More on Civil v Military… an Update on the Supporting Revised Tribunals

Briefly, in today’s New York Times, Military Lawyers Caught in Middle on Tribunals:

On Wednesday evening, the night before a crucial Senate vote on the Bush administration plan for the interrogations and trials of terrorism suspects, the Pentagon general counsel, William J. Haynes II, summoned the senior uniformed lawyers from each military service to a meeting…

Mr. Haynes sought to enlist the lawyers on the administration’s side by asking whether any would object to signing a letter lending their support to aspects of the White House proposal over which they had voiced little concern.

The lawyers agreed, but only after hours of negotiating over specific words, so that they would not appear to be wholly endorsing the plan.

What followed was a scuffle that left at least some of the military lawyers embittered and stoked old tensions at the Pentagon between civilian leaders and uniformed military officers, who under Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld have often found themselves privately at odds…

The top uniformed Marine lawyer, Brig. Gen. James C. Walker, said in his testimony that no civilized country ought to deny defendants the right to see evidence against them and that the United States “should not be the first.’’ The lawyers stand by those objections, military officials said…

A participant in the meeting said Admiral MacDonald told his colleagues that he could not sign a letter saying he supported the Common Article 3 definition in the White House legislation because he advocated a broader definition that relied more on international law, rather than a narrow interpretation of American constitutional law.

In the end, the military lawyers all agreed to language in the letter saying they “do not object“ to the provisions in the administration bill.

But the letter included a sentence that the clarification would be “helpful to our fighting men and women at war on behalf of their country.”

White House officials said that sentence demonstrated the military lawyers’ support.

General Dunlap said in his mind that signing the letter meant just to convey that trying to clarify ambiguous language was helpful and that it did not mean that he and his colleagues fully endorsed the administration view.

New Poll on Pentagon’s Role in Public Diplomacy

What do you think about the Defense Department running America’s Public Diplomacy efforts?

Should the Defense Department be given control over the creation and execution of America’s public diplomacy? If so, what should its role be?
Yes and it should be the primary and lead in formulating and carrying out America’s PD
Yes, but it should be co-equals with the State Dept in creation and execution
Yes, but it should only within a limited scope and in deference to State/Other Civilian ownership
No, at most it should be given specific tasks
No, it has no business participating in America’s Public Diplomacy efforts
Other or What’s Public Diplomacy?
Create Free Polls

Powell reminds us of the importance of morality

In the ‘fight of good vs evil’, morality must play a significant part. Our civilization, which is supposedly under threat, is based on a moral code that forms the basis of our imperialist tendencies: to propagate this moral code. This code is fundamentally based within our concept of democracy and is largely shared by the other Western democracies.

Former Secretary of State Colin Powell (also retired full General and former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS)… a somewhat impressive resume that might only be surpassed by President Eisenhower) wrote a letter to Senator John McCain yesterday spelling out what is essentially the core of the US military’s opposition to the Administration’s interogation plans (available here at WaPo and here at NYT).


Continue reading “Powell reminds us of the importance of morality

Stuff to read… at Armchair Generalist

Ok, so I’m getting lazy, but seriously, Jason’s got some good stuff and I’ve got too many other things to do right now.

On Public Diplomacy

Alternate Reality is about VP Cheney ‘loosing it’, with a great link to a FOXNews transcript of SOS Condi just spinning her wheels.  What again is the purpose of State? Where is Karen Hughes?

On Recruiting
Scraping Bottom is about one of my favorite topics: recruiting woes. This Administration is doing its best to destroy the readiness of our military and the Army is the canary in the coal mine.

On Civil-Military Relations

More Bad Press for Rumsfeld is on one of my other favorite topics…

Deconstructing Rumsfeld

From Gregory Djerejian at Belgravia Dispatch:

Rumsfeld’s rhetorical tactics of late, it should be noted, are not infrequently rather similar to the Fuhrer’s, and this bears noting, I’d think….Indeed, as the failure of the Bush Administration’s war strategy becomes more and more evident to all but the most hardened denialists, as their desperation and incompetence becomes more evident to the American public, as their Middle East policy increasingly lies in tatters, and as they continue to erroneously attempt to conjoin things like the London terror plot with Iraq, without admitting the need for urgent re-appraisal of our overall strategy in the war on terror (they are incapable and/or too exhausted to make significant course corrections)–the rhetoric is beginning to border on dangerously reckless.

and on a follow up post:

It’s true, there is a lot of talk about "will" these days, isn’t there? Or faith too, of course. Neither constitute serious policy-making, however. More often, they represent merely aspirational fancy, or worse, propagandistic discourse. The former is not good enough, the latter dangerous.

Djerejian’s focus on the rhetoric and political overtones of the speech and not on the policy is, unfortunately, appropriate. The SecDef’s vocabulary is telling of an Administration that simply does not get it. Even at the moment of releasing a semi-competent National Strategy on Counter-Terrorism, the words of the Administration belie their true lack of faith and denial of its prescriptions.  We must look at the words being spoken as well as the actions being taken. Afterall, that’s what the world is doing.


A bunch of short things to post today as I’m short on time for the blog but there’s news. I’d call this post Rapid Fire, but that’s taken, although I like that better than “Miscellanea”!

Defining the War

The new National Strategy for Countering Terrorism was released yesterday. I haven’t had the chance to review it, but Bruce Hoffman had positive things to say about the document and Bush’s speech announcing it. The Washington Post, which also interviewed Hoffman (who released an updated version of his great book Inside Terrorism in May), portrays a document that seems to have a greater understanding of the root causes of terrorism.

Continue reading “Miscellanea

National means “state” or “federal”?

The Armchair Generalist has a good post on the building issue of who ‘owns’ the National guard. With deeper and broader dependency on NG troops for homeland defense and similar deep and broad dependency with regular forces overseas, who is paying (economically & socially) for these troops? Definitely an issue that is not discussed enough.

Question: the National Guard is the citizens’ militia, right? Others might argue the Michigan Militia or others are the true citizens’ militia, and they may be more ‘right’ today with the functional federalization of the NG. However, as these paramilitary groups border on or go beyond the illegal, firms like Cochise, Blackwater, ArmorGroup, and others form the real citizens’ militia as their requirements include lower barriers for participation (we’re not talking just shooters here). These other roles, which A Bloody Business chose to focus on, provide the real Lockean choice to the citizenry. Isn’t this part of re-democratizing the role of the warrior?

Warning signal as Army recruiting standards fall

The need for the Army to lower its standards to allow in recruits who otherwise would have been rejected set the Army on bad trajectory. It was possible, of course nothing would come of it as these now-acceptable kids would be reformed by the Army. Indications of the types of kids they were bringing, or seeking to, was seen in the decision to allow previously prohibited inked necks and hands (while interestingly at the same time the People’s Liberation Army restricted its tattoo policy).

Continue reading “Warning signal as Army recruiting standards fall

A question of retention in the Army

Excerpted from a New York Times editorial back on June 28, 2005: The Not-So-Long Gray Line:

”I feel like politicians have created a difficult situation for us,” he told me. ”I know I’m going to be coming back here about a year from now. I want to get married. I want to have a life. But I feel like if I get out when my commitment is up, who’s going to be coming here in my place? I feel this obligation to see it through, but everybody over here knows we’re just targets. Sooner or later, your luck’s going to run out.”

At the time, he was commanding three vehicle convoys a day down a treacherous road to pick up hot food for his troops from the civilian contractors who never left their company’s ”dining facility” about five miles away. He walked daily patrols through the old city of Mosul, a hotbed of insurgent activity that erupted in violence after the 101st left it last year. The Army will need this lieutenant 20 years from now when he could be a colonel, or 30 years from now when he could have four stars on his collar. But I doubt he will be in uniform long enough to make captain.

Recruiting Dilemma

A six year old Pentagon document on Recruiting and Retention (also available here), written before the Global War on Terror, reflects a reality more pronounced today:

Fewer Americans have military experience than ever before. With a smaller force serving at fewer bases, there are increasingly fewer Americans who have direct experience with our military. Fewer people know someone who serves–or has served–in uniform. The transition from the draft to an all-volunteer force in the early 1970s also decreased broad military experience, knowledge, and understanding. Today, fewer elected officials, journalists, teachers, business owners, and employers have experienced military service.

Has this disengagement allowed a more expeditionary attitude and how much has it contributed to the use of private military companies?

NPR Interview with General Peter Pace

Briefly, General Peter Pace was interviewed on NPR (direct RealAudio link). The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (or "a platoon commander currently stationed at the Pentagon") says he meets with Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld 30min to 3 hours each day. Steve Inskeep should have asked whether the conversations with and listening by Rumsfeld was as significant in the past as Gen Pace says it is now.

Also briefly, additional comments not broadcast on the radio are available here from NPR in which Gen Pace talks about the stand up of Iraqi forces. His pragmatic analysis of the limits of Iraqi security is good and shows the expansion of DoD into the realm of inter-state relations previously managed by State. The "good governance" questions Gen Pace discusses at the end of this interview should be, at the least, synchronized and pushed by the State Department.

PLA to disallow tattoos

Briefly, while the US Army is hurting for recruits and has started to allow obvious tattoos it previously banned, the People’s Liberation Army is tightening their image:

…tattoos "tarnish the military’s image".
Traditional ethnic tattoos will be allowed if they are not too obvious when the recruit is wearing shorts.

Incidently, the PLA is also banning heavy snorers. Not sure if there’s a link or if there’s a comparable with the USA.

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?).