Rove leak is just part of larger scandal

From: Rove leak is just part of larger scandal from CSMonitor.com:

Let me remind you that the underlying issue in the Karl Rove controversy is not a leak, but a war and how America was misled into that war.

We Americans so quickly lose perspective and history of even a recent and ongoing debate. Bush and his closest advisors should receive the Reagan Teflon Award for their ability to avoid realities and resist hooks and ropes that would bring down others.

Humvee Alternatives

A NYTimes report, republished on CorpWatch, reports how the Marine Corps loves the Cougar,a vehicle designed to take the impact of a mine with inexpensive damage
and no casualties. "Drop your purse, it’s not a Hummer" is the manufacturer’s statement for those wanting to compare the Humvee with  this beast. Should we get these vehicle into the field, and if so, how quickly can we? Should Force Protection’s other vehicle, the Buffalo, also be considered and acquired for a battlefield without forward or rear areas?

Continue reading “Humvee Alternatives”

Strategic Scapegoating?

William Lind’s website d-n-i.net is anextraordinary source of knowledge and analysis I strongly recommend be a part
of any reading list focusing on the future of conflict. William S. Lind writes
a column on this site which is valuable in its content and as a topic for
conversation considering the wide audience it reaches.

21 June 2005 column I found
his closing statement troubling…

Our
failure is strategic, not tactical, and it can only be remedied by a change in
strategic objective. Instead of trying to remake Afghanistan, we need to
redefine our strategic objective to accept that country as it is, always has
been and always will be: a poor, primitive and faction-ridden place, dependent
on poppy cultivation and proud of its strict Islamic traditions.

In
other words, we have to accept that the Afghanistan we have is as good as it is
going to get. Once we do that, we open the door to a steady reduction in our presence
there and the reduction of Afghan affairs to matters of local importance only.
That, and only that, is a realistic strategic objective in Afghanistan.

The statement that Afghanistan “always has been and always
will be…poor, primitive, [etc]” is a failure to appreciate its history and the
failure of the “strategic objective” itself. It is a hard argument to make that
Iraq did not distract from the American and international communities
commitment to rebuild Afghanistan.

While the UN and NATO did move in to augment and replace
American troops, the political will and economic engines to drive development
and provide viable and realistic alternatives to poppy farming failed to
materialize. Strategic economic solutions are being built, but as in Iraq, fundamental
security has failed to materialize. This is not because of an overwhelming
insurgency against the liberators but because of disillusionment and
intimidation of the liberated.

It seems Mr. Lind appreciates Thomas P. M. Barnett’s Pentagon’s
New Map. While Mr. Barnett provides a convenient explanation for the current
world situation, complex historical and local causes are misrepresented, not
given their true value, or are simply ignored. Mr. Lind falls into the same
trap by failing to connect the past to the present.

The strategic objective should have been to create a
successful federal state out of Afghanistan. The objective should have included
security and market reforms to raise the stakes of individuals, and not of
warlords, to achieve a successful transition. This includes micro-credits,
appropriately modernized agricultural practices, an effective transportation
system (only parts of which are barely coming online now), and restoration of
the education system.

If a towel is going to be thrown in, let’s make sure we know
the real reason why and not create scapegoats. Blaming the failure of strategic objectives is avoiding responsibility for either an errorneous objective or erroneous implementation. I firmly believe it was the failure of appropriate follow through that has led to the present loss of objectives. While not fatal, significant setbacks need to be corrected before moving on to where we could have been if the eye was not taken off the ball.

Peacekeeping Accountability and Private Military Companies

Conventional wisdom has been going away from general war for a while now. Low-intensity warfare impacting all four networks of power (economic, political, religious / ideology, and military / violence) will be the dominant form of conflict. In this age of instant communication, increasing diasporas, and short travel times, conflict even in remote regions have some trickle-down effect on the US. Kofi Annan, writing in Foreign Affairs, in discussing his proposed changes to the UN Security Council acknowledges the clear and present dangers of ignoring challenges in the periphery. Thomas P. M. Barnett is apparently making a living, at least in part, on the actual and perceived division between the ‘core’, ‘periphery’, and ‘non-integrating’ gap in his new map.

Continue reading “Peacekeeping Accountability and Private Military Companies”

USMC vs PMC

What happens when you put two military forces within close proximity with each other, do not integrate C2, or otherwise share IFF resources? Is it called friendly fire when a US military force fires upon a US corporate force?

The Marine Corps Times, Boston.com, and NPR have raised the profile of an incident last month where US Marines halted a private military force comprised of US and Iraqi citizens…

Marines with Regimental Combat Team 8 detained 19 civilian contract
workers in Fallujah, Iraq, in late May after the contractors were seen
firing from their vehicles on Marine positions and Iraqi vehicles,
according to a Corps press release.

The Marine Corps times is the only news outlet I reviewd that included
the reference the governing rule of law for private security forces, Memorandum 17 issued by the Coalition Provisional Authority in its last days (also stored here since the CPA website may be offline after 30 June 2005).

Private security companies in Iraq are regulated under Memorandum 17, a rule enacted
under the Coalition Provisional Authority that requires them to
register with the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and Ministry of Trade and
be free of a criminal record or terrorist ties. The memorandum also
spells out a “code of conduct” that stipulates that when contractors
use their weapons, they must “fire only aimed shots, fire with due
regard to innocent bystanders [and] immediately report [the] incident
and request assistance.”

The company involved, Zapata Engineering, put out a statement on 9 June 2005 disagreeing with the Marine’s account of being fired upon or witnessing Zapata’s men firing from their vehicles.

On Saturday, May 28, 2005, Zapata Engeineering employees were engaged in a routine convoy in Northern Iraq. Marine Corps personnel in a nearby outpost intercepted the convoy team. Citing
security concerns, the Marines escorted the convoy without incident to
Camp Fallujah for questioning. Convoy personnel cooperated fully with
the Marines’ requests. Prior to this date, we had safely completed
hundreds of similar convoy missions in Iraq.

The fact Zapata Engineering was engaged on a US Army Corps of Engineers contract is important in how this could play out. Memo 17 requires registration and provides certain limitations ("primary role of PMC is deterrence") and constraints ("liable under applicable criminal and civil codes") but enforcement requires the backing of the US government.

The UK House of Commons issued a report in 2002 identifying the US as having the most
extensive regulatory regime, partially as a result of attempts to control weapons
technology and partially as a result of the American legalist tradition. The International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR) of 1986 has a significantly high threshold and limited functional oversight. A functioning bilateral Status of Forces agreement (CPA’s Order 91, also available here, is a related problem here)  would be indicative of a functioning government capable of upholding its contractual obligations.

The US Military Extraterritorial Jurisdiction Act (MEJA) of 2000, along with the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), apply to persons who are employed by or accompanying the armed forces outside the
United States or who are members of the armed forces and subject to UCMJ and
who are not a national or resident of the nation in which the crime occurred.
The punishment for committing the new crime is that which would have been
imposed under federal law had the crime been committed in the United States. However, Zapata’s forces were not accompanying US armed forces and MEJA has no teeth and has never been used.

There is always the humanitarian law bucket. The Alien Tort Claims Act (ATCA) of 1789 and the Torture Victims Protection Act (TVPA) of 1991 rely heavily on expensive prosecutions within the US. Zapata, if they were to press charges, would likely not have the financial resources or the strong case.

The most likely resolution of this situation is the US government threatening (with the potential to follow through) to terminate the contract with Zapata.

This incident is clearly a harbinger of things to come. What happens when things go more wrong? See a detailed timeline of the Belarus mercenaries conducting (possibly) extracurricular services for the Ivory Coast / Cote d’Ivorie November 2004. The retaliation by the French was severe and then promptly silenced by the same. This was likely due to their desire to limit foreign interest in their (re)colonial intervention.

When outsourcing fails you

Microsoft’s South Korean MSN site, apparently very popular, more so than the US version, is operated by a third party. This vendor apparently did not patch their servers hosting MSN Korea, allowing for the malicious code to be inserted. On the technical side, disconcerting is the (currently) unknown (or not made public) duration the malicious code was operating.

Source: CNN.com – Microsoft:MSN site hacked in South Korea – Jun 2, 2005.

Microsoft acknowledges that hackers booby-trapped its MSN Web site in South Korea to steal passwords from visitors.

Continue reading “When outsourcing fails you”

Remote Sensing

Remote-control and remote-sensing warfare is advancing each day. Add to my previous post on remote cameras this nugget of information:

These ‘rocks’ … will be sent from an aircraft and will detect enemies by ‘listening’ to them from 20 to 30 meters. These sensors should be operational within 18 months and they should be cheap enough to leave them on the battlefield after they completed their tasks.

Source: Roland Piquepaille and DefenseTech

Closing and reducing the sensor-to-shoot window is but one element here, other dimensions are intelligence and security. Similar to the acoustic nets for submarines, these can be a force multipliers for recon and perimeter sentries, among other applications. We need to be cautious not to rely too heavily on technology to provide us the answer whether to shoot or not. The new asymmetric enemy will foil the best technology. We need to keep humans in the loop to give the human interpretation.

 

Criminal Funding of Terrorism Continues

Terrorist groups have frequently relied on criminal acts to fund their operations. The short-lived era of state-sponsored terrorism has apparently ended with the latest wave of globalization. Terrorist organisations are forcibly less dependent on state or Wahhabite funds, depending on the cause and benefactor. Pecuniary resources are, of course, necessary to further any operation and as Bruce Hoffman notes, "terrorist campaign[s] [are] like a shark in water: it must keep moving forward…or die."

Continue reading “Criminal Funding of Terrorism Continues”