Tuesday, May 20, 2003

Summer sabbatical

I'm now working full-time at a law firm in downtown Los Angeles, and thus unable to devote the time I had for Intel Dump during the academic year. (The life of a grad student is significantly less demanding than the life of an apprentice attorney.) Intel Dump will be updated 3-5 times a week, with lengthier posts on the weekend when I read the Sunday papers and newsmagazines. I hope you'll continue to read this site, as well as my colleagues who I've linked to on the left side of the page. Thanks!

Monday, May 19, 2003

Faux Pax Americana

The lesson from Iraq is that using fewer troops can win a war, but can't keep the peace.

The Washington Monthly just posted a piece that I wrote on military transformation and peacekeeping, in which I argue that America had enough boots on the ground (barely) to win the war in Iraq -- but not nearly enough manpower to do the jobs of post-war occupation or nation-building. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and his advisers have pushed hard for a vision of America's military that is lighter, faster and more lethal -- but also more technology-centered and less people-centered. I disagree with this vision, and think that the full spectrum of operations like peacekeeping requires more soldiers than gadgets.
When victory arrived, we lacked the troops on the ground to prevent Baghdad--and most of the rest of the country--from collapsing into anarchy. We had tanks and Bradley fighting vehicles galore in the capital, but not nearly enough soldiers to guard such facilities as the key ministries, hospitals, and the National Museum. Ministries torched and looted during the first days are now unavailable to house the planned interim government. The plunder of hospitals set the stage for a still very possible humanitarian crisis. Looters who ransacked the National Museum stole many of the priceless historic artifacts that connected contemporary Iraq with its ancient roots, inflicting a mammoth public relations disaster upon the United States.

Things have not gotten much better over the following weeks. Lawlessness and chaos continue to reign. Women are raped, law-abiding citizens have their property stolen, those who have anything left don't go to work so they can guard what they still have. The prize the United States sacrificed so much to gain--freeing Iraq from Saddam and clearing the way for its democratic rebirth--is being squandered on the ground as ordinary Iraqis come to equate the American presence with violent lawlessness and immorality, and grasping mullahs rush into the vacuum created by our lack of troops. Mass grave sites, with no troops to secure them, have been unearthed by Iraqis desperate to find remnants of relatives killed by Saddam Hussein's regime, but those same Iraqis, digging quickly and roughly, may have inadvertently destroyed valuable evidence of human rights violations and crippled the ability of prosecutors to bring war criminals to justice. Perhaps worst of all, the prime objective of the entire invasion--to secure and eliminate Saddam's weapons of mass destruction capacity--has been dealt a serious blow. Even Iraq's publicly known nuclear sites had been thoroughly looted before American inspectors arrived, because, once more, not enough troops had been available to secure them. Radioactive material, perhaps enough to make several "dirty bombs," has now disappeared into anonymous Iraqi homes, perhaps awaiting purchase by terrorists. Critical records detailing the history and scope of the WMD program have themselves been looted from suspected weapons sites because too few soldiers were available to guard those places. "There aren't enough troops in the whole Army," said Col. Tim Madere, the officer overseeing the WMD effort in Iraq, in a recent interview with Newsweek. Farce vied with disaster when the inspectors' own headquarters were looted for lack of adequate security. Triumph on the battlefield has yielded to tragedy in the streets.

Belatedly recognizing their horrendous miscalculation, the Bush administration last month replaced the retired general in charge of Iraq's reconstruction, Jay Garner, with former diplomat L. Paul Bremer, who immediately called for 15,000 more troops to keep order. Even if he gets that many, however, Bremer will still be woefully short of the manpower he'll need to turn Iraq from anarchy to stable democracy.

The architects of the war might be forgiven for misgauging the number of troops required had the war come a dozen years ago, when the United States had little experience in modern nation-building. But over the course of the 1990s America gained some hard understanding, at no small cost. From Port-au-Prince to Mogadishu, every recent engagement taught the lesson we're now learning again in Iraq: America's high-tech, highly mobile military can scatter enemies which many times outnumber them, in ways beyond the wildest dreams of commanders just a generation ago. But it's not so easy to win the peace.
Coda: A couple of readers have e-mailed me to say this is all great, but could we have actually put more boots on the ground? From a logistics or manpower standpoint, did we have the capacity to do so? The answer is yes -- and no. America had the manpower in the active force to do so, and it surely had the manpower in the reserves. But for a variety of political, readiness and institutional reasons, those troops were not committed to the Iraq mission. Moreover, we were unable to tap into our NATO allies like France and Germany for peacekeeping support because of the animus between our countries. Still, the mission could have been accomplished with U.S. troops alone. We should have had the foresight -- in Oct. or Nov. 2002, when attacking Iraq became certain -- to mobilize enough of the National Guard to meet the post-war need. (Mobilizing these troops requires a long lead time)

Second, there's the issue of capacity. Could we have actually sent all these troops and their equipment to Iraq, and then staged them in Kuwait? The answer may be no. America has a finite amount of "strategic lift", defined as all the transportation stuff (ships and planes mostly) needed to move things in between theaters of operation (from the U.S. to Iraq). A lot of that finite lift capacity was used to move the existing force to Iraq, and subsequently to supply that force. The U.S. could have contracted for more shipping and aircraft support, but at a high cost. It's not clear that we had the political support in Congress to pay that bill.

Saturday, May 17, 2003

Three excellent pieces in the June issue of the Atlantic Monthly

The June issue of the Atlantic Monthly has a great collection of articles on topics ranging from the psychology of terrorism to the psychology of John F. Kennedy. Since subscribing a year ago, I've looked forward to reading the A.Monthly because of its writers' skill and editorial choice of subjects. This issue is probably the best I've read thus far. Here's a sampling of the pieces I liked:

The cover piece by Bruce Hoffman (not available online, unfortunately) dissects terrorism -- from the perspective of both sides in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I've read a lot on this subject, and this is one of the most brilliant essays I've read to date. According to Hoffman, terrorism is not an amorphous phenomenon for either side; it's a mechanical, institutionalized, planned and financed act that is countered by the Israelis in well-planned, rehearsed, well-financed, institutionalized ways. Hoffman's well qualified to write on this subject. He's the foremost expert on terrorism in the world, having studied it for more than 30 years -- well before it became the subject du jour for academics. Hoffman now directs the Washington DC office of the RAND Corporation, and wrote what I consider to be the seminal book on the subject -- Inside Terrorism -- in 1999. (Also see this online discussion with Hoffman on the magazine's site.)
Buses remain among the bombers' preferred targets. Winter and summer are the better seasons for bombing buses in Jerusalem, because the closed windows (for heat or air-conditioning) intensify the force of the blast, maximizing the bombs' killing potential. As a hail of shrapnel pieces flesh and breaks bones, the shock wave tears lungs and crushes other internal organs. When the bus's fuel tank expodes, a fireball causes burns, and smoke inhalation causes respiratory damage. All this is a significant return on a relatively modest investment. Two or three kilograms of explosive on a bus can kill as many people as twenty to thirty kilograms left on a street or in a mall or a restaurant. But as security on buses has improved, and passengers have become more alert, the bombers have been forced to seek other targets.

The terrorists are lethally flexible and inventive. A person wearing a bomb is far more dangerous and far more difficult to defend against than a timed device left to explode in a marketplace. This human weapons system can effect last-minute changes based on the ease of approach, the paucity or density of people, and the security mreasures in evidence...
* * *
The organizations behind the Palestinians' suicide terrorism have numerous components. Quartermasters obtain the explosives and the other materials (nuts, bolts, nails, and the like) that are combined to make a bomb. Now that bomb-making methods have been so widely disseminated throughout the West Bank and Gaza, a merely competent technician, rather than the skilled engineer once required, can build a bomb. Explosive material is packed into pockets sewn into a canvas or denim belt or vest and hooked up to a detonator -- usually involving a simple hand-operated plunger.
* * *
The success of the IDF's strategy is utterly dependent on regularly acquiring intelligence and rapidly disseminating it to operational units that can take appropriate action. Thus, the IDF must continue to occupy the West Bank's major population centers, so that Israeli intelligence agents can stay in close -- and relatively safe -- proximity to their information sources, and troops can act immediately either to round up suspects or to rescue the agent should an operation go awry...
* * *
The strategy -- at least in the short run -- is working. The dramatic decline in the number of suicide operations since last spring is proof enough. "Tactically, we are doin everythin we can," a senior officer involved in the framing of this policy told me, "and we have managed to prevent eighty percent of all attempts." Another officer said, "We are now bringing the war to them. We do it so that we fight the war in their homes rather than in our homes. We try to make certain that we fight on their ground, where we can have the maximum advantage." The goal of the IDF, though, is not simply to fight in a manner that plays to its strength; the goal is to actively shrink the time and space in which the suicide bombers and their operational commanders, logisticians, and handlers function -- to stop them before they can cross the Green Line, by threatening their personal safety and putting them on the defensive.
The next outstanding piece comes from James Fallows, one of America's leading journalists, on the shooting of Mohammed Al-Dura on the second day of the second Intifada. Many will remember the vivid images of 12-year-old Al-Dura's shooting -- allegedly by Israeli soldiers -- and his subsequent death in his father's arms. Since the incident, however, evidence has surfaced to add more than a reasonable doubt to this account. Unfortunately, most of the evidence has been buried, lost or destroyed, and no one trusts the outcome of any investigation run by the Israeli Defense Forces. Nonetheless, Fallows puts together a compelling account of the facts as he can best tell, and the story is worth a read.
Al-Dura was the twelve-year-old Palestinian boy shot and killed during an exchange of fire between Israeli soldiers and Palestinian demonstrators on September 30, 2000. The final few seconds of his life, when he crouched in terror behind his father, Jamal, and then slumped to the ground after bullets ripped through his torso, were captured by a television camera and broadcast around the world. Through repetition they have become as familiar and significant to Arab and Islamic viewers as photographs of bombed-out Hiroshima are to the people of Japan—or as footage of the crumbling World Trade Center is to Americans. Several Arab countries have issued postage stamps carrying a picture of the terrified boy. One of Baghdad's main streets was renamed The Martyr Mohammed Aldura Street. Morocco has an al-Dura Park. In one of the messages Osama bin Laden released after the September 11 attacks and the subsequent U.S. invasion of Afghanistan, he began a list of indictments against "American arrogance and Israeli violence" by saying, "In the epitome of his arrogance and the peak of his media campaign in which he boasts of 'enduring freedom,' Bush must not forget the image of Mohammed al-Dura and his fellow Muslims in Palestine and Iraq. If he has forgotten, then we will not forget, God willing."

But almost since the day of the episode evidence has been emerging in Israel, under controversial and intriguing circumstances, to indicate that the official version of the Mohammed al-Dura story is not true. It now appears that the boy cannot have died in the way reported by most of the world's media and fervently believed throughout the Islamic world. Whatever happened to him, he was not shot by the Israeli soldiers who were known to be involved in the day's fighting—or so I am convinced, after spending a week in Israel talking with those examining the case. The exculpatory evidence comes not from government or military officials in Israel, who have an obvious interest in claiming that their soldiers weren't responsible, but from other sources. In fact, the Israel Defense Forces, or IDF, seem to prefer to soft-pedal the findings rather than bring any more attention to this gruesome episode. The research has been done by a variety of academics, ex-soldiers, and Web-loggers who have become obsessed with the case, and the evidence can be cross-checked.

No "proof" that originates in Israel is likely to change minds in the Arab world. The longtime Palestinian spokesperson Hanan Ashrawi dismissed one early Israeli report on the topic as a "falsified version of reality [that] blames the victims." Late this spring Said Hamad, a spokesman at the PLO office in Washington, told me of the new Israeli studies, "It does not surprise me that these reports would come out from the same people who shot Mohammed al-Dura. He was shot of course by the Israeli army, and not by anybody else." Even if evidence that could revise the understanding of this particular death were widely accepted (so far it has been embraced by a few Jewish groups in Europe and North America), it would probably have no effect on the underlying hatred and ongoing violence in the region. Nor would evidence that clears Israeli soldiers necessarily support the overarching Likud policy of sending soldiers to occupy territories and protect settlements. The Israelis still looking into the al-Dura case do not all endorse Likud occupation policies. In fact, some strongly oppose them.

The truth about Mohammed al-Dura is important in its own right, because this episode is so raw and vivid in the Arab world and so hazy, if not invisible, in the West. Whatever the course of the occupation of Iraq, the United States has guaranteed an ample future supply of images of Arab suffering. The two explosions in Baghdad markets in the first weeks of the war, killing scores of civilians, offered an initial taste. Even as U.S. officials cautioned that it would take more time and study to determine whether U.S. or Iraqi ordnance had caused the blasts, the Arab media denounced the brutality that created these new martyrs. More of this lies ahead. The saga of Mohammed al-Dura illustrates the way the battles of wartime imagery may play themselves out.
The third piece I liked (also unavailable online) comes from Robert Dallek, a history professor who has written extensively on the American presidents of the mid-20th Century. It discusses the presidency of John F. Kennedy that might have been -- and derives in large part from his new 1-volume biography An Unfinished Life. The interesting parts to me were the discussions of JFK's rocky relationship with his military advisers, who, Dallek reports, Kennedy thought were either too audacious, too aggressive, or too dumb to give him good advice. Dallek speculates that Kennedy would have not "Americanized" the Vietnam War as LBJ did in 1965, and would have eventually pulled American advisers out before committing large units of ground forces.
A consideration of likely post-1963 Kennedy policies must begin with JFK's views on how political and military leaders should make decisions about armed action. Why England Slept, his Harvard senior thesis, which was published as a book in 1940, showed a healthy skepticism regarding the astuteness of both political and military officials in assessing foreign threats. He also doubted the effectiveness of a purely military approach to many political problems, especially in light of what he observed during his extensive travels to Europe, the Middle East, and Asia in the late 1930s and after World War II. "If one thing was borne into me as a result of my experiences in the Middle as well as the Far East," Kennedy said after a trip as a congressman in 1951," it is that communism cannot be met effectively by merely the force of arms." And his own military experience as a young man had convinced him that military chiefs were not necessarily the best judges of when and how to fight a war. As a junior naval officer in 1943 and 1944, he marveled at the incomptence of many of his superiors. In a letter to his parents from the South Pacific, where he was serving as a PT Board commander, he wrote that the Navy had "brought back a lot of old Captains and Commanders from retirement and... they give the impression of their brains being in their tails."
* * *
Paul Nitze, who in the 1950s worked with Secretary of State Dean Acheson on defense issues, and who served in the Kennedy Administration as Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara's assistant secretary for international security affairs, said in his oral history of the Administration that Kennedy was "always troubled with ... how do you obtain military advice; how do you check into it; how do you have an independent review as to its accuracy and relevance?" A tape of a 1962 conversation with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, National Security Adviser McGeorge Bundy, and Undersecretary of State George Ball makes clear that Kennedy had a low opinion of many U.S. diplomats and Defense Department officials. He described career envoys as weak or spineless. "I just see an awful lot of fellows ... who don't seem to have cojones," [Kennedy] said. "[Whereas] the Defense Department looks as if that's all they've got. They haven't any brains ... I know you get all this sort of virility over at the Pentagon, and you get a lot of Arleigh Burkes [a reference to the Chief of Naval Operations]: admirable, nice figure, without any brains."
Unfortunately, two of these three pieces aren't available online -- even to subscribers. However, I don't think you'll be disappointed if you buy the June issue of this magazine.

Friday, May 16, 2003

More bad news from Al-Tuwaitha nuclear research lab

Looters and locals develop symptoms of acute radiation sickness

As if the decision to leave the nuclear research facility at Al-Tuwaitha unguarded -- with the possible theft of radioactive material that could be used for "dirty bombs" -- wasn't bad enough, CNN reports tonight that civilians near this facility are starting to show signs of radiation sickness. The sick include those who went into the facility, as well as those who did not. If contaminated material was removed from this facility, it's possible that fairly large numbers of Iraqis were exposed to unhealthy levels of radiation. That seems to be the case with several children who have gotten sick, mostly from looted items which have contaminated local water supplies.
Some of the items stolen from the facility have been dumped on the street. Others were used by the people who stole them.

Amar Jorda is a boy who said he has fallen ill after drinking water from a plastic barrel from the site. "My skin itches. I can't breathe well, and my nose bleeds at least four times a day," Amar said.

The boy said he and his father bought the barrel from a man in the street. Amar said he only drank water from it once. Now he's stopped playing soccer and quit going to school. Doctors have told him his illness is not contagious, but Amar has cut himself off from his friends.

"My best friend came only once," he said. "But I told him not to come too close. I was scared he might get infected." One of Amar's friends drank water stored in a different barrel, and she said her vision has faded. "I can't see," Irkhlas Hassam said.

Dr. Jaafar Nasser, a senior physician at the nearest hospital, said he suspects the girl is suffering from radiation sickness. However, until experts conduct a detailed medical study, there's little chance of pinpointing the precise causes or of predicting consequences. Nasser said he has seen six people within two days with similar symptoms as Amar's -- breathlessness, rashes, frequent nosebleeds and vomiting. This is called acute radiation sickness," Nasser said.

Local doctors are just beginning to keep detailed case files on patients they suspect have radiation sickness.
It goes without saying that this story is bad. I wrote a couple of days ago that the decision to leave this facility unguarded -- while putting troops on oil facilities and other critical infrastructure -- was probably a big mistake. Now we have some hint of the cost of that decision. This story also shows the price of not having enough troops to do the job at the precise moment necessary. The critical window for establishing order was right after Saddam's statute fell -- that's when the looting happened; that's when the proverbial radioactive cat got out of the bag.

These cases of radiation sickness may, unfortunately, be irreversible and incontrovertible evidence of that. But at this point, hand-wringing won't do much good. We have to get enough soldiers on the ground to secure Iraq -- whether they come from NATO, the National Guard, or elsewhere. Once the streets are secure, we need to get all the NGOs and aid organizations necessary into Iraq to fix this kind of stuff. There may not be much that we can do for children like Amar. But if they get there fast enough, groups like Doctors Without Borders and the Red Crescent can try to save thousands of others.
Enough for the war, not enough for the peace

When Ralph Peters talks, I listen. He's a retired Army intelligence officer whose view of the world tends to be more prescient than anyone else I've read. Even his fiction books, like War in 2020, have great insight into the nature of warfare and how it will evolve in the future. Recently, he wrote a New York Post piece (thanks to Tapped for the tip) arguing that the U.S. still doesn't have enough troops on the ground in Iraq to do the job -- even after sending thousands more after the war's end to bolster the force.
During the war, we did not have enough troops to do everything that needed to be done, but the quality of our armed forces pulled off a brilliant campaign nonetheless. Now, a month after the fall of Baghdad, the most consistent complaint from our soldiers, our diplomats and even from Iraqis is that we don't have enough boots on the ground to do what must be done.

Secretary Rumsfeld consistently has sought to minimize the role of ground forces in order to justify cutting the Army and funneling the savings to defense contractors. Now he doesn't want to allow a victory parade in Manhattan that would add to the luster gained by the Army and Marines in the recent campaign - and he wants our troops to do the occupation of Iraq on the cheap.

Bad, bad idea.
* * *
Send more troops. Give them authority to do what must be done. Don't wring your hands when they kill regime supporters who still need killing. Face down the very small number of very bad Iraqis determined to destroy the country's future.

We did not have enough troops - or, frankly, the will and common sense - to protect Baghdad's hospitals, museums, ministries or neighborhoods in the earliest days of occupation. Now we need, belatedly, to send in an adequate number of troops and to muster the will to start what we have finished.
I think that's about right. Moreover, there are secondary and tertiary effects which flow from not having enough troops, besides simply having less ability to control the country. All manner of nation-building tasks get delayed, because non-governmental organizations don't like to work without security, nor do private U.S. contractors or U.S. government relief agencies. Security tasks get done in series -- rather than in parallel -- enabling opposition forces to play cat and mouse with us. If we had enough boots on the ground to secure everything at once, this would not be an issue. And the list grows from there. (For a good historical discussion of the tasks facing the Army and L. Paul Bremer in Iraq, see this paper by Army War College professors Conrad C. Crane and W. Andrew Terrill.)
More than just a soldier -- A Mix of 'President . . . and Pope'

Today's Washington Post has a great piece on MG David Petraeus, the commander of the 101st Airborne Division, and his experiences trying to find the right balance between "president and pope" in Iraq. The piece points out that MG Petraeus is far from the caricature of an Army officer, and that his methods are far from what you'd expect from an airborne-qualified Ranger who commands 18,000 of America's toughest infantrymen.
In normal times, Petraeus is the wiry, intellectual commander of the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, the Screaming Eagles of military lore. During the Iraq war, his division fought along the Euphrates River, pounding through an epic sandstorm and subduing the cities of Najaf, Karbala and Hilla. His unit arrived in this walled city 220 miles north of Baghdad last month after U.S. soldiers killed at least 10 Iraqis during anti-American demonstrations.

Now Petraeus is the face of the 18,000-troop occupying army in Iraq's northern tip, a viceroy in a land of competing interests and uncertain loyalties. His job, and those of the other division commanders in Iraq, is to win the peace as deftly as they did the war, building the beginnings of democracy in a country with no experience in representative government. The Bush administration has given them enormous authority, with the expectation they will remake Iraq into a regional showcase.

Petraeus, 50, a West Point graduate with a PhD in international relations, acknowledged that "we haven't quite stopped fighting." But he has mostly turned his attention to other matters. Now, as a recent two-day visit revealed, Petraeus worries about building new armies and disarming old ones, taxi rates and gas supplies, the state of Mosul's amusement park and anti-American sentiment in its mosques. He also confronts questions over how much freedom to allow Iraqis, even though freedom is precisely what the United States has promised a country still somewhere between war and peace.

"Combat is hard because you are losing soldiers, killing people. But at the end of the day you are destroying things, and we know how to do that," Petraeus said. "This work requires inordinate patience. There are incredible frustrations. And you can't just pull a trigger and make it all go away."

Thursday, May 15, 2003

Not so fast...

Military leaders clarify their "shoot first" policy

Civilian and military leaders clarified the New York Times report from Wednesday's paper in which one of L. Paul Bremer's staff indicated that America's new rules of engagement called for the pre-emptive shooting of looters and criminals. The new, muscular guidance was intended to provide highly visible shows of force that would intimidate the Iraqi population into submission and compliance with American occupation. However, defense officials say now that this comment was mistaken, and that the old ROE of shooting-in-self-defense still apply. Speaking from Iraq, top American generals said their troops would most assuredly not shoot first and ask questions later.
In an internationally televised press conference, Lt. Gen. David McKiernan said that simple looting is not enough to warrant shooting an Iraqi civilian. Soldiers will, however, arrest and hold those caught in criminal acts.

Maj. Gen. Buford Blount, commander of the Army's 3rd infantry Division, joined McKiernan. Both addressed press reports that Iraq's new civil administrator, Ambassador L. Paul Bremer, told senior staff in a meeting that U.S. forces were "going to start shooting a few looters" to deter lawlessness in the Iraqi capital.

"We are aggressively targeting looters, but we're not going to go out and shoot children that are picking up a piece of wood out of a factory and carrying it away or a bag of cement," Blount said, adding that soldiers retained the right of self-defense.

"If a looter's carrying a weapon and the soldier feels threatened, then of course he's going to engage," the general said.
Similarly, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld said today that Bremer's staffmember was out of line, and that no such changes to the ROE were being made.
"That was hyperbole," Rumsfeld said. The rules of engagement for troops in Iraq have not changed, he said. Rumsfeld said that the rules all along have authorized whatever use of force was necessary "for self-defense and other selective purposes."
This is a good sign -- that cooler heads have prevailed in the Pentagon over hotter heads in Baghdad. Nonetheless, it does not cure the real problem here. Soldiers may be forced to compensate for their lack of numbers with force. If pushed too far, or outnumbered by too high a ratio, soldiers may have to employ excessive amounts of force to resolve situations. The answer here is to get enough soldiers to Iraq to do the job. It may not be possible to get enough U.S. troops there quickly. However, this might be the time to enlist our NATO allies in the effort, particularly the British, French, German, Dutch and Russian armies who have extensive nation-building experience from the Balkans. That may require some eating of crow by the Bush Administration. But it may be necessary to accomplish the mission in Iraq, which is what really matters.
Army halts troop flow out of Iraq

Criticism of "boots on the ground" leads Pentagon to keep soldiers in country

Today, V Corps halted the depature of soldiers from Iraq, according to the New York Times and other media. Some of these units, like those from the 3rd Infantry Division, have been in the region for a year. The new orders come amid mounting criticism that America does not have enough soldiers in Iraq to establish law and order, and that cuts to the troop count might be premature. This change also comes at the time when diplomat-turned-proconsul L. Paul Bremer has vowed to stop crime in Iraq and establish order (he sounds like LAPD Chief William Bratton).
At the Pentagon, a senior Defense Department official said that American commanders in Iraq were "reviewing the appropriate mix of forces" to stabilize Baghdad, and that "some numbers" of troops would likely have their departures affected. The official said it remained unclear whether these troops would remain in Baghdad for additional days or weeks or longer.

Gen. Peter Pace, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified before the Senate appropriations subcommittee on defense that about 142,000 American troops are now in Iraq, about 49,000 of them in the Baghdad area.

"There are additional troops arriving as we speak," General Pace said. He said the First Armored Division is now bringing 20,000 troops into Iraq, adding that Gen. Tommy R. Franks, the allied commander, and his top aides "are reviewing the situation on the ground to see how they might reset themselves in the city to be able to provide the kind of patrolling and presence that's necessary to provide the stability they need."

Baghdad's residents have repeatedly complained that security is poor. The United States hopes a new police force can provide law and order. But the effort to establish an effective police force has gone slowly.

Just when the Third Infantry Division will leave is unclear. Some units may stay longer than others. After serving as the main attack in the war many soldiers hope it will not be long. Brig. Gen. Lloyd B. Austin said the deployment of the division "could take a little longer."
Analysis: As much as this sucks for the 3ID soldiers now stuck in country, I think it's the right decision. Until we can get enough troops into Iraq to do the job, we ought not bring these soldiers home. They've fought a long, hard fight, but mission accomplishment has to be come above morale. It is true, however, that the 3rd Infantry's soldiers are tired and in need of replacement. This is not the division you want patrolling the streets of Baghdad, if at all possible. Ideally, the U.S. would have had a pre-staged occupation force in waiting, either of American troops or NATO troops. However, we did not. I imagine the Pentagon is trying very hard right now to build such a force. Until then, 3ID may not get to come home.

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Rumsfeld v. The Army, Part II

Fred Kaplan has another provocative piece in Slate on the past, present and future battles between Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and the Army establishment. The piece echoes a similar one that he wrote a couple of weeks ago, except that this one focuses on the legitimate areas of disagreement between the heavily armed camps. Specifically, Rumsfeld has disagreed with the Army leadership on how to best transform the lethargic, heavyset, expensive, Cold War-minded Army.
The problem is that the mainstays of U.S. Army "force structure"—M-1 tanks, Bradley Fighting Vehicles, self-propelled artillery guns, and the caravans of logistical trucks that provide their supplies and fuel—are big, heavy things. Just one M-1 can fit inside a C-5 or C-17 (the largest of our military cargo-transport planes), and not every airfield in the world can accommodate those planes. (Tanks are too big to load into the smaller, more flexible C-130s and C-141s.) These planes are also expensive; the fiscal 2004 military budget includes $3.7 billion to build a mere 11 more C-17s. Many more tanks and armored fighting vehicles can be loaded onto cargo ships, but ships are by nature slow, and they're expensive, too, not just to build but to maintain and keep on station. There's a bureaucratic problem here, as well: Neither the Air Force (which buys cargo planes) nor the Navy (which buys cargo ships) likes spending billions and billions of dollars to expand an intercontinental shuttle service for the Army.

If Army divisions were lighter, not only could they maneuver on the battlefield more agilely, they could get there more rapidly. But here's the dilemma. Let's say we create a new, nimble Army, light enough to get to a crisis spot within hours or days (instead of weeks or months), free enough of long logistics lines to maneuver swiftly across the terrain. What happens when this force runs into serious opposition? Once you find yourself in a battle, it's good to have a tank with a big gun and thick armor. That 120 mm gun on the Bradley Fighting Vehicle came in very handy during Gulf War II. Big guns and thick armor weigh a lot. Vehicles that weigh a lot require a lot of fuel. If they're zooming across the dusty desert or rough terrain, they also need spare parts. All these things are heavy. So, we're back to the original problem.
True enough... but as Kaplan points out, the Army also supplied the Special Forces that provided the unconventional manpower to win the unconventional war in Afghanistan, together with their Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps brethren. (See Stephen Biddle's article for a great exegesis of the lessons learned from this war) In addition, the Army has several light infantry units which can deploy anywhere in the world within 18 hours, and they're working to build a mechanized force at Fort Lewis that can do the same thing. Finally, the Army has developed its own 21st Century tactical internet system -- communications gear that has revolutionized the nature of ground warfare. Army leaders have not just sat around on the decks of their 70 ton M1A2 tanks and grilled steaks on the BBQ. They should get some credit where credit is due.

Secretary Rumsfeld is right that transformation needs to happen. But the Office of the Secretary of Defense does not necessarily have all the answers about transformation. In my old unit, the 4th Infantry Division, the smartest minds on transformation were usually the junior officers and sergeants who actually used the stuff in the field. Similarly, Secretary Rumsfeld should realize that some of the best ideas on transformation may be out in the field right now -- perhaps even in the Army. Furthermore, acrimony between the OSD staff and the Army staff is not in the best interests of America's defense. If there are legitimate areas of disagreement, so be it -- let the best ideas prevail. If there are personality conflicts, those need to be dealt with. But the price for pursuing the wrong vision of transformation will be paid in American blood. Eventually, the OSD and Army staffs are going to have to find the right answer together, and put the Rumsfeld v. Army feud behind them.
Shoot first... win hearts and minds later

The New York Times reports today that American diplomat-turned-Iraq-administrator L. Paul Bremer is set to announce a more muscular set of rules of engagement for American soldiers in Iraq. The new rules would essentially authorize American soldiers to shoot to kill when they see a crime in progress, such as looting. Presumably, the rule change is a response to mounting criticism that American forces are not doing enough to stop looting and crime in Iraqi cities. The idea behind the change is to show the Iraqi people that American soldiers mean business -- possibly by making an example out of a few looters and criminals.
"I think you are going to see a change in the rules of engagement within a few days to get the situation under control," [said an official who attended the meeting today.]

Asked what this meant, the official replied, "They are going to start shooting a few looters so that the word gets around" that assaults on property, the hijacking of automobiles and violent crimes will be dealt with using deadly force.

How Iraqis will be informed of the new rules is not clear. American officials in Iraq have access to United States-financed radio stations, which could broadcast the changes.

A tougher approach over all appears to be at the core of Mr. Bremer's mandate from President Bush to save the victory in Iraq from a descent into anarchy, a possibility feared by some Iraqi political leaders if steps are not taken quickly to check violence and lawlessness.

But imposing measures that call for the possible killing of young, unemployed or desperate Iraqis for looting appears to carry a certain level of risk because of the volatile sentiments in the streets here. Gas lines snake through neighborhoods, garbage piles up, and the increasing heat frequently provides combustion for short tempers, which are not uncommonly directed at the American presence here.
Analysis: The Times is right to point out that this policy carries a great deal of risk. American forces currently hold some piece of the moral high ground, having vanquished Saddam's Baath Party regime and brought some semblance of liberty and freedom to Iraq. However, we've also seen a backlash against America's forces. In Fallouja last month, Iraqi citizens protested the occupation of a school by American troops. In an event reminiscent of Britain's awful 1972 Sunday Bloody Sunday incident in Ireland, American soldiers shot and killed 15 demonstrators in response to small arms fire. In Baghdad, thousands of Shiites have protested the American presence, calling for a theocratic government based on Islamic law. It is not clear that the Iraqi people support what we are doing in Iraq. We know their support is critical to our nation-building efforts, yet, we adopt policies like this which can only undermine the relationship between American forces and the Iraqi people. (A good analogy here is the still-tense relationship between the LAPD and residents of South Central L.A.) I'm not sure that shooting looters will go far towards winning Iraqi hearts and minds.

As a matter of law enforcement, I think this is the wrong solution. It's a band-aid measure to cover up the fact that we simply don't have enough soldiers in Iraq to do the job. A strong show of force -- soldiers on dismounted patrol; mounted patrols by armed HMMWVs and Bradley fighting vehicles, quick response to any breach of the peace -- could impose law and order on the chaotic streets of Iraq. But such a show of force takes a lot of manpower -- more manpower than the U.S. has in theater. It would have been wise to mobilize 3-5 National Guard divisions 6 months ago, when we committed to the Iraq mission, so they could be ready to perform this kind of mission today. America's military is stretched thin, but despite the callup of 150,000 reservists, we did not reach very deeply into the ranks of the National Guard, who have a proven track record in peacekeeping missions in the Balkans. It's not too late to pursue this course of action, or to enlist the help of our NATO allies in this mission. But we must do it quickly, or else our soldiers will be forced to compensate for their lack of manpower with overwhelming and excessive force -- as evidenced by this new policy.