Intel-Dump

Friday, June 13, 2003

A fallen American hero


Earlier this week, an officer I served with e-mailed me from Iraq to tell me about a memorial service he attended for Pvt. Jesse Halling of the 401st Military Police Company from Fort Hood. My old unit, the 4th MP Company, sits next to the 401st MP Company on Fort Hood. We used to do PT with the MPs from that unit, or challenge them to contests in sports or marksmanship. My friend's words from the desert really struck me; much more so than accounts of other deaths from the war:
". . . 720th MP BN had an MP killed at a local police station in an RPG & small arms attack. Memorial service was last night. Well done but do not want to do that again. Never seen so many officers, NCOs, & soldiers crying and hugging in my life. The kid was only 19. Way too young. Truly died a hero as he was trying to repel an attack and was in front of others who came out of the MP station to return fire."
Today, the Washington Post reports on the gallant actions of Pvt. Jesse Halling, who died while protecting his buddies. What strikes me is that Pvt. Halling acted reflexively to an enormously dangerous situation, despite his youth and inexperience. He was just 19 -- little more than a year out of high school, with only basic training under his belt -- not some crusty old infantry sergeant. Yet he knew instinctively what had to be done, and he did it in the face of enemy fire to save his buddies. Pvt. Halling was truly one of America's finest sons, and I mourn his loss.
Around 2 a.m., the attack started with sporadic but accurate small-arms fire. Pop. Then silence. Then another crack of rifle. Then nothing but dogs howling.
* * *
"We were at the police station and there was a call to respond and Halling's team went out from the station and immediately started taking small-arms fire," said Staff Sgt. James Ferguson, the leader of Halling's squad.

At first, rifle shots from the Iraqis were focused on the operations center, which was protected by a wall of sand barricades and concertina wire, as well as an M2 Bradley Fighting Vehicle. Then the CMOC was targeted. The Iraqi attackers seemed to be drawing the soldiers onto the street. "And it wasn't sporadic anymore," Ferguson said.

Suddenly, the Iraqis fired rocket-propelled grenades, lethal missiles designed to splinter into shrapnel fragments after detonation. Their aim was true, the soldiers said; the assailants knew what they were doing.

As Halling swung out onto the street, "it was a full-out firefight from both sides," Ferguson said. Tracer fire, sound of big guns emptying, lights and screaming.

Halling was the gunner in a three-man team of MPs, meaning he sat up in the turret of the Humvee, while the driver, Pfc. Ronald Glass, and the team leader, Sgt. Angel Cedeño, sat below. Glass said that Halling was hammering away with his .50-caliber machine gun. Big gouges remain along the rooftops hit by Halling's fire.

Just north of the CMOC, Halling was reloading his machine gun and squeezing off rounds from his M-16 rifle. All the while, he was telling Cedeño and Glass where targets were, and also telling them to watch out, to get down, Glass recalled.

Cedeño told the other soldiers later that Halling, by remaining at his post, had saved his life. He never came down from the turret, seeking shelter in the relative protection of the Humvee, as many soldiers might have done.

From one of the roofs, a rocket-propelled grenade struck Halling's Humvee. The round detonated, and a hot chunk of shrapnel tore through Halling's jaw.

Someone was shouting: "He's hit! He's hit!"

It was an ugly, mortal wound. Halling was treated in the field. A soldier from the CMOC said he thought Halling was choking on his own blood from the face wound. He was helicoptered to a hospital but did not make it.

"He never gave up; that's what you should put in the paper," Ferguson said.
The paper reported that Pvt. Halling was posthumously promoted to Private First Class and awarded the Purple Heart. He has also been recommended by his commander for the Silver Star, America's third-highest award for valor under fire. The men in Pvt. Halling's unit have returned to their mission, although they remain shaken by the loss of their comrade.

Thursday, June 12, 2003

What is 'Operation Peninsula Strike'?


American commanders launched the largest operation in Iraq since the fall of Hussein's regime this week, according to the New York Times, Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. The operation focused on Thuluya, a town thought to provide sanctuary for former-Iraqi soldiers still loyal to the regime. It appears that between 5,000 and 10,000 soldiers have been committed to the operation -- or two brigades plus supporting aircraft and artillery. According to the Los Angeles Times, the mission resembled a massive "cordon and search" operation, wherein American soldiers secured a large area and methodically searched every inch of it for paramilitaries and terrorists who might attack them in the future.
Dubbed "Peninsula Strike," it was the largest operation by U.S. occupation troops since the end of major combat activities in Iraq in late April. Air, ground and riverboat patrols isolated a mainly Sunni Muslim triangle northwest of Baghdad in the wake of what the military is calling "organized" attacks on U.S. soldiers in the past two weeks.

U.S. officials say the country is under control but that pockets of resistance remain. One U.S. spokesman, Army Col. Rick Thomas, characterized the pro-Hussein elements as increasingly desperate because they "have no future anywhere I promise you they have no future inside Iraq."

American officials did not say which senior Baath Party officials might be hiding in the search area, centered on the Tigris River town of Thuluya, but indicated that they would be sifting through the 397 suspects to see if any are wanted by the U.S. occupation administration.

At least one group of Iraqis engaged U.S. forces at Balad, about 50 miles north of Baghdad, and then tried to escape on a Tigris River boat, Thomas said, but they were tracked down from the air and captured.

Officials described two major phases of the operation that began Tuesday. The first involved moving soldiers and equipment into position to cut off a triangle along the Tigris. In the second, they launched raids using assault teams, ground attack squads, river patrol boats and Iraqi police against specific targets inside the area. Checkpoints and patrols were maintained over the past two days to capture anyone trying to flee.
Analysis: It appears from here that this operation was done in the classic way. Artillery and airpower destroyed key enemy locations and suppressed others while heavily armed infantry and armor formations secured the area. With the area secure, specialty teams of infantry and military police then move in to search every dwelling, shop, and crevice they can find -- and then some. The process is slow and methodical; these teams are extremely vulnerable while conducting their sweep. The goal is to find any enemy troops or munitions, and there are a myriad of places those things can be hidden.

Why now? This appears to be a response to increasingly violent attacks on American soldiers which have claimed a steady trickle of lives since the war's end. But it's more than that. American commanders now appear to have enough troops in place where they can simultaneously control Iraq and execute missions like this. When America just had enough to patrol the streets, we were on defense. But now that we have enough boots on the ground in Iraq, it appears that we're going on offense to find and kill the last remnants of Hussein's army. This is an extremely important phase of the war, and its import should not be minimized. It's also very dangerous. I think it's safe to bet that we will conduct missions like this in most major population centers of Iraq, because we need to ferret out resistance around the country -- not just in places like Tikrit. More to follow...
Can the Democrats do defense in '04?


Noah Shachtman thinks they can, and he has some ideas for how the Democratic Party can seize the offensive on national security issues for the next presidential election. The Washington Monthly and American Prospect have made this their issue as well, running sizable pieces in several of their recent issues on the subject. The problems are there; these pieces suggest some plausible solutions. It's now up to the Democrats to nominate the right person to carry their mantle of leadership -- and raise these issues in the national debate. [For the record: I'm not affiliated with either political party; I'd like to see these issues hashed out because I think the best solutions will emerge from a good fight.]
Hawks run amok?


Dan Drezner rightly points out that the Bush Administration -- and Pentagon in particular -- has a tremendous about of discipline when it comes to managing media leaks and staying "on message." Yet, in the last few weeks, there have been some serious breaches of that discipline. First has been Paul Wolfowitz' tussles with the media over WMD in Iraq and the ties between Al Qaeda, Iraq, and terrorism over the last decade. (The first has been somewhat discredited; the latter tussle remains an issue) Next, Dan points us to a press conference where Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Doug Feith tried to re-spin the WMD story, with dubious success.

Today's breach: USA Today reports that a senior Pentagon official admits to poor predictive analysis before the war on Iraq for the post-war reconstruction/nation-building/humanitarian mission that everyone knew would follow. This isn't quite the same as saying "we botched it;" it's more akin to LTG William Wallace saying during the war that the enemy they were fighting was "a bit" different than the one they wargamed. Nonetheless, it's a major reversal for the Pentagon, which has maintained its "can do" attitude to this point about Iraq and refused to admit that it could've done things any differently.
A Pentagon official conceded Tuesday that planners failed to foresee the chaos in postwar Iraq, as another U.S. soldier was killed and Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld signaled that guerrilla-type attacks could continue there for months.

Joseph Collins, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for stability operations, said that despite careful planning, the Pentagon was surprised by the extent of looting and lawlessness. Postwar conditions have ''been tougher and more complex'' than planners predicted, he said.
So what's going on? It's hard to tell. I didn't spend much time at the Pentagon at all; all my active duty time was much, much lower in the military. But I have followed these guys for a while in the media so I have some guesses. The first is that this is a hard issue, and there is legitimate room for disagreement. If retired-Gen. Eric Shinseki and Paul Wolfowitz could disagree so publicly over the size of the Iraqi deployment, then I think there's probably room for reasonable minds to disagree on a lot of these issues. To the extent that these people are giving candid interviews to the press, they will occassionally reveal their true feelings, or at least their initial reactions before they've had time to vet their true feelings with the SecDef's office. Suffice to say, I think there are deep divisions within the Pentagon over how to unscrew the Iraqi situation.

The second thing I think we're seeing is a gradual easing on the reins by Secretary Rumsfeld and his personal staff. After being in office for a while, they've started to develop a comfort zone with senior officials. Senior officials, in turn, have carved out their own turf and developed their own portfolios. They may even be starting to freelance a little bit; working towards the post they hope to have in the next administration.

Finally, I think we're seeing the fruit of hard work by the reporters who cover the Pentagon (and many who don't). These reporters were there before Rumsfeld, and they will likely be there afterwards. But until recently, they have hit a brick wall when they tried to get past the Pentagon's spin. I think the reporters have changed tactics in two significant ways. The first is to develop personal sources that can be trusted and used anonymously to report on significant developments -- like Esther Schrader's scoop that America was about to radically alter its footprint in Asia.

The second is to develop independent sources in the field who could corroborate or dispute reports from the Pentagon. Even if the SecDef can manage the message inside the Pentagon, he can't possibly do so around the world. Moreover, the guys in the field usually tell the truth, if only to tell the story accurately to their loved ones back home. Embedding reporters in combat units helped media organization develop these sources. A certain bonding happens when you get shot at together. In 10-20 years, when the officers in Iraq roam the Pentagon as generals, I imagine they'll have a completely different view of the media than today's generals -- and probably the name of the guy who drove with them to Baghdad in case they want to tell a story.

I guess this is not entirely responsive to Dan's query... but it's my best guess as to why the Pentagon appears to have lost its touch for managing the press. Of course, I think this is a great thing. We've sacrificed an awful lot of spirit, blood and treasure to fight Iraq and build a new nation. It's about time the Pentagon started to speak in the press about the reasons for that sacrifice.
Another academy sexual assault hits the news


The U.S. Naval Academy joined the U.S. Air Force Academy today as the target of an investigation into sexual assault in its student body. (Thanks to Stop the Bleating for the tip) The Baltimore Sun reports that a Naval Academy senior is under investigation for allegedly raping a female Naval Academy plebe (freshman). The victim has since left the academy, while the senior has been retained at the school to take additional classes to graduate. (That itself is unusual)

The matter is currently in what's called the "Article 32" phase, where a senior officer conducts a hearing similar to an arraignment to determine whether enough evidence exists to charge the senior.
Because the alleged offenses took place on academy grounds, they are being handled through the military justice system.

In addition to the rape and attempted rape counts, Curcio is charged, among other things, with sexual harassment, violating a protective order, conduct unbecoming an officer and a gentleman and having consensual oral sex with the woman in his dorm room in October, a violation of a rule barring sex in the dorm.
* * *
Last week, the woman, who is from Virginia, testified for more than six hours during a preliminary proceeding known as an Article 32 hearing.

During such a hearing, an investigating officer listens to the evidence and decides whether a defendant should face a court martial or internal discipline. The officer, who is likely to issue a finding within a week or two, can alternately decide to dismiss the charges.

The plebe testified last week that she and Curcio, members of the same company in the brigade, met early in her plebe year, according to the Navy Times, which first reported the story.
Quick thoughts... I'm not an academy graduate so I can't speak to the unique dynamic which exists at West Point, Annapolis and Colorado Springs. But I have served with academy graduates and two of my close friends are Annapolis grads. At first glance, this guy looks like a bad apple in an otherwise healthy bunch. It looks right to me that the Naval Academy is proscuting this guy in the military justice system -- that's the right thing to do, and it sends the right message of deterrence to the rest of the midshipmen. Navy has certainly done its share of soul-searching on the issue of gender integration, and I'm not sure that it needs another round of campus-wide investigation. On the other hand, if this incident is just one of many... then maybe that kind of look is appropriate.

Wednesday, June 11, 2003

Farewell to an old soldier


Today, Gen. Eric Shinseki retired from the Army and his position as the uniformed chief of America's oldest military service. Few officers have taken as many shots from politicians and other officers while serving in this job as Shinseki. His push to transform the Army into a lighter, faster, more deployable force met with considerable opposition from entrenched generals, defense contractors and military theorists. He presided over the Army's new "Army of One" recruiting campaign (aimed at Gen-X) that made a lot of old soldiers cringe. He also fought fierce battles with Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, over procurement issues like the Crusader artillery system and operational issues like the size of the Iraq deployment. On this last point, it appears that Shinseki was more right than Rumsfeld was. America had enough troops to win the war in Iraq, but should have listened to this old soldier's guidance on what it would take to win the peace.

Today, Gen. Shinseki had some final words on the subject of civilian control -- and civilian abuse -- of the Army. Always the consummate diplomat, he does not explicitly blame Rumsfeld for the problems in Iraq, or castigate him for plans to cut the Army's size. But just as Ike warned against the rise of the military-industrial complex in his final address 42 years ago, Shinseki sounds a cautious note about the months and years to come.
LEADERSHIP IS ESSENTIAL IN ANY PROFESSION, BUT EFFECTIVE LEADERSHIP IS PARAMOUNT IN THE PROFESSION OF ARMS - - FOR THOSE WHO WEAR THE UNIFORM AND THOSE WHO DO NOT. WE, IN THE ARMY, HAVE BEEN BLESSED WITH TREMENDOUS CIVILIAN LEADERSHIP - - MOST NOTABLY IN THE SERVICE OF SECRETARY TOM WHITE, WHO WE FAREWELLED LAST MONTH. WE UNDERSTAND THAT LEADERSHIP IS NOT AN EXCLUSIVE FUNCTION OF UNIFORMED SERVICE. SO WHEN SOME SUGGEST THAT WE, IN THE ARMY, DON'T UNDERSTAND THE IMPORTANCE OF CIVILIAN CONTROL OF THE MILITARY - - WELL, THAT'S JUST NOT HELPFUL - - AND IT ISN'T TRUE. THE ARMY HAS ALWAYS UNDERSTOOD THE PRIMACY OF CIVILIAN CONTROL - - WE REINFORCE THAT PRINCIPLE TO THOSE WITH WHOM WE TRAIN ALL AROUND THE WORLD. SO TO MUDDY THE WATERS WHEN IMPORTANT ISSUES ARE AT STAKE, ISSUES OF LIFE AND DEATH, IS A DISSERVICE TO ALL OF THOSE IN AND OUT OF UNIFORM WHO SERVE AND LEAD SO WELL.

OUR ARMY'S SOLDIERS AND LEADERS HAVE EARNED OUR COUNTRY'S HIGHEST ADMIRATION AND OUR CITIZENS' BROAD SUPPORT. BUT EVEN AS WE CONGRATULATE OUR SOLDIERS WHEN WE WELCOME THEM HOME FROM BATTLE, WE MUST BEWARE THE TENDENCY SOME MAY HAVE TO DRAW THE WRONG CONCLUSIONS, THE WRONG LESSONS FROM RECENT OPERATIONS - - REMEMBERING ALL THE WHILE THAT NO LESSON IS LEARNED UNTIL IT CHANGES BEHAVIOR. WE MUST ALWAYS MAINTAIN OUR FOCUS ON READINESS. WE MUST ENSURE THE ARMY HAS THE CAPABILITIES TO MATCH THE STRATEGIC ENVIRONMENT IN WHICH WE OPERATE, A FORCE SIZED CORRECTLY TO MEET THE STRATEGY SET FORTH IN THE DOCUMENTS THAT GUIDE US - - OUR NATIONAL SECURITY AND NATIONAL MILITARY STRATEGIES. BEWARE THE 12 DIVISION STRATEGY FOR A 10 DIVISION ARMY. OUR SOLDIERS AND FAMILIES BEAR THE RISK AND THE HARDSHIP OF CARRYING A MISSION LOAD THAT EXCEEDS WHAT FORCE CAPABILITIES WE CAN SUSTAIN, SO WE MUST ALLEVIATE RISK AND HARDSHIP BY OUR WILLINGNESS TO RESOURCE THE MISSION REQUIREMENT. AND WE MUST REMEMBER THAT DECISIVE VICTORY OFTEN HAS LESS TO DO WITH THE PLAN THAN IT DOES WITH YEARS INVESTED IN THE TRAINING OF SOLDIERS AND THE GROWING OF LEADERS. OUR NATION HAS SEEN WAR TOO MANY TIMES TO BELIEVE THAT VICTORY ON THE BATTLEFIELD IS DUE PRIMARILY TO THE BRILLIANCE OF A PLAN - - AS OPPOSED TO LEADERSHIP, TACTICAL AND TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY, SHEER GRIT AND DETERMINATION OF THE MEN AND WOMEN WHO DO THE FIGHTING AND THE BLEEDING.
Sounds like good wisdom to me.

Two notes: (1) It appears that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was conspicuously absent from today's ceremony, while traveling in Europe. His deputy, Paul Wolfowitz, was in Washington but appears to have been absent as well. None of Rumsfeld's undersecretaries appear to have attended. (This AP report confirms this) Both Rumsfeld and his deputy are absent from the lengthy "thank you's" at the front of Shinseki's speech. I'm not sure whose breach of protocol and courtesy is greater -- Rumsfeld/Wolfowitz for missing the ceremony, or Shinseki for failing to thank them. In any case, there's no love lost between them, as evidenced by Shinseki's remarks on civilian leadership. I can hardly blame Gen. Shinseki though, after watching Secretary Rumsfeld undercut him for so long -- going so far as to leak the name of Shinseki's replacement a year before his retirement.

(2) "Beware the 12 division strategy for a 10 division Army." This note of caution should resonate around the Pentagon, because this is a real problem. America's military is stretched very thin right now, and Secretary Rumsfeld has proposed troop cuts and realignments which would cut it even further. I'm a huge fan of transformation and efficiency, wherever it can be done. But many missions require manpower -- boots on the ground -- to be accomplished. They can't be done with money or machines. Nation-building is one example. America needs to conduct another review, like the one Colin Powell did in 1993 for then-President Clinton, of America's global strategy and the resources necessary to meet it. I realize the Pentagon does these about every 2 months, but the system has broken down in the face of increasing commitments abroad. It's time for a new, broad assessment of our strategic and political goals. That assessment, in turn, should drive resoucing decisions for the military so that we do not have to cope with the problem that Gen. Shinseki wisely warns us against.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Rumsfeld selects retired general to lead the Army


Fox News reports that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld has tapped retired-Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker to be the next Chief of Staff of the Army. The appointment is suprising for a few reasons. First, Schoomaker is retired, which is an altogether unusual thing for someone who's about to lead the largest military service. Second, he's a "snake eater". Schoomaker is a long-time member of the military's secretive special operations community. (Rumsfeld's a big fan of special ops) Presumably, the President has already blessed this appointment; now it heads to the Senate for an advice & consent vote.

The AP confirms the story, and adds some more background & detail about Gen. Schoomaker:
The Army has suffered an unusual amount of turbulence in leadership positions this year.

In April, Rumsfeld fired Army Secretary Thomas White and picked John Roche, currently the Air Force secretary, to replace him as the top Army civilian official. Roche has not yet been confirmed by the Senate, so the undersecretary of the Army, Les Brownlee, is the acting Army secretary.

Schoomaker, 57, began his Army career in 1969 as a second lieutenant. His first field assignment was in 1970 as a reconnaissance platoon leader at Fort Campbell, Ky. He was trained as an armor officer but switched to the secretive world of special operations in the late 1970s.

Born in Michigan, he graduated from the University of Wyoming, where he earned a bachelor of science degree in education administration and was a star football player.

From 1975-76, he attended the Marine Corps Amphibious Warfare School at Quantico, Va., and in February 1978 he became commander of the Army's 1st Special Forces Operational Detachment, the highly secretive Delta Force that specializes in counterterrorism missions. He held that command until 1981.

While with Delta Force, he participated in the failed attempt in April 1980 to rescue the American hostages in Tehran. He later was commander of the Army Special Operations Command and the Joint Special Operations Command, both at Fort Bragg, N.C.
Analysis: I think this sends a very loud message from the Eisenhower Corridor (where Rumsfeld's office sits in the Pentagon) to the Army's leadership. The SecDef couldn't find his man in the Army, so he had to reach into the pool of retired officers for his man. Not only that, he didn't like any of the "establishment" Army generals from the infantry or armor branches, so he chose one from the special operations community -- the antithesis of an "establishment" general. It'll be interesting to see how this works out. More to follow...
Pentagon moves forward with major troop redeployments


Greg Jaffe reports in today's Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that the Defense Department has started to execute plans which would move most of American forces out of Western Europe and into "hub" and "lilypad" bases elsewhere. Specifically, the new bases would be located in Eastern Europe, Africa and Central Asia, preferably near key strategic locations (like the Red Sea) or near major port facilities. These plans fit into Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld's larger plan to transform the American military for the 21st century, making it lighter, faster, more mobile, and more lethal.
The moves come in the wake of Germany's opposition to the war in Iraq and are likely to be interpreted as a rebuke of Berlin. Pentagon officials, however, said the moves aren't related to Germany's antiwar stance and noted that the Germans didn't place any major restrictions on the U.S. troops operating from that country during the war to topple Saddam Hussein.

Indeed the Pentagon is reluctant to cut the size of its force in Europe too much out of concern that it might lose its leading status within the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. "Retaining our leadership of NATO is very important. We need to have a number [of troops] in Europe that gives us that status," Gen. Charles Wald, deputy commander of U.S. European Command, said.
* * *
One big strike against the German bases is that they are landlocked. The Pentagon is especially keen on shifting U.S. ground forces toward ports, where they can quickly be loaded onto fast-moving ships. U.S. officials also complain that environmental regulations at large German training ranges have made it difficult for forces to conduct realistic exercises. One of those ranges, for instance, has been reclassified as a European Union environmental-protection zone to protect rare plants and animals.

Despite the restrictions, some German facilities have proved so useful that they will be retained. In particular, military officials say that Ramstein Air Base, in southern Germany, will remain a critical air hub. The U.S. European Command, based in Stuttgart, also isn't likely to move. Key air hubs in Italy and Spain are also unlikely to be downsized.

In Africa, virtually all of the facilities where the U.S. is looking at establishing a presence will require infrastructure improvements. In North Africa, Pentagon officials are looking at establishing semipermanent bases in Algeria, Morocco and possibly Tunisia. The U.S. expects to keep a small number of troops at these facilities and then rotate through a larger force.

It is considering smaller, more-austere bases in Senegal, Ghana, Mali and Kenya. U.S. officials said that a key mission for U.S. forces would be to ensure that Nigeria's oil fields, which in the future could account for as much as 25% of all U.S. oil imports, are secure.
Analysis: In theory, this may be a good idea. Deploying forces overseas from the United States is very costly and very time-consuming. Getting an invasion force to Iraq took months, and cost billions of dollars. A lot of that flows from the inefficiencies of having troops in landlocked locations (like Fort Hood, Texas) or from not having enough pre-positioned equipment. From a pure systems-analysis perspective, reducing cost and time expenditures and smoothing bottlenecks in the deployment system is a good idea. Having a number of "lilypad" bases to deploy from around the world, along with lots more pre-positioned equipment, might make this work a lot better.

That said, this move entails significant risk at the tactical, operational and strategic levels.
- Tactically, it's very difficult to secure bases overseas, and especially when they're in less-than-friendly places like Africa. Our terrorist enemies have sworn to hit American targets wherever possible, and they have shown a predilection to hitting us in "their world" rather than in Germany or the United States.
- Operationally, it's not entirely clear that we can predict how we will fight the next war, much less where or when. As we saw with Turkey's refusal to let 4ID attack through their country into Iraq, the decisions about where you put your forces often shape the battle plan you can execute on the ground. If we commit forces to a "hub" and "lilypad" system, we may constrain our future warfighting options.
- Strategically, the risk is quite large. Establishing a base network in the Third World will be seen as tantamount to an establishment of a new American empire abroad. The deployment of U.S. forces to fixed places like Korea and Europe represented a fixed commitment to the security and stability of certain places. In geopolitical terms, I think it was easier to sell that to the world. These deployments, particularly to places that cannot equitably bargain with the United States, will be seen in a completely different light.

Bottom Line: The U.S. military needs to shed some weight; to become more flexible and rapidly deployable. But there are lots of ways to unscrew that coconut. For one, the U.S. may consider investing in more strategic lift assets, like cargo ships and airplanes. These are the bread and butter of rapid deployment, yet they're not bought in high numbers because they're not sexy and they don't kill things. Notwithstanding those facts, they are the simplest and most cost-effective answer to making our military ready for the next war.
More on the redeployment in Korea


Fred Kaplan has this good piece in Slate regarding the redeployment of American forces in Korea. He opines, as I did a few days ago, that it's not entirely clear what signal this move will send to the North Koreans -- except that U.S. soldiers don't intend to be a speedbump en route to Seoul anymore. Kaplan also explores the possibility -- remote though it may be -- that this move foreshadows a more aggressive, pre-emptive stance against North Korea from the Bush Administration.
If Bush is contemplating a pre-emptive airstrike—on North Korea's nuclear facilities or a wider strike against a range of military targets—he would have to worry about the possibility of retaliation from thousands of North Korean artillery tubes, including 500 long-range tubes within range of Seoul. Therefore, he might want to get U.S. troops outside of that range.

The official U.S. war plan for Korea—called OPLAN 5027—envisions this possibility and explicitly discusses pre-emptive options. Earlier incarnations of this plan called for holding a defensive line as close to the DMZ as possible and, once U.S. reinforcements arrived, pushing the invaders back across the border. However, in 1998, with a revision called OPLAN 5027-98, the plan started to emphasize offensive operations into North Korean territory. It explicitly notes that if intelligence detected any signs of war preparations by Pyongyang, the United States would launch pre-emptive airstrikes against North Korean military bases and long-range artillery. U.S. commanders were directed to identify relevant targets and to assign weapons for destroying them.

This revision was prompted by the 1994 crisis (quite similar to the crisis brewing now), in which North Korea threatened to reprocess its nuclear fuel rods and build nuclear weapons. (The crisis was resolved diplomatically, but tensions were far from alleviated.) Another motivator was intelligence data that Pyongyang was fitting some of its long-range artillery with chemical weapons and nerve agents. The notion that a pre-emptive strike, in some cases, might be necessary to avoid catastrophe—in this case, the killing of hundreds of thousands of South Koreans—did not originate with the Bush administration.

A revision last year, OPLAN 5027-02, contained plans for striking North Korea's weapons of mass destruction. The latest version, OPLAN 5027-04, which was discussed at a conference just last month, adopts lessons from Gulf War II, especially the use of unmanned drones to find and attack key targets.

None of this indicates that Bush is actively planning such a strike, even if Kim might believe otherwise. The troop redeployment will not go into full effect for at least a couple of years. As far as immediate plans go, the fleet of additional combat planes that Bush sent to Guam and South Korea as a warning gesture last March—12 B-52s, 12 B-1s, 20 F-15s, and six F-117s—had all flown back to the United States by the end of May.

Still, two main points emerge from this review. First, the United States no longer needs to keep tens of thousands of troops poised on the DMZ, either to deter a North Korean invasion or to beat one back in its unlikely event. Second, a more likely cause of war, in the next few years, is the crumbling of Pyongyang's increasingly impoverished and isolated regime, which could intensify Kim's long-standing paranoia, to the point where he unleashes a tear-it-all-down spasm of destructiveness.
Some thoughts... I agree with Mr. Kaplan that this is a wise move, and one that should've taken place a while back. It will give us more flexibility in Korea, and make our forces there more survivable and effective no matter what may happen (war, North Korean implosion, etc). However, we should ensure our moves are taken the right way in Pyongyang -- not just the right way in Washington and Seoul. The North Korean government tends to look at some things in a way that defy logic. Worse yet, there are few diplomatic channels open to tell them our side of the story. We must work through all of those channels, particularly China, to make sure we send the right message to the heavily armed and dangerously fanatical Democratic People's Republic of Korea.