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Current Topic: Military

The Mirage of Empire
Topic: Military 2:46 pm EST, Dec 24, 2005

Kaplan is not alone in arguing that America must embrace an imperial destiny. While they may not talk of empire, many neoconservative and some liberal commentators have presented a similar view of the US as the final guarantor of global security. Where Kaplan is distinctive is in claiming that America's imperial mission follows from a realist analysis of contemporary international relations, and asking how the sections of the American military that have the task of implementing this mission perceive their role.

In Imperial Grunts: The American Military on the Ground, he reports on his travels to US military bases in every quarter of the globe. Kaplan enjoyed a degree of access to US military bases and personnel that is rare if not unique among contemporary journalists.

The result has many weaknesses; but it is a consistently thought-provoking and vividly evocative book (the first of several he plans to write on the subject, he tells us) that challenges many preconceptions about the place of the military in American life and the world.

The Mirage of Empire

The Other Army
Topic: Military 12:08 pm EDT, Aug 14, 2005

He is an irrepressible man with full, close-cropped gray hair, blue eyes and a radiant smile, and as he told me about the early days, he recalled his disbelief at the men who were drawn to the company. "He wants to work for me?" he said he thought, over and over. But his modesty went only so far. "Rock stars like to work with rock stars," he said.

When it needed cash, to pay employees or buy equipment or build camps, it dispatched someone from Chicago with a rucksack filled with bricks of hundred-dollar bills. "All the people in Iraq had to say is, 'We need a backpack,' Or, 'We need two backpacks.'" Each pack held half a million dollars.

Suddenly, we were braking. Traffic crawled and doors were "cracked": doors are opened as little as possible, and rifles are pointed out -- the response when other vehicles get too near. The windows on armored vehicles are so heavy that they don't reliably roll up once they're rolled down, so they don't use the windows to point their guns. The door-cracking is rehearsed procedure; they can ride this way at top speed, leaning out to aim their guns in warning, or to put bullets into the engine of an oncoming car.

The Other Army

The Not-So-Long Gray Line
Topic: Military 11:23 pm EDT, Jun 28, 2005

This guy is spot on.

The mistake the Army made in 1969 is the same mistake it is making now: how can you educate a group of handpicked students at one of the best universities in the world and then treat them as if they are too stupid to know when they have been told a lie?

In the fall of 2003 I was embedded with the 101st Airborne Division in northern Iraq, and its West Point lieutenants were among the most gung-ho soldiers I have ever encountered, yet most were already talking about getting out of the Army. I talked late into one night with a muscular first lieutenant with a shaved head and a no-nonsense manner who had stacks of Foreign Affairs, The New Yorker and The Atlantic under his bunk. He had served in Bosnia and Afghanistan, and he was disgusted with what he had seen in Iraq by December 2003.

I know people like this. Some of them even have MemeStreams accounts.

The Army will need this lieutenant 20 years from now when he could be a colonel, or 30 years from now when he could have four stars on his collar. But I doubt he will be in uniform long enough to make captain.

Sad, but true.

The Not-So-Long Gray Line

Over There
Topic: Military 8:38 am EDT, Jun  3, 2005

On the morning of Jan. 26, while I rush my daughters through their bowls of cereal, brush their hair and get them ready for school, I learn that a CH-53E Super Stallion helicopter has crashed in western Iraq, killing 31 men. Twenty-six of them are part of my old unit: Company C, First Battalion, Third Marine Regiment, stationed at Marine Corps Base Hawaii, Kaneohe Bay.

Later, at work, I struggle to explain how surreal it is to learn that marines from the infantry company I served with in the Persian Gulf war have been killed in this one. I sit at my desk, processing insurance claims, surrounded by gray cubicle walls instead of sandbags and dirt, behind a computer instead of a machine gun, thinking about the business card from the recruiter tucked in my wallet. He says there's a slot for me in a reserve unit if I want it, and that I'd get a chance to go overseas again, to be part of something larger and greater than myself. To go to the war. I think about what my daughters would say if I told them that I'm leaving, and that I might not come back. I wonder how to justify it to myself if I don't go.

My co-worker looks over at me from his desk and says, "Did you know any of them?"

Decius recently wrote:
I think the interesting blogs are the radical ones with the most emotionally divisive content. Or the funny ones. The ones that make you feel, and not the ones that make you think.

Although this article appears in a newspaper and not a blog, I think it fits the description.

Over There

Cat-and-Mouse Games
Topic: Military 5:42 am EDT, May 29, 2005

The linchpin of the classification system and the device that allows government secrets to stay secret is the code name. Every program, exercise, and operation has a code name. Individuals, offices, and enemies are all granted code names. Only those who are cleared to know certain information will know a code name, and the higher the clearance, the more extensive one's code vocabulary. Indeed, so Byzantine is the classification hierarchy that even the different levels of clearance to know secret names have secret names of their own.

Like cherry blossoms or shooting stars, secret names are evanescent, gone the moment they are apprehended by those without the need to know.

If national security in and of itself is no longer a justification for this degree of classification, one might be inclined to ask what is.

Cat-and-Mouse Games

Facing the Future: Meeting the Threats & Challenges of the 21st Century
Topic: Military 3:13 pm EDT, Apr  9, 2005

It's a heartwarming tale of military transformation.

Looking back over the past four years, an extraordinary amount of change has taken place within the US military establishment. Without doubt, the status quo has been challenged, and a new architecture of American defense, not only envisioned but planned, developed, constructed and, in many areas, employed.

Some of the change was driven by external events, most notably, the Global War on Terror. However, much was undertaken as a result of the Department’s own internal analysis of what was required to prepare the US military and the Department for the threats and challenges of the 21st century.

Together, they represent possibly one of the most significant periods of accomplishment in the history of the Department of Defense.

The Department has initiated significant change and accomplished a great deal over the past four years and, with the continuing support of the Congress and, most importantly, the American people, we will continue to improve and accomplish our mission in the years to come.

Facing the Future: Meeting the Threats & Challenges of the 21st Century

Defense Strategy for the Post-Saddam Era
Topic: Military 12:56 pm EDT, Apr  9, 2005

What kind of military will the nation need in the future? -- and at what cost?

America’s large defense budget cannot realistically be pared in the years ahead. But given the extreme demands of the Iraq mission, particularly on the U.S. Army and Marine Corps, reductions in various weapons modernization programs and other economies might free up enough funds to add at least 40,000 more ground troops to today’s military.

Finally, the book sketches several possible new conflict scenarios that could occupy the American military in the years and decades ahead.

Defense Strategy for the Post-Saddam Era

Army Likely to Miss 2 Recruiting Goals; Review Is Planned
Topic: Military 12:51 pm EST, Mar 26, 2005

Mr. Harvey described plans to reshape the Army's recruiting message: "So we're going to appeal to patriotism. We're going to appeal to the value of service. And we're going to do that in a very proactive way."

He said the campaign would reach out to people he called "influencers" and would include parents and teachers who might be invited to meetings with senior Army leaders.

Coming soon to a blog near you ... (just wait until they discover AIM and SkypeMe)

Army Likely to Miss 2 Recruiting Goals; Review Is Planned

Army Documents Shed Light on CIA 'Ghosting'
Topic: Military 6:15 am EST, Mar 24, 2005

Senior defense officials have described the CIA practice of hiding unregistered detainees at Abu Ghraib prison as ad hoc and unauthorized, but a review of Army documents shows that the agency's "ghosting" program was systematic and known to three senior intelligence officials in Iraq.

The most recent Pentagon review of detainee abuse found 30 cases in which prisoners were held off the books, including one kept secretly for about 45 days.

Army Documents Shed Light on CIA 'Ghosting'

DoD Proposes Program to Remodel Defense Intelligence
Topic: Military 6:12 am EST, Mar 24, 2005

The remodeling intends to eliminate barriers for the free flow of intelligence within the department to those who use it.

This means being able to move the data quickly both horizontally and vertically, and to make sure the people who are searching for data can access it no matter where they are in the system.

Officials said they do not believe they need to change any law, executive order or regulation to put these changes in place. They said they will continue to work with Congress as they move forward.

DoD Proposes Program to Remodel Defense Intelligence

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