INTEL DUMP


Finals week
: Barring some unbelievably huge news story, Intel Dump will be silent until Thursday when I take my last law school exam. Please come back then.

However, I will be on NPR's Day to Day show today (Tuesday) with Alex Chadwick, discussing my Slate article "Hollow Force" and the effect of the Iraq mission on U.S. military readiness. The segment aired on NPR affiliates today, and also available on NPR's website.
Enemy combatant?
Deborah Sontag has a long biographical piece in Sunday's New York Times on Jose Padilla, the alleged "enemy combatant" whose case will reach the U.S. Supreme Court this week along with that of Yaser Hamdi. Also, for an interesting discussion of the Padilla case and the Constitution's treason clause, see the new weblog "Mere Dicta" by Boalt Hall law student Mike Anderson.
Notes from the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books


I decided to take a break today from studying for finals to attend the L.A. Times Festival of Books, an annual event held in spring on the UCLA campus that brings together hundreds of authors with thousands of avid book readers like me. I specifically came today for a panel discussion titled "The Seduction of War", which included:
- Leo Braudy, author of From Chivalry to Terrorism : War and the Changing Nature of Masculinity
- Chris Hedges, author of War is a Force That Gives Us Meaning and What Every Person Should Know About War
- James Hillman, author of A Terrible Love of War
- Anthony Swofford, former Marine and author of Jarhead
- Samantha Power (moderator), author of A Problem From Hell (a 2003 Pulitzer Prize winner)
The panel discussed a variety of topics relating to the narratives of war, but focused on why this narrative is so important and interesting to us as readers. Leo Braudy, a humanities professor at USC, emphasized the role of masculinity and rites of passage in his discussing, arguing that we seek out war stories to learn more about this critical stage in life. Chris Hedges spoke quite eloquently on the awesome brutality of war, and its addiction for readers and journalists alike. Mr. Hedges also discussed the role that ideology and "civil religion" plays in the creation of war myths, and how the perpetuation of these myths is an important part of the war narrative. Mr. Hillman discussed the connection between religion and war. And Tony Swofford, the only member of the panel to see war in uniform, talked about the importance of this narrative in a society where few Americans see war personally. Samantha Power acted mostly as moderator, except for a brief introduction discussing the changes in warfare and the war narrative over time, but I imagine that if she could've talked, she would've discussed the human costs of war as felt by the civilians who often die in war.

All in all, I thought it was a brilliant discussion. Mr. Hedges' comments struck me as particularly insightful, if not tinged by the cynicism of witnessing so much brutality as a veteran war correspondent. The panel discussion was taped by CSPAN2, and I think (hope) transcripts and/or achieved video segments will be available of this event.

Post Script: Tony Swofford mentioned a new initiative by the National Endowment for the Arts which will help develop the war narratives of soldiers who saw the action first-hand, and the Washington Post had a report this week on it. The goal is to create a richer fabric of literature and history describing American men and women at war.
The National Endowment for the Arts will announce a program today to change that, to encourage troops returning from Iraq (and Afghanistan as well) to write about their experiences in wartime. "Operation Homecoming," which will be unveiled at a news conference at the Women in Military Service for America Memorial in Arlington, will make some of this country's most prominent authors available to servicemen and -women, for workshops and lectures intended to help them express and record what they have seen and felt in combat. The program is part oral history project, part literary talent search, and part a writing-as-therapy program for troops, particularly those in Iraq, who have been under extraordinary stress in America's first protracted and messy war since Vietnam.

The 16 writers who have agreed to participate by visiting military bases include Tobias Wolff, Tom Clancy, Victor Davis Hanson and McKay Jenkins. In addition, 10 other writers, including Shelby Foote and Richard Wilbur, have contributed reminiscences and readings to a compact disc and Web site the Endowment has produced.

* * *
"These are not voices we would easily hear, otherwise," says Dana Gioia, chairman of the NEA. They haven't been heard for a number of reasons, most important of which is that America's military men and women are preoccupied with fighting. Gioia also notes that one spur to the project is the realization that much of what is being said and recorded about the war is happening through e-mail, a medium that is more ephemeral than the letters and journals that captured the grit of military life in earlier conflicts.

"We want to connect with people when their stories are still fresh," says Jon Parrish Peede, one of the NEA's project directors for "Operation Homecoming." Peede compares the project to the artistic endeavors of the Depression-era Work Projects Administration. The NEA effort is a similar attempt to connect, artistically, with the broader American public during a time of national anxiety.

The goal of the project, beyond providing an emotional and expressive outlet for military personnel and their families, and getting the basic eyewitness facts of history down on paper, is to add to a long tradition of war literature. That tradition encompasses everything from the first great classic of Western literature, Homer's "Iliad," to the vast and ongoing production of new military memoirs, histories and novels that make up a healthy percentage of the American publishing industry.
Very interesting... I have a feeling that this project will produce some amazing writing. I hope that the literature this project produces contributes to the American war narrative, and enriches the minds of millions of Americans.
Another Gitmo case hits a rough spot


Lawyers for Airman Ahmad Halabi have filed pre-trial motions with the military court hearing his case to compel the government to provide more coherent positions to support its case, according to the Washington Post. A team of military and civilian lawyers is representing Airman Halabi, who's charged with various espionage-related counts, including the mishandling of classified information. However, defense lawyers are challenging the basis for these charges.
The complaint came in 40 pages of legal papers filed last week in the court-martial of Airman Ahmad I. Halabi. His attorneys said investigators have repeatedly changed their reasoning about why the translations of letters from detainees to their families that Halabi possessed were considered classified.

"Halabi remains in jail and has been in pre-trial confinement for nine months, and still the government does not have a consolidated, consistent or intelligible position on the classification of information" in the case, Halabi's attorneys wrote. "Each time the defense points out the flaws in the classification logic, a different reason for classification of information is created or invented."
Analysis: This case is different than that of Captain James Yee, the Gitmo chaplain first accused of espionage and then released without any adverse action. But, we can see some common themes. The first is the sloppy designation of classified information at Guantanamo, which may reveal something larger about the information security systems there, or the penchant for oversecurity in connection with the Gitmo mission. Second, we can see a tendency on the part of the government to exaggerate its charges initially, at least in the press, in order to paint a picture of a really bad guy. That's ironic, because prosecutors typically try to downplay expectations so as not to set the bar too high. And third, we have zealous attorneys for the defense, led by civilian attorney Donald Rehkopf, an expert in military law. My gut feeling on this case is starting to change; I think the Air Force prosecution is in for a world of hurt unless it starts to tighten its shot group. No military judge is going to let this prosecutorial conduct stand for long. More to follow...
Update on the Witmer sisters
: A couple of weeks ago, we all shared in the grief of the Witmer family, who tragically lost their daughter Michelle to combat in Iraq. The question arose -- can the Witmer sister stay home under current Army policy as surviving siblings? The answer is yes, if they decide to. Yesterday, the New York Times reported that the sisters had requested (and received) 15 additional days to make their decision. I suspect they're torn between loyalty to their family and the intense bonds to the other soldiers in their unit, and that this is a really hard decision to make.
Pledge break
: I really appreciate the generosity of all those readers who have given to my site so far. With your help, I have been able to purchase a domain name (www.intel-dump.com), server space (I plan to move after finals), and a laptop to replace the dinosaur I was using that kept crashing at the least opportune times. However, I am also trying to raise money to support my writing and reporting through the summer, while I study for the California bar exam. If you have not donated thus far, and value Intel Dump as a news source, please consider making a small donation. If this site is worth what a daily newspaper is to you, please consider a $1 donation. If it's more like a magazine, then perhaps you can donate $5. If you value this site's analysis and commentary like that of a magazine subscription, please consider a $20 or $25 donation.

Thank you again for your support. I have plans to make this site even more valuable with news feeds, an archive of documents, and a better layout that allows me to include graphics and photos. Please stay tuned for those changes.
Some thoughts on the photos of America's fallen warriors


I should say up front that I'm deeply conflicted over the issue of whether the U.S. government should allow media coverage of returning American caskets, or whether the news media should seek such coverage at all. As many of you know, this issue hit the front pages this week in a big way. First, the Seattle Times printed a front-page photo taken by a contract employee in Kuwait of 20 flag-draped caskets on a cargo aircraft. Then, the Air Force inadvertently released 350 photos from Dover Air Force Base to a private citizen who had made a FOIA request. Now, the Los Angeles Times, New York Times and Washington Post all have major stories on the incident. My hometown paper even chose to run a front-page photo of these flag-draped caskets today, along with this story:
Pictures of flag-draped coffins filling aircraft cargo bays and being unloaded by white-gloved soldiers were obtained by Russ Kick, a 1st Amendment activist in Tucson who won their release by filing a Freedom of Information Act request.

Air Force officials initially denied the request but relented last week and sent him more than 350 pictures of Iraq war dead arriving at the military's largest mortuary at Dover Air Force Base in Delaware.

The unexpected posting of the photos on the Internet caught the Pentagon by surprise and provoked a ripple of media attention to pictures the government had been trying to suppress. Several major newspapers planned to publish the newly released photos on their front pages today.

* * *
The Pentagon's insistence that the images should remain censored also came one day after two military contract employees in Kuwait were fired for taking pictures of flag-draped coffins there and sending one to the Seattle Times, which published it Sunday.

Maytag Aircraft Corp. said that it had fired Tami Silicio, 50, and her husband, David Landry, because they "violated Department of Defense and company policies by working together" to take and publish the photograph, company President William L. Silva said in a news release Thursday.

The picture shows several workers inside a cargo plane parked at Kuwait International Airport securing 20 flag-draped coffins for the trip to Dover. Silicio, who took the picture, told the newspaper that she hoped it would portray the care and devotion with which civilian and military crews treat the remains of fallen troops.

* * *
Government and military leaders acknowledge that such images carry power and can sway public opinion.

In 1999, the then-chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Henry H. Shelton, said a decision to use military force was based in part on whether it would pass "the Dover test," as the public witnessed the images of the war dead arriving home.

However, at a news briefing Thursday, Molino said the policy was not driven by concerns of public opinion.

"It's a policy that reflects what the families have told us they would like by way of the treatment of remains of the loved ones who have made that sacrifice," Molino said.
My thoughts echo those of Josh Marshall on this subject. Like me, he is conflicted over the publication of these photos, because of the ends to which partisans will use these images: "For many opponents of the war there is an unmistakable interest in getting these photographs before the public in order to weaken support for the war. There's no getting around that." I think this accurately sums up the motivation of many who would like to publish these images. Historically, images of casualties have been exploited by pro- and anti-war movements. While the casualty story is a legitimate part of the discourse over Iraq, I think these images may come to dominate and anesthetize the American public, and in the long run, that might defeat any meaningful discourse over the substantive issues at play. I also think that military families have a right to resent the use of these images, by anyone, because that seems like

However, there's also a part of me that says "Wait a minute -- who do these images really belong to?" Technically speaking, because the photos are taken on Air Force property of Air Force property, they belong to the military. But I learned as a new lieutenant that we (the military) hold the lives of our soldiers and our equipment in sacred trust, and that we are entrusted with these things by the people of the United States. That is especially true of soldiers, who after all, are America's sons and daughters. The images of flag-draped caskets belong to the American public just as their living comrades do. I believe the American public has a stake in seeing these images, because ultimately, it is the American public which produced these young men and women.

On balance, I lean towards letting the images be made public. Why? Because I think that these caskets, draped as they are with American flags and no individually-identifying markings, are important symbols of our national sacrifice in this war. The Pentagon already publishes releases about each servicemember's death, and the major newspapers often run "faces of the fallen" features listing these casualties by name -- often with a photo or short obituary. I don't think these images go much further than those disclosures, except that they show a powerful symbol of the cost of war. In a time when compulsory service does not exist, and many Americans don't feel the personal sacrifice of war, I think it's important to remind the public of the most basic cost of war. These images belong to the American people, just as these soldiers do -- in my opinion, the public deserves to see them.
Has Iraq created a 'hollow force'?


Slate just published my article looking at this issue, and the challenges facing the U.S. military should it decide to reinforce its units currently fighting in Iraq. A variety of logistical and infrastructural obstacles in the path of any reinforcement effort, and they are compounded by budget problems now beginning to seriously affect the Army. The ultimate conclusion? That the war in Iraq has stretched America's military to its limit, and that we have sacrificed our ability to do other things in the world militarily for as long as this mission lasts.
There is some irony in this. Heading into the 2000 election, then-candidate George W. Bush blasted the Clinton administration's 1990s deployments to places like Bosnia and Kosovo, saying they depleted our military's readiness. "Our military is low on parts, pay and morale. If called on by the commander in chief today, two entire divisions of the Army would have to report, 'Not ready for duty, sir,' " said then-Gov. Bush, referring to the readiness of the 10th Mountain and 3rd Infantry divisions after their respective deployments to the Balkans. Today, the same criticism is being leveled at the Bush administration, except that Iraq is having a much worse effect on military readiness than the Balkans deployments ever did.

The administration responds to this criticism by saying that Sept. 11 changed everything and that military force was necessary in Afghanistan and Iraq to respond to the new threat from terrorism. This riposte has merit, but it misses the essence of the new global security environment. Dangerous and unknown threats do exist, therefore the U.S. military must be ready to act on a moment's notice in ways and places that can't fully be predicted. By tying the military down in Iraq to the point where it can barely manage to reinforce itself, the Bush administration has hurt America's ability to respond militarily in the post-Sept. 11 world.

It's too late to back out of Iraq. The real issue today is how to beat the insurgency without eviscerating the American military to do it. If winning the war will take more troops, then we must send them. Reconciling the need to win in Iraq with the need to sustain military readiness will be hard. It probably means we need to increase the size of the active military and adjust the mixture of active and reserve forces to put more "nation-building" troops like military police and civil affairs personnel on active duty. The Pentagon also needs to adjust its 2005 budget, shifting money from futuristic procurement programs to current operations such as reconstituting the pre-po fleets. And America needs to invest more in its reserves so they're ready to back up the active force when the military is stretched like it is today. Ultimately, we must win in Iraq. But we cannot afford to focus so single-mindedly on that mission that we neglect our ability to meet other military threats in the post-Sept. 11 world.

Former NFL player killed in Afghanistan

"He proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater calling, which was to protect and defend our country. Pat represents those who have and will make the ultimate sacrifice for our freedom. I am overwhelmed with a sense of sorrow, but I also feel a tremendous feeling of pride for him and his service." - Arizona Cardinals coach Dave McGinnis

* * *
He had been playing under a three year, $3.6 million contract. The Army reportedly paid him about $19,000 plus benefits.
The Washington Post reports that Army SPC Patrick D. Tillman -- formerly a player with the Arizona Cardinals, now a member of the Army's 75th Ranger Regiment -- was killed in action while hunting down Al Qaeda leaders in Afghanistan. The Rangers were engaged in Operation Mountain Storm, which kicked off last month and has thus far involved thousands of American soldiers in the hunt for Osama Bin Laden and his top henchmen. Details are not being released yet about the circumstances of SPC Tillman's death. But we already know the larger circumstances of his service. He was a man who walked away from an amazing career in professional sports to pursue a higher calling of service to his nation. In volunteering for the Rangers, he chose to join one of the most elite military units in the world, and to push himself farther and harder in the service of his nation. The news of this death is tragic, as is the news of any soldier's death. But we should honor these choices, and hope that others follow in the altruistic footsteps of SPC Tillman.

Update: The Los Angeles Times has good coverage of this story in Saturday's paper, including an excellent essay from sports columnist Bill Plaschke titled "The True Meaning of Sacrifice". With the NFL draft looming over this weekend, Plaschke writes:
Today in New York, amid the smell of money and the tingle of fame, the NFL will hold its annual draft of young men who will use their extraordinary physical gifts to play a game.

One can hardly imagine any of them forsaking their futures and using those gifts on behalf of their country.

Yet that was Pat Tillman, former safety for the Arizona Cardinals, dead in Afghanistan at 27, alive forever in our vision of what is best about America.

For Tillman, the important interceptions weren't made on a football field, but the front lines.

For Tillman, the real tackles weren't the ones made to inspire your team, but to secure our neighborhoods.

For Tillman, the only guaranteed contract was one you sign with your flag.

This weekend, athletes everywhere will stand at attention, apparently listening, as the national anthem is played at sporting events.

Remember Pat Tillman as the one of the few in the last 50 years who actually listened.
Plaschke ends his column with a call to immediately induct Tillman into the NFL Pro Football Hall of Fame. I confess ignorance as to the rules of that institution, however, I can't think of a better tribute.
Admin note
: Intel Dump will slow down over the next week to allow me to study for my last law school finals. I'll try to post notes on big stories I'm tracking (the 4th Circuit decision in U.S. v. Moussaoui, the release of photos depicting the coffins of dead American soldiers; the death of Army Ranger and NFL player Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, and others). But finals will have my primary attention until next Thursday.
Welcome home, Ironhorse
: The 4th Infantry Division officially came home today to Fort Hood, Texas, with a formal ceremony honoring the division's soldiers. The division also honored the 79 4ID soldiers who gave their lives in Iraq. During its service in Iraq, 4ID had responsibility for a large swath of territory north of Baghdad, including the notorious "Sunni Triangle". Its soldiers conducted thousands of patrols, raids and convoys in support of the security and reconstruction efforts. The 1st "Raider" Brigade (my old unit) also earned notoriety for the raid which captured Saddam Hussein in December 2003.

The 4th Infantry Division's soldiers will now get some much-needed rest and time to reconstitute their units; many will rotate to other installations, and many will leave the Army altogether. The current state of affairs in Iraq makes it look like 4ID will be sent into the breach once again, but hopefully not too soon for the soldiers and their families.
Good news for extended troops


Balancing the dual imperatives of mission accomplishment and soldier welfare is never easy. However, a report in Stars & Stripes today indicates that the Army's top general in Europe may have drawn a bead on exactly how to do this for the families of the soldiers whose tours have been extended by 3-4 months in Iraq.
"We will cut through the red tape, we will modify the regulations, we will change policies — all as necessary to support you during the upcoming months," Gen. B.B. Bell said in a written statement.

Bell's tour comes in the wake of the extension to 1st Armored Division's hitch in Iraq, which had been slated to end next month.

"In the very near term, I will lead a team of our most experienced support personnel to many of your communities to hear from you personally," Bell said in his statement, promising, "we will not let you down."

Citing security concerns, USAREUR spokesman Michael Tolzmann refused to say which U.S. military installations in Germany Bell would visit or when the general would be making his appearances.

Asked for possible examples of the kind of red tape-cutting Bell is anticipating, Tolzmann said such rule-bending "would include ... implementing changes to operating hours at [Child Development Centers] or other post facilities as a result of soldiers being deployed and families showing a need for change."

Whatever is needed, Bell said, he and his staff will make sure it gets done.

"I have directly committed the entire United States Army Europe team to your help and assistance during this period of extended service for your soldiers," Bell said.
This is the kind of good news story that I like to see. Extending the guys in Iraq was a hard thing to do, but probably the right thing to do. I'm glad that some smart officers had a plan ready to help families cope with the extended separation. Hopefully this makes a difference for these people. And who knows? Doing right by these families may pay big dividends down the road in terms of reenlistment and soldier performance. If you take care of the family, the family will take care of the soldier. And as a storied general said many years ago, soldiers aren't in the Army -- soldiers are the Army.
Comparing the junior officer evals of Bush and Kerry


At the risk of being labeled a partisan hack, I decided to compare the evaluation reports from the military records of President George Bush and Sen. John Kerry. Bottom line up front: I found significant differences between the character of the two sets of documents. I feel somewhat qualified to judge these reports, having been a junior military officer subject to similar evaluation schemes. While it's true that these senior officer observations are more than 30 years old, I believe they reveal important details of these men's character, at a time when these men were asked to lead by example and perform our nation's most sacred duty. Therefore, I think it's relevant to today's debate, and I am glad to see the Kerry campaign releasing these records for comparison to those of the president.

The New York Times reports this morning on the contents of Sen. Kerry's military records, which his campaign has put online. The general theme of these records is that young Sen. Kerry was an outstanding officer, even taking into account the glowing language that's typical of officer evaluation reports. Here is are a couple of illustrative excerpts from his fitness reports:

From his evaluation as an Ensign on the USS Gridley:
"A top notch officer in every measurable trait. Intelligent, mature and rich in educational background and experience, ENS KERRY is one of the finest young officers I have ever met and without question one of the most promising. ... He is an alert and active original thinker with great potential to the Navy. He eagerly accepts and actively seeks out tasks of greater responsibility. He is recommended for accelerated promotion."
Comment: There are a couple of things that leap out from this text. First, ENS Kerry was a good officer, and that's clear from this language which goes beyond the praise used in all such reports. Second, he chafed a little bit at the Navy bureaucracy and culture. The comment about his educational background indicates that he was different than his peers. The comment about being an "active original thinker" who "eagerly... seeks out tasks" indicates that he took a lot of initiative, and probably did some edgy things as a young officer. I think that's the mark of a good junior officer, because you're supposed to take risks on behalf of your troops at that age. And a final note about Ensign Kerry's pedigree. Officers in the military generally don't have his background, then or now. It says something that he wasn't ostracized or singled out as effete or aristocratic because of his upscale background. These reports show that for the most part, he was one of the guys.

From a second FITREP on the USS Gridley:
"His enthusiasm for the navy and his work is contagious, and his men are ardent supporters of him. His division's morale is one of the best on the ship due to his dynamic leadership. He is a polished diplomat at ease in distinguished company and shows great promise for future assignment as an aide or on a foreign diplomatic post."
Comment: Again, we see the indication that he's somehow different than his peers -- more educated, more refined, more diplomatic. The Navy has always been the most genteel service, and it has always had a mini-diplomatic corps within its ranks, so it's not surprising to see those lines on this FITREP. However, the first part of this comment is striking. There are lots of things you can praise about an officer -- technical competence, physical ability, tactical genius, intelligence, etc. To praise his leadership, and to cite his troops' morale in support of that praise, is one of the greatest compliments you can give an officer.

From two FITREPs for LTJG Kerry while assigned to Coastal Division Eleven:
"In a combat environment often requiring independent, decisive action LTJG Kerry was unsurpassed. ... LTJG Kerry emerges as the acknowledged leader in his peer group."

* * *
"LTJG KERRY was assigned to this division for only a short time but during that time exhibited all of the traits desired of an officer in a combat environment. He frequently exhibited a high sense of imagination and judgement (sic) in planning operations against the enemy in the Mekong Delta. ..."
Comment: There is more in here about his specific combat exploits, but these two quotes bookend those comments and make the most general observations about LTJG Kerry's character. Again, we see an indication of his leadership ability, which his commanders felt was far above average in comparison to his peers. We also see comment on his performance in combat, which is qualitatively different than performance in peacetime or on a ship that doesn't see direct-fire combat. And again, we get the sense that he chafed against his bosses, based on the comment about "imagination".

From a FITREP for services as an aide to an admiral:
"LTJG Kerry is one of the finest young officers with whom I have served in a long naval career. His combat record prior to becoming my personal aide speaks for itself and is testimony to his competence and courage at sea. As my personal aide he could not have been more effective. ... This young man is detached at his own request to run for high public office to whit the Congress of the United States. The detachment of this officer will be a definite loss to the service. He is the dedicated type that we should retain and it is hoped that he will be of further perhaps earlier greater service to his country, which is his aim in life at this time."
Comment: You an expect a certain amount of praise from an admiral for his aide, but again, such praise would normally be for things like his efficacy, efficiency, and so forth. This is high praise indeed for an officer on his way out the door, and it says a lot that a senior naval officer would be so effusive. Sen. Kerry appears to be the type of young officer the military desperately needed to retain after Vietnam.

In contrast, President Bush's released military record (see this site, and the Boston Globe's site too.) does not contain the detailed evaluation reports found on Sen. Kerry's website. (I looked on the president's campaign website but could not find a more complete repository of military records.) I think this is due to poor recordkeeping by the TX Air National Guard, as well as a desire to not release these documents. In addition, then-LT Bush was a pilot, not a leader of airmen, so his evaluation reports are likely to be more sparse anyway. Nonetheless, I think Pres. Bush's records deserve to be compared side-by-side to those of young Sen. Kerry. The Washington Post provides these excerpts from Pres. Bush's evaluations:
A 1971 evaluation described Bush as "an exceptionally fine young officer" with "sound judgment" who "is mature beyond his age and experience level." Bush "is a natural leader but he is also a good follower of military discipline," it said. A 1970 letter recommending him for a promotion from second to first lieutenant called him "a dynamic outstanding young officer" who "clearly stands out as a top notch fighter interceptor pilot." Bush, it said, "is a tenacious competitor and an aggressive pilot."
Comment: Like Sen. Kerry's evaluation reports, this one is actually pretty good. It's doesn't contain the same detail or concrete indicators of performance. But I think much of that owes to the difference in their types of service. Pres. Bush was only being evaluated for one weekend a month and two weeks in the summer -- there just wasn't that much to observe. Moreover, Pres. Bush's assignment was to fly and perform limited additional duties, not to lead sailors in a division or swift boat unit. Thus, there were no unit actions for him to be accountable for. (Military leaders are always evaluted on the accomplishments -- good or bad -- of the troops they lead.)

An article at FreeRepublic.Com also provides an excerpt from a press release touting Pres. Bush's flying ability:
The younger Bush fulfilled two years of active duty and completed pilot training in June 1970. During that time and in the two years that followed, Bush flew the F-102, an interceptor jet equipped with heat-seeking missiles that could shoot down enemy planes. His commanding officers and peers regarded Bush as a competent pilot and enthusiastic Guard member. In March 1970, the Texas Air National Guard issued a press release trumpeting his performance: "Lt. Bush recently became the first Houston pilot to be trained by the 147th [Fighter Group] and to solo in the F-102... Lt. Bush said his father was just as excited and enthusiastic about his solo flight as he was." In Bush's evaluation for the period May 1, 1971 through April 30, 1972, then-Colonel Bobby Hodges, his commanding officer, stated, "I have personally observed his participation, and without exception, his performance has been noteworthy."
Comment: This praise is a little fainter, although it's still there. Of course, press releases have little value as evaluative documents, but it does say something that the TX Air National Guard would choose to showcase this officer instead of his peers.

Analysis: In summary, the evaluations of John Kerry clearly stand over those of George Bush. However, I think much of the disparity owes to the difference between the two men's military service. Had Pres. Bush served more time on active duty, or in combat, we would have a more complete record on which to judge his service as a junior military officer. A lot of people don't think this service matters, but I do. It reveals important details of these individual's character at an important moment in their lives. And as I wrote in the Chicago Tribune, it matters for other reasons too:
President Bush's 30-year-old service record from the Air National Guard is relevant because it shows us something about his willingness to share the same hardships as the soldiers he now commands today from the White House. The issue has never been whether he was guilty of desertion or being AWOL--two slanderous charges leveled without regard for the facts. The real issue has always been the character of his service, and whether it was good enough to set the example for America's 1.4 million citizens in uniform.

* * *
... these issues boil down to the president's willingness and ability to set the example for the military he now leads as commander in chief. Cumulatively, questions about then-Lt. Bush's drill attendance, evaluation reports, flight status and early discharge add up to questions about the character of his service in the National Guard. Bush did receive an honorable discharge, but such a document is the lowest common denominator of military performance--it takes a lot of bad behavior to earn anything other than an honorable discharge. The American public deserves to know the full truth about the president's military record. It's relevant to his character, and it's relevant to whether he's fit to lead today's military by example.
The great thing about our system is that it lets you be the judge of these men when you vote in November. Every American will come to his or her own conclusion on this issue, and will decide which man is better fit to serve as America's commander-in-chief. For what it's worth, I still haven't made up my mind, and probably won't before November.

Update: Kevin Drum points us towards one key difference in the military records of each man, with respect to their desire for service overseas. (Nice job on the Photoshop and web design, too, by the way.)

For what it's worth, I think this reveals something quite striking about the sense of noblesse oblige within each man upon their graduation from Yale and entry into a life of privilege. Ironically, I see great parallels between the choice of young John Kerry and the choice of young George Herbert Walker Bush (aka Bush 41, the current president's father). Both men, with an eye on their future, made a choice to seek dangerous duty overseas in the service of their nation. I wish that more of America's elite graduating today would follow in these men's footsteps by serving their country in uniform, or in other ways such as the Foreign Service and Peace Corps. Service to country is a fundamental duty of citizenship, and it is one that I respect regardless of political affiliation.
Who pays the cost of chaos in Iraq? - Part II


The New York Times brings us a report in tomorrow's paper that essentially corroborates reporting earlier this week by the Washington Post about the effect of violence in Iraq on reconstruction. In a nutshell, the deteriorating security situation is causing private contractors to stop their work -- whether it's drilling wells, running convoys, building schools, or delivering supplies. The latest casualties of war, according to the Times, are General Electric and Siemens.
The insurgency in Iraq has driven two major contractors, General Electric and Siemens, to suspend most of their operations there, raising new doubts about the American-led effort to rebuild the country as hostilities continue.

Spokesmen for the contractors declined to discuss their operations in Iraq, citing security concerns, but the shutdowns were confirmed by officials at the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, the Coalition Provisional Authority and other companies working directly with G.E. and Siemens in Iraq.

"Between the G.E. lockdown and the inability to get materials moved up the major supply routes, about everything is being affected in one way or another," said Jim Hicks, a senior adviser for electricity at the provisional authority.

* * *
The Coalition Provisional Authority regards the rehabilitation of the Iraq's water, sewage, transportation, oil and electrical infrastructure as a linchpin in the effort to create a functioning democracy and convince Iraqis of America's good will.

A spokeswoman for the authority said discussions involving security issues with General Electric had led to an agreement that could result in a resumption of operations. The spokeswoman said Siemens and the authority were "working out their differences," but she said she had no information about whether the company would resume work.

* * *
Two companies with much larger contracts in Iraq, Bechtel and Halliburton, said they had curtailed travel by their employees but were not considering halting their work or pulling out of the country.

* * *
A major private security provider in Iraq with access to intelligence information said that Halliburton had "been slowed down in terms of the number of routes and convoys they can run" and said the firm was having a difficult time hiring truck drivers to work in Iraq. He estimated that the overall number of Halliburton convoys was down by 35 percent.
Analysis: Once again, the takeaway point is this: increased violence by the insurgents has a direct and inexorable effect on reconstruction, particularly when reconstruction is done mostly by unarmed (and lightly secured) contractors whose concern for their own welfare outweighs any altruistic desire to rebuild Iraq (and rightly so -- these aren't suicide contracts). The U.S. must set the conditions for reconstruction by securing the nation of Iraq. The only viable way to do that is with well-calibrated force -- sometimes a velvet glove; sometimes an iron fist. No meaningful reconstruction will take place until the security situation is fixed. And it should go without saying that the transfer of sovereignty on 30 June will be a very precarious thing indeed if security is not restored before then.

One note on contractors in Iraq. They really break down into three categories. The first and largest category are the reconstruction contractors -- the folks like Halliburton and GE and others who have been called in to do the heavy logistics work of rebuilding Iraq. These contractors are generally no different than logistics or engineering firms in the states, except that they're working overseas. Generally, these contractors are unarmed. The second main category includes the armed private military contractors like those from Blackwater Consulting, whose missions range from personal protective details to security for reconstruction sites to more clandestine activities. And the third category, which is really hard to measure, includes host-nation contractors. U.S. contracting officers on the ground in Iraq have contracted for a long list of services from basic labor to truck driving from Iraqi citizens; American contractors have also subcontracted a number of functions to Iraqis. The challenges and issues are different for each type of contractors.

This story applies most to the first category -- the large contingents of unarmed logistical and engineering professionals in Iraq to rebuild infrastructure and other areas. They are particularly vulnerable because they carry no organic security and no organic weapons, unlike soldiers. And I'm not surprised one bit to see their work affected so severely by the violence in Iraq.
More military overstretch problems surface

Do looming reserve personnel problems mean we should bring back the draft?

A pair of articles in the Baltimore Sun and Dallas Morning News makes an old point with new evidence: that the war in Iraq has stretched the American military to a point it hasn't seen for at least a generation. The issue presented by both article is the extent to which America's military reserves have been tapped for Operation Iraqi Freedom, and the long-term effects of this operation on the reserves' retention of personnel. To date, the reserves (and active force) have done okay at retention, largely thanks to "stop loss" policies and generous reenlistment bonuses. However, that may be about to change, according to the Sun:
With the Reserves and the National Guard filling an ever-busier role in military forces already stretched to the limit, re-enlistment decisions have become a worrisome issue for the Pentagon, especially because the 90-day waiting period has begun expiring for many citizen soldiers who were part of the first lengthy deployments to Iraq.

"This is going to be a real crunch time," said Al Schilf, a spokesman for the Army Reserve. "This is the longest that Reserve soldiers have been deployed, and we have to be realistic. We have torn them away from their employers and their families for a year, so the next few months are going to be very telling."

Even before now, the Army Reserve was falling short of re-enlistment goals. For the past 18 months, ending March 31, re-enlistment ran about 7 percent behind the Army's stated goal - 1,507 soldiers fewer than the target of 21,243.

Recruiting efforts have helped compensate for some of the shortfall. In signing up new soldiers, the Army Reserve has exceeded its goal for every year since 2000, although the goals have been steadily decreasing - from a target of 41,961 recruits in 2000 to only 21,000 for the current year.

For the National Guard - the other force of "part-time soldiers" pressed into full-time deployments - the opposite trends are in play. Re-enlistment is up, but recruiting is slumping.
Analysis: If there is to be a personnel exodus from the reserves, it will not appear in one giant surge at one moment in time. That's because each soldier's enlistment ends at a different time, and the choices to leave the service will be made on an individual basis by these soldiers when their time is up. Many will likely stay, because they want the benefits or they have high morale from doing a good job in Iraq. But the trends point to a growing number of soldiers who decline reenlistment. We may now be able to finally see this indicator truthfully, because of the end of the 90-day "stop loss" waiting period. During deployment and for 90 days after their return, these soldiers were barred from getting out -- even if their enlistments were up. Now that this period has been lifted, we will see soldiers making their own decision on this subject, without the constraint of an Army-wide policy.

For what it's worth, I think the reserves can weather this crisis. Although 360,000 reservists have been called up since 9/11 for service at home and abroad, the numbers so far indicate that the majority of these reservists will stay in uniform. There are certainly crises in some units and some specialties. It probably wouldn't hurt to shift some units (e.g. Civil Affairs, MP, logistics) to the active force, and it wouldn't hurt to convert more old guard forces to those areas to create a reserve expeditionary nation-building capability. The reserves also stand to benefit a great deal from active-duty personnel problems, because many of the active soldiers who get out will join the reserves, bringing their expertise and experience with them.

However, the reserves will take some time to rebuild themselves after Iraq. One strategic cost of the war can be expressed in terms of an opportunity cost. By taking on this mission, we have sacrificed the readiness of our reserves to respond to a crisis at home or abroad for a period of time -- the deployment, plus the time necessary to rebuild and reconstitute. That may be three years, or five years, or even longer -- it's not clear. Of course, you have benefits too, like the amount of combat experience in today's active and reserve force. However, the reserves will not be ready for war for a while, and that creates a strategic risk for the United States over the next few years.

Some political leaders, including Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE) and Sen. Joe Biden (D-DE), are expressing doubts about the military's ability to weather this storm. And to fix the problem, they are saying that we should consider the option of a national draft, both to fill the force and to spread the burden of military service more equitably. I don't think the first reason is necessarily true; I think the military can fill its force structure with (re)enlistment incentives and other means. There are also tremendous startup costs associated with a conscription system, not to mention its quality or professionalism issues.

However, the second reason proferred by Sen. Hagel and Sen. Biden deserves some mention. Ours is a volunteer force, but not all Americans volunteer in equal numbers. It is certainly true, as military sociologist Charles Moskos has noted, that today's military reflects the nation's working class and middle class more than any other. I think America's elites ought to do more than they're doing -- paying a disproportionate share of income taxes does not relieve the upper class of its other duties to the nation. Despite the obvious appeal of a conscription system for this purpose, I still oppose it. Our experience in Vietnam showed us how the wealthy will manipulate a conscription system to avoid service with draft deferments and other means; there's no reason to think they won't do the same thing this time. The rich and powerful will always have means to avoid service.

I think it would be better to avoid the Draconian option of a draft, and instead to pursue other incentive systems that will encourage military service by elites. Towards this end, I would invest millions in ROTC scholarships, targeted at elite colleges and universities. (Today's ROTC scholarships often "cap out", making them less valuable for students enrolled at expensive private schools.) I would also develop enlistment and officer-service options that appeal to college students, such as reserve options to serve during the summers and short-term enlistments. Will these things bring in more elites? Probably, though not in massive numbers. But I think that's okay, because even a slightly higher level of elite participation in the military will have a big marginal effect on the discourse among elites about military service and American national security policy.

Update I: The AP reports on Friday that the Army has met its reenlistment target for the first half of FY2004. I think this is largely the result of strong reenlistment incentives, and initiatives at the unit level to get soldiers to re-up. But it counsels against the initiation of a draft.