Friday, September 29, 2006

Confrontation of Doctrines: Enhanced CIMIC vs Jihadism

In spite of the occassional Herschian blunder, New Yorker's Fact-pieces are often worth reading. This one, by Lawrence Wright, is no exception: "The Master Plan: For the new terrorists, Al-Qaeda is just the beginning". The article retells a story of production of doctrine and ideas where AQ was just one -- a relatively late and sometimes 'moderate' -- element in the larger salafist movement. The concluding section reads:
As the writings of Abu Musab al-Suri, Abu Bakr Naji, Fouad Hussein, and others make clear, the tradition of Salafi jihad existed before bin Laden and Al Qaeda and will likely survive them; yet, from the beginning of the war on terror, the strategy of the Administration has been to decapitate Al Qaeda’s leadership. Bruce Hoffman, who is the author of “Inside Terrorism” and a professor at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, told me, “One of the problems with the kill-or-capture metric is that it has often been to the exclusion of having a deeper, richer understanding of the movement, its origins, and our adversaries’ mindset. The nuances are absolutely critical. Our adversaries are wedded to the ideology that informs and fuels their struggle, and, by not paying attention, we risk not knowing our enemy.”
Hoffmann's stuff on counterinsurgency (available at the RAND site) is very good, and if time allowed, Inside Terrorism would have been on my readling list already.

The introduction of the Long War concept was supposed to make for a more sophisticated approach, a GWOT 2.0. In the period since the Long War made it into the QDR, the Bush Administration people have preferred to designate 'islamic fascism' as the enemy. Wright's article shows why this makes sense: a common trait of the doctrines and ideological frameworks here built is the purely revolutionary ideal, without a visible positive "post-revolution" agenda. But the problem is of course that e.g. the new terrorism strategy -- as an example of Long War thought implemented to sector doctrine -- doesn't bridge the long term stated goals with the short term means (as stated in this post). Hoffmann's critique is therefore troublingly valid.

We need to developed politically sophisticated means of dealing with terrorism. And we need the sharp end too, no doubt it. But it seems the two have to be coordinated and balanced on a scale not really seen before.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Tic Tacs #1

In a fit of desperation for originality, the Draconian Observation name for 'rapid fire' entries will be Tic Tacs - after the spiky sweets my granddad used to buy me.

CRS: GWOT Price Tag Exceeds 500 Billion Dollars
Through FY2006, Congress has appropriated a total of about $437 billion for military operations, base security, reconstruction, foreign aid, embassy costs, and veterans’ health care for the three operations initiated since the 9/11 attacks: Operation Enduring Freedom (OEF) covering Afghanistan and other Global War on Terror (GWOT) operations, Operation Noble Eagle (ONE) providing enhanced security at military bases, and Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF), Iraq. In the last week of September 2006, the House and Senate are slated to consider the conference versions of the FY2007 defense appropriations bill, H.R. 5631, and the national defense authorization bill (H.R. 6122/S. 2766), both of which include an additional $70 billion for war costs. This $70 billion bridge fund is to cover war
costs in the first half of the fiscal year plus $23 billion for reset — to repair and replace war-worn equipment. The Administration is expected to submit a FY2007 supplemental for additional war costs some time next year. If the FY2007 defense appropriation bill passes, total war appropriations for all three operations would reach about $507 billion.
Ghani Lists Challenges at UN
Afghanistan's candidate to succeed U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan said that he would focus most on fixing the organization's troubled management department if he gets the job.Ashraf Ghani, the former Afghan finance minister, is the latest of seven candidates to enter the race. He said transparency at the U.N. must be a priority and audits were like "a dye" that could be used to ensure that. "Its damaged culture can be fixed — it must be fixed," Ghani told an audience at the Asia Society in Manhattan on Wednesday, in reference to criticism that the management department is inefficient and marred by corruption. "It must disclose every dollar of its expenditure to the citizens of the world. It cannot hide behind secrecy, because its only the sunshine of public scrutiny that can bring about the required system of checks and balances," he said. Ghani said a review of skills among existing U.N. staff was necessary. He also said, as a place of employment, he would strive to make the U.N. the "top choice of women and men across the globe."He said the organization must also emphasize partnerships between civil society and government. In order to fund those partnerships, Ghani said diversifying the source of financial contributions would be a priority, in order to get away from the U.N.'s dependence on the fraction of members who contribute the vast majority of its budget.
Davos: Nordics Top Global Competitiveness
The Scandinavian countries remain among the top performers, with Finland, Sweden, and Denmark occupying second, third and fourth places, respectively. They share with Switzerland a broadly similar institutional and structural profile. The Nordic countries have better ranks on the macroeconomy pillar of the GCI, since they are all running budget surpluses and have lower levels of public indebtedness than Switzerland and, indeed, much of the rest of Europe. Finland and Sweden have the best institutions in the world (ranked 1 and 2, respectively) and occupy places in the top ten ranks in health and primary education. These three Nordic countries also occupy the top three positions in education and training, where Finland’s rank of 1 is remarkable for its durability over time. They lag behind Switzerland in the areas of labor market flexibility and, to a lesser extent, in indicators of business sophistication. The Nordic countries show that transparent institutions and excellent macroeconomic management, coupled with world class educational attainment and a focus on technology and innovation are a successful strategy for maintaining competitiveness in small, highly developed economies.
Economist's Buttonwood Column Finally in Print Edition
Believers in Fibonacci numbers are part of a school known as technical analysis, or chartism, which believes the future movement of asset prices can be divined from past data. Some chartists follow patterns such as “head and shoulders” and “double tops”; others focus on moving averages; a third group believes markets move in pre-determined waves. The Fibonacci fans fall into this last set. Buttonwood, who is daringly defying the tide of history by moving from into the newspaper, has bad news for the numerologists. A new study (...) finds no evidence that Fibonacci numbers work in American stockmarkets. The academics looked at the Dow Jones Industrial Average over the period 1914-2002 and found no indication that trends reverse at the 61.8% level, or indeed at any predictable milestone. This research may well fall on stony ground. Experience has taught Buttonwood that chartists defend their territory with an almost religious zeal.
Non-French WWII Vets Finally Put on Pension Par With French
Après 47 années de gel, le gouvernement va mettre les retraites et les pensions d'invalidité des anciens combattants de ses ex-colonies entièrement au niveau de celles qui sont versées en France. Les vétérans des anciennes colonies d'Afrique et d'Asie ne touchaient pour l'instant, dans le meilleur des cas, que 30% des sommes versées à leurs frères d'armes français. Cette revalorisation, dont l'annonce était attendue, bénéficiera à environ 80.000 vétérans, représentera un coût de 110 millions d'euros par an et sera introduite par amendement gouvernemental au projet de loi de finances 2007.
Masters of Logistics: TPFDL Ironi Behind Pentagon Travel Booking Woes

After a decade and more than $500 million in costs, the Defense Department's new travel booking system doesn't work, it doesn't save money, and most staff members don't use it, a new study says. A Government Accountability Office report released yesterday slams the Northrop Grumman-designed Defense Travel System and calls Pentagon estimates of usage and cost savings into serious question. So poor is the Pentagon's analysis of the system's merits, the report says, that defense officials offered a credit card company news release as sole proof for its claim that the system saves millions of dollars each year.

Fukuyama Critiques Wolfowitz' Anti-Corruption Strategy (hat tip to WB PSD blog)
[T]he problem is that Wolfowitz is heading an organization poorly structured to lead a fight against corruption. There are several reasons for this. First, a lot of corruption starts at the top, and can’t be addressed without getting into overtly political issues. The Bank’s articles of agreement explicitly prohibit it from dealing with politics. Its lawyers have pushed the envelope over the past decade by arguing that corruption and bad governance are clearly linked to bad economic performance. (On this, they are largely right.) But the Bank cannot intervene openly to remove corrupt politicians, or cut off countries simply for being undemocratic or unaccountable. China, after all, has been one of its biggest poverty-reduction successes in recent years. Second, the Bank is structured as a lending and aid-granting institution, and all of its incentives are to push money out the door. Pressure to lend has undermined past efforts to tie loans to good economic policies; like Charlie Brown and the football, it keeps running up for another kick on Lucy’s promises that she will never, ever pull the ball away again.Third, pressure to move money regardless of performance is vastly increased by lobbying from the likes of Jeff Sachs, Bob Geldorf, Bono, and others to meet the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

Drezner: US Iran Policy Still Fuzzy

I blogged in the spring about my puzzlement and confusion regarding U.S. foreign policy towards Iran. On the one hand, it was clear that certain elements of the Bush administration were not big fans of either direct or indirect dialogue.

On the other hand: [E]ven if this skepticism (towards negotiations and incentives) is warranted, exactly what is the hawkish set of policy options on Iran? Is there any coercive policy instrument that is a) publicly viable; and b) would actually compel Iran into compliance without negotiations?
I'm even more puzzled today. (...)
So, to review: there are administration efforts to sabotage the available diplomatic option, and the most powerful economic sanction has been rejected in the near term. I don't think financial sanctions will bite as much as the secretary, in part because it always takes a long time to implement and after the 1979 asset seizures the Iranians have moved down the learning curve on evading those kind of strictures.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Prussian Blues: NATO and Long War Division of Labor

In the ongoing discussion by proxy -- the leaked intel reports -- of the effect of Iraq on the Long War on terror, Mountain Runner has a great post, which emphasizes the problems with the way the Iraq war and post-war has been carried out:
Between news of the April NIE indicating Iraq as an engine for extremism and a Pentagon assessment showing Sunni support for the insurgency increasing more than five-fold in the last three years (14% to 75%), how does one not connect the dots between action and reaction with our foreign policy?

How does one not see connections between a failure to attempt to secure the peace, implement law and order, virtually no attempt to halt looting, complete irresponsibility in reconstruction, massive demobilization and unemployment of trained warriors, failure to protect known weapons caches, failing to provide basic essential services, and the creation of power vacuums as not contributing to the insurgency? Add on top of that indignities of obvious other newsmaking encounters and facilities and how can the dots not be connected? (...)

Each week there is more information on the failed Excursion into Iraq. It is even more sad to think of all the members of the armed forces and the civilian contractors who gave their lives in a theater where the enemy was effectively of our own making. The peace could have been won before Mission Accomplished. And despite what one might say that winning a war is not the same as winning the peace because of the 'changing nature of war', Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and Mao all agree on the necessity to treat the captives well and to not create enemies through mistreatment. Yes, even Clausewitz, dashed to the side by those that say '4GW' is a new way of war, nailed this outcome. Perhaps 4GW'ers should go back and re-read the Dead Prussian. The dots were there, labelled, and with flashing numbers.

As remarked several times before, the Long War as a corrected version 2.0 of the GWOT tries to remedy some of these problems: at the conceptual level at least. One important element is, as Mountain Runner also hints at above, the need for effects based thinking that embraces the theatre as a political realm ("Effects based Cultural Awareness").

The long War concept still needs further clarification before it can be operationally implemented
(see e.g. this post about the problems with the new Administration anti-terror strategy). And whether it will be is far from a done deal due to internal Pentagon and Defense environment strategic discord. Rather, as Tom Barnett points out in a new column for the Knoxville News Sentinel, we have long backlog of pre-conceived understanding of what security means -- or ought to mean, we hope:
We don't live in a more dangerous world today. We just live in a security system that no longer offers zero-deductible insurance policies for global stability. America's zero-deductible mindset grew out of our long-term standoff with the Soviets, a strategic stability cemented by our dual decisions to pursue detente and abandon the Vietnam War's domino theory. It can be summarized as such: So long as nukes make great power war unthinkable, global stability is an existential reality that requires no regular blood premiums from America.

This mindset survived the Cold War's end. In the 1990s, Western great powers got involved with great reluctance in situations where globalization's disintegrating impact spun secessionist conflicts into genocidal fits of ethnic rage - such as the Balkans. And, if the killings were located far enough away from our integrating global economy, as in the case of Central Africa, then we made no effort at all. After 9/11, Americans grimly embraced the idea that defending our way of life would once again require regular sacrifices of both treasure and blood, and although many dispute President Bush's decision to invade Iraq, there remains a strong consensus that freedom isn't free.

But this zero-deductible mindset remains prevalent among several of our allies, leaving America dangerously exposed in several regional scenarios with the potential to derail globalization's advance.

Barnett, ultimately, would like to see the Chinese responsibly involved in adminstrating globalization's progress. The point here, though, concerning the present allies of the US, is more related to the situation in Iraq and perhaps even more Afghanistan. Here, NATO soldiers are not only fighting the Taliban, but also developing the PRT concept and other elements of enhanced CIMIC in practice. NATO forces have been doing this transformation -- weighted towards Peace Operations -- since then end of the Cold War. In Afghanistan especially, they have moved closer to the very hard end of these too, including sometimes in terms of risk willingness.

The major strategic question is whether the Pentagon will work its way towards a sustainable concept of the Long War. As Barnett has pointed out, Pentagon's direction is crucial because it works like a hub, where the allies are the spokes. But the NSPD44's outsourcing of ultimate responsibility for Stabilization and Reconstruction from Pentagon to State in combination with internal pressure from the Cold Worriers may mean that the allies will ultimately be expected to be doing the bulk of the work in the Long War -- because they are already fairly calibrated to do so. But that will clearly not suffice.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Long War Strains: Army, Pentagon Debating Choices

Everyone one knows having a Ministry of Defense including armed forces is expensive. But in all likelihood, the new strategic realities makes defense and especially Army budgets even more strained -- rather than less, which was the Rumsfeldian transformation dream just three years ago. Just take this piece from the LA Times, "Army Warns Rumsfeld it's Billions Short":
WASHINGTON — The Army's top officer withheld a required 2008 budget plan from Pentagon leaders last month after protesting to Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld that the service could not maintain its current level of activity in Iraq plus its other global commitments without billions in additional funding. The decision by Gen. Peter J. Schoomaker, the Army's chief of staff, is believed to be unprecedented and signals a widespread belief within the Army that in the absence of significant troop withdrawals from Iraq, funding assumptions must be completely reworked, say current and former Pentagon officials. (...)

According to a senior Army official involved in budget talks, Schoomaker is now seeking $138.8 billion in 2008, nearly $25 billion above budget limits originally set by Rumsfeld. The Army's budget this year is $98.2 billion, making Schoomaker's request a 41% increase over current levels. (...) Most funding for the fighting in Iraq has come from annual emergency spending bills, with the regular defense budget going to normal personnel, procurement and operational expenses, such as salaries and new weapons systems. About $400 billion has been appropriated for the Iraq and Afghanistan wars through emergency funding measures since Sept. 11, 2001, with the money divided among military branches and government agencies. But in recent budget negotiations, Army officials argued that the service's expanding global role in the U.S.-declared war on terrorism — outlined in strategic plans issued this year — as well as fast-growing personnel and equipment costs tied to the Iraq war, have put intense pressure on its normal budget. (...)

After Schoomaker confronted Rumsfeld with the Army's own estimates for maintaining the current size and commitments — and the steps that would have to be taken to meet the lower figure, which included cutting four combat brigades and an entire division headquarters unit — Rumsfeld agreed to set up a task force to investigate Army funding. Although no formal notification is required, Army Secretary Francis J. Harvey, who has backed Schoomaker in his push for additional funding, wrote to Rumsfeld early last month to inform him that the Army would miss the Aug. 15 deadline for its budget plan. Harvey said the delay in submitting the plan, formally called a Program Objective Memorandum, was the result of the extended review by the task force. The study group — which included three-star officers from the Army and Rumsfeld's office — has since agreed with the Army's initial assessment. Officials say negotiations have moved to higher levels of the Bush administration, involving top aides to Rumsfeld and White House Budget Director Rob Portman. "Now the discussion is: Where are we going to go? Do we lower our strategy or do we raise our resources?" said the senior Pentagon official. "That's where we're at." (...)

In recent weeks, however, Schoomaker has become more publicly emphatic about budget shortfalls, saying funding is not enough to pay for Army commitments to the Iraq war and the global strategy outlined by the Pentagon. "There's no sense in us submitting a budget that we can't execute, a broken budget," Schoomaker said in a recent Washington address.

Military budget expert Steven M. Kosiak of the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments, an independent Washington think tank, said that despite widespread recognition that the Army should be getting more resources because of war-related costs, its share of the Defense Department budget has been largely unchanged since the 2003 invasion. However, a good portion of the new money the Army seeks is not directly tied to the war, Kosiak cautioned, but rather to new weapons it wants — particularly the $200-billion Future Combat System, a family of armored vehicles that is eventually to replace nearly every tank and transporter the Army has. "This isn't a problem one can totally pass off on current military operations," Kosiak said. "The FCS program is very ambitious — some would say overly ambitious."
Withholding the budget is of course at least partially a political manoeuver: an unusual signal about an unusual signal, and at the same time a tactic get more money. However, Rumsfeld or the OSD seems to be agreeing: the Long War strategy does indeed put a greater weight on boots rather than planes or other very fancy equipment. But, the future of the FCS is prior to and so mostly independent of the Long War strategy. The FCS was Army's answer to Rumsfeld's transformation demands, which, especially in his conception became about efficiency in terms of cost/firepower and therefore the speedy adoption of technology in order to allow 'seamless' cooperation and modularity e.g. in the Army.

The Army is then caught between (known) running operational expenses, (expected) development costs for the FCS, and the (less determinable) costs of implementing the Long War strategy. The difference between the three in terms of immediate needs is obvious. Interestingly, the "Senior Pentagon Official" points to the possibility of cutting down ambition for the Long War.

But the difference between the Long War and the present running campaigns is not very big in terms of content (if probably in scope, the Long War being more directed towards SOF and internal advising ops). In both cases the central need is make a military address to a political problem -- of having a stable and just state that will not only be safe for terrorism, but also one that its citizens will opt in to. The difference between the present campaigns and the Long War is thus the implementation of the aggregate lessons learned: especially organizational, at both tactical and strategic levels. Cutting down on the Long War in the Army might then mean throwing out the very lessons the Pentagon has paid for since the invasion in Afghanistan.

Given that the amounts put aside for e.g. linguistic training were insignificant compared to the stable investment level for the ABM research these proposals are perhaps not surprising. In spite of the Long War prominance in the QDR, the cold worriers are still waiting to seize the agenda.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

CFSP is a Mirage, Iran Shows

Back in January, I concluded a post on Iran and the use of ad hoc groups in international politics with this reflection:
[T]he Iran situation has already demonstrated what should have been clear all along for the small EU states about the CFSP - the Common Foreign and Security Policy - project. The formation of the E3 [UK, France, Germany], as proposed by the UK (via Mandelson) before 9/11 is itself an ad hoc. While it is definitely true that common EU foreign policy stances cannot be had without the consent of the E3, their going it alone without the veneers of an EU emissary goes a long way to show the difference between lofty words and the necessities of realpolitik. Not that surprising of course. But it is a healthy reminder for all of those who insistently and intuitively always start their analyses about international politics with calls for formal insitutionalizations and - oh, the ring of it - international law.
Back then, the starting point for the post was that the E3 had hinted -- as part of their trilateral diplomacy with Iran and the United States -- that they in case of non-cooperaion on the nukes would consider going for sanctions against Iran outside of the UN. Now, two days ago, President Chirac of France has hinted that he is opposed to sanctions against Iran, thus weakening the aggregate negotiation position ahead of the possible talks.

This is interesting, because the concept of the CFSP is especially dear to France as it should enable the Europeans to speak with one, weighty voice. The Iranian issue is the leading case for a claim about CFSP success because the European negotiation track has the backing of the US. So why the different stances?

Since few countries participate in the US economic policy vis-à-vis Iran there is nothing weird about the French not doing so either. According the French Foreign MInistry, France has a healthy bite of the Iranian imports: 8,5% of the total and is therefore the third-largest exporter to Iran (wonder who number 1 and 2 are. China and Germany, probably). French exports have more than doubled since 1998 (this NYTimes-article is from 2004):

Undeterred by Iran's pariah status in the United States and by the shortcomings of the country's commercial climate, French companies have been increasing their presence in the country in the last few years. (...) The Iranian business of Société Générale, one of a handful of French banks with small offices in Tehran, has grown roughly 20 percent a year in the last five years, according to Jean-Michel Meunier, the bank's Tehran chief. (...) Despite such potential, many Western companies doing business in Iran do so clandestinely, worried they will cross the United States, which has imposed strict sanctions on Iran since 1996. At least one major French company in Iran with significant United States operations has not registered with the French embassy. The front door to its office in Iran says simply, "French company."

While American officials have not said anything publicly about Renault, they did complain about Total's recent deal and said they would look at possible actions under the Iran-Libya Sanctions Act of 1996. "We do not encourage investment in Iran's petroleum sector," said Richard A. Boucher, a State Department spokesman, according to an Associated Press report in February. "We have laws that affect our attitudes toward these investments. And we will have to look at those laws appropriately." State Department officials did not respond to repeated requests for comment. But trade experts said they did not think the act, which allows for the imposition of penalties on foreign companies for certain large investments in Iran, had ever been invoked. "As to whether the U.S. has actually sanctioned any firms for prohibited investments in Iran, there is not much of a track record,'' said Donald A. Weadon Jr., a Washington lawyer specializing in foreign trade sanctions. "But companies are investigated, and pressure is brought to deter investment."

This background makes it interesting to note the timing of Chirac's comment and the Iranian news agency's
announcement of a new deal today:
TEHRAN (Fars News Agency)- Despite the U.S. sanctions and business restriction on Iran, the coming Wednesday is to witness the inking of a finance agreement between National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) and French Societe General Bank for development plans in oil- and gas-rich southern Iran. The $2.7b figure is going to finance the development projects at phases 17 and 18 of the South Pars Oil and Gas Field and the capital return will be satisfied by the revenues coming from gas and condensate sales, Tehran Times said.
At the face of it, this new items serves to underscore the fact that Europeans have more investments in Iran and thus more to lose than the US from a confrontation. The timing on the other hand cannot be said to be chosen wisely by the Iranian intelligence service it indeed they did so -- unless they wanted to destabilise the US-Europe front by hurting Chirac in the eyes of the US.

But the final conclusion has nothing to do with either Iran or France: it concerns the CFSP. There is no CFSP and there will be no CFSP as long as the European countries have disaligned interests in foreign policy. And one of the central interests a country has in foreign policy is related to its identity: to be different, to be recognized, to have a voice. Even (especially?) countries want to be told that they look pretty. Therefore, just for the need to stand out, for the sake of glory, love or money, the CFSP is likely to be pretty dead in the water. As the proposed show case situation with Iran indicates.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Iraq: CPA's Legacy Almost Willful Incompetence

When looking at the news items out of Baghdad it is difficult to remember the optimism of the first months after the invasion and toppling of Saddam. A slew of books (here too) have been or are coming out, confirming the impression leaking on the sidelines in the aftermath of the invasion. One prominent is Washington Post reporter Thomas E. Rick's Fiasco, which I hope to get time to read very soon. Review here at the New York Times.

The two most important elements of ineptitude was first the conscious decision by Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld not to develop or implement any Phase IV (post-war) military plans, as first documented with the leaked After Action Report by the IIIrd Infantry Division (Mechanized) (here, large pdf)-- and in its latest installment, through this interview with one central war planner (hat tip to The second element was the apparant incompetence with which the second part of Phase IV -- civilian reconstruction -- was carried out, especially news items describing an ideological and haphazard hiring policy at the CPA in Baghdad. This looks like an important factor behind the blunders and ineffectiveness of the processeses initiated by the CPA.

This second element is the subject of a new book by Rajiv Chandrasekaran (hat tip to Dan Drezner), also a reporter at the Washington Post, which brings a long and very interesting excerpt. From "Ties to GOP Trumped Know-How Among Staff Sent to Rebuild Iraq. Early U.S. Missteps in the Green Zone":
After the fall of Saddam Hussein's government in April 2003, the opportunity to participate in the U.S.-led effort to reconstruct Iraq attracted all manner of Americans -- restless professionals, Arabic-speaking academics, development specialists and war-zone adventurers. But before they could go to Baghdad, they had to get past Jim O'Beirne's office in the Pentagon.

To pass muster with O'Beirne, a political appointee who screens prospective political appointees for Defense Department posts, applicants didn't need to be experts in the Middle East or in post-conflict reconstruction. What seemed most important was loyalty to the Bush administration.

O'Beirne's staff posed blunt questions to some candidates about domestic politics: Did you vote for George W. Bush in 2000? Do you support the way the president is fighting the war on terror? Two people who sought jobs with the U.S. occupation authority said they were even asked their views on Roe v. Wade .

Many of those chosen by O'Beirne's office to work for the Coalition Provisional Authority, which ran Iraq's government from April 2003 to June 2004, lacked vital skills and experience. A 24-year-old who had never worked in finance -- but had applied for a White House job -- was sent to reopen Baghdad's stock exchange. The daughter of a prominent neoconservative commentator and a recent graduate from an evangelical university for home-schooled children were tapped to manage Iraq's $13 billion budget, even though they didn't have a background in accounting.
Thought-provoking stuff, which at the very least leads one to repeat the old saying: never attribute to malice what can be ascribed to pure incompetence. But, given that especially the role of the politically designated O'Beirne at Pentagon is true, one might ask whether there isn't something as willful abdication of reason?

Monday, September 18, 2006

Ghani Runs For UNSG And Deserves To Win

Ashraf Ghani has decided to run for UNSG, today’s Financial Times reports. This is good news: Ghani is by far the most interesting candidate in the field. FT quotes him as arguing for the candidature with the exact element other candidates are missing:

“I hope to win, through ideas,” Mr Ghani told the Financial Times. “In the public debate so far, I have yet to see a clear articulation of vision, an analysis of the central issues and a programme for change.”

The problem goes futher than Ghani’s diagnosis: the absence of concrete and strategic visions for the UN is also a sign that the general ability to generate ideas and initiatives later on is probably low. If you cannot get an idea when you need one, you need a different job.

The coming UNSG is faced with a number of challenges, some immediate — operational and organizational — and some more abstract. Ghani’s record in Afghanistan e.g. speaks clearly about his ability for running a multilateral, multi-stakeholder process with both heavy security and development repercussions. Most of the present candidates are of course likely to be solid administrators who can deal with immediate and running operational challenges. But Ghani is furthermore both brave and original: take e.g. this BBC piece about his intervention at last year’s TED global, including a critique of the redundancies of the development and aid industry.

The capacity to deal with the immediate and longer term organizational challenges — the reform agenda — however, is tied up with the more abstract challenges facing the UN. The short version of this is that security and development are converging. In strategic terms, political solutions are needed first to complement globalization’s integrative pull, not least in terms of creating effective states that can allow their citizens to prosper — a long term challenge that, once lifted, will at the same time alleviate the security problems associated with weak and failed states. Second, they are needed to orchestrate globalization as an integration of relations between the ‘old world’ and the ‘emerging’ powers and markets — in order to avoid a return to pre-WWI big power politics. In operational terms, enabling effective states is also the emerging necessary goal of any military conflict or post-conflict situation. The new military lessons learned of Phase IV and Peace Operations emphasize the parallel effort of stabilization and reconstruction. At both levels, security and development are increasingly tied to together.

The upshot of this convergence is that the next UNSG must have both practical operational experience with either agenda, and also a calibrated capacity for horizontal thinking. Horizontal thinking is Thomas Barnett’s term for pragmatic agility in terms of eschewing the stove-piped specialization of academics. All bureaucrats tend to think of themselves as productive generalists. But academic ability is crucial: the ability to not only grasp the largest global trends but also to pose productive solution-frameworks is rare among non-academics (as it is among academics in general who falter on the second element, but that is another story).

Ghani’s track-record is well-established here: take e.g. this new piece co-written with Claire Lockhart for the Washington Quarterly. Go read it, and then ask yourself whether you would rather have a person who can think like that at the helm of the UN — or someone who might be bothered to read it?

Ashraf Ghani seems to be the right man for the job. He appears organizationally and intellectually astute enough to deal with the member states’ cross-pressures regarding the reform agenda at both the UN and in development policy. Furthermore, he understands the necessitas of security: that security issues and logics sometimes intrude on ‘regular’ politics and policies, and that this should be if not always heeded then at least willingly mediated. A UNSG without this insight would leave the organization crippled.

This post is cross-posted at Thanks to Tony Fleming for the invitation to become guest editor at

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Two Lessons for Long War as Politics

The Long War is inherently political in nature. The conditions for the use of force have finally become Clauzewitzian, and the means must therefore be recalibrated. 'Clausewitzian' means here, that war must be understood and dealt with within the context of politics -- or everything else, as Thomas P. M. Barnett puts it in one of his central points -- and not just within the context of war. As mentioned recently, the new terrorism strategy, the NSCT, does not resolve this challenge. Mountainrunner prodded me to blog on the new interrogation standards. Instead of doing so, I'll make a brief reflection on this and another news item -- this Haaretz piece on IDF cluster bombs in Lebanon -- as examples of the political nature of the Long War, which leads to a conclusion on operational and strategic consequences.

An interesting starting point is Bush's speech of the importance of the war on terror. For a fine analysis of the instinctive and wrong left and right reactions to the basic challenge see Barnett's great post. The speech is interesting here not so much for what he said but for the reasons why he did so. The domestic political logic of the approaching mid-terms is merely a backdrop to (even if it provoked) his speech: Any war fought by a democracy that lasts more than a week is dependent on the good-will of the populace, of its accept of the means used for the ends sought. This equation depends on the larger, more abstract contract between leaders and population. Since the end of the cold war, (especially the Rest of) the West has seen an increase in the willingness among the populations to allow the political leaders to use force.

This increase rests on two important foundations: First, the moral arguments of humanitarian and security driven interventions where the use of force is not merely for self-defensive purposes, but also to the overall benefit of the local populations -- and therefore directed at military and regime targets exclusively. Second, the perceived growth in precision guided ammunition and general military theater dominance has established a contract which builds on the first point in the sense that the means allow for the distinction between civilians and military targets.

But along with this general growth in public acceptance of use of force has come another deep trend. This deep trend is a reaction to the general theatre dominance, first exemplified in the first Gulf War; and consists in a strategic and tactical adaptation of the adversaries towards guerilla and insurgency warfare.

Both the interrogation debate -- and here especially the CIA exception to the new standards -- and the Israeli decision to use the blunt MRLS cluster bombing tactic fly in the face of the political challenge of the Long War. It does so on two fronts: the home front and in the field. It is not possible to uphold the domestic contract between leaders and population of benevolent use of force if significant parts of what we do is exempt from those very standards we propose to bring forth. In the field, the political nature of the use of force in the Long War means that it is equated with counterinsurgency: operations, whether in terms of stabilization including rooting out complete spoilers or reconstruction of political and economic sectors, must be perceived as communication. Abu Ghraib and the IDF choice to leave behind a very large number of unexploded munitions after the firing has ceased are two examples of not getting this fundamental truth.

We therefore face two tasks : political and military leaders need to understand the conditions or rules of the Long War -- but Western publics also need to understand the inherent messiness of use of force. In the field, we must strive to follow our convictions and standards even in the face of an enemy that doesn't comply to these. Public scrutiny and indignation in case of non-compliance have a positive political function here -- and it should be welcomed and addressed. But public scrutiny needs to be coupled with a modified contract between leaders and populace in the West, based on a better understanding that the use of force will entail deathly mistakes -- and a willingness to spend: it will be costly to comply with both the technology-driven precision-based use of force, and the enlarged agenda of stabilization & reconstruction, which must segue into ambitious development policy for the transition process to post-conflict proper to work.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

The New Terrorism Strategy: Long War Challenge Still Not Resolved

In anticipation of the 5-year mark of 9/11, the Bush administration has unveiled its new National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, while Democrats have unveiled their critique of the accomplishments (New York Times, hat tip to a friend). The CSIS people have their own evalution coming out tomorrow in the shape of a book (link courtesy of Dan Drezner), but the teaser quoted below is available for mere mortals. From the Washington Post, "Bush Warns Of Enduring Terror Threat":
Meanwhile, the bipartisan Center for Strategic and International Studies issued a report saying that although the Bush administration has deprived al-Qaeda of sanctuary in Afghanistan and has prevented more attacks on U.S. soil in the past five years, it has not tracked down bin Laden or created "enduring security in Afghanistan." Moreover, the report said, the administration's attempts at public diplomacy are "undermined by perceived U.S. unilateralism."
Two points: one on the NSCT as example of Long War-policy problems and another, more general, observation about the production of ideas in US foreign policy in light of that policy challenge. First, the NSCT is one -- important -- 'doctrinal' element in the implementation of the Long War concept as a header for the struggle against violent extremism formerly known as the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT). The NSCT illustrates these challenges in presenting one long-term goal (spread of Democracy) and four shorter term initiatives (Prevent attacks by terrorist networks; Deny WMD to rogue states and terrorist allies who seek to use them; Deny terrorists the support and sanctuary of rogue states; Deny terrorists control of any nation they would use as a base and launching pad for terror). But these four are complimentary rather then essential to the first:
The long-term solution for winning the War on Terror is the advancement of freedom and human dignity through effective democracy. Elections are the most visible sign of a free society and can play a critical role in advancing effective democracy. But elections alone are not enough. Effective democracies honor and uphold basic human rights, including freedom of religion, conscience, speech, assembly, association, and press. They are responsive to their citizens, submitting to the will of the people. Effective democracies exercise effective sovereignty and maintain order within their own borders, address causes of conflict peacefully, protect independent and impartial systems of justice, punish crime, embrace the rule of law, and resist corruption. Effective democracies also limit the reach of government, protecting the institutions of civil society. In effective democracies, freedom is indivisible. They are the long-term antidote to the ideology of terrorism today. This is the battle of ideas. (...)

The strategy to counter the lies behind the terrorists’ ideology and deny them future recruits must empower the very people the terrorists most want to exploit: the faithful followers of Islam. We will continue to support political reforms that empower peaceful Muslims to practice and interpret their faith. We will work to undermine the ideological underpinnings of violent Islamic extremism and gain the support of non-violent Muslims around the world. The most vital work will be done within the Islamic world itself, and Jordan, Morocco, and Indonesia, among others, have begun to make important strides in this effort. Responsible Islamic leaders need to denounce an ideology that distorts and exploits Islam to justify the murder of innocent people and defiles a proud religion.
This is either pretty fluffy or strangely selective stuff. It doesn't even amount to what it probably would like to be: an indirect call for an Islamic Reform (that would bring with it a, less related, set of problems). Taking the NSCT in its context, the change from GWOT to Long War implies a change from military means to political means (or at least, to employing military means within a more clearly politically directed context and as such for political ends). In military terms, implementing this change means higher emphasis on counterinsurgency and other politically aware military operations types, as exemplified in the 2006 Quadrennial Defense Review.

Because the goals are fundamentally political, the Long War must necessarily also be more political in the means than in the GWOT framework. Meeting the Long War challenge means embracing the convergence of Security and Development, and understanding that not only is the latter probably a cost-effective way of achieving the first: it may also be the only way. The discrepancy in the NSCT between the short term initiatives and the long-term goals is not surprising -- but it needs to be resolved for the Long War not to be a mere continuation of the GWOT. The CSIS people take stock in their brief document of the U.S. strategy and capabilities for "winning the Long War":
Established principle of sovereign accountability (no “safe harbor”) for terrorists
Renewed DoD emphasis on counterterrorism and irregular warfare
Increased Special Operations Forces capabilities, cultural awareness, linguists
Raised priority for building foreign capacity
Created State Department Office for Reconstruction and Stabilization

Continuing Challenges
No grand strategy or interagency concept of operations for the “long war”
Overemphasis on use of military, creating substantial strains on forces
Insufficient deployable operational capacity in civilian agencies
No master plan to coordinate “soft power” programs
Chronically weak interagency coordination, planning, and operations
The CSIS challenges list is sound: an interagency concept is needed, but without resolving the underlying tension between Pentagon and the rest of the agencies, most notably State, about who should be responsible for what and have the necessary means to carry it out. Since this includes finding the political will to fund a substantial enlargement of civilian deployable capabilities -- the interagency concept looks like a difficult thing to write. Of course the recent Pentagon re-evaluation of the central status of inter-agency capacities is a step on the way (see: Pentagon Ups Inter Agency Capability) -- just like the NSPD44 is the basic stepping stone for all further developments as it gives State ultimate responsibility for stabilization and reconstruction. Tom Barnett's vision for a Department for Everything Else, including the S&R bit, and thus gathering the nation-building elements (or SysAdmin, as he calls them) from the Pentagon and State, is radical but a logical solution to the fundamental strategic challenge. We may be heading in that direction but the civilian side deployment capabilities issue is crucial for it to happen.

Second, the NSCT exemplifies that the civilian side needs to learn from the military in terms of defining strategies proper. The NSCT is a good example of the actual development of the aggregate US foreign/security policy strategy hierarchy. In principle, this goes from the abstract, general description of threats and responses and means -- the NSS -- over sector designated descriptions -- the National Military Strategy, the National Strategy for Combating Terrorism, the Homeland Security Strategy, etc. -- to even more specialized levels including operations doctrines until the level of field manuals. Maintaining this system logically congruent would mean changing the NSS first always, then subsequently the rest.

In reality, however, the different documents are updated less dependently. Different departments are in touch with different parts of an evolving situation and react with different speeds. In a way, this is a characteristic of a soundly working system of strategies: the concept of identifying a wished-for end-state, with means and ends allows for a clearer evaluation of changing effects of threats and reactions, and therefore visible and -- in principle -- accountable changes in a coherent policy.

But, as all of the important changes in this non-hierchical way have come from the military circuit -- for logical reasons as the military have met and meets the concrete challenges of first the GWOT and then the LW. But this is a problem for effectively resolving the LW challenge: the military knowledge production circuit has little institutional incentive to think much beyond the confines of military operations. The gap of the NSCT therefore demonstrates the need for 'civilian' academics and policy people to engage with the practical task of filling the strategy gap of the NSCT -- but in a way that is not too 'civilian', so that the result becomes something to implement in practice. The civilians' dare: come up with a strategy that can fulfill the political task of the Long War in strengthening democratic statehood in the long term while addressing the immediate and medium term challenges.