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Archive for November, 2011

“Lessons From The Last 10 Years of Warfare” Walter Pincus in the Washington Post

Tuesday, November 29th, 2011

On November 1st, Walter Pincus wrote in the Post:

“For the past 10 years, the United States has engaged in constant warfare. Does that mean the next 10 years will be the same, even after U.S. combat troops are out of Iraq and Afghanistan?

Put it a different way: We have spent trillions of dollars to create the most professional and powerful military force in the world to fight those wars. It continues to cost hundreds of billions more each year to help sustain this all-volunteer force.

But let’s be honest about this. Fewer than 1 percent of the American people have been involved in this constant warfare. As for that spent money, much of it was borrowed, since, for the first time in history, Americans were not asked to pay a tax to support their men and women fighting abroad.

Now the time has come to begin paying that bill, along with other debts caused by ill-constructed national health care, prescription drug and retirement systems that were also put on the government’s credit card.

These issues emerged from a week of reading and listening to news conferences and congressional hearings in which real and potential cuts in defense spending and their future impacts were central issues.

Let’s focus on the impact of the all-volunteer force, not only on the country’s economic problems but also on its foreign policies.

It is already decided that there will be defense spending reductions of some $450 billion over the next 10 years. Part of that will come from reductions in the Army (27,000), with an additional 15,000 coming from the Marines.

The figures to ponder are military personnel costs, including those in active service, the reserves and the National Guard. For fiscal 2001, before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, they were $76 billion. The administration-proposed figure for fiscal 2012 is $143 billion. When Congress finishes, it will be less, but not by much.

The Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments’ study of the Pentagon’s fiscal 2012 budget concluded: “The base budget now supports a force with essentially the same size, force structure, and capabilities as in FY 2001, but at a 35 percent higher cost. The department is spending more but not getting more.”

As part of its cost studies, the Pentagon is examining personnel expenditures, including military pay, benefits, promotions, recruiting and retention programs, as well as retirement. Officials, from Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta on down, have said repeatedly that no future changes will affect those currently serving.

“Sustaining the all-volunteer force . . . will be at the heart of whatever we do,” Virginia Penrod, deputy assistant secretary of defense for military personnel policy, told a House Armed Services subcommittee last Tuesday.

A repeated fear is that defense cuts will result in a “hollowing-out of the military.” As best as can be pinned down, that means reductions, whether in numbers or pay, that would leave the services without the experienced noncommissioned and mid-level commissioned officers who actually run things.

As Jo Ann Rooney, principal deputy undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, put it last Tuesday before the House subcommittee: “Unlike the private sector, the military services must grow their military workforce internally. It generally takes 15 to 20 years to develop the next generation of infantry battalion commanders and submarine captains.”

The Marine commandant, Gen. James Amos, described what he’s facing during a Council on Foreign Relations meeting Wednesday. There is an eight-month wait for anyone qualified to join the Marines, and a longer wait to be an officer. But he needs new “critical skills” such as counterintelligence, and human and signal intelligence specialists, along with explosive ordnance experts and people for drone operations and cyberwarfare.

And though the overall Corps will shrink from the now planned 202,000 to 186,000 and even lower, he will be increasing Marine Special Forces from 2,600 to 3,600 over the next few years.

In fact that one element of the all-volunteer military keeps growing, with next year’s Special Operations Command budget — around $10.5 billion. There are 60,000 personnel overall and a 7 percent budget increase over fiscal 2011. Its former commander, Adm. Eric T. Olson, told Congress in March “every dollar is necessary to meet the ever-increasing demands placed on our Special Operations forces.”

Those “ever-increasing demands” are what should worry Americans. On Oct. 14, President Obama announced he had sent 100 primarily U.S. Army special forces to Uganda and other Central African countries to assist in a regional military effort to pursue the murderous Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) and its leader, Joseph Kony. Less publicized was Obama’s reference to a 2010 law Congress passed that called for “political, economic, military and intelligence support for such an effort.”

At a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing last Tuesday on the anti-LRA deployment, Rep. Edward Royce (R-Calif.), a sponsor of the legislation, said, “This is the reason the U.S. Africa Command was created.” Royce added that since Uganda is helping fight al-Qaeda in Somalia, it was a “fair deal” to help that country defeat the LRA.

The State Department reported that over the past year the United States had provided logistical support and training to regional forces, but that clearly was not enough.

Step back for a moment. A small group of concerned Americans teamed up with members of Congress to pass the bill that authorized the anti-LRA deployment. The Pentagon had prepared specially trained units to carry out what is now designed as a narrowly focused training mission. How many other ungoverned parts of the world exist where leaders can say their enemies represent a terrorist threat and they need U.S. military assistance?

In 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson sent the 82nd Airborne into the Dominican Republic to prevent what he called a second Cuba. He told Sen. J.W. Fulbright (D-Ark.) that if he hadn’t had the deployment-ready military units, he would have had to rely on diplomacy to solve the problem.

Fulbright later told me that both nations would have been better off had the 82nd Airborne not been there to make the military solution easy when diplomacy appeared more difficult. It’s a lesson remembered and reinforced by the last 10 years of warfare.”

A Book To Recommend, and A Novelist That Called Egypt’s Uprising

Tuesday, November 15th, 2011

I normally use these notes to raise ideas that are part of the national security discussion.  This week, I’m going to point you all to a book I believe should be part of your thinking.  And to a novel, written in 2010, that accurately described what happened this year in Egypt.

 Advance Book Information

If you read and enjoyed the 2009 paper, “Behavioural Conflict”, by the UK’s Andrew Mackay and Steve Tatham, which I sent to all of you in 2010, you will want to buy their new book by the same name.
Behavioural Conflict: Why Understanding People and Their Motivations Will Prove
Decisive in Future Conflict

Authors Andrew Mackay and Steve Tatham
Foreword by General (ret.) Stanley McChrystal

9781780392202 • Hardcover • £29.50 • $49.95 • €33.95
9781780392325 • Softcover • £18.95 • $29.95 • €21.50
Whilst geopolitics, economics, religion and ethnicity all play crucial roles in starting and sustaining conflict this book advances the idea that it will be people’s behaviour, and the West’s ability to understand, interpret and influence that behaviour which will become the defining characteristic of resolving future armed disputes. This seminal study draws directly on the authors’ operational experiences in Sierra Leone, Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan. Includes a chapter by behavioural scientist Dr. Lee Rowlands and an introduction by the BBC Radio 4 “More or Less” presenter Tim Harford. The foreword is by former ISAF commander General (ret.) Stanley McChrystal.
“I commend this excellent book authored by two practitioners with a record of success. It makes a clear and well argued case for a profound change to our conduct of War Amongst the People.”
General Sir Rupert Smith KCB DSO OBE QGM – Author of ‘The Utility of Force’

“The lessons of Afghanistan are finally being learned. This is a pioneering work of theory grounded in practice. It is a manual of warfighting in the information age, not only how to win wars but how to limit and even avoid them. The authors understand that firepower alone will not change people’s minds.”
Martin Bell OBE – Former war correspondent, soldier and politician

“It is rare for military insiders to produce an analysis that is counter intuitive and turns conventional assumptions on their head.  But Mackay and Tatham risk gripping the implications for the military and their political leaders of the profound change in the
media space. The flat earthers need to take note. That space is nothing like what they have long assumed.”
Nik Gowing – TV news presenter, author ‘Skyful of Lies and Black Swans’

In a 29-year career, Major General Andrew Mackay has seen operational service in Northern Ireland, Bosnia, Kosovo, Iraq, Lebanon and Afghanistan. In 2008 he was awarded the CBE for his command of 52 Brigade in Helmand Province, Afghanistan.
Promoted Major General in 2009 his last appointment in the British Army was as General Officer Commanding Scotland, Northern Ireland and Northern England. He is now Director of Strategy and Security at Baobab Investments Limited.
Steve Tatham remains a serving Commander in the Royal Navy and has seen operational service in Sierra Leone, Iraq and Afghanistan. He holds an M.Phil. in International Relations from St John’s College, Cambridge and has just completed a parttime Ph.D., also in International Relations. He is the author of the 2006 book ‘Losing Arab Hearts & Minds: The Coalition, Al-Jazeera and Muslim Public Opinion’ and over 20 other papers and monographs on the issues of influence and conflict communication.  He currently divides his time between the UK and Afghanistan, where he advises on strategic and tactical influence.

Military Studies Press
Books Express
4 Dencora Park, Shire Hill
Saffron Walden, Essex
CB11 3GB, United Kingdom

100% of the Author’s Royalties, will be contributed to Help for Heroes Trading Limited which Gift Aids all its taxable profits to Help for Heroes (Registered Charity Number 1120920)

Alex Berenson’s The Midnight House was published in 2010.  He’s written a number of novels, usually about crimes, over the past ten or so years.  The Midnight House is about a US team interrogating suspected terrorists at a base in Poland.  After the base is closed down and strange things keep happening to the team, a CIA operative goes to Cairo to gather information about one of the terrorists who was questioned.  Here’s a piece of Chapter 6,

“During the twentieth century, Cairo had been one of the world’s most cosmopolitan cities, a place where Muslims, Christians, and even Jews lived together peacefully…..Egypt’s version of Islam was generally more moderate than that practiced to the east in Saudi Arabia.  After all, Egypt’s long history predated Islam.  Its proudest moments had not come as a Muslim state but under the pharohs.  And almost ten percent of Egyptians were Christian.


In theory, Egypt still remained moderate today.  The nation was the only big Arab power to have made peace with Israel.  Women here were allowed to drive and didn’t have to wear head scarves, much less burqas.  Cairo was home to an English-language radio station whose announcers openly offered relationship advice…….


But in reality, Egypt had swung toward Islam since throwing off Britain’s colonial yoke in 1952.  High birth rates, government bureaucracy, and slow economic growth had left tens of millions of Egyptians living in destitution in the vast slums in and around Cairo.  Millions more aspired to the middle class but could not find decent-paying jobs despite college degrees.  Many saw Islam as the answer to their country’s crisis.  Islamic charities fed and clothed poor families,  Islamic courts offered quick decisions to peop0le who couldn’t afford to wait years to be heard by the overcrowded government court system.


But as they promoted charity and community values, Islamic leaders also stoked a fierce anger among their followers: at Egypt’s government, at Israel, and at the United States, which supported both.  The United States, so concerned about bringing democracy to Iraq but happy to look the other way when Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s president, rigged elections to stay in power.  Egyptians called Mubarak ‘the pharoh’, not only because he had been president for almost thirty years but because he was trying to anoint his son Gamal as his successor.


Year by year, the radicals gained influence.  Despite being outlawed, the Muslim Brotherhood, the most important Islamist political party, had won twenty percent of the seats in the Egyptian parliament in the 2005 elections – more than ever before.  On the streets too, the changes were obvious.  Even in downtown Cairo, more women wore head scarves, and burqas were not uncommon…..The calls to prayer grew louder each year.”

Nice situational analysis.

Let us know your thoughts on these and other books you believe we should recommend to our readers to ensure they have access to all the perspectives on national security topics of importance.  We’ll share them with our 5,000 readers.

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