September 29, 2005
The Fickle Mob: Iraqi Constitution Ratification Report #1
Fouad Ajami wrote in yesterday's OpinionJournal:
Sunni Arabs are registering in droves, keen not to repeat the error they committed when they boycotted the national elections earlier this year. In their pride, and out of fear of the insurgents and their terror, the Sunni Arabs say that they are registering to vote in order to thwart this "illegitimate constitution." This kind of saving ambiguity ought to be welcomed, for there are indications that the Sunni Arabs may have begun to understand terror's blindness and terror's ruin.Read the whole thing, as he covers the effects of the Iraqi campaign on the Arab world.
Fred Kaplan suggested in Slate yesterday that Iraqis should reject the constitution:
The very process that created the constitution is seen by many Sunnis as so arbitrarily rushed and so systematically dismissive of their interests that, if the document is approved, many Sunnis will reject the vote's legitimacy.Kaplan thinks it will happen even though that might not be best.
A report released yesterday by the independent, nonpartisan International Crisis Group goes further. The constitution, it concludes, "is likely to fuel rather than dampen the insurgency, encourage ethnic and sectarian violence, and hasten the country's violent break-up."
Is it possible that the Iraqis will vote the constitution down? There are two ways this can happen. It can be opposed by either 1) a majority of all Iraqis (very unlikely) or 2) two-thirds of the Iraqis in three of the country's 18 provinces. Sunnis hold a majority in four provinces (al-Anbar, Nineveh, Salah al-Din, and Diyala), but few analysts believe they'll muster a two-thirds majority in more than two of them. At least one Shiite faction in Basra has come out against the constitution—they see it as giving too much power to rival Shiite parties—but its province contains too few Sunnis to allow for a coalition. So, according to the conventional wisdom (though nobody knows how accurate that is), rejection is unlikely.
The Prediction Markets
StrategyPage phrases their prediction like this:
The Iraqi constitution, when put to a vote in October, will be rejected by the voters of 3 or more provinces and not go into effect.Currently, there is an aggregate vote against this sentiment, with 595 pros and 1670 cons. StrategyPage's prediction market is correct while an event is open 85% of the time. Of note, those participating in that market are not using money.
Intrade Trading Exchange [go to the home page and enter "Iraq" in the search bar] is showing a last price of 71 for the contract that reads thus:
The ratification of the Iraq Constitution by October 31st 2005.This exchange works such that if an event closes negatively, the value of the contract is 0. If positive at close, the value is 100. Traders buy or sell in the middle. A "price" of 71 indicates very high sentiment predicting ratification. Notably, traders in this market are using actual money.
TEXT OF THE DRAFT IRAQI CONSTITUTION translated by the AP.
Sentiment is high for both turnout and a 'yes' result. Many Sunni voters may be upset that their high turnout fails to stop the constitution. This could lead to more violence.
The psychological aspects of the outcome are not to be overlooked. An Iraqi voting for the first time may be skeptical of the entire process, or may feel empowered by his moments at the ballot box. Those feelings may come crashing down if the outcome does not go his way. This is simple stuff, but bears remembering because the effects would be magnified in a political culture new to democracy.
One of the simplest aspects of our political culture is the idea that if one party does not win, it always has a chance the next time around. The prevalence of that sentiment among the Iraqi electorate is key . . .
I take issue with those who foresee a civil war if the constitution is rejected. In that instance, the process calls for the December parliamentary elections to proceed as scheduled and for the resulting MPs to then convene a new assembly to create a new constitution. Instead of war, an alternate scenario if there's an upset:
The Sunnis may be late converts to the political process if the constitution fails. Having missed their chance at the ballot box in January, they may feel vindicated that they've defeated the constitution and be completely sold to the idea of elections as determinants of political outcomes. This seems like a positive development, if it plays out that way. The entire country will then return to the polls in December knowing that whomever is elected will be rewriting the constitution. So the next round has the potential to be much more inclusive.
Given how long vote-counting took in the winter and spring, having the next round of elections scheduled for December could be the master stroke by those that planned this process. In the meantime, while the votes are counted, coalition offensives will continue in Anbar and along the Syrian border. The Sunni electorate will ponder the outcome of their enfranchisement while the sounds of battle are echoing outside their doors. The chiaroscuro-like choice of blood or compromise will cleave their very souls.
A note to military readers
If you are in the US Armed Forces, and have been referred here by Stand-To! please see my Open Source Analysis Policy. I welcome feedback on that policy from active duty folks. My email address, and a link to the policy as well, are in the sidebar.
September 27, 2005
The Greater China Co-Prosperity Sphere
ZenPundit points us to the testimony before the US-China Economic and Security Review Commission of Roger Cliff, a RAND analyst tasked with examining how China might attempt to defeat the US. The short document, only a few pages of text, must be read in its entirety.
In short, though, the Chinese have been reading our own doctrine, and adopting various forms of it. From the testimony:
China’s military is focused on finding ways to defeat the United States in the event of a conflict between the two countries, the most likely such contingency being a conflict over Taiwan . . .The principles are:
In a RAND study that I led which is currently under review, my colleagues Mark Burles, Michael Chase, and Kevin Pollpeter analyzed Chinese military doctrinal writings that discuss how to defeat a militarily superior adversary such as the United States, and found in them at least eight strategic principles that have implications for U.S. force posture in the Pacific theater.
1. "The first such principle is seizing the initiative early in a conflict."
2. "A second and related strategic principle for defeating a militarily superior adversary is the importance of surprise."
3. "Related to the first two strategic principles is a third principle: the value of preemption."
4. "A fourth strategic principle is particularly significant in the context of the second and
third principles. This is the idea of raising the costs of conflict."
5. "Related to the idea of raising the costs of conflict is a fifth strategic principle, the
principle of limited strategic aims."
6,7. "A sixth and seventh strategic principles are avoiding direct confrontation and conducting
'key point strikes'".
8. "Related to key point strikes is an eighth strategic principle that has implications for U.S.
force posture in the Pacific theater: concentrated attack."
Each of these in turn could have been lifted straight from Warfighting, and just reworded. I always heard field grade staff officers joke and muse about how much of our doctrine the Chinese were reading and copying. Looks to be quite a bit.
These eight principles have specific implications for the plan to subjugate Taiwan. The operational narrative that Cliff believes the Chinese have woven, goes something like this: launch a surprise invasion of Taiwan with no warning; simultaneously incapacitate the US military platforms and units most likely to respond or defend Taiwanbut not directly, only through attacking the US's command and control and logistics capabilities; be limited in aims -- the conquering of Taiwan only.
Cliff's testimony notes:
It does not need to be pointed out to this panel that the last time such a strategy was attempted in the Pacific the ultimate results were not altogether favorable for the country that tried it, but the Chinese military doctrinal writings we examined in this study did not acknowledge the existence of such historical counterexamples.[Ed.: why does everyone think we are so soft? we continually go in and clean house . . . does MTV serve the opposite role of power projection, whatever that might be called?]
Cliff notes the specifics:
In addition to the above strategic principles, my colleague’s analysis of Chinese military doctrinal writings identified a number of specific tactics that could affect the ability of the United States to deploy and maintain forces in the Western Pacific in the event of aAnd he offers his recommendations, of which there are five:
conflict with China. These tactics include attacks on air bases; aircraft carriers; command, communications, information, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems and facilities; and logistics, transportation, and support facilities.
Since this is a public hearing I will not describe the results of that analysis but instead proceed directly to those of our recommendations for mitigating the potential effects of such attacks that have implications for U.S. and Taiwanese forces in the Pacific region . . .Aside from the obvious miscalculation as to the American reaction to a surprise attack, one wonders if the Chinese have considered the reaction of Japan to their scheme. While bases on Guam or Okinawa are far from the minds of most Americans, they are not to the Japanese, and Yokosuka Naval Base is most certainly not -- being as it is, adjacent to Tokyo. No blitzkrieg on Taiwan using the Chinese strategy outlined above would be complete without neutralizing some or all of the surface fleet at Yokosuka and the air fleets in various other quarters of Japan.
Our first recommendation is to strengthen passive defenses at air bases and aviation fuel
storage facilities . . .
A second recommendation is to deploy air defense systems, both land-based and sea-
based, near critical facilities such as air bases . . .
Aside from using missiles and aircraft, Chinese military doctrinal writings also
recommend using special forces and covert operatives to attack air bases and other
critical facilities . . . Since such attacks would generally originate from areas outside of U.S. military bases, the capabilities of local security forces will be critical to defending against such attacks, as will be the existence of mechanisms to ensure effective coordination between U.S. base security forces and
local security forces . . .
. . . a fourth recommendation is that the United States seek to diversify its options for operating land-based aircraft in the region . . .
Related to this, a fifth recommendation is that the United States also increase the number of platforms from which it can operate naval aircraft in the region in the early stages of a conflict . . . Other than any carriers that might be transiting through the region, however, currently the closest additional carriers would be those based on the west coast of the United States. Given that a conflict with China could begin with little warning, this means that as much as two weeks could elapse before
additional aircraft carriers reached the area of combat operations. The Department of Defense has already recommended forward-deploying an additional aircraft carrier in the Pacific, but it is important to note that precisely where this carrier is forward-deployed is significant. In particular, an aircraft carrier based in Hawaii would still take at least a week to reach waters near Taiwan. An aircraft carrier based in Guam, Singapore, or elsewhere in the Western Pacific, by contrast, could arrive on the scene in about three days.
It is hard to know which would anger the Japanese more, an attack on their homeland by Chinese missiles, or the fact that the Chinese deliberately discounted the visceral response the Japanese will have to it. Ruth Benedict wrote in 1946,
Japan saw the cause of the war in another light. There was anarchy in the world so long as every nation had absolute sovereignty; it was necessary for her to fight to establish a hierarchy -- under Japan, of course, since she alone representated a nation truly hierarchical from top to bottom and hence understood the necessity of taking 'one's proper place.'
UPDATE: If Mr. Cliff's analysis proves true, his team will have a place in history aside that of LtCol 'Pete' Ellis, who correctly forecast the ins and outs of the last Pacific War, 20 years in advance.
September 26, 2005
The Pursuit and Finishing
What will the endgame be, whether tomorrow or years hence?
The Marine Corps Operations Manual says thus:
PursuitThe manual goes on to describe the mechanics of a pursuit in the terms of classic set-piece military battles -- "a pursuit is normally made up of a direct pressure force and an encircling force" -- which causes the reader to scratch his head and wonder how to translate this to a transnational terror insurgency . . . Such definitions are geared to immediate tactical and operational needs, not to the strategic aims of our entire effort in Iraq. Put precisely, if the insurgency is defeated, what have we won? From a political standpoint, certainly a democratic and democratizing Iraq. But from a military standpoint, from the aim of using our victory as leverage to further prosecute the war on Islamic fascism -- a pursuit if you will -- how to conduct such pursuit?
A pursuit is an offensive operation designed to catch or cut off a hostile force attempting to escape, with the aim of destroying it. Pursuits often develop from successful exploitation operations when the enemy defenses begin to disintegrate. A pursuit may also be initiated when the enemy has lost his ability to fight effectively and attempts to withdraw.
Imagine Iraq's borders are controlled by its government at some point in the near future. Developments on the political front have been largely positive. Sunni support for Al Qaeda has diminished dramatically. The foreign jihadists desire to leave the country, and many of them begin an egress. How to both physically pursue and destroy them, and how also to follow-up the psychological impact of our own victory?
First, as to the ins and outs of physical pursuit: it seems unlikely that the US will attempt another invasion, or even something like cross-border raids, anytime soon. But if ratlines, supply networks, and recruitment centers can be divulged from prisoners, this information may be used over a period of time to target those nodes. The military will not be the preferred method of doing so, at least not the US military. More than likely this aspect of the Iraqi campaign will go unreported, as other government agencies do what they do in the shadows.
But the psychological pursuit is more important. Mark Helprin has written:
The instant the Arab world realized that the promised shock and awe had not materialized, the insurgency was born.While the denouement of the campaign will probably not create any events that are notable from a media standpoint, our success, and that of the Iraqis, must be driven home to the Arab world nonetheless: while "shock and awe" may not have captured the imaginations of the Middle East, the destruction of Muslim terror in Iraq, coupled with the simultaneous creation of a representative government, must not be lost on the region. Every possibility to reinforce this fact must be exploited to the utmost: whilst the mujaheddin may have been able to defeat all-comers before, they were unsuccessful against the US. Moreover, a sovereign state, remade in the image of the US, exists on the border of every major Arab country, save Egypt.
This is the conundrum: how to drive these points home? There are many ways: media campaigns, troop withdrawals, letting the Iraqis do what they do unfettered, and letting the world watch. But none of these boils down to a decisive event. Will any of these actually leave the Arab world agog at our powers?
UPDATE: David Ignatius intimates our endgame, a slow withdrawal that will allow us to focus on training local militaries elsewhere to defeat terrorism:
The commanders' thinking is conveyed by a set of "Principles for a Long War" for combating the main enemy, al Qaeda and affiliated movements. Among the precepts they discussed here: "use the indirect approach" by working with Iraqi and other partner forces; "avoid the dependency syndrome" by making the Iraqis take responsibility for their own security and governance; and "remove the perception of occupation" by reducing the size and visibility of American forces. The goal over the next decade is a smaller, leaner, more flexible U.S. force in the Middle East -- one that can help regional allies rather than trying to fight an open-ended American war that would be a recruiting banner for al Qaeda.Notably, this is reflected in the comments of several Marine generals at the conference on the future of the Marine Corps.
GENERAL HAGEE: Now what about on the low end? Let's talk about cooperative security which I think is unbelievable important, so-called Phase Zero. If we do Phase Zero right, then I don't think we'll have to do Phase I, Phase II and Phase III, major combat operations, and if we don't do that, we don't have to do Phase IV. And Phase Zero is cooperative security . . .
We have stood up, or it's going to have its initial operational capability on the first of October, a foreign military training unit. Phase Zero. We want to go out, we want to provide a capability to each combatant commander, to help countries in the combatant commander's AOR, help them train their armed forces and to understand how a armed force works under a democratic, civilian-led government.
We haven't had that capability before, not focused, the way that we intend to focus. We have stood up at Quantico a center for advanced operational cultural learning. It will have its initial operational capability on the first of October. It is going to inject cultural learning into all of our schools, starting at boom camp and at the basic school.
We have decided that every Marine, whether he or she is enlisted or officer, is going to be assigned a region in the world, and they're going to be tasked with learning about that region in the world and even learning one of the languages in that particular region, and we hope to be able to give them the opportunity to serve in that particular area.
Now is everyone going to be able to do that? No. But at least we are identifying how important that is. Two, three years ago, we probably sent 20 some individuals to Arabic language course. Last two years we've sent four thousand Marines. Now are they fluent? No. But at least they're able to start to communicate, they're able to start to understand the culture, at least in the area that we are fighting in right now. Some examples of what we are doing.
Global influence that does not aggravate sovereignty? Perhaps that's the next stage of the war.
September 25, 2005
A Note On One Commenter
Many of you Loyal Readers may have noticed Shellie, a new commenter here at the Adventures of Chester over the past few weeks. As you can see from many of her statements, Shellie disagrees with most of the rest of us on a variety of issues related to the war. You may wonder: why do I keep answering her comments? and why does she keep visiting, given her neverending disagreement? Don't people usually read blogs they agree with?
Well, some background is in order here.
When I was 12 years old, I went to Space Camp, in Huntsville, Alabama. Great experience. Loved it. Always wanted to be an astronaut. Well, back then anyway.
So while there, I made friends with another space camper, whose name was . . . ta-da: Shellie. Then, after going home we were pen pals for a while -- maybe on and off for a few months? Could have been longer. Gradually, we went on to other things. The last I think, we dropped each other a brief note in high school.
So, a few weeks ago, I get an email from . . . you guessed it, Shellie . . . who says that she is in the habit of periodically googling everyone she has ever known, and I guess my name came up and so, voila! This is the story of how we came to have the insights of "Shellie the commenter" here at TAOC.
Now this is where it gets real interesting. While I became a Marine, and invaded Iraq, Shellie was . . . well, perhaps it's best for her to explain in the comments section, but basically, she became a Muslim, learned Arabic fluently, and has lived in both Syria and Saudi Arabia. What are the odds of us having such different, but related paths? There's more, but I'll leave it to her.
So, I think this is a great opportunity to get a new and unique perspective around here. And I think we've all shown from the exchange of comments so far that we're able to have some pretty in-depth discussions without any of the normal snarking that is common on other blogs. Shellie emailed me last week and agreed that I have some of the more serious readers out there.
Well, just thought all of that merited a post.
Planning ahead: Live-blogging the Iraqi Constitution's Ratification
I've decided to live-blog the Iraqi Constitutional ratification, on October 15th. I did the same for the elections in January and it was quite an experience. Just a heads up.
September 23, 2005
Comment here. Link here. Got something on your mind?
I'll start. Here's something a little off the beaten path: [h-t: ZenPundit]: Virtual plague spreading like wildfire in World of Warcraft:
Players of Blizzard's incredibly popular World of Warcraft are reporting the outbreak of a virtual plague that is spreading across major cities in the virtual land of Azeroth, infecting player characters at an alarming rate.When I first see things like this I'm immediately reminded of how many little subcultures there are out there that I know absolutely nothing about. I had the same feeling reading Speed Tribes : Days and Night's with Japan's Next Generation, though that was several years ago.
The trouble started when Blizzard programmers added a new instance, which is a separate area connected to the outside world that players can enter and attempt unique quests. One of these instances, Zul'Grub, contained the god of blood, Hakkar. Hakkar was a powerful foe that could cast spells of his own, including a spell called Corrupted Blood. This spell did a large amount of damage to any player within the vicinity of the casting, and the effects lingered on after the spell was over.
What happened next was something Blizzard did not expect. Some of the players who had gone into the instance emerged back into the main world of Azeroth, and started spreading the Corrupted Blood disease to others who they came into close contact with. The infection soon spread into many of the cities and towns in the virtual world. Since the disease was intended to be a danger to powerful players, it tended to kill those less than level 50 almost instantly.
Game masters (GMs) tried to quarantine certain players from moving into new areas, but they kept escaping the quarantine and moving on to infect other people. A patch was issued to try and mitigate the damage, but it did not have the desired effect. According to a Blizzard poster on the WoW forums:It appears that the hotfix remedy concocted to combat the recent Azerothian outbreak has not yielded desired results. At this time, our medical staff is continuing to develop an effective cure. We look forward to ensuring the health and vitality of the citizens of Azeroth in the near future.The most interesting thing about this "outbreak" is perhaps the reaction it has provoked among WoW players. Instead of being angry about the deleterious effects of a bug, many are treating this as an exciting and unprecedented event in the WoW universe. It would be even more interesting if epidemiologists in the real world found that this event was worthy of studying as a kind of controlled experiment in disease propagation.
Well there I go, hijacking the open thread already. Bad Chester!
Link away and post away!
UPDATE: Until I figure out how to get trackbacks to display inside the post body, you'll have to click on the "trackback" link for this post to see them. If anyone knows how to do this, I'd love a quick email about it. Thanks!
UPDATE 2: Anatomy of an anti-war puff piece attempts to dissect an AP article covering today's protests in DC.
One thought about all this: the decreasing costs of satellite imagery in real-time could make such fiskings pretty easy in the near future: one could simply click over to Google Earth, download imagery from DC during the protests and then examine it closely to estimate the crowd sizes. If I had this capability, I'd post screen captures from the imagery here and then we could all see with our own eyes how many protestors are there.
September 22, 2005
Blog Interview: Arthur Chrenkoff
Arthur Chrenkoff is a man who needs no introduction. He is an Australian blogger who pioneered the Good News From Iraq series. Just today, The Boston Globe did a great story on the success of this series. Arthur has now had to hang up his keyboard for professional reasons, but his series has spawned a new website altogether, Good News from the Front, which aims to carry the torch.
I wanted to know more about him, and Arthur was kind enough to agree to an interview with me. So here it is, conducted by email from Texas to Australia:
CHESTER: First, the basics: how old are you, and in what industry do you work?
CHRENKOFF: 33, politics (if politics can be called an industry!).
CHESTER: What was it like to grow up in Poland?
CHRENKOFF: Interesting. As P J O’Rourke wrote about Eastern European communism when he visited Poland in 1986, a year before I left: “Communism doesn’t really starve or execute that many people. Mostly it just bores them to death.” So my childhood was not one of gulags and mass graves, but more of decay and frustration. Still, living in a country where telling a joke can lose you a job, and where you have to queue up for hours to buy toilet paper, has been an invaluable learning experience – it made me deeply appreciate democracy, freedom and free market; things that too many people in the West take for granted.
CHESTER: Where were you educated, in Poland, Australia, or elsewhere? What did you study and why?
CHRENKOFF: I went to primary school in Krakow, Poland – it has a Pol Potesque name Primary School Number 1. Then I went to high school and university in Brisbane, Australia. I’ve done Batchelor of Arts, majoring in Government (International Relations), Bachelor of Laws, and then, for the fun of it, PhD in law. Still asking myself that “why?” question.
CHESTER: When did you learn English? Growing up in Poland, or since moving to Australia?
CHRENKOFF: Before I came to Australia I knew maybe 100 English words and some very basic grammar. It was a steep learning curve for the first few months Down Under. It helped – immensely – that I have always loved reading, so I just switched from Polish to English language books. It did wonders for my vocabulary, but nothing for my accent.
CHESTER: Before starting blogging, had you written a lot? For newspapers, or opinion pieces or other stuff?
CHRENKOFF: Not really – at least nothing mainstream. I have written a lot for various small party political publications. Blogging was a revelation, because it suddenly allowed me to write to the whole world, not just to a handful of people in Queensland.
CHESTER: Are you a “man of letters” or maybe as a blogger, a “man of emails?”
CHRENKOFF: I would be, if I had time. I’m amazed at all the famous people in the past, including famous politicians, who somehow managed, on top of their very busy schedules, to leave us volumes upon volumes of private correspondence. How did they manage? All my emails consist of single sentences.
CHESTER: You’ve posted links to your fiction on your blog. Do you see a future in writing?
CHRENKOFF: It would be nice, but the odds of an unknown having his or her first novel published are similar to those of being struck by lightning. Maybe not quite, but in the United States for every one thousand manuscripts, only two ever end up as books. So unless you’re already quite famous in another field and have sufficient name recognition (like, for example, Newt Gingrich or Tara Moss), the publishers are very reluctant to risk touching you.
CHESTER: Why did you move to Australia? Have you had other significant experiences overseas?
CHRENKOFF: My family left Poland in 1987, two years “before the wall came down”, but to us on the inside it certainly did not look like anything would change anytime soon, so my parents, like millions before them, made the decision to seek a better future elsewhere. We lived for sixteen months in Italy while waiting to come to Australia, which was a great experience.
CHESTER: Any observations on life in Australia? Why is it good, or not good, or different than you imagined it would be, for better or worse?
CHRENKOFF: Great. We’ve had family in Australia, so I must have been the only child in Poland who could draw the map of Australia, divide it into states and put all the capital cities in correct places. So, I knew what the expect. I love my hometown Brisbane, and the whole south east corner of Queensland. It’s a bit of a cross between California and Florida, undergoing a huge population growth (Brisbane will triple in size over the next twenty years, from 1 to 3 million people) and a related growth in opportunities.
CHESTER: You’ve written about “post-totalitarianism disorder” in its relation to Afghanistan and Iraq. What is this and did you ever suffer from this same disorder in Poland?
CHRENKOFF: Post-totalitarian stress disorder is a mental and spiritual condition afflicting most if not all of those who had to live under a dictatorship and now have to adjust themselves to a free society. Totalitarian life engenders certain habits and thought processes, such as hostility to the state and the authorities, distrust and lack of cooperation with fellow citizens, loss of personal initiative, etc. All this means that even once you change the society’s hardware – the institutions - the software obstinately remaining inside people’s heads and hearts will make the transition a difficult and frustrating process. And it’s the same the world over, whether it’s Iraq and Afghanistan, or Poland and Cambodia – so yes, even I am not immune in some respects.
CHESTER: Do you return to Poland frequently? What is life like there now as opposed to when you were there last?
CHRENKOFF: I’ve only been back twice, ten years after I left for about a month, and more recently for a few days. I try to keep in touch with the family though. There is no doubt that the transition to democracy and free market was quite painful, and that it will take decades before Poland catches up to Western European living standards, but the changes have been immense and largely for the better. Still, there is a lot of impatience and frustration among the people right now, but unfortunately there aren’t any magic solutions.
CHESTER: How did you become a conservative?
CHRENKOFF: I was always a conservative to the extent of being strongly anti-totalitarian, but way back in 1993, three books made me a “movement” conservative: P J O’Rourke’s “Holidays in Hell”, Michael Medved’s “Hollywood versus America” and William A Rusher’s “The Rise of the Right”. I read them and I thought: this is my home, these are my people.
CHESTER: Let’s talk about the war for a bit. How do you see it progressing? What’s your opinion? Are you optimistic?
CHRENKOFF: Overall, the war is going well, but it’s going to be a long one, which is why all the people who think it’s a disaster because four years on Osama is still at large and Iraq is not Vermont should take a cold shower – and stay there. That’s another good thing about having grown up in a country like Poland – it gives you a historical perspective and the understanding that most processes last longer than a news cycle, that there will be ups and downs, two steps forward and one step back, one step forward and two steps back – but the struggle will go on.
CHESTER: How do you feel about jihad in Southeast Asia? Is it on the rise? Is it a future battleground?
CHRENKOFF: There’s ongoing violence in southern Thailand and in the Philippines, and Jemaah Islamiah has got a strong presence in Indonesia, as evident from the Bali bombing in 2002 and the more recent attack on the Australian embassy in Jakarta. That’s the bad news. The good news is that Muslim societies in Southeast Asia are generally quite moderate, and radicals enjoy limited electoral appeal. Of course, you don’t need to be a mass movement to cause trouble, but a resurrected Caliphate in the region is not a widely popular vision.
CHESTER: How did the “Good News In Iraq” and “Good News in Afghanistan” series get started? How did you get picked up by Opinionjournal.com?
CHRENKOFF: One day I simply got sick of continuous barrage of bad news and thought to myself – surely, logic alone would suggest that there must be some good things happening; so where are they? And I started looking around the internet. A few hours later I had the core of the first round-up, which I updated over the next few days and then published. Some of the stories were from the mainstream media, but often overlooked in the rush of bad news (a terrorist attack usually gets covered by hundreds of media outlets, a comparable piece of good news by only half a dozen of sources), some of it was from the authorities and the NGOs and didn’t even get into the media in the first place. So I quickly realized that there was indeed a lot of good news coming out, but the reporting was so diffuse that it simply wasn’t having much impact on the public.
As for “The Opinion Journal”, it was a simple case of “link whoring” known to every blogger. I sent James Taranto links to the first two round-ups and he included them in his daily “Best of the Web” segmeny. Upon the third or fourth time, he emailed back saying: it doesn’t make much sense me just linking to your stuff – why don’t we publish a complete round-up instead? And the rest is history.
CHESTER: What do you think are the obstacles to getting the good news out?
CHRENKOFF: Partly, it’s an institutional bias in favor of bad news, the proverbial “if it bleeds, it leads” newsroom attitude. Whether it’s Boston or Baghdad, the media prefers to report on violence, crime, corruption, and controversy because it seems more newsworthy and more serious than good news. But there is clearly an ideological bias – whether against the United States, against any Republican administration, against a forceful foreign policy, or against the military. There are also more innocent explanations – ignorance, as well as logistical problems – reports quite often simply are not in the right place at the right time to report on positive developments.
CHESTER: Have you read any constructive criticism of your Good News efforts from the left? Has anyone offered some sort of insight that made you change the content, focus, or something else about it? Or has it all been silently received on the left? I'm sure you've received lots of emails about it . . .
CHRENKOFF: Plenty of criticsim but nothing that made me change my direction. The critics don't seem to have read very carefully what I've written – I never claimed that that bad things are not happening or that all is well is Iraq, and I never made claims that the good news I pull together outweighs all the bad news - that's a decision for the readers to make, but they can only make that sort of an informed decision after they have in front of them both sides of the story. There is a widespread feeling on the left that to report bad news is a duty, but to report good news is propaganda.
CHESTER: If you were in charge of public affairs at the Pentagon, how would you do the job? What would you do differently than is being done today?
CHRENKOFF: It’s a tough one, because large sections of the public, and most of the media, are pretty skeptical of the military authorities and their message. So from one point of view, Pentagon could do ten times as much as it’s currently doing, and do it in ten different ways, but the media filter would still find ways to ignore or downplay the message.
On the other hand, embedding journalists is one of the best media strategies around. During the initial stages of war, almost 800 journalists were attached to various military units; now it’s only 30. Living and working alongside the troops gives journalists an invaluable perspective - a much better understanding of all the realities as well as of the people. Not only is it a useful counterbalance to the usually uninformed and dismissive reporting of military matters, but it also gets the reporters to where the action is. The media have missed out on so many good news stories – of security successes, of reconstruction, of winning hearts and minds – because they simply weren’t there “at the coalface” with the troops.
Also, if the mainstream media is part of the problem and not the solution, than you should diversify and try to utilize the new media to get the message across – talk radio, blogs, etc.
CHESTER: What’s the future of all this – the media that is? Papers, journalists, blogs, TV – the whole shooting match. Where will it all be in 5 or 10 years?
CHRENKOFF: Ah, if I knew the answer I would be a very rich man – in 5 or 10 years.
CHESTER: Have you ever been to the US? You are certainly welcome in Texas anytime.
CHRENKOFF: No, but would love to one day, and even better, to take a few months off and drive across the country from east to west. Texas, of course, would be on my route.
CHESTER: Thanks very much for your time!
CHRENKOFF: Pleasure – thanks for having me.
September 21, 2005
Reflections on the Flash Presentation on The Anbar Campaign
Bill Roggio, Marvin Hutchens, and Steve Schippert from The Word Unheard (who is revealing his name for the first time) have created a Flash presentation of recent operations in Iraq, specifically in the West, along the Syrian border. I know they've been working on it for a while and the product is outstanding. It covers the period Aug 27-Sep 17th. Please go check it out immediately.
UPDATE: The thing that makes this presentation so powerful is its complete independence from the normally practiced way of reporting the war. Most war reports make sweeping generalizations from a few small bits of first-hand observation, for better or worse. They rarely tie military actions together in an operational whole (note: Wretchard has just pointed this out as well at The Belmont Club).
To give a concrete example of what I mean, I'd like to do a comparison of three texts. First, Chasing the Ghosts an article in the September 18th edition of Time magazine, and secondly, an interview with DoD News: Press Briefing on Overview of Operation Restoring Rights in Tall Afar, Iraq, and finally, DoD News: Special Defense Department Operational Update Briefing on Operations in Northwest Iraq [h-t to Belmont Club over the past week or so for all three sources].
We can start with the titles of the articles themselves. "Chasing the Ghosts" of course implies trying to catch something that is forever out of one's grasp. It of course reeks of drama, but not of a good kind, but of a tragic sort of failure. The other DOD headlines relfect the mundane manner in which the DOD assigns and tracks its news. These two documents should be pushed out to every media outlet possible, not just released on the Pentagon website. The headlines reflect that mentality.
First, let's examine the overall tone of both sets of documents just through some of the descriptive phrases in each. In the TIME article, here are representative words, reflecting, and shaping, the overall tenor of the piece:
"elusive and inexhaustible enemy"
"success" is "elusive"
"inexhaustible enemy emboldened by the US presence"
"gradual . . . erosion" in public support
"millions of Iraqis will vote on a constitution that threatens to further split the country"
"beleaguered US mission in Iraq"
"unwinnable military fight"
"series of failures"
"hardened local fighters"
"politically compromised outcome"
"dangers, dilemmas, and frustrations that still haunt the US in Iraq"
"temporary tactical gains"
"doubts about whether anything resembling victory can still be achieved"
"powerless to do anything" about atrocities
"intelligence suggests insurgents are displaying their mettle"
"This enemy is not a rabble."
"shaken US officer"
"troops . . . embittered"
"insurgents proving so resiliant"
Do you really even have to read the article to know what it says? When I was a child, my father told me that Life magazine was for people who don't like to read, and TIME for people who don't like to think. Seems an accurate characterization. Let's contrast those above phrases with the ones used by Col H.R. McMaster, Commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, the subject of the first DOD link, who led the attack on Tall Afar, and those of Col Robert Brown, Commander of the 1st Brigade, 25th Infantry, who is the subject of the second interview, conducted as his unit is about to leave Iraq after a full year there.
Col McMaster's interview:
"The enemy . . . is the worst of the worst in terms of people in the world."
"no better enemy for our soldiers and Iraqi army soldiers to pursue and defeat"
"our troopers were very aggressive"
"we pursued them very effectively"
"gain access here by a very good relationship with the people"
"they can't hide in plain sight anymore"
"there's a permanent security presence here"
"the enemy is denied that area"
"very capable Iraqi security forces"
"tremendous amount of capability"
"we conducted very effective combat operations against the enemy"
"we relentlessly pursued the enemy"
"these Iraqi soldiers are brave"
"more effective every day"
"there is no really greater pleasure for us than to kill or capture these particular individuals"
"discipline of our soldiers . . . ability to overwhelm the enemy in every tactical engagement"
"apply firepower with discipline and discrimination has saved civilians' lives"
"desperate situation for al Qaeda and the insurgents in Mosul"
"sources we have inside the al Qaeda network . . . have . . . informed us of that"
"population clearly understands they want freedom . . . they are sick and tired of the terrorists"
"the government has really improved their legitimacy"
"the Iraqi forces are getting better"
"the situation improving on a daily basis in Mosul"
"normalcy has come back to the city"
"They're absolutely fantastic"
"huge improvement just over the last three months"
"we have a number of sources that provide information"
"foreign fighter that we're seeing now -- very poorly trained"
"80 percent say they're going to come and vote"
"they want the people in fear"
"many of these former regime elements are coming forward"
"mistake to align themselves with al Qaeda"
"the level of proficiency is down in the foreign fighter"
"the level of complexity of attacks is way down"
"the leadership is severely disrupted"
Now one might be tempted to think that Col McMaster and Col Brown are just shills for the administration. But interestingly enough, Col McMaster is the author of a bestselling book on Vietnam, Dereliction of Duty : Johnson, McNamara, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the Lies That Led to Vietnam. Why would he write such a scathing text, then go on to repeat those same errors? I'm willing to bet he's calling it like he sees it. Here's an excerpt from his book:
Johnson's preoccupation with his domestic legislative program led him to obscure from the public and the Congress the extent of the difficulties in Vietnam. Despite his efforts to suppress the stories, however, newspapers had carried front-page articles on the US ambassador's row with the South Vietnamese generals and on the military defeats suffered by the South Vietnamese Army at the hands of the Viet Cong. On January 21 Johnson arranged a meeting with key Democratic and Republilcan members of the House and Senate. The meeting convened as General Khanh was charging the administration with grossly understating the degree of Communist infiltration from North Vietnam. Coincidentally, the purpose of the meeting with the legislators was to propagate the administration's spuriously optimistic assessment. [emphasis added]It doesn't jive that the same man who wrote that in 1997 would now willingly abandon such convictions to spuriously provide overly optimistic assessments of our current conflict. I think we can cut that criticism off at the pass.
Now let's compare some specific statements from TIME magazine vs. Col McMaster. They provide quite a contrast. The overall effect is that of Chicken Little sharing a podium with Clint Eastwood, who carefully and clearly dismantles the bird's every cluck. Pity these two weren't in the same room.
Waiting for the Americans were hundreds of hardened local fighters, small bands of foreign zealots and in the notorious Sarai quarter of the city, a labyrinth of medieval alleyways laced with booby traps and roadside bombs.Col McMaster:
These were very complex defenses in neighborhoods outside of the Sarai neighborhood, which was the center of the enemy's safe haven here. They had their command and control in a safe house in the center that was very heavily defended. Outside of that, they had defensive positions with RPG and machine gun positions. Surrounding those positions, they had homes that were rigged to be demolished by munitions as U.S. and Iraqi soldiers entered them, and then, outside of those, they had Improvised Explosive Devices, roadside bombs, implanted, buried into the roads.2. TIME:
But our forces aggressively pursued the enemy in these areas. They were able to defeat these IEDs based on the human intelligence we developed. We exploded many of them with attack helicopter fire or detonated them with our engineers. We penetrated that defense. Our tanks led with our Iraqi infantry in support. We absorbed any energy from their rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns, continued the assault into these safe havens and destroyed their leadership throughout the city. The word then went out that -- to the enemy that put other elements on notice: look, we're being slaughtered here; we need to avoid these very effective combined forces of Iraqi and U.S. forces. But we continued to relentlessly pursue them as we moved to isolate the Sarai district. In Sarai, the most dense urban terrain you can imagine, there was a very complex defense prepared there, with, again, these roadside bombs, buildings rigged for demolition, machine gun positions, sniper positions, and mortars integrated into this. But with our intelligence, our precision fires capability, we were able to severely disrupt that defense and really collapse it all around the enemy.
But field commanders and top intelligence officers acknowledge that the U.S. is no closer to subduing the insurgents and the threat that they pose to Iraq's stability.Col McMaster (who is of course a 'field commander'):
Nothing's rosy in Iraq, okay? So I don't want to give you an unrealistic perspective here. What I tried to describe with you was a continuous interaction with the enemy that we've had since our arrival, but an interaction that has been in our favor. We've maintained the initiative over this enemy . . .3. TIME:
The standard for success for us here is to ensure that the enemy can no longer wage an effective campaign of intimidation over the population of Tall Afar. And to get to your question, in terms of can we permanently secure it, the answer is, yes, and we're taking all measures to do that. In fact, it's the most complicated part of the mission, is how we provide permanent security. We're introducing Iraqi security forces into the center of the city. Iraqi army will have access to the population. They'll be in patrol bases in the interior of the city . . .
So building the capability of the security forces, introducing them into the city, controlling the return of civilians, developing sources within the communities to make sure that we have early warning of these terrorists if they come back -- these are all things that are very much on all of our leaders' minds as we continue to set conditions for permanent security for the people of Tall Afar.
So is it done, yet? No. Will it happen? Yes. It's going to happen. And this operation is setting the conditions for establishing that kind of security, so these people -- these good people in Tall Afar no longer have to suffer. I mean, there are the most beautiful children I've ever seen in my life in this city. I mean, there's Turkmen kids in these multicolored dresses. They've suffered for way too long, and all of us, the Iraqi soldiers, the Iraqi police, our forces are committed to make sure they don't have to suffer anymore. And these terrorists will not come back. They won't come back to Tall Afar.
Across Iraq, the prize for the U.S. remains a clear-cut outcome, some indication that the U.S. is doing anything more than playing whack-a-mole with the insurgents.Col McMaster:
. . . what gives us the ability to sort of clear-and-hold as a counterinsurgency strategy is the capability of Iraqi security forces. And I think we have to remember, you know, that the enemy attacked the Iraqi security forces in a very focused manner over the last couple years. Why was that? Because that's their greatest danger to them. So I think we tend to give the enemy, you know, too much credit, not ourselves credit sometimes. You know, we've got the right strategy here, which is to build Iraqi security forces, which can secure the population from these terrorists and these murderers. And the key thing is for us to be able to reconstitute in this area, and that's what we're really doing, is rebuilding, reconstituting police forces, which suffered from a focused attack by the enemy last fall, so that the police can be the primary level of security. And now what has fundamentally changed from operations conducted previously is that we have a capable Iraqi army formation to provide them with backup.The TIME article has some truly bizarre statements in it:
Unlike the Fallujah battle, Tall Afar raged mostly unseen, with accounts of the fighting limited largely to the reports of U.S. and Iraqi officials in Baghdad, who declared that the onslaught had succeeded in driving out the bands of rebels . . . from their safe haven.Now wait just a moment. Why might this operation have been less covered than Fallujah? Couldn't it have something to do with not enough reporters who give a damn?
The TIME article is also interesting because of its structure, which basically shifts between A) ground-level combat and B) large-scale strategic prognostications and generalizations. In fact, breaking the paragraphs down with these values yields this organization:
The ability for one individual to impute the overall course of things and at the same time cover a given tactical action in detail flies in the face of my experience there. I had little knowledge of ground-level combat, but a quite well-developed view of the entire operational picture. My friends in the infantry were no doubt in the opposite position. The only way to develop a detailed view of both is through the expenditure of a significant amount of time -- Michael Yon might be a good example of this, but even he shies away from pronouncements on the course of the overall conflict, instead sticking to descriptions of the trials and successes of one battalion. One other way is to be that rarest of individual on the battlefield: the operational-level commander, of a battalion or a regiment, someone like Col McMaster, or Col Brown, who serves as the critical link between the strategic overview and yet can move freely among his men on the ground, going where he can best observe their progress.* TIME magazine is kind enough to tell us that
After a month in the Al Qaeda-dominated Syrian border region, TIME spent 10 days on the front lines of the war, having lived with U.S. and Iraqi troops as they prepared for the battle of Tall Afar . . .There is a view in contemporary America that authentic experience trumps analytical rigor: I was there, you weren't, I know what I'm talking about, you don't. It is reminiscent of the conversation between Spock and Dr. McCoy in Star Trek III, when Spock tells McCoy that in order to have a conversation about Spock's recent death and resurrection, McCoy must first die and then be resurrected himself.
That seems like a silly way to win an argument, but playing by those rules, isn't it logical that if time in theater is the arbiter of tactical and strategic insight, then Col Brown's year-long tour and Col McMaster's 5 months thus far trump TIME magazine's 40 days? And that is completely setting aside their professional expertise.
In the end, is there an absolute correct answer as to the course of the war in Iraq, or are we doomed to forever repeat the questions of one of Robert Littell's spies, who perpetually asks, "Whose truth, which truth?"
I am admittedly biased, but it all seems like a no-brainer to me.
*This is likely to change over time as forces are more and more decentralized and given a common operational picture from which to operate. But that's how it is now.
September 20, 2005
San Antonio Katrina Relief Update
An Alert Reader emails the following about her recent experiences working with evacuees in San Antonio:
Anyway, I went out to building 1536 and put in my first 12 hour shift on Friday 9/9 and was back out there on Sat, Sun, Mon, Tues. I took my husband out there on Saturday and he painted with some of the little kids. IWell, no wonder they aren't letting the press in there. This does not surprise me I hate to say. When I went down to volunteer it was chaos. I don't think I would let Mrs. C go back by herself either.
guess that I should have mentioned that they put me in the daycare/play area the first day and I worked there every day after that. Very difficult and trying conditions. Horrible problems with the older kids completely unsupervised and beating the crap out of the little ones, parents taking off and leaving the children for 12 hours or more and stumbling in drunk at 1am and us still sitting there with the poor little things, child protective services
taking away another two children from a Mom who was really messed up and then her coming after the volunteers and threatening us-one way to lose good volunteers! We were unable to get security on many occasions, even when I was really scared and begging, violent children going through withdrawals (can you believe it?) volunteers who only stayed an hour before leaving in horror, hungry, dirty children that no-one bathed or fed or pottied
unless we did it, no hand-washing facilities or clean-up area and lots of these children had really bad diarrea and vomiting. Pee and poo everywhere! Absolutely no help from the powers that be, except inane rules like "we
would really like it if you would wear a white t-shirt tomorrow so that we can all be uniform in appearance"
And we would pick up these poor little kids and they would just hang onto us, they had to be peeled off our necks. Lots of love and affection and they really wanted our protection. But the big kids made life hell, so I tossed them out one night and they went over to the bed area and started pegging us with rocks. I was the last one out on Monday night and was told that no-one could walk me to my car, that security couldn't leave their posts; this was
after the admin people had told me that one of the mothers was looking for me to beat me up (the one who had her kids removed by CPS) I kid you not, I was scared to death and it sure was a long walk to my car at midnight. Tuesday was worse, if you can imagine and every day we were so short handed, 30 kids or more and only 2 or 3 volunteers, then if we had to take a child to the porta-potties outside then we were a man down until the person
came back. Crazy. My husband said no more, that if the Red Cross can't provide secure parking and an escort to the cars and keep us from being threatened by the "clients" then he says I can't go back.
Perhaps all of this has some relevance to a request by a reader to discuss the private vs. the public sector and civil-military relations. Things would of course be much more organized if the military ran such facilities, but I think people know that. I don't think that's a great idea though, because the military needs to be focused on fighting abroad, not inwardly focused here in the US. Also, I'm just not a big fan of active duty military activity (aside from training of course) domestically. I think posse comitatus was a good idea.
In the end, a clear hierarchy and chain of command, as offered by the military, would alleviate a number of these friction-type problems in relief efforts. But I'm not sure that's possible because of the multitude of agencies involved. I have little faith in the average bureaucrat to be Johnny-on-the-Spot in getting anything done. It's not always their faults either. Institutions breed complacency and risk-aversion. These two traits lead to problems in chaotic and rapidly changing environments.
September 19, 2005
Discussion: What happens if they hit us again?
One topic raised through feedback is the question of what will happen given another 9/11 style attack. I think this is a good subject for a discussion.
Here's some stream of consciousness thoughts to start it off:
Does the attack kill a lot of children, like Beslan?
Do the terrorists use WMD?
Did they come through Mexico?
Does Washington survive?
I think it is highly likely that another attack on our soil will lead to a serious campaign to impeach the President -- and it might succeed.
What will our response be? I'm hoping not an extermination of Islam, but I'm sure that many will call for that. Wretchard has written that internments are what we do when we cannot make judgments; instead of being able to tell who in a given population is bad -- because of PC or other reasons -- we imprison the entire given population. He said it better than me. So I'm hoping that doesn't happen, but I don't think it's impossible.
Another thing that I hope doesn't happen is an expansion of the military to do domestic law enforcement and civil defense. I think this is a dangerous road and is unpalatable for many, many reasons.
I think some very smart people have probably developed a plan for a response to an unclaimed or untraceable WMD attack on a US city. I don't know what they've come up with, but perhaps that's a good thing. Whatever that plan is, if it works for a WMD attack, why wouldn't it work for something on a smaller scale, like hospitals, shopping malls, or CBD condos?
Another thing that I hope doesn't happen is that we are told to go on vacation and shop. This was the largest error of our current war. One word from the President and guys like me will quit our jobs and call the Mobilization Command (I have their 800 number in my phone). In fact, if we were attacked again, I'm pretty sure I could talk at least two co-workers into joining me, even though they have no military experience. But what would we be charging off to do?
If there isn't a group of smart people thinking about these things, then my biggest fear is that another attack on the US will be met with a continuation of our current policy. Even if our current policy is the correct one, and I think it is though it is not without a few flaws of execution, there will need to be some action taken of some kind to both satiate the bloodthirst of the populace, and as a show of force of some kind that says you can't get away with that.
For a realpolitik view of what we could be doing differently now, see Conservative Critiques of the War, Part II: The Lone Realist. Helprin, whose work I summarize there, thinks our efforts are far too feeble. He had another opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal not long ago, to the same tune: 'They Are All So Wrong' Four years after 9/11, Washington keeps courting strategic error.
What do you think, loyal readers?
Response to Feedback
Thanks to all of you who commented with feedback on what you'd like to read about at the ole blog here. I'll be covering those issues as best I can, and as time allows, over the next few days.
September 18, 2005
Clinton the Strategist: A Dissection
Something's not quite right here . . .
MR. STEPHANOPOULOS: . . . Let's talk Iraq for a second. We just had one of the bloodiest weeks of the war. I know you've said that we have to have a strategy for victory and see this through to victory, but a lot of Democrats and also some Republicans like Chuck Hagel look at the situation now and say you know what? We don't have that strategy. We're not winning.Continue reading for a complete fisking.
PRESIDENT CLINTON: We don’t.
Request for Feedback
What would you like to read about here at The Adventures of Chester?
China? Iraq? Iran? Something else entirely?
I'd like to hear your thoughts, o loyal readers.
September 17, 2005
The Flight that Fought Back
Having returned from Austin, i've had a chance to watch "The Flight that Fought Back," which I TiVo'd last Sunday.
About halfway through it, it is excellent. Very well made, good acting, good music and score etc.
One thing I don't understand: why does it memorialize the "40 passengers and crew" of the flight? There were 4 passengers who caused the whole damn thing and deserve no memorials whatsoever. I don't get it. Same with the whole "Crescent of Embrace" nonsense. Not sure why we include the jihadis among the number to be remembered.
UPDATE: Mrs. Chester thinks this is a silly post. She watched the whole thing and reports that the number doesn't include the terrorists. She says that's common sense. Well, it usually is, but not when the Flight 93 memorial is a giant red crescent pointed toward Mecca.
September 15, 2005
Market-states, Netwar and "Ebay-style command systems"
On many occasions, loyal readers, I have referred you to the brilliant work by Philip Bobbitt, The Shield of Achilles, which is about the relationship between constitutional order and warfare, and the different forms that the state has taken over the past five hundred years: princely state, kingly state, territorial state, state-nation, nation-state, and now, market-state. It is pure genius. I highly recommend it. The only thing that has kept me from reviewing it in full is that it is nearly 800 pages and so broad-ranging that I'm sure I would miss more than a few important things. For the moment, I'll give the briefest of overviews, which is only fair because it illuminates much of my thinking here on the blog.
Here's the central thesis in my own paraphrased words: the state was created as one strategic innovation of warfare. Since then, as warfare evolved, the constitutional order of states has evolved with it. Along the way, there have been several "epochal wars," during which the strategic innovations of warfare resulted in a new constitutional order. During the 20th century, the period from 1914 to 1990 was one such epochal war. The constitutional order in play was that of the nation-state. The three alternatives of nation-state were fascism, parliamentarism, and communism, all of which each promised to maximize the welfare of a given nation, through one means or another. During that war, the Long War of the 20th century, the states involved made strategic innovations to win -- three in particular: nuclear weapons, rapid computation, and global communcations (in the broadest sense: the movement of people, ideas, materiel etc). These same three strategic innovations, which were essential to winning the Long War of the nation-state, now undermine that same society of states. The new constitutional order will be that of the market-state. Governments will no longer seek to maximize the welfare of a given nation, but will instead maximize the opportunities of citizens.
That in a nutshell is the argument and I think it rings true in many, many ways. First off, Bobbitt has jettisoned the prevalent view of history: that the nation-state has been in existence since the Peace of Westphalia in 1648, and is now being rent asunder by global capitalism, which drives all things before it. This view, the prevailing one in the academic world, is inherently Marxist. It says that capitalism is the root cause of everything: culture, politics, societal breakdown . . . And it says that "all that is solid melts into air," which leaves much to be desired in terms of giving hope for the future of the human race. Bobbitt instead argues differently: it is not capitalism that drives everything. Instead, he would claim that war is the driving force in human history. This is a classical view, a classically liberal view, it is a breath of fresh air, and it is fascinating.
Bobbitt believes that the market-state will rely less on legal regulation and laws to solve policy problems, and will instead rely more on market-based incentives to accomplish its goals. In a sense he comes full circle: capital is not the defining element of life, war is. But capitalism has blessed us with the best ways of organizing society, and now, in our continued drive to continue to prevent wars, we will rely on those market-based approaches to accomplish the aims of our Leviathan.
Now one wonders: how does this wide-ranging grand theory translate into everyday domestic politics? It might be easy to equate the market-state with the ultimate goal of libertarians, who wish for no central government whatsoever. But this would be incorrect. Bobbitt does not see markets as replacing states. He sees states as using markets to accomplish their goals, rather than grand government redistribution schemes, or bureaucratic means of making decisions. In fact, Bobbitt argues that the welfare state has been so discredited in recent years because it was part and parcel of the nation-state -- the state that promises to maximize the opportunities of a given nation. This is what both FDR and LBJ attempted to do with their programs. But the innovations which won the Long War -- nuclear weapons, rapid computation, and global communications -- have rendered a world in which no one nation, or ethnic group is clearly defined. One cannot seek to maximize the welfare of a given nation because one can no longer even define that nation. This is especially true in the United States, a multi-ethnic continental superpower.
My interpretation is that the Democrats, using multiculturalism, seek to maximize the welfare of every mini-nation which can be found in the US, but to the overall detriment to the whole. They use the tired old redistributive policies of the welfare state to accomplish this, but ultimately, the welfare state can never be as effective at maximizing welfare as the market can in maximizing opportunity. Here is where the GOP comes in. Contrary to the Democrats, the GOP has traditionally sought to maximize market opportunity, while at the same time enacting social policies that buttress a much narrower conception of one particular melting-pot American nation-state. So the effects of the market-state cut through both parties. I think the GOP is in a position to much more clearly adopt the concept of the market-state and implement policies based upon an understanding of its dynamics than are the Democrats.
In fact, guess who else has been reading Bobbitt?
In his new book, Winning the Future, Newt Gingrich dedicates a chapter to Entrepreneurial Public Management as a Replacement for Bureaucratic Public Administration. Sound familiar? Scroll down:
As Professor Philip Bobbitt of the University of Texas has noted: "Tomorrow's [nation] state will have as much in common with the 21st century multinational company as with the 20th century [nation] state. It will outsource many functions to the private sector, rely less of regulation and more on market incentives and respond to ever-changing consumer demand."Don't be deceived. Bobbitt's work is more about war and diplomacy than about turning the US into number one on the Fortune 500 list, with the President as CEO. But the analogy is not inappropriate, and is in fact the easiest part of the book to discuss in the public realm with our existing vocabulary of states, markets, and politics. Newt has merely latched on to this one aspect of the market-state.
But to get back to war . . . this is where the idea of the market-state is most fascinating. After all, our current military organizations are relics of the industrial age, and the welfare state. They are nation-state institutions. What will the military of the market-state look like? There are many answers, but I think the most interesting ones lie at the nexus of Bobbitt's work with that of two RAND researchers, Jon Arquilla and David Ronfeldt, who are the pioneers behind the concept of "netwar" (see The Advent of Netwar). The RANDsters describe the rise of network forms of organization as a direct result of the information society (read: Bobbitt's "global communications"), which break down hierarchies (read: bureaucratic government agency holdovers from the nation-state). Their work is fascinating, and has obviously been very influential. They have written a separate work postulating that "swarming" will be the doctrine of the future, because of the decentralized nature of warfighting organizations, based on dense and robust communications. Hugh Hewitt has quoted their work about swarming in his own book, Blog, to describe what he terms "blogswarms". And of course, the Marine Corps is developing something called "Distributed Operations," which General Hagee discussed at the American Enterprise Institute conference on The The Future of the United States Marine Corps:
Distributive operations, in my mind, as this lays out, is an additive capability and it's a logical extension of our warfare philosophy and that is maneuver warfare, and what we're talking about is taking several squads and rather than putting them ashore as a platoon, they may go to shore as a platoon but they would be spread out over a large area, and that squad leader would have the capability to call in kinetic fire, whether it's from air, sea or land, and coordinate those fires. Can you do it today? He has the capability but we haven't given him the education and training, and we are absolutely committed to doing that.One way of imagining distributed operations is a small market of interconnected actors, who are free to collaborate amongst themselves when convenient, all in pursuit of a common policy goal. This is the conceptual way to imagine how a market-state will implement its policies, as opposed to a libertarian utopia of all private-sector all-the-time. In fact, in a 2003 interview at Berkeley, Jon Arquilla even goes so far as to say:
You take several of those squads and you can spread them out over a large area. You've got eyes on target. You can bring in kinetic fires, if so desired, and if it's high-intensity conflict, you find the gap in the enemy's lines, and here is the part that's different. You reaggregate that force as a platoon, as a company, as a battalion, as a regiment, and you shove that combat power through that gap, looking for the enemy's center of gravity.
It's a little bit what we're doing today. We don't have all the technologies. They've been invented, they're out there, we just don't have them yet. The technologies to ensure those squads are connected together. And we haven't provided the education and training to ensure that squad leader has everything he can to be that strategic corporal, to be that strategic sergeant on today's battlefield.
What David Ronfeldt and I have suggested in terms of organizational redesign is that we create many small units who, first of all, can communicate with each other, and secondly, with our automated, unmanned assets in the air and other aircraft or ships at sea that can provide fire support. We've also suggested a commanding general or admiral who will be able to observe all of this as it is under way. The true measure of generalship in the future will be the leader who watches, but doesn't control directly, who adjusts and corrects where necessary, but allows things to unfold in a natural way.Ebay style of command? Crazy right? Check this out, from an in-depth profile of Donald Rumsfeld by Thomas P.M. Barnett:
I went so far as to suggest once that it would be nice if a general tried to move to an eBay-style command system in which he simply let it be known to his commanders of what Ronfeldt and I call these little pods and clusters out in the field -- if he simply gave them a list of all the things that mattered to him: a bridge, a town, an enemy unit, the battery of artillery. We assign point values to those, and he put them on his list for a certain amount of time, at a certain point value. Of course, this could be adjusted every day. Imagine a campaign in which the commander's intent was expressed in that fashion, as opposed to a stream of orders from one unit to the next. The efficiencies created would be absolutely enormous. And, frankly, we have the information technology today. EBay is the proof that we have an efficient auction system for allocating resources. Well, we could be doing that in the military realm as well. I'm only partly tongue in cheek about that; I think we could go to something very, very close to that, very much further away from traditional notions of command.
But perhaps most stunning are Rumsfeld's plans for something he calls the National Security Personnel System, which will radically redefine civilian and military service in the Defense Department, changing from a longevity-based system to a performance-based system. Already, radical new features of this plan have been field-tested in the Navy, where, in the past, so-called detailers told sailors where they were going on their next assignment-with little warning and like it or not. Eager to break that boneheaded tradition, the Navy is experimenting with an eBay-like online auction system in which individual servicemen and -women bid against one another for desired postings. As Admiral Vern Clark told me, "I've learned you can get away with murder if you call it a pilot program."How about them apples? The market-state, entrepreneurial public managment, netwar and swarming: all tied together, all right around the corner.
So Clark is pioneering a system by which, instead of sending people to places they don't want to go on a schedule that plays havoc with their home life, "they're going to negotiate on the Web for jobs. The decision's going to be made by the ship and the guy or gal. You know, we're going to create a whole new world here."
The plan is designed to save the services money and effort by reducing early departures from the ranks by people who just can't take it anymore. The Navy's so-called "slamming" rate, meaning the percentage of job transfers against a person's will, has hovered at 30 to 35 percent in recent years. That means the Navy has been pissing off one third of its personnel on a regular basis. Now, under this program, the slamming rate is down to less than one percent. More profoundly, Clark's pilot program has already spread to the other services, and in turn could well change the very nature of civil service throughout the United States government.
Where will it end? Innovation in republican and democratic government is no stranger to the United States. We may yet come up with something wholly new, different, and better, even more so than the first attempts described above.
UPDATE: Newt also mentions Ebay, but in a different context (same link as above). I definitely think he has read Bobbitt's book:
Creating a citizen centered government using the power of the computer and the internet. The agrarian-industrial model of government saw the citizen as a client of limited capabilities and the government employee as the center of knowledge, decision and power. It was a bureaucrat-centered model of governance (much as the agrarian-industrial model of health was a doctor-centered model and the agrarian-industrial school was a teacher-centered model). The information age makes it possible to develop citizen centered models of access and information.The market-state will seek to maximize opportunity for its citizens.
The Weather Channel and Weather.com are a good example of this new approach. The Weather Channel gathers and analyzes the data but it is available to you when you want it and in the form you need. You do not have to access all the weather in the world to discover the weather for your neighborhood tomorrow. You do not have to get anyone’s permission to access the system 24 hours a day 7 days a week. Google is another system of customer centric organization that is a model for government. You access Google when you want to and you ask it the question that interests you. Google may give you an answer that has over a million possibilities but you only have to use the one or two options that satiate your interest. Similarly Amazon.com and E-Bay are models of systems geared to your interests on your terms when you want to access them. Compare these systems with the current school room, the courthouse which is open from 8 to 5, the appointment at the doctor’s office on the doctor’s terms, the college class only available when the professor deigns to show up. Government is still mired in the pre-computer, pre-communications age. A key component of Entrepreneurial Public Management is to ask every morning what can be done to use computers, the internet, CDs, DVDs, teleconferencing, and other modern innovations to recenter the government on the citizen.
Austin Meetup Successful
Well, there were only two of us, but we had some darn good Mexican food and a couple of margaritas. Lots of fun. Never a dull moment in the conversation.
Mrs. Chester refers to all you readers as my "merry-band of hyper-intellectuals." This from a med student.
September 14, 2005
Speculation on the Baghdad Attacks
A briefing, using the understudy technique:
"I'm Zarqawi's lead henchman in Tal-Afar, that is, after all the other, much more qualified lead henchmen have been killed or captured. The Americans and the Iraqi government are coming to take over my city. I've stockpiled lots of materiel here, weapons, supplies, even some pre-staged car bombs, for quick use. Since the Iraqis and the Americans are clearing the entire city, I now have nowhere to keep my supplies . . . I can't use most of my weaponry in an open battle; the Americans will slaughter my forces. I can't transport most of my materiel; I don't have the operational lift to do it. The most I can do is roust all the guys I can (and let's be honest, I'm getting near to the bottom of the barrel here) and get them to drive the remaining car bombs out of the city. There's no way they can go west to our brothers in Syria. With luck they'll be able to reach Baghdad and launch some sort of attack there. Hopefully, it will kill many, but more importantly, it will cause the western press to completely forget about this operation in my haven of Tal Afar, and focus entirely on Baghdad's carnage. I mean, they practically work for us -- they even do multimedia presentations on our work that they never do for the efforts of the Americans. This seems to make sense because as we know, most of the press is holed up in Baghdad and never even visits other cities.
Finally, maybe I can get word to the Emir, Zarqawi, and he can spin it however he wants. Civil war against the Shi'ites or or a foretaste of a 'Great Ramadan Offensive' or whatever. That's just about the best I can do, praise be to Allah. Throw a Hail Mary -- as it were -- out there and see what happens . . . "
If the press can make a meta-narrative, so can I. I mean -- come on! 10,000 US and Iraqi troops invade Tal Afar, with the Iraqis in the lead, and it's relegated to the back pages. But some car bombs in Baghdad, and the New York Times creates an entire multimedia presentation about it. Bull puckey, I say to that.
I have to credit The Fourth Rail as the source of all those links. Bill Roggio is apparently the only journalist in the world keeping track of things but . . . wait . . . he's not even a journalist. He'll probably get mad I even called him one . . . He's sitting in his living room in Jersey running circles around all the denizens of the Palestine Hotel. It's inspiring and disgraceful at the same time.
September 13, 2005
The Future of the United States Marine Corps
What an action-packed day -- with a cast of great Marines, great foreign policy experts, and an audience that seems distinguished as well. There's something here for everyone: war stories from Bing West, reflections on small wars by Max Boot, all kinds of great insights by Mike Vickers (who has an innocuous position at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis, but who is nonetheless famous to anyone who has read Charlie Wilson's War, because he was the CIA operations officer who planned the arming of the mujaheddin in Afghanistan) lots of laughs as we learn that the funniest man in the Marine Corps is Lieutenant General Sattler, Commanding General of I MEF, and in charge of the Second Battle of Fallujah. Two other generals are present, General Hagee, the Commandant of the Corps, who notes that "paranoia" is the Marine Corps' core competency. And of course, what gathering of Marines would be complete without Lieutenant General Mattis, who says, "After some of my publicized remarks, I'm honored to be invited back to any polite company," and, "I have to make a nod to doctrine, ladies and gentlemen, because I have said on occasion, in the past, that doctrine is the last refuge of the unimaginative. I now find myself responsible for Marine Corps doctrine. That's part of the commandant's way of gaining some degree of revenge over me."
Read the whole thing, if you have the time. If not, keep scrolling here.
The effect on the reader is that of a fly on the wall as some fascinating discussions take place. Going through the document, several issues and concepts come up again and again. What follows are thoughts on three of them.
Three Different Marine Corps
One of the initial presentations was by LtCol Frank Hoffman, a research fellow at the Center for Emerging Threats and Opportunities, a think-tank created by the Marine Corps. Says Hoffman:
There's three different kinds of Marine Corps and the first one is I would call the forcible entry Marine Corps, and it's not the kind of Inchon, or here, you know, the D Day kind of approach. I can make an argument, push back a little bit on what my good friend Max Boot had to say, that there is an argument that can be made, that in the 21st Century there are going to be major power competitions with states who have significant anti-access capabilities and are going to try to keep us out of some particular area, using weapons of mass destruction, missiles, or other cheaper forms of anti-access.Several participants seem to think that storming beaches is an anachronism, but the Marine thinkers were quick to correct them -- that forcible entry may mean bypassing the beach altogether, but still hitting an inland target very hard -- and coming from the sea the whole time, using it as a battlespace and maneuver space. The next Marine Corps, from Col Hoffman:
And I can make an argument that in a strategic competition with such a power, that there are strategic rationales at some level, that you might want to keep. That's why we have a nuclear deterrent, why we have a nuclear force, and why we have some other capabilities in our national arsenal.
It's not that we've used them very much but that they produce a strategic reaction in our opponents, and I could argue that there's a need for forceful entry capability to provide the nation strategic independence, to come and arrive and achieve our interests in some place of our own choosing.
We can argue that it's very good to counter your opponent's strategy, you should focus on your opponent's strategy, and there are strategies or countries out there following an anti-access strategy, and defeating that and defeating their strategy is a means to securing our interests in the future.
Another Marine Corps. Max talked to this. The small wars Marine Corps. This is an option, has some favor amongst some of us. This is a Marine Corps that would be totally postured for the upper left box, the irregular warfare type thing.The capability that Col Hoffman refers to is psychological operations. Not content with the Three Block War, the Marines have invented a fourth block, and like the fourth dimension of physics, it is neither visible nor tangible, but has perhaps the largest affect on physical events. Returning to the second Marine Corps:
This would be a Marine Corps that'd be going back and working within its historical legacy of small wars, in essence, embracing what I would call the "second small wars era," which is how one could define the future environment.
I remember General Krulak, several years ago, talked about the future of warfare, you know, we'd be focusing on the stepchild, the stepchildren of Chechnya, and I would just extend that to it would be the stepchildren of Fallujah, would be the things we'd be focusing on, and that would include extensive urban combat.
We'd be prepared for the savage wars of peace that Max has written so eloquently about. The Marine Corps would not become a contributor--right now we have out little toe, you know, at SOCOM, and there's arguments for maybe sticking a leg in--but this'd be a Marine Corps that might be the major component to SOCOM or at least make a contribution of at least 30,000 Marines to that particular command.
It would also become the support base, in essence, the platform to try to operationalize interagency operations in small wars.
We talk about employing all instruments of national power but there's only really one that can be both deployed and employed and sustained for long protracted conflicts.
This kind of a small wars Marine Corps would be what you would want, if you anticipated what the CIA calls in their future study, "Mapping The Global Future," they talk about a pending perfect storm of intrastate conflict, and in intrastate conflict you have to have an interagency or what I prefer to call a multi-agency capability . . .
The kind of Marine Corps I would like to see, or one could argue for is, in essence, the age of the imperial grunts. There's a new book out by Robert Kaplan, I encourage people to take a look at. He makes a strong argument for this kind of a world. The Marines would be the master's of the four-block war. You've heard about the three-block war? General Gregson's [ph] talked about the four block. It's not just being in one area where you might be fighting, another street you might be doing humanitarian work, in another street you might be doing peacekeeping. In the fourth block, you're employing information operations and trying to influence the perceptions of large populations in urban areas, something we find ourselves doing in Fallujah and Ramadi today. It's something I agree with Max, the Marine Corps is particularly weak in, it has some, you know, not only a reliance on the Army, it's almost a total dependence in that capability.
My Marine Corps, for that kind of a Marine Corps, would be very MEF-centric, I'd get rid of a lot of high-order staffs cause you wouldn't necessarily need those, you need to invest in other areas. I would create four MEFs that would be dedicated, specifically trained, language-qualified and oriented on specific areas of the world.And the third Marine Corps?
I'd have two brigades. Perhaps both of them would be urban-focused and they'd have particular training, particular equipment to excel at urban combat. I'd add some foreign training battalions, perhaps four, and activate two civil affairs battalions and two information operations battalions in the active Marine Corps.
I'd also update the Marine Corps excellent 1940's, you know, doctrine, bring it up to the 21st century, and last, I'd make an extensive investment in human capital which the Marine Corps has not yet made but is looking at very hard in the future, and General Mattis will probably discuss that this afternoon.
The kinds of investments are things that people like "Bing" West have been arguing about for years, that we need to do for infantry squads. We need land forces, we need ground forces, they need to be in sufficient numbers. They need to be rigorously trained, they need to be superbly led by strategic NCOs.
General Krulak made the phrase "strategic corporals" kind of famous. We need to actually make that an operational capability and the Marine Corps has some programs it's just initiated in that area. We need to follow through on those.
We need people with a little older, a little more seasoned judgment, and greater agility to work in a small wars era.
The last Marine Corps as an option, Colonel Hammes might talk about this again this afternoon, Mac Owens talked about it a little bit today, I call it the global war against extremism, after next. I don't like the term 4th generation warfare, so I came up with my own. The GYN type Marine Corps. This is a Marine Corps that's focused on future long-range threats, the hybrid threats, the multi-variant, multi-modal and multi-dimensional kind of an enemy that I expect in the future.What Col Hoffman refers to as "China in the unrestricted warfare area" is a remarkable document published by two senior Chinese colonels in the late 1990s, calling for the ultimate multi-agency joint warfare conception -- to use US terms -- that uses every available element of power to attack a foe -- financial and cyberattacks are key among them. See the PLA Colonels' work here. Back to the third Marine Corps:
It's represented in writings, you see in China in the unrestricted warfare area, what they called beyond limits combined warfare, where they're planning on using all elements of national power against critical infrastructure in the United States, financial targets, military targets and civilian targets. That's a world to think about.
A Marine Corps focused on that particular threat, Colonel Hammes can flesh out a little bit this afternoon, it's one that's really prepared for multi-modality warfare. The Marine Corps would make a major contribution to both Northern Command and for SOCOM. It's not a Marine Corps that's focused just on overseas type applications.Hoffman admits the actual service will be a combination of all three, though the exact permutation is yet unknown:
This is a Marine Corps that does away with blurring distinctions between military and non-military capabilities and gains that occur, home or away. This is a one-stop-shopping kind of an operation.
The Marine Corps would provide JTF headquarters for both SOCOM and for Northern Command for employment. Force structure ads. I would take the concept of information ops or SIOPs and expand it to influence operations, something the Marine Corps is looking at and exploring. So is the Army. I'd stand up four battalions for that, to fill out that capability we don't have.
Marine Corps Reserve has one anti-terrorism battalion. I would create eight, one for each region in the United States for FEMA, and for Department of Homeland Security.
I would have eight expanded sea berths, not the kind of small battalion we currently have, which is a national asset, but again, I would provide one very large asset, again, for each region in the United States, and two nonlethal weapons battalions and field that capability that's so badly needed.
And then to pay for those kinds of things, I would eliminate the forcible entry capability and some of the heavy armor things that exist in the Marine Corps, eventually have to balance off and pay for some of these things.
Again, Colonel Hammes will probably talk to this again today, but in his book, [inaudible], he makes some pretty good arguments. This is not just a different kind of enemy. It's just an entirely different kind of warfare and the nation might want to think about how to prepare for that.
And on synthesis, I'm not sure where I come down on any of those three. I think the debate today might come up with that answer. I think the commandant will give a presentation today and General Mattis will have, will show how the Marine Corps is synthesizing between those three worlds. We just can't focus on one, perhaps, and we can't afford to be that badly off.Too bad we don't have a copy of his slideshow.
We might have to take some operational risk and not be completely optimized for one environment. We have to be strategically smart and make sure we have everything covered. We can't be too badly wrong and completely miss something.
I'd focus on global influence, a phrase I got from Kaplan's book. We need to actually, you know, look at supremacy by stealth. We need to get influence, we need to get people out in the field, we need to get ahead of the game, we need to anticipate crises, not just react with 150,000 people for a number of years after a problem emerges, and there's areas in Africa and areas in Latin America where we can get ahead of the game and not just be reactive to threats.
I'd avoid specialization. I don't think we can have one of those three Marine Corps. You need it all. You need to embrace agility, you need to focus on people's education and their thinking, not just create a single tool for the tool box.
Seabasing, Sovereignty and Imperialism
The argument that the United States is an empire is easily found these days. But what empire worries of the perceptions that force projection will have on neutral populations, or allied countries? Such concerns are at the center of the concept of "seabasing." Here are some participant's thoughts on that:
MR. DONNELLY: I'd like to redirect, briefly, on the idea of sea basing, which if it's not an aircraft carrier and not a floating city, but what in the heck is it? I mean, this has been such an amorphous concept, and Frank, you raised the issue of vulnerability. It does seem to me there's an inherent tension between building something that works effectively or efficiently as kind of a logistics and operational hub and if it's, you know, if it's big enough it's going to be a target, and it's also thereby likely to be vulnerable, particularly to those nations who were developing enhanced strike capabilities.I think that provides a darn good overview of the rationales behind sea-basing . . .
I'm not perfectly sure where the niche that this thing is supposed to fit in, and I'll leave it to you to better define, you know, exactly what it is, but I guess the question is I'm not quite sure why I want one of these things, other than kind of the general, sure, I want an invulnerable place from which to operate; you know. It's hard to say no to that.
LT. COL. HOFFMAN: It's hard to say no. And that's what it is. It's hard to refer to it as an "it" because it's not a single entity, it's an aggregate of capabilities, of different types of ships. Amphibious ships, which I would think would be more the centerpiece. There's the "prepo float" [ph], the Army and the Marine Corps have, and then we have some technologies in high-speed lift, intra theater kind of connectors that can get things ashore, and it's the aggregate capabilities of interfacing those. Right now, we have to take everything to the beach and dump it, and that makes a big target, and if somebody's got WMD or got any capability of attacking things, just lots of IEDs or mines, you pay a cost for operating that way, and that's the way we operate today.
The sea-basing concept in my operational kind of sea-basing concept is much built around kind of existing legacy kinds of ships with advanced logistics capabilities and advanced interfaces between those kinds of ships, so the Army can bring up a ship with a battalion or it can bring a battalion from air and put it on a ship, people can access their gear and they can be deployed, either aviation mode to surface modes and get ashore some place.
And that capability is distributed, the Army, and the Marines, Navy assets working around a theater can be brought together in a package, in a tailored capability that the CINC wants at the time and place the CINC wants it, not because there's a base a thousand miles away, it's the only place that somebody will give us permission to work out of.
This is working against both the tactical and operational vulnerabilities of people that can strike us, and I'd argue that being at sea and moving around at 125 miles away from somebody's shoreline is a lot harder problem than hitting me in some airport that I used to own until the Army or the Marines came in and took it away from me, and now that I know where, exactly where they are, that's the kind of capability I want.
GEN HAGEE: We believe that this nation needs a sea-basing capability. It's a national capability and it's a joint capability. I believe that the Navy and the Marine Corps should be in the lead on this. I mean, this is what we do for the nation. But it must be a national and joint capability.
And I know when I say sea basing, what jumps to your mind? Logistics, stacks of boxes and containers; right? I'm not talking about platforms and I'm not talking about logistics.
Now my very good friend, Vern Clarke, and now Mike Mullin, would say platforms are important and I would agree with them. But from a conceptual standpoint, that's not what I'm talking about.
I'm essentially talking about erasing the traditional barrier between oceans and land, between sea and land, actually using the sea as maneuver space.
Why can't we cross the line of departure at Diego Garcia? And we are maneuvering forces as we approach wherever we need to go. We don't think like that today. I argue that we need to think about that in the future.
To me, sea basing is a set of four capabilities. It's a set of strike capabilities, and strike is just not kinetic weapons from fixed-wing aviation. Strike is putting Marines ashore somewhere. It's a set of defensive capabilities that will protect not only the platforms that are bringing in this joint force but also securing areas as they go ashore. It is a set of logistics capabilities. We call that the sea base. There's no doubt that logistics are really quite important.
And it's a set of command and control capabilities, and depending on the scenario, whether you're doing high-end operations or you're doing low intensity, or even cooperative security operations, those capabilities, the size of the capability set would change. Let's talk about high end just for a moment.
Let's take Operation Iraqi Freedom as an example. What would happen if we did not, if we had not had Kuwait in Operation Iraqi Freedom?
Now some would argue we have to go take Kuwait. I would argue with sea basing, we would not have to do that. We would bring the joint force in to Diego Garcia, as an example, we would put them on ships that we don't have today, but three months ago the Navy and the Marine Corps slapped the table on what type of ships that we need. We know where we're going on this.
And we would bring the joint force in, or the Marine force in to the North Arabian Gulf. We would do the reception staging, onward movement and integration at sea. We'd cross the line of departure at sea, and we would not project combat power into Umm Kasar. We projected all the way to An-Nasariyah. Can we do that today? No. But we can in fact do that and I would argue that is a capability that this nation needs, especially when you think about the anti-access problem that we could have.
We know that we had some access problem during Operation Iraqi Freedom. In my opinion it is going to get worse, not better.
GEN MATTIS: Sea basing. Ensuring joint force access from the sea. Ladies and gentlemen, all politics are local. When I was ordered to go into Afghanistan, I flew in, I took out a map and saw this country called Pakistan between myself at sea and Afghanistan. I flew into Islamabad and spoke with the Pakistani joint headquarters staff.
They were willing to do a lot for us but they had to be very careful, early on, how much they exhibited their support for us. The Pakistanis knew H Hour, D Day and the objective there weeks in advance. They kept it secret. They gave us a rather hidden little fishing village cove that we could use after dark, with an air strip nearby, about ten miles away over the sand dunes.
And we worked together with the. But had we not had those beautiful gray Navy amphibs out there at sea, and been able to hide during the day what was going on, because we'd pull back over the horizon, only come in and use the beach at night, we could not have pulled this off.
All politics are local, not just in Chicago. Everywhere. As I recall, and one of you can correct me on this, i think we offered Turkey a total of $29 billion worth of aid, guarantees, grants, loans, whatever you want to call it, and from a country that stood by us through thick and thin, fought alongside us in Korea, been good friends with us, they were unable to give us one-time passage of one infantry division for $29 billion. It's not because they hate us. It's just tougher nowadays, in today's age, to show that kind of support.
So I think what we're going to see is a continuing need for, an increasing need, excuse me, for sea-based forces. Some things that have been brought up this morning about do we have to be ready to do an Iwo Jima? Ladies and gentlemen, when you see those pictures of Iwo Jima's beaches, that's as good as the technology allowed us to do in those days.
Today, if I'd had the MV22, I wouldn't have stopped at Rhino going after the Taliban. I'd a gone straight into Kandahar and collapsed them a month and a half earlier, and created even more a sense of despair on them. We're mostly out to break the enemy's will, not to kill people, and so the new capabilities from the sea are going to threaten more of our enemies, reassure more of our friends and do no harm to those relationships.
Information Warfare: The Fourth Block
Many of the participants discussed new cultural awareness initiatives going on within the Marine Corps, in an effort to grow a force that is more in tune with its operating environments. New language and cultural immersion classes in Quantico are one part, making every officer study a particular region of the world and its languages is another. But on a media front, here are some exchanges about shaping perceptions.
BING WEST: On the other hand, I will say that there are two things that converge together that any operation in the future is going to face that I believe that the senior operational staffs must take account of in a way that they did not in Iraq, and the first is that we are not a united country in war fighting, we are not, and we are not going to solve that in our political system.Well, that's all a little too much to qualify as a summary, but hopefully those portions flow together pretty well. A few more excerpts tomorrow!
If we go to war, one has to expect that the longer that war goes on, the stronger that those who are opposed to the war in the first instance will become, and therefore, there is an imperative to take time into account when you are doing your operational planning.
The second aspect that I think is even more dramatic is the information war. Fallujah in April, we had our butts kicked by al Jazeera and it caused fecklessness at the high levels. We can expect that any time this notion of information war where we thought we were on top of it, we really weren't, and to a large extent I would argue that overall in Iraq, even today we are losing at that information war level where we pat ourselves on the back and say we're so good.
So I would say that these two challenges feed into one another and any senior operational staff that's going to undertake a campaign that has not looked at this much more rigorously than we have today will be failing in its duty in the future.
MR. HOFFMAN: George Hoffman, adjunct faculty at George Washington University.
Mr. West, you mentioned the fact that we are losing the information war and I would agree with that. I think the reason we're losing it is because a lot of the press consciously decides not to report good things, individual acts of heroism, humanitarian activities, infrastructure improvements and things like that.
To paraphrase Winston Churchill, the worst kind of a press is a free press, except for all the others. We have to live with the press we have.
My question to you, sir, and also to General Sattler and also to you if you'd like to answer is, how do we put forward to the press all of the good things that are happening in a manner such that it will compel to report them?
MR. WEST: General Mattis quoting--has said the noblest deeds if left unsung go unnoticed. I believe for the United States Marine Corps, for instance, I came in because of my uncles but also because I always was reading his book Follow Me about the 2nd Marine Division. So we all have books as something we've gone back to.
It does concern me that in this war our soldiers and Marines are portrayed more as victims and all the heroes that we have out there like this Corporal Connors or this wild man we have now down in Quantico, Captain Oshkosh, is that how you pronounce his name? His bravery is extraordinary. We don't hear about them with some exceptions for a while, but I think I don't have an answer for that. I think it has a lot to do with the editorial boards. I just think it requires constant pinging away at people.
I meant something larger, sir, relative to the information war. What I meant was, at a strategic level before you go into battle when you're looking at something and you're saying what's going on here and figuring it out strategically. The classic example in Iraq is, to a large extent, the radical imams in Anbar Province hijacked the religion and put it on the side of the Sunni insurgents. So they attack you yelling God is Great and the Iraqi security forces to a large extent do not have a corresponding rallying cry. That makes a big difference.
It's that ability also to anticipate what's going to happen on the battlefield as it's going to be portrayed because every battle now is seen around the world within 24 hours. I think that we just have to think more creatively or put some of the more senior people to work on that dimension of the problem rather than the individual press stories themselves.
GENERAL SATTLER: I realize we're short on time, but very quickly, during the first Fallujah fight, the courage, the valor and the tactics were there to actually probably roll Fallujah up in you could guess 5 days or 4 days or another week. But what happened was, it was already mentioned, the information operations campaign painted such a bleak picture in some cases of B-roll or backup roll that was not even in the town of Fallujah, it was shot in other parts of the country, it was dated, pictures of people going into hospitals.
You can say all you want, once the enemy throws the first punch, it's like a boxing match, if you're on your back in the information operations war, you can throw punches all day long and they won't even reach the opponent's knee.
We took a lot of the lessons learned and as we approached the second fight for Fallujah, it was more deliberate where the prime minister was on board, he put some emergency law into place, gave us all the things that we knew we needed to have ahead of time. One of them was not the information operations because you're allowed in information operations to put spin on, et cetera, but the public affairs side which goes to the part of your point, we had 91 embedded media that came out and that stayed. You had to sign up for that. You couldn't just blow in, grab and story and blow out. You had to come, you had to work with the unit head of time, you had to get to know the unit. Then you cross the line of departure, you live with them and you stayed with them, and we would facilitate getting all your footage, all whatever you had to press back to the home front, we would facilitate you doing that.
That transparency, when we went in, when the enemy then attempted to come up with the back roll of civilian tragedy, of chaos in the streets, we had actual folks with cameras shooting, as Mr. West said, real-time footage that showed the streets were clear, there was no humanitarian crisis, it was mano a mano combat, it was tough, but there was not the civilian and collateral damage that was projected in the first one.
I'm a big believer, firm, firm believer, that you got to have the media with you. It's great. And the closer you work with them and the more transparent you are, expect to get the bad because it's going to happen, but demand that also the good be placed out there.
It's just hard when the fight ends, and now you go into the reconstruction phase that cataclysmic event--that combat is not there. So it's just human nature that the 91 rapidly fell off after we got to the southern side of the town and swept through.
Now you're building a town council. There's something that ought to be on the front page of the paper. It ought to be because it's critically important. We got the water out of the streets. The electricity is now in grid 4, it's heading to grid 5. These are all great things that motivate and energize the Iraqi people, but as hard as we want to try, those kinds of things don't stop you when you're clicking through your channel changer or make you grab a paper and buy it.
As a nation we have to understand there's good stuff going on out there. Our responsibility as the folks that are out there to continue to press stories forward to have our public affairs put it out there hanging on the Internet, hanging on the Web and somebody will pick it up eventually and the story will be told. That's the best I can give you on it.
MR. KAGAN: I might comment on that a little bit, too. I'm generally agreeing very much with what General Sattler and Mr. West said about this. I think the embedded reporters are critical and I think it's critical for a number of reasons. I think not only does it give the reporters the opportunity to get the right story, but it also acclimates the reporters to dealing with the military and helps to bridge a gap that had developed in American society between the media and the military, and I think that we've gone a long way in this last war toward bridging that gap and that's something that needs to be continued.
It is of course natural and also unfortunate that a lot of the embeds go home or go away when major combat operations stop and they don't cover things that are more prosaic like building sewers and hospitals and so forth which is perfectly understandable.
I think there is something that the military and the administration can do that would help in this regard. That is, to the extent that we allow the criterion of success in Iraq to be measured by either day-to-day casualties or military operations per se, we're going to be losing the info war. When you're dealing with an insurgency and what you're trying to do is establish a stable new regime, any military operation that is being undertaken is pretty much bad. What you're trying to get to is a situation where there are no military operations being undertaken and the country is peaceful.
If the highlight is on the violence and if the administration is focused on here is our military strategy and this is how we're doing all of this and this is how the military is going to succeed, I think we're going to have a problem winning this argument. I think the focus needs to be on this is the political program, this is the political progress that's being made, this is how we're going to measure success along those lines.
I would say in all fairness there is a problem there, too, because the Iraqis have a certain way of tending to negotiate through their political problems that creates a sense of constant crisis and near disaster even though it almost invariably works out at the end, and the media has shown itself to be very skillful at focusing on the constant crisis, near disaster and not on the fact that it works out at the end.
I think that the administration and the military could assist with this if we focused a little bit less on the fact that we've got warriors fighting insurgents and a little bit more on the fact that we've got these things going on and our own thinking and what we're saying.
If you want to add to that you can, or we can go to the next question.
GENERAL SATTLER: That goes back to the information operations theme. The theme that's developed at the top that cascades down will be the theme that the warriors on the ground will speak to when afforded the opportunity. But we all know you put a soldier, a Marine or a sailor in front of a microphone or an airman, they're going to tell you what they believe. They're not going to go to some theme and figure out what's going on, they're just going to tell you what's on their mind. That's another great reason to have embeds out there because you get ground truth and it has credibility.
Somebody who sits up here on a mike in a uniform who has a book in front of him sounds like there's a party line, but there are no notes on my book. I can swear. But when you get a young warrior who just speaks from the heart enthusiastically, I think that the nation and the international community really believes that that individual is, he or she, being sincere and just laying it out from their perspective, so I agree.
MR. : Just two small questions picking up on things that have already been said.
One was on the question of why aren't there more heroes coming out of our current wars. I think Bing and the General are absolutely right in talking about the lack of interest in a lot of the media in reporting on this, whereas they'd rather report on Jessica Lynch and portray soldiers or Marines as victims.
I think there is also some responsibility here on the part of the military as well because I think there is a deep reluctance in the military to promote individuals over the larger unit over the larger service. I'm wondering what is the Marine Corps doing to promote its own heroes and to make the public aware of its own heroes coming out of Iraq and Afghanistan? And why isn't there anything comparable to the bond drives that Audie Murphy undertook in World War II, the kind of publicity that Sergeant York got in World War I or previous Marines like Smedly Butler or Chesty Puller achieved? Is that all just based on society or is the Corps or is the Army or other militaries institutions taking comparable publicity campaigns to let the public know about these heroes that we have?
The other question I have is we've been talking a lot about Iraq and I don't want to get this completely off on Iraq, but I would be curious given the vast wealth of expertise on Iraq that we have sitting on the panel there for your comments about what are the top two or three things that we could be doing better, that the Marine Corps could be doing better to win the war or the U.S. in general could be doing better to win the war, and especially on the subject of standing up the Iraqi forces, the very interesting point about American advisers not having control over the career paths of the officers that they're tutoring.
I'd be curious if there are other things, and if you want to expand on that in terms of what could we be doing differently to better win the war.
GENERAL SATTLER: On the promoting our own heroes, from the time you come into any of our armed services, I won't speak for the Army, the Air Force or the Navy, but I know it's so, but in the Marine Corps we preach selfless service and you take the personal pronouns out of any sentence. The word is only used in I screwed up, don't look any further than me to find out why this didn't go right.
But when it's something that's good, something that happens that brings glory upon the unit, no one wants a leader up front that said look what I did. It is immediately passed on to those inside the command, wait a minute, I just happened to be in this place at this time, but where the rubber hit the road, where the door was kicked in, where the individual was cared for, where the call for fire came from, was out here, and we believe it.
It's not phony. It's just the way you build a command. It's the way people want to fight for each other. They don't want to fight for me or I, they want to fight for us. We don't do things as leaders for me and to self-promote, we do it for the organization because we really believe in the organization.
It sounds schmaltzy, but it's the truth. It is the damn truth. You can go in any unit that has a self-serving leader and you can smell it, you can sense it, and you know it's there before you even get the second leg in the door. You can go into a unit that's selfless that has built this kind of an energy, this kind of a bond. Why does somebody run from the safest place they're ever going to be in their life and run down the street to grab someone they know is Lance Corporal Brown who grew up in Texas and I grew up in Maine and we've known each other for 4 weeks of training together, but that's my fellow Marine that's part of the team and I'm going to go this?
We do this. When we have Silver Star ceremonies, Bronze Star with Combat V, we hold ceremonies because warriors want to see those who excelled and they want in their little culture to pat them on the back and to thank them. Every time you do that, it's a humbling experience to see these young men or young women standing there giving you a thousand reasons why this should be broken into 400 parts and passed out.
That's part of our problem, it's a great problem to have, but that's part of the problem, and that we don't even own a horn and we shouldn't own a horn, let alone take it out and start playing it. Somebody else has to play that horn for us.
I will tell you, we, not me personally, but we create that environment where those warriors do it because it's the right thing to do and because their fellow warriors are counting on it. So we're our own worst enemy in self-promoting those who do great things.
We'll take a look. It's probably being looked at. I know the Commandant will be here and General Mattis will be here a little later. I'm probably just out on the edge of the empire and there's probably some things being done. What I'd like to see is some of these unbelievable tales of woe and daring to make you look at and go this individual was delivering my newspaper 18 months ago, couldn't hit my front porch twice in a year, and look at this. Look at what they just did in combat. Hit, fell down the stairs, got back up, knew Lance Corporal X was still on the upper landing, threw a hell fire and brimstone, continued the attack, threw two grenades, one came back, three times knocked down the stairs, still; when we get up, get away from me, I got a Marine up there I got to go take care of. That's over and over and over again documented in citations.
So it's there. We just have to take a look at how we market it. I'm so fired up I can't remember the other question.
September 12, 2005
It Can Happen Again
I had to work on Sunday and did not take time to remember September 11th.
I just had my memorial, alone, by myself, by watching this: America Attacked
I recommend it. A grassroots memorial by a native New Yorker.
"Politics is Evil"
To mark our 10th anniversary, we invited several of our valued contributors to reflect on the decade past and, at least indirectly, on the years ahead. More specifically, we asked them to address this question:P.J. O'Rourke replies with what may well be the true feelings of the populace at this moment in time, and the belief of many no matter what the moment:
"On what issue or issues (if any!) have you changed your mind in the last 10 years- and why?"
POLITICS IS EVIL. Ten years ago I thought politics was misguided. But the events of the past decade--indeed, of the past 10 or a dozen decades--have proven me wrong. The sum and substance of politics was expressed in the 1860s by Nicholas Chernyshevskii, a prescient Russian radical: "Man is god to man." And politics violates the other nine commandments as well. Politics could hardly function without bearing false witness. Likewise, without taking the Lord's name in vain. This is especially true given that, in politics, the Lord who is so loosely sworn by is Mankind. In the modern era politics has taken the place of mere tyranny. The result has been more killing in one century than in all the preceding centuries combined. Covetousness and stealing define redistributive politics. Without redistribution politics would have no political support. Graven image is as good a name as any for the fiat money by which politics operates. Politics' insistence upon involvement in every human activity, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, is more anti-Sabbatarian than golf. The Social Security system is no way to honor thy father and thy mother. And as for adultery, there was, and there may be still, Bill Clinton.Robert Heinlein once opined:
To claim that one's political activities are the will of God is to worship Beelzebub, as Osama bin Laden has demonstrated. To loudly call for separation of church and state is to miss the point. Why is there never a call for separation of state and coven?
Political tags - such as royalist, communist, democrat, populist, fascist, liberal, conservative, and so forth - are never basic criteria. The human race divides politically into those who want people to be controlled and those who have no such desire.O'Rourke may not realize it, but he elucidates perfectly the new era of the market-state, in which the claims of conservatives to protect, advocate, and buttress a nation -- a group sharing similar beliefs, speaking the same language, and of the same cultural backgrounds -- are seemingly as absurd as the claims of the left to redistributive politics -- to maximize the welfare of a nation which no longer exists. The rationale of the market-state will not be to maximize the welfare of the American nation via redistributive policies of the left, which seek to ensure equality within the nation, nor through the socially conservative policies of the right, which seek to preserve the cultural heritage of a perceived American group. Instead, the market-state will seek to maximize the freedom of the individual. It is this notion that O'Rourke brushes against.
The welfare state of the left has been discredited -- few believe now that more large-scale government programs of redistribution are an acceptable means to any end. If the social conservatism of the right is rejected as well, where will that leave us?
We are on the cusp of something new. A politics which calls for competence from the government as much -- or perhaps more than -- ideology. Competence in administration, efficiency in management, "lean-ness" in bureaucracies are all notable for their lack of ideological content. Yet grand ideas will still be present -- otherwise the very raison d'etre of those same institutions would fall by the wayside as well. Note the lack of legal ramifications for such things as "efficiency." Note instead how they depend on free markets for the provision of services . . .
But do not mistake the future for a libertarian's dream. It is more likely to be something much different than the likes of Milton Friedman would imagine. No, politics will become something else entirely, and it will be both exciting and frightening to behold.
UPDATE: I hope you'll forgive that post for its whimsically speculative nature. I stand by it nonetheless.
I'll be in Austin this week from Monday through Friday on business. Is anyone interested in a meetup on Wednesday night? The Houston meetup was a lot of fun. Email me if you are interested: 'terrier_manchester' at 'yahoo.com'
September 11, 2005
Killing the Heresy of Suicide
Perhaps relevant to the war against the Islamists, and with a hint of substituting law enforcement for the use of force that is a bit unpalatable. But that much is easily overlooked. In this scene from The Man Who Was Thursday, written in 1906, Gabriel Syme is recruited by Scotland Yard:
"I will tell you," said the policeman slowly. "This is the situation. The head of one of our departments, one of the most celebrated detectives in Europe, has long been of the opinion that a purely intellectual conspiracy would soon threaten the very existence of civilization. He is certain that the scientific and artistic worlds are silently bound in a crusade against the Family and the State. He has, therefore, formed a special corps of policemen, policemen who are also philosophers. It is their business to watch the beginnings of this conspiracy, not merely in a criminal but in a controversial sense. I am a democrat myself, and I am fully aware of the value of the ordinary man in matters of ordinary valour or virtue. But it would obviously be undesirable to employ the common policeman in an investigation which is also a heresy hunt."One imagines that when this was published in 1906, the anarchists that the policeman purported to fight were those destined to fall victim to Bolshevism and other stains of the 20th century. The same year saw the publication of Conrad's The Secret Agent. Commenting upon his work after it was turned into a play, in 1929, Chesterton said, "Perhaps it is not worth while to try to kill heresies which so rapidly kill themselves -- and the cult of suicide committed suicide some time ago."
Syme's eyes were bright with a sympathetic curiosity.
"What do you do, then?" he said.
"The work of the philosophical policeman," replied the man in blue, "is at once bolder and more subtle than that of the ordinary detective. The ordinary detective goes to pot-houses to arrest thieves; we go to artistic tea-parties to detect pessimists. The ordinary detective discovers from a ledger or a diary that a crime has been committed. We discover from a book of sonnets that a crime will be committed. We have to trace the origin of those dreadul thoughts that drive men on at last to intellectual fanaticism and intellectual crime. We were only just in time to prevent the assassination at Hartlepool, and that was entirely due to the fact that our Mr. Wilks (a smart young fellow) thoroughly understood a triolet."
"Do you mean," asked Syme, " that there is really as much connexion between crime and the modern intellect as all that?"
"You are not sufficiently democratic," answered the policeman, "but you were right when you said just now that our ordinary treatment of the poor criminal was a pretty brutal business. I tell you I am sometimes sick of my trade when I see how perpetually it means merely a war upon the ignorant and the desperate. But this new movement of ours is a very different affair. We deny the snobbish English assumption that the uneducated are the dangerous criminals. We remember the Roman Emperors. We remember the great poisoning princes of the Renaissance. We say that the most dangerous criminal is the educated criminal. We say that the most dangerous criminal now is the entirely lawless modern philosopher. Compared to him, burglars and bigamists are essentially moral men; my heart goes out to them. They accept the essential idea of man; they merely seek it wrongly. Thieves respect property. They merely wish the property become their property that they may more perfectly respect it. But philosophers dislike property as property; they wish to destroy the very idea of personal possession. Bigamists respect marriage, or they would not go through the highly ceremonial and even ritualistic formality of bigamy. But philosophers despise marriage as marriage. Murderers respect human life; they merely wish to attain a greater fullness of human life in themselves by the sacrifice of what seems to be lesser lives. But philosophers hate life itself, their own as much as other people's."
But it has moved outward from Europe and taken refuge elsewhere . . .
September 9, 2005
The Big Government Conseratives Find Their Ambassador
National Journal has an article entitled America's Anti-Reagan Isn't Hillary Clinton. It's Rick Santorum, which compares Santorum's new book to that of Barry Goldwater's work in 1964.
In 1960, a Republican senator named Barry Goldwater published a little book called The Conscience of a Conservative. The first printing of 10,000 copies led to a second of the same size, then a third of 50,000, until ultimately it sold more than 3 million copies. Goldwater's presidential candidacy crashed in 1964, but his ideas did not: For decades, Goldwater's hostility to Big Government ruled the American Right. Until, approximately, now . . .The article notes that Santorum claims that the founders thought one goal of republican government was to jumpstart virtue within the populace. But the Journal notes the dissension on this point among the founders:
As a policy book, It Takes a Family is temperate. It serves up a healthy reminder that society needs not just good government but strong civil and social institutions, and that the traditional family serves all kinds of essential social functions. Government policies, therefore, should respect and support family and civil society instead of undermining or supplanting them. Parents should make quality time at home a high priority. Popular culture should comport itself with some sense of responsibility and taste.
Few outside the hard cultural Left -- certainly not Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y., who makes several cameos as Santorum's bete noir -- would disagree with much of that. Not in 2005, anyway. Moreover, Santorum's policy proposals sit comfortably within the conservative mainstream. But It Takes a Family is more than a policy book. Its theory of "conservatism and the common good" seeks to rechannel the mainstream . . .
Other Founders -- notably James Madison, the father of the Constitution -- were more concerned with power than with virtue. They certainly distinguished between liberty and license, and they agreed that republican government requires republican virtues. But they believed that government's foremost calling was not to inculcate virtue but to prevent tyranny. Madison thus argued for a checked, limited government that would lack the power to impose any one faction's view of virtue on all others.How does Santorum's philosophy manifest itself in policy?
A list of the government interventions that Santorum endorses includes national service, promotion of prison ministries, "individual development accounts," publicly financed trust funds for children, community-investment incentives, strengthened obscenity enforcement, covenant marriage, assorted tax breaks, economic literacy programs in "every school in America" (his italics), and more. Lots more.Now I have to admit that I would probably be pleased as punch with the outcomes, or at least the intended outcomes, of these programs. Moreover, I'm in complete agreement with Santorum that the family -- extended, nuclear, or otherwise -- serves all manner of critical social functions. But I have some serious misgivings about establishing bureaucracies to enforce these functions. As we've most recently seen, government bureaucracies breed inaction, and the brief journey from their gold-plated, flag-waving inceptions, to their ultimate sclerotic entropy is not a theory -- it's a fact. Witness the boldest reorganization of the Federal government in the past five years, the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. Events of the recent past have shown how useless it has been at centralizing the command and control of anything. Thank God for individual initiative, without which many more would have died in Louisiana. (Significantly, the model that should have been adopted was the Goldwater-Nichols Act of 1986, but that's another story).
Not only have large federal bureaucracies lost their legitimacy since 1964 or so, but who is to say that every single one of the institutions necessary to carry out Santorum's program won't be commandeered or shanghai'ed into carrying out other agendas by successive armies of do-gooders -- more than likely in but a few years' time, agendas far different than what Santorum has in mind. This would be a nightmare we don't need.
These are simple critiques, precisely because it is not some minor point of the conservative orthodoxy in question, but the very basis of that orthodoxy itself. Men like Reagan and Goldwater would likely agree that government's first role is to prevent tyranny -- but would then personified Santorum's program themselves through personal example, not through the expansion of the public sector. The National Journal believes that Santorum's work represents a significant challenge to the Right. I agree.
What do you think, loyal readers?
UPDATE: All of this, and many of the other issues of the day, are part and parcel of one central fact. The United States is a nation-state no longer. It is now a market-state, as elucidated by Philip Bobbitt in The Shield of Achilles. But that is another, longer story . . . Click on his title in the sidebar for illumination.
September 7, 2005
Imagining the Insanely Possible
Gerard Van der Leun's post on a nuclear blast in the US spurs a look at popular perceptions of nuclear holocausts, as conceived during the Cold War. What lessons might be drawn for today?
After reviewing the film The Day After, and re-reading the book Alas, Babylon, it becomes clear that the glaring assumption of these apocalyptic tales is the utter stupidity of any party so foolish to believe anything positive could come from a nuclear exchange, or a nuclear blast. Only incredible stupidity, or accident, or a misreading of intentions, could result in a nuclear exchange, for the aftermath would render all imputed political or territorial gains completely meaningless. This meme -- of recklessness or mistake as the only possible precursor to nuclear war -- raises itself time and time and time again in Cold War nuclear literature.
Alas, Babylon is the 1959 classic of a small fictional town in Florida, Fort Repose, and how its residents survive a nuclear holocaust that has left the entire nation decimated. The protagonist is Randy Bragg, a local Korean war vet who has spent his time since knocking about, trying to figure out what to do with his life. His brother is Colonel Mark Bragg, a senior intelligence officer at the Strategic Air Command in Nebraska. One day Mark meets Randy at a nearby airfield and explains his theory that the Russians believe the timing is right for a first strike. He gives Randy a check for $5000 and sends his wife and children to stay with Randy. Then he returns to his post.
The actual war begins with a mistake in the Mediterranean:
Quite often, the flood of history is undammed or diverted by the character and actions of one man. In this case the man was not an official in Washington, of the Admiral commanding Task Group 6.7, or even the Captain, or Air Group Commander of Saratoga. The man was Ensign James Cobb, nicknamed Peewee, the youngest and smallest pilot in Fighter Squadron 44 . . .Peewee disobeys regulations and chases a Russian observation plane into Syrian airspace and fires a Sidewinder missile at it, which instead heads for the industrial complex at the port of Latakia, beginning a chain reaction which spreads throughout the port. It is an accidental act of war and it is just enough to start the Russians on their path of nuclear annihilation. . . Thus the mistake/stupidity meme is evident.
In The Day After, an ABC TV movie broadcast in 1983, a nuclear exchange between the USSR and the US takes place after an exchange of tactical nuclear weapons in Europe first. The film builds very slowly to this crescendo and the airbursts over American cities happen about an hour in. It is rumored that while watching this part of the film, President Reagan wept. After his screening, he sent suggestions for editing the film to the director. I must admit that the sight of mushroom clouds over Lawrence, Kansas is downright unnerving. For 1983, the special effects are very good. ABC even set up toll free hotlines after the film's airing for viewers who were deeply disturbed by the film.
The presumptions of the insanity of nuclear war that permeate the film are evident both in quotes within it, and in the public reaction afterward. As Jason Robards' character, Dr. Russell Oakes, is about to go into surgery after the blast, in a makeshift hospital, he has this exchange with another doctor:
Dr. Russell Oakes: I wonder who was spared? I wonder if New York, Paris, Moscow... are just like Kansas City now?This theme rears its head again in the discussion after the movie was shown on TV. William Buckley debates Carl Sagan, and the scene is described thus:
Dr. Landowska: There is a rumor that they are evacuating Moscow. There are people even leaving Kansas City because of the missile base. Now I ask you: To where does one go from Kansas City? The Yukon? Tahiti? We are not talking about Hiroshima anymore. Hiroshima was... was peanuts!
Dr. Russell Oakes: What's going on? Do you have any idea what's going on in this world?
Dr. Landowska: Yeah. Stupidity... has a habit of getting its way.
Immediately after the film's original broadcast, it was followed by a special news program, featuring a live discussion between scientist Dr. Carl Sagan (who opposed the use of nuclear weapons) and Conservative writer William F. Buckley Jr. (who promoted the concept of "nuclear deterrence"). It was during this heated discussion, aired live on network television, where Dr. Sagan introduced the world to the concept of "nuclear winter" and made his famous analogy, equating the nuclear arms race with "two men standing waist deep in gasoline; one with three matches, the other with five".Here again the notion that only insane men would ever resort to the use of nuclear weapons is manifest again.
These ideas are so prevalent in Cold War nuclear texts that they result in a corollary: since only insane individuals would launch a nuclear war, and the consequences for humanity would be so dire . . . only an inhuman intelligence would consider nuclear war as a policy option. Thus we have movies like WarGames, in which a young Matthew Broderick convinces NORAD's computer that he is launching missiles at it, and prompting a response. And of course, The Terminator series, in which one of the first decisions of self-realizing artificial computer intelligence is the nuclear extermination of the human race.
Again and again these ideas permeate our popular culture. In the film version of Arthur C. Clarke's 2010, when Jupiter implodes on itself and becomes a dwarf star, the Soviet premier and the American president both look up at the sky and decide the back down from a burgeoning confrontation. After all, only madness would lead to a nuclear catastrophe.
The effects of these assumptions and mentalities on diplomacy in our current war are not easy to miss. In scenarios of mutually assured destruction, the idea that stupidity and recklessness will lead to catastrophe can easily morph into the notion that all actions are risks which should not be taken -- thus the very nature of the "Cold" war itself, cold only because it was too risky to be "hot." Diplomacy, careful hiding of one's moves, and silent games of cat and mouse, whether by spies or nuclear submarines, become the norm.
Yet does this way of conceiving of a mortal enemy hold any sway at all vis a vis Al Qaeda? Is it proper to assume that only the insane, or the inhumane, would willingly risk a nuclear war with the United States? Sadly, from Al Qaeda's own statements, we know that they possess the desire, and our efforts therefore are exerted in preventing them from attaining the ability to detonate a nuclear weapon in the US.
How different now to conceive of circumstances in which a given party might willingly and gladly use a nuclear weapon – it inverts the tables somewhat from avoidance and accident to those of prevention, pre-emption, and fierce acts of non-proliferation. Deterrence ceases to be effective.
Even though we know these things -- that somewhere, whether in tthe unruled regions of Pakistan, or elsewhere, someone right now is plotting mayhem of which we can not imagine -- one wonders how much the stupidity/insanity/mistake memes of the Cold War affect our preparations and national security imaginations at the highest levels . . .
UPDATE: Of course, the events leading to a nuclear holocaust are only the first parts of these texts. The rest are about the efforts of the survivors to save themselves. In the aftermath of Katrina in the US, many have begun thinking on these issues. One interesting resource I discovered is SurvivalBlog.com.
September 6, 2005
Blogging -- About to Begin again
Thanks to Bill Roggio for updating me to Movable Type 3.2 and cleaning out all my trackback spam. Sadly, all the old comments and trackbacks had to go, but fortunately, they're turned back on now. This is good as last week I was looking at sitemeter to see where my traffic was coming from and some of it was from google searches like "nude animation" and "naked bloggers". Scary.
My workload has increased dramatically over the past few weeks and there've been some long days -- 12-14 hours. I think this will subside a bit in September and I can get some more posts up . . .
So, I'll kick it again tomorrow . . .
September 3, 2005
San Antonio Katrina Relief Report
I've been processing evacuees at the former Kelly AFB for the Red Cross. Mrs. Chester, a medical student, was treating those with injuries as part of the medical response. Some observations:
-I observed county police, city police, Red Cross, City of San Antonio, US Air Force and a handful of medical organizations all there. Things seemed to be moving along, but I'm not sure if anyone was in charge of the effort as a whole. A couple of coordination meetings seem like a good idea.
-It was filling up fast and they need more Red Cross volunteers. I went to drop off Mrs. C and we both ended up staying for four hours. If you've got a facility in your town and can space the time, get down there. Most of what I did was on the spot problem-solving, but every little bit helps. There were huge bottlenecks in processing evacuees. They need more people.
-These facilities are going to need a good scrubbing immediately or disease is going to spread. Trash was already being strewn throughout the building and they are not designed to hold that many people in such tight quarters for long periods. They will need some janitorial services of some kind.
-Many evacuees are traveling in little groups of friends from their neighborhood and do not wish to be separated from their neighbors.
-Mrs C. reports that medications are an issue. The pharmacy had to close for the night around 11 pm and won't be back til the morning. They're going to need a lot more medications. Mrs. C says that if you have any medical background at all, they need your help: EMT, RN, PA, MD, whatever. If there's an evac center in your city, get down there.
-Food is going to be a huge issue. They ran our while I was there.
-Clothing will be huge too. Most people had nothing more than what they were wearing. Many had no shoes. A few had fashioned clothing out of trash bags.
-If you are a volunteer, when speaking to evacuees, be prepared to answer the following questions: when can we eat? where's the bathroom? can I get a shower? are there phones? how do I apply for disaster relief? how do I find someone here? if someone can pick me up, can I leave?
-If you are a volunteer, and don't know the answer to questions that evacuees are asking, don't say I don't know. Say, follow me and we'll find out. Have them sit down while you investigate. Just simple little problem solving is greatly appreciated: "There's a man here with a heart condition." "How do I get assigned a bed?"
If anyone else out there is volunteering, I hope that helps.
If it was me, I would not want to stay in some kind of camp for very long -- maybe long enough to get medically screened. I think that anyone who can offer to house some evacuees until they get on their feet will be doing a great service. These mass evac facilities are going to be some very crowded, dirty, and probably depressing places to stay no matter how well they are planned and coordinated -- and from the perspective of this Marine, do you really want them to be that comfortable? We don't want people to homestead at government camps for the long term, we want them to get back on their feet as quickly as possible. That's probably a thought for the longer term, but it's worth remembering over the next couple of weeks.
Hope that helps.
UPDATE: One more thing, I forgot: I saw no media of any kind there, which was surprising to me. I figured I'd see some TV cameras at least.
September 1, 2005
Personal Note on Hurricane Katrina
I have never mentioned it on this blog, but I grew up in a small town in Mississippi outside Jackson.
I only bring it up now to say to my personal friends who read my blog that my parents are fine. They lost power, which is par for the course, and are now headed to Nashville for a few days.
On an editorial note, I'm inclined to agree with the talk shows that the government response is disgraceful. New Orleans is now an amphibious environment. An Amphibious Readiness Group should be dispatched immediately, as it will have the amphibious vehicles and shipping availble to make an impact on law and order on the ground. I don't know where they are now . . . the East coast MEU could be in the Med somewhere . . . but of all the capabilities of the US military, an ARG is most needed now.
On another note: what are the odds? On Sunday I finished an old cold-war novel of nuclear holocaust, "Alas, Babylon," which tells the story of a small town in Florida which struggles to survive a nuclear exchange between the US and the Commies. And the next day, New Orleans itself became "Babylon." Downright eerie.
UPDATE: I may have been incorrect about the presence of an ARG. It appears one is there now. Forgive me for being overworked and underinformed. An ARG will make a huge difference as it can serve as a hospital or two, can make lots of water, can service helicopters, and can do all manner of things from an amphibious standpoint that other capabilities can't. Good news that it is there.
A look back at the handling of the human suffering caused by Hurricane Andrew in the 1990s may provide some insight into what steps will be taken in the coming days as to relief efforts.