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A Blog on Understanding, Informing, Empowering, and Influencing Global Publics, published by Matt Armstrong

Noteworthy

Highlighted Blog: US Army Combined Arms Center. Pick your model, CAC or UK FCO, both are excellent. Be sure to check out CAC’s blog and user stats page.

“As my friend the late Sheriff Gene Darnell always told me, the best politics is doing a good job.” – Representative Ike Skelton, D-MO, Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee discussing improving the interagency process but raising the point that the deeds speak louder than words.

“It is not every day that a young US Army officer has the opportunity to interact with a sitting head of state who has both lead a revolution and fought a counterinsurgency. CGSC students and faculty had just that chance on Friday when Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni visited the Combined Arms Center at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas.” – LTG Bill Caldwell sharing President Museveni’s five conditions and four phases for revolutionary war.

“[T]here is also increasingly broad recognition within the military that the expertise USAID brings with regard to providing effective and culturally-appropriate humanitarian assistance to foster long-term economic and political progress in the developing world will be decisive as the U.S. government strives to develop capabilities aimed at not only defeating ongoing insurgencies, but creating conditions in threatened nations that will be key to preempting future insurgencies.” – LTC David Menegon and Jeffrey Ashley, Ph.D., in Operational Design Prototype for USAID and DOD Synchronization: The Art of the Strategic Process for PRTs in Iraq.

Other

Use Google as if it were January 2001.

Congratulations to Chris Albon, blogger at War and Health, for completing his comprehensives.

Survey of American Military Enlisted Personnel Political Attitudes and Behavior (Updated link)

From a friend and for your consideration:

You are invited to participate in a survey, entitled “Survey of American Military Enlisted Personnel Political Attitudes and Behavior.” The study is being conducted by Donald S. Inbody at The University of Texas at Austin. While we are primarily interested in active duty enlisted personnel, we will accept survey responses from officers and those who have left active service in the past few years.

The purpose of this study is to conduct research into the attitudes and thinking of American military personnel. Your participation in the survey will contribute to a better understanding of American military enlisted personnel. I estimate that it will take about ten minutes of your time to complete the questionnaire.

There will be no costs for participating, nor will you benefit from participating. All publications will exclude any information that will make it possible to identify you as a subject.

If you have any questions or would like us to email another person from your organization or update your email address, please call Donald Inbody at (512) 923-0704 or send an email to inbody@austin.utexas.edu. You may request a hard copy of the survey.

This study has been reviewed and approved by The University of Texas at Austin Institutional Review Board (IRB Number: 2007-06-0012). If you have questions about your rights as a study participant, or are dissatisfied at any time with any aspect of this study, you may contact – anonymously, if you wish – the Institutional Review Board by phone at (512) 471-8871 or email at orsc@uts.cc.utexas.edu

If you agree to participate please click here to take survey. Feel free to forward this survey to others.

America’s upper classes have gone AWOL

Peter A. Gudmundsson makes much the same argument I’ve been making in my presentations and papers on the expanding use of private military companies in the conduct of U.S. national security policy, Gudmundsson smartly puts the problem of disassociation of war from the upper class as a factor in presidential campaign discourse.

During this presidential campaign, voters will hear much about the divergent economic realities between "the rich" and "the middle class." Yet there is another partition in America that is less visible, but no less troubling. The great divide between the civilian and military communities leaves the nation and its electorate ill-equipped to make informed judgments about military and international affairs.

I recently returned from a trip to San Diego, during which I toured the Marine Corps Recruit Depot and spent two days at sea with the officers and crew of the USS Nimitz. To say the least, it renewed my respect for the professionalism, competence, dedication, and sacrifice of America’s men and women in uniform. I was deeply impressed by the vigor and apparent confidence with which they attend to their duties.

A quick glance at the troops I met immediately revealed a broad representation of America’s ethnic groups – a diversity that’s typical throughout America’s armed forces. Statistics reveal high standards of educational attainment and the near nonexistence of illegal drug use or criminal backgrounds. Many come from families in which military service is a common experience. Yet I can’t help concluding that the upper and upper-middle or "elite" social classes seem to be conspicuously absent.

A Navy admiral told me, "America is not at war. Its military is." He was acutely aware that a prominent segment of society had little but tax money invested in the outcome.

When I was at the U.S. Naval Academy a couple of years ago for a conference, I found Forestall Lecture speaker Admiral Timothy J. Keating’s observation on how the parking has changed since he was a midshipman. He said that back when he was a middie, the parking lot was full of Corvettes and Porsches. In 2005, he noted the lot was full of pickup trucks.  

The comment by the admiral in Gudmundsson is not unique. See this photo of a white board in this previous post.

So what to make of it? Here’s what Gudmundsson says:

No electorate can make informed decisions about the exercise of military power in a far-off theater if it lacks a reasonable measure of collective experience with military matters. And any society that restricts its information and analysis to the sound bites of "embedded" journalists and political pundits will find itself highly susceptible to the manipulations of partisan politicians and interest groups at either extreme of any debate. It is simply too difficult to separate hope from fear and fiction from fact….

It is only with an experienced and knowledgeable citizenry that we as a nation can prosecute sound strategy to achieve US policy goals while avoiding the pitfalls of failure and their attendant human, financial, and diplomatic costs.

I agree.

(H/T John Brown)

Somebody, Prove my theory

Today is Veteran’s Day here in the United States and a good time to wonder something out loud. Actually, I’ve been saying this in meatspace for a while, but I don’t think I’ve put it on the blog yet.

As you think about our country’s veterans, ask yourself how many veterans you actually know. It’s very likely that you, as a reader of this blog, know (or are) a veteran: you are reading what some call a milblog after all.

Here’s my theory: more Americans know a mercenary, but don’t know it, than know a vet, adjusting for sheer numbers. In other words, contractors our "outside" in the public more than current or former serving members of America’s military.

I’d like to see a study that looks at how many people know a veteran and compare that to how many people know a contractor (i.e. merc). Like it or now, private security companies has brought back the citizen-soldier. The All-Volunteer Force, on the other hand, has created an increasingly insular sub-group distanced from the larger population on several levels.

The voluntarily association of contractors makes it easier for its members to slip in and out of military duty and into the role of your neighbor, your co-worker, that IT recruiting manager you worked with, the cop who’s a brother of a friend, or that dad you met at a BBQ.

No longer do you need need to live near a military base or work in the defense industry to meet someone sanctioned by the state to carry a weapon into a conflict zone. In other words, while the public is increasingly separated from serving military personnel, it is increasingly in contact with contractors but does not know it.

What to think about this? First, Congress and the media doesn’t care about the people who don’t officially wear a flag on their shoulder. Second, this indicates a depersonalization of war, an argument Kohn and Gelpi make. Third, the already scarce personal links between the public and its soldiers will continue to diminish as conflict is outsourced to machines.

With fewer Americans who know somebody presently serving or even directly impacted by the conflicts after 9/11, there is a redevelopment of a distinct and professional warrior class in the United States proficient in the conduct war that harkens back to professional mercenary soldiers of before. The modern All Volunteer Force (AVF) is far removed from the modern political and social spheres of power in the United States, leading to suggestions that non-veteran civilians may be more "interventionist" and simultaneously placing more constraints on the use of military force while at the same time the American citizen-soldier is increasingly an endangered species as soldiers and their families turn inward and focus on their own support networks. National Guard recruiting trends reinforce this point as they are increasingly drawn from the ranks of former military and not from the general public. It is likely robots will support and increase pressure on this trend, just as private security companies do.

Just something to think about on this Veteran’s Day.

(Major G, first round’s on me tonight, second round too if you’re reading this…)

Mash-up for Thursday, November 8, 2007

Returning to the lazy "I can’t make the time to comment on these individually" post, here’s the mash-up for today:

Dan at TDAXP has an interesting survey for bloggers. Please fill it out and help marginalize my response.

Christian at Defense Tech posts on RAND’s call for Web 2.0 approach for building COIN awareness and accessing and leveraging knowledge with the "integrated counterinsurgency operating network", of ICON. This deserves a post by itself, but I’m pressed for time, so I leave it to others to get into this.

The study, aptly titled “Byting Back: Regaining Information Superiority Against 21st Century Insurgents,” takes a novel, “web 2.0” approach to the problem of gaining information to fight an insurgency. RAND rightly states that the information requirements for conventional war – the basis upon which most of the Pentagon’s intelligence apparatus is based – are very different from those of a counterinsurgency.

“If winning war requires understanding the terrain, winning counterinsurgency requires understanding the human terrain: the population, from its top-level political structure to the individual citizen. A thorough and current understanding of individuals and their community can help rally support of the government by allowing the government to meet the needs of the local population. Because insurgents do not identify themselves as such on sight, knowledge at the individual level is often what it takes to make such necessary distinctions.”

The study suggests utilizing local “wikis” compiled by the population, security services and government officials; leveraging cell phone networks to push information and to potentially track insurgents; incorporating the use of video and voice recorders on individual weapons to compile information and lessons learned and the institution of a detailed government census of the population.

David Axe at War is Boring quotes Wired’s Clive Thompson on the makings of a suicide bomber… in Halo 3. Clive backed his way into the psychology of a suicide bomber inadvertently but ultimately his reasoning is the same as many asymmetric "warriors":

Because after all, the really elite Halo players don’t want to die. If they die too often, they won’t win the round, and if they don’t win the round, they won’t advance up the Xbox Live rankings. And for the elite players, it’s all about bragging rights.

I, however, have a completely different psychology. I know I’m the underdog; I know I’m probably going to get killed anyway. I am never going to advance up the Halo 3 rankings, because in the political economy of Halo, I’m poor.

Via MEMRI, hopefully this Egyptian won’t follow the lead of American broadcast efforts in the region:

Millionaire Egyptian Copt Najib Suwairis has announced his intention to set up two new satellite television channels aimed at dealing with the rise of religious conservatism in Egypt, both religious and social.

As Slate, MountainRunner friend Phil Carter lists the incentive programs the Army is using to hit their numbers. See also Phil’s post on his blog where he cites Gordon Lubold’s CSM article:

Barely one quarter of American youths aged 17-24 are eligible for military service because of medical conditions, drug/alcohol use, low aptitude scores, or criminal records. 11% of eligible youth are in college, leaving just 15% of the 17 to 24-year-old cohort (men and women) for the services to recruit from.

And for something completely different, via Andrew Sullivan, Ron Jeremy impersonating Britney Spears:

The Fraying of State

The freak out by some FSOs at State is impressive and less than an indictment of the corps than most make it out to be. True, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice is trying to fill only 48 posts, but releasing the announcement Friday night like a bit of bad news is no way to treat trusted and valued employees and patriots and a good way to rile the entire Department. But this bad form is not entirely surprising given her leadership over the last several years at Foggy Bottom, or in the years before as National Security Advisor. Her Cold War thinking is out of touch with the requirements of the post-Cold War world.

I understand and in some way agree with the FSO’s complaints. To them, neither the personnel system nor the bureaucracy as a whole really incentivizes going into a war zone. To really get attention, you should be a standout elsewhere, as Patricia highlights with the award to the Deputy Chief of Mission in Rome. It makes sense not to single out the outstanding State personnel working on PRT’s and outside the walls, you wouldn’t want to discriminate, would you Ms. Rice?

I’ll answer that for you, Ms. Rice. If you don’t put your Department on a war footing, funnel (and otherwise lobby for more) resources to support and develop critical areas, you can pretend business as usual and things are going swimmingly. Except now you’ve realized the seas are choppy and too few people brought their gear to take a dip.

Rice’s Transformational Diplomacy did not result in the great restructuring promised, arguably because of her limited world view. Reducing U.S. activities in Europe because guns aren’t going off there doesn’t prevent the bombs that are or the bomb plans being hatched.

Has Rice been in standing firm for more money to rightsize her Department to conform to modern requirements? That would have been the real transformation.

No, instead she releases a memo Friday night for assignment to a country where the embassy (the old one, not the brand new one that’s still not online) is apparently not in a safe, as Rice admitted in her testimony to the House Oversight committee two weeks ago when she argued the International Zone isn’t safe. I know soldiers and Marines were smirking at that, as well as Rice’s own people.

In truth, it doesn’t matter if Rice is right or not about the safety of the IZ (although on the new embassy, I like this cite this quote: it’s like Fort Apache in the middle of Indian country, except this time the Indians have mortars.), the rebellion in State today is more an indictment of her leadership at State.

In short, Rice has not prepared her department for the mission she’s suddenly demanded. We’re now four years into Iraq, six years into Afghanistan, and her Department still hasn’t mobilized her Department for war to the extent that even a few months ago Crocker had to go public with staffing problems. State / DynCorp have messed up policing. State permitted (some, like me, might say encouraged) their security escorts to take an overly aggressive posture because of screwed up priorities. And State hasn’t intervened when American reconstruction contractors screw the Iraqi Government. I could go on but I’m bored with the list already. Apparently, Rice figured most of State didn’t have to deal with the little people. Perhaps that was Karen Hughes’ job, who, um, reports to Rice. (Great "job well done" speech by Rice, by the way. Not what I’d want from my tenure.)

No, Rice frames the "GWOT" (I prefer my superior acronym) in convenient post-detente Cold War terms, but she doesn’t grasp the need to conduct public diplomacy today that was so deep and integral to the pre-1960′s Cold War. Instead shielding herself, her people, and her processes (I won’t get started on Karen Hughes, except to ask will leaving position vacant make us better off or worse of than today?) Rice sits back. Rice has let DOD take the bulk of the mission and upsize to fill the holes left by her missing leadership. Rice, who ran away rather than announce the policy and take questions herself, is apparently now looking to whip State into shape as her department gets all sort of attention.

Yes, this whole thing speaks more to her leadership than to the panic of some FSOs who are just realizing they are part of a war. As for Rice, she’s terrified of being over there. Here’s a question: How often has Rice been to Iraq? How often was Rumsfeld and Gates? Those are numbers I want to see.

Update, what others are saying:

FPRI CivMil conference… watch it if you can

Due to circumstances, I haven’t been able to watch much of the FPRI webcast, but what I did catch was great. It has just resumed after the lunch break, but I’ll unfortunately be on the road/in & out of meetings, but I’ll watch what I can. Again, if you think on or discuss how the current wars are being fought and staffed, you are interested in civil-military relations whether you realize it or not. You are therefore someone who should watch this webcast and the upcoming keynote from Rep. Ike Skelton (D-MO).

Mind the Gap: Post-Iraq Civil-Military Relations in America

Too many people I speak with, from academics to laypeople and in between, do not understand American civil-military relations and their role U.S. foreign policy. Next week, the Foreign Policy Research Institute will webcast a conference on Post-Iraq Civil-Military Relations in America, cosponsored by the Reserve Officers Association. It’s free and open to the public and apparently online audience members will be able to pose questions electronically.

Personally I won’t be able to see all of it due to standing Monday afternoon commitments, but Panels 1-3 are the lead issues for me right now (not to dismiss 4), so maybe I’ll catch most of it. I suggest you watch as well.

To register, click here.

The agenda for the webcast is below.

Continue reading “Mind the Gap: Post-Iraq Civil-Military Relations in America” »

New Blogger on American Civil-Military Relations

New on the blogging scene is Don @ the CivMilBlog that’s “Dedicated entirely to civil-military relations, serving as a gateway to the community for policymakers and serious researchers.”

Pundits and casual observers disregard the complex relationship between the military, the executive branch, the legislative branch, the public, and the media. The military is not an exclusive agent of the President, but, especially since WWII, an active and increasingly independent actor that is increasingly aware of its own power. To be sure, this does not mean the military is planning Dunlap’s Coup, but it does mean muscular posturing by the US takes many forms and has many more influences than many realize.

His most recent post, American Political Development and American Civil-Military Relations, looks to put American civil-military relations into context. In this post, he scratches at the apparent paradox of American embedding of “an autarchic, fundamentally illiberal institution (the military) inside a larger liberal democratic institution (the United States).” Remember that this uniquely American civil-military relationship was intended by our insurgent Founders. Wary of a standing military, their concern over the potential abuse a standing military could affect on our own population as well as the potential of politicization of that military for personal gain, they wrote into the Constitution a division of responsibilities for Congress and President. Over the years, additional powers were assumed by each side. It looks like Don will explore these over time.

If you’re interested in an updated civ-mil reading list, in addition to Don’s post & blog, I suggest the following:

"No one is actually at war except the Armed Forces, their US civilian contractors, and the CIA"

General Barry R. McCaffrey’s testimony before the the House Armed Services Committee is an excellent summary of the problems were facing today and the real hit America’s national security is taking. It speaks for itself and it should be read.

From a summary he released as his testimony is not yet available from the Committee (h/t Kat):

…the purpose of my testimony is not to talk about the ongoing tactical operations in CENTCOM — but instead the disastrous state of America’s ground combat forces. Congress has been missing-in-action during the past several years while undebated and misguided strategies were implemented by former Secretary Rumsfeld and his team of arrogant and inexperienced civilian associates in the Pentagon. The JCS failed to protect the Armed Forces from bad judgment and illegal orders. They have gotten us in a terrible strategic position of vulnerability. The Army is starting to crack under the strain of lack of resources, lack of political support and leadership from both the Administration and this Congress, and isolation from the American people who have now walked away from the war.

No one is actually at war except the Armed Forces, their US civilian contractors, and the CIA. There is only rhetoric and posturing from the rest of our government and the national legislature. Where is the shared sacrifice of 300 million Americans in the wealthiest nation in history? Where is the tax supplement to pay for a $12 billion a month war? Where are the political leaders calling publicly for America’s parents and teachers to send their sons and daughters to fight “the long war on terror?” Where is the political energy to increase the size of our Marine Corps and US Army? Where is the willingness of Congress to implement a modern “lend-lease program” to give our Afghan and Iraqi allies the tools of war they need to protect their own people? Where is the mobilization of America’s massive industrial capacity to fix the disastrous state of our ground combat military equipment?

Recent and related post (among many on MountainRunner): If the surge is working, why are we still losing?

Continue reading “"No one is actually at war except the Armed Forces, their US civilian contractors, and the CIA"” »