Friday, August 20, 2004

The legacy of Tommy Franks
Spencer Ackerman has a really good essay up at The New Republic's website (and in the Aug. 30 magazine issue) on retired Gen. Tommy Franks' new book American Soldier, and the issues and questions it raises. Like me, he's skeptical of the party line advanced so far that Gen. Franks deserves all of the credit and none of the blame for post-war problems in Afghanistan and Iraq. It remains to be seen how much of this blame will stick to Gen. Franks in the long run, or how much of it the President will be forced to take during this election cycle.

Update: While we're on the subject of post-war Iraq... check out this new article in the Sept/Oct issue of Foreign Affairs by Larry Diamond, who was a Senior Adviser to the Coalition Provisional Authority in Baghdad. (Thanks to Dan Drezner for the heads up.) The article is titled "What Went Wrong in Iraq," and covers some interesting ground relating to the nexus between security and nation-building.

Thursday, August 19, 2004

Pushing the envelope to extract info from the mind
Harvey Rishikof and Michael Schrage have a really interesting essay in Slate about some new medical techniques which could be used by the intelligence community to extract information from detainees unwilling to talk -- in lieu of barbaric practices like those used at Abu Ghraib and possibly used in U.S. secret detention facilities abroad. The essay raises a litany of difficult moral, practical and legal issues, and none of these are easily resolved. I tend to think we should use such sophisticated techniques where necessary, because they balance the harm to the detainee with the value of the information that could be gained. And if we're talking about someone like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, then I really want to crack his head open (not literally) to learn what he knows.

Of course, you can argue that these techniques simply serve as torture by another name, and by any other name a rose would still smell sweet. After all, these techniques do subvert the mind and the notions of free will and voluntariness which undergird the use of confessions in modern U.S. jurisprudence. Nonetheless, I think the countervailing value of security is equally important. And given the choice, I'd rather use these humane techniques to gather information than let a terrorist attack go forward only to safeguard evidence for a subsequent criminal prosecution.

It's a tough call.
Reversal of Boykin
In October 2003, news reports surfaced that Army Lt. Gen. William "Jerry" Boykin had given questionable speeches to church groups and other bodies casting America's war on terrorism in a light as a holy crusade against the evil Islamic faith. Setting aside normative issues about the wisdom or quality of LTG Boykin's remarks, I wrote then that LTG Boykin had almost certainly broken the military's rules for public speaking appearances and wearing of the uniform for off-duty conduct. LTG Boykin requested an investigation into the allegations himself, in keeping with his reputation as a straight shooter within the service.

That investigation has finished, according to today's Washington Post, and it has found that LTG Boykin did in fact break three rules of conduct for a military officer on active duty.
The 10-month internal investigation, conducted by the department's deputy inspector general for investigations, confirmed news accounts that Boykin said in his speeches that President Bush had been placed in his post by God, that radical Muslims hate America because it "will never abandon Israel" and that the U.S. military is recruiting a spiritual army that will draw strength from a greater power to defeat its enemy.

Arab and Muslim groups sharply criticized these remarks when they were initially publicized last year, accusing Boykin of bigotry and saying he was unfit to keep his post. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John W. Warner (R-Va.) and the committee's senior Democrat, Sen. Carl M. Levin (Mich.), demanded an inquiry and called for Boykin to step down while it proceeded.

But Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, speaking at the time, praised Boykin for "an outstanding record" and kept him in his post. Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Richard B. Myers likewise defended Boykin and told reporters that "at first blush, it doesn't look like any rules were broken" because "there is a very wide gray area" of what the rules permit.

The inspector's report, which is dated Aug. 5 but has not been released by the Pentagon, concludes otherwise. It found that Boykin failed to obtain clearance for his remarks, failed to clarify that his remarks were personal and not official, and failed to report reimbursement of travel costs from one of the sponsoring religious groups.

"We recommend that the Acting Secretary of the Army take appropriate corrective action with respect to LTG Boykin," the report says. But it adds that the Army should also take into consideration as a "mitigating factor" that Boykin said he repeatedly asked military lawyers about the propriety of making the speeches and he recalled no one advising him to obtain advance clearance for his remarks.

The report said investigators accepted that Boykin made these legal consultations in "good faith."
Analysis: Given the content of LTG Boykin's comments, and the fact that the inquiry refused to go into their substance, I find the statement about "good faith" to be quite ironic.

However, notwithstanding the content of LTG Boykin's remarks, I stand by my original analysis. This general officer broke the rules of conduct, set a bad example for his subordinates, and hurt American credibility on a critical political issue in the war on terrorism. His superiors ought to rebuke him for this, and LTG Boykin ought to step down. Anything else would smack of favoritism and unfair treatment for a general officer — especially in light of the way the military treats its junior officers who speak out in the war on terrorism. USMC Lt. Josh Rushing and Army Capt. Oscar Estrada spoke their minds too, and maybe violated a regulation or two. They faced the music for their actions. It is a fundamental principle of military leadership that officers — and especially general officers — are held to a higher standard of conduct. You simply can't lead if you don't set a good example, and that means holding yourself to a higher standard of conduct. LTG Boykin should step down because it's the right thing to do, and because it would send a powerful message about accountability and personal responsibility to the rest of the military.
Material witness warrants: the most effective secret detention method around
Adam Liptak has a provocative article in today's New York Times on the use of "material witness" warrants in the war on terrorism. These warrants, authorized by 18 U.S.C. 3144, allow a federal judge to order the pro-active detention of a person for the purpose of testifying before a grand jury. However, they have been used more than 60 times since Sept. 11 to pro-actively detain persons actually suspected of terrorism themselves, including alleged "dirty bomber" Jose Padilla (now locked up as an "enemy combatant").
... scholars and critics say the government has radically reinterpreted what it means to be a material witness in recent years. These days, people held as material witnesses in terrorism investigations are often not called to testify against others; instead, frequently they are charged with crimes themselves. They lack constitutional protections like the requirement that criminal suspects in custody be informed of their Miranda rights. Moreover, they are often held for long periods in the same harsh conditions as those suspected of very serious crimes.

Mary Jo White, who supervised several major terrorism investigations as the United States attorney in Manhattan until she resigned in 2002, said the frequent and aggressive use of the material witness law in terrorism investigations was a recent development.

"It was really my idea to use the material witness warrant statute in appropriate cases to detain for reasonable periods of time people who might not appear for a grand jury with information related to the 9/11 attacks," she said. The law is, she said, an important tool, but one that must be used judiciously.

"Some of the criticism that has been leveled at it is not wholly unjustified," said Ms. White, who was appointed by President Bill Clinton in 1993. "Was enough done to clear the status of the person? Did you hold the person longer than you needed to? Does it really sort out to being in one sense preventive detention? Yes, it does, but with safeguards."

Ronald L. Carlson, a law professor at the University of Georgia and an expert on the material witness law, said Ms. White's account understates the magnitude of the change.

"The law was designed to hold Mr. A, the material witness, to testify about a crime committed by Mr. B, the suspect," he said. "Now they are locking up Mr. A as a material witness to the crime of Mr. A. The notion is, 'We'll hold him until we develop probable cause to arrest him for a crime.' "

A senior Justice Department official who declined to be quoted by name, citing the sensitivity of terrorism investigations, dismissed that analysis. "You would be really hard pressed," he said, "if you were able to lift the veil of secrecy on this - and you can't - to find that we've used a material witness warrant to get a solo actor for something he's done on his own."

The official acknowledged, though, that witnesses are frequently charged with crimes.

"If someone has material information who will not come testify, it tends not to be a nun who walks out of a monastery who happens to see a crime from afar," he said.
Analysis: To be clear, there have been abuses of the material witness warrant since Sept. 11. I've done some work on this law, and I included it in my seminar last year on law & terrorism because of its importance. One of the things that came out in class discussion was that the statute lent itself to this kind of abuse. It contains an important flaw -- or loophole, depending on your perspective. Instead of requiring a judge to find probable cause of guilt, it only requires a judge to find probable cause that "the testimony of a person is material in a criminal proceeding" and that "it may become impracticable to secure the presence of the person by subpoena." That's not a very high standard. And thus, even though there's a judicial check on this use of law enforcement power, it's not a very meaningful check because it's relatively easy to meet this standard. It's not like the FBI is breaking or even bending the law here -- they're simply using the law on the books to its fullest advantage. And for that, I blame Congress for writing such a vague and broad law, because Congress really opened the door to this kind of conduct.

In theory, federal district court judges could provide a check on this power, because of the critical word "may" in the material witness statute. However, there is an incredible information asymmetry in these kinds of proceedings. Ideally, a judge should inquire more about the basis for FBI affidavits in material witness cases, and about the purposes for these detentions. But beyond basic factual inquiry, it's not clear that a judge has the requisite information to serve as a meaningful check. That's why I believe we need some sort of special court -- akin to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) Court -- for the express purpose of reviewing and authorizing material witness warrants. This is a very Draconian measure, and it deserves meaningful of judicial scrutiny. I think that only a special court, empowered with security clearances and classified information, can exercise good oversight of this power.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

Torture memoranda come home to roost
Messy legal issues emerge in courts martial and military tribunals because of the infamous 'torture memos' and questionable legal decisions by the Bush administration

Tony Perry, who spent a lot of time embedded with the Marines in Iraq, has a story in the Los Angeles Times today about an interesting pre-trial skirmish in the court martial of Marine Corps Maj. Clarke Paulus. Maj. Paulus is charged with dereliction of duty in connection with the beating death of an Iraqi prisoner. Now, in his defense. Mr. Paulus' attorney wants to argue that his client can't be convicted of violating the Geneva Conventions — because the President and his executive attorneys opined that such conventions don't apply to terrorists.
Keith Higgins, attorney for Maj. Clarke Paulus, sought to introduce as evidence legal opinions written by lawyers for the White House, Department of Justice and Department of Defense that assert that "non-state combatants" do not enjoy the guarantee of humane treatment covered by the Geneva Convention.

Col. Robert Chester, the judge, refused Higgins' request and also his attempt to call as a witness an assistant U.S. attorney general who wrote one of the opinions.

But Chester ruled that Higgins can make the argument involving the Geneva Convention to officers sitting as jurors in Paulus' court-martial, set to begin next month.

Paulus is accused of dereliction of duty in the death of suspected Baath Party member Nagem Sadoon Hatab at the Whitehorse base in Iraq last year. Hatab, one of the first Iraqis to die in U.S. custody, had been arrested as a possible suspect in the ambush of the Army convoy that included Pvt. Jessica Lynch.

Paulus allegedly gave an order allowing Marines to drag Hatab by his neck into a holding pen; an autopsy suggested Hatab, 52, slowly suffocated from a broken bone in his neck after being beaten into near unconsciousness.
Quick analysis: There's a big hiccup in this argument. President Bush did decide in early 2002 that the Geneva Conventions would not apply to the men detained at Guantanamo Bay, whom he deemed "unlawful enemy combatants" instead of prisoners of war under the 3rd Geneva Convention. However, the official White House and Pentagon position has been that Iraqi prisoners — including Saddam Hussein and his top henchmen — are legitimate prisoners of war under the 3rd Geneva Convention. And so the torture memoranda and executive decisions don't directly apply to the pool of detainees which includes the victim in this case. At best, Maj. Paulus will have to argue that the White House created an atmosphere of legal ambiguity as to the status and rights of all detainees in the war on terrorism — including those in Iraq. But I don't think that's a winning argument.

Remember — he has to make this argument to a jury of his peers, in this case, fellow Marine Corps officers who will likely have seen combat in Iraq too. There's an old maxim that it's better for an innocent man to go before a military jury, but it's better for a guilty man to go before a civilian jury, because civilian jurors are more easily swayed by smoke & mirrors and other classic courtroom tactics used by defense attorneys. I don't think a military jury is going to go for this. But we'll see.

Update I: In a related story, John Hendren reports in the L.A. Times that lawyers for four Guantanamo detainees plan to challenge the admissibility of their statements made to interrogators on the grounds that they were coerced. The U.S. Supreme Court has held that an involuntary statement cannot be admitted as evidence against a defendant, let alone one procured through torture.
Defense attorneys are expected to cite statements by recently released detainees who have said they were physically abused and stripped of their clothing while being held at the detention facility in Cuba, commission officials said.

"I expect that defense lawyers who think that any of those statements are involuntary will argue that the statements shouldn't come in because it's not credible, because it was made involuntarily," said retired Army Maj. Gen. John D. Altenburg Jr., who oversees the military commission process.
I'm not surprised that the defense attorneys are trying to make this argument. If these cases were going forward in U.S. District Court, I think this would actually be a winning argument, and that it would likely win these guys their freedom. But, as I wrote in "Tainted by Torture", these cases are not going forward in a federal district court or even a military court martial — they are going forward in the military commission system, which has significantly more liberal rules for the admission of evidence. Thus, this problem may go away:
Interestingly, such problems [with the admissibility of evidence gleaned through coercive techniques] would not have arisen had these suspects been hauled before a military tribunal at the outset. The Pentagon's procedural rules for tribunals allow evidence to be admitted if it "would have probative value to a reasonable person." These rules contain no provision for the exclusion of involuntary statements, and on their face, do not allow the presiding officer of such tribunals to rely on Supreme Court precedent or federal case law to decide issues of evidence. Presumably, these tribunals were designed to allow for the admission of evidence from dubious circumstances, including the "intensive questioning" of Mohammed and Zubaida. So, if the Pentagon moves forward with its plans to try al-Qaida members before these courts, it may be able to evade this problem altogether.
It will be interesting to see how this issue plays out in the military tribunal system. Arguably, the presiding officers have the discretionary authority to exclude statements they find to be unreliable or procured through nefarious means. But the rules state they don't have to, and there's no right of appeal to any Art. III court from these proceedings. If the defense attorneys lose on this issue, I suspect they will use this as one of their grounds for appeal to the Art. III civilian court system, and possibly all the way to the Supreme Court. More to follow...

Update II: For a lecture on "Military Tribunals 101", see this press conference held at the Pentagon by retired Army Col. John Altenburg, who is in charge of the process.

Update III: Also see this report by the Congressional Research Service on "Military Tribunals: Historical Patterns and Lessons", provided courtesy of the National Institute of Military Justice.
One shot, one kill
USMC snipers exact a deadly toll from the Iraqi insurgents in Najaf

Eric Umansky alerted me in his Today's Papers column to a passage in this New York Times article describing fighting in Iraq which talks about the killing being done there. I have read a great deal about Operation Iraqi Freedom and the subsequent fights to pacify parts of Iraq such as Ramadi, Fallujah and Najaf. But when I saw this statistic about sniper kills, it really hit me that we are decisively engaged:
Fighting in Najaf has intensified sharply in the past three days, said Capt. Coby Moran, operations officer of the First Battalion of the Fourth Marine Regiment, one of three American battalions, with a total of about 3,000 troops, fighting here.

American forces are tightening their cordon around the shrine and the Old City, Captain Moran and other officers at the American base in northern Najaf said Tuesday. A Western reporter and photographer who moved through the southern half of the Old City on Tuesday morning encountered sniper fire.

Marine snipers killed 62 people on Tuesday, and an Army battalion pushed deeper into the Old City, though it remains at least a half-mile from the shrine, Captain Moran said. An Apache attack helicopter fired three missiles at mortar crews on the roof of a parking garage adjacent to the shrine, Army officers said. [emphasis added]

"We're starting to put together our plan," Captain Moran said. "We're forcing the enemy to react to us a little more, tightening the noose."
Analysis: That's a lot of killing being done by a relatively small number of Marines. I'm not entirely sure of this fact, but I think that each Marine Corps infantry battalion (like 1-4 Marines) has a scout/sniper platoon in its headquarters company. So we're really talking about 20-30 Marines -- only half of whom are actually shooters, due to the marksman/observer team concept -- killing 62 Iraqis in one day. It's possible that the Marine captain quoted in this article is counting all kills via rifle, because after all, every Marine considers himself to be a rifleman. But I don't think so; I think these are confirmed sniper kills, and this is a huge number.

I have written before that I don't think that body counts per se are a good indicator of success. However, I do think they make for a good indicator of combat intensity, and in some ways, of combat effectiveness. One point that comes through again and again in stories of engagements in Iraq is that the Iraqi insurgents simply don't understand tactical fundamentals such as cover and concealment. I have seen Al-Jazeera tapes and U.S. military tapes of engagements where Iraqi insurgents, whooped up by their buddies into a frenzy of martyrdom, literally rush out into the middle of the street to launch an unaimed RPG at U.S. forces. In nearly all the videos, they are instantaneously cut down by a few short bursts of aimed rifle and machine gun fire. No trained soldier would ever do something so stupid. But the Iraqi grunts do it again and again, almost inviting death.

The resulting lopsided casualty counts have a great deal to do with this skill imbalance. U.S. troops simply don't expose themselves to fire when it's unnecessary, and they employ fires to shield their maneuver when they move. Indeed, I would argue (based largely on Dr. Stephen Biddle's research on skill/technology issues in warfare) that this skill imbalance is the most important factor in determining the outcome of urban engagements, because of the way that urban environments degrade the usefulness of technology. We simply can't employ standoff weapons systems like tanks and Apache helicopters at 2-3 km. So we have to employ our tough young Army and Marine Corps infantrymen instead.

Some technologies -- such as commo and night-vision gear -- can make a big difference. But ultimately, it comes down to basic tactical fundamentals like fire & maneuver, effective use of cover & concealment, and the ability to hit what you shoot. It therefore doesn't surprise me that the Marine snipers are doing such deadly work in Iraq. But the numbers do give me pause, because they tell me that our Marines and soldiers are decisively engaged right now in the kind of infantry combat that grinds up men and materiel.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Assessing blame for post-war Iraq II
While looking for something on the Army War College site, I found a really interesting study on U.S. post-war operations in Iraq. It's a few months old, but it hasn't gotten a lot of attention in the press as best as I can tell. If you're interested in this kind of thing, I recommend taking a look:
"For Want of a Horseshoe Nail?
Effectiveness of Stability Operations During the Initial Implementation of the Transition Phase for Operation Iraqi Freedom.

by Colonel Paul F. Dicker

March 2004

SUMMARY: U.S. strategy after armed conflict in Iraq was to seal the victory through re-establishment of infrastructure and establishment of democratic civil bodies of government. Prior to the conflict there were several studies that highlighted critical military actions required to insure successful post-conflict stabilization of Iraq. These requirements were not accomplished. The stabilization effort was complicated by the looting and lawlessness resulting from the collapse of regime's military and security force. Failures in planning and operations, coupled with several inaccurate assumptions, degraded post-conflict stabilization efforts and likely lengthened the post-conflict period of violence and lawlessness. This paper examines and analyzes the post conflict stability planning and operations, civil-military operations, and obstacles to achieving U.S. strategic goals in Iraq during the first 60 days of the conflict.
An army of one
Marc Topkin has an interesting sports report in the St. Petersburg Times from Athens on the U.S. soldier-athletes competing in the 2004 Olympic Games. The Army, Navy and Air Force each sent servicemembers to compete this year, and a few are expected to bring home a medal based on what I read last week in Sports Illustrated. Of course, soldiers competing in the Olympics is nothing new. Warriors competed in Ancient Greece, and many of the events continue to retain the martial influence of those original games. Sports such as shooting, wrestling, and even men's gymnastics contain some elements of military skill. Indeed, the modern pentathlon was originally only open to military officers -- a very young George S. Patton competed for the U.S. in this event in the 1912 Olympics in Stockholm. (He placed 5th overall) Today's American warrior-athletes can lay claim to a long and proud lineage, and I look forward to seeing them on the medal stand this year.

Monday, August 16, 2004

President Bush announces major realignment of U.S. forces abroad
President Bush announced today that the U.S. would be pulling the majority of its military units out of Germany, where they have been stationed since the end of World War II in 1945. These proposals have been in the works for some time, and have been reported by major newspapers on several occasions. Most of these units will be restationed in the U.S., although some will move to new bases to be located in Eastern and Southern Europe. Here's what the Post report had to say on the news:
In a speech to a Veterans of Foreign Wars convention in Cincinnati, which the president also used to repeat his defense of the war in Iraq and his criticisms of his Democratic opponent, Bush said the new "global force posture" will save money, promote stability in military families and help the United States "win the wars of the 21st century."

* * *
The plan is the latest iteration of a discussion that has been going on for several years between the Pentagon and the White House about reconfiguring troops abroad now that the Soviet Union is extinct and the United States is the world's lone superpower.

Administration officials have talked for more than two years about their intention to move 60,000 troops out of Europe, mostly from Germany, and 30,000 from East Asia, mostly from Japan and South Korea.

Officials would not say how long the redeployment would take but said it would involve lengthy negotiations with the countries where the troops are stationed. The administration has been discussing the plans for months with several of the governments, including South Korea.

The new plan flows from the notion that U.S. Army bases in Germany no longer serve a genuine military purpose. While the U.S. government believes it is important to retain at least one major air base in Germany -- primarily as a way station for U.S. troops en route to Europe and the Middle East -- the belief is that moving ground troops farther east is a natural consequence of the post-Cold War expansion of NATO.

Eastern European nations -- most notably Poland and Bulgaria -- have been far more enthusiastic supporters of U.S. policy in Iraq than have been older NATO allies and Belgium. Also, U.S. commanders long had chafed at environmental rules that have severely restricted training and maneuvers on German soil.

In East Asia, U.S. commanders recently have taken moves to reshape the U.S. military presence in South Korea, both moving troops from downtown Seoul and also redeploying troops southward from posts along the Demilitarized Zone to bases in the middle of South Korea.
Analysis: As the Post reporters say, this is not news. Or more accurately, it's news that has been developing for a long time. Greg Jaffe reported on this plan in June 2003 for the Wall Street Journal, writing that the U.S. would pursue a newfangled system of "lilypad" and "hub" bases. This marks a significant break from the old paradigm of "forward deployment", where units were based places where they might have to fight, i.e. West Germany to fight a Soviet invasion. Under that paradigm, the U.S. would not maintain large garrisons of combat units overseas as it now does. Rather, it would maintain large logistics bases staffed by logistics units and contractors for the sole purpose of serving as "jumping off" points for deployment elsewhere. Mr. Jaffe wrote:
One big strike against the German bases is that they are landlocked. The Pentagon is especially keen on shifting U.S. ground forces toward ports, where they can quickly be loaded onto fast-moving ships. U.S. officials also complain that environmental regulations at large German training ranges have made it difficult for forces to conduct realistic exercises. One of those ranges, for instance, has been reclassified as a European Union environmental-protection zone to protect rare plants and animals.

Despite the restrictions, some German facilities have proved so useful that they will be retained. In particular, military officials say that Ramstein Air Base, in southern Germany, will remain a critical air hub. The U.S. European Command, based in Stuttgart, also isn't likely to move. Key air hubs in Italy and Spain are also unlikely to be downsized.

In Africa, virtually all of the facilities where the U.S. is looking at establishing a presence will require infrastructure improvements. In North Africa, Pentagon officials are looking at establishing semipermanent bases in Algeria, Morocco and possibly Tunisia. The U.S. expects to keep a small number of troops at these facilities and then rotate through a larger force.

It is considering smaller, more-austere bases in Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Kenya. U.S. officials said that a key mission for U.S. forces would be to ensure that Nigeria's oil fields, which in the future could account for as much as 25% of all U.S. oil imports, are secure.
In March 2004, Bradley Graham added another excellent report on the subject in the Washington Post. His report basically foretold today's announcement, even getting the troop numbers right. Here's what he had to say then:
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.
Analysis: I really can't add much to my analysis from March 2004, except to say that there are some very strange international and domestic politics at work now that did not exist even six months ago when Mr. Graham's report came out. On the international stage, we continue to experience difficulties with our NATO allies -- especially Germany, where the majority of our Europe-based troops reside. Those nations did not obstruct our use of bases on their soil for Operation Iraqi Freedom, even though they opposed the war. However, that is not to say that they would not oppose our use of bases for future military operations. Or that they might not deny us port access, rail access, airspace, or other necessary things for the conduct of modern international warfare. In many ways, this new basing paradigm reflects a basic pessimism about our allies' willingness to support our military endeavors in the future. Since we're unsure of support from Germany, we must instead base our troops in places where there is such a power imbalance (e.g. Poland and Romania) that there will be no risk whatsoever of interference with U.S. policy.

Domestically, the timing's a little curious too. Obviously, nothing will happen this year without some calculation of its election impact. This policy offers the Bush administration a chance to look like it's transforming the military by announcing a very big act of transformation -- even though this process started many years ago during the Bush I and Clinton administrations and even though it will take many years to complete. It's a very symbolic act, and it may make the Bush administration look "forward leaning" on the issue of defense transformation. As someone who follows these issues, I'm not sure it really is transformational. But it looks that way -- and perceptions count in politics.
Reservists face employment problems on the home front
The Associated Press reports on some troubling developments for U.S. military reservists who have returned home to difficult employment circumstances -- in possible violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Reemployment Rights Act (USERRA). This is a story I've written on before, but it's an issue that simply can't get enough emphasis. Especially when there are hard facts available like these:
Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said the department is drafting rules to spell out the law's protections for service personnel because "we've got to do everything we can to protect their re-employment rights."

Labor was receiving about 900 formal complaints a year before the Sept. 11. The statistical picture since then, based on fiscal years ending Sept. 30:

- 1,218 cases opened in 2002.

- 1,327 cases in 2003.

- 1,200 cases from Oct. 1, 2003 through July 31. If projected over 12 months, the figure would be 1,440, the department said.

Soldiers' complaints were upheld or settled by the department in one-third of last year's cases, while another third were found to have no merit. The remaining cases are inactive or closed, often because the government lost contact with the soldier or the soldier returned to active duty.

When Guard and Reserve troops returned from the first Gulf War, there was one complaint for every 54 soldiers leaving active duty. Currently, with the government's aggressive drive to inform employers of the law, the figure has improved to 1 in 69.
Analysis: It's good to have some data in front of us, because that helps to inform the discussion. To date, most reporting has focused on a few ugly anecdotes, such as the case of Dana Beaudine. And while such anecdotes make for good stories, they don't necessarily indicate a trend. Clearly, it's not a good thing that 3,745 complaints have been filed with the Labor Department. In each of these cases, I imagine that a reservist has come back to some sort of perceived unfairness on the part of his/her employer, and in each of these cases, there is likely a compelling story notwithstanding any actual violations of federal law.

That said, this may not be as big of a policy issue as we thought because of the second set of numbers. In 1991, we mobilized a lot of reservists to fight in Operation Desert Storm. But those reservists redeployed relatively quickly, with few serving a year or more on active duty. Then, there was 1 complaint for every 54 reservists, although that was before the USERRA under a watered-down legal regime. Today, with hundreds of thousands of reservists mobilized for uncertain and much longer tours, the complaint number has improved to 1 per every 69 mobilized reservists. I think that's a positive sign, and it probably reflects the aggressive work by the Pentagon and corporate trade associations to let businesses know about the law that protects reservists.

This is still a tough issue, and it's still something which demands vigilance from veterans' organizations and from the Labor Department. But perhaps we should take comfort in the fact that reservists are being treated pretty well, on the whole, by American employers. And that's exactly what should be happening.

Sunday, August 15, 2004

Assessing blame for post-war Iraq
Max Boot lauds "American Soldier" in the Washington Post, but misses the mark when it comes to assessing the facts.

As far as books go, I agree with Max Boot's review in the Washington Post that retired Gen. Tommy Franks' memoir American Soldier reads very well. Indeed, Mr. Boot's review says almost the exact same thing as my midstream review, even citing the same exchange between Gen. Franks and the "mob of Title Ten motherf---ers". My recommendation is still the same — read the book.

But as a work of history or policy explanation, my verdict differs from Mr. Boot's — I think the book falls short. Gen. Franks fails to explain the single biggest failure of his tenure at CENTCOM — the failure to secure the post-war peace in Iraq. And when he tries to explain it, Gen. Franks basically points the finger at his political bosses and says "it was their fault." Mr. Boot writes that Gen. Franks adequately explained this, as well as other issues like pre-war intelligence and the diversion of planning resources to Iraq in Fall 2001 when the Afghan war was raging. Here's what he had to say in the Post review:
Gen. Tommy Franks, who as head of U.S. Central Command presided over the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, has duly produced the expected autobiography. It is a good read, thanks to the work of veteran ghostwriter Malcolm McConnell; the early sections on Franks's blue-collar upbringing and Vietnam service are particularly affecting. But it has not made as much of a media splash as some other accounts of the administration, because it is not hostile to George W. Bush.

To the contrary, American Soldier rebuts some criticisms directed against the president. Bush has been accused, for instance, of taking his eye off Afghanistan by ordering the plan for a possible war with Iraq in the fall of 2001. Franks writes that, given the threat posed by Saddam Hussein, this was a sensible request, and that "our mission in Afghanistan never suffered" as a result.

Scores of pundits have accused the administration of lying, or at least distorting the evidence, about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction. But Franks reveals that the leaders of Egypt and Jordan told him that Saddam Hussein had chemical and biological weapons. Though no weapon of mass destruction was ever found, he writes, "I do not regret my role in disarming Iraq and removing its Baathist regime."

Another charge made against the administration is that political appointees failed to give the generals enough troops in either Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, Franks writes, it was his own choice to employ limited forces in order to avoid getting bogged down. Instead of relying on sheer size, he thought surprise and speed were the keys to victory — a judgment largely vindicated by events.
Really??? Are you sure about that? Or are you writing with your blinders on, Mr. Boot? It may well be the case that CENTCOM operational plan 1003-V succeeded during Phase III of the war — that is, the major combat phase. Indeed, it can be argued that this plan succeeded spectacularly, leading to what has been called "catastrophic success". But what is abundantly clear, both to national security experts on the left and right side of the aisle, is that this same plan spectacularly failed when it came to Phase IV of the operation. CENTCOM's plan, and the plans of CENTCOM's subordinate units, failed to anticipate catastrophic success as a possibility; it failed to effectively plan for worst-case scenarios of chaos and lawlessness; it failed to put adequate security and stability and nation-building resources on the ground quickly enough; and it failed to interface with the other departments of government, namely the State Department. The result is the mess we're in today. How in the world do these events vindicate Gen. Franks' judgment?

Answer: they don't. And Gen. Franks even says they don't in his book. Gen. Franks speaks to the issue of post-war planning and security a couple of times in his book, at one point laying the blame on senior Washington officials to give him sufficient policy guidance. Mr. Boot may not have read the same meaning in these words as I did, but then again, he hasn't served as an operational planner or even in uniform, so he may have missed the subtext. Let's turn to pages 351-2, and the description of an OPLAN brief from Dec. 2001 to President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Sec. Rumsfeld and Sec. Powell, among others:
"It was understood that the final phase, Phase IV--post hostility operations-- would last the longest: years, not months. ... The endstate of Phase IV included the establishment of a representative form of government in a country capable of defending its territorial borders and maintaining internal security, without any weapons of mass destruction.

I was aware that Phase IV might well prove more challenging than major combat operations..." [emphasis added]
Analysis: You have to have sat through a few OPLAN briefings to understand why this is significant. Here, Gen. Franks briefed the President and the NSC principals that Phase IV entailed significant strategic and operational risk, and that there was no good solution yet for Phase IV. Yet, the discussion afterwards focused entirely on WMD, Scuds, issues with allies, and other issues focused on Phase III. No one asked Gen. Franks about Phase IV; it seemed like an afterthought. That makes sense because the White House and Pentagon leaders saw Operation Iraqi Freedom as Desert Storm II in many ways — where we dodged the post-war issue by limiting our objectives and pulling out rapidly. This passage implies that Gen. Franks was aware of the problem, but his bosses weren't — and he didn't pop a starcluster to let them know of the problem.

On page 393, Gen. Franks tells of another briefing to President Bush and the NSC principals — this time in Aug. 2002, in the White House. Here again, Gen. Franks discussed the post-war issues, but apparently in a brief and optimistic way:
My final chart was potentially the most important: PHASE IV STABILITY OPERATIONS.

"The Generated and Running Starts," I explained, "and the Hybrid Concept all project Phase III ending with a maximum of two hundred and fifty thousand troops in Iraq. We will have to stand up a new Iraqi army, and create a constabulary that includes a representative tribal, religious and ethnic mix. It will take time.

"And well-designed and well-funded reconstruction projects that put large numbers of Iraqis to work and quickly meet community needs — and expectations — will be the keys to our success in Phase IV."

"We will want to get Iraqis in charge of Iraq as soon as possible," Don Rumsfeld said. On hearing his words, heads nodded around the table.

"At some point," I said, "we can begin drawing down our force. We'll want to retain a core strength of at least fifty thousand men, and our troop reductions should parallel deployment of representative, professional Iraqi security forces. Our exit strategy will be tied to effective governance by Iraqis, not to a timeline."

I saw further nods around the table. And then Condi Rice tapped her watch; we were out of time.
Analysis: Wow... the "group think" is so thick in this briefing that you can taste it. Heads nodding... eyes indicating assent without question... this is not an OPLAN briefing, this is a love-fest. Seriously, one can start adding up all of the implicit assumptions in these statements by Gen. Franks, and figure out exactly why the Phase IV plan went so poorly. For starters, there's no discussion of initial security needs, or initial needs for law and order. Second, there's no discussion of institutional responsibility for the key reconstruction projects described as being so essential — something we know now fell into the crack between State/USAID and Defense. Third, we have an incredibly optimistic troop redeployment estimate by Gen. Franks that reflects the best case scenario for post-war stability and reconstruction efforts. I don't know whether less optimistic scenarios were presented to the President or not, but it's clear from Franks' book that he certainly didn't give him any. And so, President Bush decided to go to war on the basis of this best case scenario, without the expectation that we could get bogged down in Phase IV. Of course, I blame the President for making that flawed decision and his top advisers (like Secretary Rumsfeld) for pushing it. But a certain amount of blame also belongs to Gen. Franks, for not highlighting the strategic and operational risks of this plan and pushing for their resolution before execution.

Of course, Gen. Franks dodges that bullet like a good soldier should, and lays much of the blame for post-war Iraq at the feet of his superiors. On pages 419-24, Gen. Franks discusses post-war issues in more detail, set against the backdrop of intensive pre-war preparation in Jan/Feb. 2003 — only weeks before the war. Here, Gen. Franks alludes to the absence of solid policy guidance and sufficient resources as issues that would come back to haunt him:
The military coalition would liberate Iraq, set conditions for civilian authority to stand-up a provisional government supported by Coalition stability forces, and provide security until Iraq could field her own security forces — a common-sense approach to a complex problem.

Naming Jay Garner [as the head of initial reconstruction efforts in Iraq] was a good first step, but it was only a first step. Washington would be responsible for providing the policy — and, I hoped, sufficient resources — to win the hearts and minds of the Iraqi people: jobs, power grids, water infrastructure, schools, hospitals, and the promise of prosperity. Iraq's oil wealth would be shared by people who had experienced only abuse, sacrifice, and penury for more than thirty years. [emphasis added]
Analysis: Hope is not a method! Gen. Franks clearly points the finger at Washington here for failing to provide both the policy guidance and the resources necessary to accomplish Phase IV. You have to read the rest of the book to get this, because here he just leaves it as an open question. But rest assured, Gen. Franks never closes the loop on this one — he never says that Washington did provide the policy guidance and resources to do the job. Franks reiterates this point on pages 441-42:
In my view, these [dealing with WMD, coopting the Iraqi military as a security force, and articulating a policy to deal with suspected regime war criminals] were among the strategic tasks Washington needed to address.

... Washington needed to get ready for the occupation and reconstruction — because combat operations just might be over sooner than anyone could imagine. At NSC briefings, Rumsfeld and I referred to that possibility as "catastrophic success."
Again, Gen. Franks hints quite strongly that "Washington" — presumably the White House, NSC and policy shop of the Pentagon — failed him.

So I'm not sure that Mr. Boot's review gets it right at all. I don't think this is a satisfactory explanation for why Phase IV has gone so poorly, but I do think that Gen. Franks is trying to shift some of the blame for this onto his former political bosses. Mr. Boot mentions this obliquely, with respect to the issue of disbanding the Iraqi military. Gen. Franks says several times that he would not have taken that action, and indeed, that his war plan assumed the continued existence and co-opting of the Iraqi military for post-war security. However, that's not the whole story when it comes to Phase IV. I think that Mr. Boot's review misses the mark in two major ways. First, Mr. Boot says that Gen. Franks does not "seriously ponder what more he could have done to foster a secure postwar environment in Iraq and Afghanistan." That's not true. He does ponder it, and at some length. But as a good soldier, Gen. Franks is not going to come out and say that the White House and Pentagon screwed the pooch on Phase IV — he's going to imply it in subtle ways, by shifting responsibility for certain segments of the operation or levels of command. That's exactly what he does in the book, but Mr. Boot misses it.

Second, the review implies that the other post-war criticisms of the Bush administration are unfounded — that the administration's judgment on this operation has been borne out by events. I just don't think you can make a colorable argument to support that point. The fact of the matter is that this administration latched onto every optimistic assumption in the book, as James Fallows reported in the Atlantic Monthly, and failed to effectively plan for the chaos and instability that followed the war. Of course, you couldn't foresee that with any certainty. But you sure as hell could plan for it — and in my opinion, it was derelict not to at least anticipate (and plan for) a worst-case scenario. As I wrote in June 2003 for the Washington Monthly, we have always known that it takes more troops and time to secure the peace than to win the war — it's simply a more complicated endeavor. We ignored the lessons of Germany, Korea, Vietnam, Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia and Kosovo in Iraq, and we are now paying the price.

Post Script: After writing this, I thought of another irony in Mr. Boot's review. He, of course, authored the excellent military history book The Savage Wars of Peace: Small Wars and the Rise of American Power. That book chronicled the many small wars of the U.S. military near the turn of the 20th Century, including those in the Philippines and Latin America. After its publication, some saw the book as an argument for how America could intervene abroad successfully. Ostensibly, we are now engaged in a very big "small war", to use the term of art from the USMC manual of the same name. And yet, Mr. Boot's review made no mention of the counterinsurgency history he so well aware of, nor of the difficulties the Army and Marines have faced in Iraq.

Post Script II: W. Charles Campbell has an interesting note on Tommy Franks' book and these issues at his blog Cosmic Wheel. Check it out.
Western Iraq -- the forgotten corner of the war
On Friday, the Washington Post and the Knight Ridder news service both ran outstanding profiles of the Marine Corps units engaged in combat in the dangerous Western part of Iraq. The region is not often in the headlines, far as it is from the Baghdad news bureaus and the political intrigue of the al-Sadr fight. Yet, the fighting is as fierce or more fierce than that in Fallujah or Najaf. The Washington Post reports on one fight by 3-7 Marines:
QAIM, Iraq -- Word spread fast. It was Gunny. And the young kid, Nice.

The news was passed in low voices, quiet conversations. No one wanted to say it loudly. The Marines heard it and looked away. They squinted at the heavy sun, kicked their boots in the dust. Their faces hardened. They spat their dip and shifted the guns on their shoulders. They swore. What else was there to say but goddammit.

Gunnery Sgt. Elia Fontecchio, 30, was killed by a roadside bomb, set off by someone who was watching a U.S. Marine foot patrol finish its work on Wednesday, Aug. 4. A half-hour later, Lance Cpl. Joseph Nice, 19, was stringing concertina wire across a road when a single sniper bullet passed through his body.

They were deaths 14 and 15 for the 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment since it arrived in February. With 156 Purple Hearts as well, the casualty count for this battalion is higher than that of any other unit in Iraq, save for fellow Marines in turbulent Fallujah.

But to the men here, this is a forgotten war. They are at the western edge of Iraq, the last stop before Syria. The world hears what happens here only in a faint whisper. They are far from the headline cities -- Najaf, Baghdad, Fallujah, Ramadi -- where every spasm is seen by a thousand eyes.

Isolated at this far-flung outpost, the men live packed bunk to bunk, they guard one another's backs, they depend on the group to help ward off fear and loneliness. And they face losses in their own searingly personal way. When one man is killed, the rest are asked to go back where he died, to face the same danger, in the name of duty. They do it, they say, for their comrades, for themselves and for a country that expects it of them.
Knight-Ridder's photographer David Swanson also reports on the Marines in Western Iraq -- specifically, on the "Magnificent Bastards" of Echo Company, 2-4 Marines, in Ramadi. While embedded with the company, Swanson witnessed a fierce fight in which 12 Marines died. Here's an excerpt from the start of his outstanding report, which ran in the Philadelphia Inquirer and many other papers.
Following their commander, Capt. Kelly D. Royer, they dashed past palm trees, through warrens of cinder-block buildings. I struggled to keep up and take photographs at the same time. It was April 6, 2004, and I had just joined Echo Company as an "embedded" journalist.

One of Echo's sniper patrols was under fire, and this 30-man "quick-reaction force" was on its way to reinforce the pinned-down Marines.

Before we'd gone far, a radio call crackled in from base that changed our plans: The sniper patrol had repulsed its attackers, but now the First Platoon, sent out earlier to clear a main supply route through the city of nearly 500,000, was taking fire and needed help.

Amid the afternoon's dust and noise, Royer stopped and radioed Second Lt. John Wroblewski. "Lt. Ski," as his men called him, was leading another Echo team through the chaotic streets of Ramadi. Royer's message: Pick us up at an intersection at a local marketplace.

Wroblewski knew the location well. He had been there a day earlier, leading a foot patrol, and had noticed that, unlike in other neighborhoods, residents did not wave and children did not flock to the Marines. They only stared.

Neither Royer nor Wroblewski could know that, earlier this morning, Iraqi and foreign fighters had slipped through the market, telling shopkeepers to close their stores and kiosks, warning: "Today, we are going to kill Americans."
This is pure combat journalism, and while it contains some introspection and analysis, it really just passes on a first-person account of the fighting. Fortunately, the fighting is not like this everywhere in Iraq. Indeed, given the casualty numbers for the Marines in these two units, the fighting is like this nowhere else in Iraq. To me, that says we have probably pacified a good deal of Iraq, or more likely, that most of Iraq simply wants to go on living their daily lives. However, these stories also tell me there are serious, hard-core, guerillas opposing us in Iraq, and that they will continue to fight us until then win or we kill them. And, more importantly, if we withdraw I do not think the Iraqi government can deal with this threat, given the experiences of the Marines in these cities.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Note to overseas military voters
The Pentagon is making a concerted push this year to get American military ballots in and counted, given the large number of U.S. servicemembers who will deployed overseas during this year's fall election. An important deadline is coming up tomorrow -- August 15 -- for military voters overseas. According to the Army Knowledge Online system, soldiers must mail the Federal Post Card Application for an absentee ballot by tomorrow in order to ensure their FPCA gets accepted by every state.
UC students win big in court
The Los Angeles Times reports that a coalition of University of California students has won a preliminary injunction from a Superior Court judge in San Francisco against the UC system's planned fee increases for the 2004-05 year. Fees were set to rise by at least 30% for many of the system's professional schools — law, business, and medicine. For now, at least, the students have a reprieve.
Ruling in a lawsuit brought by students who said the fee hikes breached a contract with them, Judge James L. Warren issued a preliminary injunction late Thursday blocking the increases for the 2004-05 school year. They would average about 30%.

The judge said the student plaintiffs had "demonstrated a substantial likelihood of success on the merits" of the case, which is expected to go to trial in the fall.

* * *
The judge's order applies only to those who enrolled in a professional degree program before 2003 and are still enrolled. Eisenman said it affects about 3,000 of the 9,000 students at the university's professional schools, which include law, medicine, business, dentistry, veterinary medicine and film.

At least for now, those students will not be required to pay fee increases for 2004-05 that would average about 30% — or from about $3,000 to $4,500 — more than last year.

Including that boost, new medical students, for example, will pay $4,500 more this school year, with their academic fees now totaling about $20,000.

The university was working Friday to begin lowering the fees on billing statements for the affected students, the spokesman said.
Analysis: I'll be honest here — I'm shocked that the students won on a breach of contract theory, and that they got a preliminary injunction. That's a tough remedy to get, and I think the students lucked out with a sympathetic judge. Nonetheless, the students have succeeded where university administrators and regents have failed — they have stopped the student fee juggernaut cold in its tracks.

When I started UCLA Law School in fall 2001, a purportedly public law school, my student fees totaled just over $10,000 a year. Law students this year at UCLA, Boalt, UC Davis and Hastings were slated to pay more than $24,000 in fees. (This, in a UC system that's Constitutionally mandated by the 1960 Master Plan not to charge tuition to in-state students, so these charges are euphemistically called "fees".) That's nearly a 150% jump in student fees over four years! It's a pace that neither the student aid system nor the labor market can support, with the result that students are taking on more and more debt without the ability to easily repay that debt after graduation.

An economist might say "Great! In the long run, students will only go to law school if they can afford the fees and make enough to repay the debt." Perhaps... although this ignores the vast number of public and public interest law jobs that pay nowhere near what you need to make in order to pay down this debt load. Suffice to say, if you go to Stanford or Harvard, rack up $150,000 in debt, you can't really consider a public law career unless you're independently wealthy or willing to take a vow of poverty. The same is almost true for California's public law schools now. I was lucky to emerge from UCLA with just $50,000 in debt, thanks to teaching fellowships and work I did in school. Working in the public sector, whether as a journalist or Asst. US Attorney, may be a viable option for me because of this manageable debt load. But if I were starting UCLA now, I'd need to take on a lot more debt... probably more than $100,000 for the three years of law school. That would really constrain my job options, as well as those of many other graduates. At the end of the day, you're going to get a lot fewer UCLA, Boalt, Davis and Hastings grads working in the public sector.

Of course, why should we care about lawyers? Who needs more lawyers? There's a glut of lawyers! To some extent, I think this hyperbole is true. I'm sure society will survive a temporary hiccup in the production of lawyers. Nonetheless, we should be very worried about the UC's fee policies for other professional schools — especially medicine. The consequences of this fee increase for the medical profession are far more profound, and far more dangerous, than those for lawyers. It's one thing when there aren't enough legal services to go around — the market can adjust. But when there aren't enough doctors working in low-paying public health jobs, or providing health care to impoverished communities, the public health consequences can be explosive. People will go untreated; wounds will fester; diseases will flourish. At some point, the public health of the poor becomes a problem for the rest of us, because communicable disease knows no race or class bounds. We neglect the health care of the poor at our own risk, and we will damage low-income health care by jacking up the fees for UC medical students.

And don't get me started on undergraduate education, which the UC system has screwed up this year in a myriad of ways from student fees to admissions to a faculty hiring freeze. The evidence is clear: undergraduate education costs money, but it's an investment in our future. The best example is the GI Bill. We spent hundreds of millions (maybe billions) to educate vets after WWII and throughout the 20th Century. But armed with that education, those vets then went into the work force, generating trillions of dollars for the U.S. economy. California's investment in the UC system, over the past 40 years, has similarly spurred the state economy and provided the foundation for both the Silicon Valley tech sector and the business sectors of L.A. and San Francisco. Yet, the state now stands poised to abandon this investment, all in the name of short-term savings.

I know this rant strays away from my lane, as a national security affairs writer. But I know something about education issues too. I earned both my B.A. and J.D. from UCLA. And as an undergraduate, I covered the UC Board of Regents from 1994-97 as a college reporter, where I became intimately familiar with fee issues and larger issues surrounding higher ed in California. I've been around the UC system for a long time, and I've seen cyclical trends and long-term trends. But today's fiscal problems beat them all, and make the financial crunches of the early and mid-1990s look small by comparison. By raising fees this much, and by changing its admission calculus to make ends meet, the UC Board of Regents has sacrificed its educational mission in order to make its bottom line. California will suffer for that decision.

When you balance the budget on the backs of students, the whole state eventually pays the bill.

Coda: A reader wrote to remind me of the public service loan repayment programs at many expensive private schools such as Yale, NYU and Harvard. Indeed, that was an oversight on my part. I have had several friends attend those prestigious institutions' law schools, emerge with $120,000+ in debt, and then work in the public sector because of these programs' existence. In essence, they all work in roughly the same way, by paying a student's loans for the period the student is engaged in public work, with a salary below a certain amount. Some, like that at Yale Law School, have a graduated income cap that subsidizes your loans at some percentage even if you make above that cap. Most of the good ones are very broad -- they include government work (i.e. district attorney or public defender) as well as public interest work per se (i.e. working for Legal Aid).

The kicker is this: because UCLA, Boalt, UC Davis and Hastings have been low cost law schools for so long, these programs have remained relatively small and underfunded. They're also very narrow, applying only to public interest work and not to public service work (broadly defined). And they're stingy. If the UC system is going to extract these kinds of fees from professional students, then it may want to borrow a page from the private school playbook by investing in loan-repayment program for public service.

Last time I checked, the UC system had a 3-part mission: teaching, research and public service.