Trump wants to increase funding for the least effective federal department

Sam Smith – Before the debate begins over Trump’s plan to increase spending by the Defense Department it is worth noting that the Pentagon is about the least effective agency in the federal government. Since World War II it has fought only one clearly effective war – the invasion of Grenada in 1983,a Caribbean island with a population of about 91,000. Even in this case, however, the The United Nations General Assembly, subsequently voted 108 to 9 that the invasion was a “a flagrant violation of international law”.

Some might add the overthrow of Panama’s Noriega to this exceedingly short list but as Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St Clair pointed out, “The US put the bankers back in power after the invasion. Noriega’s involvement in drug trafficking had been trivial compared to theirs… The greatest irony of all is that, under the US-installed successor to Noriega, Guillermo Endara, Panama became the province of the Cali cartel, which rushed in after the Medellin cartel was evicted along with Noriega. By the early 1990s, Panama’s role in the Latin American drug trade and its transmission routes to the US had become more crucial than ever.”

The rise of boutique warfare

Sam Smith

As a general rule, I like to have a little time to get ready for the next global crisis. Stuff like deciding which side I’m on, how to pronounce the participants’ names and so forth. While I know some people get turned on by rapid developments, and it does save Wolf Blitzer from having to spend so much on Viagra, but for others it’s a bit like turning into the wrong movie theater auditorium and finding huge pink and orange monsters leaping at you when you expected to find a reflective Judy Dench.

I know sometimes – as with 9/11 – it can be a little difficult to forecast these things, but I gather, just for example, that Hillary Clinton was stirring up the Ukraine thing back when she was Secretary of State and the CIA was secretly encouraging various protests in Venezuela. They forgot to tell us.

Even George Bush gave us more days to think about invading Iraq. And there was a time – way back in the early 1940s- when a president actually went to Congress and got it to declare war before we found ourselves involved in a major international conflict. But observing the constitutional requirement went out of style and our presidents increasingly acted like the people we were supposed to be horrified by.

The Vietnam disaster was a real blow: Nearly 60,000 American deaths for reasons no one could adequately explain. But the cutback in deaths in Iraq and Afghanistan didn’t work either. In part, a younger generation had come to see war as an electronic game to play rather than a reality in which to perish.

Now Barack Obama sits on a sofa watching David Letterman as he decides during commercials which wedding in Pakistan to disrupt with drones, The front line and the Iron Curtain have disappeared – instead, and unnoted in the media, we now have troops in 150 countries. Meanwhile the State Department and CIA search for surrogate victims – aka protestors – to bring down regimes it doesn’t like. And even the Pentagon is adapting.

William Hartung of the Center for international Policy notes:

“Secretary of Defense Hagel said that we should no longer size U.S. military forces to engage in ‘prolonged conflicts’ like those in Iraq and Afghanistan. In doing so, he was essentially acknowledging the fact that spending trillions of dollars and losing thousands of lives in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have not made anyone safer. The majority of Americans understand this, and won’t support similar interventions any time soon.”

The downside of the rise in boutique warfare is that we no longer know which battles we’re about to enter and nobody asks us what we think about it. And so the same crowd that invented such screw-ups as Obamacare and Common Core gets to endanger America’s future however and whenever it wants.

On the plus side, boutique warfare can result in far fewer deaths. But given the nearly one hundred percent failure in judgment of those who have chosen our conflicts over the past half century, you really don’t want Hillary Clinton and Zig Brzezinski helping to create a potentially disasterous conflict with Russia without at least a few public opinions, say, from real Ukraine experts.

Iraq, Afghanistan, Venezuela, Libya, Syria, Ukraine.

They sound more like destinations for the British empire in its final days rather than displays of American exceptionalism.

The problem with boutique warfare is not only that it is bad strategy, unconstitutional and has the potential to explode into far more serious conflict, it is designed by those who have an extraordinary record of error.

They are, thus, not only dumb but dumb and dangerous, and that’s a deadly combination.

War as office politics

Sam Smith

Watching Wolf Blitzer shortly before Obama launched his Libyan Whatever It Is, it occurred to me that two of the most profound commentaries on American politics these days are The Office and Parks & Recreation. Someone was trying to explain to Blitzer how there was going to be a bifurcated military operation, with one loyal to the rules of the UN and NATO and the other apparently serving whatever the White House wanted on a particular day. The headquarters for these two operations would be separate and the question politely implied was: how are we going to prevent these two operations from killing each other?

I tried to remember another time when anyone had even suggested such a masochistic military maze, but then I realized these are no ordinary times. These are times when thought is merely a choice of trendy abstractions, where purpose is just a slogan, and all policy must be filtered, twisted and often disappeared into an institutional swamp that no one really understands.

To a Washington operative these days, having two poorly coordinated and potentially conflicting military operations is no different that having an energy secretary and an energy czar. After all, you need one for the Constitution and the other for the White House.

Or in the Parks & Recreation version:

Leslie: Please remember, this is a government project. So, we need to refrain from corporate promotion and religious items. Who’d like to start?

Man: I think we should put in the Bible.

Leslie: Great.

But then Leslie, most White House czars and cabinet secretaries aren’t as well equipped with deadly weapons as the military, where directive confusion can not only prove controversial but fatal.

A few days ago, Charles Krauthhammer attempted an update:

“Let’s see how that paper multilateralism is doing. The Arab League is already reversing itself, criticizing the use of force it had just authorized. . . Russia’s Vladimir Putin is already calling the Libya operation a medieval crusade. China is calling for a cease-fire in place. . . As of this writing, Britain wanted the operation to be led by NATO. France adamantly disagreed, citing Arab sensibilities. Germany wanted no part of anything, going so far as to pull four of its ships from NATO command in the Mediterranean. France and Germany walked out of a NATO meeting on Monday, while Norway had planes in Crete ready to go but refused to let them fly until it had some idea who is running the operation. And Turkey, whose prime minister four months ago proudly accepted the Gadhafi International Prize for Human Rights, has been particularly resistant to the Libya operation from the beginning. And as for the United States, who knows what American policy is? Administration officials insist we are not trying to bring down Gadhafi, even as the president insists that he must go. Although on Tuesday Obama did add “unless he changes his approach.”

We keep trying to describe these things in terms of politics, policy and grand intellectual schemes. And it drives us away from a simpler but uglier truth: we are all trapped in a gigantic Parks & Recreation Department and all politics has become office politics.

Which is why one of the more profound analyses of the Libyan situation was this from the British Guardian:

“One observer of Anglo-American military adventures over the last 20 years tried to make light of the impasse. “It’s a bit like a barn dance,” the source said of the efforts to decide whether and how NATO would run the operation. “Half of the people can’t dance, a couple are drunk and then there’s always the characters at the back with their hands up various skirts.”

The little green men

Sam Smith

According to the Washington Post, “The Marine Corps’ top general suggested Tuesday that allowing gays to serve openly in the military could result in more casualties because their presence on the battlefield would pose “a distraction.”

||||| “When your life hangs on the line,” said Gen. James F. Amos, the commandant of the Marine Corps, “you don’t want anything distracting. . . . Mistakes and inattention or distractions cost Marines’ lives.” In an interview with newspaper and wire service reporters at the Pentagon, Amos was vague when pressed to clarify how the presence of gays would distract Marines during a firefight. But he cited a recent Defense Department survey in which a large percentage of Marine combat veterans predicted that repealing the “don’t ask, don’t tell” law would harm “unit cohesion” and their tight-knit training for war. “So the Marines came back and they said, “Look, anything that’s going to break or potentially break that focus and cause any kind of distraction may have an effect on cohesion,” he said. |||||

One of the things I have always suspected about Marines is that more than a few have substantial masculine insecurity that they hide under the cover of military bravado. Certainly the amount of time and effort they spend trying to impress other men, rather than women, seems curious.

I’m not the first to have noticed this, although it has yet made the mainstream coverage of the gays in the military issue. For example, writes the Midwest Book Review, in The Masculine Marine: Homoeroticism in the U.S. Marine Corps, “Steven Zeeland elicits astonishingly candid responses from a diverse sampling of Marines to questions about aspects of this rarely documented subculture. Their answers shed light on homoerotic bonding among Marines, hazing and institutional violence, sexual stereotypes of Marines in gay culture, how gay Marines reconcile their sexual identity with the ethos of ‘hard’ Marine supermasculinity, Marines in all-male pornography, how Marines feel about being viewed as sex objects, and male attitudes about women in the Marine Corps.”

In the book, Zeeland even quotes gays  complaining about the homosexual skill of Marines and what disappointing partners they are. Which, when you include their divorce rate, makes them sound like bi-sexual losers.

In the Coast Guard, we were also involved in activities that involved some risk, but the cultural and verbal treatment of this risk was markedly different from the Marine mythology. In fact, braggadocio made you suspect.

As I once wrote: “The sea seems determined to force men to fight it with their bare hands. It is a teacher of humility, an enforcer of respect, a revealer of fraud. It is indifferent to paper distinctions between men, without regard for fine words, and contemptuous of the niceties of society. Those who live with the sea will probably always be a bit different and those who go to sea in ships and boats as small as the Coast Guard’s especially so. As Joseph Conrad put it, ‘Of all the living creatures upon land and sea, it is ships alone that cannot be taken in by barren pretenses.'”

Which may help to explain why we used to call the Marines “the little green men.”

General Amos’ confession – which it was – more than an argument – that gays on the battlefield would be a distraction for Marines is, I suppose, something worth dealing with if true. But the best resolution would be therapy and not continued governmental denial. After all, if Marines can’t keep their eyes on the enemy shooting at them instead of the gay nearby, they really do have a problem.

The metaphor spill

Sam Smith – The establishment is struggling to gain metaphorical control over the BP oil spill. It feels entitled to control metaphors just as much as it does oil drilling policy and doesn’t it like when the non-establishment comes up with its own. Thus Chris Matthews goes berserk when anyone refers to the present government as a “regime” and others get hysterical when someone calls something ‘fascistic” or “Nazi-like.” Curiously, these are the same establishment people who regularly refer to critics as “conspiracy theorists” or “wing nuts.”

As a writer, I like metaphors even if I’m never quite sure when they stop and similes pick up. I don’t even mind people who dislike metaphors, such as Jack Nicholson, who said once, “People who speak in metaphors should shampoo my crotch.”

But what I don’t like is the elite using bad metaphors. For example, even Eugene Robinson, in an otherwise fine column on the oil crisis, fell for the “war” image, arguing, along with Obama and many others, that we need to treat the BP spill as we would a military battle.

In fact, wars are carried out in the name of virtue but almost inevitably leave both sides in worst shape than when they started. Wars destroy the environment, kill large numbers of people, and take decades to recover from. The last thing we need in the Gulf right now is a war.

A happier allusion would be to a serious medical operation. The first task is to get the patient in good enough shape so that long term recovery can take place. And, along the way, you want to avoid something called iatrogenic medicine, where the cure does the patient harm.

This is, in many ways, the opposite of a war, and a far better way to think about the oil spill.

Unfortunately, our political and media elite are infatuated with the military – even if they were never part of it. And for men in power, the metaphor has a comforting masculine ring to it. (Having you ever wondered why there is not a psychiatric term for those who become sexually aroused at the thought of sending others to their death in battle?)

If, in fact, we were to send our military into the Gulf like we sent it into Iraq, things would soon be ten times worse than they are right now.

And you may not need a metaphor at all. After all, the BP disaster is what we will be using as a metaphor in endless commentaries and political campaigns well into the future.

As for me, when I see stories about the disaster, it reminds me of that great oil spill back in April 2010. Remember that one? Sadly, it looks like there’s a metaphor that will hold up for some time yet.

All war all the time

Sam Smith, 2008 – As it tries to recover from the most expensive failure in American military history, the Pentagon has its eyes on an easier target. The beauty of this adversary is that it is not from an indecipherable culture, it doesn’t speak a strange language and it doesn’t scatter IEDs in the path of Hummers. In fact, it’s not even armed and its headquarters, far from concealed in the mountains of Pakistan, are easily found in the high rises of Washington, DC. The new foe: The State Department, USAID and other civilian diplomatic and development operations – proving once again that our military leaders’ real skill set is not fighting mile by mile on some foreign battlefield but line by line in the domestic budget.

There is no doubt that the domestic surge is working. Between 2002 and 2005, the share of government development assistance flowing through the Pentagon rose from 6% to 22%.

Stewart Patrick and Kaysie Brown, in a paper last fall for the Center on Global Development, outlined the problem:

These trends have stimulated concerns that U.S. foreign and development policies may become subordinated to a narrow, short term security agenda — at the expense of broader, longer-term diplomatic goals and institution building in the developing world — and that U.S. soldiers may increasingly assume responsibility for activities more appropriately conducted by civilians skilled in development challenges. . .

We attribute growing U.S. reliance on the U.S. military to carry out reconstruction, development, and capacity-building activities to three factors: an overwhelming focus within the Bush administration on programs that can help in the global war on terror, particularly in unstable, conflict-prone, and post-conflict countries; the vacuum left by civilian agencies, which struggle to deploy adequate numbers of personnel and to deliver assistance in highly insecure environments; and a general failure on the part of the U.S. government to invest adequately in non-military instruments of global engagement, including by creating deployable U.S. civilian post-conflict capabilities. . .

A less polite way of looking at it is that the military is aggressively and greedily invading territory that traditionally has been left to civilians. Of course, anyone familiar with the militarization of law enforcement will not be surprised, but the new stakes should not be underestimated. Do we really want to turn civilian development activities that have lent our country honor over to a crowd that is in no small part to blame for America’s current pitiful world reputation?

oAt the end of the Cold War, a top Soviet official promised America one last horrible surprise: the loss of an enemy. It was as the Greek poet Constantine Cavafy had written early in the century:

Night is here but the barbarians have not come.
And some people arrived from the borders,
and said that there are no longer any barbarians.
And now what shall become of us without any barbarians?
Those people were some kind of solution.

A decade later, a Pentagon office still sported a sign that read, WANTED: A GOOD ENEMY. It was not long after the Cold War, in fact, that the military went out shopping for new enemies to buck up the welfare fathers of the defense industry. It had not yet received the budgetary blessing – heralded by a handful of young men with box cutters – of Iraq and Afghanistan. Who could have imagined that so few could cause so much fear among so many? Who would have thought that, instead of pursuing the perps, you could turn the whole affair into the most expensive war in history and the first to be waged against a perpetual abstraction – terror – rather than an actual country? Who would have dreamed that the public could be sold the notion that the way to deal with guerillas was to engage in warfare that would increase the number of their allies?

Instead, mostly unreported, America’s political and military planners worked hard developing an external threat to compensate for the disappearance of the USSR. Although in the short run, the Pentagon had been remarkably successful in exempting itself from the deficit-cutting hysteria, there was always the danger that the public and politicians might start asking too many questions.

So uncertain was the trumpet, in fact, that planners were forced to resort to abstractions that were not only uninformative, they were truly absurd. Thus, we were told to spend hundreds of billions to protect ourselves against a generic composite peer competitor, myriad formless threats, and even, god forbid, an asymmetrical niche opponent. (What did you do in the last war, Daddy? Well, son, I killed 14 generic composite peer competitors and would have wasted more if a frigging asymmetrical niche opponent hadn’t got me in the chest.)

As Clinton’s budget director Franklin Raines told a meeting of high level Pentagon officials, “We will protect your purchasing power.”

oThus is was not surprising to see a new enemy starting to turn up in the military planners’ mind: the US citizen. For the first time since the Civil War, American government officials began seriously considering the possibility of armed conflict in, and occupation of, their own country. There was a growing assumption that the interests of those with power and those without might diverge to the point of insurrection.

The major media steadfastly ignored the trend despite ample evidence lying about. For example, Defense Week reported that “Army Chief of Staff Gen. Dennis Reimer said the Army needs to focus more on homeland defense and welcomes a ‘mission creep’ into that area.” A 1996 article by military historian and strategist Martin van Creveld in the Los Angeles Times argued that

As the 20th century draws to an end, it is time that military commanders and the policy makers to whom they report wake up to the new realities. In today’s world the main threat to many states, including specifically the US, no longer comes from other countries. Either we make the necessary changes, or what is commonly known as the modern world will lose all sense of security and dwell in perpetual fear.

Perhaps most startling was an article in the Winter 1992 issue of Parameters, a quarterly published by the US Army College. The author was Lt. Col. Charles J. Dunlap Jr., a graduate of Villanova School of Law, the Armed Forces Staff College, and a distinguished graduate of the National War College. He had been named by the Judge Advocates Association as the USAF’s outstanding career armed services attorney. In short, not your average paranoid conspiracy theorist. Dunlap’s article was called “The Origins of the American Military Coup of 2012.”

In it, Dunlap quoted one of Washington’s journalistic cherubs, James Fallows, who wrote in a 1991 article

“I am beginning to think that the only way the national government can do anything worthwhile is to invent a security threat and turn the job over to the military . . . The military, strangely, is the one government institution that has been assigned legitimacy to act on its notion of the collective good.

Fallows was not alone within the Washington establishment. Stephen Rosenfeld of the Washington Post wrote a column praising an Army advocate of Dunlap’s nightmare. Rosenfeld described US Army Major Ralph Peters this way:

“At home, use of the military appears inevitable to him — though not yet to an American consensus — “at least on our borders and in some urban environments” . . . He would dutifully prepare for the traditionally ‘military’ missions, plus the new one of missile defense. But he would be ready to engage with drugs and crime, terrorism, peacekeeping, illegal immigration, disease control, resource protection, evacuation of endangered citizens . . .”

What Dunlap described and Peters advocated was not a bold military stroke against the civilian society, but simply a coup by attrition. Something similar seems to be going on now, only the target is not our domestic, but our foreign, affairs. The goal: all war all the time, with the Pentagon in charge of as much as possible.

oBefore raising philosophical questions about whether the military should be supplanting the civilian in matters of diplomacy and development, some sense of scale is useful. Based on figures from a few years ago, for example, the amount of money the military spent annually on useless – in fact heavily counterproductive – drug interdiction and anti-drug activities was nearly a half billon dollars. This was approximately the same sum being spent by USAID on agriculture, or the environment, or child survival and maternal health or family planning. And it was vastly more than was spent on higher education or diseases other than AIDs.

One example of how the military has infiltrated civilian diplomacy has been the new African Command. You may not have noticed too many wars against the U.S. in that part of the world, but the Pentagon has managed to con Congress into a grand operation that includes, according to its website, achievements such as the following:

– U.S. service members from the Combined Task Force-Horn of Africa gathered with residents of Mikocheni on May 15 to celebrate the completion of a newly built health clinic. The Jaypal Singh Babhra Memorial Clinic was completed by U.S. service members of the CJTF-HOA. . .

— A group of 20 sailors from the U.S. Navy’s USS Momsen visited a school in the port city of Mombasa on May 7, as part of a community relations program called Project Handclasp. Project Handclasp is a U.S. Navy program that provides donated items such as books, clothes, toys, and medical. . .

— The Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa funded the renovation of the Mokowe Primary School in Mokowe, Kenya,and helped construct a fence to secure the facility.

Patrick and Brown cautiously describes the Pentagon’s African mission this way

According to DoD, the new command’s primary mission will be “shaping” activities, designed to ameliorate troubling trends in the region by helping to eliminate the roots of extremism, terrorism and violent conflict before they reach a crisis, rather than traditional operations involving the use of force. . .

“The Pentagon’s new focus on conflict prevention and its commitment to U.S.-government-wide policy planning and implementation are to be welcomed. What has not yet been satisfactorily explained is how AFRICOM’s interagency process will interact with other U.S. programs and activities – and how DoD will ensure that its military activities do not compete with, undermine, or overshadow U.S. development and diplomatic objectives throughout the continent. The risks, which are both symbolic and practical, will need to be carefully managed. From a public diplomacy perspective, the elevation of AFRICOM to a position of apparent leadership in integrating U.S. policy toward Africa may create the damaging impression (or allow U.S. adversaries to argue) that the United States has a militarized approach to the continent.46 More substantively, the enormous asymmetry between the resources available to the Pentagon, on the one hand, and the State Department, USAID and other civilian agencies, on the other, raises the danger that any “shaping” activities that emerge from AFRICOM will be dominated by U.S. defense priorities while giving short shrift to broader political and developmental considerations, (including the democratic accountability of those same security forces). . .

“In a recent briefing, the head of the AFRICOM Transition Team, Rear Admiral Robert Moeller, declared that “Strategic Success” for the new command would include the achievement of the following goals:

– An African continent that knows liberty, peace, stability, and increasing prosperity

– Fragile states strengthened; decreased likelihood of failed states; all territory under the control of effective democracies

-Economic development and democratic governance allow African states to take the lead in addressing African challenges. . .

What is impressive about these strategic objectives – beyond their breadth — is how few lend themselves to DoD leadership. Generally speaking, the U.S. military is not well-equipped, by its mandate and personnel, to expertly address the structural sources of underdevelopment, alienation and instability in target countries. Although requisite skills can sometimes be found within the civil affairs component of the U.S. Army, few soldiers possess deep expertise on matters of governance, development, and the rule of law. . .

Finally, a number of European officials have expressed misgivings about the integration of U.S. counter-terrorism and development agendas, suggesting that the new command could complicate common approaches to Africa within the donor community. . .

To be sure, there is far from total agreement on the nature and distance of this shift in the military, even within the Pentagon. There are, for example, plenty of Army and Marine officers who would just as soon not be running day care centers in Tanzania.

Even Defense Secretary Gates seemed to side with traditional diplomatic and development approaches in a recent speech in which he praised the role of civilian agencies. According to the Pentagon release:

Speaking at the Academy of American Diplomats in Washington, the secretary said there is bipartisan support on Capitol Hill to devote more resources to the State Department and other civilian agencies.

Since the war on terror began, President Bush, defense officials and military officers have stressed that all parts of the federal government must work together to combat extremists — that the military can put in place conditions for security, but civilian agencies are the repositories of expertise on governance, economics, agriculture and so on. Countries like Iraq and Afghanistan need these skills to cement progress in place.

“There is a need for a much greater integration of our efforts,” Gates said. “There is clearly a need for a better way to organize interagency collaboration.”

The problem with the civilian agencies providing the personnel has not been a lack of will, but a lack of capabilities, Gates said. The State Department has about 6,600 Foreign Service officers. To put it in perspective, that’s barely enough to crew one carrier battle group in the Navy, the secretary said.

The upshot is that when civilian agencies cannot deploy personnel, service members step in to take up the slack. The provincial reconstruction teams in Afghanistan and Iraq are primary examples of this, Gates said. The teams, which have slots for officials from the departments of agriculture, commerce, treasury, justice and so on, were staffed by military personnel so they effort could get up and running quickly.

“There aren’t deployable people in agriculture and commerce and treasury and so on that are prepared to go overseas,” Gates said. And these skills are desperately needed, he emphasized.

Which all sounds comforting until you discover who’s going to be assigned to whom:

Defense personnel have always worked in the State Department, but now State Department personnel are assigned to DoD, especially with the combatant commands. The newly formed U.S. Africa Command, for example, has a large number of State Department personnel assigned to the organization. U.S. Southern Command also has a large number of personnel from civilian agencies as integral members of the command. . .

And he also called the civilian agencies a “combat multiplier,” hardly a reassuring description of peaceful diplomacy.

Now consider this from an Economist article on Gates’ philosophy:

In a recent article, General Peter Chiarelli, an adviser to Robert Gates, America’s secretary of defence, says more money has to be spent not on the Pentagon but on the “non-kinetic aspects of our national power”. He recommends building up the “minuscule” State Department and USAID development agency (so small it is “little more than a contracting agency”), and reviving the United States Information Agency.

As the American army expands, some thinkers. . . say it needs not just more soldiers-nor even linguists, civil-affairs officers and engineers-but a fully fledged 20,000-strong corps of advisers that will train and “embed” themselves with allied forces around the world. The idea makes army commanders blanch, but they do not question the underlying assumption.

As the American media has found in Iraq, embeddedness is not the repose of equals.

oThen there is the controversial Defense Department draft directive going around on the topic of irregular warfare that some believe lays down the basis for much further intrusion on civilian roles. The directive would replace one that had already staked out sizable new turf, of which Patrick and Brown wrote:

Chastened by its failure to plan for postwar Iraq and the chaos that resulted, the Pentagon has cast off its former aversion to nation-building. This shift was cemented in November 2005 with the signing of DoD Directive 3000.05, which declared that the U.S. military would henceforth treat “Stability, Security, Transition and Reconstruction Operations” as a core mission, on a par with combat operations. Decidedly broad in scope, this directive extends DoD’s mandates and programs to a wide range of activities that are typically the province of civilian agencies, including reforming the security sector, establishing institutions of governance, reviving market activity and rebuilding infrastructure. While the directive openly recognizes that many of these tasks are more appropriately carried out by civilian actors and agencies, it also states that this may not always be possible in highly insecure environments or where such civilian capabilities do not yet exist.”

Still another way it all might look is described in American Diplomacy by Sam J,. Holliday, a West Pont graduate and a former director of Stability Studies [sic] at the Army War College, and a retired army colonel.

Today there are two broad contending views regarding policy formulation and implementation for irregular warfare:

1. Focus the military on conventional war against the armed forces of other states and focus the Foreign Service on diplomacy and negotiations to avoid war, while muddling through irregular warfare.

2. Recognize irregular warfare as being distinctive from both war and peace by creating a new Department of Stability with career personnel dedicated to irregular warfare. . .

The first view has strong support within the military from those that do not want war-fighting forces to be used for internal security against insurgents attempting to overthrow those in authority. They do not want to be the handmaidens of “political strife,” and they want to avoid the cruel, violent, and unrewarding activities of internal conflict. . . This first view sees the solution in a plan that unites all agencies of the U.S. government. These agencies have different philosophical, political, and institutional agendas. Therefore, how to coordinate all U.S. government agencies involved in foreign affairs (State, Defense, Justice, CIA, NSA, etc.) during policy formulation is the critical challenge. Until this is done there will be turf battles, uncertainty, delays, and ineffectiveness. . .

A Stability Department would allow the development of career personnel (military and civilian) dedicated to determining and using the means, strategies, tactics, and methods necessary for irregular warfare. This should make both policy formulation and implementation more effective and more efficient. The result would be professionals without preconceptions shaped by war fighting or diplomacy, without institutional allegiance to either the military establishment or the foreign policy establishment, and without mindsets appropriate only for either war or peace. Hopefully these professionals would be able to determine how to achieve stability through equilibrium at the lowest possible costs. . .

Key to the concept of irregular warfare and a Department of Stability is the assumption of perpetual conflict, a chronic absence of peace and America’s continued colonial dominance, which others that see shrinking by the day. A Department of Stability would certainly seem as odd to young students a century from now as reading about the bureaucracy of British colonialism under Queen Victoria does today.

Besides, all morality aside, if there is one thing our time should have taught us it’s that war is about the dumbest way to go about anything that there is. After all, even the exceptionally well equipped and righteous America hasn’t won a real war against a comparable enemy since WWII and when you add in Vietnam, Korea and Iraq and then find yourself falling back on Grenada for props, it may finally be time to think of other approaches.

This has not, of course, been the fault of the troops, but of the star bedizened galaxy under which they serve, of presidents with testosteronic insecurities, and of toy boys on Capitol Hill willing to gamble our nation to satisfy another defense contractor aka campaign contributor. After all, even the best boatswain’s mate can’t save a ship from the rocks if those on the bridge can’t, or won’t, read the chart.

The tragedy of modern military history is how much courage has been sacrificed for so many puerile, pointless or psychopathic ends. Which is one good reason you want the better part of your foreign policy run by civilians and not generals.

oAnother reason diplomats, development officials and civilians now working with the Pentagon are concerned abut the expansion of the military role was well outlined by an aide to General Petraeus:
At present, the U.S. defense budget accounts for approximately half of total global defense spending, while the U.S. armed forces employ about 1.68 million uniformed members. By comparison, the State Department employs about 6,000 Foreign Service officers, while the U.S. Agency for International Development has about 2,000. In other words, the Department of Defense is about 210 times larger than USAID and State combined – there are substantially more people employed as musicians in Defense bands than in the entire foreign service.

There are plenty who won’t be all that happy having to deal with a military surge into diplomacy, including international non-profits, some of our allies and UN organizations. It is also hard to imagine rock stars throwing themselves into global fundraising fests when they know the money will go to pad the budget of a General Petraeus.

Here is how one civilian professional – who represents others who do a lot work for the Pentagon – reacted to the proposed new directive:

As I understand things, if this change were to be implemented, we would have the following:

The connection between State and Defense to harmonize stability and reconstruction operations would become moot because the funding and control of the stability operations would be subsumed under “irregular warfare.” It would be up to DoD to decide if they needed to bring in civilians to help them out.

It would become even more difficult for civilian organizations and agencies to be involved in any comfortable way, given that all humanitarian aid, providing essential services, building local governance, etc., would become part of “irregular warfare.” In fact, I can’t think of a single humanitarian aid organization that would agree to become involved in “irregular warfare.”

This would continue and extend the idea that “irregular warfare” is an appropriate approach to dealing with fragile or failed states, with post-conflict situations, or preventing future conflicts. Such policies will be completely rejected by the civilian agencies of the US Government, NGOs, the international community, without even attending to what the fragile states would think.

We would have even more power and control in the military, creating an even greater imbalance between the civilian agencies and the military that are supposed to be working to “harmonize” their activities now. They are so underfunded and undermanned at this point that it is very difficult to manage the civilian side of the “harmonization” process effectively.

The military would then be left with a mission to provide for stability operations across the board for which they do not have training, are not equipped to do, have not been able to successfully accomplish (witness Iraq and Afghanistan), which would mean that the U.S. capacity to contribute to serious peace building efforts would be seriously undermined even further than it is now.


The military takeover of traditionally civilian foreign policy roles is part of a mission creep that has been going on a long time. My first article on the topic was 12 years ago when the concerns were the military’s expansion of the futile and terribly damaging drug war and its growing interference with domestic civil liberties.

Things have only gotten worse since. Now diplomacy and international development are joining the target list for the mission creep, by a military that has finally found a battleground it truly likes. And we, the citizens funding it all, will once again lose the war.

A history of the Iraq war told entirely in lies

[Although it would take much of the media and prospective Democratic presidential candidates much longer to discover that they had been deceived, Harper’s was on to the case early and asked your editor to write a history of the Iraq war told entirely in official lies. The story ran in the October 2003 issue, about six months after the invasion.]

THE REVISION THING
A history of the Iraq War told entirely in official lies

Sam Smith

[All text is verbatim from senior Bush Administration officials and advisers. In places, tenses have been changed for clarity. Originally from Harper’s Magazine]

Once again, we were defending both ourselves and the safety and survival of civilization itself. September 11 signaled the arrival of an entirely different era. We faced perils we had never thought about, perils we had never seen before. For decades, terrorists had waged war against this country. Now, under the leadership of President Bush, America would wage war against them. It was a struggle between good and it was a struggle between evil.

It was absolutely clear that the number-one threat facing America was from Saddam Hussein. We know that Iraq and Al Qaeda had high-level contacts that went back a decade. We learned that Iraq had trained Al Qaeda members in bomb making and deadly gases. The regime had long-standing and continuing ties to terrorist organizations. Iraq and Al Qaeda had discussed safe-haven opportunities in Iraq. Iraqi officials denied accusations of ties with Al Qaeda. These denials simply were not credible. You couldn’t distinguish between Al Qaeda and Saddam when you talked about the war on terror.

The fundamental question was, did Saddam Hussein have a weapons program? And the answer was, absolutely. His regime had large, unaccounted-for stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons–including VX, sarin, cyclosarin, and mustard gas, anthrax, botulism, and possibly smallpox. Our conservative estimate was that Iraq then had a stockpile of between 100 and 500 tons of chemical-weapons agent. That was enough agent to fill 16,000 battlefield rockets. We had sources that told us that Saddam Hussein recently authorized Iraqi field commanders to use chemical weapons–the very weapons the dictator told the world he did not have. And according to the British government, the Iraqi regime could launch a biological or chemical attack in as little as forty-five minutes after the orders were given. There could be no doubt that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons and the capability to rapidly produce more, many more.

Iraq possessed ballistic missiles with a likely range of hundreds of miles–far enough to strike Saudi Arabia, Israel, Turkey, and other nations. We also discovered through intelligence that Iraq had a growing fleet of manned and unmanned aerial vehicles that could be used to disperse chemical or biological weapons across broad areas. We were concerned that Iraq was exploring ways of using UAVs for missions targeting the United States.

Saddam Hussein was determined to get his hands on a nuclear bomb. We knew he’d been absolutely devoted to trying to acquire nuclear weapons, and we believed he had, in fact, reconstituted nuclear weapons. The British government learned that Saddam Hussein had recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources told us that he had attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear-weapons production. When the inspectors first went into Iraq and were denied-finally denied access, a report came out of the [International Atomic Energy Agency] that they were six months away from developing a weapon. I didn’t know what more evidence we needed.

Facing clear evidence of peril, we could not wait for the final proof that could come in the form of a mushroom cloud. The Iraqi dictator could not be permitted to threaten America and the world with horrible poisons and diseases and gases and atomic weapons. Inspections would not work. We gave him a chance to allow the inspectors in, and he wouldn’t let them in. The burden was on those people who thought he didn’t have weapons of mass destruction to tell the world where they were.

We waged a war to save civilization itself. We did not seek it, but we fought it, and we prevailed. We fought them and imposed our will on them and we captured or, if necessary, killed them until we had imposed law and order. The Iraqi people were well on their way to freedom. The scenes of free Iraqis celebrating in the streets, riding American tanks, tearing down the statues of Saddam Hussein in the center of Baghdad were breathtaking. Watching them, one could not help but think of the fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the Iron Curtain.

It was entirely possible that in Iraq you had the most pro-American population that could be found anywhere in the Arab world. If you were looking for a historical analogy, it was probably closer to post-liberation France. We had the overwhelming support of the Iraqi people. Once we won, we got great support from everywhere.

The people of Iraq knew that every effort was made to spare innocent life, and to help Iraq recover from three decades of totalitarian rule. And plans were in place to provide Iraqis with massive amounts of food, as well as medicine and other essential supplies. The U.S. devoted unprecedented attention to humanitarian relief and the prevention of excessive damage to infrastructure and to unnecessary casualties.

The United States approached its postwar work with a two-part resolve: a commitment to stay and a commitment to leave. The United States had no intention of determining the precise form of Iraq’s new government. That choice belonged to the Iraqi people. We have never been a colonial power. We do not leave behind occupying armies. We leave behind constitutions and parliaments. We don’t take our force and go around the world and try to take other people’s real estate or other people’s resources, their oil. We never have and we never will.

The United States was not interested in the oil in that region. We were intent on ensuring that Iraq’s oil resources remained under national Iraqi control, with the proceeds made available to support Iraqis in all parts of the country. The oil fields belonged to the people of Iraq, the government of Iraq, all of Iraq. We estimated that the potential income to the Iraqi people as a result of their oil could be somewhere in the $20 [billion] to $30 billion a year [range], and obviously, that would be money that would be used for their well-being. In other words, all of Iraq’s oil belonged to all the people of Iraq.

We found the weapons of mass destruction. We found biological laboratories. And we found more weapons as time went on. I never believed that we’d just tumble over weapons of mass destruction in that country. But for those who said we hadn’t found the banned manufacturing devices or banned weapons, they were wrong, we found them. We knew where they were.

We changed the regime of Iraq for the good of the Iraqi people. We didn’t want to occupy Iraq. War is a terrible thing. We’ve tried every other means to achieve objectives without a war because we understood what the price of a war can be and what it is. We sought peace. We strove for peace. Nobody, but nobody, was more reluctant to go to war than President Bush.

It is not right to assume that any current problems in Iraq can be attributed to poor planning. The number of U.S. forces in the Persian Gulf region dropped as a result of Operation Iraqi Freedom. This nation acted to a threat from the dictator of Iraq. There is a lot of revisionist history now going on, but one thing is certain–he is no longer a threat to the free world, and the people of Iraq are free. There’s no doubt in my mind when it’s all said and done, the facts will show the world the truth. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind.

[The following was not included in the final article but too good to forget]

It was a different kind of war because we were fighting people who sent youngsters to suicidal deaths and they tried to find a dark cave. They were lurching around in the dark corners of some cities around the world, ooching around the dark corners of the world and looking out, peeping out around the corner.

It was also a war where the enemy didn’t show up with airplanes that they own, or tanks or ships. These were suiciders. [One] day we hauled a guy in named al Nashiri. That’s not a household name here in America. [You] could understand why some went blank when they heard his name – yeah, those foreign names sure shut us down.

In the old days you could count tanks and figure out how strong the enemy was. This was an enemy that hid in caves. They tried to find the darkest cave, the deepest cave. It was a different kind of hater than we were used to. The old haters used tanks.