Best Defense: Do you think Pakistan turned against the United States in Afghanistan in 2005? What makes you think that?
Richard Armitage: "When I was deputy secretary [of state], from 2001 to February 2005, I looked constantly for information that the Pakistanis were aiding the Taliban.... I did see liaison, but I could not find" strong evidence of more.
"2005, if you look at casualties [in the Afghan war]. There was the beginning of a sharp rise. I believe two things happened. The Talibs started digging up their weapons and the Pakistanis thought, Maybe the Americans will prove short of breath, and so maybe we should keep our hand in.
"There was a background to this. From our point of view, it was black and white. From a Pakistani point of view, it wasn't. In their view, we are a very unfaithful partner, with four or five divorces since 1947. So in the back of their minds is always, When are they going to cut and run?"
BD: How does that inform your view of the current situation?
Armitage: "My present view of the situation is that the Pakistan government is persuaded of the ultimate ability of the Taliban to form a deal with the Afghan government, with a rough return to corners -- the Tajik in the north, Pashtun in the south and east, the Hazaras in the middle getting kicked by everybody, and so on.
"I think in addition, Pakistan dramatically increased its nuclear arsenal after 2008-2009. They fear that we will swoop in and take them.
"With India, they now are looking at tactical nuclear weapons." [Their fear, Armitage said, is that if there is another Mumbai-like attack, India will respond with a corps-sized attack on Pakistan.] "Tactical nukes is what you'd use against a corps." [This might provoke India to escalate further.] "But Pakistan would say that its tactical nukes would deter that."
BD: I saw today (Monday) that 3 SAMs were reported intercepted near the Pakistani border. What do you make of that?
Armitage: If it were true, "That would be seen as a very unfriendly act," one directed not against Afghan forces but against our airpower. "I'd be skeptical of that" report -- it more likely is MANPADs than larger SAMs.
BD: As the United States tries to draw down its presence in Afghanistan and turn over security to Afghan forces, what do you expect Pakistan to try to do?
Armitage: "I think they will remain on the trajectory they are on" -- that is, supporting Talibs in the south and east, and keeping an eye on Indian (and possibly Russian) dealing with the Tajiks.
If internal unrest grows in Pakistan, "they may have to spend a little more time at home," but still will likely remain on the same trajectory in Afghanistan.
BD: If you had lunch with President Obama today, what would you tell him about the Afghan war and about Pakistan?
Armitage: "Twenty-five years from now, Mr. President, I can assure you there will be a nation called Afghanistan, with much the same borders and the same rough demographic makeup. I probably couldn't say that about Pakistan."
On the Afghan war, "I would say, Mr. President, it is not worth one more limb." Perhaps just leave enough for counterterror missions and maybe some trainers.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
By Brendon Mills
Best Defense guest columnist
Last Wednesday, Tom posted about one of the more provocative statements made during CNAS's fantastic annual conference. FP's Rosa Brooks, while discussing the morality of drones, implied that future drones with artificial intelligence would make better judgments than humans about when to kill in war. And if that's the case, she asked, how can we morally justify not using these drones? Brooks may be correct that drones one day will be better at making judgments about when to kill, yet the broader negative moral consequences of making AI drones the staple of our military far outweigh the benefits of better tactical decisions.
Drones with artificial intelligence (commonly referred to as autonomous weapons systems) do have the potential to make better decisions than humans on the battlefield because those systems will employ nearly perfect rational decision-making. Some may argue that we can never make a machine sophisticated enough to make all of the necessary decisions in an environment as complex as combat. However, Brooks reminded us that a decade ago the same was said about a computer's ability to drive a car. Yet Google's driverless cars have done exactly that -- in fact, they drive better than humans! Fellow panelist Ben FitzGerald agreed, saying that the technology will exist for autonomous weapons systems soon.
Such technology would bring some positive benefits. A massive decrease in casualties for U.S. forces represents the most obvious benefit. This would alleviate both the terrible human suffering associated with ground wars and some of the biggest long-term cost drivers of such conflicts. Autonomous weapons systems may also lead to fewer civilian casualties due to enhanced rational decision-making, which would enable them to make decisions absent the emotional stresses of combat.
However, more autonomous weapons systems on the battlefield would mean fewer humans on the battlefield, thereby reducing the costs of war and further insulating the public. The aforementioned benefit of fewer casualties and reduced human suffering represents a double-edged sword: Some already argue that the American public is too sheltered from the costs and burdens of our current wars; imagine how little attention the public would direct towards a war in which the only casualties were expensive erector sets that shoot. Ultimately, reducing the barriers to war makes war easier to choose. If it's easy to choose and the body politic doesn't care, there will be more wars.
Unfortunately, this isn't the only drawback. If we populate our military with autonomous weapons systems, our adversaries would adapt. States, and everyone else who fights these days, use war to force a policy on an adversary through violence, and our enemies wouldn't be able to change our policy by creating a scrap heap of our autonomous weapons systems on the battlefield. Instead, they'll go asymmetric and target our noncombatants because that would be the only way to truly make us hurt.
Although to some extent our enemies already do this, it's not their only option. We have people in uniform who have stood up and said, "me, not them." However, in a world where we only fight with autonomous weapons systems, targeting our civilians would represent our enemy's only hope for success.
And we're vulnerable.
In the age of cyberattacks and terrorism, we need to look for policies that seek to further insulate our noncombatants rather than serve them up as the only viable targets for our enemies to attack in the hope of incurring real costs to American society. As someone who wears the uniform, I would welcome a world in which my friends and I did not have to place ourselves in harm's way to protect the nation. But my friends and I signed up so that our enemies will fight us instead of our families. And I worry that if humans don't fight our wars, we'll have more wars and our families will be the enemy's primary targets.
Brendon Mills is a lieutenant in the Marine Corps and a graduate of both the U.S. Naval Academy and Harvard's Kennedy School of Government. He also worked as a research assistant on Tom's most recent book, The Generals. The views expressed here are his own and represent neither the Department of Defense nor the United States Marine Corps.
Normally I wouldn't mention this, but I was surprised to see that the winning pitcher in a Pennsylvania high school state championship game was Dylan "Trotsky" Borawski.
Reminds me of a fun novel I read once, The Dixie Association, about the Arkansas Reds. Also the fact that Fidel Castro was a pretty good hurler in his day.
If surface-to-air missiles are being intercepted near the Pakistani border, where are they coming from?
Bottom line from Australia's top general: Respect your fellow soldiers. "If that does not suit you, get out .... I will be ruthless."
(HT to PL)
By Col. Shane Riza, USAF
Best Defense guest columnist
I'm a fighter pilot. I have 2,700 hours in the F-16. Here's a shocker -- I have misgivings about unmanned and robotic warfare. I recognize I am at a distinct disadvantage in this discussion based on the duty history stacked up over twenty-some years. I'm clearly living in an over-glorified past and fearing for the future of what Peter Singer describes as the Air Force's leadership DNA. I routinely take spears from my joint brethren due to acquisition debacles like the next-generation tanker, incredibly long procurement cycles for projects such as the F-22, and growing dissent over the validity of the most expensive defense acquisition program in history, the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. These issues give the casual observer cause to believe the Air Force somehow missed the memo on the future of war and still believes it is preparing to fight a long-dead enemy.
There is no denying such concerns play on the minds of current and future Air Force leaders. It makes for fertile ground for those who see the perceived reluctance of services to press forward with unmanned systems as simply a culture problem belonging to what the DOD's Unmanned Systems Roadmap describes as those "pockets of resistance" that must be "eliminated." Even defense policy analyst Andrew Krepinevich jokes that "no fighter pilot is ever going to pick up a girl at a bar by saying he flies a UAV.... Fighter pilots don't want to be replaced." In the end, these are too-easy retreats to simplistic arguments about matters that deserve all the intellectual capacity we can muster. Allow me to suggest there might just be something much deeper at play.
Unmanned systems capable of lethal action subvert what it means to engage in combat and confront our sense of what it means to be a warrior. This is a culture issue, for sure, but on a whole different plane than the "I'm a fighter pilot -- how do you like me so far?" level. It is very important to understand that experiencing combat and being a warrior are two very different things, and our misunderstanding of their relationship causes friction in the ranks and in our own sense of who we are as war fighters. As Singer says, "this disconnection from the battlefield also leads to a demographic change in who does what in war and the issues it provokes about a soldier's identity ... or status ... or the nature of combat stress and fatigue."
Consider these two views. In recent discussions about targeted killings and our ability to strike from afar and with total impunity, a senior officer and former fighter wing commander remarked, "Where's the chivalry in that?" Then there is a young officer just out the Air Force Academy who speaks with wonderment about how flying Predators is seen "as this geeky thing to do" despite the fact that its pilots have seen far more combat than fighter pilots in recent years. Misgivings about unmanned warfare are not about pickup lines or shiny stars lined up on epaulettes. They are about a nearly dormant and continually repressed sense of our warrior spirit.
What is "the warrior spirit?" Allow a perspective from one untrained in the social sciences, but one who has attempted to find such a spirit for over two decades in the midst of the technologies we discuss. The warrior spirit is a sense that what a warrior does in war and how he comes at it on a personal level transcends the cold rationality of performing a mission, completing an objective, taking a hill. It neither ignores nor celebrates the necessity of taking human life. It understands sacrifice only on a personal level and in relation to fellow warriors, and therefore does not expect or desire any recognition of status other than that of "warrior." It sees combat as the ultimate and artistic expression of a life spent in its preparation. Combat for the warrior is an intricate dance, a test of personal will and technical skill, played for the highest of stakes, in which form and means is as important -- perhaps more so -- than the desired end. The end state must be achieved, to be sure; that is the reason for military action. But those who can perform it with more finesse and elegance are better respected for their mastery of the craft.
Author George Leonard, writing in the introduction of Richard Strozzi-Heckler's In Search of the Warrior Spirit -- an amazing book about this Aikido master's experiment in training U.S. Army Special Forces soldiers in the ancient ways of the martial arts -- describes this idea in the context of Strozzi-Heckler's black-belt test: "It was like one of those sporting events that are later memorialized, perhaps a World Series game or a bullfight, during which every last spectator realizes at some level that what is happening out on the field is more than a game, but rather something achingly beautiful and inevitable, an enactment in space and time of how the universe works, how things are." It is this personal and aesthetic quality of war we risk losing with unmanned or robotic warfare.
Would we recognize a no-hitter pitched by a pitching machine with the same awe as we do when we see the battle between the man on the mound and the men at the plate? Would we feel the same sense of loss when, in the ninth inning, the last at bat slings one into the upper deck in center field? Our sense of the warrior and his sense of his place in war are not trivial matters, for it is the aesthetic quality of war that helps ground it as a human activity. Unmanned and robotic warfare might accelerate the demise of the warrior spirit, or it might force a new understanding of this ancient concept. We would do well to heed our warrior philosophers' calls for caution, meditative thinking, and deep discussions when it comes to what we should and should not do with unmanned weapons. These issues are not about mere pride or the perceived loss of some unfounded glory. They are, in fact, about the deep moral questions of our time.
M. Shane Riza is a U.S. Air Force colonel and author of Killing Without Heart: Limits on Robotic Warfare in an Age of Persistent Conflict, published by Potomac Books, Inc. He is a command pilot, a graduate and former instructor of the U.S. Air Force Weapons School, and was a fighter squadron commander in Operation Iraqi Freedom.
I am struck by how many bad op-ed columns have been written on Edward Snowden and the NSA mess. We are seeing a lot of columnists who wouldn't know Big Data if it hit them over the head struggling to explain what exactly happened. In total, they remind me that we are seeing the last generation of pundits who can remember the world before the Internet. They know something is happening but they don't know exactly what it is, do they?
There are lots of bad analogies flying around. (Is Big Data surveillance like reading addresses on envelopes? Or, pops, is the Internet just like a telegram but faster and more colorful?)
There has been lots of unearned intellectual snobbery. How could a high school dropout have such a job? (I dunno, how could a college dropout be allowed to run Microsoft?)
There have been some mighty casual dismissals of our constitutional rights by people who don't understand just how invasive the new surveillance regime can be.
As Jack Shafer, opinionator for Reuters, noted, there has been a whole lot of cheap psychologizing: "Leakers like Snowden, Manning and Ellsberg don't merely risk being called narcissists, traitors or mental cases for having liberated state secrets for public scrutiny. They absolutely guarantee it. In the last two days, the New York Times's David Brooks, Politico's Roger Simon, the Washington Post‘s Richard Cohen, and others have vilified Snowden for revealing the government's aggressive spying on its own citizens, calling him self-indulgent, a loser and a narcissist."
As a former dead-tree journalist, I am embarrassed to see it. No wonder no one under 30 reads newspapers.
So, I am announcing a contest: Nominate the worst column you've read about all this. If there are enough comments, I will at some point compile the results.
A friend in Beijing sent along this article from Global Times, an English-language publication related to the People's Daily, advising Chinese tourists against certain behaviors overseas. Among them:
Meantime, the South China Morning Post reports that the most popular articles it runs consistently are those about rude Chinese tourists. "You cannot reason with these kinds of people," said Jenny Wang, a Beijing-based travel agent. "They think they can do anything with their money."
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.