“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?

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Monday Mash-Up August 6, 2007

From 1987 until 2002, the State Department published an annual report titled, Political Violence Against Americans, formerly Significant Incidents of Political Violence Against Americans. It was a report mandated by Congress and

produced by the Bureau of Diplomatic Security’s Office of Intelligence and Threat Analysis (DS/DSS/ITA) to provide readers with a comprehensive picture of the broad spectrum of political violence that American citizens and interests have encountered abroad on an annual basis. 

I’m still waiting for somebody to link social obesity with Sageman’s socialization schema. Phil Carter, with highlighting and a special image by Noah Shachtman, did see a link to national security.

Timendi causa est nescire” : ignorance is the cause of fear — Seneca. Found in the signature line of a public affairs officer.

Seth Weinberger wants to make politics personal.

On robots, Noah counts down the 50 best movie robots.

Jason Sigger again wrote about general military readiness, adaptability, and capability. This is one of my “favorite” topics I’ve let slide in the last few months, so I’m glad Jason is staying up on it. Manpower and equipment problems lingering below the surface may force certain decisions if not addressed ASAP.

In the same vein, Amy R. Gershkoff, writing in the Washington Post, writes about saving soldiers’ jobs:

For tens of thousands of members of the National Guard and reserves who are called up to serve in Iraq, returning home safely may be the beginning — not the end — of their worst nightmare. Reservists lucky enough to make it home often find their civilian jobs gone and face unsympathetic employers and a government that has restricted access to civilian job-loss reports rather than prosecuting offending employers.

The Army is finally getting that we’re in an information war and it’s rewriting a core operations manual to address the “important business of influencing and informing populations — both our own and in the area in which we operate.” I’m sure this rewrite will have a greater impact than the book chapter I just wrote arguing the same at the national level.

It’s a good thing because al-Qaeda’s information capabilities having gotten slicker. From Noah (again):

We all know Al-Qaeda’s propaganda videos are getting slicker and slicker.  Here’s the newest evidence: a computer-animated recreation of a March 2006 suicide attack that killed U.S. diplomat David Foy in Karachi, Pakistan.  Okay, no one is going to confuse the clip with Finding Nemo or some other digitally-generated Pixar classic.  But it does show just how sophisticated the terror group’s production techniques are becoming.

Blogger’s Roundtables and PRTs in Iraq

Unfortunately I missed the Blogger Roundtable on PRTs in Iraq with Philip Reeker, counselor for Public Affairs at the Department of State out of the US Embassy, Baghdad. On the call were Andrew Lubin of On Point, Grim of Blackfive, Dave Dilegge of Small Wars Journal / Small Wars Council (go to SWJ’s post for a good summary of questions as well as background resources), Austin Bay, Richard Fernandez of The Belmont Club, David Axe of Aviation Week, Charlie Quidnunc of Whizbang, and Jason Sigger of Armchair Generalist. But not me, the wife’s conference call at the same time and my son waking up messed up my schedule. However, I do have the transcript of this valuable and allegedly secret-handshake-required conference call.

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Targeting Public Opinion is nothing new

Targeting the morale of the civilian population is not new and certainly not something absent from 20th Century warfare as many would have you believe. What is new, is the rise of the non-state actors, but attacking the will to fit. The United States hired privateers to attack the will of the British to support the war against us in the 19th Century at the dawn of the nation-state. While the nation-state brought with it problems of governance because the governing lost at least some autonomy over the governed (in the worst cases they had to at least work harder to oppress their people than before). Long before the nation-state, consider Vlad the Impaler’s PSYOP to dissuade trespassing.

In the 20th Century when supposedly warfare was only industrial and between states to the exclusion of the people, German bombing in World War I caused such panic in London that one observer, Giulio Douhet, the influential Italian air warfare theorist, developed a thesis that can best be described as terrorism from the air for maximum psychological affect on the enemy:

At this point I want to stress one aspect of the problem – namely, that the effect of such aerial offensives upon morale may well have more influence upon the conduct of the war than their material effects. For example, take the center of a large city and imagine what would happen among the civilian population during a single attack by a single bombing unit [dropping 20 tons of high-explosive, incendiary and gas bombs.]… First would come explosions, then fires, then deadly gases…By the following day the life of the city would be suspended…

What could happen to a single city in a single day could also happen to ten, twenty, fifty cities. And, since news travels fast, even without telegraph, telephone, or radio, what, I ask you, would be the effect upon civilians of other cities, not yet stricken but equally subject to bombing attacks? What civil or military authority could keep order, public services functioning, and production going under such a threat?…

A complete breakdown of the social structure cannot but take place in a country subjected to this kind of merciless pounding from the air. The time would soon come when, to put an end to the horror and suffering, the people themselves, driven by the instinct of self-preservation, would rise up and demand an end to the war…

In 1939, E. H. Carr also noted the rising “power over opinion” as contemporary war nullified “the distinction between combatant and civilian; and the morale of the civilian population became for the first time a military objective.”

And even the realpolitik author decades later, Hans Morganthau, in his nine elements of national power, included two as unstable: national morale and the quality of diplomacy. Both were subject to domestic and foreign strategic influence campaigns.

Attempting to influence the psychology of populations comes in many forms. If the last resort of kings was war, the first resort was intelligence and linkages from cultural diplomacy. We have clearly forgotten how to participate in the struggle over minds and wills. We used to know. From radio broadcasts to inform and mobilize people over there to influencing the framing of US domestic news of events over there, we fully engaged the public, both ours and theirs.

George Kennan understood the importance of information, public opinion, and morale. As Nicholas Thomson wrote six days after I posted the ending of Kennan’s Long Telegram,

…in a letter to Lippmann that Kennan never mailed (most likely because his boss, Secretary of State George Marshall, had chastened him for causing a ruckus), Kennan explained that he didn’t mean containment with guns. He didn’t want American armed forces to intervene in countries where the Soviets were mucking around but hadn’t gained control, like Greece, Iran and Turkey.

The Soviets are making “first and foremost a political attack,” Kennan wrote. “Their spearheads are the local communists. And the counter-weapon that can beat them is the vigor and soundness of political life in the victim countries.”

Something to think about.

If the surge is working, why are we still losing?

Question: if the surge is working, why are we still losing? That’s the oft asked question that starts from the wrong premise: that we’re losing. Seth at Security Dilemmas gets the point of the surge: 

The surge is intended not to pacify the country, but rather to provide sufficient security to create breathing room in which the government can pass needed laws and stabilize the political situation.

But while the surge may be working, the political process is not. All of the people cited above for their optimism on the military aspect of the surge also voiced their pessimism about the political side. Admiral Mullen stated that “there does not appear to be much political progress” in resolving the critical issues that might ease sectarian violence.

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UN Accountability, again

Eugene Kontorovich at Opinio Juris wrote about The Good, the Bad and the UNgly of UN peacekeeping.

The blue helmets have in recent years been amply involved in corruption, sexual abuse and worse. The Post article describes some if it, but there is much more. Two years ago, a U.N. report found large-scale sexual abuse by peacekeepers around the world, including rape and child molestation, and of course, promised reform. In Congo, the abuse was particularly pervasive. One would think after the rape scandal there, someone would have kept a closer eye on the peacekeepers to make sure they didn’t add robbery to their list of offenses.

And then there are the French soldiers in the Ivory Coast who suffocated a man to death with a plastic bag, were congratulated by their officers, and covered-up for by some senior generals.

He accurately goes on about the perception of the force as being critical to their effectiveness.

Part of the accountability problem may have to do with the positive associations people often have between the U.N. and human rights. The UN represents the world, has the international Human Rights Commission — how bad can it be? People may be more hesitant to criticize the UN because they see it as performing other important functions. When the first pictures were released from Abu Ghraib, America and human rights abuse became synonymous. That creates incentives to change. But despite what to me seems like truly pervasive sexual abuse, far more than one would expect from a force of 83,000, the U.N. has not become synonymous with human rights abuse, at least not in the minds of those who matter.

This point was missed by some of the responders.

There are two important issues here. One is the perception issue Kontorovich hits on. The other is the nature of the peacekeeping force itself and the accountability. The truth is, UN Peacekeeping forces are outside of the law.

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