Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Bright Future: A Counter-Terrorism Strategy

How do we beat this?

The motto of my platoon at Infantry Officer's Basic Course (IOBC) was "Mix Metal and Meat". CPT Migone was our platoon tactical officer. He was this crazy ex-SF medic who was a bit of a maverick, and he was very insistent that our jobs as infantry officers was going to be killing people, blowing shit up, and breaking things. Maximum destruction.

At best, I was an average infantry officer, but I was branched detailed intelligence which meant that I only had to serve as an infantry guy for a couple years. Then I switched over to intelligence, and discovered that I was pretty good at it. And I am damn good at leveraging intelligence assets to maximize destruction. I can "decide, detect, and deliver" on your ass with the best of them. I'm going to figure out a way to find you, and then some of my buddies who were better than average infantry-types are going to pay you a visit in the middle of the night. A platoon of screaming CPT Migone's kicking in your door. Game over.

However, in the GWOT, blowing shit up and breaking things has its limits. We have to be smart as well as hard. Destruction only gets you part of the way to victory. So how to do we win if mixing metal and meat can't be our only course of action?

A HUMINT'er buddy of mine who works in the Pentagon has some great ideas about how to win the counter terrorism fight. He got permission from his bosses to publish this unclassified briefing that he came up with that summarizes some of his ideas. He was gracious enough to let me post the brief. I've included his slides and notes. My comments will appear after the show.

So here is some death by power point:

This presentation is intended to demonstrate how we can win the GWOT and what we must change to ensure that we win.

Short answers: yes - no - yes

Army CI and the entire DoD cannot address all the root problems of terror. However, we need to be aware of them and work together with others who can address root problems outside the DoD's sphere of influence.

In March 2005, Richard Clarke, former Counterterrorism advisor to the National Security Council, described the Muslim terrorist population as existing in concentric circles. He estimated the inner most circle of hard core terrorists members of al-Qaeda, contained not more than approximately 400 to 600 members. The next circle included who Clarke referred to as the “jihadists” contained approximately 50,000 to 200,000 members, these are people who "believe in their perverted views of Islam and are willing to die for it."

In the third circle are the millions of supporters of the jihadists who are found giving money to aid their activities. The fourth and outer circle is the rest of the Islamic world, a billion or more people who oppose the jihadist movement. Ultimately, Clarke believes that the way to begin to bring an end to terrorism is through communicating a different set of values to those within the third circle. This is probably a correct assessment and key to our success in the GWOT.

The Washington Post, 27 April 2005, front page article, U.S. Figures Show Sharp Global Rise in Terrorism, reported the State Department has decided not to make public the figures documenting the upswing in deadly attacks. The Post reports the number of significant attacks, including the Breslan, Russia school massacre, grew from 175 in 2003 to about 655 in 2004. Terrorist incidents in Iraq rose from 22 in 2003 to 198 in 2004.

It would probably take divine intervention to stop a suicide bomber who has been dispatched on his mission of death. Other than that, we can possibly intervene to some extent at all other points in the terrorist operational cycle. We cannot expect to conduct such interventions without coordination with other government agencies, allies, and possibly non-government organizations. We should focus our efforts on the large terrorist support base, Clarke's third ring, to interrupt recruiting, financing, and operational support activities.

Our intervention into the terrorist operational cycle should consider all needs but we should focus on the needs 3 through 5 because this is where we can have the greatest impact. Many terrorists come from middle-class or even affluent families thus fulfilling the first group of needs. Most terrorist come from fairly stable (albeit repressive) societies and strong families thus fulfilling need group two and some of group three. The problems of low self-esteem individually and as a group along with diminishing expectations and loss of opportunities for personal success, leads to the anger and hostility that defines the lack in need groups four and five. We can help change the perceptions of terrorist supporters in Clarke's third ring in regards to need groups four and five.

A Muslim mother will not encourage her child to become a suicide bomber if that mother has a vision of a bright future for that child.

A Muslim youth will not be attracted to terrorist groups if that youth enjoys sufficient self-esteem, has a good job, and is achieving his expectations in life.

We have few expert linguists and practically no cultural experts who can help us understand the root motivation of the terrorists.

The World Bank has determined that the education of women and girls is a decisive factor in improving a region's economy and stability.

Excluding vast regions of the world from gaining the prosperity that they see on TV and the Internet increases tensions.

We believe we are making progress towards acceptance and respect of Muslims but we still need to convince the Muslim world of our progress.

Open communication with the Muslim world is critical to winning the GWOT but will also be among the most difficult challenges based on various barriers seen on the roots slide, e.g. cultural, religious, language, history, etc. We may want to talk to the people in the third ring of moderate terrorist supporters but their mullah, sheik, or government may not permit that communication.

As long as we treat the Palestinians differently than we treat Israel we will have a problem in that region. If we say we promote democracy and yet support autocratic Islamic governments we are seen as hypocrites.

We need to get ahead of the terrorist operational cycle.

We need to focus on achieving world peace not increasing military superiority.

We need to address those areas first that will remove the moderate sympathizers from the terrorist support base in the third ring, then work on co-opting the radical supporters in the second ring, and as a final step, open a channel for rehabilitating terrorists. The final step might not be possible.

Carl von Clausewitz's On War makes it emphatically clear that we must understand the nature of the conflict in which we are engaged. At the moment, as a nation, we neither understand the conflict, nor do we understand the motivation or goals of those Islamist terrorists who threaten us.

"Find them and kill them"has not worked very well. We need to focus on the root causes of the terrorists' and their support groups' dissatisfaction with their situation and try to determine whether we can alleviate the pressure points that drives the new recruits into the clutches of the terrorist groups.

We need to work with all available US organizations, other nations, and international humanitarian aid groups that can help address the root causes of terror.

We need to move the moderate people from ring three to become the new opponents of terrorist jihad in ring four.

As long as the Islamist terrorists believe they are working towards a justified ultimate goal of a better world they will continue to fight. (The Muslim concept of the restoration of the Caliphate equates in some aspects to what Christians might recognize as establishment of the Kingdom of God on Earth.) If these same terrorists and their supporters are included in the world's functional core as described in Barnett's book, they might lose some of their fervor and become more satisfied with the less than perfect world in which most of us live. Both the Bible and the Koran warn against such religious complacency but a moderate view of God's revelations seems to have worked well in most of the Christian world and will probably work in the Muslim world as well.

Mao taught that insurgents must swim as fish in the sea. Hammes expands on that theme in his description of Fourth Generation Warfare. We need to make that sea smaller and less hospitable for the terrorists by making life better for those who now support the terrorists. Multi-national networking is key to success in this area as elements excluded from the globe's functional societies are drawn into the global effort to make a better world for everyone.

The CLRC appears to be ready to launch as part of DoD's recently announced Defense Language Transformation Road Map.

Key Pentagon decision makers support the idea that DoD anthropologists are critical to our understanding of the cultures that support Islamist terrorists.

For years, the DoD supported a huge Russian language and Soviet Studies program. We need a similar emphasis now on Muslim studies and Arabic, Farsi/Dari, and Turkic languages.

Muslim scholar exchange programs will go a long way to increasing mutual understanding.
The World Bank has several women's educational programs in place but more are needed in specific areas. This might be a tough sell in some societies. markets various products from cottage industries in Afghanistan and other places in the third world.

If every Muslim youth had free access to the world of ideas made possible by the Internet it would be far more difficult for radical fundamentalists to turn them into terrorists.

The need for linguists has been recognized. To remedy the problem, I propose that we recruit native fluent or near-native linguists and train them to be CI/HUMINT operators and CT analysts, rather than trying to struggle with the futility of turning non-linguists into native speakers.

We have many allies with exceptional capabilities that are willing to help in the GWOT. Yet that help is largely untapped due to the institutional paranoia and xenophobia of the DoD and other government agencies that mark almost every CT document, even things as innocuous as reports concerning obsolete foreign telephone books, SECRET NOFORN.

The underground democratic movements in Iran and Syria should be receiving full US support.
We need to work towards establishing a culture of respect for the law in all areas that support terrorists.

If the Army could control all of its CI/CT efforts from a one-stop-shop perhaps we could get a better handle on what is needed to prosecute the GWOT. Other elements of the Army and then DoD would probably follow suit.

Three and one half years after 9/11 we are still not fully connected throughout the various US agencies with CT responsibilities, our CT collection is haphazard and based on serendipity rather than good planning, our reporting is uneven, and our analysis and data mining efforts still lack the tools needed to succeed. When the next terrorist attack happens, the American public will justifiably want to know why so little progress has been made since 9/11. Why is there no one-stop-shop and critical cross-check analysis for finished intelligence products in the CT community?

Implementing the positive steps outlined in this brief will help win the GWOT.

My thoughts:


Okay, some of you may be rolling your eyes and thinking that this is just a bunch of touchy-feely bullshit. I disagree. We can't kill everyone. JDAMs are expensive, and I want Zane to grow up in a country with a reasonably solvent government so I think some of these ideas are really worth exploring as policy.

Some things that I think stand out in this brief:

Slide 3, Consider the Roots: Mythology does play a big part in how societies act. Look at the minutemen project on the border. How much of the rugged individualist-Rambo-Chuck Norris Bad 80's movie-bullshit do these guys buy into? Now don't get me wrong. I buy into some of that rugged individualism myself. After all, I am a Texan with a Colt .45 in the nightstand. But, you don't see me packing my bags and heading towards the border.

Slide 7, Terrorists are Humans: Self-Actualization needs - realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Let's face it. War makes you feel "self-actualized". Nothing compares to it. Of course, I'd rather be home in front of my computer drinking a cold Shiner Bock, but having a combat patch--even if I was a total REMF--is pretty cool.

I'm a middle class white kid from a middle class family. I have a beautiful wife and baby, a college degree, a nice home, and a good job. I get to participate in my government, exercise my freedom of speech with this blog, and I live in luxury compared to most people in the world. But, I still felt compelled to join the Army and do shit like jump out of perfectly good airplanes.

So how seductive would the idea of being a "Jihadi" be to some kid from Saudi Arabia or Pakistan who doesn't have the same opportunities that I have? He might not have a pot to piss in, but at least he can say that he stood tall and fought the great Satan. Powerful stuff.

Slide 8, Means of Intervention: Open communication with the Muslim world is critical to winning the GWOT but will also be among the most difficult challenges based on various barriers seen on the roots slide, e.g. cultural, religious, language, history, etc. We may want to talk to the people in the third ring of moderate terrorist supporters but their mullah, sheik, or government may not permit that communication.

So how to we communicate openly with the Muslim world? One word: blogs.

Slide 9, Adopt Best Practices (1): We need to address those areas first that will remove the moderate sympathizers from the terrorist support base in the third ring, then work on co-opting the radical supporters in the second ring, and as a final step, open a channel for rehabilitating (emphasis mine) terrorists. The final step might not be possible.

More on that here. At what Hammoud al-Hitar is up to in Yemen is worth following. Bottom line: you can't jail everyone either.

Slide 11, Positive Steps (1): type cottage industries

So I clicked on over to overstock's site, and guess what? They have a page titled worldstock where you can buy stuff from around the world. The is a page for Afghanistan, and its got some pretty cool stuff.

Right now, we are dumping tons of money into eradicating opium in Afghanistan. In the process, we're pissing a bunch of people off. Our track record of eradicating drugs in Latin American ought to clue us in that we need to change tactics. Why is our country not promoting Afghani products in a big way? How much revenue would be generated in the president got up on the bully pulpit and told everyone to go to overstock and buy an Afghani rug? Growing poppies might loose its appeal if you're too busy expanding production in other areas.

Some meaty ideas here to chew on. Thanks to my buddy for letting me post his hard work and deep thoughts.

Sunday, April 24, 2005

A Homeland Security Quadrennial Review? (Updated)

Riding to the sound of the guns. Our defense and security
policy should be focused by comprehensive, periodic reviews.
(Grant Memorial, Washington D.C. Photo by Kris Alexander.)

I don't comment much about my "day" job. I work in the homeland security/emergency management business--a booming field these days. I've been in the business in both the pre- and post-Sept.. 11th world. Things have changed drastically--some things are better and others worse.

Recently, I came across this article on, and it made a lot of sense. The article calls for the establishment of a Homeland Security Quadrennial Review similar to the Department of Defense QDR--what the government uses to focus defense policy for the next four years. It is an ongoing assessment of the geopolitical situation and the threats to our country that are generated from it. We don't have anything like that for homeland security, and it reflects in our policy.

After Sept. 11th, we took a shotgun blast approach to building this concept that we now call "homeland security". We've created and (almost) discarded agencies, spend tons of money, and done some great work. But, we've never sat down and done a comprehensive review of what threats that we legitimately face. And we certainly haven't stopped to catch our breath and assess our progress. With Sept.. 11th almost four years behind us, where exactly do we stand?

Where is the homeland security azimuth check?
(Diagram by Kris Alexander)

We have spent a great deal of time focusing on UBL and AQ. But what are the other emerging threats both at home and abroad? Take for example a splinter group of Mormons, the Fundamentalist Church of Latter-day Saints, who have set up shop near Eldorado TX. So far they haven't disturbed anyone, but recently they declared that the world was ending. We're all still here, but imagine if they had decided to speed things along with a little firepower. Remember the last group of fundamentalists that gathered on a compound in Texas?

I have taught some bio-terrorism planning classes, and I always asked the class if they can imagine what might have happened if the Branch Davidians had a member who was biochemist like the Aum Shinrikyo cult in Japan. Before they committed the sarin attack on the Tokyo subway, Aum Shinrikyo released anthrax in a failed biological attack. It can happen here--again.

What is the mechanism that we use to track and assess emerging groups like this? Or other crazies like the Republic of Texas? Or what happens if politics in this country take a radical change like they did in the sixties? What if violent groups like the Students for a Democratic Society or the Weather Underground emerge again? Up until Sept. 11th, the most casualty producing terrorist attack on U.S. soil was committed by Timothy McVay. Are we spending so much energy looking for the next Sept. 11th that we are going to miss the next Oklahoma City?

Also, what's going on in the rest of the world while we're focusing on Islamic Fundamentalism? What are the Narco-terrorists up to? What groups and movements are emerging while we are focusing on UBL? What is the next Al Qaeda? We're just a few generations away from Pancho Villa's raids on the border. What happens if the Mexicans create an answer to the Minuteman Project and things get violent on the border?

What are emerging terrorist tactics, techniques, and procedures? We've hardened our air transportation system so what are the bad guys going to hit next? We're doing the right things with DHS programs like the Buffer Zone Protection Program and the Urban Area Security Initiative. But what happens after we've hardened all the nuclear reactors and chemical plants? Won't the terrorists just hit something else? If so, what and how?

Terrorism doesn't live in a vacuum. It is a malignancy that adapts itself to whatever environment in which it lives. The bad guys learn and adjust. The styles of attacks that our soldiers are facing today in Iraq might be what our cops are facing in our cities five years from now. The attacks may even be committed by the same people.

But, at what point have we done enough and quit chasing down every bogeyman and his associated doomsday scenario? Homeland security is a pork binge for politicians, and nobody is willing to say that we've spent enough in a certain area. We currently don't have a tool with which to make that assessment so the gravy train will keep on rolling.

We can't harden every shopping mall in this country, and every industrial site can't be considered "critical" infrastructure. What we can do is make damn sure that the industrial areas containing the most dangerous materials are more secure than they were in the pre-Sept.. 11th world. After that, we can at least force the gravy train to move in new directions.

And of course any process that gets in the business of identifying domestic threats can be dangerous to our civil liberties. You don't violate a country's constitutional rights by declaring it a threat to our nation. But, its a slippery slope when you begin to place that identification on group of citizens who may never actually commit a crime.

These perils should not prevent us from taking action. We can use the excellent work of the Sept. 11th commission as an example and get to work. All we need is the right vision--something that this country never should lack.

More reading from the Heritage Foundation.

Update: Noah over at defensetech was kind enough to point out that some of what I demanded in my rant is already in the works. (here) He's right, and I was aware of this process. But, what I'd like to see is something more formal and periodic like the DOD QDR. That process isn't perfect, but its a good tool. I think the whole concept of "homeland security" is still very much in the maturing process. We've had a DOD in some incarnation since this country was born. Not so with domestic security. Or as we Texans like to say: "We've got a long row to hoe."

Thursday, April 14, 2005

Tastes Like Chicken

Yeah, I really ate these.

Mmmmm Good.

I'm experimenting with putting pictures into my blog. So, if any of you were wondering what I looked like, you can now regret it. I'll bet this picture doesn't help me with the female demographic. Should I send this to "hot or not"?

This is from Cobra Gold '04. I took a slice of my company over to Thailand along with part of our Battalion. This was taken at a promotion party for one of our Thai counterparts--this crazy Thai Major, now LTC, who could drink beer like he had a hollow leg.

Anyway, I've always been an adventurous eater and wanted to be a good ambassador so I ended up eating these frogs, fried shrimp heads, grasshoppers, and some other stuff that I didn't ID--and probably don't want to. I can assure you that there was no beer involved at all. No sireee, no beer.

I ended up spending the rest of the exercise having "Mikey likes it" moments as the Thais tried to see exactly how far I would go. I grew up in South Texas eating stuff like this so they didn't have shit on me...well except for this soup I got that literally made me gag. I wimped out on that.

It was a good exercise and we had a good time. I hope all our Thai buddies made it through the tsunami okay. Cobra Gold was more or less CANX this year because of the tsunami, but I'm definitely signing up for next year.

Note: When I was looking through my Cobra Gold pictures last night, it reminded me of something. We were there when the Abu Ghraib scandal really started to heat up, and it lead to some very tough questioning from the Thais.

One soldier in my company got caught up in the whole Abu Ghraib mess. He didn't do anything, but he was a witness. Its made life very difficult for him in the past year.

I've spent a lot of time talking with my soldiers about it. One of my soldiers said that what happened at Abu Ghraib wasn't any worse than fraternity hazing. One of my sharp young officers shot back that in a fraternity you could just get up and leave. The Iraqi prisoners had no such option. Plus, I wasn't in a frat so I don't know that much about the "greek" life, but if any asshole in a Sigma Nu t-shirt tried to stack Mrs. Alexander's boy into a pile of naked man-flesh, he'd get his ass kicked.

Our actions as soldiers have global implications. It was hard to explain to the Thais that Abu Ghraib was an anomaly, a tremendous failure of leadership and accountability that would be punished. But, conversations were sometimes strained as images of Lindy England & Co. were flashed over and over again on CNN.

The American military is a unique entity in the world, and other armies look to us as an example. Look at the some of the guys in the new Iraqi Army. How do they wear their gear? Like Americans.

Soldiers are often the best, and only, ambassadors for our great nation. So last year in Thailand we weren't just participating in an exercise. We were a counterpoint to fellow soldiers who failed to live up to our country's high expectations.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

Current TV Update

So, I was doing a little vanity googling and I found this on the Current TV blog:

Alexander the Average weighs in with a fantastic point:

If the folks behind Current TV are interested in reaching out to new voices and a broad spectrum of people and ideas, then they should spend time trying to cultivate military sources. [...]

I'd like to see Gore and current TV reach out to Mil bloggers. I'd also like to see them reach out to units in Iraq. Digital video cameras are all over the battlefield, and I'm sure that somebody would share with Current TV. All they have to do is ask.

Message received, Alexander, and appreciated.

Two key points here: somebody was actually reading my blog and somebody actually listened. Oh shit, what's next? Am I going to have to change my blog name to "alexander the above average"?

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Como Se Dice "FUBAR" En Espanol? Or Any Other Language? (Updated)

The Defense Language Transformation Roadmap is out on the street. Fred Kaplan rants about it in a recent Slate Article. The paper is short, easy to read, and has some interesting ideas. Kaplan says its not adequate, but I'll let him say that so I don't get my O-3 ass in a sling.

Language is one of the things we don't do as well as we should in the military. You take a smart kid out some place like Denver City TX, which is where I went my last two years of high school. You ship them off to basic training, the Defense Language Institute (DLI) where they learn Arabic or some other language, then on the advanced training where they learn how to be an intelligence soldier. If they're lucky they may get some time at home station to hone their skills, and then its off to Iraq or Afghanistan or Djibouti or whatever crisis of the week is brewing.

So you've got some kid who's probably never even been out of Texas who's job is now to figure out what the hell some Iraqi is saying. And, oh by the way, somebody may get killed if he doesn't get it right. That's not what I call setting the conditions for success.

On top of that the low density branches like intelligence, foriegn area officers, PYSOPs, and civil affairs are the only ones with any kind of language mandate. There is always a huge demand for language skills so often highly specialized soldiers end up being translators for generals. Sure, that's a necessary function, but that's one less intel soldier in the fight.

The roadmap poses some interesting ideas, but I think there is one aspect that it does not explore. We need to develop language skills in the Army Reserves and Guard, and the development of these skill does not necessarily need to be tied to an intelligence MOS.

Take me for example. I somehow didn't manage to kill all my brain cells in college at Texas Tech so I'll go as far to call myself a reasonably smart guy. I live in Austin about a mile from the University of Texas which has a robust languages program. If the Army would be willing to foot the bill and pay me for my time, I'd be more than happy to go part time to school to learn a language. I may not come out of the program with native fluency, but I'd be a hell of a lot better prepared for war.

One of the great things about the reserves is that I'm surrounded by smart, motivated people. So why can't we develop a language training program for people like that? Some kid in a Military Police unit in the reserves or an Infantry unit in the National Guard has just as much need to understand Arabic or Korean as any other soldier. If he/she is smart enough and has the time, why can't the Army cough up some money for a college language program. If you infuse the Army with soldiers who have basic language and cultural skills, then you alleviate the need to use MI soldiers as straight translators.

To make the program attractive and to create incentive to gain and improve language skills, why don't we increase foriegn language pay while we're at it? One friend of mine who is in the language business had advocated for tying monetary incentive to tougher languages. Everybody in Texas speaks a little Spanish, but how about the Waziri dialect of Pashtu? If you cough up some money, I guarantee somebody out there who didn't kill all their brain cells in college will take you up on it.

But, what I can't do is take a year off from work to go to DLI and learn a language. Neither can most soldiers who are beyond their first term in the Army. A part-time program with lots of monetary incentives would be a winning solution.

Update: Excellent CS Monitor Article, here.

Interesting Quote:

Army Capt. Adam Sellers can see both sides. As a member of the Foreign Area Officer program here at the DLI, he understands the need for good language skills - he's committed to spending a year in China to become conversant with its language and culture.

But he also thinks back to his time as a commanding officer, and wonders when he would have had a spare moment for language instruction amid all the drilling and training.

"If you had asked me a year ago, I would have said, 'I don't have time for that,' " he says. "It's a huge culture shift for the Army."

When I was company XO of D Co 311th MI** in the 101st, the division's SIGINT company, we had lots to do as well. But, we made time for language training because it was essential to our mission. The Army has to make language and cultural training part of its "Mission Essential Task List" in order to meet the challenges of the GWOT and beyond.

** Note: Under transformation the 311th MI no longer exists. The Delta Daggers are no more. Too bad. We were a pretty good outfit.

Friday, April 08, 2005

Sadr Shenanigans (Updated)

Everybody's favorite asshole Muqtada al-Sadr appears to be acting up again in Iraq. (Here and Here). The media is reporting "tens of thousands" of protestors. Actually, I saw that phrase repeated quite a bit this weekend. I wonder if it has its origins in a Sadr press release. Anybody with actual boots on the ground care to comment on the numbers?

Anyway, he appears to be demanding the same old stuff. Withdrawal of US troops. Release of his guys. What I think it all boils down to is that he wants a seat a the big kids table. The new Iraqi government is being formed largely because of deals brokered by rival Ali al-Sistani. A Kurd was just appointed president of Iraq. Can you say marginalized?

And I think the coalition is doing the right things to keep Sadr marginalized. Reconstruction in Sadr City. Amnesty deals. The only problem is that Sadr knows what's happening an will probably escalate his activities in order to maintain influence.

So if we go back to effects based operations, what "effects" do we want to mass on Sadr? We sure don't want to get sucked back into street fighting in Sadr City? Perhaps our biggest IO weapon would be ignoring him and keep doing what we're doing.

Is "ignore" an valid doctrinal task?

Note on crowd sizes: Remember the Million Man March and the controversy surrounding the numbers? Numbers are important to protestors everywhere. Any IMINT types have any comments on estimating crowd size?

Update: MAJ K has some stuff to say about the numbers in the Sadr demostration. He's also tells some trolls where to stick it.

How Do We Know We’re Winning?

Update: The CS Monitor has an excellent article about the evolution of the Iraq insurgency. The article also references videos of insurgent confesions that are being broadcast on Iraqi TV. See it here.

Original Post:

Over a year ago, Rummy’s (will I get in trouble if I call him that?) famous memo (more here)about the GWOT raised this interesting point:

Today, we lack metrics to know if we are winning or losing the global war on terror. Are we capturing, killing or deterring and dissuading more terrorists every day than the madrassas and the radical clerics are recruiting, training and deploying against us?

Are we getting answers?

After the Iraq elections, I think that we reached a turning point. That appears to be the consensus in the military blogoshpere, and the media seems to be catching on. Something has shifted. There have been less attacks and casualties. Things seem to be getting better. We’re winning. But, how can we really be sure?

Effects based operations (EBO) is the “new” doctrinal way of looking at warfare. (See definitions listed below for more info) The general idea is that all actions create an “effect” which will dictate a result. Effects are created and masses to reach a goal.

Tommy Frank’s order of the day a couple times early in the war was “Destroy the Medina Division”. Creating that effect is pretty simple. Mass fires and maneuver on enemy forces until there were smoking holes in the ground where all the tanks used to be. Easy. Blow shit up and break things. Brute force and ignorance. Huah!

But, things get more complicated when you have a goal “like neutralize all Iraqi regular Army forces south of Baghdad”. The goal is not necessarily destruction. So what are the best effects to mass on the regular Iraqi Army in order to achieve the desired effect?

The military has a laundry list of things to choose from. Kinetic/non-kinetic attack. Lethal/non-lethal. Information Operations and PYSOPs. I may be able to take an enemy unit out the fight without firing a shot.

But once you get beyond “kinetics” how do you know if you’re effects are working? Battle damage assessment (BDA) --destruction bean counting--is one of the toughest things in intelligence to get right. It sounds simple, but it can be enourmously complicated. The enemy has 100 tanks. I count 100 blown up tanks. I win. But, what if 50 of those smoking holes in the ground that I'm counting as dead tanks are really dead trucks. Oh shit.

It gets much harder to evaluate when you start factoring in non-kinetic attacks. Is my leaflet campaign working? How many enemy soldiers have deserted their posts? Will they fight if they come into contact with US forces?

Traditionally, you developed a set of information and intelligence requirements (PIRs, SORs, IRs) to answer these questions. These are still applicable, but no we have a new tool called “measure of effectiveness” (MOE). Basically, it’s a laundry list of indicators that evaluated whether or not you are achieving a desired effect. These measures may or may not be tied to intelligence.

Right now, our desire effect is to defeat the Iraqi insurgency, and we seemed to have turned a corner in doing so. But, how do you measure this? What are the metrics?

I may be talking out of my fourth point of contact, but here are some of my ideas:

HUMINT Reporting: Am I getting more HUMINT reporting? Has there be a shift in the quality and motivation of the reports that I am getting? Is money less a motivation? Am I getting new sources? A shift in HUMINT reporting may indicate a shift in the population.

Suicide Bombers: Despite their apparent abundance, suicide bombers aren’t actually that easy to come by. (great article) Are there less? Who are they? Iraqis or foreign Jihadis?

Frequency and type of attacks: This one actually has some pitfalls. Coalition forces may be getting attacked less, but does that mean there are less bad guys? Maybe. But, it might also mean that the good guys are hardened enough to discourage attacks.

If you look like a chuck wagon, you get treated like one. If you look like a war wagon, nobody will fuck with you. I’ll be there aren’t too many chuck wagons running around Iraq right now.

So are there still as many attacks, but not against coalition forces? Or are attacks dropping across the board?

Crime Rate: Does the crime rate appear to be dropping? Lots of factors can contribute to this, but it is an overall indicator of the civic health of Iraq.

These are just a few tools that can be used to measure if we’re winning or not. There are many more, and some of these questions cannot be answered in a public forum. But a savvy consumer of information might be able to evaluate these measures for him/herself.

Here are some other sites and links with EBO info:
Death By PowerPoint, Air Force Style
Death by PowerPoint, Army Style
Interesting Rand Study
Article: V Corps FECC - V Corps Fires and Effects Coordination Cell
Lots of EBO Links
Effects-Based Operations: Application of new concepts, tactics, and software tools support the Air Force vision for effects-based operations
ARR of EBO in Afghanistan
Effects-Based Operations Equals to “Shock And Awe”?
Effects-Based Operations for Joint Warfighters

And Bobby over at Bobby's World has some interesting things to say. Here and here.

Definitions from the JFCOM Glossary

Effect - The physical, functional, or psychological outcome, event, or consequence that results from specific military or non-military actions.

Effects Tasking Order (ETO) - Formalizes output of JTF virtual collaborative planning. It is the means to task and synchronize the actions and orders required to achieve the commander's intent. ETOs replace the current operations orders (OPORDs) and Fragmentary Orders (FRAGOs) issued as required to support current and future operations. They do not replace component execution planning and execution orders.

Effects Based Operations (EBO) - A process for obtaining a desired strategic outcome or "effect" on the enemy, through the synergistic, multiplicative, and cumulative application of the full range of military and nonmilitary capabilities at the tactical, operational, and strategic levels.

Effects Based Planning (EBP) - An operational planning process to conduct EBO within RDO. EBP is results-based vice attrition-based. EBP closely mirrors the current joint planning process, yet focuses upon the linkage of actions to effects to objectives. EBP changes the way we view the enemy, ourselves, and what is included and emphasized in the planning process. EBP uses a flexibly-structured battle rhythm that leverages a collaborative knowledge environment and capitalizes on the use of fewer formal joint boards. It employs virtual, near-simultaneous planning at all echelons of command.

Effects Based Strategy - The coherent application of national and alliance elements of power through effects-based processes to accomplish strategic objectives.

Effects Based Targeting - The focus of the targeting process is to produce COAs that will change the enemy's behaviors and compel him to comply with our will. The behavioral changes we attempt to create are the result of effects that flow from the employment of our lethal and nonlethal capabilities. Thus, effects-based targeting is distinguished by the ability to generate the type and extent of effects necessary to create outcomes that facilitate the realization of the commander's objectives.

Effects Based Warfare - The application of armed conflict to achieve desired strategic outcomes through the effects of military force.

Measure of Effectiveness (MOE) - Measures of effectiveness are most often subjective indicators that the outcomes of the "tactical actions" have achieved, or contributed to achieving the desired effect. MOE articulate where to look and what

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Current TV

I wasn't that fired up about Al Gore as a candidate, but I think he's a pretty smart guy. I know I'll probably get flamed into oblivion by all my Mil Blogger buddies for saying that, but right now he's up to something interesting.

Gore appears to be re-inventing himself, again . His new idea Current TV sounds pretty interesting. You can read about it here. Basically, Current TV sounds like an "open source" network. We are living in the age of citizen journalism and home-brew media so I guess this is the next logical step. I hope it doesn't turn out like some of the public access television here in Austin.

Gore claims that the network won't be partisan. I don't buy that for a minute, but I don't mind if it is. What I will mind is if the network becomes a liberal self-licking ice cream cone where nothing gets done.

If the folks behind Current TV are interested in reaching out to new voices and a broad spectrum of people and ideas, then they should spend time trying to cultivate military sources. Most liberals have zero perspective or understanding about the military. Everything military and defense related is viewed through this weird Vietnam protest prism.

Frankly, I'm tired of this. The left end of the political spectrum ought to spend some time educating itself as to what the military, and those serving in it, are all about. The kids over at Swarthmore Radio are doing it.

I'd like to see Gore and current TV reach out to Mil bloggers. I'd also like to see them reach out to units in Iraq. Digital video cameras are all over the battlefield, and I'm sure that somebody would share with Current TV. All they have to do is ask.

Update: Will Current TV give these types of people more voice on military matters than the actual military? Thanks for Joanne Jacobs and her excellent blog for the link.

Update: Or these types.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Further Proof that We've Won the War

This is all the proof that I need that things are getting better in Iraq:

MOSUL, Iraq -- Famished and sleep-deprived after a 48-hour combat mission, Spec. Rusty "Doc" Mauney shed his heavy body armor and headed for the chow hall. He was near the door when a booming voice halted him.

Where's your headgear, soldier?" said the sergeant major.

Mauney stammered that he had been out on a mission all night and hadn't brought along his cap.

"You're not coming in here," snapped the sergeant, according to Mauney. "Just because you're in a combat zone doesn't mean you can blow off Army regulations."

Yup, we've won. If anyone has time to worry--to get really "concerned"-- about this stuff, then obviously they've got some time on their hands.

The article talks about the distinction between REMFs and grunts. And apparently our always inventive soldiers are creating a new lexicon of put-downs for us "chairborne ranger" types. Its good to see that sarcasm is alive and well in Iraq.

At CENTCOM in Qatar, I was about as much of a REMF as you can get, but we still felt our share of chickenshit. The camp was covered in officers. You couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a field-grade, but we still had to salute everyone. Your arm got worn out walking to work or chow. I was like a salute marathon. Everybody thought it was stupid, especially the foreign officers who thought we were crazy. The Aussies were especially amused, and the Air Force guys made a point of executing the most slacker-tastic salutes that I've ever seen (my buddy Quizmo being prime offender). But, we kept right on doing it because this was an Army camp damnit.

Maybe two days into the war, an email came out from some CSM with a bad boy list of those who needed a PT test. It was scheduled for two days later. At that point most guys were lucky if they were only working 12-16 hour days. Hell, I don't know if the G-3 planner slept the whole time. He looked like some reject from a George Romero movie, and he comes down on this stupid list.

There we were making sure that the invasion of Iraq goes well, and this bullshit tries to interject itself. Everyone was pissed. Luckily there were a bunch of colonels on the list so the PT test was postponed...indefinitely.

Then there is the great ongoing "Oakley" controversy. I won't even get started on that.

I keep this quote from Stephen Ambrose's Citizen Soldiers on the wall in my office:

"Chickenshit refers to behavior that makes military life worse than it need be: petty harassment of the weak by the strong; open scrimmage for power and authority and prestige...insistence on the letter rather than the spirit of ordinances. Chickenshit is so called -- instead of horse -- or bull -- or elephant shit -- because it is small-minded and ignoble and takes the trivial seriously. Chickenshit can be recognized instantly because it never has anything to do with winning the war."

This link has the chapter from the book where I got the definition. It also puts chickenshit in context with a discussion of history's greatest chickenshit artist: Patton.

Phil Carter over at Intel-Dump also posted on this. He delves into the "great camelbak controversy".

Update: Bobby at Bobby's World has an interesting post on this. He makes some good points about things like removing SAPI plates from body armor. I can see his point, but I will still wear my Oakleys.

Welcome Home to Austin Marines

Marines from Bravo and Weapons Companies 1-23 Marines returned to Austin this weekend (photos). They share the reserve center with our BN HQ and HHD at Camp Mabry, and we had drill the same weekend that they were mobilizing about a year ago. It was sad to watch them go.

They lost three guys over in Iraq, and were involved in some of the toughest fighting in Al Anbar Province and in Fallujah. From everything that I've heard they did a great job and brought honor to their Country, the Corps, and the State of Texas.

Like all Reservists, these guys are just ordinary people. Students. Teachers. Neighbors. But, for the last year, they were called upon to do extraordinary things.

I wish Austin did more to honor their sacrifice. The other day I was driving down HWY 281 near Blanco. All along the road there were signs welcoming the 1st CAV home from Iraq. The whole county had come together to post these signs all along the highway. No such thing happened here. It’s a shame.

Fellow "Austinite" Austin Bay was at the ceremony.

UDATE: More on Texas Marines: "The Reservists Who Fight"

Monday, April 04, 2005

SFC Paul R. Smith, Hero

A lot of other bloggers have written better posts about SFC Smith than I can. I watched the ceremony and got choked up. I have been lucky enough to spend my adult life surrounded by men and women like SFC Smith, and if our country ever runs out of people like him, we're in trouble.

Does anyone know if their is some kind of scholarship fund or foundation for his kids? If so email me or post in the comments. I'll spread the word.

Update: Video about SFC Smith. He sounds like exactly what we mean when we say "backbone of the Army".

Friday, April 01, 2005

Phrase of the Day

Elevated from the comments:

Incestuous Amplification is my new favorite phrase.

Thanks Alex.

AKO "is" Cool

I got this in my AKO email today:

* Announcing the AKO iPod Giveaway!
We are rapidly approaching AKO's 300 millionth login, and to celebrate we will be giving away an
iPod Shuffle. To win, start logging in now! To learn more, visit Inside AKO.

Holy crap. The Army is giving away iPods? And who says that being a soldier isn't cool?

Update: I've corresponded with some of the program manager types at AKO, and I'll tell you that those guys are "cool" too. Great work. AKO is right up there with poncho liner in terms of good Army inventions.