Monday, January 20, 2003

4th Infantry Division heads to Persian Gulf

The Pentagon announced on Monday that it was sending Task Force Ironhorse, a composite force built around the Army's 4th Infantry Division, to the Persian Gulf. I served in 4ID for nearly three years, mostly as a Military Police platoon leader in the Army's experimental digitized force. This division is nothing short of awesome -- it is qualitatively and quantitatively more lethal and powerful than any other division in the Army. The core of 4ID's strength is its digitization. Nearly every vehicle -- tanks, Bradleys, tracked artillery pieces, Humvees -- has a system called "Force XXI Battle Command for Brigade and Below" installed inside. This is like a laptop system which is wired to a GPS and FM radio. Every one is connected via a secure FM "tactical internet". Everyone has the real-time ability to see themselves, see the enemy, and see the terrain. It's an awesome capability. At the higher levels of command, this capability enables senior commanders to see through the fog of war and make decisions about what's actually happening in real-time.

The Army hasn't sent 4ID anywhere in a long time, because it's been testing equipment for the Army and developing new ways of fighting. This movement is significant. It means that America means business in a big way. We don't send our elite fighting forces, particularly when they're heavy/mechnized like 4ID, unless we intend to fight. 4ID is so advanced that it can execute the combat operations of 3 Army divisions from the Gulf War. This is a major commitment of combat power.

I'm somewhat sentimental about this deployment, since many of the soldiers I led and trained still serve in the 4th Infantry Division. These are America's finest sons and daughters; every single one is a great American citizen. I am confident they will serve with distinction in the Gulf, and will hold them in my thoughts until they return.

Friday, January 17, 2003

SCOTUS Blog - Best analysis I've seen yet of the briefs filed thus far in Grutter/Gratz v. Bollinger, the U.Mich. affirmative action case.

Thursday, January 16, 2003

Diversity as a compelling interest -- but what kind of diversity?

President Bush decided yesterday to file an amicus brief with the Supreme Court in the pair of cases known as Grutter v. Bollinger. Those cases emerge from challenges to the University of Michigan's system of race-based preferences in admission for undergraduates and law students. Legally, these cases raise two questions: 1) whether diversity can be a compelling government interest for the use of race-basd preferences, and 2) whether such preferences (as used by the University of Michigan) are properly tailored to reach that compelling interest. If there's no compelling interest, the Cour must strike down the preference; if the policies aren't written narrowly enough, the Court must strike them down.

Racial diversity has been put forward by many liberals and conservatives as an unassailable goal. University administrators and faculty like to argue that racial diversity leads magically to intellectual diversity, and that it creates a vibrant marketplace of ideas in the university. Learning and personal growth expand exponentially in such a diverse environment, this argument goes, because the multiplicity of viewpoints adds more perspectives to any particular debate, thus enriching the debate and the learning experience.

However, my experience at UCLA (as an undergraduate and law student) has not borne that out. If anything, this university cares much more about racial diversity than intellectual diversity - far more. When it comes to presenting balanced perspectives on any particular issue, from foreign policy to local land-use regulation, I have found UCLA to be quite lacking. Of course, this carries great benefits for me as a conservative, since it allows me to test my opinions and arguments in hostile territory. But it does many - including liberals - a disservice by creating a relatively homogenous environment when it comes to intellectual diversity.

If diversity is really what administrators at U.Michigan, UCLA and elsewhere care about, then they ought to consider exactly what it is about diversity that they want to bring into the classroom. If it's intellectual diversity, then race makes a poor proxy. Saying a black man has one perspective because of his race is specious -- it also cuts both ways. You can use that argument for positive and negative inferences about his character and perspective. The principle remains the same -- the use of race as proxy employs dangerous stereotypes and boils us all down to the quotient of our skin color.

If intellectual diversity is something truly prized at Michigan, then the facts of Grutter v. Bollinger make a very compelling argument for Barbara Grutter's admission:
"As Barbara Grutter sees it, she embodies the kind of diversity that most law schools want.
"The 49-year-old mother of two had worked in the health-care information technology field and operated her own consulting business for 16 years. She had lived around the country as well as in Canada. On top of that, she boasted a 3.8 undergraduate grade-point average and law school admission test scores in the 86th percentile.
"In Grutter's opinion, there was only one flaw on her application to the University of Michigan Law School: She is white."

-- Chicago Tribune

But that's the point. Michigan, like many other schools, does not really care about intellectual diversity. They only parrot that argument before the Court because they know the court won't buy their purely racial argument. Without a clear nexus to the classroom and pedagogical purposes, affirmative action falls flat. Thus the need to link racial diversity to intellectual diversity -- at tenuous connection at best. University admissions officials ought to develop admissions systems that actually look for intellectual diversity if that's what they're truly after. In the absence of such initiatives, I find it highly questionable that university administrators actually care about intellectual diversity. It seems that university leaders only care what their student body looks like -- but that this diversity goes skin deep.
Citizen soldiers report long tours, little support:

The continuing decline in post-9/11 support for the military in America

The USA Today front page contains a very good story today on American military reservists and the challenges they have faced in this new war on terrorism. Among other things, reservists have been called up for longer tours than anytime since Korea, sometimes exceeding a year; they have conducted missions from mundane gate security in the U.S. to actual combat in Afghanistan. In doing so, they have ably answered their nation's call to service. However, reservists have not received much support at home -- from the Pentagon, from their employers, and from American society. The U.S. military does not resource reserve units to anything near its active-duty standard. Some reserve units have radios and equipment that are 40 years old. Employers also support reservists -- but only as far as they have to. Though federal law protects mobilized reservists, it only sets a minimum level for that support -- a low level. Many reservists still take a massive pay cut, sometimes lose their health benefits, and face all sorts of other economic challenges because they've chosen to do something that too few Americans do anymore.

That all might be okay if American society still supported reserves and everything associated with the military. Unfortunately, they don't. I live in Santa Monica, one of the most wealthy and liberal communities in America. I live among a part of society that benefits tremendously from America's security and stability; these people could not live their lifestyles without American military sacrifice. Yet, most wouldn't lift a finger for a soldier if they had the opportunity. All the flags from 9/11 have come down. The NYPD and FDNY shirts have gone away. When I put on my uniform for reserve duty, I see the difference. It used to be that I could not buy a cup of coffee anywhere -- not Peets, not Starbucks, nowhere. Now, I don't even get the same policeman's discount (which I usually put back in the tip jar).


Their lives today revolve around the near certainty he will return to combat somewhere within the next year. With America at war with terrorism and possibly at war with Iraq in the weeks ahead, the nation relies increasingly on citizen soldiers such as Denis McCarthy, who are members of either the National Guard or the Reserves.

Before Sept. 11, they were much more civilian than soldier. About 130,000 have been called up since the attacks in New York and Washington, D.C., and that includes 58,894 who remain on active duty today. An additional 100,000 could be mobilized for a war with Iraq. A relatively small number are in true combat, although all are at varying risk of terrorist attack.

As a ready source of manpower, Guard and Reserve men and women are a bargain. They number more than 1.2 million and allow the nation to nearly double its armed forces if necessary while accounting for just 8.3% of the defense budget.

Last December, in remarks to American troops stationed in Qatar, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld said that "the Guard and the Reserve is so enormously important to this country because it does enable us to have a total force concept."

But unlike their active-duty counterparts, these citizen soldiers who are being called up increasingly find themselves between two worlds.

They work and even fight in a military that is taking casualties in places such as Afghanistan, dealing with all the wartime trappings of separation and sorrow. But their spouses and children, who were never part of a self-supporting military culture the way most active-service families are, remain in a civilian world where neighbors and friends have long since put away the flags they flew after 9/11 and are going about their daily lives.
* * *
"You have people who are willing to give whatever their country asks ... while also trying to live the American dream," says Jay Farrar, a military analyst with the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington and a former Marine Corps officer and Department of Defense official.

"They're the ones in the middle," he says. "And most other Americans don't have a clue."

Tuesday, January 14, 2003

Washington Post: U.S. Acts to Thwart Missile Threat Against Airliners

On Dec. 1, 2002, I wrote the following in response to an alleged Al Qaeda attempt to shoot down an Israeli passenger jet in Kenya with handheld surface-to-air missiles:

...the general idea of anti-terrorism is that you have to adjust your counter-measures to the threat. As the threat appears in one area, you have to shift resources to that area. If I were a decisionmaker, I'd be shifting TSA employees from screening baggage to conducting sweeps of airport tarmacs in response to this threat. If this new threat (SAM attacks) is real, then it makes little sense to continue to fight the old threat (hijacking).

...The U.S. has successfully responded (albeit too late) to the threat of hijacking and we have hardened our airports to the point where no terrorist can effectively hit them. Given our national experience on Sept. 11, it is unlikely that a terrorist could ever hijack a plane again. But this does not mean that our aircraft are safe -- it only means that certain avenues of attack have been denied to our enemies. We must continue to refine our intelligence about our enemy and dynamically employ new counter-measures as we see our enemy developing new means of attack.

Wednesday's Washington Post leads with a story that the U.S. government has listened. The Post reports that the U.S. government has rapidly instituted a comprehensive review of airport and airline security in response to this emerging threat.

Top federal officials, increasingly concerned that terrorists will attack U.S. commercial aircraft with shoulder-fired missiles, are developing plans to thwart such strikes with measures that range from sophisticated anti-missile technology to simple changes in takeoff schedules.

An interagency task force that reports to the National Security Council is also coordinating emergency inspections of every large U.S. airport to determine their vulnerability to the small, portable missiles, senior government officials said. And the task force is planning a public education campaign designed to teach police departments and citizens who live and work near airports to identify the missiles if they see them being assembled.

While acknowledging their alarm at the danger posed by portable missiles that may be fired at the approximately 6,700 commercial aircraft operating in the United States, administration officials stressed yesterday that the highest echelons of the U.S. government are focused on the threat and are determined to maximize the traveling public's safety.
* * *
The attack confirmed the belief of U.S. intelligence experts that al Qaeda has access to a supply of the weapons and may now be uncrating them as a new terrorist tactic. The interagency task force stepped up its meetings just days after the failed shoot-down of the Israeli jetliner.
* * *
The interagency task force -- led by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) and including representatives of the Pentagon, the FBI and the State Department -- held two days of meetings on the missiles in December. Last week, the group sent a preliminary report, weighing various government actions, to a top-level panel convened by the White House's NSC.

"The key finding is there is no single answer to this threat, no silver bullet," one ranking government official said. "We'll have to consider a number of things to reduce this threat, in a multilayered approach."

Bottom Line: This is outstanding work by the federal government in response to a dynamic, evolving, innovative threat. Now, the federal government must take this to the next level. The TSA must radically alter its strategic posture to focus on this new threat, instead of fighting the old one (hijacking). If that means taking baggage screeners and putting them out on the flight line, then that's what it means. Intelligence drives operations!!! We must adopt counter-measures that respond to today's threat and tomorrow's threat, not the threat of yesterday.
NYT: Tamil Tigers of Sri Lanka were the real pioneers of suicide bombing and 4th Generation Warfare

Today's NY Times contains a front-page article on the Tamil Tigers, a violent terrorist group in Sri Lanka seeking independence. The article confirms what many terrorism experts have said for some time: terrorism can be institutionalized, and when it is, it can become much more deadly. The Tigers have created a institutional system for training, doctrine, equipment and personnel-selection relating to the use of suicide bombing for terrorism. Here's an excerpt:

The Tigers did not invent the suicide attack, but they proved the tactic to be so unnerving and effective for a vastly outmanned fighting force that their methods were studied and copied, notably in the Middle East.

"Of all the suicide-capable terrorist groups we have studied, they are the most ruthless, the most disciplined," said Rohan Gunaratna, a research fellow at the Center for the Study of Terrorism and Political Violence at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland. He said the group was responsible for more than half of the suicide attacks carried out worldwide.
* * *
The Tigers evolved ever more sophisticated suicide bodysuits, and more refined surveillance. They skillfully insinuated themselves within striking distance of their targets. They professionalized, and institutionalized, suicide bombing.