Thursday, May 24, 2007
While I'm gone, feel free to let me know what subjects you'd like me to discuss when I get back. Anything at all...if I've been ignoring a subject dear to your heart, or if you'd just like to read my blather about a particular topic, just let me know!!!!
See you in 2 weeks!!!
Tuesday, May 22, 2007
It's nice to see Biden go out a limb like this; the rest of the congressional delegation (Sen. Bob Corker [R-TN] and Sen. Benjamin Cardin [D-MD]) weren't willing to go as far as Biden and call for an intervention. However, despite the designation of the crisis as a genocide by President Bush, an armed intervention is unlikely to happen. The UN is far too gutless and hamstrung by its bureaucratic procedures to pass a Security Council resolution, the US military is strained by the deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq, and there is very likely little will -- political or public -- in the US right now for such an intervention.
But, even if Bush decided to send troops, how would such a move be greeted by those who have opposed the use of force in Iraq? An intervention in Darfur is almost guaranteed to be "illegal" in that it will not have the sanction of the UN Security Council, just as the invasion of Iraq did not. Does that mean the US shouldn't intervene? The US public has shown a willingness to tolerate the casualties sustained in Iraq...but will that continue in Darfur? Or will it be a repeat of Somalia where, unconvinced of the national interest at stake, a few US casualties undermined the whole operation?
If such an intervention is to occur, President Bush, along with Senator Biden and the rest of Congress, need to prepare the US public. Specifically, they need to make the case of why the US should expend its treasure, and more importantly, why US soldiers should risk their lives and even die to protect the Darfuris. As I have said before, this is not a hard case to make. But it needs to be made, or else an intervention in Darfur, or anywhere else the US intervenes for humanitarian purposes, will follow the same road as Somalia.
Friday, May 18, 2007
Belarus, one of the most repressive states and worst human rights violators in the world, has been denied a seat on the UN Human Rights Council. This is at least one step forward for the UN, as it must be able to keep gross human rights violators from making a complete mockery of the HRC (of course, Belarus could have won the election, so it's not really much of a victory. Until the UN institutes some kind of standards for committee service this problem will continue to rear its ugly head).
However, the positive step of denying Belarus was somewhat mitigated by the election of Egypt, Angola, and Qatar to the HRC. According to UN Watch and Freedom House, these three states "are authoritarian regimes with negative U.N. voting records on rights issues and are not qualified to be council members." But why should that stop them from serving on the global watchdog of human rights? After all, the UN is more about sovereign equality than actually improving human rights. So long as it preferences the former over the latter, the UN will continue to be incapable of any real moral leadership.
That represents a 1,500 point increase since March, and means that average prices have risen 36-fold in the last year.
If that's not sustainable development, I don't know what is.
Wednesday, May 16, 2007
There have been many discussions on this blog about the wisdom of using torture or other coercive interrogation techniques, and I don't want to re-open that discussion now. What concerns me here is the response to these comments by Curt Goering, deputy executive director of Amnesty International USA. Goering (and what a terrible last name for someone in his position) responded by saying "The pandering for votes by advocating human rights violations represents the worst by American politicians."
But why is this pandering? Because Goering disagrees with him? Aren't the candidates who disavow torture or other coercive methods just as likely to be pandering for votes (albeit to a different voting bloc)?
This, in a nutshell, is one of the problems I have with domestic politics. There is so little room for serious and principled disagreement. Goering cannot admit that there may be any validity to Giuliani's position, so Giuliani and everyone else who agrees with it can't possibly believe what they say or think that such actions are actually what is best for the country, but rather must be pandering for votes. If Goering wants to disagree with Giuliani, fine. We all know that Amnesty International doesn't support torture, and they most certainly have some good reasons in their quiver. But reducing political discourse to dismissive comments is a subversion of the political process itself.
Monday, May 14, 2007
Over the weekend, the UN Commission on Sustainable Development elected a new chair...Zimbabwe.
Yes, that Zimbabwe.
This is so ridiculous, monstrous, and pathetic on so many fronts it's hard to know where to start excoriating the UN for this truly idiotic decision.
Asking Zimbabwe to chair a commission on sustainable development is like asking Pol Pot to chair a panel on overpopulation. What aspect of Zimbabwe's development is sustainable or could serve as a model to other countries? The fact that the country doesn't have enough power for its capital city, or its farms? The 50% contraction of its economy since 2000? The 2,200% inflation? An unemployment rate believed to be around 80%? A life expectancy that has dropped from 55 to 35 in 27 years? The destruction of entire villages in the name of urban beautification? I guess those who believe that sustainable development means reversing economic development would be OK with the last one...and let's not forget the brutal political repression that has been going on.
This is the country that the UN has chosen to lead the world on the issue of sustainable development. I have written many times about the implications of the UN's preference for sovereign equality over values, law, norms, or basic human decency. How can this body be expected to advance human rights, prevent genocide, or serve as even a shadow of a world government if it can't punish one of the worst regimes operating today?
Madeline Albright and Archbishop Desmond Tutu had an op-ed in the Washington Post this past March arguing that:
However, they go on to assert that they "are not suggesting that the world should intervene to impose political change in Zimbabwe. We are suggesting that global and regional organizations and individual governments should make known their support for human rights and democratic practices in that country, as elsewhere." Which global organizations? The UN? As is evidenced by this, the UN cannot and will not act against its members until it's almost too late, not necessarily then, as Sudan and Rwanda readily demonstrate.
The crisis in Zimbabwe raises familiar questions about the responsibilities of the international community. Some argue that the world has no business interfering with, or even commenting on, the internal affairs of a sovereign state. This principle is exceptionally convenient for dictators and for people who do not wish to be bothered about the well-being of others. It is a principle that paved the way for the rise of Hitler and Stalin and for the murders ordered by Idi Amin. It is a principle that, if consistently observed, would have shielded the apartheid government in South Africa from external criticism and from the economic sanctions and political pressure that forced it to change. It is a principle that would have prevented racist Rhodesia from becoming Zimbabwe and Robert Mugabe from ever coming to power.
What regional organizations? The African Union? Not likely. The AU has been hesitant, to say the least, to take on Zimbabwe and its anti-colonial hero-president Mugabe.
So, if anything is going to happen, it will likely fall to the US, the EU, NATO, and/or other western organizations to do something. Of course, any such actions will violate the international law of sovereignty, they will violate the will of the international community as expressed by the UN, and they will no doubt resemble cultural imperialism. So be it. That is what it is going to take to end the suffering in Zimbabwe. In Darfur. In North Korea. And everywhere else that the UN has turned a blind eye.
Friday, May 11, 2007
The Arab League peace initiative is a promising framework for negotiations. It calls upon Israel to withdraw from the territories occupied in the 1967 war (Gaza, the West Bank, and the Golan Heights, as well as East Jerusalem), to accept a "just settlement to the Palestinian refugee problem," and to accept the establishment of an independent Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza Strip with East Jerusalem as its capital. In return, the Arab states pledge to sign peace agreements and open normal relations with Israel.
Not all of this is likely to occur. Specifically, it's almost unthinkable that Israel will return all of the occupied territory, as there are several huge settlements very close to the Green Line that Israel will hold on to for security and demographic reasons. Also, handing over the Old City of Jerusalem is a non-starter, although East Jerusalem itself is certainly possible. Perhaps the most important breakthrough from the Arab side is on the question of the Palestinian refugees. The plan does not insist on the right of return for the refugees, which would scuttle any chance for a negotiated end, but rather a "just settlement," which is likely diplomatic speak for "huge cash payoff." All in all, the plan is pretty close to what most observers assume will be the ultimate end game, give or take a few details to be worked out (how much of the West Bank will Israel return? Will Israel cede Israeli territory to compensate for the retained land? How can Israel guarantee its access to the holy places in the Old City?)
Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora's editorial calls on Israel to give the plan a chance, arguing that "military action does not give the people of Israel security," that "Arab states are not seeking to wipe Israel off the map," and that Israel's refusal to pursue a negotiated end to the Palestinian crisis creates a festering issue that undermines regional stability and the security of Israel as well as the Arab states.
Much of this is true. And yet, this is something unsatisfying about Siniora's piece. Siniora's hook for the op-ed is the report of the Winograd Commission, the highly-critical self-examination of the war in Lebanon released by Israel last week. Sinoria seizes on the criticisms of the report to point out to Israel how the country needs to change its approach to solving the Palestinian problem.
But where is the Winograd Commission for Lebanon? For Hezbollah? For Hamas? Thomas Friedman recently ran a column detailing what such a report might look like. Yes, there are certainly things Israel can and should do differently to help advance the peace process, such as stopping the expansion of settlements in the West Bank, and even pulling back some of the more egregious ones. But there is much that needs to be done by the Arab states as well.
Siniora does not mention the role of Hezbollah in undermining regional security, and more specifically, the inability and unwillingness of Lebanon, and now the UN, to rein in the militia whose ill-conceived kidnapping of an Israeli soldier triggered last year's war that was so damaging to Lebanon. And while the Arab states may no longer want to wipe Israel off the map (although perhaps only because they know that they can't), the governing power of the Palestinian territories, Hamas, most certainly does. There is no mention of the on-going near-civil-war between Hamas and Fatah that results from Arab states playing both sides and refusing to allow one side to win out. These problems are just as damaging to the peace process, perhaps even more, because they make it impossible for the Arabs to present a unified and coherent position.
Siniora's glaring omissions and complete lack of self-awareness is disheartening. The Arabs need to recognize that blame cannot fall only on Israel. The peace plan suggested by the Arab League is an excellent start, and will hopefully form the basis of a settlement. And while it's true that Israel has some work to do and some changes to make, so do the Arabs.
Wednesday, May 09, 2007
[the League of Democracies] would not be like the universal-membership and failed League of Nations' of Woodrow Wilson but much more like what Theodore Roosevelt envisioned: like-minded nations working together in the cause of peace. The new League of Democracies would form the core of an international order of peace based on freedom. It could act where the UN fails to act, to relieve human suffering in places like Darfur. It could join to fight the AIDS epidemic in sub-Saharan Africa and fashion better policies to confront the crisis of our environment. It could provide unimpeded market access to those who share the values of economic and political freedom, an advantage no state-based system could attain. It could bring concerted pressure to bear on tyrants in Burma or Zimbabwe, with or without Moscow's and Beijing's approval. It could unite to impose sanctions on Iran and thwart its nuclear ambitions. It could provide support to struggling democracies in Ukraine and Serbia and help countries like Thailand back on the path to democracy.McCain goes on to note that while the League "would not supplant the United Nations or other international organizations," it would be "the one organization where the world's democracies could come together to discuss problems and solutions on the basis of shared principles and a common vision of the future."
I think this is an excellent idea. In a series of posts last summer (here, here, and here) I wrote about this very concept, arguing that the democratic states of the world need to create, perhaps using the WTO and NATO as foundations, a meta-institution that can spread western values, enforce international laws and norms, maintain peace and security, and bolster the international economic order. The general vision is to connect the various economic and political institutions together, whereby membership in one is predicated on adherence to commitments in the others. Thus, violating the NPT or the genocide convention is met by punishment in the WTO. Such a strategy is based on the logic of engagement which has been working reasonably well in China, where the desire to participate in and receive the benefits of the international economic order (and the fear of the economic damage that would result from being excluded) creates incentives to maintain a status quo posture. Such a network, or meta-institution, could go a long way in dealing with the issues with which the UN is incapable of dealing.
McCain's speech has already met with loud derision from those who, for whatever reason, fear seeing the UN lose any bit of power or standing. Scott Paul over at The Washington Note writes that "such an organization is doomed to fail for a number of reasons." The reasons?
First, the universal membership of the United Nations gives it a unique legitimacy among international actors. When it acts or speaks as one, it does so with a power that cannot be matched by any other institution - a power that, according to the RAND Corporation, makes it the most effective nation-building organization in the world. A new organization may be more efficient and take collective action more readily, but it will be viewed with suspicion by outsiders and cannot possibly succeed.
Second, splitting the democracies from the non-democracies is the surest way to increase the rift between the two camps. At the United Nations, countries have to care about all global problems. That's a big reason why rich countries are starting to pay more attention to global poverty and poor countries are starting to pay attention to global terrorism.
Finally - and this is McCain's major mistake, too - Bayefsky and company somehow think that the United States is capable of shaping a new world order all on its own. Even in the nascent Community of Democracies, an up-and-coming organization dedicated to helping build democratic institutions, the U.S. must tread lightly to get what it wants.
As I have noted before, the UN's legitimacy is bogus. Yes, the UN is good at doing a number of things, but those things are merely where the interests of states coincide. By virtue of being the only truly global institution, the UN is able to bring together lots of different perspectives. But, the UN's legitimacy rests on the notion of sovereign equality, which fundamentally undermines the UN's ability to deal with the serious problems of international politics.
As to the point about dividing the international community, there's something to that concern. But, every decision has its costs and consequences. If the community was only based on being democratic, this could be a problem, but if it was more based on status quo behavior and economic openness, that problem becomes minimized. Engagement and globalization have already had a powerful effect on China's political situation, and promises to continue to drive that country in a positive direction. It's true, regarding point three, that the US can't go it alone in such an endeavor. But using the WTO as a foundation would avoid that problem as well.
This is an idea that needs to be taken seriously. The UN is simply not capable of doing the job that the international community needs it to do. Perhaps a new framework is possible. I don't know whether I like McCain for president...but I do like this idea.
Monday, May 07, 2007
Friday, May 04, 2007
_Sixty-two percent of soldiers and 66 percent of Marines said that they knew someone seriously injured or killed, or that a member of their team had become a casualty.Much of this isn't surprising, especially the soldiers' attitudes towards torture. First, soldiers, of course, will want to do whatever is in their power to do in order to save the lives of their comrades. That's what makes them fight in the first place. And, as there is a legitimate debate over the use of torture, I'm not so sure this should been as disturbing as some of the other revelations.
_The 2006 adjusted rate of suicides per 100,000 soldiers was 17.3 soldiers, lower than the 19.9 rate reported in 2005.
_Only 47 percent of the soldiers and 38 percent of Marines said noncombatants should be treated with dignity and respect.
_About a third of troops said they had insulted or cursed at civilians in their presence.
_About 10 percent of soldiers and Marines reported mistreating civilians or damaging property when it was not necessary. Mistreatment includes hitting or kicking a civilian.
_Forty-four percent of Marines and 41 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to save the life of a soldier or Marine.
_Thirty-nine percent of Marines and 36 percent of soldiers said torture should be allowed to gather important information from insurgents._Less than half of Marines and a little more than half of Army soldiers said they would report a member of their unit for killing or wounding an innocent civilian.
But the responses indicating widespread tolerance of abusive behavior towards non-combatants is highly problematic, particularly in a war where the battle for the "hearts and minds" is just as important as the gun battles. One certain lesson of Vietnam was that brutality towards the peasantry made the people more willing to tolerate, or even collaborate with, the enemy. This is perhaps even more true in Iraq, where the only hope for success rests on Iraqi citizens choosing to side with the government rather than the militias or al Qaeda, and if they fear the US military or have been brutalized by it, that choice becomes an easier one to make.
Not to sound like a broken record, but this again points up the need for a new type of US soldier. It may be problematic, but it shouldn't be surprising that a soldier trained to kill his enemy will, particularly in a urban/insurgent type of conflict, not be tolerant or kindly to those he may suspect of cooperating with the enemy. Soldiering is a business that those (myself included) who haven't done it cannot begin to comprehend, and the stress that must come with combat is even more unimaginable. It is unfair to take soldiers trained to kill or be killed and ask them to act like policemen. The rules of engagement are different. The jobs are different. And the training is different.
The Defense Department will hopefully be spurred into action by this report. Soldiers are of course still necessary to conduct combat operations. But many of the tasks that our soldiers are asked to do are not those for which they are trained. Our military needs to recognize this fact and begin training troops to be peacekeepers, policemen, and nation builders. This report is just one indication of the damage that may occur if our armed forces cannot adapt to the new missions expected of them.
The call for de-authorization has some support from, for example, Senator Barack Obama and Governor Bill Richardson (NM). However, it also has run in to opposition from other high-profile war opponents, such as ex-Senator and presidential candidate John Edwards.
Senator Clinton hopes that de-authorization would remove the legal authority of the president to continue the war and force Bush to ask Congress for new authorization. But, would a Act of Congress rescinding the AUMF have that effect? As the New York Times puts it:
The Times is right that passage of a de-authorization bill (although it would certainly be vetoed, just as the appropriations bill was) might very well provoke a critical constitutional debate over the nature of war powers, but I think they've got the grounds of that debate wrong. The president would most likely claim that he does not in fact require congressional authorization to conduct military operations, and that requesting such authorization is not a legal necessity but rather a political nicety.
Even if Mrs. Clinton and Mr. Byrd succeed in their effort, it is not clear whether President Bush would have to withdraw troops, or if he could resist by claiming that Congress cannot withdraw its earlier authorization but instead has to deny money for the war to achieve that result.
The question could prompt a constitutional debate over war powers that only the federal courts could resolve.
One argument that I have made several times is that the continued funding of a standing army, in light of congressional awareness of how that military has been used in the past, constitutes a de facto congressional authorization of military operations. Thus, just as every president since Nixon has rejected the War Powers Resolution, in this view, Congress does not have the power to oversee and control (short of cutting off funding for the troops) each and every use of military force. The congressional power to declare war is, according to this argument, more about the president's ability to take legislative action pursuant to the conduct of the war than it is about giving Congress authority over the deployment of force.
As I have noted before, no one really knows how the judiciary would decide. Which is why a Supreme Court hearing on this would be welcomed. However, it's not likely to happen. Congress is unlikely to muster the political will to pass de-authorization legislation (in my last post on these issues, I noted that the puzzling language in the appropriations bill suggested a need to soften the language of the bill to attract enough support for passage). And even if Congress manages to pass such a bill, if it couldn't override the veto of the appropriations bill it doesn't seem likely to override a veto of what is sure to be an even more controversial bill. So while we might like to see a showdown over this, I wouldn't keep your fingers crossed.
So, here are the papers my students are working on:
I wish them the best of luck as they end their college careers!
Kait Alley: The Consequences of Neglect: The International Security Implications of the HIV Crisis in Sub-Saharan
Jennifer Badewitz: Water Management for Developing Nations: A Framework for Addressing the Threats of Water Scarcity
Cody Costello: The Millennium Challenge Account: Money, Development and How Best to Help
Foreign Aid and the Palestinian Authority: Evaluating Efforts to Destabilize Hamas U.S.
Lindsay Heppe: Getting
Grand Strategy Right: The Role of Legitimacy and Multilateralism in the War on Terror U.S.
Chelsea Howes: Nixing NGO Niches: A Case for the
David Johnson: Genocide and the Media: Shaping Intervention
Zorba Leslie: The Convergence of Fear and Politics in Our War on Terror
Helen MacDonald: Developing Sub-Saharan Africa
Emily Moody: Nuclear Terrorism
U.S.Engagement Policy and the Prospect of a Liberalized China
Jennifer Swift: Looking Forward Through Looking Back: An Economic Criticism of Democratic Peace
Jennifer Zimburean: The Environmental Catch-22: Developing in the Name of Sustainable Development
Tuesday, May 01, 2007
But why take my word for it? Two of this country's most distinguished scholars, Gary Becker and Richard Posner, have addressed this issue on their always interesting blog. Posner doesn't like the argument about the impact of the draft, instead arguing that five factors explain the lack of serious and violent protest over the war:
Becker, however (and obviously infinitely more accurately), agrees with me:
First is that the opponents of the war in Iraq have the support of one of the two political parties....The Left knows that violent protests against the war would weaken Democratic Party opposition and the likelihood of a Democratic President's being elected in 2008. Moreover, they have less need to protest because they are aligned with a powerful political force.
Second, the opportunity costs of time are higher today than they were in the 1960s and early 1970s for potential protesters.
Third, the great expansion of the electronic media, including the advent of blogs, gives people outlets to blow off steam that are much cheaper, in cost of time, than street demonstrations or acts of violence.
Fourth is a learning factor. The violent protests against the Vietnam war probably did not shorten the war, but instead helped Nixon become President.
A fifth factor [is] cultural rather than economic or easily expressed in economic terms: For many of the Vietnam war protesters, the war was a symbol of what they believed to be deeper and broader problems with the United States and the entire Western world. They thought the "system" rotten and entertained Utopian hopes of overthrowing it and substituting a socialist or anarchist paradise. This belief gave the war more resonance as a target. Partly because of the collapse of communism, partly because of greater prosperity, few Americans are hostile to the American system. Most blame the Iraq war on the incompetence of the Bush Administration rather than on some more pervasive social or political pathology. This tempers their anger and their willingness to take career risks by engaging in protests against the war.
The absence of a military draft is the most important factor behind the minimal number of violent protests against the increasingly unpopular war in Iraq.
Representative Charles Rangel of New York has proposed to reinstate the draft. He has claimed that President Bush would not have invaded Iraq had a universal draft been in place. I do not believe he is right, but I do believe the pressure to withdraw earlier would have been far greater if young men were being drafted in large numbers.
The war in Iraq is being fought only with volunteers for military and civilian service, although some members of the armed forces and the reserves would not have joined if they anticipated the war when they enlisted. The reliance solely on military volunteers means that "taxes" to fight the war are spread over all taxpayers, and are not concentrated on young people.
Thoughts? What explains this puzzling lack of protest?
Yingling is the deputy commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiment, and has served two tours in Iraq and served in Operation Desert Storm as well. In the article, he argues that:
The most tragic error a general can make is to assume without much reflection that wars of the future will look much like wars of the past....What is to be done about this problem? For Yingling, the answer lies in the manner in which officers are promoted, and particularly in the ways in which US generals are educated. He notes that only 25% of Army three- and four-star generals hold advanced degrees in social sciences or humanities from civilian universities, and that only a similar percentage speak a foreign language. This produces a hide-bound military leadership, trained in one way of thinking, and incapable of adapting to new circumstances. The solution according to Yingling:
After visualizing the conditions of future combat, the general is responsible for explaining to civilian policymakers the demands of future combat and the risks entailed in failing to meet those demands. Civilian policymakers have neither the expertise nor the inclination to think deeply about strategic probabilities in the distant future. Policymakers, especially elected representatives, face powerful incentives to focus on near-term challenges that are of immediate concern to the public.
America's generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. First, throughout the 1990s our generals failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly. Second, America's generals failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq. Finally, America's generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.
Despite paying lip service to "transformation" throughout the 1990s, America's armed forces failed to change in significant ways after the end of the 1991 Persian Gulf War. In "The Sling and the Stone," T.X. Hammes argues that the Defense Department's transformation strategy focuses almost exclusively on high-technology conventional wars. The doctrine, organizations, equipment and training of the U.S. military confirm this observation. The armed forces fought the global war on terrorism for the first five years with a counterinsurgency doctrine last revised in the Reagan administration. Despite engaging in numerous stability operations throughout the 1990s, the armed forces did little to bolster their capabilities for civic reconstruction and security force development. Procurement priorities during the 1990s followed the Cold War model, with significant funding devoted to new fighter aircraft and artillery systems. The most commonly used tactical scenarios in both schools and training centers replicated high-intensity interstate conflict. At the dawn of the 21st century, the U.S. is fighting brutal, adaptive insurgencies in Afghanistan and Iraq, while our armed forces have spent the preceding decade having done little to prepare for such conflicts.
Having spent a decade preparing to fight the wrong war, America's generals then miscalculated both the means and ways necessary to succeed in Iraq. The most fundamental military miscalculation in Iraq has been the failure to commit sufficient forces to provide security to Iraq's population. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) estimated in its 1998 war plan that 380,000 troops would be necessary for an invasion of Iraq. Using operations in Bosnia and Kosovo as a model for predicting troop requirements, one Army study estimated a need for 470,000 troops. Alone among America's generals, Army Chief of Staff General Eric Shinseki publicly stated that "several hundred thousand soldiers" would be necessary to stabilize post-Saddam Iraq. Prior to the war, President Bush promised to give field commanders everything necessary for victory. Privately, many senior general officers both active and retired expressed serious misgivings about the insufficiency of forces for Iraq. These leaders would later express their concerns in tell-all books such as "Fiasco" and "Cobra II." However, when the U.S. went to war in Iraq with less than half the strength required to win, these leaders did not make their objections public....
After failing to visualize the conditions of combat in Iraq, America's generals failed to adapt to the demands of counterinsurgency. Counterinsurgency theory prescribes providing continuous security to the population. However, for most of the war American forces in Iraq have been concentrated on large forward-operating bases, isolated from the Iraqi people and focused on capturing or killing insurgents. Counterinsurgency theory requires strengthening the capability of host-nation institutions to provide security and other essential services to the population. America's generals treated efforts to create transition teams to develop local security forces and provincial reconstruction teams to improve essential services as afterthoughts, never providing the quantity or quality of personnel necessary for success.
I agree with much of what Yingling has to say. I saw first hand during my time at SAIC high-ranking US military officers who were incapable of seeing beyond their parochial interests and background. During a war game designed to hypothesize about the future of the US Air Force, I was told by one colonel that the USAF would never move towards a largely unmanned air force or one with a primary mission of close air support. Never mind that this was merely a hypothetical exercise...the officer couldn't even consider the possibility. The problems adjusting to and dealing with insurgent-based conflicts in Vietnam, Somalia, Afghanistan, and Iraq certainly point to an inability to adapt, as Yingling notes.
Neither the executive branch nor the services themselves are likely to remedy the shortcomings in America's general officer corps. Indeed, the tendency of the executive branch to seek out mild-mannered team players to serve as senior generals is part of the problem. The services themselves are equally to blame. The system that produces our generals does little to reward creativity and moral courage. Officers rise to flag rank by following remarkably similar career patterns. Senior generals, both active and retired, are the most important figures in determining an officer's potential for flag rank. The views of subordinates and peers play no role in an officer's advancement; to move up he must only please his superiors. In a system in which senior officers select for promotion those like themselves, there are powerful incentives for conformity. It is unreasonable to expect that an officer who spends 25 years conforming to institutional expectations will emerge as an innovator in his late forties.
If America desires creative intelligence and moral courage in its general officer corps, it must create a system that rewards these qualities. Congress can create such incentives by exercising its proper oversight function in three areas. First, Congress must change the system for selecting general officers. Second, oversight committees must apply increased scrutiny over generating the necessary means and pursuing appropriate ways for applying America's military power. Third, the Senate must hold accountable through its confirmation powers those officers who fail to achieve the aims of policy at an acceptable cost in blood and treasure.
To improve the creative intelligence of our generals, Congress must change the officer promotion system in ways that reward adaptation and intellectual achievement. Congress should require the armed services to implement 360-degree evaluations for field-grade and flag officers. Junior officers and noncommissioned officers are often the first to adapt because they bear the brunt of failed tactics most directly. They are also less wed to organizational norms and less influenced by organizational taboos. Junior leaders have valuable insights regarding the effectiveness of their leaders, but the current promotion system excludes these judgments. Incorporating subordinate and peer reviews into promotion decisions for senior leaders would produce officers more willing to adapt to changing circumstances, and less likely to conform to outmoded practices.
Congress should also modify the officer promotion system in ways that reward intellectual achievement. The Senate should examine the education and professional writing of nominees for three- and four-star billets as part of the confirmation process. The Senate would never confirm to the Supreme Court a nominee who had neither been to law school nor written legal opinions. However, it routinely confirms four-star generals who possess neither graduate education in the social sciences or humanities nor the capability to speak a foreign language. Senior general officers must have a vision of what future conflicts will look like and what capabilities the U.S. requires to prevail in those conflicts. They must possess the capability to understand and interact with foreign cultures. A solid record of intellectual achievement and fluency in foreign languages are effective indicators of an officer's potential for senior leadership.
However, the problem doesn't have as easy of a cause as Yingling would like. While the US military may have difficulties dealing with insurgencies, the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq demonstrated just how effective the modern US military can be against a more traditional foe (and even less traditional ones, as in Afghanistan). And here is the rub: the US military is being asked to do two very different jobs. First, it is asked to be supreme in conventional war, and it has clearly succeeded in that mission. But that mission may in fact make the second mission, rebuilding shattered nations and establishing democracy there, more difficult.
I've written before about the need to train US forces for different missions. It's just too difficult to ask soldiers trained to kill their enemies to now work as policemen. The US military needs to adapt to the new global environment in which insurgencies and police work are just as important as deterring large-scale conventional war and defending the world. Educating our officer corps in different cultures and getting them outside of the military/service cocoon would certainly help. So would a better division of labor. But this is a serious problem. The US military is the finest fighting force the world has ever seen and is the only thing that keeps rogue states in check, that prevents chaos, and that permits the international community to function as well as it does. Hopefully, it can learn from Iraq and improve its capability to do its most important job.