Wednesday, August 13, 2003

As if Korea wasn't tense enough . . .

The English-language Korea Times reports today that American and South Korean officials are in disagreement about how and when to move the U.S. Army's 2nd Infantry Division to new locations south of Seoul. 2ID currently sits astride the main corridors of advance from the DMZ to Seoul, as a "tripwire" to deter any North Korean attack on the Seoul. Earlier this year, American and South Korean officials agreed to a strategic redeployment of the 2nd Infantry Division, as a step to free up real estate in near the DMZ and to make 2ID less vulnerable to a North Korean first strike. Now, there's a row over how to make that happen.
"The U.S. expressed its hope that the construction of new camps will be finished by 2008 during the bilateral military consultations in Hawaii last month," ministry spokesman Hwang Young-soo said. "It was an expression of their wishful thinking," Hwang said.

Despite their agreement to relocate the frontline positioned U.S. camps, Seoul is eager to delay it as long as possible to soften the impact on the public's sense of security, ministry officials said.

For the relocation to go as planned, South Korea must first purchase land in southern Kyonggi Province, Hwang said.

The two nations agreed to combine smaller U.S. camps near the border into two camps at Tongduchon and Uijongbu by 2006 as the first phase to be followed by a second southward repositioning. But they have not revealed the exact timetable for the relocation to Pyongtaek and Osan in southern Kyonggi Province.
And in other news, the Korea Times and New York Times both report on an incident that's sure to inflame the Korean public. An American military officer has been arrested by Korean authorities on suspicion of murder after he was caught dumping a woman's body off a bridge near Seoul.
Police said they had placed the 45-year-old U.S. Army major under arrest after he was caught throwing a vinyl bag containing the body of his wife off the Yeongjong Grand Bridge into the Yellow Sea at 3:40 a.m. The 4.4 km-bridge links Seoul to Yeongjong Island, where Incheon International Airport is located.
* * *
Under a bilateral pact governing the 37,000 U.S. troops stationed here, South Korea has jurisdiction over American servicemen who commit serious crimes such as murder or rape, except for cases that take place while suspects were conducting their official duties or if the crime was committed between U.S. soldiers themselves.

In Tuesday's case, Korean police must hand over the major to the U.S. military forces soon according to the Status of Forces Agreement. However, if the victim is found to be a civilian and her death is found not to be linked to the suspect's execution of official duties, the Korean authorities will have jurisdiction over the U.S. officer.
Analysis: We have a very delicate relationship with our South Korean allies, and these two stories are not going to help matters. It's pretty hot over there right now, and when college students return to their campuses, I imagine we'll see another wave of protests across the country. To an extent, that's to be expected, and it's a good thing. Protesting is almost the national sport in Korea, and it's a great way to let off steam for a vibrant young democracy. If, however, sustained protests go on for a while, they could start to affect the way South Korean politicians act on these issues, which may further complicate regional security issues.

Operation Ivy Lightning... or OIL

Dana Milbank, the Washington Post's White House reporter, has a tongue-in-cheek piece this morning about the latest campaign in Iraq to root out insurgents. This one is named "Operation Ivy Lightning," and is spearheaded by my old unit the 4th Infantry Division.
Yesterday, U.S. Central Command issued a news release announcing lightning raids in the remote towns of Ain Lalin and Quara Tapa "to isolate and capture noncompliant forces." The name of the mission: Operation Ivy Lightning. Or, if you prefer the acronym: OIL.

The military has had all kinds of far-out names for its strikes -- last week brought Operation Soda Mountain -- but it has been careful to avoid embarrassing acronyms. In fact, it was rumored that the overall action was called Operation Iraqi Freedom rather than Operation Iraqi Liberation to avoid the very acronym Centcom produced yesterday for the strike by the 4th Infantry Division (or IV Division -- hence the Ivy).

A military spokesman joked, "We struck a dry hole when we tried to find someone to take credit for this one."
Brief History: The Roman numeral "IV" was used for the division a long time ago, and the division picked up the moniker "the Ivy division" during WWI. Today, 4ID soldiers wear a patch with 4 ivy leaves pointing north/south/east/west on their shoulder.

Today's 4th Infantry Division (Mechanized) also calls itself the "Ironhorse" division, in a not-too-subtle reference to the armored vehicles it rides on into battle. The division plans team (of which I was a member) names every operations plan using a convention that incorporates either Ivy or Ironhorse into the name -- e.g. Operation Ironhorse Venture or Operation Ivy Lightning. Unfortunately, this means that every 4ID operation that ends in "L" will result in the acronym "OIL".

Bonus: There is actually an art and science to the naming of operations. For more on this subject, see this article in Parameters, the Army War College quarterly.

Rumsfeld's priorities for the military

Joe Katzman has a great note at Winds of Change discussing SecDef Rumsfeld's priorities for the military -- as briefed to the Army's new class of 1-star generals at their indoctrination and training seminar. The list looks like most doctrinal statements -- broad, sweeping, vague language that doesn't necessarily mean one thing or another. Joe does a good job of explaining each of Rumsfeld's priorities though -- example:
1. Successfully Pursue the Global War on Terrorism
* Reset the force
* High value target plan
* Global Peace Operations initiative

Reset the force... yeah, they need that. I think I like the "high value target plan." To those asking: "does this mean al-Qaeda, Iran, or North Korea?", my answer would be "yes."

This GPO initiative looks interesting... seems Liberia may be a test case for something greater. See yesterday's AfricaPundit Regional Briefing, and esp. Part 3 of The Buggy Professor's materials in Top Topics.
* * *
9. Streamline DOD Processes
* Shorten PPBS and acquisition cycle time
* Financial Management Reform
* Shorten DoD processes by 50%
* Output metrics built around balanced risk and President's Management Agenda

The budgeting and acquisition cycle time is a major problem - weapons systems are taking 10-15 years from planning to fielding, and that's just too long.

Unfortunately, fixing it will require a major mindset shift. For example, this mindset will accept cutting the Marine helicopter fleet to equip it with V-22 Ospreys. Yeah, yeah, longer range, more speed, more capacity, great. Also more maintenance, more expense if you lose one, hence more protective systems and doctrines focused on protecting the investment, hence even higher cost, longer development time, less availability, and sometimes even reluctance to take risks with the equipment. Bad idea. Personally, I'd rather replace the CH-53s and CH-46s with updated version of conventional helicopters (the EH-101 is an example), which work just fine and use proven technology. That way more Marines can be air-transportable, which lets the Marines do more interesting things with concepts like seabasing and widens their choice of tactics on the ground.

As we've found with the Internet, availability = capability too. Against low-tech opponents "more good enough" has advantages of its own, numbers make a difference when surges are required, and they also allow U.S forces to absorb losses without making the next mission unviable. But the procurement culture of the Pentagon rarely thinks that way, and despite scattered successes like the JDAM broader change will be difficult.

If Rumsfeld can actually make a dent in that mindset, he'll be one of the greatest Defense Secretaries ever. This "Pentagon Procurement Death Spiral" is the major problem at the heart of more and more monies going for fewer and fewer resources, and that long-term trend needs to turn around.
The whole thing's worth a read, and I imagine we'll see more on this subject in the near future. More to follow...

Tuesday, August 12, 2003

A cartoonist with a sense of humor

Daryl Cagle, who for some time has run Slate's political cartoon section, has a weblog. From what I see so far, it's great -- Cagle's weblog belongs at the top of every reader's list for morning news & views.

No stranger to controversy, Daryl Cagle reprints this letter and rebuttal cartoon from LA Times cartoonist Michael Ramirez. The new cartoon is a response to a previous cartoon from Mr. Ramirez which caricatured President Bush as the victim in a famous Vietnam War photo of a public execution. Following a visit by the Secret Service, Mr. Ramirez had this to say:
"The controversy over this cartoon is ridiculous. As political cartoonists, we are supposed to push the envelope to try to engage the reader in debate. I intentionally chose to use a disturbing image to convey a very salient point. President Bush is the target of a political assassination because of sixteen words which he uttered in the State of the Union speech that were, by the way, accurate. The cartoon was obviously not meant to encourage violence but was a reference to a famous photograph from the Vietnam era. There is a parallel between the politicization of the Vietnam war and the deconstruction of the success and the politicization of the current Iraq war. That photograph is one of the most powerful images from the Vietnam era . It was perceived as an a unjust act in an war mired in politics. Metaphorically, there are people currently engaged in the political assassination of our president. Those with political motivations are using the uranium story to attack the president. The photo is a very disturbing image. The editorial cartoon is meant to be a disturbing image. But the current manifestation of attacks on the president driven by political ambition rather than fact is far more disturbing then my cartoon. "

"PS from Michael: the weather in GITMO is beautiful. Life is good but I have to have all my cartoons screened by John Ashcroft before publication now..."
You really have to see the cartoon that Mr. Ramirez penned to go with this letter...

Another 3ID brigade comes home

The Associated Press reports that the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division, has returned home to Fort Stewart, Georgia.
The last of the division's 2nd Brigade Combat Team landed at Hunter Army Airfield to turn in their weapons and the rest of their combat gear before being released to their families. Only the division's 1st Brigade remains in Iraq, and it is scheduled to begin heading home in the next few weeks.
* * *
The infantrymen flew home on a chartered Delta Airlines flight decorated with red, white and blue streamers, U.S. flags and yellow ribbons. After months in the desert, surrounded by drab camouflage gear, the soldiers smiled broadly at the flight attendants as they boarded the plane.

"You are now in the United States. This plane is officially U.S. territory. It may not be the state you want to be in, but you're already home," Connie Teitel, one of the attendants, told Spec. Kenneth Clark.

"Thank you, it feels good," Clark replied.

One veteran's battle for disability benefits

The Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a brilliant article this morning on the case of Jason Stiffler, an Army soldier who was seriously injured in Afghanistan. Following his fall from a watchtower, Stiffler went through several hospitals and medical evaluations before being given a partial disability by the Army -- good for $731 a month. Stiffler appealed that adjudication, but ran headlong into an Army and VA bureaucracy seemingly designed to frustrate veterans.
Mr. Stiffler's story shows the human toll when critical benefits judgments are delayed, and the confusion veterans and their families often feel when they're forced to confront bureaucracy. It also illustrates some of the flaws in the $60.4 billion veterans agency, and how those problems could prove overwhelming as veterans of the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq start to enter the VA's rolls.

The roughly 175,000 military personnel who have served in the war against terror have not begun to apply for VA services in big numbers. But about 50,000 of them will file disability claims in coming years, if the 30% rate of VA utilization after the Gulf War is any guide.

That will place added burdens on a system that has been swamped for years. The average wait to get a medical appointment with the VA is seven months, according to a recent survey by the American Legion. There's a backlog of 280,000 veterans awaiting a disability rating, which determines how much they should receive in benefits; 108,000 veterans are waiting to hear back on appeals of rating decisions.

One reason for the backlog: a 1996 Congressional decision that expanded benefit eligibility to all veterans. Previously, the VA had been open only to indigent veterans and those wounded or injured during service. Since the change, the number of veterans seeking VA medical services has doubled to 6.8 million, while VA spending has risen 56%.
* * *
The VA system is particularly slow when it comes to assessing veterans with permanent disabilities. The agency is divided into separate medical-care and disability bureaucracies, which have a history of not communicating effectively with each other on disability cases. So, when a veteran is treated at a VA hospital, changes in his or her condition aren't automatically reported to officials who consider disability claims. As a result, those changes can't immediately be factored into claims decisions.

Moreover, in making disability decisions, the VA relies heavily on military records. But these largely consist of paper files that must be located and shipped when a request is made, slowing response times. Often files are misplaced or incomplete. "Stuff just goes into a big black hole sometimes," says Mr. Principi.

Under Mr. Principi, the VA has made a priority of fostering better cooperation and communication between its Veterans Health Administration, which operates VA hospitals, and the Veterans Benefits Administration, which makes disability and pension decisions. Last year, the VA centralized management of the two entities' information-technology operations. And, to streamline the transfer of files, the Department of Defense has begun sending certain military medical records into an electronic database that VHA doctors can tap into. But most Defense medical records are still kept only on paper and must be transferred by hand.
Thoughts... I can sympathize with Mr. Stiffler, as a veteran who has gone through the VA process to seek a disability rating. (I have a 10% disability for leg injuries sustained on active duty) The process is Byzantine, and I can only imagine how it treats lower-ranking soldiers who don't have the legal or bureaucratic experience that I do. In fact, I sought my VA rating at the same time I took Administrative Law at UCLA, and I found that knowledge to be invaluable in dealing with the VA. There's something wrong with a VA system that takes a law degree to navigate.

VA Secretary Principi is doing a good job of pushing the VA to become more responsive to the veterans who need the care the most. His proposal to shift resources to lower-income and service-disabled veterans -- to the detriment of higher-income, non-disabled veterans -- is the right thing to do. Secretary Principi has also pushed an aggressive program of privatization to purchase more medical resources for each dollar of VA funding, and I think that's also the right thing to do.

The VA's mission is clear: it must be ready to deal with the bow wave of veterans about to leave the service after fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq. Historical data suggests that the majority of those who have fought in these wars will not reenlist at the end of their enlistments, and that hundreds of thousands of combat veterans will soon reenter the civilian world. Many will leave the service with injuries from combat, or conditions that merit a VA disability rating. The VA must be ready to serve these men and women when they come home.

Krugman: Privatization partly to blame for American problems in Iraq?
NYT columnist/economist takes on the Pentagon, but his ducks aren't all in a row

Paul Krugman takes the Bush Administration and Pentagon to task in his New York Times column today. Some of this is certainly justified, but Krugman takes some license with the facts to make the ultimate argument that privatizing certain military functions has led to problems for the military in Iraq. Here's his basic argument:
The U.S. military has always had superb logistics. What happened? The answer is a mix of penny-pinching and privatization ?— which makes our soldiers' discomfort a symptom of something more general.
* * *
Military corner-cutting is part of a broader picture of penny-wise-pound-foolish government. When it comes to tax cuts or subsidies to powerful interest groups, money is no object. But elsewhere, including homeland security, small-government ideology reigns. The Bush administration has been unwilling to spend enough on any aspect of homeland security, whether it's providing firefighters and police officers with radios or protecting the nation's ports. The decision to pull air marshals off some flights to save on hotel bills ?— reversed when the public heard about it ?— was simply a sound-bite-worthy example. (Air marshals have told that a "witch hunt" is now under way at the Transportation Security Administration, and that those who reveal cost-cutting measures to the media are being threatened with the Patriot Act.)

There's also another element in the Iraq logistical snafu: privatization. The U.S. military has shifted many tasks traditionally performed by soldiers into the hands of such private contractors as Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary. The Iraq war and its aftermath gave this privatized system its first major test in combat ?— and the system failed.
Analysis: Krugman's first mistake is to rely too heavily on the reporting of Col. David Hackworth. I respect Col. Hackworth a great deal, both for his military record and his criticisms of Washington. But Col. Hackworth has a particular agenda that includes a lot of stuff that Paul Krugman probably doesn't know about -- or doesn't agree with. Moreover, Hack's criticisms provoke such a visceral reaction in the Pentagon that anything citing him will immediately be rejected by the Pentagon establishment. Even if this was a more accurate piece, its citation to Col. Hackworth would diminish its credibility in the halls of the Pentagon. Citing authority with that effect can be risky.

History also matters. Military history is conspicuously absent from Krugman's column. In the realm of military affairs, history matters a great deal because you rarely want to advocate for things that haven't been done successfully before under fire. In fact, privatization has been used with some success by various nations at various times in the world. "Mercenary" armies are one example, though an unsavory one. Another example could be the way industry was co-opted in the mass mobilization efforts of WWI and WWII. There is a fuzzy line between contracting out for services from industry, and simply enlisting industry in the cause. Krugman fails to account for this gray area.

Here are some other points that leaped out at me while reading Krugman's piece:

1. Krugman starts his column with a description of American woe in Iraq -- based on the griping of a soldier about food.
A few days ago I talked to a soldier just back from Iraq. He'd been in a relatively calm area; his main complaint was about food. Four months after the fall of Baghdad, his unit was still eating the dreaded M.R.E.'s: meals ready to eat. When Italian troops moved into the area, their food was "way more realistic" ?— and American troops were soon trading whatever they could for some of that Italian food.
This should bring a smile to any veteran's face, because it's a time-honored tradition in the Army to gripe about food. In fact, they taught us as new lieutenants that your soldiers probably had a real problem if they weren't griping about their food, and that such gripes about Army chow were a sign of good morale. Frankly, I'm not a fan of eating MREs for 4 weeks straight, let alone 4 months. But I'm not too concerned when I see this gripe in the news... in the pantheon of Army b*tching, it's pretty low.

2. Krugman cites to some letters on Hack's website, including one where soldiers complain about water supplies.
One writer reported that in his unit, "each soldier is limited to two 1.5-liter bottles a day," and that inadequate water rations were leading to "heat casualties." An American soldier died of heat stroke on Saturday; are poor supply and living conditions one reason why U.S. troops in Iraq are suffering such a high rate of noncombat deaths?
This is a flat-out false statement. The truth is, according to Sergeant Major of the Army Jack Tilley during a recent press conference in Iraq, that soldiers are being issued two 1.5 liter plastic bottles of water today in addition to their regular water supply, which is provided in 500-gallon "water buffaloes" and other means. In fact, the planning factor for a soldier in a desert environment is something like 10 gallons of water per day -- plus between 10-50 pounds of ice per day (Note: a lot of this ice goes to food preparation and bulk water cooling, not directly to the soldier). A significant portion of the logistical effort goes to pushing this "Class I" supply forward to soldiers in the field, and distributing it. The physiology of this is obvious. If soldiers in Iraq were being forced to live on 3 liters/day, they would die.

Clearly, there is other water out there. Some soldiers are simply whining because they can't get an unlimited supply of Evian bottles, the way they did in Gulf War I when the Saudis footed the bill and the American supply lines weren't set up yet. I say: "Tough". Get your water in bulk from the water buffalo, fill your CamelBak, and deal with it.

A note on CamelBaks: I could write a book on this subject, from my active duty experience in the desert, but I won't. Suffice to say, the CamelBak is the best tool for hydration available, and every soldier should have one -- but doesn't yet. The Army has not procured these for every soldier in every unit. Many units have taken the initiative to spend their own funds on a commercial purchase, and many more soldiers (like me) have bought their own. Personally, I would buy enough CamelBaks to had one to every soldier in CENTCOM. Krugman could have written a great column (like this one) on the private gadgets that soldiers have bought for themselves because the military failed to buy them.

3. Next, Krugman tries to link military cost-cutting to homeland security cost-cutting, to make a more general argument about the Bush Administration. Once again, his argument falls flat:
Military corner-cutting is part of a broader picture of penny-wise-pound-foolish government. When it comes to tax cuts or subsidies to powerful interest groups, money is no object. But elsewhere, including homeland security, small-government ideology reigns. The Bush administration has been unwilling to spend enough on any aspect of homeland security, whether it's providing firefighters and police officers with radios or protecting the nation's ports.
Not quite. The Bush Administration has poured money into the new Department of Homeland Security, and has given quite a bit of money to local fire/police departments for things like chemical-protective gear. But structurally, our domestic anti-terrorism effort is structurally impaired by the fact that it depends on state/local funding, not federal funding, and most state/local governments are strapped right now. (See, e.g., my home state of California) This is an unintended consequence of the 10th Amendment, which reserves general powers to the states. Nearly all of America's anti-terrorism capacity -- save the FBI and CIA -- resides at the state/local level. Krugman, as an economist, ought to understand these structural issues and be able to explain precisely why domestic security goes underfunded. Instead, he simply blames the Bush Administration's penchant for privatization -- something which I think is inaccurate and unfair.

4. Going back to Iraq, Krugman says the military's contracts in Iraq have been a failure. He writes:
The U.S. military has shifted many tasks traditionally performed by soldiers into the hands of such private contractors as Kellogg Brown & Root, the Halliburton subsidiary. The Iraq war and its aftermath gave this privatized system its first major test in combat ?— and the system failed.
Interestingly, he cites to the same article from Newhouse News Service that I wrote about here and here. First, Krugman's wrong that this is the first major performance by contractors in a battle zone. Civilian contractors played an enormous role in the first Gulf War, sparking a great deal of argument in the policy and academic sector over the wisdom of privatization. (Legal scholars also debated the Geneva Convention implications of this trend) Second, contractors like Kellogg Brown & Root have followed the U.S. military for some time, such as to places like Bosnia and Kosovo. They've done a good job in those places, often with similar dangers (e.g. landmines), and they know the operational environment. Krugman fails again to understand the details of the problem here, which largely are a matter of government contracts law. (See this note) No business is going to take a contract where the costs outweigh the benefits. In government contracts law, there are ways to shift the risk and extra costs (such as insurance) to the government, but those weren't done in Iraq initially because of faulty assumptions by the government about the post-war situation. The contractors in question made a business decision to back away from contracts they thought were too risky. But ultimately, it's the government that bears the responsibility to build a contract (since the clauses are all imputed as a matter of law with little negotiation) that works for both parties. Once again, Krugman ought to know this as an economist, or at least pick up the phone to call a government contracts lawyer who can explain it to him.

Bottom Line: Krugman's column adds little to the debate over America's endeavor in Iraq. I could spend more time picking his column apart, but I won't because I think you get my general point. There are problems in Iraq, most of which trace back to poor planning before the war that was predicated on bad assumptions about the post-war situation. But those problems are steadily being fixed, and we are steadily making progress. As an economist, Krugman could provide great insight into the Iraqi economy and its failings, rather than going out on a limb to write about military affairs. This column falls flat because he doesn't provide the detailed analysis necessary to connect each of these issues to the problems in Iraq.

Update: I've been tapped as a member of the "Krugman Truth Squad" by Donald Luskin in his National Review Online column. I try to avoid taking political sides, as NRO does, but I'm flattered by the quotes nonetheless. Mr. Luskin has an interesting column, summing up some of the other authors (such as Robert Musil) who criticized Prof. Krugman's column on privatization. It's worth a read.

Sunday, August 10, 2003

WSJ: Guilty pleas expected in first military tribunals

Jess Bravin reports in Monday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that 2 British citizens and an Australian citizen are expected to plead guilty before a military tribunal in order to avoid harsh punishment -- possibly including the death penalty. The three men are currently being held as "unlawful enemy combatants" in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and have been put on a short list of 6 individuals who are under consideration for the tribunals. Pleas are being hashed out for these three between the U.S., British and Australian governments. Two other defendants are expected to face adversarial tribunals in the near future.
British subjects Feroz Abassi and Moazzam Begg and Australian David Hicks are among six prisoners held at the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba that President Bush decided last month could be prosecuted before the tribunals. The three, currently subject to indefinite detention as unlawful enemy combatants, have been providing information to intelligence agents, and officials say they wish to reward the prisoners with a clear resolution of their futures.

Although the prisoners -- captured in Afghanistan and Pakistan after fighting alongside Taliban and al Qaeda forces -- initially were defiant, "they've all, shall we say, mellowed over time," a U.S. official said.

The Bush administration prefers to inaugurate the tribunals with relatively simple proceedings to record a guilty plea, rather than a contested trial likely to see aggressive challenges from defense attorneys. Officials say plea bargains would show the tribunals can be used as leverage to gain cooperation from prisoners. They hope statements from defendants expressing remorse and attesting to their good treatment will help stanch foreign criticism of the tribunals.

"You renounce terrorism, you renounce Osama bin Laden, and, by the way, you say, 'The Americans treated me very well in Guantanamo' -- that would be a phenomenal public-relations coup for the United States," said a person familiar with the cases. "And by the same token, a defendant who was willing to say something like that would probably be favorably viewed by the government."
Analysis: Mr. Bravin's article has a lot of other good stuff. Unfortunately, I can't reproduce the full text here because of copyright laws. I highly recommend buying the Monday issue of The Journal, or waiting until Tuesday to read the post-scoop story in the NY Times or Washington Post. This is a big story, and one that should hit the American Bar Association's annual meeting in San Francisco with a tremendous "thud".

On the merits... It's not clear whether justice is being served here. On the one hand, taking prisoners and trying them for war crimes is an accepted part of war. On the other, we have not scrupulously followed the law with respect to these prisoners (See Art. V, Third Geneva Convention, requiring a "competent tribunal" to determine the status of any prisoner). And there are legitimate legal questions as to whether the President has the authority to order military tribunals under his 13 Nov 01 order. These tribunals will live under a cloud as long as these questions linger.

The Economist ran a strongly worded editorial last month excoriating the Bush Administration for its use of military tribunals. Such trials diminish the moral and political capital that the U.S. enjoys in the world, and diminish the values that stand in stark opposition to our enemies. I'm not sure what the right outcome should be here, since I'm not privy to the actual facts of these cases. But I think The Economist raises valid concerns about the fallout from our choice to use military tribunals. We should weigh this step with a great deal of caution.

Friday, August 8, 2003

Soldiers who criticized SecDef get "a good talk"

In a sign that our junior leaders know how to lead their soldiers, the Washington Post reports today that soldiers who spoke out in the media against various political leaders have received no formal discipline -- but a stern lecture from their senior sergeants instead.
"Those soldiers were not formally disciplined per se," said a senior Army officer in Washington who declined to be named. Instead, the soldiers received "a good talk" from senior noncommissioned officers who "reinforced their obligations as soldiers to respect their military and civilian chain of command," the officer added.
Sounds about right to me. Senior NCOs are the "backbone of the Army", and the good ones have more informal authority than their officers could ever dream of. A stern talk from a senior Command Sergeant Major -- even to a lieutenant or captain -- can be extremely effective. I am impressed by the discipline of the chain-of-command to, not to do anything formal which might be seen as retaliation against these soldiers. This was the right course of action, and I imagine these soldiers will keep their thoughts to themselves and their mates in the future.

DoD IG: Soldiers may encourage foreign trade in sex slaves

The Los Angeles Times reports in a pithy 2-paragraph wire-service piece that a new Pentagon report blames American soldiers for the continued sex slavery trade in South Korea. The report comes from the Pentagon's Inspector General, who is responsible for internal investigations in the Defense Department.
U.S. soldiers visiting South Korean brothels may have encouraged sex slavery because of a lack of understanding about human trafficking, the Defense Department's inspector general reported. Military patrols were sometimes too friendly with bar owners and often didn't report sex slavery because of a misperception that they needed solid evidence, the report said.

U.S. military officials in South Korea have barred servicemen from more than 25 establishments.

That's all that was reported. Having recently served in Korea for a year with the 2nd Infantry Division, I can add a little bit more information.

1. The connection between soldiers and brothels is not a new one, and probably not one that the U.S. or Korean government can do a lot about. The same connection exists in the U.S. near major military bases, and I imagine it does for other nations as well. Without passing moral judgment on this, I think I can say the two things go together as a matter of economics, demographics, and sociology.

2. American soldiers typically serve a one-year, unaccompanied, "hardship" tour in Korea. The overwhelming majority of American soldiers in Korea are male, due to the higher-than-average concentration of combat units in the 2nd Infantry Division, and due to military rules preventing pregnant soldiers from moving to Korea -- and requiring their redeployment before they come due. Speaking as an economist, this means a large customer pool unencumbered by their families, who might normally act as constraints on their behavior.

3. The Korean economy has responded to the U.S. presence in a myriad of ways, from the establishment of bars and restaurants off base, custom tailoring shops, and brothels. The lines between bars, clubs, dance clubs and brothels are quite blurry, and it was never clear to me as a Military Police lieutenant how these businesses were regulated by the Korean authorities. The Koreans nominally outlawed prostitution, and U.S. commanders also issued edicts against the practice. But that's not to say it didn't happen.

4. The real problem here is the way the Korean (there are very few foreign nationals in the Korean club business) club owners staff their establishments. Unfortunately, that's a matter beyond American control (though we can certainly influence the Korean government in this regard). Korean businesses choose various forms of low-wage employment, to include forms of indentured servitude, to staff their businesses. The regulation of this activity falls squarely on the shoulders of the South Korean government. However, the South Korean government has been reticent to regulate these employment practices because of the spillover that might have into other low-wage employment areas, such as manufacturing and agriculture.

5. American forces provide the customer base for these bars. By failing to lock-down soldiers on post, it can be argued that U.S. commanders contribute to their prosperity. But American MPs are charged with the mission of keeping soldiers out of brothels, and with preventing prostitution to the best of their ability. Commanders often discipline soldiers for failing to follow orders, and STD detection often leads to some sort of administrative action against soldiers. More than that, I'm not sure what else can be done.

Bottom Line: The U.S. has a moral obligation to oppose human slavery wherever it can. In pure economic terms, our soldiers contribute to the practice in Korea by providing the demand -- which drives Korean businesses to purchase the supply. I'm not sure what the U.S. can do itself to stop this practice, short of lock-down or redeployment. But we have an awful lot of influence with the South Korean government, and we ought to use that influence to stop this horrible problem.

Update: I asked Mark Kleiman for an economist's thoughts on the problem, and he was kind enough to post them on his weblog. Mark writes about some of the complexities of the matter, particularly with regard to enforcement and its unintended effects on the "legal" prositution trade. Definitely worth a read.

Update II: The Pacific Stars & Stripes reports on the U.S. reaction to this report. Top American officials in Seoul have pledged to take a "hard look" at what's going on with respect to American soldiers and sex slavery in Korea.
Lt. Gen. Charles C. Campbell, 8th Army commander and USFK chief of staff, said in a written statement to Stars and Stripes that the command is encouraged by the inspector general's "positive response to our aggressive actions so far in addressing these illegal and wholly unacceptable activities."
But at least one Korean official working on the issue was skeptical that any unilateral action by U.S. commanders could make a significant difference.
The reality is, though, the trafficking situation may be beyond USFK capacity to solve, said Yu Yong-nim, head of My Sister's Place in Uijongbu, a nongovernmental organization that helps women who have been involved in the sex trade. The military presence exacerbates the sex trade problem, but the issue is one that needs to be addressed on a higher level by both the U.S. and South Korean governments, she said.
More to follow...

Light Blogging: My laptop hard drive crashed this week. Until it returns from the manufacturer, I will not have my normal 24/7 access to the newswire or the 'net. Intel Dump will resume regular updates as soon as possible. Until then, I will be able to write 3-5 times per week.

In my absence, please continue to visit my friends and supporters, both listed below and on my blogroll:

- The Volokh Conspiracy

- DefenseTech by Noah Shachtman

- Talking Points Memo by Josh Marshall

- Mark Kleiman

- Dynamist by Virginia Postrel

- Winds of Change

- One Hand Clapping


- KausFiles

- Balkinization

And last but not least, for the best streaming legal news on the web, check out Howard Bashman's How Appealing