Monday Mash-up

  • Listened to General David H. Petraeus on NPR this morning. Good interview as part of the overdue public affairs campaign that the Administration itself is probably wise to stay out of. (includes good awareness building of the complexity of the operation, that includes attributes of COIN, CT, and counter-gang/crime operations)
  • Dance Dance Revolution for Middle School fitness? (free sub req’d) Pathetic. Where’s the range of motion? Stability exercises? Upper body fitness? Endurance? Get them outside… argh.
  • Opinio Juris finds SCOTUS’s ruling in Hamdan v Rumsfeld case to be flawed:

    The Court’s holding and reasoning in Hamdan are unclear on one crucial issue: whether the United States is legally engaged in an armed conflict with the al Qaeda terrorist organization. Why is this issue so important? Well, the entire legal strategy of the Bush administration depends on it, both internationally and domestically, as vastly different rules of international and constitutional law apply in war and outside of it…

    …the Court (1) cites an authority in support of a proposition to which it is actually contrary; (2) quotes that authority selectively; and (3) ‘borrows’ both the citation and the quotation from the Jinks, Goodman and Slaughter amicus brief. The story doesn’t end here, however, as the Justices did not only filch citations from the brief but also relied on it substantively. Yet, as I’ll show in my next post, they did so while failing to distinguish between the several alternative arguments presented in that brief. Instead of opting for one of them, they made an unintelligible mish-mash of all of them, leading to contradictions within the Opinion of the Court itself.

  • The United States continues to be self-evident in the eyes of the government. We’re not talking about who we are and what we stand for, but the promotion of the US as a tourist destination. How else do you explain “the U.S. Department of Commerce has budgeted $3.9 million this year for marketing the country to international tourists. Malaysia will spend $117.9 million; Tunisia, $43 million; and Turkey, $80 million”? New York and Las Vegas spend “spend tens of millions” to attract tourists. DoC must think they don’t need to… wrong. I suppose it’s part of a larger strategy as the US continues to make it difficult and uncomfortable for people to get into this country.
  • PIPA released a public opinion poll that, among other things, reiterates that the United States is still well regarded and admired for its science and technology. For more discussion on the survey, see Marc Lynch’s post, but you at least go to the PIPA page to see the charts yourself.

    There is strong support for enhancing the role of Islam in all of the countries polled, through such measures as the imposition of sharia (Islamic law). This does not mean that they want to isolate their societies from outside influences: Most view globalization positively and favor democracy and freedom of religion

  • Eddie shared an excerpt of John McCain on Fox rejecting Tenet’s position on torture. This reminded me of an exchange on this blog last year on Powell letter’s to McCain on morality (more here).

A Failure in Generalship

A quote from an earlier interview with the author of the article at the center of the storm, Lt. Col. Paul Yingling:

if I had to condense [my advice] into a pithy little bullet it would be: don’t train on finding the enemy; train on finding your friends and they will help you find your enemy

No time to write on this, but here are some important links on the story:

An observation from the SWC discussion notes LTC Yingling speaks from inside knowledge:

you have an officer that has been deemed worthy by the very system that he is criticizing (…LTC Yingling does have a masters degree in Political Science from the University of Chicago, so he isn’t the standard mold rewarded by the system).

he’s already served on three operational deployments, with his last one being a major cog in the wheel of the most successful brigade to have conducted counterinsurgency operations in Iraq as deemed by the Army itself.

Another Brick in the Wall, Part II: Response to the Urban Tourniquet

The discussion over “gated communities” continues with David Kilcullen’s description of the “Urban Tourniquet”. Kilcullen’s response to the wide-spread condemnation of the tactic, while clear in its justification, does not fully address the two key issues raised in my own commentary a few days ago: the continued failure to participate in the information campaign and the apparent failure of the wall to integrate multidisciplinary and cross-institutional efforts.

Continue reading “Another Brick in the Wall, Part II: Response to the Urban Tourniquet

Discussing The Just Prince, an Arab Muslim manual of leadership by Muhammad ibn Zafar

The approach to state-building in Iraq is anchored in Western concepts of governing. Many, myself included, would argue this was an acceptable approach in the Golden Hour after the initial resistance was crushed or crumbled before resistance could organize and the shock wore off. In this power vacuum, the United States was dealing with a largely secular state that had a strong sense of national identity (see Adeed Dawisha’s excellent book Arab Nationalism in the Twentieth Century for details). However, as the Golden Hour slipped away and the opportunity to rebuild was squandered and religious men, fakers, and criminals stepped into the vacuum, the framework for discourse changed. The Western Machiavellian mindset was being displaced by a retreat into religion and tribalism, neither of which are “accepted” by the Machiavellian power model.
Especially today, four years into the occupation of an Arab country at the cross-roads of Sunni and Shia, Arab and Persian, and West and East, we should reconsider how power is spoken, framed, and understood. Other authors have written on this, some I have reviewed previously, and some I will review in the future.

Continue reading “Discussing The Just Prince, an Arab Muslim manual of leadership by Muhammad ibn Zafar

Chinese Tuesday

Some bits on China for your Tuesday.

  • From the Enterprise Resilience Blog: According to The Economist, the United States was surpassed last by China as the world’s leading producer of automobiles and the Associated Press notes that China is now the globes second leading market for automobiles — behind the United States but ahead of Japan. It should come as no surprise, therefore, that carmakers are flocking to China to show their goods [“Automakers Display New Products in China,” by Elaine Kurtenbach, Washington Post, 20 April 2007]. It used to be that the most important auto shows were held in places like Detroit, New York, and Los Angeles.
  • From Pambazuka News (2 Mar 06): Chinese medical, agricultural and engineering teams continue to operate in many African countries. ‘Since 1963, some 15,000 Chinese doctors have worked in 47 African states treating nearly 180 million cases of HIV/AIDS. At the end of 2003, 940 Chinese doctors were still working throughout the continent. Beijing prefers technical support over financial aid to African countries for obvious reasons. Financial aid stretches resources and diverts capital from significant needs at home, therefore investments in trade and projects that have a chance at providing returns are more popular than direct aid and loan programs.’
  • From People’s Daily Online (3 Mar 06… apparently I’m doing some inbox cleaning): About 190 Chinese police officers are serving under the UN flag for peacekeeping efforts around the world, state media said Friday. China is the second-largest contributor of peacekeeping police forces among the permanent members of the UN Security Council, and its police officers are working under the UN flag in Kosovo, Liberia, Timor-Leste, Afghanistan, Sudan and Haiti, China Daily said. The United States has some 340 police officers in UN peacekeeping missions, the paper said.
    [MountainRunner: At the time, China was the 2nd largest contributor of Police forces as the article mentions, but it was the top SC contributor to peacekeeping missions, accounting for nearly half of the total SC participation. Additionally, it should be noted that the bulk of the US police contribution was, and continues to be, through private security companies. In other words, the US is not mobilizing its own but outsourcing the responsibility. Question: would there be a difference if the US simply paid Germany (203 police in Aug 06) to double their force?]

Another brick in the wall

Can the tactical mistakes get any worse? Building a wall around Baghdad’s communities, starting with Al a’zamiyah, or Adhamiya? The prime contractor may as well have been Arbeit Macht Der-Frei Gmbh as the idea of partitioning any part of the city devastates any chance for peace, or “victory” if you prefer. This is another brick in a different kind of wall, the wall of moral legitimacy and strategic appreciation of the requirements to succeed. Neither political nor military doctrine or logic can justify this folly.

Continue reading “Another brick in the wall

Book Review: Blackwater

BlackwaterJeremy’s Scahill’s new book Blackwater: The Rise of the World’s Most Powerful Mercenary Army has seemingly reinvigorated discussion on private security companies. Personally, I have not read his book but I’ve received a lot of email asking about it and asking if I listened to his appearances on various NPR shows and elsewhere. I have to say that on each listening and reading of a review, it becomes more apparent Scahill completely misses the mark and does a poor job doing so to boot. I think there’s something to be said that even Jon Stewart, who I watch nearly religiously (thank God for TiVO), wasn’t accepting Scahill’s sky-is-falling framework (I also don’t remember the last time Jon losing a book of his desk). Based on the interviews on the Daily Show and elsewhere, it’s apparent Scahill’s arguments are weak and when he’s not quoting somebody else his evidence lacks contextual reality. I wonder, if Erik Prince threatened Robert Young Pelton with a lawsuit, what will Scahill be threatened with?

Continue reading “Book Review: Blackwater

Monday Mash-up

On the evolution of Robocop, see Danger Room:

Book Review: Children at War

Children at War Eddie at Hidden Unities has a thoughtful series (Part I, Part II, and Part III) on P.W. Singer’s Children at War which I urge you to read.

From Part I:

“We have young boys that are more familiar with a gun than with school.” — Afghan warlord

A copious, systematic look at the alarming combination that rips societies, nations and even regions apart, P.W. Singer’s “Children At War” makes a serious contribution to the layman’s understanding of the emergent child soldier doctrine. Not only is it “probably the worst unrecognized form of child abuse” but the utilization of child soldiers endangers international stability like few other developments in warfare. Singer lays out the facts of child soldiers in serious detail (its global in scope (across the developing world) and massive in number (somewhere between 3-4 million children serve with militias, insurgents and government security forces), skillfully probes the roots and results of the doctrine’s development and then offers a round of thoughtful suggestions, ideas and observations for how to respond to its terrible consequences (the focus of the second post about this book).

From Part II:

P.W. Singer offers a range of options for addressing the ominous spread of the child soldier doctrine…

  • advocates for child soldier rehabilitation should link their calls to action to the broader security concerns yielded by child soldiers
  • Local NGO’s and religious and community leaders, who can make appeals against the practice on the basis of local values and customs must be supported if lasting change is going to take effect on the ground.
  • Foster “smart & judicial” efforts that focus on the worst abuses…Shrewd use of the limited political capital and media attention
  • Criminalizing the doctrine…Focus on the doctrine itself rather than the abuses that result, lowering the bar for prosecution.
  • Activists could focus their efforts upon the weak link in the enabling of the child soldier doctrine, the child soldier group leaders’ trading partners
  • an additive of deterrence is required as the cost/benefit calculation by groups must change

Part III of Eddie’s review and analysis will be on Western vulnerability to the child soldier doctrine. I can’t wait. Eddie’s analysis motivated me to buy the book.

By the way, Pete Singer, for those thinking his name is familiar made his mark with the de facto read on private military companies (Corporate Warriors: The Rise of the Privatized Military Industry) and is now working on robotics and 21st Century conflict.

China’s FCS…

News on China’s version of the Future Combat System? Not quite, but they seem proud of their progress of equipping their troops with “digital technology”. It’s not the Fourth ID, but it’s a start.

In recent years, the PLA armored forces have made great efforts to improve their ability to attack air and ground targets. It has endeavored to improve its long-distance mobility, rapid assault strength and information collecting and analysis ability. It has also made notable achievements in the development of information technology. It is reported that a number of digital equipments have been applied in the military forces. A light armored and mechanized unit and a digitalized armored unit have been set up.

The officer in charge of the military training department of the PLA Headquarters of the Central Staff said that the PLA has basically replaced first-generation equipment with second-generation or third-generation equipment. Some of their facilities and technologies are world standard. The structure of armored and mechanized units also has been improved.

I don’t know about you, but the last paragraph was almost quaint.

On Counterinsurgency: something to read, something to listen to

Quickly as I’m out of time to post and or to add my own comments, but here are two recommendations: the first is something to read (or a series of reading if you’re industrious) and the second is something to listen to. Both of these are on counterinsurgency today.

First is Dave Kilcullen’s response on the Small Wars Journal Blog to Edward Luttwak’s Dead End: Counter-Insurgency as Military Malpractice. (For more discussion, see the thread on the Small Wars Council discussion board.)

The second item of note is to be listened to. It’s an audio program (transcript to appear soon) by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation: Background Briefing with Stan Correy. By the way, on the topic of the Small Wars Journal and Council, the founders can be heard around 27 1/2 minutes in.

How peacekeeping works… from the BBC

The BBC has a decent article on how UN Peacekeeping operations are “born” and staffed. This is a good read, but two comments:


Current monthly rates paid by the UN per peacekeeper include:

  • $1,028 for pay and allowances
  • $303 supplementary pay for specialists
  • $68 for personal clothing, gear and equipment
  • $5 for personal weaponry

(H/T AMPList)

China and Peacekeeping

Briefly, from the UN News Centre: More Chinese police arrive to serve with UN Mission in Haiti.

The United Nations Mission for the Stabilization of Haiti (MINUSTAH) today announced the arrival of nearly 100 Chinese officers, including seven women, who are serving with a Formed Police Unit (FPU) in the Caribbean country.

The 95 new police, who joined a group of 30 FPU members of the same contingent that arrived last week on 4 April, brings the total number of Chinese officers in Haiti to 125.

China has contributed more than 1,000 officers in Formed Police Units since the Mission was established in October 2004 after an insurgency forced then President Jean-Bertrand Aristide to go into exile.

The latest contingent, replacing one which has rotated out, comes from Guandong Province. Prior to their deployment to Haiti, its members underwent a five-month training course covering language, shooting, driving and combat/defensive tactics.

Good for them. See my previous posts highlighting Chinese public diplomacy vis a vis peacekeeping in general, including Sept 2006 news of China upping it’s UNIFIL (Lebanon) numbers for the same reason (although they seem to only doubled their contribution to 343 as of February 07). 

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