Recruiting More Warriors

During the past fiscal year, with our nation at war, 170,000 men and women raised their hands and said: “Send me.”
Still, increasing US military aggression and occupation has created heavy stress on the largest military in the world. Various steps have been taken to alleviate this stress and to improve the “tooth-to-tail” ratio of the ground forces.
The US Army is changing structurally, moving from divisions of ten thousand soldiers to brigades of three thousand. Contracted personnel have been used to make up for the loss of the “division trains” that formerly provided logistical support to soldiers in the field. Truck transportation, warehousing, messing as well as janitorial and other services are now provided by civilians under contract.
Air Force and Navy personnel are being used to augment ground forces in the field as well as in garrison, to operate civilian concentration camps for one example.
Current US foreign policy includes the occupation of two large countries, Iraq and Afghanistan, where soldiers and Marines are being sent back for their third and fourth combat tours. They are worn out and their families, if they still have them, are sick of it. There are other areas with ‘shadow wars’ in places such as Somalia, Pakistan, Colombia and Iran, and the US has bases in many other countries, particularly Germany and Korea. The deep thinkers associated with American Exceptionalism, the belief that the US should run the world, have other places (as well as the US itself) in mind. As an Army undersecretary recently said: “It’s not just Centcom that thinks they need more soldiers; Northcom [the US] wants more soldiers, Africom wants a dedicated headquarters, Pacom wants more for 8th Army in Korea.”
Plus, the US Army is currently on track to increase 65,000 people to a total of 547,000 active-duty soldiers, up from 482,000 before the current conflicts. There is a corresponding increase in the US Marine Corps, from 194,000 to 221,000, for a total increase of 92,000 to 768,000 ground troops.
Where to find the military warriors necessary for these increasing military requirements?

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More Warriors Needed

The US Army is currently on track to increase 65,000 people to a total of 547,000 active-duty soldiers next year, up from 482,000 before the current conflicts. There is a corresponding increase in the US Marine Corps, from 194,000 to 221,000, for a total increase of 92,000 to 768,000 ground troops.
A larger US military was first proposed by the presumptive Secretary of State, Senator Clinton along with Senator Graham in May, 2004 and has subsequently been endorsed by Senator Obama. In 2004 Clinton said, “I don’t think we have any alternatives.” In July 2005 Clinton co-introduced with Graham legislation to increase the size of the regular United States Army by 80,000 soldiers.
This 92,000 increase is apparently not enough.
According to an Army spokesman, the Pentagon actually needs not 547,000 but 580,000 soldiers, a 33,000 additional increase, “to meet current demand and get the dwell time.

    The demand for soldiers extends beyond the war zones, as commanders in other regions request troops, Undersecretary of the Army Nelson Ford said. “It’s a real challenge. It’s not just Centcom that thinks they need more soldiers; Northcom wants more soldiers, Africom wants a dedicated headquarters, Pacom wants more for 8th Army in Korea,” Ford said, referring to the U.S. Central Command, Northern Command, African Command and Pacific Command.

The New York Times, a chief promoter of the Iraq and Afghanistan imperialism, also weighed in on this matter recently in its editorial “A Military for a Dangerous New World [sic]”.

    The United States and its NATO allies must be able to defeat the Taliban and Al Qaeda in Afghanistan — and keep pursuing Al Qaeda forces around the world. Pentagon planners must weigh the potential threats posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions, an erratic North Korea, a rising China, an assertive Russia and a raft of unstable countries like Somalia and nuclear-armed Pakistan. And they must have sufficient troops, ships and planes to reassure allies in Asia, the Middle East and Europe.
    We believe the military needs the 65,000 additional Army troops and the 27,000 additional marines that Congress [read: Senators Clinton, Graham and Obama] finally pushed President Bush into seeking. That buildup is projected to take at least two years; by the end the United States will have 759,000 [actually 768,000] active-duty ground troops.
    That sounds like a lot, especially with the prospect of significant withdrawals from Iraq. But it would still be about 200,000 fewer ground forces than the United States had 20 years ago, during the final stages of the cold war. Less than a third of that expanded ground force would be available for deployment at any given moment.

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Is there an Islamic Charlie Wilson?

As the US and NATO lose control of surface roads in Afghanistan they are more and more dependent upon air transport and air cargo delivery.
According to USA Today:

    Afghanistan’s roads have grown more dangerous. The number of roadside bombs and suicide attacks has increased to 1,041 this year from 224 in 2005, according to the NATO command in Afghanistan. This year, more than 1,400 bombs, which the military calls improvised explosive devices, were discovered before they were detonated.
    U.S. forces have sharply increased the number of airdrop supply missions in Afghanistan in the past three years, as roads have become more dangerous and allied troops have established remote outposts.
    The number of airdrops has increased to 800 this year from 99 in 2005, according to Central Command’s air operations center. Planes dropped 15 million pounds of cargo this year, nearly double last year’s load of 8.2 million pounds.

Canadian forces have even resorted to leasing Russian helicopters:

    Canada’s battle group moved into southern Afghanistan in 2006 without any helicopters, unlike the British, U.S., and Dutch forces. The lack of air assets forced the Canadians to rely more heavily on road convoys, which the Canadian commanders described at the time as an advantage because it would give the troops more familiarity with the Afghan people and terrain. But regular traffic of military vehicles on Afghan roads has proven deadly for Canadian soldiers as the rising insurgency targets supply convoys.

Many Forward Operating Bases (FOB) are outposts in the Afghan back country that are normally reached only by weekly helicopter supply flights.
Air transport seems like the answer to loss of ground control. But is it? Soviet forces had a similar experience in 1978-1988. One of their downfalls was the supply of MANPADS by the CIA to Afghan partisan forces resulting in the downing of many Soviet aircraft.

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Recruiting for the Enemy

The US occupation forces in Iraq have, from the beginning of the occupation more than five years ago, engaged in the arbitrary imprisonment (“detaining”) of Iraqi citizens. As one former US soldier testified: “I witnessed and participated in countless massive operations led by American commanders whose metrics for success were numbers of detainees apprehended.”–Louis Montalvan
If you were a YSM (young Sunni male) found in a night-time US military sweep through Iraqi neighborhoods you stood an excellent chance of being zip-tied, thrown into the back of a truck and taken downtown. “Most of the people they detain are innocent,” said Iraqi Vice President Tariq al-Hashimi.
This has resulted in US prison populations in Iraq of nearly 20,000 prisoners, with another 26,000 being held by our Iraqi surrogates.
As Afghanistan heats up, more Afghan citizens are being arbitrarily arrested and held in prison. In August construction began on a new facility for as many as 1,100 detainees and now the US Military has initiated an inquiry into possible detainee abuse
All of this, of course, is in direct violation of the Geneva Convention which calls for the military to be responsible for the welfare of citizens in a war zone or occupied territory.
Protected civilians MUST be:

    – Treated humanely at all times and protected against acts or threats of violence, insults and public curiosity.
    – Entitled to respect for their honour, family rights, religious convictions and practices, and their manners and customs.

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Counterinsurgency 101

WARNING: There will be a test.
The US Department of Defense and its representatives continually use the word Counterinsurgency, or its acronym COIN, to describe the US efforts to secure, pacify and stabilize various countries such as Vietnam in the 60’s and Iraq, Afghanistan and Somalia currently.
But we also know that the Pentagon is known around the world for invading, occupying and destabilizing countries. Many people around the world correctly recognize that “offense” doesn’t mean “defense” and that “destabilize” doesn’t mean “stabilize.” All Americans recognize that “security” doesn’t mean “insecurity.”
But what about the term Counterinsurgency? Do we give the Pentagon a bye on this particular word, when we know that all their other definitions are pure horsepucky? Should we just blindly accept that what US forces are doing in other countries is Counterinsurgency, and that US opponents are dead-enders, terrorists and insurgents?
Of course not. At JWN nobody gets a free ride where the truth is concerned.

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Neglected Veterans Day

It’s Neglected Veterans Day, and our vets need help.
from a Pentagon press release:

    NEW YORK, Nov. 9, 2008 – The United States will remember the servicemembers who have made incredible sacrifices on the nation’s behalf, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said during the “A Salute to Our Troops” dinner sponsored by United Service Organizations and Microsoft here last night.
    “I promise you we will never, ever forget,” Navy Adm. Mike Mullen said told the 25 wounded warriors, their guests and corporate representatives. “You are our inspiration, and we care for you, and we will always care for you.”

It never changes. A few decide that war will be profitable and the poor souls that have to fight it and suffer from it make “incredible sacrifices on the nation’s behalf. . .we will always care for you.” And now the injured are “wounded warriors.”
I met a older veteran down in Mexico last year that was still suffering from the Vietnam war (Agent Orange) and was mighty upset about how the US government had neglected him and others with his affliction. (Probably if I had called him a “wounded warrior” he would have slugged me, with good reason.) He’s been neglected. And now here we go again.
According to a recent fact sheet published by the White House, “President Bush Has Provided Unprecedented Support for Our Veterans — Dramatically Increased Funding To Support And Care For Those Who Have Served Our Nation.” According to this fact sheet, the US has increased funding for veterans’ medical care by more than 115 percent since 2001.
Catch that: “more than 115 percent since 2001.” If you look at the chart on the fact sheet you’ll see that the increase is actually 105% (from $20b to $41b), not 115%. The spending on veterans’ medical care has slightly more than doubled since 2001. The reality is that George Bush is AWOL again — this time as Commander-in-Chief. It’s hard for some people to change.

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The Syria raid and a whole White House gone rogue

As I argued here October 27, the raid that US Special Forces undertook against Syria Oct. 26 had indeed been authorized by the White House. In fact, by President Bush himself, if we are to believe this important report in the NYT today, which tells us that Syria is one of “15 to 20” countries covered by a classified order issued in spring of 2004 that allows the US military to hunt down for “kill or capture” accused Al-Qaeda operatives located in those countries.
That order does not cover Iran (where few Qaeda people would be hiding out, anyway, given the deep doctrinal differences between Qaeda and the Tehran regime.) But the authors of the NYT story, Eric Schmitt and Mark Mazzetti, suggest strongly that US military raids into Iran are probably covered by a separate order.
They write:

    Even with the order, each specific mission requires high-level government approval. Targets in Somalia, for instance, need at least the approval of the defense secretary, the administration official said, while targets in a handful of countries, including Pakistan and Syria, require presidential approval.

That would doubtless be because of the intense diplomatic sensitivity of taking these hostile actions inside countries whose governments provide important services to the US. (Unlike Somalia, for example, which has far less diplomatic importance.)
Regatrding Syria, Schmitt and Mazzetti also write:

    The recent raid into Syria was not the first time that Special Operations forces had operated in that country, according to a senior military official and an outside adviser to the Pentagon.
    Since the Iraq war began, the official and the outside adviser said, Special Operations forces have several times made cross-border raids aimed at militants and infrastructure aiding the flow of foreign fighters into Iraq.
    The raid in late October, however, was much more noticeable than the previous raids, military officials said, which helps explain why it drew a sharp protest from the Syrian government.

The 2004 executive order gave permission specifically to the US military to act within the “15 to 20” named countries under certain circumstances. The White House– with the connivance of top members of the US congress– has long allowed the CIA the right to carry out various kinds of illegal acts, including killing and abduction of suspects, in an even broader range of foreign countries.
For the US government to arrogate to itself the right to act in such an illegal and potentially extremely destabilizing way in other countries around the world underscores, yet again, how far our country has slipped from be an upholder of international law and what a rogue force it has become within the international system.
We should press President-elect Obama and the leaders of the incoming Congress to repeal all the “executive orders” that have allowed and encouraged such global malfeasance.

‘China Hand’ on extrajudicial killings

The excellent (though sporadic) blogger China Hand has a great new post today tracking the degree to which extensive use of extra-judicial killings has been incorporated into the “standard operating procedures” of the counter-insurgency forces fielded by Gen. Petraeus in Iraq and his former counterparts– now subordinates– running the US-led war in Afghanistan.
As I wrote in this recent JWN post,

    Extra-judicial killings, also known as assassinations, are always abhorrent. They shock the conscience of anyone who believes in the rule of law. When carried out by states they represent a quite unacceptable excess of state power.

I was writing that in response to the bland, non-questioning reception by members of the US’s elite MSM corps of the spin that the recent US killing raid into Syria was somehow “okay” because it was part of a (possibly) “targeted” killing raid against a named individual.
That is an absolutely unacceptable argument.
What China Hand has done, though is review the evidence that is already widely available that the use of deliberate, extra-judicial killings has been deeply integrated by the US military into its conduct of “counter-insurgency” operations in both Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan.
He refers mainly to two easily available sources: the Wikipedia entry on Gen. Petraeus (which CH describes as “adoring”), and Bob Woodward’s latest book on the Bush administration’s conduct of the war, titled The War Within.
One thing CH does effectively is unpack the mendacious, though apparently highly “technologized”, language that “people in the know” use to talk about such operations… They do that to hide the fact that, as he states straightforwardly, in the end their policy relies simply on deploying some form of “death squads.”
One of these terms is “targeted kinetic activity.” Personally, when I hear a slimy euphemism like that, I want to vomit.
CH comments:

    I guess we’ll just have to take General Petraeus’s word for it that there was some kind of vetting and due process, that people were not improperly killed because of those death squad doppelgangers, greedy and grudge-holding informants, that non-violent opponents of the occupation weren’t targeted as a matter of COIN doctrine, and that “collateral damage” was accidental, avoided when at all possible, and not used as a tool to intimidate the local populace into turning against the insurgents.

For my part, I am not prepared to take anybody’s word that such hush-hush, quite opaque deliberations have any integrity or justifiability to them at all. At all. (And to be fair to China Hand, I think he was writing there with ironic intent.)
President-elect Obama: Please pay attention to this question of extra-judicial killings! They are exactly what the word says: extra-judicial, that is, quite inimical to any concept of the rule of law.
Yes, our country has found itself in a situation where a certain number of people are working actively to harm it. There are many ways to deal with that challenge that do not involve actions that directly undermine the concept of the rule of law.
At a purely utilitarian level, there is absolutely no way the US military can ever “kill” itself successfully out of the many problems and challenges it currently faces in Iraq and Afghanistan/Pakistan.
But beyond that, at a moral/political level, embracing the use of extra-judicial killings (i.e. death squads) as an integral part of what our troops are doing in those distant countries is directly inimical to our own self-understanding and our own interests.
So please: Stop the death squads!

Wall St. bailout passes, military budget bulge is next

The House of Representatives passed the Wall Street bailout bill this afternoon. So since the Senate passed it earlier, it will now shortly become enacted into law. (Update: The President signed it and it is now law.)
A $700 billion bailout for Wall Street. Wow. I still don’t know the details of the changes made in the text since Monday, when the House voted against it.
I think $700 billion is ways too much federal funding to be appropriating in such a hurry. It happened because of the fear and pressure inculcated by the blackmail note that Paulson and Bernanke delivered two weeks ago. I have seen proposals that involved smaller amounts being pumped into the financial-sector bailout right now, allowing time for a much deeper reform of the regulatory system and a more far-reaching and better considered plan to support distressed citizens to be crafted over the next few months… I thought those plans looked considerably preferable. But too many congressional leaders are hand-in-glove with the bankers for the community-services people to get much of a look-in.
$700 billion is $2,333 for each woman, man, and child in the country. Add that amount onto our now-over-TEN-TRILLION national debt.
But we should remember that each year, in recent years, Congress has been appropriating just under that same amount of money, in order to keep our bloated military fed, deployed, and fighting.
Bloomberg’s Tony Capaccio reported yesterday that,

    The U.S. military wants an increase of $57 billion in fiscal 2010, about 13.5 percent more than this year’s budget of $514.3 billion, according to the Pentagon’s outgoing comptroller.
    The White House hasn’t approved the request and Pentagon officials will make a strong case for it, Tina Jonas said.
    Some of the increase reflects a determination to include in the base budget some costs that have been funded through emergency legislation, Jonas said in an interview.
    The expense of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has been funded this way, even as many lawmakers, including Senator John McCain, the Republican presidential nominee, complained these requests include other spending, mask the military’s true cost and complicate their budgeting process.

(HT: Noah Schachtman.)
So that will be a DOD budget request of $571.3 billion for FY2010.
Capaccio writes,

    Defense spending, adjusted for inflation and not counting the cost of the wars, has increased about 43 percent since fiscal 2000. The proposed 2010 increase reverses a plan released in February that projected base budgets to be flat or slightly down.
    “There is an effort under way to see if we can move away from” supplemental spending measures and rely “increasingly on base budgets to fund these conflicts,” Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said.
    “We are going to be involved in persistent conflict for some time to come; that’s the reality of the world we live in and we need to budget for that,” he said during a press conference Sept. 24.
    The basic defense budget Congress approved for fiscal 2009, which started yesterday, is about $514.3 billion.

This is all crazy. What “persistent conflict” is Morrell talking about? Iraq? Afghanistan? God forbid, Iran?
In Iraq, we need to get all our troops out as fast as it can be done “responsibly”– that is without having them shot at as they leave. There are various plans for how that can be done in a time period of anything between about four months and a year. Obama is still nowhere near calling for total withdrawal. But if, as I hope, one of his first acts is to take the whole question of Iraq back to the Security Council in a very open-ended way, then the multi-party negotiations that ensue there may well result in a plan for a US troop withdrawal that is total and relatively speedy– and more important still, for the establishment of an intra-Iraqi and regional political context within which that can occur in the best way possible.
Regarding Afghanistan, the knowledgeable British Ambassador there has now reportedly told his French counterpart that the war is unwinnable using military means, and support for the US-led military effort continues to dwindle among many NATO “allies”. (E.g. Canada and Australia.)
Regarding Iran: No! No! No! Attacking that country would truly be catastrophic.
The budgetary facts of life– as well as all the other facts of international life today– surely tell us as Americans that it’s time to radically reduce the military footprint we are now carving onto the world.
The Wall Street bailout has, in more than one sense, now “passed.” These mammoth(and oh so destructive) military budgets will come back and bite us again and again each year until our leaders figure out there’s a better way for our country to interact with the rest of the world, and meet the security needs of everyone concerned, including ourselves, if we place serious reliance on means other than military means to do so.
“Persistent conflict” will bring us only “persistent insecurity” and further hemorrhaging of our nation’s wealth.

NATO’s crisis

… Hint: It isn’t just the organization’s massively long over-reach in Afghanistan, as revealed in the ever-mounting casualties among western forces and the continuing, dire crises of insecurity and pauperization through which the Afghan people are living (or not), now, nearly seven whole years after the US invaded their country…
It’s also the whole range of questions raised about NATO’s purpose and usefulness by the whole Georgia crisis.
Many militarists here in the US have been arguing vociferously (a) that the existing NATO members should now ‘fast-track’ Georgia’s entry into the alliance and (b) that Russia would have been completely deterred from the counter-attack it launched against Georgia if Georgia had already been a member of NATO.
Excuse me?
Imagine if Georgia had already been in NATO on August 7. That was the day Pres. Saakashvili broke an existing ceasefire when he launched a rocket attack against targets in South Ossetia who included Russian peacekeepers serving there under the auspices of OSCE.
Russia’s military response to that can certainly be described as disproportionate (though not nearly as much so as, say, Israel’s assault against Lebanon in 2006.) But it was not completely unjustified… One could also describe it, in the circumstances that prevailed in the region over preceding weeks, as predictable with quite a high level of certitude.
So if Georgia was already a NATO member, would NATO as a whole have come to Saak’s rescue once the Russians counter-attacked? Or failing NATO-as-a-whole, would individual NATO members have sent in enough troops to push the Russians back out and “punish” them?
(NATO’s ground-rules of “all for one and one for all” would indicate that it should be NATO as a whole that responds… But we could look at the other option, too.)
In a word, no.
And that’s the real crisis of NATO. It doesn’t actually seem to have any point any more. And that is probably what has gotten “front-line” states like Poland and the Czech Republic into such a tizzy right now.
A good part of the reason that NATO wouldn’t have come to Saak’s aid even if Georgia were already in it is that it couldn’t have done so effectively because of the deep bleeding of its lifeblood and capabilities over Iraq and Afghanistan. The US military is the absolutely necessary backbone of NATO. But now, US ground forces are stretched to break-point. US military airlift, sealift, global recon capabilities, and long-distance attack platforms are all just about fully tied up trying to keep the Iraq and Afghanistan missions going.
And no, no-one in the US– as far as I know– was about to launch a nuclear first strike against Russia over Ossetia.
Nor should we forget that the political infrastructure of NATO– the web of relationships among its members– was rent in two by Bush’s decision to invade Iraq and remains in very bad shape because of the demands placed by Bush regarding Afghanistan…
So the Bush administration’s decisions to (a) invade Iraq and (b) frog-march as many NATO members as possible into the mission in Afghanistan have caused NATO’s crisis to manifest itself with particular sharpness right now.
But there are deeper problems, too… Mainly those connected with the phenomena of mission creep and/or mission dissolution. (Often linked phenomena in troubled organizations, I note.)
NATO was founded in 1949. Its founding goal– as its first Secretary-General, Lord Ismay, once famously said– was “to keep the Russians out, the Americans in, and the Germans down.” (I got the attribution on that great quote from Wikipedia, whose entry on NATO is pretty good.)
So what do you do, if you’re a western leader, in 1991-93, when first the Warsaw Pact and then the Soviet Union itself collapses?
Do you hold a victory party, dissolve NATO, and then work with Russia and all the former WP/Soviet states to build a new, much better set of relationships among all these countries? (You might call that the Abraham Lincoln approach.)
You could have used OSCE as the main framework for this, given its significant history and its broad, trans-Eurasian and even transatlantic reach.
Or there were those, back in the early 1990s, who proposed inviting Russia (and presumably all the other formerly -Soviet countries) to join NATO.
Andrew Meier reminds us that that idea aroused significant interest from Boris Yeltsin, who in 1991 described it as his “long-term political aim.” Also, that even Vladimir Putin, during his first few days in office in March 2000, still expressed support for that aim.
But Presidents GHW Bush, Clinton, and GW Bush have never been able to get their heads around that idea of Russian integration into the transatlantic system on the “equal” basis that both Yeltsin and Putin insisted on. Indeed, they and the vast majority of the US political elite seem, even after the fall of the Soviet Union, to have stuck rigidly to the idea that the idea of NATO is “to keep the Russians out” of the system.
But given that the Warsaw Pact and the Soviet Union had both collapsed, there then arose the tricky political problem of how do you “sell” NATO, and the non-trivial costs involved in keeping the old war-horse going, to its sometimes skeptical non-US members? The watchword in some US circles at the time was that NATO had to either go “out of area”– that is, take on tasks outside its traditional Central European (counter-Russian) area– or it would have to go “out of business.”
As we can see from a glance at the map, Afghanistan is massively “out of area”!
So that’s one of the big differences between NATO and OSCE. NATO’s goal was to keep Russia out while OSCE’s goal, since the very beginning, has been to keep the Russians and their allies well integrated within the transatlantic/Eurasian part of the world system.
The other difference– which is huge, and fundamental– is that NATO is overwhelmingly a military alliance. Military action is its entire raison d’etre. (Hence, the need for ‘enemies’, and the shock with which most NATO leaders view any suspicion that Russia might be included in the membership… After all, if Russia is not an ‘enemy’, what is NATO for? Ah, good question.)
OSCE, by contrast, seeks to use numerous networks of relationships in the non-military sphere to try to keep its 56 member nations together, to build up support for common norms and for the institutions that embody and further them. One key one being the norm of finding nonviolent ways to resolve thorny political problems..
Hence, the role that OSCE’s been playing for the past 17 years– including inside Georgia– in midwifing and monitoring ceasefire and demilitarization agreements among and sometimes within its member states.
So here’s my proposal. Let’s declare the Cold War over? Let’s disband NATO. And rather than looking at ways to further encircle, ‘contain’, or push back Russia, let’s work hard at strengthening the norm of nonviolent conflict resolution across the board, including by seeking stronger roles for the UN, at the global level, and for OSCE, in the areas that it covers.
One good first step: OSCE’s announcement yesterday that it will be increasing the number of unarmed military monitoring officers it has inside Georgia by “up to 100.” Twenty of these monitors should be deployed “immediately.”