“Soft despotism is a term coined by Alexis de Tocqueville describing the state into which a country overrun by "a network of small complicated rules" might degrade. Soft despotism is different from despotism (also called 'hard despotism') in the sense that it is not obvious to the people."

Sunday, February 18, 2007

No War Too Small

Many believe the sole purpose of the United States military is to fight and win this nation’s wars, that warfighting is the sole raison d’être of the uniformed services. As recently as this week, The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Peter Pace, warned that the tempo of operations in Iraq and Afghanistan is degrading the military’s capability to respond to conventional threats from Nation States.

And yet, over the last two centuries, the nation employed its military continually during what was otherwise characterized as times of peace, in operations where medicine, engineering and policing were equal in value to firepower:

  • The Barbary Wars from 1801-1805
  • The Boxer Rebellion in 1900
  • In the Philippines, from 1899-1902
  • In Cuba and Central America, from 1898-1914
  • In Haiti from 1916-1924
  • In Nicaragua from 1926-1933
  • In El Salvador from 1983-1990
  • In Haiti, the Balkans and Somalia, throughout the 1990s the 1990s
  • In El Salvador, from 1997 through the present
  • In the Horn of Africa, from 2002 through the present
  • In the Phillippines, from 2002 through the present

The aforementioned military operations are merely vignettes of the military’s long history conducting so called small wars, and these scant examples neglect to mention the countless other stability operations that have been conducted over the years. The outcomes vary greatly from case to case. Haiti, for instance, despite being occupied or overseen numerous times throughout the last century, is largely a failed nation state today; El Salvador, on the other hand is now a stable democracy, and has even contributed troops to Operation Iraqi Freedom and for other global humanitarian actions.

Critics often disdain so called nation building operations arguing that it is not in the national interest to have American soldiers and marines employed in any other manner than that of the gravest national security. The oft-lauded Powell Doctrine itself is a veritable argument against the case for small wars:

  1. Is a vital national security interest threatened?
  2. Do we have a clear attainable objective?
  3. Have the risks and costs been fully and frankly analyzed?
  4. Have all other non-violent policy means been fully exhausted?
  5. Is there a plausible exit strategy to avoid endless entanglement?
  6. Have the consequences of our action been fully considered?
  7. Is the action supported by the American people?
  8. Do we have genuine broad international support?

Nonetheless, again and again, an infantry company commander finds himself in a sit-down meeting, settling neighborhood disputes between Serbs and Ethnic Albanians; or a Civil Affairs officer is vaccinating livestock on Basilan Island in the Philippines; or a Special Forces Officer is training a Kenyan mortar section outside of Nairobi; and soldiers from an anti-armor section are guarding a polling station in Kabul. Meanwhile combined task forces execute battalion and brigade sized combat operations in Iraq and Afghanistan, employing artillery, mortars, and close air support, often side by side with their host nation counterparts.

Can soldiers and marines do all of these missions and still be prepared for conventional wars that may suddenly appear on the horizon? Put simply, the military of the 21st century must be able to do all of these missions, and the force requires the skills and flexibility to execute them simultaneously.

Nearly every corner of the developing world is rife with instability, insurgents, militias narcotrafficking, and failed states. Neither the State department, intelligence agencies, NGOs, nor any other component of the government or private organization possess the level of organization and operational reach to achieve effects in these environments like the military. The military is very often the only element of the government that can have an impact in this environment either as a lead or supporting agent.

The Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986 effectively arrayed the Department of Defense to deal with the exigencies of the 21st century. That act organized the military into geographical combatant commands (ie CENTCOM), and created the Special Operations Command. The combatant commands are often at the forefront of policy efforts in their respective areas. USSOCOM, meanwhile, has trained, resourced, and employed forces that are critical enablers across the globe.

Most of the other elements of the government, meanwhile, have languished in the aftermath of the cold war. The intelligence agencies rely heavily on their technical platforms, but lack the human intelligence capabilities that are so urgently needed now. The State Department likewise has failed to evolve in a matter reflecting the emerging requirements of the post 9/11 world; there are likely more State Department personnel at work in the capitals of Western Europe right now, then say, in Asia, Africa, or critical Middle Eastern countries, where most of our attention is directed.

Only the military, time and again, has been able to evolve and respond decisively to all manner of foreign policy requirements, and with dramatic effects.

The five decades of the Cold War, where the United States stood toe to toe with a peer competitor, projecting power only in a carefully orchestrated, strategically critical manner, may well prove to be an historical anomaly. More often than not, the military has been at the vanguard of foreign policy throughout the years, much as the Colonial Office was for the British Empire.

Those who would garrison the military until a conflict arises fail to see the world as it is today.

Post Script. Two great books to read on this subject are:

  1. The Savage Wars of Peace, by Max Boot
  2. Imperial Grunts, by Robert Kaplan


  1. You make a compelling case that goes beyond the integration of forces themselves. The British, especially during their imperial phase carefully integrated foreign policy and civil service with the armed services. The US military is almost invisible within the US, except in direct proximity to military bases. That may have an influence in foreign assignments as well.

    If there is an ongoing need for the military to perform a more visible role in today's world, and based on your examples, this is nothing new, perhaps it would be a good idea for some of the elite US universities and colleges to add courses on military sciences and their civil applications.

    I for one, would not be opposed to either persuasion or coercion in assisting their decision making.

  2. Put simply, the military of the 21st century must be able to do all of these missions, and the force requires the skills and flexibility to execute them simultaneously.

    What we have heah is a failure to communicate what our mission should be. Many believe that we should not put our troops in harm's way on missions of global social engineering, such as garnering "genuine broad international support" or "settling neighborhood disputes between Serbs and Ethnic Albanians" or "vaccinating livestock on Basilan Island in the Philippines" or "training a Kenyan mortar section outside of Nairobi" or "guarding a polling station in Kabul." Some believe that the US military should focus on keeping nuclear weapons from being smuggled in container ships to US ports, or building missile defense shields against rogue nuclear states, or keeping the sea lanes open so the oil can flow.

  3. Rufus said, "But then, Teresita, or Bruce, or Darrell, or whatever it is this week..."

    That's not very friendly.

  4. There is no doubt that increasing the military's outreach to universities, especially the so-called ivy league institutions, would provide considerable advantage at multiple levels. Officers who study (staff?) these places would return to the force more educated, better thinkers, and probably in greater numbers than today (if policies were shifted, that is). Moreover, increased interaction with the military and those who attend such universities would likely dispel long-held stereotypes on both sides once and for all, which would make it more difficult for tripe like William Arkins recent column to be alarmingly beneath the surface of many political arguments these days.

    The Colonial Office model certainly does offer some excellent examples for the United States contemporary operating environment. Leaders seem to have caught on, and there are more interagency personnel deployed now in Iraq and Afghanistan than ever before; hopefully the military will sustain this relationship, and not simply rely on ad hoc serendipity whenever a new crisis emerges.

    In terms of a visible role, most of the time it is better for the military's role to be below the fold and low key. There is very little controversy considering military commitments ongoing in the Philippines, South America, or the Horn of Africa, largely because they occur beneath the radar and on a scale that does not attract much attention. The latter examples should be the model for 21st century military commitments; if the military continues to adjust its operating model to enhance the effects it can achieve in campaigns such as these cases, it may well preclude many of the potential high risks, costly conventional conflicts of tomorrow.

  5. rufus,

    Sorry to post that Walter Reed link, but after waiting all day for one of the big boy bloggers to take on the Washington Post, it seemed high time.

    What is so often missed by the amateurs are some of the real costs of war, like the invalid. Are you aware that the last Civil War widow died less than twenty years ago? The costs of the current engagements will go on well into the next century. Wizbang had up the stats not long ago, as I recall.

    Since the Revolution, America's veterans have had cause for complaint, and have often taken to the streets to do so. Of course, this is not unique to the US, but I'll let the Russians worry about their own.

    In a perverse sort of way, the out-patient mess at Reed has a positive side. As long as these troops are on the rolls, they receive full pay and benefits. Once off, they fall into the tender clutches of the Department of Veterans Affairs. At this writing, it is taking nearly three years for the VA to process an appeal. And there are lots of appeals. Any questions?

  6. Teresita, good points all around on your original post; however, all of those missions you listed as being crucial (minus building missile defense systems all over the place!) are enhanced by having a robust, ubiquitous presence in troubled places across the globe.

    Anything coming into our port has to be transloaded from somewhere else, right? Better to catch it at its debarcation point. No one will be able to do such a thing if the military is garrisoned.

    The Navy maintains significant presence to keep the sea lanes open, although it is more likely that naval problems of today in littoral waters; not too many convoys to protect from the Wolfpack these days.

    Also, it is difficult to know when strategic resources are threatened if you don't have someone in theater to see for yourself.

    Those "social engineering" missions generate goodwill amongst local populaces, and do legitimate good, even if on the short term. Moreover, they help to increase military to military contact, and make it possible for the United States to maintain a presence in a region where it has strategic interests.

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  8. and teresita , you are always welcome at the Elephant. I am convinced you have a dd-214.

  9. Lucianne calls the Washington Post article a “hit job.” And so it is. But that goes to motive, not fact. Could that explain why all the “Democrats are traitors” bloggers aren’t touching the thing?

  10. trish said: "Anything coming into our port has to be transloaded from somewhere else, right? Better to catch it at its debarcation point."

    How so?

    A garrison at century strength or greater in every sea port, this time not just throughout Mare Nostrum. Pax Americana and all that neo-con rot.

  11. rufus,

    I am certain that by this time tomorrow the administration will have mea "culpaed" this thing to death. We will all go to bed knowing that the best minds are at work as we sleep. Nevertheless, once again, the administration has been caught with its pants down, and any excuse is no excuse, given the costs being borne by the taxpayers.

    There is a pattern here, and as P. T. Barnum is alleged to have said, "You can't take an honest man."

    As for me, I don't give a shit if the troops have to be billeted in the White House and the Capitol, get them out of the shit-hole!

  12. I meant embarcation point. Where the stuff gets loaded ON to the ships. My three editors failed to catch that, ha ha.

  13. Trish,

    I believe good border and port securrity is crucial to national defense; I am no expert in this area; anecdotally however, I have been down near FOrt Bliss and seen people simply crawling under a border fence with ease. My guess is that we have a long weay to go in this area.

    My point in the thread was that we have a much better chance of preventing the unimaginable if we have a robust, low key presence in the world where such threats emanate from.

  14. trish,

    re: turnaround

    What turnaround?

  15. Trish said, Get them out of that shit-hole.

    And next time you want to do a surge, do a surge, not ramp up piece-meal one battalion at a time. That's what the Japanese did to lose Guadalcanal. This is gonna be the same old same old, but with more body bags.

  16. trish,

    re: Get them out of the shit-hole

    As an Army spouse, I should think your first thoughts would be for the welfare of the troops housed at an Army facility. Instead, you concentrate on gamesmanship. That tells me a great deal about the depth of your loyalty.

  17. trish,

    re: come again

    I think not.

  18. You two ...

    Yes, bob, we should have a low key but robust presence spread throughout the flashpoints of the World.

    We don't, though, well not nearly enough.

    But beyond the ability to project a presence is the Will to do so.

    The other striking factor is the Military's outlandish tooth to tail ratio.

    1.5 million in Uniform of some type
    10% (150,000) deployed to a low level insurgency strains the Institution to the breaking point.

    Of the 150,000 in Country only 30,000 or so are assigned to Combat roles, outside the wire.
    20% of the Incountry force provide the teeth.
    2% of the Military, fighting in Iraq, is bending the US Military's capacity to maintain the tempo.

  19. In peacetime, hundreds of troops are killed and thousands injured each and every year. Soldiering has always been hazardous. But, whether in war or peace, America has an obligation to care for the medical needs of its armed forces.

    While one may morally disagree with America’s engagement in Iraq, one may not morally right-off the welfare of those Americans injured in the fight. Well, more precisely, an American cannot do this.

  20. Desert Rat wrote: 1.5 million in Uniform of some type 10% (150,000) deployed to a low level insurgency strains the Institution to the breaking point.

    It gets worse. Of the 150,000 deployed to the insurgency, only 10% (15,000) go on patrol any given night. So the adjusted gross tooth-to-tail ratio is 1%.

  21. DR,

    re: you two

    Sorry, I would never knowingly, rudely interject myself into your space. Do carry on. The welfare of troops at Walter Reed is no more relevant here than the epidemic food poisoning suffered by American troops in the Spanish American war.

  22. We have been supporting the country of Colombia for nearly a decade using the operating model described in my post. It's far from perfect, but it's under the radar in both countries (slightly less so in Colombia). Colombia has had numerous elections in the interim, and it has recovered a Switzerland -sized piece of territioy that had previously been ceded to FARC insurgents.

    Numerous high profile terrorists have been apprehended or killed across the globe because of this operating model.

    By the way, Teresita, that "Neocon Rot" crack was off base; operations like this started prior to the NEOCON movement getting off its feet; "Plan Colombia' started when President Clinton was in office. Operations in Haiti, the Balkans, and elsewhere were executed throughout the 1990s. Although flawed, and with mixed outcomes, they are arguably the beginning of how the military will likely operate in the coming decades.

    Trish, I read the article by Pfaff, thanks for the referral. I don't think Mr Pfaff is the anti-bob though. Pfaff's is a moralist argument for how he believes the world should work; my argument is based on how the world is.

  23. Bob W. By the way, Teresita, that "Neocon Rot" crack was off base; operations like this started prior to the NEOCON movement getting off its feet; "Plan Colombia' started when President Clinton was in office. Operations in Haiti, the Balkans, and elsewhere were executed throughout the 1990s. Although flawed, and with mixed outcomes, they are arguably the beginning of how the military will likely operate in the coming decades.

    No, that is one thing we will take away from getting mixed up in a civil war in Asia once again, it will be another 30 years before we get a "Desert Storm" type concerted international campaign to shake America out of its Iraq Syndrome with more wonder weapons, and another 10 years after that before we use those wonder weapons to bring Truth, Justice, and the American Way to yet another piss-ass third world crap hole, probably because they're sitting on the largest supply of rare-earth metals, which we will need for the quantum computers everyone will wear in their sunglasses.

  24. bob w,

    The United States is an empire. I go so far as to say that our founders intended it to be so. Indeed, American’s assiduously worked to this end through the third decade of the last century. In short, Americans have been, through most of their history, unapologetic imperialists and colonialists. For those who would point to Washington’s Farewell Address in rebuttal, I would say that at various times during his lifetime, Washington held large tracts of land in the “West”. Obviously, he anticipated the territorial expansion of the United States. He was, however, deeply concerned about American involvement in the perennial, internecine dynastic struggles on the European continent. The two ideas are not mutually inclusive.

    Very early on, the founders understood that the acquisitiveness and inventiveness of man would overcome the apparent security afforded by the two oceans separating the America’s from Europe and Asia. That is why a navy and its attendant basing overseas had priority. Even a cursory review of US history will prove the point. For those who still doubt, consider Japan.

    Only recently have Americans come to view overseas “adventures” prejudicially. It might be supposed that 50 years of MAD may have contributed to this shortsightedness. Whatever the case, America is as strategically vulnerable as it has ever been. While the Barbary pirates are long dead, their progeny with a host of other potential and actual compatriots, still pose threats. Consequently, like it or not, the United States must make its presence felt in the world. At the moment, Iraq is the center of that attention.

    Now, for those citizens who find any particular administration or Congress wanting, there is the ballot box. For those officers who find themselves conflicted, there is resignation. For potential recruits, there is the safety of non-impressment, i.e. enlistment is strictly voluntary. That Mr. Bush has twice successfully stood for election is telling. Whether the present Congress has uniform public support to oppose the President remains to be seen.

    Should a president take the country into a war illegally or unnecessarily, using the election cycle cynically to avoid public rebuke, there is impeachment and removal. The American system has no precedent or consequential statutes for votes of no confidence.

    The bottom line is that it is not a virtual world, and until Americans learn the lesson of 9/11 another such attack is probable. Keeping America’s battles on foreign soil is infinitely preferable to fighting them at home. If that is imperialist, it is one of a set.

  25. trish,

    re: military medicine

    My complaint is not with the military.

  26. Desert Storm was a month long bombing campaign, followed by a five day Ground war to achieve narrow ends against a nation state that had invaded a neighbor.

    99 per cent of the officers in the Army would love for the world to be so simple, and to let the military focus on fighting Desert Storm again, and again. . . and again. It would certainly make the curriculum at Leavenworth and other service schools more straight forward!

    Do you believe that the U.S. is going to spend the next three decades dealing with threats from Nation States, and that is where the focus should be for the military?

    You are probably in the minority if you do.

    The model I talked about relies more on human being who understand the people and the environment in a given locale. Not a lot of talk in this whole thread about technology.

  27. trish,

    I have and do receive excellent medical care at a military treatment facility. Sadly, it is no longer a hospital, with all that implies. While the closure may have been on the recommendation of someone in the military hierarchy (which I seriously doubt), the order came from civilians.

    For whatever it is worth, I have yet to meet anyone who does not regret the transformation of the hospital to clinic. Were a poll of service members, dependants, and retirees conducted, I would bet that 99.9999% would vote for the reopening a full service hospital.

    For the record, the process that closed the hospital here began under Mr. Clinton.

    The Air Force Times carried an opinion piece two weeks ago which was scathing in its criticism of the “privatization” of military medicine. As you are aware, there are big bucks in privatization. In this area, a vast industry has mushroomed to meet the demand. Unfortunately, not all providers are created equal and there is no “realistic” inspection system to improve matters.

  28. DR,

    Please accept my apology for the last.

  29. The Welfare of the troops at Walter Reed, why that's the Army's job to provide for. You seem displeased with military medicine, allen, such as it is.

    I know all the politicos make a point of stpping by there, Mr Murtha, Mr Rumsfeld, the whole gambit and spectrum of DCites make their way through the wards at Walter Reed.

    Seems to me that whether or not Mr Maliki's Health Department is sanctioned to provide water & sewer service in Ramadi, Iraq is little cause for the US to put another patient in one those WR wards.

    Perhaps it's money that they are short, at Walter Reed. Times are tough in Federal funding.

    The US Government sees many things differently then folks here at the EB. Water and sewer projects in Iraq get priority US funding, while the financial needs of the US Forest Service goes begging.
    The Border fence is still unfunded and unbuilt, the promised increase in manpower, unseen.
    Money does not reach Katrina survivors in New Orleans, but Fallujah is rebuilt on the double and US funds distributed amongst the deserving Iraqi.

    Now just the other day Mr Bush said:
    "... The other day, the Iraqi government passed a $41 billion budget, $10 billion of which is for reconstruction and capital investment. ... ... But one of the benchmarks they laid out, besides committing troops to the Iraqi security plan, was that they'll pass a budget in which there's $10 billion of their own money available for reconstruction and help. And they met the benchmark. And now, obviously, it's important they spend the money wisely. ..."

    Which makes one think,
    "Wow! those Iraqi are steppin' up!" until one reads this
    "About $10 billion has been squandered by the U.S. government on Iraq reconstruction aid because of contractor overcharges and unsupported expenses, and federal investigators warned Thursday that significantly more taxpayer money is at risk.

    The three top auditors overseeing work in Iraq told a House committee their review of $57 billion in Iraq contracts found that Defense and State department officials condoned or allowed repeated work delays, bloated expenses and payments for shoddy work or work never done.

    More than one in six dollars charged by U.S. contractors were questionable or unsupported, nearly triple the amount of waste the Government Accountability Office estimated last fall.

    So the whole of the Iraqi's annual reconstruction effort is equal to the $10 Billion USD wasted out of the US's $56 Billion USD effort.

    Now that I've thought it through, I'm not that impressed, Mr President, really.

  30. bob w,

    The United States will continue to fight nation states, as it has since WWII, through their proxies.

    The similarity between Iraq and both Korea and Vietnam is the sanctity of facilitating, hostile, bordering countries. From the looks of things, Iraq may well end as inconclusively.

  31. DR,

    re: Why?

    Because they are active duty troops housed in an Army facility.

    As to my opinion of military medicine, see my last to Trish.

  32. So it is up to the Army to handle it.
    Like they do everything else.

    Why expect stellar performance from socialized services.
    All of the drawbacks of Third party payer health care, with none of the benefits.

    bob w had an interesting point about reenlistment, back a thread or so
    Only one in five to one in four active duty troops reup. Many of the 75% that do not reup do so because the "Military" is not what they thought it was going to be.

    The Military is "gate guard" and "radio watch" much more than it is patroling the mountains around the Khyber Pass. So good troops get out, not satisfied with the free Sick Call and "Time in Grade" lifestyle, to go along with the misutilization of their skills.

  33. This administration has never missed an opportunity, to my knowledge, to glad-hand in a Potemkin military photo-op. Given the level of hostility shown by the media, to be caught by the Washington Post at this late date is inexcusable.

    What the graft in Iraq has to do with Walter Reed escapes me. I find no correlation. Just as there is no shortage of feel-good community outreach programs sponsored by the military, there is no shortage of money for meeting the health care needs of the troops. Granted, one will not get into the local news rag for doing one’s duty, but there you have it.

  34. It's the Marines that replace 20% of the Corps, annually. The Army seems to have upped it's reenlistment rate to close to 64% of those eligable.

    An Army without privates, must be something.

  35. DR,

    If the Army has no responsibility to care for its own (something absurd and unlawful on its face), then, who does? Why not close all military treatment facilities and send out the wounded, catch as catch can? Why have corpsmen and medics, doctors and nurses, if it’s every man for himself? Why have a military at all?

    I would agree with the proposition that the military is not responsible for attendant family members. Back in the bad old days, that job was taken by churches and other charitable institutions, like during the Civil War. Obviously, nowadays, tax exempt charities cannot be bothered by something as mundane as, say, charity.

    As to the military providing socialized medicine, well, of course it does. The military is just one big socialist enterprise, top to bottom. How could it be anyother way?

    Here is a number to consider, DR: 80% of enlistees do NOT complete the entirety of their first tour of duty. has a write-up on this somewhere.

  36. Allen: Here is a number to consider, DR: 80% of enlistees do NOT complete the entirety of their first tour of duty.

    Probably because they are taking more and more of the kind of recruits who did not complete the entirety of their high school education as well. The war is one factor, the good economy is another.

  37. GAO report on enlistees not completing first tour is 30%

    For at least the last decade, about one-third of enlistees in the military
    services have failed to complete their first tours of duty. Concerned that
    the attrition rate was so high, the former Chairman and the Ranking
    Member of the Subcommittee on Personnel, Senate Committee on Armed
    Services, asked GAO to review the attrition rates of first-term, active-duty
    military personnel who are separated within the first 6 months of their
    enlistments. Specifically, GAO (1) calculated how much the services could
    save by achieving their goals for reducing 6-month attrition,
    (2) determined the adequacy of the Department of Defense’s (DOD) data for
    allowing it to establish realistic goals for reducing attrition, and
    (3) analyzed the principal reasons that enlistees are separated from the
    services while they are still in training.

  38. 80%, seems unlikely, but...

    I looked back and read that Walter Reed article. Sounds like money problems to me. Data management fiascos. Lack of qualified people.
    Not enough resources devoted to the outpatients. Not enough money.
    Or not enough management. or not enough effective management.

    Sounds like the Army.

    80%, that's worse than bad. Then they are only getting 64% of 20%.
    That just 12.5% of all first time enlistees. Worse than I had thought, at 20%. It'll never rebound with those kind of numbers.

  39. that is a ten year old report, if the number has escalated to anything close to 80 %, we have a problem.

  40. Deuce,

    I think this 1997 report addresses attrition in the first 6 months of the first tour of duty. I will check further.

  41. I beg pardon of one and all. According to this site, the rate of attrition during the first tour is 40%.


    I will continue to dig to see where I came up with 80%.

    Again, sorry for the error.

  42. Well that report had, for the last year on the graph, '91, 37.7% of the Army did not complete the first term and 35.4% of the Marines did not.

    So it'd be 65% of 65% that renlist.
    Down to 42% of initial enlistees reup, still high, I'd venture to guess.

  43. Good post, bob!

    re: education in the military

    Education can surely play a bigger role in the military.

    There needs to be a concerted effort - as what you have suggested - to counter the stereotype of soldiers being of the less educated (no thanks to Kerry). In Singapore, a considerable amount of scholarships are offered to those who sign up for the military, accommodating those from polytechnic and junior college levels. Given the rather limited number of universities in Singapore (but nonetheless offering world-class education), one would expect that the opportunities for Singaporean military officers to study overseas would increase. However, constrained by financial costs, such changes have been slow to implement.

    That American military personnel are so close in proximity to Ivy League universities and not being able to utilise those facilities is, to me, a serious waste of time and under-utilisation of resources.

    re: cross-training

    If we are to pre-empt conventional conflicts, then our concerns should be with maintaining a substantial presence in logistics and training ala Ethiopia - subtle military cooperation with local forces. This would mean that troops would have to be familiarised with the subtleties of truce monitoring, ingratiating with the population, but able to switch effectively to conventional conflict should the need arise.

    It is inevitable that during truces, ceasefires and peacetime operations, the technical skills of soldiers will erode without regular training. Just look at the UN "peacekeeping" forces in Lebanon, who have grown so accustomed and world-weary that they don't even realise Hezbollah outposts right beside UN bases.

    Rotation of troops might be logical, but not advised. The challenge is how to hone both aspects of the military without compromising the effectiveness of accomplishing our objectives - assuming that there will always be at least a theatre of war whereby real conflict will provide for much more realistic training than any simulation program can muster.

  44. thats ok allen, call it the general dynamics of research.

  45. So, it's 65% of 60%
    Down to 39% of initial enlistees.
    If all those that are not out early are eligable to reup, which may well be so.

    15 to 20% better than I had thought, or almost double, depending upon the perspective.

    Still, it's gonna be tough to add another 150,000 or so new bodies

  46. In an article addressing the 2005 DoD decision to strip battalion commanders of the authority to discharge undesirable soldiers, the authors reference a Rand study. Purportedly, Rand writes that 20% of recruits never actually make it to basic training, while 36% fail to complete the first tour of duty.

    Still digging.

  47. I’m guessing no one at the EB has attended the Ibrihim Ahmned School of Applied Rhetoric.

    Cabbie Runs Down Students (Religious Argument Leaves One Hospitalized)

    What religion could that have been?

  48. The anonymous writer of the enraged cab driver story is a Pulitzer candidate, if ever there were one.

    ___“tried to run over two customers”

    ___“ran them down in a parking lot”

    Is it just me, or is there something incongruous about these two clips?

    For those still wondering whether Ibrihim “tried” or did “run down” his fares, one of the students is hospitalized with serious injuries.

    As a model citizen, Ibrihim had been previously convicted of evading arrest in a motor vehicle and driving on a suspended license. In the true “never say die” spirit of the American immigrant, the cab Ibrihim was driving bore a stolen plate.

    Oddly, the report by does not tell the reader what religion was in dispute.

  49. bob w,

    re: Iraq

    There are those who would say that prior to 2003 Iraq was a nation-state and not a proxy. It occurs to me that Iraq was both a nation-state and a proxy. Yes, a proxy in so far as a consortium of nation-states invested heavily in Iraq, contrary to law, in order to weaken the “Hegemon”, to quote Chirac and Putin. Whether Iraq could have survived the First Gulf War and the subsequent sanctions and embargoes without the aid of Russia, France, Germany, and the UN leadership may be doubted.

    The American “adventure” in Iraq is about far more than Saddam Hussein and Iran.

  50. Bobalharb: Anna's body is ready for viewing.

    And the amazing thing about modern plastics is that she will be ready for viewing 5,000 years from now too.

  51. Allen said, I’m guessing no one at the EB has attended the Ibrihim Ahmned School of Applied Rhetoric.

    If offensive driving is applied rhetoric, then Lee Harvey Oswald voted for LBJ three times from that window.