June 27, 2016

TCBMs: A New Definition and New Role for Outer Space Security

Frank A. Rose, Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance for the United States Department of State, recently participated as a panelist in “Defining Space Security for the 21st Century.” The panel, which convened on June 13, 2011, was part of the Space Security Through the Transatlantic Partnership Conference sponsored by the European Space Policy Institute and Prague Security Studies Institute, held June 12-14.

In his remarks, Mr. Rose discussed the diplomatic activities being pursued by the United States to enhance stability in outer space and as result its security.  Specifically,  Mr. Rose limited his remarks to the policy tools that the United States is considering, if not already using, to advance and to promote security and stability in outer space with an emphasis on the use of  transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs).   Mr. Rose noted the United States’ use of TCBMs through USSTRATCOM’s Joint Space Operations Center (JSpOC) and its provision of notifications to the Russian Federation and the Peoples’ Republic of China regarding close approaches between satellites.

Mr. Rose also remarked that the United States is considering signing on to the European Code of Conduct for Outer Space Activities (CoC)  as part of its policy to strengthen stability and security in outer space.  Mr. Rose further commented that the United States will be participating in the Group of Government Experts on Outer Space TCBMs in 2012.  The Group of Government Experts, which was established by Resolutions 65/68 during the 65th session of the United Nations General Assembly, is anticipated by the United States to serve as a positive mechanism to examine voluntary and pragmatic TCBMs in space to remedy concrete problems presented in space stability and security.  Ironically, or perhaps by design, Mr. Rose’s remarks concerning the use of TCBMs come one week after Huang Huikang, director of the Department of Treaty and Law in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for the Peoples’ Republic of China addressed the 54th session of United Nations Committee on the Peaceful Uses of Outer Space (COPUOS) on June 5th, where he spoke about China’s space policy.   In his address, he noted the importance of space law as an important instrument for safeguarding the peaceful use of outer space.

While not mentioning the PRC’s defense policy or the PPWT in particular, Huang also noted that space law is important for the prevention of the weaponization of space, thus intimating that space stability and security can be achieved only through an expansion of the current legal regime for outer space.  The approach of the United States policy and that of the PRC towards space stability are diametrically opposite and should provide an interesting dichotomy when the Group of Government Experts meets next year to consider the role of TCBMs should play in space activities.

Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures

Transparency and confidence-building measures (TCBMs) are part of the legal and institutional framework supporting military threat reductions and confidence-building among nations.    They have been recognized by the United Nations as mechanisms that offer transparency, assurances and mutual understanding amongst states and they are intended to reduce misunderstandings and tensions.  They also  promote a favorable climate for effective and mutually acceptable paths to arms reductions and non-proliferation. The General Assembly at its 73rd plenary meeting on December 7, 1988 endorsed the  guidelines for TCBMs  decided upon by the Commission on Disarmament on December 12, 1984.
TCBMs have been used extensively for the purpose of arms control and specifically in the arena of nuclear weapons.  However, when applied to space activities TCBMs can address other space activities outside of those performed for by the military or for those performed for national security reasons. While TCBMs promote transparency and assurance between states, they do not have the legal force of treaties and states entering into them are bound only by a code of honor to abide by the terms of the instrument.  By their nature TCBMs are considered a “top-down” approach to addressing issues.  They are not intended to supplant disarmament accords but rather to be a stepping stone to legally enforceable instruments.
Redefining TCBMs for outer space activities
TCBMs as envisioned by the United States provide the Obama Administration with a diplomatic and policy  tool that it can utilize to unilaterally project its foreign policy agenda without interference from Congress and in particular the Senate.  With the loss of the majority in the House of Representatives and a greatly diminished majority in the Senate, the Obama Administration is faced with a less than favorable political environment to propose a treaty such as the PPWT.  TCBMs give the Administration an alternative to side-step political impediments to pursue its foreign policy objectives in place of an actual treaty in regards to outer space stability and security.The position set forth by the United States regarding the use of TCBMs does not coincide with the traditional view and use of TCBMs.  Per the National Space Policy, the United States is seeking to enter into TCBMs to define space activity and conduct as an alternative to entering into legally binding treaties.

This approach to TCBMs was articulated by Paula Desutter when discussing the implications of the United States signing onto the CoC.   Ms. Desutter remarked that the CoC was preferable to the draft Treaty on the Prevention of the Placement of Weapons in Outer Space, the Threat or Use of Force against Outer Space Objects (PPWT) proposed by the Russian Federation and the Peoples’ Republic of China.  She noted that the CoC could provide an alternative approach and vehicle to ensuring space security and stability that could undermine or ultimately lead to the demise of the PPWT.   If this is the tack that the United States intends to take at next year’s meeting of the Group of Government Experts, then it will meet opposition from several constituencies.

The PRC and the Russian Federation will certainly oppose as they have in the past any form of TCBMs that are not linked to some sort of arms control agreement such as the proposed PPWT.  The Russian Federation in particular has noted that TCBMs have been used in the past to address issues relating to space activities, and that it has used unilateral TCBMs itself in regards to notifications of launches and the pledge not to be the first to deploy space weapons.  The Russian Federation has stated it will likely continue to support the use of TCBMs to lay the ground work for adoption of the PPWT and that the adoption of the PPWT would be the most important confidence-building measure in outer space.

If reaction by Asia-Pacific nations to the proposed CoC is any indicator, the United States could also find opposition from other space-faring nations in that region.  Open-source material criticizing the CoC suggests that India might object to the United States’ approach to space security and stability. Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan’s, a Senior Fellow in Security Studies at the Observer Research Foundation remarked on whether India should endorse the CoC.   Dr. Rajagopalan notes in her critique of the CoC that the European Council did not consult Asian nations while drafting the instrument, and that while the Coc is voluntary, its mandate for states to establish national policies and procedures to mitigate the potential for accidents in space could be seen as intrusive.   She further critiqued that the voluntary nature of the CoC would preclude any penalty on states violating the norms within.  Similarly, some of the concerns voiced by Dr. Rajagopalan could be expressed by India and other nations within the Asia-Pacific region concerning the use of TCBMs with the most prominent being their lack of enforceability and verification.

The United States will also find opposition from the non-space faring nations.  The United States is portrayed as the neighborhood bully when it comes to matters of international security, especially in the realm of outer space security, and the realities of soft politics will ensure that will not change anytime soon.  Attempts to address the issue of space security and stability via TCBMs as proposed by the United States will be met with suspicion by non-space faring nations and the delegation from the PRC and Russian Federation will likely stoke that dissension.

The use of TCBMs in place of treaties may not be the ideal diplomatic solution to deal with the issue of space security and stability.  However, until such time that a reliably verifiable and workable treaty is introduced that can pass Congressional muster, the use of TCBMs are a prudent course for the United States to take to address the issue of stability and security in outer space while simultaneously preserving its national security interests in that realm.  Only time will tell whether this approach will ultimately be embraced or rejected by space faring and non-space faring nations alike.


  • Defining Space Security for the 21st Century, Bureau of Arms Control, Verification and Compliance Remarks, United States Department of State, June 13, 2001.Stephen Clark, “Nearly 400 satellite crash notices sent to Russia, China”, Space Flight Now, June 15, 2011.Jeff Foust, “Debating a code of conduct for space”, The Space Review, March 7, 2011.

    Liu Gang, “Building harmonious outer space to achieve inclusive development: Chinese diplomat”, Xinhua, June 5, 2011.

    Andrey Makarov, Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures: Their Place and Role in Space Security, Security in Space: The Next Generation-Conference Report, 31, March-1 April 2008, United Nations Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), 2008.

    U.N. General Assembly, 43rd Session, 1988, Guidelines for confidence-building measures (A/43/78H).

    George C. Marshall Institute, “Codes of Conduct in Space: Considering the Impact of the EU Code of Conduct on U.S. Security in Space”, February 4, 2011.

    The Value of Transparency and Confidence-Building Measures – Next Steps, Statement by V.L.Vasiliev, Deputy Permanent Representative of the Russian Federation, at the UNIDIR Conference on Space Security 2010, Geneva, 29 March 2010.

    Dr. Rajeswari Pillai Rajagopalan, “Establishing Rules of the Road in Space: Issues and Challenges”, Observer Research Foundation, May 6, 2011.

  • What’s Wrong and What’s Right With the War Colleges

    A cascade of withering criticism has recently been leveled at the war colleges– those venerable institutions that represent the pinnacle of the hierarchy of professional military education. Each service maintains a war college or equivalent designed to prepare lieutenant colonels and colonels for the highest levels of responsibility, and while they have different cultures in many respects they also share some common attributes and challenges. It seems that there is some “piling on” in progress or perhaps there is some emerging consensus about what’s wrong with the war colleges, even if there isn’t that much agreement as to what should be done about it.

    The most widely read and vitriolic criticism came from a series of Foreign Policy.com blogs by former Washington Post writer Thomas Ricks. Ricks actually called for closure of the war colleges calling them both expensive and second-rate. Some within the system tended to ignore Ricks because of his bombastic style or the fact that he had little actual experience with the institutions he was lambasting. Others suspected the articles were payback for when the Army War College allegedly blackballed him during the Bush administration as too controversial due to his opposition of the Iraq War.  Hyperbole aside, Ricks made some good points that we are likely to see again as defense spending decreases and tough decisions are made about where to get most bang out of a much smaller budget.

    Daniel Hughes published a chapter, “Professors in the Colonels’ World” in a 2010 book entitled Military Culture and Education edited by Douglas Higbee that examined the divide between military and academic cultures. His depiction of the Air War College pointed out a nasty strain of anti-intellectualism, ultra conservativism, Christian nationalism and a largely disinterested student body. While some might reject the observations of an outsider like Ricks, Hughes served for eighteen years at the Air War College providing an insider view, albeit from the perspective of an underappreciated academic imbedded in military culture.  Some might be inclined to dismiss him as a disgruntled former employee.

    Then comes “Teach Tough, Think Tough: Why Military Education Must Change” an AOL Defense contribution by Joan Johnson-Freese, a professor at the Naval War College and lecturer at Harvard who also taught at the Air War College as a contemporary of Hughes. She agreed with much of his criticisms and expanded on the military officer/academic divide. She disagreed with Ricks about closing the War Colleges, calling instead for actions to mend the system driven by senior leaders that truly value graduate education.

    Much less widely circulated, but particularly insightful from a systemic perspective, was an article published in Proceedings Magazine by Robert Scales, retired two-star general and former commandant of the Army War College. He did not address the war colleges specifically, except for noting that the average age of attendees has increased from 41 to 45 making an expensive educational experience more of a preparation for retirement than a platform for leadership at higher levels. He lamented the possibility that the military is becoming “too busy to learn.” He decried the wane of experienced officers as instructors in the system of professional military education and suggested that a bias for action over learning and organizational malaise in the schools have made them an “intellectual backwater.” His solution is to change the military’s reward system to elevate soldier scholars rather than denigrate them. He advocates a return to the day when uniformed officers rather than civilian instructors and contractors are assigned to the schoolhouse to teach, not because their careers are dead-ended, but as career enhancing assignments on the way to even higher levels of responsibility.

    Finally, from the Small Wars Journal, Army War College faculty member and retired Colonel Charles Allen contributed “Redress of Professional Military Education: The Clarion Call.” He identified several issues that support some of the themes that arose in Scales’ article, specifically the possibility that officers are serving in key positions without sufficient educational preparation. He also observed some troubling shifts in the demographics of those attending the Army War College.  An increasing number of officers are deferring attendance. Allen points out that over the last five years 50 percent of those initially selected will choose to defer attendance leading him to assert that it is becoming more important to be selected for senior level schooling than to actually attend. Combat arms officers are apparently going elsewhere, perhaps to fellowship programs or joint service colleges that are viewed as more career enhancing.

    I’d like to think that I have a perspective that contributes to this discussion. I attended the Army War College as a student, and stepped off of a promising career track as a military police officer to complete a doctoral degree and then return as a faculty member where I served the last six years of a twenty-seven year career. I was a faculty member and course director with one foot in the academic world and another deeply implanted in the military warrior culture. I eventually left the military and the Army War College to pursue an academic career, and that is where I happily remain as a tenured faculty member at a respected doctoral degree granting institution where I will soon assume duties as Associate Dean. Having observed both sides of the street, I’d like to register some observations.

    My time as a student at the Army War College resulted in an intellectual awakening. Before attending I was so busy doing things like commanding a battalion that I had little time to reflect on larger issues affecting my profession. Reflection is the essential bridge between experience and learning. The Army War College gave me opportunities to delve deeply into national security issues and other aspects of my profession that I never would have had in a civilian academic institution. Comparing war colleges to traditional civilian graduate institutions is an “apples to oranges” exercise. The very best graduate program at a top tier university would, in many respects, be a poor substitute for what should happen at the war colleges. The model for the War Colleges is much more akin to that of a professional school (e.g., law or medicine) where sophisticated craft knowledge is blended to a lesser degree with disciplinary forays more common to where I now teach. I loved my time at the Army War College both as a student and a teacher. The adult learning model, seminar method, use of case studies contextually appropriate to a unique group of experienced practitioners, and the many opportunities to engage in no holds barred professional discussions with a parade of flag officers and civilian officials are bright spots that should not be underestimated for their positive impact on future senior military leaders. It is important to have a place where military officers can delve deeply into the nuances of their profession, and most importantly plumb the tensions, intricacies, and limitations of operating a large standing military in a democracy. If done properly that very process can serve as an important protection of the republic. Uninformed and undereducated officers who control vast amounts of military power can fall, or be led, to serious mischief.

    Most of my colleagues at the Army War College were completely dedicated to their students and focused on teaching in a way that is not often seen in civilian institutions. Having established my credentials as a fan of the war colleges, and certainly as one who benefited from my association with them, I must point out some weaknesses as well. You can put me in the camp of those who suggest that modification rather shuttering is the answer.

    There is indeed friction in the dual civilian and military nature of the faculty and staff at the war colleges. Hughes and Johnson-Freese have made that case better than I could. Both groups and the hybrid military officer/academic that I represent bring something valuable to the table. By far and away the best instructor that I had as a student was a civilian faculty member. He was a scholar with deep pedagogical expertise in the humanities who never served a day in uniform. He might have started with little credibility with the military members of our seminar, but he earned it quickly because he was an outstanding thinker and teacher. I’ll also point out that he did not stay at the Army War College. Attracting and retaining that kind of professor can be difficult in a system where there is no tenure and where the pay scale fails to take into account variation across disciplines. The pay scale might be generous for a history professor, but that is not so much the case for other fields like management or information technology. Having served in both systems I also have to say that professors in the system of professional military education just aren’t treated that well in comparison to those in the civil sphere. In terms of pay and benefits, discretionary time, developmental opportunities, support for research, the ability to consult, and the license to pursue one’s own agenda, civilian academe wins over the war college hands down.  I’m sure that varies by individual experience; I will only speak for my own.

    It is much easier to attract to the war colleges a form of second tier-academic; the kind that teaches well but fails the tenure review because they lack a record of meaningful scholarship. After all, the War Colleges aren’t much interested in research or scholarship either. They often have a department such as the Army’s Strategic Studies Institute loaded with authors that crank out insightful opinion pieces and geo-political essays, but few teaching faculty members are supported, encouraged, or rewarded for engaging in the kind of scholarly work that would be expected as terms of employment at most colleges and universities. Before my former colleagues take me off of their Christmas card list I want to be clear that I am not saying that all civilian professors at the war colleges are second-tier. Many are first rate in their own right. I’m just saying that in a competitive market for academic talent, the war colleges don’t have that much to compete with. Neither are the War Colleges places for the kind of young, bright, but inexperienced academics that would be valued at any of the high-prestige research universities.  Despite their brilliance and methodological skills, they have significant hurdles connecting with and earning the respect of the seasoned leaders they find in their classrooms. It is the rare twenty-something assistant professor that will prosper at a war college, but the same can be said for executive development programs at other institutions of higher learning.

    I must disagree with General Scales on the desirability of repopulating the system of professional military education with uniformed officers at the senior service college level unless they have both a credible professional and academic background, and that means more than a single tour on the faculty at an undergraduate service academy. I too would like to see the services value teaching in the system of professional military education as he suggests, but military officers who comprise much of the faculty, at least at the Air and Army War Colleges, simply do not have enough time on station to really get good at teaching. We used to quip that you merely survive the first year as a faculty member, begin to become competent at the second, and when you are finally comfortable in the seminar room it is time to move. The experience of military faculty members is respected, and they have instant credibility with the students, but experience and good teaching do not always go hand in hand.

    A central problem with staffing the war colleges stems from the fact that the colleges have little control of who the services assign there as military faculty members. The personnel system seems to believe that any old colonel can do it, but examples to the contrary abound. Assignments are made for a host of reasons that do not relate to one’s ability or even interest in teaching. I remember one particularly egregious case where the Air Force sent an officer to teach at the Army War College who suffered from a noticeable speech impediment.

    Retired officers are a mixed bag. They are often completely dedicated to the institution and bring a lifetime of experience, but without a deep underlying reservoir of disciplinary knowledge and a strong desire to stay connected and contribute to it, they can get a bit stale. They rarely leave voluntarily and the administration rewards their loyalty, if not their contributions, by renewing their contracts. Their experiences have a shelf life that begins to expire on the date of retirement.  They can usually be counted on to run a good seminar, but few contribute much in terms of scholarship as measured by the usual indicators of research and publication.  It would be interesting to know how many in this category have ever attended an academic conference outside of those hosted by the Department of Defense, something that is apparently acceptable to the administration. They can be powerfully resistant to change as they wait out the “temporary help,” a reference to military personnel on three-year assignments that includes the most senior administrators of the institution.

    I have spent a significant part of this essay focusing on the faculty of the war colleges because as any administrator in higher educations knows, it is the faculty that makes the institution. Despite the inordinate amount of time and effort spent on the curriculum including tedious lists of competencies stemming from Joint Professional Military Education accreditation requirements, the quality of the war colleges rests squarely on the faculty. Great faculty members can overcome a mediocre curriculum but a mediocre faculty will surely fail to implement even a great curriculum. If the services spent as much time on recruiting and retaining the best and brightest faculty members as they do tinkering with the curriculum we would have a much better system of professional military education. I will reserve my final comments for students and administrators of the war colleges.

    The war colleges may be the only institutions of higher learning that have such paltry control over who attends them. Boards comprised of officers from the field select attendees who have not necessarily expressed any interest at all in attending. No writing samples are required and there’s no graduate record exam or any other testing considered for admission. The criteria for selection are largely based on manner of performance in key positions. Selected officers then have the option of declining or deferring attendance, and many do as Allen’s research attests. Some attend merely because they see it as an opportunity to reconnect with their families or get in shape. As a faculty member we used to quip about students who were obviously there under “an athletic scholarship.“ Yes, there are a number of students attending the war colleges who should not be there, and who really do not want to be there.  They want the block checked for their next assignment and promotion. They can skate through, meeting minimal requirements, contributing to a form of ignorance on fire by waxing philosophical in seminar dialogue without conducting assigned reading, and enjoy the myriad social experiences that take place beyond the classroom. There is very little in place to prevent such freeloading. I will also say, however, that everything necessary for a truly mind expanding experience is there for the taking.  What the students get out of the program is directly commensurate with what they put in.

    Because I focus on leadership in my teaching and scholarship, it will not surprise any that I believe leadership to be an important variable in the quality of professional military education. The services have made both inspired and miserable choices in selecting those who serve as chief executives of their war colleges. Selection for two stars or more is not sufficient qualification on its own to serve as a college president, even a war college. Neither should it be a consolation prize for those who are not selected for combat command. As a positive and rare exemplar consider Major General Gregg Martin, who served as both a student and faculty member at the Army War College before assuming duties as commandant. I will say the same about other lesser administrative roles as well. Successful completion of brigade, ship, or squadron command does not inherently qualify a person to be a deputy commandant, chief of staff, provost, dean, or department chair. Such key positions of influence require an understanding of the kind of tensions that Hughes and Johnson-Freese identify and demonstrated ability in academic settings. They should be deeply attuned and dedicated to the primary purpose of the institutions they lead.

    The war colleges really should be, and indeed could be, intellectual centers of excellence with a mix of the best and brightest military and civilian faculty members. They have the potential to serve as incubators of big and even disruptive ideas fueled by cutting edge research on important and relevant questions and dedicated to preparing high potential senior military officers for the great challenges of our age. In return for the investment of national treasure that goes into operating the war colleges, the American people and indeed the service members who will serve under their graduates deserve far better than mediocre.

    Dr. George E. Reed served for 27 years as an Army officer, including six years as the Director of Command and Leadership Studies at the United States Army War College.

    The Search for a Cohesive U.S. Policy in the Arab World

    The United States looses its credibility among global citizens when it carves out vastly different policies to guide its reactions to remarkably similar situations in the various nation-states of the Middle East. While the goal of “winning hearts and minds” is at the forefront of U.S. military and diplomatic strategy these days, there is a dangerous disconnect between that strategic goal and the tactics actually employed in dealing with the various governments of in the Middle Eastern region. And those differences in tactics combine to constitute a serious strategic error for U.S. interest in the region and around the globe.

    While the events in Tunisia and Egypt happened so fast that it was honestly rather impractical for the U.S. to even consider intervening one way or another, by the time the crisis in Libya came around the Obama administration publicly adopted a policy of intervention in the domestic conflict based on the stated rationale that the people of Libya, largely peaceful protesters and demonstrators, needed protection from their own ruthless, fratricidal government. Yet when largely peaceful protests and demonstrations in Bahrain resulted in an equally vicious response from the Bahraini government, the “policy” of intervening in a domestic Arab conflict when the government turned violent against its own citizen demonstrators was quickly abandoned.

    Likewise in Syria, when the Syrian people began boldly standing up to the brutal regime of Bashar al-Asad, the Syrian government began a systematic campaign of violence against the largely peaceful Syrian protesters and demonstrators. While American-backed military action against Libya rages on, under the stated policy rationale of protecting peaceful protesters and demonstrators from their fratricidal government, not one ounce of military might has even been threatened against the Bahraini or Syrian governments as a result of their similar domestic slaughters. Those governments continue to be given carte blanche by the Obama administration to violently subdue peaceful calls for democracy while Libya is being pummeled for the exact same offense.

    I am not a fan of restraint when it comes to stopping the slaughter of peaceful demonstrators, and I believe that if we were going to intervene in Libya then it should have been much more decisive and, by now, conclusive. But I am also not a fan of a weak and inconsistent foreign policy in the Arab world and, frankly, an application of foreign policy that weakens our standing among Arabs in the long term. I am not arguing here in favor of intervention or non-intervention, but rather a consistent intervention policy that serves U.S. interests and yields long-term global goodwill toward the U.S. and the American people.

    What good will it be to the U.S. in the end to finally help rid the Middle Eastern region of brutal and repressive regimes, only to still be resented by the people of those nations we helped because of our reluctance to do so in the beginning when it counted?

    Take “The Troops” Off The Table in the Budget Battles

    The political drama over a possible government shutdown last week caused quite a lot of anxiety among service members and their families because of the likely delay such a shutdown would cause in receiving their bi-weekly paychecks. The fact that this was even an issue is an embarrassing stain on our politics, and it should not happen again.

    The budget battles will inevitably continue. Last Friday’s near-midnight deal only extended government funding for one week – ostensibly enough time to work out a deal on the remainder of the 2011 fiscal year. In addition to the battle to finish out the budget for this fiscal year, now is about the time when the battle normally begins raging for the next fiscal year’s budget. And as soon as the FY2011 budget battle ends (if it ends), the FY2012 budget battle will begin.

    So the partisan wrangling over budgetary issues will continue for the foreseeable future, but what should not continue is the uncertainty surrounding the defense budget. But even if Congress cannot agree on an overall defense budget, which is often one of the less contentious areas of the budget battles, funding for troop pay can and should be settled immediately and should not be held hostage again to partisan wrangling over other issues.

    Service members and their families have enough to worry about. They already get paid squat. They have endured previously unfathomable numbers of deployments and family separations. The suicide rates have skyrocketed and marital problems are rampant. Some of these issues require long-term attention and don’t have any quick fixes. But no one would argue that these men and women should not get paid on time, or that they should be be used as political pawns during the overall budget process.

    This issue – the issue of military pay – can have a quick fix. Tackle the part of the budget that ensures that these men and women get the money they’re owed on time, and return to the squabbling over other issues after that’s done.

    Libya, Ghadafi, and the Concept of Policy

    Much ado has been made lately about the U.S. “policy” toward Libya. But policy is an overarching concept, and it is intended to be applied categorically across the board. The notion of a foreign policy towards one particular country is a bit like saying we have a national tax policy for one individual American.

    Policy should not be idiosyncratic. If the United States has a policy of intervening to stop genocide, then it should intervene to stop every genocide, or have a good explanation why it is not stopping a particular genocide if it is its policy to do so. Likewise, a U.S. policy of preventing foreign governments from murdering its citizens should result in U.S. action anywhere a government acts to commit murder against its own citizens.

    This is ostensibly the policy basis of U.S. actions against Libya. The Libyan government was bombing and otherwise murdering its own citizens in an attempt to halt a rebellion and insurgency, and President Obama and NATO elected to intervene to stop it based on an alleged policy. If this is truly U.S. policy, however, then we should see similar interventions elsewhere. Surely Libya is not the only government to threaten or bomb its own citizens.

    No one would deny that North Korea, for example, has one of the most brutal regimes it he world. The North Korean government is known to murder its citizens who try to escape into China, hoard donated food supplies while its people starve, and even operate concentration camps within the country for political prisoners and their families.

    Murder of civilians, starving citizens, concentration camps… aren’t these all policy reasons we have used to justify foreign interventions before? Indeed. So why have we not put a no-fly zone over North Korea? Or Sudan? The Sudanese government is widely known to have supported genocide against its own citizens in Darfur by arming regional militias. So why were U.S. or NATO or any coalition’s fighter jets not taking out strategic targets in Sudan?

    I don’t necessarily have definitive answers to these questions, and I actually do support military intervention against Libya (and would have against Sudan). Rather, my role here has been to try to bring some clarity to an often misappropriated term – policy. It can really serve to delegitimize U.S. actions and intentions if we misuse that concept, as we do so frequently. Claiming that we are intervening in Libya because we have a “policy” of military intervention when a government is murdering its citizens leads many to question why we are not intervening in other areas when other governments murder their citizens. And those questions are legitimate ones.

    Instead, we should be honest with the world, and with ourselves. We are intervening in Libya because Ghadafi is a nuisance and we believe the world – and Libya – would be better off without him in power.

    Military Sexual Assault Not an “After School Special” Issue

    Servicemember-on-servicemember sexual assault is becoming an increasingly public problem for the Department of Defense, and as more light is shed onto this once-taboo topic, the inadequacies of military leaders’ responses to this visceral problem are coming into sharper focus.

    Every year I try to make it to the Army Soldier Show. Surprisingly, many people who have served in the Army have not even heard of this great touring event, and there really is not a comparable institution in the other service branches. But for those who know the Soldier Show, you know it’s a great experience with some of the Army’s finest talent singing chart-topping hits from the past year – often better than the original artists.

    The production value of the Soldier Show seems to improve every year, and in 2010 it even included the broadcast of high-quality, mid-show commercials from the show’s inter-Army sponsor on gigantic screens on either side the stage. But in contrast to the show, the commercials left much to be desired. The production value and creative talent on display in these commercials were impressive, but like so many public relations campaigns these commercials left me shaking my head and wondering who on Earth thought this campaign would be a good fit for the audience being targeted.

    Back then, I simply thought, “Pick your battles, right?” Now, however, I’m compelled to speak up. Why the change? The courtesy reinforcement of a bad idea indicates a more fundamental problem!

    This afternoon, Susan Carbon, Director of the Office on Violence Against Women at the Department of Justice, delivered prepared remarks to the Army’s annual Sexual Harassment/Assault Response Prevention (SHARP) Summit. Though the remarks contained platitudes that we’ve all heard and would expect, one thing stuck out for me.

    About halfway through her speech, Carbon said, “I was so pleased to learn about the Army’s I. A.M STRONG campaign (Intervene.Act.Motivate) – this effort can go a long way to educate soldiers on the crime of sexual assault and how to intervene responsibly to help prevent sexual assaults from occurring.”

    Then a little jingle popped into my head, prompted by her words –  “Intervene, Act, Moooootivate… Intervene, Act, Moooootivate.” The jingle was the same one from that commercial I had seen the previous year several times during the Army Soldiers Show.

    But just as few would agree that all publicity is good publicity, my vivid memories of this commercial are by no means a credit to its creators or those who approved its use. Despite the seriousness of the topic, and my unquestionable sensitivity to this issue, the commercial elicited automatic mental mocking and eye-rolls due to its absurdity.

    As I said earlier, the issue is not with the production value, which was high, or with the artist involved, as he was certainly talented. The real problem was that an entire team somewhere high up in the Army’s hierarchy must have signed off on this “campaign,” but the campaign looked and felt more like a clip from an After School Special than a serious message for the men and women of America’s armed forces.

    This sort of campaign – a catchy pop-rap song with edgy graphics – would be perfect for a modern middle school audience, or perhaps even high school freshmen and sophomores, but it’s wholly inappropriate and ineffective for adults, many of whom have seen and experienced the carnage of war. The campaign concept is simply a joke for the intended target audience, and this type of mistake tends to do more harm than good because it elicits widespread mocking of the message.

    Sometimes those involved in the creative process get invested in an idea or get stuck on a certain track, and they fail to see that the track is headed in the wrong direction. That’s not a reflection of the quality of the final product or of how hard those involved have worked. But working hard and having a fantastic final product simply aren’t good enough. You have to work smart too, and the final product has to be the right product for the target audience.

    This is a message and an issue that needs all the help it can get right now. The problem is growing worse and many are still in denial about the true extent of the problem. The men and women of the armed forces don’t need out-of-touch bureaucrats (both civilian and active duty) creating and reinforcing not only unhelpful campaigns, but ones that actually worsen the problem by unintentionally making a mockery of it.

    Threats to the Profession of Arms

    After ten years of engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan, the stresses and strains of protracted conflict are not hard to find. The toll on equipment is obvious while the impact of four and five combat tours on individual soldiers is less apparent, yet well acknowledged. This essay suggests that consideration of the wear and tear of a decade of armed conflict on the overall health of the military profession is also appropriate.

    West Point professor Don Snider is largely responsible for reintroducing the rhetoric of professions to the armed forces with his book, The Future of the Army Profession, now in its second edition.  In that book he asked a key question: “Is the Army a profession or it is merely an obedient bureaucracy?” His question is obviously equally applicable to all branches of the armed services.  He resolved that the Army has both professional and bureaucratic tendencies. A hallmark of professionalism includes faithful service to the client above all other priorities, a characteristic that distinguishes professions from bureaucracies. It is not hard to see why a professional mindset among military officers is a positive development. A profession that deeply understands its role in a democracy manned by professionals firmly dedicated to a professional ethic of faithful service serves as a protection against abuses that can emerge from a powerful standing military.

    The Center for Public Leadership at Harvard University has tracked the level of confidence that Americans have in major sectors of society for over ten years in its National Leadership Index. The 2010 report once again reflects that despite a perceived crisis of declining confidence in many institutions, the United States military remains the most respected sector of our society. Clearly the sacrifices of soldiers, sailors, airmen, and marines are appreciated. So what could possibly threaten so positive a view of such a well-grounded profession?

    Interested long-term observers of the military might note a number of trends that, if continued, carry negative implications on both the military and society. Stewards of the profession, both in an out of uniform, would do well to keep an eye on such things in order to ensure that what is now merely a concern does not develop into a situation that threatens the ability of the profession to well serve the people. For the purposes of this contribution I submit two troubling trends for consideration: Increasing political partisanship within the officer corps, and the creation of a warrior caste that sees itself as inherently morally superior to the society it serves.

    Increasing political partisanship of the officer corps. We have come a long way from the days when military officers refused to vote because they considered it too partisan of an activity. Today candidates seek the public support of retired military officers and some are only too happy to endorse them.  Jason Dempsey’s recent book Our Army: Soldiers, Politics, and American Civil-Military Relations notes that officers are more likely to identify strongly as members of the Republican party. He boldly suggests, “This implies that being apolitical is not at all a part of army culture, at least as defined by the officer corps” (p. 124). Enlisted soldiers tend to be much less partisan while Blacks and Hispanics are more likely to identify as Democrats. During six years as a faculty member at the U.S. Army War College I saw outward manifestations that clearly indicated a shift in the culture. Bumper stickers that professed support for political candidates appeared on automobiles owned by military officers, and signs sprung up in the yards of family quarters on post that were eventually removed, but after days on display instead of minutes. Fox News played in the cafeteria and officers were vocal about their political preferences. In a recent and particularly shameful case an Army doctor, Lt. Col. Terry Lakin, refused to deploy to Afghanistan until President Obama produced a birth certificate. He rightly faced a court martial and was sentenced to dismissal and six months in prison. How long will it be until partisanship further negatively impacts the mission or undermines civil-military relations?

    The military as a warrior caste, viewed internally as separate and superior to the populace. The United States military tends to view itself increasingly as a body apart from the populace it serves. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen spoke to the importance of maintaining a close connection with the public at the U.S. Army War College on February 10, 2011 stating, “We can’t drift away from the American people. We just can’t keep talking to ourselves. We have to tell them who we are and what we are doing. They want to know us better. How we make that connection is key.” The truth is that in many ways the military is different—it is fit, disciplined, focused clearly on mission accomplishment, and prepared to go to dangerous places to do difficult things. It is only right that their skills and dedication are appreciated. The military is not, however, inherently morally superior to the American society writ large. Being a soldier does not make one better than someone else, it simply makes the soldier want to be better. Every fault and perversion that exists in society is reflected in the ranks to varying degrees.  In that sense the military is more a microcosm of society than a bastion of morality.

    Warrior castes and subcultures have rarely boded well for the societies in which they reside. In his 2005 book The New American Militarism, Andrew Bacevich noted the rise of “militaristic tendencies antithetical to the well-being of the armed services and incompatible with traditional conceptions of military professionalism” and added that, “soldiers made militarism possible and soldiers have ended up paying much of the price” (p. 35). The Army’s Warrior Ethos project is well intentioned and beneficial in many ways, as is the intensive socialization process that turns civilians into soldiers. We would do well to consider some of the long-term implications of such attitudes.

    When combined with increasing political partisanship we begin to see small cracks in the profession that if not attended to could erode the public’s well-earned faith and confidence. At its extreme it could threaten the republic. Let’s avoid hyperbole here. I am not suggesting that the American people have anything to fear from their military—yet. There is every reason to believe that public confidence in the military is well placed. In some ways it is that very faith and confidence that could serve as a narcotic that prevents a serious examination from within the profession of the full impact of a decade of conflict. It might be tempting to bask in the good will of an adoring, yet inattentive public. It will not serve the military well, however, if constructive criticism and oversight are muted out of a misplaced sense of patriotism. After Vietnam, the U.S. military underwent a period of introspection, healing, and professional renewal. That could once again be the critical task for the next generation of military professionals.

    Dr. George E. Reed served for 27 years as an Army officer, including six years as the Director of Command and Leadership Studies at the United States Army War College.

    Indonesia: An Important Focus Point for World Security

    The current jubilation of Egypt’s semi-revolution and its people forcing the resignation of President Hosni Mubarak has provoked a mixed reaction and angst in the world community. There are valid concerns about weather Egypt can sustain a lasting democracy and whether possible instability will have a ripple effect that will cause problems worldwide. To answer these questions, one should look to the world’s largest Muslim country and the fourth largest nation in the world, the Republic of Indonesia.

    Indonesia has had a sound democracy since 1998, and it has a formidable Defense Force that is just now coming to the world’s attention. On September 19, 2001, Indonesian President Megawati Sukarnoputri became the First Head of State to visit the United States following the terrorist attacks of September 11th, at which time she and President George W. Bush established a permanent U.S.-Indonesia Security Dialogue. Indonesia immediately became a principal ally in the worldwide campaign against terrorism. Then-Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz had been a U.S. Ambassador to Indonesia in the 1980s, and he recognized the need to partner with the world’s largest Muslim nation in fighting terrorism.

    But Indonesia would soon have its own incidents of terrorism. A year later, in October 2002, a militant terrorist organization – the eleven-year old Jemaah Islamiyah, an off-shoot of al-Queda – bombed a popular night club in Bali. In response to this event, the Indonesian National Police Force established a department called Special Detachment 88 to focus on counter-terrorism, which has worked closely with the U.S. and Australia to prevent further attacks (eight-eight was the number of Australians killed in the bombing).

    By 2003, however, Indonesian public opinion of the United States deteriorated due in part to disapproval of the U.S.-led war in Iraq. In 2004, that number it fell to an all time low as a result of the images from the Abu Ghraib prison scandal in Iraq. But in December of that same year, in the northwest corner of Sumatra, the city of Banda Aceh was devastated by a tsunami of catastrophic proportions. After the U.S. responded by dispatching the USS Lincoln to provide disaster assistance and humanitarian relief, Indonesian public opinion toward the United States jumped back up, demonstrating that U.S. assistance can elevate our standing in the international community.

    In 2004, the voters of Indonesia elected retired general Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono as their president. He has remained in office ever since, and was reelected in 2009. A product of U.S. military training, President Yudhoyono attended the U.S. Army and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, and also received a Masters degree in business management from Webster University in Saint Louis. He serves concurrently as Indonesia’s Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces in much the same way that  the U.S. president automatically assumes the role of as Commander-in-Chief.

    Since Indonesia became a democracy in 1998, the Indonesia has moved toward separating military officers from politics and government. The country began the practice of requiring the Minister of Defense to be a civilian, and the National Parliament set up oversight committees similar to the Armed Services Committees of the U.S. Congress. The current Minister of Defense, Purnomo Yusgiantoro, is an economist with a background in geology from the University of Colorado’s School of Mines. The government also hosts a National Security Council, a committee comprised of the President, Vice President, and the Foreign and Defense Ministers.

    The Indonesian Military is over 400,000 strong. However, that is only a small percentage of the country’s overall population of 238 million. Conscription is provided for by law, but it has typically not been enforced. In 2010, Indonesia spent approximately 3% of its gross national product on defense, although the military has not been engaged in an international conflict since the confrontation with Malaysia from 1962 to 1965. However, the military has been involved in internal engagements in Aceh, East Timor and Western New Guinea.

    Since the 1990s, during the waning years of Indonesia’s long-serving President Lieutenant General Suharto, the Indonesian military has participated in several peacekeeping missions sanctioned by the United Nations. This is one area in which this growing nation could be of critical importance. Most recently in 2006, about 2000 Indonesian military personnel were involved in a peacekeeping mission in Lebanon following the Israeli invasion earlier that year.

    As the world’s largest Islamic nation, and one that honors and respects religious diversity, Indonesia could be quite influential in reducing conflict in the Middle East and elsewhere. Indonesia does not recognize the state of Israel, but the two nations maintain clandestine, defacto relations. President Abdurrahman Wahid (in office 1999-2001) made a goodwill visit to Israel in 2000 in an attempt to normalize relations between the two countries, although the move was met with a backlash from the conservative Islamic community.

    In 2005, the United States re-established full military relations with Indonesia. Those relations had been suspended in 1992 due to excesses in East Timor, which Indonesia granted independence that same year. Most significantly, our current president, Barack Obama, knows Indonesia well, having spent his early childhood in Jakarta. His step-father was also an Indonesian diplomat. President Obama has definitely recognized the importance and significance of Indonesia’s security potential in Southsast Asia and worldwide. By the end of this decade, I would predict Indonesia will become a formidable force for international security.

    Facebooking the War in Afghanistan

    So I’ll have to admit, I’m torn on this one. New York Times journalist James Dao has a new article out about internet and cell phone use and “Facebooking” by troops deployed to Afghanistan.

    I’ve never been to Afghanistan, or to Iraq for that matter, so I am hesitant to criticize commanders on the ground in Afghanistan for allowing this unprecedented level of cellular and social media access in a war zone. But the disciplinarian in me is concerned that this trend dangerously allows problems at home to become problems down range – as if there weren’t already enough problems for deployed units to deal with.

    I certainly understand the rationale for allowing such unprecedented levels of access to cell and social media services on deployment. Communication with and access to families and friends back home have to be significant morale boosters for many troops. Allowing troops to watch births via Skype reduces the expense and disruption of sending troops home for such occasions. And enabling them to monitor the daily or weekly routines of life back home via Facebook can alleviate the worry that results from the wandering of the mind and the problem of assuming the worst case scenario.

    But that very same monitoring can also lead to the highly disruptive micromanagement of personal affairs back home. And as the widely under-acknowledged problem of adultery and infidelity is discovered or becomes suspected because of the availability of information, even circumstantial, the effects can wreak havoc on individuals, units, and missions abroad.

    Furthermore, although commanders insist that cell phones and portable games are prohibited on foot patrols, the example of one service member paying more attention to his blackberry than to the horizon while on a vehicular patrol is equally disturbing. And as we all know, for every one case that is witnessed, there must be one thousand cases that are not.

    I tend to agree that a deployment should be a focused period of time where the service member is largely disconnected from life back home. With proper pre-deployment family and personal affairs planning and shorter deployment cycles, achieving this mission-optimal state should be possible.

    Read the original New York Times article here: Staying in Touch with Home, for Better or Worse

    The Article You Need a Stiff Drink (or a Pill) to Read

    This week, Jennifer Senior of New York Magazine published a piece that you just have to read, take some time to digest, and have a stiff drink (or one of the pills listed in the title) to fully absorb.

    The mental health toll on service members after multiple deployments has become a more frequent (though not frequent enough) topic of media coverage and public thought over the past year, but most of this attention has come years too late. Much of the damage has already been done, and second and third order effects of it being ignored for so long have already appeared, such as missed diagnoses, wrongful attribution of symptoms to “personality disorders,” and the denial of disability benefits and proper healthcare to the veterans whose minds, lives, and bodies we messed up.

    This in depth piece touches on just about every aspect of the growing military mental health crisis, from Post Traumatic Stress to suicides to homelessness and joblessness to readjustment issues to the impact of troop access to social media in Afghanistan. But as bad as the problem really is, the article ironically has a happy ending – sort of.

    Read it here, and let me know what you think: The Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Wellbutrin, Celexa, Effexor, Valium, Klonopin, Ativan, Restoril, Xanax, Adderall, Ritalin, Haldol, Risperdal, Seroquel, Ambien, Lunesta, Elavil, Trazodone War