June 21, 2007

Global Warming: Is Capitalism the Rub or the Fix?

[Thanks to danielsommers, joneden, and cbuxbaum for pointing us to this idea.] License plate: CPTLISM [scottfeldstein / Flickr] Here’s a tough question that came up in a dinner conversation and echoes pitches from danielsommers, joneden, and cbuxbaum: Is it possible to achieve dramatic reductions in ...

[Thanks to danielsommers, joneden, and cbuxbaum for pointing us to this idea.]

hummer with capitalism plates

License plate: CPTLISM [scottfeldstein / Flickr]

Here’s a tough question that came up in a dinner conversation and echoes pitches from danielsommers, joneden, and cbuxbaum: Is it possible to achieve dramatic reductions in CO2 emissions — sufficient to save ourselves from the worst ravages of global warming — in a capitalist economy?

In other words, is constant economic growth compatible with stringent cutbacks in the petroleum-based energy that drives it? If we, as a country, need to reduce emissions by at least 80% by 2050, is there really a technological fix — in the form of clean, renewable energy sources — that will also allow us to continue our consumer lifestyles, that will permit companies to keep making profits? One that won’t require a serious focus on conservation/reduction and possibly a change in our economic system?

Or is the innovation encouraged by our free-market economy exactly what will save us all in the end?

June 21, 2007

Global Warming: Wind Power

California windmills [Ron's Log / Flickr] The Danes are doing it (to the tune of 20% of their electricity needs), so why can’t we? Wind power comes in two basic forms: from small windmills designed for individual use (up to 35 m tall with a ...
california windmills

California windmills [Ron's Log / Flickr]

The Danes are doing it (to the tune of 20% of their electricity needs), so why can’t we?

Wind power comes in two basic forms: from small windmills designed for individual use (up to 35 m tall with a rotor diameter up to 15 m); and from gigantic, utility-scale versions (as large as 80 m tall with rotors over 80 m in diameter). Neither form seems to have gained more than a toehold in America’s electricity market; wind power accounts for less than 1% of it.

It’s puzzling that a more robust wind-power market hasn’t developed in the US. Is the barrier technological? Is it an issue of NIMBY, which has characterized much of the opposition to the Cape Wind project? Is the problem that traditional fossil-fuel energy companies are given bigger subsidies and tax breaks?

We hope this hour can be both a close look at wind power and also a window into the struggles of alternative energy more generally. Anyone have thoughts on how to breathe fresh air into this debate (very bad pun intended)?

June 12, 2007

Collapse of the Senate Immigration Bill

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3) Last week the Senate’s immigration bill — championed by George Bush, John McCain, and Ted Kennedy — collapsed under the pressure of a firestorm on conservative blogs and talk radio. Blogger and American Prospect writer Ezra ...

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Last week the Senate’s immigration bill — championed by George Bush, John McCain, and Ted Kennedy — collapsed under the pressure of a firestorm on conservative blogs and talk radio. Blogger and American Prospect writer Ezra Klein explained it to me this way: the bill had three interlocking parts that really represented three different consitutencies. The amnesty section was for many of the Democrats; the guestworker section was for business; and the enforcement section was for the “restrictionists.” Those restrictionists, Klein said, were the ones who stirred up the controversy that brought down the bill.

Immigration’s a fraught, gargantuan issue. And it’s one that splits both the Republicans and the Democrats. For this hour we want to understand the current politics in Washington and how they were influenced by the right-wing upheaval. But we also want to get a sense of the national conversation and mood beyond the Beltway and the blogosphere — to understand how it all might shake out in the 2008 presidential election. Is it possible to imagine productive forward momentum on immigration if this bill never revives? What’s the real problem here?

Ezra Klein

Writing Fellow, American Prospect

Blogger, Ezra Klein: Tomorrow’s Media Conspiracy Today

Ali Noorani

Executive Director, Massachusetts Immigrant and Refugee Advocacy Coalition

Erik Erikson

Blogger, Confessions of Political Junkie

CEO, RedState

Kevin Johnson

Professor, Public Interest Law and Chicana/o Studies, UC Davis School of Law

Associate Dean for Academic Affairs, UC Davis School of Law

Blogger, ImmigrationProf Blog

June 8, 2007

Adieu, Robin!

Robin is so cool [Katherine Bidwell] We officially bid farewell this evening — with rooftop beers — to beloved Robin Amer (Amer like America). She’s headed to an exciting new gig in Chicago as a producer and host for Vocalo, WBEZ’s brand-spanking-new community station. So ...
Robin is cool

Robin is so cool [Katherine Bidwell]

We officially bid farewell this evening — with rooftop beers — to beloved Robin Amer (Amer like America). She’s headed to an exciting new gig in Chicago as a producer and host for Vocalo, WBEZ’s brand-spanking-new community station. So you’ll be able to hear her on the air or online very soon. She’s been eyeing this job since last autumn and marched right through a hugely competitive application process. We’re so proud of you, kid!

Robin’s been part of the crew since the infancy of Open Source and has poured her prodigious energy and curiosity into the show for two years. She was freshly 23 when she started and had real radio chops already, but in Mary’s Awesome School of Journalism she’s become a formidable reporter, able to wrestle just about anything into a compelling blogpost and hour of radio.

story meeting

In a story meeting, probably pitching one of your ideas! [Katherine Bidwell]

If you’ve met Robin, you know how ebullient she is, and how engaged with the world. This place just isn’t quite the same without her keen brain and her enthusiasms for urban communities, the artworld, and of course BIKES. Afternoons lag in the absence of her mandatory Cute Overload-and-grapefruit study breaks.

It’s also strangely quiet without her warm but resonant voice. So resonant, in fact, that it required a small adjustment period… Robin and I sat next to each other, at 90 degrees, and it took some experimenting to figure out how to preinterview guests by phone when she was talking, too. First we glued some soundproofing foam in Robin’s corner. Then I started wearing headphones, askew, to cover the ear that wasn’t on the phone. And finally, Robin kindly learned to interpret the occasional wild arm flap as an international signal for “I’m on the phone. I. Can’t. Hear.” The flipside? Her voice sounds fantastic on the radio.

We miss you, dear Robin, but this Vocalo adventure sounds like it will stretch you and your creativity in so many great ways. We’ll be listening. As Mary McGrath would say, don’t ever be a stranger. We expect visits and wild tales from the Windy City.

June 5, 2007

Hillary Clinton's War Vote

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3) We’re making calls right now, but here’s a promo to give you a head start: The return of the war vote: what does Hillary Clinton’s 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq War say about her 2008 campaign, ...

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

We’re making calls right now, but here’s a promo to give you a head start:

The return of the war vote: what does Hillary Clinton’s 2002 vote authorizing the Iraq War say about her 2008 campaign, the future of the war, and the political calculus of never saying “I’m sorry”?

(More to follow.)

Update, 6/6 2:10 pm
protest

What do you think? [mcotner / Flickr]

Here’s the short course: On October 11th 2002, Hillary Clinton voted to authorize President Bush to use military force against Iraq. She later called that vote “probably the hardest decision I have ever had to make.”

The previous day, she had voted against the Levin amendment, which would have required UN approval for the use of force against Iraq; and, failing that, another Congressional vote authorizing the President to use American military force.

That same day, she had also voted for a Byrd amendment that would have set a time limit on the use of US forces in Iraq — but that also included procedures for extending the date.

Clinton’s other notable Senate action on that day was drawing a link between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda, saying Saddam had given “aid, comfort and sanctuary to terrorists, including Al Qaeda members.”

As the Iraq war has grown unpopular, Clinton’s public position on it has also changed. She now vocally champions troop withdrawal. She blames George W. Bush “who misled this country and this Congress.” She says, about her own 2002 vote, “Knowing what we know now, I would never have voted for it.” Unlike John Edwards, though, what she hasn’t done is apologize for it.

So the big questions: Did she vote yes, in 2002, for political reasons or because she genuinely believed that Saddam Hussein was a threat to the US — or both? Why on earth did she vote against the Levin amendment if she hoped President Bush would pursue all possible diplomatic options? Why did she use the Bush administration’s rhetorical device of linking Saddam with al-Qaeda? What’s behind her decision not to apologize? And how is all of this playing out in the 2008 presidential campaign?

Jeff Gerth

Former investigative reporter, The New York Times

Co-author, Her Way: The Hopes and Ambitions of Hillary Rodham Clinton

Lincoln Chafee

Republican Senator from RI, 1999-2006

Visiting Fellow, The Watson Institute for International Studies, Brown University

Author, The Senate’s Forgotten Iraq Choice, The New York Times, March 1, 2007

Peter Beinart

Senior Fellow, Council on Foreign Relations

Editor-at-large, The New Republic

Jonathan Tasini

2006 candidate in NY Democratic primaries for the Senate

Blogger, Working Life

Executive Director, Labor Research Association

Lead plaintiff, Tasini vs. New York Times

Extra Credit Reading

Jeff Gerth and Don Van Natta Jr., Hillary’s War, The New York Times, May 29, 2007: “The Saddam-Al Qaeda link, so aggressively pushed by the Bush administration, was later debunked as false. So how could Clinton, named in 2006 by The Washingtonian magazine as the “brainiest” senator, have gotten such a critical point wrong? Referring to the larger question of her support for the authorization, Clinton said in February of this year, “My vote was a sincere vote based on the facts and assurances that I had at the time.”

Lincoln Chafee, The Senate’s Forgotten Iraq Choice, The New York Times, March 1, 2007: “The Senate had the opportunity to support a more deliberate, multilateral approach, one that still would have empowered the United States to respond to any imminent threat posed by Saddam Hussein. We must not sidestep the fact that a sensible alternative did exist, but it was rejected. Candidates — Democrat and Republican — should be called to account for their vote on the Levin amendment.”

Dwight Stephens, So, remind me again. Why the rush in 2003 into Iraq?, Dwight Stephens, March 4, 2007: “What, if anything, have the candidates learned? Why didn’t anyone consider what the history of the region had to teach us in informing our calculations about the aftermath of toppling Saddham Hussein? What do the candidates’ votes say about their approaches to terrorism and foreign policy? What do their votes say about what type of “leader of the free world” they will be?”

jay, Senator Clinton’s Political Epitaph, Diatribes of Jay, June 1, 2007: “The entire NIE was only 90 pages long. Yet like a derelict student, Clinton did not do her homework. When asked recently at political rally whether she had read it, she reportedly said only that she had been briefed on it.”

Here’s a link to a YouTube video of Clinton’s interaction with Code Pink in March of 2003. YouTube won’t let us embed it for some reason (conspiracy?). You should feel free to skip the singing and go straight to the part when Hillary comes in (at 1:36), if you so choose. Sparks start to fly at about 14:13.

Ana Quindlen, The Brand New and Same Old, Newsweek, May 28, 2007: “And every time Clinton is described as calculating or ambitious, you realize that such words are never used for male politicians because for them both traits are assumed—and accepted.”

Levin Amendment Roll Call.

barthjg, in a comment to Open Source, June 6, 2007: “Hillary, like almost everyone else, got snookered on iraq. She is a moderate, not a liberal, and someone at the center of power. Each person running for the White House studies the same calculus she does: weighing personal ambition with public perception against the weight of their individual passions, experience and common sense. Is she calculating? Yes. are they all calculating? Yes. I won’t pillory Hillary.”

Marc McElroy, in a comment to Open Source, June 5, 2007: “It’s hard for anyone to admit a mistake. I think American politics has sunken to the point where everyone bases what they say on justifying something. For Clinton in this case it’s a past action, but for her and others it’s a belief, choice, action, whatever it may be, it’s all justification.”

May 29, 2007

Deploying. Again.

We've been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for longer than we fought in WWII, without a draft or any national call to serve. While the political fight over withdrawal continues in Washington, the reality for now is that President Bush's 21,000-troop surge is underway -- and it's clear that the military is too small to sustain its current troop levels easily in a protracted ground war.

Iraqi FreedomWe’ve been at war in Iraq and Afghanistan for longer than we fought in WWII, without a draft or any national call to serve. While the political fight over withdrawal continues in Washington, the reality for now is that President Bush’s 21,000-troop surge is underway — and it’s clear that the military is too small to sustain its current troop levels easily in a protracted ground war.

The result is that many servicemen and women are now in their third or fourth (or even sixth) tours of duty. And for some those tours are getting longer: last month, the Army extended them from 12 to 15 months.

The military is also boosting its numbers through the “backdoor draft.” This became an issue barely a year after the start of the Iraq war when the Army announced sweeping use of stop-loss policies. (Stop-loss forces troops to finish tours with their units even if their individual service commitments would otherwise end mid-way through.) Another part of the “backdoor draft” involves recalls from the Individual Ready Reserve — soldiers and Marines who are no longer on active duty. The Army has been using its IRR for several years; and the Marine Corps recently announced its biggest call back to active duty since the early days of the Iraq war.

With the weight of the war falling on soldiers and Marines (and their families) who have to cope with multiple and extended deployments, we want to ask some of them who are about to start their third or fourth tours: How different is it this time around? Does your sense of mission change as the war in Iraq grinds on? Or if you’ve seen many casualties in previous tours? Or if you just feel you’ve done enough for your country already? What stops you from creating family or medical excuses to avoid a recall? How do you leave family behind again and what kinds of conversations do you have to have?

Update, 5/30 8:00 pm

Sometimes the production process takes you in directions you don’t anticipate. We thought we’d focus primarily on different attitudes towards repeated deployments. But the pre-interviews led us to recast the show a little bit. We found three Marine Corps officers just finishing or slated to start Harvard Business School. It turns out that the military’s well represented in the ranks of HBS and other b-schools, and we’re curious to know more about that connection. We’ll definitely still talk about what it takes to serve repeatedly in Iraq or Afghanistan. But we also want to ask how the draw of leadership — being led and leading others — affects your willingness to return. And how that experience carries over to civilian life and the business world later on.

Seth Moulton

Captain, USMC Reserve

Deploying on 4th tour in Iraq to work for Gen Petraeus

In previous tours: infantry platoon commander; worked for Gen Petraeus training Iraqi Security Forces

Accepted to Harvard Business School and Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government

Donovan Campbell

Captain, USMC

Deploying on 3rd tour in Iraq

In previous tours: intelligence analysis officer; and infantry platoon commander

Class of 2007, Harvard Business School

Sarah Stokes

[Sarah unfortunately won't be able to join us because of a delayed flight.]

Captain, USMC

Deploying to Afghanistan on 3rd tour

In previous tours in Iraq: logistics officer

Class of 2007, Harvard Business School

Extra Credit Reading
Why Military Officers Make Successful MBAs, Military MBA: “Through active practice and experience, military officers live a life of leadership. Officers are known for their values, ethics, and strong leadership skills such as problem solving, decisiveness and succinct communication. They have experience developing teams and working with large groups of diverse people to accomplish organizational goals. These character traits are important factors for success in both graduate school and corporate America.”

Debra M. Schwartz, Military officers courted by Olin School, The Washington University Record, September 10, 2004: “Veterans have always been welcome at the Olin School, said Joe Stephens, assistant director of M.B.A. admissions, who has responsibility for military recruitment. But “there wasn’t a steady stream,” and the school wanted more because they add value to the educational experience.”

Janet I. Farley, Using the Right Lingo, Operation Hero for Hire: Resource Corner:

“In the Military: First Sergeant

In the Civilian World: Personnel Manager

In the Military: Squad Leader

In the Civilian World: Team Leader/Team Chief

In the Military: Supply Sergeant

In the Civilian World: Supply Manager/Logistics Manager”

Lee Iacocca with Catherine Whitney, Where have all the leaders gone?, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, May 26, 2007: “I’ve never been commander in chief, but I’ve been a CEO. I understand a few things about leadership at the top… We should look at how the current administration stacks up.”

sig, Learning to lead, SigSpace: Form Without Function, May 20, 2007: “I was hoping that a few days at home would give me perspective on the NCO development course I just finished, the so-called Warrior Leadership Course (previously known as Platoon Leader Development Course, before the Army’s penchant for calling everything Warrior-this and Warrior-that). What has actually happened is that I am quickly forgetting things. This may be for the best.”

Ken Lovell, ‘Winning’ in Iraq, kenalovell.com Blog, January 11, 2007: “The new measures are a mix of military optimism and Harvard Business School Management By Objectives (MBO), circa 1975. First to the military optimism.”

Robert J. Williams, J. Douglas Barrett, and Mary Brabston, Managers’ business school education and military service: Possible links to corporate criminal activity, Human Relations, 2000: “The study utilized data from 184 Fortune 500 companies. The results suggest that both graduate business education and prior military service among members of a firm’s TMT strengthen the relationship between firm size and corporate criminal activity. Further, the results provide no support for the moderating influence of managers’ graduate business education or prior military experience on the relationships between firm strategy and corporate criminal activity.”

May 17, 2007

Comey's Dissent at Justice

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3) On Tuesday, former deputy Attorney General James B. Comey testified in a Senate hearing on the US Attorneys investigation. What unravelled was a made-for-TV drama, a whole new episode in the Bush-Cheney push for presidential power. ...

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

On Tuesday, former deputy Attorney General James B. Comey testified in a Senate hearing on the US Attorneys investigation. What unravelled was a made-for-TV drama, a whole new episode in the Bush-Cheney push for presidential power. (If the writers of 24 don’t steal from Comey’s testimony, they’re crazy. Actually, they’ve already done critical decision making in the ICU.)

Here’s how the teleplay might look:

Prelude

In the spring of 2004, “solid Republican” Comey and his boss John Ashcroft decide, based on the opinion of the DoJ’s Office of Legal Counsel, that the NSA’s warrantless surveillance program is illegal. When it comes time to sign a presidential order to reauthorize the program, John Ashcroft is in the hospital for emergency gall bladder surgery. The White House pressures Comey, who is acting Attorney General, to sign the order, but he refuses.

Act I

The action begins when Alberto Gonzales (then White House counsel) and Andrew Card (President Bush’s Chief of Staff) try to give Comey the run-around by appealing to the semi-conscious Ashcroft at his hospital bedside. When Comey learns they’re heading to the hospital, he races there with lights and sirens and sprints up the stairs to reach Ashcroft before Gonzales and Card arrive. He also pulls in FBI Director Robert Mueller to make sure Bush’s men can’t evict him from Ashcroft’s room. Ashcroft gathers his strength and refuses to approve the order.

Act II

Andrew Card summons Comey to the White House. Comey insists that Ted Olson, the US solicitor general, accompany him as a witness. It becomes clear in the meeting that Bush and Cheney want the NSA program to continue; and that Comey, Ashcroft, and Mueller are threatening to resign. The following day, Comey and Mueller each meet privately with Bush at the White House, and Bush agrees to the changes the DoJ wants to make to the surveillance program.

Act III

The deadline for reauthorization expires. President Bush allows the original NSA program to continue for the two to three weeks it takes the DoJ to work out the details of the necessary changes. The cleaned-up program — which only becomes public in December 2005 — is approved by DoJ. No one resigns.

There are so many questions here. One thing that struck us was the surprisingly heated dissent within a Justice Department that we’d naively assumed was loyal to the Bush administration. But despite the impressive resignation threats, are there really any heroes here? In the end, didn’t Comey, Ashcroft, and Mueller still sign off on a domestic surveillance program whose legality is hugely debated? What does it take — and symbolize — to resign in protest? Why did the DoJ, after the NSA program was already over two years old, suddenly decide it was illegal? Did President Bush violate any laws by allowing the program to continue for a couple of weeks without reauthorization? Isn’t it troubling that Gonzales and Card were trying to wrangle a signature from a very sick man? How big a drop is this story in the bucket of problems for George W. Bush and Alberto Gonzales? And how many other drops might be squeezed out of the US Attorneys investigation?

Glenn Greenwald

Constitutional lawyer

Blogger, Glenn Greenwald

Author, How Would a Patriot Act?

Laurence Tribe

Professor of constitutional law, Harvard Law School

Bruce Fein

Principal, The Lichfield Group

Associate Deputy Attorney General during the Reagan administration

Extra Credit Reading

James B. Comey testifies

David Johnston, Bush Intervened in Dispute Over N.S.A. Eavesdropping, The New York Times, May 16, 2007: “Mr. Comey said he phoned Mr. Mueller, who agreed to meet him at the hospital. Once there, Mr. Comey said he ‘literally ran up the stairs.’ At his request, Mr. Mueller ordered the F.B.I. agents on Mr. Ashcroft’s security detail not to evict Mr. Comey from the room if Mr. Gonzales and Mr. Card objected to his presence.”

Glenn Greenwald, What will be done about James Comey’s revelations?, Salon.com, May 17, 2007: “James Comey’s testimony amounts to a statement that — even according to the administration’s own loyal DOJ officials — the President ordered still-unknown spying on Americans, and engaged in that spying for a full two-and-a-half-years, that was so blatantly and shockingly illegal that they were all ready to resign over it”

Marty Lederman, Can You Even Imagine How Bad it Must Have Been?, Balkinization, May 16, 2007: “In light of all these considerations, just try to imagine how legally dubious the Yoo justification must have been that John Ashcroft was so profoundly committed to its repudiation. It’s staggering, really — almost unimaginable that anything such as this could have happened, especially where the stakes were so high.”

Ed Brayton, Comey, Ashcroft and the NSA Wiretapping Program, Todays events and thoughts, May 17, 2007: “There are two appalling parts to this story. The first is the incredibly callous behavior of Card and Gonzales, going to the hospital to get Ashcroft to sign off on a program they had already determined was not operating legally. The second is the White House reauthorizing the program that their own DOJ said was not legal.”

Jamie, “So are they all, all honorable men–”, Blue Wheelbarrow, May 17, 2007: “James B. Comey, loyal Republican, loyal to President Bush, shows what a man of honor looks like amongst the toadies of the Bush administration. He has been loyal, I would say to a fault, but when it comes to basic human decency and a commitment to honor his oath to uphold the Constitution and the Republic, he has been steadfast.”

mogrify, A Godfather Moment, Blogrify, May 17, 2007: “I couldn’t help but notice the similarity here to the hospital scene in the The Godfather, where the ailing Vito Corleone’s police guard has disappeared and Michael and Enzo stare down the hit squad sent by Sollozzo and Captain McCluskey. It’s unnerving. I can almost imagine the film noir shadows, the darkened street, the trembling hand reaching for the jacket pocket…”

thegreyeminence, commenting on Kevin Pease’s Livejournal, May 17, 2007: “When the last bastion of liberty and the rule of law is John Ashcroft, the situation has left insanity far behind and started breaking new trails into parody. What do these guys do for an encore, tie Nell to a railroad track?”

April 30, 2007

Iraq: Military Self-Critique

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3) General Casey handing command of MNF-I to General Petraeus, February 2007 [Department of Defense] It’s veto week in Washington. After General Petraeus’s recent testimony about the “surge” and after a couple of weeks of awful news ...

Click to Listen to the Show (24 MB MP3)

Casey and Petraeus

General Casey handing command of MNF-I to General Petraeus, February 2007 [Department of Defense]

It’s veto week in Washington. After General Petraeus’s recent testimony about the “surge” and after a couple of weeks of awful news about deaths in Iraq, President Bush gets the next move in the political fight over the war spending bill.

We’ve had an ongoing interest in the generals who have fought this war and who are fighting it now. David Petraeus — the current commanding general of the Multi-National Force in Iraq — has impeccable credentials, but no one seems convinced that he’ll succeed, at least not without a much bigger troop escalation than the current “surge.” So now seems like the right time to ask colonels or generals (Iraq veterans and/or recently retired) for an unvarnished critique of the way the war’s been planned and run.

Chris has been jonesing for months to have Col. H. R. McMaster — of Dereliction of Duty fame — on the show. They’ve struck up a friendly intermittent correspondence, but so far McMaster (not too surprisingly, given his current role as part of Gen. Petraeus’s “Baghdad brains trust“) has politely deflected our invitations. He did, however, just refer us to a pointed assessment of US generals in the Armed Forces Journal. It asks how, after all the lessons of Vietnam, the US general officer corps failed to prepare the military for new kinds of war, failed to warn Congress that the Bush administration’s war plan was not feasible, and failed to acknowledge the intensity of the insurgency. We’re following up with the author Lt. Col. Paul Yingling and others.

Who would you want to hear from and what would you want to ask?

Paul Eaton

Major General, U.S. Army (retired)

In charge of building Iraqi army and civil security forces, 2003-2004

Thomas X. Hammes

Colonel, U.S. Marine Corps (retired)

Served in Iraq in 2004 helping to establish bases for the Iraqi army

Author, The Sling and the Stone: On War in the 21st Century

John Batiste

Major General, U.S. Army (retired)

Commanded 1st Infantry Division in Iraq, deployed 2003

Advised Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, 2001-2002

Extra Credit Reading

Major General Paul D. Eaton’s testimony before the DPC

David Margolick, The Night of the Generals, Vanity Fair, April, 2007: “From the outside, the six insurgent generals looked suspiciously like a cabal, but there was nothing conspiratorial about them. While a few knew one another, their protests were not coordinated; to this day several have never met. For the most part, they were connected only insofar as one of them emboldened the next, and the next, and the next.”

Lt. Col. Paul Yingling, A failure in generalship, Armed Forces Journal: “America’s generals have repeated the mistakes of Vietnam in Iraq. First, throughout the 1990s our generals failed to envision the conditions of future combat and prepare their forces accordingly. Second, America’s generals failed to estimate correctly both the means and the ways necessary to achieve the aims of policy prior to beginning the war in Iraq. Finally, America’s generals did not provide Congress and the public with an accurate assessment of the conflict in Iraq.”

Major General Paul D. Eaton, General Eaton’s Letter to President Bush on Veto, May 1, 2007: “As someone who served this nation for decades, I have the utmost respect for the office you hold. However, as a man of conscience, I could not sit idly by as you told the American people today that your veto was based on the recommendations of military men. Your administration ignored the advice of our military’s finest minds before, and I see no evidence that you are listening to them now.”

Daniel J. Danelo, Officer Risks Career to Blast “Buffoonery” of Generals, US Cavalry ON Point, April 30, 2007: “But in professional military circles, the article—which begins with a quote about officers amusing themselves with “God knows what buffooneries”—could be the equivalent of a suicide bomb. Yingling’s willingness to take his critique public was a bold move that some say could cross the line of insubordination.”

Jai, There are generals who have resigned, of course, Soldiering on for Wesley Clark, March 7, 2007: “It takes a special kind of courage for a senior military officer to take a stand against the policy of his civilian leaders. Not only might he lose his active duty job, but he frequently risks the loss of long-term friendships as well as potential earning opportunities within the defense contracting and consulting community. Too often with the current vindictive administration, he may even find his reputation shredded.”

Bob Krumm, A failure in general, BobKrumm.com, April 30, 2007: “While few were probably aware of our enemy’s changes and our vulnerabilities, the Army’s senior leaders, should have numbered themselves among that few. That, after all, was their job. Instead, as both Yingling and I pointed out, the Army spent the nineties preparing for the eighties.”

Iraq: What Went Wrong – Part II, SwordPenTrumpet.com, May 1, 2007: “As LTC Yingling, Deputy Commander of the 3rd Armored Cavalry Regiments (”Brave Rifles”), noted in his article on the buffoonery of America’s current crop of General Officers (GO), the one GO in recent memory that served his country well was General Eric Shinseki. It would be hard to imagine a real Soldier not agreeing with LTC Yingling’s assessment.”

April 26, 2007

Military POV

Turns out we’ve done quite a few Iraq shows from a military perspective. So we decided to assemble them into an informal series. Can you think of any we’ve missed? You can subscribe to a podcast of every Military POV show here: The War in ...

Turns out we’ve done quite a few Iraq shows from a military perspective. So we decided to assemble them into an informal series. Can you think of any we’ve missed?

You can subscribe to a podcast of every Military POV show here:

The War in First Person, 06/30/05

The Things They Blogged. America’s enlisted men and women are blogging from Iraq and Afghanistan and giving us a real-time look at the front line. The ambushes and infantry patrols, the mess hall meals and desert heat. It’s war in the first person.

Soldiers and Families: Life in the 150th, 07/18/05

The 150th Combat Engineers Battalion in Iraq: a military family that includes spouses, parents, kids, and the friends back home… people who feel as much a part of the troop as the soldiers themselves. It’s an extended community stretching from Baghdad to Biloxi that lives in the open online.

Stuck in the Pottery Barn, 11/09/05

You broke it, you own it. Putting aside the reasons for going to war in Iraq in the first place, the reality today is a gathering Iraqi insurgency, an infrastructure in ruins, and a perilously fragile new democracy. Senator Feingold is calling for troop withdrawal, but does it make any sense to turn away now?

The Iraqi Police, 05/25/06

The Iraqi Police. Three years after the fall of Baghdad, the national police force — once projected as a pillar of US success in Iraq — seems now to be at the root of the country’s simmering civil war.

The War Tapes: Cinema Guerrité, 06/06/06

Cinema Guerrité. The War Tapes is a documentary that redefines “lights, camera, action”. “Light” is the blazing, Iraq desert sun, “camera” is a mini video recorder and “action” is deadly and nonstop. Soldiers film war, while waging war.

Iraq: A Military Inquest, 12/12/06

A post-Rumsfeld, post-James Baker military inquest on What Went Wrong, asking: Does the fault lie with the Pentagon civilians or the military and the Joint Chiefs? Was it a problem of conception or execution? And what are the “lessons learned?”

The Classroom Lessons of Iraq, 12/13/06

In twenty years the Iraq War, like the Peloponnesian war, will be a case study of tactics and strategy. In the classroom, will it all still come down to Clausewitz and Machiavelli, or does Iraq offer something new to teach the West Point class of 2026?

What the Active-Duty Military Wants, 01/08/07

What the American soldiers are saying. Three and a half years into the war in Iraq a majority of our troops oppose the war. There’s that threshhold of 3000 American deaths, but what else has changed for our men and women in uniform?

The Future of the All-Volunteer Military, 01/23/07

The U.S. military at a breaking point. With 150,000 troops in Iraq and 200,000 more on duty overseas, the world’s second-largest standing army is stretched thin. Whoever said an all-volunteer force could police a global beat — and constant conflict?

Do Americans Need to Serve?, 01/30/07

Whatever happened to national service? The Army is at war, a recent guest told us, but America is still at Wal-Mart. From Americorps to the Peace Corps to the Marine Corps, is our all-volunteer country volunteering enough?

Coming Home: Iraq Veterans, 03/12/07

Veterans affairs. Half a million GIs have returned from Afghanistan and Iraq, to the battles of life AFTER war. For some it’s a homecomings with prosthetic legs, or post-traumatic stress, or a homeless life on the street. For some the battle is re-learning how to talk.

Women in War, 03/26/07

One in ten American soldiers fighting in Iraq is a woman, and in a war that makes no distinction between combat and support, they’re patroling, driving, and dying — all the while fearing not just enemy IEDs but sometimes sexual assault from men on their own side.

Iraq: Military Self-Critique, 05/02/07

The US military’s report card on itself, in Iraq. Lt. Col. Paul Yingling has ignited a blogstorm with his Armed Forces Journal article blasting the military commanders of the Iraq War. Could an open, honest, public debate about the generalship of the war be next?

Deploying. Again., 05/31/07

The fourth deployment. What combination of patriotism and fatigue, eagerness and fear, arrives when Uncle Sam Fed Exes marching orders for your fourth tour in Iraq or Afghanistan?

April 26, 2007

Killing in War

[Thanks to AJD for pitching this one.] Scanning for snipers in Ghazaliya, Iraq [soldiersmediacenter / Flickr] How do you train young Americans to be ready to kill in war? The military spent a lot of time on this question after WWII, in which 80-85% of ...

[Thanks to AJD for pitching this one.]

scanning for snipers

Scanning for snipers in Ghazaliya, Iraq [soldiersmediacenter / Flickr]

How do you train young Americans to be ready to kill in war?

The military spent a lot of time on this question after WWII, in which 80-85% of American infantrymen refused to pull the trigger. It turns out that with the right physical and mental training it’s possible to override a person’s natural aversion to killing: by the Vietnam war, the firing rate had soared to over 90%. But is it a good thing for troops to subordinate personal morality to the chain of command?

Retired Marine Lt. Col. Dave Grossman looks at it this way: Civilians are sheep; they can’t imagine killing. Terrorists and assassins are wolves; they prey on the sheep. Warriors are sheepdogs; they have the wolves’ fangs and taste for violence, but their instinct and job is to protect the flock. To any sheep who ignores the existence of wolves and thinks sheepdogs unnecessary, Grossman says this:

Look at what happened after September 11, 2001, when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?

David Grossman, “On Sheep, Wolves and Sheepdogs,” excerpted from On Combat

The point here is that the military may live by a moral code that feels alien to civilians — but it’s one created by Americans that we depend on to protect the society we live in.

While this warrior code seems to work well for most troops during combat — even to the point of exhilaration — it’s less clear that it sustains them in the hours, months, and years after having killed. The long-term psychological costs can turn out to be crippling.

Lots of factors surely play a role in how a veteran copes with killing: family, friends, innate emotional resilience, leadership within a platoon, availability and social acceptability of counselling. David Grossman — who’s made a career of “killology” — believes that the intimacy of a kill also makes a big difference. He’d argue that dropping a bomb on people you can’t see, for example, is generally less traumatic than watching someone closely through the telescopic sight of a sniper rifle before pulling the trigger.

There are lots of other aspects, too: What if you end up seeing the disfigured corpse of a person you just killed? Does that make it harder? What if you disagree politically with the war you’re fighting? Or if your war leaves a country, as it may in Iraq, in worse shape than when you went in? What if you’re not certain whether you’ve killed an enemy or a civilian? What if you find out for sure that you shot a child? Or one of your own platoonmates?

The searing, chaotic reality of having to kill other human beings underpins each moment the US spends in Afghanistan and Iraq. Maybe the least we can do, as civilians, is to acknowledge this — because a new generation of combat veterans is thinking about it every single day.