Aid to Iraq: Remembering the difference between intent and reality

From Foreign Policy’s September/October issue:

Some $6.3 billion of the 2005 aid total was U.S. aid to Iraq, probably the largest single-year transfer between two countries since the Marshall Plan. But the index counts aid to Iraq at just 10 cents on the dollar, because the World Bank puts the country ahead of only Somalia when it comes to combating corruption and enforcing the rule of law. Sadly, events in 2005 confirmed fears about the country’s rampant graft and violence. Senior Iraqi government officials estimate that as much as 30 percent of the country’s budget is lost to corruption—ranging from bribery to padded contracts and influence peddling. It isn’t just the Iraqis who are poor administrators. Even the U.S. government estimates that $8.8 billion disappeared during the first 14 months that the Coalition Provisional Authority ran Iraq. As of early 2005, at least 40 percent of U.S. reconstruction aid was spent on security. “I’d say that 60, maybe even 70 percent [of what] we see as reconstruction aid goes into nonproductive expenditures,” says Ali Allawi, Iraq’s minister of finance.

Artillery Usage, up to OIF

MunitionsWhile researching cluster munitions, I came across this interesting chart in a 2004 presentation available from DTIC. Highlights from the brief presentation are below:

  • Non-precision munitions still have a role – but need more accuracy and less volume
  • Area delivered munitions problematic
  • High dud rates with cluster munitions vs. unitary warheads
  • Artillery round precision & collateral damage
  • Continued effort needed to improve responsiveness of precision fires
  • Improvements to Battle-Damage Assessment needed

One Year Left for the Special Inspector General for Iraqi Reconstruction

I don’t know if this is related to the budgeted party celebrating victory in Iraq, but shutting down the SIG could buy a few more ice sculptures for added ambiance. The John Warner National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (HR5122), the full text available here at THOMAS and here on GovTrack, terminates the Office of the Inspector General on "October 1, 2007, with transition operations authorized to continue through December 31, 2007." Clearly we’ll be done with reconstruction in the next eleven months…

‘Bush would send troops inside Pakistan…’

Did you catch the CNN headline story that Bush would sendtroops into Pakistan to hunt for OBL (or UBL depending on which side you drive
on)? This headline from CNN just now sounds like news, but according to Robert Young Pelton in his new book Licensed to Kill, hired guns (private security contractors) are already there and have been there…using private security contractors.

President Bush said Wednesday he would order U.S. forces
to go after Osama bin Laden inside Pakistan if he received good intelligence on
the fugitive al Qaeda leader’s location. 

"Absolutely," Bush told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in
an interview scheduled for air Wednesday afternoon.

Although Pakistan has said it won’t allow U.S. troops to
operate within its territory, "we would take the action necessary to bring
him to justice." 

But Pakistan’s president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, told
reporters Wednesday at the United Nations that his government would oppose any
U.S. action in its territory.

The key word is "troops"…
contractors provide a shield of deniability for both sides.

al-Qaeda and the Marine barracks in Beirut

On 9/11, SecDef Rumsfeld was on the Charlies Brennan radio show (as he frequently is) and seemingly connected the Beirut bombing, in which 241 Marines were killed, to al-Qaeda.

BRENNAN: …You know, five years ago we were attacked by al Qaeda. And I know a lot of listeners want to know, is it possible that we’ll ever beat al Qaeda? It seems as if there are more recruits on all continents right now, Mr. Secretary.

SECRETARY RUMSFELD: Well, there have been recruits for many, many years, I mean, if you think about it. We were attacked in the Marine barracks in Beirut back in the mid- — early 1980s; lost 241 Marines. The USS Cole was attacked in Yemen some years later. Other countries have been attacked — London and Madrid and Bali. This is not a totally new phenomenon. What’s new is the fact that they are raising money, and recruiting, and attempting to destabilize moderate Muslim governments in the world to try to reestablish a caliphate…

Besides repeating the old line of a monolithic terrorist movement, the SecDef then goes on about how we haven’t altered our ways in response to terrorism: "We have not altered our behavior. We are still flying airplanes, and we’re still going about our business." Um, bad link because we have altered our behavior with regard to flying airplanes. Go to an airport for either domestic or international commercial air service recently, Mr Secretary?

But, Beirut and AQ? or even AQAM (AQ & Associated Movements)? Please don’t disrespect the Marines who died that day like this.

Corn, Clausewitz, and the True Nature of Conflict

Thanks Eddie at FDNF for alerting me to another fine piece by Tony Corn: Clausewitz in Wonderland. I don’t have the time to put together a coherent review (but I do look forward to the many commentaries that will surely appear over the weekend), so here’s Corn’s opening paragraphs:

"Amateurs talk about strategy, professionals talk about logistics." In the five years since the 9/11 events, the old military adage has undergone a "transformation" of its own: Amateurs, to be sure, continue to talk about strategy, but real professionals increasingly talk about — anthropology.

In Iraq as in Afghanistan, real professionals have learned the hard way that — to put it in a nutshell — the injunction "Know Thy Enemy, Know Thyself" matters more than the bookish "Know Thy Clausewitz" taught in war colleges. Know thy enemy: At the tactical and operational levels at least, it is anthropology, not Clausewitzology, that will shed light on the grammar and logic of tribal warfare and provide the conceptual weapons necessary to return fire. Know thyself: It is only through anthropological "distanciation" that the U.S. military (and its various "tribes": Army, Navy, etc.) will become aware of its own cultural quirks — including a monomaniacal obsession with Clausewitz — and adapt its military culture to the new enemy.

While I think Clausewitz still has a place on military reading lists, it is imperative that cultural-warfare understanding take priority. The rules of conflict learned from Sun Tzu, Clausewitz, Mao, Machievelli, etc (and what about ibn Zafar?) must be placed into the context of society. The strategy is important, but too simplified. Logistics no longer means the same as before. Knowing the enemy is the penultimate requirement that shapes the strategy and creates the logistical requirement.

I suggested my own modification to the adage, but I like Corn’s replacement better than my augmentation


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

“The answer to guerrilla insurgency is neither brute force nor abject surrender and flight”

Briefly, it’s good to see this editorial understanding the realities of counter-insurgency in the The Forward, the oldest Jewish newspaper in the US:

Angered at the meager results of their latest Lebanon war, Israelis are
furiously debating a host of piercing questions this month to
understand what went wrong. Was it poor military planning? Inept
political leadership? Erosion of their famed army reserve system? A
deeper culture of shortcuts and buck-passing? All of these? Why, they
ask insistently, did this war not look like their past triumphs, such
as the Six Day War, the Sinai Campaign or even the come-from-behind
victory of the Yom Kippur War? Why was this war different from all
other Israeli wars?

Important queries all, but they miss the most critical question.
Israelis should not be asking why this war didn’t resemble the Six Day
War. Rather, they should ask why it looked so much like America’s wars
in Iraq, Afghanistan and Vietnam, or like Russia’s wars in Chechnya and
Afghanistan, or France’s wars in Algeria and Vietnam. Why do generals
insist on believing in the fantasy that guerrilla insurgencies can be
wiped out by jets and tanks?

For generations,
strong nations have tried to impose their presence and their will on
smaller nations through blunt force, believing that they could bludgeon
conquered populations into accepting occupation and rule by the
stronger nation. One by one, they have been forced to withdraw. Nowhere
have the occupied come to accept the rule of the powerful, even with
the passage of decades….

The answer to guerrilla insurgency is neither brute force nor abject
surrender and flight. There are moments in the ebb and flow of each
insurgency when militants are at their weakest and most isolated, when
the surrounding population is most willing to follow its own moderates
toward a compromise. Nations that emerge from a guerrilla war with
their honor and stature intact are those that learn to seize those
moments, wielding a supple combination of military determination, smart
diplomacy and deft timing.


Spanish police find ‘drugs’ sub

Briefly: Spanish police find ‘drugs’ sub:

A submarine which police say may have been used for cocaine smuggling has been found floating off Spain’s north-western coast…

While submarines are not known to have been used for
drug trafficking in Spain, they have been used for this purpose in

Reminds me of the online demo (and game) of the Swedish stealth ship where a useful scenario for stealth is littoral defense (vs penetration).

We are VERY likely to see more of these headlines in the near future.

Big CBRN or Little CBRN?

Briefly, a post from the Armchair Generalist: Changing Views on CB Warfare worth reading:

The really interesting part of the article isn’t that the Canadians have a prototype lightweight CB protective ensemble that doubles as a combat uniform. It’s that they have consciously recognized that the terrorist use of CBRN hazards represents a smaller level of exposure and lesser risk than what adversarial nations could cause with NBC weapons. The U.S. military has not come to this recognition yet, primarily because they’ve been forced to accept this philosophy from the Bush administration’s NSC that nations are giving terrorists WMDs and that the threat from terrorists and nation states are equivalent. Read the National Strategy to Combat WMD and the National Military Strategy to Combat WMD and tell me I’m wrong.

If we are to accept the smaller threats, "Little CBRN", as more likely, how would that change our strategy? Would it change the domestic message as describing the Bad Wolf requires more education of the public (when half the people still believe WMD’s were actually found in Iraq)? Clearly. Does this education open up other holes in the national strategy? Likely.

"Big CBRN" just creates a neater package of threats and justifies Iraq and helps with the rhetoric on Iran and N Korea (but let’s not mention potential subversion in India or Pakistan). But the reality of today’s news of inert liquids to be mixed on airplanes amplifies the reality of home chemists getting involved in future of irregular war.

What do we do? Do spiral and incremental developments instead of huge ass projects that solve everything. Just a thought.

Proliferation of the Sub

Briefly from back in June 2006, Sakina Mohamed of the Malaysian National News Agency writes how the Malaysians are being trained by a French company (monitored by the French MoD) to operate new (new to them) submarines. These could be useful for setting pickets, piracy interdiction (not really too useful for that actually), and what other legitimate use?

“Where’s My Blue Helmet?” Wherever it is, the people (and their bosses) wearing it are likely getting paid by SC

From Slate is this article: Where’s My Blue Helmet? How to become a UN Peacekeeper. (Thanks to David Isenberg for sending this out.)

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discussed the possibility of a cease-fire with Lebanese Prime Minister Fouad Siniora on Monday. Rice proposed using international peacekeepers throughout the country and to guard its borders with Israel and Syria. Siniora said he would consider a deployment of peacekeepers, but only if they came from the United Nations. Who are the U.N. peacekeepers, and where do they come from?They’re soldiers, police officers, and military observers from the United Nations’ member countries. Nations are expected to volunteer the members of their armed forces when askedin general, the developing world does most of the volunteering . As of last month, Bangladesh, Pakistan, and India each had almost 10,000 troops in blue helmets, while American soldiers accounted for just 12.The contributing countries continue to pay their soldiers, but they get reimbursed by the United Nations at a standard rate of $1,028 per month, plus a few hundred dollars extra for specialists. Troops typically stay for at least six months at a time, with the exact details of the deployment schedule left up to the country that sent them.

Continue reading ““Where’s My Blue Helmet?” Wherever it is, the people (and their bosses) wearing it are likely getting paid by SC

What is “War”? Some definitions

In the challenge to understand “war”, here are some definitions. This is the first of two or three posts on listing definitions. One must understand anything in order to build an appropriate response, of course. This is true in the medical field as it is in politics and in conflict. On my desk are two books that I’m going through this week. The first is Colonel Callwell’s 1906 Small Wars and the second is Ahmed Hashim’s Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq, both of which are excellent so far and will be reviewed later (currently I’d say get them and get them now). On to the definitions:

War as an Act of Violence

  • “War is a violent contact of distinct but similar entities” – Quincy Wright, A Study of War, 1942
  • “War is an act of violence intended to compel our opponents to fulfill our will…” – Clausewitz, On War
  • “War is a contest or contention carried on by force” – Cicero
  • “War is that state in which men constantly exercise acts of indeterminate violence against each other.” – Martens, Precis du Droit des Gens, 1788

War as an Absence of Peace

  • “… the death of the insured on board the Lusitania must be conceded to be a result of war.” – Vanderbilt v Travelers Insurance Co., New York Supreme Court, 1920
  • “War is nothing but a continuation of political intercourse, with a mixture of other means.” – Clausewitz, On War
  • “War hath no fury like a non-combatant.” – Charles Edward Montague, Disenchantment, 1922
  • “The State of War is a State of Enmity and Destruction: And therefore declaring by Word or Action, not a passionate and hasty, but a sedate settled Design, upon another Mans Life, puts him in a State of War with him whom he has declared such an Intention, and so has exposed his Life to the Others Power to be taken away by his…” – Locke, Two Treatises of Government, 1690

UPDATE: MSNBC response to White House linkage to AQ

It is good to see the mainstream media picking on the senseless and misleading linkages the Bush Administration is making in the Middle East.

Reading "Fiasco," Thomas Ricks’s devastating new book about the Iraq war, brought back memories for me. Memories of going on night raids in Samarra in January 2004, in the heart of the Sunni Triangle, with the Fourth Infantry Division units that Ricks describes. During these raids, confused young Americans would burst into Iraqi homes, overturn beds, dump out drawers, and summarily arrest all military-age men—actions that made them unwitting recruits for the insurgency. For American soldiers battling the resistance throughout Iraq, the unspoken rule was that all Iraqis were guilty until proven innocent. Arrests, beatings and sometimes killings were arbitrary, often based on the flimsiest intelligence, and Iraqis had no recourse whatever to justice. Imagine the sense of helpless rage that emerges from this sort of treatment. Apply three years of it and you have one furious, traumatized population. And a country out of control.

The entire article, which is yet another not-so-disguised review of Ricks’ FIASCO, is certainly worthwhile. Although it is somewhat disappointing this review is a "web exclusive", making me wonder how or if the broadcast coverage & magazine may be influenced by this.

UPDATE: as I come across or hear about critiques about this MSNBC article, Ricks’ book ("another Monday morning quarterback"), and moral problems I feel it is important to understand the contemporary situation as events unfold. A book (to be reviewed here in the not too distant future) that is worth looking at for this is Ahmed Hashim’s Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Iraq. Hashim, a Professor of Strategic Studies at the US Naval War College, has what is surely a more technical and detailed description of the cause and effect merry go-round based on what I’ve read of Ricks (reviews and his news piece) and his target audience and the to-date brief reading of Hashim’s book.