By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
In this photo, Maggie, a military working dog, plays with an abandoned kitten before departing for a census and security patrol with U.S. Marines at Patrol Base Detroit, Afghanistan, May 17, 2011. The Marines are assigned to 3rd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, Regimental Combat Team 1.
In the spirit of today's photo here's a link for animal lovers on Facebook, called Helped By Animals. If you have a good MWD photo -- or pics of a soldier stray -- from the front you think deserve a viewing here, send 'em to wardogoftheweek(at)gmail.com.
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Free Press.
U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Christopher M. Carroll
By Dean Cheng
Best Defense department of corporate intelligence
This past week, a remarkably disturbing case of arms export control violations came to light, and one which comes at a terrible time for the administration.
From the various accounts, it would appear that a subsidiary of United Technologies Corporation (UTC) was exporting software that was used in China's new Z-10 attack helicopter program. Worse, according to the U.S. Attorney for Connecticut, where the parent company is headquartered, this was not a case of technology diversion by the Chinese, but a case where the company, Pratt and Whitney Canada (PWC), deliberately engaged in violations of the Export Control Act.
The apparently deliberate nature of this violation makes it distinct from something like the Loral-Hughes problems of the late 1990s which led to the Cox Commission report on China-related security issues and the shift of satellites and aerospace technology to the Munitions List for export controls. In the Loral and Hughes cases, the really important technology wasn't even technology, it was "know-how," in the form of failure analysis in the wake of several failed Chinese space launches. The Chinese had very little understanding of how to conduct a proper failure analysis, which involves systems analysis, systems integration (almost in reverse), and a willingness to look objectively at problems, without allowing "guanxi" to divert criticism or blame. (Note that the latter aspect is not necessarily restricted to the Chinese, but they have had far more problems in this regard than we have.)
By contrast, the more recent case was not one of dual-use technologies, but clearly military ones. The Z-10 attack helicopter is patterned on the U.S. AH-64, Russian Mi-28, Eurocopter Tiger model, with a classic two-man fore-and-aft crew disposition. There is no mistaking it for a passenger helicopter. PWC was apparently willing to violate U.S. export control laws, so as to gain access to the large Chinese civilian helicopter market.
For the administration, which has been striving to modify and modernize the U.S. export control regime, the case may raise questions about how carefully this task much be approached. PWC's illegal exports occurred under the current system, one which has been patched and modified but not truly overhauled. Indeed, the administration's proposed changes would rationalize much of the current system, allowing clearer oversight rather than the current patchwork of sometimes contradictory lines of reporting and responsibility.
The UTC case demonstrates the continued need for export controls on advanced, sensitive technology, but it would be unfortunate if it discouraged, rather than encouraged, badly needed reforms to protect that technology better.Dean Cheng is a research fellow at the Heritage Foundation for Chinese political and security affairs.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on December 4, 2009.
Last weekend my wife and I watched Katyn, by the great Polish filmmaker Andrezj Wajda. It is about the 1940 massacre of about 20,000 Polish officers and intellectuals by the Soviets, and also about how the subsequent Communist cover-up corrupted postwar Polish society. It isn't Saving Private Ryan, but this should be on anyone's list of must-see World War II movies.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on December 1, 2009.
David Wood captures the heartbreak of sending to war young men who only recently were boys:
I sometimes forget how young they are. A few years ago, I was lazing in the dust with a bunch of Marines during a break in training. Already combat veterans, they were about to deploy back to Iraq. They'd been practicing getting ambushed and killing the ambushers, and now they were chatting about computer games.
"Hey, did'ja ever get 'Gears of War'?" asked Louis Duran, 19.
"Nah, I was gonna," said his buddy, Steven Aspling, 20, "but my mom wouldn't let me."
John Moore/Getty Images
Nearly two years ago, I wrote an article, "Remembering Roy," as a eulogy to my Iraqi interpreter, Mohammed, who I loved like a younger brother. Though it was edited from the published version of the story, the last time I spoke to Roy, as my platoon was preparing to leave Baghdad, he told me, "I'm scared." I'd never seen him express himself so openly or express anything but teenage bravado. I felt very selfish -- ashamed of my joy for having completed my tour of duty, powerless to fight a bureaucratic rule that prevented me from bringing Roy to America before he had completed a year of service.
The creed I swore to uphold as a Ranger reads in part, "Never shall I fail my comrades." Yet, as I stood before Roy on that dark night in Baghdad, his over-sized boots stubbing the gravel outside the trailers where we slept, I felt like I was failing him -- my country was failing him -- by leaving him behind when he had given himself to us so completely. When I learned of his death several months later, the guilt was all consuming.
For two years, my guilt prevented me from writing his story; the words were tangled in a web of powerful emotions that I navigated all too slowly. But, thanks to two wonderful teachers in Boston, Thomas Delong and Michelle Seaton, I was able to tell Roy's story, so that my men would be able to remember him and so the world would know that he had character and honor. I will always treasure the hundreds of responses I received from readers. The responses affirmed our common humanity.
One of those readers, Colonel Dan Vannatter, helped me identity the contracting company that employed Roy. In January, 2011, almost three years to the day that Roy was killed, I called a phone number, the only contact information on file with the contracting company. After several rings, Roy's mother answered the phone.
Roy's mother and father, a college-aged brother, and a teenage sister (names withheld for safety issues) are all alive, though not safe, in Baghdad. With the help of two UC-Berkeley law students, Matthew Pelnar (a former marine corp captain) and Arusha Gordon, along with Wynne Cathcart, a partner at Morrison Foerster, we have been able to process visa applications for each of Roy's family members. I know that bringing Roy's family to America is what he would want.
At one point, we thought that the family was going to arrive in the U.S. last December. Each family member had completed interviews and medical screenings at the embassy and we thought that we were home free. They want to come to Virginia to live near me, and I was getting ready to help them make the transition. Unfortunately, that is not the case.
Roy's family is currently in a state of limbo as the case is pending a background check for the family members. His mother is understandably bitter about the long delay. She rightly wonders why, "she and her family are being treated like terrorists." In fact, after Roy's death, the guards at the Green Zone refused to let the family into the hospital in order to claim his body. The indignities that the family has endured in the wake of Roy's death are many.
We can do something about it. With the help of Morrison Foerster, I've established a trust fund for Roy's family. They sold everything they had in Iraq back in December when they thought they were coming to Virginia. Now, they are running out of money. We desperately need your help.
Donations may be sent to:
Mohammed A. A. A. Family Trust (make out checks or money orders to this name)
C/O Blake Hall
7927 Jones Branch Drive
McLean, VA 22102
Bank of America
3 Dupont Circle NW
Washington, DC 20036
Mohammed A. A. A. Family Trust
Paper/Electronic Routing: 051000017
Wire Routing: 026009593
A support group for the American soldiers killed with Roy can be found on Facebook at: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Sinsil-Seven/181921918497606
Blake Hall is a former army captain and a member of the army Rangers. He led a scout platoon in Iraq from July 2006 to September 2007. His military awards include two bronze stars with one "V" device for valor in combat. He graduated from Harvard Business School and co-founded TroopSwap, a platform for the military community.
PATRICK BAZ/AFP/Getty Images
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on September 2, 2009.
I'll read anything by Andrew Krepinevich, the fine strategic thinker who bears a strong resemblance to Dwight Eisenhower circa 1939. Right now my subway reading is a new essay he has done with Barry Watts titled "Regaining Strategic Competence."
I was especially intrigued by the list of 10 common strategic blunders they attribute to business strategy expert Richard Rumelt:
1. Failure to recognize or take seriously the scarcity of resources.
2. Mistaking strategic goals for strategy.
3. Failure to recognize or state the strategic problem.
4. Choosing poor or unattainable strategic goals.
5. Not defining the strategic challenge competitively.
6. Making false presumptions about one's own competence or the likely causal linkages between one's strategy and one's goals.
7. Insufficient focus on strategy due to such things as trying to satisfy too many different stakeholders or bureaucratic processes.
8. Inaccurately determining one's areas of comparative advantage relative to the opposition.
9. Failure to realize that few individuals possess the cognitive skills and mindset to be competent strategists.
10. Failure to understand the adversary.
There is a whole book of military history to be written just finding good illustrations of each of those mistakes. I think the United States was guilty of No. 2 and No. 10 in Iraq from 2003 through 2006. I'd say the British tripped on No. 3 during the American Revolution. I think Hitler committed No. 4 when he tackled Russia. No. 10 is probably the most common error.
I'd be interested in other examples that you see.
Defense Secretary Gates's aircraft starts having mechanical problems when he is on the far side of the planet. Hmm.
"You say you need to be in Manila tonight, Mr. Secretary? Wow, tough deadline. Now, about those F-22s..."
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Looks like we've hit the dog days of summer over here at the Best Defense workshop. While Tom is taking a well-deserved break from blogging after a long haul of book writing, I will be more or less doing the same. Except this hiatus comes just in time as I have a long haul of book writing ahead of me this summer. Instead of our regular Friday war-dog post, I'll be offering a Friday war-dog photo-postcards if you will, like this one:
Zzarr, a 6-year old Dutch Shepherd and his K-9 handler U.S. Army Sergeant Nathan Arriaga (partly hidden by Zzarr), are shown before leaving Forward Operating Base Walton to patrol with 1st Battalion 67th Armoured Regiment, Task Force Dealers in the Arghandab district of Iraq. Both Zzarr and K-9 handler Sgt. Arriaga did their first combat duty in Iraq in 2009."
If you have a good MWD photo -- or pics of a soldier stray -- from the front you think deserve a viewing here, send 'em to wardogoftheweek(at)gmail.com.
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Free Press.
ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on May 21, 2009.
Longtime readers may recall my quoting the blog of Dena Yllescas several months ago. Her husband, Capt. Rob Yllescas, was killed late last year in Afghanistan. I happened to check back on her blog yesterday. She had been visiting her husband's grave:
As I was sitting there next to him, I couldn't help but think: 'This is so messed up that I'm visiting my husband in a cemetery.'"
If I could I would make everyone in Washington read her blog.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on April 20, 2009.
Dunno why, but I've managed to pick fights with parts of the Navy and the Army at the same time. On the ground, I recommended in the Sunday edition of the Washington Post that West Point and the other service academies be closed. Here is what I wrote:
Why We Should Get Rid of West Point
By Thomas E. Ricks
Sunday, April 19, 2009
Want to trim the federal budget and improve the military at the same time? Shut down West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy, and use some of the savings to expand ROTC scholarships.
After covering the U.S. military for nearly two decades, I've concluded that graduates of the service academies don't stand out compared to other officers. Yet producing them is more than twice as expensive as taking in graduates of civilian schools ($300,000 per West Point product vs. $130,000 for ROTC student). On top of the economic advantage, I've been told by some commanders that they prefer officers who come out of ROTC programs, because they tend to be better educated and less cynical about the military.
This is no knock on the academies' graduates. They are crackerjack smart and dedicated to national service. They remind me of the best of the Ivy League, but too often they're getting community-college educations. Although West Point's history and social science departments provided much intellectual firepower in rethinking the U.S. approach to Iraq, most of West Point's faculty lacks doctorates. Why not send young people to more rigorous institutions on full scholarships, and then, upon graduation, give them a military education at a short-term military school? Not only do ROTC graduates make fine officers -- three of the last six chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reached the military that way -- they also would be educated alongside future doctors, judges, teachers, executives, mayors and members of Congress. That would be good for both the military and the society it protects.
We should also consider closing the services' war colleges, where colonels supposedly learn strategic thinking. These institutions strike me as second-rate. If we want to open the minds of rising officers and prepare them for top command, we should send them to civilian schools where their assumptions will be challenged, and where they will interact with diplomats and executives, not to a service institution where they can reinforce their biases while getting in afternoon golf games. Just ask David Petraeus, a Princeton PhD.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 20, 2009.
In the year 2000, the PLA [People's Liberation Army] had more students in America's graduate schools than the U.S. military, giving the Chinese a growing understanding of America and its military."
(p. 27, 2008 Joint Operating Environment, a study by the U.S. Joint Forces Command)
PETER PARKS/Getty Images
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his favorite posts to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This originally ran on March 4, 2009.
While Tom Ricks is away from his blog, he has selected a few of his greatest hits to re-run. We will be posting a few every day until he returns. This post originally ran Jan. 5, 2009.
Fareed Zakaria interviewed Barack Obama last summer on his CNN show, and re-ran the interview last month. It was only recently, I am embarrassed to say, that I got around to reading the transcript of this terrific session. If you haven't read it, you should. It is the best summary of the Obaman world view I've seen, more instructive than reading a month of op-ed yammerings. Despite my pops at Obama on this blog, I am consistently impressed by his breadth and poise.
Here are the comments that especially struck me, with my introductions in bold:
Stop snubbing Russia, even if Putin is a hooligan. "Look. If we're going to do something about nuclear proliferation -- just to take one issue that I think is as important as any on the list -- we've got to have Russia involved." A little respect goes a long way.
Bring China more into the international conversation. "[W]e have to engage and get them involved and bought-in into dealing with some of these transnational problems."
Enough with the Vietnam overhang. "The Vietnam War had drawn to a close when I was fairly young. And so, that wasn't formative for me in the way it was, I think, for an earlier generation."
Take a true multilateral approach. "[W]e should always strive to create genuine coalitions -- not coalitions that are based on us twisting arms, withholding goodies, ignoring legitimate concerns of other countries, but coalitions that are based on a set of mutual self-interests."
Emulate the caution and pragmatism of Truman and Bush senior. "One of the things that I want to do, if I have the honor of being president, is to try to bring back the kind of foreign policy that characterized the Truman administration with Marshall and Acheson and Kennan, but also characterized, to a large degree, the first President Bush with people like Scowcroft and Powell and Baker, who I think had a fairly clear-eyed view of how the world works and recognized that it is always in our interests to engage, to listen, to build alliances, to understand what our interests are, and to be fierce in protecting those interests, but to make sure that we understand it's very difficult for us to -- as powerful as we are -- to deal with all these issues by ourselves."
Deal with terrorism more broadly-less "direct action" killing, more microlending. "[W]e have to hunt down those who would resort to violence to move their agenda, their ideology forward. We should be going after al Qaeda, and those networks, fiercely and effectively.
"But what we also want to do is to shrink the pool of potential recruits. And that involves engaging the Islamic world rather than vilifying it, and making sure that we understand that, not only are those in Islam who would resort to violence a tiny fraction of the Islamic world, but that also, the Islamic world itself is diverse, and that lumping together Shia extremists with Sunni extremists, assuming that Persian culture is the same as Arab culture -- that those kinds of errors in lumping Islam together result in us not only being less effective in hunting down and isolating terrorists, but also in alienating what need to be our long-term allies on a whole host of issues."
Be very wary of arbitrary government actions, both here and abroad. Living in Indonesia just a year after the anti-Sukarno coup left several hundred thousand people dead, Obama became "aware that, for example, the generals in Indonesia, or the members of Suharto's family, were living in lavish mansions, and the sense that government wasn't always working for the people, but was working for insiders -- not that that didn't happen in the United States, but at least the sense that there was a civil society and rules of law that had to be abided by. My stepfather was essentially dragged out of the university he'd been studying in in Hawaii, and was conscripted and sent to New Guinea. And when he was first conscripted, he didn't know whether he was going to be jailed, killed -- that sense of arbitrariness of government power."
Small is good. His mother "was a specialist in international development, who worked -- was one of the early practitioners of microfinancing, and would go to villages in South Asia and Africa and Southeast Asia, helping women buy a loom or a sewing machine or a milk cow, to be able to enter into the economy."
So, to summarize:
Losers: Autocratic Third World generals. Are you listening, Burma? (And Pakistan? That's a much tougher case. The future of that country is, I think, the biggest threat the world faces today.) I also suspect that the free ride is over for Saudi Arabia, though I am not quite sure why.
Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images
With my book all done, and ready to be published Oct. 30, I've decided to take a break from the blog. This is partly because I plan on doing several overnight camping trips this summer, mainly during weekdays, and also because I just want a breather.
Between now and then, Best Defense will be in re-runs, re-posting some of the more interesting items from 2009, 2010, and 2011. For those of you who joined us only recently, it will be a chance to catch up on the past discussions. I've also asked Best Defense's chief canine correspondent if she wants to do a "best of" series of re-runs on Fridays with her War Dog of the Week column.
Also, to keep you busy til September, today I'm posting two items on reading lists.
C U after Labor Day. Between now and then, I will surface on occasion with comments that can't wait, as well as some guest posts.
Thinking about reading Good-bye to All That for the fourth time, as I discussed recently, I began to wonder which other military books I've re-read.
This makes for an elite list of books for me, the all-time favorites, would be books I have voluntarily re-read. Anyone can read a book once and like it. The test of a second time is much harder: Did you find this book somehow so compelling that, knowing what it basically has to say, you went back and invested many additional hours in it?
This list turned out to be shorter than I expected. In literature, there were a bunch -- Shakespeare's major plays, John Updike's Couples (beautifully written snapshot of the early 1960s), my favorite books of poems by W.H. Auden, William Butler Yeats, and Philip Larkin. I just realized I've read The Friends of Eddie Coyle three times, which probably is one too many. (The first time I read it, I finished it and then immediately began reading it again, because I wanted to see how someone could deliver a plot solely through dialogue. I did something similar with Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections, but only read that twice.) I've also read David Hackett Fischer's Albion's Seed twice (great book, lousy title).
But in military affairs -- histories, memoirs, analyses -- the list is much smaller. These books are really special. Or I was too ignorant to appreciate them the first time. Anyway, anyone can put together a list of books they read once. But this to me is different: Military books that I read twice. In addition to the books listed below, there are many books I dip into again and again (Eliot Cohen's Supreme Command, Russell Weigley's The American Way of War) but that isn't the same as going back and reading it cover-to-cover, pen in hand (which is the only way to really study a book).
Here is what I came up with:
Karl Von Clausewitz, On War. Because I didn't understand it the first time. (This is a repeated motivation, you will see.) I first read this in the early 1990s, then re-read it in 2005 as I was preparing to write Fiasco. I reviewed it again a lot when I was writing The Gamble, but didn't re-read the whole thing, so I am counting this as a twice, not a thrice.
H.R. McMaster, Dereliction of Duty. Likewise, I
didn't understand it the first time.
Also, the first time I read it for what it could tell me about the Army of the 1990s. The second time I read it, more properly, to better understand the American mishandling of the Vietnam War. This book provides an account of exactly how not to run a war.
The memoirs of Colin Powell and Norman Schwarzkopf. The first time I read these as a reporter for news (that is, something we didn't know before, even if trivial). The second time I read them to try to understand the 1991 war, especially its outcome. Likewise, Gordon and Trainor's The Generals' War, which is a terrific book.
Andrew Krepinevich, The Army and Vietnam. Ditto. The first time I read it to better understand the Army. Ten years later I read it again to better understand the Vietnam War.
The pattern here, I think, grows out of my feeling that we as a nation still don't understand what happened in the Vietnam War. I keep on thinking of perhaps trying to write a modern, definitive history of that war -- but then I think, do I really want to spend the next six or so years thinking about the Vietnam War?
Just to make sure you don't get bored over the summer, here are some other military history reading lists for you:
Rep. Ike Skelton's overview list.
A Pentagon reading list.
A reading list from Guantanamo Bay detainees.
A pre-deployment list for platoon leaders going to Afghanistan.
My list for a friend deploying to Afghanistan:
The 101st Airborne's list for Afghanistan.
And the 10 best post-deployment books.
Here's my list of what to read if you are a civilian going to work at the Pentagon.
But if you really want to have a fun summer, here is a reading list on terrorism:
Here's one on COIN:
One on intelligence.
Here's D'Este's besties on WWII:
A "gun nut's" list.
A unusual Vietnam War list.
Adm. Stavridis' list of fiction (20 novels).
This guy also has some better suggestions near the end of his interview.
For real obscurity, a Tory's reading list.
To top it off, here are some roundups I did of reading lists:
And yet another one.
And a study of the solder's load!
For a change, here is a list of books I never finished:
And a list of books about Iraq to avoid.
Finally, once you get tired of reading, here is a list of terrific war movies.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
In what's now officially been declared a "major federal disaster" and the worst wildfire in Colorado history, the Waldo Canyon fire that started last Saturday and flared through Colorado Springs since Tuesday has now destroyed 346 homes and claimed at least one life. The encroaching flames forced 35,000 people to be evacuated from their homes this week, including the eight MWDs and two handlers -- Whaley and Jensen -- on duty at the USAF Academy kennels.
The fire breached the Academy's grounds on Tuesday, burning "about 10 acres of land along the southwest boundary of the academy's 28-square-mile boundary." When swift winds pushed the fire just two miles south of the kennels, putting them in the line of fire, the call was made to evacuate the dogs. Kennel master Chris Jakubin told me that, "ash was falling" when he got to the kennels on Tuesday and there was "little visibility." The poor air quality was also a big concern and getting the dogs away from the smoke to safe housing became the priority, so the evacuation plan was put into effect and the dogs were brought over to nearby Buckley Air Force Base. Jakubin said Wednesday's evacuation went very smoothly and their friends over at the Buckley kennels lent fast assistance. The transfer took only a few short hours.
I got the chance to spend some time out at the USAF Academy kennels in December where I met MWD Haus -- who's pictured waiting patiently above -- as well as meet some of the handlers and dogs over at Buckley. The Colorado canine community is a tight-knit and uniquely collaborative one and the no-question-about-it support exchanged this week comes as no surprise.
While the wildfire continues to rage and firefighters from all over the country battle to keep the blaze's perimeter in check, yesterday's calm winds seem to have helped steady the situation -- containment is now reportedly at 15 percent. The Academy, which reports today's air quality as "good," will be allowing some evacuees to return back to their base housing later today. Hopefully, MWDs Haus, Boda, Oli, Rruck, Benga, Mack, and the rest of the crew will be settled back home soon. Our war-dog thoughts are in Colorado this week.
Rebecca Frankel, on leave from her FP desk, is currently writing a book about military working dogs, to be published by Free Press.
U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Phillip Houk; Photo courtesy of Chris Jakubin
My friend John Nagl raved about the new study, by the Joint and Coalition Operational Analysis (JCOA) division of the J-7 department of the staff of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, titled "Decade of War, Volume 1: Enduring Lessons from the Past Decade of Operations."
That surprised me, because I found the report very cautious, kind of treading warily around some real problems. Then the light bulb came on, and I realized what Nagl was seeing that I wasn't: The report was written in Pentagonese. You have to read between its lines.
As a public service, here I offer a translation into basic readable English:
"Lesson One: Understanding the Environment"
Unlike most of their lessons, they just get this one flat wrong. Missed the target entirely. They take the easy road and basically say that the military was right and the rest of the government didn't show up in Iraq. What they can't say: The military was at odds with the Bush administration over the mission there. The Bush administration's ambitions for Iraq were revolutionary, as demonstrated by Bremer's sweeping orders. The U.S. military, without asking permission, re-defined the mission as stability, which undercut the civilian objective. So the real lesson here is that senior civilian and military officials need to bring to the surface their differences and examine their strategic assumptions. If you can't agree on strategy going in, you've got a problem.
"Lesson Two: Conventional Warfare Paradigm"
They recommend a bunch of bureaucratic steps to encourage adaptability. What they should have said: You want the system to adapt? Then reward success and punish failure. People will sit up and take notice. Publicize these actions, and you soon will have an adaptive system. You know what is most conventional? An approach to leadership that discourages people from taking risks and doesn't punish them for passivity. You can't win a war if success is defined as keeping your guys as much on the FOB as possible.
"Lesson Three: Battle for the Narrative"
Again, they call for a series of small but complex steps that tinker with the machine. It's all lipstick on a pig. What they should have said: You won't be successful in media and information operations as long as the consequences for U.S. military officers of "allowing a bad story" to appear are worse than for not engaging the media at all. Once they are encouraged to take risks they can experiment with the enemy formulation that information operations shape kinetic operations, not the opposite.
"Lesson Four: Transitions"
They want transitions better planned and managed. But of course. What they don't say: If you don't have commanders and key staff engaged for the duration, you always will be falling behind the enemy in understanding. And adjusting. We need to get away from one-year unit rotations. Some of the possible alternatives have been discussed on this blog.
"Lesson Five: Adaptation"
See Lesson Two. Repeat as needed.
"Lesson Six: SOF-GPF Integration"
They want to establish relationships, train together, and institutionalize best practices in collaboration. What they were trying to say: "We're all on the same side. Act like it, and instead of holding pissing contests, find ways to help each other. Senior commanders should have the discipline to counsel and even remove subordinates who don't get this." A couple of removals will get the message across.
"Lesson Seven: Interagency Coordination"
They want to "operationalize" interagency work. The real problem here is that the military tends to act like "the interagency" is a one-way street. That is, it gives orders to civilians but is very wary of accepting them. The rest of the government will be more willing to show up and play nice when regimental commanders are able to take orders from State Department officials.
"Lesson Eight: Coalition Operations"
More tinkering and better training recommended. The real lesson here is that it is only a genuine coalition if non-American members have a voice. Americans tend to be hubristic in assuming that our way is the best way. We really need to re-examine our whole approach to coalition operations. The best way to begin is by studying Eisenhower's handling of the coalition in World War II. ("I didn't fire you because you called him a son of a bitch. I fired you because you called him an English son of a bitch.")
"Lesson Nine: Host-Nation Partnering"
Their basic conclusion: We need to do better. What they don't say: We need to shut up and listen to our host nation partners. Direct U.S. intervention should be the last resort. The best model often is indirect action. That is, instead of the U.S. trying to help Mexico with its drug war, the U.S. can help the Colombians help Mexico. Generally, we should do things the host nation way -- which, if we ever want to leave, is the only sustainable way.
"Lesson Ten: State Use of Surrogates and Proxies"
They say we should worry about people doing this. What they don't say: Over the last decade in Iraq, we established a whole bunch of nasty precedents about the use of force by mercenaries that could come back and bite us on the butt. Just wait until Chinese mercenary companies start operating in Africa.
"Lesson Eleven: Super-Empowered Threats"
They say we should worry about individuals and small groups having a long reach because of the internet and other information technologies. What they don't say: Americans invented the internet and much of this other stuff. If the U.S. government isn't using these tools well, that probably is because it isn't using the right people. Bureaucracies can never react as swiftly as small groups. So it probably is time to establish an Army Reserve information operations unit in Silicon Valley. In fact, way past time. Maybe even a Joint infowar group?
"This report," they write, "describes the eleven strategic themes derived from the enduring, joint lessons of the past decade of war, as culled from the 46 studies conducted by the JCOA since its inception in 2003." Tom's conclusion: There is indeed a lot in this report if you read between the lines and decode it into English.
In a new study of strategy in an age of austerity, three CSBA authors, led by Andrew Krepinevich, state that the B-1 bomber imposed disproportionate costs on the Soviet military, forcing it to invest in air defenses "at the expense of offensive capabilities, thereby pushing the superpower competition in a highly favorable direction." Very Sun Tzu-ish!
They also argue that given the basic resiliency of the United States, "a strategy that plays for time or envisions the capability to contest a long-term competition appears to be relevant today."
Another good line: "Strategy is about taking risks and deciding what will not be done as well as what will." This was the essence of the decisions Marshall and Eisenhower contemplated in World War II: What was essential (keeping the Soviets in the war, for example) vs. merely important (lots of other things).
There is something I say to my soldiers when we get ready to patrol: "You are carrying 70 pounds of the lightest sh*t the army has ever designed. I've been in for 11 years now and we are light years ahead of what I had when I was a private. There is still huge areas of improvement to be made in the area of load carriage, there are a lot of better options available off the shelf that big army wont buy. There are some good reasons for this, as well as some bad ones. I don't know enough about procurement to give everyone an education.
We as an army have ignored up until recently that body armor changes how a pack interfaces with your body. Go to any light infantry unit in the army and you will see the most commonly personal bought item is an aftermarket assault pack. The issued assault pack is a carry-on bag for mid-tour leave, it lacks the necessary adjustment points for good load carriage. Some go all the way with rucksacks, I personally bought a Kifaru Armor Grip bag, specifically designed to work with body armor and still carry weight on your hips instead of shoulders. It was a big investment but it paid for itself when I had to air assault 112 pounds plus body armor and basic load in it. The molle ruck is a great pack without armor, it's hot garbage once you put an IBA, IOTV or PC on. My unit just spent $800 dollars from ATS for a custom designed 60 mm mortar pack for my soldiers. I can't tell you why the army has never thought of making a pack for mortars.
The plate carrier was a great idea for Afghanistan (personally I would wear it all the time) but we bought a poorly designed piece of equipment. Instead of buying one with a cummerbund that distributes the load better, we bought one that just hangs off your shoulders. I couldn't tell you why, SOCOM has been using one with a cummerbund for years.
The army will never get away from carrying heavy stuff, ammo is heavy, rockets are heavy, mortars are heavy, we could be carrying them better but we're not. The army is not concerned about your knees or back, despite the fact that the government will be paying our disability for the rest of our lives. I've never understood that.
(HT to WOI)
One of the puzzlements I've had for some time is why there are so few experts on the politics of defense, especially in the role of Congress plays. One of the few people who genuinely has studied this subject (which is different from participating in it) is Pat Towell, who covered the politics of defense for decades until going upmarket and working for the Congressional Research Service.
I mention this because I've just been reading Towell's essay in a fairly new book, Congress and the Politics of National Security. I covered the military for decades, but I didn't realize it until reading the essay that the Armed Services Committees are anomalies, having unique and far more intrusive powers than do other committees. "The Constitution assigns Congress a degree of authority over the organization and equipage of the armed services that has no parallel in terms of the relationship of the legislative branch with other executive branch agencies," he writes. "The Senate Armed Services Committees draws particularly strong leverage from the fact that promotions for military officers-unlike those for civil servants-require Senate confirmation."
He also makes the broader point that congressional power is more negative than positive. "In general, it is far easier for Congress to block a presidential initiative than to force some course of action on a reluctant executive, simply because it is easier to mobilize a blocking coalition."
One quibble: He says that "talented members" still seek seats on the armed services panels. I wonder if that is still true. From what I've seen, since the end of the Cold War, congressional leaders have been stuffing freshman onto those committees.
I think there is a great dissertation to be done on successful congressional interventions in the Pentagon acquisition process. Imposing the cruise missile on a reluctant air force is one such example. Towell touches on this in an interesting passage about air mobility and strategic lift, but I would bet there is much more to be said.
From a guest post on James Fallow's blog by Eric McMillan, who is writing a novel about his tours of duty in Iraq, one spent commanding a Stryker company.
"Two years after I came home from Iraq and a year before my wife and I found out that we were expecting a child, I stood beside my father at his mother's funeral. He didn't cry. I didn't think that odd. I am, after all, my father's son. I've seen him cry only two times in my entire life: When he sent me off to war in Iraq, and when he watched me go back a second time."
By Joseph Singh
Best Defense department of remote-controlled warfare
The international laws governing the use of force are fundamentally outdated, reflecting a lost age of acutely-defined zones of war and peace, according to a speaker at this week's panel discussion on armed drones and targeted killing. Hosted by the German Marshall fund, the event was run under Chatham House rules, thus none of the speakers will be identified in this post.
While both panelists supported a convention governing drone usage, there are convincing reasons to suspect that new international laws enacted to reflect a changing global environment will remain wholly ineffective. Any legal framework governing drone use will confront the perennial challenge of state behavior in an anarchic system: Irrespective of the international laws and norms in place, states will disregard codes of conduct if they perceive them to be contrary to their national interests.
We know that current international rules technically prohibit targeted killings, just as the U.N. charter prohibits war. Even the federal government imposes its own ban on assassinations. Issued by President Reagan, Executive Order 12333 strictly prohibits target killings, asserting that "no person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination."
However, the expansion of drone use under the Obama administration does not result from a murky international laws. It simply proves that a new legal framework will fail to chart new norms on future drone use. Give a lawyer the task of justifying any policy "and he will find the legal regime," said one of the panelists.
The debate over the use of drones has often been misconstrued as a debate on the ethics, legality and unintended consequences of using remotely piloted vehicles to engage hostiles abroad. Yet drones have been used by nations for decades and their specific technological attributes should not be the focus of debate. Instead, killing by drone speaks to a larger question of defining the conditions under which nations should deploy such force.
Panelists noted that in Afghanistan, ISAF has been very effective at using drones as part of the larger military campaign. Strict rules govern the use of drones under ISAF command. Under no conditions, for example, are drones used to attack buildings, given the possibility that unidentified civilians may be inside. Such rigidity results not solely from a belief in abiding by the rules of war, but from a conviction that any civilian deaths threaten greater instability. In the hinterlands of Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen, where ground troops are unable to help vet potential targets or engage with local populations to redress errors, drones have struck more fear and resentment in local populations than confidence, one panelist concluded.
One panelist said that new norms governing drone use are necessary to ensure the security of America and her closest allies. I am not so sure. U.S. drone activities could hypothetically be used to justify targeting American civilians by hostile states, but America's military dominance should always deter such behavior. Instead, limits on the drone program are necessary for America's strategy in the Middle East, in order to rectify the long-term trend towards radicalization that is seeded by short-term gains in targeted killing.
In a post-Afghanistan and post-Iraq world, the use of drones speaks to a wider unwillingness to use large-scale, high-risk military force to project American power abroad, as both panelists noted. Drone technology allows the president to remain active in the fight against terrorism without having to make unpopular and costlier "boots on the ground" commitments. Ultimately, however, the Obama administration must confront the difficult truth that what is a useful tactic in a broader military campaign cannot be substituted for an overall strategy.
While targeted killings constitute a centuries-old practice in international relations, the rapid rise in drone strikes raises important questions for the Obama administration. Are the strategic gains achieved through drone deployment sustainable given rising public outcry over targeted killings in Pakistan, Somalia, and Yemen? Can targeted killing programs co-exist with efforts to help support good governance, when those programs are perceived to undermine U.S. credibility? Will those nations continue to tacitly permit the U.S. to operate drones in their airspace when their public condemnations prove insufficient for satisfying domestic audiences?
In the near term, targeted killing has crippled Al Qaeda's leadership, and may serve as an immediate deterrent to future recruits. Yet a whack-a-mole approach to confronting the world's largest terrorist network should not be considered an effective long-term strategy. Incentives to change these norms will only follow an honest assessment of the long-term strategic benefits and drawbacks of an expansive use of drones.
"What does that have to do with me and the world we're living in today?" inquires Susan Rice, American ambassador to the United Nations.
Remarks like that worry me. Just because you weren't alive during the Vietnam War doesn't mean you won't go down that road. I generally am a fan of the Obama administration, on both domestic and foreign policy. But the one thing that gives me the creeps is their awkward relationship with senior military officials. Mistrusting the Joint Chiefs, suspecting their motives, treating them as adversaries or outsiders, not examining differences -- that was LBJ's recipe. It didn't work. He looked upon the Joint Chiefs of Staff as a political entity to be manipulated or, failing that, sidelined. That's a recipe for disaster, especially for an administration conspicuously lacking interest in the views of former military officers or even former civilian Pentagon officials.
In our system, White House officials have the upper hand in the civilian-military relationship, so it is their responsibility to be steward of it. That's the price of "the unequal dialogue." If the relationship is persistently poor, it is the fault of the civilians, because they are in the best position to fix it. The first step is to demand candor from the generals, and to protect those who provide it. Remove those who don't.
Anytime anyone tells me that the lessons of Vietnam are irrelevant, that's when I begin looking for a hole to hide in.
By Lt. Lucas Enloe
Best Defense guest columnist
I can definitely understand Mr. Woods' perspective, from a number of levels. Having carried rucks weighing upwards of 60 pounds up mountains, I can certainly say that it sucks. I'll admit that I haven't done any rucking in Afghanistan yet, where it would only suck even more. That said, Mr. Woods' argument that applying the philosophy of extreme alpinism would significantly reduce soldier loads is wrong. As an avid alpine mountaineer myself, I can safely say that even the extremest of alpiners would still be forced to carry heavy packs on extended trips. Take, for example, an 8-day trip up and around Mt. Rainier. Even when climbing with some incredibly talented and experienced mountaineers, the average pack weight was about 65 pounds. Food weighs a lot. And that was operating under the convenience of being able to melt snow to get fresh water. Soldiers in Afghanistan don't have that luxury.
Imagine all the food, water, and gear a hiker would need for even a short three-day hike. Now add a weapon, your basic combat load of ammo, radios, and a week's worth of batteries. And contrary to Mr. Woods' point, even if I was carrying no extra weight, I'd still need a significant amount of water, you know, because I'm doing combat patrols at 7,000 feet in 95 degree weather. The problem isn't that soldiers and NCOs are taking more than they need, the problem is that what they need is pretty heavy. As much as I would like to say "Yeah, let's make our weapons and ammo and armor and water lighter!" I know the ridiculous amount of time and money it would take to do that.
Mr. Woods then argues that somehow the 60 pound ruck is a major cause of difficulties in counterinsurgency operations, and then implies (I think) that we should do without body armor or helmets. I don't think I need to go into more detail other than to say that I strongly disagree. Unfortunately Mr. Woods' lack of military experience is the primary reason for a large part of his argument being infeasible.
That's not to say that all of Mr. Woods' points are wrong. The Army has, to an extent, recognized the need for lighter gear in Afghanistan (see the introduction of plate carriers, M240Ls, etc...), but I think it can do better. By studying the design of similar gear in the civilian sector, I think we can make the load easier on our soldiers. Take, for example, the shape and design of our rucks. If you compare your standard issue ruck with some large-capacity expedition packs made by companies like Gregory or Arcteryx (or Mystery Ranch, whose packs I've seen running around in Afghanistan), and you'll notice that the Army's ruck is much rounder, whereas the packs are narrower, but taller. Having carried both I can say with absolute certainty that my civilian pack is far superior to my issued ruck. I think that by studying the design philosophy of civilian mountaineering equipment the Army can continue to improve our gear.
Again, though, any major changes in gear take time and money. Until then, we'll have to continue to rely on the NCO corps to train our Soldiers, both physically and mentally, to deal with the burden they'll bear in combat. I definitely welcome any disagreements or other perspectives on this issue.
Lucas Enloe is an Army 1LT currently in Afghanistan. He has years of experience in walking uphill.
Best Defense department of military revisionism
In the spring of 1876, a three-pronged campaign was launched by the U.S. Army to drive the Lakota (Sioux) back to their reservation.
The first prong, under General John Gibbon, marched east from Fort Ellis (near Bozeman, Montana). The second prong, led by General Alfred Terry (that also included Lieutenant Colonel George Custer), headed west from Fort Lincoln (near Bismarck, N. Dakota), while the third prong consisted of General George Crook's force moving up north from Wyoming into Montana.
Unknown to Terry and Gibbon, on June 17, Crook encountered a camp near the Rosebud Creek in southern Montana, and a battle ensued lasting about six hours. Although Crook was not defeated by the standards of the day, having held the battlefield, it demonstrated the Sioux and Northern Cheyenne would fight long and ferociously, and must have given Crook pause, as he decided to withdraw his force to Wyoming. This broke one side of the triangle the three prongs were supposed to create.
Meanwhile, while Crook was retiring back into Wyoming, Terry was moving west up the Yellowstone River to the Little Bighorn with the 7th Cavalry, with George Custer scouting up ahead in advance after leaving Terry's sight on 22 June.
On the morning of the 25th, the 7th Cavalry was at a fork between the Rosebud and the Little Bighorn Rivers, known as the Crow's Nest, where Custer observed another large camp. It's possible there was a haze by the time Custer came to the Crow's Nest that prevented him seeing how very large the camp actually was.
Concerned the Sioux and Cheyenne might escape, and appreciating the element of surprise, Custer decided to attack and moved down into the valley of the Little Bighorn. However, prior to moving, Captain Frederick Benteen was ordered to beak-off and head to the southwest with three companies to block what was seen as a likely escape route. A few more miles from the Little Bighorn, Custer again divided his command, ordering Major Marcus Reno to take three companies along the river bottom and attack the village on its southern tip, while Custer would lead the five remaining companies and follow Reno in support.
As a side note, George Custer's two brothers, Thomas, a two-time recipient of the Medal of Honor during the Civil War, and the youngest of the three, Boston, were also with him.
Following the top of the ridge to an intermittent tributary of the Little Bighorn, Custer may have finally realized the gravity of the situation as the north end of the village came into view. We know this, and that he must have become concerned, because he sent a message back to Benteen stating, "Benteen, come on. Big village, be quick, bring packs, P.S. Bring packs."
The trooper Custer chose to deliver that message was bugler John Martini, and he would be the last, with certainty, to see George Custer and his fellow troopers alive. It is at this point that all movements by Custer and his force are speculation, as no white survivors lived to tell the tale. Unfortunately, Sioux and Cheyenne accounts of the battle were discounted at the time, exacerbated probably by the Indians' fear of retribution in coming forward with their accounts, and/or confused by language barriers, which created inaccuracies, further complicated by fading memories as time went on.
Was George Armstrong Custer imprudent in dividing his command? Most people with a passing familiarity with the events will immediately accuse Custer of poor judgment, and say yes.
However, say what you will about the man's flamboyance and previous dash toward battle, Custer was no fool in the real sense of the word, and he was a fine cavalry commander. Some historians are reviewing his importance at Gettysburg -- where he thwarted J.E.B. Stewart, who was coming around to support Pickett.
One could argue Custer's tactics on June 25, 1876 were consistent with army doctrine for that period in time, and appropriate for the situation as he at first grasped it to be. It may be that Custer's biggest mistake was trusting his subordinate commanders could, or even would support him as planned, and at some early moment while the Indian attack built momentum, he must have recognized his plan was faltering, and the luck he had been once famous for was evaporating.
"Tyrtaios" is a retired Marine with interest in events where quick decision-making might have changed outcomes.
A former Pentagon official writes:
[Y]ou probably should have mentioned that the 'real reason' everyone hates NDU is because it's where the OSD SES/seniors go to 'hide' after their political appointments/connections expire with a change of administration. [T]his typically happens after the election, but before the new crowd of appointees arrive. [T]hen, from NDU, these guys thumb their noses at the JCS and the new political appointees at OSD, and hope they can survive -- at NDU -- until their team returns. [T]he JCS especially hates this -- and you can't really blame them. [I]f there is any partisan difference in this practice, the dem[ocrat]s to it way more than the rep[ublican]s do, probably because more dem[ocrat]s typically originate from academia. [I]'ve watched this happen over the last 30 years, and had to deal with it when I was [at OSD].
By Adam Elkus
Best Defense COIN respondent
Colin S. Gray's recent article in Prism, when read in context with his other works, reveals much about how an inadequate grasp of strategic theory compromised the counterinsurgency debate. Tom has graciously provided me space to elaborate on why Gray's corpus is valuable for American defense policy and strategy.
COIN as Concept Failure
It is pointless to argue, Gray claims, whether or not COIN has failed or succeeded. This is because COIN is not a concept. Debaters argue for or against COIN, a position as ridiculous as arguing about whether anti-submarine warfare is inherently good or bad. As Gray observes, COIN is not an internally coherent set of ideas. It's just a descriptor for what armies do to counter insurgents. If this sounds a bit reductive, consider that the enormous losses suffered by the Allies at Cambrai in 1914 did not constitute proof tank warfare itself had failed, nor did decisive combined arms tactics in the Gulf War prove that tank warfare was successful.
The merit or demerit in COIN "cannot sensibly be posed as a general question." Insurgency has been a constant feature of strategic history, and will likely continue to be. Whether or not to intervene in another state's internal politics is a question best left to historical circumstance and it is impossible to put forth one policy solution that will hold for any and all cases. In any event, the idea that one has a choice to engage in COIN is also a matter of context. Domestic insurgencies always must be countered as a matter of basic political survival.
It is a category error to argue that COIN is inherently more political than interstate war, as this implicitly uses a war's intensity as the defining measurement of how much it is dominated by politics. All wars involve the use of force for political purpose, are shaped by context, and feature two forces seeking to impose their will on an adversary. In other works, Gray has sensibly noted that the supposed differences between irregular and conventional warfare are ultimately cosmetic. Categorizing wars according to the predominant combat style of one or more of the belligerents leads to analytical confusion. For example, the idea of "cyberwar" erroneously implies that combat action will solely be limited to computer hackers volleying computer network attacks against each other across the digital ether.
Weapons obtain meaning only through the strategic effects they enable, making it difficult to categorize a war solely through military technology. In American operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, conventional platforms, skills, and specialties were used against primitive opponents -- and tactical innovations pioneered there will likely play prominent roles in major war. The spectacle of Canadian Leonard tanks firing on Taliban guerrillas and the reverse engineering of counter-IED technology into tools for destruction of conventional air defenses should be sufficient demonstration of the arbitrary distinction between conventional and irregular challenges.
One consequence of this categorical confusion is the idea that that one side's tactics and technologies should be defeated through deliberate mirroring. Networks should defeat networks, governments and third parties must out-govern insurgents, and so on. But there is nothing essential to a given war's policy or strategy that demands a perfectly symmetrical response. This is obvious when the enemy is a global terrorist organization -- no one would argue the U.S. should carry out suicide bombings. It is less obvious when the enemy is a guerrilla organization contesting control with a government and a third party force. Counterinsurgents do not have to "out-govern" insurgents simply because the enemy uses shadow governments for strategic effect. The enemy does have a vote, but that vote should not unnecessarily narrow counterinsurgent strategy.
COIN and Strategy
Gray's previous works have emphasized that although the logic of strategy is timeless, strategy in practice defies the American obsession with definitive principles of war. Context rules all, and principles of war are in reality only principles of warfare valid for certain temporal, political, cultural, and material circumstances. The only principles of war that truly survive are so general as to be practical nubs: war is a political act conducted for political purposes, war is a cultural undertaking, etc.
The COIN debate has essentially been a tireless search for eternal principles. But this debate, as Gray, David Kilcullen, Sebastian Gorka have all argued, rests on a tiny sliver of contemporary military history. Insurgencies differ radically according to context in strategic history, and dependence on a small set of cases (Algeria, Vietnam, Malaya) exacerbates the already Sisyphean search for principles of COIN warfare. A universally "right" way to conduct COIN does not exist, not least of which because the idea supposes a Platonic ideal that can be divorced from political and cultural circumstance. Gray argues that the sheer diversity of phenomena herded under the common moniker of "insurgency" inherently creates a plurality of strategic methods that can guide COIN tactics.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
MA2 Sean Brazas, who was killed in action in Afghanistan on May 30th, was laid to rest this week at Arlington National Cemetery. Earlier in the week, family and friends from his hometown in Greensboro, NC gathered for a memorial service. His high school also paid tribute, flying its flag at half-mast.
Brazas's parents and sister spoke to a local news team about their son -- who leaves behind his wife and their 13-month old daughter -- and how proud they were of him. "If I could turn out to be half the man..." his father started before stopping to regain his composure. "He got to be married and have a family, just not long enough... At the end of the day you want your kid back, it's that simple."
Two other fallen servicemen were remembered in a memorial service held on June 1, on a military base in Afghanistan -- MWDs Nina and Paco. Both of the dogs' handlers got up and spoke about their fallen partners. Sgt. Adam Brown, Paco's "one and only handler," said, "There's only a few times in my life that I've come across an opportunity that's changed my life, Paco was one of those opportunities." Nina's handler Sgt. Daniel Wilker said he knew the two shared a special connection when Nina accidentally bit him one of the first times they trained together. "She laid next to me and had this look on her face that she was so sorry."
Among the mourners at Arlington National Cemetery and among those gathered to pay respects in Afghanistan, were fellow canine handlers and their dogs.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
One of the more interesting relationships in DC is the running battle between Donald Rumsfeld and his former aide and friend Ken "Cakewalk" Adelman. As I recall, it went public when Adelman, once a very loud Iraq hawk, began questioning the Bush team's conduct of the Iraq war around 2006. For example, he said of the Bush administration's national security officials that, "They turned out to be among the most incompetent teams in the postwar era. Not only did each of them, individually, have enormous flaws, but together they were deadly, dysfunctional."
The feud recently surfaced again in the letters section of the Wall Street Journal. One letter this week began, " Ken Adelman's rebuttal (Letters, June 18) of Donald Rumsfeld's June 13 criticism of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea repeats two persistent myths about this deeply flawed and unnecessary treaty . . . . "
This may seem an obscure fight between figures of the past, but could be relevant if Mitt Romney wins the presidential election. He strikes me as the kind of guy who would think it would be great to have Rumsfeld around as an elder statesman.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.