrorists was not limited to those on the list. The president has given broad authority to the C.I.A. to kill or capture operatives of Al Qaeda around the world, the officials said. But officials said the group's most senior leaders on the list were the agency's primary focus.
The list is updated periodically as the intelligence agency, in consultation with other counterterrorism agencies, adds new names or deletes those who are captured or killed, or when intelligence indicates the emergence of a new leader.
The precise criteria for adding someone to the list are unclear, although the evidence against each person must be clear and convincing, the officials said. The list contains the names of some of the same people who are on the Federal Bureau of Investigation's list of most wanted terror suspects, although the lists are prepared independently.

Saturday, December 14, 2002

Book Recommendation
: Boyd: The Fighter Pilot Who Changed the Art of War (by Robert Coram)

Mr. Coram's book deserves a look for several reasons. The first is that it is well written and researched. Unlike a number of policy-oriented biographies, this one does not require massive amounts of caffeine to read. The pages turn almost of their own will, as Coram tells the story of Boyd's exploits in combat and the halls of Pentagon.

The second reason to select Mr. Coram's book is Colonel Boyd himself. Few thinkers have influenced American military strategy -- indeed decisional science for all disciplines -- as Colonel Boyd has. "OODA" remains the theory for which he is best known, though it was not his biggest theory in lifetime. OODA stands for "observe, orient, decide, act". Colonel Boyd originally developed this theory for describing how fighter pilots' minds work in the heat of combat, and why American fighter pilots seemed to beat their adversaries (their planes were more maneuverable and they had more training, among other reasons). However, Colonel Boyd's theory grew to encompass much more than than single-pilot combat. It has become a general framework for looking at decisionmaking in any competitive environment -- from combat to corporate America. The competitor who has the shortest OODA loop -- who can act the fastest -- wins. This theory was quite revolutionary for its time, because it threatened the entire bureaucratic system of the U.S. military and its relevance to warfighting.

The third reason for reading this book is its relevance to our current war on terrorism. As a small terrorist network, Al Qaeda has a small OODA loop in comparison to the White House and Pentagon. It is able to exploit vulnerabilties faster than the U.S. bureaucracy can react to them. Al Qaeda can even develop capabilities faster than the Pentagon can identify them and develop counter-measures. The net result is a war of OODA loops, where America remains vulnerable because its adversaries can adapt/innovate faster than we can. If Boyd were alive today, he would point this out to the leaders in the Pentagon as the single largest American vulnerability. This is perhaps the most compelling reason to read this book. Colonel Boyd's theories provide a useful framework for understanding the relationship between organizations and action, and illuminate precisely why American defense organizations have been unable to act decisively against terrorism.