That's the question that Kevin Drum poses in a disturbing post; Mark Kleiman has one set of answers here. I've written a fair amount on this, and will probably have some thoughts tomorrow after I get settled from my weekend of reserve duty. Mark's analysis looks pretty much right on. There are some legal details on the margins, such as the problems with choosing how to define lawful combatants (form or function?). I think the U.S. needs to be careful about this issue, among others. We need to scrupulously observe the laws of war in order to own the moral high ground during this conflict, and during our post-war governance of Iraq. As good as America's shadow warriors are, we can't afford to be seen as using these soldiers in any sort of illegal way.
Sunday, April 6, 2003
That's the question that Kevin Drum poses in a disturbing post; Mark Kleiman has one set of answers here. I've written a fair amount on this, and will probably have some thoughts tomorrow after I get settled from my weekend of reserve duty. Mark's analysis looks pretty much right on. There are some legal details on the margins, such as the problems with choosing how to define lawful combatants (form or function?). I think the U.S. needs to be careful about this issue, among others. We need to scrupulously observe the laws of war in order to own the moral high ground during this conflict, and during our post-war governance of Iraq. As good as America's shadow warriors are, we can't afford to be seen as using these soldiers in any sort of illegal way.
Writ published an essay of mine over the weekend on the incident where American soldiers shot and killed 10 Iraqi civilians as they approached their checkpoint near Karbala, Iraq. The general thrust of my essay is that such an incident -- while tragic -- will likely be ruled "legal" by the Army's lawyers because the soldiers were probably acting in self-defense. Here's a short excerpt from the piece:
Several determinative facts which have appeared in multiple news reports on this incident suggest that the soldiers did, indeed, act in self-defense. Accordingly, that is the conclusion the investigators are likely to reach.
First, it appears that the Iraqi civilian driver ignored a sign in Arabic instructing him to slow for the checkpoint.
Second, the American soldiers responded with something called "graduated" force: Captain Johnson did not command his soldiers to immediately destroy the car as it approached. Instead, he proceeded from warning shot, to non-lethal shot, to lethal force.
Granted, if Captain Johnson's exclamation was reportedly correct, he did seem to believe that his soldiers "didn't fire a warning shot soon enough." But there is no indication that their failure to do so came from anything other than an honest - if tragic - misjudgment as to when was the right time to shoot. In combat, soldiers may only have seconds to make such a judgment call, and any investigation will also take that into account.
Third, and finally, the investigation will focus on the intelligence briefings on possible suicide bombings and the way this car must've appeared to the soldiers as it approached at high speed. Bravo Company's soldiers were fighting on the front lines, where there was a substantial likelihood of guerilla attacks on American forces.
In light of all these facts, a reasonable soldier, given the same intelligence and put in the same situation, would probably have reacted as these soldiers did.
I don't claim to have a monopoly on the facts. Indeed, I think there are several different truths about this incident that will come to light during the investigation. In writing this, I relied on the Washington Post accounts of William Branigan, because he was actually there to see the carnage. Whatever those investigations ultimately find, this vignette promises to reveal a great deal about the ways the U.S. fights under the laws of war.
Thursday, April 3, 2003
I'll be away from my newspapers, laptop and Internet connection this weekend to train with my reserve unit in Southern California. We're going to the field to train basic soldiering skills -- dismounted land navigation, basic rifle marksmanship, patrolling, and tactical mission planning. I can't wait to ruck up and go out to the field again; it's been a while since I got mud on my boots. Please come back on Sunday for more analysis and commentary on the issues of the day.
The Associated Press reports on a series of fatal fratricide incidents during the U.S.-led assault on Iraq, which apparently have killed more than 10 soldiers. Details remain hazy, however the Pentagon is looking into reports that a Patriot missile battery shot down an American fighter jet; reports that another jet fired on American ground fires; reports that American forces killed an American infantryman near a destroyed Iraqi tank; and reports that a Blackhawk helicopter might have been downed by friendly fire while hovering over a battle between U.S. and Iraqi forces. These incidents are certainly tragic, however I think the Pentagon's leadership got it right when they said:
"There are portions of this battle that are enormously complex, and human beings are human beings," Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said. "And things are going to happen, and it's always been so and it will be so this time — it's always sad and tragic and your heart breaks when people are killed or wounded by (it)."That's about right. These incidents are tragic, but they're almost inevitable when you have thousands of soldiers and machines interacting in a combat environment. In peacetime, without bullets flying, the Army loses soldiers to fatal incidents caused by maintenance problems, equipment malfunctions, fatigue, poor planning, terrain, and a host of other causes. (It should be noted that military personnel have a lower fatality rate overall than the rest of the population, even from causes like driving, because of the intensive safety programs in all troop units) Those incidents in peacetime are tragic, but an intense effort is made after each one to learn the lessons from the event so that the death or injury is not in vain.
* * *
"We'll have to investigate each one of them, see if it was a breakdown in our techniques or our procedures or if there was a technical breakdown that we have to shore up," Air Force Gen. Richard Myers, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a Pentagon news conference with Rumsfeld. "We'll just keep working at it."
As a platoon leader, I did a "risk assessment matrix" before every mission that identified the risks, assessed them, and developed control measures to keep my soldiers safe. This is Army doctrine, and every platoon leader and company commander in the Army probably does some variant of this. My company commander always told me that "Nothing we do in peacetime is worth the life or limb of one of our soldiers." He was right -- these great young Americans are our most treasured resources. I'm confident that our junior leaders are doing everything they can to bring everyone home alive, and that these incidents are not the result of any deliberate indifference or negligence.
Another part of the story: Samizdata has some interesting insights into this issue, and disproportionately high numbers of fratricide incidents occurring between U.S. and British forces. (Thanks to Instapundit for the tip.)
Coda: The Army deployed for Gulf War II with an assortment of battlefield digitization equipment, including FBCB2 and other systems. In basic terms, these systems enable front-line commanders to see themselves, see the enemy, and see the terrain in real time with near-perfect fidelity (when they work). One major reason for pouring billions of dollars into these systems was to reduce the amount of fratricide from the levels in Gulf War II. When this war ends, I will definitely look for reports analyzing the effectiveness of these systems. I want to know whether they lived up to their promise, and actually reduced the amount of fratricide. More to follow.
1. This morning's New York Times carried a startling correction for a quote that both the New York Times and Washington Post made the centerpiece of a big story this past weekend. LTG William Wallace, commander of the Army's V Corps, told reporters that the war plan was being adjusted to fit new realities on the battlefield. Jim Dwyer and Rick Atkinson (The New York Times' and Washington Post reporters embedded in the 101st Airborne Division) ran with the story, using it to draw the larger conclusion that America's war plan was slightly off course. The Washington Post reported his quote like this:
FORWARD OPERATING BASE SHELL, Iraq, March 27 -- The Army's senior ground commander in Iraq, Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, said today that overextended supply lines and a combative adversary using unconventional tactics have stalled the U.S. drive toward Baghdad and increased the likelihood of a longer war than many strategists had anticipated.The New York Times today printed a correction for what was presumably the same quote, and they have updated Jim Dwyer's story on the same press conference with LTG Wallace.
"The enemy we're fighting is different from the one we'd war-gamed against," Wallace, commander of V Corps, said during a visit to the 101st Airborne Division headquarters here in central Iraq.
A front-page article on Tuesday about criticism voiced by American military officers in Iraq over war plans omitted two words from an earlier comment by Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of V Corps. General Wallace had said (with the omission indicated by uppercasing), "The enemy we're fighting is A BIT different from the one we war-gamed against."The Washington Post has not yet printed a correction for this story, and it's unclear whether they will.
Analysis: First off, accuracy is important. I reported this quote on Intel Dump because it ran in a prominent (and Pulitzer Prize-winning) reporter's story in a very respectable newspaper (The Washington Post). I regret having to post this correction. Second, I can't tell what exactly happened in the desert during this press conference. It's possible that both reporters heard the quote differently; it's possible that one was writing without a tape recorder; it's possible that LTG Wallace gave similar quotes at two different press conferences. I'm sure this incident will provide grist for journalism scholars after the war.
However, what is clear is that this minor correction -- just two words -- does affect the substance of the quote in some measure. Whether "a bit" means "a little" or whether it's pejorative for "a lot" is unclear. LTG Wallace is a pretty laconic guy, and I can imagine him leaning back in his chair and using "a bit" to underscore something that's big -- or the exact opposite. The Pentagon has vigorously backpedaled from LTG Wallace's comment, but I'm not sure what to make of that either. At the end of the day, we only know that the enemy is somewhat different than what we wargamed. Not to be flippant... but is there ever an enemy who fights exactly as we've wargamed? (Thanks to Eugene Volokh, citing Instapundit and PowerLine, for calling my attention to this.)
2. A reader wrote me to say that my riot-control agent note linked to an article in the New York Times that did not exist on the New York Times website. Instead, it's being run by "Common Dreams", which advertises itself as "Breaking News & Views for the Progressive Community." My diligent reader thought I might be the victim of psychological operations, or a hoax. I checked the article out on Lexis, and it appears that this piece ran as an International Herald-Tribune article in the New York Times. (NYT now owns 100% of the IHT after buying out the Washington Post's stake in the joint international newspaper venture.) I'm not sure why the NYT website omitted this article, but it did. But at least I know for certain that this article actually ran, and you can rest assured that it is, in fact, a New York Times article by two of their better reporters (Nicholas Wade and Eric Schmitt).
Today's Los Angeles Times reports that the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services has awarded posthumous citizenship to two Marines killed in action before their citizenship paperwork could be completed. This administrative decision follows a July 2002 Executive Order from President Bush granting expedited citizenship to those serving in uniform. The two U.S. Marines -- Lance Cpl. Jose A. Gutierrez and Cpl. Jose A. Garibay of Costa Mesa -- died in action during the first 3 days of the conflict. Both of these young Americans have compelling stories, which I'd like to share:
Gutierrez was orphaned as a boy in Guatemala. He hopped railcars across Mexico and entered the United States illegally in early 1997. He told authorities he was 16, ensuring him special consideration as a minor with no parents. That cleared the way for him to become a dependent of Los Angeles County and receive permanent residency, according to Juvenile Court records unsealed after a request by The Times.My thoughts: I remember reading about President Bush's order in July 2002 while working in the Pentagon last summer, and thinking to myself that it was about time we did this for our so-called "green card soldiers." These men and women volunteer to serve their nation in a way that many native citizens take for granted. The executive order also reminded me a great deal of my family's history. My grandparents fled Nazi Germany in 1942, but waited in the Dutch West Indies for 10 years while U.S. immigration officials processed their application for entry. (America was less than kind to Jewish immigrants during and after World War II.) My father was 10 when he finally came to America. After he turned 18, he chose to enlist in the Army, partly to earn college money but also to pay back our family's debt to America. A generation later, I joined the Army for these reasons as well. I imagine that many of these immigrants joined for the same reasons -- educational opportunity, economic opportunity, and a chance to repay this nation for allowing them to pursue the American Dream. We owe these men an enormous debt -- the award of citizenship is a fitting tribute to these great Americans who died in action.
In fact, Gutierrez was 22, according to a certified copy of his birth certificate obtained from the municipal registrar in his home town of Escuintla. Records from an orphanage in Guatemala City where Gutierrez lived for about 10 years also show that he was 22 when arrived in the United States.
Immigration officials said Wednesday that they relied on information provided by Gutierrez, who declared on a federal form in late 1997 that he was an undocumented foster child. He was granted legal residency in February 1998.
"Given the heroic circumstances of the Marine lance corporal's death, we doubt any new information would negatively affect the request for citizenship," said Francisco Arcaute, spokesman for the U.S. Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services, formerly the INS.
Gutierrez's citizenship was requested by his sister Engracia Cirin, his only family member, who filled out the forms with the help of Marines at the U.S. Embassy in Guatemala City, officials said. She will receive no benefits from her brother's citizenship, which is an honorary status commemorating his heroism.
* * *
The other Marine granted citizenship, Garibay, was 21. He came to the United States from a small town in Jalisco, Mexico, when he was 2 months old. The former Newport Harbor High football player died with six other Marines on March 23 during heavy fighting near the city of Nasiriyah.
Immigration officials said Garibay's mother had requested his citizenship. "I'm happy because he deserves being a citizen," said his sister Cristal Garibay, speaking on behalf of the family from their Costa Mesa home. An altar of flowers and photos of Garibay in his uniform stood on the porch.
"He was probably more American than Mexican," his sister said.
The New York Times and other media report that President Bush has authorized American forces to use chemical riot-control agents, commonly known as "tear gas". (The Pentagon does not appear to have authorized the use of "pepper spray".) Presumably, such agents will be used to defend U.S. units in urban areas from large crowds of civilians without resorting to lethal or physical force.
The U.S. Defense Department said that tear gas, which has been issued to American troops but not used by them, would be used only to save civilian lives and in accordance with the Chemical Weapons Convention, ratified by the United States in 1997. Critics say any battlefield use of tear gas would violate the convention, offend crucial allies including Britain, and hand Saddam Hussein a legal basis for using chemical weapons against the United States.Analysis: This is significant, because the U.S. doesn't authorize the use of these agents lightly. As the article points out, many legal scholars think such usage violates international law since it's hard to distinguish riot-control chemical agents from other chemical agents -- lethal or incapacitating. Moreover, tear gas can have a lethal effect on some people, particularly the very young and very old. Still, I think this is the right decision, because we want to use as much restraint as possible in Baghdad. When conducting this kind of peacemaking and nation-building operations, you need as many levels of force as possible, instead of the simple binary choice between shoot or no-shoot. If a soldier has several levels of force available, he/she can use the appropriate level when necessary to respond to the threat -- hopefully solving the problem without resorting to physical or lethal force. Non-lethal force major cornerstone of contemporary Army doctrine. I think the President is making the right decision to authorize this extra tool for our soldier's arsenal.
"Riot-control agents, such as C.S., better known as tear gas, are non-lethal and may be used by U.S. forces only when authorized by the president and only under specific, well-defined circumstances, to protect non-combatants," a Pentagon spokesperson, Lt. Col. Dave Lapan, said in response to questions Friday. Use of the agents for defensive purposes to save lives "would be consistent with the Chemical Weapons Convention, which prohibits the use of riot control agents as a method of warfare," he said.
Some experts disagreed. Elisa Harris, of the Center for International and Security Studies at the University of Maryland, said a violation could arise if riot control agents were used against Iraqi soldiers using civilians as a screen. This battlefield use would contravene the Chemical Weapons Convention, she said, but is explicitly permitted by an Executive Order of 1975.
The Pentagon was citing the language of this Executive Order in saying Bush had authorized use of riot control agents in Iraq, she said. Harris worked on chemical weapons policy for the National Security Council during the Clinton administration.
Riot-control agents may be used behind battlefield lines, to quell riots or control prisoners being transported, but the chemical weapons convention says riot-control agents may not be used as a "method of warfare." Signatories feared their deployment might escalate to the use of lethal chemicals and had done so in the past.
In four major uses of chemical weapons in the past — by combatants in World War I; by the Italians in Ethiopia; by the Egyptians in Yemen; and in the Iran-Iraq war — deployment was preceded by use of non-lethal agents, Harris said. The framers of the convention therefore sought to draw a clear line against use of all chemical agents on the battlefield. This is the position of signatories including Britain. The British Defense minister, Geoff Hoon, said last week that non-lethal chemical agents "would not be used by the United Kingdom in any military operation or on any battlefield."
Update: I'm going to be interviewed on this subject by CJAD radio (Montreal, Canada) for the Ric Peterson show in about 15 minutes. The show is supposed to run from 4:00 p.m. to 7:00 p.m., Eastern Standard Time.
The Associated Press reports that lead units of the 3rd Infantry Division (and presumably other ground units as well) have gone to "MOPP Level 1" after crossing into the "red zone" around Baghdad. CENTCOM officials stress this is a precautionary measure, and not tied to any specific indicator that Saddam's about to launch a chemical or biological weapon at U.S. troops.
The units were both well within the 50-mile "red zone" defensive cordon around the ancient city, heightening concerns of a possible chemical attack by the Saddam Hussein regime. Marine helicopter pilots were advised to be ready to don chemical suits at a moment's notice after they moved into the range of the guns and missiles defending Baghdad.Explanation: Some background is in order here. First, what is MOPP? The term stands for "Mission Oriented Protective Posture," and MOPP levels 0 - 4 represent gradual increases in the amount of MOPP equipment you wear.
"There may be a trigger line where the regime deems (a) sufficient threat to use weapons of mass destruction," warned U.S. Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks as the ground troops moved toward Baghdad from the southeast and southwest.
- MOPP 0 is the lowest -- it means carrying your MOPP gear, or sometimes having it readily available. This is what I lived under for most of my year in Korea.
- MOPP 1 is what these soldiers are in now; it's where you wear your chemical protective suit but carry your mask, gloves and boots. Soldiers go to MOPP 1 before battle often, because it's hard to get the suit on in the heat of combat. Soldiers are trained to don gas masks in less than 9 seconds, but putting on the suit can be quite an ordeal -- especially if you're wearing a load-bearing vest, body armor, helmet, rucksack, kneepads, and carrying a rifle.
- MOPP 2 is an incremental increase from MOPP 1; it involves putting on your rubber overboots. Again, this is often done before combat because putting these boots on can be a hassle.
- MOPP 3 is where soldiers wear their chemical gloves, but not their mask. At this point, they are just one step away from full protection.
- MOPP 4 is the level where soldiers wear their entire chemical protective ensemble -- mask, suit, boots and gloves. Suffice to say, this is not a comfortable way to fight. I usually sweated profusely in my suit, whether in the Mojave Desert or Korean mountains. Soldiers can drink through a special tube in the mask, and relieve themselves in the suit if need be, but MOPP 4 is not recommended for extended periods of time because of dehydration and fatigue risk. Also, the mask cuts down the oxygen content of inhaled air, making it harder to breathe in MOPP 4, and contributing to fatigue.
Okay... so what's a "red zone"? The first time I heard the term was in a class given by then-Brigadier General James Grazioplene in Korea to the officers of the 2nd Infantry Division. It refers to a highly contested area that the enemy wants to hold onto -- and that he has focused his defensive preparation and effort on. In the red zone, combat units can expect to encounter enemy artillery, mines, anti-tank fire, obstacles, and other problems as they attack towards the objective. One Army "lessons learned" paper defines it this way:
RED ZONE: the enemy's direct fire battle space. A dynamic, physical area that expands or contracts in relation to the ability of the enemy to acquire and engage with direct weapons fire. It is graphically characterized, in an (American) deliberate attack, as the area between the probable line of contact and the limit of advance, within enemy direct fire range. In other words, it's a bad place to be.What makes the chemical threat more likely in the red zone? There are a couple of reasons, actually. The first is the effect that chemical weapons have on American maneuver. As stated above, it's tough to get into MOPP gear. Once its on, soldiers become less nimble and more fatigued; movement becomes more difficult. Firing a chemical weapon at U.S. forces as they attack through the red zone reinforces the effect of all the obstacles like mines and concertina wire -- it slows the U.S. assault down. It also disrupts the U.S. assault, because it's harder to see things out of a gas mask, harder to drive, harder to talk on the radio -- this causes some disruption. (Note: some combat vehicles today like the M1A1 tank have an "overpressure" system that seals the tank and allows the crew to fight without MOPP 4) The second reason is more strategic in nature. If the U.S. is charging through the red zone, and clearly heading for victory, the Iraqis don't have a lot of options. If they want to survive to fight another day, they have to slow the U.S. down and delay the U.S. advance. Chemical weapons, in many ways, are regarded as a last-ditch weapon to seal escape routes and slow the attacker while the defender retreats. In many ways, chemical-weapon use is almost an indicator of U.S. success.
Bottom Line: If Iraq launches chemical weapons at U.S. forces, it will probably not kill many soldiers. (It may, however, cause a number of psychological casualties based on history and U.S. Army predictions) U.S. soldiers are trained to fight in MOPP gear and they will mostly survive such an attack. However, it will slow us down a great deal. Ultimately, however, such a move would certainly backfire for Saddam Hussein, for it would prove the American raison d'etre for entering this conflict in the first place.
Coda: Today's analysis by Tom Ricks and Jonathan Weisman in the Washington Post is worth reading for a lot of reasons, but one is that it contains some insight on this issue:
In a war whose rhythms have been erratic, the unpredictability of the situation seemed to be peaking yesterday. "We're approaching the time of desperate measures, of the maximum risk of chemical weapons, or of a political coup," said Jeffrey White, another former DIA expert on the Iraqi military.
He doesn't expect chemicals to be used by Iraqi defenders because, he said, the tactical advantages on the battlefield wouldn't be great but the strategic costs to Hussein's image would be. U.S. commanders have worried that the most likely time that chemicals would be used was as U.S. forces crossed the "red line" demarcating the defensive perimeter of the capital, a boundary they crossed yesterday.
Glenn Reynolds at Instapundit has some great satellite photography shots of Baghdad after the bombing campaign. I'm no satellite photo analyst, but I know how to read overhead imagery of terrain. I think Glenn is right to say that "This is a useful antidote to Iraqi propaganda and to "peace" activists' hopeful fantasies of mass destruction due to U.S. bombing."
Wednesday, April 2, 2003
First Amendment attorney John Maltbie has some background on the policies the Pentagon has promulgated for the reporters who have been "embedded" in American combat units fighting their way into Iraq. These policies have been questioned a lot lately after the quasi-expulsion of Geraldo Rivera from the region by the Pentagon for reporting on operational details of the 101st Airborne Division. John has the actual policy from the DoD on media embedding. He also has the "Release, Indemnification, and Hold Harmless Agreement and Agreement Not to Sue" signed by reporters and their media outlets before their entry into the combat zone. Both documents I(which come from official DoD sites) illuminate some of the trends we've seen in embedded coverage thus far.
Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a well-written essay by the mother of a young infantry lieutenant in the Army's 10th Mountain Division who just received his orders to deploy overseas. She writes of a "typical Cambridge, Mass., dinner party" where the guests were discussing the war and their general opposition to this war and most things connected to the Bush Administration. The chef began a particularly virulent attack on President Bush and the war, saying ""The war won't accomplish anything. It is all about money. The Bushes are in bed with the oil industry. We are fighting to protect their interests."
My husband broke into the conversation. "This is not an academic discussion for us," he noted. "Unlike most of his Harvard College 2000 classmates, our son Alex chose to serve his country as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Infantry. Stationed at Fort Drum, New York, he has just received deployment orders."Indeed... Soldiers don't choose the wars they fight; they do their duty and fight until their missions is accomplished. An infantry lieutenant -- no matter what his political connections or pedigree -- has no say in the ultimate justice or wisdom of the wars he fights. His mission is to win, and to bring his soldiers home alive. Our democracy has depended for more than two centuries on young men (and increasingly women) who were willing to step into the breach -- whether on the battlefields of Europe or frozen mountains of Korea. In peace and war, these soldiers voluntarily choose a life of hardship and sacrifice knowing they will have little control over their deployment. One friend of mine who's still serving as an Army captain wrote me today with this eloquent thought:
It was as if he had switched on a flow of electricity. The tenor of the conversation changed entirely.
"I don't know anyone with a child in the military," said the hippie. The other guests nodded in agreement.
"How do you feel about it?" he asked me.
"I was shocked when Alex told me of his decision to enroll in ROTC," I said.
"Why don't you enlist when a noble war, like World War II, comes along?" I asked Alex. "The ROTC way you will serve at the whim of the president, no matter how distasteful you find the war."
My then-18-year-old son calmly disagreed with me. "We need a standing military to preserve democracy," he noted. "The military must serve the will of the country, not its own." With this human face put on the war, the hippie's attitude changed. "Ask Alex if he wants me to cook him a meal when he comes home," he said.
"The choice to serve at all is the only choice a soldier truly makes in his/her Army career; the rest are choices made FOR him by the politicians of the day. Therefore, assuming that most of the soldiers in the Gulf truly believe in the higher political purpose may be incorrect. Many, I believe, have reconciled it just like the American people have: I did not believe in this purpose (to fight in Iraq), but the choice was not mine to make. Therefore, I will now focus on what I DO believe in (whether it's anger at Sept 11, saving your buddy, supporting your son, makes no matter)."My friend also made the point in her e-mail that many Americans have intellectually separated their support for the troops from their opposition to the war. Much of this traces to post-Vietnam guilt about the horrible way that young Americans were treated as they came home from that unpopular conflict. I'm still not sure I can reconcile the two positions. I think that criticizing a soldier's purpose ultimately hurts that soldier's morale. However, I recognize that many people have to draw this line in order to reconcile their political views with their support for our soldiers. My parting thought is that I wish more Americans would serve in uniform, especially in the elite parts of American society. That way, more Americans would appreciate the way this Ivy League mother feels about her son, the infantry lieutenant, and the sacrifices they make on our behalf.
Update: The Wall Street Journal has posted a free copy of Regina E. Herzlinger's piece on Ivy League soldiers at its OpinionJournal.Com website.
Update II: It's a small blogosphere! The host of Unlearned Hand apparently knows 1LT Alex Herzlinger well, having gone to Harvard with him and graduated from the same crosstown Army ROTC program at MIT that hosts Harvard cadets. Mr. Hand, who's a 1L at the University of Virginia's law school and a future Army JAG officer, has some personal thoughts on the WSJ piece and the larger issue of military service:
What is particularly paradoxical to me is that I see positions on both the left and right which suffer from the same disconnect with soldiers and the realities of military operations. As I've noted before, the leaders of both the current and prior administration have a notable lack of military experience, and I think we've seen as a result a notable lack of restraint in using the military to solve global issues. The same goes for most of the speakers at the various sit-ins and protests, who are unable to recognize the humanity of the American soldier and his desire to serve his country proudly and justly. Why this disconnect? Because both groups are drawn from the elite part of society, which as Phil notes, no longer contribute significant numbers to our military ranks. They don't serve in the military, and they don't have friends or family who do. I've long thought of taking a more academic look at this phenomenon, and may still do so. It is a topic that needs addressing, for the good of our military and thus our country.
Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a great piece on the 2nd Battalion, 69th Armored Regiment, that's been leading the 3rd Infantry Division's charge into Iraq. Helene Cooper describes the legendary status this battalion has earned thus far in the war, and I think she paints a great picture with words.
Most American troops in Iraq have seen only snippets of action. But the 2-69 -- the Second Battalion of the 69th Armor Regiment of the Third Infantry Division's Third Brigade -- led the invasion across the Kuwait border, and it has been the tip of the spear ever since. It has undergone a steady barrage of artillery and mortar attacks and close fighting as it moved north. As of Tuesday night, it had suffered no fatalities and just a handful of injuries, one of which required a soldier's evacuation from Iraq.Analysis: Two notes on this battalion. First, luck matters in combat. The fact that 2-69 has suffered no fatalities owes a lot to great training, leadership and equipment -- but it also flows from good luck. Second, good units aren't born, and they're not made overnight. Good units are built by solid officers, sergeants and soldiers over a period of months and years. The fact that 2-69's officers have been "stabilized" for so long is very important -- these soldiers have trained under the same leadership for a long time, and trained together for a long time. That time forms the foundation of this unit's cohesion -- which ultimately matters a great deal for its effectiveness in combat.
At 9 p.m. Tuesday night, Task Force 2-69 began what was shaping up as the biggest battle of the war so far. Under the black night of a new moon, the Karbala skyline lit up as Army multiple launch rocket systems lobbed as many as 70 artillery shells at a time at the local Baath Party headquarters and Republican Guard units protecting the city. Shortly afterward, M1 tanks from the 2-69 -- they have 44 of the four-man, 70-ton machines -- left this town just to the southeast and began racing north at up to 35 miles an hour.
Karbala is the last major city between the Third Infantry and Baghdad, and the fight to get past it is expected to take several days. Task Force 2-69 was aiming for the Karbala Gap, a 12-mile barren stretch between the city and a big lake to the west. Once the troops have broken through what Army commanders believe is an arc of Republican Guard troops arrayed across the gap, the path to Iraqi troops on the outskirts of Baghdad will be clear.
About 800 strong, with no women, the men of 2-69 come off as a cross between "The Dirty Dozen" and "Cool Hand Luke" on steroids. While other army units sleep on cots, out of artillery range of Iraqi soldiers, the 2-69 guys dig foxholes for their tanks and themselves. Other soldiers make sure their M-16s are within reach when driving through the desert. The 2-69 guys drive with M-16s in their laps, the nozzles poking out the windows. Troops further down the spear have been complaining incessantly about the war's lack of northward progress, but 2-69 soldiers said they have seen too much action to worry about such things.
The battalion was deployed to the Kuwait desert for eight months last year, giving it intensive on-the-ground training in terrain identical to Iraq's. The 2-69 has a reputation for drilling more intensely than others. It also has a relatively stable structure. Most top officers have been in their current positions for a year or more, and the 2-69 has been attached to the same Third Infantry unit since 2001.
Today's Army does not emphasize unit cohesion with its personnel policies. Officers and soldiers are transferred around the world as individuals, and Army policies have only recently started to focus on building competent, stable teams in units. Leaders at the platoon, company and battalion level fight a constant battle against personnel turnover. Maintaining this kind of unit cohesion is very tough in the peacetime Army. (See Path to Victory by Don Vandergriff for more on this problem and some solutions for the Army) If the leaders of 2-69 did one thing right before deploying, it was to build a good team for the fight ahead. This battalion has also benefitted from being deployed in Kuwait so long. Over there, they were able to practice the art of warfare without the distractions of home, and build the kind of skill and unit cohesion normally only seen in elite units. 2-69 Armor has been successful for many reasons -- great equipment, great support, great tactics, etc. But in the end, I think its leaders and soldiers are what make the difference at the tip of the spear.
The Associated Press reports that CENTCOM is claiming victory over a Republican Guard division that American forces pummeled throughout the night and day. In their drive to Baghdad, parts of the 3rd Infantry Division appear to have made contact with the Baghdad Division -- and they appear to have "destroyed" it by direct fire (tank guns, missiles, etc) and indirect fire (artillery, aircraft).
U.S. forces had entered what U.S. commanders call a "red zone" near Baghdad, and Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks warned that it might be an area where the Iraqis would consider using chemical or other weapons of mass destruction.Primer: What exactly does "destroyed" mean in Army-speak? Believe it or not, it's a difficult question that military commanders haggle over all the time. It has a specific meaning according to military doctrine; destroy is not the same as "defeat" or "neutralize." According to FM 101-5, the military defines destroy as:
"There may be a trigger line where the regime deems (there is a) sufficient threat to use weapons of mass destruction," he said. "It's a conceptual line across which there may be a decision made by regime leaders."
He said U.S. forces seized the strategic town of Kut and routed the Republican Guard division force that had been guarding the highway leading to Baghdad.
"The Baghdad Division has been destroyed," Brooks said.
destroy - 1. A tactical task to physically render an enemy force combat-ineffective unless it is reconstituted. 2. To render a target so damaged that it cannot function as intended nor be restored to a usable condition without being entirely rebuilt. Artillery requires 30 percent incapacitation or destruction of enemy force. (See also defeat.)What do these definitions mean so far as the Baghdad Division goes? First, it means that the U.S. has not completely wiped out the Baghdad Division; it's only attrited it down to 70% or less. That figure rests on an assumption about what casualty percentage is necessary to make a unit fold and stop fighting. As we've seen thus far, such assumptions may be flawed if this enemy fights more tenaciously than we expect. Second, CENTCOM's use of the term "destroy" mean mean that we've met their trigger criteria for the final assault on Baghdad. Remember when I talked about setting the conditions? It's a safe bet that one of the conditions was "The Baghdad Division is destroyed." American forces have now met that condition, and I think we will see a series of operations launched as a result.
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defeat(Army) - A tactical task to either disrupt or nullify the enemy force commander's plan and subdue his will to fight so that he is unwilling or unable to further pursue his adopted course of action and yields to the will of his opponent.
Update: The New York Times reports that American forces have given the famed Medina Division of the Republican Guard "a severe mauling." I'm not quite sure what this term means in doctrinal terms -- it's hard to quantify exactly what a "severe mauling" means. (If I lost a hand, I'd consider it a severe mauling, despite the fact that I've lost less than 10% of my body weight.) Later in the story, a Pentagon spokesman says "the Medina and Baghdad divisions of the Republican Guard are being pounded so badly that they are 'no longer credible forces.'" Again, I'm not sure what this means. I hate to sound like an Army schoolhouse instructor, but the military has jargon for a reason -- each word (like "destroy") carries a specific and established meaning. Sometimes, it'd be nice if the Pentagon used a little more jargon so we knew exactly what they were saying.
Writ is an online journal of legal analysis and commentary run by the staff at Findlaw.Com. I've written a couple of pieces for the journal. I think it provides a great deal of cutting-edge legal analysis that's too current to make it into law journals, yet too legalistic for most mainstream media. The two pieces represent some of the better work I've seen thus far on this site, and I think both are worth reading.
1. Supreme Command: Who Should Be In Charge Of Operation Iraqi Freedom?
This piece comes from John Dean, who served as White House Counsel in the Nixon Administration, and has written extensively on legal and political affairs since that job. Dean writes mostly about the book Supreme Command, written last year by Eliot Cohen and allegedly read by President Bush last summer.
To make the case that the politicians who head democracies should make the decisions in times of war, Supreme Command examines the wartime leadership of four eminently successful war leaders: Abraham Lincoln, Georges Clemenceau, Winston Churchill, and David Ben Gurion.2. Can the Means by Which War Is Covered Be Changed to Be Less Biased?
With these examples, Cohen makes a powerful case that the politicians had a much better feel for the larger picture than their generals - and, indeed, that they were the ones who had ultimate responsibility for the success or failure of their wars.
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I asked Cohen an unfair question about his book, and the fact it had been read by the president. I wanted to know what single paragraph he hoped the president had read, understood, and remembered in Supreme Command. No one can be unhappy with his selection.
Cohen selected a paragraph near the end of his narrative, where he explains that all four protagonists of his study exhibited one quality "without which they could not have succeeded: moderation." Of all these wartime leaders, Cohen says that Churchill has most vividly captured the essence of the necessary political moderation with his words: "A statesman in contact with the moving events and anxious to keep the ship on an even keel and steer a steady course may lean all his weight now on one side and now on the other."
This is especially appropriate advice for a president who has been steadily leaning starboard since he arrived in the Oval Office.
Julie Hilden, a First Amendment attorney and author, has a provocative essay about the pitfalls of press reporting from Gulf War II. (Full disclosure: Julie is also my editor at Writ) She writes that embedded reporters have come to dominate press coverage of the war, and that this coverage has been almost entirely pro-war and pro-Coalition.
The embedded reporter program lets journalists travel with troops to report what they are seeing, while simultaneously restricting what they can report (to prevent classified information from leaking). As a result, reporters who are "embeds" inevitably tell primarily the story that the U.S. military wants viewers to see.Read the rest of Julie's essay for the answer, and some more interesting analysis of how blogging has become an inherently anti-war medium of communication in this war (notwithstanding Intel Dump).
Footage and information on the war is shot and filtered through the perspective and experiences of their military hosts: the obstacles, victories, and defeats their units encounter, become the stories seen and told by the reporters. By marrying what seems like independent reportage with a reality that is highly dependent upon the experiences of Coalition forces, embedded reporting inevitably ends up blurring the boundaries between reporting and our military's point of view.
Unsurprisingly, then, as (Jack Shafer notes in Slate), the embedded journalist program has produced a great deal of pro-war coverage. Mostly, the pro-war bent of the coverage has come from what it leaves out: The events as seen from any other point of view than that of the Coalition forces.
For instance, when Apache helicopters were sent out for a mission in which they took heavy fire, and one did not return, the embeds could not report on the POWs' experience or show the battering the helicopters took. Instead, we only saw footage of the helicopters leaving, and soldiers from the POWs' unit saying their prayers were with their missing comrades, while assuring viewers that everything was otherwise fine.
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Granted, embedded reporting from the front certainly is better than reports gleaned from piecing together information released through Pentagon briefings and newswires. It's also an improvement over the limited coverage journalists and viewers were afforded during the Gulf War.
Yet given the unavoidable pro-war bias created with embedded reporting, are there alternatives that would allow reporters the same access to the war front, while at the same time allowing for reporting that depicts a more balanced view of both sides in the war?
Tuesday, April 1, 2003
Matt at Stop the Bleating thinks I may be suffering from a blogger's affliction known as "hit addiction". He may be right. After writing that I would be slowing down to focus on my law school coursework, I've managed to pen more posts than I should have. So once again, I renew my pledge to slow down the blogging... I'll probably go to once/twice-a-day commentaries as final exams consume my time.
If you only check one 'blog a day... it probably should be one like Winds of Change. Their daily "On the Battlefield" summary does a great of bringing together news reports, weblog postings, commentaries, and other pieces of information that you'd have to surf a long time to find.
Earlier in the day, I recommended a Wall Street Journal essay by retired-General Barry McCaffrey, in which he criticized the Bush Administration and Rumsfeld Pentagon for trying to fight this war on the cheap. I read excerpts from a Pentagon press conference today indicating that the Pentagon was quite unhappy with these comments, and that current-Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Richard Myers in particular had something to say to Mr. McCaffrey and others who have criticized the American war plan lately.
"I don't know how (the reports) get started, and I don't know how they've been perpetuated, but it's not been by responsible members of the team that put this all together," Myers said.Tonight, the New York Times reports that retired-Gen. McCaffrey has fired back, speaking from his office as a professor at West Point.
"It is not helpful to have those kind of comments come out when we've got troops in combat, because first of all, they're false, they're absolutely wrong, they bear no resemblance to the truth, and it's just ... harmful to our troops that are out there fighting very bravely, very courageously," he added.
"I'm a professor of national security studies, and I know a lot more about fighting than he does," General McCaffrey, who led a mechanized infantry division during the 1991 Persian Gulf war, said of Mr. Rumsfeld. "The problem isn't that the V Corps serving officers are commenting or that retired senior officers are commenting on television. The problem is that they chose to attack 250 miles into Iraq with one armored division and no rear-area security and no second front."Analysis: Wow. That's quite an explosion between some of America's senior statesmen. I'm not sure what to make of these fireworks between America's current military leadership and one of its most respected old soldiers. I think these exchanges can be healthy if they ultimately produce a better plan and a better picture of the enemy. If the Pentagon has fallen victim to "group think", McCaffrey's perspective may be just the thing to break the malaise among the current leadership. However, dissent may also make the decision-making process less efficient. It may also detract from the political support the President needs to continue leading and funding this war. It's too early to tell how this dispute will turn out. I think we will see more fireworks tomorrow.
General McCaffrey said he resented "the implication that my voice not have a place at the table and that it shouldn't be listened to with some deference based on my experience."
Wednesday's Washington Post reports that a major ground assault has begun on the Iraqi Republican Guard divisions which ring Baghdad, and that Marine and Army units have initiated substantial direct-fire engagements with Iraqi forces. That last part is significant -- it means that we're shooting them with tanks and infantry at very close range, and that we're not just probing their positions anymore.
Columns of M1 Abrams tanks and armored vehicles from 1st Marine Division moved out of staging areas, where the Marines had rested and resupplied, and headed into the outer defenses of the Republican Guard's Baghdad Division around the city of Kut, about 100 miles southeast of the capital. "We're tightening the noose around Baghdad," Lt. Col. George Smith, a top war planner for the Marines, said as the troops began moving out.Analysis: My axiom that "first reports are always wrong" remains in effect. That said, it appears that we have begun the next phase of our assault on Iraq. I predicted last week that we would see a massive air campaign to "set the conditions" for a ground assault. That is, we would kill as many Iraqis as possible from the air to make as unfair of a ground fight as possible. Only our intel folks know whether that bombing campaign was successful, but presumably, we would not have launched this ground assault if it were not. It's possible that Iraqi ground forces lured us into a battle, but I doubt it. That would not have triggered such a coordinated response as this simultaneous U.S. attack, and it would not have resulted in a running firefight between U.S. and Iraqi forces. My read is that this story is significant, and that we've opened the next phase of the operation. More to follow.
To the west, north of Karbala and about 50 miles south of Baghdad, units from 7th Cavalry Regiment of the Army's 3rd Infantry Division were engaged in a "knock-down, drag-out" battle with elements of the Republican Guard's Medina Division, a Pentagon official said. The clash began as a "probing action" of Iraqi defenses, the official said, but grew into "an all-out battle."
Taken together, the Marine and 3rd Infantry Division movements appeared to represent a beginning of the battle with the main defensive deployments around the capital that U.S. officers have depicted as a decisive chapter of the war to dismantle Hussein's three-decade-old Baath Party government.
The troop movements were preceded by a day of relentless air attacks and artillery and rocket barrages against Iraqi troops arrayed in defense of Baghdad. All afternoon, the contrails of U.S. warplanes were seen hanging over the area around Karbala, white streaks across the clear sky over central Iraq.
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The renewed U.S. troop movements were depicted by U.S. military officials as the first stage of an assault on the well-entrenched defenses ringing Baghdad and the largest ground offensive since the invasion began 13 days ago. U.S. military officials emphasized that the attack was made possible by the massive aerial bombardment of Republican Guard artillery, tanks and barracks over the past few days. Although Iraqi commanders have shifted in reinforcements from the north, they said, the pounding from the air has left two of the divisions guarding Baghdad at below 50 percent of their normal ability to fight.
They "have been taking a pounding" for several days, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld said at the Pentagon, adding: "They're being attacked from the air, they're pressured from the ground, and in good time they won't be there."
Update: I just checked the U.S. Naval Observatory's website for lunar illumination, and sure enough, there's a new moon tonight. What does that mean? It's about as pitch black as you can imagine in the Iraqi desert. Dark enough for American scouts and infantry to infiltrate Iraqi lines using sophisticated night-vision gear; dark enough for American helicopters to fly with less risk of ground fire; dark enough for America to catch Iraq by surprise. The lunar illumination tonight may have something to do with the timing of our assault... or maybe it's just coincidence. In war, sometimes it's better to be lucky than smart.
Various news outlets are reporting that lead elements of the 4th Infantry Division have hit the ground in Kuwait after months of diplomatic wrangling with Turkey failed to secure an avenue of approach through that country into Iraq. 4ID's equipment continues to sail around the Saudi peninsula, having sat off the coast of Turkey during the diplomatic imbroglio. The first ships appear to have reached Kuwait, amounting to roughtly 1/8th the division's combat power. And thousands of soldiers have begun to fly from Fort Hood, Texas, to Kuwait, where they will meet the equipment and presumably head north towards Iraq.
Sounds great, so far. But why is 4ID taking so long to get to the fight when it appears they're needed now? The answer is deceptively simple -- 4ID has a lot of stuff, and it takes an enormous logistical effort to move that much stuff and that many people around the world to a place with sub-optimal logistical infrastructure. Here are a few reasons why this is such a massive undertaking:
1. The organic division. By itself, the 4th Infantry Division has roughly 15,000 soldiers and thousands of vehicles. This includes 5 tank battalions of 44 M1 Abrams tanks apiece (with other assorted armored vehicles), 4 mechanized infantry battalions of 44 M2 Bradley infantry fighting vehicles, 3 combat engineer battalions, 4 artillery battalions, and one battalion apiece of Apache and Blackhawk helicopters. All of this is supported by a massive support infrastructure of logistics, communications, medical, maintenance, military police, intelligence, and headquarters units. It's a massive organization sitting at Fort Hood. Now imagine trying to move this massive organization 10,000 miles, plus an allotment of fuel, ammunition, water, food, and supplies for at least 3 days until the supply lines open.
2. Attachments and Supporters. Of course, the 4th Infantry Division does not fight by itself. It brings a lot of other units along, including logistics units from the 13th Corps Support Command, chemical warfare units from the 2nd Chemical Battalion, river-crossing and construction engineers, and a lot of extra firepower. During an unclassified wargame at Fort Hood, 4ID received an additional 7 battalions of artillery from the III Corps Commander to fight with. News reports have estimated that these extra add-ons combine to make "Task Force Ironhorse" more than twice as big as its organic size -- weighing in at 30,000+ soldiers. The exact details of this force package are most likely classified, so I won't go any further except to say this is a massive force.
3. Finite Resources. The U.S. military has a finite number of ships and planes with which it can move men and materiel around the world. For aircraft, you need to subtract those aircraft currently supporting operations in Afghanistan -- a landlocked country. Next, subtract the aircraft being used to support actual combat operations in Iraq, including those being used to support the 173rd Airborne Brigade in Northern Iraq and ferry in the 1-63 Armor battalion to support that deployment. That leaves the aircraft available for deployment by the U.S. military worldwide. Remember -- the U.S. military still has active missions in places like Bosnia, Kosovo, Korea, and elsewhere. Bottom line: there aren't a lot of heavy-lift aircraft available to move a force the size of 4ID.
4. Floating Equipment Of course, that simplifies the problem too. Once the division's equipment was loaded onto ships and sent to Turkey, there was no easy way to yank it off the ships and fly it to Kuwait. In theory, the U.S. could have ordered another division into the breach, possibly the 1st Armored Division or 1st Infantry Division in Germany. Or it could have rushed the 1st Cavalry Division from Fort Hood using what airlift it had left. But it didn't. I can only guess why the Pentagon failed to deploy more combat power to the Gulf before the conflict; it probably has a lot to do with political calculus that's beyond what I feel comfortable talking about. In any case, there was no easy way to redeploy 4ID's equipment to the Gulf once the decision was made to commit its equipment to floating off Turkey.
Bottom Line: 4ID is an amazing unit with a number of technological enablers that make it unlike any force ever fielded. I used to describe FBCB2 and other systems as the greatest leap forward in military technology since the radio. Yet, technology isn't everything. However, as the late Col. John Boyd used to say, "Machines don't fight wars. People do, and they use their minds." Our soldiers at the tip of the spear must still fight the enemy, despite all the great equipment in the world. I hope the Army gets them there in time to do that.
A lightning raid by American special operations forces has rescued U.S. Army PFC Jessica Lynch from her Iraqi captors. PFC Lynch was among the soldiers in a 507th Maintenance Company convoy that was ambushed last week by Iraqi soldiers, claiming several dead and at least 5 other American prisoners of war. The Pentagon has not released any details about her rescue yet, and I suspect they will not release much because doing so would compromise the sources and methods used to gather intelligence about PFC Lynch's location for this raid. (It's highly possible we want to use those tactics, techniques and procedures in the future.) I'm going to follow that logic and refrain from speculation on the way this rescue operation went down.
However, I will speak to an issue which has percolated up during the last several days because of the capture of SPC Shoshana Johnson and other American women in harm's way. Some have questioned the role of women in today's military. Make no mistake about it -- America's military sends its women into harm's way. Current DoD policy keeps women out of only the most direct of combat roles, such as the infantry. But in today's style of warfare, those distinctions are basically meaningless. Army Lieutenant Carrie Bruhl flies Apache helicopters deep into enemy territory, further than any American infantryman save the Special Forces. Other women fly deep combat missions in the Navy and Air Force. Female MPs fight as infantry just behind the front lines, hunting down and killing Iraqi guerilla units. America's daughters fight hard and they fight well. It's disingenuous and wrong to say that women like SPC Johnson and PFC Lynch don't belong at the front lines. They've earned the right to be there, and so far in our war, they've proven their ability to stay there.
Post-Script: Virginia Postrel correctly points out that the media have been referring to PFC Lynch as "Jessica" instead of "Private Lynch", as it has for the American soldiers and Marines held by the Iraqis. Simply put, this is sex discrimination, and it's unfair to PFC Lynch and the other women who serve. (Thanks to Eugene Volokh, citing Glenn Reynolds, for the pointer)
Reporters on Fox News Channel and MSNBC are displaying an exceedingly annoying habit of referring to Pfc. Jessica Lynch as just "Jessica" in news stories, the better to tug the viewers' paternal/maternal heartstrings. But Jessica Lynch is not the little girl who fell down the well. She is a U.S. soldier serving in harm's way. If you're old enough to be a POW, you're old enough to be referred to as "Private Lynch." Even if you're female.Update: The Washington Post and other media report that PFC Lynch demonstrated some impressive soldiering as her convoy was ambushed by Iraqi forces. I've never been clear on what constitutes sufficient bravery for the purposes of earning a military medal (e.g. the Bronze Star and Silver Star). But PFC Lynch's conduct certainly impresses me. If I were here platoon leader, I'd recommend her for recognition, probably a BSV.
Pfc. Jessica Lynch, rescued Tuesday from an Iraqi hospital, fought fiercely and shot several enemy soldiers after Iraqi forces ambushed the Army's 507th Ordnance Maintenance Company, firing her weapon until she ran out of ammunition, U.S. officials said yesterday.
Lynch, a 19-year-old supply clerk, continued firing at the Iraqis even after she sustained multiple gunshot wounds and watched several other soldiers in her unit die around her in fighting March 23, one official said. The ambush took place after a 507th convoy, supporting the advancing 3rd Infantry Division, took a wrong turn near the southern city of Nasiriyah.
"She was fighting to the death," the official said. "She did not want to be taken alive."
Lynch was also stabbed when Iraqi forces closed in on her position, the official said, noting that initial intelligence reports indicated that she had been stabbed to death. No official gave any indication yesterday, however, that Lynch's wounds had been life-threatening.
Several officials cautioned that the precise sequence of events is still being determined, and that further information will emerge as Lynch is debriefed. Reports thus far are based on battlefield intelligence, they said, which comes from monitored communications and from Iraqi sources in Nasiriyah whose reliability has yet to be assessed. Pentagon officials said they had heard "rumors" of Lynch's heroics but had no confirmation.
It was so obvious that I didn't catch the disconnect on my first read. But of course, the problem is that Saddam Hussein has no religious or moral authority to exhort his people to a jihad against the United States. As reported by the New York Times and others, Hussein called for such a holy war today through an official statement (the Administration still maintains that he may be dead.) While not rising to the level of a religious fatwa, the statement clearly invoked religion as a way to promote fighting against the Americans.
"Fight them everywhere, as you fight them today," the statement said. "Don't give them a chance to take a breath until they withdraw and retreat from Islamic land. And they will be cursed today and forever."Analysis: First off, I'm no expert on Islam, jihad doctrine, Islamic history, Iraqi politics, or the Middle East generally. But in order to understand the threat of terrorism, I've done some reading on the Muslim world and Islamic terrorism in particular. Several books I've read, including Holy War, Inc. by Peter Bergen, make the point that religious scholars and authorities are the only ones empowered by Islam to call for a jihad. In many ways, Islam is a theocracy where those closest to Allah make the rules. Secular political leaders like Saddam Hussein may have a lot of real-world power, but he lacks the religious authority to issue such a decree. There is some irony here as well. Saddam has launched attacks against other Islamic nations, most notably Iran. And he's launched missile attacks against the holiest land in the Islamic world -- Saudi Arabia. Despite his contemporary claims to Islamic zeal, it's clear that Saddam can make no legitimate claim to any religious authority.
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"Therefore jihad is a duty and whoever dies will be rewarded by heaven," he went on. "And God will be satisfied with their sacrifice. Take your chance. This is what God requested from you."
"Long live our nation! Long live Palestine! Long live Iraq!" the statement continued. "Let's go and do jihad."
Not really, according to a well-done piece in Slate by Fred Kaplan. I was going to write on this during the week, but Mr. Kaplan's piece basically pre-empted what I was going to write. According to Mr. Kaplan, suicide bombers (like the one who killed four soldiers this weekend at an Army checkpoint) are unconventional warriors and guerillas -- but they are not terrorists. The crucial distinction is that terrorists deliberately target non-combatants, where unconventional warriors simply use unconventional means to attack lawful, military targets. However, such attacks do violate international law if the Iraqis use deception (such as dressing up as civilians) as part of their tactical plan:
Specifically, Article 37 of Protocol 1 to the Geneva Conventions, signed in 1977, prohibits "perfidy"—defined as "acts inviting the confidence of an adversary to lead him to believe that he is entitled to, or is obliged to accord, protection under the rules of international law." Specific examples of perfidy include "the feigning of an intent to negotiate under a flag of truce or of a surrender" and "the feigning of civilian, non-combatant status."In summary, the Iraqi suicide bomber did commit a war crime by disguising himself in a civilian vehicle, blurring the lines between combatants and non-combatants. This, in turn, makes it harder for the U.S. to observe the laws of war in its targeting of Iraqi combatants. However, this Iraqi army officer was not necessarily a terrorist, because he hit a U.S. military checkpoint that ordinarily would be a lawful target.
The Iraqi acts of perfidy are particularly nefarious because they endanger all Iraqi civilians who happen to be near a battlefield. As a result of these deceptions, U.S. and British troops are now forced to view all civilians as possible combatants; blurring the distinction between civilians and combatants tends to nullify the basic point of the protocol. This was no doubt Saddam's intent—to keep U.S. and British troops from getting too friendly with the Iraqi people and therefore to keep the Iraqi people from getting too friendly with those troops.
Update: One of my favorite resources for terrorism-related questions is Terrorism: Questions and Answers, which is run as a joint venture by the Council on Foreign Relations and the Markle Foundation. It's got a wealth of good information, as well as uselink links to the terrorism-related sections of many governmental sites.
Rick Atkinson, who is traveling with the 101st Airborne Division, reports in the Washington Post that this unit has secured the Iraqi city of Najaf. Iraqi fighters -- both conventional and unconventional -- had fought hard to retain this redoubt which threatened American routes of logistical resupply. However, the potent combination of American infantry, firepower and tactics won out.
Najaf is considered militarily important because it virtually straddles the Army's supply line stretching from Kuwait to Baghdad's southern approaches. Military planners have been baffled by the indifferent reception given the American invasion by Iraq's often-oppressed Shiite majority, and today's welcome, if hardly tumultuous, was considered heartening.Analysis: Two things emerge from this report. First, the American-led campaign appears to be adapting to the new realities of the Iraqi theater very well. Iraqi fighters (such as the fedayeen guerillas) had threatened American supply lines, attacked command posts, ambushed convoys, and generally wreaked havoc in the American rear area. In response, the U.S. reallocated combat power to the mission of securing its rear area, focusing on those places where it believed the Iraqis were launching attacks from. It may still be too early to say this, but I think this riposte will be successful in parrying Saddam's guerilla thrusts in our rear areas.
After intense artillery, tank and air bombardment of suspected Fedayeen strongholds Sunday, the attack reached a climax early this morning when Air Force planes dropped three 2,000-pound bombs on three buildings-two just north of Ali's tomb and the other just south-believed to be resistance strongholds. "It looked like sunrise coming up," an Air Force liaison officer said.
As the smoke cleared, hundreds of Iraqi civilians emerged from homes in the old city, waving white cloths and gesturing toward American troops below the escarpment, according to a Special Forces officer. At dawn, seven M1 Abrams tanks, accompanied by AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, drove two kilometers into the city from Checkpoint Charlie, a road crossing on the southern perimeter. Intended as a demonstration of power, the so-called "thunder run" also was intended to topple or crush a statue of Hussein believed to be at a center city intersection. But last minute intelligence indicated that the statue is at a different intersection, and the tanks pulled back without making contact.
Infantry battalions from the division's 1st Brigade then pressed into Najaf, first from the southwest, then from the southeast. Several thousand troops from 2nd Brigade also pressed toward the city from the north. Army officers said they believe the cordon is tight enough to prevent fighters from entering the city, but probably not tight enough to keep some from slipping away.
The second thing that leaps out from this story is how potent the American military can be when it sets its mind to accomplishing something. I have no doubt that the Iraqi fighters fought well. They probably found good defensive positions, and if given a fair fight, would have inflicted a terrible toll on the infantry of the 101st Airborne. However, no American commander worth his/her rank will let the enemy set the terms of a fight. COL Ben Hodges and others in the 101st clearly used reconnaissance to find the enemy and a combination of airpower and artillery to kill him -- even before getting into a close infantry fight. That's the right way to fight -- the way that gives the enemy no chance of success.
In a further effort to protect the force and sort Iraqi civilians from Iraqi guerillas, the U.S. Central Command has issued formal guidelines today for the detention and screening of Iraqis who "interfere with mission accomplishment." The guidelines authorize field commanders to hold Iraqis for up to 30 days in an effort to combat paramilitary fighters who are disguising themselves as civilians. Ostensibly, such a time period is designed to give American intelligence officers time to screen these individuals for ties to the Iraqi regime.
While not initially designated as prisoners of war under international law, the detainees will be treated the same way, according to the new rules of engagement, drafted in recent days. A copy of the rules was made available today.Analysis: These guidelines are a way for the U.S. to standardize the way it treats Iraqi civilians, and this document is probably a good idea. The risk is not that field commanders would be too harsh; most would rather not be responsible for detainees longer than they have to. The risk is that American field commanders will not detain Iraqis long enough to sort friendly from foe. I think this policy empowers field commanders to take the time they need to screen captured Iraqis -- a process which can take some time. If we're serious about our post-war plans, we need to give a lot of attention during the war to selecting out the most dangerous members of Saddam's regime. Without measures like this, I fear that many of his most loyal subordinates might slip through our fingers.
Military commanders have said those who are found to have used civilians as human shields or otherwise violated the laws of war could be deemed "illegal combatants" and shipped to detection centers such as the one at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
"Civilian noncombatants are protected persons" under the Geneva Conventions of 1949 that govern conduct during wartime, the new guidelines say. "However, when necessary for imperative reasons of security, such civilians may be temporarily detained." They can also be held if they "possess information important to mission accomplishment."
The guidelines say that "temporary detention should be understood in terms of mere days" and that anyone likely to be held for more than 30 days would have to be processed and transferred to the rear, where higher military authorities would take over the case.
The guidelines instructed soldiers and Marines to handle such detainees humanely. "The detainee must be disarmed, secured, and watched, but he must also be treated at all times like a human being," the guidelines said. "He must not be tortured, killed, or degraded. Likewise, do not engage in conversation with detainees, or offer them any information or comfort items (i.e. cigarettes, candy, etc.)."
The military has been rounding up civilians in an attempt to counter an enemy that U.S. troops sayis exploiting innocents in attacks on Americans in southern Iraq. Fighters have been disguising themselves as civilians, faking surrenders, pushing women and children into the line of fire and sniping at U.S. troops from within crowds of civilians, troops say.
As an example of such illegal tactics, U.S. officers site a suicide bombing that killed four Americans on Saturday. A man dressed in civilian clothes drove a car up to a U.S. Army checkpoint near the city of Najaf, waved to soldiers as if seeking help and when they drew near blew up his vehicle.
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The guidelines also provide tips for recognizing possible paramilitary fighters. They are described as men aged 18 to 35, better fed or more physically fit than average and unable to explain their presence in a combat zone. One member of a group might act scared or nervous, because he has been forced to fight. "Marines should be able to sense something is 'off,' " the guidelines advise.
Under the guidelines, suspects can be searched, gagged when necessary and interrogated in the field. They should be segregated by rank, sex, military status, religion, level of cooperation and other criteria, the guidelines said, and generally kept silent so that they "cannot plot to resist or escape." Those who need medical treatment should get it and detainees should be allowed to practice their religion.
Some might criticize these guidelines as unlawful, or try to draw connections between this document and the U.S. decision to detain prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. That would be a false comparison. This is a policy designed to sort non-combatants from combatants on a battlefield where those distinctions are being deliberately blurred by the Iraqis. This is not a means to give plenary judge/jury/executioner power to U.S. commanders. Rather, it's a measure which will help these commanders protect their units and do the right thing with Iraqi prisoners.
The Associated Press reproduced the text of a letter sent by Army Pfc. Diego Fernando Rincon to his mother on Feb. 22. PFC Rincon was killed on Saturday in Iraq by the suicide bombing on an Army checkpoint which killed four other soldiers. I often use the phrase "America's finest sons and daughters" to refer to the men and women who serve our nation in uniform. After you read this letter, I think you'll see why.
How are you doing? Good I hope. I'm doing OK I guess. I won't be able to write anymore starting the 28th of this month. We are moving out. We are already packed and ready to move to a tactical Alpha-Alpha (in Iraq). Once that happens, there will not be any mail sent out. We will only receive mail that is less than 12 ounces. At least that's what they said. I'm not sure where exactly we're going be at yet, but it is said to be a 20-hour drive in the Bradleys.
So I guess the time has finally come for us to see what we are made of, who will crack when the stress level rises and who will be calm all the way through it. Only time will tell. We are at the peak of our training and it's time to put it to the test.
I just want to tell everybody how much you all mean to me and how much I love you all. Mother, I love you so much! I'm not going to give up! I'm living my life one day at a time, sitting here picturing home with a small tear in my eyes, spending time with my brothers who will hold my life in their hands.
I try not to think of what may happen in the future, but I can't stand seeing it in my eyes. There's going to be murders, funerals and tears rolling down everybody's eyes. But the only thing I can say is, keep my head up and try to keep the faith and pray for better days. All this will pass. I believe God has a path for me. Whether I make it or not, it's all part of the plan. It can't be changed, only completed.
Mother will be the last word I'll say. Your face will be the last picture that goes through my eyes. I'm not trying to scare you, but it's reality. The time is here to see the plan laid out. And hopefully, I'll be at home in it. I don't know what I'm talking about or why I'm writing it down. Maybe I just want someone to know what goes through my head. It's probably good not keeping it all inside.
I just hope that you're proud of what I'm doing and have faith in my decisions. I will try hard and not give up. I just want to say sorry for anything I have ever done wrong. And I'm doing it all for you mom. I love you.
P.S. Very Important Document.
News reports hit the wire yesterday about a 20-year-old Californian who has refused to serve as a Marine Corps reservist in the current war on Iraq. Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk was a member of the 1st Beach & Terminal Operations Company, which was ordered to active duty last month. The unit deployed to San Diego, and is expected to leave there for future operations overseas. Funk refused to report, and was listed as "Absent Without Official Leave" or "AWOL."
``The military coerces people into killing,'' Lance Cpl. Stephen Funk told a small crowd of reporters and well-wishers who gathered outside the Marine Corps reserve center on Mission Street in San Jose. ``I may not be a hero but I know it takes courage to disobey.''Analysis: I obviously can't condone this action by Mr. Funk. His nation called him and he refused to go. He deserves the punishment that he gets from the Marine Corps. However, I respect his views and am grateful that he did this in California, instead of screwing something up in combat to get his fellow Marines killed. Moreover, I respect his decision to come forward and accept the consequences of his actions. Despite that, I still disapprove of his behavior. The time to object came when he raised his right hand to enlist in the Marines; not after the fact.
Funk, who changed into Marine Corps fatigues before walking through the reserve center gate, was accompanied by his mother and a younger sister. Among the supporters outside the gate were his attorney and a priest.
Marine Corps Capt. Patrick O'Rourke told reporters that Funk would be required to serve a form of restricted duty at the center, but he will be allowed to go home at the end of each day, while officials determined how Funk should be punished for failing to report for duty when his reserve company was given activation orders last month. O'Rourke also said military authorities will follow established procedures for considering Funk's application for a conscientious objector discharge.
While desertion is considered a serious military offense, punishable by up to two years in prison, O'Rourke said the fact that Funk had contacted military officials and arranged to turn himself in was a ``positive factor'' in the young man's favor.
The procedures in filing as a conscientious objector are rigorous: An applicant must submit a detailed letter explaining how his or her feelings have changed since joining the armed forces. Then there are interviews with a military chaplain, a psychiatrist and an investigating officer, with a final decision made by top military commanders.
Retired General Barry McCaffrey has a provocative piece on the op-ed page of today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that should be required reading for most of the pundits out there. Few American military officers have as much experience with war as McCaffrey -- or as much experience at the top levels of command. He fought in Vietnam with great distinction, and subsequently rose to command the 24th Infantry Division (Mechanized) in Gulf War I. Following that, he was promoted to 4-star rank, and after retirement, he served as President Clinton's chief of the Office of National Drug Control Policy. When McCaffrey speaks, I listen.
There have been setbacks. No plan survives contact with the enemy without significant disruptions caused by enemy action, weather, terrain or miscalculation. But while early criticisms of the Pentagon have been overheated, the American public needs to start looking at Iraq as a war -- like all wars -- that we must fight hard to win.Analysis: McCaffrey's right in a lot of ways. First, getting these reserve units into the fight will be a major challenge. The combat readiness of America's National Guard divisions does not come close to the readiness of America's active divisions. They don't have the resources, personnel, or training time of the active force. It will take at least 6 months to get a National Guard division (such as California's 40th Infantry Division) into the fight. This fact is compounded by the multiple homeland security deployments which have been given to many of these Guard units, along with responsibility for Bosnia, Kosovo and other "contingencies."
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The "rolling start" concept of the attack dictated by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld has put us in a temporarily risky position. We face a war of maneuver in the coming days to destroy five Iraqi armor divisions with only one U.S. armored unit (the Third Mechanized Infantry) supported by the modest armor forces of the First Marine Division and the Apache attack helicopters of the 101st Airborne. We will succeed in this battle because of the bravery and skill of our soldiers and Marines combined with the ferocious lethality of the air power we will bring to bear on the enemy force.
This will be risky business. We should be fighting this battle with three U.S. armored divisions and an armored cavalry regiment to provide rear area security. We also have inadequate tube and rocket artillery to provide needed suppressive fires for the joint team. However, the 100,000 troops en route to the battle will give the operational commanders the ability to control the pace and tempo of the fight if we sense trouble.
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We are overextended and at risk. It is time to call up at least three U.S. Army National Guard Divisions for 36 months service along with significant Marine, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force reserve elements. Getting these reserve elements truly ready to fight is a six-month training challenge. We are inviting pre-emptive trouble on our strategic flanks if international mischief-makers believe we lack the military power or the political will to respond to new international provocations. Calling up these reserve forces will be political and economic recognition of the gravity of the situation we face. We must win this second crucial battle of the war on terrorism that was forced on us by the tragedy of Sept. 11.
Now is a time of self-measurement for America. In the coming weeks we will achieve our short-term military objectives in Iraq because of the valor and dedication of the coalition forces. The construction of an Iraqi civil state at the end of active fighting and the rebuilding of damaged international alliances must consume much of our political energy and resources in the coming several years if we expect to preserve our freedom and our economic position in the world.
The Bush administration and Congress must work as partners to put together the moral arguments as well as the economic aid, diplomatic leverage, covert action, and military might to attain our goals. We will be in great peril if we do not support the president in this time of national crisis.
Second, it will be a major challenge to deploy more active forces to the fight. I'll be blogging more on this during the week. Basically, we have a finite amount of resources (think ships and planes) to move stuff around the world. A lot of that stuff is being used now to support operations in Afghanistan; a lot more is being used to support the Iraq operation. There's not a lot left to move stuff from America (or Germany) to the Middle East. More to follow...
Again, I return to my original point. Barry McCaffrey's an old soldier. He's seen war from the two levels that count most -- the muddy-boots level where lieutenants and sergeants fight for inches of ground, and the general-officer level where units fight for parts of a map. Like LTG William Wallace, I take his views very seriously.
Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports on a subject that I've been following for some time: our treatment of Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. Jess Bravin and Bernard Wysocki write that human rights groups abroad have derided American criticisms of Iraq as hypocritical, given President Bush's decision in February 2002 that the men at Gitmo were not to be given official POW status.
Human-rights groups charge the U.S. with hypocrisy. The Bush administration has put itself in "a weak position to insist on compliance from others," says Human Rights Watch's Kenneth Roth. Some foreign pundits are more shrill: The Guantanamos prisoners "have been blindfolded, shackled, chained and held in what can only be described as cages. No Geneva Convention for them," wrote Rahul Singh, editor of the Khaleej Times in Dubai.Analysis: I wrote a piece for the Washington Times in February 2002 titled "Extend Geneva to Gitmo," in which I argued that it was in our best interest to give Geneva Convention POW status to the men interned at Guantanamo Bay. Most of my argument then focused on the ways the Geneva Convention's technicalities could be used against us if American special forces were captured. I also noted the importance of securing international cooperation for the war on terrorism, something which would not be helped by the mistreatment of prisoners. Here's a short excerpt from my essay:
Even some who have served in the U.S. military-justice system warn the U.S. has undercut itself in the court of world opinion. "The U.S. would be in a better position today if it had been more scrupulous in following the norms of international law [at Guantanamo]," says Edward Sherman, a Tulane University law professor and a veteran of the Army's Judge Advocate General Corps. "Filming some of the captured with hoods over their heads, and with shackling, probably that would fall into the category of improper."
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...at a time when the U.S. is trying to sway world opinion against Saddam Hussein, whose past violations of the Geneva Conventions are well documented, U.S. conduct at Guantanamo and elsewhere is blunting some of its traditional advantage as a champion of human rights and the rule of law.
On legal grounds, the U.S. had a strong case for denying POW status to al Qaeda fighters. The Geneva Conventions grant such standing to soldiers of a national army or irregulars who fight under a commander, wear insignia, carry arms openly and obey the "laws and customs of war," which bar such practices as taking hostages or using a flag of truce to conceal an ambush. Members of the terrorist network ignore such rules.
More controversial was denying POW status to members of the Taliban, the Afghan regime ousted by the U.S., without individual hearings. Federal courts have backed the administration in lawsuits brought by relatives of some prisoners.
At a briefing in Qatar Monday, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said all captives taken in Iraq will be treated initially as POWs. "Any additional decisions made with regard to ultimate status decisions will be a policy decision," he said. Other officials say the U.S. will hold hearings, as the Geneva Conventions provide, before stripping prisoners of POW status. A Pentagon spokesman, Army Maj. Ted Wadsworth, said, "It is much too early to say what the long-term disposition ... will be."
The second reason for treating the men at Guantanamo as prisoners of war is that America also fights with unconventional warriors. Indeed, our special operations forces were the most active participants in the recent war on Afghanistan. It would be supremely ironic for us to deny protection to men we have captured as unconventional warriors, when our success in this war was largely due to the exploits and heroism of American unconventional warriors.I still feel this way. The United States must maintain the moral high ground in the war on Iraq if it hopes to build lasting peace and stability in the Persian Gulf after the war. The justice of this war's ends and means is very important. We may consider reevaluating our position at Gitmo, particularly with regards to Art. IV tribunals for the detainees, in order to shore up our legal and moral position in Iraq.
Our Special Forces detachments operate in small units across dispersed geographical areas, loosely linked by satellite communication and mission plans. As a matter of law, they clearly meet the first and fourth requirement for the Geneva Convention label of "combatant." Our men have a clear chain of command and they obey the laws of war. But in many situations, our own Special Forces do not meet the second or third criteria. They often disguise their affiliation by wearing civilian clothes, and they often carry arms covertly to infiltrate various places.
If we treat the men at Guantanamo as anything but prisoners of war, we will set a dangerous precedent. Our own Green Berets, Rangers, SEALs, and other special operatives do not meet the rigid four-point criteria of the Geneva Convention. If we hold too closely to the definition of the Geneva Convention in defining combatants, we will set the precedent that our own unconventional forces do not deserve the protection of this document either. That precedent will be both dangerous and counterproductive in the long run.
Today's New York Times reports on a number of mid-level and senior officers in Iraq who have taken to criticizing Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. One colonel's words were representative: "He wanted to fight this war on the cheap," the colonel said. "He got what he wanted." The article went on to recount LTG William Wallace's remark from a few days ago that this enemy was not fighting as wargamed, and that many officers questioned their ability to fight this war without the resources they requested from the Pentagon.
One Army officer said General Wallace's comments — particularly that "the enemy we're fighting is different from the one we war-gamed against" — were not meant to show defiance but merely express a view widely shared among American officers in Iraq, at headquarters units in neighboring Kuwait and back at the Pentagon. Some members of General Wallace's staff have expressed concerns for the professional future of their boss.Analysis: Clearly, America's military commanders are chafing at the leash of civilian leadership. These commanders are unhappy with many of the decisions being made in the Pentagon, and they may have good intel from the ground that leads them to those feelings. Sitting back here, I'm not sure. However, I do think it's important that so many of our field commanders have said these things. Dissent in the ranks is normal -- soldiers are always griping about the guys up at squad/platoon/company/battalion/brigade/division/corps who make bad decisions. But there may be a few grains of truth in these comments, and our political leaders need to heed what their commanders are saying.
Mr. Rumsfeld arrived at the Pentagon vowing to transform the military, and senior aides promised to push aside what they described as hidebound volumes of doctrine in order to create an armed force emphasizing combat by long-range, precision strikes and expanding the most maneuverable military assets, mostly ships, jets, drones, satellites and Special Operations troops.
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Today, the war plan for Iraq was viewed by many in the service as diminishing the Army role, because it placed a premium on speed and shock and called for fewer ground forces to be in place when the war began, planning to call in more only in case of battlefield surprises and setbacks. But that takes time.
The Pentagon spokeswoman, Victoria Clarke, said today that Mr. Rumsfeld did not craft the war plan for Iraq with any intent to reward or punish an individual armed service, and instead sees "a mix of services and capabilities they offer." The war plan, she said, received "a careful review and approval by all the chiefs."
"As we have made very clear, the secretary does share the vision of a 21st-century Army that faces the unconventional threats of today with new and transforming capabilities," Ms. Clarke said. "The secretary has worked hard with the Army to make those sorts of critical changes as quickly as possible."
That said, our nation's civilian leaders are the ultimate commanders of the military. The Constitution says so explicitly, giving Congress the powers (in Art. I) to raise, maintain, regulate and pay for the military, and the President the power (in Art. II) to command the military. Federal law delegates much of the day-to-day command responsibility to the Secretary of Defense, the Joint Chiefs, and the warfighting combatant commanders. Even if true, our field commanders should be making these comments vehemently through command channels -- not the New York Times. Candor and honesty is important in war, but so is loyalty to the chain of command.
I wrote a piece for Slate on Friday explaining how the Army's units were numbered, such as the 101st Airborne Division. The piece has generated quite a bit of e-mail to my inbox, especially because of the way I used brigades and regiments interchangeably for the sake of brevity and simplicity. I posted an addendum to the Slate "Fray" with some more details on these subjects, since it seemed there was some demand. Here's what I wrote:
Thanks for the all the feedback (and criticism) of my Slate explainer piece. Here are some additional explanations for all of you who want more information on the subject:Bottom Line: This is a really detailed subject. The Army has an entire agency devoted to the maintenance of its history and lineage, and that institute produces many books on the subject. I think you'll find the answers to a lot of questions at their site, especially the kind of historical details that I can't answer in a 500-word essay or on Intel Dump.
1. Today's Army divisions are composed of brigades, not regiments. The two are roughly equivalent in size and location the command structure. Today, the only real regiments are separate cavalry units like the 2nd Armored Cavalry Regiment at Fort Polk, La. This is true even in the 101st Airborne Division, where the 1st Brigade is made up of the 1st, 2nd and 3rd battalions of the 327th Infantry Regiment. (See http://www.campbell.army.mil/1bde/1st_brigade_bastogne.htm) To make this even more complicated, most brigades and regiments fight today as composite "combat teams" which include artillery, engineer, support, chemical, air defense, and intelligence units, among others. The answer as to why the system is so complicated remains the same: history. Every numbered division, regiment, and battalion has a unique lineage that the Army has chosen to continue.
2. Division deactivations. I noted in my piece that the Army has chosen to maintain 10 active-duty divisions for reasons of history. That much is true. But the Army has also maintained a few division headquarters on active duty to supervise reserve units, like the 24th Infantry Division headquarters in Kansas which supervises reserve units from other parts of the country. In addition, the Army keeps many of its divisional histories alive in the reserves. The Army National Guard has several divisions, each with a long and proud history. So too does the US Army Reserve, which includes the 100th Infantry Division mentioned in my article. The National Guard divisions have deployed a large number of troops for peacekeeping missions, homeland security, and even combat. The Army Reserve divisions largely serve a training purpose today, and do not have a direct warfighting mission.
3. Companies, troops, batteries, etc. As I noted in the brigade/regiment note above, each unit name has a specific connotation. At the company level, these become more pronounced:
- Company: This is the standard appellation for a unit of roughly 100 soldiers commanded by a captain.
- Troop: Cavalry companies are called 'Troops', which relates to the "troopers" used in lieu of "soldiers" to refer to members of the old horse cavalry. Today, the tradition lives on in many of the Army's reconnaissance units, which are known as cavalry units.
- Battery: This is the company-size element in the artillery community, including the air-defense artillery branch. It commonly includes 6-8 cannons and is commanded by a captain.
4. Division Labels. Why is the 1st Cavalry Division the 1st Cavalry Division? Do they have any horses? Why is the 101st Airborne called that when it doesn't jump out of airplanes (anymore)? In large part, the answer is history. But these labels also refer to certain features of the division known as the "Modified Table of Organization & Equipment" or "MTOE". That document lays out the equipment that each division has. The Army has airborne, air assault, light infantry, mechanized infantry, and armored divisions. The 1st Cavalry is really an armored division, but it retains the Cavalry title and Cavalry traditions (including Stetson hats and spurs) as a matter of history. The 101st Airborne could be more properly called the 101st Infantry Division (Air Assault), but it retains the name "101st Airborne" and the airborne tab on its uniforms as a matter of history.