Saturday, June 5, 2004

Farewell, President Reagan
America lost one of its most popular — and most controversial — presidents today with the death of Ronald Reagan at his Bel Air home. The Washington Post has a lengthy obituary from reporter and Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, which sums up the man's legacy well.

I remember President Reagan as the president I grew up with. The images of his tenure in the White House formed my expectations of what a President should look like. My earliest political memories are of the 1980 election, and the release of our hostages in Iran that followed shorly after President Reagan's victory that year. I remember other images as well: President Reagan presiding over the flag-draped caskets of our Marines killed in Beirut; President Reagan standing before Brandenburg Gate telling Mr. Gorbachev to tear the Berlin Wall down; President Reagan relaxing on his Santa Barbara ranch; the President speaking to the nation from the Oval Office. I wasn't old enough then to understand the President's policies, let alone evaluate them critically. But I was old enough to appreciate the image of a president. For better or worse, I now judge political leaders against the iconic style that President Reagan pioneered in office.

Historians have already started to fight over President Reagan's legacy, and they will doubtless have smarter things to say than me. Now that I'm a little older, and I've read a couple of Reagan biographies, I'm a little less in awe of the Reagan presidency than I was during it. I am proud of the way we won the Cold War under his leadership. But I regret the national debt he left my generation with, and I lament some of the domestic programs he pursued. Ultimately, I still believe that Ronald Reagan was a memorable President, and a great American, and I think that history will judge him evenly in the long run.

Friday, June 4, 2004

Changing America's Global Footprint
Michael Gordon reports in Thursday's New York Times that the Pentagon has plans to remove its two combat divisions from Germany after the end of their current tours in Iraq. These two divisions, including roughly 40,000 organic personnel and up to double that number in echelon-above-division support personnel, will be permanently restationed in the United States. (Note: buy property near whatever bases they're being moved to.)
The proposal to withdraw the divisions comes at a time when the Army is stretched thin by deployments in Iraq and Afghanistan. But Pentagon officials said the move, which has been under consideration for some time and involves forces in Asia as well as in Europe, is unrelated to the current fighting.

Under the Pentagon plan, the Germany-based First Armored Division and First Infantry Division would be returned to the United States. A brigade equipped with Stryker light armored vehicles would be deployed in Germany. A typical division consists of three brigades and can number 20,000 troops if logistical units are included, though these two divisions have only two brigades each in Germany, with the other brigade in the United States.

In addition, a wing of F-16 fighters may be shifted from their base in Spangdahlem, Germany, to the Incirlik base in Turkey, which would move the aircraft closer to the volatile Middle East; a wing generally consists of 72 aircraft. Under the Pentagon plan, the shift would be carried out only if the Turks gave the United States broad latitude for using them, something that some officials see as unlikely.

The Navy's headquarters in Europe would be transferred from Britain to Italy. Administration officials are also discussing plans to remove some F-15 fighters from Britain and to withdraw the handful of F-15 fighters that are normally deployed in Iceland, though final decisions have not been made.

For Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, the reasons for the reshuffling seem clear and compelling: that the purpose of military units is to fight and win the nation's wars, and they should be stationed in locations that enable the United States to use them most efficiently and with minimal political restrictions.

"It's time to adjust those locations from static defense to a more agile and a more capable and a more 21st-century posture," Mr. Rumsfeld told reporters on Thursday on a flight to Singapore.
Analysis: Although this move coincides with the ongoing counter-insurgency effort in Iraq, it has in fact been planned for some time, and reflects a much larger change in America's posture around the world. The plans to move U.S. forces around in Europe have been around for some time, and so have the plans to realign U.S. forces in the Pacific. What we have not known is the definitive end-state for these moves — where the troops will go when they leave Germany? For a while, it was thought that the U.S. would open new bases in Southern and Eastern Europe, possibly in new NATO member countries like Poland. However, it now appears that this plan has been shelved, and that the majority of U.S. combat power in Europe will be returning to the continental United States. That's a big development, with implications on many levels.

First, this is the consummation of a long trend in America's military away from a "forward deployed" force to a "power projection" force. During the Cold War, we retained forces in places like South Korea and Germany near the places where they would actually fight, and we trained on how we would deploy additional forces there (e.g. the REFORGER and FOAL EAGLE exercises). A great deal of our military was "forward deployed", meaning that it was already where it needed to be should the balloon go up. This was only possible because we knew where we were going to fight, and whom we were going to fight. It was a Cold War luxury that our Army could position itself to fight the Soviet hordes streaming through the Fulda Gap. When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union disintegrated as a threat, this luxury went away. Now, our military must be ready to deploy anywhere in the world to conduct any kind of operation ranging from humanitarian assistance to major combat operations. A forward deployed posture would be anachronistic, because the military would be wedded to bases and defensive positions with no objective relationship to the need to be rapidly deployable. Instead, tomorrow's military must array itself in order to meet this goal, such as by basing itself near major ports and airstrips. The Pentagon has been working on this problem since the first President Bush was in office, and it developed a lot of these plans during the Clinton Administration, so we should not necessarily tie this move to the current White House.

Second, this realignment makes a lot of sense — but only if you set the conditions for success by purchasing the systems necessary to support a "power projection" force. You can't just move forces to the U.S. and expect them to acquire a deployment capability, even if they're sitting on the docks in Long Beach, California. To build a meaningful deployment capability, you must also acquire "strategic lift" capability: fast cargo ships, cargo aircraft, rail lines between bases and ports, etc. The U.S. has a lot of this stuff, but it does not have enough for real rapid deployment capability. I have said it before, and I will say it again. The cheapest and most efficient way to buy rapid deployment forces is not to build a new kind of Army brigade or move forces around the world — it's to buy more C-17 and C-5 aircraft, and more fast cargo ships. These are expensive on the front end, and these cargo vehicles may not get as much use in peacetime (a possible argument for putting them in the USAF Reserve). But they will earn their keep in wartime, by enabling the President to move forces around the world very quickly and resupply them from air or sea depending on the situation. Similarly, the U.S. must build a deployment infrastructure capable of supporting the rapid movement of its forces. Ask any former military officer what this means and they'll tell you: rail lines, cargo containers, lots of rehearsals, ready-to-execute contracts with bonded carriers, etc. You can't just Fedex the Army or Marine Corps somewhere — it takes a very deliberate and complex effort to move a major military unit. If we truly want to create a "power projection" force, we must invest in it.

Third point, which picks up on part of the first: this move will have major political and diplomatic consequences. The NYT article makes this point quite well, I think, as do earlier pieces that I've reported on. Pulling U.S. troops out of Europe, or South Korea, represents a major disengagement from those nations. You cannot get around this. We may try to offset it with frequent exercises or other means, but there's simply no substitute for having your own young men and women living in a foreign land with lots of military equipment. It directly engages us with the nation and the region where our troops live, and plants our flag in a very visible way. Sometimes, these bases become a lightning rod for criticism. But in the larger scheme of things, that's not so important. What is important is the stake these bases give us around the world. By pulling U.S. troops out of Europe, we are pulling our stake out of Europe too. I'm not sure that I agree with that. I supported the move to take U.S. troops out of Germany and move them to bases that were better suited for rapid deployment. But pulling our land forces out of Europe altogether might be unwise, particularly at a time when we need to be (re)building bridges to Europe after the war in Iraq. According to two retired 4-star officers with recent experience in Europe, the strategic risk of this move may be too great:
"From a strategic point of view, there is more sense in moving things out of Germany and having something in Bulgaria and Romania," said Joseph Ralston, a retired general and a former NATO commander.

* * *
Montgomery Meigs, a retired general and the former head of Army forces in Europe, said substantial reductions in American troops in Europe could limit the opportunities to train with NATO's new East European members and other allies. While American forces can still be sent for exercises from the United States, he said, it will be more difficult and costly to do so.

"You will never sustain the level of engagement from the United States that you can from Europe," he said. "We will not go to as many NATO exercises or have as many training events."
Despite the recent tensions over Iraq, NATO remains our strongest alliance and partner in the world, and I fear that we may do long-term damage to that alliance if we execute this plan as written. It looks to me like a U.S. disengagement from Europe, and from the world generally. And though these plans may have been conceived during an earlier administration, they are now being executed during the Bush Administration. I think that world observers will associate this move with the unilateral tendencies of this administration, and see these realignment plans in the context of other recent U.S. policies. They may ultimately perceive us as disengaging from the world, or at least, focusing on places where a demonstrable national interest exists rather than a larger global security interest. I don't think that's a good perception to foster, and I think we should be wary of any policy that presents that face to the world.

More to follow...

Update: Greg Jaffe, who's traveling with Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld on his trip through Asia, reports on a related development in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required). Part of this new post-Cold War paradigm is the need to focus on new threats -- whatever and wherever they might be. Towards that end, the SecDef is making an effort to diplomatically secure a key strait with important military and economic implications.
SINGAPORE -- U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld opened a five-day swing through Asia to enlist support from Far Eastern allies in the war on terror and especially in a U.S.-led effort to safeguard the Strait of Malacca, a vital trade route.

U.S. officials are concerned about the vulnerability of the waterway between the Indonesian island of Sumatra and the Malay Peninsula, which is a trade route for China, Japan, Korea and Singapore and a pass-through point for half of the world's oil. Its security is likely to be discussed at a meeting of Asian defense leaders in Singapore, called the Shangri-la Dialogue, at which Mr. Rumsfeld was scheduled to speak this weekend.

Thursday, June 3, 2004

Whither the Fifth Amendment
Can we reconcile the war on terrorism with the U.S. Constitution?

My gut tells me that Jose Padilla, the alleged "dirty bomber" being held as an unlawful enemy combatant, is probably a bad person. He may be guilty of various crimes ranging from conspiracy to provision of material support to terrorism. However, I am not yet convinced that the exigencies of his case warrant the treatment he has been given by the Justice Department and Pentagon with the endorsement of the White House.

Yesterday, the Justice Department announced that it had the goods on Mr. Padilla in a big way. In addition to his planned mission of detonating a radiological dispersal device ("RDD" or "dirty bomb") in a major U.S. city, Mr. Padilla was to bomb apartment buildings by turning natural gas lines and sealed apartments into improvised explosive devices. How did the Justice Department learn of this information? Simple — it questioned Mr. Padilla until he told them.
Officials disclosed for the first time that Mr. Padilla, a former Chicago gang member accused of becoming an operative for Al Qaeda, had cooperated extensively with American interrogators after his capture in May 2002. While the broad outline of the accusations against Mr. Padilla has been known for two years, the declassified documents provided new details about plots to detonate a radiological "dirty bomb" or blow up an apartment building, perhaps in New York City.

"We now know much of what Jose Padilla knows, and what we have learned confirms that the president of the United States made that right call and that that call saved lives," James B. Comey, the deputy attorney general, said in releasing the declassified documents.

* * *
Mr. Comey said that had the Bush administration brought criminal charges against Mr. Padilla in the beginning, rather than jailing him as an enemy combatant, it might never have found out about his plotting.

"He would very likely have followed his lawyer's advice and said nothing, which would have been his constitutional right," Mr. Comey said. "He would likely have ended up a free man, with our only hope being to try to follow him 24 hours a day, seven days a week and hope - pray really - that we didn't lose him."
An AP story quotes Mr. Comey in more detail, leaving absolutely no doubt that the means chosen in Mr. Padilla's case would not stand up in court.
"I don't believe that we could use this information in a criminal case, because we deprived him of access to his counsel and questioned him in the absence of counsel," Comey said.

"The questioning of Jose Padilla ... was not undertaken to try and make a criminal case against Jose Padilla. It was done to find out the truth about what he knew about al-Qaida and threats to the United States."
So, let's be clear here. Mr. Padilla was originally detained on a material witness warrant in May 2002, and given access to counsel. Presumably, he then clammed up. President Bush designated Mr. Padilla as an unlawful enemy combatant on June 9, 2002. He was then rendered to DoD custody in Charleston, South Carolina, where he has been since. It appears that Defense Department personnel (probably working with Justice Department, CIA and OGA personnel) have questioned him for the past two years in DoD custody — in the absence of counsel, a Miranda warning, or any other procedural device which might protect some of Mr. Padilla's rights under the 5th Amendment. Now, amidst the prison scandal at Abu Ghraib and serious questions about the President's Constitutional authority to act this way, the Justice Department releases this information to basically say "Look, our extreme tactics were necessary in this case — and effective too."

I think we should ask ourselves if this is really true. We don't have much in the way of corroborating evidence so far to back up these allegations. It's possible that such information is still being held closely by the Justice Department, either to protect sources and methods or to protect ongoing investigations. But historically, statements gathered with even a scintilla of coercion have been suspect. This is part of the rationale for the Confrontation Clause in the 6th Amendment, based in part on an erroneous out-of-court statement made in the trial of Sir Walter Raleigh. This is also the reason for the modern evidence rule requiring indicia of reliability for the admission of a statement in these circumstances. There is a gaping lacuna in the Justice Department's statements regarding Jose Padilla — the presence of evidence which backs up what we learned through interrogation.

There is a term of art that lawyers use to refer to a evidence that can only be proven worthy of admission by referral to the questionable evidence itself: "bootstrapping". If there was ever a textbook case of bootstrapping, this is it. The only evidence against Mr. Padilla consists of intelligence gathered from the (presumptively unconstitutional) interrogation of top Al Qaeda leaders like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, and the interrogation of Mr. Padilla himself. The only way to prove this evidence's value and reliability is by reference to other illegal evidence. (There may, of course, be FISA-derived or other secret evidence in this case that we don't know about, but DOJ hasn't said that yet.) So in the end, we're left with basically no evidence against Mr. Padilla that will stand up in court, because the key pieces of evidence were gathered in violation of the Constitution.

Ironically, good police work questioning (within the Constitution's bounds) might have been able to crack Mr. Padilla, while leaving open the possibility of a criminal trial should he eventually be charged in federal court. But of course, this evidence (gathered through admittedly unconstitutional means) is not being used in court — it's being used to justify Mr. Padilla's continued detention without any court proceedings at all. Typically, you need probable cause to detain someone and to confine them, and that probable cause is eventually tested in court during a preliminary proceeding. Here, it appears that the probable cause is being derived from post-detention interrogations and secret interrogations of other individuals. I can't figure out which cart is before which horse, because so many things are backwards here.

But wait — it gets worse. In case you think the only things being violated here are Mr. Padilla's 5th Amendment rights, think again. Dahlia Lithwick reminds us in this excellent Slate essay that there's a lot more at stake here — the 6th Amendment's confrontation clause, the Art. I, Sec. 9 right to habeas corpus, and the general rule of Art. III that the U.S. courts shall have jurisdiction over all cases and controversies arising in the United States.
The U.S. Constitution didn't simply hatch out of an egg one morning. Like the Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights was largely conceived to correct for failures of earlier systems. In 1603 Sir Walter Raleigh was tried for treason and not permitted to cross-examine his accuser. This, it turns out, engendered unreliable evidence. The Sixth Amendment's confrontation clause was the constitutional remedy for this problem. Unremitting and unwanted prosecutorial interrogation could lead to false confessions. This made for unreliable evidence. The Fifth Amendment was, in part, the constitutional remedy for this. Years of delay prior to trials degraded evidence. The Sixth Amendment's right to a speedy trial was the constitutional remedy for this. Indefinite government detention without charges led to innocent men languishing in prison without recourse. The right to habeas corpus is thus codified in Article I, Section 9 of the Constitution to remedy this. We sometimes forget that the purpose of these and other constitutional protections is not only to let guilty guys roam free (attractive though that prospect may seem), the purpose is also to protect the quality of the evidence used in criminal trials. A conviction based on a tortured confession isn't justice. It's theater.
So... what's a nation to do with enemies like this? That's a really tough question. Clearly, there is a need to detain enemy foot soldiers in order to prevent future acts of terrorism, and I'm inclined to let Justice Department officials use devices like material witness warrants to do so if it means preventing another attack. And clearly, there is a need for questioning in order to gather intelligence about future attacks. But let's not throw away our Constitution in the process, particularly when we have developed extraordinarily sophisticated (and legal) means of interrogation that will not foreclose the possibility of a criminal trial. As the New York Times reports: "Officials disclosed for the first time that Mr. Padilla, a former Chicago gang member accused of becoming an operative for Al Qaeda, had cooperated extensively with American interrogators after his capture in May 2002." That's not surprising — most foot soldiers do cooperate when questioned. Especially when they're squeezed by seasoned investigators who have cracked organized crime rings, drug rings, gangs, and other criminal networks formerly thought too tough for conventional (and Constitutional) police tactics.

Using extra-Constitutional tools in the Padilla case has not necessarily accomplished anything more than seasoned FBI agents and Assistant U.S. Attorneys could have done. But what it has done is create a losing dilemma for the Justice Department. In a case like this, where all of the evidence has been either tainted by torture or tainted by poor process, the only options are to detain Mr. Padilla indefinitely as an enemy combatant or release him onto the street. Prosecution in federal court isn't a viable option anymore in this situation. The Supreme Court may well hold the first option unconstitutional this summer, forcing the Justice Department to file charges (which will likely be dismissed for lack of admissable evidence) or release Mr. Padilla.

Update: My friend over at JAG Central (now at its new location) reminds me of DOJ's response — namely, that the 5th Amendment is inapplicable because Mr. Padilla is being held as an unlawful enemy combatant. Indeed, he's right about that. We don't extend the 5th Amendment protection to combatants being held as such; prisoners of war have rights and privileges under the 3rd Geneva Convention, but not the U.S. Constitution. This, however, is a gray area where it's not clear that the executive branch has the power to detain Mr. Padilla as an enemy combatant, or to deny him his Constitutional rights, so I'm not ready to accept that construct.

Moreover, I think the character of DOJ's comments here is important. They're releasing this information for specific reasons. Namely, I think the Justice Department is trying to establish three things in the court of public opinion:
1. "Padilla was a bad guy, and we had to detain him."
2. "Our means were effective — we detained the right guy, and our interrogations produced valuable intel to prove he was the right guy."
3. "We have enough evidence of Padilla's bad conduct that we could have prosecuted him if we wanted to."
Of these, I think that only the first statement has any legitimacy. The second is dubious, both because it's not clear these statements were accurate, and because of the extra-legality of the means. The third is absolute bunk. We only know (in a very loose epistemological sense) these things because we used means which preclude the use of this evidence in court. And we don't really "know" them at all (in a legal sense) because they've never been tested by adversarial review or found as fact by a jury or judge.

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Sometimes, articles run in different publications on different days that really should've run next to each other. That's how I feel about this New York Times op-ed and this National Review essay, both of which concern American soldiers and the war in Iraq. Each article gives us a piece of the larger story, which as I see it, is the story of how American soldiers persevere in the face of adversity.

The NYT op-ed comes from former Army captain Andrew Exum, who led infantrymen of the 10th Mountain Division in combat early in the war in Afghanistan. Mr. Exum makes a very important point regarding military overstretch — namely, that we have taken on so many military obligations that we cannot maintain an all-volunteer force anymore. Instead, we must resort to personnel policies known as "stop loss" and "stop move" in order to man the units now fighting in Southwest Asia. (Update: the AP reports that the Army is expanding its stop-loss policies.)
CHATTANOOGA, Tenn. — Many Americans, feeling that we did not have enough troops in Iraq, were pleased when the Defense Department announced last month that 20,000 more soldiers were being sent to put down the insurgency and help rebuild the country. Unfortunately, few realized that many of these soldiers would serve long after their contractual obligations to the active-duty military are complete. In essence, they will no longer be voluntarily serving their country.

These soldiers are falling victim to the military's "stop-loss" policy — and as a former officer who led some of them in battle, I find their treatment shameful. Announced shortly after the 9/11 attacks and authorized by President Bush, the stop-loss policy allows commanders to hold soldiers past the date they are due to leave the service if their unit is scheduled to be deployed to Iraq or Afghanistan. Military officials rightly point out that stop-loss prevents a mass exodus of combat soldiers just before a combat tour.

But nonetheless, the stop-loss policy is wrong; it runs contrary to the concept of the volunteer military set up in the aftermath of the Vietnam War. Many if not most of the soldiers in this latest Iraq-bound wave are already veterans of several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. They have honorably completed their active duty obligations. But like draftees, they have been conscripted to meet the additional needs in Iraq.
In her National Review essay, Kate O'Beirne makes another important argument regarding our soldiers in combat: that they are not all like the soldiers at Abu Ghraib. She cites a number of examples of bravery under fire to support her point. (More details and links to the award citations can be found here.)
In early May, Marine Captain Brian Chontosh, Marine Lance Corporal Joseph Perez, and Marine Sergeant Marco Martinez were awarded Navy Crosses for extraordinary heroism, an award second only to the Medal of Honor. Army Sergeant Gerald Wolford, Army Sergeant Major Michael Stack, Marine Staff Sergeant Adam Sikes, and Marine Corporal Armand McCormick — and 123 others — have been awarded Silver Stars for outstanding valor in combat. The stories of these courageous men represent the dedication of the tens of thousands of soldiers serving bravely and honorably in Iraq far better than the actions of a derelict nightshift in two isolated cell blocks.

On March 25, 2003, then-Lieutenant Brian R. Chontosh, 29, of Rochester, N.Y., was leading his platoon on Highway 1 south of Baghdad when his troops came under a coordinated ambush of mortars, rocket-propelled grenades, and automatic-weapons fire. With the road ahead blocked, Chontosh realized his men were caught in a kill zone. He ordered his driver to advance directly into the enemy trench. Chontosh leapt from his vehicle and began firing with his rifle and pistol. But his ammunition ran out. "With complete disregard for his safety," according to the citation, "he twice picked up discarded enemy rifles and continued his ferocious attack.... When his audacious attack ended, he had cleared over 200 meters of the enemy trench, killing more than 20 enemy soldiers and wounding several others."

After being awarded the Navy Cross, Captain Chontosh said, "I was just doing my job, I did the same thing every other Marine would have done, it was just a passion and love for my Marines."
How do these stories relate to each other? First, I think they tell important stories which have been neglected by much of the mainstream press. Today's news from Iraq focuses a lot on the transfer of sovereignty, on the festering insurgency, and on the abuses at Abu Ghraib. But I don't think it does justice to the deeper structural effects this war is having on America's military (it is forcing a soup-to-nuts reevaluation of American military force structure). I also don't think that America's warriors get the coverage they deserve, save attention from their hometown press. When a soldier earns a Silver Star, that's a big deal, and I think the media ought to cover these things with the same zeal as they cover the negative news stories like Abu Ghraib.

Second, I think these stories give the reader some idea of the hardships of military service today. As Mr. Exum's article points out, soldiers today have very little control over when and where they serve, or how. Indeed, one friend of mine who served in Iraq said her only decision in the Army was the decision to sign up for ROTC many years ago. After that, everything is subject to that infamous phrase: "the needs of the Army". Ms. O'Beirne's article paints a picture of the hardships these soldiers (and Marines) have faced on the ground, and the extraordinary acts of courage which have taken place in the face of those hardships. Again, I feel like these are neglected stories. The botttom line is that American soldiers do their best (and often succeed) despite the best efforts of their leadership and their enemies. OSD may have botched the Army's TPFDD in early 2003 and made other errors, but the troops in the field are going to improvise, adapt and overcome in order to get the job done.

Retired Col. David Hackworth has an interesting column up on his website today about the costs of war, and how we might reconsider our actions abroad if we thought about these costs more ahead of time. I always take Col. Hackworth's comments with a grain of salt; despite his legendary combat record, he has an axe to grind. But I think he's right on this one. We should think about the costs of war before we launch one, and we should constantly reevaluate our national security policy as the costs change over time. Mr. Exum's article hints at some of the ways this war has strained the military, and that might give us pause to reevaluate our mission. Ms. O'Beirne's article reminds us that American soldiers will respond as they have always done to extraordinary situations, even if we send them into harm's way in less than ideal circumstances. However, I don't think these soldiers' valor excuses us from our responsibility as citizens. We owe it to these brave men and women to make the right decisions about taking our nation to war.

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

Summer schedule
Intel Dump will go to a summer schedule starting today, in order to let me make my bar review course a priority so that I pass the dreaded California bar exam this summer. (As the saying goes, failure is not an option.) I will strive to post a few quality notes throughout the week as I have time, most likely on weekends. At some point in July, I may cease posting altogether, to conduct my intensive preparation for the exam. In my absence, check out my blog colleagues linked on the left side of this page. Thanks.
Purchasing security in Iraq
Walter Pincus had an interesting story in Sunday's Washington Post regarding new spending by the Coalition Provisional Authority on security-related measures in Iraq. The CPA appears to be spending this money in anticipation of the 30 June handover of sovereignty to the Iraqis. There seems to be an implicit expectation that violence will continue to trend upwards unless the CPA does something to counteract it.
Responding to what it described as the "recent upswing in violence," the occupation authority's Program Review Board, which has the final word on spending Iraqi oil money, approved a $500 million fund last month to meet "the urgent need for increased security as Iraqi sovereignty approaches," according to official notes from the meeting. The money will be used for "security-related reconstruction and military needs" that are still to be decided, the notes say.

The authority has made a range of other recent security moves and expenditures. They include requiring security contractors that protect its convoys to add more armored vehicles to their guard fleets; spending $42.5 million in April to buy more body armor; and, last week, seeking kits to reinforce 200 new Chevrolet, GMC and Ford sport-utility vehicles. The armor plates and transparent antiballistic glass must resist rifle bullets fired from 10 feet and small hand grenades, according to the occupation authority's request for proposals.

The increasing focus on security reflects not just the danger faced by civilian contractors for the authority and Iraqi officials, but also the importance to the U.S.-led authority of curbing violence and fostering greater stability in the weeks before and months after the interim Iraqi government begins work June 30. The authority is also racing the clock to put new protections in place because it will dissolve on that date.
This makes sense, and it's probably a good expenditure of funds. I've said it before, and I'll say it again. Very little nation-building will take place before security is established. Without security, contractors won't work, civilians won't leave their homes, and the streets will become a place where only bandits and soldiers want to go. A great deal of Iraq today is secure. But the major highways and population centers — areas critical to the nation-building effort — remain quite dangerous. Arguably, money spent on nation-building projects in the absence of security is wasted money. Security should come first.

However, that's not the only interesting thing in this story. Indeed, I think Mr. Pincus may have buried the lede of the story. The second half of the Post article describes some major changes to the way private military contractors will do business in Iraq.
The new standards for security escort contracts, carried in the authority's statement of work, added a requirement for armored vehicles and reflected how private company employees are acting as an extension of the military forces.

For example, security contractors must have a copy of the U.S. government's "Rules on the Use of Force," which is part of the contracting plan and provides for "coordination for the use of armed contractors in theatre," according to the work statement. A Pentagon spokesman for the occupation authority said the authority would not discuss details of security procedures.

"Wherever possible, the contractor will avoid the use of deadly force," the work statement says, adding that "the priority remains the security and safe passage of the convoy." The contractor is "responsible for providing immediate aid to civilians that may be injured due to hostile or friendly action," but the contractor is "responsible for determining the threat situation at hand."

All convoy movements are to be carried out through the authority's Office of Security Cooperation, which, under Maj. Gen. Paul D. Eaton, trains all Iraqi military and police units. Contractors must "synchronize" convoy movements by keeping one employee as a liaison person at the office's headquarters 24 hours a day. That person will receive "threat updates, road conditions and closures, [and] inbound convoy information."

The contractor is responsible for providing "armored vehicles, weapons, communications, housing, food, water and latrine services" for his employees and updates via secure phones to the office's command and control personnel, the authority statement says.
Analysis: In the last couple of months, a number of commentators have made the argument that private military contractors (PMCs) require more oversight, more accountability, and more command & control on the ground in Iraq. They also require better equipment and dedicated security forces so they're not sitting ducks driving down the highway. In an April article for Slate, I wrote the following:
Some of these problems [with private military contractors] can be alleviated through legal mechanisms. The easiest fix? Amend these government contracts to solve the discipline and coordination problems. Current (and future) agreements should be modified to require better coordination in the field or to require government contractors to fight from the same rules of engagement as their uniformed brethren. ...
I think these contractual changes for the PMCs are a good thing. They may cost more money in the short term, but short-term expenditures on security should enable more long-term investment in reconstruction. We probably should have thought through this stuff before the war. I don't think anyone really anticipated the extent to which we would use contractors for both reconstruction and military purposes in Iraq. In future wars, we need to take this into account, and plan better for it.

Update I -- But shouldn't the Iraqis buy their own security? Probably... but this story in USA Today indicates that it might be harder for them to do so. Iraq is facing a cash crunch, driven by a lack of foreign-direct investment, lack of foreign trade, and lack of involvement from the economic powerhouses of Europe and Asia in Iraq.
With bank lending almost non-existent and foreign investment in Iraq about as common as a snowstorm, Iraqi businesses are struggling to secure the credit they need for life after Saddam Hussein. Whether these midsize businesses succeed or fail with their job-creating expansions is critical for stability: Iraq's anti-American insurgency is largely made up of unemployed young men. If the economy generated more jobs, extremists couldn't recruit foot soldiers as easily.

* * *
Jobs are another story. In every neighborhood, there are curbside hiring spots where manual workers can be had for 5,000 Iraqi dinars per day — less than $4 at current exchange rates. In the al-Amal district recently, about 40 men milled about on a corner at 10 a.m. Many had been there since dawn.

Despair over the lack of opportunities is breeding anti-U.S. sentiment. "The Americans did nothing. They just removed Saddam and left us suffering twice as much," said a scowling Jassim al-Jabouri, 50, a plasterer.

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And Iraqi banks, not a major source of commercial lending even before the war, aren't likely to provide the money. As many as 90% of borrowers have stopped making payments on existing loans, said Fuad al-Hassanai, managing director of the private Credit Bank of Iraq.
This article makes it clear that security and economic development are very closely related. The CPA and nascent Iraqi government will have difficulty with security so long as so many young men remain out of work, and so long as economic conditions foment dissatisfaction with the way things are today. An influx of money might not solve all of Iraq's problems, but it would certainly help. And I would even go so far as to say that monetary contributions might be more important than troop contributions for Iraq today. We may not be able to get France and Germany (and other NATO members) to send troops. But maybe we can get them to send foreign-direct investment, with the possibility of some return on that investment? It's in our interests to let them buy into Iraq, because economic development will aid our security and reconstruction efforts. So far, we have played hardball with respect to many foreign countries doing business in Iraq, as political payback for the UN debates of 2002-2003. But that policy might have been short-sighted, and we should reconsider it.