Musharraf Out, Chaos In

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Okay. If you’ve been reading about Pakistan you know that Gen. Pervez Musharraf resigned as president of that country. In his wake, the parties sharing political power there, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, led by Nawaz Sharif, and the Pakistan Peoples Party, led by Asif Ali Zardari (Benazir Bhutto’s corrupt husband), are quickly coming apart at the seams.

At issue is the restoration of some 60 judges, including the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who were deposed by Musharraf. Sharif wants them restored, Zardari does not (he is afraid he will be prosecuted if independent judges are on the bench). Sharif is threatening to pull out of the governing coalition. All of which is a prelude to a power struggle for the Presidency (which Zardari will almost certainly win).

Meanwhile, the Taliban is on the march in the tribal region of northwest Pakistan. From a story by Jane Perlez at the the New York Times:

In an attack claimed by the Taliban within the tribal region on Tuesday, a suicide bomber ripped into the emergency room of the district hospital in Dera Ismail Khan, a town near Waziristan, killing 25 people and injuring 30, said the inspector general of the police in the North-West Frontier Province, Malik Naveed Khan. He said there was some evidence that the suicide bomber was linked to Waziristan, the base of the leader of the Pakistani Taliban, Baitullah Mehsud.

And in Afghanistan:

Taliban insurgents mounted their most serious attacks in six years of fighting, one a complex attack with multiple suicide bombers on an American military base on Monday night, and another by some 100 insurgents on French forces in a district east of the capital, killing 10 French soldiers and wounding 21 others, military officials said Tuesday.

Lastly, there are rumors going around that Musharraf will seek asylum in the United States.

What does all this mean? A dangerous and complicated world just got more dangerous and complicated. Let us hope, and work, for a president with the intellectual power to deal with such circumstances.

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32,334: The Hidden Cost of the War on Terror

Monday, June 23, 2008

32,334 is the total number of soldiers that have been wounded in action in fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq through June 20. The numbers break out like this:

Afghanistan: 2,087
Iraq: 30,247

Of those wounded in Afghanistan, 1,280 were seriously wounded enough not to return to action. In Iraq, that number is 13,441.

There have been 4,620 deaths in the War on Terror. These numbers break out this way:

Afghanistan: 517
Iraq: 4,103

I am always surprised when the press reports the number of deaths but leaves out the number of seriously wounded. Those who have died have made the ultimate sacrifice and their service must be noted and honored. But the men and women who have suffered serious injuries must also receive the attention and honor that they are due. Many of these men and women have lost limbs or other significant parts of their body. They have been burned and disfigured. It is important that the relatively small number of deaths in the War on Terror is given perspective by the large number of seriously wounded soldiers. The War on Terror has been a war of physical (never mind, mental) sacrifice for tens of thousands. Let’s remember that, too.

Source: Department of Defense


House Reaches Compromise on War Spending, GI Bill

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The House has reached a bipartisan agreement on the war spending legislation that includes the new Jim Webb GI Bill. The negotiations involved Bush Administration officials which seems to indicate that he will sign it. The new deal preserves the GI Bill benefits but eliminates the tax on the wealthy to pay for it (unfortunately, this is exactly how they should pay for it).

The bill also pays for the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq through the end of Bush’s term, and extends unemployment benefits for an extra 13 weeks. Surprisingly, it forbids permanent American military bases in Iraq (this is a mistake) and calls on the Iraqi government to share equally in the cost of rebuilding the country.

It now goes to the Senate for their take on it, and then to Bush before July 4. It looks like the GI Bill is going to become a reality. It’s just a shame that Congress, once again, didn’t address how they would pay for it. Here’s Carl Hulse’s story in the New York Times.


Gates and the Future of the Military

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Iraq, it has been noted, has been a strategic disaster for America. We have, in five short years, handed Iran pocket aces, depleted our military deployment capability, destroyed our popular and diplomatic reputation around the world, and cost ourselves the chance to catch Bin Laden. And that’s just the beginning.

The many lessons to be learned from Iraq will be studied by historians and scholars for decades. It is my strong belief that the neocon armchair warriors who cooked up the Iraq plan will be excoriated in perpetuity (and, I hope, charged with war crimes). But that is for another post. This post is about planning for the post-Iraq War world.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, an old school realist in the mold of Brent Scowcroft and George H.W. Bush, took over for the inept Donald Rumsfeld on December 18, 2006. He has recently given a couple of speeches reflecting his perception of the issues that will face the military in the future (the recent shake-up of the Air Force command was, in part, a response to his sense that procurement priorities are often out-of-whack).

Gates outlines a role for the military that is two-pronged. The first prong involves, of course, continuing to be prepared to fight wars against the rising conventional powers around the globe. The second prong, however, and this was the point of emphasis in these two speeches, was to prepare for asymmetrical warfare against terrorists and rogue nations.

From his speech to young Air Force officers at the Air War College (Maxwell, AL) on April 21, 2008:

“In an era when we are most likely to be challenged in asymmetric ways, I would ask you to think through how we can build the kinds of air capabilities most likely to be needed while continuing to offer a strategic hedge against rising powers.”

“Protecting the 21st Century’s “global commons” – in particular, space and cyberspace – has been identified and adopted as a key task.”

“These new realities and missions should be reflected in our training and doctrine. The Air Force will be increasingly called on to conduct civil-military or humanitarian operations with interagency and non-governmental partners, and deal directly with local populations. This will put a premium on foreign language and cultural expertise.”

“Furthermore, the counterinsurgency manual issued by the Army and Marines is over 200-pages long – and yet only 4 pages are dedicated to air, space, and cyberspace. Not long ago, the Air Force published a doctrine document on irregular warfare. But, as future leaders of air power, you should consider whether there is more the service might do to articulate and codify the unique role of airpower in stability operations.”

He goes on to question (and this in my mind is key) the bureaucracy and procurement policies at the Pentagon.

“Other questions I would ask you to consider go to the heart of how the service is organized, manned, and equipped. What new priorities should drive procurement and what new criteria should drive promotions?”

He quotes John Boyd, “a brilliant, eccentric, and stubborn” former Air Force colonel who “had to overcome a large measure of bureaucratic resistance and institutional hostility. He had some advice that he used to pass on to his colleagues and subordinates that is worth sharing with you. Boyd would say, and I quote: ‘one day you will take a fork in the road, and you’re going to have to make a decision about which direction you want to go. If you go [one] way, you can be somebody. You will have to make compromises and you will have to turn your back on your friends. But you will be a member of the club and you will get promoted and get good assignments. Or you can go [the other] way and you can do something – something for your country and for your Air Force and for yourself … If you decide to do something, you may not get promoted and you may not get good assignments and you certainly will not be a favorite of your superiors. But you won’t have to compromise yourself … To be somebody or to do something. In life there is often a roll call. That’s when you have to make a decision. To be or to do?'”

Gates suggests Boyd as a role model for these young officers.

In the other speech, given on May 13, 2008, to the Heritage Foundation, Gates again addresses the procurement issue:

“First, I believe that any major weapons program, in order to remain viable, will have to show some utility and relevance to the kind of irregular campaigns that, as I mentioned, are most likely to engage America’s military in the coming decades.”

“Second, I would stress that the perennial procurement cycle – going back many decades – of adding layer upon layer of cost and complexity onto fewer and fewer platforms that take longer and longer to build must come to an end.”

He also addressed the stress on our ground forces:

“It is true that we would be hard-pressed to launch a major conventional ground operation elsewhere in the world at this time – but where would we sensibly do that? The United States has ample and untapped combat power in our naval and air forces, with the capacity to defeat any – repeat, any – adversary who committed an act of aggression – whether in the Persian Gulf, on the Korean Peninsula, or in the Straits of Taiwan. There is a risk – but a prudent and manageable one.”

The takeaway from these two speeches?

The American military has its work cut out for it. In addition to preparing for the rising threat of China (a future threat, not a present one) and whomever else, America must learn the key lesson of Iraq: that the enemy will choose the type of war we will fight, not Lockheed Martin or Paul Wolfowitz.

From Gates: “As I’ve told Army gatherings, the lessons learned and capabilities built from the Iraq and Afghanistan campaigns need to be institutionalized into the service’s core doctrine, funding priorities, and personnel policies. And that is taking place, though we must always guard against falling into past historical patterns where, if bureaucratic nature takes its course, these kinds of irregular capabilities tend to slide to the margins.

From his mouth to God’s ears.


Military Spending Unaudited, Out-of-Control

Friday, May 30, 2008

This week Henry Waxman’s Committee on Oversight and Government Reform held a hearing with Mary L. Ugone, Deputy Inspector General for Auditing, U.S. Department of Defense, Office of the Inspector General. The purpose was to examine the newly released report on the Inspector General’s investigation of billions in disbursals in Iraq.

Little surprise, billions are unaccounted for. BILLIONS! This makes my blood boil. The Pentagon’s budget, according to the New York Times, has doubled since 2000, yet no additional auditors have been added. This is an invitation to thievery; an open checkbook for war profiteers.

Contrasted with the brave and noble service of our soldiers, this kind of malfeasance is treasonous. Every day there is another story. The Times editorial points out that $320.8 million dollars was paid to 1,000 anonymous workers under the entry Iraqi Salary Payment – $320K per worker. Nobody know who these people are. Another recent story cites the faulty ammunition supplied by a couple of twenty-somethings to the Afghan Army. Still other stories find Halliburton overcharging for services. And so on. Just google this stuff and watch the effluent flow.

There should be criminal indictments for this, and they should go all the way to the top.