Intel-Dump

Saturday, January 31, 2004

Time to start the tribunals... or something


The Washington Post's editorial board makes a pretty good argument today for why we need to give some kind of legal process to the men we currently hold as enemy combatants in the war on terrorism -- both in the U.S. and at Guantanamo Bay. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld rightly points out that the goal of detaining these men is not to prosecute them -- but to glean intelligence in order to avoid future attacks. "Your first priority is not to prosecute them and punish them like they stole cars or something. . . . Rather, it was to get intelligence from them about the terrorist networks that they were a part of [and] prevent future attacks." Nonetheless, prosecuting them has some utility, and The Post's editorial states a good case for why that's so.
. . . The government has an obligation to glean as much intelligence as possible from the detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and elsewhere, and the criminal justice model for dealing with such people is not sufficient. The war on terrorism is a real war, and not every fighter for the other side belongs in federal court.

But the war on terrorism is a different kind of war, with no end in sight, whose fighting blends elements of law enforcement, military power, diplomacy and intelligence. That difference puts on government an obligation to adapt without squashing important American values. The administration cites this war's difference as justification to free its hands to do things the government can't do either in a more classical conflict or in law enforcement. But the administration won't accept the corollary responsibility -- to develop rules that harmonize American conduct with the values this country attempts to promote worldwide. The military has never articulated coherent standards regarding which detainees will be tried or what will happen to those who are not tried over the long term. It has never specified the standards under which it reviews detentions nor declared who it is holding. It is not enough to observe, however truthfully, that under the laws of war, these people may be detained until hostilities are over. The laws of war are no more complete a framework for thinking about the detainees than is the criminal justice system. This week, for example, three teenagers were released from Guantanamo after lengthy detentions there.

There must be manageable, clear standards for considering these detentions. And the tribunals, for all the criticism they have taken, could be an important part of that. The more people who can be charged and tried in an orderly and fair fashion -- and the faster this process can get underway -- the better.

Great Americans


Saturday's Los Angeles Times reports on a naturalization ceremony conducted at Camp Pendleton yesterday for 207 military personnel -- nearly all veterans of Operation Iraqi Freedom or slated for deployment there in 2004. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger spoke to the group of new citizens after their swearing-in, saying that "By choice you came to this land, and by choice you are fighting for this country, and that is extraordinary." I agree. Here's what a few of our newest citizens had to say on this occasion:
"There are so many things I want to do for this country," said Sgt. Delwin Ellington, 23, an immigrant from Jamaica. Ellington served in a combat unit in Iraq and will soon return as part of the nation-building effort.

* * *
Sgt. Andrew Crespo, 27, from Ecuador, said he decided to apply for citizenship after a Marine in his squad was killed in fighting near Nasiriyah and was given citizenship posthumously.

"I realized it was the right thing," Crespo said.

* * *
"It's my honor to be in this place," said sailor Kihyuk Hong, 24, from South Korea.

* * *
"This is a huge day for me," said Sgt. Javier Garcia, 23, born in Mexico. "Now I'm part of the Constitution."

Friday, January 30, 2004

Pentagon schedules meeting between enemy combatant and attorney


As if one big story today isn't enough, Jess Bravin of the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) reports this afternoon that the Pentagon has scheduled a meeting between Yaser Hamdi and Frank Dunham. Mr. Dunham is the federal public defender who took Mr. Hamdi's case and fought it in the U.S. District Court, 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, and who has now successfully petitioned for review of the case by the Supreme Court -- although he's never met his client. Hamdi has been held by the U.S. for nearly two years as an "unlawful enemy combatant", first at Guantanamo, and now at the military brig in Charleston, South Carolina. The move comes as the Supreme Court prepares to take up Hamdi's appeal, in a decision that court watchers think might redefine the legal framework of the America's war on terrorism.
Frank Dunham, the federal public defender in Alexandria, Va., said he would meet Yaser Hamdi at the military brig in Charleston, S.C., on 8 a.m. Tuesday. But the meeting will take place under conditions Mr. Dunham called onerous. A military officer will be present, the meeting will be recorded and Mr. Hamdi will be barred from discussing the conditions of his confinement, Mr. Dunham said.

"For all those reasons, the meeting will be very short and lacking much substance," Mr. Dunham said. But despite those restrictions, "it would be inhumane not to go down there and tell him what's going on." The public defender said that since the government considers anything Mr. Hamdi or others held as enemy combatants [says] to be classified, he would not be able to discuss anything Mr. Hamdi might tell him.

"If they burp, it's classified, so you can only discuss it with people who have a national security clearance," he said.

* * *
The Bush administration has opposed allowing prisoners it deems enemy combatants to meet with attorneys, contending that doing so would interfere with interrogations. But Justice Department lawyers have said they could permit such meetings after interrogators were finished with the prisoners.
Analysis: This is a major development. The administration has probably decided, as alluded to by this WSJ article, that it's all-or-nothing legal strategy was "unsustainable" in light of legal challenges that have reached the Supreme Court. In addition, I think the DoD and DoJ lawyers have advised their principals that the present course of action just doesn't make any sense. I find it plausible that Mr. Hamdi had some intelligence value immediately after his capture, and that there may have been a need for seclusion and interrogation then. But as a practical matter, I think those arguments have evaporated, and now the time has come to give this U.S. citizen some due process.

If Hamdi's truly an enemy combatant, fine. Lock him up in accordance with the 3rd Geneva Convention, let him send letters home and talk to the Red Cross, and hold up until the end of hostilities. If he's a criminal, then charge him with a crime. If he's something in between, then get Congress to make a law clarifying what that status is and what that status means in the way of legal consequences. But the ambiguity of Mr. Hamdi's situation has been the frustrating thing for many in the legal community, and it has gotten to be so problematic as to threaten the administration's legitimacy in the war on terrorism. You know this issue has gone too far when it can be used as a punchline on CBS's show "NCIS", or even by Whoopi Goldberg in her new television show. Legal clarity is important because it helps establish legitimacy, and the rule of law over the rule of men. The Pentagon's decision to set up a meeting between Mr. Hamdi and his attorney is a step in the right direction, and I applaud them for it.

Update: Jerry Markon's article on the Hamdi-Dunham meeting has one of the most colorful quotes I've seen from a defense attorney in the news lately. And what makes it even better is that it's not in one of the many celebrity criminal trials we have today. Here's what the FPD had to say:
Federal Public Defender Frank W. Dunham Jr. said he is unhappy that his meeting with "enemy combatant" Yaser Esam Hamdi will be scrutinized at the Charleston (S.C.) Consolidated Naval Brig. Dunham said he considered canceling the session because it violates the tradition of attorney-client privilege. But he decided to go forward because he has been pursuing the meeting for more than two years.

He said the military has banned any discussion of the conditions of Hamdi's confinement at military brigs in Virginia and South Carolina. "I'm not going to be able to talk to him about anything that's substantive to the case," Dunham said. "But I said if I had to go see this client buck naked with my hands on my ankles, I wasn't going to stand on the ceremony that I'm not going to go until the situation is perfect."
Let's hope the Defense Department doesn't make Mr. Dunham (or Mr. Hamdi) attend this meeting "buck naked with [his] hands on [his] ankles. But it's nice to see that the public defender would do so in that event.
ICC taps American lawyer for first prosecution


Jess Bravin reports in the Wall Street Journal (subscription required) that the International Criminal Court -- a body which the U.S. has disdained by backing out of the Rome Treaty -- has appointed an American attorney as its first prosecutor in a case against Ugandan warlords who used kids as sex slaves and soldiers.
The appointment of Christine Chung, a Harvard-trained lawyer who prosecuted street gangs, mob bosses and boxing promoter Don King during a 12-year career at the U.S. attorney's office in New York, underscores the controversy over Washington's stance even within American legal circles.

"I'm voting with my feet," Ms. Chung said. "The idea that the court is going to be prosecuting American soldiers trivializes the whole process."

Ms. Chung, 39 years old, has no prior experience with war crimes or international tribunals. But ICC Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo said he chose Ms. Chung as the best-qualified applicant to pursue the ICC's first case, a high-stakes effort that will shape the court's reputation.

Her former boss, U.S. Deputy Attorney General James Comey, described her as "a brilliant lawyer and a great prosecutor ... who will serve any tribunal well." But Mr. Comey declined to comment on the ICC or the U.S. government position toward it.

* * *
In choosing Ms. Chung, "Moreno-Ocampo is cleverly reaching out to the Americans to try to show them that the court is a valuable tool in foreign policy," said Harold Hongju Koh, a Yale law professor who was an assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration. "They want to show that it's really a criminal court, not a place for political posturing."
Analysis: I think that's right. There is clearly a political imperative behind this appointment to bolster the ICC's legitimacy in the eyes of the American public. It's conceivable that the United States could rejoin the ICC if a change occurred in the White House, but that will only happen if the American public buys into the idea of these prosecutions. Given the limited jurisdiction of the court, and our ability to secure bilateral agreements for the protection of our soldiers overseas, I support the ICC. It makes a lot of sense to have a standing world body with the staff and resources to prosecute crimes like these, which really are crimes against humanity and the world.

It's also been true that American prosecutors have played a key role in many international prosecutions. Justice Robert Jackson's tenure as a prosecutor at Nuremburg was the most famous example of this. More recently, Pierre Richard-Prosper served as the lead prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal-Rwanda; he now serves as the Bush Administration's ambassador at large for war crimes. The American prosecutorial style is much different from that in inquisitorial systems around the world, and it is something these bodies often try to copy by bringing in American attorneys to lead and teach them. Amb. Prosper started as an assistant district attorney in Los Angeles; Ms. Chung has served for 12 years as an Assistant U.S. Attorney. In addition to their nationality, they bring a wealth of practical experience on how to fairly try a criminal -- and win. That's a very important thing. Ms. Chung's performance will set the tone and professional standards for future ICC prosecutions.
Going on the offensive in Afghanistan

A decisive -- and risky -- action to snare the leaders of Al Qaeda

Wednesday's Chigago Tribune (subscription required) broke a big story about a new offensive planned for the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan, wherein the U.S. will introduce large numbers of ground forces to hunt down and apprehend/kill the top leadership of Al Qaeda. The story was subsequently picked up by a number of other media, and its authenticity has been confirmed by Pentagon officials who say that they have a pretty good idea of where Osama is hiding. The basic idea is that we have been playing a cat & mouse game with Al Qaeda's top leaders for some time -- and the way we plan to win this game is to introduce a big tiger into the game, in the form of large American infantry formations.
U.S. Central Command is assembling a team of military intelligence officers that would be posted in Pakistan ahead of the operation, according to sources familiar with details of the plan and internal military communications. The sources spoke on the condition they not be identified.

As now envisioned, the offensive would involve Special Operations forces, Army Rangers and Army ground troops, sources said. A Navy aircraft carrier would be deployed in the Arabian Sea.

Referred to in internal Pentagon messages as the "spring offensive," the operation would be driven by certain undisclosed events in Pakistan and across the region, sources said. A source familiar with details of the plan said this is "not like a contingency plan for North Korea, something that sits on a shelf. This planning is like planning for Iraq. They want this plan to be executable, now."

* * *
The U.S. military plan is characterized within the Pentagon as "a big effort" in the next year. Military analysts had previously judged that a bold move against Islamic extremists and Osama bin Laden, in particular, was more likely to happen in spring 2005.

A series of planning orders-referred to in military jargon as warning orders-for the offensive were issued in recent weeks. The deadline for key planning factors to be detailed by the U.S. military was Jan. 21.

* * *
Thousands of U.S. forces would be involved, as well as Pakistani troops, planners said. Some of the 10,600 U.S. troops now in Afghanistan would be shifted to the border region as part of regular troop movements; some would be deployed within Pakistan.

"Before we were constrained by the border. Musharraf did not want that. Now we are told we're going into Pakistan with Musharraf's help," said a well-placed military source.
Analysis: A Pentagon spokesman essentially confirmed this story after the Tribune broke it, saying "We have a variety of intelligence and we're sure we're going to catch Osama Bin Laden and Mullah Omar this year." That's a big promise to make. I hope we have the goods to back this up, because I'd sure like to catch these guys too.

A couple of notes on this planned offensive. First, it incurs substantial amounts of operational risk, which will transform into political risk for the Bush Administration. Any offensive operation carries risk -- you are taking the fight to the enemy, and they will have an advantage on the defensive. Furthermore, we are planning this operation in extremely rough terrain where that defensive advantage will be enhanced, and we are planning to throw large amounts of ground forces into the mix. Anytime you send large numbers of troops into combat, you run the risk of large numbers of casualties. This too is compounded by the mountainous terrain and conditions, because it will make it tougher to evacuate wounded soldiers, as we found out in Operation Anaconda. Those operational risks will transform themselves into political risks for the President, because of the American public's traditional reaction to casualties. Of course, the public will likely accept these more readily than casualties in Iraq, because of the nature of our prey. If you asked the average American whether it's worth it to go after Osama, they will likely say yes. Nonetheless, a steady stream of casualties from Afghanistan in the absence of hard results (i.e. the capture/killing of Al Qaeda's top leaders) will not be good politically for the Bush Administration.

Second, one has to consider where the forces will come from for this operation. Every single infantry battalion in the active-duty Army has been deployed to Iraq or is on its way to Iraq, save those committed to Korea. Presumably, the forces for this Afghanistan offensive will come from the ranks of those already inside Afghanistan, as well as those soldiers who came back in 2003 and early 2004 from Iraq. That's going to have an effect on these soldiers, and depending on the amount of time they have for rest/retraining, it may have an effect on the mission too. On the other side of the ledger, these soldiers are combat-experienced veterans who probably won't need much retraining to fight in Afghanistan. But the administration is taking a risk by stretching these units so far, to the point where they may not be ready for the next threat -- whatever that may be.

My sense is that this mission is worth that risk -- the destruction of Al Qaeda is our raison d'etre in the war on terrorism. But in an election year, I think the American public will judge this mission its results. We'll see.
Compare:


Army Chief 'Adamantly Opposes' Added End Strength

WASHINGTON, Jan. 28, 2004 - The Army chief of staff "adamantly opposes" an end- strength increase to the size of his service.

Gen. Peter Schoomaker told the House Armed Services Committee today that an unfunded end-strength increase "puts readiness at risk, it puts training at risk, it puts modernization at risk, it puts transformation at risk - and that's why I'm resisting it."

Many in Congress believe the Army is stressed with worldwide operations. One proposal calls for adding two more combat divisions. Another calls for a 40,000-man increase in the Army, while other, more general proposals just call for end-strength increases.

Schoomaker agrees the Army is stressed, but believes it is a temporary spike and that any plus-up can be done with current resources. He said transforming the Army will result in manpower savings that can be plowed into the combat force. "What we are doing is to transform the Army simultaneous with meeting the security commitment of the nation," he noted.
with

Army to Restructure, Will Grow by 30,000

WASHINGTON, Jan. 29, 2004 - The Army will grow to 510,000 soldiers over the next four years as a temporary measure, a senior Army official said today.

The official briefed the press on background after Army Chief of Staff Gen. Peter Schoomaker told Congress Jan. 28 that Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld has authorized the Army to exceed end strength limits by 30,000. The increase is allowed under emergency authorities Congress granted the Defense Department.
Analysis: And once you're done scratching your head, then read Vernon Loeb's report on the subject in the Washington Post. It's not clear which end is up in this force structure debate, and who's for what position anymore. Everyone is "for transformation" -- that's like being "for children" or "for public safety" -- it's a meaningless cliche these days. Everyone's also for "efficiency" and "common sense" in managing the force -- which has been stretched by deployments to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere in the war on terrorism. I have to admit that even I'm confused, and I follow this stuff pretty closely.

My guess is, based on Gen. Schoomaker's comments in his confirmation hearings last year, that he was the guy pushing the SecDef hard for these troop increases. He probably presented this increase as a fait accompli, because of the number of troops the Army had already kept on active duty due to stop-loss policies and the 160,000+ Army reservists now on active duty. Given those numbers, what's a little permanent authority to make it all legal and kosher?

Notwithstanding this executive decision by Secretary Rumsfeld, I see this as one of the major fights of the FY2005 defense budget process. In addition to the expected debates about current ops v. transformation funding, military construction, base closures, and missile defense, the House and Senate are going to grill the Pentagon hard over this issue. I predict that we'll see some net increase in end strength for the Army and Marines as a result, though it's not clear what conditions that increase will contain. It's possible that Congress could mandate an increase in nation building capabilities like Military Police, Civil Affairs and Special Forces, and that Congress could also mandate a review of the "total force concept" which splits certain functions between the active and reserve forces. More to follow...

Thursday, January 29, 2004

Dealing with Korea


Soyoung Ho, an editorial assistant at The Washington Monthly, has an interesting article up on Slate about the U.S. problem with North Korea -- written from the perspective of South Korea. The article is so poignant because it highlights the way that we have frustrated one of our staunchest allies via our foreign policy, and that we have made it harder to deal with North Korea because of the way we've dealt with South Korea lately.
Can the Bush administration solve the nuclear crisis alone? It can, but only if the White House wants to strike a half-baked deal to make the issue go away until after the November elections. Any viable long-term solution that includes a peace treaty and verified nuclear disarmament requires Seoul's full cooperation. Although China may be the biggest provider of fuel oil to Pyongyang, South Korea has the most economic cooperation with the North, including economic assistance, trade, direct investment in economic zones, tourism, rail and road links, sports and cultural exchanges, and visits to reunite separated families. Seoul can withhold badly needed economic aid to the North, a policy shift that could bring North Korea into line. Such a shift would be more in tune with the Bush administration.

China is, of course, an important ally in reaching an agreement with North Korea, but any final settlement will require a huge financial commitment, because North Korea will never give up its nuclear program unless it receives both a security guarantee and massive economic aid. China won't be responsible for all this economic aid, and it would be fiscally and politically infeasible for the United States to foot the bill in such a deal.

This is where South Korea comes in, picking up a big chunk of the tab. Michael O'Hanlon, an international security expert at the Brookings Institution and author of a book on dealing with a nuclear North Korea, said, "There can be no solution without South Korea since it is the most interested party, a close ally, and the country that would have to provide much of the aid and trade and investment and so forth in any deal."
Analysis: I'm dramatically understating the point when I say that it would be really good for the 6-party talks to resume and result in a workable agreement for the Korean peninsula. North Korea's possession of nuclear weapons (and chem/bio) is just one problem. The North Korean humanitarian crisis is deepening by the year, and it has very real consequences for the security and stability of East Asia. The same is true of North Korea's crumbling (crumbled?) infrastructure, economy, health care system, etc. Setting aside any political or ideological issues for the moment, North Korea physically sits on the edge of collapse. It has sat there for years, but there is no reason to think that it can do so indefinitely. Despite proclamations of juche (roughly translated as "self reliance") from Kim Jong Il, North Korea will eventually fall if it remains on this trajectory. It is in America's interest to ensure this doesn't happen -- but if that fails, we must be ready (with our allies) to manage the consequences.
SecDef allows Army to grow by 30,000


In testimony yesterday, Gen. Peter Schoomaker revealed that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld had used some of his emergency authority to let the Army exceed its legally authorized "end strength" by 30,000 soldiers, in order to make ends meet for the Global War on Terrorism and the war in Iraq. The Washington Post reports on this surprising revelation, and what it might mean for the debate over force structure in the 2005 Pentagon budget process.
The increase, disclosed yesterday in congressional testimony by Gen. Peter Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, surprised members of the House Armed Services Committee, many of whom have been pressing for a larger Army.

Rumsfeld has resisted a permanent increase for months, arguing that a number of efficiency measures and restructuring moves could alleviate some of the stress on U.S. forces. But his approval of a temporary rise -- which does not require congressional action and which Schoomaker said would probably be needed for four years -- appeared to acknowledge that some relief is needed.

Schoomaker said the increase would make possible his plans to restructure the Army by expanding the number of brigades and creating more agile, deployable forces. The money, he said, would come from the $87 billion emergency spending bill for Iraq and Afghanistan that passed in November.

An aide to Schoomaker said after the hearing that the troop increase probably would be achieved through incentives to keep soldiers from leaving once their contracts expire and through "stop-loss" orders barring their exit.

Schoomaker also disclosed that he has ordered his staff to plan for how the Army, which is now replacing its forces in Iraq with an entire set of fresh units, would rotate another force of similar size into Iraq in 2005 -- and again in 2006. But other Pentagon officials said any decisions on the size of future rotations are months away.

Larry DiRita, the Pentagon's top spokesman, said Rumsfeld approved the troop increase within the past few days. DiRita said Rumsfeld acted under emergency authority approved by Congress and invoked by President Bush after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, allowing the lifting of personnel caps on the military services.
Analysis: This is a big turnaround for the Defense Department, which has adamantly refused to say it needed more soldiers for about the last year. Gen. Schoomaker came in as the SecDef's new Chief of Staff-designate with the idea that maybe we did, and he even said so during his confirmation hearings. Now, it appears that he persuaded someone inside the Office of the Secretary of Defense that the need for more soldiers was real, and the SecDef's office has bought off on that.

Of course, I think these numbers are somewhat arbitrary and meaningless. 30,000 will help, but it's a drop in the bucket compared to the steady stream of reservists we've had on active duty since Sept. 11, 2001. According to the Pentagon, the Army Reserve and National Guard had 164,416 reservists on active duty this week. These 30,000 will undoubtedly aid the Army, especially in maintaining certain key specialties like MI, MP, Aviation, SF, etc. But I still think the Army is stretched thin by the Iraq mission, and the need to mobilize this many reservists is a sign of that. If the Army is going to stay in Iraq until 2006, as Gen. Schoomaker says, the stretch is going to get much worse.

Wednesday, January 28, 2004

Kerry wins big in New Hampshire

What does the Kerry-Clark dynamic mean for veterans in America?

Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass) decisively defeated his Democratic rivals yesterday in the New Hampshire primary to move further ahead in the horserace that is this year's Democratic nomination fight. Politics is far out of my lane of expertise, so here's what the New York Times had to say in the way of political analysis this morning:
MANCHESTER, N.H., Jan. 27 — John Kerry has now done what none of his rivals for the Democratic nomination have yet come close to doing: He has won twice. Decisively. He has momentum, media, money and the ability to raise more, as well as a staff of experienced, disciplined operatives and a list of endorsements that are each growing by the day.

Howard Dean has now failed twice, decisively, in the states where he has worked hardest, with the voters who know him best, even among those who share his signature issue: opposition to the war in Iraq.

As the campaign shifts from an expectations game to a fight for real delegates, Dr. Dean needs to win somewhere. There were signs that he might leapfrog to states like Michigan and Wisconsin that vote later next month, then regroup for the big contests on both coasts on March 2.

As he was last week in Iowa, Senator John Edwards was the man in motion at the end of the race. Almost half the voters who chose him here did so in the past three days, an indication that he was gaining but ran out of time.

Mr. Edwards now heads to next week's contest in his native South Carolina a presumptive favorite son.

Gen. Wesley K. Clark skipped Iowa to campaign in New Hampshire almost exclusively for more than a month, hoping for a springboard against Dr. Dean, only to find himself competing against Mr. Kerry.

Senator Joseph I. Lieberman, who moved from his home in Connecticut to a condominium here, fell even flatter, in what he portrayed as a "three-way split decision," at the bottom of the pack. Both Mr. Lieberman and General Clark vowed to press on, though it is difficult to see just where they might catch fire.
Analysis: This isn't my area of expertise; I know about as much as any other educated American who reads the newspaper when it comes to domestic politics. So I want to focus on the dynamic between John Kerry and Wes Clark. I believe that Wes Clark essentially went down in flames when he belittled Kerry on CNN's Larry King Live. In his conversation with Sen. Bob Dole on that program, Clark denigrated Kerry's service as a junior officer, saying that he was a general and that this ought to count for more. Fair enough, there is a distinction between lieutenants and generals. But that's not a favorable distinction for most veterans, who looked upwards with disdain at their generals, while they often got to know their lieutenants and captains on much more favorable terms. Clark painted himself as an elitist with this comment to the veteran community whose support he needed so badly. It doesn't surprise me that large chunks of that group went over to the Kerry campaign.

For the larger American public, I'm starting to believe that military service is a fungible qualification. That is to say, for non-veterans (most Americans), military service is like a block that once checked, it doesn't matter that much. Both Wes Clark and John Kerry can say they were decorated Vietnam veterans -- war heroes if you like. The fact that one went onto serve 30 years in uniform is an impressive credential, but it may not matter to most Americans. Once you've checked the military service block, and you've checked the combat service block, other degrees of service aren't that important.

While I think military service (or service in the Foreign Service, Public Health Service, Peace Corps, etc.) is a necessary qualification for high public office, I don't think it's sufficient. Political experience, particularly in the trenches of Washington, counts more. And while most voters are willing to reward a man (or woman) for fulfilling his/her citizen's moral obligation to serve their country, they want to see more in the way of political/policy credentials than just that. After all, these guys are running for President, not Secretary of Defense. So in the bigger picture, I see the Kerry candidacy as a referendum of sorts on the Clark candidacy, and the idea that a general can swoop in, capitalize on public respect for the military, and win the presidency. Voters want more than just military credentials.