By Kathleen McInnis
Best Defense guest respondent
If the grand strategic project of the 21st century is to either (a) shore up the Westphalian system or (b) develop an acceptable post-Westphalian system, then the ability to effectively wage asymmetric and counterinsurgency warfare will be, by necessity, part of the toolkit to do so. I really thought Bob Killebrew captured that part well; because the actors in the system are blurring the definitions of what it means to be a legitimate, violence-wielding actor in the global system, we will continue to need capabilities to work in that blurry, murky space.
Washington seems to conflate preparedness with intention and for the life of me, I can't figure out why. Indeed, I think it's really worrying that we do so. We're limiting our ability to signal military intent short of going to war, as well as limiting our ability to use military tools to help advance political discussions, negotiations, etc. Exercises, planning, capability development are all ways to signal to potential adversaries (state and non-state alike) the seriousness of U.S. intent. Utilized appropriately, these tools can even get actors back to the negotiating table. Preparedness is key, which is why Celeste Ward's work to put a finer point on the term COIN should be applauded -- preparedness requires a higher degree of intellectual precision than we currently have with respect to "COIN." That's what deterrence is largely about. But we seem to think that if we develop a capability, we will -- or should -- use it.
The notion that if we have a force capable of conducting COIN, we will get ourselves embroiled in even more conflicts around the globe is absurd. The point, in my mind, is to ensure that the U.S. has the toolkit to respond to whatever contingency is in the no-kidding national interest. If we don't use those capabilities, bonus. But I suspect you're right -- we will have to.
Kathleen McInnis is an MPhil/PhD candidate at the Department of War Studies, King's College London and an Adjunct Fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She previously served on the NATO Policy-Afghanistan desk in the Office of the Secretary of Defense (Policy).
That was the question a friend posed the other day. Here, slightly edited for clarity and further reflection, is what I wrote back to him:
My impression is that the Army is kind of all over the place these days. It reminds me a bit of the years in the mid-1950s before the Pentomic Army.
The looming budget cuts are the biggest thing shaping today's force. The Army may be going into what Eliot Cohen once called "the Uptonian hunker," waiting for the budget cuts to hit.
The second biggest thing is the dog that isn't barking. As far as I can see, there is very little interest in turning over the rock to figure out what the Army has learned in the last 10 years, how it has changed, what it has done well, what it hasn't. More than a Harry Summers, where is the intellectual equivalent of a self-evaluation such as the 1970 study on Army professionalism? Shouldn't the Army be asking itself how it has changed, and looking at the state of its officer corps? We have seen some terrible leadership but very little official inclination to examine its causes. A couple of years ago, I noticed in reviewing my notes for my book Fiasco that, to an extent I hadn't noticed while writing it, it was the battalion commanders' critique of their generals.
We have seen had huge changes in the way the Army fights. It isn't just the flirtation with conventional troops doing COIN. ( U.S. troop-intensive COIN has indeed gone out of intellectual fashion, but not I think a more FID-ish COIN.) It also is:
What are your thoughts, grasshoppers? What am I missing?
By Donna McAleer
Best Defense giant slalom correspondent
Forget the creepy guys in trench coats -- the Penn State University and the Roman Catholic sex abuse scandals remind us that it's harder than you might imagine to identify sex offenders inside institutions. Put that perpetrator in military uniform or clerical apparel and we want to deny it is even possible. Be it renegades, robes or uniforms, rape is the betrayal of trust manifest.
U.S. servicewomen are more likely to be sexually assaulted by a solider than they are likely to be killed in the line of fire. The new battlefield is the barracks.
The Invisible War, a documentary film premiering at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, is an investigative and enraging emotional analysis of the epidemic of rape and sexual assault within the U.S. military. If the term "epidemic" seems strident or alarmist, the facts chillingly reveal that sexual assault and rape are prevalent and that the military justice system presently in place is an enabler that shockingly perpetuates the crime. It is not an abberration. In fact, the closed military justice system is a target-rich environment for a sexual predator.
The 2010 Department of Defense Annual Report on Sexual Assault in the Military indicates that 3,158 cases were officially reported. A Department of Defense survey of active duty members revealed that only 13.5 percent of sexual assaults within the services were reported. The Pentagon itself estimates that more than 19,000 incidents of sexual assault actually occurred in 2010, not the 3,158 officially reported.
Invisible War vividly portrays the intense and extreme personal and social consequences that result from these brutal crimes. This is not only a woman's story, it is a man's story. Rape is a crime of power and violence. Within the military, this is a troop welfare issue. Within society, this is human rights story.
The academy-award winning team of Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering and Geralyn Dreyfous deliver an powerful film that makes a strong call for fundamental change in the way the violent crimes of rape and sexual assault are handled. Fully aware of the explosive nature of the topic, the filmmakers' overriding agenda is to provide a positive portrait of our armed forces and a balanced account showing how the services, through addressing the issue of rape and sexual assault within its ranks, could better realize and support the men and women who proudly wear our nation's uniforms.
The film treats this traumatic and highly charged issue in as balanced a manner as possible. The crimes are real and their consequences are devastating, but this documentary is not a hatchet job. The producers and directors have done an admirable job getting on-screen interviews with a number of civilian experts in the field, politicians, and retired officers up to and including the rank of lieutenant general.
Through the drama of the survivors of rape and sexual assault, The Invisible War offers a possible solution to the epidemic-a change to the military justice system in how cases of rape and sexual assault are investigated, prosecuted and punished. The call is to take them out of the survivor's chain of command. Canada and the United Kingdom along with most of our NATO allies, no longer allow military commanders to determine the prosecution of sexual assault cases.
Today military law requires that the officers directly in charge of the offenders decide how these cases are handled. This creates a clear conflict of interest and as a result, in the vast majority of sexual assault cases charges are not proffered. Only 8 percent of sexual assault cases are prosecuted and only 2 percent are convicted.
The Invisible War (2012)
About a year ago, when I began thinking aloud in this blog about income inequality as a national security issue, I worried if that argument was a stretch. So I was pleased to see George Packer sprinkle holy water on it in the new issue of Foreign Affairs:
This inequality is the ill that underlies all the others. Like an odorless gas, it pervades every corner of the United States and saps the strength of the country's democracy. But it seems impossible to find the source and shut it off. For years, certain politicians and pundits denied that it even existed. But the evidence became overwhelming. Between 1979 and 2006, middle-class Americans saw their annual incomes after taxes increase by 21 percent (adjusted for inflation). The poorest Americans saw their incomes rise by only 11 percent. The top one percent, meanwhile, saw their incomes increase by 256 percent. This almost tripled their share of the national income, up to 23 percent, the highest level since 1928.
By Eric Hammel
Best Defense guest columnist
Over the past year, I've worked the vast security implications of global climate change into a few comments on The Best Defense, but they haven't taken hold. I cannot fathom the prevailing so-what attitude as the FEMA-grade weather disasters mount toward becoming serial and routine occurrences. It's here now, for all to see.
Tens -- perhaps hundreds -- of millions of heat, drought, flood, and famine refugees are probably going to be shaken loose within a decade. (Some estimates say half of humanity -- 3,000,000,000 people -- will have to move or die just from heat-related causes.) Thanks to topsoil erosion via drought and helped along by deadly, unstoppable tornado clusters and unlivable ambient temperatures, the bulk of farming in North America will shift northward and most likely will become restricted to a narrower band in the upper Midwest and on into higher Canadian latitudes-assuming there is sufficient rainfall there. Sea-level rise from melting glaciers on land will soon be poised to shake loose uncountable refugees from drowned coastal regions, where most of the world's people live. If the warm North Atlantic conveyor current is halted or recedes southward due to desalinization via the Greenland freshwater ice melt, the Canadian Maritimes, New England, and northwestern Europe will probably experience unbelievable winters and might (this is counterintuitive) freeze over.
Global famine is going to force the use of our military as a police force organized to feed unknowable masses of people (until cold reality sets in as reserve food stocks evaporate). I believe that North America's first up-close brush with famine-motivated mass migration will take place in northern Mexico and on into the U.S. border states. (Refugees fleeing in the wake of the collapse of Mexico's central government could precede drought- and heat-related dislocations. Are we prepared to handle such a dress rehearsal?)
The only force on Earth with the inherent capability to police, process, house, feed, and move refugees on a mass scale is the U.S. military, but, though its reach is global, its capacity and stamina are nonetheless limited, probably to one or two major disasters at a time, not the overlapping rolling meta-disaster climatologists predict. (Remember, the only components of the Katrina effort that worked at all were the military responses, beginning with Coast Guard helicopters.)
The implications for military use alone in the looming weather-related crises are mind-boggling, but no one appears to want to face up to them with an action plan, a doctrine, a list of precepts. I find it worrying to the nth degree that there is absolutely no public discussion. Have the relevant agencies studied it all already-and thrown up their hands? I already know from a series of phone calls to relevant local and state agencies that there is no actual integrated plan in place to respond to high-impact earthquakes in major California population centers. The "plan" is to play it as it lays. And I sincerely doubt that a repeat of Katrina would be met with an effective plan based on lessons learned.
Can we bring this out of the shadows, and least in this venue?
Eric Hammel has written more books about the U.S. military in Vietnam, Korea and World War II than most people have read.
TalAtlas via Flickr
By Matthew Irvine
Best Defense directorate of Delta force activities
After a decade of counterterrorism, the United States still doesn't quite seem to have the right formula. As we look back on a decade of lessons learned, it is useful to also study what our allies and partners have been up to in their own fights with terrorism.
Daniel Byman's new book, A High Price: The Triumphs and Failures of Israeli Counterterrorism, tells the story of Israel's seven decades of counterterrorism. Byman overcomes the potential minefield subject of Israel/Palestine by tracing the arc of contemporary Israeli policies and challenges to their historical roots, often dating back to the British Mandate period and the 1967 war.
What struck me when reading Byman's book?
The Israeli military and politics are truly familial. Many of Israel's political and security officials today have worked together for decades, starting as soldiers in the IDF. Benjamin Netanyahu and Ehud Barak served on the same commando team that freed a hijacked El Al plane in 1972. Somberly, Bibi's brother Yonatan Netanyahu was killed in the famous Entebbe raid in 1976. These intimate relationships and the country's close ties to its military forces make the use of force, especially commandos, a very personal affair for those in power.
The long learning curve of countering terrorism. Israeli intelligence was forced to adapt as Black September emerged in the 1970s, as the PLO built a mini-state in Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority took power after Oslo and amidst the Second Intifada and the rise of Hamas. These required a relatively small cadre of counterterror specialists to constantly look for new openings in collection, new avenues of disruption and better ways to harden defenses. Israel still hasn't perfected its methods to say the least but has established an impressive record to versatility in a persistent irregular conflict. The United States should take note as we enter a second decade of war: retaining top level talent and constantly learning is key to long-term success.
The dangers of sanctuary. According to Byman, "Israel's history shows that no factor is more important to the success of a terrorist group than sanctuary." This argument is supported by studies of insurgencies in Afghanistan and Pakistan as well. Israel has focused much of its historical efforts on eliminating these sanctuaries both within and outside its borders. However it is important to note that as one safe haven closed, inevitably another appeared, whether in Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Algeria or Gaza.
Oxford University Press
I think Gen. Martin Dempsey really hit it out of the park in Tuesday's hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee. Here is his meditation on two of the big lessons he learned in Iraq.
So I would -- I would -- looking back on it, at least my own personal view about Iraq in 2003 was that Iraq had a particular problem, and it was a regime that was destabilizing in the region and that we should take action, that -- it was my recommendation that we should take action to change the dynamic inside of Iraq and that the region itself would become more stable. I'm not sure it turned out that way. I mean, it probably -- it is, but it didn't happen exactly as we intended it, and that's because I don't think we understood -- let me put it differently. I didn't understand the dynamic inside that country, particularly with regard to the various sects of Islam that fundamentally, on occasion, compete with each other for dominance in Islam, and so -- Shia, the Shia sect of Islam, the Sunni sect of Islam -- when we took the lid off of that, I think we learned some things that -- and I'm not sure we could have learned them any other way.
I don't know, I've reflected about that a lot, but I've learned that issues don't exist in isolation. They're always complex. And I've been scarred by rereading a quote from Einstein, who said if you have an hour to save the world, spend 55 minutes of it understanding the problem and five minutes of it trying to solve it. And I think sometimes, in particular as a military culture, we don't have that ratio right. We tend to spend 55 minutes trying to -- how to solve the problem and five minutes understanding it. That's one of the big lessons for me in developing leaders for the future, not only in the Army but, if confirmed, in the joint force.
Another one is the degree to which military operations in particular, but probably all of them, have been decentralized. You know, you'll hear it called various things: decentralized, distributed operations, empowering the edge. Whatever we call it, we have pushed enormous capability, responsibility and authority to the edge, to captains and sergeants of all services. And yet our leader development paradigms really haven't changed very much. They are beginning to change, but I think that second lesson on the enormous responsibility that we put on our subordinates' shoulders has to be followed with a change in the way we prepare them to accept that responsibility.
I think those would be the two big lessons for me."
He also referred to H.R. McMaster as "probably our best brigadier general." Good for him.
Alex Wong/Getty Images
For your defense budget files, from yesterday's Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing for Gen. Dempsey:
SEN. MCCAIN: Which brings me again full circle. We have announced cuts without a commensurate assessment of the impact of those cuts. And in your view, a -- what would an 800- (billion dollar) to trillion-dollar cut in defense spending over the next 10 years do to our readiness, General?
GEN. DEMPSEY: Senator, I haven't been asked to look at that number, but I have looked -- and we are looking at 400 (billion dollars) -- and I would react in this way. Based on the difficulty of achieving the $400 billion cut, I believe 800 (billion dollars) would be extraordinarily difficult and very high-risk.
By Patrick McKinney
Best Defense department of Maghreb affairs
In late October 1956, British and French forces aided Israel's seizure of the Suez Canal from Egypt. In March 2011, an allied force including British and French forces intervened in Libya to establish a no-fly zone and protect rebels from the ruling Gaddafi regime. Half a century apart, these actions in North African defined trans-Atlantic defense. The Suez Crisis heralded an era of American leadership and action, while Libya has shown that, though powerful, America intends to rely on its allies to carry larger burdens, and take responsibility for their own regions. America once drove and financed western security, but due to fiscal shortfalls and a decade of conflict, it no longer intends to guarantee European security.
In 1956, the once-powerful European states were still weakened from the world war and faced forceful colonial independence movements. The French lost Indochina in 1954 and the situation in Algeria continued to deteriorate, while the Suez Canal Zone in Egypt was England's last foothold in the Middle East. After tense negotiations, Egyptian President Gamal Abdel Nasser threatened to nationalize the canal as sovereign Egyptian territory, and in response, Israel, England, and France coordinated an invasion with the pretext of securing the canal for world commerce. They failed to inform the United States of their intent and expected American support or indifference. To their surprise, they received neither.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower forcefully protested the Suez invasion and demanded that foreign forces withdraw from Egypt. Though he had little compassion for Nasser and his regime, Eisenhower intended to support international order and avoid unnecessary international conflicts. He condemned the invasion, saying, "We believe these actions to have been taken in error. For we do not accept the use of force as a wise and proper instrument for the settlement of international disputes." Israel, England, and France were surprised by the American response and false expectations of support. Their forces began withdrawal from the Suez Canal Zone, and returned control to Egypt.
After the conflict, American authority and consent became pre-eminent in the Trans-Atlantic partnership. Through NATO, America assured European defense from the Soviet Union and Warsaw Pact, and American priorities were NATO's priorities. England lost its Middle Eastern influence and decided to influence western and world security through cooperation in its "special relationship" with the United States. Embarrassed and affronted by the perceived betrayal, France took the alternate path and sought to set its own defense priorities. France demanded a restructure of NATO leadership in 1958, and began the withdrawal of its forces from the command in the 1960s. France remained outside of NATO for more than forty years until operations in Afghanistan and officially returned its forces in 2009.
By Jay Holcomb
Best Defense infowar article critic
I enjoyed reading the New York Times article, "Israeli Test on Worm Called Crucial in Iran Nuclear Delay" published Jan. 16. Everyone seems to agree that this was by far the most complex cyber event ever seen in the wild. By complex I'm referring to the number of technical features, such as zero-day exploits, industrial control system expertise, intelligence on target configurations, number of cyber exploits used on the target, such as root kits, botnet-type command and control, user view manipulation, etc.
I believe that the more media exposure we can generate from complex cyber events like this one, the better. However, I still believe we are missing the bigger picture with regard to these types of complex events. While I realize many folks really want to know where the Stuxnet package originated, I propose that we should be spending as much (or more) time looking around at what these events mean today, and in the near future, with regard to our cyber exposure -- federal/state/local government resources, critical infrastructure, civilian industries, and even our own personal exposure.
I agree with Mr. Langner's quote in the article, referring to the Stuxnet package, that, "It's like a playbook.... Anyone who looks at it carefully can build something like it." Langner makes an important statement that I have not seen many people outside the industrial control system and cybersecurity industries mention or highlight. We can assume it is not only nation-states that are looking at events like these; terrorists and common criminals are most likely very busy right now looking at this too!
Many of the items highlighted in the article potentially read like a fortuneteller's glass ball: "The vulnerability of the controller to cyberattack was an open secret. In July 2008, the Idaho lab and Siemens teamed up on a PowerPoint presentation on the controller's vulnerabilities that was made to a conference in Chicago at Navy Pier, a top tourist attraction." This is not unusual, as significant vulnerabilities in software will often be publicly known. The vulnerabilities often are not addressed until (what seems like) enough public pressure is applied for a fix/patch to be produced and/or applied. While I have no specific information on "Smart Meters," recent articles which point out potential security concerns related to the deployment of "Smart Meters" make me wonder whether we're not looking into a fortuneteller's glass ball. I'll include some reference links about this at the bottom of this note.
One final thought: While the Stuxnet event and associated reports have generated some public media exposure on complex cyber events, I find myself looking back on a report released by the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, dated Oct. 9, 2009, which does a great job explaining a very complex cyber intrusion -- I wonder if that was a cyber building block to our current Stuxnet discussion?
I have nothing greatly illuminating to add about the shootings on Saturday, except that killing a little girl and a federal judge and shooting a member of Congress who is meeting with constituents feels to me like an attack on our system. They say the guy is crazy, as if that makes it inexplicable, but it still feels like a blow to the way of life we aspire to have. I wonder if the weekend felt like the 1935 shooting of Huey Long.
My question: At what point does the right to own a firearm begin to impinge on other people's rights?
OK, try it this way: At what point does the right of crazy people to buy weapons begin to seem crazy?
I remember how I used to listen to various NATO officials complain about how member nations were not sending enough helicopters to Afghanistan. Now it appears that the chickens have come home to roost: The Canadian media is reporting that the Canadian Ministry of Defence has quietly leased a bunch of Russian helicopters to use in southern Afghanistan.
My first thought was this was to fool the locals. But I don't think it would fool the Taliban, who know their Russian helicopters. Canadian Navy Lt. Kelly Rozenberg-Payne said that Canadian forces in Afghanistan simply needed some additional vertical lift: "The (operational) tempo within the air wing became very great and it was just assessed by commanders on the ground that they needed additional platforms to help move troops around," she said.
My guess is that because both the Afghan and Pakistani militaries use the Mi-17, this makes it more convenient to fly NATO forces across the border and into the FATA as necessary, with lots of plausible deniability, especially if they are flown at night and no one gets around to painting a lot of markings on the aircraft. That would explain why, as the Canadian report puts it, "details were kept off the MERX web-site, which formally lists government procurement competitions, and no news release was issued about the new choppers, which have been in use since the spring."
ROMEO GACAD/AFP/Getty Images
"The fundamental task of diplomacy is to strip policy of its ambiguity," Alexander Haig Jr. writes (70) in his memoir Inner Circles, which I am now reading. I just about fell out of my chair when I saw that. I wonder what Haig's old boss, Henry Kissinger, the grandmaster of strategic ambiguity, would say about that. Amazon's "look inside this book" function says that in his book Diplomacy, Kissinger uses the word some 29 times.
Haig gets extra dumbass points for the brassy certitude of his assertion -- and for, a score of pages later, this assessment of the Shah of Iran: "I thought in 1961, and I still think, that he was as close to being a natural and sincere democrat as anyone I ever met in his part of the world." (90)
More interestingly, Haig says he thinks that Fidel Castro was behind John F. Kennedy's assassination, and says Lyndon B. Johnson thought so too. "I think that President Johnson's suspicions in regard to Castro's role were amply justified," he writes. (115-116) Haig, who had acted as a kind of Army liaison to veterans of the Central Intelligence Agency-led Bay of Pigs attack on Cuba, says he was given a report that supported the accusation against Castro, but that he was ordered to forget it and that the report was destroyed.
The book cost me one cent plus shipping and handling, so I am not complaining.
Five 101st Airborne soldiers were killed on Sunday by small arms fire in Afghanistan's Kunar province -- I am guessing in operations in the Pech Valley, which has been frisky lately.
When I saw five had died, I first thought it must have been a big IED. But five being killed by small arms fire feels like a patrol got ambushed or an outpost nearly got overrun, which reminds me of Wanat.
Here's the Pentagon announcement:
They died Nov. 14 in Kunar province, Afghanistan, when insurgents attacked their unit with small arms fire.
Spc. Shane H. Ahmed, 31, of Chesterfield, Mich.
Spc. Nathan E. Lillard, 26, of Knoxville, Tenn.
Spc. Scott T. Nagorski, 27, of Greenfield, Wis.
Spc. Jesse A. Snow, 25, of Fairborn, Ohio.
Pfc. Christian M. Warriner, 19, of Mills River, N.C.
They were assigned to the 1st Battalion, 327th Infantry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), Fort Campbell, Ky.
My condolences to their families and comrades.
U.S. Department of Defense
My CNAS colleague Connor O'Brien recently wandered over to the W Hotel to see what congressional Republicans have up their sleeves. He wandered back with this report.
By Connor O'Brien
Best Defense Capitol Hill deputy bureau chief
The other day I went to see what Rep. Buck McKeon, the presumptive next chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, might have to say about things will change on his watch.
The California Republican was a bit coy. The theme of his talk at the Foreign Policy Initiative's 2010 Forum was leadership. He quoted Gen. Omar Bradley, saying that, "Leadership is intangible, and therefore no weapon ever designed can replace it." HASC, as he sees it, needs to restore leadership where President Obama and congressional Democrats have failed. This includes setting a timeline for drawing down troops in Afghanistan, losing focus on Iraq, cutting missile defense programs, and mishandling the War on Terror.
Mr. McKeon committed to working in a bipartisan manner and promised that HASC would not wade into partisan "gotcha" oversight, but the verbs he used in describing his agenda were telling, as he vowed to "expose," "expedite," "challenge," and "focus," among other things. But he made few concrete statements about anything outside of the normal oversight power that is given to any congressional committee, other than calling wartime cuts in defense spending "a red line for me and a red line for all Americans." Mr. McKeon even acknowledged that his committee's ability to call Gen. David Petraeus to testify on Afghanistan could be limited by the executive branch. "Well, we can ask," McKeon said, "But as I said, we only have one commander in chief, and if he commands Gen. Petraeus to be busy doing something else, he may not show up."
Leadership is intangible, but the final outcome of defense policy is not. Republicans are no doubt committed to strengthening national defense through expanding the budget, exposing poor practices in the defense bureaucracy, and making a long-term military commitment in Afghanistan, but his committee's ability to change the status quo remains to be seen. The same was true of the 110th Congress, where a Democratic majority elected on an anti-war platform ultimately failed to end the Iraq War. With a Democratic Senate and, if necessary, a presidential veto standing in the way, Mr. McKeon and House Republicans have their work cut out for themselves. Still unresolved is the stance newly elected deficit-hawk Republicans will take on defense spending, a divide Sen. John McCain predicted earlier in the day at the FPI hoedown.
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
You all know how shy I am about expressing my views. Small Wars Journal pulled them out of me.
Seriously, faithful readers of this blog won't likely be surprised by my comments about counterinsurgency or about the Army, but in case you are keeping score at home, here is a link.
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
Working security detail for the president has its perks -- these dogs will be traveling in style, staying in 5-star hotels where they can receive the kind of proper care they need, including special diet food sent ahead from home and a temperature-regulated environment to help the dogs adjust to a new climate.
Some of these reports of the dog detail traveling with the president -- like others alleging that the cost of Obama's trip is a $200 million per day expense -- seem a little sketchy.
But according to an English-language website based in India, a source inside the Mumbai travel agency arranging transportation for Obama's service detail told reporters that the preparations for Obama's sniffing dogs have been in the works for months when prior to the trip, the U.S. consulate "asked for more than 10 customised cars for dogs during the president's visit" to apparently "move with the president's convoy. …"
The cars, apparently, had to be specially outfitted: "For the comfort of the dogs, the back seats in the cars were removed and the interiors were refurbished to ensure they [sic] were no sharp edges." The source added, "Never before, have we seen such VIP treatment for animals."
PRAKASH SINGH/AFP/Getty Images
CNAS, the little think thank that could, is starting up season II of its terrific program called "Next Generation National Security Leaders." Those selected get to chow down with Washington bigwigs, ask insightful questions, and rub shoulders with like-minded overachievers.
The downside is that you have to apply like right now. All the info is here.
When I was reporting in Iraq, the Washington Post's bureau chief had a list of emergency numbers printed up and put on a laminated card you could keep in your wallet. Like who to call if you are kidnapped.
If I had the power I'd print up this comment by Fred Reed, the Hunter S. Thompson of the right, laminate it, and give one card to every member of the Pentagon press corps:
Reporters don't meet Important People because we news weasels are meritorious, but because the press enjoys power all out of proportion to its worth. If people knew reporters as well as I do, they would emigrate. You could take a blind cocker spaniel with a low IQ and give him, her, or it a press card from the Washington Post, and in three weeks every pol in the city would kiss up to the beast, who would develop delusions of grandeur.
It's the reporter's disease: You come to believe that the Secretary of the Air Force wants a press breakfast with you because he respects the depth of your thought. No. He thinks you are an idiot, and in all likelihood loathes you, but he knows that what you write will show up in the White House clips."
I just want to note that one of my dogs already has delusions of grandeur, and she doesn't even have a press card.
A friend in Iraq writes:
The Sahwa movement is in real trouble, and that means trouble for Iraq's security. For the past few months and with growing frequency as of late, Sahwa leaders and rank and file members have been the targets of sophisticated assassinations. Some have been killed by gunmen armed with silenced weapons and others by bombs planted on their cars or homes. This violence is not random. These are targeted attacks aimed at a critical group within Iraq's social and security fabric. And the government doesn't seem to be doing much to stop it.
For background, the Sahwa -- or Awakening -- Movement, began in al-Anbar province in late 2005 when a Sunni tribe on the Syrian border got into a turf war with a neighboring al Qaeda-allied group. The tribe ran a profitable smuggling operation across the border, and its members decided working with U.S. forces (who presumably overlooked the smuggling) would get them the weapons and training they needed to clear their territory.
The idea caught on, and by 2008 there were a total of over 100,000 Sahwa forces -- also known as Sons of Iraq -- in nine of Iraq's most dangerous provinces. Many of these SOIs were drawn from the ranks of the very Sunni insurgents they were tasked by the U.S. with rounding up, an arrangement that made them highly effective but won them a long list of enemies. And of course it was impossible to ensure that every SOI had actually severed ties with the insurgency -- rumors of double agents persisted.
Problems for the Awakening Movement began in the fall of 2008 when the Iraqi government took control of the Sons of Iraq, promising to keep paying their US $300 monthly salaries while transitioning them into government employment or the Iraqi security forces. Both tasks proved easier said than done, and many SOIs claim the Shi'a-led government never intended to support their majority Sunni forces.
Those accusations gained traction in the spring of 2009, when Iraqi security forces arrested numerous Sahwa leaders and members on charges ranging from murder to extortion to links to Sadaam Hussein's Ba'ath Party. A March arrest in Baghdad's Fadhil neighborhood developed into a dramatic standoff between Iraqi Army forces and SOIs loyal to the accused, and fighting continued for two days. However such public accusations against the Sons of Iraq soon tapered off.
Now the biggest threat to the Sons of Iraq is assassination. The Guardian spoke with a Baghdad Awakening leader who put it in stark terms:
We are being hunted down. It has never been worse. I have been targeted by roadside bombs six times in the past four months."
bitmask / Flickr.com
Here my CNAS colleague Kristin Lord, who knows more about public diplomacy than I ever will, points out something that hasn't been noticed about the Obama administration's new National Security Strategy document.
By Kristin Lord
Best Defense bureau chief, public diplomacy operations
The Obama Administration wants you to help implement its new National Security Strategy.
That is a little-noted but forceful undercurrent of the new strategy, which calls for the United States to "take advantage of the unparalleled connections that America's Government, private sector and citizens have around the globe." These connections, the document observes, will not only help America to address specific challenges such as cyber security and pandemic disease, they are a powerful and "cost-effective way of projecting a positive vision of American leadership." "Time and again," the national security strategy observes, "we have seen that the best ambassadors for American values and interests are the American people -- our businesses, nongovernmental organizations, scientists, athletes, artists, military service members, and students." Indeed, the National Security Strategy calls explicitly for engagement with the private sector and civil society no fewer than 27 separate times and devotes five complete paragraphs to the topic.
Interesting comment on US-China relations from Defense Secretary Gates in Singapore over the weekend:
Last fall, President Obama and President Hu made a commitment to advance sustained and reliable military-to-military relations between the United States and the People's Republic of China. The key words here are "sustained" and "reliable" -- not a relationship repeatedly interrupted by and subject to the vagaries of political weather.
Regrettably, we have not been able to make progress on this relationship in recent months. Chinese officials have broken off interactions between our militaries, citing U.S. arms sales to Taiwan as the rationale. For a variety of reasons, this makes little sense:
- First, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are nothing new. They have been a reality for decades and spanned multiple American administrations.
- Second, the United States has for years demonstrated in a very public way that we do not support independence for Taiwan. Nothing - I repeat, nothing - has changed in that stance.
- Finally, because China's accelerating military buildup is largely focused on Taiwan, U.S. arms sales are an important component of maintaining peace and stability in cross-strait relations and throughout the region."
Zakaria has more on Beijing's new arrogance.
(HT to AD)
zidane_0120 / http://www.flickr.com/photos/sedna16/3304093330/sizes/o/
colleague Patrick Cronin sat in
yesterday on Pentagon strategist Amanda Dory's conversation with some bloggers.
Here is his report.
By Patrick M. Cronin
Director, Best Defense office of plans and strategy
We live in a dangerous world. That was certainly the conviction of President W. Bush after September 11, 2001. And it would appear to be the major presumption of President Barack Obama. According to Amanda Dory, deputy assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, who yesterday reached out to the blogosphere via teleconference, the White House's recently released National Security Strategy hammers home the threat posed by transnational terrorism but also places greater emphasis on linkages with the weapons of mass destruction. Issues such as the danger posed by fissile materials that are not locked down and the risk posed by biological weapons are highlighted in the new document. Hence, terrorism remains a focal point of American security, albeit now fitting into a wider and more complex security panorama.
Among possible differences between the rhetoric of the National Security Strategy and the reality of national security and defense policy, five points might be offered:
- The National Security Strategy, echoing the QDR, underscores the critical importance of overseas engagement with allies and partners, as well as regional and international institutions that over time become far more capable than they are today. Yet making traditional alliances like NATO or the U.S.-Japan alliance more effective and durable may well be more challenging than supposed. There is also a problem of sheer time management, because traditional alliances have a welter of consultative machinery that requires a good deal of care and attention.
- A second cluster of issues concerns U.S. relations with partners and erstwhile adversaries. Iran's recent diplomatic gambit over nuclear fuel and North Korea's recent use of force at once demonstrate just how difficult it is to implement the sensible precepts of the National Security Strategy. Another issue in both documents arises from the largely unspoken tension between growing partnerships with major powers like China and Russia, from whom threats could emerge in new domains, especially cyberspace and space. Clearly a public strategy document is not the place to harp on such complexities, but reconciling these dueling aspects of relations with the same countries is likely to bedevil putting the words into action.
I was dismissive of the White House's new National Security Strategy document, saying that these documents are always churned out and seem to have no effect, and really are more list of aspirations than blueprints of an implementable strategy. My smart CNAS colleague Abe Denmark responded that I was reading it the wrong way. I think he may be right.
By Abraham Denmark
Best Defense intelligence directorate
[You] are perhaps expecting too much from a National Security Strategy. This is not an ends, ways and means strategy -- it's a high-level statement that describes the government's view of the international security environment and identifies U.S. interests, priorities, and objectives.
Part of this is because the government does not have absolute control over how it spends its money. It cannot give priorities lined up with initiatives lined up with budgets, because the legislative branch has a say. The White House can only describe our operating environment and how it plans on securing U.S. national security within that context.
I would argue that it actually does this quite well. It recognizes (much more than previous NSS's I'm aware of) that we face significant fiscal and economic constraints, and that this will limit our ability to do all things we would like. Identifying our economic challenges IS an important recognition of our limitations...
It also recognizes that the security challenges we will face (proliferation, terrorism, failing and failed states, economic security, food security, climate change, contested global commons, medical security) will require more than a unilateral military response, but will necessarily involve alliances, coalitions, partnerships, and a whole-of-government approach. Identifying these challenges is not a "bold claim," it's a fact.
Indeed, I would argue that this is the first 21st century NSS. It recognizes the complexities we face, that the old ways of doing business are unsuitable, and that U.S. military power alone is insufficient to sustain our national security.
This is a good foundational strategy document.
Here is a great insight into the way Washington really works, from my CNAS colleague Richard Fontaine.
By Richard Fontaine
Best Defense political officer
Obama's new NSS has a lot in common with its predecessors, and I don't mean just on substance but also on process and presentation. That's because the name is somewhat of a misnomer: the National Security Strategy isn't really a strategy -- in every administration it's more like a really long speech. It doesn't try to match ends to resources or anything of the sort. It won't say that we want to partner with the Iraqis after our drawdown (which is in the document) so we will need X amount of money and Y personnel for Z years and we'll do it this way (which is not). That's not the way it goes.
The way these things work is that you don't lay out some big vision that the government then sticks to. What you do is look at what you've been doing already, try to discern the principles behind your actions, and then package them as the product of overarching strategic thought. You tell yourself that what you are actually doing is bringing into high relief the principles and thinking that implicitly underlay policy thus far. That's actually sort of right, but it doesn't mark a new course -- it's a distillation of what you already believe and are doing.
Then you throw in something for everyone. You try to touch on every conceivable priority so the administration can't get punched for having overlooked a "key" national security issue. You like terrorism? We got terrorism in here! You like loose nukes? Got that too. Minerals? Climate change? Disease? Ditto. You like cold weather? This recognizes that we are an Arctic nation!
Then you spin it as completely, utterly different from your predecessor, even though the vast majority of it is exactly the same -- we have the same old interests and values and mostly use the same old tools in pursuit of them. You play up the differences on the margin and package it in rhetoric that basically says "Our long international nightmare of the ignoramuses in the last administration is over; with our clarity of strategic thought we will be much more competent." The media usually falls for it -- it's about preemption! They want forcible Iraq-style regime change everywhere! It's NOT about preemption! They DON'T want forcible Iraq-style regime change anywhere!
Then you use it almost exclusively externally. Policymakers will rely on guidance provided by PC and DC papers that have actual agreed-upon policies and actions, but not on a NSS-style document. It's not like the Secretary of State or a desk officer or an NSC director will say, "Ah, this issue just came up. I know how to deal with it now because there is a paragraph in the NSS that tells me what to do." The only reason you would conceivably cite the NSS as a policymaker is if you are arguing that your preferred course is right and someone else's is wrong -- "See, paragraph 3 on page 17 says that our nation is committed to do exactly what I am advocating; yours isn't in there, so I am right and you are contradicting the President's policy."
So is it all a wasted exercise? Surprisingly, no -- but you have to recognize the limitations.
It'd be nice to set at least a few priorities, as a signal to the world America will fight (metaphorically speaking) for them. The new administration's NSS should, but doesn't. (Of course you can also envision the conversation behind closed doors -- Official 1: "I think we should say that our relations with Europe, India, Japan and China are our most important." Official 2: "What? That means they are more important than Canada! They'll be insulted! More important than Paraguay? That will needlessly antagonize them. Andorra? It's shooting ourselves in the foot. We can't set priorities without alienating all the non-priority countries and all the people who care about issues we don't think are really, really important. What if this very conversation gets leaked to the press?!")
The National Security Strategy can also be a valuable exercise to provoke a public debate among the foreign policy community. The significant portions of the new NSS that link our domestic situation to America's power abroad is new, and hopefully that will at least generate an external discussion, in the government, on Capitol Hill, and externally -- not just of the costs of our overseas engagement but about the sustainability of our domestic policies.
In the end, it may be that this is one governmental exercise where the process matters more than the product. In order to produce a National Security Strategy, smart people think for a long time about the grand sweep of U.S. policy. Senior policymakers, to the extent they play a role in the process, are forced to think through core issues and future possibilities in a way that is much different from their day to day grind. And all that process can provoke our foreign policy leadership to think more deeply, more broadly, and more about the future than they otherwise would -- and that can't be a bad thing. Maybe Eisenhower said it best: "Plans are worthless but planning is everything."
The Ink Spots (the COIN blog not the great band) have a good comment on a new NDU study about the pitfalls of American security assistance to Georgia. I confess I skimmed the NDU piece and didn't see much, but the Inksters make the good point that, although they think the article has some flaws, you should check it out "if you want some perspective on the way that a foreign and security policy based on support for client states rather than direct intervention can come back and bite you."
That's a good warning, with all the experts now concluding that direct intervention is just too damn expensive and time consuming and maybe not a good idea.
What else should I read about the issues of indirect approach? It seems to be the wave of the future so I might as well brace myself.
And speaking of the Ink Spots and 1943, farewell to Lena Horne.
US Army Africa
By Rebecca Frankel
Best Defense Chief Canine Correspondent
No one should be surprised to see more bomb-sniffing dogs on the streets of Manhattan this week after the botched Time Square bombing attempt. In the last few months there have a been a number of bomb-related incidents worldwide that have put these dogs on high alert.
Above, a NYC police officer and his dog, Buster, survey the subway station on the corner of 42nd Street and 7th Avenue in Times Square on May 3.
Top photo Yana Paskova/Getty Images
By Cdr. Herb Carmen, USN Best Defense pirates columnist
In my last post, I wrote about the EU's expanding mission against piracy near Somalia. Well, quite impressively, EU NAVFOR wasted no time in taking action. Since Thursday's post, the French frigate Nivose has seized 35 pirates, four motherships, and six skiffs. This is good news because the fight against piracy hinges on international willingness to take action. What the French intend to do with the captured pirates has not yet been made clear, but what is clear is that there are 35 less pirates on the seas and, as Bryan McGrath has described it, 35 "empty chairs at the dinner table."
Got arrested at the Seattle airport for refusing to say how much money I make. (The uniformed ones say I was not "arrested", but they definitely handcuffed me.) Their videos and audios should show that I was polite, but simply refused questions that had nothing to do with national security. Port authority police eve...eventually came -- they were professionals -- and rescued me from the border bullies.
When they handcuffed me, I said that no country has ever treated me so badly. Not China. Not Vietnam. Not Afghanistan. Definitely not Singapore or India or Nepal or Germany, not Brunei, not Indonesia, or Malaysia, or Kuwait or Qatar or United Arab Emirates. No county has treated me with the disrespect can that can be expected from our border bullies.
Reminds me of the time Lady Emma Sky, having labored to revamp the U.S. approach in the Iraq war, was invited to come to Washington to give a speech at a CIA conference on Iraq-and for her pains was pulled into a side room at Kennedy Airport for a little chat.
George Brazier of Arlington, Virginia has the best letter to the editor I've read today. He suggests that the Army
Take the scarce resources now being wasted on drumming out of the military competent, patriotic Americans who happen to be gay and instead focus them on people posing actual threats.
Makes sense to me.
Thomas E. Ricks covered the U.S. military for the Washington Post from 2000 through 2008.