Young Officers Leaving Army at a High Rate

Briefly, more later: Young Officers Leaving Army at a High Rate.

Young Army officers, including growing numbers of captains who leave as soon as their initial commitment is fulfilled, are bailing out of active-duty service at rates that have alarmed senior officers. Last year, more than a third of the West Point class of 2000 left active duty at the earliest possible moment, after completing their five-year obligation.

Along the same lines, overall recruiting numbers are down, despite the Army’s claim otherwise. Remember the Army lowered the monthly targets for the beginning of this year from a required average of over 6,600 per month to hit the yearly total of 80,000. Not only has the Army lowered the bar / quality requirements, removed restrictions on tatoos, and raised the age limit, but now it is deceiving the public (and itself?).

links for 2006-04-19

Military to Protect U.S. Aid Teams in Iraq

Briefly, the Pentagon (Rumsfeld?) actually so wanted to draw down in Iraq that it wanted State Department to use private security companies. Military to Protect U.S. Aid Teams in Iraq:

The announcement followed months of disagreement between the Pentagon and the State Department over whether to use U.S. troops or private security guards to ensure the safety of dozens of diplomats, aid workers and other civilian specialists who would staff the new outposts. State has argued that the teams warrant U.S. military protection, but the Pentagon, eager to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Iraq, had resisted committing to the new mission.

Is the next step Rumsfeld pulling out Marines from guarding the US Naval Academy? Wait, that’s already been done. Perhaps pulling them out of all diplomatic posts? That might just be necessary just to protect the new Baghdad base, er, embassy.

A General With an Alternative Vision

From General Zinne and his Alternative Vision:

"The real threats do not come from military forces or violent attacks; they do not come from a nation-state or hostile non-state entity. They do not derive from an ideology (not even from a radical, West-hating, violent brand of Islam)," Zinni writes. "The real new threats come from Instability. Instability and the chaos it generates can spark large and dangerous changes anywhere in the land."

Yes, I agree completely.

Pentagon’s Chief Watchdog Joins Company that Owns Blackwater

Briefly, not sure how I missed this: Pentagon’s Chief Watchdog Joins Company that Owns Blackwater:

Joseph Schmitz, the Pentagon’s chief internal watchdog since March 2002, has quit to join a defense contractor involved in private security services, the Pentagon announced on Wednesday.

Schmitz will become chief operating officer and general counsel of McLean, Virginia-based Prince Group, which manufactures items on contract and owns Blackwater USA, a security consultant working in Iraq, said Lt. Col. Rose-Ann Lynch, a Defense Department spokeswoman.

Schmitz’s last day as Pentagon inspector general will be September 9, Lynch said. He headed investigations of a wide range of scandals, including a failed $23.5 billion Air Force deal with Boeing Co. to acquire refueling tankers, sexual assaults at the Air Force Academy and contracting abuses in postwar Iraq.

At Blackwater, Schmitz will be working with Cofer Black, a former State Department and CIA counterterrorism coordinator, who joined earlier this year as vice chairman.

Blackwater USA was founded in 1997 by a former U.S. Navy SEAL to provide flexible training and security worldwide. More than 18 of its employees have died in Iraq since the war began in March 2003.

links for 2006-04-16

More on Fortress Baghdad, er, the New American Embassy

060414_embassy_hmed_3phlarge The wisdom of the Bush Administration hits the news yet again. While Condi is admiting, perhaps unwittingly, to the mistakes of the Administration in Iraq (by mostly pointing the finger at Rumsfeld by the way), comes more news in the mainstream media about what will become a legendary debacle of US Public Diplomacy. The American embassy in Iraq, as  reported by MSNBC (picture of all the construction cranes at right should be warning itself), will be massive and the largest in the world at 21 buildings and 104 acres.

The fortress-like compound rising beside the Tigris River here will be the largest of its kind in the world, the size of Vatican City, with the population of a small town, its own defense force, self-contained power and water, and a precarious perch at the heart of Iraq’s turbulent future.

Interestingly, the MSNBC report parroted the names of the security
measures built into the compound. So-called "no-go areas" used to be
called "killing zones", "no-man’s land", or similar clearly named
places to avoid.

The over 5,000 (!!) American and Iraqis who will work in the embassy will be isolated from interaction with the unwashed masses of the public to carry out the new ‘special’ brand of diplomacy, whatever that is. Should we ask how many of the 5k+ will be DoD reports with Rumsfeld taking more of a role in public diplomacy?

Iraq_jobsDavid Phinney’s story on the embassy back in February goes deeper into the impact of this embassy on our worldwide relations. Not only are we building a structure that will intimidate the state it is in (and dominate the skyline of the capital city we are guests in with our sovereign territory), but we are importing labor from other countries with lies, deceit and low-pay. How do think that plays back in their home countries?

Well, at least we’re continuing to give our friends the Kuwaitis financial assistence. It’s good to help friends, right?

More than a few U.S. contractors competing for the $592-million Baghdad
project express bewilderment over why the U.S. State Department gave
the work to First Kuwaiti General Trading & Contracting (FKTC).
They claim that some competing contractors possessed far stronger
experience in such work and that at least one award-winning company
offered to perform the all but the most classified work for $60 million
to $70 million less than FKTC….

Mohammad I. H. Marafie, chairman and co-owner of FKTC, is a member of one of the most powerful mercantile families in Kuwait….

American contractors witnessing the plight of some of these migrants at
military camps around Iraq have openly complained that the Asians
endure abysmal working conditions, live in cramped housing, eat poor
food, and lack satisfactory medical care and safety gear.

these migrants work 12 hours a day, often seven days a week, and earn
as little as $500 a month performing tasks considered unsuitable for US
war fighters. They work construction, drive trucks, run laundries,
clean latrines, pick up rubbish and operate stores, dining facilities
and warehouses. Without them, and the "body shop" subcontractors that
provide such laborers, the US and coalition military camps — virtually
small cities — would shut down.

I listened to a CorpWatch interview with Phinney when this first came out. I suggest you do the same if you don’t want to read the entire article.

What do you think this will do to our image? Probably not much since it will only reinforce the perceptions of America. Tell me how this embassy, and its construction, symbolizes the United States?

Is a place that looks like a "remote crusader castle" or a "maximum security prison"? Both of which were used to describe our $83m Istanbul Consulate. What again does this tell the local population?

Rumsfeld on USIA

Who is in charge of our public diplomacy? It was supposed to be the State Department when the USIA was rolled into in 1999. However, Remarks by Secretary Rumsfeld at the Army War College, Carlisle Barracks, Pa. indicate something else. He is talking about USIA and our foreign image. State and Condi is not for they ‘do not talk directly to the people’, leaving it the military to do our person to person communication.

Read the transcript below and ask yourself if it sounds like the Secretary of Defense or the Secretary of State talking. I would have highlighted a few items, but the entire speech and the Q&A requires your attention if you want the full impact of the cross-over from Defense to State. Rumsfeld clearly sees himself, with the acquiesence of the President and Cheney, as the guy to best communicate our strategy and direction directly to the people of the world. Between the Rendon Group and CENTCOM reaching out directly to bloggers (no, not me), among other examples, perhaps USIA should be reconstituted within DoD? (Just joking… kind of.)

the September 11th attacks the United States fashioned a very large
global coalition who worked together to protect our people and protect
their people. This coalition is probably the largest in the history of
the world, with some 80 or 90 countries working together to make it
more difficult for terrorists to do everything they need to do to be
successful. More difficult to train, to recruit, to raise money, to
establish sanctuaries, to acquire weapons, to cross borders,

But the strategy must do a great deal more to
reduce the lure of the extremist ideology, like standing with those
moderate Muslims advocating peaceful change, freedom and tolerance.

Progress is being made. Afghanistan has gone from a
country where the government protected terrorists and imprisoned women,
to one that imprisons terrorists and protects women.  Iraq has gone
from Saddam’s mass graves to mass participation in democratic
elections. A recent survey showed that a large and growing number of
Muslims believe that free systems can work in their country.

The extremists see these changes and they’re desperate
to prevent that progress. One suspects that the terrorists preferred
the battles before September 11th when they were often the only ones on
the offensive.

Today there are some who want America to go back on the
defensive, to the strategy that failed before September 11th. They say
that a retreat from Iraq would provide an American escape from the
violence. However we know that any reprieve would short lived. To the
terrorists the West would remain the great Satan. The war that the
terrorists began would continue. And free people would continue to be
their target.

From time to time one hears the claim that terrorists’
acts are reactions to particular American policy. That’s not so. Their
violence preceded by many years operations in Afghanistan and Iraq and
their violence will not stop until their ideology is confronted by the
values millions on every continent take for granted. The ideas that
liberated moderate Muslims are risking their lives every day to defend
including free systems, individual rights. We must recognize this and
steel ourselves for the long struggle ahead.

QUESTION: [Inaudible]. My question has to do with the war on terror as a war of ideology. The National Defense Strategy, QDR (Quadrennial Defense Review), talks about the war on terror having a significant component as a war of ideology. What do you think we’re doing well with respect to the war of ideology, and what do you think we could do better?

If I were rating, I would say we probably deserve a D or D+ as a
country as how well we’re doing in the battle of ideas that’s taking
place. I’m not going to suggest that it’s easy, but we have not found
the formula as a country.

basically a struggle not between the West and Muslims. It’s a struggle
within the Muslim faith. There are a relatively small number of violent
extremists and a very large number of moderates who do not believe in
violent extremism in that faith. We’re going to have to find ways that
we can encourage and support those moderate voices because they’re the
ones who are in the struggle.

In the
20th century when I went to Washington fresh out of the Navy in 1957
and we had something called the United States Information Agency. It
wasn’t perfect, but it had libraries around the world, made movies, had
various seminars and opportunities for people to learn more about the
United States. I don’t know what the 21st century version of that is,
but we need it badly and we haven’t got it.

When I was in Congress I remember
President Kennedy was president.  The USIA made a film about the
Kennedy family going to India. It was very promotional and favorable to
It was played back in the United States and Congress got all excited
because taxpayers’ dollars were being used to propagandize the American
people. So the USIA was highly criticized and eventually it was
abolished for all practical purposes.

We had
various other things at Voice of America, Radio Free Europe, and other
activities that we engaged in. But this is a wonderful country, the
United States of America. The American people are enormously generous.
And we are tolerant as a country. We accept diversity and differences.
We’re far from perfect. But the image that the United States has in the
world as a result of the characterizations by others is unfortunate.
And when people are leaning toward you, as you all know, things are
easy. When people are leaning away from you, things are much more

conducting a war today that for the first time in the history of the
world, in the 21st century, where with all of these new realities —
video cameras and digital cameras and 24 hour talk shows and bloggers
and the internet and e-mails and all of these things that have changed
how people communicate. And as a result, everything anyone says goes to
multiple audiences.  Every time the United States
tries to do anything that would communicate something positive about
what we’re doing in the world we’re criticized in the press and in the
Congress, and we have a reappraisal and say oh, my goodness, is that
something we should be doing? How do we do it in a way that is
considered acceptable in our society?

now we have this issue about some folks out in Iraq working for General
Casey hired a contractor and they wanted to get some truth out — true
stories, not inaccurate stories, not disinformation, but true stories
and the contractor wanted to get those placed in some papers and they
wouldn’t take them, and he paid, apparently paid, the report hasn’t
come to me yet but as I understand it, the contractor apparently paid
some newspapers to run, without putting the word advertisement on it.
It was the truth. They were not lies that were being put in the paper.
They were accurate. But the fuss and the concern in the country has
just been a frenzy over it, so we’re having an investigation. General
Casey ran an investigation of it. He’s now going to send it back and
I’ll look at it and we’ll have to figure out whether that’s something
we ought to do.

If you
put yourself in the shoes of the people in the theater, and they’re out
doing decent, good things frequently day after day, and the press is
just reporting bad things about you in the Iraqi press, the
neighborhood press for example, and they want to get something good
about the fact that they did build a hospital, or they did put a
generator in the school, or they did something else because their
patrols are going out and they want the population to have a balanced
view of what the troops are doing. So they worked with a local
newspaper to try to get those stories in because they felt it would
save lives if the community understood what it is we were doing
completely and not just negative things that were being said through
al-Jazeera or one of the networks that tend to be negative on the
coalition forces.

You can understand their desire to do that. Then you look at the reaction.

we’re going to have to find better ways to do it and thus far we
haven’t as a government. The government’s not well organized to do it.
I worry, frankly, about people because of the fact that we do need the
ability to communicate more effectively as a country, and people in the
military have to be willing to do that. If every time anyone in the
military sticks their head up they get penalized for having touched the
third rail, namely done something with the media, that’s not a great
incentive for you folks. Right? But it’s critically important that each
of you have the ability to communicate, to deal with the press, and to
understand where the red lines are and where the lanes are that we have
to stay in because in our society we have to find them. The problem is
that we’ve not yet adapted to all of these new realities that exist and
we’re going to have to do a much better job of it.

links for 2006-04-14

New embassy design?

Palaceofsoviets1934_1 Is this a drawing by someone in the Administration of what the Baghdad embassy should look like? Has it entered the blogosphere through FOIA? Alas, no. It does represent "imminent triumph" but not of America or even the West, but of Communism. More here

"The competition for the Palace of Soviets in
Moscow was one of the most extensive and impressive of this century.
The idea of constructing a building which could be a symbol of the
"imminent triumph of communism" in the capital of the world’s first
state of workers and peasants was mooted in the 1920s. The chosen
location was the site of the demolished Church of Christ the Saviour.
The competition was launched in 1931 and carried out in stages.
Overall, 160 entries were submitted, including 12 commissioned ones and
24 which were fiors concours, as well as 112 project proposals. Twenty
four proposals were received from foreign participants, among whom were
such universally acclaimed architects as Le Corbusier, W.Gropius and

links for 2006-04-13

Nigerian Saying: “The chicken that is searching for food in the rain must be very hungry”

"The chicken that is searching for food in the rain must be very hungry" is a Nigerian proverb the Chinese hope won’t become their fortune. China is not yet hungry but it is looking to get in front of the rain that is sure to come in the form of a Western rush. The Chinese footprint in Nigeria is expanding quicker than most would think or admit. While oil and other natural resources are essential to Western economies, there is more to Nigeria and the region. There are other business opportunities the West in general, except for French Alcatel’s lucrative partnership with China, are missing out on.

Continue reading “Nigerian Saying: “The chicken that is searching for food in the rain must be very hungry”

Blackwater & Peacekeeping Operations

Recently, Blackwater announced that it was willing, and could, provide a brigade size force for humanitarian interventions (HI), such as is needed in Darfur. The Blackwater pronouncement (I think it goes beyond ‘announcement’) is largely based on Tim Spicer’s observation, as quoted in the Green Paper: "too often the major powers won’t intervene or delay until it’s too late." What might the Blackwater deployment look like and how might it work?

Continue reading “Blackwater & Peacekeeping Operations

Africa in the QDR

The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) published by the DefenseDepartment is generally taken as a (not ‘the’) roadmap for future
strategy and force structuring of United States Armed Forces. As such,
it is a good read. Frequently, the more interesting read is what
various groups "hear" in the document and what they highlight. Looking
at the Voice of America (VOA), it is noteworthy they highlighted a
small theme in the report: Africa. Within the 92 page report, Africa
does not get too much attention.

Continue reading “Africa in the QDR

New Conventions for ‘terrorists’

British Defense Secretary John Reid has come out and saying something needs to be done to address contemporary conflict to avoid the risk of "continuing to fight a 21st Century conflict with 20th Century rules." His three areas "for re-examination" read like talking points from the White House:

  1. The treatment of international terrorists
  2. The definition of an ‘imminent threat’ to make it easier to take pre-emptive action
  3. When to intervene to stop a humanitarian crisis

It is unfortunate, and telling, that he used the word terrorist as he is really trying to address a much broader group of actors. The punk who gets paid to fire an RPG at American troops isn’t a terrorist. The ‘insurgent’ nominally acting as a ‘citizen’ soldier, but wearing civilian clothing, isn’t a terrorist either.

As this discussion continues, because it has been an open debate and will continue to be such, we must keep in mind what we stand for and how our actions are seen by world. Perceptions matter and if we are perceived to descend to the level of the ‘terrorist’, in radical sense, we give ammunition to the ‘other side’.

Nigerian referees OK’d to take bribes

Briefly, information and communication technology (ICT) cannot work in a vacuum to reform Nigeria: Nigerian referees OK’d to take bribes

LAGOS, Nigeria – Soccer referees in Nigeria can take bribes from clubs but should not allow them to influence their decisions on the field, a football official said on Friday….Despite a high-profile campaign to stamp out graft in the impoverished
African country, Nigeria consistently ranks among the most corrupt
countries in the world — and soccer is no exception.

ICT may enable that democraticization of information, knowledge, and decision-making, but corruption openly permeating sport is like the termite droppings on the window sill: you always knew they were there but the volume of activity has risen to make their action blatently visible. No one questions that corruption is deep in Nigeria, but the public needs to understand that accepting such behavior gives ammunition and motivation to the rebels in the south-south and the fundamentalists in the North.