Monday, January 13, 2003

Pentagon slams Rangel's draft idea; DoD official presents case for all-volunteer force

I just read through the briefing transcript from a "senior Defense official" on the all-volunteer force, and what it would mean if Congress adopted Rep. Charlie Rangel's ill-considered idea for a military draft. In the Pentagon, the moniker "senior Defense official" is often used for a high-ranking policy official who's a career public servant and does not want to have his/her name in the press. It usually means this information is pretty accurate, because it's coming from an expert instead of a political appointee. And in this case, I highly recommend this particular SDO's comments.

Here's an excerpt:

Q: I think he may -- I think if Charlie Rangel were sitting here -- and not to take his side, but to play devil's advocate, is in some ways your numbers are kind of proving his point that the very elite class in this country -- and again, pick your number on that, $75,000, $60,000 and up, $75,000 and up, and even higher -- are not who is sending people into enlisted ranks, combat troops, not going to get --

Senior Defense Officer: Well, let me remind everyone that combat and enlistment are two different statements.

Q: Of course.

Senior Defense Officer: The United States Air Force, the United States Navy, if it is largely going to be an air operation, it will be principally officers whose lives are at risk. Further, I think we have to, in an age of terrorism, rethink what we mean about combat exposure.
Let's take the September 11th attack on the Pentagon. More civilians died than military. In one service it was more women civilians died than military.
So this whole issue of who is exposed to risk, I'm struck in this debate -- Mr. Rangel and others who are raising this question are a bit of an echo out of the past. It's not really a description of current situations and current risks and who is bearing the burden. And I would argue that if -- once we look at the officers, you're going to see a different pattern than the critics are raising. Now, I don't have the officer numbers here this morning; I apologize for that point. But it's going to look a little different once you include the officer class in this.

Q: Rangel's basic point is that the powerful elite who make campaign contributions and who make decisions about war and peace don't have children that are represented in the military, by and large. And you don't have anything that sort of --

Senior Defense Officer: I don't think -- well, now we get down to sort -- almost the idiosyncratic level of debate, you know, who are the power elite? You know, if you look at the classes at our military academies -- West Point, Annapolis, Colorado Springs -- many people would argue you're looking at a future power elite there. And these are young men and young women who are quite willing to put their lives on the line, and do so, as you can see from the inscriptions on the various memorials at those institutions.
So there is no lack of willingness on the part of Americans from more privileged backgrounds -- to deal directly with Mr. Rangel's question -- to serve. And we see that also in the Reserves. I would urge each of you, you know, if you want -- no one has really done all this research in the comprehensive way that I think we'd all like to see, but I'd urge you to take the biographies of the flag officers in our Reserve and Guard establishment, and on any metric you like in terms of socioeconomic status, look at whether or not you think they qualify as being in the power elite. These are people who are often successful businessmen, businesswomen now increasingly, successful figures in their community; includes doctors who have joined Reserve units, are willing to serve; have been sent forward in some cases, mobilized a number of these people and sent them to Southwest Asia, are quite willing to expose themselves to the risks that I think Mr. Rangel is concerned.

Sunday, January 12, 2003

NYT: Officials Reveal Threat to Troops Deploying to Gulf

Thom Shanker reports in Monday's NY Times that the U.S. government has learned of "credible threats" to U.S. forces as they deploy to the Persian Gulf. The phrase "credible threat" is a term of art -- it means intelligence that comes from trusted sources with enough information (time, place, type of attack) to make it something that can be acted on. These threats should come as no surprise. Anti-terrorism planners have seen U.S.-based deployment infrastructure (airports, seaports, planes, ships, trains) as a critical vulnerability in any major war that would require the U.S. to deploy its forces overseas. When you add our prospective adversary, Iraq, it only makes sense that we would start to detect threats against this infrastructure. Iraq and Al Qaeda play on the same team, and any terrorist actions against our deployment infrastructure would help Iraq by delaying the American buildup.

Within the past three weeks, American intelligence gathered what officials described as credible evidence of a planned bombing of a passenger airliner contracted to fly troops and freight for the military.

To counter what senior commanders call the growing threat of attack on those mobilizing for a possible war with Iraq, the American military has begun for the first time to share classified intelligence warnings directly and quickly with commercial transportation companies ferrying United States forces toward the Middle East from here and abroad, the senior officials said.

Military officials removed from the report details that might have revealed the source of the warning or the methods by which it was gathered. Then, rather than risk any delays from working through domestic law enforcement authorities or federal transportation safety agencies, the military gave the secret threat assessment directly to the private airline company.

Security officials at the company took pre-emptive steps, including changing the date and time of the flight and the route it followed.

This is exactly the right answer, and both the U.S. military and the private carriers ought to be commended for their actions. This is a textbook case of gathering information, analyzing it to produce intelligence, and acting on it in time to stop a terrorist attack.

Friday, January 10, 2003

Military communities across America gird for war

Jeff Gettleman, formerly of the LA Times, has an extremely moving article in Saturday's New York Times about the human impact of deployment on the small town of Hinesville, Ga. The same rhythms and routines are being repeated in base towns across the country, from Fayetteville, NC, to Oceanside, CA. Soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines are saying goodbye to loved ones, children, and their pacific way of life. Towns are saying goodbye to soldiers and their families, as those left behind leave the base communities for the comfort of home and parents. Businesses close early, or close altogether. And the community's morale rises and falls with every dispatch from the front. Casualties aren't abstract to communities like Hinesville -- every casualty is a real person who won't come home; a neighbor who will no longer be there to share a BBQ.

With Stitches and Concerns, Base Town Prepares for War
By Jeffrey Gettleman

HINESVILLE, Ga., Jan. 10 — The needles are flying, the sewing machines are chugging and the
uniforms are piling up. In heaps.

Abraham. Baca. Chambers. Courtland.

"I try to say a prayer every stitch," says Curley Bradley, pumping her pedal and attaching a
name tag to the breast of a jacket.

Davis. Delvin. Finocchiaro.

"You do it with love," says Janice Mann, another seamstress, clipping a thread. "Even if you
think war is stupid."

May. McCall. McDaniel. McGee.

"Names, names, names," says Tina Peavey, manager of Ranger Joe's surplus shop. "We're
so darn busy, you almost forget they're people."

It's 10:15 p.m. and there are still acres of creamy desert fatigues to go for the 12,500 soldiers
pushing off for the Middle East. The three women, hunched in a back room of the surplus shop,
have been labeling uniforms since sunup. One cuts, one measures, one sews.

Not far away, a young cashier cries behind the counter of the Flash Foods minimart. A little
girl twirls in a pink princess shirt, asking for Daddy. Artillery rumbles.

This is the anxious deployment dance before the big, long hush.

The Army's entire Third Infantry Division, based at Fort Stewart, is leaving, and few corners of
the country are turned as inside out by the showdown with Iraq as Hinesville, Ga.

It is a little town with a big base, a place where the military creates the weather townsfolk live in.

"When Hinesville breathes in, Fort Stewart breathes out," said Allen Brown, a real estate broker
whose apartment business has already been hurt because of the deployment. "That's how close we are."

* * *
War Dames, the Draft, and the Supreme Court

Boston civil-rights lawyer Harvey Schwartz filed suit in federal court yesterday challenging the Selective Service Act on the basis that it discriminates against women. The crux of his argument is that women play a crucial role in ground-combat units in the American military, and thus Selective Service Act is anachronistic because it only requires men to register for the draft. This will seem eerily familiar to anyone who read my article "War Dames" in last month's Washington Monthly. Women do, in fact, play a critical role in Army and Marine Corps ground-combat units, and old rules which assumed their absence from combat ought to be relooked.

In 1981, the Supreme Court upheld the all-male Selective Service registration process in Rostker. The reasoning of that case, however, hinged on the assumption that women did not fight in combat, even when they served in the military. "The existence of the combat restrictions clearly indicates the basis for Congress' decision to exempt women from registration. The purpose of registration was to prepare for a draft of combat troops. Since women are excluded from combat, Congress concluded that they would not be needed in the event of a draft, and therefore decided not to register them." Rostker v. Goldberg, 453 U.S. 57, 77 (1981).

Therefore, "men and women, because of the combat restrictions on women, are simply not similarly situated for purposes of a draft or registration for a draft." However, this is no longer the case. Women today play a critical role in our ground combat forces, often going into harm's way right alongside men. Indeed, female pilots are arguably more at risk of death or capture than their brethren on the ground.

Ultimately, this lawsuit may have little practical effect because we have no draft today. We are also unlikely to bring back conscription in the near future, despite what Rep. Charlie Rangel has proposed. However, Mr. Schwartz' lawsuit raises a very important argument for the rights and privileges of women in our society. Mr. Schwartz' lawsuit recognizes the crucial role that women play in today's military and pushing for the revision of an anachronistic statute -- the Selective Service Act. Female soldiers share the risks of combat with men in today's Army, and they ought to receive the social benefits for that burden.

Prediction: The federal court will decline jurisdiction here or find some other reason to dismiss this case in the early stages. Why? The courts have historically deferred to the Legislative and Executive branches on military matters. The text of the Constitution clearly lays the task of raising the Army and Navy at the feet of Congress. Members of Congress could read my article if they wanted to, and they could change the Selective Service Act if they wanted to. For a litany of reasons, neither Congress nor the President have proposed enlarging the Selective Service Act to include women. The courts will likely find this fact to be dispositive.
Baker beats the AP; predicts Marine deployment before anyone in the media

Last night, fellow UCLAW blogger Chris Baker read the tea leaves about the Marines cancelling several exercises and correctly surmised that this particular group had deployment orders to Southwest Asia. Sure enough, this morning, the Associated Press reports that 7,000 Marines from Camp Lejeune are headed for Southwest Asia. Either Chris is actually making decisions for the Marine Corps, or he does a better job reading tea leaves than anyone in the press. I think it's the latter, but sometimes his predictions are so accurate that I'm not sure.

Thursday, January 9, 2003

Army preparedness for biological warfare

Today's New York Times (and a number of other papers) contains a story about the U.S. Army's research into biological warfare, and the state of its defenses should an enemy (Iraq, Al Qaeda, North Korea, etc) use a biological agent. This story is important. Our military is the most prepared institution in American society for a biological attack. The fact that they are less-than-fully prepared is disturbing, especially since the majority of these biological agents have existed for a long time. These threats are not new, yet the Army has not responded to them by developing appropriate counter-measures.

Some of this owes to fiscal constraints -- both in the public and private sector. The Pentagon has not pushed enough resources into institutions like USAMRIID, the U.S. Army Medical Research Institute for Infections Diseases. Imagine a cross between Berkeley, the CDC, and NIH, and you have USAMRIID. It's a tremendously important academic and scientific institution that grew out of the ashes of America's offensive biowarfare program. (See generally, Judith Miller & William Broad, Germs, 2002) USAMRIID is where the U.S. military does almost all of its basic science research and applied research on biological warfare. (This institute was dramatized in the movie Outbreak with Dustin Hoffman and Morgan Freeman) It's where the military first weaponized anthrax, where it tested it and numerous other agents, and where the military developed its vaccines for most agents. Unfortunately, however, USAMRIID has never been high on the Pentagon's shopping list. It does not receive the funding or the authority to contract for research at civilian universities that it needs. Thus, we have a public failure to invest economic resources in the fight against biological warfare.

Second, we have a market failure. Vaccine makers don't want to invest resources in the development or production of already-developed vaccines for bioterrorism because of several reasons. First, it's expensive. Second, the sales of these vaccines are far from certain, and likely only in the event of an attack. Third, most of these vaccines would be purchased under a government contract if ever, thus making their profitability dubious. Fourth, the potential liability for these vaccines is enormous. A combination of these factors has meant that private drug companies have not produced massive stockpiles of vaccines in the past, nor have they developed any surge capabilities for producing them in the case of an attack. This has meant, for instance, that our society has a) no stockpile of smallpox vaccine and b) no ability to mass-produce it should an attack occur. I'm usually a free-market guy, but this is one place where government must step in to address a market failure to provide a crucial public good.

Wednesday, January 8, 2003

Breaking news: 4th Circuit upholds detention of Yaser Hamdi as enemy combatant

The 4th Circuit Court of Appeals just ruled that the President could designate Yaser Yamdi as an enemy combatant, notwithstanding his U.S. citizenship, and detain him indefinitely as such. The text of the opinion is available here at Prof. Eugene Volokh of UCLA Law School has done an excellent job of analyzing this opinion. His analysis is available here.

I would add one major point of analysis, and it applies to this decision and the recent U.S. District Court decision in Padilla v. Bush. In each case, the Article III federal courts have told the Article II executive branch "Hey, we have the power to review your decision." In holding that the courts can review the President's designation of enemy-combatant status, the courts have told the President they have a role to play in this process. However, in each case, the courts have withheld their authority to exercise this review. Or more accurately, the courts have declined to tell the President he was wrong in his designations of Padilla and Hamdi. However, the statement of jursidiction still stands, and it remains for the next case.

The Supreme Court used the same tactic famously in Marbury v. Madison, its first major decision establishing judicial review. In that case, the Court held that it had jurisdiction, but declined to exercise that power. Such a move connoted the Court was motivated by purely legal concerns, not the pursuit of power. It was a master chess move by the Supreme Court.

These recent decisions in the Padilla and Hamdi cases do the same thing. The courts have laid down a marker before the executive branch -- they have staked out their procedural position. In declining to exercise that power, the courts have actually increased their legitimacy, and solidified their power for future cases regarding enemy combatants.
U.S. Forces in Korea Face Increasing Hostility

Today's NY Times front-page contained a well-written article on the increasing hostility between U.S. soldiers and Korean civilians. In recent weeks, this hostility has led to several violent attacks on U.S. soldiers, including the stabbing of one U.S. colonel stationed in Seoul. This most-recent outbreak of anti-American sentiment is nothing new. Koreans have resented and protested the U.S. presence in their country for some time. However, the recent acquittals of two U.S. soldiers for negligent homicide in the death of two girls north of Seoul has stirred the pot, and caused an eruption of anti-American sentiment and protest. At the same time, U.S.-Korea relations have soured as the Bush Administration has taken an adverse position against North Korea in a manner somewhat out-of-step with South Korea's government. All of this has led to the worst state of U.S.-Korean relations in decades.

I have some experience here, having served in Korea from 1998-99 as a Military Police platoon leader in the Army's 2nd Infantry Division in Tongduchon, Korea (40km north of Seoul). This experience leads me to conclude that both sides have a reasonable reason to be upset. For their part, the Korean population do suffer some harm from the continuing U.S. military presence. Our maneuver vehicles cause traffic jams, cause damage, and generally cause a nuisance. (However, we do pay claims for damages when they occur.) This is not made better by U.S. soldiers who behave like "ugly Americans" in Korean cities, drinking to excess and acting disruptively. But for our part, we do ask 37,000 of America's finest sons and daughters to serve in Korea every year -- usually for a hardship tour. Our soldiers stand as a human trip-wire against North Korean aggression, and their lives are very much at risk. They deserve respect and fairness from the Korean population. Like all things, the truth is somewhere in between both camps.

Ultimately, I believe both nations must make strides towards the middle.
1. The U.S. must look at ways to reduce its military footprint, and make itself less onerous to the Korean population. Principally, this means moving the U.S. Army headquarters out of Seoul to a location outside the city. The Yongsan Garrison, which sits on the Han River in the middle of Seoul, is an eyesore and continuing offense to the Korean population. It is the vestige of a military occupation, and it ought to be removed. There may be other ways to reduce the U.S. footprint as well, such as adopting a unit-rotation system in Korea which might qualitatively change the way U.S. soldiers operate in the Korean countryside.
2. The U.S. and Korean governments must do a better job of explaining the North Korean threat to the Korean population. Today's Korean population does not perceive a credible threat from North Korea, and thus they are unwilling to suffer the misfortunes of a continuing U.S. presence. This is not correct. North Korea poses as much of a threat today as ever -- perhaps more now that it purports to have nuclear weapons. Korean citizens ought to appreciate the fact that these soldiers exist to secure their nation, and to encourage the stability of the entire East Asian region.

Bottom Line: The U.S. cannot withdraw its forces from Korea. They serve a very important role; a role whose importance trancends the current problems there. American troops in Korea (as well as Okinawa and Japan) deter North Korean aggression. They also represent a tangible commitment of American political and military will to the East Asian region. Our troops don't just secure Korea; they ensure the security of Japan, Taiwan, China, Australia, and the rest of the region. Our troop commitment ensures continued stability in an area that directly affects the interests of the United States.

Tuesday, January 7, 2003

Breaking News: UK anti-terrorism squads foil bioterrorism plot

CNN and other sources report that British police have arrested several men of North African origin after connecting them to a terrorist plot. The British police also found traces of ricin, a deadly toxin derived from castor beans, at the arrest location. Ricin is known in the bioterrorism world as "low-hanging fruit" -- it is one of the toxins which can be developed and weaponized relatively easily by terrorists with some financing and knowledge. It is quite deadly, and depending on its method of employment, can be used to kill hundreds or thousands. The worst case scenario would be for a terrorist to weaponize ricin in aerosolized form and use it against some mass of people, such as subway riders or stadium attendees.

UK: Terror suspects, poison seized
Tuesday, January 7, 2003 Posted: 11:50 AM EST (1650 GMT)

LONDON, England -- Six terror suspects are being questioned by police after traces of one of the
world's deadliest poisons, ricin, were discovered at a London address.
Scotland Yard said the six men of north African origin were arrested after an operation by the anti-
terrorist branch in north and east London.
A spokesman said "equipment and materials" were found at an address in Wood Green in the British
capital where one of the men was also arrested.
A woman who was also arrested has been released.
Ricin is twice as deadly as cobra venom and experts have seriously assessed its use as a weapon of
mass destruction. There is no known antidote, treatment or vaccine.
It was the poison used to murder a Bulgarian exile, Georgi Markov, in a political assassination in
London in 1978.
Ricin is so powerful that a single molecule inside a cell can shut down protein synthesis, killing the
cell off. A small dose produces `flu-like symptoms with death following in a few days.
The poison is derived from the seeds and pods of the castor bean plant and may be inhaled, ingested
or injected.

The next skirmish in the battle over gays in the military... will happen at UCLA law school

By accident, the U.S. Air Force sent 20 copies of the same e-mail announcing its new Summer Internship Program for the U.S. Air Force JAG Corps -- to every student at the UCLA Law School. The Air Force sent these e-mails through Eattorney.Com, a web-based employment system for law students and attorneys. Each e-mail appears to be an individual e-mail, sent from Major Charles Plummer in the Pentagon, addressed to individual students. A copy is available here. As an Army officer, of course I decided I wasn't interested. (Okay, enough inter-service rivalry) Truthfully, I'm not interested because I like muddy-boots soldiering more than JAG work.

However, the majority of UCLAW students will have a different reaction. At best, I think they're ambivalent towards America's military. At worst, I think some are incredibly hostile towards America's military and towards the idea of the military recruiting at UCLA. Some don't like the military because of American foreign policy, and its role in executing the Bush Administration's policies. But primarily, UCLAW students object to the military because it discriminates against gays. Under Title 10, Section 653, United States Code, the U.S. military does not allow gays to serve openly in uniform. Any person who commits a homosexual act, proclaims himself/herself to be gay, or marries a person of the same sex, will be deemed a homosexual and discharged from the service.

Forget for a minute the normative argument over this policy (whether it's good or bad). Members of the UCLA community think this policy conflicts with the university's policy on non-discrimination. UCLA does not discriminate against gays; indeed, its non-discrimination policy forbids such discrimination. However, the military does discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. Therefore, these people argue, the university ought not let the military on campus to recruit, just as it wouldn't let a law firm on campus to recruit if it discriminated against racial minorities or women.

UCLA (and most other universities) have been forced by the federal government to let military recruiters on campus, on penalty of losing their federal money if they don't. (At UCLA, this would mean more than $1 billion in lost federal funds, including Medicare and research funding for the hospital) The UCLA Law School dean sent an e-mail to all students last semester announcing his policy, and saying that he regretted having to let the military on at all. (Ironic, considering that he's a Vietnam veteran himself.) Thus, we have an uneasy truce between the two camps: the military comes onto campus, albeit begrudgingly, and the students/faculty who oppose them continue to protest.

Enter the Air Force e-mail. This is sure to stir the pot a little; it's akin to kicking over a hornet's nest. I predict that we'll see a rash of student protests, possibly spread beyond UCLA if the Air Force did the same thing with all law schools. (Nearly all national law schools use Ultimately, I think most schools will continue to allow military recruiting, because they can't afford to lose federal money. But we'll see.