Migration.

May 3, 2006

After about 9 months of not posting, I doubt I still have any regular readers.   But for those of you who know me from

http://williamkaminsky.typepad.com

welcome to the new WordPress version.   Since the frequency of my posts over the last year (i.e., near zero) doesn't really warrant a paid subscription blog service like TypePad, I imagine I'll be closing the old TypePad version relatively soon and moving exclusively to this WordPress site.   Thus, for all you who've been kind enough to link to me in the past, please update the link to:

https://williamkaminsky.wordpress.com

[Belated Thoughts on the 60th Anniversary of the Atomic Bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki]

[Sunday, Sept. 4, 2005  The portion of this post appearing below in boldface has been revised.  Please see endnote for details.]

There’s a couple of reasons why I’m a theoretical physicist.  For tonight, the pertinent one is this:  I can feel numbers.  To me, they’re not symbols long since divorced from the consequences they were meant to quantify.  Instead, in my imagination, their consequences are palpable, sometimes vividly so.   Thus, while I can intellectually understand the truth behind those now immortal cynical sayings of good ol’ Senator Dirksen ("A million here and a million there, and pretty soon you’re talking about real money.") and mean ol’ General Secretary Stalin ("The death of one man is a tragedy.  The death of millions is a statistic."), I don’t personally feel their truth.    Rather, I personally feel a million dollars as the accumulation of a lifetime or two of paychecks, and a million deaths as an utterly satisfactory reason to emulate Job and blaspheme God to His Face should He ever take the time out of His very, very busy eternity to grant me the ultimate honor of some individualized revelation. 

Now, as you can see from the above examples, my natural knack for internalizing numerical knowledge doesn’t so much have to do with any mathematical facility per se, but rather an ability to imagine something personally poignant in place of the numbers.  And so, gentle reader, if in recent days you have pondered the morality of dropping atomic weapons on Japan and have found yourself confounded by all the cold counteractuals it entails, and if–more importantly–you’re now willing to partake in some moderate emotional masochism, then let me commend to you the following excerpt of Errol Morris’s stunning 2003 documentary on Robert McNamara, The Fog of War.  Better than anything I’ve ever seen, it conveys the brutal emotional truth behind the cold, hard statistic that in the five months leading up to the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, US firebombing campaigns on 67 Japanese cities directly killed at least 175,000 civilians and burnt to the ground the homes of at least 8,000,000.

Read the rest of this entry »

As a most fitting afterword to this blog’s long exegesis of Anthony Cordesman’s June 24th speech at CSIS (audio, video) on what has happened and what needs to happen in Iraq…

Part 1: The Stakes and the Odds

Part 2: The Progress and the Problems to Date

Part 3: Where We Should Go from Here

…I point you to Dr. Cordesman’s response to President Bush’s speech at Fort Bragg last night

[Hat Tip: Justin Logan]

P.S. This blog will now return to its regular schedule of non-Anthony-Cordesman-inspired posts. 🙂

[Part 1: The Stakes and the Odds, which introduces this 3-part series and transcribes in full Dr. Cordesman’s opening statement can be found here.]

[Part 2: The Progress and the Problems to Date, can be found here.]

Concluding our discussion of Dr. Anthony Cordesman’s speech on June 24 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (audio here, video here) regarding his recent two week tour of Iraq in early June at the behest of the Departments of State and of Defense, we now arrive at the key question: "Where should we go from here?"

Though Dr. Cordesman main recommendations can be summarized as a few relatively succinct bullet points, it is worth prefacing these points by the following exchange during his post-speech Q&A:

Q: …The President is probably going to make a speech to the nation Tuesday night, and a lot of people have said that one way for him to try to galvanize support would be for him to indicate a center of gravity for post-conflict operations in Iraq… If the president wanted to focus the American people’s attention on one thing which the US could make a forceful intervention to make a sea change in the situation, what would be that center of gravity?

A: You know, the endless search for simplicity in Washington is one of the reasons we get ourselves into so much trouble in terms of public policy. If you have a really complex problem, you better have a really complex solution…

Thus, the brevity of his recommendations is more an illustration that certain critical aspects of US policy must drastically change course as opposed to an indication that a simple solution exists.  It is also worth remembering the blunt assessment with which he opened his speech:

The fact is that [Iraq] is a country with no proven political experience, whose leaders are learning on the job to be politicians, to govern, to deal with the divisions in their society. Iraq is 5 to 10 years of instability, regardless of the military outcome. It is a country which will require some 5 to 7 billion dollars in US expenditures per month for at least several more years. In the best possible case, thousands more of Americans and Coalition partners will be killed and wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqis. And if you ask me to assign odds, I would say 50-50 under the best circumstances, simply because none of us have a basis on which to assign odds.

So, with his above words of caution firmly in mind, here are his recommendations:

  • Level with the American people with language as blunt and honest as those above words of caution. 
  • Emphatically state that the US will fully leave Iraq as soon as it is secure and that the purpose of US operations in Iraq is neither to seek greater strategic advantage in the Middle East nor to gain any control over Iraq’s oil and gas resources.
  • Toward this end and toward the end of finally having a systematic plan for cross-the-board improvements in Iraqi infrastructure and standard of living, develop a transparent vetting process for all aid money and let the Iraqi government itself directly administer all this money.   Declare that neither American nor American-preferred companies or NGOs should receive any preference in receiving this aid money.
  • Make goals, not timetables. It must be clear that nation-building goals will not be compromised to meet any given deadline.  For example, the intention to execute a gradual withdrawal of 50% or so of US personnel from Iraq over the course of 2006 can be declared, but it must be clear that such withdrawal is strictly contingent on advances secured by the new Iraqi military and police forces.
  • Remember amidst all the alarm over continued underequipping of US forces for the task of urban counterinsurgency that the new Iraqi forces have far, far less equipment in this regard.   Rectify both these problems as soon as possible.
  • So long as US forces are in Iraq there will be major deployment strain on all US active duty and reserve personnel, their families, and the communities from which they come.  However, it can be somewhat alleviated.  Step one to alleviating it is to internalize the following obvious facts: (1) The next 12 months in Iraq are a make-or-break period.  (2) Over such a short period of time, even if you somehow could get Congress to authorize a draft today, you could not generate new, well-trained soldiers in sufficient numbers to alleviate deployment strains.   Thus, alleviating deployment strains means our attention should be fully focused now, if it wasn’t already, on assuring the experienced professionals currently on or just recently back from deployments in Iraq, their loved ones, and their communities, that soldiers can indeed have family lives (and, if reservists or guardsmen, civilian careers also) in between deployments.   To this end, Dr. Cordesman endorsed Army Chief of Staff Schoomaker’s new guidelines for deployment rotations.  [Dr. Cordesman did not elaborate, but judging from pages 10 and 11 from this CSIS draft paper of his, these new guidelines, which in fact began to be implemented in 2003, envision Army deployments based on smaller, lighter brigades that deploy for 6 months in theatre and the rotate out for 18 months rather than the current larger, heavier brigade and full division deployments that deploy for 12-15 months in theatre and then rotate out 12 months.]
  • Finally, if you aim to retain experienced military professionals, then pay them accordingly.

[Part 1: The Stakes and the Odds, which introduces this 3-part series and transcribes in full Dr. Cordesman’s opening statement can be found here.]

[Part 3: Where We Should Go from Here can be found here.]

Continuing our discussion of Dr. Anthony Cordesman’s speech on June 24 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (audio here, video here) regarding his recent two week tour of Iraq in early June at the behest of the Departments of State and of Defense, we now arrive at the "there’s good news, and there’s bad news" portion.

First, a (relatively) brief overview:


The Military Situation (Overview):

Dr. Cordesman saw the most progress here, though he was firm that current military operations can only contain, not destroy, the insurgency.  Indeed, his scathing opinion was as follows:

So anyone talking about breaking the back of the insurgency is fundamentally misreading the situation or misportraying it deliberately. It is not happening, and it is not the goal of military operations to date.

However, I had the sense he thought the presently prevailing limitation to containment is par for an admittedly very bloody course.  He was highly heartened by the fact that the infrastructure for training new Iraqi military and security forces is in place, and the first officers having gone through it began to take commands in February.   He thought it is quite possible for there to be a gradual withdrawal over the course of 2006 of US forces down to the level of tens of thousands of personnel.  (In comparison, current US forces in Iraq stand at roughly 150,000 personnel, see the OIF-3 listing on the Iraq – Order of Battle Page at GlobalSecurity.org for more details.) On the other hand, since the parliamentary elections of five months ago in January, the Sunni insurgency (especially its small foreign jihadist contingent) has sought to provoke civil war through attacks on Shiite and Kurdish civilians.  With caustic understatement, he called civil war "an exit strategy, and also a failure."  That is, he saw no way the US forces could stay for any length of time in the middle of an all-out civil war and thus no way they can stop the bloodbath that will ensue.   

The Political Situation (Overview):

Dr. Cordesman was by and large heartened with the dedication and effort of the civil servants he met in the new Iraqi government, especially the Ministries of Defense and of Interior.  (Note that Interior does have the police portfolio, so I am not sure if he has disproportionately seen only the domestic security side of the civil service.)  However, by and large, he felt managerial experience in the new government is in short supply, and he emphasized that experience in tending to the demands of different ethnic/tribal and religious groups outside of the context of authoritarian kleptocracy is necessarily lacking.

As for electoral politics, he thought the legislative elections in January and the declared plan for ratification of a constitution by this legislature by October followed by a set of new elections for a government in accord with this new constitution by December do mark definite progress.   However, he cautioned that political parties thus far are overwhelmingly formed along ethnic and sectarian lines, and thus "elections and constitutions are not going to play out as solutions but rather as forums in which all of the divisions and problems in Iraq. And this will take years to change."

The Aid & Economic Situation (Overview):

Dr. Cordesman thought the aid & economic situation was equally as important as the military & political situation for the eventual success or failure of the project of a new Iraq.   Thus, it is especially unfortunate that not only no systematic cross-the-board progress in civilian infrastructure and standards of living has been made, but also no systematic plan to achieve progress has been formulated.   He put it bluntly, "There is too much corruption, too much inefficiency, and too much waste in the process.”


And now, for those so inclined to keep reading what’s already a long post, allow me to relate many of the more unique and nuanced points Dr. Cordesman made.  In emphasizing these specific points, he seemed, to this listener at least, to tower above the teeming legions of Iraq experts that appear on TV.

Read the rest of this entry »

Gentle reader, have you been wondering what an assessment of Iraq would sound like if it were done by someone who combined the following oh-so-hard-to-find trio of traits:

a) Believes, on balance, the US must continue in Iraq for the indefinite future, and…

b) Believes in being blunt about the possibility of failure, and…

c) Is actually an experienced professional with field experience in the Middle East stretching back decades?

If so, then I doubt you can do better than check out the speech Dr. Anthony Cordesman—longtime scholar/analyst on Middle East military matters and sometime foreign policy adviser to Senator John McCain—gave on Thursday, June 24 at the Center for Strategic and International Studies based on his two-week tour of Iraq in early June at the behest of the Departments of State and of Defense.    The CSIS site has archived audio of the speech and CSPAN has archived video of the speech as well.

This will be the first of three posts on Dr. Cordesman’s speech and Q&A.   It transcribes his opening statement laying out the stakes and the odds of the conflict in Iraq.   (As I could not find any transcript of the event, I transcribed this opening statement myself.)  Part 2 will summarize Dr. Cordesman’s sense of the progress made to date and the problems currently prevailing in Iraq.   Part 3 will summarize his recommendations for the future.

And for those short on time, let me give here the key quotes from the opening statement before transcribing it in full:

I did not meet any American, any other member of the Coalition, or any member of the Iraqi government who did not see this insurgency as going on for at least 2 to 3 more years, and probably in some form lasting much longer.  …Iraq is 5 to 10 years of instability, regardless of the military outcome.    It is a country which will require some 5 to 7 billion dollars in US expenditures per month for at least several more years.  In the best possible case, thousands more of Americans and Coalition partners will be killed and wounded, and tens of thousands of Iraqis.  And if you ask me to assign odds, I would say 50-50 under the best circumstances, simply because none of us have a basis on which to assign odds.

And now for Dr. Cordesman’s full opening statement:

Read the rest of this entry »

In Memoriam – 2005

May 30, 2005

I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy.

— John Adams (1735-1826)

As a theoretical physicist with major metaphysical leanings, I’ve long felt the above quote by President Adams to be especially pertinent to me personally. Therefore, to the many who have made the sacrifice to study the ugly side of life so that others may study the beautiful side, I offer my humblest thanks.

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And there have been so many…

US Personnel Served and Casualties Suffered in Major Wars/Conflicts of the 20th Century
War/Conflict Personnel Served Battle Deaths Other Deaths Wounds Not Mortal
World War I
(1917-1918)
4,734,991 53,402
(1.128%)
63,114
(1.333%)
204,002
(4.308%)*
World War II
(1941-1946)
16,112,566 291,557
(1.810%)
113,842
(0.707%)
671,846
(4.170%)*
Korean War
(1950-1953)
5,720,000 33,741
(0.590%)
2,835
(0.050%)
103,284
(1.806%)
Vietnam Conflict
(1964-1973)
8,744,000 47,415
(0.542%)
10,785
(0.123%)
153,303
(1.753%)
Persian Gulf War
(1990-1991)
2,225,000 147
(0.007%)
235
(0.011%)
467
(0.021%)

* See reference notes below for sources of these figures.  Note that World War I "Wounds Not Mortal" as well as the Marine Corps contribution to WWII "Wounds Not Mortal" (68,207 of the 671,846) are actually "Wounded In Action" (i.e., number of soldiers wounded) and technically not "Wounds Not Mortal" (of which one soldier could receive multiple ones during his tour of duty, of course).

US Casualties Suffered in Major Ongoing Operations**

[For comparison, bracketed figures give the DoD official totals as they stood last year on Memorial Day 2004, which reflected casualties up through May 28, 2004 10 AM EST.]

Operation Killed in Action Nonhostile Deaths Wounded In Action
Enduring Freedom
(Sep 2001-present)
75
[53]
112
[69]
470
[310]
Iraqi Freedom
(Mar 2003-present)
1264

[587]

383

[215]

12,630

[4,682]

** Current as of May 27, 2005, 11 AM EDT.  See reference notes below.

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Want to contribute something? Then, please consider:

1) Donating your frequent flyer miles to soldiers through the "Hero Miles" program. a program which played a major role in shaming the Pentagon into paying for all legs of soldiers’ flights home for 2 week R&R leaves from Iraq and Afghanistan, rather than just an intercontinental leg from Iraq or Afghanistan to either Baltimore/Washington DC, Dallas/Forth Worth, or Atlanta. However, the domestic legs of flights home for family emergency leaves (e.g., for birth, death, or serious illness of family members) still need to be paid for out of pocket by the soldiers, as do any flights by soldiers’ families to visit them in military hospitals. Heromiles.org uses donated frequent flyer miles to defray the cost of these flights for soldiers and their families.

2) Any of the major grass roots support efforts by soldiers and their families such as http://www.anysoldier.com/ and the many programs to which it links.

*********************************
Notes and References for the Tables:

—————-
For 1st Table:
—————-

Source: U.S. Department of Defense, Directorate for Information Operations and Reports, Statistical Information and Analysis Division. "DoD Principal Wars – US Military Personnel Serving and Casualties"

All names used (notably, "Vietnam Conflict" and "Persian Gulf War") as well as all years chosen for tabulation (notably, including 1946 casualties in "World War II" and including only 1964-1973 casualties in the "Vietnam Conflict") are those used by the Department of Defense in the above source.

—————-
For 2nd Table:
—————-

Source: The present "Casualty Reports" link of www.defenselink.mil, the official web portal to all of the public US Department of Defense websites. Note that the Casualty Reports link is regularly updated and the most current one can always be found at the bottom of the "Press Resources" linklist in the right column of www.defenselink.mil.

NB: A useful general source for all military casualties from all US military engangements is the "Military Casualty Information" webpage of U.S. Department of Defense, Directorate for Information Operations and Reports, Statistical Information and Analysis Division. The homepage of the Statistical Information and Analysis Division has a wealth of information on many other topics too.