Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for the ‘Military’ Category

Why does the GOP so love their ignorance? Now they do not want to know the costs of the US nuclear arsenal.

leave a comment »

The GOP embraces its ignorance with determination and defensiveness. Not only does the GOP lack knowledge, it doesn’t want knowledge and routinely kills programs that would provide useful data (for example, studies on the effects of marijuana, or on the public-health risks of firearms ownership, or on the efficacy of abstinence-only sex ed programs). It’s puzzling to me. I generally think of people as having a desire to know, but (unlike the GOP) I can’t ignore the evidence. The GOP likes being ignorant.

Alex Emmons of The Intercept reports:

Republican lawmakers in the House of Representatives have lined up to quietly kill a cost estimate of the Pentagon’s three-decade nuclear modernization program, which experts predict will exceed $1 trillion. The vote was mentioned briefly in Politico’s morning briefing list last week but otherwise received no media coverage.

The Pentagon is already moving to refurbish its 1,900 deployed nuclear warheads and replace each leg of its nuclear triad – its land, sea, and air-based delivery systems. In October, the DOD signed a contract with Northrop Grumman to produce a new long range strike bomber, and itsproposed budget plan sets aside hundreds of billions of dollars to buy a new generation of ICBMs, nuclear submarines, and cruise missiles.

In the mid-2020s, those expenses are scheduled to overlap with major purchases of aircraft carriers and of the F-35 joint strike fighter, leading to a surge in spending that experts have called “unsustainable,” “unaffordable,” and “a fantasy.”

Brian McKeon, principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy, told reporters in October the Pentagon was “wondering how the heck we’re going to pay for it,” and that current leadership is “thanking [their] stars we won’t be here to have to answer the question.” In November, the Pentagon Comptroller called the cost of nuclear modernization “the biggest problem we don’t know how to solve yet.”

On Wednesday, four hours into a marathon hearing of the House Armed Services Committee, Congressman Steve Aguilar (D-Calif.) proposed a measure that would require the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) to predict the cost of modernization over thirty years. The CBO is currently required to estimate the costs only ten years out, which would overlook the longer-term surge.

Congressman John Garamendi (D–Calif.) spoke in support of the amendment.

“We’re going to spend an incredible amount of money on what amounts to a new nuclear arms race. It will take money from other programs… we ought to be aware of it, but we will be blind to the total cost,” Garamendi said.

Republican Michael Rogers (R–Ala.) rallied his colleagues against the amendment, claiming that a 30-year cost estimate may not provide reliable data.

“In all candor, a multi-decade cost estimate wouldn’t we worth the paper it was written on,” said Rogers. “This amendment would result in false, unreliable data in the public debate.”

But Aguilar fired back, pointing to a 30-year cost estimate of ship building programs the committee’s Republicans had approved. “If we’re not going to do long-term planning,” Aguilar said, “then let’s be honest about it.”

The measure was defeated 26-36, with all Republicans voting in opposition.

In the last election cycle, Rogers received more than $65,000 in campaign contributions from defense contractors, including $5,000 from Northrop Grumman, the company producing the new long-range strike bomber. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

2 May 2016 at 11:48 am

The Wrong Way to Handle the Attack on the Kunduz Hospital

leave a comment »

Eugene Fidell writes in the NY Times:

LAST October, an American gunship mistakenly launched a devastating attack on a Doctors Without Borders trauma center in Kunduz, Afghanistan, killing 42 innocent people. An investigation released last week detailed a cascade of human and technical errors that led to the bombardment. Now the Pentagon is compounding the tragedy by treating the case as less grave than it is.

Kunduz is not the first time aerial bombing has unintentionally killed noncombatants on the ground. In World War II, American bombers repeatedly strayed into Swiss airspace, dropping ordnance and causing significant damage. The Swiss finally registered a strong protest after Zurich was bombed, resulting in a court-martial of some of the crew. (The president of the court-martial was a colonel named Jimmy Stewart — the movie star.) The lead pilot and a navigator were acquitted, but at least there was a trial.

As matters currently stand, there will be no Kunduz trial. Instead, 16 members of the American military, including a general, have received disciplinary action or adverse administrative action, including letters of reprimand, removal from command, transfer out of Afghanistan and requiring recertification in a job specialty. Given the loss of life and damage to a hospital which, by definition, is a protected site under the law of armed conflict, it is hardly surprising that many view these actions are inadequate.

United States Central Command has justified the absence of courts-martial based on the report’s conclusion that, in its words, the errors that led to the attack were unintentional and that “other mitigating factors, such as equipment failures,” affected the mission. Certainly, mitigating factors should be taken into account when deciding on the disposition of charges. But both the process and outcome are open to serious question.

For example, the process that the Pentagon used to investigate the bombing was closed. Doctors Without Borders had asked for an international body to investigate. There were domestic alternatives as well: Instead of using the routine Army investigative process, the government could have convened a court of inquiry, as provided for in the Uniform Code of Military Justice. These are more formal, and have been used for major incidents. The Navy convened one in 2001 after the submarine Greeneville, on a V.I.P. cruise, surfaced abruptly off Honolulu, sinking a Japanese fishing vessel in the process and killing several of its crew.

It is unclear why a court of inquiry was not used in the Kunduz case, given the Greenville precedent. Such a court would have been closed to the public when classified evidence was being examined, but much of it could have been open. That alone would have fostered greater confidence in the results. The Army could also have convened a preliminary hearing to determine if there was probable cause to court-martial anyone.

Another procedural problem is hard-wired into the Uniform Code of Military Justice: . . .

Continue reading.

I think the decisions of the US Central Command—not identifying those responsible, giving essentially a slap on wrist—amount to a cover-up and a reluctance to hold people accountable. It’s similar to the way the US has treated those who were responsible for kidnapping, torture, and homicide in the treatment of terrorism suspects (and some innocent bystanders).

The column in the Times notes:

Eugene R. Fidell teaches military justice at Yale Law School and is the author of the forthcoming book Military Justice: A Very Short Introduction. He has advised Doctors Without Borders on the Kunduz attack.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 May 2016 at 5:46 pm

Posted in Law, Military

Death from the Sky: Searching for Ground Truth in the Kunduz Hospital Bombing

leave a comment »

May Jeong reports in The Intercept:

When the Taliban overran Kunduz last September after a monthlong siege, the northern Afghan city became the first to fall to the insurgency since the war began in 2001. A week earlier, many Kunduz residents had left town to observe Eid al-Adha, the sacrificial feast honoring Abraham’s act of submission to God. The heavy fighting sent the remaining Kunduzis fleeing as dead bodies littered the streets.

On Friday, October 2, the city lay quiet, with just one building lit up against the dark sky. Most other international organizations had evacuated when the fighting began, but the Kunduz Trauma Center run by Médecins Sans Frontières remained open throughout the battle for the city. It was one of the few buildings with a generator. Throughout the week, violence seemed to lap against the walls of the hospital without ever engulfing it. All around the 35,620-square-meter compound, the site of an old cotton factory, fighting ebbed and flowed. Doctors and nurses marked the intensity of battle by the freshly wounded who arrived at the gate. According to MSF, the hospital treated 376 emergency patients between September 28, when the city fell, and October 2.

The last week had seen much bloodshed, but Friday was uncharacteristically calm: no fighting nearby, no gunshots, no explosions. “I remember seeing a child flying a kite,” recalled Dr. Kathleen Thomas, “and thought to myself, today is a calm day.” That evening, while more than 100 MSF employees and caretakers slept in a basement below the hospital, several staff members remained awake, preparing for what the night might bring. There were 105 patients in the hospital, including three or four Afghan government soldiers and about 20 Taliban fighters, two of whom appeared to be of high rank. Hospital staff stepped outside to take in the bracing autumn air, something they’d lately refrained from doing for fear of stray bullets. The night sky was open and clear.

Some 7,000 feet above, an AC-130 gunship was preparing to fire. At 2:08 a.m., on October 3, a missile began its descent, gliding through a cloudless sky.

About two hours earlier,

nurse Mohammad Poya lay down on the concrete floor of the hospital’s administrative office. Poya had a few hours for sleep, but instead dead bodies were on his mind. In the morning he had visited the morgue to find its refrigerators full. Earlier in the week, Poya had asked the orderlies to pack the dead in as tight as possible. When there was no more space, he asked the cleaners to scrub the front porch of the morgue so that the excess corpses could be stacked there. What Poya hated most was carelessness. Many died undignified deaths in Afghanistan; the least the hospital could do was to show the dead the respect that had eluded them in life.

Poya was especially worried about the fighting that had ensnarled the streets around the compound. With all major roads blocked, the hospital was running low on supplies. Corridors overflowed with the wounded, and a decision was made to triage patients earlier than usual to avoid wasting resources on those least likely to survive. The last thought Poya remembers having before finally falling asleep was that they would have to start turning away patients.

Earlier that Friday, at 1 p.m., Guilhem Molinie, the head of MSF in Afghanistan, sat at his desk in Kabul to write an email to a contact in the U.S. 3rd Special Forces Group, which had been deployed to Kunduz after the fall of the city. “Questions in case things go bad,” the subject line read. It wasn’t the first time that week he had taken precautions. On Monday, when a Taliban victory seemed certain, Molinie called an insurgent contact to reaffirm the hospital’s neutral position. He did the same with the other side, sending a letter with GPS coordinates of the hospital to the Afghan National Security Council, Ministry of Defense, Ministry of Interior, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ministry of Public Health, the U.S. Embassy, USAID, and the U.N. Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, the agency’s body tasked with responding to complex emergencies. The U.N. forwarded Molinie’s email to Col. Paul Sarat, the deputy commander of NATO’s mission in the north, as well as to Maj. Gen. Abdul Hamid, who headed the 209th Corps of the Afghan National Army, which is responsible for the country’s northern nine provinces. Molinie tried to reach out to Freedom’s Sentinel, the U.S. counterterrorism mission in Afghanistan, but was not successful; he assumed he had done enough.

Andres Romero, MSF’s head liaison with the U.S. government, forwarded the coordinates to Carter Malkasian, an old Afghan hand and an adviser to top U.S. military officer Joseph Dunford of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Malkasian emailed Romero to inquire whether the hospital had been overrun by the Taliban. Romero told him no, but this information appeared not to have traveled back to the special operations forces on the ground, since on Friday, according to the Associated Press, a senior officer with the 3rd Special Forces Group wrote in his daily report that the hospital was under Taliban control and that he planned to clear the grounds in the coming days.

Among the units accompanying the 3rd Special Forces Group were Afghan commandos and the 6th Special Operations Kandak, reporting to the Ministry of Defense; 222 and 333 national mission units, reporting to the Ministry of Interior; and a police special unit already based out of Kunduz. The men had not worked together before, and they were now in charge of leading the battle to take back Kunduz city. “They just got thrown up there, into an environment they didn’t know much about,” said a security analyst based in northern Afghanistan, who was formerly an adviser to the U.S. special operations forces in Afghanistan. The security analyst asked not to be identified by name, as did many of the dozens of individuals who were interviewed for this article in Afghanistan and elsewhere. Some were not authorized to speak on the record; others, including residents of Kunduz and Afghan security personnel, feared retaliation for doing so.

The picture that emerges from these firsthand accounts, as well as from interviews with several high-ranking Afghan officials, is one of remarkable chaos and uncertainty, even by the standards of war. Those on the ground said it was not clear who was in charge, and those in charge seemed not to have had a clear understanding of what was happening on the ground at any given point before, during, and after the fall of the city.

At 10:00 p.m.Molinie returned to his office to speak with Heman Nagarathnam, who was in charge of the hospital in Kunduz. It was a quiet night and Nagarathnam stepped out for a cigarette to take the call. The nightly check-ins had allowed Molinie to keep updated on the goings-on around the hospital. Molinie knew, for instance, that on Tuesday a local Taliban representative visited Nagarathnam to give his reassurance. He knew that the hospital lay in a Taliban-controlled area, but that Afghan soldiers were still crossing the front line to bring in patients. By Wednesday, however, worries of a Taliban takeover had pushed soldiers to the provincial hospital, which was in an area controlled by government forces.

At one point that week, government forces had regained the city’s central square, before losing it again to the Taliban. On Friday night, Nagarathnam relayed his concerns that the hospital was now located in an area vulnerable to counterattack. They discussed the 2,000 sandbags that he had ordered to defend the hospital against stray bullets. A little after 1:30 a.m., he went to bed.

For some time, Molinie told me, something had been bothering him. “It was never clear who was in charge of what,” he said, in reference to the metastasizing 15-year-old conflict. The current war in Afghanistan was being run by two distinct commands: NATO’s Operation Resolute Support (RS) and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan’s Operation Freedom’s Sentinel. Resolute Support was a non-combat mission with a limited mandate to train, advise, and assist Afghan security forces. Freedom’s Sentinel, successor to Operation Enduring Freedom, was the latest version of America’s so-called war on terror. It was meant to hunt down al Qaeda remnants, but without the rigor of public scrutiny, Freedom’s Sentinel seemed to have spiraled beyond its already vague mandate.

Despite President Barack Obama’s 2014 announcement that America’s combat mission in Afghanistan would end in 2015, Molinie had noticed that many military operations seemed to be outside the bounds of both Resolute Support and Freedom’s Sentinel. It was never clear where one mission ended and another began. Long before January 2016, when President Obama expanded the counterterrorism mission of Freedom’s Sentinel to include the fight against the Islamic State, for instance, there were already airstrikes targeting ISIS in the eastern province of Nangarhar.

When I asked Col. Michael Lawhorn, spokesperson for both NATO and U.S. Forces-Afghanistan, to explain the differing missions of the two commands, he said: “Think of it as a big box marked RS and inside that you have a small box marked Freedom’s Sentinel but inside that box you have two smaller boxes marked Resolute Support and another one marked counterterrorism.” When I inquired how we might tell all these different boxes apart, Lawhorn conceded, “It’s not always clear under what authority an action is taken.” The same was true, he said, of what happened in Kunduz. . .

Continue reading.

It would be very interesting to know what an in-depth independent investigation would reveal, but I’m sure the US military will never allow an investigation that they cannot control that might draw conclusions the military wishes to exclude. With the military doing its own investigation of itself, it can conceal the identities and roles of the perpetrators and limit the “punishment” to harsh words and hard looks.

Written by LeisureGuy

30 April 2016 at 11:42 am

Another look at the Pentagon report that clears the military of any crimes

leave a comment »

Ryan Devereaux and Cora Currier report in The Intercept:

Nearly seven months after the first shots were fired, the Pentagon has released its full report detailing the night of chaos and horror that left 42 patients and staffers dead at a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan. In publishing the highly anticipated account, the military concluded that its attack did not amount to a war crime because its effects were not intentional, a view at odds with certain interpretations of international law.

In the wake of the attack, Doctors Without Borders, also known by its French name, Médecins Sans Frontières, or MSF, described the October 3 raid as “abhorrent and a grave violation of international humanitarian law,” adding, a “war crime has been committed.”

In announcing the report today, Gen. Joseph Votel, the head of U.S. Central Command, argued that was not the case.

“The label ‘war crimes’ is typically reserved for intentional acts — intentional targeting [of] civilians or intentionally targeting protected objects or locations,” the general said. The Americans “had no idea,” they were targeting the hospital, Votel said, and once they recognized what was happening, they called off the attack.

In a statement, MSF said it had not had an opportunity to review the military report before it was posted online, though the organization did receive a two-hour verbal briefing from Votel on Thursday. The humanitarian group fired off a set of unanswered questions, and repeated its call for an independent inquiry into the attack by the International Humanitarian Fact Finding Commission.

“MSF and other medical care providers on the front lines of armed conflicts continually experience attacks on health facilities that go uninvestigated by parties to the conflict,” the statement read. “However, MSF has said consistently that it cannot be satisfied solely with a military investigation into the Kunduz attack.”

While Votel stressed that the conclusions of the report were subjected to legal review by military lawyers, the general’s argument that the absence of intentionality meant the attack on the MSF could not be a war crime wades into complex legal territory. According to the International Red Cross definition, “war crimes are violations that are committed willfully, i.e., either intentionally…or recklessly…The exact mental element varies depending on the crime concerned.” Following the release of the report, Patricia Gossman, Human Rights Watch’s senior researcher in Afghanistan, tweeted, “It is established principle of customary international law that war crimes can be committed through recklessness.”

What’s more, Votel’s claim appeared inconsistent with the military’s own law of war manual, which states, “In some cases, the term ‘war crime’ has been used as a technical expression for a violation of the law of war by any person; i.e., under this usage, any violation of the law of war is a war crime. This has been longstanding U.S. military doctrine.” According to the findings of their report, the investigators looking into the Kunduz attack noted violations of the rules of engagement, and also breaches of the laws of war.

MSF president Meinie Nicolai said that “a grave breach of international humanitarian law” is not determined solely by whether or not the act was intentional.

“With multinational coalitions fighting with different rules of engagement across a wide spectrum of wars today, whether in Afghanistan, Syria, or Yemen, armed groups cannot escape their responsibilities on the battlefield simply by ruling out the intent to attack a protected structure such as a hospital,” Nicolai added.

The Kunduz report comes in the context of a disturbing trend of attacks on medical facilities. This week, an MSF-supported hospital was bombed in Syria, killing three doctors. MSF says seven medical facilities that it works with in Syria have been hit this year, while four have been bombed in Yemen.

Votel, who was the head of U.S. Special Operations Command at the time of the Kunduz raid, confirmed that more than a dozen U.S. service members were disciplined for their roles in the airstrike — they would not, however, face criminal charges in connection with the ordeal. Repeating much of what the military has already claimed with respect to the attack — an account that has changed multiple times — Votel framed the tragedy as the result of overlapping human and technological errors. . .

Continue reading.

Later in the report (but read the whole thing):

. . . Donna McKay, executive director for Physicians for Human Rights, slammed the military’s punishments as insufficient. “The decision to dole out only administrative punishments and forego a thorough criminal investigation of October’s deadly strike in Kunduz is an affront to the families of the more than 40 men, women, and children who died that night, punished merely for being in a hospital, a supposed safe haven in a time of war,” McKay said in a statement.

The military’s response does not assure the future of MSF’s work in one of Afghanistan’s most volatile regions.

“We can’t put our teams – including our colleagues who survived the traumatic attack – back to work in Kunduz without first having strong and unambiguous assurances from all parties to the conflict in Afghanistan that this will not happen again,” Nicolai, the MSF president, said.

The Pentagon has approved a $5.7 million effort to rebuild the facility it destroyed, and as “a gesture of sympathy,” more than 170 individuals have received condolences for loved ones injured or killed, Votel said. “$3,000 for wounded and $6,000 for killed,” he said.

On Thursday, The Intercept published a months-long investigation into the attack on the hospital, based on dozens of interviews with American and Afghan officials, witnesses, regional experts and survivors of the air raid. The picture that emerged was one of remarkable confusion about who was in charge, and of a divergence between how American and Afghan forces viewed the situation.

Afghan authorities claimed that the Taliban were using the hospital to launch attacks — despite fervent denials from MSF that there were armed fighters in the compound, and a lack of evidence to back up the Afghan officials’ claims. A senior Western official told The Intercept that the Afghans’ “biggest fear after the strike was that this would put a chill on their being able to request U.S. air support when shit hits the fan.” . . .

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2016 at 6:35 pm

Similar to police department investigations that always find shootings “justified,” DoD finds no serious wrongdoing in its one-hour attack on a hospital

leave a comment »

The Department of Defense has carefully done its own investigation of its own war crime (an egregious and sustained attack on a Doctors Without Borders hospital that killed 24 patients, 14 staff members, and four caretakers. The Pentagon’s defense is that, while the incident was regrettable, mistakes will happen, and those involved have been spoken to sharply. But no one was actually held responsible, as the report in the LA Times and the report in the NY Times say: reprimands were issued, but (says the Pentagon) surely no need for an independent investigation. The Pentagon investigates (and protects) its own. No outsiders need to get involved, since they might fail to understand the special burdens of the military and take a hard look at what actually happened and hold people accountable for their actions. That’s not the Pentagon way.

It seems perfectly evident that an independent investigation is absolutely needed, but the military will never agree to that, and the Obama administration has been particularly protective of governmental wrong-doers (e.g., the CIA war criminals and those who gave them their orders), so I imagine the Obama administration will reject any independent investigation, much as it rejects any lawsuit by an innocent person who has been kidnapped and tortured by the CIA.

I find this new attitude by the US, holding itself above the law and above accountability, a bad development. If the terrorists do in fact hate us for our freedoms, as George W. Bush said, I think freedom from any accountability is probably high on that list of freedoms.

From the NY Times story:

. . . After the announcement, Médecins Sans Frontières, the French name of Doctors Without Borders, reiterated its calls for an independent investigation, saying in a statement “that it cannot be satisfied solely with a military investigation.”

“Today’s briefing amounts to an admission of an uncontrolled military operation in a densely populated urban area, during which U.S. forces failed to follow the basic laws of war,” said Meinie Nicolai, the group’s president. “It is incomprehensible that, under the circumstances described by the U.S., the attack was not called off.”

John Sifton, the Asia policy director of Human Rights Watch, disputed General Votel’s assertion that the airstrike did not constitute a war crime because it was the unintentional result of mistakes and equipment failures, not an intentional attack.

The failure to bring any criminal charges was, “simply put, inexplicable,” Mr. Sifton said.

“General Joseph Votel’s assertion that a war crime must be deliberate, or intentional, is flatly wrong.” Mr. Sifton added. He said that there are legal precedents for war crimes prosecutions based on acts that were committed with recklessness, and that recklessness or negligence do not necessarily absolve someone of criminal responsibility under the United States military code. . .

UPDATE: It should be obvious to everyone that there is a serious conflict of interest in having the military investigate itself: they are investigating their colleagues and friends and acquaintances, and the military has a well-documented history of lying to cover up problems—cf. the Pat Tilman incident. Or Jessica Lynch.

Plus the military is a highly hierarchical and authoritarian organization, in which crossing the wishes of a superior can be hazardous to one’s career. The Catholic church is another such organization, and the Catholic church’s self-investigations of the pedophiles in their midst was abysmal: minimization, lies, and cover-ups. I would expect that the military would tend to do the same when it investigates its own misdeeds.

I think there is an obvious reason that the military is so strongly resisting an independent investigation: it’s because the military loses control of the findings.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 April 2016 at 2:54 pm

Hillary Clinton, the most hawkish of the candidates, with an aggressive foreign-policy stance

leave a comment »

Hillary Clinton is in all likelihood going to be the next US president, and her willingness if not eagerness for military action dismays me: Iraq, Libya, Honduras—her positions and actions seem strikingly bad to me, and (in my mind) show poor judgment. The US does not need to expand its attacks on various peoples.

Mark Landler reports in the NY Times:

Hillary Clinton sat in the hideaway study off her ceremonial office in the State Department, sipping tea and taking stock of her first year on the job. The study was more like a den — cozy and wood-paneled, lined with bookshelves that displayed mementos from Clinton’s three decades in the public eye: a statue of her heroine, Eleanor Roosevelt; a baseball signed by the Chicago Cubs star Ernie Banks; a carved wooden figure of a pregnant African woman. The intimate setting lent itself to a less-formal interview than the usual locale, her imposing outer office, with its marble fireplace, heavy drapes, crystal chandelier and ornate wall sconces. On the morning of Feb. 26, 2010, however, Clinton was talking about something more sensitive than mere foreign affairs: her relationship with Barack Obama. To say she chose her words carefully doesn’t do justice to the delicacy of the exercise. She was like a bomb-squad technician, deciding which color wire to snip without blowing up her relationship with the White House.

“We’ve developed, I think, a very good rapport, really positive back-and-forth about everything you can imagine,” Clinton said about the man she described during the 2008 campaign as naïve, irresponsible and hopelessly unprepared to be president. “And we’ve had some interesting and even unusual experiences along the way.”

She leaned forward as she spoke, gesturing with her hands and laughing easily. In talking with reporters, Clinton displays more warmth than Obama does, though there’s less of an expectation that she might say something revealing.

Clinton singled out, as she often would, the United Nations climate-change meeting in Copenhagen the previous December, where she and Obama worked together to save the meeting from collapse. She brought up the Middle East peace proc­ess, a signature project of the president’s, which she had been tasked with reviving. But she was understandably wary of talking about areas in which she and Obama split — namely, on bedrock issues of war and peace, where Clinton’s more activist philosophy had already collided in unpredictable ways with her boss’s instincts toward restraint. She had backed Gen. Stanley McChrystal’s recommendation to send 40,000 more troops to Afghanistan, before endorsing a fallback proposal of 30,000 (Obama went along with that, though he stipulated that the soldiers would begin to pull out again in July 2011, which she viewed as problematic). She supported the Pentagon’s plan to leave behind a residual force of 10,000 to 20,000 American troops in Iraq (Obama balked at this, largely because of his inability to win legal protections from the Iraqis, a failure that was to haunt him when the Islamic State overran much of the country). And she pressed for the United States to funnel arms to the rebels in Syria’s civil war (an idea Obama initially rebuffed before later, halfheartedly, coming around to it).

That fundamental tension between Clinton and the president would continue to be a defining feature of her four-year tenure as secretary of state. In the administration’s first high-level meeting on Russia in February 2009, aides to Obama proposed that the United States make some symbolic concessions to Russia as a gesture of its good will in resetting the relationship. Clinton, the last to speak, brusquely rejected the idea, saying, “I’m not giving up anything for nothing.” Her hardheadedness made an impression on Robert Gates, the defense secretary and George W. Bush holdover who was wary of a changed Russia. He decided there and then that she was someone he could do business with.

“I thought, This is a tough lady,” he told me.

A few months after my interview in her office, another split emerged when Obama picked up a secure phone for a weekend conference call with Clinton, Gates and a handful of other advisers. It was July 2010, four months after the North Korean military torpedoed a South Korean Navy corvette, sinking it and killing 46 sailors. Now, after weeks of fierce debate between the Pentagon and the State Department, the United States was gearing up to respond to this brazen provocation. The tentative plan — developed by Clinton’s deputy at State, James Steinberg — was to dispatch the aircraft carrier George Washington into coastal waters to the east of North Korea as an unusual show of force.

But Adm. Robert Willard, then the Pacific commander, wanted to send the carrier on a more aggressive course, into the Yellow Sea, between North Korea and China. The Chinese foreign ministry had warned the United States against the move, which for Willard was all the more reason to press forward. He pushed the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Mike Mullen, who in turn pushed his boss, the defense secretary, to reroute the George Washington. Gates agreed, but he needed the commander in chief to sign off on a decision that could have political as well as military repercussions.

Gates laid out the case for diverting the George Washington to the Yellow Sea: that the United States should not look as if it was yielding to China. Clinton strongly seconded it. “We’ve got to run it up the gut!” she had said to her aides a few days earlier. (The Vince Lombardi imitation drew giggles from her staff, who, even 18 months into her tenure, still marveled at her pugnacity.)

Obama, though, was not persuaded. The George Washington was already underway; changing its course was not a decision to make on the fly.

“I don’t call audibles with aircraft carriers,” he said — unwittingly one-upping Clinton on her football metaphor.

It wasn’t the last debate in which she would side with Gates. The two quickly discovered that they shared a Midwestern upbringing, a taste for a stiff drink after a long day of work and a deep-seated skepticism about the intentions of America’s foes. Bruce Riedel, a former intelligence analyst who conducted Obama’s initial review on the Afghanistan war, says: “I think one of the surprises for Gates and the military was, here they come in expecting a very left-of-center administration, and they discover that they have a secretary of state who’s a little bit right of them on these issues — a little more eager than they are, to a certain extent. Particularly on Afghanistan, where I think Gates knew more had to be done, knew more troops needed to be sent in, but had a lot of doubts about whether it would work.”

As Hillary Clinton makes another run for president, it can be tempting to view her hard-edged rhetoric about the world less as deeply felt core principle than as calculated political maneuver. But Clinton’s foreign-policy instincts are bred in the bone — grounded in cold realism [?? says who? – LG] about human nature and what one aide calls “a textbook view of American exceptionalism.” It set her apart from her rival-turned-boss, Barack Obama, who avoided military entanglements and tried to reconcile Americans to a world in which the United States was no longer the undisputed hegemon. And it will likely set her apart from the Republican candidate she meets in the general election. For all their bluster about bombing the Islamic State into oblivion, neither Donald J. Trump nor Senator Ted Cruz of Texas has demonstrated anywhere near the appetite for military engagement abroad that Clinton has.

“Hillary is very much a member of the traditional American foreign-policy establishment,” says Vali Nasr, a foreign-policy strategist who advised her on Pakistan and Afghanistan at the State Department. “She believes, like presidents going back to the Reagan or Kennedy years, in the importance of the military — in solving terrorism, in asserting American influence. The shift with Obama is that he went from reliance on the military to the intelligence agencies. Their position was, ‘All you need to deal with terrorism is N.S.A. and C.I.A., drones and special ops.’ So the C.I.A. gave Obama an angle, if you will, to be simultaneously hawkish and shun using the military.”

Unlike other recent presidents — Obama, George W. Bush or her husband, Bill Clinton — Hillary Clinton would assume the office with a long record on national security. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 April 2016 at 1:23 pm

Signs of decline: The F-35’s Software Is So Buggy It Might Ground the Whole Fleet

leave a comment »

Dan Grazier reports for Motherboard:

Last summer, F-35 program officer Lt. Gen. Christopher Bogdan said the F-35’s logistics system was “the brains and blood of operating this weapons system.”

Despite many fixes, the aircraft’s Autonomic Logistics Information System (ALIS) is so flawed that government auditors believe the computer system may not be deployable. These problems may also delay the Air Force’s declaration of Initial Operational Capability. And now, in a surprising twist, Bogdan is saying ALIS is not really critical after all, insisting the F-35 can fly without it for 30 days.

F-35 supporters enjoy telling people how the plane is a “flying computer,” as if that alone makes it worth the hundreds of billions of dollars spent so far. Lockheed Martin goes one step further, calling it a “supercomputer” in its own promotional materials.

ALIS is the ground-based computer system meant to diagnose mechanical problems, order and track replacement parts, and guide maintenance crews through repairs. It also allows pilots to plan missions and later review their performance. At least, it’s supposed to do all of those things.

So far, the software has been so flawed that maintenance crews have had to resort to time-consuming workarounds. In one instance, maintainers even had to manually burn data onto CDs and drive off base to send the massive files across a civilian WiFi network.

The plane is absolutely dependent on computer technology and millions of lines of software code to operate. So the fact that ALIS is years behind schedule and plagued with bugs is particularly disturbing. The Government Accountability Office has nowreleased a report confirming POGO’s earlier reporting: flaws in ALIS can ground the entire fleet.

The program office dismissed the gravity of this finding, a position that puts the office at odds with itself. Testifying before Congress in 2014 and explaining the Joint Program Office’s renewed development efforts, Bogdan said “the enterprise now deals with ALIS as if it is a ‘weapons system’ and a critical part of the F-35 program.”

Also from 2015, Assistant Secretary of the Navy Sean Stackley said that “the responsiveness, the timeliness of ALIS information for the maintainers and for the warfighter is at the top of our priority list.”

And just this year, Bogdan said, “It is a software-intensive system that connects to almost every piece of the F-35 program.” . . .

Continue reading.

From later in the article: “could lead to $20–100 billion in additional costs.”

Written by LeisureGuy

26 April 2016 at 4:11 pm

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 2,394 other followers

%d bloggers like this: