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Archive: August 2007
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The human toll
Foreign Policy Experts Ask Congress to Examine Methodology of Count
08/30/2007 6:50 PM ET
A group of academic and retired diplomats and civil servants sent a written appeal to Congressional leaders Thursday, asking for an examination of the way the US is assessing the levels of violence, and questioning the validity of military claims that the surge has led to a significant reduction in sectarian killings.

In Gen. David Petraeus's latest estimation, the Australian reports he said in an interview this week that there had been a 75 per cent reduction in religious and ethnic killings since last year.

The letter highlights the GAO's determination that there are differing opinions between government agencies regarding whether or not the surge has reduced sectarian violence, and a number of news articles that display confusion over varied estimates, calling into question the reliability of declarations claiming a certain reduction.

The foreign policy experts, organized by the progressive National Security Network, "respectfully suggest inquiry and attention into the exact nature and methodology that is being used to track the security situation in Iraq and specifically the assertions that sectarian violence is down."

Diplomatic Buzz
State Department Offers New Incentive to Attract Officers to Work in Iraq
08/29/2007 6:41 PM ET
Joel Saget/AFP/Getty

US diplomats are being given a chance to lock-in a prime tour of duty in Paris, Rome, or other favored cities, but only if they volunteer for a one-year hardship posting in one of Iraq's more remote US diplomatic outposts.

The State Department issued a cable last month offering the new incentive in attempt to bolster the number of foreign officers willing to sign up for a tour in Iraq. According to Bloomberg, only the 75 diplomats serving in provincial reconstruction teams in regional cities such as Mosul, Tikrit and Baquba are eligible for the guarantee of a subsequent posting, but the lucky ones can lock in their preference before applicants in other countries can apply for the jobs.

Even with the new incentives, analysts report the diplomatic requirements in Iraq will continue to strain the US foreign service.

Full Report PDF
Center for American Progress Outlines 10-12 Month Plan for Troop Pullout
08/29/2007 4:45 PM ET
Estimates for how long it would take to redeploy US troops from Iraq vary widely. In the unlikely scenario that the order for immediate pullout was given, the US military could leave everything behind and run for the border, removing the American presence within a couple of months. Towards the opposite end of the spectrum, the US could plan for an extended redeployment strategy that would take years, but would also include the careful disassembling and repacking of all US equipment.

The progressive think tank the Center for American Progress has just released a report that strikes a balance between the two extremes in laying out a strategy for phased consolidation of US resources that, the authors posit, would allow a safe and orderly redeployment of US forces within 10 to 12 months.

Written by Lawrence J. Korb, Max Bergmann, Sean Duggan, Peter Juul, the strategy would withdraw US forces from geographic outliers first, consolidating them before the final withdrawal.

Units would move using a combination of their own ground transportation and intra-theater air support. The American military footprint would shrink from the outside to the center, starting first with withdrawal from the most northern bases—excluding the 3rd Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division and the 3rd Brigade of the 82nd Airborne, which would redeploy from around Kirkuk and Tikrit north of Baghad to Iraq’s Kurdish region to support a temporary U.S. commitment to resolve outstanding Turkish-Kurd issues. The remaining units would then redeploy from the rest of northern Iraq followed by Diyala to the west and Anbar province to the east. Our forces would then be consolidated in Baghdad, from which they would withdraw until all American forces—save a temporary residual presence in Iraq’s Kurdish region—would eventually be gone.

Such a phased consolidation would play to the military’s strengths, employing advanced logistical and maneuver tactics. It would be slow enough so as to not leave Iraq with a sudden power vacuum, but swift enough so US troops are not left in harm’s way for years.

The plan would require no more troop deployment to Iraq to replace those combat units rotating out. The authors suggest that if the phased consolidation were to begin immediately, two combat brigades could be withdrawn per month, in addition to a proportional number of support personnel. At that rate, American forces could be out of Iraq by July 2008.

See the full report for more details on CAP’s plan on How to Redeploy: Implementing a Responsible Drawdown of U.S. Forces from Iraq.

Diplomatic Buzz
New Sarkozy Policy Towards Iraq Awaits US Withdrawal Plan
08/27/2007 10:52 AM ET
French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) stands in front of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, after delivering a speech, 27 August 2007, during a conference of 180 ambassadors at the Elysee Palace in Paris.
Jacques Demarthon/AFP/Getty
French President Nicolas Sarkozy (L) stands in front of French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner, after delivering a speech, 27 August 2007, during a conference of 180 ambassadors at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

Just as France looked poised to open a new Sarkozy-era in Iraq policy and an attempt to repair bilateral relations with the United States, the new president and foreign minister apparently lost their usually refined sense of diplomatic acuity and stumbled into a mess--sparking a war of words with the Iraqi prime minister and suggesting US policy adjustments that would slam White House doors.

Foreign minister Bernard Kouchner's visit to Baghdad last week signaled that the new administration of Nicolas Sarkozy was prepared to depart from Chirac's previous hands-off approach to Iraq, sparking a positive diplomatic buzz at the prospect of new resources being devoted to the country.

On Monday, Kouchner published an op-ed in the International Herald Tribune and President Nicolas Sarkozy gave a major foreign policy address in Paris, both of which make clear France's position that the healing of Iraq must begin with the withdrawal of US troops--reasoning that will be a non-starter with Washington.

Sarkozy told the conference of 180 ambassadors in Paris that a military solution does not help Iraq, and the political solution must include "a clear horizon concerning the retreat of foreign troops," adding, "It is then and only then the international community, starting with the countries in the region, will be able to act most usefully. France, for its part, will be prepared to help."

Kouchner writes in the Herald Tribune: "The Iraqis themselves, including those most hostile to the American presence, may not want the foreign troops to leave immediately, but a withdrawal must nevertheless be planned, in consultation with the Iraqi authorities. At the same time, a broad-based government of national unity must be established. France is prepared to act as mediator in this endeavor."

Kouchner may have thought his warm welcome in Baghdad and his experience as mediator for the UN positioned him to negotiate between different Iraqi factions, but recent comments he made to Newsweek about Maliki assure that the he will not have a willing partner in the current prime minister.

"I just had on the phone 10 or 15 minutes ago, and I told her, 'Listen, he's got to be replaced,'" Bernard Kouchner said in an interview for Newsweek published this weekend.

On Sunday in Baghdad, Maliki publicly demanded an official apology for Mr. Kouchner's remarks.

"We received French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and we were so optimistically pleased with the new French stance, but then he gave statements that can never be up to diplomatic courtesy when he called for changing the (Iraqi) government," said Maliki.

"We want an official apology from the French government, not the French foreign minister," he added.

In an interview with RTL radio Monday, Kouchner responded, "I think that (al-Maliki) misunderstood, or that I was not clear enough that I was referring to comments I heard from Iraqis I talked to."

"If the prime minister, Mr. al-Maliki, wants me to apologize for having interfered so directly in Iraqi affairs, I'll do it willingly," Kouchner was quoted as saying.

"But again that doesn't change the facts. I'm not the only one to present a few criticisms ... I should have said, again, I repeat ... that those were the words of the people I spoke to and if it was badly interpreted, I'm sorry."

James Dobbins Outlines Lessons of Iraq War in Foreign Affairs
08/24/2007 1:41 PM ET
"Americans should accept that the entire nation has, to one degree or another, failed in Iraq. Facing up to this fact and drawing the necessary lessons is the only way to ensure that it does not similarly fail again," writes RAND's James Dobbins in the latest issue of Foreign Affairs. (sub. req.)

The lessons to be learned are a multitude, and Dobbins spreads the blame for mistakes around, pointing out that failure on the part of so many in Washington is making it attractive to blame the Iraqis for the mismanagement of the war. "But to serve any useful purpose," he writes, "the debate over who lost Iraq will need to cut a good deal deeper than this. Reform comes in the wake of disaster. Sadly, Iraq represents an opportunity in this regard, one too good to be passed up. Whether one concludes that the war itself was a mistake or merely that its execution was badly managed, Americans need to consider wherein their leaders, institutions, and policies have been at fault."

Dobbins avoids the minutiae that dominates much of the discourse over the failure of the Iraq war. Rather than obsessing over who was responsible for the decision to disband the Iraqi Army, or who determined the force structure for the invasion, Dobbins looks deeper at institutional failings of the US system, and the complications of US rhetoric-based policy pronouncements.

The first point Dobbins raises criticizes White House and Pentagon management of the decision-making process, which adopted a top-down approach emphasizing inspiration from the leaders and compliance from below. Such a structure discouraged independent thinking and dissent in favor of a unified message.

If the President had encouraged open debate on Iraq, the contributions of an array of voices may have steered policy in a way that would have engendered a greater likelihood of success. Such efforts would have likely complicated the President's push for the invasion, but as Dobbins writes, "A decision to go to war should be difficult, not easy."

Dobbins also criticizes the long-standing system of political patronage that sees a President giving supporters senior civilian positions in areas where they have no expertise, suggesting Congress legislate requirements so that most positions in the national security establishment are filled by career professionals. Career civil servants could provide a continuity that currently evades the regular turnover of Administrations, and would be better positioned to speak out against an unwise policy choice.

Another suggestion for Congress would be to legislate a re-organization of the State and Defense Departments' responsibilities for post-conflict stabilization and reconstruction, which seems to shift back and forth between the departments depending on the mission.

One thing Dobbins does not recommend is an expansion of the military, but does suggest a reorganization designed to focus on the most pressing requirements of the "war on terror." He writes that "improvements in the United States' capacity for nation building and counterinsurgency are thus in order," and a re-focus on the criminal pursuit of enemies.

The Bush administration's rhetoric since 9/11 has accentuated the warlike character of the terrorist threat and the martial nature of the required response. Yet most of the tangible successes in the "war on terror" have come as a result of police, intelligence, and diplomatic activity. Not until U.S. leaders rebalance their rhetoric will it be possible to redirect the government's funding priorities toward the nonmilitary instruments on which the suppression of violent extremist movements is most likely to depend.

It's not just the Administration's warlike rhetoric that has created tensions, but also his discussion of pre-emption, democracy promotion, and nation building. Even though only two American military actions have resulted from an attack on US soil, calling a policy "pre-emption" causes resistance among allies suspicious of US power and intents. And while the promotion of democracy and nation building are admirable goals, elections in the Middle East are likely to empower those opposed to US interests, and the Iraq lesson has taught the US that re-building a nation is an initiative not to be undertaken lightly and with limited funds and manpower.

Dobbins concludes:

By January 2009, nearly everyone responsible for launching and directing the war in Iraq will have left office. Sorting out who did what will then become a job for historians. In choosing successors, however, Americans should insist on leaders who will foster debate and welcome disciplined dissent. These leaders should be surrounded by advisers chosen primarily for their relevant experience and demonstrated competence, not their ideological purity and partisan loyalty.

Leaders of this caliber, supported by more competent and professional staffs, will make better use of existing structures for policy formulation and implementation. These structures can be strengthened by the establishment of an enduring division of labor for postconflict stabilization and reconstruction among the national security agencies and by the building of a cadre of senior career officials with experience across the national security establishment.

The "war on terror" should be reconceived and renamed to place greater emphasis on its police, intelligence, and diplomatic components. The U.S. Army should continue to improve its counterinsurgency skills, with a particular emphasis on training, equipping, and advising others to conduct such campaigns. The United States should avoid allowing al Qaeda and its ilk to dictate its alignment in any particular dispute, should take sides when necessary based on an objective calculation of national interests, and should directly engage U.S. troops in local civil wars only in the rarest of circumstances.

"Preemption" should be retired from the lexicon of declared policy, democratization should be pursued everywhere as a long-term objective in full recognition of its short-term costs and risks, and nation building should be embarked on only where the United States and its partners are ready for a long, hard, and expensive effort. Above all, Americans should accept that the entire nation has, to one degree or another, failed in Iraq. Facing up to this fact and drawing the necessary lessons is the only way to ensure that it does not similarly fail again.

Full Report PDF
New Strategy Increased Stability in Some Areas, but Results Fleeting
08/23/2007 1:07 PM ET
The Bush Administration released an unclassified version of the latest National Intelligence Estimate on Iraq on Thursday. The key judgments indicate an expectation that any progress achieved in recent months would be reversed with the redeployment of US troops.

A more thorough analysis of the NIE will be posted here soon, but for now, here is the report's key judgments: 20070823_release.pdf

U.S. Military
Deputy SecDef Gordon England Has Another Internal Memo Exposed
08/21/2007 3:27 PM ET
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England
Alex Wong/AFP/Getty
Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England

Deputy Secretary of Defense Gordon England seems to consistently have trouble keeping the contents of his internal memos quiet.

Just over a year ago, Brown's memo stating the government's commitment to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions set off a firestorm of speculation over how it would impact US detainee policy. Earlier this year, members of the media ridiculed Brown's reminder to staff that they should work aggressively on their program initiatives because DOD policy would change with the next election.

Now AFP has acquired a copy of Brown's top 25 priorities for DOD in the final stretch of the Bush Administration, reporting that only one item on the list concerns Iraq. "Conduct September 2007 Iraq surge assessment and revise and execute plans accordingly," the memo states in its sole reference to Iraq.

"It's basically saying, 'Let's move forward," a Pentagon official told AFP.

Though other points on the "to do" list do not specifically address Iraq, some do concern critical elements of the US's war-fighting capabilities, like aggressive acquisition of MRAP vehicles and support of the Joint IED Defeat Organization. England also calls for pressing ahead with plans to expand, reorganize and reequip US ground forces, and to expand US special forces.

England also calls for a focus to "swiftly improve high value target tracking and locating capabilities," and the development of a long-range strategy for handling detainees by the end of 2008.

According to AFP, other goals under the rubric of "Prevail in Global War on Terrorism" are to develop a security and cooperation plan for the Near East and South Asia; to develop the capabilities of partner countries; and to communicate in "a 24/7 New Media Age."

Other items on his list: establish a new Africa command, carry out a "cyberspace strategy," and begin a new approach to nuclear deterrence.

Full Report PDF
Report Concludes Transparency, Controls, Legal Accountability Inadequate
08/20/2007 12:42 PM ET
MOSUL, Iraq: A foreign security contractor stands guard to allow Iraqi election officials and US embassy officials to exit a meeting.
David Furst/AFP/Getty
MOSUL, Iraq: A foreign security contractor stands guard to allow Iraqi election officials and US embassy officials to exit a meeting.

The Bush Administration either has not kept sufficient records or has been unwilling to present to Congress basic, accurate information on the companies employed under U.S. government contracts and subcontracts in Iraq, according to the newest revision of a CRS report on the issues involving US employment of contractors in Iraq.

A number of government officials blamed the lack of adequate oversight on understaffing, pointing out that the Departments of Defense and State have reduced the number of contracting officer’s representatives (CORs), those who are responsible for supervising contracted work, even as the use of contractors has been on the rise.

Doug Brooks of the International Peace Operations Association, an industry representative, described the oversight situation as “a nightmare” and stated that “the better” companies would prefer closer oversight.

CRS periodically revises its report "Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues" for Congress, with the most recent version completed in July.

In the latest edition, for the first time CRS addresses allegations of abuse of third-country nationals employed as security contractors. CRS reports the United Nations Working Group on the Use of Mercenaries has collected abuse complaints in five countries from which private security personnel are regularly recruited--Chile, Ecuador, Fiji, Honduras, and Peru. Complaints include contractual irregularities, poor working conditions, partial or non-payment of salaries, and neglect of basic needs such as access to medical services. Though the UN working group did not name the companies responsible for the abuse, the statements on Fiji and Peru named Iraq as the country where the abuse occurred.

In another concern related to the employment of third-country nationals, CRS revised a conclusion from the last edition of the report, which had indicated contractors had made strides to improve background screenings and quality controls on new-hires. Now CRS says the situation does not appear to have changed significantly in the past year since they first raised it.

With regard to the most prevalent concern of the legal accountability of civilians armed with deadly force, CRS summarizes all the relevant criminal and military statutes, painting a portrait of legal accountability that remains full of loopholes.

Private Security Contractors in Iraq: Background, Legal Status, and Other Issues CRScontractors7_07.pdf

U.S. Military
Capt. Beau Biden to Deploy in 2008 With 261st Signals Brigade
08/17/2007 10:35 AM ET
Chicago, UNITED STATES: US Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator Joseph Biden speaks during the 2007 American Association for Justice Annual Convention in Chicago 15 July 2007.
Jeff Haynes/AFP/Getty
Chicago, UNITED STATES: US Democratic presidential hopeful US Senator Joseph Biden speaks during the 2007 American Association for Justice Annual Convention in Chicago 15 July 2007.

The son of Democratic senator and presidential candidate Joe Biden will be deploying to Iraq next year with the 261st Signal Brigade. Capt. Beau Biden, a Judge Advocate General in the Delaware National Guard and the state's attorney general, has received orders to prepare for deployment, but not a date of departure.

"I don't want him going," Delaware Sen. Joe Biden said from the campaign trail Wednesday, according to a report on Radio Iowa. "But I tell you what, I don't want my grandson or my granddaughters going back in 15 years and so how we leave makes a big difference."

AP reports Biden criticized Democratic rivals such as Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Barack Obama who have voted against Iraq funding bills to try to pressure President Bush to end the war.

"There's no political point worth my son's life," Biden said, according to Radio Iowa. "There's no political point worth anybody's life out there. None."

Full Report PDF
Reducing Violence Must Be Top Priority, US Must Prepare If Efforts Don't Work
08/10/2007 5:46 PM ET
The United States should focus its political, security and economic efforts in Iraq toward the single goal of reducing sectarian strife and other violence, but should also start planning now for the possibility that these efforts will not succeed, according to a RAND Corporation study released this week.

The report which recommends the United States reassess its efforts in Iraq, concluding that the single biggest issue in Iraq is the daily violence faced by the nation's population. That violence is now caused primarily by sectarian fighting, rather than from insurgents or criminal violence, according to researchers.

“You cannot proceed with recovery and building a stable society when people fear for their lives,” said Olga Oliker, lead author of the report and a senior policy analyst at RAND, a nonprofit research organization. “The United States needs to reassess its strategies in Iraq and make plans for its next steps.”

The RAND report was completed before the recent military surge and is based on more than a year of research, which included travel to the region and extensive interviews with analysts and officials from Iraq and the United States. In addition, several members of the research team have worked in Iraq as advisors to U.S. and Iraqi officials. The report was produced by RAND Project AIR FORCE with support from the U.S. Air Force.

Researchers outline five often-discussed policy options for the United States in Iraq and discuss the significant shortcomings that are seen with each approach. The options are: 1) mounting an overwhelming military force, 2) partitioning Iraq along ethnic lines, 3) maintaining current troop levels, 4) backing one side over another in the current sectarian strife, and 5) withdrawing U.S. forces.

The RAND report recommends that U.S. officials reassess political, security and economic efforts to assure that as long as U.S. forces remain in Iraq, all policies are focused on improving security for Iraqis.

If the U.S. hopes to build and maintain a strong central government in Iraq, the researchers say, America must work to prevent a Kurdish takeover of oil-rich Kirkuk, prevent creation of additional autonomous regions that could lead to partitioning, and help the central Iraqi government maintain control over oil revenues.

If the U.S. is to strengthen Iraq's security forces and enable them to take the primary role in containing sectarian violence (rather than contributing to it), the U.S. must pursue strategies to make those forces less sectarian, more professional, and focused on protecting citizens. To achieve these goals, among other things, employees of the Ministry of Interior and security forces who have been implicated in sectarian and criminal violence must be fired and subject to criminal prosecution, according to RAND researchers.

The report recommends the United States redirect its economic policies in Iraq to focus on strengthening the central government, postponing long-term reconstruction initiatives until violence eases.

A key tenet of the United States' economic policy should be to press the Iraqi government to continue to raise fuel prices to market rates. This would help prevent sectarian militias and insurgents from profiting from the resale of gasoline and diesel on the black market and smuggling it outside the country. Such activity has been one of the primary means of funding violence.

Economic efforts should focus on improving and restructuring operations of the Iraqi oil ministry by providing technical assistance to create a professionally managed national oil company. Such a change in management would help boost oil production and generate more revenue to fund the government, according to the RAND report.

While the RAND report outlines U.S. policy changes that can support efforts to reduce violence in Iraq, the researchers also recommend that U.S. leaders begin planning for their next steps should those efforts fail.

Contingencies that should be studied include what measures would be necessary if the United States chooses to withdraw its troops from Iraq, according to the researchers.

Steps that should be taken before a withdrawal starts include: discussing the move with the Iraqi government and U.S. allies before a decision is taken; reassuring allies that the United States remains committed to its military obligations throughout the Middle East; and assisting the refugees who may flee Iraq after a U.S. pullout, according to the researchers.

Other authors of the report are Keith Crane, Audra K. Grant, Terrence K. Kelly, Andrew Rathmell and David Brannan.

Full Report PDF
NYU Report Discusses Likely Scenarios for Post-2010 Iraq
08/08/2007 4:48 PM ET
The re-emergence of a nationalist dictator could provide Iraq its best hope for stability, according to a number of scenarios proposed by a workshop held by New York University's Center on Global Affairs.

The exercise gathered an array of Iraq experts, led by Michael Oppenheimer, an associate professor of international affairs at CGA, for a one-day discussion on a range of possible outcomes for the future of Iraq. The proceedings of the exercise have been compiled into a recently released report--CGA Scenarios: Iraq Post-2010.

The three scenarios detailed in Iraq Post-2010 are:

National Unity Dictatorship: Stable Iraq, Stable Region. A nationalist leader emerges from the chaos of Iraq, a leader who is sufficiently independent of external players—the U.S., Iran, Al-Qaeda, Arab governments—to establish internal credibility as a unifying figure.

Contained Mess: Unstable Iraq, Stable Region. As Iraq disintegrates into all-out civil war, the neighboring countries, understanding the potential for contagion, radicalization and the threat to their regimes, manage to act collectively to avoid a worst-case regional conflict, even as they pursue proxy war on Iraqi territory.

Contagion: Unstable Iraq, Unstable Region. Iraq’s civil war spreads to adjoining states through refugee flows, growing radicalization of Arab populations, escalating terrorism and the deliberate efforts of regional rivals to destabilize each others’ governments.

The experts did not offer much in the way of an assessment on how to make one scenario more or less likely than another, but the group agreed to the helpfulness of a realist approach regarding the need for a strong Iraqi hand to crackdown on the violence.

Oppenheimer said, "The best idea we were able to generate—a National Unity Dictatorship—is the only plausible route to stability in both Iraq and the region, and one we can make more likely if we choose to. This would, of course, represent the failure of democratization in Iraq, at least in the short term.”

CGA Scenarios: Iraq Post-2010 scenarios_1.pdf

Full Report PDF
Report Suggests Cutting Underused Fighter Aircraft and Carriers
08/06/2007 11:54 AM ET
AT SEA, INDIA: The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz cruises towards the port of Chennai, 01 July 2007.
AT SEA, INDIA: The nuclear-powered aircraft carrier USS Nimitz cruises towards the port of Chennai, 01 July 2007.

The Pentagon would cringe at the though of reducing the size of its carrier fleet, but the Project on Defense Alternatives suggests that as an option for stripping more than $60 billion from the defense budget over the next five years.

According to Carl Conettea with PDA, defense spending has added roughly $3 trillion to the federal debt in recent years, much of it borrowed from social security. With social security accounts in decline with the retirement of the baby boomer generation, the need to re-pay the debt looms large over the federal budget.

Facing the prospect of a rising China, reducing the flexibility of US force projection in deep water would not seem the wisest option for reducing spending, but PDA posits that the suggested cuts represent excess and generally unused assets.

None of America’s post-1998 wars have required US commanders to push deployed strike assets to their limits – despite target lists running into the thousands. Moreover: in none of the recent wars has the United States deployed more than one-third the strike assets it had available worldwide. This suggests that we have passed the limit of utility for the sheer aggregation of airborne strike platforms – which today number approximately 2150 fighters and bombers.

The effectiveness of precision-guided munitions has dramatically increased the capabilities and accuracy of bombing runs. Though the exact benefit is under contention, CDA reports a reliable estimate would be that PGMs allow a five to eight-fold reduction in the number of sorties required to achieve the same results.

The increased precision of bombing campaigns has resulted in a decline in requirements for numbers of sorties. In the first Gulf War, US aircraft flew an average of 1.3 sorties per day, whereas for OIF the number has fallen to 0.9, while the proportion of precision-guided munitions grew from 8% to 68%.

The result of this increase in accuracy is that US airpower is achieving better results with a lower expenditure in US assets, and such technological advances are only expected to continue improving in coming years. As a result, PDA suggests, the US budget is already funding an excess of fighter aircrafts and carriers, which offers fiscally-minded defense officials a place to start consolidating resources.

According to their figures, cutting two active-component USAF fighter wings and two USN aircraft carriers along with their associated air wings would save about $61 billion in procurement, personnel, and operations costs over the next five years. The smaller force structure would result in about $6.65 billion in savings annually.

Toward a Sustainable US Defense Posture projectdefensealt.pdf

DC Buzz
Incoming Chairman of Joint Chiefs Lays Blame on Bush's Civilian War Planners
WASHINGTON - JULY 31: Adm. Mike Mullen testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing for appointment to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Chad McNeeley/USN/Getty
WASHINGTON - JULY 31: Adm. Mike Mullen testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing for appointment to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Asking a Bush Administration official to reflect on mistakes made regarding the Iraq war tends to provoke a strained response about "challenges," or vague regrets about tactical errors and the failure to anticipate sectarian conflict.

For his confirmation hearing yesterday, Adm. Mike Mullen, soon-to-be Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, became refreshingly specific in detailing what he views as the most critical errors of the Iraq war.

His list supports the common assessment of much of the Iraq expert community, but is most remarkable in that he has given it just as he is poised to become the President's top adviser on military affairs. Mullen's list of mistakes essentially piles all the blame for the war's errors on Bush's war cabinet and stable of planners.

The Admiral detailed his views on war mistakes in his prepared response to an advance policy question before Tuesday's hearing, and so obviously put some thought into what he was doing. Mullen wrote:

I believe the most significant mistakes to date are:

1. Did not fully integrate all elements of U.S. national power in Iraq.

2. Focused most attention on the Iraqi national power structures with limited engagement of the tribal and local power structures.

3. Did not establish an early and significant dialogue with neighboring countries, adding to the complex security environment a problematic border situation.

4. Disbanded the entire Iraqi Army, a potentially valuable asset for security, reconstruction, and provision of services to the Iraqi people, providing a recruiting pool for extremist groups.

5. Pursued a de-Baathification process that proved more divisive than helpful, created a lingering vacuum in governmental capability that still lingers, and exacerbated sectarian tensions.

6. Attempted to transition to stability operations with an insufficient force.

7. Unsuccessful in communicating and convincing Iraqis and regional audience of our intended goals.

US News & World Report's Terry Atlas picks up on the implication of what the Admiral wrote, explaining, "Mullen, of course, didn't name names, but he hardly needed to since these mistakes were based on key decisions and orders so closely tied to former Iraq occupation chief Paul Bremer (who disbanded the Army and ordered de-Baathification), former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld (who held down troop levels and froze out the State Department in post-war planning), Vice President Cheney, and President Bush himself."

The President has a standard talking point about how he listens to his commanders on the ground, but the decision-making on the war has made it clear that has not always been the case, and all of the mistakes Mullen points to could be attributed to situations where political considerations won out over military rationale.

It doesn't seem likely the President would welcome his incoming Chairman's dirty laundry list of errors, but Mullen setting off his new working relationship in such a way provocatively implies he is sending a strong unspoken message to Bush: You should listen to the military.

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Affecting Thousands of Returning US Troops
08/01/2007 10:14 AM ET
MCALLEN, TEXAS - JULY 21: A US servicemember drinks water to wash down one of four anti-depression and anxiety drugs he takes for PTSD.
Chris Hondros/Getty
MCALLEN, TEXAS - JULY 21: A US servicemember drinks water to wash down one of four anti-depression and anxiety drugs he takes for PTSD.

This week the House of Representatives passed a measure designed to improve diagnosis and treatment of PTSD in servicemembers returning from Iraq and Afghanistan.

The VA reported in April that one-third of OIF and OEF veterans have sought health care since fiscal 2002, and that mental disorders made up 37 percent of possible diagnoses among recent battlefield veterans. Half of the 84,000 patients determined to be suffering from a mental disorder were provisionally diagnosed with PTSD, though most experts consider that number to be too low

PTSD often goes undiagnosed, partly because the weakness associated with such disorders may trigger shame in individuals hailing from a military culture, discouraging them from seeking help. Also, the symptoms of PTSD are little understood, and many don't realize the seriousness of leaving the problem untreated.

From the Journal of the American Medical Association, here is a backgrounder on the symptoms of PTSD and a list of Websites for those seeking further information.


Posttraumatic stress disorder is the development of characteristic symptoms that last for more than 1 month, along with difficulty functioning after exposure to a life-threatening experience.


* Intrusion—memories of the trauma or "flashbacks" that occur unexpectedly; these may include nightmares or physical reactions such as a racing heart

* Avoidance—avoiding people, places, thoughts, or activities that bring back memories of the trauma; this may involve feeling numb or emotionless, withdrawing from family and friends, or "self-medicating" by abusing alcohol or other drugs

* Hyperarousal—feeling "on guard" or irritable, having sleep problems, having difficulty concentrating, feeling overly alert and being easily startled, having sudden outbursts of anger


* People with military combat experience or civilians who have been harmed by war

* People who have been raped, sexually abused, or physically abused

* People who have been involved in or who have witnessed a life-threatening event

* People who have been involved in a natural disaster, such as a tornado or an earthquake


* Cognitive behavioral therapy with a trained psychiatrist, psychologist, or other professional can help change emotions, thoughts, and behaviors associated with PTSD and can facilitate managing panic, anger, and anxiety.

* Certain medications can reduce symptoms such as anxiety, impulsivity, depression, and insomnia and decrease urges to use alcohol and other drugs.

* Group therapy can help patients learn to communicate their feelings about the trauma and create a support network.

* Becoming informed about PTSD and sharing information with family and friends can create understanding and support during recovery.


* American Psychiatric Association * Anxiety Disorders Association of America * National Center for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder * National Institute of Mental Health/Anxiety Disorders Education Program * Posttraumatic Stress Disorder Alliance


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