Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Hezbullshia and Isreality

Hezbollah’s incursion into Israel to attack and kidnap of Israeli troops was a cruel strategy to provoke a resumption of Israeli-Lebanese war at the expense of Lebanon’s moderate government and civilian population. I can only take the most cynical view of why Hezbollah -- an organization formed to liberate Southern Lebanon from Israeli occupation and victorious since 2000 — would engage in a new type of escalatory violence sure to provoke resumption of broad Israeli military action in Lebanon (regardless of whether reoccupation technically occurs). Hezbollah, like many extremist movements, must feel that it needs war with Israel to sustain its existence and no doubt was encouraged in its strategy by others seeking to inflame anti-Israeli (and anti-US?) views in the region. Certainly they have done a great disservice to Lebanon. I’m sure Hezbollah justifies itself in view of the usual Israeli injustices toward both Lebanon and Palestine, but objectively they are certainly not helping Lebanon here.

As for Israel, they reacted with their typical over-proportional response to attack or threat. Israel has long since become politically comfortable with the view that its security is best preserved by strength in both capability and response. No doubt this approach has greatly damaged its international and regional reputation but that is the Israeli strategic calculus and its arguably been successful in some ways. I agree with you that the smarter Israeli response would have limited itself to more clearly identified Hezbollah targets while seeking the diplomatic opportunity of Hezbollah’s aggression to seek to strengthen Lebanese government control over S. Lebanon. Pushing for international support and troops in S. Lebanon could have helped secure Israel’s northern border and increased Israel’s credibility in the international community. So I’m disappointed but not surprised by Israel’s response. And there may still be room for a diplomatic initiative because Israel’s escalation has, if nothing else, generated an international crisis that might not have happened if Israel had reacted in tempered ways (no counter attack, no ongoing waves of missiles).

Europeans and Arabs overdramatize Israel's response. Israel hasn’t nuked Lebanon or anything — we’re talking 300 killed on the Lebanon/Hezbollah side at this point. This isn’t Darfur or Srebrenica. 300 Iraqi civilians die each week at the hands of Shia or Sunni sectarian violence.

As for the US response, Bush has mimicked Olmert in being a politically weak state leader that took the politically easy way out of supporting a disproportionate Israeli response. Also remember that the Bush Administration itself is more comfortable with military action than diplomacy. I would have counseled support Israel’s attack on Hezbollah targets but privately urge restraint on attacking Lebanese government targets. And I would have tried to position the US as a mediator and protector of Lebanese government and civilians through an active diplomatic role. Again, it may not be too late for that approach but it is harder now.

Looking ahead, my fear (as my questions no doubt forecast) is that the Hez-Israeli clash will provide yet another political feeding ground for Shia extremism. I fear the future would hold a highly extremist Shia political movement spanning from Tehran to Baghdad to Damascus to Beirut that feeds sectarian violence and anti-US/Israeli sentiment. Not sure how Saudi Arabia, Jordan or others would respond to that either. I could see Hezbollah emerging as a region wide partner to al-Queda determined to get both Israel and the US out of the Middle East.

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

The Future Force

As to the debate about whether we need a bigger Army, distinguish between two very different questions: 1) do we need more ground force personnel for our global posture? 2) do we need more personnel in Iraq? (this question originally posed in BD)

The answer to the first question is almost obviously yes -- although HOW you would do so is wide open to debate. The Army and NG are badly stretched and with the President committed to Iraq, will remain so for the foreseeable future. And if you at all buy into the 4G argument (or a variant thereof), this type of scenario is likely to continue as part of the GWOT. Is adding troops to the Army the answer? Not by itself: it is clear we are vastly overinvested in air and naval resources and underinvested in ground resources. We do need some air modernization -- and the Army and F-35 JSF should be getting much cozier if airpower is to replace indirect fire support in the future. But I'm at a loss why we need 2 other tactical fighters (when's the last time we had a dogfight? who cares if the new Russian fighters are better -- that's now how we gain air dominance these days), investment in 3 different new escort ships (DDX, LCS, Deepwater), and continued modernization of the CVN and submarines (when is the last time we fought a naval battle?) Don't give me the "From the Sea/Seapower 21" litany: we are unparalleled at projecting firepower anywhere in the world with devastating effect and digital precision. That's why the bad guys are hiding in cities (sometimes our cities) or mountains and using terror tactics. THAT is our weakness.

The answer to the second question is more difficult. I'd have a hard time answering it without doing a serious on the ground assessment. On the one hand, there are certainly a host of things we could be doing to help ourselves in Iraq that we aren't doing. On the other hand, George Casey (who I greatly like and admire) inherited a mess and a heavily fatigued Army unskilled in counterinsurgency/ nationbuilding, so trying to do a lot more at this point may be too difficult (any increase in overall troop strength will take years to realize and begin to lessen the strain on the current force.) My hunch is that the time we needed more troops was in the first 6 months after Baghdad fell -- and we needed a plan and better skills too. Today, I think we are entering a period of slow messy handover to the Iraqis, hoping that fatigue and our withdrawal take some steam out of the insurgency and thus keep it from overwhelming the new Iraqi government. In other words, not the right time for more troops in Iraq.

Moving as I like to do into a broader strategic realm, I think we should ask the question as to whether the ground force- air/naval force imbalance is a symptom of the fact that our defense forces are broadly misorganized. Let me explain.

The Pentagon has spent much of the last 30 years trying to get its land force (Army and USMC), aviation (Air Force and Naval Aviation), and naval forces (Navy) to operate jointly. We have come a long way operationally although major seams still exist. Less progress has been made in non-operational areas: acquisition, R&D, doctrine, and strategy.

At the same time, war and technology have shifted the battlefield challenges so significantly that distinctions between land, air, and sea forces are much less important than other environmental and missions distinctions: major combat operations, peacekeeping/nationbuilding, and homeland security.

Indeed, I would submit the antiquated distinction between land, sea, and air forces holds little rationale in the current strategic environment. The strategic stability, conventional weapon dominance, and industrial era technology of the Cold War was not a bad environment for the traditional service distinctions. Similarly, the decade of peace between the Cold War and 9/11 made such divisions less meaningful. But in the current environment, the bureaucratic loyalties within the services are increasingly frustrating DoD's ability to reform rapidly to face new threats. The service rivalries are interfering with reform at strategic, budgetary, and operational levels.

The continuing shortfalls in operational jointness are well documented and understood. More serious and obvious at this point are the strategic and budgetary disconnects. Currently we have an Army facing huge budgetary and manpower strains due to high optempo while it simultaneously tries to reform itself in two directions: 1) to become more netcentric and transformational in the Rumsfeld vision 2) to become more SOF and low-intensity driven to meet the Schoomacher vision (and post-conflict Iraq realities).

Meanwhile the Navy and Air Force continue to struggle for new strategic concepts and myths to justify their existence while pushing air and naval dominance platforms (F/A-22, DD(X), Virginia Class Submarine, etc.) with little budgetary or personnel strain.

What if we were unencumbered by these legacy service divisions and could reorganize our military anew to meet current challenges? I doubt we would organize by air, land, and sea, but rather create three joint forces organized around the very different missions and environments we face. Here is one idea for a new three pronged military:

Major Combat Force (US Army/USAir Force Co-Lead with land, sea, air components)
- Defense against conventional threat such as Korea and Taiwan
- The ability to project conventional military power for offensive action (like OIF Phases I-3)
- Rapid reaction/supporting force in low intensity scenarios

Stability and Counterinsurgency Force (US Marines plus US Army plus SOF)
- Post conflict operations
- Counterinsurgency
- Humanitarian operations
- Consequences management

Access and Defense Force (US Navy, USCG, elements of Air Force and Army)
- Homeland defense (including port security, transportation security,
- Defense of US and friendly air and naval space
- Control of the sea lanes and assured transport of US assets globally

This is a strawman proposal. I am sure there are plenty of potential shortfalls that critics might want to point out. But the bigger analytical question is whether we can do better than the current Army, Navy, Airforce, Marines organization for manning, training, and equipping our defense forces. I submit it is not.

Friday, February 24, 2006


In the mid-90s, there was a profound recognition by American and European policymakers that NATO,– freshly victorious in the Cold War,– was a mutually treasured asset. We were inspired by the opportunity to reshape our collective efforts to the challenges of the 21st century. Most of that energy went into expanding the institutions to take in the new Democracies of E. Europe and the big test case of the Balkans. The neglected question: what is our common global interest?

The Bush Administration arrived with a distinctly anti-European agenda. Mexico was more important. China was more important. After September 11th, the Middle East was more important. Surprisingly, when Bush launched a globally unpopular war in Iraq, not that many European leaders supported him. And then the name calling began ("Freedom Fries!"”).

Fortunately, things have calmed a bit and there appears to be momentum on both sides of the pond to patch things up. This certainly would be a priority of Germany'’s likely new conservative government and likely a new French President as well. And Bush himself has put out an olive branch, going to two EU meetings in recent months. But the riff has fully exposed core differences more substantive than cosmetics and environment.

Europeans and Americans still share immense cultural, economic, and historical ties but when it comes to the new world order, we are Mars and Venus, Felix and Oscar, windshield and bug.

- Americans feel threatened by terrorism, China, and rogue states. Europeans don'’t feel threatened (except possibly by the prospect of Turkey in the EU).

- Americans want to export democracy and free markets to the rest of the world (and sanction the non-believers!). Europeans want to export Nokia phones, BMWs, and gigantic airplanes to the world.

- Americans are independent leaders, seeking to influence other nations but not be influenced by them. Europeans prefer collective decisionmaking, rule of law, and international organizations.

So we have a long close partnership that has little to partner on. We say tomato, you say tomahtoh. Sure there continues to be cooperation on a few things (some terrorism related programs, Afghanistan, even a little in Iraq), but our public’s values and priorities are starkly different and a serious barrier to close political cooperation on future problems.

This isn'’t meant to say that we should give uptransatlanticAtlantic alliance. You don't give up on your lifelong best friend because of one argument or even if she decided to vote Republican. No, America and Europe should rekindle the alliance and discover new areas of common interest even while better understanding our current differences.

The most logical connection is multilateral counterterrorism and homeland security. Europe loves multilateralism. Terrorism and homeland security demand a multilateral approach. We love hunting terrorists. Bring on the new NATO!

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Globalization Road Kill

Are you an owner-innovator or a servant? Better choose now because that's the future of the American economy.

The American dream of the 20th century was built on American manufacturing and industrial dominance. The great American middle class enjoyed lifelong career with a great US company like General Motors, US Steel, or perhaps IBM. Growth, stability, solid benefits, and a nice retirement nest egg was assured as a result of America's industrial dominance.

Fast forward to the 21st century and these great American companies are becoming globalization road kill, choking or defaulting on worker entitlements, struggling to innovate, and shedding workers 10,000 at a time. Emerging markets are capturing competitive advantages in manufacturing (China) and services (India), bleeding America's industrial economy to a slow but near-certain death.

Does that also spell doom for American economic power? Not necessarily. America remains dominant in finance and innovation, the two most powerful drivers of wealth creation. So the best and brightest Americans will increasingly create, finance and own new high-growth ventures even if the manufacturing or service of those ventures is sourced and marketed globally. More and more of this elite group will have incomes at country club levels, even as middle class industrial jobs dissipate. The inevitable (if overstated) destination is an American economy that produces virtually nothing, partially services itself, yet creates and owns much of the world.

So what does that mean for the large portion of the middle class that don't figure out how to be owner-innovators? It means they are selling the X-Boxes, staffing the golf courses, and, yes, flipping burgers in service of America's endless consumerism. Some of these jobs will be well paying. Some not. Most will not be unionized or have the security or retirement benefits of the industrial economy. Just in time for Social Security to go belly up.

Globalization's ability to create wealth -- and disparity -- in emerging markets may be extending to America as well. Can the great American Middle Class survive?

Friday, October 14, 2005

Values Judgment

Should America impose our values on other countries?

The natural response is no (from liberals and conservatives alike I submit): we should not impose values and certainly not impose them with the business end of an M-16. One of the underlying precepts of American values is toleration of other people's beliefs. Shouldn't we let our values promote themselves? By imposing values, you'’re inhibiting people's freedom!

I think most of us would concede that it might be ok to suggest values and lead by example (Adams'’ shining city on a hill?). Yes, that is where people seem comfortable.

But what if another countries values are allowing human atrocities or genocide to occur? Or if the values are promoting death to Americans? Perhaps then most of us would say it is appropriate to impose our values, even through force (with a diplomatic approach at first, sanctions, and military as last resort). Isn'’t that what Wilson and later Kennedy espoused as an American ideal? Yes, that seems reasonable.

What about cultures that essentially enslave their women through polygamy, abuse, or patriarchal dominance? What if the culture allows women to be tortured, raped, killed, and children suffering? Would that qualify as an atrocity? I'’m quite sure many Americans would say yes to that. After all, you are treating half the population as a lower form of human. So perhaps it is ok to impose our values in that case, even through force if economic and political measures fail.

But then again, would any strict Muslim nation qualify then? (and parts of Utah!) Hmm...that sounds not so popular again. And what if international law did not sanction use of military force against the abusing country? What if the UN Security Council did not authorize the use of force? Eek, don'’t make me sound like Dubya!

There are tensions between values and law and politics. How should America act when faced with two choices and one might be legal or politically acceptable and the other is more true to our values? Europeans prefer to act more based on law and political consensus. That at least demonstrates a respect for other nations sovereignty and cultures even if they sometimes end up in bed with bad people.

The issue is not divisible along party lines. There are plenty of Democrats who believe in export of American values and putting human rights and democratic values above political necessity. Similarly there are plenty of internationalist and pragmatic Republicans who believe that political consensus, pragmatism, and respect for other nations is preferred.

Democrats agree that Dubya botched the Iraq policy but disagree on whether regime change was a good idea. I, for one, believe that we could have secured regime change in Iraq with international support and much less violence and cost (in lives, dollars, opportunity, secondary effects). It is a question of method and diplomatic sincerity.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Partitioning Iraq

My State Department friends tell me that questions of Federalism are in the forefront of efforts to finalize an Iraqi constitution. Within the USG and the blogosphere, the debate rages as to how much autonomy to give each of the three parties. Those struggling with the Federalism question would do well to consider how Dayton handled the question of whether to divide Bosnia. Just as with Bosnia, the correct answer for Iraq right now is yes... and no.

Consider what I wrote in "Lessons from the Mt. Igman Road" (below):

"the Dayton agreement's best endorsement takes the form of its near equal criticism from both sides on the question whether Bosnia should be divided or reintegrated. Idealists (and Bosniak sympathizers) believe the inter-entity boundary and the slow return of refugees reflects a failure of Dayton to live up to its own ideals. Realists (and Serb/Croat sympathizers) believe Dayton’s overly idealistic provisions of long term integration into a multi-ethnic state confuse and delay acceptance of new boundaries. In fact, Dayton achieved the balance and ambiguity needed to close the gap between unreconcileable deeply held divisions sewn in war. We Americans (and military thinkers particularly) tend to look for solutions to problems… preferably solutions with clarity and finality. Yet desires for solution, clarity, and finality are often the worst enemies of peace whereas process, ambiguity, and delay can be peace’s greatest friend."

If Rice and Khalilzad and their team understand this (not a given), they will push for language in the constitution that leaves much to the later implementation. Shorter declarations of principles work better than detailed divisions of Federal and provincial governance.

Iraq needs time and space to recover from Saddam's rule, war and insurgency. It would be best served by a constitution that allows some flexibility and differing interpretations as to the ultimate level of Federalism.

Friday, July 29, 2005

Lessons from the Mt. Igman Road

I cut my teeth in national security on one of the ugliest, most complicated, flawed, yet ultimately successful international challenges of recent memory: bringing peace to Bosnia. From the dark days of feckless UN ineffectiveness (1993) until the dark days of the ad-hoc airstrikes over Serbia (2000), Bosnia was my focus and education. My boss at the Pentagon died for Bosnia (on Mt. Igman -- "the most dangerous road in Europe" as Dick Holbrooke called it). And I invested most of my public service to its cause. As far as I can tell, few others worked the issue for such length and intensity so perhaps my lessons learned are relevant.

As many of you recall, when Yugoslavia crumbled into pieces just after the Cold War, Bosnia was the one that fell squarely in the crap. Slobo Milosevic (genius dictator) decided that Serb nationalist domination was a good replacement for Communism and surprise, surprise, all the non-Serb Republics went running for Europe. Slovenia escaped without a scratch. Croatia got mostly free in a short tussle. So Milosevic sent in the Serb army (with deathsquad garnish) to ensure the multiethnic Bosnia didn’t get off so easy. And it didn’t.

Four years of brutal civil war and international hand-wringing over the crisis had produced genocidal slaughters, flood of refugees to Europe, an embarrassment for UN peacekeeping, and a growing division in NATO about how to respond to aggression and genocide in Europe.

Critics on both right and left attack Clinton’s Bonia policy for doing to little or too much for humanitarian reasons. In reality, humanitarian concerns were always a secondary factor behind geopolitics. The decision to launch proximity talks in Spring 1995 and the resulting mission in Bosnia was still internally driven by national interests not human rights considerations (although the public case was much more driven by human rights as it tends to be).

Many remained insistent that this was not a mess the US should jump into, most notably the Pentagon (still focused on “real wars” like the Gulf War). But the Europeans were desperate for NATO help and NATO essentially meant the US. The war was hemmoraging human values and the credibility and unity of NATO in a delicate time of Western integration of the former Soviet Bloc states. The geopolitical case was now as profound as the humanitarian case… we could now do the right thing for cool calculated national security interests.

Now many liberals pissed at the Bush Administration for lying about Iraq don’t realize that foreign policy spin was a Clinton Adminstration vice as well. The problem is that honesty about geopolitical ambitions or concessions doesn’t sell like tyranny and alarm. So the Bosnia mission was described not as a geopolitical necessity for Western cohesion during a period of CEE integration, but as a humanitarian savior of the poor Muslims from the evil Serbs. Similarly, the Clinton team decided that concerns about quagmire might be easily deflected by confidently assuring all we’d be gone in 12 months (off by about 100 months).

We did NOT promise that we’d be met with open arms as liberators. In fact, there was a lot of anticipation of broad resistance by extremist groups, militias, or even the Dayton signatories themselves (particularly the Serbs). Wes Clark and George Joulwan deserve great credit for devising a military annex to Dayton and an IFOR plan that effectively killed armed resistance to the NATO mission.

Those who though that arming and supporting the Bosniaks was the moral policy (“Lift and Strike”) typically fail to acknowledge or recognize that this policy was politically impossible without creating broad damage to our European security agenda. Again, national interests trumped humanitarian considerations. Even if you remain convinced it was the right thing to do, its naive or dishonest to raise the issue without acknowledging the radioactivity it was with the Europeans and the huge slate of issues we had going with Europe to bring the CEE states into the Western sphere.

Finally, the Dayton agreements best endorsement come in the form of its near equal criticism from both sides of the question about whether Bosnia should be divided or reintegrated. Idealists (and Bosniak sympathizers) believe the inter-entity boundary and the slow return of refugees reflects a failure of Dayton to live up to its own ideals. Realists (and Serb/Croat sympathizers) believe Dayton’s overly idealistic provisions of long term integration into a multi-ethnic state confuse and delay acceptance of new boundaries. In fact, Dayton achieved that balance and ambiguity needed to close the gap between unreconcileable deeply held divisions sewn in war. We Americans (and military thinkers particularly) tend to look for solutions to problems… preferably solutions with clarity and finality. Yet desires for solution, clarity, and finality are often the worst enemies of peace whereas process, ambiguity, and delay can be peace’s greatest friend. Thanks to former boss and mentor Jock Covey for best explaining to me this maxim of diplomacy.

The implementation of Dayton offers a whole different set of lessons, many covered in my earlier post Dirty Secrets of War. The most profound was the total disconnect between the military and civilian sides of implementation. That divide has remained largely unbridged since then and was relived in a similar form in Iraq. The failures of Phase IV in OIF have finally created some serious efforts to address this flaw. No doubt we will just get it right in time for major war with China.