Blackwater and Christmas Eve

I recommend reading David Phinney’s blog because I’m betting he’s going to have some juicy stuff appearing in the near future as hearings on PMCs in Iraq kick off later this week.

If you’re interested in the Christmas Eve shooting, I made a brief and quiet mention of it in my commentary on the UCMJ changes January 3rd:

It is folly to say the reason contractors haven’t been prosecuted for things ranging from the so-called ‘Aegis Trophy Video’ to [a] possibly killing an Iraqi Presidential Guard in the International Zone on Christmas Eve is because Iraq is a “contingency operation.”

Just a note on this, my sources gave me some good information before then, which I followed up on, including with a query to CENTCOM via phone and email. At first CENTCOM thought it was non-sense but when I provided some additional detail their public affairs liaison stopped responding to my email. This and others will be interesting test cases indeed.

Posing the question: Is the SysAdmin Constitutional?

Dan of tdaxp reframed a question of legitimacy of the Marines the Volokh Conspiracy posed last week. Volokh suggested that since the Marine Corps “is more like armies” that perhaps it should be treated as the US Constitution treats the US Army and thus not considered an element of the US Navy. Dan extends this to question whether the Tom Barnett’s SysAdmin theory is then unconstitutional. I felt it was necessary to respond with history and facts.

I had originally posted what was surely a brilliant response in Dan’s comments, only to have it lost to cyberspace. Thinking again about this, I decided to post the response here because there are other more important areas that should be probed when discussing the answer to V & D’s questions. Be warned, this is a long post.

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Return of the grab bag post:

Update on the US Embassy in Baghdad

Read David Phinney’s post on the US Embassy in Baghdad. I just don’t see this amazing fortress, built with imported labor, unable to go online unless real victory is achieved, and even then I suspect victory won’t be achieved unless this Crusader Castle is converted, subdivided, or otherwise transformed. But then, we really have very little idea what’s up with this property. BTW- Phinney is about the only real resource for info on this.

Can’t fight without the right equipment

Not only is the Army suffering manpower problems, creating issues at CONUS bases, hindering knowledge creation and transfer, wearing down its equipment, and not providing known and necessary pre-deployment training, but now the DoD’s own Inspector General issued a report last week stating failures to provide proper equipment to our soldiers.

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IISS on complex irregular warfare: the West is Failing

Appropriately, the International Institute for Strategic Studies (IISS) released their 2007 Military Balance:

The IISS in the 2007 Military Balance again analyses the challenges of complex irregular warfare, this time assessing the psychological component. Our judgement is that military planning procedures need to incorporate so called ‘influence activities’ as an integral part of pre-deployment preparation for complex warfare missions. Without this deeper perception of the mission environment, operations will lack the necessary ingredient for long-term success.

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Institutional Culture Clash preventing culture understanding

This isn’t what you think it is. It’s about institutional culture clashes manifested as conflicts between anthropologists and a “scholarly” rejection of “military dominance in the field”. In April 2005, Montgomery McFate wrote an article for Military Review titled Anthropology and Counterinsurgency: the Strange Story of their Curious Relationship in which she wrote about past use of anthropologists in COIN. Some selected excerpts from this article:

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More on the CCR, this time from Max Boot

The Civilian Reserve Corps has gotten pitched in public again with Max Boot writing about it in today’s Los Angeles Times:

As for the Civilian Reserve Corps, the administration has no detailed plans to recruit, train or deploy abroad the kind of experts we need in such fields as law, finance, sanitation and balloting. Nor does it have the money. Odds are that this bright idea will suffer the same fate as another plan devised by the State Department’s Office of the Coordinator for Reconstruction and Stabilization, which asked for $100 million from Congress for contingency planning last year and got zip.

Ideally (a key word here), CCR will be more than the ill-fated S/CRS ever was. Picking up on Barnett, Boot suggests a Department of Peace built from a new USAID and a new US Information Agency. I love that last bit, not because I disagree, but I find it increasingly humorous that talk about recreating and reempowering USIA come not from State (although old USIA hands say the same, they seem to have largely been sidelined) but from DoD & the defense establishment. In other words, it’s the hard power guys calling for USIA and improving communications while the “soft power” folks under SecState Rice are… well, what are they doing (and here)?

See Opposed Systems Design comments on Max Boot here and my previous observations on the CCR proposal here.