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Monday Mash-Up for July 30, 2007

If you want another example of America’s failure to understand the importance of building a bigger and badder Internet infrastructure (hell the report I referenced misses the fundamental requirement!), compare the US e-Government initiative and the UK’s. It isn’t pretty.

“Universal internet access is vital if we are not only to avoid social divisions over the new economy but to create a knowledge economy of the future which is for everyone. Because it’s likely that the internet will be as ubiquitous and as normal as electricity is today. For business. Or for individuals.” – former Prime Minister Tony Blair in 2000

There are advantages to technology, although this example doesn’t include a resolution, in “the F-16 Does What?” segment Noah Schachtman clipped from Michael Yon’s post from .

Bourbon and Lawndarts and SWJ (don’t skip the comments on SWJ’s post) both have good posts on passing up H.R. McMaster, author of the superb Dereliction of Duty and COIN expert, for a promotion.

Foreign Policy cites the latest Pew Global Attitudes Survey showing Muslim support for suicide terrorism is waning. Think the attack on Iraqi soccer fans will be included in a public diplomacy campaign? What about an information operation?

Jason at ArmchairGeneralist also looks at American readiness today, another installment in his ongoing series titled “They’re Breaking My Army.”

Phil Carter posts on the growing girth of Americans and asks about its impact on recruiting in the future.

Paul Kretkowski at the Beacon posted his comments on the DNI Open Source Conference.

Steve Aftergood of FAS noted the Army has revisited its manual on Civil Affairs.

Lastly, adding to my earlier post IEDs as a Weapons of Strategic Influence, Noah writes on JIEDDO’s “strategic flaw” using an insider study (Word doc).

However, what the paper concludes, ultimately, is that the American effort against improvised bombs has been an “unsatisfactory performance [with] an incomplete strategy.”  What’s more, the JIEDDO-led struggle against the hand-made explosives has a “strategic flaw” that may keep the U.S. from ever gaining the upper hand on the bombers, Adamson notes: The lack of authority to knock bureaucratic heads.  He recommends instead establishing a separate, Executive Branch agency with a “laser-like concentration on the hostile use of IEDs.”   

Ideally, every element of the U.S. government would be teaming up to fight IEDs, Adamson writes.  Spies would be uncovering rings of bombers; FBI investigators would be helping examine forensic evidence; diplomats would be applying political pressure to catch bombers; other countries could even be chipping in, offering their own experience with improvised explosives. 

In practice, however, such coordination has been uneven, at best. The  “IA [interagency] process lacks a comprehensive strategy for defeating the global IED threat.”  Outside of the military, few agencies have viewed bomb-beating “as essential to their collective or unilateral missions.”  So they have given the problem short shrift.  For example, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms decided that, “due to resource constraints, [it] could not support greater involvement with DOD’s [the Department of Defense's] IED effort,” Adamson notes.  Same goes for the nation’s spies.  “Internal reform and mission overload in the IC [intelligence community] cripple[d] its capacity for additional effort.”

Evolution of American Civil-Military Relations in Four Quotes

On appropriations, General Walker, Chief of Army Finance, to a Congressional committee in 1924:

I think it would. I think when the budget has once been approved by the President and transmitted to Congress, it is his budget estimate and no officer or official of the War Department would have any right to come up here and attempt to get a single dollar more than…contained in the estimate.

On allegiance, General George Marshall on loyalty to the President and not Congress in 1940:

I submit to you…the impossibility of developing an efficient army if decisions which are purely military in nature are continually subjected to investigation, cross examination, debate, ridicule, and public discussion by pressure groups, and by individuals with only a superficial knowledge of military matters, or the actual facts in the particular case. I submit that there is a clear line of demarcation between the democratic freedom of discussion which we are determined to preserve and a destructive procedure which promotes discontent and destroys confidence in the army.

On oversight, Admiral Nimitz testifying during the National Security Act hearings in 1946:

Senator, it is my impression that the Constitution of the United States charges the Congress with the furnishing of armed forces. It charges the President with their use.

The Congress, in the furnishing of the armed forces, is entitled to every bit of information that it needs, and I perceive no objection whatever in the writing into this bill of the kind of safeguards you have in mind; because it is the Congress that makes provision for the armed forces and they should certainly have the right to every bit of information that they think they need in making appropriations.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates at the Naval Academy commencement in 2007:

As officers, you will have a responsibility to communicate to those below you that the American military must be non-political and recognize the obligation we owe the Congress to be honest and true in our reporting to them. Especially when it involves admitting mistakes or problems.

Source for the first three: The Pentagon and the Presidency

After reading these quotes, consider Congressional pressure on the Navy, the Air Force, and more.

Playing politics with soldiers

From Phil Carter:

[T]he California National Guard is alone among the 50 states in not providing state-funded tuition assistance to its National Guard troops. Although soldiers can still get the reserve GI Bill, this state offers no separate benefit to make up the difference between that amount and UC/CSU tuition, nor any separate GI Bill-like benefits of its own. 

Why is this? Impotent politicians are taking out their frustrations on the Guard, according to the Times:

State Sen. Jack Scott (D-Altadena) chairs the Senate Education Committee, which has scuttled attempts by the California Guard to get tuition assistance for members. College aid ought to be based on financial need, not on membership in a group, Scott said, and if the federal government deploys the Guard overseas, then it should give members the same educational benefits as enlisted men and women, who can get more than $1,000 a month for school.

“It’s the federal government that’s made the decision to go to war,” Scott said.

How much would this cost?

All it would take, Guard officials say, is $3 million a year, a negligible sum in the state’s $130-billion proposed budget.

Politicians’ distance from the military, as one Republican Assemblyman rightly noted, is a central reason for this childish and short-sighted behavior.  

Assemblyman Chuck Devore (R-Irvine), who retired last month from the Guard after 24 years, said the Legislature is out of touch with the military.

Only 13 of the state’s 120 lawmakers have military experience, and Devore said that since the closure of many bases in recent decades, most Californians have no regular contact with the military.

And some lawmakers are reluctant to do anything that could be viewed as support for the war in Iraq, he said.

My great state of California must realign its priorities and understand the full implications of this lack of action. The federal government isn’t the one being punished, it the men and women who serve, the communities they live in, and the economy as a whole. But this is clearly too big of a picture of some to come to grips with.

Monday Mash-up

On the evolution of Robocop, see Danger Room:

Discussing War Powers

The Council on Foreign Relations issued a backgrounder on American civil-military relations. No, I’m sorry, that’s not what the backgrounder purports to be about, although it should. Robert McMahon wrote on the “different responsibilities” Congress and the President (it should still be an upper case “P” people) have in waging war but completely ignores some of the most important oversight powers of Congress.

Continue reading “Discussing War Powers” »

Readings on civil-military relations

Last month I posted a reading list on civil-military relations on the Smart Power Blog that is now cross posted here. 

Civil-Military Relations 

The importance of understanding and establishing “proper” civil-military relations can’t be understated both at home and in the troubled regions. The relationship between civilian and military leaderships dictates and is dictated by the freedom of the people. This relationship, in a democracy especially, is special and paramount and yet too many do not understand or get it.

Why post on this? It is important to understand civil-military relations in an age where people:

  • Question whether public diplomacy and the management and projection of America’s image should be owned by the military
  • Conflate military and civilian decision making
  • Do not understand why the military accepts “bad” orders

The list above could go on, but I’ll stop and hope you add your own reasons in the comment section.

Below is a brief list of suggested resources to help understand the nature of US civil-military relations:

  • Warriors and Politicians is an excellent book that looks at the unique c-m relationship in the United States. Charlie examines how the military, under dual / dueling masters of the Executive and Legislative branches, developed over the two plus centuries after the Revolution and within parameters established by Founding Fathers, many of whom were military veterans, were wary of a standing army. (Also worthwhile is his more detailed discussion about US Secretaries of Defense in SecDef.)
  • Issues of Democracy: a 1997 US Information Agency (USIA) publication on the importance of civil-military relations in democracy.
  • Center for Civil-Military Relations: it is noteworthy that it is the military itself that dedicates substantial resources to understanding the importance of civil-military relations while the civilian educational system fails to teach the same. (Note the forthcoming book on the CCMR site, Reforming Intelligence, is about Intel and not the military per se.)
  • The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012: published in 1992 and revised over the years, Charles Dunlap’s original portrayal of what happens when the US military decides to protect American society is scary. Turkey’s military is known for intervening over the years to protect Kamalism and I’ve heard some in the US question why the US military doesn’t do the same. Read this to understand the importance of a subordinate military.
  • H.R. McMaster’s Dereliction of Duty : Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam (a valuable read. McMaster is one of the new whiz kids working with Petraeus in Iraq)

If you really want to go academic, then the following will round out the essential reading list:

When a general writes a column, is opinion or "local news"?

A Georgia newspaper published the first of what is to be a biweekly column by the commander of the 3rd Infantry Division, Major General Rick Lynch, on the first page of the second section. What’s interesting is not the message, but that online the column is categorized as “Local News” instead of an opinion piece. (Editor & Publisher wrote that it’s labeled as “story”, but so are Op-Eds. It’s the categorization between the byline and title that counts here.)

What’s the big deal? Well, is it really news? Did contributors Lt. Col Randy Martin, Fort Stewart public affairs officer, and 1st Lieutenant Allie Chase ghost-write the piece?

This is how General Lynch opens his piece:

I’ve asked the Savannah Morning News to allow me to write about Iraq, my personal observations here and your 3rd Infantry Division. So, about every two weeks, I plan to write a column so that you have a better understanding of what is really going on.

From Editor & Publisher:

“I’m on the fence about this, my first reaction is that we need to get this man’s view in the paper,” Catron admitted. “This is a viewpoint from someone who was there and that is how we looked at it. We will start off and see where it goes. I knew it would be controversial.”

There’s a difference between getting his view on paper and making it “news”. In the print edition it’s labeled “commentary” (print circulation: 50,000), but online it’s “local news”, but perhaps that will change soon.

Catron said Monday that Lynch is not paid for the column, adding that at least three newsroom staffers have complained. “They were objecting to it and there is a valued argument there,” she said, noting that one of those who objected was the paper’s military reporter, who could not immediately be reached for comment. “Our military reporter is quite concerned, and we are not finished talking about it.”

There are many parallels with news stations broadcasting stories passed of as news but made by government agencies and private firms highlighting the benefits of some program or product.

I think it’s a good public affairs move for the general to reach out, but does the way the newspaper is positioning harm the intent? What if the general wrote only a small bit or none of the story at all and just signed off on what the PAO(s) wrote?

If the general’s article is local news, then shouldn’t Frank Rich’s column, especially yesterday’s damning “Sunday in the Market With McCain” (subscription required), be listed as news as well?

What do you think?

Eddie, we’re glad you’re back

Eddie returns from a slumber and comments on the Iranian hostage taking and civil-military relations, ending with:

A similar attitude may be hard to envision in America, but the lack of faith in public officials and the nation as a whole is alarming, to a degree that it could be reasonable to compare it only slightly favorably to the Vietnam debacle and the “malaise” diagnosis of Jimmy Carter. Adam Elkus notes that 1/3 of Americans suspect ulterior motives behind 9/11, prominently USG support and/or acquiescence.  Scandal after scandal in Washington from the compounding disgrace of Katrina to pressuring US attorneys to pursue partisan political charges against the opposition only make this “crisis of confidence” more acute.  Again, like the British, Americans are not innocent here; much of this has gone on with their rudimentary knowledge (from torture to flawed intelligence) and they can no longer reasonably claim to have been “misled.”  

Yet in spite of all this, the prospect of military personnel held hostage by a foreign power raises the reasonable specter of enraged Americans across the partisan divide demanding action (even some of those who don’t buy the official line on 9/11).  

Unless….  The military’s halo of truth, honor and courage is long due to be removed regardless.  Public worship of the military is incorrectly placed and certainly emboldens the political and institutional failure to punish disastrously poor leadership from the likes of General Tommy Franks, Ricardo Sanchez, Peter Pace, George Casey and others.  It prevents hard questions about tactics, direction and accountability to be asked in any meaningful fashion. 

The continuing use of abuse and torture by US forces or their private proxies, the fatalistic acceptance of ethnic cleansing in Iraq, the constant lying to the American people for the past 4 years (marching up to Capitol Hill and other public platforms on a routine basis and claiming ”we’re winning”) and the propensity to “support the troops at any costs” are helping to rot the core of the US Army, just as much as extended, repeated deployments. 

In due time, it is likely that political operatives will begin to use military leaders and by extension, the military itself, as scapegoats for the failing wars in Iraq & Afghanistan.  That’s strike one.  Strike Two will be drastic public disillusionment after the likely failure of the “Surge”.  Strike Three is a nightmare in itself; the kidnap, torture and execution of American soldiers in Iraq.  Insurgents have been trying this for years now, but their chances for success have to be increasing with the vulnerability of lightly manned outposts emphasized by the military in Baghdad.  The propaganda effects of such a tragedy are almost too terrible to imagine, but its reasonable to expect that after years of failure the American people will turn even further against the war.  Even if Strike Three were not to unfold, the negative light fostered by Strike One & the disgrace of Strike Two are alone enough to scuttle the love affair with the military. If and when American troops are captured by Iranians or another nation, it is thus likely a casual indifference like in Britain could ensue or worse, a desperate public push to “bring them home” at whatever costs.

Fixing the frayed bonds between society, the military and the government will require a full, honest effort from all sides.  Nothing less than the continued ability to pursue national policies and goals on a sustainable level abroad and at home is at stake.