Thursday, November 30, 2006

Time to Dust Off War Plan Green

Note: War Plan Green was part of a series of color-coded war plans drawn up by the US military between the World Wars. Green dealt with intervention in Mexico.

Without much media attention, Mexico continues its slide into chaos. Every now and then there will be a story about it, such as yesterday in the Washington Post. It reports that the number of violent deaths in Mexico continues to rise. Although media coverage of this is new, as witnessed by the US travel advisory to Mexico, the violence and chaos are not. With journalists being killed, large cities increasingly ungovernable, gangland shootouts that include RPG’s and machine guns, public officials beheaded, a weak divided government trying to act humanely (this story covers a lot of it), you’d think this would be a story the media would love, but I guess not having the US military to blame is a deal breaker for the media.

At first glance this chaos seems odd. Mexico is a large resource rich nation, with a good level of population growth, Western cultural heritage, and direct access to 1/3 of the world’s economy. The problem is that Mexico has taken almost all of the worst aspects of Western culture, socialism, racism, and xenophobia. Socialism makes it difficult to create wealth and jobs in Mexico. There may be bountiful resources in Mexico but when the government alone owns them they are not efficiently exploited. The xenophobia in Mexico is primarily focused towards the North (though still expect to be greeted by machetes, clubs, and almost no legal rights if you’re from south of Mexico). The xenophobia primarily works with socialism to keep Mexico’s economy inefficient and undercapitalized by keeping out American investors. Better to leave the countries wealth to the whites of Mexico than have the gringos of El Norte “steal it” the people are told and believe. Thus, xenophobia also assists in maintaining Mexico’s terribly racist quasi-apartheid system. Most of the wealth and power in Mexico is concentrated in its white minority that consists of only about 10% of the population. The average income in Mexico is $6,500, for the top 10% it's $24,100, for the bottom 10% $1,040 (from the CIA World Factbook). Essentially 10% live like Western Europeans, 80% like Eastern Europeans, and 10% like Chinese. This places Mexico in the top 10% of most inequitably distributed income countries.

These are the seeds of the current growing chaos in Mexico. To be stable and flourish, Mexico needs to end all three practices, yet the three main parties are focused on only ending socialism (PAN), only ending racism (PRD), or actually reinforcing the old ways (PRI). A growing population can be a blessing if a country has a free market system that can absorb and utilize the extra workers. Since Mexico does not have this, the only safety valve has been to export around 400-500,000 people a year to the hated north. However, even our ability to absorb and utilize this horde is being stressed near, if not past, the breaking point. Add to the witches brew oil and drug cartels and Mexico’s problems only grow. With the oil, the Mexicans can copy the country destroying policies of Hugo Chavez, while the drugs open a route to a Columbia style drug war. In short, don’t expect the chaos to abate anytime in the near future.

This is where War Plan Green comes into play; the Pentagon needs to thoroughly update it. We must make sure we always have enough brigades, even if they are mostly National Guard, ready to move south if the violence becomes severe enough to spill over the border, create a humanitarian crises in northern Mexico, or threaten Mexico’s vital oil exports. We need to have a clear idea of how far we will go, such as only form a security zone in northern Mexico or go all the way to Mexico City, intervene in the chaos or let it rage south of our zone, get involved in the political situation or leave it for the Mexicans to sort out. We further need to plan nationally and encourage affected companies to have their own plans for the economic collapse that unbridled chaos will cause. One of the unfortunate side effects of free trade and globalization is that they have linked the health of our economy to weak unstable economies like Mexico’s (we definitely need more such plans but I doubt any serious ones exist). Venezuela, Bolivia, Columbia, and Argentina are societal meltdowns that we can largely watch from afar, not so with Mexico. Its size, proximity, and enormous √©migr√© population in the US means the chaos there will inevitably spread here.

It would be nice if we could support them now more peacefully. However, since anti-Americanism was used to define Mexican identity long before even Canada existed, it is next to impossible for us to help in any overt and effective manner. We agreed to a free trade deal with Mexico, and we have taken their surplus population for 30 years running, we've provided an example, there’s not much more we can do to help. This could develop into a very serious problem right in our backyard in the near future so we should at least be prepared. I only hope the President hasn’t allowed his unabashed love of anything from south of the border to cloud his judgment on this issue.

Monday, November 27, 2006

Injured Blogger Update

I apologize for being quiet longer than expected. My hand ended up being injured much worse than hoped (almost lost a finger), which means I’m not able to type well yet. As a side note, rehab, though necessary, sucks. So, you know, don’t go cutting tendons, nerves, and major blood vessels unless you have to. Also, preferably don't do it when so many interesting and bloggable things are happening (and wow did I support Rummy at the wrong time, oh well regardless of what Bush thinks I still like Rumsfeld and think he was a great Sec. of Defense).

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Injured Blogger Notice

Since I badly cut my left hand (to the point of requiring surgery) I won’t be blogging much except occasional (very) short posts. I’ll be back blogging whenever the severed tendon heals enough (hopefully not more than 2 or 3 weeks). Thanks as always for the interest, take care.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Saddam & The Gallows, A Perfect Match

The upcoming executions of Saddam Hussein and his assorted henchmen are a truly historic moment. Provided they aren’t stopped by some freak judicial intervention, they will represent a rare moment in history in which a monster ruler has received justice in this life. All too often these human beasts get away with their crimes and depravity. Only a few have met their maker through worldly justice; for every Vlad the Impaler, Adolf Eichmann, or Benito Mussolini who do, there are countless men like Josef Stalin, Mao Tse-Tung, Ivan the Terrible, and Jimmy Carter (note: Simpsons humor) who do not.

Thanks to the skill, dedication, and hard work of the Coalition Forces and Iraqis who want a better future, Saddam will soon be listed with Vlad and not Ivan in the history books. This is not to argue that the price was worth it, or that we should have invaded, or anything like that. It is only to say that it is good to see justice being served to one of the worst dictators of a century that had all too many. Wherever one stands on the Iraq War, pro all the way, con all the way, for it before you were against it, this should be something that we can agree on. Once Saddam is in God’s court, we can get back to squabbling over Iraq.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

The Case for Rumsfeld

There is a debate (the favorable posts are too old and aren't online anymore, in short several contributors like Rumsfeld, con, con) at the National Review over the efficacy of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. I personally admire Rumsfeld very much as can be seen below. This post, Rumsfeld vs. the McClellan Democrats, from a month or so ago explains some of the reasons I like him. The following post is much older and explains why I think, contrary to some conservatives, that the current war makes transformation more imperative not less. Also, yes Rumsfeld wanted to eliminate two divisions prior to 9/11. Even under the first Bush budget, better though it was, the Army was simply not funded to a level required for 10 fully operational divisions. While the Defense Secretary must advocate for more, he also must plan based in reality (the Navy can have a plan for 33 carriers, it still isn't happening). Converting to an entirely light army would have been a mistake, and one I opposed at the time, but no one is perfect. Even so, it wouldn't have been too serious to this point, and it may have even been beneficial given the wars we fought. More light infantry would have been useful in Iraq in the first year and it was all we used in Afghanistan and elsewhere anyways. Nevertheless, it wasn't a good idea and Rumsfeld has dropped it. Anyways, on to the old post...

The 40,000 Soldier Question

Since 9/11 we have heard liberals frequently claim we need to add 40,000 more soldiers to the Army. It is treated by the left as a panacea for everything that ails the Army (whether true or not). Meanwhile, in the background Rumsfeld's transformation of the Army continues plodding along. Should we have added 40,000 soldiers? Or was allowing Rumsfeld's work to continue the better call? (It should be noted when discussing the reform of the Army that it is extremely difficult to find complete information on all aspects of it. I assume in cases where no information is available that it is staying similar to the current Army.)

First off, why reform at all? The reason is we still have a military which is essentially the little brother of the Cold War military. That military was designed to send dozens of divisions to fight the Soviet Union on the plains of Germany. Our current military is designed to send 3-6 divisions to fight regional wars against lesser states; Cold War planning in miniature. Further, the basic combat unit is still the division. This despite divisions almost never deploying for combat as they are organized in peacetime. The heavy battalions of the Army are still organized for the mass tank confrontation with the Soviet Union. Compared to the 18-24 armor battalions we had guarding the few dozen miles of the Fulda Gap in Germany during the Cold War we had 4 armor battalions sweeping the several hundred miles of desert in the invasion of Iraq. It no longer makes sense to have all tank battalions, as the ad hoc usage of mixed mechanized infantry (hereafter called mech) and armor task forces in Iraq shows. Lastly, the overall mix of troops we need has changed. In the past we needed lots of armor and artillery, now we need more infantry and military police.

Rumsfeld's reforms largely takes these issues that are being worked through on an ad hoc basis during combat operations and makes them permanent. On the issue of divisions, they are being made "modular". This means the brigades in the divisions can be easily switched around to suit the needs of the current mission. All of the support assets that used to be loaned from the division when it came time to deploy are now permanently part of the brigade. The heavy battalions are being changed from 3 mech or 3 armor companies to a mix of 2 mech and 2 armor companies. Many artillery and air defense battalions are being replaced with more useful military police and cavalry battalions. The net effect of these reforms is to increase the number of combat and close combat soldiers in the Army without increasing the overall number of soldiers. Basically, it is making the Army more efficient. The pre-Rumsfeld Army had approximately 59,000 combat and 61,000 near combat soldiers, or about 12.5% in each category. (note: my definition of combat soldiers is soldiers in infantry, armor, cavalry, and special forces units; close combat soldiers are those in artillery, air defense, engineer, and military police units. It does not conform to the Army's MOS classification system, nor do I include artillery as a combat unit.) Once Rumsfeld's transformation is completed with 48 new brigades, there will be 75,000 combat and 64,000 near combat soldiers. This would represent about 15.5% and 13.5% of the Army. While the overall number of combat soldiers per brigade would drop from 3,370 to 2,700, the total number of brigades that could be sustainably deployed would increase from 14 to 20. This means that the number of Army combat/near combat soldiers that could be deployed somewhere like Iraq would increase from 47,000 to 54,000 (the number of combat soldiers would see a much greater increase from 21,500 to 27,500).

The problem with only adding 40,000 soldiers is that it would just be adding more soldiers to the old Cold War Army. It would do nothing to solve various problems such as deployability, tactical rigidity, or exceptionally low share of combat soldiers of the old system. It is also more expensive than transformation while being less effective. Simply adding 40,000 soldiers to the Army would add 5,000 combat and 5,000 close combat soldiers. This compared to the net gains of 16,000 and 3,000 respectively with transformation. However, it would require an increase in the Army budget of nearly $6 billion a year plus many more billions upfront for the new equipment and buildings. Transformation costs a few hundred million for the more expensive training of the extra combat soldiers and such. While I support much more money for the Army, what matters is that Congress will not fund the extra $6 billion on a sustained basis. Congress has always cut funding quicker than troop levels.

The question would then arise, why not do both? Besides the fact that it is difficult enough just expanding the Army much less transforming it at the same time, the main reason is that the Pentagon as a whole does not want to reform to begin with. Armies have historically had major issues with reform and change. As great as our Army is, it is still an army. It has all the institutional problems that afflict all armies and nothing will ever change that. That said there are two things that spur change and reform in an army, defeat and fighting a war with limited means. To successfully change an army you must know how to operate within these constraints. Rumsfeld knows much better than most how to work within the Pentagon.

Examples of the first case include the German army after World War I and the French army after the Seven Years War. However, this situation will not force reform through today in the US Army so is not relevant. The second case can apply today and is what we are doing. When armies are provided with everything they ask for to fight a war, they will simply fight it the way they have always fought. The best (or worst if you like) example of this is World War I. Initially every army was given everything it could ask for, all the men, guns, and supplies they wanted. The result was the generals fought on like they always had. They did not attempt any reforms since they were constantly receiving new soldiers and supplies to try again. It was not until 1916 when her manpower reserves began to run low that Germany started to think about different, quicker ways to fight. England followed suit after Lloyd George refused to send more conscripts to France in the wake of the Paschendale Offensive. By early 1918 the Germans had developed the organization and tactics that allowed for infantry exploitations while the British had begun figuring out tank exploitations. It was the requirement to fight a war without all the resources they wanted that forced these armies to develop their new ideas. Sadly, that is how armies have always worked, and always will.

This is what we are doing today. The Army is having to figure out how to provide more combat troops to deal post-conflict occupations without simply recruiting extra soldiers. In the process it is possible to get through other reforms to deal with the outdated Cold War structure of our Army. The overall effect on Iraq is limited since as evidenced in my
prior post I think we are at the point where adding more soldiers becomes counter-productive. However, it would be nice to either have more combat soldiers with the same number of soldiers overall, or the same number of combat soldiers with fewer soldiers overall. It is also good (though not necessary, we are at war) to lower the strain on the National Guard. Iraq is also a great opportunity for reform because while it is limiting opposition to transformation, we are not at major risk by reforming before adding more soldiers. By comparison, had the British military been slow to change in 1918, the decision to stop sending new soldiers could have easily cost them the war when the Germans unleashed their new tactics in March 1918.

Once transformation is complete we could add 40,000 soldiers and get even more combat soldiers. But until the Army reforms are completed, it is better to hold off lest it cause the generals to begin seriously opposing transformation because of their new found leverage. Since in addition to fixing many of the current structural problems in the Army, transformation will also provide more combat soldiers at much less cost it is the better bet anyways for alleviating any troop level or deployment related issues the Army has. Afterwards, if Congress would continue funding the new soldiers and not force the Army to reduce its important procurement and training budgets then it is a good idea to add more soldiers. I never have and never will oppose troop increases or increased funding for the Army in general, only when there is good reason to. The need to reform the Army is just such a reason.

US Army OrBat
US Army Budget
Numbers of soldiers is arrived at by using the above OrBat with the TO&E in the latest version of the Steel Panthers computer game.