Intel-Dump

Sunday, April 13, 2003

Pentagon: Toppling of Saddam statue recalls the fall of the Berlin Wall


The Pentagon's official website has a veritable cornucopia of news items on it, from press releases announcing reserve mobilizations to "news articles" on top Pentagon officials. (It also has more spin than a laundromat) One of those articles quotes Deputy Defense Secretary Paul Wolfowitz as saying to foreign media that the toppling of Saddam's statue last week in Baghdad by U.S. Marines was like "seeing the Berlin Wall come down all over again." Mr. Wolfowitz, who's an avowed hawk on Iraq-related issues and widely regarded as the intellectual architect of Gulf War II, added that the Iraqi people had a great opportunity today in the wake of Hussein's removal.
"The people of Iraq now have it within their power to establish a constitution and a political system that will reflect their real wishes and interests," Wolfowitz said. He added that the task is the Iraqis'; the United States is just there to support their efforts.
Analysis: This is a very interesting choice of metaphor by Mr. Wolfowitz. First, it should be said that the imagery itself does not quite support such an analogy. For one, the crowds near Brandenburg Gate in 1989 were far larger than in Baghdad's square last week. Also, there was no attendant looting or breakdown in law & order after the fall of the Berlin Wall. Second, the teardown of the Berlin Wall came as a relatively peaceful event -- not after any great war on Berlin. Granted, the event marked the end of the Cold War, but there's quite a big difference between a cold war and a hot one.

That said, the comparison may have much larger implications. The reunification of Germany was a massive undertaking in every sense -- politically, economically, socially, legally, and otherwise. It dragged down the former West German economy for a number of years, and required extensive foreign direct investment in the former East Germany. Despite being the crown jewel of the Warsaw Pact, East Germany's social and economic infrastructure lagged far behind that of West Germany. Though the wall's collapse was a major step forward, it heralded a great deal of work that had to be done during the 1990s to make this more than a symbolic event. Similarly, the toppling of Saddam's statues in Baghdad heralds much more than a regime change. Every aspect of Iraqi society must be rebuilt from the ground up -- for the current systems are built on the foundation of a repressive regime. Iraq has no legal system, no property system, no civil police, no public school system, and no government separate from that of Saddam Hussein. The Ba'ath Party infected every one of these institutions before the war, and they must either be cleansed or rebuilt. This promises to be a massive undertaking -- perhaps so large that even America alone cannot manage it. If the fall of the Berlin Wall is to be our historical reference, then we know we have at least 10 years of hard work ahead of us in Iraq.

Post script: German leaders are less than pleased by the comparison of Baghdad to Berlin, according to Reuters. Wolfgang Thierse, president of Germany's Parliament, thought such comparisons were historically inaccurate, and inappropriate given German opposition to this war.
"When East Germans and other Eastern Europeans knocked down the statues, the people did it by themselves and not with the troops of a victorious war participant," added Thierse, who as president of the parliament is second only to President Johannes Rau as the leading representative of Germany.

If you only read one article on the war, this should be it


Rick Atkinson, Peter Baker and Tom Ricks have an outstanding analysis of the high-intensity phase of the war in today's Washington Post. Just to reiterate, both Atkinson and Ricks have won the Pulitzer Prize for their writing on the military (two times in Atkinson's case), Peter Baker is one of The Post's all-stars as well. Their analysis has consistently been better than any other newspaper, largely I believe because of their intimate knowledge of the military institution and its inner workings. Today, they describe a war plan that started out as confused, misdirected and troubled -- but eventually led to the end of Saddam's regime.
On March 27, outside the city of Najaf, Lt. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of the U.S. Army's V Corps, met with Maj. Gen. David H. Petraeus, commander of the 101st Airborne Division. As they sat on gray folding chairs in the desert wasteland, the war seemed to be in dismal shape.

The critical crossroads city of Nasiriyah had degenerated into a shooting gallery for U.S. convoys. An Army maintenance unit was ambushed on an overextended supply line. In just one day, 36 U.S. soldiers and Marines were killed, taken prisoner, or missing. Before dawn the next day, the first deep strike by AH-64D Apache attack helicopters was beaten back by small-arms fire that downed one chopper and riddled 33 others with bullets. Then a harsh sandstorm swept in, grounding U.S. helicopters, jamming some weapons, bringing most operations to a halt and demoralizing the troops. And they had not yet engaged the Iraqi Republican Guard, which they expected would greet them with chemical weapons.

Wallace, wearing cotton cavalry gloves and Wiley-X sunglasses, intimated in an interview after the meeting with Petraeus that, in light of the damage sustained by the Apaches earlier in the week, U.S. commanders were reconsidering their tactics. He added, "We're dealing with a country in which everybody has a weapon, and when they fire them all into the air at the same time, it's tough."

Just 13 days later, Baghdad fell.

What ended as a military victory that toppled the Iraqi government in 21 days was filled with moments of uncertainty, miscues and unexpected successes for U.S. forces. This article is an anatomy of the war as described by dozens of military officials and commanders, including key participants in the decision-making on the battlefield and in Washington. They provided an inside look at a conflict that upended a host of specific assumptions about how the war would unfold even as it delivered the final collapse of Iraqi resistance that commanders had forecast.

America rescues seven of its own


I woke up this morning to the outstanding news that we had rescued seven American prisoners of war -- five from the 507th Maintenance Company and two from the 1-227 Aviation Regiment (Attack). Once again, our military has upheld the creed that "I will never leave a fallen comrade to fall into the hands of the enemy..." The details of their rescue are still somewhat hazy, and may not fully be known for several days. Nonetheless, I think this probably gave a tremendous shot in the arm to every man and women serving in the Gulf right now. Knowing that your buddies will come for you -- no matter what -- means a lot to the American soldier.
The rescued prisoners were reported in good condition, although two had suffered gunshot wounds, the officers said. The soldiers were flown to a military medical facility near Baghdad.

The Marines discovered the prisoners near the town of Samarrah, about 70 miles north of Baghdad, while moving toward Tikrit. As the Marines' Task Force Tripoli approached Samarrah, forces still loyal to Hussein fled the building where the Americans were being held.

"The guards evidently were deserted by their officers, and the guards themselves brought the prisoners of war to the Marines," said Lt. Col. Nick Morano, senior watch commander at Marine headquarters southeast of Baghdad. "All the soldiers are in good condition. A couple of them have wounds, but they're okay."
Analysis: There's a better piece of news in this rescue that a lot of pundits have not jumped on yet. It appears that Iraq has decided to follow the laws of war, at least insofar as treating prisoners of war goes. American soldiers found PFC Jessica Lynch being tended to in a crude hospital, and found these soldiers in relatively good condition. It appears that some of the 507th's soldiers were shot and killed in the ambush, or immediately afterwards, probably by the front-line soldiers who conducted the ambush. Their bodies were recovered with PFC Lynch. However, these 7 POWs were recovered in relatively "good shape", according to Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. That's significant. Despite all of the this Iraq has allegedly done in violation of the laws of war, such as hiding its soldiers in civilian areas and civilian clothes, it has at least respected the Third Geneva Convention with respect to American POWs. My best guess is that our psychological operations campaign worked -- that Iraqi military commanders at the senior levels became genuinely concerned with war crimes prosecutions after the war. Thus, when these POWs were transferred to higher headquarters, their treatment improved. We may learn in subsequent debriefings that they were mistreated. But the first reports of their condition seem to indicate some measure of decent treatment.

Sidebar: The Pentagon has an interesting briefing here on the medical care we've giving to Iraqi POWs in American military facilities. Of course, we are prioritizing our own casualties before these enemy soldiers. But according to this brief, we are also giving them some state-of-the-art medical care that these men would otherwise not see in their lifetimes.
First tests for Total Information Awareness


Noah Shachtman reports at DefenseTech that the Pentagon has performed its first tests on Total Information Awareness, the program that critics called Orwellian and proponents called the answer to information-fusion problems in America's security community. (Original story from AP)
Lt. Col. Doug Dyer, a program manager at the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), told a privacy conference that the recent test examined records of over-the-counter drug purchases, "which could indicate planning of a bioterrorist attack."

According to the magazine, the initial experiment also considered "relationships between purchases of certain chemicals, whether the buyer or a family member was involved in an activity such as farming that could explain a benign reason for the purchase, and where the purchase was made."
Analysis: Last we heard, TIA was blocked by a Congressional "reporting requirement" that forbade the Pentagon from moving forward until it found ways to mitigate civil-liberties concerns and reported to Congress on those measures. However, it appears from this report that parts of TIA are moving forward. I've gone on record several times as a TIA supporter, mostly because I'm familiar with the need to gather/integrate/analyze information from so many different sources in the homeland security area -- and the tremendous difficulty we face today in doing so. However, I also support the idea of placing controls on the program to mitigate any Constitutional risk that exists. More to follow...

Friday, April 11, 2003

Admin note
: A diligent reader just reminded me to republish my archives in order to make my permanent links work. Thanks for the reminder. I just republished all of Intel Dump's pages, so all my permalinks should work now.
At some point, the chaos and looting must end


The New York Times and others report today that Mosul has fallen to allied forces. Mosul fell without a fight as Iraqi defenders either fled the city or deserted to join the civilian population. Allied forces entered the city to find massive displays of looting and disorder, largely directed at the former bastions of Saddam Hussein's regime.
Residents said that it appeared that most of the Iraqi fighters had fled by 7 p.m. Thursday. With their departure, the city fell into a frenzy of looting and lawlessness.

With the breakdown in authority, the American forces and their Kurdish allies at first hesitated outside the town - for about eight hours - but by midafternoon, they and the Kurd fighters came in to claim control of Mosul, Iraq's third-largest city.

Although some residents flashed thumbs up signs to the small convoy of Americans, most of the residents stood with their arms crossed and stared blankly. Angry residents blamed the Americans for the anarchy in the city, saying that they had needlessly delayed their arrival for hours after the Iraqi army fled and allowed order in the city to crumble.

Adding to the disorder was the rising tension between Arab and Kurdish communities in the city. Arabs make up 65 percent of the city's population and minority Kurds have accused them of benefiting under Mr. Hussein's rule or standing by as Kurds were persecuted.

The rampant theft in the city appeared to be carried out mostly by young men from all ethic groups, but many Arab residents blamed Kurds for the looting. At the central bank, fights broke out among looters trying to snatch stolen money from each other. The main vaults were smashed open, and bank notes poured out.

The Associated Press reported that at Saddam General Hospital, three of the five ambulances were stolen, and armed men, described as Kurds, tried to enter the hospital, but the staff managed to hold them off. Some doctors said that their cars were stolen at gunpoint. Officials at Jumhuriya Hospital said all eight of its ambulances were stolen at gunpoint.

"The doctors ran away because they even looted their offices,'' Haleema Hanzad Abbas, a worker at Saddam General, told a New York Times reporter that accompanied American troops into the city. "We see injured people and we cannot do anything.''

As the American convoy pulled into the center of the city, they passed a burning military hospital and the central bank building was also aflame. Across the city, at least six other large fires could be seen.
Analysis: I wrote earlier that this looting may be working to our advantage in Iraq. That is, that American-led forces may encourage civilian looting (particularly of government buildings) as a way of empowering Iraqi citizens and demonstrating the end of the Hussein regime. However, at some point, the looting must end. American and British commanders must select a point at which the looting goes too far -- a point when order must be restored. From that point forward, U.S.-led forces must do everything in their power to stop this kind of behavior. Clearly, no major reconstruction or humanitarian efforts can proceed while looting and chaos reign in Iraq. It goes without saying that Iraq's economy cannot begin to function again while such chaos exists. America's ultimate goal is to build a peaceful and stabile Iraq. Iraqi society will not function so long as this behavior continues. This disorder may serve American purposes today, but that expediency will not last for long.

Analysis II: In a few days, I should have a longer analysis on the subject of law and order in Iraq. But here's a quick summary. In short, Iraq has not known true civil order without repression for at least a generation. Saddam's regime maintained order with the tactics of a police state, and as such, the looting we see today is only natural because the yoke of that police state has been thrown off. In the coming weeks and months, America must carefully build the artifice of civil society from the ground up. Presumably, this means Iraq needs a Constitution, a judiciary, a civil police force, and so on. Imagine all the institutions we take for granted in Western society that promote law and order -- none of those exist in analogous form within Iraq. This will be a critical task for the American reconstruction effort, and I hope we have some of our best military, legal and law-enforcement minds at work on the solution.
Embedded reporters hop out of bed with units


Bill Carter (no relation) reports in today's New York Times that several news organizations have pulled their reporters from the units they were traveling with to cover other stories in Iraq -- or to leave the country altogether.
At least 20 of the more than 500 so-called embedded reporters have left their current postings in recent days, many of them reassigned to begin reporting independent of military oversight.

The moves by the news organizations, including CNN, ABC, The Los Angeles Times and The Washington Post, are being officially opposed by the Pentagon division responsible for the program that placed reporters with military units.

"We would really rather they not do this," said Maj. Tim Blair, the Army officer in charge of the program, citing safety considerations. But executives at news organizations said that they needed to be able to report more freely from Baghdad.

"We have to be able to go here and there, and that has to be based on our decision-making rather than military decision-making," said Phil Bennett, the assistant managing editor for foreign news for The Post.
Analysis: Clearly, there is a conflict between what the media wants and what the Pentagon wants. (What else is new?) Embedding was a great way for these reporters to get the close-up stories they couldn't get during Gulf War I, and to see the action first-hand with some protection from U.S. forces. Now that the high-intensity phase has died down, I can see the logic in the media's position. They want to cover the new stories, and they want to do it from a more objective vantage-point than with U.S. forces. Some reporters will undoubtedly stay with the troops, because there are still good stories to be gained that way. All in all, I don't see much of a problem with this shifting around of news resources.

Coda: Moreover, the embedded media have already paid off for the Pentagon -- bigtime. First, the number of Ernie Pyle-esque stories from these embedded reporters has been staggering. As a veteran, I've really enjoyed this kind of coverage, because it's put a human face on the war for me (and because lots of my friends have made the news this way.) Second, the embedded media were there to capture the big events in Baghdad as they happened. America still has no official surrender from Iraq. But we do have the vivid footage of Saddam's statute being torn down by an M-88 armored vehicle. That footage alone is priceless -- and something that may not have happened if not for embedded media.

Post Script: Several readers have written me to remind me of an important geographic point: the Saddam statue toppled by our M88 on live television was right across the street from the Palestine Hotel in Baghdad where scores of journalists spent the war. Thus, even without embedding, "neutral" media crews would have captured this footage for the world to see. This much is certainly true. Except that they would not have been privy to the American plan, or had easy access to the American Marines who carried out the mission, to get the full story. Perhaps the best example of embedded coverage working was William Branigan's reporting for The Washington Post on the shooting of several Iraqi civilians at a checkpoint. By virtue of his proximity to the incident and the trust he had built with the 3rd Infantry Division's soldiers, Mr. Branigin was able to gather the facts on that incident and provide an accurate account of what happened. He was also able to contextualize that incident in terms of what the soldiers were thinking and what they were briefed on, since he was privy to those insider details. This -- and many other vignettes -- make the point that embedding has been a resounding success for the Pentagon.
U.S. disseminates list of "Iraq's Most Wanted"


The Associated Press reports that CENTCOM is distributing decks of cards to soldiers with names, pictures and descriptions of some of the worst of the worst within Saddam's toppled regime. The idea is to put this information out at the lowest level so that soldiers have the information they need to capture these men. Ironically, the deck of cards really is a playing deck of cards -- complete with Saddam Hussein as the ace of spades. (Who's the joker?)
The cards, with pictures of the most-wanted figures, were distributed to thousands of U.S. troops in the field to help them find the senior members of the government. The names also were being put on posters and handbills for the Iraqi public, Brig. Gen. Vincent Brooks said.

Brooks did not identify those in the deck, except to suggest they included Saddam and his minister of information, Mohammed Saeed al-Sahhaf, who boasted of battlefield successes right up to the time he disappeared Tuesday.

"There are jokers in this deck, there is no doubt about that,'' Brooks said. He said the whereabouts of some of the most-wanted figures were unknown, while others might well be dead. "The population will probably confirm that for us,'' he said.

"The key list has 55 individuals who may be pursued, killed or captured, and the list does not exclude leaders who may have already been killed or captured,'' Brooks said. "The intent here is to help the coalition gain information from the Iraqi people so that they also know exactly who it is we seek,'' he added.
Analysis: This is a great idea, and the officer who thought of this probably deserves a commendation for creativity. The "black/gray/white" list of "good/okay/bad" people I got as an MP platoon leader were usually pretty hard to read black/white photocopies with awful pictures and bad descriptions. Playing cards are pocket-sized, easy to use, and it looks like the photos have pretty good fidelity. Moreover, soldiers are likely to hold onto these decks, both because they want to play cards and because they want to do their mission. (Also, such decks will fetch a hefty price on E-Bay after the war) But the real important thing is this: we're making a commitment to finding and capturing these men (and possibly women). In the Balkans, American commanders (and political leaders) refused to take on such a mission. In Iraq, we realize that bringing these men to justice is important for the post-war stability we hope to build. Presumably, such men will be tried by the local tribunals set up by the United States -- but run by Iraqi civilians. This will empower the new Iraqi judicial system and invest the Iraqi people in the justice meted out to these men.
Firms rush to market "shock and awe"


Noah Shachtman at DefenseTech passes along an interesting story about the number of businesses -- from Sony to pesticide makers -- trying to trademark the phrase "shock and awe" for their respective marketing campaigns. "Shock and Awe" originally came from a 1996 book by Harlan K. Ullman, so presumably he owns some stake in this phrase. However, it's been used so pervasively by public figures and media pundits that I'm not sure anyone has a clear claim to this anymore. Of course, I'm no intellectual-property expert. I'm sure media-law blogger John Maltbie will have some interesting thoughts on this -- and other battles over intellectual property -- that occur as a result of the second Gulf War. Hasbro (the maker of GI Joe), Nintendo, and the rest of the toy/gaming market are likely to engage in some pretty fierce fights over this stuff. I'll skip the larger social commentary about the way that war toys affect children. Suffice to say, war toys and war games are big business. The stakes in this kind of IP litigation are huge -- we're talking billions of dollars.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Support for military families


A mentor of mine at UCLA Law School sent this note to me today. Please join me in donating to these worthy organizations. In my experience leading soldiers, AER did a lot to help young soldiers in need. At this moment, I imagine they're quite busy, and in need of our support.
Dear Colleagues: As you know, dozens of America's young people serving in the military in Iraq have been killed in the past three weeks. This is a special problem for Southern California, because a large number of the fatalities come from Camp Pendleton. Many of them leave little in the way of resources. This is especially the case for young enlisted personnel. For those of you who feel inclined to support the families they leave behind, let me suggest two websites where a credit card donation may be made: www.nmcrs.org; www.aerhq.org. These organizations are the Navy-Marine Corp Relief Society and the Army Relief Society, respectively. Thanks.
Update: Friday's Washington Post has a story on the various aid organizations that support men and women in the Army, Navy, Air Forces, Marines and Coast Guard.
Is it over?


While it looks like the high-intensity phase of the war has ended, the fighting still looks far from over. Baghdad erupted in fits of violence today, as a suicide bomber injured four Marines and one other Marine was killed when his unit tried to seize a mosque in the city. The official word is that formal resistance has "crumbled" -- that Saddam Hussein's regime is no more. That may be true. But it's equally clear that unorganized resistance -- and chaos -- both continue to threaten the American mission to build a lasting peace in Iraq.

So... the answer is that it's not over -- whatever it is. The demise of law and order poses a major threat, as soldiers can find themselves the victims of looters and violent mobs. The war to liberate Iraq has now entered the next phase; a more difficult and protracted phase of peacemaking and nation-building. The threat remains, particularly from those elements of Saddam's regime that now feel they have nothing left to lose. Before his regime fell, these elements fought for a piece of the nation they felt they still had. Now that America has triumphed, they may fight with renewed vigor -- flinging themselves at American and British troops to achieve martyrdom in the twilight of their failure to defend Iraq. To date, we have only seen a few suicide attacks on U.S.-led forces -- many fewer than experts predicted in an attack on a Muslim nation. Those attacks may increase, both in frequency and intensity. Then open war of tanks and artillery may be over. But in many ways, the messy war of infantry, military police and intelligence has just begun.
"Speed and violence of action" -- What won the war II


In training for urban combat, one of my NCOs used to preach the value of "speed and violence of action." Move to a building. Throw a grenade through the entry window. Throw soldiers in. Clear the first room; move to the next. Keep moving. Hit 'em as hard and fast as possible, so the enemy can't react. The key to success was moving fast with the right amount of force. Anything less would get you bogged down in the enemy's defense.

The same theory appears to have been applied to American and British strategy in the war on Iraq. A pair of articles in the Wall Street Journal and New York Times essentially summarize the U.S. plan as "speed and violence of action." The ultimate idea, according to Michael Gordon in the New York Times, was to hit the Iraqi defenses so fast that they couldn't react.
American forces began the campaign without the northern front called for in the strategy and with fewer troops than had been planned. They were forced to advance the date of the land attack, and they fought battles in the southern cities of Iraq that had never been anticipated.

In the final analysis, the speed of the allied land assault, coupled with American airpower, enabled the military to arrive at the outskirts of Baghdad before the Iraqis could set up an adequate defense.

"We executed faster than they could react," a senior American military official said today.
Similarly, Greg Jaffe reports in the Wall Street Journal the war illustrated the Rumsfeld Doctrine in action -- a strategy where lighter, more agile, rapidly-deployable units with superior information technology are employed against older, heavier, more lethargic enemies. The triumph of this strategy, Mr. Jaffe adds, will add fuel to the debate over how to best transform America's military to be lighter, more agile, and more digitized.
The success of the U.S. strategy in Iraq, with its emphasis on speed, is likely to have immediate consequences. Instead of concentrating ground forces in Germany and Korea, Pentagon planners are likely to spread them around so they can be deployed quickly to hotspots. Mr. Rumsfeld has noted that Austria's refusal to allow Germany based U.S. forces to pass through that country hindered the Pentagon's ability to get a force to the Persian Gulf quickly. If the U.S. had had a larger presence in Eastern Europe or Central Asia, Austria's refusal would have had far less impact.

Mr. Rumsfeld also is likely to push the Army and Marine Corps to invest more in lighter, more lethal ground forces that can be airlifted to combat zones. When Turkey refused to allow passage to U.S. troops, the best the U.S. could do to open a northern front in Iraq was to airlift in soldiers from the 173rd Airborne. These air assault troops didn't pack enough combat punch to take on Iraqi Republican Guard forces in the north or to capture oil fields around Kirkuk.

"What you see in Iraq in its embryonic form is the kind of warfare that is animating our desire to transform the force," says Stephen Cambone, undersecretary of defense for intelligence and a close adviser to Mr. Rumsfeld.

The core of the Rumsfeld Doctrine is that the speed of the invading U.S. force is more important than its size. "Speed matters. Speed kills. It leads to less collateral damage and fewer U.S. casualties," says retired Vice Adm. Arthur Cebrowski, head of Mr. Rumsfeld's Office of Force Transformation. The goal is to move more quickly than the enemy can react, cutting off his options.
* * *
To achieve greater speed in this conflict, Mr. Rumsfeld took risks that made many Army officers uncomfortable. He pushed military planners to reduce the number of heavy tanks they were bringing to the battlefield and to employ the forces they did bring in new ways.
Analysis: This last point is extremely important. We took on a substantial amount of operational risk in the Gulf. If Saddam's defenses had been more flexible, or if the fedayeen had fought with any coordination, or if we had encountered chemical weapons en route, the whole plan might have come unhinged. Speed and violence of action have the potential to shatter an enemy defense. But speed also has the potential to cut the other way -- to leave too many enemy units behind in your rear area. CENTCOM had to adjust its plan for this contingency, devoting combat power from the 101st and 82nd divisions to securing American and British lines of communication en route to Baghdad.

Military officers often speak of the "art" and "science" of wartime leadership separately, because each requires a different kind of judgment. The "science" of war involves calculations about force ratios, bomb-damage predictions, etc. The "art" of war refers to the subjective, qualitative leadership decisions made by a commander and staff based on their experience, and intuitive feel for warfare. Decisions on operational risk definitely fall more into the "art" category; they require a feel for the pulse of the war. It turns out that Gen. Franks made the right decisions about where and when to accept risk, and his plan worked. By striking at the heart of the regime (Baghdad) instead of conquering the entire country, we were able to topple the regime. However, speed may not be the answer now, as we begin the intensive nation-building operations necessary to build a new Iraq. Instead of speed and violence of action, we may now want to move deliberately, with measured force.

Wednesday, April 9, 2003

What won the war?


With bullets still flying in Baghdad, pundits are speculating about the key things in America's military that caused such a resounding victory over the Iraqi military. Tom Ricks has a good summary of these factors in his Thursday news analysis on the war: "People, plan, inept enemy." More than technology, more than precision bombs, it was the relative strengths of the American fighting man and woman -- in stark contrast to the ineptitude of Iraqi leaders and soldiers -- that won the war.
Retired military officers and defense experts have discerned two aspects to the U.S. military's role in the war. One was the people and equipment, and the other was the plan they carried out.

"We won so handily because we had a highly professional military -- well-trained, well-outfitted, well-led, with the right doctrine, solid organization, and, most important, excellent people," said retired Army Col. James McDonough.

With some reinforcements arriving in recent days, the U.S. invasion force in Iraq still totals only 125,000 service personnel, a fraction of the half-million troops assembled for the 1991 Persian Gulf War.

In particular, in this war, more than in any previous one, air and ground operations seemed thoroughly meshed, with targeting information between U.S. Special Forces and pilots flowing back and forth as it never has before.
* * *
It also was a demanding plan, one that couldn't be executed by slow-moving commanders or poorly trained troops. Pentagon officials cited the plan's "flexibility" so incessantly that it threatened to become a cliché, but the word actually is meaningful in a military sense. Only well-trained forces can quickly change plans, accelerating their movements to take advantage of newly discovered opportunities.
Analysis: Five years after the Gulf War, Stephen Biddle wrote a piece in International Security called "Victory Misunderstood, in which he dissected the lessons most had learned from Gulf War I. Specifically, he broke apart the assumptions about the role that technology played in the coalition's victory, using complex models of ground battles built at the Institute for Defense Analyses. Dr. Biddle's research found, among other things, that technology alone did not explain the overwhelming victory in 1991 over the Iraqis. Instead, it was the synergistic combination of skill and technology that won the war. Here is a brief excerpt from Dr. Biddle's brilliant paper:
The standard explanations of the Gulf War's outcome are wrong. The orthodox view explains the war's one-sidedness in terms of the Coalition's strengths, especially its advanced technology, which is often held to have destroyed the Iraqis' equipment or broken their will without exposing Coalition forces to extensive close combat on the ground. The main rival explanation emphasizes Iraqi shortcomings, such as their weak morale, poor training and leadership, or numerical inferiority in the theater of war. Both schools appeared within a few months of the cease-fire, and have changed surprisingly little since then. The information base on the war's conduct, however, has changed substantially with the recent appearance of the first detailed official and semi-official independent histories of the war. This new information, combined with the results of counterfactual analysis using new computer simulation techniques, undermines both schools' conclusions.

To account for what is now known, and in particular, for new details on the conduct of the ground campaign, I propose a new explanation based partly on a combination of pieces taken from both camps' arguments - but mostly on a different conception of how technology and skill affected the outcome. That is, I argue that a synergistic interaction between a major skill imbalance and new technology caused the radical outcome of 1991. In the Gulf War, Iraqi errors created opportunities for new Coalition technology to perform at proving-ground effectiveness levels and sweep actively resisting Iraqi Republican Guard units from the battlefield. Without the Iraqis' mistakes to provide openings, however, the outcome would have been far different in spite of the Coalition's technology, and Coalition casualties would likely have reached or exceeded prewar expectations. But without the new weapons, mistakes like the Iraqis' would not have enabled the Coalition to prevail with the historically low losses of the Gulf War. Many previous armies have displayed combat skills no better than Iraq's, but without producing results anything like those of 1991; only a powerful interaction between skill imbalance and new technology can explain the difference.
Since "Victory Misunderstood", Dr. Biddle's views have influenced a new generation of military reformers. This reform movement, led by men like Chuck Spinney and Don Vandergriff, argues that the key to transformation lies with people and ideas -- not hardware. Dr. Biddle's study of Afghanistan confirms once again that leadership and soldiering -- people -- make the difference even when overwhelming technological difference exist. I suspect the same thesis will be borne out by subsequent studies of Gulf War II. Even in those cases where American infantry ostensibly went head-to-head with equivalent Iraqi infantry, the Americans came out on top. Why? It's not because of any inherently superior infantry technology -- boots, rucksacks and rifles haven't changed much over the years. (Though American and British forces could "reach back" to call for aircraft and artillery if needed.) The real reason why American and British infantry prevailed was their training, doctrine and leadership. Iraqi soldiers made dumb mistakes, like building fighting positions on the surface instead of digging them into the ground. Allied forces didn't make those mistakes -- and had the leadership and training to exploit them when made by their enemy. At the end of the day, I think that was enough to win.
A long way to go...


Despite vivid footage of Americans tearing down statutes of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld proclaimed that American-led forces still had a number of key missions ahead of them before victory could be declared. In a press conference today, the secretary and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs clearly appeared happy that the war plan had gone so well, and that Baghdad had not become another Mogadishu or Beirut. However, both remained cautiously optimistic about the future.
The secretary pointed out that there are many missions that coalition forces still need to finish. "We still must capture, account for or otherwise deal with Saddam Hussein and his sons and the senior leadership," he said.

Coalition forces must find and ensure the safe return of prisoners of war - "those captured in this war or those still held from the last Gulf War."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Air Force Gen. Richard Myers also addressed the POW issue. "To those who may be holding any coalition prisoners of war, permit the International Red Cross to visit them," the general said. "The Geneva Convention requires you to ensure their health and well-being. When the hostilities end, we fully expect to find these young men and women in good health and well cared for."

Coalition forces must secure the northern oil fields, which have some 40 percent of Iraq's oil wealth and are probably wired for destruction by the doomed regime, he said.

Coalition forces must find and secure Iraq's weapons of mass destruction facilities and secure Iraq's borders to prevent the flow of WMD materials and senior regime officials out of the country. The secretary said the United States is concerned that regime members may try to export either these weapons or the expertise to make them to terrorist groups.

"And the thought that as part of this process, ... those materials could leave the country and in the hands of terrorist networks would be a very unhappy prospect," he said. "So it is important to us to see that that doesn't happen."

Coalition forces must still capture or kill the terrorists still operating in Iraq and prevent them from gaining access to weapons of mass destruction, Myers said.

The coalition also must begin the process of working with Iraqis to establish an interim authority and pave the way for a new Iraqi government.
Analysis: Ultimately, I think this last task is the most important -- perhaps even more so than getting Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Our mission will be judged in the court of world opinion by the way we govern Iraq in the early days of our occupation, and by the government we leave behind. If Iraq rises from the ashes to become a functioning, modernized, liberalized nation, then we may well call this mission a success. Ensuring such a future for Iraq will provide the best answer of all to those naysayers -- particularly the French, Germans, Russians and others -- who felt that war was not the answer and that diplomacy should have been given more chances.

The days and weeks ahead... America's military will have a lot to do as it consolidates its successes in Iraq and mops up the remnants of Saddam's regime. Isolated pockets of resistance continue to exist. We have not killed every last fighting soldier, nor have we disarmed them all. American forces must remain alert, and they must continue to hunt down those parts of Saddam's regime that might threaten our post-war nation-building. As relief supplies and aid organizations flow into Iraq, we must secure them too, to ensure the aid gets to the people who need it -- not the people with the most guns.

Coda: Paul McDonald, a doctoral student at Columbia University in international relations, has some good advice for the Bush Administration for the post-war reconstruction of Iraq.
(1) Do Not Withdraw. Given the relative ease by which the coalition achieved victory, there may be a temptation on the part of the Administration or the American public to withdraw early from the Iraqi situation...
* * *
(3) Do Not Appear to Profit from Victory. Finally, if one wants to avoid criticism from home and abroad, the last thing the Administration wants to do is to appear biased during the reconstruction effort.

By avoiding the appearance of plundering Iraq for America's sole benefit, the Administration can reinforce its case that Iraq was liberated in the interests of human freedom and not national gain.

"Machines don't fight wars. People do, and they use their minds."

--Col. John R. Boyd

Noah Shachtman reports in Wired (and his blog DefenseTech) that high technology was less of a panacea for American soldiers in Iraq than widely believed -- especially in large cities like Baghdad and Basra. Specifically, Noah writes about the communications gear used by American forces, and the problems it experienced in urban combat.
Most of the radios used by American ground forces are FM, like a car stereo. And that means they're subject to the same static that someone gets when they drive between big buildings or through a tunnel.

Take, for example, the Single Channel Ground and Airborne Radio System. SINCGARS is the main line of communication between platoons of 20 to 40 people and their higher-ups, serving more than 200,000 American soldiers.

But SINCGARS' signals "don't penetrate well in an urban environment," said Capt. Carlton Adams of the Marine Corps Warfighting Laboratory. You can boost these signals, in the VHF range (30 MHz to 88 MHz), with more power. But that makes the system so big you need a Humvee to carry it, he said.

Besides, SINCGARS isn't supposed to be for individual grunts to talk to one another. For that, members of the I Marine Expeditionary Force in Iraq are using the Personal Role Radios, or PRRs, the communicators used by the British Army and Royal Marines. Operating in the 2.4 GHz slice of the spectrum -- the same one used for Wi-Fi Internet connections -- the PRRs have a theoretical range of 500 meters. In a building, however, they really can't reach more than a few floors away.

The radios work better, of course, if soldiers step out into an open avenue. But with snipers potentially lurking around every corner and on every rooftop, it's not wise for soliders to expose themselves.
Analysis: Battlefield communications is hard stuff -- it's something that very good units spend a lot of time working on in order to master. I used various versions of the SINCGARS radio system on active duty in Korea, Texas and the Mojave Desert; I also tested some of the Army's Force XXI communications systems as part of the 4th Infantry Division. Its performance varied widely based on terrain, atmospheric conditions, and surrounding buildings. At the muddy boots level, this can create real problems. Hollywood movies depict "calling for artillery" as a pretty easy thing to do. Just pick up your radio handmike, dial up the artillery battalion, and call for fire support. If only it were that easy... The military communications system is really complex, and just getting on the right frequency with the right COMSEC is hard enough. Add in the complexities of terrain, buildings, etc, and you start to have real problems. Suffice to say, commo with a supporting artillery unit is something no infantryman can take for granted.

One other reason why it's extremely important to have communication in urban combat: fratricide. Battles happen at closer range in cities than in the desert. Battle lines also shift faster. It's very important to maintain constant communication with friendly units to know where they're at all the time, in order to avoid accidentally targeting a building where friendly forces have advanced.

Many have predicted that America's future enemies will turn increasingly to urban combat as a way of offsetting American technological advantages. These problems with FM-based radios show one way that urban combat does that. Another way is by hampering American surveillance and target acquisition systems. Most of those systems, e.g. Predator Unmanned Aerial Vehicles or scouts equippped with LRAS3, use their eyes (or cameras) to detect the enemy. If an Iraqi guerilla squad hides in a building, they become effectively invisible to these tools of surveillance. Even if we use sophisticated detection systems like thermal imaging, the guerillas can move down to the basement where they will evade even those means of detection. Other systems, like JSTARS, use radar to detect enemy ground forces. But the "clutter" of urban areas frustrates those systems as well.

Bottom Line: urban areas frustrate most of America's high-speed technological advantages. At the end of the day, urban combat requires tough, well-trained, well-equipped infantry who have the ability to close with and destroy the enemy by means of fire and maneuver.
The human mind at war


Today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) has a great piece on the psychological impact of war. Among other things, it predicts a rise in Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) diagnoses in veterans after this war concludes, due to the violence and intensity of the war on Iraq.
PTSD, the most prevalent psychiatric condition resulting from the traumas of war, often doesn't manifest itself until long after veterans return home. According to studies, the rate of PTSD among combat vets averages about 15%, more than double that in the general population.

Feeling fear is common on the battlefield, where soldiers can be exposed to terrifying circumstances, dead bodies and episodes of graphic violence. But when fear responses persist long after the danger is gone -- including years later -- it's a sign of PTSD. The disorder "is the shutting down of all emotions except those that promote survival in mortal danger," says Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist who is a leading expert on veteran's mental health.

In the case of Iraq, psychologists worry that the future mental toll on troops will increase substantially now that the battle is moving from the desert, where high-tech weapons can defeat enemies at a distance, to the savagery of street-to-street fighting in Baghdad.

Lt. Col. Dave West, the Army's deputy command chaplain for the U.S. Central Command in Doha, Qatar, says soldiers in support functions already have begun seeking counseling to deal with depression and physical symptoms caused by images of civilian casualties and fears about the safety of friends and family members on the front lines.

"Some of it is emotional issues, just being able to deal with the realities of war," says Col. West, a Southern Baptist. "Some is dealing with the realities of the civilian casualties being shown" on non-Western TV newscasts.

Psychologists say aggressive intervention by the U.S. military may help head off future psychological damage. In Iraq, the U.S. has deployed specialized anxiety-management squads like the 85th Combat Stress Control Detachment of Fort Hood, Texas, which includes psychiatrists and enlisted soldiers trained in counseling. "They attack mental health from a maintenance perspective," says Lt. Col. Clifford Kent, a Fort Hood spokesman. The 40 or so members of the 85th shipped out last month. Military divisions also have psychiatrists of their own.

The best way to fight stress is with strong unit cohesion, high morale and good training, the military believes. After that, rest and a hot meal can calm most cases of nerves. Military psychologists view hospitalizing stress cases as a last resort.
Analysis: Today's Army has obviously learned a lot since World War II, where combat stress casualties were treated with a mix of ignorance and disdain. Today's military attaches mental-health officers to every brigade-sized unit in combat, with larger numbers of psychological personnel further back in the medical system. Stress casualties are taken seriously, because of the contagious effect that one stress casualty can have on an entire unit. Today's military also understands the strong relationship between unit cohesion, leadership and combat stress. Good units and leaders take care of their soldiers' minds as well as their bodies.

I'm no expert on this subject, having only read a couple of books in this area (On Killing by David Grossman and Acts of War by Richard Holmes). However, my reading and my military experience make me think that American veterans from this war will have it both better and worse than their predescessors. They will have it better because today's deployed units have paid a lot of attention to unit cohesion and combat stress. But they will have it worse because this war has been extremely violent and intense. Soldiers driving through Iraqi cities have seen gruesome sights of Iraqi men and women pulverized by allied weaponry. Many have fought in cities, or against guerilla forces, which has a qualitatively different effect on the mind than desert warfare where units fight each other from a distance. They have also been fighting for a sustained amount of time with no rest. Holmes' book analyzed battle records and found that soldiers' minds start to break down after prolonged exposure to combat. We're now 21 days into the war, and most of this has been continuous combat with the enemy. Holmes opined that units started to break down between 30-40 days of continuous battle, and that most were combat ineffective by the 60th day. It does not appear that this war will last that long. But if it does, we may see psychological fissures emerge in some of our most hardened soldiers and units.
Law and order in Iraq


The New York Times reports on debates raging within the Pentagon over how best to police Iraq after the war's conclusion. Most of the discussion right now focuses on the command structure for this mission, and which specific general will actually run the policing operation. However, the debate also rages over exactly how Iraq is to be policed after the war -- with an iron fist, a heavy hand, or a gentle push.
The size and scope of any postwar security force has already stirred debate on Capitol Hill and at the Pentagon. There are more than 125,000 allied troops in Iraq now, with more than 100,000 Army troops — including the Fourth Infantry Division, First Armored Division and First Cavalry Division — moving into the region or on the way from the United States and Europe.

But Gen. Eric K. Shinseki, the Army chief of staff, has said several hundred thousand troops will be needed to keep the peace in postwar Iraq. Mr. Wolfowitz dismissed General Shinseki's assessment as "wildly off the mark." Pentagon officials have put the figure closer to 100,000 troops.

General Shinseki, who is retiring in June, has repeatedly clashed with Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, but the general's supporters cite his experience as a former commander of American peacekeeping forces in Bosnia, and warn that Pentagon officials have underestimated the job ahead of them.

"I don't think they understand the scope of the problem, but I think they're starting to see it right now with the chaos, looting, revenge killing and political intrigue," said William L. Nash, a retired Army major general whose brigade stayed in southern Iraq more than two months after the gulf war in 1991.

"We are extraordinarily vulnerable from a force-protection standpoint as the cop on the beat," said one senior retired general, who voiced specific concern about the Iraqi capital. "There must be urgent consideration to have the Baghdad police do that job."

Pentagon officials say they have learned lessons from peacekeeping or security missions in Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo and, most recently, Afghanistan. But the operation in Iraq will be dominated by the United States and its allies in the war, not the United Nations, senior Pentagon officials said.

Analysis: This last point really can't be minimized. In 1991, the American military had very little experience in its ranks with "peace enforcement" and "nation building". 12 years later, America's military has a wealth of experience and valuable "lessons learned" from places like Somalia, Haiti, Bosnia, Kosovo, Afghanistan, and other countries where the deployments are not so well known. Put simply, America's military has learned how to conduct operations across the military spectrum, from low-intensity peacekeeping operations to high-intensity combat operations. The fact that this discussion is happening at all -- and that America conceives of multiple ways to accomplish its post-war mission -- is itself significant. This discussion signifies an awareness of the complicated issues surrounding this kind of mission.

Ultimately, I think the debate will focus on how to best adapt a previously used model for use in Iraq. Haiti seems to stand out as the best example, where we displaced Gen. Raoul Cedras in favor of an elected President Aristide. However, we have no government-in-exile here to install in Iraq, and we must build a lot of political support from the ground up. In that sense, maybe this mission is more like Afghanistan, where we displaced the only legitimate government with one that was cobbled together from existing factions in and outside the country. Building a lasting peace will be difficult, but thankfully, it's something the U.S. has extensive recent experience with. Eight years ago, no one could have predicted the success of our mission in Bosnia. Eight years from now, I think we'll feel the same way about Iraq.
The spoils of war


Today's Los Angeles Times carries an interesting piece on the looting which has taken place in various Iraqi cities since their capture by allied forces. Specifically, such looting appears to be rampant in Basra, where British officials seem to be encouraging certain kinds of looting -- especially of former-Baath Party buildings and other centers of power. In Baghdad, American soldiers are also seeing extensive looting, especially of buidings that used to belong to Saddam's regime like the Justice Ministry.
Down the wide boulevards of the city center, beneath murals and statues of Saddam Hussein, American tanks moved at will, almost parading as they rolled across the city, treads grinding, the crews relaxed and smiling. Looters waved casually as they toted their booty home.

They were in a festive mood, gaily hauling big-screen TVs and new office chairs past American tanks and Bradleys controlling the complex and a Tigris bridge approach. The thieves marched almost in step, pleased with their plunder, unhurried, as if in a pageant.

Blount wandered over and spoke to a few men who, unknown to the general, had just looted the Justice Ministry. They greeted him with chants, in English, of "Welcome America!"

Soldiers strung concertina wire to keep civilians away from combat positions, but they did not intercede to stop the looting though many of them assumed that some of today's looters were yesterday's soldiers, now in civilian clothes.

"I don't even feel like stopping them now that I see how they live," Marine Corps Maj. Mark Jewell said of the neighborhood's bereft civilians. He got his first look at the slums when he spent Tuesday night here in his Bradley Fighting Vehicle.
Analysis: Why would the U.S. encourage looting? I think a few things are at work here. First, we have a strong desire to paint the Hussein regime as kaput. Allowing civilians to loot the remnants of his regime, such as the Justice Ministry, empowers these Iraqis and makes them feel they have some personal autonomy and power over that regime. It also boosts these civilians' support for the Americans, particularly if we're letting these people loot things for their own personal gain (either personal use or sale). We'd look bad in the Iraqis' eyes if we preserved this stuff for the Ba'ath Party itself, or for some government-in-exile that these Iraqis have no tangible connection to. This all goes to the moral dimension of war. America needs to be win the hearts and minds of Iraq, and it needs to turn those hearts and minds against the Hussein regime. One way to do that is to co-opt the Iraqi population into helping to destroy his regime. Letting them loot Hussein's political apparatus is one way to accomplish that.

Coda: It's more than that. Right now, the U.S. has neither the combat power nor the time to police this kind of behavior. Doing so would require an inordinately large constabulary effort -- thousands of soldiers would have to give up fighting for policework. We may choose to do that in a few weeks or months when the combat dies down. But for now, we need our soldiers in the fight. I think Major Jewell's comments reflect this impetus. He wants to focus on combat operations right now. Security is the first thing on his mind, as it should be, for there can be no lasting peace and order without security. Only after America wipes out Hussein's remaining combat forces can any semblance of society take hold.

Tuesday, April 8, 2003

Women in combat -- an online dialogue


Slate started an interesting online discussion today between two noted authors on the subject of women in the military. Debra J. Dickerson is the author of An American Story, and presumably want to see more women serving in combat positions. Stephanie Gutmann is a writer living in New York and the author of The Kinder, Gentler Military. From the stuff I've read, Ms. Gutmann opposes the broadening of women's roles in today's military. Here's a short excerpt from Ms. Gutmann's first note:
So, our question is, Should the Army and Marines be forced to change policies that prohibit women from taking combat jobs in their infantry and artillery units? The question was brought up ad nauseam after Gulf War I (since we'd entered a period of peace and prosperity and had time to address nonessential concerns), and if we're lucky enough to have bought ourselves more peace and prosperity I think we're gonna hear it again.

But I sure hope not. The only people who truly want to see women in combat are some TV producers who think it's a "sexy" issue and approximately 500 cranks assembled on college campuses and in NGOs around the Beltway.
* * *
The national argument might be worth having if there was some vast, seething body of women longing to personally stick it to the enemy, but Debra, we both know there is not. I have friends and acquaintances up and down the rank structure and from every service—tough, bright, feisty gals all—and I have never met, and they have never met, a woman who burns to join the ground-pounders. (Several large-scale surveys back me up on this.)

The truth is, there are only about 200 women a year who could meet the physical standards required, and even fewer who would select this MOS (military job). So, we'd have a lot of tsores over a few people. And if we launch a legal battle on the subject, we'll open ourselves up to a Supreme Court ruling that might require a female draft for combat positions—and that would be a real debacle.
My thoughts... This is something I've researched and written about, including this cover piece for the December 2002 Washington Monthly. It's also something I dealt with first-hand as a Military Police platoon leader in the Army. I led MP platoons in the 2nd Infantry Division (in Korea) and the 4th Infantry Division (in Texas) -- both times attached to a mechanized infantry brigade. Our missions as MPs included a lot of things that scouts and infantry do, including "hasty attack" and "area reconnaissance". With good training and good leadership, my female soldiers did just fine. I'll be interested to see whether this dialogue tackles the tough issues in this debate, because it's a really hard nut to crack. Some of those tough issues include:

- Standards. If the military maintains its current standards of performance, say for Ranger School, a certain amount of women will graduate. (There are undoubtedly some women who can meet the most demanding of standards) However, if that happens, the number is likely to be quite small. That will create strange group dynamics on the back end, where too few women will have graduated to form peer networks, support networks, mentoring arrangements, etc. Sociologists and others call this a "critical mass" problem. To ensure success on the back-end, the military will have to reverse-engineer standards for schools like Ranger School to ensure that a "critical mass" of women graduate. However, that creates real problems. Certain standards in the infantry community are immutable -- such as the ability to carry a pack for long distances, or carry a wounded buddy to medical aid. At a certain point, the standards cannot change, or else we will suffer diminished performance in combat.

- Sex. At some point, the discussion about women in the military must always return to sex. Soldiers are young, hormonally-imbalanced, physically-active people who engage in copious amounts of sexual activity. Any serious consideration of gender integration must include a serious discussion of the risks and control measures for sexual activity in the ranks. If the infantry, armor, and artillery branches are to be opened up, more thought also needs to be given to fraternization rules -- particularly within units at the same rank. Current rules proscribe relationships between soldiers of different rank, or soldiers and officers. But this may be a real issue if we let women into infantry squads and Bradley crews.

- Female POWs. This is a non-issue, as far as I'm concerned, despite the attempts by some in the media to make it one. It may be distasteful to say this, but men can be raped just as well as women once captured by the enemy. There are countless was to defile a male body, and countless ways to defile a female body. Differentiating men from women on account of their treatment as POWs is a false dichotomy. It reflects a normative judgment that we don't to think of our daughters in this way; that we don't want to expose them to the horrors of captivity. Ironically, various studies on female performance in captivity and survival situations (e.g. the Donner Pass journey to California in the 19th Century) have shown that women have a greater tolerance for these situations than men.

Bottom Line: This is a hard issue that deserves serious debate. Slate has chosen two good authors to discuss this issue, and I hope they will do it justice.
More on future war crimes trials in Iraq


Jess Bravin has a piece in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) dissecting this issue further, in light of the press conference yesterday where State Department and Pentagon officials discussed the prospect of war crimes trials in Iraq. I said yesterday I was waiting to see what some other reporters wrote on this subject, and now I have it. Jess has covered this story for a while, and has broken some of the key aspects of the story such as the publishing of the crimes for the military tribunals. His article today clarifies the path the Administration plans to take with regards to Iraqi war crimes trials after the war ends.
U.S. officials want Iraqi exiles, aided by American experts, to lead an effort to punish Saddam Hussein's regime for alleged crimes against humanity during the past two decades, with little involvement from the United Nations or other countries.

Washington itself plans to prosecute Iraqis for war crimes committed against U.S. forces during the current conflict and the 1991 Persian Gulf War, under provisions of the Geneva Conventions, officials said.
* * *
The U.S. plans to offer "technical, logistical, human and financial assistance" to create an Iraqi justice system, Mr. Prosper said. While other countries and organizations would be invited to contribute, the plan appeared to exclude the U.N. from a major role it recently has played in other nations that suffered gross human-rights violations.

U.S. officials have criticized the decade-old U.N. war-crimes tribunals for Rwanda and Yugoslavia as too expensive, inefficient and far removed from the lands where the abuses took place. More recently, the U.N. has sponsored "hybrid" war-crimes courts in East Timor and Sierra Leone, where international jurists serve together with local lawyers to try accused war criminals.

Unlike U.N.-affiliated tribunals, Mr. Prosper said, the proposed Iraq court will be able to impose the death penalty.
Analysis: This may sound flippant, but I don't think the U.S. cares that much about "victor's justice" -- I think it cares about victory and justice separately. We obviously want to win this war, and I think we're on our way to doing so. And we care about justice in the abstract, because enforcement of UN resolutions and removal of an unjust regime together form our raison d'etre for this war. Frankly speaking, the U.S. does not enjoy a lot of support right now from the international human rights community, especially the part of that community in Europe. With our rejection of the International Criminal Court, treatment of the Gitmo prisoners, and other issues, we have already offended them. I think this legal strategy is being crafted with an eye towards Iraq -- and not towards Europe. The ICTY trial of Milosevic has not gone well, and we do not want to repeat that performance in Iraq. Our end goal now is a stabile Iraq with a functioning public/private infrastructure. Anything that detracts from that -- including showpiece trials in Europe of Iraqi officials -- runs contrary to American grand strategy.
Taking the fight to the Fedayeen


CNN reports that infantry from the 3rd Brigade, 101st Airborne Division have engaged elements of the Fedayeen in a fierce firefight near Hillah, south of Baghdad. The soldiers from the 101st appear to have made contact during a patrol of the city, in which they were actively looking for the Fedayeen.
Soldiers from the U.S. Army's 101st Airborne Division, 3rd Brigade engaged in an hour-long firefight with Iraqi soldiers believed to be members of Saddam Fedayeen 50 miles south of Baghdad, said CNN's Ryan Chilcote, who is travelling with the unit.

Kiowa helicopters fired several rockets into a building, while U.S. soldiers fired grenade launchers to quell the resistance before they were able to enter, Chilcote said. Parts of the main building of the complex, which contains several warehouses and silos, were on fire and U.S. infantry soldiers went through it room by room to see if there were any survivors, he said.

A soldier in a Humvee vehicle with a large speaker mounted on top was asking the soldiers to stop fighting, Chilcote said.

U.S. soldiers hit the largest silo with anti-tank artillery, engulfing the building in flames, he said, while soldiers used tanks, armored personnel carriers, attack and scout helicopters.

Three U.S. soldiers were wounded, none seriously, Chilcote said. Two Kiowa helicopters were damaged, but the pilots were not injured.
Analysis: This is the kind of infantry fighting that America has hesitated to engage in since Vietnam, because it's incredibly costly in time and blood. American military commanders always prefer to send a machine or bullet instead of a man -- hence the use of artillery, aircraft and other means before the use of infantry. Nonetheless, it sometimes remains necessary to use brave young men as infantry to clear restricted terrain like urban areas. America has learned this lesson before, when fighting over the ragged mountains of Korea. Following World War II, America's military shrank to nearly nothing, and acquired a sense of lethargy in the wake of the nuclear-powered victory over Japan. Colonel T.R. Fehrenbach, a combat veteran of the Korean War, wrote a gripping history of the conflict called This Kind of War, in which he describes the tension between American techno-military strategy and the essential nature of infantry warfare:
"Americans in 1950 rediscovered something that since Hiroshima they had forgotten: you may fly over a land forever; you may bomb it, atomize it, pulverize it, and wipe it clean of life--but if you desire to defend it, protect it, and keep it for civilization, you must do this on the ground the way the Roman legions did, by putting your young men into the mud."
No one has said it better since Col. Fehrenbach, and the statement rings true today. We may bomb Iraq, fly planes over it, pulverize its palaces, and destroy its infrastructure. But to truly control it -- and effect the kind of change we want -- we must send our brave young men and women into the mud.
One more sign that Baghdad is in American hands


Despite the firefight described below by the Washington Post, organized resistance appears to be crumbling in Baghdad. CNN.Com has a picture on its front page of two AH-1 Cobras (presumably from the Marine Corps) flying over the heart of Baghdad. Another officer I know pointed out that low-flying, slow helicopters like the Cobra don't fly over areas when there's a lot of anti-aircraft fire. In both Gulf War I and II, Baghdad has been heavily defended by anti-aircraft fire -- both surface-to-air missiles and guns. These Cobras' flight seems to indicate that a great deal of that has been silenced, or at least, that it does not pose a significant threat. Similarly, the use of Baghdad International Airport seems to indicate the same thing. It's still too early to declare victory... but this is one more indicator that we're heading in that direction.

Monday, April 7, 2003

Almost another Mogadishu in Baghdad


There was no mission to abduct an enemy commander; no Blackhawk shot down by enemy guerillas. But this riveting story in tomorrow's Washington Post paints a vivid picture of an intense battle at a key intersection in Baghdad. Here's a brief excerpt:
An Iraqi rocket-propelled grenade slammed into a U.S. ammunition truck at the intersection. As mortars aboard the ammunition truck exploded, they set a nearby fuel tanker truck ablaze, sending clouds of black smoke billowing into the sky. With the cloverleaf now an inferno, soldiers dove for cover or ran for their vehicles. Two Special Forces vehicles -- Toyota pickup trucks -- went up in flames.

"RPG on the roof! RPG on the roof!" yelled one soldier from beneath an overpass as he peered through binoculars at a building up ahead. M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicles and other armored vehicles poured 25mm cannon and machine-gun fire at the target, but the incoming rounds continued.

"Get out of here now!" a sergeant bellowed.

Observe, Orient, Decide Act

U.S. gets "actionable" intelligence and launches B-1 strike on possible Hussein location

Various news sources including the New York Times and CNN are reporting that the U.S. dropped four large bombs on a Baghdad residence late today in an attempt to kill Saddam Hussein.
Military and national security officials said that the four two-thousand pound, satellite guided bombs had left what one official called "a huge smoking hole," but it was still unclear who was inside at the time or whether anyone was injured or killed.

The strike was made based on an intelligence report that one official said indicated that both Mr. Hussein and his two sons would be at the meeting. But other officials said they were cautious, wondering whether Mr. Hussein would allow the family to gather in one place.

The strike took place in Mansour district, a fashionable surburban area of the city, a military official said tonight in Washington. The intelligence information was passed to Central Command in Qatar, which authorized the strike.
This is a perfect vignette of John Boyd's OODA loop in action. Except that instead of happening at the tactical level, where it's grunt-on-grunt or fighter pilot-on-pilot, this is happening on the national level. American C4ISR (Command, Control, Communication and Computing = C4; Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance = ISR) systems are so advanced that they can:
1) Observe. Detect indicators of Hussein meeting at a specific time and place.
2) Orient. Focus intelligence collection assets on that time/place in order to confirm the meeting.
3) Decide. Rapidly pass this information to the appropriate decisionmaker, in this case Gen. Tommy Franks at CENTCOM headquarters.
4) Act. Launch a strike with B-1 bombers and precision-guided munitions to eliminate the target.
This isn't a linear process -- it's an OODA loop. It's critical that we now gather information to feed back into the OODA loop in order to make subsequent decisions. Initially, this means doing "bomb damage assessment", called "BDA" by military pundits. If the report is right and there's just a smoking hole in the ground, that's going to be kind of tough. We may only be able to confirm Hussein's death in this attack by his absence, and future statements by Iraqis that he is, in fact, dead. Even with American special forces on the ground, it's going to be really hard to do BDA on this strike and take the next step to eliminate Mr. Hussein.
Winds of Change
has a great photo on their site of American soldiers taking a break from the war in one of Saddam's palaces. Judging by the shoulder patches, these are soldiers from the Army's 3rd Infantry Division. They've certainly earned the quick break, and I hope the entire division is able to make use of Saddam's palaces. If I'd just fought up from Kuwait through sandstorms, I'd want a crack at one of his gold-plated showers. Now that's what I call a Ba'ath party!

Update: It's been suggested that the use of Saddam's palaces by American soldiers amount to criminal trespassing -- that it may be an unlawful form of wartime looting. That might be true if soldiers start taking Saddam's stuff and auctioning it on E-Bay, but it's not true today. The laws of war allow belligerents to make use of civilian buildings when necessary and/or expedient. (Of course, we couldn't take a hospital and convert it to a military command post, nor could we hurt civilians by choosing to occupy a food store for this purpose.) Given the state of the Iraqi civilian economy, I'm going to guess that few structures come close to Saddam's place when it comes to construction quality, durability, space, survivability, etc. It makes sense that 3ID would choose to encamp there. At some point, the U.S. will have to start putting Iraqi assets into some sort of general fund for the subsequent Iraqi government. But during the conduct of war, our soldiers and commanders are allowed to make use of these palaces for legitimate purposes, so long as no outright theft or profiteering takes place.

With that said, let the showers commence! Hopefully, Saddam's kitchens are in working order still. Maybe 3ID's cooks can get in there to fire up something decent for the soldiers after two weeks of non-stop Meals, Ready to Eat.
America plans to try Iraqis for war crimes


In a briefing today, Pentagon and State Department officials said they have decided to try Iraqi officials whom they believe to be guilty of various war crimes, once the war is complete. Significantly, the officials said they would not turn to an international body, such as the International Criminal Court, to adjudicate these cases. Also, the U.S. said it would not pursue an ad hoc tribunal, like the International Criminal Tribunal-Yugoslavia, that's currently trying Slobodan Milosevic, for use in this situation.
W. Hays Parks, special assistant to the Army Judge Advocate General, said trials could be handled by U.S. military commissions, military courts martial, or in civilian federal courts. Parks accused Iraq's government of three specific violations of the Geneva Conventions and related laws of war, and said others were being investigated.

Pierre-Richard Prosper, U.S. ambassador for war crime issues, said possible punishments for those convicted range from incarceration to the death penalty.

``The current abuses, the crimes particularly against U.S. personnel, we believe that we have the sovereign ability and right to prosecute these cases,'' Prosper said. ``We are of the view that an international tribunal for the current abuses is not necessary.'' U.S. allies in the war, including Britain, have the same right to prosecute suspected war criminals, he said.

The only international tribunal in existence, Prosper said, is the permanent International Criminal Court. But that court lacks jurisdiction over this war because neither America nor Iraq are parties to the treaty creating the court, he said.

Prosper said an Iraqi judiciary process slated to be established following the war could handle trials relating to ``past abuses'' by members of Saddam's government. Officials said Iraqi exiles are being consulted about the matter.

``We have begun to catalog the numerous abuses, both past and present, that have been committed by the Iraqi regime. Our troops have been given the additional mission of securing and preserving evidence of war crimes and atrocities that they uncover,'' Prosper said.

Prosper said U.S. officials have been investigating the actions of the Iraqi leadership, including Saddam, his sons Qusay and Uday, and military leaders like Ali Hassan al-Majid, nicknamed ``Chemical Ali.'' He added that ``by the nature of the regime, we do understand that a lot of the orders for the atrocities came from the top.''

Analysis: This is something I've been following for a while, since it dovetails with some of my research and writing here at UCLA. At a symposium last month, I asked Mr. Prosper what he thought about this issue, and he debate that answer with David Scheffer, who was President Clinton's ambassador for war crimes and Mr. Prosper's predescessor. This is a tough issue to decide, since it really does cut both ways. On the one hand, international tribunals lend a sense of legitimacy in some situations, particularly when crimes against humanity and other similar offenses are charged. Similarly, local tribunals can give the Iraqi people a real stake in the procedure and the outcome of these trials. On the other hand, the desire to use U.S. courts (of some type) also makes sense, since our legal system has a great deal of protection for defendants and because it will allow us to control the classified information we use in the trials. (See the Classified Information Procedures Act) Personally, I think this issue is still very much in play. Until we see an actual defendant in court, I don't think the Administration has really decided on a course of action.

Update: Tomorrow's Washington Post story clarifies this issue a little bit, drawing a line between those crimes committed by Iraqis during the war with America and those crimes committed before the war (such as the use of chemical weapons on the Kurds). The former is to be tried by U.S. military or civilian proceedings; the latter is to be tried by a local ad hoc tribunal, similar to the one being used in Sierra Leone. Wall Street Journal reporter Jess Bravin reported on this some time ago, hinting that this would be the model for the Bush Administration if any Iraqis were tried down the road for war crimes. Now, the Post reports this is exactly what may happen.
In an announcement that drew warnings about the danger of "victor's justice" from human rights organizations, officials said the United States would contribute backing and would encourage other countries to help, but would not seek to establish an international tribunal.

The decision does not apply to any crimes committed during the current war. Attorneys from the Pentagon and State Department said Iraqis who violate international conventions or U.S. law during the conflict could face military tribunals or trial in U.S. District Court.

U.S. war crimes ambassador Pierre-Richard Prosper said Iraqi courts are favored by the Bush administration for prosecuting past abuses, from the gassing of Kurds in northern Iraq to systematic repression. He said the development of Iraq's legal system requires the process to have "indigenous roots."

"For the past crimes, it's an Iraqi-led process. They're going to be out front. It's a matter of us offering assistance so that this will be fair," Prosper said. He held out the possibility that Iraqis could seek an international tribunal and said Iraqis inside Iraq would have a voice. But the administration has concluded, he said, that Iraqi expatriates favor trials by Iraqi jurists.

Acknowledging that Iraq's legal system needs an overhaul, Prosper said U.S. participation could be "substantial, depending what the needs are." The administration is prepared to provide money, logistical support and staff, he said.
Update II: The Pentagon has posted the full transcript of the press conference on this issue. I always find these transcripts to be useful, because you get to read the actual remarks by the men and women who work these issues -- instead of the filtered words of news reporters. They're also useful for context; sometimes it's useful to hear the reporter's question in addition to the answer.
Oakland police use force to quell protest


Various news sources report that police officers used a significant amount of force in Oakland today to respond to anti-war protesters who were demonstrating near the Port of Oakland. Among other things, police opened fire with various non-lethal projectiles such as "rubber bullets", bean bags, and wooden dowels. Police also used tear gas and officers in riot gear to disperse the protesters and arrest those who would not move. "Some people were blocking port property and the port authorities asked us to move them off," said Deputy Police Chief Patrick Haw, justifying the police intervention. "Police moved aggressively against crowds because some people threw rocks and big iron bolts at officers."
Most of the 500 demonstrators were dispersed peacefully, but police shot the projectiles at two gates when protesters refused to move and some of them allegedly threw rocks and bolts. The longshoremen, pinned against a fence, were caught in the line of fire.

Police spokeswoman Danielle Ashford said officers fired bean-bag rounds and wooden dowels. They also used ``sting balls,'' which send out a spray of BB-sized rubber pellets and a cloud of tear gas and feel like a bee sting when they hit someone.

Demonstrators said they targeted the port because at least one company there is handling war supplies. They said it was the first time they had been fired upon in Bay area protests since the Iraq war began last month.
* * *
About 200 of the port demonstrators later marched to the federal building in Oakland, blocking a street and chanting: ``Out of the office and into the streets! U.S. out of the Middle East!'' They were joined by Oakland City Council members Jane Bruner and Jean Quan.

``They should not have been using the wooden bullets,'' Bruner said. ``Given what's happening in the world today, we're going to be seeing more of this. And we should be prepared to handle it.''

Oakland Police said at least 24 people were arrested.
* * *
Protests also took place Monday at the federal building in San Francisco and at the Concord Naval Weapons Station. And seven people were arrested when they temporarily blocked an exit ramp off Interstate 280 in San Francisco.
Analysis: I've done some riot control work as a military police lieutenant, and it's not easy. It's not easy to tell from this story whether the police were justified in using such force against the protesters or not. If they're blocking the port entrance, I'd say that doesn't qualify. If they did throw rocks and heavy objects at police officers, then that probably may be enough justification. The thing about non-lethal projectiles is that they cause a lot of unintended consequences. Against a healthy young protester, they'll cause a welt and some pain. But if you hit the wrong person (such as one with a heart condition) or hit someone in the wrong place, you can do a lot of damage. This use of police force has to be carefully measured. I might've used something less than this, such as tear gas, if I were in this situation.

Ironically, this has happened as the protests have started to die down. Here in Los Angeles, we have not had any major protests like the ones before the war and during the first few days. In San Francisco, they have not had any more breaches of the peace like the non-violent intrusion on the Pacific Stock Exchange, or coordinated "die-in" which shut down that city's traffic. I'm not sure why the protests have abated so much around the country. I suspect it has something to do with not wanting to protest so vehemently as young American men and women put their lives on the line in combat.

Update: In case you're trying to plan around the upcoming protests, I recommend surfing the International ANSWER website to find out when the big ones are coming to your hometown. These protests disrupt traffic a great deal, so I recommend doing some intelligence gathering of your own to minimize the impact of these events on your life. The group has big protests scheduled for this weekend in DC, San Francisco and L.A.

Update II: I was going write something about the protester's targeting decision -- why did these choose to picket this corporate site? It would have made much more sense to picket someone like Boeing or Northrop-Grumman, if your goal is to disrupt the American military-industrial complex. However, Orin Kerr at the Volokh Conspiracy beat me to the punch. Here's what he had to say:
If this protest was an effort to persuade Americans to be sympathetic to the antiwar cause, I think it failed, to put it mildly-- even putting aside the stuff about throwing metal bolts and blocks of wood at police officers. Just focus on what the protesters were targeting. Unless I'm missing something, the protesters in Oakland were trying to interfere with a company that is going to help rebuild Iraq, and even to bring in humanitarian aid. [See the update below for a different view, however.] Apparently the protesters targeted the company because they see it as part of a broad corporate effort to profit from the war. As one of the protesters put it, "This is the march I've been most excited about . . . . It actually got some outcomes. It's direct. Here, we're actually trying to shut the place down for a day, to take a strike straight at the actual machine of the war.'' But how is the company part of the 'actual machine of the war'? True, the company here is part of a corporate effort to profit from a U.S. government plan. The only trouble is, that plan is not a plan to wage war, but rather a postwar plan to bring peace, democracy, and prosperity to a nation that has suffered under a brutal dictator. If the protesters are against that, I don't think they'll find much company.

U.S. finds alleged chemical weapons site


American soldiers near Karbala found barrels that may contain chemical agents, according to reports from the New York Times and other sources. The soldiers' mission was to raid an abandoned training camp and search for weapons. Sure enough, they found them -- but much more than expected.
"We're treating it as real, we're reporting it as real" said Col. Tim Madere, the top chemical officer in V Corps, referring to the containers, which he said may hold the chemical/biological weapons.

Initial tests, Colonel Madere said, indicated the presence of nerve gas and mustard gas. But Colonel Madere said conclusive results probably won't be available until Tuesday or Wednesday.

If the discovery turns out to be chemical weapons, it would confirm one of the Bush administration's most powerful arguments in starting the war against Iraq. Not only was Saddam Hussein's regime brutal and threatening, the administration said, but its cache of chemical and biological weapons were a danger to the Middle East and to the United States. It would also prove a significant triumph for the United States to display, on the world stage, the presence of chemical weapons.

Saddam Hussein's regime has scoffed at the accusation that Iraq has such weapons.

Officials here promptly notified the Defense Department about the discovery.

Colonel Madere said that a preliminary test by a military chemical unit at the scene, indicated the presence of nerve gas, which is potentially lethal, as well as mustard gas.

But he withheld final judgment until a squad of the 51st Chemical Company, which was rushed to the scene, took samples and returned them to an American base in Iraq where more conclusive tests can be made.
Analysis: If I'm reading this story right, Colonel Madere is the V Corps chemical officer and he's exactly the right guy to be commenting here. Without knowing his specific bio, I can say that officers assigned to be the Corps Chemical Officer are either full colonels or senior lieutenant colonels with about 20-25 years of experience. I trust his statements more than I trust the initial reports from the field, because such reports will have been filtered and clarified by the time they got to V Corps headquarters -- and because he has the knowledge to sort reality from puffery.

So here's how such a scenario might have unfolded. Infantrymen on the ground found something and got suspicious -- maybe the barrels, maybe some noxious smell. They probably backed off and used the chemical-detection equipment at their disposal to figure out what was around. At the same time, these soldiers probably donned their complete chemical suit -- mask, suit, gloves, boots. The initial field-level detectors appear to have registered "positive" for GB, a non-persistent nerve agent, and mustard gas. (GB is roughly synonymous with sarin) These detection systems aren't designed to be very detailed -- they're designed to tell soldiers when to suit up, and when it's clear. Once the soldiers sent this report up the chain of command, the division headquarters launched a specialized team from the 51st Chemical Company to do more samples and analysis. They probably drove up in a Fox vehicle, with some pretty sophisticated gear capable of making these findings.

So does this prove the U.S. case? Technically, yes. These are prohibited materials under various UN Security Council resolutions. However, I don't think these quantities are sufficient to make the U.S. case in the court of world opinion. We still need to find more. I suspect that thousands of American and British soldiers are working towards that end right now.

First reports are always wrong? ABC News and other sources are reporting that tests on these chemicals indicate the U.S. has found barrels full of pesticide.
A military intelligence officer for the US 101st Airborne Division's aviation brigade, Captain Adam Mastrianni, told AFP news agency that comprehensive tests determined the presence of the pesticide compounds.

Initial tests had reportedly detected traces of sarin - a powerful toxin that quickly affects the nervous system - after US soldiers guarding the facility near Hindiyah, 100 kilometres south of Baghdad, fell ill.

Captain Mastrianni said a "theatre-level chemical testing team" made up of biologists and chemists had finally disproved the preliminary field tests results and established that pesticide was the substance involved.
How could this happen? Well, a few ways. First, as stated above, these field chemical-detection devices are not the most exact things in the world. They tend to err on the false positive side, because soldiers lives are at stake and you'd rather put on your chemical suit and sweat than not put it on and die. Second, I think there are some chemicals in pesticides that are closely related to nerve agent. I'm not a chemical weapons specialist, but it's an old joke in the Army that using RAID in your house violates the chemical weapons treaties because it contains some nerve gas. If this is true, it certainly explains the mixup in the desert.

For more details... Read this Washington Post account of the incident, and the way the military is responding by Rick Atkinson and Barton Gellman from Iraq. They have some good follow up.
Another great intel dump on the war


Winds of Change has a daily report for 7 April that provides a great roundup of news/blog coverage on the war. It's so good that I'm using it to catch up on the weekend's events I missed while down at Camp Pendleton. Check it out.
Iraqi missile hits U.S. tactical operations center


CNN and others report that an Iraqi missile has struck the Tactical Operations Center (TOC) of the 2nd Brigade, 3rd Infantry Division. Early reports list two soldiers and two reporters as dead, and more than a dozen injured. The 2nd Brigade TOC was located south of Baghdad as the brigade conducted combat operations in and around the city. I'd like to use this incident to explain a couple of things about Army command systems.

1. What is a TOC? Brigades usually have three command posts -- the TOC, the "TAC", and the ALOC. The TAC is the "tactical" TOC, called a TAC because TTOC would be stupid. It's essentially a mini-CP that operates closer to the front lines than the TOC, and commands operations that are happening now. It may include 2-4 armored vehicles and some security, and doesn't have great capacity to plan operations. In my brigades, the commander and operations officer fought from the TAC. The ALOC is the "Administrative and Logistics Operations Center", and it usually operates far back in the Brigade Support Area where the maintenance, medical, supply and other support missions get done. The TOC is the main command center for the brigade. It tracks the current fight, plans the next fight, synchronizes brigade resources, coordinates with higher headquarters, and a lot more. The brigade TOC usually includes "plug-ins" from every unit in the brigade, such as engineers, artillery, air-defense, signal, and intelligence.

2. Can this brigade fight with the TAC and ALOC? Yes, but not as well. The TAC can track/manage the current fight and the ALOC can handle some of the functions of the TOC. But neither has the communications capabilities, size, planning staff, or equipment of the brigade TOC. They can certainly manage the fight for the next 24-48 hours, but at some point the TOC must the reconstituted to assume these functions. Also, the TAC and ALOC have their own functions, which will be somewhat neglected if they have to devote too much time to the TOC's missions.

3. How could such an attack happen? It's not clear from initial reports whether this was a lucky hit, or a targeted strike. If it's a lucky hit, then there's not a lot the U.S. can do. Whether this unit was moving or stopped, a moving missile can always find it by luck. Generally, such units move their command posts regularly for security purposes. It's also possible that this TOC was targeted by the Iraqis. American units look for enemy command posts with sensitive systems that can detect radio transmissions and other signatures that TOCs give off. It's possible -- but not likely -- the Iraqis used those technologies to find 2nd Brigade's TOC. We may never know the answer to this question. However, it's a fair bet that U.S. command posts are redoubling their efforts to hide from such detection. Some counter-measures include setting up below the crest of a hill to mask radio transmissions, and using one-direction antennae.

4. Why were reporters in the TOC? One of the things in every TOC is a giant map of the battlefield, updated with friendly and enemy-unit information in real-time. Some units have a digital map system for this; others use a paper map with plastic overlays depicting various pieces of information. The TOC is one of the few places where a reporter (or commander) can get an accurate, somewhat complete picture of the battlefield. Even in the heavily digitized 4th Infantry Division, I still had to go to my brigade TOC when I wanted a complete intel dump or picture of the battlefield. There's a lot of information out there, and it's hard to bring it all together. The TOC has a staff of dozens that spend their days doing just that, and it makes sense that reporters would hang out there to see the forest and not just the trees.
Admin note
: I just got back from a great weekend of reserve training last night, so my blogging may take a few hours to catch up today. Intel Dump will have a decent set of analyses up by this evening. Thanks for your patience, and your readership.