NYT Letter to the Editor: Training Foreign Armies

Ten days after an editorial appeard in the New York Times on June 12 (see below or link on NYT here) suggested a reduced role by State granting (and managing) foreign aid, the Pentagon responded. Today, two Secretaries of Defense co-signed a rebuttal: Training Foreign Armies

To the Editor:

Re "In Foreign Territory" (editorial, June 12), about the training and equipping of foreign militaries:

argue that Congress "should at least mandate that the programs financed
by the Pentagon conform to the same democratic and human rights
standards that apply when they are run by the State Department." We

Section 1206 of the 2006 National Defense Authorization
Act states that "the authority may not be used to provide any type of
assistance that is otherwise prohibited by any provision of law," and
that all programs incorporate "elements that promote observance of and
respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms; and respect for
legitimate civilian authority within that country."

You contend
that this legislation "marks the continuation of a dangerous shift in
responsibilities" from the State Department to the Defense Department.
Not only do both departments jointly develop 1206 programs, but the
secretaries of state and defense must also both approve them. The law
enables the two departments to maximize their capabilities to address
war-on-terrorism challenges.

Michael Coulter
Jeb Nadaner
Washington, June 16, 2006
The writers are deputy assistant secretaries of state and defense, respectively.

Here’s the detail from the Editorial that’s their primary bug:

Traditionally, the authority to train and equip foreign forces was the
territory of the State Department… [U]nder law, Congress requires the State Department to
verify that a government meets certain standards of rights and
democracy before it can receive assistance. But no such restrictions
impede the Defense Department, and the danger is more than theoretical.

It is already clear, as the editorial comments, that American foreign policy is increasingly militarized but what the editorial ignores and the Pentagonn alludes to is the role of the Executive. The Executive Branch "owns" both State and Defense. Defense has seen an increase in responsibility and issue ownership since 9/11, a fact MountainRunner has been commenting on for a while…

Continue reading “NYT Letter to the Editor: Training Foreign Armies

“Recall the facts as we knew them in March 2003”

Leading off Blackwater’s TacticalWeekly, for Monday 6/26/06 is a quote from Senator John McCain: "recall the
facts as we knew them in March 2003." In the debate of whether Saddam Hussein
was actually attempting to acquire WMDs, who he may have sought to use them
against (directly or indirectly) and who he may have actually partnered with are
all lost in this debate.

Briefly, let us go back and consider the facts as we knew them in March 2003.
First, we were still working to put Afghanistan into the "win column" by
establishing rule of law and the reconstruction of societal and economic
infrastructure (all through intimately intertwined). Our military and political
attention, not to mention the world’s attention, was still focused on a region
that was clearly and without question a safe-haven for terrorists. We were in
the heart of Asia with a tremendous opportunity to demonstrate to the region and
world, across ethic and religious affiliations, there are alternatives to
Islamic extremism, growing poppies, and 15th Century education in a 21st Century
world, among others.

The facts as we knew them in 2003 were that Iraq did not pose an immediate
and dire threat to the United States. The facts as we knew them were that Osama
Bin Laden, al-Qaeda, the Taleban, and other extremist groups latching onto the
above for convenience were the dire threat. The trajectory of the Iraqi people
and the politics of Saddam Hussein did not point to collusion with OBL.

The facts as we knew them, and as hindsight makes even more clear, shows we
have squandered an opportunity to demonstrate an alternative path. There was
nothing to indicate, for example, the invasion of Iraq could not have waited
another year as we focused more time and energy from the United States and
marshaled the same from the global community into Afghanistan. During that year,
we could have entertained the French and others to build consensus, afterall, we
did not have to go in 2003. We could have better prepared Phase IV operations
(post-conflict), which were nearly completely ignored as the facts have shown in
both statements and deeds.

The facts, as we knew them in March 2003, do not support the timeline we
forced and more importantly, did not support abandoning effective operations in
favor of a distraction of global proportions that created a far larger problem
than it was supposed to eliminate. The fact is Iraq has become a more dangerous
powder keg and source of threat now than it was in 2003. The facts, as we knew
them in 2004 and 2005 demonstrate this. The facts as we know them in 2006
continue to reinforce this.

The Importance of Phase IV Planning, a quote

A quote from an expert on war:

“If you concentrate exclusively on victory, with no thought for the after effect,
you may be too exhausted to profit by the peace, while it is almost certain that
the peace will be a bad one, containing the germs of another war.”
— B. H. Liddell Hart (Liddell Hart, B.H., Strategy, New York: Praeger, 1967, p. 366.)

Did we send too many troops to Iraq and scare off the flower-throwers?

This is just too sad to be true. Further entrenching themselves in fantasy, it seems there are those in the Pentagon who believe the collapse of civil society and the resulting power vacuum was preventable if we only engaged indigeneous forces in Iraq. Were these the people who were supposed to greet us with flowers?

From the Army Times:

From think-tank analysts to angry retired generals to Capitol Hill lawmakers, it has become nearly universal conventional wisdom that the U.S. invasion force that conquered Iraq in 2003 lacked the manpower to secure the country after Saddam’s fall.
But the Pentagon’s civilian policymakers may have learned a much different lesson. According to a defense official, the problem with Operation Iraqi Freedom was not too few U.S. troops, but too many.

Fortunately Thomas X. Hammes, Michele Flournoy, and Stephen Biddle all disagree with that assesment coming from Rumsfeldians.

A General With an Alternative Vision

From General Zinne and his Alternative Vision:

"The real threats do not come from military forces or violent attacks; they do not come from a nation-state or hostile non-state entity. They do not derive from an ideology (not even from a radical, West-hating, violent brand of Islam)," Zinni writes. "The real new threats come from Instability. Instability and the chaos it generates can spark large and dangerous changes anywhere in the land."

Yes, I agree completely.

links for 2006-04-13

New Conventions for ‘terrorists’

British Defense Secretary John Reid has come out and saying something needs to be done to address contemporary conflict to avoid the risk of "continuing to fight a 21st Century conflict with 20th Century rules." His three areas "for re-examination" read like talking points from the White House:

  1. The treatment of international terrorists
  2. The definition of an ‘imminent threat’ to make it easier to take pre-emptive action
  3. When to intervene to stop a humanitarian crisis

It is unfortunate, and telling, that he used the word terrorist as he is really trying to address a much broader group of actors. The punk who gets paid to fire an RPG at American troops isn’t a terrorist. The ‘insurgent’ nominally acting as a ‘citizen’ soldier, but wearing civilian clothing, isn’t a terrorist either.

As this discussion continues, because it has been an open debate and will continue to be such, we must keep in mind what we stand for and how our actions are seen by world. Perceptions matter and if we are perceived to descend to the level of the ‘terrorist’, in radical sense, we give ammunition to the ‘other side’.

Iran and al-Qaeda

I’d receommend reading this interesting post from Security Watchtower on al-Qaeda and Iran:

…growing concern in the intelligence community that Iran is strengthening ties with al Qaedaand maintaining some level of operational cooperation with the
terrorist organization. A sizeable percentage of al Qaeda’s leadership
is in fact being harbored by the Iranian regime according to many.

This is more evidence on how this Administration has actually weakened our security position in the world than strengthened it. How might we deal with Iran now? What about North Korea? Was Iraq really the imminent threat? Clearly, this Administration is in its own little world.

Terrorists or criminals

Briefly, something on the distinction between a ‘terrorist’ and a ‘criminal’ from The Plank:

Prosecutors paint the Aryan Brotherhood as a cunning and well-organized network of convicts more concerned with earning hundreds of thousands of dollars from gambling, drug sales and prostitution than with racial superiority. This is the prosecution? It sounds like the defense! ("Your honor, my clients aren’t really genocidal Nazis, they’re simply trying to make a few bucks.")

Terms matter. How the enemy is described frames the debate and the emotional foundation for support of and against. Generalisms can easily come back to haunt and they can also lead to the wrong strategy.

Extremism, Terror, and the Future of Conflict

Policy Review is going full force at incomplete and competing agendas and theories of the "war on terror", and 4GW. Besides Tony Corn’s "World War IV as Fourth-Generation Warfare" and Michael J. Mazarr’s "Extremism, Terror, and the Future of Conflict", you should (must) read Donald Rumsfeld’s conversation at the Council of Foreign Relations, "New Realities in the Media Age".

I strongly urge you to read all three. I will comment more on Mazarr’s article later when time avails. (Hat tip to Tammy for the Mazarr head’s up.)

Tags: 4GW, War, QDR, Current Affairs, Politics, Terrorism, Security, GWOT, Public Diplomacy, Long War

Phase IV, 4GW, and Comprehensive Solutions

To continue my previous post, the myth of Fourth Generation Warfare (4GW) is distracting from the reality of present andfuture threats. I previously
focused primarily on legitimacy issues of the State and of the use of
force. This post has lingered in various draft forms for a week or so,
even getting posted briefly (and thus picked up by a number of RSS
readers) before I took it down.

Continue reading “Phase IV, 4GW, and Comprehensive Solutions

Terrorists and Combatants: Worth Distinguishing?

TransAtlantic Assembly has an interesting post about Terrorists and Combatants: Worth Distinguishing?.

The Court of Appeal of Milan recently decided that suicide attacks on Marines are not terrorism. This sounds pretty inflammatory. But before getting upset, try first to understand what this is all about.

Why does this matter? Because vocabularly and perceptions matter and strategy should be at least cognitive of differences to know which tool is most appropriate for a given solution. Always branding an act as a terrorist act has become like calling everything against our will, expressed or not, an act of Communism.

Technorati Tags:

Out of Uniform, Out of Touch?

Briefly, while looking for something else, I came across this 22 May 2003 article from the CS Monitor on the Brookings Institution website. It is notable for its premature lambasting of retired military, and other experts, and their predictions on Iraq.

What I find most intriguing is the "armchair generals" knew more than given credit at the time or subsequently.

Much has been written about how wrong the civilian "experts" were in their dismal predictions of how the Iraq war would unfold. But surprisingly little has been made of the fact that virtually all the retired military experts were just as wrong. As ubiquitous as they are, military experts are granted much public trust – but it is worth reviewing just how much they elevate the level of public debate and understanding.

Retired Gen. Anthony Zinni warned that a rapid push to Baghdad would be a "black hole" for US forces. Retired Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf charged that US war planners didn’t appreciate the depths of Iraqi loyalty to Saddam Hussein. And Retired Gen. Barry McCaffrey predicted, just hours before the fall of Baghdad, that US casualties would reach 3,000. Other lesser-known retired officers offered similarly errant forecasts.

Sure, some of the predictions were off. Some of the network hired "experts" weren’t, but some of the others were more knowledgable and too many bought off on the flowers and "Mission Accomplished".

Consider the case of Gen. Wesley Clark, arguably the most knowledgeable of the retired generals on TV. Earlier this year, he warned that a war with Iraq would distract US attention from war on terrorism. As US forces continued wrapping up Al Qaeda cells worldwide, he complained that the Pentagon had not sent enough ground forces to the Gulf region. When US forces rapidly advanced toward Baghdad, he warned that they couldn’t possibly occupy a post-Hussein Iraq. With US forces slowly restoring basic services throughout Iraq, General Clark is now complaining that US forces are dangerously overstretched.

I’ve met General Clark and he is brilliant. If you would, re-read that last sentance above.

The misleading theory of Fourth Generation Warfare

Discussions about the nature of the ‘war’ the United States is presently fighting naturally requires a discussion on how we to fight the war. Understanding the right mixture of people, technology, military and police is critical. So is finding a balance between coercive pressures of economics, ideology (culture and religion), politics, and violence. It is like using the equalizer in iTunes. For some music, you push one slider up a bit and another down a bit and so on. For, say, gospel, the some or all of the sliders will move away, up or down, from where it would be for vocal or "spoken word" (audio books for example). Likewise, the sliders will move again when listening to Metallica. Each slider is independent of the other but yet they work best when operating in unison. This is what war is and has been like, and this is where Fourth Generation Warfare fails.

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Rumsfeld on Openness

From WSJ via FAS Secrecy News is the following:

"I have long believed in the importance of granting the public greater access to information about their government–the good and the bad," wrote Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in a Wall Street Journal opinion article this week, noting that he had co-sponsored the Freedom of Information Act as a member of Congress in 1966.

He wrote of the challenges of informing the public in "this new Information Age," and observed that "a healthy culture of communication and transparency between government and the public needs to be established."

"This openness, however, does not obviate the necessity of protecting the secrecy of confidential information that, if revealed, could harm the security of the U.S."

"While I have long believed that too much material is classified across the federal government as a general rule, an increasingly cavalier attitude towards sensitive information in various quarters can put the lives of our troops at correspondingly increasing risk."

During Secretary Rumsfeld’s tenure, a growing quantity of formerly public information has been withdrawn from public access.

MediaChannel.org has the complete 18 July 2005 article.

US Navy captures Somali ‘Pirate’

The BBC reports the USS Winston S. Churchill captured a Somali pirate ship. This followed a report of piracy in the area. Notable about the BBC report is, in addition to the standard background, was the fact the are still referencing the Top Cat Marine Security contract to provide anti-piracy services, implying it is current (a few weeks back the BBC reported TopCat was “in mobilization” for the gig). What about the US Navy being the world maritime police?

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