Tuesday, December 31, 2002

3rd Infantry Division ordered to Persian Gulf -- A Major Muscle Movement

The Associated Press reported on New Years Eve that the Pentagon had ordered the Army's 3rd Infantry Division from its bases in Georgia to set sail for Kuwait in the next few weeks. "3ID", as it's known in the Army, already has one brigade of roughly 4,000 soldiers on the ground in Kuwait. The deployment of the division's two additional brigades, plus its divisional headquarters and support structure, represents a major step in the march towards a ground war. In relative terms, it's easy to move an airborne or light-infantry force to the Gulf -- you can do it by air. Moving a heavy division like 3ID requires an extraordinary logistical effort -- ships, aircraft, trains, etc. It's also very costly. The U.S. does not deploy heavy divisions unless it intends to send a clear message that it's seriously preparing for war.

Infantry Div. Ordered to Gulf

WASHINGTON (AP) --An infantry division from Georgia has been ordered to the Persian Gulf region as a part of the military's preparations for war with Iraq, military officials said Tuesday.
The troops, from the 3rd Infantry Division (Mechanized), received prepare-to-deploy orders earlier this week, Army officials said. A defense official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, confirmed they were going to the Persian Gulf region as a part of the U.S. military's buildup of forces there.
It is the largest single ground force sent to the region since the Bush administration indicated its willingness to go to war against the regime of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein more than a year ago.
The division's 2nd Brigade - several thousand soldiers based at Fort Stewart, Ga. - is already in Kuwait on a regular troop rotation, officials said.
The division's 1st and 3rd Brigades, from Fort Stewart and Fort Benning, Ga., respectively, and its aviation brigade, from Hunter Army Airfield near Savannah, Ga., will begin moving to the region in the coming weeks. Officials declined to provide their precise destination. All told, between 15,000 and 17,000 soldiers from the division will go to the region, officials said.

Monday, December 30, 2002

Universal military service? Or politics by other means?

According to CNN on Monday, Rep. Charlie Rangel plans to propose legislation to bring back universal military service, known less fondly by my dad's generation as "the draft." In doing so, Congressman Rangel intends to force America to act more cautiously and judiciously with its military, since a conscript-based army would include the sons & daughters of all Americans -- rich, middle class and poor.

In an interview with CNN, Rangel said: "When you talk about a war, you're talking about ground troops, you're talking about enlisted people, and they don't come from the kids and members of Congress." The Korean War veteran added "I think, if we went home and found out that there were families concerned about their kids going off to war, there would be more cautiousness and a more willingness to work with the international community than to say, 'Our way or the highway.' "

In general, I agree that military service is a great thing. I got a lot out of my service, and think that more young Americans ought to take advantage of the opportunities the military has to offer. And in general, I agree that few members of Congress (or Fortune 500 CEOs) identify with the great Americans who serve every day in uniform -- and there ought to be more of a connection there. However, universal conscription is a bad idea, for at least three reasons:

1. The U.S. military is the most advanced force in history, due in no small part to the expertise and professionalism of its all-volunteer force. The resurrection of a conscript-based force would destroy the elitism and professionalism of this force and reduce it to the lowest common denominator of a conscript army. Conscription would not produce the high-quality military we have today, which is the product of self-selection. The military could not invest as much education in conscripts as it does now, because their tours of duty would be shorter.

2. Historically, conscript armies have fought more, not less; they have sustained more casualties, not less. Why? Because the leaders of conscript armies have more manpower than they know what to do with. Historically, conscript armies have had too much human capital and too little technological capital. The consequence has been tremendous waste of human lives. Napoleon invented the mass conscript army, and used it to fight a war of attrition against the rest of Europe. Wars of attrition have been the norm since, with few exceptions, when conscript armies have faced each other. The U.S. military is moving away from wars of attrition to maneuver-based warfare today, and thus it ought not re-embrace this obsolete tool of manpower used to field armies for wars of attrition.

3. Conscription is not the right way to encourage national service. For one thing, military service isn't for everyone. Some Americans are probably better suited for other forms of service, like the Peace Corps or teaching in the inner city. For another thing, conscription tends to produce more resentment than nostalgia, at least from my interaction with the conscripted college students I led in South Korea. There are far better ways to encourage my generation to serve, such as through positive incentives (like college money) and other means.
Al Qaeda 2.0 -- The Next Threat

In the wake of our successful campaigns in Afghanistan and elsewhere, Al Qaeda has adapted and evolved into a more virtual, less geographically-constrained organization. Terrorism expert Brian Jenkins, journalist Peter Bergen and others have described this new incarnation and the ways it threatens America today in new and more lethal ways. From the use of chemical and biological weapons to the employment of unconventional means for border entry, this new threat represents a much more potent and lethal version of Al Qaeda. Our nation's security apparatus has successfully responded to the last threat -- that of legal immigration and aircraft hijacking. It is not clear that we have strategized, planned and evolved to meet this new threat.

Tuesday's Washington Post leads with a story by reporter John Mintz on an especially troubling development: the acquisition of 15 seagoing freighters by Al Qaeda, and potential American inability to track them. The implications are clear. If Al Qaeda has merchant-shipping capability, it can move men, materiel and weaponry around the world through legal means of commerce. Without sophisticated technology to screen cargo or legions of human inspectors, these freighters mean Al Qaeda has the capability to put terrorists and weapons of mass destruction on U.S. shores. Historically, this kind of strategic-movement capability has only been held by nations and their governments -- not small terrorist groups. The development of this capability represents a significant increase in the capabilities of our enemy.

15 Freighters Believed to Be Linked To Al Qaeda
U.S. Fears Terrorists at Sea; Tracking Ships Is Difficult

U.S. intelligence officials have identified approximately 15 cargo freighters around the world that they believe are controlled by al Qaeda or could be used by the terrorist network to ferry operatives, bombs, money or commodities over the high seas, government officials said.
American spy agencies track some of the suspicious ships by satellites or surveillance planes and with the help of allied navies or informants in overseas ports. But they have occasionally lost track of the vessels, which are continuously given new fictitious names, repainted or re-registered using invented corporate owners, all while plying the oceans.
As they scramble to keep tabs on the largely unregulated and secretive global maritime industry, U.S. officials have no end of worries about how nautical terrorists could attack U.S. or allied ports or vessels, officials said. They cite such scenarios as al Qaeda dispatching an explosives-packed speedboat to blow a hole in the hull of a luxury cruise ship sailing the Caribbean Sea or having terrorists posing as crewmen commandeer a freighter carrying dangerous chemicals and slam it into a harbor.

Bottom Line: The U.S. must adapt to fight this new enemy, not continue to waste money on its old incarnation. We ought to reallocate money from fighting the last threat (airline hijacking, car bombing, etc) to fighting the next threat. We are spending billions of dollars to reorganize the federal government for its war on terrorism. It's unclear whether that reorganization will translate into any net gains in efficiency down the road. It's very clear that this reorganization will result in substantial decreases in capability now, when the threat is high. We ought to take stock of the situation and let the intelligence picture of the enemy drive our strategy. It appears our threat has developed new capabilities -- we must develop the counter-measures for these new capabilities. Instead of wasting billions of dollars on TSA screeners, we ought to be spending billions to rapidly field nuc/chem/bio detectors at every seaport in America. Instead of wasting billions on reorganizing federal agencies, we ought to be spending money on building our HUMINT capabilities in foreign countries. We must fight the next threat, not the last one.