Wednesday, October 27, 2004

A straight-talkin', snake-eatin', Army chief of staff
Sean Naylor and Megan Scully have an extremely interesting interview with Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, in this week's Army Times. Gen. Schoomaker came out of retirement, after a lengthy career in U.S. special operations forces, to lead the Army after Gen. Eric Shinseki's retirement in 2003. Since then, he has struggled to balance the ongoing missions in Iraq and Afghanistan with longer term initiatives to transform and reform the Army. Here's a brief excerpt from the interview, discussing some important budget issues and also some personnel issues in the news lately:
Q: Shifting gears a little bit, I was at an acquisitions conference last month and [Lt. Gen. Joseph Yakovac Jr.,] said, I'm quoting him here, the Army would be in a world of trouble if it didn't receive supplemental [funding bills], and that planning in the [Program Objective Memorandum] was predicated on the supplementals.

How much longer do you expect the Army to get these supplementals and what happens after that ends?

A: First of all the supplementals are not designed to pay for our war-related efforts. A good example, when I arrived here, we had less than 500 up-armored Humvees in the entire Army because the way the Army was structured, we saw the Humvee being associated with MPs and Scouts. We've had a demand in theater for 10 times that many and we're filling that demand, but that was not something inside the program, nor should it be something inside the program. Supplemental funding is providing for the force protection that's directly related to the war effort.

The level of operational tempo that we have is being paid for with the supplemental. The increased consumption of repair parts and ammunition are all being funded by the supplemental. But the issue is that, from a strategic perspective, we have a war to fight and we're receiving increased dollars. I call that the window of opportunity — these dollars that we're receiving. And we have an Army to transform. So what is important to understand and I think what really is the extraordinary window that we have here is that we can combine these two. Combine this momentum - the momentum from the focus that war gives us, the funding that we're getting from the war, and our transformational effort. So as we go through the POM, and you can imagine these being different fiscal years, we don't know how long this will go long or how long supplemental funding will continue to support our wartime effort. But it makes sense to us to leverage the momentum and the additional funding we have so that where we go forward to a transformed force for the 21st Century.

We should not think about these as two separate efforts. In other words, Transformation should parallel what we're doing and we shouldn't be resetting our forces back the way they were. We should be resetting them forward. It's a two-for. It's two birds with one stone. It's good for the taxpayer and it's good for the Army and it's good for the nation and what we're doing.

So I don't quite agree exactly with what perhaps either Gen. Yakovak said or the way you interpreted what he said. I think that the rate at which we're transforming has a lot to do with the degree to which we are operating. The demand that the war has on us gives us an opportunity for us to leverage that momentum, to help us transform faster.

If we did not have the war or we did not have this supplemental funding, or if the war wasn't there to focus us and we didn't have the funding associated with it, Transformation would take much, much longer. So we're attempting to accelerate our transformation to get ourselves postured properly for the future as early as we possibly can. And quite frankly, it's a strategy that is paying off for us.

* * *
Q: The conventional wisdom holds that in Vietnam, the third tour broke the back of the NCO corps. When NCOs were asked to go back a third tour, those who were still alive, that sort of crushed the NCO corps and it took until the 1980s to really rebuild it again.

Right now, you've got troops coming back from rotation. Some of them aren't even back home with their families for a year and they're being asked to turn around and go back out for another year. I spoke to an officer two days ago who had recently returned from a deployment. He's at a post where there's a unit deploying now. He's not going with it, but he told me flat out that he thought this was breaking the Army.

I talked to, frankly, a Bush appointee in the Pentagon who told me we're breaking the Army.

How long can the Army keep this pace up before it breaks?

A: First of all, I don't like to make comparisons with Vietnam because I don't think there is a direct analogy. But I think the point is that we have to be very concerned and very cognizant of what the short, medium and long-range impacts of this level of operation are. And I'll go back and tell you that it goes right back into the discussion we've already had about growing the Army and about how important it is to grow an increased number of deployable elements. Because as you grow and have available to you more deployable elements, you can increase the dwell time.

We're working very hard to look for the point in time in which we can do two things. One of them is increase the dwell time between deployments, and the second thing is to look at the earliest possible opportunity to reduce the length of deployments that we have. All of us understand that a year is a lot to ask of people in combat and all of us would like to see us go to either nine months or six months or something in between.

We're looking very hard at how we can do that. But we have to continue to operate. We don't have choices on that. So everything we're doing and why the speed of this transformation is so important is because it directly answers the question and relieves the stress.
Read the whole darn thing if you want some good insight into how the Army's leadership sees the long-term challenges and opportunities in front of it. There's a lot of policy wonkish stuff in this interview, so it's not for the faint of heart. But if you want to dig beneath the surface of today's headlines about the war in Iraq, the draft, and defense procurement, this interview is essential reading.

Tuesday, October 26, 2004

Intellectual Honesty
Jacob Weisberg, editor-in-chief for Slate, pens a provocative essay this afternoon on the subjects of fairness and objectivity in journalism. The essay is meant to introduce this year's poll of Slate writers and their ballot choices, but I think it also makes some good points independently from that feature about the appropriate role of journalism in American society.
Fairness, in the kind of journalism Slate practices, does not mean equal time for both sides. It does not mean withholding judgment past a reasonable point. It means having basic intellectual honesty. When you advance a hypothesis, you must test it against reality. When you make a political argument, you must take seriously the significant arguments on the other side. And indeed, Slate writers tend to be the sort of people who relish opportunities to criticize their own team and give credit to their opponents. Or so we'd like to think. By disclosing our opinions about who should be president, we're giving readers a chance to judge how well we are living up to these ideals.

Our aspiration to fairness has been more tested in this election than in most. Personally, I do not remember caring as much about the outcome of any campaign as I do about this one. In a recent editorial meeting, one of our contributors proposed a complicated investigative story that he thought might be harmful to the candidate he wanted to win. Because I did not quite understand the idea—and because we didn't have the resources to pursue the story—I said that we should put the proposal in "the November 3 file." This was a joke, but with enough truth to it that the writer in question didn't think I was kidding. I don't think we have used our (very limited) power as journalists to try to improve John Kerry's chances of winning the election. The majority of the complaints I've heard this election season have been from Kerry supporters who don't understand why we're so hard on a candidate we mostly agree with. But the temptation to play favorites has been harder to resist than usual.

News organizations that, for understandable reasons, are less open about the political views of their staff may have a harder time with the challenge of being fair to both sides. Repressed politics, like repressed sexuality, tends to find an outlet of one kind or another. This may explain how Dan Rather and other conscientious journalists at 60 Minutes ended up promoting some sloppily forged documents thought to be damaging to President Bush's re-election effort. Conservatives were right to point out that an equally flawed story harmful to Kerry almost certainly would not have aired. What if CBS reporters and producers openly acknowledged that the vast majority of them prefer Kerry and the Democrats? Perhaps in openly expressing their political leanings, they would be forced to try harder to be fair to the other side, lest they be dismissed as biased.
I agree with Jake, and not just because he edits the magazine for which I write. I think Slate's opinion journalism is extremely good because of its intellectual honesty, and its willingness to debunk conventional wisdom or oppose either side — in the name of what it sees as the truth. We state our biases up front so that people know them and can use them when reading and evaluating our work. We do not employ the sophistry of fictional objectivity in order to give our arguments an additional veneer of legitimacy. Our arguments stand on their own merits, without any such window dressing.

In that spirit, I think it's important for me to share my political choice this season, because of the way that my views affect what I write here on Intel Dump. So here is my answer to Slate's election year poll:
Phillip Carter, Military and Legal Affairs Writer: Kerry

I'm casting my vote as a referendum on the Bush national security policies since January 2001. When you pour billions into homeland security without achieving a significant net gain in security, I think there's a problem. When you mislead the country about our reasons for war in Iraq, and then fail to plan effectively for military and strategic victory, you simply don't get to keep your job. When you employ lawyers to eviscerate the rule of law and make America into the world's brigand instead of the world's leader, I don't think you should be allowed to keep your office. When you allow al-Qaida to mutate and evolve into a more lethal and survivable global terror network on your watch, you haven't done your job. Sen. Kerry hasn't fully shown that he will improve on all these fronts, but I do believe he will do better than President Bush.
Surprised? Probably not. This vote falls in line with much of what I've already written, especially in the past two years. Still, I think it's important to explicitly state my electoral preference so that my writing can be judged against it. I wish the rest of the media — newspapers, magazines, TV networks, opinion journals, etc., — would follow Slate's lead by letting us know their biases too.

Monday, October 25, 2004

Creating more alligators to roam the swamp
Slate just published a new article of mine discussing the reports from last week that somewhere between 8 and 25 detainees released from Guantanamo Bay have rejoined the Taliban and Al Qaeda insurgency fighting U.S.-led forces in Afghanistan. The core of the argument:
It's hardly surprising that the men imprisoned at Guantanamo would lie or cheat to earn their release. Any soldier would do the same thing under similar circumstances, including U.S. military personnel—who are honor bound by the U.S. military's Code of Conduct to "resist by all means available" and "make every effort to escape and to aid others to escape." However, it is surprising that sophisticated U.S. intelligence officials would fall for these deception efforts. One detainee who has rejoined the jihad in Afghanistan, Taliban field commander Abdullah Mehsud, bragged that he had concealed his identity as a Pakistani from U.S. interrogators by using a fake Afghan ID and lying to them. A Pentagon spokesman told the Los Angeles Times, "If he fibbed, we've said from the beginning that these guys are masters of deception," and a former Pentagon official involved with detainee issues said that "you can't trust them when they say they're not terrorists." But how daft were our interrogators at Gitmo if they fell for a fake ID? And how much trust can we put in the intelligence gleaned from Gitmo, if the interrogators there fell for whoppers like Mehsud's?

The administration chose in January 2002 to shred the Geneva Conventions because it thought those old rules would constrain it in this new kind of war. But as Marine Lt. Col. William Lietzau, who worked on detainee issues in the Defense Department's office of general counsel, told the New York Times: "There were very good reasons not to designate the detainees as prisoners of war, but the claim that they couldn't be interrogated was not one of them." Geneva does put some constraints on the handling and adjudication of detainees, but they were meaningless restraints. The most important task—interrogation—could be accomplished equally well with Geneva in place as without it. More important, the Geneva Conventions already contained the solution to the paroled detainee problem: Part IV of the convention spells out the exact rules for repatriating sick and infirm prisoners; Art. 118 of the treaty establishes the rule for repatriation at the end of hostilities. Had the administration followed Geneva all along, it could have simply invoked the provisions of this time-honored treaty to support its policy of holding the Gitmo detainees indefinitely, or at least until the insurgency abated in Afghanistan, from where the majority of the Gitmo detainees came. Had the administration done that, it would now be on solid legal and political ground, and U.S. soldiers would likely not be facing Mehsud on the Afghan battlefield.
Bonus: If you want to read an extremely thorough and balanced treatment of detention and interrogation issues, see "Lawfulness of Interrogation Techniques under the Geneva Conventions", a Congressional Research Service report by Jennifer K. Elsea, an attorney on the CRS staff.
The insurgency triad: men + explosives + ideology
However, the initial reports may be wrong — see update II below

The New York Times (with help from 60 Minutes) reports this morning that nearly 380 tons of conventional explosives went missing shortly after last year's war from an Iraqi weapons facility known as Al Qa Qaa, and are likely being used by the insurgents fighting U.S. and Iraqi forces today. The missing explosives consist mostly of HMX and RDX — which can be made into plastic explosive, or used in their existing state for explosive purposes. The stockpile also included PETN — PETN and RDX can be mixed to make the plastic explosive Semtex. The explosives can also be used as part of the trigger for a nuclear weapon, if machined in just the right ways. Notwithstanding all those concerns, it appears that the facility was left unsecured after the collapse of the Hussein regime in April 2003 — with all too predictable and dire results.
A senior Bush administration official said that during the initial race to Baghdad, American forces "went through the bunkers, but saw no materials bearing the I.A.E.A. seal." It is unclear whether troops ever returned.

By late 2003, diplomats said, arms agency experts had obtained commercial satellite photos of Al Qaqaa showing that two of roughly 10 bunkers that contained HMX appeared to have been leveled by titanic blasts, apparently during the war. They presumed some of the HMX had exploded, but that is unclear.

Other HMX bunkers were untouched. Some were damaged but not devastated. I.A.E.A. experts say they assume that just before the invasion the Iraqis followed their standard practice of moving crucial explosives out of buildings, so they would not be tempting targets. If so, the experts say, the Iraqi must have broken seals from the arms agency on bunker doors and moved most of the HMX to nearby fields, where it would have been lightly camouflaged - and ripe for looting.

But the Bush administration would not allow the agency back into the country to verify the status of the stockpile. In May 2004, Iraqi officials say in interviews, they warned L. Paul Bremer III, the American head of the occupation authority, that Al Qaqaa had probably been looted. It is unclear if that warning was passed anywhere.

* * *
"The immediate danger" of the lost stockpile, said an expert who recently led a team that searched Iraq for deadly arms, "is its potential use with insurgents in very small and powerful explosive devices. The other danger is that it can easily move into the terrorist web across the Middle East."
Analysis: The "fire" metaphor is probably overused and trite by now, but I think it's still the best one for explaining the significance of this report. Think of the Iraqi insurgency as a fire. A fire requires three things — combustible material, oxygen, and a spark — known as the triad. An insurgency also requires three things — men, warfighting materiel, and a spark, provided by ideology. ("Every idea is an incitement." — Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes) What this report makes clear is how easy it was to find warfighting materiel in Iraq after the end of major combat operations. It doesn't take a rocket scientist, or explosives expert, to figure out that this stuff is now being used against us in the form of IEDs on the roads of Iraq.

I can't put this point bluntly enough: our failure to provide effective security in the early days of the post-war aftermath allowed this materiel to be looted. The effect of that failure is that the insurgents were able to acquire significant amounts of high-quality explosives. They are now using that material against us. It would be hard to find a more clear case of how our failure to plan for the post-war aftermath set the conditions for the Iraqi insurgency, and allowed that insurgency to gain strength. Our other decisions, such as that to disband the Iraqi army and de-Baathify the Iraqi government, over the objections of men like then-MG David Petraeus and countless SF teams working with the Iraqis to secure the country, added another component of the insurgency triad. And of course, once you've got those two things, it only takes a spark, something readily provided by Shiite and Sunni insurgents seeking to eject us and retake the country in their own name.

What can be done now? Nothing — it's far too late to stuff this cat back in the bag. We now need to recognize the extent of the threat we face in Iraq. The Pentagon revised its estimate last week of the insurgency's strength — it now includes 12,000 individuals around the country, or roughly the strength of one U.S. light infantry division. As this report makes clear, the insurgency has access to a great deal of warfighting materiel, and it continues to use this stuff against us in ambushes and IED attacks. We need to gird ourselves for a long fight, and we need to prepare the Iraqis for a long fight, because this fight ain't going to end for a long time, no matter what happens next week in the U.S. election.

Update I: The always informative trade journal Inside the Army (subscription required) reports this morning that one of the Army's top procurement officials sees improvised explosive devices ("IEDs") and car bombs as the most important threats facing U.S. forces in Iraq today.
"We focus a lot on IEDs, but probably the most significant problem, and the one that concerns me the most is car bombs. While we have an idea of what we need to do with IEDs, car bombs are much more difficult. Any vehicle on the highway or on the road can be a car bomb. And how do you tell one from the other?" Maj. Gen. John Doesburg, commander of Research, Development and Engineering Command said in an Oct. 21 interview with Inside the Army.
The RDX, HMX and PETN materials looted at Al Qa Qaa are instrumental for making high-explosive IEDs and car bombs, which are being used today with deadly effect against U.S. forces and Iraqi forces. Make no mistake about it — the material looted at Al Qa Qaa is now being used against our troops in Iraq. Our negligence with respect to securing the country is coming back to haunt us.

Update II — First reports may be wrong: According to both the Pentagon and an NBC News crew embedded with the 101st Airborne during major combat operations last year, the explosives at Al Qa Qaa might have been missing by the time U.S. troops reached the site. The Washington Times passes on this reporting:
Pentagon officials said yesterday that Iraq had already admitted to breaking the IAEA seals and moving tons of the explosives from the Al Qaqaa facility, south of Baghdad, before U.N. inspectors re-entered the country in 2002. Officials said the rest of the explosives stockpiles may have been removed and hidden before the arrival of American troops.

That explanation was bolstered last night by a report from NBC News, which said the weapons already were missing when their embedded reporter arrived at the site on April 10, 2003.

"NBC News was embedded with troops from the Army's 101st Airborne as they [took] over the weapons installation south of Baghdad. But they never found the 380 tons" of missing explosives, the network reported.

A Pentagon statement said troops searched the Al Qaqaa site during and after major combat. They searched 32 bunkers and 87 other buildings, the Pentagon said, but found no weapons of mass destruction or any material under IAEA seal.

"Although some believe the Al Qaqaa facility may have been looted, there is no way to verify this," the Pentagon said. "Another explanation is that regime loyalists or others emptied the facility prior to coalition forces arriving in Baghdad in April."

The "60 Minutes-New York Times report said Pentagon officials acknowledged the material disappeared after Baghdad fell. But Pentagon and White House officials said yesterday they do not know when the explosives went missing and have asked the CIA's Iraqi Survey Group to investigate.
To quote the SecDef, there are known knowns, known unknowns, and unknown unknowns. I'd say this falls squarely into the category of known unknowns now — we know what was at Al Qa Qaa, but we don't know (and probably cannot know with any fidelity) what happened to it. It's very possible that these explosives disappeared in the fog of war. I don't doubt for a second they are being used against us to this day as the explosive ingredient for IEDs and car bombs. But if these reports from NBC and the Pentagon are true, there really isn't anyone in the U.S. government to blame for this material going loose. If anything, this corroborates a theory that I've held for some time — that it was the intent of the Iraqi military all along to go to ground in the face of the U.S. advance, and to fight for their country as an insurgency. In many ways, that's a worse scenario than what the first reports sketched out, because it indicates a far greater level of sophistication to this enemy. We'll see what develops.

Related Posts:

  1. Uh oh... we lost some more weapons in Iraq
  2. A drop in the bucket... or the tip of the iceberg?
  3. The insurgency triad: men + explosives + ideology

Sunday, October 24, 2004

Goodbye Geneva, Part XVIII
Dana Priest, who reports on intelligence community issues for the Washington Post, has a report in Sunday's paper on a classifed CIA memo that authorized the removal of Iraqi detainees to other countries for the purpose of interrogation. Presumably, the removal was intended to facilitate more coercive and secretive interrogations than could be conducted inside Iraq, possibly by 3rd party nations with less restrictive rules on the process. In any event, much of the memo's reasoning seems to track the other memoranda issued by the White House, Justice Department and Pentagon on detainee operations — grab who you want, do what you must.
At the request of the CIA, the Justice Department drafted a confidential memo that authorizes the agency to transfer detainees out of Iraq for interrogation — a practice that international legal specialists say contravenes the Geneva Conventions.

One intelligence official familiar with the operation said the CIA has used the March draft memo as legal support for secretly transporting as many as a dozen detainees out of Iraq in the last six months. The agency has concealed the detainees from the International Committee of the Red Cross and other authorities, the official said.

The draft opinion, written by the Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel and dated March 19, 2004, refers to both Iraqi citizens and foreigners in Iraq, who the memo says are protected by the treaty. It permits the CIA to take Iraqis out of the country to be interrogated for a "brief but not indefinite period." It also says the CIA can permanently remove persons deemed to be "illegal aliens" under "local immigration law."

Some specialists in international law say the opinion amounts to a reinterpretation of one of the most basic rights of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, which protects civilians during wartime and occupation, including insurgents who were not part of Iraq's military.

The treaty prohibits the "[i]ndividual or mass forcible transfers, as well as deportations of protected persons from occupied territory . . . regardless of their motive."

The 1949 treaty notes that a violation of this particular provision constitutes a "grave breach" of the accord, and thus a "war crime" under U.S. federal law, according to a footnote in the Justice Department draft. "For these reasons," the footnote reads, "we recommend that any contemplated relocations of 'protected persons' from Iraq to facilitate interrogation be carefully evaluated for compliance with Article 49 on a case by case basis." It says that even persons removed from Iraq retain the treaty's protections, which would include humane treatment and access to international monitors. [emphasis added]
Analysis: At this point, I have to say that I'm not surprised by these stories anymore. I've read enough of the Bush administration's legal analysis to predict with some fidelity the kinds of secretive methods they're employing. This instance is the natural and logical progression of the reasoning found in the "Geneva don't apply memo" of Jan. 2002, the torture memoranda of 2002 and 2003, and the memoranda supporting the Gitmo operations. Once you decide the gloves come off, and you figure out clever legal arguments for allowing the gloves to stay off, can we really be surprised that our fighters continue to throw bare-knuckled punches?

Ms. Priest has reported on this stuff before, as have her colleagues at the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post and Los Angeles Times, among others. They have generally sketched a picture of a very shady and secretive detention network aimed at squeezing detainees around the world for "HUMINT" — the most valuable commodity in existence right now for the United States. You see, our intelligence community generally lacks good human intelligence about the terror threat we now face. It has lots of technical intelligence, gathered from listening devices, surveillance systems, satellites, and so forth. But our enemies know how to evade those means, and the most important intelligence in this war thus remains locked inside the heads of the terrorists. There are other ways to get HUMINT besides squeezing detainees, such as infiltration, working with allies who can infiltrate, and other means that usually involve a little bit of getting dirty yourself. But it appears that most of the the U.S. HUMINT effort has been oriented on detainees, probably because once they're in custody, this is a relatively low-cost method of gathering intelligence. Given the importance of HUMINT, and the critical role that detainee operations play to the gathering of HUMINT, and the extent to which the administration has completely gutted the international legal regime for managing detainee operations, I imagine we're going to see a lot more stories like this leak out over the next few years.

More to follow in a few days — I have an essay forthcoming in the Nov. '04 issue of the Washington Monthly on detainee issues and the rule of law.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

American Justice?
"Whether we bring our enemies to justice, or bring justice to our enemies, justice will be done." — President Bush, Sept. 20, 2001.
Tim Golden has a lengthy piece in Sunday's New York Times on the efforts of the Bush administration to devise a new system of justice for dealing with the Al Qaeda organization that hit America on Sept. 11. Today, hundreds of men sit in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay, but the system for adjudicating their guilt and delivering justice there has run seriously aground. Sunday's NYT article traces the genesis of this system, which conservatives and liberals alike have lampooned as a system of "kangaroo courts".
Determined to deal aggressively with the terrorists they expected to capture, the officials bypassed the federal courts and their constitutional guarantees, giving the military the authority to detain foreign suspects indefinitely and prosecute them in tribunals not used since World War II.

The plan was considered so sensitive that senior White House officials kept its final details hidden from the president's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, and the secretary of state, Colin L. Powell, officials said. It was so urgent, some of those involved said, that they hardly thought of consulting Congress.

White House officials said their use of extraordinary powers would allow the Pentagon to collect crucial intelligence and mete out swift, unmerciful justice. "We think it guarantees that we'll have the kind of treatment of these individuals that we believe they deserve," said Vice President Dick Cheney, who was a driving force behind the policy.

But three years later, not a single terrorist has been prosecuted. Of the roughly 560 men being held at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, only 4 have been formally charged. Preliminary hearings for those suspects brought such a barrage of procedural challenges and public criticism that verdicts could still be months away. And since a Supreme Court decision in June that gave the detainees the right to challenge their imprisonment in federal court, the Pentagon has stepped up efforts to send home hundreds of men whom it once branded as dangerous terrorists.

* * *
The strategy became a source of sharp conflict within the Bush administration, eventually pitting the highest-profile cabinet secretaries - including Ms. Rice and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld - against one another over issues of due process, intelligence-gathering and international law.

In fact, many officials contend, some of the most serious problems with the military justice system are rooted in the secretive and contentious process from which it emerged.

Military lawyers were largely excluded from that process in the days after Sept. 11. They have since waged a long struggle to ensure that terrorist prosecutions meet what they say are basic standards of fairness. Uniformed lawyers now assigned to defend Guantánamo detainees have become among the most forceful critics of the Pentagon's own system.

Foreign policy officials voiced concerns about the legal and diplomatic ramifications, but had little influence. Increasingly, the administration's plan has come under criticism even from close allies, complicating efforts to transfer scores of Guantánamo prisoners back to their home governments.

To the policy's architects, the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon represented a stinging challenge to American power and an imperative to consider measures that might have been unimaginable in less threatening times. Yet some officials said the strategy was also shaped by longstanding political agendas that had relatively little to do with fighting terrorism.
Analysis: I'm working on something related to Gitmo now so I have to withhold some analysis until Monday. However, I will say this: the tribunal system at Gitmo is in serious jeopardy. I know of few lawyers anywhere in the U.S. government or U.S. military who think these tribunals are being well-managed, well-run, well-staffed or well-executed. Many fault the White House and Pentagon for micromanaging the effort at the very top of the food chain — and for not allowing the service JAGs, who are pretty much the world's experts on the law of armed conflict, to play a key role in the development of these processes. It remains to be seen what will happen as these tribunals move forward — they're scheduled to begin on 1 Nov 04. So far, the government has had to boot three of the six military commission members for cause, and there are a myriad of other procedural challenges in the works. I seriously doubt these tribunals will come close to meeting the President's pledge from Sept. 20 — there will be no justice done at Gitmo under these proceedings.

Update II: Tim Golden provides the second installment of this series in Monday's New York Times. Check it out.
'War Dames' on the march
U.S. Army plans to expand the opportunities for women in its forward logistical forces, based on female performance in Iraq and Afghanistan

Rowan Scarborough reported in Friday's Washington Times (one of the better sources for military-related news because of its sources in the Rumsfeld Pentagon and Bush White House) that the Army has plans to realign the role of women in its land combat forces. Specifically, it appears that the Army wants to move women into support positions within the logistical units which will support its redesigned brigade-sized "units of action". According to Mr. Scarborough:
The Army is negotiating with civilian leaders about eliminating a women-in-combat ban so it can place mixed-sex support companies within warfighting units, starting with a division going to Iraq in January.

Despite the legal prohibition, Army plans already have included such collocation of women-men units in blueprints for a lighter force of 10 active divisions, according to Defense Department sources.

An Army spokesman yesterday, in response to questions from The Washington Times, said the Army is now in discussions with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld's staff to see whether the 10-year-old ban in this one area should be lifted. The ban prohibits the Army from putting women in units that "collocate" with ground combatants.

"When that policy was made up, there was a different threat," said Lt. Col. Chris Rodney, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon. "We imagined a more linear combat environment. Now, with the nature of asymmetrical threats, we have to relook at that policy."

Col. Rodney cited the fighting in Iraq as typifying the new threat whereby all soldiers, support or combat, face attack by rockets, mortars, roadside bombs and ambushes.

"Everybody faces a similar threat," he said. "There is no front-line threat right now."
Analysis & Commentary: Of course, there are those who are opposed to the integration of women into these units — and indeed, to the presence of women in ground forces altogether. Elaine Donnelly, head of the virtual Center for Military Readiness, thinks this move will put women dangerously close to the front lines where they don't belong.
Some Pentagon officials, who asked not to be named, said the proposed Forward Support Companies are at the least "skirting" the existing ban if not violating it. They suspect the new units are a way to inch women closer to land combat despite Congress' prohibition against it.

Elaine Donnelly, who leads the pro-military Center for Military Readiness, says Congress needs to be informed of the Army's plans.

"There is a law requiring notice to Congress that has not happened, and there are regulations that forbid the Army from taking infantry units and collocating gender-integrated units with them," said Mrs. Donnelly, who opposes women in combat. "If they are doing this, putting women in land combat units would be a violation of law and policy."
As I wrote in "War Dames", published in Dec. 2002, these arguments against women in front-line units don't really square with reality today. The reality today is that there are no rear area units. Whether you're in a headquarters company, a support company, an MP company or an infantry company, you are going to see combat in Iraq. Whether you see it at the tip of the spear, on dismounted patrol as an MP or grunt, or you see it as a member of a convoy heading down the MSR to Baghdad, you will see combat. That is the nature of this threat environment — it is non-contiguous, non-linear, and unconventional.

There is a serious disconnect between Army doctrine, which posits that combat units will fight forward and support units will operate in a low-threat environment, and the reality of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. This disparity has actually existed for some time — probably since the end of the Cold War, with deployments to hotspots like Bosnia and Somalia where there weren't any front lines either. Unfortunately, Army doctrine has yet to catch up to the reality of the fact that there are no front lines.

This affects a lot of things within the Army, because the building block document of Army units is based on these doctrinal assumptions. The Modified Table of Organization and Equipment ("MTOE") incorporates these assumptions into the structure of units, by allocating personnel and equipment to the standard Transportation Company or Forward Support Company. Today's MTOEs look as if the Army is about to fight the Russian hordes on the plains of West Germany — it hasn't changed yet to reflect the unconventional, non-contiguous, non-linear battlefield. That's why transportation and support companies have unarmored vehicles; that's why logistics companies have few crew-served weapons or night-vision goggles; that's why everyone in those units has been jumping through their 4th point of contact to get things like up-armored HMMWVs. None of those combat-essential pieces of equipment were on their Cold War-era MTOEs before... but now they need them in a big way.

Back to women in combat. During the 1990s, as I describe in "War Dames", the Army slowly pushed women into a variety of support units, such as MPs, chemical warfare units, combat engineer units, artillery units, forward support units, and the list goes on. By and large, women did very well in these units, despite the dire predictions of those like Ms. Donnelly who thought it would be the end of the world for unit cohesion. Sure, there were challenges — but there are always challenges where personnel management in the Army is concerned. By the time the U.S. crossed the berm into Iraq in 2003, women played key roles throughout the Army, as Apache helicopter pilots, forward support company commanders, intelligence officers, mechanics, medics, and communications specialists.

Put these two trends together, and voila! You have women in combat like never before. From all indications, women have served with distinction, despite anecdotal problems in some units with fraternization and sexual assault. I can't tell you how many stories I've read — either in the press or in e-mail from friends — about patrols and other missions where names like "Elizabeth" or "Jennifer" will appear along soldier names like "Dave" and "Mike". The integration of women has progressed to the point where you barely notice it anymore.

Ultimately, I think people like Ms. Donnelly and the anti-women-in-combat crowd have a right to their opinions. But I find their opinions to be unsupported by the evidence as I've read it from Iraq and Afghanistan. Moreover, the criticisms of women in combat today remain based on the doctrinal assumptions of yesterday. These criticisms are totally anachronistic and divorced from contemporary reality. It would be literally impossible to pull women out of harm's way, because of the way the battlefield has changed. Every unit goes into harm's way now, not just the infantrymen or the tankers or the Green Berets. If you wanted to reinstate the "risk rule" that Secretary of Defense Les Aspin killed in 1994, you'd have to pull women out of the entire Army — or at least ensure they never deploy anywhere. I think that'd be a dramatic step backwards, and I hope it never happens.

Post-Script: The WT also mentions the fact that Ms. Donnelly helped torpodo an MTOE change in 2001 to the Army's "Stryker Brigades" that would have allowed women to serve in those units' reconnaissance squadrons as intelligence officers and support personnel, among other jobs. When Ms. Donnelly began to criticize the extensive use of women in combat in Iraq, especially in the wake of PFC Jessica Lynch's capture, the White House had a smackdown ready for her. Politically, this fight is a non-issue — both the White House and Dems recognize the value of American women to the military, and the importance of utilizing them to their fullest potential.

Friday, October 22, 2004

Considering America's global strategy to fight terrorism
Barton Gellman and Dafna Linzer have produced a brilliant piece which analyzes the conduct of the war on terrorism thus far by the Bush administration. The piece appears in today's Washington Post. The article reports on a lot of stuff, using some exceptionally well-placed sources. But the essential point comes at the end of this passage:
At the core of Bush's approach is an offensive strategy abroad that Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge said complements the defensive efforts he oversees at home. In an interview, Ridge said Bush's priority is to "play as hard and strong an offense as possible," most of it "offshore, overseas."

Published and classified documents and interviews with officials at many levels portray a war plan that scored major victories in its first months. Notable among them were the destruction of al Qaeda's Afghan sanctuary, the death or capture of leading jihadists, and effective U.S. demands for action by reluctant foreign governments.

But at least a dozen current and former officials who have held key positions in conducting the war now say they see diminishing returns in Bush's decapitation strategy. Current and former leaders of that effort, three of whom departed in frustration from the top White House terrorism post, said the manhunt is important but cannot defeat the threat of jihadist terrorism. Classified government tallies, moreover, suggest that Bush and Vice President Cheney have inflated the manhunt's success in their reelection bid.

Bush's focus on the instruments of force, the officials said, has been slow to adapt to a swiftly changing enemy. Al Qaeda, they said, no longer exerts centralized control over a network of operational cells. It has rather become the inspirational hub of a global movement, fomenting terrorism that it neither funds nor directs. Internal government assessments describe this change with a disquieting metaphor: They say jihadist terrorism is "metastasizing."

The war has sometimes taken unexpected turns, one of which brought the Bush administration into hesitant contact with Iran. For a time the two governments made tentative common cause, and Iran delivered hundreds of low-level al Qaeda figures to U.S. allies. Participants in Washington and overseas said Bush's deadlocked advisers — unable to transmit instructions — closed that channel before testing Iran's willingness to take more substantial steps. Some of al Qaeda's most wanted leaders now live in Iran under ambiguous conditions of house arrest.

Twenty months after the invasion of Iraq, the question of whether Americans are safer from terrorism because Saddam Hussein is no longer in power hinges on subjective judgment about might-have-beens. What is not in dispute, among scores of career national security officials and political appointees interviewed periodically since 2002, is that Bush's choice had opportunity costs — first in postwar Afghanistan, then elsewhere. Iraq, they said, became a voracious consumer of time, money, personnel and diplomatic capital — as well as the scarce tools of covert force on which Bush prefers to rely — that until then were engaged against al Qaeda and its sources of direct support. [emphasis added]
Analysis to followbut for now, read the whole thing.