Saturday, March 27, 2004

Marines find violence in Fallujah

Engagements test the 'kindler, gentler' Marine strategy planned for Iraq

Before leaving for their second rotation in Iraq, the leaders of the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force from Camp Pendleton said they were going to do things differently from the Army. They would use more kindness and diplomacy; less armor and firepower. The edict issued from the top brass was "First, Do No Harm." Now, the Marines have deployed to Iraq, and taken responsibility for one of the baddest towns in the country: Fallujah. There, they have encountered stiff resistance from Iraqi insurgents who seem hellbent on perpetuating chaos and undermining U.S. efforts to create a civil government in Iraq. The Los Angeles Times reports that the violence in Fallujah is becoming the crucible for the Marines' tactics in Iraq:
FALLOUJA, Iraq — U.S. Marines on Friday engaged in their first major military confrontation since returning to Iraq, as a daylong series of firefights left one Marine and 18 to 20 insurgents and others dead, according to military and hospital officials.

At least five of the dead were civilians, including an 11-year-old boy and an ABC television network cameraman.

Twenty-five Iraqis and three Marines were injured, the officials said, in the gunfire that took place during an intensive operation by the 1st Marine Expeditionary Force, based at Camp Pendleton. The operation, which included armed searches and roadblocks, began several days ago, residents said, but burst into public view Friday.

* * *
[The Marines] said no tanks or heavy artillery were used.

The Marines said they believed at least one group of 12 to 36 men was fighting them, in contrast to smaller groups usually seen since the end of major combat.

* * *
The violent confrontation seemed certain to test the credibility among Iraqis of the Marines' motto for their second tour of duty in Iraq, which officially began last week: "First Do No Harm."

It appeared instead that the Marines, like the U.S. Army units that served here before them, were being drawn into a cycle of violence. Insurgents attack the U.S. military; the military responds with overwhelming firepower; and revenge-seeking relatives of wounded or slain civilians become more sympathetic to the insurgents.

Fallouja residents said the American show of force would backfire.

"Two days ago it was like a battlefield here," said an Iraqi traffic policeman who declined to give his name as he directed cars around the many roadblocks. "But today I hear our Iraqi guys have taken their revenge."

Some bystanders said the Marines did not yet understand the culture of Fallouja and nearby river towns. The area is deeply tribal, its close knit population as much rural as urban, making it an easy place for insurgents, many from the local community, to find safe haven.

There is also a growing current of radical Sunni Islam and an almost reflexive hatred of Westerners. City walls are covered with graffiti that say it is "halal," or lawful, to kill Americans.

The western end of the so-called Sunni Triangle area, which includes Fallouja, Ramadi and Khaldiya, has proved difficult for the Americans to control for more than short periods. Local police, who are often viewed as collaborators of the U.S.-led occupation, also have had trouble maintaining order.
Analysis: The Marines have a long an illustrious history of dealing with small wars, as chronicled in the recent book Savage Wars of Peace by Max Boot. (For more, see this note, this note and this note.) The Marines' infantry-centric organizations can also be quite good at dealing with these kinds of situations, provided they have the training in low-intensity combat and peacekeeping ops (and the 1 MEF Marines got that during their pre-deployment ramp-up.) However, the essential challenge still remains: when to use firepower, and how much to use. The calibration of firepower is the hardest challenge in any counter-insurgency operation. In response to the Marines' statements about their "kindler, gentler" approach for Iraq, LTC Gian Gentile wrote in the Washington Post that it would be much tougher than they thought to get this right. Similarly, Army MAJ John Nagl (now serving in Iraq) has written some brilliant stuff on counter-insurgency warfare which focuses on this problem, and its difficulty. None of this means that the Marines won't be able to do it. Only that this is really difficult stuff -- "graduate level stuff" as one general I know used to put it.

It will take time, and mistakes, for the Marines to adjust to the Iraqi operational environment and to learn how to properly calibrate their use of force for that situation. We should expect more Fallujah-type battles in the near future, and we should not be surprised if the Marines err on the side of force because that is the natural tendency of combat units when they are attacked. However, as this mission matures and the Marines gain situational awareness about their battlespace, I would expect to see a gradual lowering of tensions in this area, accompanied by a reduction in violence. In other words, the violence this week in Fallujah is not a setback -- it's cyclical in nature, and to be expected.

Update I: Matt Rustler passes on a letter from the CG of the 1st Marine Division, Maj. Gen. James Mattis, over at his blog Stop the Bleating. It's always interesting to read the writings of the commanders in Iraq, to try and get inside their head.
Letter to All Hands,

We are going back in to the brawl. We will be relieving the Magnificent Soldiers fighting under the 82nd Airborne Division, whose hard-won successes in the Sunni Triangle have opened opportunities for us to exploit. For the last year, the 82nd Airborne has been operating against the heart of the enemy's resistance. It's appropriate that we relieve them: When it's time to move a piano, Marines don't pick up the piano bench—we move the piano. So this is the right place for Marines in this fight, where we can carry on the legacy of "Chesty" Puller in the Banana Wars in the same sort of complex environment that he knew in his early years. Shoulder to shoulder with our comrades in the Army, Coalition Forces and maturing Iraqi Security Forces, we are going to destroy the enemy with precise firepower while diminishing the conditions that create adversarial relationships between us and the Iraqi people.

Read the rest...

Friday, March 26, 2004

Looking for a few good corporate citizens

One of my regular readers wrote me to ask if I would publicize those good corporate citizens who do well by their reservists, in reference to my note about one bad corporate citizen who was apparently mistreating a returned reservist in blatant violation of federal law. My answer: absolutely! If you have a good news story to share about a company treating its reservist-employees right, please let me know. And when you do, please send a copy of your e-mail to Donald Sensing, Citizen (formerly LT) Smash, and Glenn Reynolds.

The Pentagon's National Committee for Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) has constructed a list of good corporate citizens on this issue. Amazingly, it includes Securitas, the company alleged to be mistreating CPL Dana Beaudine, although it doesn't say whether they offer additional benefits like continued civilian pay after mobilization or health benefits. The other observation I have about this list is that it appears to disproportionately include public employers (states, cities, etc.)

Nonetheless, if you have a good news story, please let me know.

Update I: A friend wrote me to let me know that the Dow Jones Corporation, parent company of the Wall Street Journal, has a fairly robust military leave policy on the books.
We want to let all our employees know that Dow Jones will support those who are called into military service, or who voluntarily enlist in uniformed military service. The Company will ensure that you are not disadvantaged upon your return to work and you will suffer no discrimination or retaliation because of your service. Our current corporate policies regarding Military Leaves of Absence are summarized here for your reference.

[Signature omitted]

The Company will grant a Leave of Absence when an employee enlists or is called to active duty by any branch of the U.S. military. As explained in more detail below, when you return to work following a period of military service, you will be returned to your former job, or you will be placed in a job comparable to the one you held before your Leave, at the salary level that you would have achieved had you not taken the Leave of Absence. You will not lose eligibility for any employee benefits as a result of Military Leave.
At first glance, this goes beyond the legal requirements of the SSCRA and USERRA. The part about voluntary enlistments is especially notable -- it supports those reservists who might volunteer for mobilization because of patriotism or other motivations; it also supports employees who might choose to enlist for the first time. My friend at the WSJ didn't tell me about any examples of Dow Jones doing a good job, but I imagine there have to be some. It doesn't surprise me to see a media corporation doing the right thing here; they're probably more sensitive than other corporations to public relations issues.

Any other good corporate citizens out there? Let me know.
Rumsfeld on Primetime Live
: For those of you who missed it last night, ABC's PrimeTime Live did a very interesting special on Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and his "Rumfeld's Rules". The piece was somewhat flattering, although it included some pointed criticism from former DoD officials and senior military officers like former Army Sec. Tom White and retired LTG Greg Newbold. The Pentagon's press office has a full transcript of the show available online. Here's an excerpt from one of the more interesting segments of the show:
MR. MCWETHY: Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney are close friends of 30 years, but it did not start that way. When they first met, Rumsfeld was a young congressman; Cheney a graduate student who wanted an internship.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: He looked on me, and I think properly, as an airy-headed academic and I looked on him as a very arrogant, young, abrasive member of Congress and the interview literally lasted about 20 minutes and I left.

MR. MCWETHY: That time Cheney did not get the job. A few months later when Rumsfeld left Congress to work in the Nixon White House, he finally hired the eager young Cheney.

VICE PRES. CHENEY: I walked into his office. He sat at his desk and never looked up. He never said, do you want a job, or I'd like to have you come to work for me; just you're congressional relations. Now get the hell out of here.

MR. MCWETHY: What was he like as a boss?

VICE PRES. CHENEY: He was probably the toughest boss I ever had, but he probably taught me more than anybody I ever worked for. He was very demanding. He didn't have a lot of time to say thank you or good job. The reward for doing a job well was you got more work.

MR. MCWETHY: Rumsfeld's style has not changed in 30 years.

LT. GEN. GREG NEWBOLD: Very challenging boss.

MR. MCWETHY: For two years under Rumsfeld, Marine Corps Lieutenant General Greg Newbold, now retired, directed operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

He is also described as abusive and brash. Is he?

GEN. NEWBOLD: Oh, absolutely. I think that's an accurate description. I'm not sure he would use it, but absolutely.

SEC. RUMSFELD: I tend to be impatient, so there's no question but that from time to time I help people understand the difference between good work and poor work.

GEN. NEWBOLD: If the environment's intimidating and suppressive, if it demeans, people tend to clam up.

MR. MCWETHY: According to Newbold and others, the secretary bullied many in uniform, even four star generals and admirals, as he led the Bush administration's charge toward war. Iraq, he said, was armed with weapons of mass destruction and Iraq was a haven for the very same terrorist group that attacked the U.S. on September 11th.

SEC. RUMSFELD: (From tape.) If you're asking are there al Qaeda in Iraq, the answer is yes there are. It's a fact.

THOMAS WHITE (FORMER SECRETARY OF THE ARMY): It clearly was a war of choice. We had not been able to establish that there was an imminent threat.

MS. MATTHEWS: The threat was certainly distorted and exaggerated in dozens and dozens and dozens of statements from the president on down.

MR. MCWETHY: Critics say that you and your advisors exaggerated the importance of the intelligence prior to going into Iraq. Yes? No?

SEC. RUMSFELD: False. When I spoke, I quoted generally public unclassified Central Intelligence Agency analysis and you'll find my remarks are not terribly - (audio break) - came out of people in the past administration who said essentially the same things.

MR. CLARKE: The question is, was there an imminent threat to the United States? And the intelligence did not support that.

GEN. NEWBOLD: I think Saddam Hussein was a paper tiger.

A sad end to a warrior's story

A while back, I relayed the story of Dwayne Turner, an Army medic who was awarded the Silver Star for gallantry in combat during Operation Iraqi Freedom. His actions clearly demonstrated courage under fire. This guy was no hero in the sense that everyone who goes and does his job is a hero -- he really went above and beyond to take care of his buddies in the best tradition of a combat medic.
"I didn't figure myself a hero. I just wanted to make sure everybody came home," Turner said after the medal and 101st Airborne coin were presented to him. "Nobody was going to die on my watch."

Before the firefight in a suburb about 30 miles south of Baghdad, the Iraqis near the U.S. convoy were being friendly as usual, Turner said. But the scene quickly turned violent, and the soldiers were attacked with grenade and small-arms fire.

Responding on instinct, Turner went into action and repeatedly exposed himself to enemy fire as he treated wounded soldiers. He was struck by AK-47 bullets in the arm and leg and was hit by shrapnel.

"When we got hit, guys were going down, and I was the medical guy on the scene. It was a split-second decision," he said.

During the 25-minute attack, Turner tended to the wounded until he finally had to be stopped. He was about to pass out from blood loss, said platoon leader Sgt. Neil Mulvany, who treated Turner's injuries.

"He risked his life to save 16 other soldiers," Mulvany said. "That's a hero in my book."
Unfortunately, there's more to the story. In the award ceremony, a friend of mine noticed that Turner had no rank on his collar -- which would mean he was an E-1, an unusual rank for someone with his time in service. Now, the AP reports why he was wearing E-1 rank: he was busted for going AWOL and smoking pot, and on his way out with a general discharge:
The smile he beamed at the medal ceremony masked months of problems he says he had since returning home with battle wounds: a suicide attempt along with flashbacks and nightmares so bad he resorted to binge drinking to fall asleep.

"I kind of felt like I was blowing in the wind pretty much," said Turner, 23, of Indianapolis, who was an Army medic.

After going AWOL for two days and smoking marijuana while drunk, he said he got a general discharge from the Army rather than an honorable discharge.

That means he is not eligible for at least $40,000 in college funding he expected to receive. The Army also demoted him from specialist to private before his discharge.
Analysis: This is a really hard case in my opinion, and I'm sure it was hard for his commanders to handle too. On the one hand, you have a bona fide hero -- a man whose actions under fire earned him the nation's third-highest award for valor, and who many of his buddies think saved their lives in combat. Those are big things in the warrior community. On the other hand, going AWOL is a serious offense in the military; so is smoking pot. Both threaten to undermine unit cohesion and effectiveness; the drug use may put his buddies at risk. Pvt. Turner's commanders took a middle road here -- they didn't court martial him, as they could have. Instead, they probably gave him non-judicial punishment, a rank reduction, and a discharge for his conduct. I probably agree with that course of action, although I disagree with the character of his discharge. These incidents were serious, but I think his actions in combat merit a more honorable characterization of service. The rules for administrative actions exist largely for a peacetime Army, and I don't think they give guys like this enough credit for what few of us have the courage to do. If it were up to me, I would've tried to get this guy an honorable discharge so that he could keep his veterans' benefits. A discharge is supposed to reflect the totality of a soldier's service -- not the one incident that results in the discharge. In this case, I would've tipped the scales towards an honorable discharge.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

The mother of all contractual disputes
: This front-page story in Friday's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) chronicles the massive insurance dispute which has arisen out of the ashes of 9/11, where billions of dollars are stake over the meaning of the word "occurrence". The whole issue may be decided on the basis of what contractual form was in effect at the time. The stakes are huge -- one interpretation will generate a $7 billion payout; the other a $3.55 billion insurance payout -- a loss for WTC leaseholder Larry Silverstein may kill several of the current WTC reconstruction ideas. Keep your eye on this case... it will have a huge impact when it's ultimately decided or settled.
"The problem is, when everything is a priority, nothing is."

Mark Kleiman quotes some comments from Amy Zegart, one of his faculty colleagues at the UCLA School of Public Policy, regarding the prioritization of intelligence about terrorism in the Bush Administration. Prof. Zegart knows quite a bit on this subject, having written the excellent book Flawed by Design on the national security process, and having had Condi Rice for a thesis adviser, among other things. She has this astute observation about the national security process, and what happens when you fail to establish clear priorities for the intelligence community:
... The Commission asked the wrong question. Was terrorism a priority? Of course it was. The real question is how many other priorities both administrations were confronting. I'll tell you: too many. Clinton wrote a Presidential Decision Directive in 1995 that sought to establish clear priorities for the intelligence community. There were so many in the top tier, they actually divided them into Tier 1A and Tier 1B. But it gets better (or worse). There was also a Tier 0, apparently for the very very very top priorities. Note to self: when you can't list priorities with regular numbers, you haven't really made priorities.

As time passed, priorities were added to the list but old ones were never removed. By 9/11, the National Security Agency had roughly 1,500 formal requirements, and developed 200,000 "Essential Elements of Information." I'm not making this up. See the Congressional Intelligence Committees' Joint Inquiry Report, December 2002, p.49. Intelligence officials told Congressional investigators that the prioritization process was "so broad as to be meaningless."

This is not new. For the past 50 years, there have been more than 40 major studies about the intelligence community. A common theme among them has been the spotty and fleeting attention policy makers have given to setting intelligence priorities. One former senior intelligence official told me that during the Cold War, he was asked about the state of the Soviet economy exactly once, when the Secretary of Defense wanted to convert rubles to dollars for a budget presentation to Congress.
Analysis: Absolutely, positively, right on the money. I haven't had much experience at the upper echelons of the national security community, so I'll take Prof. Zegart's word for the applicability of this logic to the National Security Council. However, this is a fundamental principle of intelligence operations at the tactical level as well -- if you prioritize too many things, then you prioritize nothing. And if you don't establish priorities for intelligence collection and analysis, your scouts and analysts will work very hard on a lot of disparate things that may or may not add up to a complete and accurate picture of the battlefield. Our observer/controllers used to tell us on the 4ID plans staff that we should have no more than 10 priority intelligence requirements for the division -- those things the general absolutely had to know in order to defeat the enemy. In theory, the same principles of simplicity should apply at the national strategic level too, although with much greater consequences and implications.
The cost of Operation Iraqi Freedom for the Brits

The London Daily Telegraph (registration required) reports today on testimony by the Chief of Defence Staff that Britain's Army will not be ready to mount another major combat operation for five years because of what it has expended in spirit, blood and treasure to fight with America in Iraq. Like the U.S. Army, the British Army has been stretched to its limits by its worldwide deployments -- many in support of the global war on terrorism.
Gen Sir Michael Walker told the Commons defence committee that the Army in particular would not be able to recover from operations in Iraq until 2008 or 2009.

"I think we have already accepted that we cannot do another large-scale operation now," he said. "We are unlikely to be able to get to large-scale much before the end of the decade, somewhere around 08 or 09." The claim goes much further than Adml Sir Michael Boyce, his predecessor, who said at the end of the war that the Armed Forces would not be ready for another such operation until the end of this year.

The Army has been stretched to breaking point by its involvement in the war on terrorism and a series of operational commitments in the Falklands, Cyprus, Sierra Leone, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Northern Ireland.

Sir Michael said the Army was still reconstituting units from the Iraq conflict and at the same time undergoing reorganisation.

He told the MPs that if he was asked to send the same number of troops to another troublespot urgently he would have to tell Geoff Hoon, the Defence Secretary, that "something will have to give".
I think we can take this estimate at face value -- the British senior military leadership has a reputation for candor, especially when testifying to Parliament, and this report tracks what I've read in other sources. But it gets worse, according to the Daily Telegraph:
The problems have already affected the deployment of extra troops to Afghanistan to back up the American-led hunt for Osama bin Laden. Defence chiefs have been considering sending 1,400 commandos and paratroopers to support the SAS and US special forces' operation in Afghanistan.

Operation Mountain Storm is led by Task Force 121, which is made up of US and British special forces units and has been ordered to capture bin Laden before the US presidential elections. But Gen John Reith, Chief of Joint Operations, has warned Sir Michael that the British troops could not be committed to the hunt for bin Laden for more than six months.

One of the two units being considered for Afghanistan, the Royal Marines' 40 Commando, was due to be sent to Basra, so if it goes to Afghanistan another infantry unit will have to be sent in its place.
Analysis: So, America's closet ally has also paid a high cost for Operation Iraqi Freedom in addition to the cost in blood. One of my smart colleagues thinks this is an example of incurring security related costs in pursuit of the war in Iraq, and I agree. As he says: "Sure, Britain is safer in the sense that [Saddam Hussein] did pose some measure of threat. The question is about cost - unit of security gained per unit of effort expended. If they really can't fight again for 5 years, that is significant strategic risk. Since we are their allies, presumably their risk is our risk."

Right. The cost of the war in Iraq shouldn't just be measured in terms of dollars or lives spent -- it should also be seen as an expenditure of American military power that precludes the expenditure of American (and allied) military power for other purposes. It's like you've got a six-shooter and several targets -- if you're smart, you pick the most threatening targets and shoot them first, and as accurately as possible, to conserve ammo for future targets and hopefully to survive. America and her allies have a finite military capacity, just like the bullets in a revolver, and if we shoot up our bullets at one target (Iraq), we will have less to shoot at others (e.g. Al Qaeda in Afghanistan, Indonesia, the Philippines, the tri-border region of South America, etc.) Ultimately, this means that the U.S. may be less secure in the future for expending its military capacity on Iraq today.

Query: We know what the British are saying about their future capacity to conduct major combat operations -- what are the American projections on this issue? Assuming we can eventually leave Iraq, how much time will the U.S. military need to consolidate, reorganize and reconstitute before it's ready to fight again? My hunch is that it will take less time, because of the rotational readiness systems being adopted in the Army and the pressure to get redeployed units ready for the next OEF/OIF rotation. But the question remains -- what will the long-term readiness cost be of Operation Iraqi Freedom?

More to follow...
Major U.S. military realignment planned

Bradley Graham has a really good report in the Washington Post today about the planned realignment of American military units and bases overseas. In total, he reports that roughly half of America's 71,000 troops in Germany may come home to the states -- and that our Cold War-era bases in Germany may be shifted within Europe to Romania and other nations more receptive to the U.S. and more strategically situated. As you can imagine, this plan has massive political, strategic and operational implications for the U.S., its allies and its enemies.
Under the plan, which is nearing approval, smaller, relatively spartan bases would be established in Romania and possibly Bulgaria, and designed for the rapid projection of U.S. military power against terrorists, hostile states and other potential adversaries.

Farther east, in Central Asia, bases in Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan that were established in 2001 to support the war in Afghanistan would be preserved as training sites and as staging areas that U.S. forces could use in emergencies.

In Asia, about 15,000 troops out of a total presence of about 100,000 would be withdrawn, mostly by streamlining administrative staffs of the U.S. military commands in South Korea and Japan, the officials said. But much of that reduction could be offset by a buildup of personnel and aircraft in Guam and the possible stationing of another aircraft carrier battle group in either Guam or Hawaii, the officials said. The Pentagon plan also calls for new training and staging areas in Australia and expansion of military ties with Singapore and Thailand.

U.S. officials have said before that they intended to eliminate a number of large, full-service Cold War bases abroad and construct a network of more skeletal outposts closer to potential trouble spots in the Middle East and along the Pacific Rim. But neither the proposed size of the reductions in Europe and Asia nor details about locations of the new sites were previously disclosed.

The realignment would amount to a dramatic change in how U.S. forces are positioned around the globe. Some of the troops now overseas would be brought home, while vital equipment would be dispersed more widely to enable more nimble dispatch of forces. Another major objective, officials added, is to deepen military ties and joint training with a greater number of allies in Eastern Europe, Central Asia, Africa and Southeast Asia.
Analysis: There are lots of things at work here, and it's hard to tell which one is really driving this change. The first and most obvious driver is cost. It's very expensive to station U.S. forces overseas, particularly in an advanced Western country like Germany where the cost of living is relatively high and the costs of doing business are also high. It costs a lot (either hundreds of millions or billions) more to keep American forces there than it would cost to keep similar units in the U.S. It used to be that you could justify this cost because these forces were "forward deployed" -- you knew where they would fight, and accepted these costs because they got these units close to the battlefield. But after the end of the Cold War, our military has started to transition away from being a forward deployed force to an expeditionary force -- and we never know where we're going to deploy next. Thus, it may make much more sense from a cost standpoint to find the most efficient place to garrison our troops (inside the United States), and then to purchase additional strategic lift assets like C-17 aircraft to fly them wherever they need to go on a moment's notice.

Efficiency is related to cost, and it's also driving this move. The garrisons in Germany and South Korea require a huge amount of institutional overhead and force structure. Shifting from the Cold War garrison model to the "lilypad" model will eliminate the need for large logistical and infrastructural systems in those locations. Consider South Korea. The 2nd Infantry Division (minus its 3rd Brigade) is stationed there, complete with its division headquarters, aviation, artillery, and other support assets. To support one infantry division of roughly 15,000 soldiers, we have a total force package on the Korean peninsula of 37,000. Granted, much of this exists to support follow-on forces from CONUS that would deploy to Korea for a contingency. But a lot of these forces could be eliminated by changing the nature of the South Korea garrison to either a rotating brigade-sized deployment model, or a pre-positioned equipment model. The same concept applies to Germany, except that there are more combat forces in Germany and proportionally more support units as well.

The second major driver is probably politics. Without getting into the details, Germany and the U.S. do not have the warmest and fuzziest relationship right now. This will pass... but there may come a day when Germany might not allow U.S. troops to even deploy from its soil to a war they don't approve it. (Not likely, but possible) More importantly, there has been a gradual tightening of restrictions on American forces over the past generation in Germany. Whereas they could once maneuver freely around the countryside, they now must stay in small maneuver areas that barely can contain a battalion task force, let alone two brigade-sized units in a force-on-force engagement. Gunnery has been restricted; so have the activities of Army and Air Force aircraft. Overall, Germany has become less hospitable to American forces, and the net result is that American forces in Germany have a tougher time training for combat than their stateside peers. Politically, nations like Romania and Bulgaria going to be much more receptive -- at least initially. They will welcome American bases (and dollars) with open arms. And the greater power differential between the nations will ensure that these other nations do less to impede U.S. military activity than Germany.

Finally, the third driver behind this shift is related to the first -- a need to create a more expeditionary model of basing that supports deployments, not large forward-deployed units. The current model of basing in South Korea (especially) and Germany (less so today) was designed to fight sequels of wars in those two locations. Trying to consolidate units for training or deploy them from those locations is like trying to pound a very square peg into a very round hole. A shift to a "lilypad" model of basing would presumably place a premium on deployability. New bases would be built around seaports and large air transport facilities. Major consideration would (or should) be given to future hotspots, and also to overflight permissions and other tricky details that could frustrate future operations in 10-30 years. The idea is to create a military infrastructure to support an expeditionary military, instead of the current situation where we are trying to use a Cold War military infrastructure to support an expeditionary force.

What are the risks? The first and obvious one is cost. Though this plan will achieve some net efficiencies, it's not entirely clear that it will cost less in the short-term or long-term to pursue this option. The success of the lilypad model hinges on other expenditures, such as the purchase of strategic lift capability and the short-term construction of new bases in CONUS and overseas. Those equipment and capital expenditures will run into the tens of billions of dollars, and it's unclear how long it will take to balance the ledger under what we would've paid for the current Cold War model of basing.

The second major risk is security. A lilypad model may be more vulnerable to terrorist attacks, particularly during critical deployment times, because there are less forces at these bases to secure them and because they're more dispersed. Say what you will about the ponderous Cold War basing model -- it certainly left spare manpower with which to run force protection operations. Additionally, we will be throwing away generations of cooperation with the German polizei and South Korean national police. I know first-hand just how valuable these relationships can be for passing criminal intelligence and preventing future threat operations.

The third risk is political -- this plan may not fly in Congress. There are a myriad of reasons why Congress may torpedo this plan. In theory, the members should embrace it -- more bases = more money in their districts. But there may be significant disruption too, especially if DoD proposes to cut some stateside bases in order to make this plan work. (Schumpeter would probably justify that as "creative destruction", but it's still a tough sell politically.) Also, the purchases of C-17 and C-5 aircraft will be hard to get through Congress unless the Pentagon kills other costly projects to offset the multi-billion cost of buying more strategic lift. While I personally think that's a good trade, it's going to be a very tough fight politically.

Update I: The Pentagon tried to spin this issue as uncertain today, and still subject to a great deal of change. In a press conference, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld backed off the story as reported by The Post, putting things in a much less categorical way. Here's an excerpt from the Q&A;:
Q. My question is, under the proposed realignment of forces that you advocate and the Pentagon is sending up to the White House, there is talk about moving troops out of Europe and moving them to Central Asia and taking down -- going down some forces in the Pacific. But there's nothing in there that we know about, about possibly withdrawing U.S. forces from South Korea. Would you like to withdraw U.S. forces? If so, how many and when?

SEC. RUMSFELD: We started almost three years ago, at the president's request, to look at how our country was arranged around the world in terms of bases and force structure. After the Cold War ended, troops were reduced but generally left where they were. And where they had been and where they are today was basically in a status defense mode, arranged to fight a war where they were. The chances of their fighting a war -- for example, a tank battle in Germany -- today are so modest that it calls for a review of how we're arranged.

We are doing that. We've got wonderful people doing an excellent job. We've talked to our friends and allies around the world and we've established certain principles.

One principle is that we clearly do not want to want to bring all of our forces home. We want to have a presence in various parts of the world because it has a healthy deterrent effect. It has the effect also of enabling us to train and work with our friends and allies around the world so that we can function in a combined and joint manner in the event we're called to take actions.

A second principle has been that we really want our forces where they're wanted. We don't want to be in places where it's not terribly hospitable.

Third, we have to be arranged with understandings with the countries where they are such that we're able to use our forces for whatever the taxpayers of the United States may need them for. We can't have one Defense Department for one country and another for another country and another for the American people. We need to be able to be located in a way that, since we can't know where the next problem will be, we can't -- we're much better at assessing what the capabilities are that we'll have to deal with than where the precise threat might come from; therefore, we have to be arranged flexibly so we can move wherever we may need to go.

The next principle was that we'd have to have those kinds of agreements with countries. So any speculation in the press that you see thus far is speculation, because what we now have is a template where we feel we have options as to what we could do.

One of the things will be to bring forces -- some forces home. There's no question about that. We want to reduce the number of permanent changes of station, the costs that that imposes on our people. We'd like, to the extent that's no longer necessary to have people posted overseas, to reduce stress on families so that, for example, the spouses that work won't be having to change jobs every five minutes, or kids that are in high school don't have to be jerked out as frequently and moved to some other place as often as has been the case in a typical military career.

We're now at the point where we're going to begin talking to those countries directly. And we won't know what we want to know until we have talked to them and gained a better understanding of what they're willing to do and how they're willing to arrange our agreements and understandings with them in a way that fits the needs of our country. To the extent we talk to two or three about where we might be located, we obviously would arrange ourselves where the best arrangement was for the American people and for our friends and allies. We have choices.

And we feel that the process has been very professional. It's excellent. It's going to be tied eventually to -- for example, we could not have a BRAC in the United States, which we need -- that we must have, everyone estimates, maybe as much as 20 percent excess facilities for our force structure -- we could not do that unless we had a look worldwide and brought home those people who ultimately ought to be here.

So we're in that process. It's being undertaken, I think. And I -- let me put it this way. Let's say we go to the next step and we find out where our first choice is in each part of the world, and then whether or not that works, and then we go to our second or third choice and whether that works. Then we'd have to look at the cost. And we'd probably want to phase it over a period of time, where we would take a certain amount of military construction expense over a period of years. My guess is it would take, oh, a number of years to roll this out.

So it's a big thing, it's an important thing, we're going to be much better off arranged -- much better arranged as a country. And I think it'll be a good thing for the armed forces. It'll reduce stress on the armed forces. And I'm just very pleased with the professionalism of the work that's been done.

Q. Can you give us a sneak preview on South Korea?

SEC. RUMSFELD: No, no, no. We want to talk to our friends and allies before we start drip --

(Cross talk.)
And there's more, specifically related to the realignment of forces in Korea and what that might do to the strategic balance there--
Q. Would you tell us, sir, how it will affect the security of South Korea against the military threat from North Korea?

SEC. RUMSFELD: Sure. Let me take it in two pieces. South Korea has a gross domestic product that possibly is 25 or 30 times that of the North. It has a highly capable armed force. It is a partner and an ally and a friend of the United States, and we have worked cooperatively with them under the U.N. umbrella for the better part of 50 years -- and that's a good thing.

We are going to make no changes in the U.S. force posture that would be to the detriment of any of our friends or allies. What we're going to have to do, however, is to begin to think in different terms, in a different context.
Analysis: I happen to agree with the Secretary here; you don't want to do things that tip the strategic scales in the wrong direction simply for the sake of efficiency. Korea is a special place, and there are smart operational planners in the Pentagon who understand the balance of terror there as well as I do. Even though South Korea may have 1/2 million men under arms, it still needs us for symbolic and political protection, if not actual combat power. And we should be careful in pursuing this strategy too quickly, because haste will undermine old alliances and create opportunities for our enemies.
Thanks for your support!
In less than a day, Intel Dump has been able to raise more than $200 thanks to your donations. I really appreciate this, and this money will be put towards the costs of purchasing server space and a website address ( to make this into a more professional site. However, and I feel like NPR in asking this, I still need your continued support. If Intel Dump is worth the cost of the New York Times to you, please donate $1. If you value Intel Dump like a decent magazine or two that you'd buy on a newsrack, please contribute $5 or $10. If this blog is more like a magazine subscription to you, then I hope you'll consider donating $20 or $25.

Once again, thanks for your donations. I've gotten thousands of e-mails over the past year from readers -- most good, some bad -- but I am incredibly heartened by this kind of support.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Book Recommendation
: I'm near the end of Embedded: The Media at War in Iraq, by Bill Katovsky and Timothy Carlson. As the title implies, this is a book about the way the media covered Operation Iraqi Freedom, and to some extent, Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan as well. It contains 40 or 50 short essays by embedded journalists, non-embedded "unilaterals", photographers, DoD officials, and some other miscellaneous observers. The book includes the now-famous essay by NYT reporter John F. Burns where he accuses other major media of bribing the Iraqi government with money and favorable coverage; the book also includes memorable essays from WP reporter William Branigin, CNN reporter Martin Savidge, and Rolling Stone writer Evan Wright. This book is a must-have for any journalist or military historian interested in the stories of Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the way that history's first draft was written in the desert.
Attention L.A. area readers
: If you're interested in national security, foreign affairs and international relations, you may want to attend the upcoming meeting of the Nathan Hale Foreign Policy Society, hosted by Robert Tagorda. The Hale Society is a discussion group founded by the Oxford students who run OxBlog, and it's essentially a forum where intelligent people can come together to discuss important issues in an academic-like setting. Here are the details for the L.A. meeting.
Sunday, March 28, 2004 -- 5:30 p.m.
Acapulco Restaurant
385 N. La Cienega
Los Angeles, CA 90048-4117
Phone: (310) 659-6831
1 block north of Beverly Center
If you plan on attending, please RSVP to Mr. Tagorda. If you're interested in the society but not in L.A., check out the group's website to see when a meeting is coming to your neck of the woods.
Seattle company mistreats National Guardsman after his return from combat

DOL says company is breaking federal law; company says it doesn't care

The Seattle Times carries this report on the employment problems of Dana Beaudine -- an Oregon National Guardsman who fought in Iraq, was wounded by a mortar attack, and diagnosed with some residual disability -- who has run into trouble with his recalcitrant employer who refuses to reemploy him in accordance with federal law. The Department of Labor has gotten involved, saying that Securitas is in violation of federal law in its treatment of CPL Beaudine. Yet, the company refuses to do the right thing -- even though it's a security contractor with lots of government business, and even though it's won an award from DoD for its treatment of reservists.
Beaudine, 34, worked as a guard at the Henry M. Jackson Federal Building in downtown Seattle before he was called up, serving in Iraq as a corporal in an Oregon National Guard infantry unit.

* * *
At the time of his deployment, his employer was Argus Services, a Spokane-based company that held the security contract for all federal buildings in the Pacific Northwest. His record with the company was unblemished, he said.

When he came back, Securitas had taken over the $12 million contract.

Securitas initially returned him to his post at the federal building. His duties consisted mainly of screening people as they entered the building. In fact, he said, neither the nerve damage nor the post-traumatic stress disorder kept him from doing anything in his job description.

But he was back on the job only a few days. The company, after learning secondhand about his injuries, asked him not to return to work until he supplied more information about his health, he said. In particular, Securitas wanted to know more about his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder.

The company asked him for a list of all his medications, a signed release so it could review his medical records and a letter from Army psychiatrists saying he was fit to work.

Beaudine said it took time working through Army channels, but he met the company's requests. In a November document to Securitas, the chief of psychiatry at Madigan Army Medical Center at Fort Lewis and a second Army psychiatrist found Beaudine "mentally competent" to do his job.

Securitas then requested he undergo a "fitness-for-duty exam" with a psychiatrist of its choosing. At that point, Beaudine balked, saying the Labor Department had advised him such a screening was unnecessary.

* * *
In a Jan. 26 letter to the company, the Labor Department stated that after reviewing information from Securitas and Beaudine, it concluded the company was in violation of the Uniformed Service Employment and Reemployment Rights Act, a 1994 law that stiffened job-protection guarantees for returning soldiers. Securitas also got a warning letter from the human-resources director of the Oregon National Guard, who recommended Beaudine be allowed to return to work.

The company, however, resisted. In a Jan. 27 letter, the company's regional human-resources director, Felecia Clarke, informed Beaudine that unless he consented to the company's psychiatric exam, "we have no choice but to determine that you have chosen to quit."
Analysis: Are you disgusted yet? I am. Employment law issues are never pretty -- there are usually unclean hands on both sides. But this looks like a pretty clear case of bad corporate citizenship, and I personally hope that Securitas gets slammed by DOL with an enforcement action that costs them thousands of dollars in legal fees and many more thousands in damages. I find this company beyond contempt for its actions -- how dare it serve as government contractor, taking taxpayer money, profitting from our national security budget, when it can't deign to treat a reservist fairly and lawfully upon his return from combat? I would be plain mad if this were a normal case of a normal reservist who did his duty -- I'm absolutely disgusted because this company is acting like this towards a combat disabled veteran who wants nothing more than to do his job and support himself.

Fortunately, the law on this subject is pretty pro-veteran, and there's a fair amount of caselaw supporting the rights of reservists in these kinds of situations. I know it costs businesses money to hold jobs for reservists and I know that this imposes an economic cost on the public at large. But frankly, I don't care. We have an all volunteer military; society at large benefits from the fact that a few brave Americans volunteer while they don't. For the most part, I think the all-volunteer military is a great system. But I think its viability hinges on the willingness of society to honor and support the sacrifices of a few. If the average American has to pay a few more cents for a certain good or service to offset the cost of these reservists, so be it. I think that sacrifice pales in comparison to what CPL Beaudine gave up.

Corporations -- especially large corporations like Securitas -- can share some of the burden too. I'm not asking for them to do a lot; they don't have to provide matching pay or other benefits (though they should if they can afford it). I'm just asking these corporate citizens to follow the law, and to treat reservists and disabled vets the way that Congress requires them to. It's the right thing to do, and it's the law. Unfortunately, the Seattle Times reports that there have been 3,200 USERRA complaints filed with the Department of Labor since Sept. 11, out of roughly 360,000 reservists mobilized since that time. That's an awfully large number of bad corporate citizens, and I hope they all get what they deserve from the Labor Department and the Justice Department. Personally, I wouldn't want to be the lawyer for one of these companies, having to explain to a jury of 12 Americans why I mistreated this reservist. Especially in a case where punitive damages are available... ouch.

Update I: ABC's World News Tonight also has a story on the saga of CPL Beaudine. While I think all this publicity will probably force Securitas to do the right thing, I am still not satisfied. I think that any corporation that treats a soldier so shamefully deserves this kind of public excoriation, and I will pounce on any other instance of that that I learn of.

Update II -- Memo to Congress: One of my readers now deployed to Iraq had an excellent suggestion -- why not amend federal law (and/or the Federal Acquisition Regulation in the CFR) to provide for suspension or debarment (or both) as penalties for government contractors who violate the USERRA or SSCRA protections for their employees who are mobilized as reservists? I think this is a great idea, and I hope that some Congressional staffer reads Intel Dump and recommends this to his/her boss. I don't think we should reward this kind of bad corporate behavior with government contracts and the money from American taxpayers. Congress already attaches all kinds of conditions to the receipt of taxpayer money, and it seems like proper treatment of reservists should be one of them.
Apparent unlawful command influence found by USMC 3-star

The Washington Times reports today on an order issued in February by a Marine Corps military judge that finds "apparent unlawful command influence" by Marine Lt. Gen. H.P. Osman in the cases of two Marines under his command. Specifically, Lt. Gen. Osman called the accused Marines "pond scum" at an officer call, and "said that an officer must at some point shift loyalty from the individual Marine to protecting the Corps as an institution." The Times reports:
"The court finds that apparent unlawful command influence has occurred because of certain comments made by Lt. Gen. Osman at two officers' calls on 10 December 2003," wrote the judge, Col. Alvin W. Keller, in a Feb. 9 order obtained by The Washington Times.

A military legal source, who asked not to be named, said the fact that a colonel took on a much more senior officer is "really remarkable."

"It is unusual for a three-star to be accused of unlawful command influence," the source said.

* * *
Col. Keller found that Gen. Osman's comments did not result in "unlawful command influence," but did constitute another form called "apparent unlawful command influence." This occurs when "reasonable members of the public believe command influence prejudiced the accused."

"Although it has no direct impact on the fairness of a trial, the appearance of unlawful command influence is as much to be condemned as its actual existence," Col. Keller wrote.
Analysis: Unlawful command influence is a real problem in the military justice system, and the system takes it very seriously. As Mr. Scarborough reports, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces has called such influence the "mortal enemy of military justice". There are a substantial number of safeguards built into the military justice system to prevent UCI, among other things, from affecting the rights of military defendants. (I discuss some of these in my this article on military justice.) The fact that a military judge -- not even an appellate judge -- has caught and sanctioned this UCI is a testament to the efficacy of the system at dealing with this problem. It's probably also a testament to the military defense attorneys in this case -- JAG officers who likely heard about this incident and presented it to the military court as an example of UCI.
Professional whistleblowers

Washington Post columnist (and American Prospect editor) Harold Meyerson picks up on a point made by several of us on Monday regarding Richard Clarke -- that he's the latest in a series of senior White House officials to resign after having his professional opinion ignored by the political powers that dominate the current West Wing.
Step back a minute and look at who has left this administration or blown the whistle on it, and why. Clarke enumerates a half-dozen counterterrorism staffers, three of whom were with him in the Situation Room on Sept. 11, who left because they felt the White House was placing too much emphasis on the enemy who didn't attack us, Iraq, and far too little on the enemy who did.

But that only begins the list. There's Paul O'Neill, whose recent memoir recounts his ongoing and unavailing battle to get the president to take the skyrocketing deficit seriously. There's Christie Todd Whitman, who appears in O'Neill's memoir recalling her own unsuccessful struggles to get the White House to acknowledge the scientific data on environmental problems. There's Eric Shinseki, the former Army chief of staff, who told Congress that it would take hundreds of thousands of American soldiers to adequately secure postwar Iraq. There's Richard Foster, the Medicare accountant, who was forbidden by his superiors from giving Congress an accurate assessment of the cost of the administration's new program. All but Foster are now gone, and Foster's sole insurance policy is that Republican as well as Democratic members of Congress were burnt by his muzzling.

In the Bush administration, you're an empiricist at your own peril. Plainly, this has placed any number of conscientious civil servants -- from Foster, who totaled the costs on Medicare, to Clarke, who charted the al Qaeda leads before Sept. 11 -- at risk. In a White House where ideology trumps information time and again, you run the numbers at your own risk. Nothing so attests to the fundamental radicalism of this administration as the disaffection of professionals such as Foster and Clarke, each of whom had served presidents of both parties.
Analysis: Obviously, Mr. Meyerson has an axe to grind with this White House. He's a Democratic partisan, and he's quite open about that. But he has a point, and it's one that's not confined to the more political issues like national security or fiscal policy. Nicholas Thompson wrote a great piece for the Washington Monthly last year documenting some examples of where the White House has disregarded the best ideas that America's scientific community had to offer -- often for political reasons. I'm not surprised by the presence of politics in the White House -- it is, after all, one of the "political branches" of government. However, I'm disturbed by the extent to which political considerations permeate every aspect of the White House decisionmaking process, and the extent to which these considerations dominate that process.

The conventional wisdom goes that the Clinton White House was full of wonks, and that the Bush White House is full of hacks. Well, it seems obvious to me that the right thing for America is a mix of the two. Friends tell me that the Clinton White House had a good population of hacks in addition to its legions of wonks. Maybe what the Bush White House needs are a few good wonks...
Late condolences
: If you haven't done it yet, please visit the weblog of Bob Zangas, a U.S. Marine Corps reserve lieutenant colonel who was killed while working as a civilian nation builder in Iraq. Several friends have e-mailed me about LTC Zangas, and their comments can be summed up in a few words: "He was a great American."

LTC Zangas was killed in the company of Fern Holland, an American attorney working for the rights of women in Iraq. She too earned the epitaph of "great American", and will be missed by many.
New additions to Intel Dump
: I am planning some major revisions to this site in the near future, including a move from Blogspot to a professional server and several upgrades to Intel Dump's form and content. To help pay for these initiatives, I have added an Amazon.Com PayPage for this site. If you have read this site over the past year and you like what I've had to offer, please help me by making a small contribution. Thanks.
Clarke Testimony
: More interesting stuff from the 9/11 commission hearings today, including the testimony of Richard Clarke. I'm watching via webcast right now on CSPAN3.

Some things to look for in the transcripts of this testimony:

- Interesting discussion of what "actionable intelligence" is, in reponse to questions from former-Sen. Slade Gorton.

- Mr. Clarke says that American "HUMINT capabilities were eviscerated during the 1980s and 1990s", and draws a connection between this capabilities gap and our failure to interdict Al Qaeda while it was growing in the 1990s.

- Good exchange between former IL Gov. James Thompson and Mr. Clarke. It started with Gov. Thompson holding a copy of Against All Enemies and a copy of Mr. Clarke's Aug. 2002 press conference and asking "Which one is true?" The answer, from Mr. Clarke, was that both were true. He said that he was asked to defend the Bush Administration's policies to the press in August 2002 after a critical Time magazine story came out, and that he did so as a loyal member of the White House staff.

- Excellent dialogue between former Deputy AG Jamie Gorelick and Mr. Clarke about pre-9/11 threat assessment and response planning. At one point, Ms. Gorelick asks why Mr. Clarke didn't go further with his recommendations, and why his recommendations weren't followed, especially after the thwarted attacks on L.A. airport at the time of the Millenium. The response -- (1) that policymaking is often the art of the possible, and (2) that it wasn't possible to get these policies adopted before the horror of 9/11 and the reality of 3,000 American deaths. To paraphrase, Mr. Clarke says that it takes body bags to make policy changes. (Post script: as an Army anti-terrorism planner in late 2000 and early 2001, I can verify that it was difficult to get AT/FP measures adopted even after the USS Cole attack showed there was a viable threat to the U.S. armed forces.)

- "I'm not working for Senator Kerry." Mr. Clarke says he is, by voter registration, a Republican. Professionally, he says that he has worked for both sides of the aisle. He also defends his relationship with Rand Beers, who's now a member of the Kerry staff, saying that they are good friends and that they teach together. Moreover, Mr. Clarke swears on the record, under oath, that he will not accept a position in any future Kerry Administration.

- Notable quote: "By invading Iraq, the President has greatly undermined the war on terrorism."

- In response to a question about what might be needed to effectively counter terrorism, Mr. Clarke suggests a separate domestic intelligence agency, albeit with very strict oversight to prevent civil liberties abuses. As a preliminary step, he recommends placing that agency in the FBI, but thinks the FBI is ill-suited for this kind of work because of its organizational structure and culture.

- Mr. Clarke testified that he was very supportive of retaliatory and preemptive strikes against Al Qaeda during the Clinton and Bush Administrations -- "not waiting for the terrorist attack ... but taking the offensive against terrorist organizations that looked like they threatened the United States". So my guess is that Mr. Clarke was initially happy with the President's National Security Strategy which incorporates pre-emptive (preventive?) military action, but that he later became disillusioned with the White House strategy when the target became Iraq.

Update I: Slate's Fred Kaplan thinks that Richard Clarke scored a knockout today before the 9/11 commission, citing many of the same exchanges and quotes that I have above. I'm a little less sure that he won so handily, but then again, I'm a little less experienced than Mr. Kaplan in this area. Read the transcripts -- you be the judge.
Changes in training; changes in soldiers

Esther Schrader reports in today's LA Times on some changes -- evolutionary or revolutionary, depending on your perspective -- that are reshaping America's Army for the fight in Iraq and the next place America sends its military. Some of the changes are hidden from casual view -- they affect doctrine, force structure, and other areas. Ms. Schrader reports on some of the more visible changes, such as those taking place at the National Training Center and the Joint Readiness Training Center during pre-deployment exercises for Iraq-bound units.
"When I was a captain, battle training was very predictable," said Col. Robert Brown, standing outside a mock Iraqi city at Ft. Polk as the infantry brigade he commands — the 1st Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division — waged battle inside with Arabic-speaking role players.

"I used to know exactly what we would do in a training exercise six months in advance. It was like you were in a football game and you knew what plays your opponent was going to run. But now you get out on the field and the other team might play soccer, or it might play lacrosse, or it might cheat.

"Our Army trained for a checklist mentality," Brown added. "Now we can't rely on the checklist."

* * *
Nothing was proposed that would move the Army away from its basic culture, built on the belief that major wars would be fought in a linear way, with large groups of tanks and smaller groups of infantrymen moving across a battlefield against an easily distinguishable foe.

The mind-set had such deep roots — and the sort of peacekeeping and nation building that now preoccupies the Army in Iraq was so out of political favor — that just a year ago the Army War College in Carlisle, Pa., was ready to close its Peacekeeping Institute. Only a major campaign on the eve of the war saved it from the ax.

Today's war-driven demands fit neatly into a broader push by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld to remake, or "transform," the entire military — but especially the Army — for a new era in which enemies might not wear uniforms, represent nations or use tanks. Rumsfeld plucked Schoomaker out of retirement for the task.

"The current emergency presents a period of risk," Schoomaker said. "Yet it also creates a window of opportunity to effect dramatic changes in the Army."
Analysis: Transformation is in the eye of the beholder. Change often does look transformational to those going through it, when from the outside it only looks like adapation or mere evolution. Moreover, transformation may be moot if the enemy transforms in such a way as to negate any advantages gained. That is the the basic theory of asymmetric warfare -- now being practiced against us in Iraq -- to strike where the enemy is weak. Our enemies have watched us evolve into a techno-centric, firepower-centric, command-and-control military. They have evolved in parallel, developing tactics which frustrate our technology and our ability to apply precision firepower. DARPA may be working on projects that can pick underground facilities out of ground clutter and pinpoint insurgents by their body odor (no really). But for now, our soldiers must improvise, adapt and overcome the old fashioned way. This training is useful, insofar as it bridges the gap between current Army doctrine and what the Army faces in Iraq. But more change is necessary.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Part of U.S. spring offensive begins in Afghanistan

The Associated Press doesn't have an embedded reporter with the American forces operating on the mountainous Pakistan-Afghanistan border, because those forces are largely part of the clandestine special operations community. Nonetheless, Noor Khan was able to report this evening that American forces have established a forward operating base in the area from which to launch air assault operations and other missions to find, capture and/or kill the top leaders of Al Qaeda. The FOB is part of the nascent Operation Mountain Storm.
ON THE AFGHAN BORDER - Using bulldozers to slice bunkers and a helicopter landing pad out of a mountainside, U.S. special operations forces dug in Tuesday on a peak overlooking Pakistan — fortifying the area for the intensifying battle against al-Qaida and Taliban forces.

Special operations forces — who include Green Berets, Navy SEALs, and CIA operatives — are playing a secretive but leading role in the battle against al-Qaida and Taliban suspects believed to be hiding out in the mountains of Pakistan's tribal areas.

Remote posts like this one near the Afghan city of Orgun, scratched out of a mountainside to house a small contingent of U.S. forces and a larger Afghan militia unit, serve as forward launch pads for the fight.

* * *
The camp is home to 60 Americans, working with 200 Afghan militia, the Afghan militiamen say. The Westerners wear T-shirts and sunglasses, and most sport beards and mustaches, with pistols strapped to their legs. Rank and file U.S. soldiers must remain in uniform and are banned from growing beards, but special operations forces are not subject to the same regulations.
But wait -- there's more. The AP has some very interesting news to report about the extent of U.S. activity in Pakistan -- both official help for President Musharraf's forces, and less visible activity.
On the Pakistan side, President Gen. Pervez Musharraf has said about a dozen U.S. "technical experts" are in his country. Some are located across the border from the special operations post in Miran Shah, Pakistani intelligence officials told AP.

Last week, a Pakistani army spokesman, Gen. Shaukat Sultan, said a dozen or so U.S. intelligence agents were in the country "assisting Pakistan in technical intelligence and surveillance." The CIA declined to comment.

* * *
No uniformed American forces have been seen in recent days along one of the front lines in the U.S. campaign against terror suspects based in Pakistan's North and South Waziristan, locals say.
Analysis: Senior Pentagon officials have said for some time that they would be launching a major offensive in Afghanistan soon, and that its vanguard would be special operations forces operating in conjunction with Pakistani forces and intelligence assets. This report from the AP fits that plan. So even though we don't have a lot of official confirmation in this story, it seems consistent with other "known known's" (to use a Rumsfeld-ism) about American operations in Afghanistan.

What's next? Presumably, the U.S. will not execute this operation exclusively with special operations forces. The terrain is simply too severe; the battlespace too large. Large formations of elite light infantry formations must be employed to effectively seal this region and secure the exit routes that our prey might use. Currently, there is one such brigade on the ground in Afghanistan -- not a large enough force for the terrain in question. I predict that we'll see the deployment of additional forces from the U.S. and/or NATO to Afghanistan in the near future, and that we will subsequently see the launch of larger, more conventional operations in the mountainous Afghan border region. More to follow...
Another voucher for Clarke
: Slate's Fred Kaplan, who has covered America's defense community for quite some time, writes that Richard Clarke is probably telling the truth about counter-terrorism policy in the Clinton and Bush Administrations. He has a few reasons to think so, including a professional relationship with Clarke as a reporter. And like Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, and myself, Mr. Kaplan thinks the allegations are true because the White House has focused its counter-battery fire on Mr. Clarke's credibility -- not the substance of his assertions.
Clarke's distinction, of course, is that he was the ultimate insider—as highly and deeply inside, on this issue, as anyone could imagine. And so his charges are more credible, potent, and dangerous. So, how has Team Bush gone after Clarke? Badly.

To an unusual degree, the Bush people can't get their story straight. On the one hand, Condi Rice has said that Bush did almost everything that Clarke recommended he do. On the other hand, Vice President Dick Cheney, appearing on Rush Limbaugh's show, acted as if Clarke were a lowly, eccentric clerk: "He wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff." This is laughably absurd. Clarke wasn't just in the loop, he was the loop.

Cheney's elaboration of his dismissal is blatantly misleading. "He was moved out of the counterterrorism business over to the cybersecurity side of things ... attacks on computer systems and, you know, sophisticated information technology," Cheney scoffed. Limbaugh replied, "Well, now, that explains a lot, that answer right there."

It explains nothing. First, he wasn't "moved out"; he transferred, at his own request, out of frustration with being cut out of the action on broad terrorism policy, to a new NSC office dealing with cyberterrorism. Second, he did so after 9/11. (He left government altogether in February 2003.
As Lewis Carroll once wrote, things are getting mysteriouser and mysteriouser.
Army mandates fewer physical for redeploying and exiting soldiers

Bruce Alpert reported on Friday that the Army had told its senior commanders and medical officials to drastically scale back the number and depth of its soldier physical examinations, ostensibly in an effort to help redeploying soldiers get home faster. Mr. Alpert writes for the Newhouse News Service, and his story was picked up by the New Orleans Times-Picayune, among other sources. Here's a slice of the story:
The Army is scaling back the medical exams it offers soldiers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan, discouraging routine blood tests, electrocardiograms and X-rays, according to a Pentagon memo.

The directive from Army Assistant Surgeon General Richard Ursone is drawing criticism from some veterans organizations and members of Congress, who say the department should make the exams mandatory and more comprehensive to enable earlier diagnosis of the kinds of medical problems reported by some veterans of the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

But in his Jan. 20 memorandum to regional medical commands, Ursone said the "performance of routine screening laboratory, radiologic and electrocardiographic tests in this setting is extremely low yield and is discouraged."

Even if giving those tests is "supported by evidence-based medicine," Ursone said in his memo, they "may be deferred if the soldier is without symptoms and the laboratory tests will delay release from active duty."

The directive applies to soldiers leaving active duty, which in recent months mostly has been troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.
Analysis: Mr. Alpert reports that several members of Congress have asked the Defense Department to clarify just what is going on with this policy directive. Army public affairs officers declined to elaborate on the issue. This is an early report, but notwithstanding that, it's still disturbing to me. Given the problems with Gulf War Syndrome and other deployment-related illnesses in the 1990s, as well as problems with leishmaniasis and other ailments during Operation Iraqi Freedom, I'm surprised the Army would issue this directive. There have been problems with squeezing redeployed soldiers through the gates of Army hospitals to give them a full physical. But I think the Army is inviting long-term problems -- not to mention mistreating soldiers -- by not ensuring that they get a full check upon discharge. This may also be transferring a workload to the VA that the VA is neither resourced nor ready to absorb. The right answer, in my opinion, would be to contract for short-term augmentation of military health care capabilities in order to meet this wartime surge.

Monday, March 22, 2004

Seeing the President's briefs

Thomas Blanton writes in Slate that the White House should release its Presidential Daily Briefs -- with appropriate security measures -- to the commission investigating 9/11 in order to show what the President knew and when he knew it. According to the Wall Street Journal and other sources, the White House has been stonewalling on this particular document's release, because it reflects the ultimate in privileged executive documents.
The PDB is the CIA's top-of-the-line product, a secret intelligence report prepared each morning for the president. Ari Fleischer, the former White House spokesman, has called the PDB "the most highly sensitized classified document in the government." Vice President Dick Cheney has called it "the family jewels." Elizabeth Rindskopf Parker, a former general counsel to the Central Intelligence Agency, has called it "sacrosanct" and "something you never, ever share." Even the commission's chairman, former New Jersey Gov. Thomas Kean, has said, "To make those available to an outside group is something that no other president has done in our history." After much sturm und drang, a compromise was worked out allowing three commission members and the staff director to see the originals of the PDBs from the Bush and Clinton years and then write up a summary for their peers.

This is far too restrictive. Contrary to all the cloak-and-dagger talk, the PDB is less James Bond than Headline News, based on the CIA's best information on world events, spiced up with intercepted communications and spy photos. According to the CIA's own history of its presidential briefings, roughly 40 percent of what the PDB covers is addressed in the newspapers. Walter Pincus of the Washington Post reported in 2002 that President Clinton used to complain that "most days the PDB contained material he had already read elsewhere." Thousands, and perhaps even millions, of code-worded documents and compartments are more highly classified than the PDB.
Analysis: Obviously, I've never seen a PDB or anything close to it in terms of intelligence. But my common sense tells me that it's an important document for understanding White House decisions with respect to Al Qaeda and other threats on America's horizon. To understand what a decisionmaker did, you have to learn what a decisionmaker knew. This is a fundamental precept of after action reviews in the military, and it seems like a pretty fundamental part of the 9/11 commission's mission too.

Ultimately, the PDBs may not establish fault on the part of the White House. If the PDBs didn't contain relevant, actionable intelligence on Al Qaeda, that says a lot about our intelligence community -- the kind of information it was gathering and the kind of intelligence it was producing. Also, the absence of Al Qaeda information from the CIA's daily brief to POTUS may explain a lot of why other agencies (FBI, INS, DoD, etc) had their guard down. On the other hand, if the PDB contained indicators of Al Qaeda activity and the President did nothing (or not enough), that's important to know. The basic idea behind an after-action review is to learn from mistakes in order not to make them again. If the White House erred on Al Qaeda, it is important to find out why, and to ensure that such mistakes never happen again.

To be sure, there are those who will use the PDB, as well as the 9/11 commission findings, for political purposes. Part of that is necessary; our Constitutional system establishes legislative oversight of executive action -- a necessarily political process. Some may use these findings, if leaked, to influence the November 2004 election. Worse yet, some may disclose highly classified parts of these PDBs which disclose intelligence community "sources and methods". Those are all risks inherent in the release of these documents. But that is what they are -- risks -- and those risks can be either mitigated or accepted. The payoff is much greater -- the opportunity to learn lessons from 9/11 that help us prevent another 9/11. The U.S. Supreme Court once said that "no governmental interest is more compelling than the security of the Nation", and I think that's true. There should be no higher priority for this White House than preventing another terrorist attack on the United States. To do that, we must learn the hard lessons about our failure on 9/11. Anyone who stands in the way of this commission, or its efforts to learn those lessons, is doing grave harm to the national security of the United States.
White House engages in public duel with former counter-terrorism aide

Comments reveal deeper issues with White House decisionmaking in the war on terrorism

The AP reports today that the White House has fired back at former-counterterrorism coordinator Richard Clarke, whose new book includes many criticisms of the current White House and its counter-terrorism policies. Despite the headline "White House Rebuts Ex-Bush Adviser Claim", it appears that the White House is not rebutting Clarke's claims, so much as trying to impeach his credibility because of his timing and political animus towards the Bush Administration.
"When you compare Dick Clarke's current rhetoric with his past comments and actions, the bedrock of his assertions comes crumbling down," said chief presidential spokesman Scott McClellan. He called Clarke's new book, criticizing the administration's handling of the post-Sept. 11 terrorism environment, "more about politics and book promotions than it is about policies."

* * *
Kerry's adviser on national security, Rand Beers, is a close associate of Clarke's and held the job as terrorism adviser under President Bush during part of 2002. Clarke quotes Beers in the book as asking his advice when Beers considered quitting because "they're using the war on terror politically."

Bartlett, the White House communications director, noted Clarke's friendship with Beers and the upcoming presidential election.

"We believe the timing is questionable," Bartlett said. "When (Clarke) left office, he had every opportunity" to make any grievances known.
Analysis: I find it interesting that the White House has chosen to engage the Clarke criticisms on the level of his personal credibility -- not the truth of the matters asserted. Surely, there are classification and security issues at stake which may preclude a full and fair response by the White House to the Clarke book on the merits. But given the political stakes of this issue -- which could ultimately decide the November 2004 election -- I would think the White House would find some way to actually rebut Clarke's claims (if they weren't true) using unclassified arguments.

That said, I think there is some merit to what Mr. Clarke is asserting, given my limited knowledge of the subject area. For one thing, I completely agree with his criticism of National Security Advisor Condi Rice.
Clarke, Bush's former counterterrorism coordinator, had said among other things that national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, "looked skeptical" when she was warned early in 2001 about the threat from al-Qaida.

"Her facial expression gave me the impression that she had never heard the term before," Clarke wrote in his new book — "Against All Enemies" — that is scathingly critical of Bush's response to the 2001 terror attacks against New York and Washington.

Clarke said Rice, who previously worked for Bush's father, appeared not to recognize post-Cold War security issues and effectively demoted him within the national security council. He said Rice has an unusually close relationship with Bush, which "should have given her some maneuver room, some margin for shaping the agenda."
Dr. Rice is a Cold War animal, through and through, and she does not have much depth when it comes to the post-Cold War security environment. Part of this makes sense -- you wouldn't get to the stage in your career where you could be an NSA unless you "grew up" in the Cold War and "made your bones" with doctoral and post-doctoral research on the Cold War. However, with the notable exception of contemporary security problems in the former Soviet Union, Dr. Rice has not effectively built an expertise in this area, to the President's detriment. She has also pushed away smart people brought into the White House to work in this area, including Mr. Clarke and retired Gen. Wayne Downing. The Cold War ended during the first Bush Administration, but if you look at the brain trust in the current West Wing, that fact isn't reflected. I think that's a bad thing.

Second, I think there is a great deal of merit to the assertion that the focus on Iraq has diverted all sorts of political, military, economic and diplomatic energy away from the fight on terrorism. Notwithstanding the pedantic assertions of neo-cons like James Taranto and others who constantly say we're not distracted, the pure military calculus of the issue is irrefutable. We have roughly 11,000 military personnel in Afghanistan right now according to GlobalSecurity.Org. In terms of combat personnel, this includes a sizable special operations component and roughly one brigade combat team of light infantry. In Iraq today, we have more than 10 times that number of aggregate personnel, including 16 brigade combat teams of heavy and light forces. American infantry and special operations forces have played a cat-and-mouse game with Al Qaeda in the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan for more than two years, and one has to wonder about how effective this would've been if we had put some of the combat power into Afghanistan that we have put into Iraq.

Moreover, the U.S. has devoted so much combat power to Iraq for the near term that it has substantially constrained its ability to (1) deploy additional forces to existing theaters of operations, e.g. Afghanistan and (2) deploy forces to new hotspots like Haiti or the Philippines, which may or may not be part of the global war on terrorism. So the question is not merely "How has the war on Iraq affected the U.S. war on terrorism?" -- the question is also "How has the war on Iraq constrained future exercises of American power abroad, by limiting the forces available to the President?" I think it's safe to say that we did not foresee these long-term issues in early 2003, largely because the White House planned Operation Iraqi Freedom on the assumption that "we would be greeted as liberators." (See James Fallows' brilliant piece "Blind Into Baghdad," as well as my Washington Monthly piece "Faux Pax Americana", for more on this.) Today, we are not only distracted from the more important war on Al Qaeda, but we are hamstrung in the other things we'd like to achieve in the world.

Economists like to talk about "marginal costs" and "marginal benefits" when discussing the pro's and con's (in economic terms) of a given decision by a rational actor. It is becoming increasingly clear, one year after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, that the marginal cost of our Iraqi operation outweighs the marginal benefit. And more importantly, that the U.S. may have bought more for its buck by putting the billions spent on OIF into other endeavors. Imagine the marginal benefit earned for every dollar spent if we put $87 billion into cooperative threat reduction, or into the Department of Homeland Security, or CBRNE training for local first responders, or any number of other anti-terrorism/counter-terrorism initiatives. I know enough about the appropriations process to know that federal money isn't entirely fungible, but I think this is a valid question because of the enormous debt we have taken on in order to liberate Iraq. It can still be argued that Saddam was a bad guy, and that OIF was a good thing for the people of Iraq and the region. But given America's finite resources, and the need to combat other threats in the world, I'm not sure that it can be argued that Operation Iraqi Freedom was the right choice at the right time for America.

Mr. Clarke's book paints some of these choices in stark relief, and I look forward to reading it.

Update I: Kevin Drum has a good rundown of the White House's response to Mr. Clarke's criticisms. He also has a good note on Mr. Clarke's appearance on 60 minutes.

Update II: Also see Josh Marshall's note on VP Cheney and the Clarke book, and his note on the clear disagreement between Mr. Clarke and Dr. Rice on Al Qaeda. Josh has a lot more on this subject, so keep reading below those two notes.

Update III: The New York Times has a Monday afternoon report on its website detailing the counter-battery fire loosed at Mr. Clarke by the White House, including some pointed barbs from White House spokesman Scott McClellan and Vice President Dick Cheney. Here's a sample of the stuff being fired:
Mr. Cheney appeared on the conservative commentator Rush Limbaugh's radio program and alternately dismissed Mr. Clarke's credentials and questioned his expertise.

"He wasn't in the loop, frankly, on a lot of this stuff," the vice president said.

Seeking to turn Mr. Clarke's government experience against him, Mr. Cheney noted that Mr. Clarke was in the government at the time of the first attack on the World Trade Center, in 1993; when American embassies were attacked in Africa in 1998; and when the warship Cole was attacked in 2000.

"The question that ought to be asked is, what were they doing in those days when he was in charge of counterterrorism efforts?" Mr. Cheney said.

* * *
Mr. McClellan implied that Mr. Clarke might be motivated at least in part by annoyance at effectively being demoted early in the Bush administration, and that he was trying to promote his book, set to go on sale today.

"Well, I mean, why all of a sudden, if he had all these grave concerns, did he not raise these sooner?" Mr. McClellan said. "This is one and a half years after he left the administration. And now all of a sudden he's raising these grave concerns that he claims he had.

"And I think you have to look at some of the facts. One, he is bringing this up in the heat of a presidential campaign. He has written a book, and he certainly wants to go out there and promote that book."

"Let's look at the politics of it," Mr. McClellan added. "His best buddy is Rand Beers, who is the principal foreign policy adviser to Senator Kerry's campaign." Mr. Beers, a former State Department official, is a colleague of Mr. Clarke's at Harvard.
Regarding the Vice President's comments, I think Laura Rozen gets it right. Don't you think it's odd that the White House counter-terrorism czar would be out of the loop when it came to meetings about counter-terrorism policy? And doesn't it say something about the war with Iraq that the counter-terrorism advisor was not part of the decisionmaking process? (Josh Marshall comes to this conclusion too.) To me, it says three things. First, that Ron Suskind's reporting is right -- this White House really is run by its political offices (instead of its policy people). Second, that the opinions of professional policy people are probably less valued in this White House than is the norm. Third, that terrorism per se was not the raison d'etre for Operation Iraqi Freedom -- and that it never was a significant part of the decision to go to war.

White House spokesman Scott McClellan still isn't rebutting any of the assertions made by Mr. Clarke -- he's merely trying to impeach his credibility. The White House has yet to make a defense of its actions on the merits. Even if we take the White House's salvo at face value -- that Mr. Clarke is political, is trying to sell his book, and is buddies with Sen. John Kerry -- we still have nothing from the White House to refute what Mr. Clarke is saying. The only credible White House charge is the one about why Mr. Clarke didn't speak up sooner. But maybe he did... he resigned in March 2003 from the White House, just as Operation Iraqi Freedom was being launched. What message do you think Mr. Clarke intended to send by his resignation?

Update IV: I just picked up a copy of Against All Enemies at the local Barnes & Noble, where they graciously have it marked down 20% (plus 10% more for BN members). While in line, an elderly woman asked me if I had seen Mr. Clarke on 60 Minutes last night, and what I thought of it. (I was wearing an Army sweatshirt with Oakley sunglasses, and my military affiliation probably provoked the question.) I answered that I thought the book was worth reading, given Mr. Clarke's background and the gravity of his allegations. But afterwards, I couldn't get this encounter out of my head -- it really left an impression on me. Say what you will about the abstract nature of these issues and their complexity -- Mr. Clarke's allegations are serious enough to resonate with a little old lady from Santa Monica. If that's true, the American public may want more than soundbites and spin about security in this election cycle. We'll see.

Update V: David Frum, a former Bush Administration speech writer who now pens a 'blog for the National Review, has an interesting take on the Clarke allegations from the perspective of someone who served in the same GWB West Wing.
I have yet to read his book, but I have studied his interview, and I think I understand his argument.

Clarke seems to have become so enwrapped in the technical problems of terrorism that he has lost sight of its inescapably political context. One reason that his line of argument did not get the hearing in the Bush admininstration that he would have wished was that he did tend to present counter-terrorism as a discrete series of investigations and apprehensions: an endless game of terrorist whack-a-mole. The Bush administration thought in bigger and bolder terms than that. They favored grand strategies over file management. Clarke may have thought that he was dramatizing his case by severing the threat from al Qaeda from its context in the political and economic failures of the Arab and Islamic world. Instead, his way of presenting his concerns seems to have had the perverse effect of making the terrorist issue look small and secondary - of deflating rather than underscoring its importance.

And this propensity continues.

The huge dividing line in the debate over terror remains just this: Is the United States engaged in a man-hunt - for bin Laden, for Zawahiri, for the surviving alumni of the al Qaeda training camps? - or is it engaged in a war with the ideas that animated those people and with the new generations of killers who will take up the terrorist mission even if the US were to succeed in extirpating every single terrorist now known to be alive and active? Clarke has aligned himself with one side of that debate - and it's the wrong side.
What's Mr. Frum saying? Is he saying that Mr. Clarke's allegations were right, but that he just wasn't articulate enough to sell his agenda to the President? Is Mr. Frum, who was part of the White House political apparatus, saying that Mr. Clarke's real failures were political -- not factual? Did the Bush Administration really ignore a national security threat because one of its advisors couldn't find a way to sell the problem politically? If true, this statement by Mr. Frum is a damning indictment of the entire White House and National Security Council, and it indicates a near-total breakdown of the national security process. The idea behind the NSC staff, intelligence community, Joint Chiefs, and all the other systems in the national security process is to professionalize the decisions of the President in this area -- not to politicize them. Now comes Mr. Frum, saying essentially that the White House ignored its in-house expert on terrorism because he couldn't package it well enough. That's a really disturbing relevation -- especially because it comes from one of the President's own.
Academic integrity problems at UCLA

The Daily Bruin has a report in today's paper on student integrity that coincides with the start of Winter Quarter finals week. As you might imagine, it talks to anonymous students who claim they have cheated or came close to cheating, as well as professors who are struggling with the problem. Then, three paragraphs from the bottom, the writer discloses this staggering fact:
The Office of the Dean of Students penalizes hundreds of students each year for academic dishonesty.
Hundreds???: UCLA has an undergraduate population of roughly 20,000 students, so while this is not a high percentage, it is more than I expected. Moreover, this represents the small number who are actually caught and disciplined, versus those who are never caught or let go by wishy-washy professors. I'm disappointed that UCLA has such a problem with this, and I'm not sure where to lay the blame. However, I think it's safe to say that students who learn cheating in college will grow up to see cheating as an effective -- albeit risky -- course of action. These students will take their moral code with them into the post-graduate world, and they will be the ones (along with their cheating peers from other schools) who instigate the Enron scandals of tomorrow.

For what it's worth, I have taken a very hard line on this issue in my seminar this quarter. I included an academic integrity statement in my syllabus, essentially putting the students on notice of my zero tolerance policy. And I am using Turnitin.Com to screen all of the final papers for plagiarism and citation issues. So far, my experience has been that my students have no integrity issues. I draw two lessons from this. First, I have good students. Second, even if I have a couple of bad apples, it is possible for a professor to sanction bad behavior and encourage good behavior in the classroom. UCLA ought to recognize this problem, and its faculty ought to do more to fix this. College isn't just about learning what's in the textbooks. A truly liberal education gives students a moral framework as well, and UCLA needs to do better on that front.

Sunday, March 21, 2004

Israeli strikes kills Hamas leader
: The AP reports tonight that an Israeli missile strike has killed Sheik Ahmed Yassin, the founder and spiritual leader of Hamas. It's hard to guess what the effects of this targeted killing will be, but I think it's safe to say that it will lead to an escalation of violence in Israel and Palestine -- if not in the entire Middle East region.
Voices from America's fallen warriors
: Sunday's New York Times has the second installment of final letters home from American servicepersons who have died in Iraq. The feature carries the title "The Things They Wrote," which is undoubtedly an allusion to Tim O'Brien's 1990 novel The Things They Carried. O'Brien, who saw combat as an infantryman in Vietnam, wrote the book as both a criticism of the war and a tribute to those soldiers who fought it. One gets the same impression today from the New York Times -- that it means to praise the brave men and women who serve in the military, while simultaneously showing the cost of war and the folly of America's leaders. I'm somewhat uncomfortable with the use of soldiers' personal letters for this purpose, although I think it's a great tribute to have these soldiers' thoughts forever memorialized on the NYT op-ed page. Read the letters, and come to your own conclusions.