Thursday, November 6, 2003

Admin note: I am in the middle of grading undergraduate exams this week and several other projects, so I'll be away from my news feed for most of the day. Please check back infrequently over the next few days, and come back for regular analysis & commentary on Veterans Day, Nov. 11. Thanks.

Pentagon calls up 43,000 reservists for duty in Iraq
Active-duty, Marine contingents also alerted for deployment

The New York Times reports this morning on an alert order issued by the Pentagon yesterday to reserve and National Guard units around the country, letting them know they will be going to Iraq. 397 units in nearly every state are affected by this order, which includes both combat troops (such as infantry and armor) and support units (such as logistics and communications).
Pentagon planners have sought to limit additional call-ups of National Guard and Reserve forces beyond combat units identified months ago, but ultimately realized that, at the very least, logistics units would be required in the next rotation.

Military planners say the United States could deploy a slightly smaller but still sizable force in Iraq by tailoring the replacement troops to the mission now facing the American-led occupation. For example, they said, the plan calls for swapping tank-heavy armored divisions for units that put more foot soldiers in Iraq. The proposal also takes account of plans to accelerate the training and fielding of Iraq's own security forces to more than 200,000 personnel next year.

The administration has failed to win new commitments of foreign troops for Iraq beyond the two multinational divisions serving there. Mr. Rumsfeld is ordering two brigades, or about 20,000 active-duty marines, from the First Marine Division at Camp Pendleton, Calif., to help fill the gap left by departing Army forces. It will be the first time since the Vietnam War that large numbers of marines, traditionally an expeditionary force, will serve long-term duty for a military operation.

Joining that marine force will be one brigade, or about 7,000 soldiers, from the Army's 25th Infantry Division, based in Hawaii.
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Of the 43,000 whose units are being alerted, more than 37,000 are Army Reserve and National Guard troops. The remainder are Marine reservists. In addition, the Pentagon is telling about 2,000 Air Force personnel and about 1,000 Navy personnel they could be going to Iraq or Kuwait.

To fulfill the requirement of serving a full year on the ground, those troops actually mobilized may serve up to 18 months, including training and leave.
Analysis: This is a large chunk of the reserve force. Here in California, this deployment is tapping into a unit which has not deployed for combat since the Korean War. When you add up Operation Noble Eagle (homeland security) deployments, Balkans deployments, and other missions, you soon see that we have run through a very significant portion of the reserve force. What's left is basically a hollow shell of a force. Moreover, each deployment since Sept. 11 has tended to decimate the units called up. After being called away from their jobs and families, thousands of reservists have decided not to re-up for more time in the reserves. And the cycle goes on and on.

America's reserve force is a precious resource. It has done yeoman's work since the end of the Cold War in supporting the active force and in deploying itself for missions like Bosnia and Kosovo. But if we continue down this road, we will absolutely destroy the reserve force and render it mission incapable. I'm not sure the mission in Iraq is worth that price. However, I'm not sure what the answer is. We're committed to the Iraq mission now, and short of conscription, there's no other way to make ends meet than with reserve forces. But we should start developing mitigation plans to ensure that in 3-5 years, we'll still have a reserve force capable of doing something. Whether that means additional educational benefits or VA benefits for reservists, or additional reenlistment bonuses, we should probably do it.

Update: Even the Pentagon acknowledges the "challenges" in managing our reserve forces for the Iraq mission. "Challenges" is a great euphemism. It's a way to say something is incredibly difficult while still sounding positive about the endeavor. That's the kind of "can do" attitude I'm used to seeing in the military officer corps, and I'm not surprised to see it in the upper ranks of the Pentagon. However, I would add that some challenges are more challenging than others, and that this issue (management of reserve forces) will be a really tough nut to crack. A positive attitude can help, but it will only do so much.

Wednesday, November 5, 2003

NYT: Iraq tried last-minute diplomatic effort to avoid war
Update: Is this story really what it appears -- or is it more smoke & mirrors?

James Risen has a startling report about Iraqi efforts to engage in back-channel diplomacy via influential DoD adviser Richard Perle to avoid war. The lengthy article describes the networks used to make the contacts, what was said, and how the U.S. responded to the Iraqi requests for more diplomacy.
WASHINGTON, Nov. 5 — As American soldiers massed on the Iraqi border in March and diplomats argued about war, an influential adviser to the Pentagon received a secret message from a Lebanese-American businessman: Saddam Hussein wanted to make a deal.

Iraqi officials, including the chief of the Iraqi Intelligence Service, had told the businessman that they wanted Washington to know that Iraq no longer had weapons of mass destruction, and they offered to allow American troops and experts to conduct an independent search. They also offered to hand over a man accused of being involved in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing who was being held in Baghdad. At one point, the intermediary said in an interview, the Iraqis pledged to hold elections.

The messages from Baghdad, first relayed by the intermediary in February to an analyst in the office of Douglas J. Feith, the under secretary of defense for policy and planning, were part of an attempt by Iraqi intelligence officers to open last-ditch negotiations with the Bush administration through a clandestine communications channel, according to people involved in the discussion.

The efforts were portrayed by Iraqi officials as having the approval of Saddam Hussein, according to interviews and documents.

The overtures, following a decade of evasions and deceptions and a number of other attempts to broker last-minute meetings with American officials, were ultimately rebuffed. But the messages from Baghdad raised enough interest that in early March, Richard N. Perle, an influential adviser to top Pentagon officials, met in London with the Lebanese-American businessman, Imad Hage. According to both men, Mr. Hage laid out the Iraqis' position to Mr. Perle, and he pressed the Iraqi request for a direct meeting with Mr. Perle or another representative of the United States.

"I was dubious that this would work," Mr. Perle said, "but I agreed to talk to people in Washington."

Mr. Perle said he sought authorization from officials of the Central Intelligence Agency to meet with the Iraqis.

Mr. Perle said the C.I.A. officials said they did not want to pursue this channel and indicated they had already engaged in separate contacts with Baghdad. Mr. Perle said the response was simple: "The message was, `Tell them that we will see them in Baghdad.' "
Analysis: I think there are two basic ways to look at this. Either the Iraqis were trying to delay the conflict via diplomacy, in order to shape the outcome by engaging in more defensive preparation. Or the U.S. was trying to deny the Iraqis that opportunity by spurning diplomacy after it had committed to war. My gut tells me that these are not mutually exclusive, and that both interpretations are probably correct. This may all be a moot point. But my gut also tells me that a little bit more time would have helped us now in Phase IV, by allowing us to put more troops on the ground and lay the groundwork more for the post-war phase of the operation.

Update: Josh Marshall is more skeptical than I am about this story, given a line that's buried far down in the story about the leaker's motivation for speaking with the Times. Here's the all-important paragraph:
Senior Pentagon officials said Mr. Durnan relayed messages he received from Mr. Maloof to the appropriate officials at the Pentagon, but they said that Mr. Durnan never discussed the Hage channel to the Iraqis with Mr. Wolfowitz. (In May, Mr. Maloof, who has lost his security clearances, was placed on paid administrative leave by the Pentagon, for reasons unrelated to the contacts with Mr. Hage.) [emphasis added]
Josh is very savvy about these things. (I consider him to be one of the smarter reporters inside the Beltway.) Here's his analysis of this story and how it "leaked" to the press:
Let's say I'm a career defense bureaucrat struggling to get my security clearances restored because it's very hard for me to be a defense bureaucrat without them. And let's say one of the reasons I can't get them restored is because of some unauthorized contacts I had with a Lebanese-American businessman under investigation for running guns to Liberia. And let's further add to the mix that my whole mess with the security clearances is part of a larger struggle between different factions in the national intelligence bureaucracy. Oh, and one last thing: let's say I'm a protégé of Richard Perle.


Now, if I'm on the line for these unauthorized contacts with the gun-running businessman, wouldn't it be a lot harder to punish me for it if it looked like that contact almost allowed me to secure a deal that would have averted the need for war?

And if that's the case, wouldn't it be cool if my buddies and mentors went to the press with the story of how I almost saved the day?
If true, this certainly diminishes both the newsworthiness and veracity of this story. Unfortunately, like the recent Rumsfeld memo that was leaked to the public, it's getting hard to see through all the smoke and mirrors to what the truth actually is. I'd like to take newspapers like the New York Times at something close to face value, because I rely on accurate news from prestigious sources for information that shapes my view of the world. Unfortunately, this incident and others makes it clear that I can't afford to rely on any one source of news -- and indeed, that I do so at my own peril.

1st Armored learns to act like CIA-police hybrid in Iraq
"Everyone is an intelligence officer . . . everyone you come in contact with [has] intelligence value"

Vernon Loeb has an interesting article in today's Washington Post on the exploits of the 2nd Brigade, 1st Armored Division, and its efforts to develop intelligence sources in the neighborhood of Baghdad. The tactics look less like those of an armored division and more like those of an intelligence agency, or a very street-savvy police department.
When the 4-27 Field Artillery started patrolling parts of north Baghdad in late May and June -- McKiernan did not take command until July -- its 535 soldiers found themselves under almost constant attack.

The violence reached a zenith on July 3, when a patrol was ambushed on Haifa Street, the main thoroughfare in Karkh, by Iraqis who fired a rocket-propelled grenade at a Humvee and then opened fire with automatic weapons. Three U.S. troops were wounded, two Iraqi bystanders were killed in the crossfire, and 14 were injured.

Maj. Michael S. Patton, the unit's operations officer, was trying to secure the area immediately after the shooting when his interpreter told him a man in the crowd had some information for him. Patton sent his interpreter back to tell the man he was going to pretend to arrest him, so that no one would suspect he was passing information.

Back at the base camp, the informant, a cigarette vendor in his mid-forties who has lived in the neighborhood all his life, told Patton who carried out the attack -- and Patton's troops quickly nabbed him.

The episode made Patton understand who held the key to the battle: Iraqis in the neighborhood. It also was the start of a beautiful relationship. To date, the cigarette vendor has delivered 35 Iraqi resistance fighters to the Americans. "The guy," said Patton, 37, a cigar-smoking Oklahoman, "has been a gold mine."
Analysis: The article goes on to say that the 2nd Brigade's commander learned these tactics, in part, from his experience teaching at the British Military Academy at Sandhurst. These methods reflect hard-won British experience in Northern Ireland, which was built on centuries of colonial and constabulary experience. What's interesting is to see how the U.S. melds this experience with the American army's unique technological edge and experience in the Balkans. The result seems to be better operations that are driven by intelligence. If every unit in Iraq does this kind of thing, they should soon be able to penetrate the guerilla cells responsible for recent attacks on American forces. The key to penetrating those cells is developing HUMINT capabilities -- mostly Iraqis -- who are willing to work for us instead of the other side. Doing so will take a lot of work and a long time, and it won't be something the media can cover. But it will be effective in the long run. This kind of intelligence is absolutely critical for fighting a 4th Generation War, and we will lose without it.

Allies' concerns delay military tribunals

After a report last week that military tribunals were "imminent," the New York Daily News reports today that several American allies have expressed political concerns over the process which may affect their citizens.
Britain, Australia, Pakistan, Kuwait, Egypt and Yemen want their people being held in Camp Delta at the U.S. base in Cuba sent home for trial or released.

Many of the 660 detainees were scooped up in Afghanistan during the early months of the war to oust the Taliban and hunt down Osama Bin Laden.

The Pentagon is in negotiations with Britain over two Britons and an Australian at Gitmo.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has taken more flak at home over the issue than President Bush does from Democrats, complained one foreign official. The U.S. now says the three suspects won't face the death penalty.

"It's obviously not a legal question but more of a strategic political reason for [Deputy Defense Secretary Paul] Wolfowitz and [Defense Secretary Donald] Rumsfeld," said a former administration official familiar with the 2001 order that created the controversial tribunals.

Wolfowitz wants to keep Pakistan happy, according to two former Bush officials. Since breaking with the Taliban, Pakistan has nabbed dozens of Al Qaeda, including 9/11 planner Khalid Shaikh Mohammed.
Analysis: It's more than keeping Pakistan happy, although that's part of it. Each of these countries has provided some aid in our war on terrorism, whether it's troops for Afghanistan or intelligence information. I imagine that if push comes to shove, and the administration is forced to decide between tribunals and our allies, they'll choose our allies. But we'll see.

Saturday, November 1, 2003

A local version of Total Information Awareness?

Noah Shachtman reports this weekend that the ACLU has produced a new report on the "MATRIX" program, a state-run information gathering and analysis system that's eerily similar to the Defense Department's Total Information Awareness (TIA) program that was torpedoed this year over civil liberties concerns. (Long-time Intel Dump readers may remember my earlier report on this program) This program's future is somewhat in doubt, as several state and local governments have pulled out of the MATRIX program because of civil liberties concerns. I'll continue to follow this story to see how it develops.

Update: Some academics up at MIT have come up with a program called "Government Information Awareness", or the "citizen's TIA". One of my readers describes it as "a public, peer to peer information exchange system, which allows anyone to post information on politicians and government officials." Very interesting.

Failing to plan = planning to fail

That's the lesson offered by this New York Times Sunday Magazine article, which bears the not-too-subtle title "Blueprint for a Mess". (Note to NYT eds: I'm sure it was tough not to use 'quagmire' or 'slog' in this headline) David Rieff looks at an issue that has been looked at by many authors since the end of Gulf War II -- how planning for Phase IV (the post-war phase of the operation) could have gone so wrong. Even I've taken a whack at this issue in an article for the Washington Monthly. Mr. Rieff's conclusion is that several main factors contributed to the general state of affairs today in Iraq:
1. Getting In Too Deep With Chalabi
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2. Shutting Out State
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3. Too Little Planning, Too Late
The Office of Reconstruction and Humanitarian Assistance (ORHA) was established in the Defense Department, under General Garner's supervision, on Jan. 20, 2003, just eight weeks before the invasion of Iraq. Because the Pentagon had insisted on essentially throwing out the work and the personnel of the Future of Iraq Project, Garner and his planners had to start more or less from scratch. Timothy Carney, who served in ORHA under Garner, explains that ORHA lacked critical personnel once it arrived in Baghdad. ''There were scarcely any Arabists in ORHA in the beginning'' at a senior level, Carney says. ''Some of us had served in the Arab world, but we were not experts, or fluent Arabic speakers.'' According to Carney, Defense officials ''said that Arabists weren't welcome because they didn't think Iraq could be democratic.''

Because of the battle between Defense and State, ORHA, which Douglas Feith called the ''U.S. government nerve center'' for postwar planning, lacked not only information and personnel but also time. ORHA had only two months to figure out what to plan for, plan for it and find the people to implement it. A senior Defense official later admitted that in late January ''we only had three or four people''; in mid-February, the office conducted a two-day ''rehearsal'' of the postwar period at the National Defense University in Washington. Judith Yaphe says that ''even the Messiah couldn't have organized a program in that short a time.''

Although ORHA simply didn't have the time, resources or expertise in early 2003 to formulate a coherent postwar plan, Feith and others in the Defense Department were telling a different story to Congress. In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Feb. 11, shortly before the beginning of the war, Feith reassured the assembled senators that ORHA was ''staffed by officials detailed from departments and agencies throughout the government.'' Given the freeze-out of the State Department officials from the Future of Iraq Project, this description hardly encompassed the reality of what was actually taking place bureaucratically.

Much of the postwar planning that did get done before the invasion focused on humanitarian efforts -- Garner's area of expertise. Through the U.S. Agency for International Development, Washington was planning for a possible humanitarian emergency akin to the one that occurred after the first gulf war, when hundreds of thousands of Kurds fled their homes in northern Iraq and needed both emergency relief and protection from Saddam Hussein. This operation, led by Garner, had succeeded brilliantly. American planners in 2003 imagined (and planned for) a similar emergency taking place. There were plans drawn up for housing and feeding Iraqi refugees. But there was little thought given to other contingencies -- like widespread looting.
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4. The Troops: Too Few, Too Constricted
On Feb. 25, the Army's chief of staff, Gen. Eric Shinseki, warned Congress that postwar Iraq would require a commitment of ''several hundred thousand'' U.S. troops. Shinseki's estimate was dismissed out of hand by Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz and other civilian officials at the Pentagon, where war plans called for a smaller, more agile force than had been used in the first gulf war. Wolfowitz, for example, told Congress on Feb. 27 that Shinseki's number was ''wildly off the mark,'' adding, ''It's hard to conceive that it would take more forces to provide stability in post-Saddam Iraq than it would take to conduct the war itself and secure the surrender of Saddam's security force and his army.'' Shinseki retired soon afterward.

But Shinseki wasn't the only official who thought there were going to be insufficient troops on the ground to police Iraq in the aftermath of the war. The lack of adequate personnel in the military's plan, especially the military police needed for postconflict work, was pointed out by both senior members of the uniformed military and by seasoned peacekeeping officials in the United Nations secretariat.

Former Ambassador Carney, recalling his first days in Iraq with ORHA, puts it this way, with surprising bitterness: The U.S. military ''simply did not understand or give enough priority to the transition from their military mission to our political military mission.''

The Department of Defense did not lack for military and civilian officials -- men and women who supported the war -- counseling in private that policing a country militarily would not be easy. As Robert Perito recalls: ''The military was warned there would be looting. There has been major looting in every important postconflict situation of the past decade. The looting in Panama City in the aftermath of the U.S. invasion did more damage to the Panamanian economy than the war itself. And there was vast looting and disorder in Kosovo. We know this.''

Securing Iraq militarily after victory on the battlefield was, in the Pentagon's parlance, Phase IV of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Phases I through III were the various stages of the invasion itself; Phase IV involved so-called stability and support operations -- in other words, the postwar. The military itself, six months into the occupation, is willing to acknowledge -- at least to itself -- that it did not plan sufficiently for Phase IV. In its secret report ''Operation Iraqi Freedom: Strategic Lessons Learned,'' a draft of which was obtained by The Washington Times in August, the Department of Defense concedes that ''late formation of Department of Defense [Phase IV] organizations limited time available for the development of detailed plans and pre-deployment coordination.''
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5. Neglecting ORHA
* * *
6. Ignoring the Shiites
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The Next Steps
In Iraq today, there is a steadily increasing disconnect between what the architects of the occupation think they are accomplishing and how Iraqis on the street evaluate postwar progress. And as the security situation fails to improve, these perceptions continue to darken.

The Bush administration fiercely denies that this ''alarmist'' view accurately reflects Iraqi reality. It insists that the positive account it has been putting forward is the real truth and that the largely downbeat account in much of the press is both inaccurate and unduly despairing. The corner has been turned, administration officials repeat.

Whether the United States is eventually successful in Iraq (and saying the mission ''has to succeed,'' as so many people do in Washington, is not a policy but an expression of faith), even supporters of the current approach of the Coalition Provisional Authority concede that the United States is playing catch-up in Iraq. This is largely, though obviously not entirely, because of the lack of postwar planning during the run-up to the war and the mistakes of the first 60 days after the fall of Saddam Hussein. And the more time passes, the clearer it becomes that what happened in the immediate aftermath of what the administration calls Operation Iraqi Freedom was a self-inflicted wound, a morass of our own making.
Analysis: This NYT article does a great job of putting together the pieces which have already been reported by other newspapers, including the New York Times itself and the Los Angeles Times. It's the kind of piece that future generations of students and scholars will use to understand the difficulties America faced in post-war Iraq. Unfortunately, this piece fails to ask and answer the crucial question: WHY was American planning for Phase IV so defective? The question of why is as important as the question of how, which this article answers ably. We know now that our planning for Phase IV was defective, and we can figure out the ways in which that planning effort failed. What we do not know is why senior leaders in the White House and Pentagon failed to heed the advice of their staffs, and why they charged forward with a plan that was seemingly doomed to failure.

On campaign contributions and government contracts

Dan Drezner has a good discussion of the recent brouhaha over large political contributions made by the top U.S. firms doing business in Iraq. The story broke after the Center for Public Integrity released a report essentially saying that the U.S. awarded contracts to firms that were -- coincidentally -- top donors to political campaigns. I think Prof. Drezner does a good job of putting the study and its conclusions into proper perspective. Likewise, I don't think this study is the damning indictment of war profiteering that some have made it out to be. Every large firm donates money to campaigns, and it doesn't surprise me that large government contractors are giving money to men and women running for top government positions. Moreover, I'd bet that even the losers in the Iraq contracting process gave money to campaigns. In the absence of any specific evidence of cronyism or corruption, I'm inclined to think this is much ado about nothing.