Tag: military (Page 1 of 2)

The Implications of 5,000 troops to Colombia

The following is a guest post by Carla Martinez Machain, Michael Allen, Michael E. Flynn, and Andrew Stravers.

One week ago, National Security Adviser John Bolton appeared at a White House briefing holding a note pad with the phrase “5,000 troops to Colombia” written on it. This occurred in the context of rising tensions between the U.S. and the Maduro government in Venezuela after the U.S. recognized opposition leader Juan Guaidó as the legitimate leader of Venezuela. Since then, there has been much speculation about how likely a deployment is to happen and what it means for the possibility of a US intervention in Venezuela. Of note, Congress currently limits the U.S. presence in Colombia to 800 military personnel (and 600 contractors).

A potential deployment of this size has serious implications for US relations with Colombia, Venezuela, and the Latin American region as a whole. In particular, it can affect how populations perceive the U.S. government and its military. What does current research on the effects of U.S. deployments tell us about how such a move would affect public opinion of the U.S. in Latin America?

U.S. Military Deployments in Latin America

This past summer, our research team traveled to Central and South America to interview local government officials, U.S. embassy officials, and local members of civil society on how a U.S. military presence affects views of the U.S. in host countries. During these interviews, locals repeatedly reported a perception that the U.S. had plans to deploy troops to friendly countries in the region in order to launch an intervention in Venezuela. For example, interview subjects at the U.S. embassy in Panama told us that whenever U.S. troops deploy to Panama for training exercises, there are reports in the local press about Americans going to Panama to establish a base to spy on Venezuela and to prepare for an invasion. Another subject, a Panamanian journalist, confirmed this view.

Some embassy personnel noted that this was not necessarily a bad thing, as it could potentially place pressure on Venezuela to democratize. Given that this view was already prevalent in diplomatic circles last year, it is even harder to believe that Bolton’s “mistake” was an accident. Such a moment could serve as another (less subtle) form of pressure on the Maduro regime.

As shown by the figure above, since the 1990s Colombia has had a history of hosting US troop deployments, many of them as part of Plan Colombia. At the same time, these numbers never approximated the size of the deployment that Bolton may have been considering. At the peak of the U.S. military presence, in the year 2000, there were 225 active duty US troops deployed to Colombia (this number does not include military contractors or other DOD personnel who have been present in support of the troops). As of the most recent reports from the U.S. Department of Defense (September 2018), there are currently 64 active duty US military personnel deployed to Colombia. A 5,000 deployment of military personnel would be a substantial increase over historical numbers.

Implications for Perceptions of the US in the Region

Latin America is a region that traditionally has had positive perceptions of the U.S. At the same time, the United States’ previous military interventions in the region as part of its drug wars and counterinsurgency operations have also bred suspicion about U.S. interventionism. As part of our research project, we conducted a 14,000 person survey across 14 countries that have had large peacetime U.S. troop deployments. Our results show that all else being equal, having direct contact with a member of the U.S. military actually leads to more positive perceptions of the U.S. military and of the American people as a whole. This implies that a military presence in and of itself will not necessarily lead to negative views on the U.S. Of course, the context of the deployment would matter as well.

A large U.S. deployment to Colombia could easily play into the hands of many leftist groups throughout the region and perpetuate ideas that U.S. humanitarian assistance and military exercises (such as medical care provided in November 2018 by the US navy hospital ship USNS Comfort to Venezuelan refugees in Colombia) have ulterior motives. Additionally, criminal behavior by military personnel can become national news stories and feed anti-US sentiment.  Our past research shows that humanitarian assistance provided by the U.S. military is correlated with greater trust in the U.S. government and military . If leftist groups are indeed able to link these deployments with interventionism, that trust could be eroded.

Some may argue that a greater U.S. military presence in the region could prevent future human rights violations by Latin American government.  After all, even Colombia, often held up by the U.S. as a counterinsurgency success story, has experienced human rights violations in heavy-handed counterinsurgency operations by the military. Existing work has shown that in some cases, U.S. troop deployments are correlated with greater respect for human rights. Yet, this is true only in areas that are of low security salience for the United States. Given the high security interest that the U.S. has in Colombia, both because of counterdrug operations and because of its proximity to Venezuela’s leftist government, a large deployment would be unlikely to lead to improved respect for human rights in the region.

Recent talk from Bolton about the benefits of opening Venezuelan oil to U.S. companies did little to contradict narratives of renewed U.S. interventionism in Latin America, and signaling U.S. intentions to send more military forces to the region also makes the suspicion seem more plausible. While pressuring the Maduro regime through these signals may have the intended effect in Venezuela, it would be wise for the Trump administration to take these more region-wide political dynamics into account, if its goal is to diminish Maduro-style forces throughout the whole of Central and South America.

This material is based upon work supported by, or in part by, the U.S. Army Research Laboratory and the U.S. Army Research Office under grant number W911NF-18-1-0087.


Words Mean Things: The Beginnings of De-Gendering Democratic Citizenship

This is a guest post by Kyleanne Hunter, PhD Student and Research Fellow at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver

Yesterday it was discovered that Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus has ordered the Marine Corps to both integrate their enlisted training and to create gender-neutral job titles.  This news comes on the heels of a passionate battle of words surrounding the integration of women into all Military Occupational Specialties (MOS).  This latest victory for those who recognize the value of women’s service is not limited to those in the service.  It is a large step forward for all women in America.

Democratic citizenship has long been tied to military service.[1]  Even as we have moved to an all-volunteer force, the rhetorical power of the citizen-solder has maintained its prominence in political debates.  This power has been instrumental in minority groups gaining full citizenship rights.  Yet there has been one group unable to harness this power – women.  Even as women have made great strides in military service, the hyper-masculinity of military culture and speech has made achieving parity very difficult for women.   While, on paper, in the USA women have equal rights as their male citizen counterparts, the reality is that women remain underrepresented economically, professionally, and politically.  In short, they aren’t able to realize the full benefits of citizenship in a liberal democracy.

While not a complete panacea, the move of opening all MOS’ to women, and requiring gender-neutral job titles is a big step in rectifying some of the challenges to complete citizenship women face.  One of the explanations for male-preference in citizenship can be traced to the positive association between masculinity and military service.[2]  If the best a citizen can be is a soldier, and the best a soldier can be is “manly,” clearly men are our best citizens.  This cognitive heuristic is reinforced by military language: infantry man, fly boy, armor man, “A Few Good Men.”  These words, so engrained in our sociopolitical lexicon that we hardly give them a second thought, have reinforced the patriarchal system of male-privileged citizenship.

It has been argued that removing the formal barriers to women’s service in all aspects of the military, including the Selective Service, is important for fulfilling the social contract between the citizen and the states.  Removing the informal ones is just as important. De-gendering the language of military service is a large step towards changing the culture that has created them.  Sociopolitical rhetoric doesn’t change overnight, but words means things.  By using gender-neutral terms we will begin to recognize the importance of all citizens contributions to our security.  The small act of removing “man” as a qualifier for military jobs as the power to change the citizenship dynamics for half the population.

[1] See: Krebs, Ronald R. Fighting for rights: military service and the politics of citizenship. Cornell University Press, 2006; Morgan, Matthew J. “The reconstruction of culture, citizenship, and military service.” Armed Forces & Society 29.3 (2003): 373-391; Salyer, Lucy E. “Baptism by Fire: Race, Military Service, and US Citizenship Policy, 1918–1935.” The Journal of American History 91.3 (2004): 847-876

[2] See: Arkin, William, and Lynne R. Dobrofsky. “Military socialization and masculinity.” Journal of Social Issues 34.1 (1978): 151-168; Hinojosa, Ramon. “Doing hegemony: Military, men, and constructing a hegemonic masculinity.” The Journal of Men’s Studies 18.2 (2010): 179-194; Snyder, R. Claire. Citizen-Soldiers and Manly Warriors: Military Service and Gender in the Civic Republican Tradition. Rowman & Littlefield, 1999.


*Kyleanne Hunter is currently a PhD Student at the Josef Korbel School of International Studies, University of Denver.  She spent more than a decade as a United States Marine Corps Officer, serving as a AH-1W “Super Cobra” pilot on multiple combat deployments, and the Marine Corps’ Liaison Officer to the House of Representatives. 


Female Service Members Need Easier Access to Abortion, Not a Wider Range of Birth Control

Pregnancy has consistently been treated by the US military as a costly inconvenience, and proof of women’s weak, unreliable and unpredictable bodies. In particular, there are concerns about the exceptionally high rates of unplanned pregnancies amongst service members, and the logistics and costs associated with such pregnancies (research indicated service women may be 50% more likely to have an unplanned pregnancy). In an attempt to address these issues, the current defense policy bill that was passed by the House on Friday includes a provision that would force military clinics and hospitals to carry the full array of contraception methods approved by the Food and Drug Administration.  Regardless of whether the bill passes (it’s not looking good), this birth control provision misses the mark when it comes to addressing pregnancy- and unplanned pregnancy in particular- within the US forces. The elephant in the room in this conversation is the way in which service women’s access to abortion has been whittled away over the past years- to the point at which even those women who are pregnant as a result of rape have difficulty attaining an abortion at a military facility.

But first, let’s get through some facts about military pregnancies. Continue reading


Women’s Integration into Combat Stuck in a Physical Stalemate

Last week 60 Minutes ran a feature called Women in Combat: Cracking the Last All-Male Bastion of the US Military.  The segment, led by David Martin, focused on Marine Infantry Officer training. He finds that, although the Marines are required to integrate women as a result of the removal of the combat exclusion, no women have made it through the rigorous physical training requirements. This re-raises key questions around women in combat:
*Do women have what it takes to serve in combat? and
*Should the military adjust its standards to accommodate women?
Physical standards are- by far- the greatest sticking point when it comes to debates on women in combat. Opponents of gender integration have long argued that the average physical differences between men and women are proof that women are inferior. They also argue that any adjustments in the current physical standards would be tantamount to ‘softening’ ‘diluting’ or weakening the standards and thereby reducing military effectiveness. Focusing on whether women can meet the current physical standards maintains a stalemate in terms of their full integration into the US military and limit the military’s ability to develop standards that reflect modern warfare. There are three reasons for this:

1. Physical standards are out of date and disconnected from the job.
2. Physical standards are not as objective as we think.
3. There are no exclusive combat roles, and therefore no need for exclusive combat physical standards. Let me explain: Continue reading


Once more unto the (climate) breach

I hope she brought her SCUBA gear.

I hope she brought her SCUBA gear.

I just happened upon a Foreign Policy piece from May 6 of this year framing climate change as a ‘Clear and Present Danger’. To summarize, the author argues that Obama’s plans to address climate change are a political non-starter in the US: Republicans are generally more opposed to carbon control policy than ever and the public is out to lunch on the subject. The solution, according to the author, is to invoke national security and get the military—a key Republican constituency—talking about how much climate change imperils national security. As a scholar of international security who does research on climate change (in collaboration with Janelle Knox-Hayes), my interest was immediately piqued.

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Agree with Heinlein’s ‘Citizens vs. Civilians’? then this US Military History is for you


I was asked by a participating member of the H-Diplo/ISSF network to review The American Culture of War. Here is the original link to my review, but it’s off in some far corner of the internet, so I thought I’d repost it here. In brief, I found the book a pretty disturbing rehearsal of right-wing tropes about the military in a democracy, especially from an academic, and there’s no way I’d ever use it with undergrads as Routledge suggests. The underlying moral driver is the ‘chicken hawk’ principle – that those without military experience are not morally qualified to lead DoD and should otherwise defer to uniformed military. At one point the author actually says that, because the US Army ‘distrusts’ Congress, the Army should ‘guide’ Congress. Yikes. Do Americans (and the author) really need to be told civilian authority runs the other way, and that that’s in the Constitution? I find that sort of military elitism democratically terrifying and reflective of the post-9/11 militarization of America that is now the single most important reason, IMO, to end the war on terror.

I would just add the following update to the review: Both the book and review were written before Petraeus’ resignation, but it should come as no surprise that the text lionizes Petraeus. His resignation is therefore a pleasing schadenfreude for the frightening post-9/11 military hero-worship of the US right. Here we go:

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The Aussie Military Redefinig Masculinity Amidst Another Scandal?

The Australian Defence Force (ADF) finds themselves in yet another sex scandal this week. The force has barely recovered from last year’s ‘skype scandal,’ which involved members of a defense force academy videotaping sex without permission and streaming it to other members of the academy. This time it is alleged that officers have videotaped sex with other colleagues and civilian women and distributed the videos via the defence email system. It is a disappointing revelation considering the promises to rid the force of sexism following the scandal last year. If the allegations prove true, it seems that things are getting worse, not better, for women in the ADF. Yet there is a glimmer of hope. The Chief of the Army, Lieutenant General David Morison has come out with a public video statement that shows true courage and has already been hailed as a feminist manifesto. Continue reading


Having your Cake and Eating it Too: US Defense Cuts without Capability Cuts

The Center for a New American Security released a report yesterday entitled “The Seven Deadly Sins of Defense Spending.”[1]  In it, they lay out some very basic (but very fundamental) ways that the DoD can cut costs but “preserve a strong and highly capable U.S. military.”  Many of the suggested cuts seem like something you would see Dunder Mifflin being advised to do: reduce redundancy in IT management, cut pay allowances, increase pharmaceutical cost sharing, etc.

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Does naval success invalidate the need for navies?

Acting was a big part of Battleship.

At Crooked Timber, John Quiggin writes a post that seeks to sink a thousand ships:

The trillions of dollars that have been spent on building, maintaining and scrapping fleets since 1945 has yielded almost zero benefits to the nations that have spent this money, in the belief that all respectable countries should have a navy. China’s carrier is an extreme example. About the best that can be said is that a zero benefit-cost ratio is substantially better than that for military expenditure in general.

Quiggin’s smart, but I’m surprised he overlooks the obvious counterarguments. The first is that the world has only had one full-service navy for the past 70 years, and that the U.S. Navy (ordinarily in conjunction with the navies of subaltern states) has, in fact, been fantastically successful at controlling the global commons, projecting American power, and operating an increasingly important part of the U.S. strategic deterrent. (Late Update: This Robert Farley fellow has more to say.)

The second is that the coming (or, arguably, current) obsolescence of some of the tools that navies employ to meet their governments’ goals has been caused not by those missions’ vanishing but by the rise of better policy substitutes. (If China opts not to pursue hot carrier battle group – on – battle group action with the USN, then that will be more because of a rational choice to switch to other means of ensuring area denial.)

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Military Capabilities: A Revionist Metric

 Phil Arena has been playing around with alternative measures of military power. He begins with the straightforward observation that one current and popular measure of military power, the CINC scores in the Correlates of War project, list the United States as having fallen behind the People’s Republic of China in its military capability. As Phil writes, this is not a conclusion that most, if any, observers of world politics would endorse–and that even if it is true in the broadest sense (that in some total war between the United States and the PRC, the United States might not be able to conquer China) that it is not particularly useful.

Phil lays out the broader points of his critique–namely, that CINC overweights raw materials and does not adjust for quality of militaries–in his post. Using a new measure based on COW data, computed as he describes at his link, he proposes an alternate measure–one I think that the Duck’s readership should at least be aware of. This measure may get closer to the notion of who has the most usable military power at any given point in time. I’ve redone his graphics slightly but the data is all his.

In the first chart, we see the post-World War II relationship among Roosevelt’s “four policemen.” This chart, I think, accords pretty well with our understanding of the period: the United States begins and ends the period as the world’s most powerful military force, but during the Cold War its military potential (in conventional terms) was on par with the Soviets. (I know this point could be debated, and has been, ad nauseam, but it is not prima facie invalid.)

The value of the alternate measure becomes a little clearer when we consider the period 1816 to today.

 Here, we see the long peace of the 19th century reflected in the gradual build-down of European militaries (although note Germany’s relative rise over the late-nineteenth century). We also see, as we would expect, that actual forces-in-being peak in the two world wars (and that the United States, in both cases, emerges as the world’s leading military power–although it dismantles its military quickly after 1919). More important, we note that the leading powers of the 21st century — the United States, China, and Russia — are quite literally not on the map in the 19th (and if Japan were ever to begin behaving as realism says it should, it would join the new quartet). Moreover, eras of multipolarity, bipolarity, and unipolarity are fairly easily identifiable in this chart.

The question of how to measure international capabilities is a tough one, but I tend to think that decomposing military strength and military potential is a useful start. (In the short run, we care a lot about strength; in the long run, we care a lot more about potential.) Since all such measures–even GDP!–are ultimately somewhat arbitrary, it is at least useful to have a debate about what we should include in each. Duck readers, what would you include in your measures of international power?


The Sexual Scandal Factor in Military Policy Making

Do scandals- particularly the kind that receive international attention- inspire progressive gender policies? While there is no conclusive research on this question, there are indicators that sexual violence scandals may be as important as public opinion or operational changes in influencing policy change in the military (perhaps more so).

My prediction– you can quote me on this- is that the current onslaught of sexual violence scandals in the US military will provide the tipping point needed to remove the combat exclusion. Do I think this is the answer to the problem of one in three female service members facing rape during their service? Absolutely not. Will it be a temporary distraction to a widespread systematic problem? Absolutely- just take a look at some earlier cases.  

There is almost no comparative research shedding light on why 14 of the world’s militaries have decided to remove the exclusion. BUT, if you look at each country case by case a startling pattern emerges: major sexual violence scandals rocked many of these countries in the period immediately preceding the removal of the exclusion. For example, New Zealand didn’t officially remove the exclusion until 2001, only a few years after a scathing investigation indicated that 42 sex charges had been laid with the navy within five years. Canada removed the combat exclusion as a result of a Human Rights Tribunal decision in 1989. However, leading up to the decision there were widespread accounts of sexual violence plaguing the services. This culminated in a late 1990s Maclean’s magazine detailed expose on sexual violence, including evidence of multiple rapes at gunpoint and widespread acceptance of sexual harassment. Australia is the latest country to remove the exclusion, making the decision only last September. This policy change came on the heals of the famous “skype scandal,” which saw an Australian Defence Force Academy cadet broadcast, without consent, consensual sex with a fellow cadet. This incident proved to be the tip of the iceberg as evidence of “decades of abuse” continue to come to light in recent reports.

How can one account for an international sex scandal as a contributing factor to major policy changes? What are the implications if some gender policy changes are “shush” policies designed to detract from institutional sexism?

Only time can answer these questions- and tell if my prediction is correct. But with new reports of sexual harassment and violence within the US military emerging almost daily- including headlines declaring “Rape on US bases left unchecked,” and “Why rapists in the military get away with it“- and with the documentary “The Invisible War” drawing international audience’s attention to the problem of rape within the forces, ignoring the problem is no longer an option. Removing the combat exclusion as a distraction from institutionalized and endemic sexual violence would be the right policy for the wrong reason. The problem does not call for adding more women, or allowing women to ‘do more’ within the forces; rather, it requires a change in sexist attitudes and behaviors. This will involve far work than a single policy change. 


Assessing the Arguments Against GI Jane II: Unpacking the Cohesion Hypothesis

In my post last week I talked about the three main arguments against removing the combat exclusion for women: the physical standards argument, the moral argument, and the cohesion hypothesis. My main point was that with increased research on physical standards, the intangibility of the moral argument, and increased evidence that women already are in combat, the cohesion hypothesis remains as the most significant set of arguments against GI Janes.

There are two main premises to the cohesion hypothesis: 1. cohesion is causally linked to group (in this case military unit) performance; 2. women negatively impact cohesion and thereby negatively impact troop effectiveness.

The trouble with these two premises is that they both have been largely discounted by researchers. In her 1998 article on the Don’t Ask Don’t Tell policy in International Security, Elizabeth Kier concludes that “the results from more than five decades of research in group dynamics, organizational behaviour, small-group research, sports psychology, social psychology, military history, and military sociology challenge the proposition that primary group unit cohesion enhances military performance.” Some research even indicates that high levels of cohesion can be detrimental to military performance as it results in conformity, groupthink, and a lack of adaptability. Many of the studies on cohesion and the military find that leadership and task- not social- cohesion have a greater impact on performance than social cohesion.

In terms of the second premise, as mentioned in the last post RAND’s major study on cohesion in 1997 found that women don’t impact group performance or military readiness. Subsequent research has reconfirmed this conclusion.

In addition to shaky (at best) premises, another major problem with the cohesion hypothesis is that it is never clear what exactly is meant by cohesion within the military context. In hopes of finding answers to this puzzle I went on a wild goose chase for cohesion clarity.

Sifting through research on social cohesion in the military I found myself sinking in masses of studies on social cohesion, citizenship and multiculturalism, group dynamics, as well as military studies on cohesion. It turns out that social cohesion is the meaningless catchphrase of the moment (I think it may have even eclipsed ’empowerment’ and ‘deliberative democracy’). Social cohesion has been used to explain the London riots, failed and successful immigration policies, winning sports team dynamics, as well as the need to keep women out of combat roles. Cohesion has also been defined as everything from: shared norms, ‘liking’ one another, commitment to a group, bonding, and trust. So how can one vague concept explain such wide-ranging and disparate policy decisions and social dynamics?

There is little substance to the cohesion hypothesis, almost no empirical evidence supporting it, and even the different forces with the US military seem to define and measure cohesion differently. I certainly don’t have the answer, but it does seem that in most contexts it is employed- especially in discussions of migrant integration, multiculturalism, and the combat exclusion- ‘cohesion’ is a red herring that distracts from attention to deeper issues of discrimination and cultural bias. In the case of the US military, cohesion is a smoke and mirrors debate that will persist until sexist attitudes and gender discrimination are addressed.


Assessing the Arguments Against GI Jane: The Combat Exclusion for Women Part I

As American troops trickle back from Iraq and-eventually- Afghanistan, it seems like the perfect time to examine the lessons learned from the last decade of warfare. One of the policies requiring a review is the combat exclusion for women. Although most positions within the US forces have been opened up to women over the last 50 years, there has been adamant efforts to sustain rules which prohibit women from joining the so-called front lines of conflict in combat roles. Many of the remaining justifications for this exclusion are based on expired research (or no research at all), and outdated or irrelevant assumptions about military operations (including the idea of a clear front line).

First, some quick facts: over 130 women have died in Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom; women are excluded from 9% of all army roles, and 30% of active duty roles and 38% of marine positions are closed to women; two servicewomen have been awarded the Silver Star- the military’s third highest honor for valor in combat.

The arguments for sustaining the exclusion can be divided into three categories: physical standards, the moral argument, and the cohesion hypothesis.

The focus on physical standards is a legitimate one. Women and men are just different physically, particularly in terms of body fat and upper body strength- not to mention the fact that women menstruate and get pregnant. There are no feminist arguments that can undo these differences. There are a couple of worthwhile considerations here: 1. standards have increasingly been adjusted in training to recognize the difference in male and female bodies 2. there is growing research indicating that a single standard isn’t necessary for operational effectiveness 3. some research shows that tasks can be adapted (using two people to lift, for example) to allow women to succeed.

The second argument against women in combat is less tangible and certainly impossible to measure- the moral argument. This is the position that women simply ‘don’t belong’ in combat. It may seem like this would be irrelevant to policy-makers; however, in senate hearings and in much of the literature on the combat exclusion this position emerges. A quote from Gen. Merrill A. McPeak, a former Air Force chief of staff summarizes this position, “I just can’t get over this feeling of old men ordering young women into combat…I have a gut-based hang-up there. And it doesn’t make a lot of sense in every way. I apologize for it.” The moral argument is an important one to take notice of. Research and the interviewee’s response indicate the existence of deeply embedded beliefs about men and women’s valid place during conflict. In many ways it is difficult to disentangle the moral argument from the physical standards and the cohesion hypothesis as these embedded beliefs seem to inform and influence much of the debates surrounding women’s participation in combat.

The final, and perhaps most significant, argument for keeping women out of combat roles is the cohesion argument. Or, what I call the cohesion hypothesis. According to this position, the presence of women affects the emotional bonds, friendships, and trust amongst troops and therefore jeopardizes the overall effectiveness of military units. The cohesion hypothesis is used by other defense forces across the world, and was also used to support Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. There are a couple of difficulties with the cohesion hypothesis: 1. cohesion is difficult to define and measure. In military scholarship it is defined as anything from commitment to a shared mission, trust, bonds, to ‘liking’ one another. As a result, it has become nearly impossible to test the cohesion hypothesis conclusively. 2. partially as a result of disparate definitions and partially as a result of the lack of test population, research on cohesion is all over the map when it comes to combat cohesion women.

RAND did a large study on women’s impact on cohesion in non-combat units, concluding that it was largely leadership, not the presence of women, that impacted cohesion. Despite some research indicating that women don’t spoil cohesion, it is impossible to conclusively determine if women would spoil cohesion in combat units. As the 1992 Presidential Commission looking at women in military found, “[t]here are no authoritative military studies of mixed-gender ground combat cohesion, since available cohesion research has been conducted among male-only ground combat units.”

The arguments against so-called GI Janes seem to defy the reality that women have been and are operating in dangerous, physically demanding roles in the US forces. Arguments about cohesion and standards were used to exclude African Americans and homosexuals from the US forces. These arguments were dropped and largely discredited as soon as policies changed, yet they continue to be used to exclude women from many positions with the US forces. Is the US military ready to open all positions to women? Will the removal of the combat exclusion be on the table for policy makers over the next 5 years?


The 2003 Iraq War will not be forgotten

The killing of Osama bin Laden allows political leaders to further disentangle Iraq, Afghanistan and the whole war on terror concept; to wind down some operations and refocus others; to bring some stories to light and push others aside, to be forgotten. But how do those who served in these wars feel about this? In today’s New York Times Captain Shannon P. Meehan, a US veteran of the 2003 Iraq War, published a powerful statement of alienation on this matter. Meehan felt no closure on hearing of bin Laden’s death. It only brought a sense of distance and disconnection. It reminded him he had been part of the bad war, the war whose meaning is already settled in what he calls the ‘shifting public memory of war’. And he must live with the severe injuries he suffered regardless. He writes: 

So, as much as I want to feel a part of this moment, to feel some sense that I contributed to it, I do not. As a veteran of the Iraq war, I do not feel entitled to any sort of meaningful connection to this achievement. Years of political and public criticism of the Iraq war has pushed me to believe that I did not fight terror, but rather a phantom.
With all the physical, mental and emotional pains I still have, I feel like a dying man who fought in a dying war, and that my body braces and hearing aids serve as a reminder that my greatest “achievement” in life will be remembered as a mistake.
This same week the last British male veteran of WW1 died. Claude Choules, who went on to spend most of his life in Australia, also seemed to remember his war with critical distance. In its public notice of Choules’ death, the UK Ministry of Defence noted, ‘Despite his impressive military career, Mr Choules became a pacifist. He was known to have disagreed with the celebration of Australia’s most important war memorial holiday, Anzac Day, and refused to march in the annual commemoration parades.’ Although WW1 is settled in public memory as the ‘Great War’, Choules resisted this interpretation. What is interesting, today, is that Meehan is publicly reflecting on such a settled narrative. His challenging article is in mainstream media and being spread through social media. Choules had no such opportunity in his day. The new media ecology seems to accelerate both the creation and the contestation of war memory.
But memory is not just about media. Meehan draws attention to his physical pain, to injuries that remind him daily of the Iraq War. In Diffused War Andrew Hoskins and I explored Jay Winter’s concept of ‘embodied memory’ as something that is shared by the body of the sufferer and the gaze of the onlooker. If we have an obligation to remember, we must also look at veterans’ bodies and not just war films, news photos and milblogs. War memory is inscribed on bodies, and there are a lot of bodies from Iraq.
The killing of bin Laden and drawing back from Iraq won’t make the Iraq War disappear. The US and its allies will have to decide how they want to remember it, what memorials will be built, and how to deal with the ambiguities and divisions within the shifting public memory of the war.

Guest Post: What way will the guns point in the Middle East?

Building on Dan’s observation this past week, Theo McLauchlin is a PhD student at McGill University offers us some insights on the role of the military in the various Arab revolutions we’re witnessing. He works in the area of military defections and civil wars.

Which Middle Eastern regimes seem liable to fall? That’s a popular question these days, and an important answer, as Dan Nexon points out, is that it depends on each country’s armed forces. But what they are likely to do is something most people don’t seem inclined to speculate about. That caution is warranted, as I’ll argue below. But what can we say? What ideas do we have at our disposal for thinking through what militaries will do?

One important factor might be professionalization. Lucan Way notes that in comparison with the rest of the Middle East, Tunisia and Egypt seemed to have relatively professional, depoliticized armed forces, able and willing therefore to act in concert to say “enough”. The regimes lacked the “coup-proofing” techniques that, according to a quite extensive literature, have helped prop up authoritarian regimes across the Middle East. You promote your friends, marginalize your adversaries, and don’t trust anyone too much. Multiple different internal security agencies, for example, keep an eye both on officers and on each other. If an officer is plotting a coup, he stands an awfully good chance of being reported by someone else eager to curry the dictator’s favour. These techniques really do seem effective at preventing coups.

Despite some confusion about how to think about Egypt–John Barry and Christopher Dickey argue that it was in spite of Mubarak’s coup-proofing that he fell, not because he didn’t do it enough–there’s a lot going for this approach. But it shouldn’t be taken too far. It is not as though heavily politicized armies have a great overall track record of defending regimes. For example, in comparing China in 1989 to Indonesia in 1998, Terrence Lee finds quite the opposite: China’s more professional army stood by its regime while Indonesia’s more heavily politicized armed forces fell apart.

Lee makes the point that coup-proofing isn’t necessarily meant to deal with massive popular uprisings. The threat of punishment for defection depends on the willingness of others to inflict it. It’s rational for an officer do the regime’s bidding as long as, but only as long as, he expects the regime to survive. When officers have good reason to believe that the regime will fall, they have heavy incentives to make sure they’re not backing a losing horse. And popular uprisings can throw a previously stable expectation out the window. As I argued in a paper last year, an external rebellion can provoke a cascade effect within the military. Timur Kuran’s insights about the tipping point in Eastern Europe in 1989 can apply to armed forces too. This is how it’s possible for officers and soldiers to defect from a dictator despite fearsome coup-proofing systems.

The trouble for the analyst is, as Kuran argued, that this implies that prediction is extremely difficult if not impossible. Everyone has a strong incentive to keep their preferences and their likely actions a secret–from the dictator and, necessarily, from us.

But in my paper I also tried to develop some limits to these revolutionary cascades. In particular, some regimes are governed by minority groups that are given heavy preference–especially within the military. Jordan, Syria and Bahrain are important examples. This means that opposition tends to rally among out-groups–and, in consequence, the loyalty of the in-group gets reinforced. Essentially, over time, a stable expectation can develop, associating some groups with the regime and others with the opposition. In rebellions, they have little other choice than to stick with the regime. An East Bank officer in Jordan in 1970 was not likely to do well out of a PLO victory, nor an Alawi officer in Syria in 1982 from a Muslim Brotherhood victory. Palestinian and Sunni officers, respectively, were more likely to defect. While this makes regimes vulnerable to out-group opposition, it can be a perverse strength, because it gives regimes a relatively stable core of support to count on. You get a core of strong support at the cost of encouraging continuous, low-level unrest. It’s loyalty on the cheap.

One interesting consequence of this approach is that the regimes that look the least stable–Jordan in 1970, Syria in the late 1970s–can have a better chance of surviving a rebellion than regimes that look lots more solid, like Iran’s before 1978.

Is all this any help in understanding the Middle East today? It suggests attention not so much to professionalism vs. non-professionalism, but rather to how much of the army is closely identified with the regime. The answer in Egypt, by all accounts, is: not much. This helps explain why basically none of its army was willing to defend Mubarak to the hilt, unlike in Libya. It also helps explain why the army’s command had the flexibility to declare, early on, that they would not fire on unarmed protesters. They were able thereby to keep their own credibility with the opposition. And, given that many soldiers looked likely to disobey such an order, it’s unclear that the regime would have lasted anyway, even if the top brass had tried to crack down.

In Libya, more of the armed forces seems closely identified with the regime. More have therefore stayed with Gaddafi, with bloody consequences. Part of this has to do with Libya’s now-famous tribal divides. According to Hanspeter Mattes , Gaddafi’s own Gadhadhfa tribe, along with the Warfalla and Maqarha, have dominated the armed forces. However, both the Warfalla and the Maqarha have had a chequered history with the regime; Warfalla officers rebelled against Gaddafi in 1993 and picked up the support of some Maqarha officers (see this free but gated article). The Warfalla and Maqarha tribes have defected. I suspect, as do others, that the Gadhadhfa tribe will stick with the regime out of fear of what happens if they don’t. In this context I note that Gaddafi’s resort to bombing civilians might not just be because he is horrible and callous (though of course it has a lot to do with that, too). It may also have something to do with his tribe’s dominance in the air force. It reminds me that Hafez al-Assad used the Alawi-dominated air force and artillery at Hama in 1982 to awful effect. That is not a pleasant thought.

I could well be wrong, and I hope I am: one of the pilots who deliberately crashed his plane rather than bomb civilians was a Gadhadhfa tribe member.

More broadly, communal politics should provide a bulwark to the regimes in Syria, Jordan, and Bahrain. It’s in the latter where the protests are strongest at the moment. And there, the opposition has attempted to cut across the Sunni/Shi’ite divide, but the regime seems to know where its strengths are: it’s been specifically targeting Sunni protest leaders. (I’m not sure this applies to Yemen’s north/south divide; the fact that the south seems to aim at secession rather than a government takeover suggests it’s not so easy to blame for protests in Sana’a.) Every regime tries to delegitimize its opposition, with Gaddafi’s Bin Laden conspiracy theory only the most absurd attempt so far. In Bahrain, the regime has more to work with.

My approach fully accepts the extreme difficulty of making predictions where there aren’t communal divides. I don’t think either Tunisia or Egypt (or Algeria, or Morocco, or Saudi Arabia) was really a foregone conclusion. We can try to understand both in retrospect, but I don’t claim that we could have predicted the fall of either regime terribly easily. It is still just as amazing as it ever was.


The Anglo-French Treaty and the BBC World Service: Hard Power irrelevance and a threat to the Soft Power of the UK and the West.

On Tuesday of this week, amid much pomp and fanfare (and a certain amount of suppressed hilarity) an Anglo-French Treaty was signed, providing for 50 years (no, really, 50 years) of defence co-operation. I’ve posted on this at the LSE blog here and haven’t much to add – basically there is less to this than meets the eye.  Meanwhile, back in the real world, a little noticed policy poses a genuine threat to one of the major sources of British ‘soft’ power, the BBC World Service.  As part of a wider deal on the funding of the BBC, funding for the Service is to be shifted from a grant from the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) to the BBC itself.  A Good Thing you might think, escaping from political control to the independent BBC? If so you would be very, very wrong. This is a disaster in the making.
Although obliged to fund it, the FCO exercises no control over the World Service which has operated in practice as a body independent of both the Government and the BBC.  Now it will become part of the latter. Many foreigners think of the BBC as the source of quality news and documentaries, and boring ‘heritage’ costume dramas (sorry, that was editorialising). This is true, but it is also true that the BBC is a ruthlessly competitive organisation, continually searching for ratings success and seeking to sell its programmes abroad. The loss-making elements of the BBC are continually under pressure; domestic loss makers, such as the serious music and culture channel Radio 3, have a certain amount of protection because they have a vociferous and articulate middle-class audience who give the BBC a bad time whenever cuts are threatened.  In spite of the assurances on continued funding that have been given, I doubt very much whether the World Service – and especially its foreign language broadcasts – will, in practice, have the same kind of protection.  They cost money and their audience doesn’t have a vote or much of a voice in Britain.
It is significant that virtually no British politician has expressed concern at the fate of the World Service – but Hillary Clinton has.  She, and the State Department in general, are well aware that the BBC World Service is an important asset not simply for Britain but for the West in general; when Barack Obama wanted to talk directly to the Iranian  people he used the BBC’s Farsi service because of its loyal audience in Iran, based on the reputation for integrity it has earned over the years with the Iranian people. Let’s hope it is still there in five years time.

(Air) Forced Out

SecDef Gates fired both the military and civilian head of the Air Force yesterday. The official reason was the release of a report on the mis-handling of nuclear weapons, though Danger Room suggests that this was merely the culmination of a number of issues that left Gates rather upset with the Air Force. (blog link round up of additional good coverage: here, here, and here).

This is a rather big deal. As a number of observers have pointed out, this is the first time that both the military and civilian head of an armed service have been sacked at the same time. It sends a very strong signal to not just the USAF, but to the entire military–get with the program or get out. There are two ways to get people’s attention in the Pentagon: threaten their budget or threaten their careers. Military and civilian leaders are very protective of budgets, weapons systems, and programs. Military leaders are also very protective of their careers, paying careful attention to who gets promoted and what it takes to get promoted. The Bush Administration might have formally entered Lame Duck status once Barak Obama won the nomination and the General Election started in earnest, but Gates isn’t backing down one iota from his plan to bring the Pentagon in line (his line).

The Air Force has had a rough go of late. LGM’s Rob Farley has written extensively on the problem that is today’s USAF. Even Gates has been critical, telling the service’s top leaders to get more involved in fighting the wars of today and to stop pining for fancy planes to fight the wannabe-wars of tomorrow. The nation is at war, military budgets are at record highs, and they are often left standing on the side-lines. The F-22, their centerpiece system, has, to paraphrase the SecDef, next to no role in the wars in Iraq or Afghanistan. The things that have the most value–planes like the A-10, missions like close air support, and innovations like UAV’s–are just the things that the Air Force, as an institution, likes least. Not to mention all the other recent scandals that have brought the service unwanted attention (and are amply mentioned in the coverage of the firings).

None of this is to say that the AF is irrelevant. Indeed, its a central factor in American global military hegemony, though the most important parts are perhaps the least sexy. Lots of countries have half-way decent fighter planes, but none have the global logistical lift, mid-air refueling, surveillance, and electronic communication capability that the USAF provides the US armed forces. Its an incredible thing, and yet, its not something that the Air Force itself celebrates. Strategic nuclear forces and fighter planes produce Air Force leaders and doctrines. Or at least they did–the head of TRANSCOM is rumored to be in the running to succeed the now former chief of staff. That would be a very powerful signal indeed.


SecDef to Military: Buy weapons you can use

In a clear case of what would be called stating the obvious if it were said by the leader of any other organization other than the Pentagon,

Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates issued a clear warning to the military and its industrial partners on Tuesday that expensive, new conventional weapons must prove their value to current conflicts, marked by insurgency and terrorism, if they hope for a place in future budgets.

because the headline “Gates Wants Weapons Useful in Current Conflicts” sure sounds obvious to me.

More Gates:

“I have noticed too much of a tendency towards what might be called ‘Next-War-itis’ — the propensity of much of the defense establishment to be in favor of what might be needed in a future conflict…. Overall, the kinds of capabilities we will most likely need in the years ahead will often resemble the kinds of capabilities we need today.”

Its hard to miss the clear reference to mega-programs like the F-22–billions of dollars for a next-generation air superiority fighter that is all but useless in the conflicts like Iraq, Afghanistan, or the whole GWOT (honorable mention might also be the Army’s FCS or any number of Navy ships).

Rob at LGM has done some excellent posting on recent Air Force tomfoolery. As Rob has documented, this is not the first time Gates has called out the services on spending and mission priorities.

I think, though, two elements of the speech and NYT report are notable above and beyond the trends Rob has pointed out.

1. Gates’ neologism of “Next-War-itis.” The military has long used the fear / threat of a future war with a peer competitor (read China–for an example, see here) to justify weapons acquisitions programs. This new rhetorical commonplace (dap to ptj) opens a space to challenge that narrative (by ridicule) and legitimate a different set of policies, programs, and budget priorities. Buying the FCS or F-22 is ‘Next-War-itis’ while the MRAP or a Predator is the weapon we need today and will probably need tomorrow as well.

2. The lead of the article notes that Gates was speaking to “the military and its industrial partners.” As is well known, the services are supported by a fantastic lobbying organization known as the Military Industrial Complex. While the Army or Air Force can’t officially lobby Congress to insert yet another plane or tank into the budget that wasn’t requested, the military contractors have no problem making that case. Any reform in military acquisitions will necessarily involve dealing with those who build the stuff, and Gates is letting them know that they too are On Notice.

As a friend of mine might say, you wonder if a Democrat could get away with saying these things….


Iraq as Shakespearean Tragedy

How many ways, how many times, can one say that the US is @#$*&% in Iraq?

Today, two of the better military correspondents following Iraq (each with a must-read book on Iraq) dispense key insights as to how problematic Iraq is for the United States.

Michael Gordon in the NYT reports that:

The top American military commander for the Middle East has warned Iraq’s prime minister in a closed-door conversation that the Iraqi government needs to make tangible political progress by next month to counter the growing tide of opposition to the war in Congress.
In a Sunday afternoon discussion that mixed gentle coaxing with a sober appraisal of politics in Baghdad and Washington, the commander, Adm. William J. Fallon, told Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki that the Iraqi government should aim to complete a law on the division of oil proceeds by next month.
The admiral’s appeal, which was made in the presence of Ryan C. Crocker, the American ambassador to Iraq, a senior political adviser to the command and this reporter, elicited an assurance from Mr. Maliki that he hoped to make some progress over the coming weeks. But he also offered a lengthy account of all the tribulations facing the Iraqi government, including tenuous security, distrustful neighboring Sunni states and a complex legal agenda.

The US, now driven by domestic politics opposing the war, wants yet another quick fix to the problem of governing Iraq. Time and again, the US has pushed for institutions, events, and milestones hoping that the country would catch up to its ‘leaders’ while ignoring the large-scale political processes necessary to legitimate such institutions of government that allow them to function. Gordon’s pearl of wisdom:

At times, the two sides appeared to be operating on two different clocks. While Admiral Fallon emphasized the urgency of demonstrating results, Mr. Maliki cast the political process as a long journey from dictatorship to democracy.

Therein lies the rub. We need a quick fix for Iraq, but there is nothing quick about fixing things in Iraq. The US is part of the problem, and yet, the US leaving is also part of the problem. Staying allows the Iraqi government to put off the really tough choices it needs to make about how it will govern and who will be part of the governing coalition. Leaving opens the door for a whole host of political factions to vie for power in what could easily devolve into a civil war. Damned if you do, damned if you don’t. Hell of a way to run a war.

Tom Ricks dispensed his wisdom in one of the Washington Post’s regular on-line chats about Iraq, Q & A style (with me paraphrasing the longer Q’s, but his answers in full). His central insight:

I think the beginning of wisdom on Iraq is to understand there are no good answers available. So the question is, What is the least bad answer?

Question: Is there a way to get out without making things worse?

That is very much the vibe that I picked up in Baghdad in recent weeks–that there are different ways of getting out, or reducing the US military presence, and that we could do it in ways that intensify the violence, or we might be able to do it in ways that lessen the violence, and that we should starting thinking through these courses of action.

As one officer put it to me, “Just because we invaded Iraq thoughtlessly doesn’t mean we should leave it that way.”

Question: Does that mean we we’re in for another 18 months, until Bush is out of office?

18 months? That’s optimistic. In my view, this is a Shakespearean tragedy. His works had five acts, and I think we are only in Act III.

When I was writing ‘Fiasco’ I’d sometimes look out the window at about 3:30 in the afternoon and see a group of kindergarteners being led from the elementary school down the street to a nearby day care center. On my pessimistic days (most of them), I’d think, “One of those kids is going to fight and die in Iraq.”

I do think that is a possibility. I don’t like it. But I think that Iraq is a tougher problem for the US government, and people, than the Vietnam War was. We could walk away from that one. Yes, it was awful if you were Cambodian, or a Vietnamese who had cast your lot with the Americans. But the United States as a nation could pretty much wash its hands of Vietnam. I don’t think it will be as easy to walk away from Iraq.

It is too bad we didn’t have this conversation in the summer and fall of 2002, huh?

Question: So will Iraq ever be able to govern / secure itself?

This question gives me a headache. That doesn’t mean it is a bad question, it is just that it points to how damn difficult the Iraq situation yes.

No, there is no guarantee that Iraqi security forces will be competent–or even-handed. Again, that is another reason US planners are thinking about a “post-occupation” presence, because Sunni leaders might ask for such a force to guarantee that Shiite-dominated Iraqi army and police forces don’t attack them. But just how do we guarantee that? Do we attack the Iraqi government? Do we post soldiers to protect Sunni enclaves?

I think the fingers-crossed answer we will get from American officials is that political accommodation should ease the security situation, and so lessen the need for US intervention. But that’s a hope, not a plan.

Iraq doesn’t seem to get any easier, does it?

Too bad there are no candidates from Hope running in this election (sorry, bad pun!).

Here’s the heart of the matter– for all those on the far left or far right who think the the ‘only way’ to go in Iraq is to either get out now or stay the course (it doesn’t matter which)–its high time to recognize that neither is much of a solution–its “a hope, not a plan.” Unfortunately, trying to sell a bad anwer to Iraq is a sure loser in any election, which is why no one wants to do it. But its pretty clear that we have painted ourselves into a corner from which there is no easy way out. The honest answer is to admit as much.


Have fun storming the castle…

The Senate held hearings the other day to confirm Lt. General Douglas Lute to be President Bush’s “War Czar”– a special assistant to the President directly overseeing the war in Iraq and Afghanistan.* Remember, this is the job that 3 or 4 (to our knowledge) retired Generals turned down. Lute, on active duty in the Army, could hardly say no.

I wonder– how on earth is he going to be able to do anything in this job? In the report on his confirmation hearing, Lute offered a “dour assessment” of Iraq:

President Bush’s nominee to be war czar said yesterday that conditions in Iraq have not improved significantly despite the influx of U.S. troops in recent months and predicted that, absent major political reform, violence will continue to rage over the next year.

Lt. Gen. Douglas E. Lute, tapped by Bush to serve as a new high-powered White House coordinator of the war, told senators at a confirmation hearing that Iraqi factions “have shown so far very little progress” toward the reconciliation necessary to stem the bloodshed. If that does not change, he said, “we’re not likely to see much difference in the security situation” a year from now.

As the president’s point man on Iraq, Lute would be charged with helping to ensure that Iraqis can achieve those goals. But he expressed doubt about whether the Iraqis have the ability to change and whether the United States has the ability to force them to do so. “I have reservations about just how much leverage we can apply on a system that is not very capable right now,” he said.

Reservations. But look where’s he’s going to work! If they have reservations, they’re for a different restaurant.


In our briefings in Iraq in these last few days, General Petraeus underscored the fact that the enemy tactics are barbaric … that we can expect more violence as they try to destroy the hopes of the Iraqi people. But they told me as well of the progress that’s been made in fighting al-Qaeda terrorists, seizing weapons, and getting actionable intelligence. The job now is to persevere in every area of operations – from Baghdad, to Anbar Province, to the border areas. And I think General Petraeus’s own words put it best: “We cannot allow mass murderers to hold the initiative. We must strike them relentlessly. We and our Iraqi partners must set the terms of the struggle, not our enemies. And together we must prevail.”

Cheney again:

THE VICE PRESIDENT: Well, I have to rely on reports like everybody else does, obviously. I’ve spent today here basically in our embassy and the military headquarters in the green zone, so I can’t speak from personal experience in terms of what’s going on all across Iraq.

I can say that based on the conversations I’ve had today, and most of those conversations were with Iraqis and Iraqi leaders – some of them in the government, some of them not – that they believe the situation has gotten better. They cite specifically the statistics on sectarian violence, Sunni-on-Shia and Shia-on-Sunni violence that they think is down fairly dramatically.

I think everybody recognizes there still are serious security problems, security threats; no question about it.

But the impression I got from talking with them – and this includes their military as well as political leadership – is that they do believe we are making progress, but we’ve got a long way to go.

Lets not forget who he’s working for. Bush’s idea of the victory that Lute should coordinate:

Q Thank you, Mr. President. You say you want nothing short of victory, that leaving Iraq would be catastrophic; you once again mentioned al Qaeda. Does that mean that you are willing to leave American troops there, no matter what the Iraqi government does? I know this is a question we’ve asked before, but you can begin it with a “yes” or “no.”

He cannot…

THE PRESIDENT: We are there at the invitation of the Iraqi government. This is a sovereign nation. Twelve million people went to the polls to approve a constitution. It’s their government’s choice. If they were to say, leave, we would leave.

Q — catastrophic, as you’ve said over and over again?

THE PRESIDENT: I would hope that they would recognize that the results would be catastrophic. This is a sovereign nation, Martha. We are there at their request. And hopefully the Iraqi government would be wise enough to recognize that without coalition troops, the U.S. troops, that they would endanger their very existence. And it’s why we work very closely with them, to make sure that the realities are such that they wouldn’t make that request — but if they were to make the request, we wouldn’t be there.

So what do we have now?

Yes, I’m — there’s — certainly, there’s been an uptick in violence. It’s a snapshot, it’s a moment. And David Petraeus will come back with his assessment after his plan has been fully implemented, and give us a report as to what he recommends — what he sees, and what he recommends, which is, I think, a lot more credible than what members of Congress recommend. We want our commanders making the recommendations, and — along with Ryan Crocker, our Ambassador there — I don’t want to leave Ryan out.

And so it’s a — you know, to Axelrod’s point, it’s a — no question it’s the kind of report that the enemy would like to affect because they want us to leave, they want us out of there. And the reason they want us to leave is because they have objectives that they want to accomplish. Al Qaeda — David Petraeus called al Qaeda public enemy number one in Iraq. I agree with him. And al Qaeda is public enemy number one in America. It seems like to me that if they’re public enemy number one here, we want to help defeat them in Iraq.

This is a tough fight, you know? And it’s, obviously, it’s had an effect on the American people. Americans — a lot of Americans want to know win — when are you going to win? Victory is — victory will come when that country is stable enough to be able to be an ally in the war on terror and to govern itself and defend itself.

One of the areas where I really believe we need more of a national discussion, however, is, what would be the consequences of failure in Iraq? See, people have got to understand that if that government were to fall, the people would tend to divide into kind of sectarian enclaves, much more so than today, that would invite Iranian influence and would invite al Qaeda influence, much more so than in Iraq today. That would then create enormous turmoil, or could end up creating enormous turmoil in the Middle East, which would have a direct effect on the security of the United States.

Failure in Iraq affects the security of this country. It’s hard for some Americans to see that, I fully understand it. I see it clearly. I believe this is the great challenge of the beginning of the 21st century — not just Iraq, but dealing with this radical, ideological movement in a way that secures us in the short term and more likely secures us in the long term.

THE PRESIDENT: — that’s really the crux of it. And — let me finish, please, here. I’m on a roll here. And so now that we have, does it make sense to help this young democracy survive? And the answer is, yes, for a variety of reasons.

One, we want to make sure that this enemy that did attack us doesn’t establish a safe haven from which to attack again. Two, the ultimate success in a war against ideologues is to offer a different ideology, one based upon liberty — by the way, embraced by 12 million people when given the chance. Thirdly, our credibility is at stake in the Middle East. There’s a lot of Middle Eastern nations wondering whether the United States of America is willing to push back against radicals and extremists, no matter what their religion base — religious bases may be.

And so the stakes are high in Iraq. I believe they’re absolutely necessary for the security of this country. The consequences of failure are immense.

And Lute is to make all this happen. So, again, tell me how Lute can going to be at all effective in doing these things?

Although senators from both parties praised Lute and made clear they plan to confirm him, Democrats took issue with Bush’s decision to create the post more than four years into the war. Lute would serve as an assistant to the president who would brief Bush every day and manage the U.S. government’s civilian and military efforts in Iraq.

Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-N.Y.) also questioned Lute about Vice President Cheney’s role. Lute responded that Cheney is “an important participant in policy development” and that “I’ll be working with the vice president and his staff.”

“Well,” Clinton replied, “I wish you well. Because certainly that’s turned out to be a difficult situation for many.”

To say the least.

Good Luck General, i think you’re really going to need it.

*Normally, presidential aids do not require Senate confirmation. However promotions and new assignments for active duty flag officers do require Senate approval, and since Lute is a Lt. General in the Army, his new job requires Senate approval.

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