Thursday, January 13, 2005

More Men on the Ground 2

The Defense Science Board, an organization which consists of eminent civilian experts to advise the Department of Defense,  issued a report entitled Summer Study 2004: Transition to and from Hostilities. (Hat tip: Cedarford) But it should really be entitled a Guide to Occupation Warfare, Present and Future. The report opens with the observation that  "U.S. military expeditions to Afghanistan and Iraq are unlikely to be the last such excursions." But before setting forth its recommendations, it notes with some irony that US forces were historically never designed for occupation and conquest and lack even the conceptual framework with which to approach "the stabilization and reconstruction operations that follow hostilities". The study task force consisted of civilians with considerable military, industrial or diplomatic experience. A full list of the report's authors is at the Belmont Lounge. The report was commissioned in January 2004 with the mandate to examine how best to perform the following tasks in Iraq and Afghanistan:

  1. Protect the US forces during occupation;
  2. Neutralize and destroy munitions stocks;
  3. Exploit intelligence in the aftermath of the fall of the Hussein regime;
  4. Stabilize the condition of the civilian population;
  5. Re-establish the rule of law; and
  6. Rebuild Iraq

It concluded that the United States should create occupation contingency plans for any countries it was likely to invade. The development of these plans in their fullest sense was not currently part of the military planning process. Indeed, they could not be formulated by the military alone. A new interagency mechanism was needed to generate them.

We believe this management discipline, now focused on combat operations, must be extended to peacetime activities, to stabilization and reconstruction operations, and to intelligence—not only in DOD, but across the government. ... The process should be codified in a presidential directive. ... DOD and the Department of State need to make stabilization and reconstruction (S&R) missions one of their core competencies. Success in these missions depends upon a stronger partnership and closer working relationship between the two departments.

The report called for what amounted to a Colonial Corps. "To be fully effective the United States will need to have some of its people continuously abroad for years, so they become familiar with the local scene and the indigenous people come to trust them as individuals -- tours of duty that we imagine to be far longer than traditional assignments today."

History indicates that stabilization of societies that are relatively ordered, without ambitious goals, may require 5 troops per 1000 indigenous people; while stabilization of disordered societies, with ambitious goals involving lasting cultural change, may require 20 troops per 1000 indigenous people. That need, with the cumulative requirement to maintain human resources for three to five overlapping stabilization operations as noted above, presents a formidable challenge.

As an aside, one should note that if these recommendations are to be taken seriously nothing that Donald Rumsfeld could have done in the short term before Operation Iraqi Freedom would have fitted the bill. Deploying a larger number of regular military formations as Fred Kagan has suggested would not have helped much. What was required was not more combat formations of monolingual young Americans but something rather different and which America did not then or in the foreseeable future possess.

The report also recognized that occupation warfare required a very large political and public relations component, which they termed "strategic communiction"to articulate a political message with the full force of American media resources. It observed there was an entire propaganda front in which US military with its rigid separation from the press was not prepared to address and which had been ceded to the enemy with its purposeful media strategy.

Strategic communication -- which encompasses public affairs, public diplomacy, international broadcasting, information operations, and special activities -- is vital to America’s national security and foreign policy. Over the past few decades, the strategic communication environment and requirements have changed considerably as a result of many influences. Some of the most important of these influences are a rise in anti-American attitudes around the world; the use of terrorism as a framework for national security issues; and the volatility of Islamic internal and external struggles over values, identity, and change. ... America needs a revolution in strategic communication rooted in strong leadership from the top and supported by an orchestrated blend of public and private sector components.

But most of all America needed better human intelligence capabilities to successfully conduct any successful occupation warfare. Overhead satellite imagery and electronic intercepts might help, but they it was eyes on the ground that were required above all. An earlier post pointed out that  Howard Hart, a former CIA clandestine officer alleged there "are far far fewer clandestine service officers serving abroad than there are faculty members at the University of Virginia. ... It is hard to reach them to recruit them in the first place. The universities with the highest concentrations of talent are hostile toward the CIA." It needed capabilities which were in very short supply and in some cases nonexistent. But the Defense Science Board concluded that it was impossible to win occupation warfare without them:

We need to treat learning knowledge of culture and developing language skills as seriously as we treat learning combat skills: both are needed for success in achieving U.S. political and military objectives. But collecting, compiling, and sustaining cultural knowledge of this sort, as well as developing linguistic competency in a wide array of languages, requires an effort and attention span that is far longer than the short-term focus that is typical of those who use and collect information and intelligence today. ... Language skills are a key enabler of country and area knowledge. Today, DOD lacks sufficient personnel with the languages and skills that are required for countries ripe and important.

Earlier Belmont Club posts noted how Middle Eastern warfare, beginning in modern times from the Franco-Algerian war in the 1960s favored a strategic withdrawal by its militarily weaker forces into social redoubts, defended not by concrete fortifications but by a nearly impenetrable barriers of kinship, language and religion. America might deploy a million men to Iraq and physically control every inch of ground, but unless it could reach into this social fortress it could never successfully engage the enemy.

The Defense Science Board believed that in addition to human intelligence the US needed to pursue revolutionary technologies which would help identify and track terrorist forces calling for an effort at par with the Manhattan Project.

A variety of available and emerging technologies can be brought to bear to identify objects or people of interest from surveillance data and to verify a specific individual’s identification. Available or emerging technologies include biometrics, tags, object recognition, and identification tokens. However, further development of sensors and databases is needed to overcome the shortcomings of conventional intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems.

We believe an integrated, coherent approach is required in order to develop identification, tagging, tracking, and locating (ID/TTL) capabilities that will give U.S. military forces the same advantage finding targets in asymmetric warfare that it has in conventional warfare. Although much good work is going on today, it is disjointed across disconnected activities, organizations, and interests. What is needed is a discipline—not “just” a set of excellent programs— focused on the overall ID/TTL challenge. We recommend that the secretary of defense, along with the new head of the intelligence community, establish a “Manhattan Project”-like program for ID/TTL. (Emphasis theirs)

Although it is possible to find occasional -- and very passing references -- to the possible lack of occupation troops and shortcomings in pre-invasion planning, the Summer Study 2004 report clearly doesn't assign much importance to the kinds of short-term steps which Kagan and Andrew Sullivan have suggested -- having more troops to guard dams and pipelines -- which essentially consisted of larger deployments of kinds of military units available in early 2003. The report makes a far more serious criticism: that the US embarked on a mission to transform the Middle East in 2003 while lacking even a modicum of the capability necessary to undertake the task required. Indeed, as Kevin Drum has observed, if Rumsfeld had acknowledged all that he lacked in the days after September 11, "the invasion of Iraq almost certainly would never have happened". Nor, one might add, would have it struck back against terrorism at all had the full extent of its defense shortcomings been known as the towers were falling onto Manhattan.

In hindsight the days immediately after the World Trade Center attacks were a time of naivete for both terrorist and American counter-terrorist strategists. If Osama Bin Laden and Saddam Hussein erred in believing that the US would fall after a few sharp blows, America may have wrongfully believed that a sharp riposte in the Arab heartland would topple the age-old hatreds that had encrusted there. The generation which marched off to the Western Front in 1914 eventually discovered that no one would be "home before the leaves fall".  As it happened, the generation of 1914 would return eventually though not as they imagined and never to the homes they had left behind. The intractability of Middle Eastern terrorism will eventually call forth a corresponding irresistability in the American response. "Stabilization and reconstruction operations" are much more than something Donald Rumsfeld forgot in the lead up to Operation Iraqi Freedom. They represent a terrifying and historically inevitable response to the terrorist way of war.


Norman Podhoretz has a long essay called The War Against World War IV (hat tip: Roger Simon) which can be read as an eerie companion piece to this post. He makes two large points. The first is that America has no alternative but to accept battle against this enemy. The second is quoted by Roger Simon.

Furthermore, facing a conflict that may well go on for three or four decades, Americans of this generation are called upon to be more patient than "the greatest generation" needed to be in World War II, which for us lasted only four years; and facing an enemy even more elusive than the Communists, the American people of today are required to summon at least as much perseverance as the American people of those days did-for all their bitching and moaning-over the 47 long years of World War III. Indeed, in this area the generation of World War IV has an even more difficult row to hoe than its predecessors in World War II and World War III.

A Colonial Corps indeed.