Friday, April 28, 2006

Silencing of the Military Retirees?

A Department of Defense directive released on April 18 of this year states that Donald Rumsfeld has the authority to call military retirees back on active duty.

The Practical Nomad reports that:
Exhausting all means of getting people into uniform short of a draft, yesterday the USA Department of Defense published new regulations on Management and Mobilization of Regular and Reserve Retired Military Members (32 CFR 64, 71 Federal Register 19827-19829, 18 April 2006)…

…The only time in the last 40 years, before the current wars, that military retirees were recalled to active duty was during the crisis in military staffing in medical professions in the first USA-Iraq war in 1990-1991, when the call-ups of retirees began with retired physicians' assistants. The new regulations provide for the possible call-up of any and all retired soldiers, but the first call-ups of retirees are likely to be of those with medical or perhaps other specialized skills.

The DoD directive does, in fact, make anyone drawing military retirement pay eligible to be recalled to service at the pleasure of the Secretary of Defense, and they assigned to virtually any federal "wartime" position that the government deems fit. No further permission of Congress is required because such measures are already allowed under Title 10 of U.S. Code. It is not subject to review under numerous federal laws such as Unfunded Mandates Reform Act or the Regulatory Flexibility Act because, among other reasons, the cost isn't expected to exceed $100 million in any one year.

In other words, the life of every American citizen who retired honorably from the United States military is under the direct control of one Donald H. Rumsfeld.

Why Now?

We're over three years into the Iraq war and almost five years into the Global War on Terror. Why is the Secretary of Defense just now deciding he needs to draw on the retired military community? Why does the entire retired community need to be in the eligible pool? Why wasn't this directive announced at the DoD website, and why hasn't the mainstream media covered it?

A number of possible answers to these questions exist, of course, but the release of the directive on the heels of the well publicized revolt of the retired generals is timing too close to dismiss as pure coincidence.

While the retired generals critical of the war and Rumsfeld have received the most attention in the media, scores of military retirees of lower pay grades have voicing their displeasure with the administration and the Pentagon for years. As dissent began to disappear from traditional military publications--rumored to have been by the order Rumsfeld himself--many retired war critics took refuge in the Internet. My personal experience and anecdotal evidence shared by fellow military affairs writers indicate that numerous government agencies have been keeping tabs on web sites that regularly publish articles unfavorable to the war effort by military retirees and other veterans.

Just Because You're Paranoid…

Up until about two years ago, I'd have considered the kind of thing I'm suggesting is going on to be a wild eyed conspiracy theory. But given the Bush administration's track record for ruthlessly suppressing any and all political opposition, I find the notion that it is tracking military dissenters more likely than unlikely.

According to the just released directive, if the Department of Defense finds retirees it wants to shut up, all it has to do is call them back to active duty. It doesn't really matter how old or disabled the retirees are, or whether they have any specialty the DoD could possibly use, because Rumsfeld has essentially written himself a blank check to tap anyone he wants to.

Once retirees are back on active duty, they come under the Uniform Code of Military Justice and their constitutional rights--including the right to freedom of speech--are essentially stripped from them.

If retirees resist a call back to active duty, they'll be in violation of federal law and subject to criminal prosecution either under the UCMJ or civilian law. This would likely lead to, at the very least, loss of all retirement pay and benefits.

Does this sound like a trick too dirty for even the Bush administration to pull? Not to me it doesn't.

I doubt that Rumsfeld would pull this kind of number on the retired generals who have publicly called for his resignation. Their cases are already too high profile to sneak under the radar.

But if any of you lesser retired beings get a call in the middle of the night, please let somebody know about it.

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Tony Snow: The New Cape in the Bush Bull Ring

I'm all a-chuckle over the general description of Fox News pundit Tony Snow's appointment as the new White House Press Secretary as being part of the "White House makeover." Heh. It will take a lot more than lipstick to make that pig look pretty.

We have the most transparently secretive government in the history of this country.

We know that the Iraq policy was formulated by the Project for the New American Century in the nineties, and that the 9/11 attacks were the "convenient excuse" the neoconservatives in and around the administration were looking for to execute that policy.

We know that Cheney and others cooked the intelligence on Hussein's WMD, and that the Rove machine used White House friendly reporters like Judith Miller to spread disinformation to the American public through the mainstream news media.

And that's just where it starts.

What's more, as the polls show, the Bush administration's line of bull has run thin. Even American citizens who understand little to nothing about rhetoric and propaganda tricks know that every time administration officials and supporters open their mouths, they're blowing smoke.

Changing the color of the smoke by substituting Snow for McClellan won't change the perceptions of anyone but already terminally brainwashed, and their perceptions don't need changing, at least not as far as the White House is concerned.


The Bush administration's rhetoric has seldom reflected anything resembling reality. In that regard, they are typical of what Princeton Professor Emeritus Harry G. Frankfurt described in his celebrated essay "On Bullshit."
Both in lying and in telling the truth people are guided by their beliefs concerning the way things are. These guide them as they endeavor either to describe the world correctly or to describe it deceitfully. For this reason, telling lies does not tend to unfit a person for telling the truth in the same way that bullshitting tends to. ...The bullshitter ignores these demands altogether. He does not reject the authority of the truth, as the liar does, and oppose himself to it. He pays no attention to it at all. By virtue of this, bullshit is a greater enemy of the truth than lies are.

Thus it is with the Rovewellians. Facts and evidence matter not a whit. If you can come up with the right talking points, and speak them forcefully enough, and echo them often enough, the truth is irrelevant. Until, of course, you've bullshit your way through one too many truths, and all but the most gullible have caught on to you. At that point, hiring a bigger and better bullshit artist to talk to the press for you isn't going to do any good.


Speaking of bullshit artists…

I don't know how this happened, but I've gotten myself on a number of conservative publishers' e-mail lists. Maybe somebody was playing a practical joke on me, but whatever the case, I'm glad it happened, because all these right wing literature promos give an insight to the extent of the cognitive dissonance of the right wing mindset. One of these outfits--Human Events Online--just sent me a promo for Ann Coulter's upcoming book, Godless: The Church of Liberalism.

According to the Human Events promo, Ann "proves" that in The Church of Liberalism, abortion is a sacrament, Roe v. Wade is "holy writ" and Soviet spies like Alger Hiss are martyrs. Ann even "refutes" the sacred liberal myth of Charles Darwin's theory of evolution.

And all in one book!

For subscribing to the Human Events book club, you can get Godless--a $27.95 value--for free!

I find it an utterly fantastic fact of the American condition that a book by Ann Coulter costs $27.95 in an age when you can buy a leather bound copy of Shakespeare's complete works for $19.99.

A thousand monkeys pecking away at a thousand typewriters for a thousand years couldn't come up with a single one of Shakespeare's soliloquies. But they could probably produce something vastly superior to the complete works of Ann Coulter.


I just heard former Clinton Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers say on MSNBC that Tony Snow will have to listen to "two voices in his head." One will no doubt tell him what incredible bullshit he's handing out to the White House Press Corps. The other one will be saying, "Take the money, then run to Ann Coulter's publisher, and take more money."

All the nonsense we're hearing about Tony's criticisms of Bush is, well, bullshit. At heart, he's a Coulter-class administration and neoconservative agenda supporter . On his Fox News show, he toed the company line about Valerie Plame and Joseph Wilson, John Kerry and the Swift Boaters, liberal justices, George W. Bush's Vietnam era service, and much more.

Tony Snow is just a bigger, redder cape in the Bush administration bullring. We'll see how effective he is at continuing to fool the mindless beasts.

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Van Riper Rips Rummy

In a Fox News interview, Retired Marine Lieutenant General Paul van Riper joined the chorus of former general officers calling for Donald Rumsfeld to leave his post as Secretary of Defense. (Hand salute to Think Progress for the link to the video.)

Van Riper has been long regarded as a leading iconoclast in the retired flag community. Long active in simulated war games, he resigned as commander of the opposition force during Millenium Challenge 2002, the battle experiment conducted by the United States Joint Forces Command just prior to the invasion of Iraq. Using unorthodox tactics, van Riper managed to sink most of the simulated U.S. naval forces in the Arabian Gulf, decisively defeating the "blue force" and repudiating such Rumsfeld favored "transformational warfare" concepts as network-centric warfare, shock and awe, and effects based operations. The game was stopped, the fleet re-floated, and the exercise continued with significant restrictions placed on the "red" force's actions. Van Riper resigned in disgust.

Almost four years later, we have seen what amounts to a real world recreation of the 2002 war game in Iraq. Except this time, Rumsfeld and his loyal generals can't stop the clock, go back, and make the enemy fight the way they want them to.

Rumsfeld is a nightmare, and I agree that nothing is going to get better as long as he's on the job. I don't think a new man in the Defense cabinet post can fix the fiasco in Iraq, and the same probably holds true for the "defeat snatched from the jaws of victory" situation in Afghanistan. There is nothing that can constitute "winning" in those two theaters of operations. The best we can hope for is avoidance of a complete loss.

But we have the war on terror--the real war on terror, not the distraction in Iraq--to conduct, and to date, Rumsfeld has handled it horribly.

Almost six years after the 9/11 attacks, the Pentagon has at long last come out with a comprehensive set of plans to fight terrorism outside of the two war theaters. We don't know too much about the plans because they're secret, so the only parts of it we'll hear about are the parts Rumsfeld authorizes to be leaked. But from what's been officially leaked so far, it sounds like a global Special Forces operation that will be run under the direct control of Donald Rumsfeld. And boy, isn't that just what we need: Field Marshal Don and his Howling Commandos running roughshod over the formal military chain of command, the State Department, the CIA, and the entire universe of international law enforcement agencies. If, by some chance, America has a genuine friend left in the world, it won't have any after two and a half more years of Rumsfeld slapping everybody in the face with a poop pie.

Ultimately, we're only going to make genuine progress in defeating terrorism by repudiating the entire neoconservative philosophy and the havoc it has wrought on our foreign policy and our own military, intelligence and law enforcement agencies. We need to get rid of a lot more people that Donald Rumsfeld--Cheney, Bolton and Rice are up at the top of my list.

But, you have to start somewhere, and Rumsfeld is as good a place to start as any.

Monday, April 24, 2006

At Long Last, a Plan for the War on Terror

Ann Scott Tyson of The Washington Post reported that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has approved a comprehensive plan to fight the war on terror. About time, huh?
The long-awaited campaign plan for the global war on terrorism, as well as two subordinate plans also approved within the past month by Rumsfeld, are considered the Pentagon's highest priority, according to officials familiar with the three documents who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak about them publicly.

Two things. First, if memory serves me correctly, we've been in a war on terror for almost five years now. If coming up with a plan to fight it has really been the Pentagon's "highest priority," I'd hate to see what happens with stuff they keep on the back burner these days.

Second, I wonder who authorized the anonymous officials not to speak about the plans publicly. How much longer are we going to play this "official/unofficial leak" patty cake?

The program is secret, of course, which is no doubt why it had to be leaked.


The plans involve stepped up use of Special Forces. General Doug Brown, head of Special Operations Command (SOCOM), began working on the plans in 2003 when Rumsfeld first designated SOCOM as the "lead command for the war on terrorism."

Author Tyson doesn't speculate on why Rumsfeld waited until 2003 to name a lead command to fight terror and start putting together a plan to fight it. One would imagine he was too busy getting ready to invade Iraq to think about fighting terror.

One of the main reasons it took three years after that to finish the plans was tension inside the military as well as with the CIA and the State Department over who's in charge of special force counterterrorism teams within any given theater of operations. They don't appear to have to answer to U.S. embassies, or even, in some circumstances, to four-star regional commanders.

I smell trouble brewing.

One of the most important principles of military operations of any kind is "unity of command." There must be a clear line of authority that extends from the private infantry soldier to the regional commander to the Secretary of Defense to the President. Any time you have an "elite" outfit careening around in a regional commanders' area of responsibility that the regional commander doesn't have control of, bad stuff happens.

But if bad stuff happens under this plan, we probably won't know about it because it's secret, and nobody gets authorized speak publicly about bad secret stuff. Only the good secret stuff gets leaked.


You don't need to read the secret war on terror plans to figure out they're exactly what Rummy wanted them to be. That's pretty much how everything has been in the Department of Defense since early 2001. There's no reason to think this Rummy plan will work any better than any other Rummy plan.

Why should we be concerned? Because the DoD took six years to institutionalize a plan for fighting the war on terror, one that comes straight out of the box with built in warning flags. If it doesn't work, we won't know about if for at least another two and a half years because Rummy doesn't recognize any idea of his isn't working, and Lord knows that at this point that nobody's going to blow any whistles, and even if they do, it won't do any good because Rummy is bulletproof and he's not going anywhere as long as his boss is still in office.

Come 2008, we'll have been fighting a war for seven and a half years with no good plan for fighting it, and somebody will have to come up with a better plan, and who knows how long that might take?

Saturday, April 22, 2006

The Cost of War and Peace in the Next World Order

According to the CIA World Fact Book, the U.S. spent an estimated $518 billion on its military in 2005. Second was scary old China, which spent a paltry $81.5 billion. Following behind the big two were Japan, England, Germany, Italy and South Korea, ranging between $21 billion and $45 billion. (CIA figures for England, Germany and Italy are from 2003.)

A perennial defense of America's defense spending has been that it's only a small percentage of the Gross Domestic Product. In 2005, for example, it was 4.06 percent of the total $12.41 trillion economy. Taken out of context, that sounds like a small number, until you note that China's military budget is around 1 percent of its GDP of $8.182 trillion. Besides which, nobody ever won or deterred a war based on the percentage of its GDP it spent on its military. Nations that spend a greater percent of their GDP on arms than the U.S. include such traditional war fighting powerhouses as Djibouti (4.3 percent), Brunei (5.1 percent) and Eritrea (17.7 percent). Even 100 percent of very little is still very little.

But 50 percent of everything is a hell of a lot, which is where America's military spending stands. As Jane's Defense Weekly notes, America now spends as much on its military as the rest of the world combined.

Is the Bush administration planning on fighting a war with the rest of the entire world? I'm thinking that even those yahoos know better than to try something like that. Then again, you never know with that crowd.


It's pretty clear that America's military industrial political complex has us spending way, way, way more than we need to on military arms. But it's also intuitively obvious that the United States can't afford to do without a robust armed force in the Next World Order. But how much force do we need, and what do we need it for?

In terms of symmetric force versus force war, the two most obvious--though unlikely--scenarios are defending Taiwan from an invasion by China and defending South Korea from an invasion from the North. The former is largely a maritime interdiction problem. We'd want to stop the Chinese invasion force as it crossed the Strait of Formosa. The latter would be a land war.

We'll no doubt want to maintain a security sponsorship of Israel, which is still surrounded by nations unfriendly to it. But Israel has proven itself rather adept at repelling invasions with little if any direct help from us.

There's an outside possibility that Russia, in a desperate attempt to regain its former prestige and glory, might try to invade Western Europe. But seriously, folks. Russia's done. Its economy is roughly the size of Brazil's ($1.5 trillion) and its once mighty Cold War arsenal is rusting on the flight line, molding in the silo, sinking at the pier, or burning in Chechnya.

There are unpredictable unknowns, of course. Panama could go up for grabs. Syria might invade Lebanon. Somebody might try to take over a weakened Iraq by force, but after having observed our fiasco in that country, who'd be crazy enough to want to repeat it?

Speaking of Iraq, if there's one lesson we needed to learn from that woebegone war it's that we don't want to do preemptive invasions and occupations any more.

What about the proliferation of Weapons of Mass Destruction?

We have these things called deterrence and retaliation. We also have enough city buster nukes left over from the Cold War to barbecue our entire planet, and Mars and Venus and Mercury besides. Anybody who pops a ballistic missile nuke off in our direction knows that we'll know where it came from right away. And anybody who wants to give a nuke to a terrorist knows we'll know where the terrorist got it.


What do we need defense wise? A lot less than we have now. How much less? Well, if we leave the decision on that to the Pentagon and the military industrial political complex, we'll wind up with more, not less.

So here's my proposal. Start by cutting the Department of Defense Budget in half. Don't cut corners by chipping away at military veterans' benefits. Get rid of stuff, and quit making more of it. Dump at least two aircraft carriers and only produce one per decade, at most. Cut off funding for further procurement of Cold War dinosaurs like the F-22 fighter and the B-2 bomber. Bring along the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and make that the last of the manned combat aircraft. No new classes of submarines. The ones we have now are swift and silent enough. No new classes of naval surface combatants. If we didn't get it right with the Arleigh Burke missile destroyers, we never will. The tanks we have now are fine. You want them to burn less gas, give them new engines. If you want them more invulnerable, give them new armor.

Whatever you do, don't let generals and politicians and arms industry CEOs convince you that you need to spend more and more tax dollars on fantastical weaponry to "keep America safe."

Because you don't.

The Next World Order Series:

Part I: America's 21st Century Military

Part II: Network-centric Warfare

Part III: America's Military Industrial Complex

Part IV: The Revolt of the Retired Generals

Part V: What Good is War?

Part VI: Body Count

Part VII: Order in the Next World Order

Friday, April 21, 2006

The Order of the Next World Order

If you want to know what the Next World Order will look like, just take a look around. It's already here. The last world order--the one in which the United States served the function of "global hegemon"--was over in less time than it took the American neoconservatives to cook up the idea, due in large part to our disastrous experiment in Iraq.

Our foreign policy aims should now be to land in a position as the first among nations in a fluid, multi-tiered global power structure.

At present, the world's state and non-state political entities are roughly divided into five levels of power. For the sake of creating a common vocabulary, we'll tentatively define those tiers as major powers, balance powers, regional powers, wild cards, and others.

Top Guns

In light of the U.S. military's proven decreased capacity for decisively achieving strategic aims, economy has more than ever become the premier instrument of political power. Hence, at the top of the power tier we have the globe's three largest Gross Domestic Products. According to the CIA World Factbook, these are the United States ($12.4 trillion), the European Union ($12.2 trillion) and China ($8.2 trillion). Combined, these three entities account for 55 percent of the entire worlds gross product ($59.6 trillion).

Following at numbers four and five and six are Japan ($3.9 trillion) and India ($3.7 trillion) and Germany ($2.45 trillion). England, France, Italy, Brazil, Russia, Canada, Mexico and Spain are all under $2 trillion, and everybody else is under $1 trillion. So it's a good bet that the major powers will remain so for at least a decade, and perhaps throughout the 21st century.

In the second tier, the balance powers, I include England, Russia, and Japan. I base balance power status less on economy than on geographical and historical factors. England, Russia, and Japan have all had extensive empires of their own at some point in the previous two centuries, and have a long history of both friendly and belligerent relationships with today's major powers.

Given its economy and potential for growth, India may well become a balance or even a major power by the end of this century, but for now, I classify it as a significant regional power. To date, it doesn't have anywhere near the same experience in influencing global politics as do the entities in the first two tiers. Other regional powers include Brazil, which not only has South America's largest economy but which is developing its own nuclear program.

Wild Cards

Wild card number one is the Middle East. America's attempts at getting the region under control have had the unfortunate effect of letting the cat herd out of the corral, and there's no telling where they'll decide to settle down. The best tea leaf reading I've heard is that Osama bin Laden's real goal is to establish a political coalition of Sunni Islamic states, one that would look similar to the pre-World War I Ottoman Empire, and one that would have a working if sometimes uneasy relationship with the Shiite Persians in Iran.

If we can get him to openly admit that that's what he's aiming for, I say let him have a go at it. Pull off to the periphery, as Jack Murtha suggests, and see if the region can pull itself into a cooperative. If it can't, and that part of the world falls into Hobbesian conflict, oh well. We stay on the periphery and contain it, and find other solutions to our energy needs.

If that conflict spreads into hapless sub-Saharan Africa (another wild card), well, it's not like that part of the world isn't already in a Hobbesian quagmire already. And we're not doing a whole lot about that now, are we? And what can we do? Attempts to fix things in Somalia turned into a disaster, what's to think trying to fix things anywhere else in that part of the world--militarily at least--will turn out any better?

Speaking of Wild Cards: we've done what we can in the Balkans, and it didn't do all that much good. And it's really not America's problem. It's the European Union's and Russia's problem.

The geographically immediate Wild Card America needs to concern itself most with is Latin America. And just how wild is that? The worst bad guy in our hemisphere is Cuba's Fidel Castro. How big and bad is he? Not big and bad enough to threaten with invasion, or you can bet the Bush administration would have threatened him with that by now.

Venezuela? For all his bluster, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez says he'd be content with $50 a barrel oil prices, which is considerably lower than the $70 plus prices we're paying today.

Who are "the others?" Canada. New Zealand. Australia. Switzerland. Netherlands. Singapore. Countries that will always be friendly to the U.S. and its allies of the moment, but that will never rise above the level of regional powers, even though they could become vital geo-strategic allies in the unlikely event of another global war.

So Where Does That Leave Us?

It leaves us in a bad position for as long as the hegemons of Team Bush are in power. Swapping out chiefs of staff and press secretaries won't make a change in the fundamental policies and philosophies that Cheney, Rumsfeld, Wolfowitz, Bolton, Perle, Krauthammer, Kristol and the rest of the neoconservative junta has finagled on America and the rest of the world.

Global sanity can only be restored when the philosophical descendants of Alexander, Caesar, Stalin, Hitler, et al are jack booted out of office.

Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Body Count in the Next World Order

Much has been made of the American casualty count in our war in Iraq. U.S. forces have suffered more than 2,300 deaths and over 17,000 wounded. Some refer to these figures as the "horrible human price" of Operation Iraqi Freedom. Others sneer at these numbers, and consider them a trifling compared to the casualty counts of earlier U.S. wars.

To a large extent, the debate over war casualties is moot. Body count is seldom an accurate measure of success in war, nor is a low own force casualty rate a reason to support one. You can have no casualties and still lose a war; you can have millions of casualties and still win. Likewise, some wars justify millions of casualties and some wars don't justify a single one.

There's a tendency for many military thinkers to compare World War II to all the wars that followed it. In most cases, such analogies are flawed.

America did not join the allied side to "liberate the freedom loving peoples" of Germany and Japan from their oppressive political leadership. Either actively or through passive acquiescence, the German and Japanese populations supported their totalitarian governments. We were not merely fighting Hitler and Tojo. We were at war with their entire nations, nations that were better prepared for war than we were at the outset of hostilities. While in retrospect we view attacks on civilian populations like the air raids on Dresden, Nagasaki and Hiroshima with mixed moral judgments, we need to modulate those judgments by considering the context in which we took those actions. Never before had an alliance of nations engaged another one in a truly global war with a stated objective of unconditional surrender of the enemy. Such a war has not occurred since, and hopefully never will.

Some estimates peg the total deaths incurred during that war at over 62 million. The total property loss is likely incalculable, as is any attempt to determine whether the results of World War II justified its cost. It did, after all, lead to a half-century of Cold War between the victors with the U.S. led western coalition on one side and the Soviet bloc on the other.

But at least we can say of World War II that it began with formal declarations of war and ended when formal documents of surrender were signed by recognized authorities of the vanquished belligerents.

The "third world" proxy wars that the Cold War spawned were undeclared and produced indecisive results at best. Hostilities in the Korean Conflict ended in a tie with the signing of a cease-fire agreement. North Korea still gives us security fits. Our Vietnam terminated in a scramble to catch the last plane out of Saigon and a bitterly divided United States.

Examine later U.S. military incursions in Grenada, Lebanon, Somalia, the Arabian Gulf, and elsewhere, and you won't find a single decisive "victory" or achievement of long-term American political goals in the bunch.

Many might argue that America's persistent pursuit of arms superiority and willingness to apply it in key hot spots was the "constant pressure" that led to the collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the Cold War.

But what good did that really do? From all indications, the Soviet's demise only served to let the cats out of the corral, and America has shifted from a generational war against the Evil Empire to another one against the Axis of Evil, the evil doers, the evil ones, the forces of evil, those who would perpetrate evil, evil geniuses and all the other minions of Doctor Evil.

How many casualties does America need to sustain to counter all that evil?

The answer is very, very few. Despite what the Rovewellian mind control machine would have us believe, terrorism is not a military problem, it's a law enforcement and diplomatic issue.

Al Qaeda doesn't have an army, or a navy, or an air force, or a state department. Nobody's facing an April 15th deadline to file tax returns with the Islamo-fascist Revenue Service. Nobody elected Osama bin Laden to power, and his strategies weren't crafted by a think tank called the "Project for the New Islamic Century." Radical militant groups are sustaining far greater casualties that U.S. forces and whatever remains of our "coalition of the paid off" are, and yet who has a recruiting problem and who doesn't?

Who's doing something right in the Global War on Terror, and who isn't?

Can more Americans killed or injured in a misdirected military effort turn the tide?

I seriously doubt it.

I also seriously doubt whether more terrorists killed or injured or captured can make much of a difference either.

But guess what? I've spoken with more than one influential retired senior military officer who thinks war serves the purpose of keeping the world's population in check. Seriously.

I've asked these characters if they think maybe proliferating modern birth control methods throughout the third world might not serve the purpose of keeping the global population in check as well, but they shake their heads no.

That would be encouraging immoral behavior among primitive peoples, they say.

And besides, if we controlled population through modern birth control rather than war, what would happen their high dollar retirement jobs in the military industrial complex? What, they're going to make the same kind of money they're making now lobbying for the condom industry?


The Next World Order Series:

Part I: America's 21st Century Military

Part II: Network-centric Warfare

Part III: America's Military Industrial Complex

Part IV: The Revolt of the Retired Generals

Part V: What Good is War?

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

What Good is War in the Next World Order?

Part V of the "Next World Order" series, which asks the blasphemous question "why do we need a military?" Links to parts I through IV are included at the bottom of this article.

In its 1997 "Statement of Principles," the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century (PNAC) urged a return to a "Reaganite policy of military strength" and a need to increase defense spending significantly "if we are to carry out our global responsibilities today and modernize our armed forces for the future[.]"

For all their collective brainpower, the PNACers overlooked the elephant hiding behind the couch in their clubhouse. During the Reagan era, America had a peer military competitor. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, it hasn't. Even so, at the urging of the neoconservatives, America will spend upwards of a half trillion dollars for our Department of Defense in 2006, an expenditure that matches the military spending of the rest of the world combined. And that half trillion doesn't cover the cost of Homeland Security and other federal domestic security programs.

For all our politicians' and generals' talk about "transforming" the military to meet the needs of the new century, our force doesn't look significantly different from the one we had in the middle of the last one.

In World War II, our Navy had aircraft carriers, surface combatants, submarines, amphibious assault craft and Marines. Our Air Force--then a branch of our Army--had bombers, fighters and cargo planes. The Army had armor, infantry, artillery and special forces.

What we have now is a higher tech version of what we had then. We've traded our old fashioned P.F. Flyers for new fangled Nike Air Jordans that run faster, jump higher and stop on a smaller dime. But our old shoes did something that our news ones never have: win an actual war in which the enemies actually surrendered and signed actual documents to that effect, and effectively told their populations to shut the hell up and deal with it.

When the Soviet Union fell apart and what was left of its military did the same, the U.S. armed services fell all over themselves to justify their continued existence and their slices of the federal budget pie.

With no maritime power to challenge its dominance of the open oceans, the Navy adopted a strategy of patrolling littoral waters from which it could project air power (carrier aircraft, cruise missiles, and naval gunfire) and land power (Marines) ashore.

The Air Force suffered from both its proven successes and failures. The two Gulf Wars illustrated that air supremacy is a given in any U.S. conflict, and that the "shock and awe" value of strategic bombing isn't worth the cost of the point papers air power advocates wrote about it. The Air Force's main function has become to take the Army wherever it needs to go to do whatever it needs to do when it gets there. And yeah, support whatever the Army's doing with direct air support. Except the Air Force doesn't really like doing direct support of Army ground operations, and the Navy's better at doing that anyway.

The poor Army folks--God bless them--don't know which way to point their gun barrels. Are they a heavy force? Are they a light force? Are they Patton's tank warriors or Sergeant Fury's Howling Commandos? Do they pull triggers or punch buttons on computer keyboards? Do they pitch their own tents or does a subsidiary of Halliburton do that for them?

In short, the best-trained, best-equipped, best-financed force in history is something of a Chinese fire department. It's a navy that's a coast guard with an air force and an army, an air force that's an airline, and an army that's neck deep in its outsourced latrine.

And you wonder why a bunch of sand herders have the mighty U.S. military stymied in the Middle East?

I don't.


I'm one of those fuddy-duddies who still doesn't think terrorism is a military problem. It's a law enforcement problem. You won't hear this at any war college or university national security program, but military force is good for two basic things: destroying stuff and killing people. It is best used to destroy the stuff and kill the people of other military forces. If there's no other military force to destroy or kill, the whole idea of applying military force to a problem gets fuzzy. Sure, it's great to rebuild electrical generators and paint schools, but you don't really need a military to do that. You need a Peace Corps.

And if we ever again decide that our political aims will be served by large scale destruction of population centers and industrial sites, well, we can do that without putting a single boot on the ground.

There are more than a few highly respected people in the field of military science who think a Nagasaki-style demonstration is just the thing we need to put an end to terrorism. I happen to think the people who think that are nuts. There's every reason to believe that turning, say, Tallil into solar panel would only add to terrorist recruiting.

Besides, is that really the kind of thing we want to do? Is that what we want to be?

The mightiest nation in human history that blows "freedom loving peoples" to smithereens in order to liberate them?

That's not my idea of enlightened world leadership.

Coming in the Next World Order: what do we need, what don't we need?

Earlier in the Next World Order series:

Part I: America's 21st Century Military

Part II: Network-centric Warfare

Part III: America's Military Industrial Complex

Part IV: The Revolt of the Retired Generals

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Much Ado About Rummy

Calling for Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's resignation is becoming something of an alternative national pastime. Neoconservative icon Bill Kristol, founder of the Project for the New American Century (PNAC) of which Rumsfeld was a key member, was advocating giving Dandy Don the boot clear back in July of 2001, prior to the 9/11 attacks. Between then and now, almost everyone from the left, right and center whom the press will cover has demanded that Rummy be given the ax.

Now six retired generals have joined the chorus. A fat lot of good that's going to do, even if Rummy actually resigns this time. Which he won't.

Rummy deserves a lot more than getting run out of the Pentagon in a rail and feathers ceremony. He deserves a special room in the McNamara suite at the LBJ Hilton in hell. But sending him there tomorrow won't fix the disaster he's helped create.


Rumsfeld deserves the bulk of the blame for mis-micromanaging the war, and he had much to do with the policy of preemptively invading Iraq. But he didn't come up with the idea of thumping Hussein from his throne with military power all on his lonesome. Bill Kristol, one of the first neoconservatives to turn on Rummy, was a ringleader of the PNAC cabal that first publicly proposed an Iraq invasion in 1998. Other members of this flock of hawks included Dick Cheney, Paul Wolfowitz, John Bolton, Richard Perle, Scooter Libby, Jeb Bush, and a whole cast of unsavory characters that have since infested every department in the administration.

Firing Rumsfeld as SecDef will effect about as much fundamental change in the Land of Bush as replacing Andrew Card as White House Chief of Staff did.

In its 1997 Statement of Principles, the PNAC castigated the Clinton administration, stating that, "American foreign and defense policy is adrift," and promised, "We aim to change this."

They changed it all right: from adrift to bow down in the water. In retrospect, foreign and defense policy wise, 1997 looks like the good old days.

The "best trained, best equipped" military in all of history has proven itself impotent in the face of an asymmetric opponent. As John Murtha and others have said, competitor countries like China and ideological enemies like al Qaeda are laughing in their sleeves as we grind national treasure into hourglass fill in Iraq (as if Iraq didn't have enough sand in it to begin with). Nobody except England wants to play ball with us. The only guy left in England who likes us in Tony Blair, and everybody else in England seems to be getting sick and tired of him.


Regardless of whether it does any immediate good, I'm glad to see all these retired generals speaking up, if for no other reason than forcing the Rove patrol onto the information pavement to perform its standard song-and-dance counter-attack. The more the public sees the likes of Senator George Allen (R-Virginia) try to pawn off the same old polly cracker talking points in defense of the administration, the more of the public that isn't completely Limbaugh lobotomized will realize what a flaming bag of dog plop on America's front porch the Bush administration and its supporters are.

And the more they realize that, the more they'll realize the need to stomp that flaming bag out come November by smothering the GOP oxygen that feeds it.

Otherwise, the flaming bag of dog plop will burn the whole house down.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

The Next World Order and the "Revolt of the Retired Generals"

Part IV of the "Next World Order" series explores how military officers and politicians have virtually changed roles.

Thomas E. Ricks of The Washington Post reports of yet another retired general who has come forward with harsh criticism of Donald Rumsfeld.

John Batiste, a former Army two-star who commanded the 1st Infantry Division in Iraq from 2004-2005 thinks it's time for a "fresh start" at the top of the Pentagon, and says a lot of his peers feel the same way.

As Ricks notes:
Batiste's comments resonate especially within the Army: it is widely known there that he was offered a promotion to three-star rank to return to Iraq and be the No. 2 U.S. military officer there but he declined because he no longer wished to serve under Rumsfeld.

Ex generals coming out of the woodwork to tell us what we already pretty much knew about Rumsfeld is hardly news these days. Ricks' piece also includes disparaging remarks recently made by former Army two-star Paul Eaton and retired Marine generals Gregory Newbold and Anthony Zinni.

The most interesting parts of the Ricks article cover Rumsfeld supporters' attempts to "tamp down the revolt of the retired generals."

Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Peter Pace said on Tuesday that no officers were "muzzled" during the planning of the Iraq invasion. "The articles that are out there about folks not speaking up are just flat wrong."

There's a grain of truth in that statement. Lots of folks, like then Army Chief of Staff Eric Shinsecki, did speak up. Like Shinseki, they were castigated by Rumsfeld and his assistant Paul Wolfowitz and shown the door.

Defense Department spokesman Lawrence Di Rita said of Rumsfeld's leadership style, "People are entitled to their opinions. What they are not entitled to is their own facts. . . .The assertions about inadequate exposure to military judgment are just fundamentally incorrect."

Di Rita is the Pentagon's version of the White House's Scott McClellan, and he's mastered the Rovewellian art of altering the truth without actually telling a lie. Rumsfeld probably did have adequate exposure to military judgment. He just chose to pay attention to the judgments that agreed with his own and ignored the ones who didn't.

Most disturbing to me was Ricks' account of concerns expressed by military "experts" about "the new outspokenness of retired generals."
"I think it flatly is a bad thing," said Richard H. Kohn, a military historian at the University of North Carolina who writes frequently on civilian-military relations. He said he worries that it could undermine civilian control of the military, especially by making civilian leaders feel that that they need to be careful about what they say around officers, for fear of being denounced as soon as they retire.

"How can you prosecute a war if the military and civilians don't trust each other?" Kohn asked.

I'm sure that somewhere in his vast academic experience Professor Kohn heard the adage that trust is a two-way street. If an administration of war hawks comes into power hell bent on starting an armed conflict the generals don't think is necessary and fighting it in a way the generals don't think will work, and ignore everything the dissenting generals say, why should the generals trust the civilians?

And from whom does America have more to fear: generals who caution against war or presidents who claim unfettered powers to wage them?

But at the heart of Kohn's arguments is a fundamentally sinister assault on the notion of an open information society: that retired officers do not have a First Amendment right to speak their minds, that somehow their time in service puts them under a lifetime "gag order," and that retired officers can be held accountable to the Uniform Code of Military Justice or have their retirement pay withdrawn for speaking out against the establishment.

That bodes ill not only for retired officers but American society as well. If retired officers can't tell truth to power on military related issues, who can?

And if nobody can do that, what's to keep the country from becoming a military dictatorship? It's a bizarre turn of affairs when America's best safeguard against coming under control of the military is the military itself.

But what would you expect in an environment where the politicians run all the wars and all the generals left on active duty are all politicians?

For more on presidential authority, see Smoke, Mirrors and War Powers.

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

The Next World Order and America's Military Industrial Complex

Parts I and II in the "Next World Order" series deflated the neoconservative notion that American can establish global dominance through network-centric military applications. Part III examines how the American arms industry's influence allows this delusion to linger.

If you think your defense tax dollars are keeping America safe, think again.

This is a tough thing to say, because few people understand and respect the sacrifices the men and women of our armed forces make more than I do. But it has to be said. The United States military does not defend America. It hasn't repelled an invasion of American soil since 1812, and it certainly didn't defend us from the terrorist attacks on 9/11/2001.

"Fighting them over there" was the military's job throughout the 20th Century: World War I, World War II, and the Cold War and the third world proxy wars like Korea and Vietnam that sprang from it. When the Berlin Wall came down and the Soviet Union collapsed, the military's motivational battle cry "defending our country" was gradually replaced with "protecting our interests overseas."

Today, the "best trained, best equipped" military in history is bogged down in Hobbesian conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan that have no apparent resolution, much resolutions that support any coherent expression of American national interest.

Yet, in 2006, U.S. taxpayers will pony up somewhere in the neighborhood of a half trillion dollars for our Department of Defense, an expenditure that matches the military spending of the rest of the world combined.

Por que? Are we planning to fight a war with the entire rest of the world all at once? I'm thinking even the chicken hawk neoconservatives who run this country aren't mad enough to contemplate a move like that. At least I hope they aren't.

Military Industrial Complexities

In his 1961 farewell address, President Dwight David Eisenhower cautioned Americans that…
In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.

In October of last year, I outlined the state of the military industrial complex's stranglehold on contemporary America's economy and foreign and domestic policy for ePluribus Media in an article titled "In an Arms Race with Ourselves."
Civilian service secretaries, appointed by the President, responsible for weapons and equipment acquisition, largely come from the executive ranks of the U.S. defense industry. Current Secretary of the Navy and Acting Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England is a prime example. Before entering public life, England was a senior officer with defense giants General Dynamics and Lockheed Corporation. Donald Winter, nominated to replace England as Navy secretary, is a highly placed executive with Northrup Grumman, the world’s third largest military contractor.

Supporting these “captains of industry” are the military officers and senior enlisted personnel who establish second careers in the private defense sector as “beltway bandits.” Their's is a story well known around inner circles, but one seldom told outside of them.

Generals who manage doctrine and weapons programs late in their active-duty days retire from the military and go to work for the very corporations whose programs they sponsored while in uniform. The colonels, majors and sergeant majors who served under the generals retire as well and go back to work for their old bosses.

The retired guys work hand-in-purse with their still on-duty cronies — who are looking to stake out second careers themselves — to insert pet programs into so-called “battle experiments,” war games designed to determine how to fight future conflicts. The games get rigged to ensure that the pet programs prove victorious. Impressive after-action reports are written, contracts are signed, appropriations are passed in Congress, and the gravy caisson goes rolling along.

Here's an illustration of just how far off the rails the collusion between industry, politicians and the military has gone.

In November of 2005, Representative Randall "Duke" Cunningham (R-California), the Vietnam era Navy fighter ace, pleaded guilty to charges of taking over $2.4 million in bribes from defense contractors to steer business in their direction. A key figure in the scandal was Mitchell Wade, CEO of the defense contracting firm MZM who not only bribed Cunningham but whose firm contributed to Cunningham's congressional campaigns.

One MZM employee said that Wade twisted his subordinates' arms to donate to his MZM political action committee. "We were called in and told basically either donate to the MZM PAC or we would be fired."

Coercing employees to make political contributions is a direct violation of federal election campaign laws.

MZM PAC money went to the congressional campaigns of Cunningham, Virgil Goode (R-Virginia) and Katherine Harris (R-Florida).

MZM has a facility in Goode's Virginia district, from which it supports the Army National Ground Intelligence Center, one of its biggest government customers.

In February of this year, Wade confessed to funneling $32,000 in illegal contributions through his employees to Katherine Harris's 2004 congressional campaign in order to obtain a $10 million dollar defense contract in Harris's Florida district. Harris attached the contract as an "earmark" to another bill. The bill didn't pass, but that's not the point. The point is that politicians like Harris constitute a bargain basement opportunity for arms contractors.

When Wade stepped down as MZM CEO over the Cunningham controversy in June 2005, his place was taken by retired three-star general James C. King, who's last job on active duty was head of the National Imagery and Mapping Agency. In 2001, King retired to join MZM as a vice president. He played a key role in helping Cunningham funnel over $20 million in defense contracts to MZM between 2002 and 2004.

In 2003, MZM partnered with General Dynamics and other defense contractors to support the Air Force Information Warfare Center. As of 2005, General Dynamics was the fifth largest defense contracting conglomerate in the world, and the same General Dynamics that, as we noted earlier, now assistant Secretary of Defense Gordon England was a senior executive with.

Small world, that military industrial complex.

If a relatively little guy defense contractor like MZM was strong-arming employees to contribute to GOP campaigns, what do you think is going on with the big guys like General Dynamics and Northrup Grumman? And how exponentially overbalanced do you think the campaign contribution to the defense dollar is?

You can't count the hands of everyone who's knocking down a piece of the defense budget because their hands are all buried in the taxpayers' pockets.

We won't be able to build and maintain an effective, affordable military force until we find a way to trust bust the pyramid scheme known as the American arms industry.

Coming up in the Next World Order series: America's armed force identity crisis.


Other Jeff Huber articles on national security issues:

In an Arms Race With Ourselves

Wars and Empires

Invasion of the Transformers


In a private e-mail, Brian Hoffman made a good point regarding my statement that U.S. forces haven't repelled an invasion on American soil since 1812. He noted that the Japanese invaded the Aleutians in World War II, and he's right.

Was that a serious attempt at "invading America?" Well…

This blurb from the World War II Multimedia Database pretty much reflects what I remember learning a decade ago about the Aleutian Operations in War College:
The Aleutians Operations 1942-1943
When the Japanese occupied the islands of Attu and Kiska in the Aleutians in Alaska in June 1942, the Allies had to remove them before they could attack the Kuriles. The Aleutians would be the only land battles in North America during World War II. The cold weather and remote location would make resupply of the Japanese garrison difficult, while the Americans would send thousands of highly trained soldiers to attack the outpost that conceivably could threaten Canada and the Western coast of the United States.

When the Dutch Harbor installations were attacked on June 3, 1942, the Americans were not fully prepared for an invasion. But occupying Attu and Kiska was a feint for the Midway operation, with little value other then the tactical goal of drawing the US Pacific Fleet into a major surface engagement. Reading the Japanese codes, the US Navy ignored the landings on Attu and Kiska and went to the defense of Midway, sinking most of the First Air Fleet.

I certainly don't want to minimize the efforts of U.S. forces in these operations. The father of one of my college fraternity brothers served on a minesweeper in the Aleutians during this period, and boy, did I hear some stories about that.

Still, I maintain that the Japanes Aleutian incursion was part of an operational deception, and not a genuine attempt to invade the United States or the American continent.

Thanks to Brian for bringing this up.


Monday, April 10, 2006

Network-centric Warfare and the Next World Order

Part I of the Next World Order series explored the issues involved with calculating a 21st century American military force planning strategy. Part II addresses the failed efforts of Donald Rumsfeld and others to "transform" the force to support the neoconservative dreams of a "New American Century."

Upon assumption of office, George W. Bush directed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld to "transform" the American military. Rumsfeld appointed retired Vice Admiral Donald Cebrowski, a Vietnam era Navy fighter pilot and former U.S. Naval War College president, as his Director of Force Transformation. Cebrowski wasted no time in establishing his beloved notion of "network-centric warfare" (NCW) as the key component of force transformation.

Many senior military officers were skeptical of Cebrowski's ideas. As one Army official put it, "That guy needs to come up for oxygen more." In some circles, Cebrowski and his followers were referred to as the "net-eccentrics."

Still, Cebrowski had the ear of Rumsfeld and other leading administration officials, so his concepts were adopted.

What exactly was this network-centric idea that Cebrowski and Rumsfeld were so certain would revolutionize the efficacy of war?

In a 1999 address to the Command and Control Research and Technology Symposium, Cebrowski said:
Network-centric warfare is a concept. As a concept, it cannot have a definition, because concepts and definitions are enemies. Concepts are abstract and general, while definitions are concrete and specific. Thus, if a concept can be defined, it is no longer a concept.

Other Cebrowski acolytes described NCW as a "system of systems" that would, by logical conclusion, need to be supported by the good old boy military industrial network of networks.

Somewhere along the line, network-centric warfare encompassed such equally murky concepts as "effects based operations" and "shock and awe." In 2002, Cebrowski went so far as to describe NCW a " new theory of war." But by empirical standards, NCW has as legitimate a claim to being a new "warfare theory" as cigarettes have to being a cure for lung cancer.

Multiple sources have confirmed that during his tenure as president of the Naval War College in the 90s, Cebrowski used his power and influence to ensure that his pet projects and doctrines proved victorious in the school's annual Global War Game.

Network-centric strategies were employed in the Cebrowski influenced U.S. Joint Forces Command's war game Millennium Challenge 2002, a practice exercise in the run up to Gulf War II. Here's how the U.K.'s Guardian described it:
At the height of the summer, as talk of invading Iraq built in Washington like a dark, billowing storm, the US armed forces staged a rehearsal using over 13,000 troops, countless computers and Dollars 250m. Officially, America won and a rogue state was liberated from an evil dictator.

What really happened is quite another story, one that has set alarm bells ringing throughout America's defence establishment and raised questions over the US military's readiness for an Iraqi invasion. In fact, this war game was won by Saddam Hussein, or at least by the retired marine playing the Iraqi dictator's part, Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper.

In the first few days of the exercise, using surprise and unorthodox tactics, the wily 64-year-old Vietnam veteran sank most of the US expeditionary fleet in the Persian Gulf, bringing the US assault to a halt. What happened next will be familiar to anyone who ever played soldiers in the playground. Faced with an abrupt and embarrassing end to the most expensive and sophisticated military exercise in US history, the Pentagon top brass simply pretended the whole thing had not happened. They ordered their dead troops back to life and "refloated" the sunken fleet. Then they instructed the enemy forces to look the other way as their marines performed amphibious landings. Eventually, Van Riper got so fed up with all this cheating that he refused to play any more. Instead, he sat on the sidelines making abrasive remarks until the three-week war game - grandiosely entitled Millennium Challenge - staggered to a star-spangled conclusion on August 15, with a US "victory".

Roughly a year later, the United States invaded Iraq. Of the guerilla style resistance of Iraqi militia groups, the Lieutenant General William Wallace, commander of the Army's V Corps, said, "The enemy we're fighting is a bit different than the one we war-gamed against."

But in fact, a guerilla style militia resistance was precisely the type of enemy Van Riper was trying to simulate in Millennium Challenge 2002.

Van Riper aired his thoughts on military transformation and network-centric warfare in an April 2004 episode of PBS's Nova.
NOVA: Isn't the current revolution—transformation, network-centric warfare—supposed to change how war is fought?

Van Riper: We hear many terms, whether it's "transformation," "military technical revolution," "revolution of military affairs," all indicating something revolutionary has happened that's going to change warfare. Nothing has happened that's going to change the fundamental elements of war. The nature of war is immutable, though the character and form will change. The difficulty is that those who put forth this argument believe that something fundamentally has changed, and you can change very quickly without thinking your way through it. They want to apply the technology without the brainpower.

NOVA: You don't think that transformation and network-centric warfare are powerful ideas?

Van Riper: My experience has been that those who focus on the technology, the science, tend towards sloganeering. There's very little intellectual content to what they say, and they use slogans in place of this intellectual content. It does a great disservice to the American military, the American defense establishment. "Information dominance," "network-centric warfare," "focused logistics"—you could fill a book with all of these slogans.

Even Fredrick Kagan of the West Point military academy and the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute is less than impressed with the Rumsfeld/Cebrowski vision of military transformation. Writing on the results of the Afghanistan and Iraq incursions for the Hoover Institution's Policy Review in August of 2003, he commented:
Neither [network-centric warfare] nor “shock and awe” provides a reliable recipe for translating the destruction of the enemy’s ability to continue to fight into the accomplishment of the political objectives of the conflict.

Kagan also noted that:
The most important problem with these visions of war is not anything within them, but the fact that they leave out the most important component of war — that which distinguishes it from organized but senseless violence.

Yet, remarkably, as late as May of 2004, Cebrowski's main assistant John Gartska was claiming that the network-centric concept of warfare had been "proven" in Iraq.

As of April 2006, even the most casual observer of military affairs understands that network-centric warfare is a proven failure.

One might think that by this point, the network-centric true believers in the Office of Transformation would have given up the ghost on any claims to the legitimacy of their cherished philosophy, but no. The DoD's Office of Force Transformation has changed the title from "network-centric warfare" to "network-centric operations," but the song remains the same. If we can somehow combine the latest technology with the right kind of supercalifragilistic doctrine, use of armed force can somehow become the key to achieving the neoconservative vision of achieving U.S. hegemony over the rest of the world.

We've heard this tune before. The "war to end all wars." Airpower makes all other forms of military power obsolete. Nuclear weapons make all forms of conventional military power moot. Peace through superior firepower. Yada-yada, yakety-yak.

This isn't to say that technology doesn't have value at the tactical level or war. It's just that warfare itself has passed the diminishing point as an instrument of national power. You can win a thousand battles…

The most frightening aspect of all this is that the network-centric concept is still the driving impetus behind U.S. force planning strategy and, by extension, all of America's foreign and domestic policy.

Coming in the "Next World Order" series: the price of delusion.

Other Jeff Huber articles on national security issues:

In an Arms Race With Ourselves

Wars and Empires

Invasion of the Transformers

Another General Speaks Out

Retired Lieutenant General Gregory Newbold has added his voice to the criticism of the White House and Pentagon's Iraq fiasco. Newbold was the top Joint Chiefs operations officer at the time of the Operation Iraqi Freedom planning. He voiced his objections then retired in protest.

Now, he's giving a "full throated critique" in Time Magazine. Some selected passages:
From 2000 until October 2002, I was a Marine Corps lieutenant general and director of operations for the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After 9/11, I was a witness and therefore a party to the actions that led us to the invasion of Iraq--an unnecessary war. Inside the military family, I made no secret of my view that the zealots' rationale for war made no sense. And I think I was outspoken enough to make those senior to me uncomfortable. But I now regret that I did not more openly challenge those who were determined to invade a country whose actions were peripheral to the real threat--al-Qaeda. I retired from the military four months before the invasion, in part because of my opposition to those who had used 9/11's tragedy to hijack our security policy…

… The cost of flawed leadership continues to be paid in blood. The willingness of our forces to shoulder such a load should make it a sacred obligation for civilian and military leaders to get our defense policy right. They must be absolutely sure that the commitment is for a cause as honorable as the sacrifice…

… To those of you who don't know, our country has never been served by a more competent and professional military. For that reason, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice's recent statement that "we" made the "right strategic decisions" but made thousands of "tactical errors" is an outrage. It reflects an effort to obscure gross errors in strategy by shifting the blame for failure to those who have been resolute in fighting. The truth is, our forces are successful in spite of the strategic guidance they receive, not because of it…

… My sincere view is that the commitment of our forces to this fight was done with a casualness and swagger that are the special province of those who have never had to execute these missions--or bury the results.

Flaws in our civilians are one thing; the failure of the Pentagon's military leaders is quite another. Those are men who know the hard consequences of war but, with few exceptions, acted timidly when their voices urgently needed to be heard. When they knew the plan was flawed, saw intelligence distorted to justify a rationale for war, or witnessed arrogant micromanagement that at times crippled the military's effectiveness, many leaders who wore the uniform chose inaction…

… It is time for senior military leaders to discard caution in expressing their views and ensure that the President hears them clearly. And that we won't be fooled again.

Newbold admits that he has waited perhaps too long to speak up. I for one wish he'd done so a long time ago. But late is better than never.

And as far as timing goes, Newbold's isn't half bad considering all the saber rattling we're hearing about Iran. There is no reason on earth to think that administration and Pentagon leadership is being any more competent or truthful about Iran than they were about Iraq.

Iran: Rattling Sabres or Shaking Rattles?

I'm uncertain what to make of Sy Hersh's recent New Yorker story about Pentagon plans to conduct a series of air strike on Iran, plans that include the use of nuclear "bunker buster" weapons.

On one hand, I'd be shocked if military planners weren't coming up with such plans. As a former operational and tactical contingency planner myself, I can assure you that the military constantly spins plans in an effort to anticipate the strategic desires of our country's political leaders. If I had a piece of coin or currency for every hour I spent planning or practicing for a final showdown with Soviet naval forces in the north Pacific during the cold war, I'd have enough dead presidents lying around in my file cabinet to pay off my mortgage.

So it's no surprise to me that the boys and girls still in uniform are figuring out what to do about Iran's nuclear program in case the commander in chief orders them to do something about it. And all this contingency planning wouldn't alarm me if the commander in chief were anyone but Mister Bush, and his inner circle consisted of anyone but Cheney, Rice, Rove and Rumsfeld. Their foreign policy track record hasn't seemed terribly rational to date.

We invaded and occupied a country that didn't have nukes (Iraq).

We're making boo noise about striking a nation that doesn't have nukes with nukes (Iran).

We promised not to attack a country that we know has nukes (North Korea).

We struck a deal to assist the nuclear program of a country that has nukes but isn't part of the Nuclear Proliferation Treaty (India).

So please forgive me if I'm less than confident that our foreign policy brain trust knows what it's doing.

And keep in mind that our National Security Council is populated with 30 something Gen Xers who don't think the Cold War involved WMD and say things like, "Arms control, what's that?"

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Sunday Drive By

John Kerry's on "Meet the Press" telling Tim Russert we need to give Iraq a May 15 deadline. Get its government together or we're out of there.

It's time for Attorney General Alberto Gonzales to start upholding the Constitution and quit upholding the administration's political agenda.

(Tim showed a snippet of Gonzales telling the Senate Mister Bush had authority under the Constitution to declassify the Executive Intelligence Summary. I'm offering a $1 reward to anyone who can find where the Constitution addresses that topic.)

Kerry pushes back on accusations that the Dems were at fault for the immigration bill's failure to pass. Frist and his coalition failed to live up to the agreements that had been reached.

This morning's New York Times carries a story on the state of Iraq.
An internal staff report by the United States Embassy and the military command in Baghdad provides a sobering province-by-province snapshot of Iraq's political, economic and security situation, rating the overall stability of 6 of the 18 provinces "serious" and one "critical." The report is a counterpoint to some recent upbeat public statements by top American politicians and military officials…

…There are alerts about the growing power of Iranian-backed religious Shiite parties, several of which the United States helped put into power, and rival militias in the south. The authors also point to the Arab-Kurdish fault line in the north as a major concern, with the two ethnicities vying for power in Mosul, where violence is rampant, and Kirkuk, whose oil fields are critical for jump-starting economic growth in Iraq.

The patterns of discord mapped by the report confirm that ethnic and religious schisms have become entrenched across much of the country, even as monthly American fatalities have fallen. Those indications, taken with recent reports of mass migrations from mixed Sunni-Shiite areas, show that Iraq is undergoing a de facto partitioning along ethnic and sectarian lines, with clashes — sometimes political, sometimes violent — taking place in those mixed areas where different groups meet.

Contrast this with a statement made last month on "Face the Nation" by Dick Cheney: "I think it has less to do with the statements we've made, which I think were basically accurate and reflect reality than it does with the fact that there's a constant sort of perception, if you will, that's created because what's newsworthy is the car bomb in Baghdad."


Back on "Meet the Press," Congressman J.D. Hayworth (R-Arizona) says the Fourteenth Amendment wasn't intended to grant citizenship to children born in this country whose parents are illegal immigrants.

Here's what the Fourteenth Amendment actually says:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.

I don't know what to think about the immigration issue, but I'm not about to make up my mind based on what someone like J.D. Hayworth says.

Tim brings up Hayworth's connection to Jack Abramoff. Hayworth is happy for a chance to talk about it.

The guy's a human talking point machine.


All the talk about there being 11 million illegal Hispanic immigrants in the United States has buried a story from last month about Homeland Security opening new detention facilities to "house" entire families of Chinese whom the U.S. has denied immigration and whom the Chinese government refuses to take back.

Like I said, I can't make head or tails of the immigration issue.

But getting back to Kerry's proposal for a March 15 deadline in Iraq.

I think we ought to withdraw whether Iraq gets its act together or not. Given the presence of private militias and factions with in factions, the country isn't in the midst of a civil war; it's becoming consumed in a Hobbesian war. If our troops are going after a Shiite group one day and a Sunni outfit the next, they're everybody's enemy and the friends of no one.

That is not a position to have our military in.

And if the Iraqis do get their act together by May 15, they don't need us to stick around, do they?

The arguments for "staying the course" in Iraq have become as murky as the reasons we went there in the first place.

Friday, April 07, 2006

America's 21st Century Military and the Next New World Order

This is the first article in a series on the future of American power.

In the post-Iraq era America will need to answer three critical questions about the nature of its military.

-- What do we need the force to do?

-- What kind of force do we need to do it?

-- What kind of force can we afford?

Real Security: The Democratic Plan to Protect America and Restore Our Leadership in the World calls for a "21st Century Military." Under Democratic leadership, the document states, America will "Rebuild a state-of-the-art military by making the needed investments in equipment and manpower so that we can project power to protect America wherever and whenever necessary."

As with much of the Democrats' security strategy, the notion of a 21st century military is vague, but when it comes to modern strategic force planning, vagueness is a virtue.

For starters, with so much of modern weaponry coming directly from off-the-shelf sources, what constitutes "state-of-the-art" changes rapidly, often from week to week. Iran's recently unveiled maritime weapons and platforms, for example, herald a new geo-strategic calculus for U.S. naval forces that up to now have patrolled in the Arabian Gulf and northern Indian Ocean with relative impunity.

Equally debatable is the question of where and when we'll need to project power in order to protect ourselves. If, for example, we become independent of foreign oil by 2020 as "Real Security" calls for, do we really need to bother to project naval power in the Arabian Gulf and the Indian Ocean? If not, how much do we need to invest in countermeasures to Iran's rocket torpedoes and stealthy patrol boats and anti-ship cruise missiles?

Oil independence not only brings our maritime force strategy into question. If we don't have a vested interest in the flow of Gulf region oil, what's the need to maintain a significant ground force footprint in the Middle East? And if we don't need to project land power in the Middle East, where else will we need to project it? We're certainly not going to conduct an Iraq-style invasion and occupation of Russia or China or Europe. And nobody's going to invade the continental United States.

Mister Bush has become fond of saying, "We can no longer hope that oceans protect us from harm." As with so much of what Bush says, that statement is largely bunk.

Yes, terrorists can sneak into this country, hijack airplanes, and drive them into skyscrapers. But that was as true in 1948 as it is now. Rogue nations like Iran or North Korea may someday be able to strike American cities with nuclear tipped intercontinental ballistic missiles, but the Soviets became capable of doing that during the Eisenhower administration.

But no one can muster sufficient ground forces to invade and occupy America, and even if they could, they couldn't muster enough maritime or air transportation to bring a force that size across the oceans. Even if they could muster that kind of transoceanic transportation, we could easily sink it or shoot it down before it got halfway here.

Some argue that the Iraq experience proves that we need to expand our land power services, but the real lesson learned from the Iraq war is that we don't want to fight any more wars like it. With no need for a standing ground force to repel a military invasion, America's Army and Marine Corps will continue to conduct their primary business abroad. But how much offshore business is left for them to engage in?

Russia isn't likely to invade Western Europe. Its army has been bogged down in an insurgency style war in Chechnya for over a decade. Mainland China might attempt to invade Taiwan, but helping Taiwan repel such an invasion would mainly involve air and maritime interdiction operations. North Korea might invade South Korea, and any of several of its neighbors might attempt another invasion of Israel, but South Korea and Israel are capable of handling those contingencies without significant levels of assistance from U.S. ground forces.

It's just possible, I suppose, that Russia and China might engage in a major land war along their mutual border. But if they ever do, why would we want to step into the middle of it?

So we can say we did?

Next week: war as an instrument of power in the next new world order.

Other Jeff Huber articles on national security issues:

In an Arms Race With Ourselves

Wars and Empires

Invasion of the Transformers

Wednesday, April 05, 2006

Padilla and War Powers

Jammed off the radarscope this week by the Tom Delay story was the latest chapter in the long and winding saga of Jose Padilla . On Monday, the Supreme Court announced it would not hear an appeal in Padilla's case, thereby averting a showdown over separation of powers among the three branches of federal government.

Padilla, a U.S. citizen, was arrested by the FBI in Chicago on May 8, 2002. He was suspected of being part of an al Qaeda plot to target high-rise buildings with a radiological "dirty bomb." On June 9 of that year, Padilla was declared an "enemy combatant" and turned over to the Department of Defense, which incarcerated him in a Navy brig in South Carolina. As an enemy combatant, he was denied access to a lawyer and the courts. On June 11, attorney Donna Newman filed a habeas corpus petition on Padilla's behalf with a U.S. District Court in New York that claimed the Bush administration had violated Padilla's constitutional rights to due process.

A series of appeals and counter appeals ensued. Administration legal guns like like James Comey argued that Padilla's detainment was perfectly legal in light of Mister Bush's constitutional authority as a wartime commander in chief and the powers granted to him by the Authorization for Use of Military Forces (AUMF) that Congress passed in 2001 days after the 9/11 attacks. Padilla's attorneys asserted that the administration's use of the AUMF to justify holding Padilla without formal charges or due process amounted to a bill of attainder, which is expressly prohibited by Article I of the Constitution.

Time passed. On September 9, 2005, the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled in favor of the government.
The Congress of the United States, in the Authorization for Use of Military Force Joint Resolution, provided the President all powers necessary and appropriate to protect American citizens from terrorist acts by those who attacked the United States on September 11, 2001…those powers include the power to detain identified and committed enemies such as Padilla…

The detention of petitioner being fully authorized by Act of Congress, the judgment of the district court that the detention of petitioner by the President of the United States is without support in law is hereby reversed.

The Fourth Circuit is widely considered to be the most conservative and Bush administration friendly appeals court in the country. Justice Michael Luttig, who wrote the Fourth Circuit's Padilla opinion, was under consideration for nomination to a seat on the Supreme Court.

On October 25, 2005, Padilla's attorneys appealed his case to the Supreme Court. The administration's deadline for filing arguments was November 28, but days prior to the deadline administration lawyers pulled a switch. On November 22, a federal jury in Miami indicted Padilla on charges that he had conspired to "murder, kidnap and maim" people overseas." The indictment made no mention of the original "dirty bomb" charge.

The administration asked the Fourth Circuit to withdraw its Padilla finding and have the prisoner turned over to federal custody. Justice Luttig refused, chastising the administration for using one set of facts to justify holding Padilla in military custody and another to charge him in a federal court.

On January 4, 2006, the Supreme Court overruled the Fourth Circuit and agreed to let the military transfer Padilla to Miami to face criminal charges.


Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory was among the many commentators who said the administration had pressed Padilla with criminal charges in order to avoid a constitutional face off in the Supreme Court that it knew it would lose. Some suggested that Chief Justice John Roberts had "suggested" to Attorney General Alberto Gonzales that if he moved the Padilla case to the civilian justice system, the Supreme Court could reasonably refuse to hear the appeal on the basis that it would become "hypothetical" once Padilla was no longer being held as an enemy combatant.

Few would question that Roberts is a friend of the administration. On July 15, 2005, as a member of District of Columbia Court of Appeals, he ruled in favor of the government in the terror related case of Hamdan v. Rumsfeld. That same day, he met with Mister Bush to discuss his nomination to the Supreme Court.

Others suggested that Luttig declined to play ball because his nose had been bent out of joint when he wasn't nominated to the Supreme Court.

Whatever the case, Padilla's legal team continued to push for a reversal of the Fourth Circuit's earlier decision. In December of 2005, they filed an appeal requesting the Supreme Court to resolve the Constitutional issues involved with the case, specifically on whether or not the AUMF constituted a bill of attainder and whether the term "enemy combatant" had any basis in U.S. or international law.

This was the appeal that the Supreme Court declined to consider on Monday by a 6-3 vote. It takes four votes for the court to hear an appeal.

Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, David Souter and Stephen Breyer cast the dissenting votes, arguing that nothing prevented the government from reversing course again and placing Padilla back in military custody.

Justices Anthony M. Kennedy, John Roberts and John Paul Stevens said they had rejected the case because Padilla is no longer held by the military.

Nonetheless, the three justices warned the administration that the federal courts stand ready to intervene "were the government to seek to change the status or conditions of Padilla's custody" if he is acquitted in federal court.

So once again, we have "a something for everyone" decision from the Supreme Court. Padilla has access to due process, and the administration has been cautioned not to pull any more fast ones regarding his legal status.

But the Fourth Circuit's 2005 decision still stands.

Mister Bush can order U.S. citizens to be arrested on American soil and hold them indefinitely without being charged or facing trial.

Monday, April 03, 2006

Does Condi Know her Tactics from her Elbow?

Speaking to a British audience last week about the war on terror, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said, "I know we've made tactical errors, thousands of them I'm sure. But when you look back in history, what will be judged will be, did you make the right strategic decisions."

I can't help but wonder if Ms. Rice's British audience, a foreign policy think tank known as Chatham House, didn't have the same reaction to her remarks as did former head of U.S. Central Command Anthony Zinni.

On Sunday's Meet the Press, Zinni said there has been "…a series of disastrous mistakes. We just heard the secretary of state say these were tactical mistakes. These were not tactical mistakes. These were strategic mistakes, mistakes of policy made back here."

I don't always agree with Zinni, but on this issue he's spot on target. The disaster the Bush administration has created in the Gulf Region isn't the result of tactical errors. It's the result of the fundamentally flawed neoconservative vision of a democratic Middle East remade in America's image at the point of a gun.

The loose political/military planning and action hierarchy of vision to policy to strategy to operations to tactics has been adopted for use for just about every other human endeavor from international business to personal growth. It's often difficult to draw a distinct line between, say, a "vision" and a "policy," and different schools of thought define these things differently. But generally speaking, a "vision statement" addresses the question "what are our long term goals?" and tactics are tasks performed on a day-to-day, moment-to-moment basis that support the higher order objectives of strategy, policy, and vision.

When tactics are executed successfully--as they by and large have been in Iraq and elsewhere--but do not effect the political aims, it's usually because the political aims are unachievable by the tactical means chosen to support them.

Thus it is with the foreign policy path we have followed for the past five years. In the late nineties, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, John Bolton and other key members of the neoconservative think tank Project for the New American Century convinced themselves that the U.S. could create a stable Middle East through preemptive and aggressive use of armed force. Look what resulted.

The situation in Iraq continues to unravel. It has descended through insurgency to civil war, and now is on the verge of being immersed in an all out Hobbesian war, a war in which every man is armed and dozens if not hundreds of factions contend to achieve goals not readily identified or achievable.

Afghanistan, the "crown jewel" in our war on terror, has become the world's leading narco-state and is once again a safe haven for the Taliban.

Thanks to America's promotion of the democratic process in the Gulf Region, terrorist organizations like Hamas and Hezbollah have gained legitimate political power in Palestine and Lebanon. In Egypt on Saturday, three months after parliamentary elections were held, a gunfight broke out in the headquarters of that country's oldest opposition political party. A local journalist said, "The incident is proof that none of the secular opposition parties are capable of resolving their rapidly growing internal differences." Saudi Arabia held its first municipal elections in February of 2005. Women were excluded from voting, and half the seats were appointed by the central government which maintains veto power over the elected officials. Over in Pakistan, our buddy General Pervez Musharraf has had to cut deals with hard line Islamic parties and rewrite the Pakistani constitution to maintain his hold on power.

As to Iran, our single greatest "challenge" in the region: while we were distracted by our fascination over whether the Iranians seek to develop nuclear weapons, we didn’t notice they were developing a long range, high speed torpedo that will present a profound potential threat to U.S. warships not only in the Arabian Gulf, but over a significant portion of the northern Indian Ocean.

Looking Back from the Future

If the Gulf region is stable twenty years from now, it won't be because of the Bush administration strategies. It will because someone was miraculously able to come along and clean up the mess the neoconservatives created. And no matter how the Middle East looks in the year 2026, there will be no reason to believe it looks any better than it would have if we had simply kept the toothless Saddam Hussein contained and waited for him to die of old age.