Sunday, April 20, 2003

Good after action review

William Branigan of the Washington Post traveled with the 3rd Infantry Division during their advance to Baghdad. Looking back on that campaign, he writes about three pivotal engagements that sealed the U.S. victory over Iraq.
Looking back on the battles, commanders said they realized that in the irregular Iraqi forces, they faced a more committed enemy than they had seen before, more persistent than the Republican Guard divisions that were supposed to be the most potent in the Iraqi defenses. They also saw signs of a strategy based on the success of Somali militiamen against Army Rangers a decade earlier: cut off the attacking U.S. troops from behind, isolate them on city streets and pour in reinforcements to inflict maximum casualties.

But this time the U.S. troops had armor, and it proved more than a match for the ubiquitous rocket-propelled grenade, the Hussein loyalists' weapon of choice. The supply line held, and the swarming irregulars were beaten back by superior firepower. Months of training for urban combat paid off.

"That was the whole turning point of the war right there," said Maj. Roger Shuck, operations chief of the 3rd Battalion, 15th Regiment, of the division's 2nd Brigade. "This mission is the one that cut the snake in half. Once this happened, everything just started crumbling and falling."

This is the story of the battles of Objectives Moe, Larry and Curly, the highway junctions that U.S. planners, in a lighter moment, named for the Three Stooges.
Looks like good book material to me... I think we're going to see a lot of Black Hawk Down-style books that come out of this war, especially from the reporters who were embedded with the infantry who fought their way into Baghdad.

Saturday, April 19, 2003

Rumsfeld after the war

The New York Times and the Washington Post each feature a post-war look at Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld in their Sunday editions. Each article says a lot of the same things -- that Rumsfeld was on his way out before Sept. 11, that he's been a great wartime "SecDef" (kind of like a wartime "consigliere" in Puzo's Godfather novel), that he's fought the media as well as the enemy, and that he's become the face of American foreign policy. Each article draws different conclusions, however, about Rumsfeld's ability to politically capitalize on his victories abroad. Definitely worth a read.
After two years in office, he has his own people in top slots across most of the military establishment. He has triumphed in a military success in Iraq that featured an audacious war plan he helped to shape. He also looms large outside the Pentagon, injecting himself far more into intelligence matters than his predecessors and playing an unusually large role in shaping Bush administration foreign policy. He even has turned around a sour relationship with Congress.

He now is in position as never before to reshape the U.S. military along the lines he has talked about since taking office, "transforming" it into a more agile and precise force built not around firepower but around information, and willing to take risks to succeed...

A welcome the size of Texas

America welcomed seven men and women home today from the war who, until recently, were prisoners of the Hussein regime. The first reports indicate all seven fought -- and served in captivity -- with distinction. A friend of mine serves in 1-227 Aviation with the two captured pilots, and I'm sure his wife (also a friend) was there at the Hood Army Airfield in Killeen to welcome them home. I wish I could've been there too. Massive crowds also met the soldiers from Fort Bliss who returned home, as the AP reports:
Thousands of well-wishers hoisted American flags and burst into cheers as the C-17 plane landed on a wind-swept runway. Two servicemen poked their heads through a hatch on top of the plane, holding an American flag and waving to the crowd as the plane taxied along the tarmac.
Update: Fort Hood is just a stone's throw away from Crawford, Texas, where President Bush has his Texas ranch. The AP also reports that President Bush has plans to spend Easter Sunday on Fort Hood, the largest military installation in the United States, and to meet with the two pilots just returned from Iraq. I think that's a fitting tribute by this commander-in-chief to the men he's sent into harm's way.
First seeds of democracy: a protest in Baghdad

The Washington Post and others report today on a large protest in the streets of Baghdad against the United States presence. Specifically, the protesters want a Muslim government to take the reins of Iraq as quickly as possible.
The protesters, who were led by a well-known Sunni scholar, began their march at one of Baghdad's largest Sunni mosques after Friday prayers. They called on U.S. troops to leave quickly and for a new government to be based on Islamic laws. Although those demands appeared to reflect growing frustration with the pace of U.S. aid and reconstruction programs in Iraq, they also were overtures to Shiite leaders, who have made similar requests, and an indication of how Islamic politics is starting to fill the political vacuum left by Hussein's downfall.

Among the placards carried by some of the approximately 10,000 marchers were two claiming to represent the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest Islamic activist movement in the Arab world. It was the first time the Brotherhood, a Muslim revivalist group that is banned in Egypt and Syria, has appeared on the public stage in Iraq.
Analysis: Some have already seized on this as more evidence of American imperialism. They would be wrong. A classmate of mine with extensive State Department experience thinks, as do I, that this is the best sign yet of a new day in Iraq. Just days after the demise of Hussein's regime, we're seeing protests in Baghdad that seem more like Berkeley or Santa Monica. (Next thing you know, Sean Penn will fly back to Baghdad to join the protests) Who knew the Iraqis had such a democratic spirit? Who knew these people would resort so quickly to the sort of free speech we cherish in America? I think we ought to heed the popular sentiment in Iraq and let this nation create its own institutions of governance in the very-near future. Notwithstanding that, I think this is an incredibly positive development. It's quite stunning that the Iraqi people would embrace freedom this quickly. Once they've had the first taste of such freedom, I think they will never embrace (or accept) tyranny again.

Update: Mark Kleiman points out some reasons why I might be naively rushing to judgment on the progress of Iraqi democracy. Of course, it's too early to tell whether either one of us is right. He's got a point though -- national self-determination is not necessarily a good thing, particularly in this part of the world.
Well, the Iranians had a taste of freedom in overthrowing the Shah, but it turned out that the mullahs were able to impose another, and far nastier, tyranny instead. There's every reason to think that Iraq is less ready for democracy than Iran was, and yet if Iran manages to throw off its theocracy in the next couple of years, that will mean a quarter-century between the first taste of freedom and a full meal.
At least I'm not alone in my optimism... President Bush attended Easter services this morning at the 4th Infantry Division Memorial Chapel on Fort Hood in Texas. While there, he met the two helicopter pilots recently recently held as POWs by Iraq, and scores of military families with loved ones currently in Iraq. After the services, President Bush spoke to the assembled press, where he had this to say:
Q Mr. President, there have been some anti-U.S. demonstrations stirred up by religious leaders in Iraq. Are you worried that's going to hurt the rebuilding effort?

THE PRESIDENT: I'm not worried. Freedom is beautiful, and when people are free, they express their opinions. You know, they couldn't express their opinions before we came, now they can. I've always said democracy is going to be hard. It's not easy to go from being enslaved to being free. But it's going to happen, because the basic instincts of mankind is to be free. They want to be free. And so, sure, there's going to be people expressing their opinions, and we welcome that, just like here in America people can express their opinion.

CSC DynCorp wins law & order contract for Iraq

USAID awarded a major contract on Friday to DynCorp, a subsidary of Computer Sciences Corp., for the creation of law enforcement and judicial agencies in Iraq. DynCorp has a long history of contracting with the Pentagon, including some very interesting (and secretive) contracts for security missions in Colombia and elsewhere.
Under the contract, DynCorp will provide technical advisers with 10 years of law enforcement, corrections and judicial experience, including two years in specialized areas such as police training, crime scene investigation, border security, traffic accident investigation, corrections and customs.

Advisers will work with Iraqi criminal justice organizations at the national, provincial and municipal levels to assess threats to public order and mentor personnel at all levels of the Iraqi legal system.
Analysis: When I saw the first leak of this story by Mark Fineman in Thursday's Los Angeles Times, I was only surprised that it took so long to award this contract. Recent experience has shown that law & order is absolutely critical to the building of all other institutions -- economic, infrastructural, political, and social. Until people feel safe to walk their streets, they will not feel safe to do business or interact with one another, particularly in the wake of a repressive dictatorship. DynCorp has experience in this area. But what will make the difference is who they actually hire to do the job. A company spokesman said they have already received a flood of applications from police officers around the country to do this mission. It's critical that DynCorp select the best of those officers, especially the ones with some higher education, to rebuild the law enforcement apparatus in Iraq. Similarly, DynCorp must take care to select the best attorneys -- liberal and conservative -- to build lasting institutions of law in Iraq. This will have implications for every other area of reconstruction we undertake in this war-torn nation.

Friday, April 18, 2003

The human side of war

Los Angeles Times reporter Geoffrey Mohan has an eloquent "Column One" piece on today's front page that recounts the passage of Cyclone Company, 4th Battalion, 64th Armored Regiment through combat. Mohan pulls no punches as he tells these men's (there are no women in a tank company) stories, from the company commander down to his junior soldiers. Like war, Mohan's story has no happy ending -- except that these young American men accomplished their mission and lived to tell their stories.
For some of the younger men of Cyclone Company, it is hard to piece together war memories into a coherent story. "Did this look like a war to you?" asked Spc. Royce Arcay, 26. "I've never been to a war, but it sure didn't seem like what they put on TV.... It's just kind of weird looking at dead bodies. They don't look real. I never thought I'd see dead bodies like that, or body parts."

Bodies killed by the powerful 120-millimeter main guns of an Abrams M-1A1 tank, or its mounted machine guns, don't lie in quiet repose with neat red circles for wounds. They are mangled, blown apart and burned beyond recognition.

Tank crews often could not escape their handiwork. Some of the Iraqis they killed lay pinned in blasted vehicles that the Americans used as roadblocks. Day and night, tank crews stood guard just yards away. On one bridge in Baghdad, a dead Iraqi soldier pinned in a jeep became known as "Mr. Bubble-Guts," a macabre nickname that seemed to help some get by the horror of his daily decay.

It didn't work for Lott. "I'm going to have nightmares," he said. "Last night I kept dreaming that I wanted to wake up, but I went from dream to dream to dream. When we're getting on that plane, do you know how that's going to feel? Just getting on the plane, going home?"

Pentagon picks lead attorneys for Al Qaeda tribunals

The Washington Times reports today that the Pentagon is one major step closer to starting the military tribunals authorized by President Bush in his infamous 13 Nov 01 Executive Order.
Army Col. Frederick L. Borch III is the top contender to lead the prosecution staff, and Air Force Col. Willie A. Gunn is in line to be chief defense counsel, Legal Times reported this week. Line prosecutors, defense lawyers and trial judges will be drawn from all uniformed services, although defendants may have private attorneys.
* * *
Both Col. Borch and Col. Gunn have long held leadership roles in the military justice system, and neither spoke to reporters.

Col. Borch is deputy chairman of international law at the Naval War College and taught at the Army Judge Advocate General's School in Charlottesville. He graduated from University of North Carolina law school and has a master's degree in law from the University of Brussels.

Col. Gunn, who holds law degrees from Harvard and George Washington universities, supervised all Air Force defense counsels for the central United States for two years before his latest assignment at the Pentagon as executive assistant to the Air Force judge advocate general.
Analysis: The personnel piece is one of the major ones which has been missing from the puzzle until now. The Pentagon has its procedural rules in place; it also has specific "crimes and elements" in place according to the Wall Street Journal. Presumably, it has a location set up in Guantanamo near where these prisoners are being held. And it has the people in the respective military services who can fall in on this operation as attorneys, support staff, public-affairs staff, and security. I think we'll see these tribunals in the next 6 months, because all the major pieces are pretty much in place. All that remains is the decision to actually start the tribunals, a decision which must come from the White House.
America's quiet professionals rebuild Iraq one town at a time

James Dao has a great piece in the New York Times today on an Army Special Forces "A Team" that's working to rebuild the small town of Diwaniya, Iraq. Since the end of the Cold War, the "Green Berets" have conducted hundreds of such missions around the world, acting as the muscular arms of American foreign policy. Whether they are building armies for other nations (called "foreign internal defense") or conducting raids behind enemy lines (called "direct action"), these teams almost always work in secrecy, garnering no headlines. However, they do important work, as reported in The Mission by Dana Priest and now by James Dao in The Times.
It is a battle against chaos instead of bullets. The Green Berets have had to wade into angry crowds. They have mediated between rival tribes locked in blood feuds. They have tried to hold together the city's thin threads of social order, not always with success.

Today, a man was killed when the bodyguards of a sheik from another city fired into a crowd of 200 men who were protesting the sheik's presence at a community meeting. Soldiers arrested 16 of the bodyguards and detained the sheik, drawing loud applause from the crowd. But it was a setback for the team, which had worked closely with the sheik, a leader of the Jabour tribe.

"Just when things looked like they were going good, we have a power struggle in town," said the Special Forces team leader, a 32-year-old captain. Rules imposed by the military bar identification of the leader, or any members of his team.

There is a crisis like this almost every day. The team has become the de facto center of Diwaniya's government, which has all but ceased to function. It is a role the Green Berets have played before, in villages and towns in Vietnam and elsewhere.

Civil-military relations in the age of the armchair general

Retired Colonel and West Point Professor Don Snider has a great column in today's Chicago Tribune on the state of civil-military relations after the war on Iraq. There has been much debate on this subject since President Clinton took office in 1993. His administration was sharply criticized by many (in and out of uniform) for its handling of the gays in the military issue and Somalia. After those episodes, the Clinton Administration took a "hands off" approach to running the Pentagon. President Bush's administration has swung the other way, leading the military with a much firmer hand that has caused friction at many points since January 2001. Snider's column leaps into the fray and discusses the role played by retired officers -- like retired-Gen. Barry McCaffrey -- in the civil-military relations during Gulf War II.
So, does this group of retirees speak for the military? Should the public accept the retired officers as authoritative? Is it retired McCaffrey, et. al. or active-duty Myers and current military leaders? Given the degree to which they disagree, it obviously can't be both. We should be deadly serious about the answer to this question, because it touches on one of the greatest treasures of the Republic.

The American civil-military relationship, based on the Constitution and legislation over the two succeeding centuries, has established a clear set of principles to guide policymaking for national security, and thus roles and responsibilities for military and civilian leaders. The principles are easy: The values and preferences of the American people are supreme to those of the military who protect them; and, final decisions in all cases are to be made by duly constituted civilian authority--civilian "control" of the military is the norm.

Implementing these principles has proven much more difficult...
Definitely worth a read...

Thursday, April 17, 2003

Lingering questions at the end of the war

Slate's Fred Kaplan has some provocative questions for the Pentagon and CENTCOM in the wake of our successful campaign in Iraq. I think these questions are important for two main reasons. First, we owe some transparency to the world so that they can see our motives were pure, and that American foreign policy is not imperialistic. Second, our military (and its civilian leadership) must answer "after action review" questions like these in order to learn from this war - and get better for the next one.

I'm not sure if or when the Pentagon will answer these questions. I have some insight into a few of them though, and would like to offer what I think are the likely answers to these questions.

1. "What did happen between the first and second week of the war?" Clearly, the U.S. adjusted its plan in response to the tactics employed by Iraqi soldiers as they faced American ground forces. We took a more deliberate approach in response to their guerilla tactics, taking to care to clear areas instead of simply securing them. We also took the time to pound the Republican Guard divisions and "set the conditions" for our assault before engaging in a toe-to-toe slugfest. LTG William Wallace's infamous quote that "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different from the one we war-gamed against..." will go down in history, not so much because it was said, but because the U.S. noticed this fact and reacted to it faster than the Iraqis could react themselves.

2. "...the Karbala Gap turned out to be the proverbial cakewalk. Or at least there were no reports of fighting. What happened? Did the U.S. troops feign an advance to draw out the Iraqis, then blast them with artillery and airstrikes?" Probably. Again, why fight the Iraqi's "vaunted" Republican Guard in a head-to-head tank fight if you have aircraft and artillery that can do the job instead? In economic terms, American military strategy always seeks to substitute capital for manpower when possible -- send a bullet, not a man. (See discussion of "shaping operations" in Army doctrine) Or in some cases, send a precision-guided munition, not a tank round. More details will emerge when our soldiers come home and go through extensive debriefing by the Center for Army Lessons Learned. I anxiously await those reports.

3. "Given how relatively easily the 3rd Infantry and the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force barreled into Baghdad, just what was the Army's 4th Infantry Division slated to do in this war?" I'm not sure I agree with the "relatively easy" part; there wasn't much that was easy about it. That said, I think the 4th Infantry Division would have made the assault easier. If they were applying pressure from the north, we might not have dropped the 173rd Airborne Brigade into Northern Iraq. In doing so, we took a huge operational risk by putting those light infantry on the ground without a substantial armored or mechanized force. 4ID probably would have moved in from the north, taken Mosul and Tikrit, and applied pressure on Baghdad from the north. 4ID might have also forced a redeployment of Republican Guard from the south of the city, taking forces away from the mix that fought 3ID and the Marines as they advanced to the city.

4. "Why weren't U.S. troops ordered to stop looters or guard more ministries, hospitals, and museums?" Mr. Kaplan thinks we could have airlifted hundreds or thousands of MPs to Baghdad after taking the city. Maybe... but not likely. The U.S. military is fairly stretched right now, and we didn't have large numbers of soldiers ready for this kind of mission. (Maybe we should have) As far as MPs go, they're in short supply, and maybe that's something to look at too as we adjust the Army's force structure for the nation-building mission it's now going to be shouldered with for the forseeable future. The answer here boils down to priorities. We had a finite number of boots on the ground. Security and force protection were the top priorities; security of critical infrastructure and other key buildings came before the hospitals, ministries and museums. Maybe this formula should be adjusted, but I think the military's calculus was more right than Mr. Kaplan gives them credit for. In choosing between critical infrastructure (like a water storage site) and a museum, I think you have to secure the infrastructure first.

5. "The Pentagon never likes to discuss my fifth question, but at some point, somebody is going to have to assess civilian casualties." Yes. This is going to be a really hard question for a lot of reasons. But we must answer it, if for no reason than this will have significant ramifications for post-war reconstruction. Our air strategy deliberatively avoided critical civilian infrastructure and our bombing did not hit major residential areas, but there were doubtless many civilian casualties as we fought up from Kuwait. Some accounting is necessary.

6. "Question 6 is a geeky military one. How big a role did the high-tech drones play in this war? ... to what degree were the targets spotted from the air—and to what degree by soldiers or special-operations forces, old-fashioned boots-on-the-ground human beings? I have no idea what the answer is here, but it's more than an academic question. The drones in question were acquired for billions of dollars, and the entire future of military transformation hinges on how well this strategy worked in Iraq. Defense contractors stand to win or lose billions of dollars from the way we draw lessons from this war. For more on this answer, see this piece by Eric Schmitt in the April 18 New York Times. (Thanks to DefenseTech for the tip)

7. "Saddam never did fire Scuds, at Israel or anyplace else. Was this because special ops found missiles and took them out? Or was it because Saddam never had any Scuds to begin with?" As Mr. Kaplan writes, this is a very secretive area. Until this mission is complete, I don't think we'll see much coming out of the Pentagon because it might compromise the units still conducting such missions in Iraq. We know that Army Rangers, Green Berets, Navy SEALs, Air Force combat controllers and PJs, and Marine reconnaissance units all worked inside Iraq before and during the war. The Pentagon said that this effort was the largest use of special operations forces in history. I look forward to reading the accounts of their exploits.

8. "Did Saddam Hussein have weapons of mass destruction?" Your guess is as good as mine. I think he had them, because of Secretary Powell's infamous briefing to the UN before the war and because I don't think we would have launched this war without some pretty good proof. Phil's opinion is that we ought to invite UNSCOM back into Iraq to resume its inspections ASAP. Without the Iraqi government playing shell game, they ought to be able to find them. Then again, maybe we should use American soldiers for the inspection mission. That way, we would control the inspection process, but we would also be accountable for its results.
USAID awards major contract to Bechtel

The Bush Administration awarded Bechtel Corporation a major contract today for the reconstruction of Iraq. Initially, the contract is worth just $34.6 million for initial planning and surveys of the situation, but it could bloom to as much as $680 million over the next 18 months. As the prime contractor, Bechtel is expected to make heavy use of subcontractors for specialized needs it identifies in its initial survey. Bechtel has a history of working with the government on major projects, including the Hoover Dam and Channel Tunnel between Britain and France. According to USAID:
The contract calls for the repair, rehabilitation or reconstruction of vital elements of Iraq's infrastructure. This includes assessment and repair of power generation facilities, electrical grids, municipal water systems and sewage systems. There is also a provision in the contract for the rehabilitation or repair of airport facilities, and the dredging, repair and upgrading of the Umm Qasr seaport, in close cooperation with other USAID contractors working in those sectors. The contract may also involve responsibility for the repair and reconstruction of hospitals, schools, selected ministry buildings and major irrigation structures, as well as restoration of essential transport links. It is anticipated that Bechtel will work through subcontractors on a number of these tasks after identifying specific needs. Through all of its activities, it will also engage the Iraqi population and work to build local capacity.

The capital construction contract is part of USAID's planned reconstruction assistance to the Iraqi people, aimed at helping maintain stability, ensure the delivery of essential services, and facilitate economic recovery. This is one of eight initial requests for proposals (RFPs) issued by USAID as part of its overall relief and reconstruction efforts in Iraq.
Don't get sticker shock yet... $680 million is just the start. This reconstruction effort is going to cost a lot more than that. I can't begin to list all the essential pieces of infrastructure that must be rebuilt in Iraq for that nation to join the world economy. Suffice to say, it's not as easy as flipping a switch and flooding that country with dollars. The costs of policing and rebuilding Iraq will rise into the tens of billions of dollars over the next 10 years -- and we will be in Iraq for at least that long. I think there's a cogent argument to be made that such money would be better spent on domestic projects inside the U.S., such as our own schools. But we have made the national decision to bear this burden, and we must now follow through on that decision.

PS: This is a big contract. But think of all the things that aren't included in the Bechtel contract. Where, for example, is the money for a new legal system? Okay, maybe I'm a self-interested law student looking for my profession. But seriously... Iraq will need a new legal system constructed from the ground up, starting with its Constitution. (See this interesting essay by Michael Dorf on that subject) And as we know, legal systems aren't cheap. Constructing courts, training attorneys, judges, administrators, police, etc, will cost a lot of money. (It's a fair bet that Iraq has plenty of police stations and prisons already.) Sending a delegation from the Justice Department and/or Art. III courts to supervise that mission will also cost money. This is just one example -- I think we're going to see an awful lot being spent on this mission in the future.
More on Abu Abbas

A diligent reader (and smart attorney) wrote to remind me that the ICC would in fact be a poorer choice than I opined yesterday for Abu Abbas, the Achille Lauro hijacker we captured in Baghdad. He writes:
"The ICC isn't an option, for several reasons. 1) its jurisdiction began July 1, 2002, so a 1985 crime isn't covered. 2) it is a court of last resort and can only initiate an action if a national court can't or won't act. Since Italy has acted against Abbas, and the US probably will as well, there's really no basis for ICC to do anything. 3) it's unclear whether the hijacking and murder would fall under ICC jurisdiction, which is limited to war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide."
My reader's first two points are certainly accurate as a matter of law. The third is open to interpretation. Terrorism may be a war crime, depending on one's reading of the Third and Fourth Geneva Conventions and other international covenants on the laws of war. Specifically, the hijacking of a civilian ship may be a war crime under various piracy treaties and laws of the sea (I'm no expert on admiralty law though). Thus, if this crime were committed today, and no state asserted jurisdiction, the terrorists could be tried by the ICC under the Rome Treaty.

For some really good analysis of this issue, see today's piece in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) by Gary Fields. This piece breaks down some of the legal issues, in sequence, and clarifies some of the jurisdictional mud on the subject.
Mr. Abbas's detention is raising questions about U.S. jurisdiction, however, and already pressure is mounting for his release. Italy says it will seek his extradition on the hijacking charges, for which he was convicted in that country in absentia. Meanwhile, the Palestinian Authority demanded his release, saying his detention violates the 1995 Oslo Middle East peace agreement that gives Palestinian activists and leaders immunity for acts that occurred before the agreement was negotiated in 1993.

Legal experts suggest that Italy, which supported the U.S. campaign in Iraq but didn't take part, would appear to have the strongest claim to him, and State Department spokesman Philip Reeker says Washington and Rome are in talks on how to resolve the matter. The Italian justice minister said his government has been pursuing Mr. Abbas actively, and asked Egypt and Jordan in recent months for his extradition when Rome believed he may have been in those countries.

Mr. Reeker and other officials contend that the U.S., isn't bound by the Oslo accords' immunity grant. But with a revival of Israeli-Palestinian peace talks in the works, the U.S. cannot afford to totally dismiss the PLO's claims.
* * *
A Justice Department official said lawyers there are trying to determine a course of action. Several people were also detained with him in the raid, in which authorities found forged passports and other documents, and weapons, which could provide the basis for some U.S. legal action.

Currently, though, there aren't any outstanding U.S. indictments against Mr. Abbas, although he was involved in the killing of a U.S. citizen, Leon Klinghoffer, in the Achille Lauro attack. While an arrest warrant was issued for him after the murder, the U.S. didn't indict Mr. Abbas because no federal statutes involving U.S. citizens murdered abroad applied at the time. Congress passed such a law in 1986, inspired by the killing of Mr. Klinghoffer.
Some thoughts... I think the best venue to try Mr. Abbas would be a federal district court in the United States, for a number of reasons. First, no court in the world offers the procedural protections of a U.S. criminal court, and it will be objectively fair. Second, this man killed a U.S. citizen, and it's a fairly settled principle of international law that a nation has the right to protect its citizens abroad with its laws. Third, as a conceptual matter, terrorism exists on the seam of law and war. Some acts look more like crime (e.g. the raising of terrorist funds in the United States), while some acts look more like war (e.g. the World Trade Center attack). We ought to treat this hijacking as a matter of law -- not war -- and try this man as a criminal. The end result may be the same -- I think he can still be given the death penalty under the federal murder statute. However, there is are procedural and political benefits to using a system that's tried and true, with recent precedent for the fair trial and execution of terrorists (e.g. Tim McVeigh).

Wednesday, April 16, 2003

Admin notes...

1. Intel Dump will resume its regular coverage now as the war shifts into its next phase. Instead of exclusively focusing on the war, as I largely did for the past 4 weeks, I will now return to issues of both law and war. Over the next few months, I will probably focus back on issues of law and terrorism. I have been selected to teach a seminar for UCLA undergraduates next year on American Law & Terrorism; I plan to focus the majority of my academic attention on that subject during the next several months.
2. Final exams are approaching for me at the law school, so Intel Dump will draw down to less frequent posts over the next three weeks until May 7. Please continue to tune in regularly, but I can't promise the same tempo of 5-10 posts/day that I've been averaging until now.
3. Please check out the blogs I've listed on my blogroll for more good analysis and commentary on current events. For war coverage in particular, I recommend Command Post, Winds of Change, DefenseTech, SGT Stryker and LT Smash.
Homeland security department fills key civil liberties post

The Washington Post reports that the Bush Administration has appointed Nuala O'Connor Kelly, a 34-year-old attorney formerly of ad giant DoubleClick, to be the "privacy czar" in the new Department of Homeland Security. The article was vague on details, but I think this is the position created in the new department under Secretary Tom Ridge to oversee protection of civil rights and civil liberties. In November 2002, I guessed that an attorney would be appointed to this position, though that certainly wasn't a prerequisite in the Homeland Security Act. Kelly currently works for the Department of Commerce as an attorney, but before that, she helped DoubleClick navigate some troubled waters on issues of user data storage.
1st Cav cut from deployment orders?

While reading the transcript of yesterday's Pentagon press conference, I noticed that the Secretary inadvertently mentioned a cut in the troop deployment list to Iraq.
Q: Mr. Secretary, you said that you had taken one element, one unit out of the queue to replace or reinforce the troops you now have. Can you describe your evolving philosophy of the kind of forces you now want in? It would seem that heavy armor is less and less necessary. So why are -- what have you taken out of the queue, and sort of what is your thinking at this moment as you begin to reassess what is in that queue and what you may need in terms of the type of things?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Well, this is a process that involves the Central Command, and they make an assessment of what they see on the ground and what they think they need, and then they discuss it with General Myers and with me. And over a period of days, we discuss the various elements of it. One element is how many foreign forces do we think we're going to be able to attract to come in and give us some assistance, because that affects the number of U.S. forces that we need. What's the mix of forces you need -- land, sea, air? What are the kinds of capabilities? Do you need heavy tanks or do you need people more engaged in peacekeeping-type activities?

And as the nature of the conflict winds down, which it most assuredly is, the need for certain types of things declines and the need for other types of things increases. And it is something that we talk about each day. We've been doing it almost continuously for some months now, first as to what ought to go in, and then what ought to come out. And it's not easy. There is no formula for it, and it depends on changing circumstances almost from day to day.

Q: What have you removed from the queue?

SEC. RUMSFELD: (Aside) Do we -- do we -- announced anything?

Q: First Cavalry?

GEN. MYERS: I don't know, have we announced --

STAFF: First Cav acknowledged they had a deployment order, sir, from previously.

SEC. RUMSFELD: They had an earlier deployment order and that they no longer do.

STAFF: That hasn't been --

SEC. RUMSFELD: That hasn't been announced? Then we'll not announce that. (Laughter.)

Yes? (Laughs.)
Analysis: Wow. This is big. 1st Cav is a really heavy division that could be really useful in the Gulf if we need more boots on the ground to do peacekeeping. Granted, it's stuck in Texas and it's also stuck in the same Force XXI digitization process that the 4th Infantry Division just completed. But it still has enormous mission capability. If this inadvertent statement is true, then we're holding an awfully big force in reserve, possibly for use in other parts of the world. Or maybe we're moving forward with a lighter plan for the post-war occupation, or one that incorporates more allied support. More to follow...
Civilian casualties and the Pentagon

Oxblog has a provocative note on civilian casualties and the Pentagon, as well as an article by Oxblog proprietor Josh Chafetz that ran today on the Weekly Standard's website. This issue is going to become big in the next several weeks and months, especially in the international communities that didn't support the war to begin with (e.g. the international human-rights community). NGOs are almost assuredly on the ground right now, trying to assess damage and estimate casualties. It's in their interest to inflate the numbers because it will help generate sympathy and donations, as well as general ill will towards the United States. It's in our interest to count the casualties right because that has all sorts of practical implications for nation building down the road.

Moreover, future U.S. use of military force will be hamstrung by the precedent of killing it has set in Gulf War II. If the U.S. can positively establish that it did, in fact, discriminate between civilians and combatants, its future use of force will be more acceptable. Second, if the U.S. can positively demonstrate that it complied with the principle of "proportionality" and only bombed as much as necessary to accomplish specific effects, its future use of force will be more acceptable. These studies have major future implications, and the Pentagon ought to look at its long-term self interest as well as its short-term self interest in spinning the issue.
Winds of Change on Passover
: Joe Katzman has some interesting thoughts on the Jewish Passover tradition today on his weblog, and its applicability to the current situation in Iraq. The analogy has merit -- the ancient story of Jewish exodus from Egypt carries lessons for all modern day instances of oppression and liberation. Thanks Joe for giving me something to talk about with my family this Friday at our seder.
Body armor keeps casualties low

Noah Shachtman links to an interesting AP story on the role of body armor in keeping American casualties low in the war on Iraq. Nearly all American soldiers and Marines went into combat with newer, lightweight armor that had been developed, tested and fielded since the military's experience in Gulf War I and Somalia.
"Hands down, body armor is much more effective at saving lives than any medicine we've brought to the battlefield," said Col. Clifford Cloonan, a doctor at Walter Reed Army Medical Center near Washington.

Battelle worked with military scientists to lighten the body armor after soldiers who removed 8- to 12-pound protective chest plates were wounded or killed in the 1990s. The new plates, inserted in armor worn like a vest, weigh about 4 pounds each.

"We're getting a lot of information on `saves,' people being shot," said Jim Mackiewicz, a Marine Corps leader at the Army's Natick Laboratory in Massachusetts, where the new armor was developed in 1999. "A lot of guys are getting hit and don't even know it. Once they stop, they see they take a hit," Mackiewicz added.

As of Saturday, the Pentagon said, 115 U.S. troops and 31 British troops had died in combat, in contrast with thousands of military and civilian Iraqi casualties.

"Most of those troops who die in combat die of hemorrhage caused by the large blood vessels in the chest," said Army surgeon Col. David Burris at Walter Reed. "If you can protect the head and chest, it really helps."

Exploding land mines, artillery shells and hand grenades are likely to cause most U.S. combat deaths, Cloonan said. There are few torso wounds among military members being treated at Walter Reed, Burris said. Arm or leg wounds are more common.

The improved armor first saw extensive use in the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. The vests provide basic protection with up to 30 layers of Kevlar webbing and a related material designed to stop 9mm rounds. Battelle researchers at Natick developed the ceramic material for the plates that slip into pouches in front and back of the vest, adding protection against assault-rifle rounds. Weight is crucial to getting troops to wear the protection. Older models weighed 25 pounds.
One more thing... There something else that the article hints at but leaves out: the discipline of American soldiers and Marines in combat to wear this stuff. That's the mark of a true professional soldier, and something I'm not sure you'd see in a less well-trained or well-led force. American soldiers train hard, do lots of PT, and condition themselves to wear this stuff in peacetime training. In war, soldiers wear the gear because sergeants and officers tell them to, and because they know it's in their self-interest. The same logic applies to chemical-protective gear and other stuff -- the weight adds up. In a lesser force, such as a conscription-based force without a professional corps of sergeants, this discipline tends to break down. The human of dimension of war is something we should never forget. Giving the soldiers the gear is one thing; training soldiers to use it is another; leading them to wear it in combat is another.
4ID joins the fight... finally

After waiting for months in the states and watching their equipment float off the coast of Turkey for weeks, soldiers of the 4th Infantry Division today made contact with the enemy somewhere north of Baghdad. According to an embedded reporter from the Associated Press, elements of the 1st "Raider" Brigade (my old unit) encountered paramilitaries while securing an airfield. The enemy force was tiny in comparison to the armored fist of the Raider Brigade -- 2 armored battalions of 44 tanks each and 1 mechanized infantry battalion of 44 Bradleys. Nonetheless, Col. Don Campbell wasn't taking any chances in first combat mission.
''Mostly we're just destroying their equipment as we secure the airfield,'' said Col. Don Campbell, commander of the 4th Infantry's 1st Brigade. As of midday, he said, U.S. forces had destroyed a truck, three anti-aircraft guns and two surface-to-air missile systems near the airfield. ''We've encountered six to eight paramilitaries, but we think there will be more when we get to the airfield,'' Campbell added.

The fighting came after elements of the 4th pushed through Baghdad overnight and set up near the airfield after 40 straight hours on the road from southern Iraq. Additional support about 20 tanks and 35 Bradley fighting vehicles was en route to the airstrip after the Iraqis began shooting at Americans clearing the field.

No American casualties were reported in the skirmishes.
Analysis: It's very eerie to see my former unit go into combat without me. I know a lot of the captains and sergeants in the Raider Brigade, as well as the division headquarters and MP company. They are unbelievably professional and good at what they do. I sure wouldn't want to be an Iraqi waiting in his hole for 4ID to come knocking.

If I were calling the shots... I'd use the fresh troops from 4ID to police the streets of Baghdad. Despite their long wait in Texas, these units just arrived in Kuwait and didn't sit through 8 months in the desert before fighting for 3+ weeks. As such, they're going to be a lot safer, a lot more deliberative, and a lot more intelligent about basic decisions. Safety incidents have already claimed several soldiers' lives this week, and 4ID's soldiers are likely to be a lot more alert to those hazards having just got off the plane. Moreover, 4ID's troops have not seen the same intense combat as the Marines, 101st and 3rd Infantry soldiers. That makes a big difference for civil-military operations, because they can approach the policing mission without the hostility of combat. I can't know this for certain, but there's bound to be some pent-up hostility in the units that saw action still -- especially in squads and platoons that took heavy casualties. Those are not the soldiers you want policing the streets if possible. Maybe small towns and villages where the threat of major insurrection is more slight, but definitely not Baghdad. For a major mission like Baghdad, you need fresh soldiers and units. 4ID is already in theater, and it looks like the deployment order has gone out to the 1st Armored Division and 1st Infantry Division in Europe (among others). Those units are exactly the right ones to tap for this mission.
Terror alert drops from orange to yellow

The White House today announced a drop in the nationwide threat condition from orange to yellow, apparently in response to a successful campaign in Iraq. Presumably, we have intelligence reports telling us that the threat is lower now than it was last month. I opined a few months ago that an attack on Baghdad may increase the chances of an attack on U.S. citizens at home or abroad. Thankfully, that prediction did not come true. However, I think today's decision represents something else that's not being widely reported: a resource conservation decision. I don't think we would have made this change without intelligence telling us it was okay to do so. But I think we're making this change now, so quickly after the success in Iraq, because maintaining a high state of alert for extended periods of town is really expensive -- in terms of men, materiel and money. America's security infrastructure -- including police, fire, medical, and other agencies -- has been stretched to the limit by staying at orange for so long. Today's decision is as much about them as it is about intelligence.
American forces establish zones of responsibility for Iraq

On Monday, I wrote that "I also expect that we'll start to see an operational blueprint for Iraq emerge in the next two weeks, where the country is divided into some type of sector system with responsibility divided between American and British forces for their respective sectors." Today, the Washington Post reports that "U.S. forces in Iraq will begin redeploying Thursday to set up occupation zones as they enter into a postwar phase of enforcing security and restoring services around the country." The article goes on to say that Marines (together with British troops) will occupy Southern Iraq as units from the Army will occupy Baghdad and the North.
The division into three zones will roughly correspond to the tripartite geographic organization set up by retired Army Lt. Gen. Jay M. Garner, who will oversee reconstruction and humanitarian efforts in Iraq. Garner will report to McKiernan, military officials said. While the military will focus on building stability, Garner's fledgling organization, the Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance, will take the lead on infrastructure, governance and basic services.

"It's a tremendous responsibility and it's very complex," said Lt. Col. George Smith, a planner for the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force. "We focus the majority of our efforts on war-fighting. That's what we do. And so post-hostilities introduces a whole new spectrum of challenges."

With the last of Hussein's regular army and Republican Guard divisions dismantled, military planners expect to spend much of their time in this next phase countering attacks by remnants of paramilitary groups like Saddam's Fedayeen.
Analysis: This segmentation of Iraq is enormously important. First, it has big security implications. Segmenting the country into smaller and smaller zones of responsibility is a way of focusing resources on the places where Saddam's last fighters remain. Each zone will have its threat level assessed, and forces will be allocated to reconnaissance and security missions within that zone accordingly. Second, it's enormously important because this segmentation could eventually form the blueprint for an Iraqi federal system. Gen. Garner's comments that this division mirrors his own segmentation hints that aid, reconstruction support and other resources will be targeted using a similar scheme. The more lines we draw in the sand, and the more we reinforce those lines with resources, the more these lines start to matter.

Update: Esther Schrader reports in the LA Times that the American force in Iraq is also transitioning from a war posture to a police posture, and that specialized units are being rushed to Iraq to help with this mission.
"You can control a city of 5 million people, but you can't police it," said a senior defense official of the challenges facing U.S. troops in Baghdad. "We gave a lot of medals in the last three weeks to guys who know how to pull a trigger and hit something. It's hard to turn around and tell those same guys not to pull the trigger but read them their rights instead."

But with the U.S. unwilling to cede power quickly in Iraq to regional authorities, as it did in Afghanistan, it appears for the time being that the military has no other choice.

Already, Marines in Baghdad are operating joint police patrols with Iraqi civil authorities, and the widespread looting and mayhem appears to be subsiding. The Pentagon, which has more than 2,000 civil affairs and military police specialists attached to forces in Iraq or standing by in Kuwait, is planning to deploy more.

The civil affairs units, made up almost entirely of reservists, are charged primarily with helping rebuilding efforts. The units include doctors, engineers, lawyers, teachers and health-care workers.

More civil affairs teams, already stretched thin from a series of deployments to Afghanistan, are on standby to deploy to Iraq, military officials say. Hundreds of soldiers trained as military police accompanying the 4th Infantry Division have crossed into Iraq from Kuwait since Monday. Other active duty and reserve units are awaiting deployment orders.
As the article says, two kinds of units really matter here: Military Police units and Civil Affairs units. MPs know how to deal with law and order issues, how to deal with civilians, and how to use graduated levels of force better than any combat unit. They can also work in small teams, or train U.S. units how to do these missions, thus becoming a force multiplier. (One MP battalion can train/assist a whole division to do these missions) Civil Affairs units are almost entirely made up of reservists, and they are the Army's nation-building specialists. In any situation like Iraq, they're trained to assess the situation, make recommendations, and supervise the implementation of those reconstruction plans. The problem is that the Army has finite numbers of these units -- and they've been stretched very thin by ongoing deployments to Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and now Iraq.
America captures Achille Lauro hijacker in Iraq

Yesterday provided compelling evidence that Iraq provides safe haven for terrorists of all stripes, besides Al Qaeda. The Washington Post (and others) report that American special operations troops captured Abu Abbas, the man responsible for the 1986 Achille Lauro hijacking. American tourist Leon Klinghoffer was shot and pushed overboard in his wheelchair after it was discovered he was Jewish during that incident. This incident came at a time when America was starting to face international terrorism for the first time, with this hijacking and that of TWA Flight 847. Reports indicate that Abbas was captured with intelligence from Syria, and possibly from captured Iraqi intelligence officials.
After a search by troops of several locations in the Iraqi capital, Mohammed Abbas, the leader of the Palestinian Liberation Front, was taken into custody along with a small group of other people in a house in the city. The former Palestinian leader, who is also known as Abu Abbas, had tried to flee to Syria, but was turned back, a senior Bush administration official said.

Syria's refusal to allow Abbas entry is in keeping with Syria's cooperation with the United States on tracking down terrorists since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Because of what they see as that quiet aid, some U.S. intelligence officials have been critical of the recent warnings to Syria by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Colin L. Powell. Rumsfeld has accused Syria of allowing leaders of Iraq's ousted government to flee across its border.

The apprehension of Abbas was greeted with satisfaction by U.S. officials. "It proves we will track people down 18 years after murdering an American," the senior administration official said.

But it also raises questions about what to do with him. The Justice Department does not have a pending indictment for Abbas, and officials said yesterday it was too early to say whether a U.S. murder charge might be sought in the Achille Lauro case. One law enforcement official said that an indictment was issued for Abbas under seal, but was later withdrawn. In 1986, Abbas was convicted in absentia by an Italian court for masterminding the hijacking and sentenced to life in prison.
Analysis: It shouldn't be that hard to obtain an indictment in this case, however. The facts are fairly well established, after the debriefings of witnesses on the Achille Lauro. Even federal criminal law allows American authorities to detain this man for a period of hours/days until an indictment is secured. European officials and members of the international human rights community may suggest that Mr. Abbas be tried by the International Criminal Court. I think that would be a mistake. First, the ICC is in its infancy and not equipped yet with the prosecutors, defense attorneys or staffs to manage a terrorism trial. Better to cut their teeth on something else first. Second, this man allegedly killed an American citizen in cold blood. He has earned the right to be tried in an American court, and if convicted and so sentenced, to be executed by an American warden.

Update: According to Mr. Klinghoffer's daughters, this is exactly what they want. "Bringing Abbas to justice will send a strong signal to terrorists anywhere in the world that there is no place to run, no place to hide," they said in a statement, adding "We hope the U.S. prosecutors will be able to revive a federal indictment against Abbas for piracy, hostage-taking and conspiracy, and we urge them to do so."
U.S. Army tackles safety problems in the wake of several deaths

USA Today reports today that LTG William Wallace has had sharp words for his commanders after six soldiers died in V Corps during the last 72 hours -- but not due to combat. The accidents are somewhat characteristic of combat -- half involved live ammunition which would not be so available in peacetime, and the others involved equipment that's been pushed to the limit during the last month. Nonetheless, I think LTG Wallace is right to do this. This is an aberrational number of deaths in such a short period, and it may represent an adrenaline letdown after combat that has led to complacency in the ranks. There still are enemy soldiers out there, as well as safety issues, that threaten these young soldiers' lives. (Historical note: traffic accidents killed more soldiers in Gulf War I than hostile fire.)
The Army is dealing with a rash of accidents. On Monday, six soldiers died, not at the hands of the enemy, but apparently because of safety problems. There was a truck crash, an accidental firing of the weapon on a Bradley armored vehicle, a grenade explosion inside a Humvee truck and the collapse of a refueler.

"We cannot, we cannot, we cannot allow our soldiers to relax their guard," Wallace said. "I am less concerned about the Fedayeen than I am about safety," he added. "Don't let your guard down until you have the opportunity to go back home and hug your family."

Among the 123 U.S. military deaths from March 21 through Tuesday, 36 have been officially classified as accidents. Among the 31 British deaths, 16 have been classified as accidents.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

News media rankings -- post-war thoughts

On March 10, I offered my rankings of major newspaper coverage of the events leading up to the war. That date seems like a long time ago, given all that's happened in the last 5 weeks. I decided to revisit my rankings today to offer my thoughts on how these papers did with their war coverage.

My original rankings listed the papers as:
1. The Washington Post
2. The Wall Street Journal
3. The Los Angeles Times
4. The Washington Times
5. The New York Times
with honorable mentions going to: Army Times, Slate, the Associated Press, Stars & Stripes, and CNN.Com

Here are my updated rankings:

1. The Washington Post. (The winner and still champion)
What I said then: "Simply put, the paper has the best team in the best places...The Post deployed some of its best reporters -- including famous author Rick Atkinson -- to the Gulf. In Washington, they have an all-star team of anchors including Tom Ricks, Vernon Loeb, and Dana Priest."
My thoughts now: The Post had great coverage because it had great reporters covering every aspect of the story -- from the Pentagon to the Persian Gulf. It didn't send its green reporters to war, nor did it leave its stale reporters at home. Rick Atkinson consistently produced great work in the desert, as did William Branigan with the 3rd Infantry Division. But no one could compare to the news analyses produced by Tom Ricks and Vernon Loeb (among others) in Washington. These men clearly had their fingers on the pulse of the war, and their analyses were where I turned first for strategic and operational predictions about the war.

2. The Wall Street Journal. (Holding steady at #2)
What I said then: "The Journal, like The Post, has deployed some of its all stars to the Gulf to be embedded with troop units. And like The Post, the WSJ has an outstanding anchor in Greg Jaffe, who reports from the Pentagon."
My thoughts now: The WSJ produced some of the best embedded reports of the war, especially from Helene Cooper with the 3rd Infantry Division. The Journal also did some of the best work to look beyond the war towards reconstruction. Neil King (and others) tenaciously followed the reconstruction contracts story, and broke it before anyone else with more depth than anyone else.

3. The Los Angeles Times. (Steady in third place)
What I said then: "My hometown paper has some outstanding talent on the story too... They have produced some of the best articles to date on the Washington politics behind the war."
My thoughts now: The Times reporters in the field really excelled, as did the Times staff in Washington and L.A. Tony Perry has been covering the Marines for some time as part of his San Diego beat, and he deployed with Camp Pendleton's Marines to the desert. He delivered outstanding reporting from there. The Times also delivered a lot of great reporting on the internal machinations within the Pentagon on the war.

4. The New York Times. (Up one place to #4)
What I said then: "The Times' best reporting comes from its veterans like John Burns and C.J. Chivers, but they're not the ones covering the war directly. Instead, the Times has put these people behind enemy lines to tell stories of the Kurds and other groups. Their Washington coverage is less than you'd expect from the New York Times."
My thoughts now: I think this prediction really bore itself out. However, the NY Times' editorial judgment to put its best people behind enemy lines led to some of the best reporting of the war from those locations. John Burns did a great job in Baghdad, and C.J. Chivers provided insights that no one else had from his vantage point in Northern Iraq. Unfortunately, I was disappointed by the military analyses from chief military correspondent Michael Gordon in Kuwait. His insights did not offer anything that I couldn't get elsewhere -- or think of myself -- and I think he would've been better deployed in Washington to smoke out stories in the Pentagon.

5. Slate. (On the list from the honorable mention category)
What I said then: Just an honorable mention.
My thoughts now: Slate hired some outstanding reporters to do continuing analysis on its site of the war, and it really paid off. Fred Kaplan's War Stories column provided some of the best insight out there into "Shock and Awe" and other subjects. William Saletan's "Bloghdad" offered good running commentary as well, with a healthy dose of political insight. I think Slate deserves to knock the Washington Times off the list.

Honorable Mentions:
- Army Times: Look for some of the best post-war analyses to come from Army Times. After other media leave the story, the Army Times will be in the trenches interviewing redeploying soldiers. The Army Times will also have most of the good "action action review" stories leaked from inside the Pentagon or the Army's schoolhouses.
- The Washington Times: Anyone frustrated with the Bush Administration who's a conservative is going to leak their stories to the Washington Times. Some critics of women in combat have already promised to fight the Pentagon after the war on that issue, and they will probably start their effort on the editorial pages of the Washington Times and National Review.
- The Associated Press: The AP has to make the list simply because of their breadth -- if not their depth. Robert Burns, the AP military correspondent in the Pentagon, deserves notice too. Lots of other writers (including me) rely on his first reports to start their deeper coverage.
- CNN.Com: The CNN website provided a great wire service for those who wanted a second opinion after seeing the AP's first report. Their website also had great video/audio footage from embedded correspondents, such as Martin Savidge.

Okay, that's it -- Phil Carter's updated, unofficial top 5 list for the best war coverage. I'll relook the subject again in a few weeks, as the reconstruction effort kicks into high gear.
Beating .coms into swords, and other economic benefits of war

I've come to expect good economic analysis and insight from the Wall Street Journal, and today was no disappointment. Since the FY2004 National Defense Authorization Act was proposed with $380 billion in defense spending, I've wondered just how much of a benefit our economy might see from the global war on terrorism. According to an article in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required), not much.
In a strong economy, the additional billions almost certainly would have led to the expansion of facilities and to increased hiring. That isn't happening much this time. The reason? Companies have excess capacity. So, while defense spending is staving off layoffs and keeping firms profitable, some industries are still facing a paucity of private-sector orders and don't need to add workers or open new factories to accommodate the increased business.

That has kept the benefit of war spending to only a few areas -- metropolitan Washington, Mississippi's Gulf Coast and Southern California -- and a few industries -- aerospace and high-technology companies, most notably. Still, the government spending will account for almost a quarter of anticipated GDP growth of 2.4% this year, said Mark Zandi, chief economist of consulting firm With the exception of housing, spending on defense and homeland security "has been the most important source of growth in the economy over the past year," he said.
Indeed, the current war on terrorism does not match the levels of spending for past American wars, according to some experts. This may be because the U.S. has maintained such a large standing force during the Cold War and afterwards, in contrast to the demobilized force that had to be rebuilt for the Korean and Vietnam Wars. Today, defense spending is a constant presence in the economy, whereas back then it represented much more of a shot in the arm.
During earlier conflicts, the economy benefited more from security outlays: The spending was larger than what is anticipated now and the U.S. economy was less diverse. During the Korean War, for instance, increased defense spending between late 1950 and the end of 1951 equaled 8% of the economy, according to Yale University economist William Nordhaus. That is about $800 billion in today's dollars.
Finally, the article points out that the war may even hurt some parts of the economy, such as base towns that depend on the presence of soldiers and families to sustain local businesses.
While war usually is seen as good for military areas, the opposite can be true. With a population of about 30,000, Hinesville, Ga., has been hit by mobilization of nearly all of the 16,000 soldiers at nearby Fort Stewart. Many spouses decided to wait out the war elsewhere, too, though officials are urging families to stay put.
True enough... but I suspect that after the 3rd Infantry Division comes home, Hinesville will see a boom like never before. Many 3ID soldiers have been gone for nearly a year, and those without families have saved thousands of dollars during their deployment. I'd love to be a new car dealer in Hinesville when these men and women come home from their deployment.
Goals shift in new phase of the war

The Washington Post has an interesting article today on the new goals of American forces in Iraq. With the Pentagon saying that major combat operations are over, the new focus is on enforcing law & order and finding Saddam's nuclear/chemical/biological stockpiles. Secondarily, it also appears the U.S. wants to lay the groundwork for post-war reconstruction and nation-building efforts, insofar as it's beginning to award contracts for those areas.

As one reader reminds me, this "shift" to "new goals" is really more of a reprioritization than anything. In March, Secretary Rumsfeld outlined the goals for this campaign, which included things like searching for chemical weapons and rebuilding Iraq. While fighting through the Republican Guard, those tasks fell in priority when compared to tasks like defeating the Iraqi army. With that task near completion, the priorities have changed. In war, commanders express their intent in terms of purpose, key tasks (or method), and end state. Secretary Rumsfeld outlined a number of key tasks in March, and what we're seeing now is not the articulation of "new" ones, so much as the shifting of emphasis towards the ones that were already there but not at the top of the list.
D.C. area firm wins contract to build school system in Iraq

The New York Times and others report that Creative Associates International has received a $62 million contract from USAID to improve primary and secondary education for Iraqi children. Creative Associates already does work in this area for USAID in Morocco and Afghanistan, and will presumably build on those templates in Iraq. When the situation calms down some more, the firm will start by sending advance teams to assess the situation in the country. I'm going to guess this contract is the tip of the iceberg too, since you can't do a lot for $62 million besides make an assessment and an initial foray. If we're serious about rebuilding Iraq's schools (and we ought to be), this is going to cost more money.

Monday, April 14, 2003

Pacific Northwest man pleads guilty to providing material support for terrorism

Earnest James Ujaama, accused under 18 U.S.C. 2339b for providing material support to foreign terrorist organizations, has decided to plead guilty to the charges arrayed against him. Ujaama, a Muslim convert, was accused of trying to raise money for Al Qaeda and other organizations inside the United States, as well as trying to build a terrorist training camp in Oregon. His prosecution came at the same time as several others for this crime, including the "Lackawanna Six" in upstate New York and former-Prof. Sami Al-Arian in Florida. All were accused of providing various forms of logistical and financial support to foreign terrorist organizations. Critics said these prosecutions went after "small fish" in the terrorist world, and that they prosecuted people for otherwise innocent financial transactions. However, I have argued (along with others) that such prosecutions are key to dismantling global terror networks like Al Qaeda, which depends on its ability to move men, materiel and money around the world through men like Mr. Ujaama.

Correction: A diligent reader wrote me to say that Mr. Ujaama hailed from Seattle, not Oregon, and that I should correct my reference to him. After reading the indictment, I agree with my reader and disagree with CNN.Com's story. Thus, I've changed my headline. The same reader also said that Mr. Ujaama's sentence may wind up being less than one year in prison, with credit for time served. I'm going to dig into this issue, and the exact charges that he pled guilty to, both because I'm curious and because I'm teaching a class at UCLA next year on law and terrorism and this is one of my case studies. More to follow...
More forces on the way to Iraq

The Associated Press reports that America's 4th Infantry Division has entered Iraq, and that the 1st Armored Division has begun to move its equpiment from Germany to sea ports in preparation for deployment there.
The Army's 1st Armored Division is moving its equipment to ports for shipment to the Gulf region, and its troops will follow by air in a couple of weeks, a division spokesman, Maj. Scott Slaten, said Monday. The division is sending two armored brigades and one aviation brigade from bases in Germany, and one brigade is going from its base at Fort Riley, Kan., Slaten said.

It is not clear whether one of the Army divisions already in Iraq will leave once the 1st Armored gets there.

Also, soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division, recently arrived in Kuwait from Fort Hood, Texas, crossed the border into Iraq on Monday. First to go were two convoys of about 500 tanks and other vehicles. It was not clear whether their destination was Baghdad or northern Iraq.
Analysis: Details are intentionally being left out right now by the Pentagon because the operational timelines for these deployments are somewhat sensitive. However, my best guess is that 4ID will fully enter Iraq within one week, and 1AD will be fully in Iraq within 4 weeks. The bulk of 4ID's equipment appears to have reached Kuwait after sitting off the coast of Turkey. 1AD's soldiers will deploy as their equipment floats down from Germany (with one brigade floating over from the United States). The AP article hints that one division may be rotated out of theater. That would probably be the 3rd Infantry Division, which deployed first to the region and has had some elements there for almost a year.

My next guess is that these forces are coming in with a heavy security focus. That is, their first mission will be to secure key cities and areas in Iraq and establish order where now there is chaos. Each division has also been plussed up with a great deal of combat support and logistical assets, including extra military police and engineer units that are essential for nation-building work. I also expect that we'll start to see an operational blueprint for Iraq emerge in the next two weeks, where the country is divided into some type of sector system with responsibility divided between American and British forces for their respective sectors.
American Marines build a government in Iraq

Victor Hanson wrote a great military history book in which he argued that democracies produce better armies because their soldiers believe in their cause, have a voice in selecting their leadership, and develop a sense of personal independence that enables them to adapt, innovate and prevail on the battlefield. According to this article from The Washington Post's Jonathan Finer, American liberal (small L) society may have another benefit for our soldiers in the field: it teaches them how to create democracy.
BAGHDAD, April 13 -- The new "mayor" of Katarrah, a bustling commercial and residential neighborhood in central Baghdad, is a 29-year-old Marine lieutenant from Totowa, N.J., named Adam Macaluso.

Five days ago he led his platoon into the city to fight the Iraqi army. Last night, he walked the streets to explain to edgy residents that his Marines were here to help guard against looting. He asked a group standing under a lamppost if they had any questions.

"What is going to happen to the Iraqi dinar?" one man asked about the national currency, stumping the young officer. "I'm not a banker," he explained later that night to the commanding officer of Charlie Company of the 1st Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment. "What am I supposed to tell them?"

To fill the vacuum left by the fall of Saddam Hussein's government, the Marines have divided the city among young officers such as Macaluso, directing them to try to quell lawlessness and gather up weapons stashed throughout the city. They call themselves mayors, but the Marines put in charge say they expect their term of office to be brief, and that their goal is to help prepare the Iraqi people to lead themselves.

"It's one of the hardest things I've ever been asked to do, because I have almost no training to fall back on," said Lt. Michael Cerroni of Charlie Company, the newly minted mayor of an affluent Sunni neighborhood in the Muthanna section of the city, east of the Tigris River.
Almost no training... except for being born and raised in a democratic society where the values of freedom, liberty, and equality were taught and followed every day. Our young men and women in Iraq have learned democracy by living it, and they are now well suited to impart those lessons to the Iraqi people. If I had to choose between crusty diplomats from the State Department (or worse the United Nations) to teach this stuff, and young soldiers like Lt. Cerroni, I'd choose the latter every time.
First steps from chaos to order

Today's Washington Post carries an interesting article on the practical problems American soldiers and Marines are facing in Iraq as they begin to enforce law and order. In many cases, infantry units are being tasked with police missions because there are so few Military Police to go around. After watching looting for a few days, composite units of infantry, MPs and Civil Affairs specialists are taking their first furtive steps towards establishing a civil police force in Iraq.
Although U.S. military officers here say they want to have Iraqi policemen patrolling the streets, Iraqi electricians fixing the power grid and Iraqi engineers working on the water supply, making that happen has turned out to be far more complicated than saying: "Back to work."

The U.S. troops want an initial force of a few hundred Iraqi police officers to accompany them on anti-looting patrols. But they face a challenge separating the honest from the venal, the law enforcing from the law breaking. During former president Saddam Hussein's three-decade rule, the police were part of a vast internal security apparatus that was accused of bribe-taking, torture, illegal detentions and summary executions.

Although participants at today's meeting insisted they were clean and their corrupt colleagues were on the run, there was no way to tell if that was true. At least a few men insisted that some of the rotten ones were trying to pass themselves off as reformers.

"We have to approach this in a step-by-step way," said Maj. Mark Stainbrook, a Los Angeles police officer and Marine reservist who is part of a civil affairs team trying to screen potential Iraqi policemen. "We're going to make an honest attempt to interview each person."

U.S. military officials said most rank-and-file officers probably would be accepted. Serious corruption, they said, existed primarily with the leadership.

This is hard stuff. Baghdad's a big city, and it's a city with an awful history of repression. It also just suffered a cataclysmic change in government. Imagine that the Los Angeles Police Department was summarily fired on one day, and you had to build a police department from scratch the next. Sure, you could hire some of the senior officers back, and many of the lower ranking police officers. But there's an awful lot of bad applies in the LAPD, as there probably were in the Iraqi police agencies, and you have to screen them out. This is going to take time; it's not going to happen in time for May sweeps month to boost TV ratings. Building law and order is a manpower, capital and time-intensive endeavor. And we've just started.