Posts Tagged ‘postaweek2011’

Patek arrested in Pakistan

March 31, 2011
Wanted -- Umar Patek (aka) Umar Kecil -- Up to...

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The last of the “big two” Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) leaders formerly in the Southern Philippines has reportedly been nabbed a bit outside of Southeast Asia:

The officials did not say where or when Umar Patek, a deputy commander of al-Qaida’s Southeast Asian affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah, was detained. But the Philippine army, which has also been hunting him, said he was picked up in Pakistan Jan. 25 alongside a Pakistani associate assumed to have been harboring him.

The arrest of Patek, who has a $1 million American price tag on his head, ends a 10-year international manhunt and is a major achievement in the global fight against al-Qaida and its offshoots. If he cooperates, the 40-year-old militant could give valuable intelligence on the current state of the extremist organization and its hardy affiliates in Southeast Asia.

As I wrote some time ago, Umar Patek and Dulmatin were the main guys we were looking for during my time with the Joint Special Operations Task Force – Philippines (JSOTF-P). Looks like this is further confirmation of the marginalization of JI and their Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG) allies in the Southern Philippines.

On Patek, see also:

H/T: cmjack3

For more on JSOTF-P, USA Today recently ran a nice piece on the mission there. I recommend watching the approximately 5-minute video you can find with the story for a good overview of what JSOTF-P is all about.

And finally, Small Wars Journal with a bunch of good linkage on JSOTF-P. (You can also find the video I mentioned above there.)

Send in the Marines

March 15, 2011

I mentioned yesterday that Marines from the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit embarked on the Essex Amphibious Ready Group would be part of U.S. forces responding to the disaster in Japan. Today I learned about what the rest of the Marines stationed in Japan will be doing to help. It mainly consists of repositioning rotary wing aircraft and cargo planes from Okinawa and Southern Japan to bases and locations closer to the disaster site. But it also involves the use of the High Speed Vessel (HSV), a catamaran hull ship operated by contractors and used to ferry Marines and gear around the theater. (I’ve never been aboard the HSV, but those that have had the pleasure of going for a ride no-so-affectionately refer to it as “the vomit comet”.)

From the press release:

Today, III MEF personnel and gear departed the Naha Military Port at 9 a.m. on the High Speed Vessel in route to mainland Japan. The HSV will deliver a Forward Arming and Refueling Point (FARP) for use in the assistance operations. A FARP is a temporary facility normally located close to the area of operations that allows aircraft to conduct continuous operations without having to return to an established airport to obtain fuel. This capability enables helicopters to fly rescue and transport missions almost non-stop.

The HSV is also transporting additional supplies, communications equipment and personnel that will be used in the relief operations. The FARP and other supplies will arrive at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni for further transportion to the identified FARP location.

Eight CH-46E transport helicopters of Marine Medium Helicopter Squadron 265, MAG-36, 1st MAW, III MEF normally located at MCAS Futenma are now positioned at NAS Atsugi and available to conduct relief operations. The mission of the Marine Corps rotary wing aircraft in support of relief operations is survey, recovery and humanitarian assistance support.

Humanitarian assistance survey teams are in place and ready to begin assessing the damaged area and assisting the Government of Japan with providing accurate information to disaster relief planners, both military and civilian. The HASTs are capable of distributing supplies and providing basic medical care for those in immediate need of aid.

Read it all here. Check out all the slides here.

Conant to return to USPACOM

March 15, 2011

I just caught this news while trolling DoD news releases, even though it has been out on the street for almost a month. Major General Thomas L. Conant, USMC, currently Commanding General, 3d Marine Aircraft Wing in California, has been nominated to be the deputy commander of U.S. Pacific Command, the U.S. combatant command for this neck of the woods. This is fantastic news, for General Conant has been at PACOM before (as the Director of Strategic Policy Planning [J5]) and is well-versed in the significant issues of the region. Plus, from a service point of view, it gives us (Marines) one more highly-placed general officer in the various regional and functional commands. (Last time I posted on this topic, we were taking the deputy spot at U.S. Cyber Command.)

“A disaster of absolutely historic proportions”

March 14, 2011

You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about the massive earthquake (they’re giving it a 9.0 magnitude now), then tsunami, now nuclear disaster of unclear proportions that struck Japan starting on Saturday, March 12. It seems almost like the “perfect storm” of calamities is unfolding –  a national security strategist’s worst nightmare. The most surreal part of it all is that it took place in the middle of the day and that people around the world were able to watch the destruction unfold live on television and online.

For its part, the U.S. Navy has kicked its deployments in the region into high gear in order to provide as much humanitarian assistance / disaster relief (HA/DR) as possible, as soon as possible. At least eight warships have been dispatched to the area to render assistance, with more to follow. And it’s not just the Navy pitching it – the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, from Okinawa, Japan, are embarked on the USS Essex (LHD-2) and related ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and are also on the way after a brief stop in Malaysia. Already there has been a nuclear issue, with personnel from the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) being irradiated to an as yet-to-be-determined degree after the ship steamed through the nuclear fallout cloud emanating from the damaged nuclear reactor at Fukushima. Some people believe that the nuclear crisis we are witnessing in Japan will be the death knell of the resurgence of nuclear power in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Michael Turton over at The View From Taiwan muses about a similar disaster striking Taiwan. From what he says, it leaves one with the distinct suspicion that the regime that brought you the botched handling of Typhoon Morakot in 2009 would not be making the strong showing that the Naoto Kan government in Tokyo is (though he also emphasizes that it is not simply a Ma Ying-jeou issue or a KMT issue).

Finally, the best bunch of photos of the destruction in Japan I have yet seen are here at the Atlantic’s In Focus blog – truly worth looking at. Amazing, terrifying stuff.

On Cyberwar with China, and other recent publications

March 2, 2011
Cyber-attack on Mastercard.com

There’s been a glut of military journal releases this week – the stalwart Military Review, featuring an excerpt (PDF) from Bing West‘s new book on Afghanistan; a new issue from the journal Prism, which discusses what are known as “complex operations” (basically, the messy, nation-building-type wars heavy in interagency coordination that have proliferated in the last decade) with an interesting-looking article on human security in complex operations (human security is a newer concept in security studies with the premise that without security at the human level – essentially addressing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at the lowest level – then you aren’t going to be able to achieve any other type of security); and finally a new issue from Strategic Studies Quarterly. Regular readers will recall I examined an article from their last edition on the “new” Korean War and implications for Taiwan. (It came out just about when the NorKos were shelling Yeonpyeong Island and it seemed as if we were about to say goodbye to the 1953 armistice.) The latter contains an article called “Blown to Bits: China’s War in Cyberspace, August–September 2020“. (PDF) OK, you got me – I’m pretty interested in China’s computer network operations capabilities – let’s take a look at this one.

The author, Christopher Bronk, Fellow in Information Technology Policy at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, sets up the fictitious future cyberwar scenario by discussing the development of U.S. information warfare superiority from the 1991 Gulf War to the 1999 Kosovo War. He also mentions the other, more recent bellwethers of possible future cyber conflict, the 2007 and 2008 cyber wars on Estonia and Georgia, respectively. (The belligerent in both instances was thought to be Russia.) In the latter case (Georgia), kinetic conflict was preceded by a cyber “preparation of the battlespace” just as many analysts believe would be the case if the U.S. and China at some point come into a state of military conflict. On the prospects of such an occurrence, Bronk notes

While it is the author’s deepest and most sincere hope that no military conflict will come between China, Japan, India, the United States, or any other states of the Western Pacific and Asia, the massive interest in cyber conflict among these countries leads many to ponder such a struggle.

And so here we are. The scenario he asks us to ponder is this: it is 2020, Taiwan has completed its Finlandization, and the PRC aches for greater conquest in Asia. It sets its sites on Singapore, at the southern end of the Chinese “lake” called the South China Sea and at the eastern mouth of the Strait of Malacca, perhaps the most crucial maritime chokepoint in the Pacific Basin, if not the world. Quite plausibly, China’s actions are spurred by concerns about the security of precious seaborne fossil fuel imports coming through the Indian Ocean.

The author’s intent is not to try to present a litany of details about potential cyberwar that would be impenetrable to anyone not holding an advanced degree in theoretic mathematics or computer science, but instead to consider “how cyberwar might supplant more traditional conflict and how cyber dimensions may alter warfare.”

After laying the groundwork, the scenario begins:

Many a pundit and strategic theorist had wondered what shape unrestrained information warfare might take. The opening hours of China’s virtual war with the United States and its allies over Singapore would confirm many of the worst suspicions of that crowd. Chinese forces were quite clearly working inside the decision loop of the allied forces. Preliminary moves by the PLA in the information space indicated that it could do much damage to enemy communication and computing resources, but a series of hints would reveal that China also likely had compromised, at least to a degree, the encryption mechanisms used to secure US and allied military and diplomatic communications. At times, Beijing most probably held the capacity to have a fairly complete information picture even of very high-level, classified systems, although the reverse was also likely true.

Though the author intended to “stay out of the cyber weeds”, there is a bit of digital undergrowth to deal with, though not too much to detract from his main intent: starting a discussion about whether a forceful political goal can be achieved by cyber means alone. I think this is a lot like the shopworn, discredited thesis popular in the late 1990s that wars could be won by airpower alone that grew from the 1999 Kosovo War – it would be great if the answer was yes, but it’s not.

The scenario demonstrates ably the potential vulnerability of U.S. and allied information nets to cyber attack; the question remains if U.S. decision-makers are willing to take concrete steps now to really protect these vital information channels. Sure, the U.S. has established a formal joint command to deal with cyber issues, but in many cases the lines of responsibility have not been clearly drawn and require further clarification.

Odds and Ends

February 27, 2011
National Sun Yat-sen University

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So the new academic semester is underway here in Taiwan – week two will begin on Tuesday after the 228 Memorial Day holiday. This will be my final semester studying in Taiwan, and should be quite different than my previous three semesters here, in that I have no classes this time around. I was able to complete all my course requirements during my first three semesters, so now I am free to focus on the final piece of the puzzle – my thesis.

I’ve been pretty satisfied with my progress on my thesis thus far. A month ago, I hadn’t even written the proposal, and now I’ve already got a pretty good first draft of the first two chapters done. My deadline is mid-May to turn the final product in to my advisor, and the defense should go in the first half of June. It’s going to be a lot of work, but already in the short time I have been working on it, I have enjoyed the fact that its production is truly my responsibility and that I can basically follow the research where it leads.

June will be our last month in Taiwan. Yes, nothing lasts forever, and I’ve already got orders to my next assignment. As luck may have it, I’m headed to Denver, Colorado to be a company commander. I am looking forward to that duty. I guess I will have to decide at some point whether or not I want to continue with exclusively Asia-Pacific focus for this blog after that, or if perhaps a transition to a more “general-purpose” military blog would be more in order (something like, I don’t know, maybe Wings Over Iraq? – by the way, I just noticed this blog made the blogroll there – thanks, Crispin!). Regardless, rest assured that Taiwan, China, and the Asia-Pacific will remain vital interests of mine and that material related to the same will appear here from time to time whether or not the overall focus shifts once I move from Taiwan.

But in the meantime, it’s nose to the grindstone for me! That, and a little traveling to indulge in a hobby, triathlons. I will head to Singapore next month for a race and then to the Beijing area in May for a final hurrah before heading back to the U.S.

Completely unrelated to all that, but of interest nonetheless, I commend your attention to a new blog written by one of my classmates at National Sun Yat-sen University. It’s only been around for a little over a month, but already Observations, Comments, and Whatnot is chock full of opinion and well, commentary on Taiwan, China, and more. Head on over and check it out: http://observerlhs-observations.blogspot.com/. The author, Nathan Novak, is averaging greater than a post a day so far in February, and they are not short ones, either. Finally, at least one of his posts has been picked up for publication by the Taipei Times after he posted it to his blog. Take a look.

U.S. Navy: We don’t fear the Chinese ASBM

February 15, 2011
080925-N-9565D-001 YOKOSUKA, Japan (Sept. 25, ...

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Eric Talmadge, “US admiral: Carrier killer won’t stop US Navy,” Washington Post, February 15, 2011

The U.S. military has had its eye on China’s “carrier killer” missile, the DF-21D anti-ship ballistic missile (or ASBM), for some time now, especially the U.S. Navy (understandably, since it’s advertised as a direct counter to the “crown jewel” of the U.S. fleet and a lodestar of U.S. power projection capabilities). The DoD seems to go to pretty extensive lengths to put forth an image of not fearing this weapon, for instance, this today:

However, Vice Adm. Scott van Buskirk, commander of the U.S. 7th Fleet, told the AP in an interview that the Navy does not see the much-feared weapon as creating any insurmountable vulnerability for the U.S. carriers – the Navy’s crown jewels.

“It’s not the Achilles heel of our aircraft carriers or our Navy – it is one weapons system, one technology that is out there,” Van Buskirk said in an interview this week on the bridge of the USS George Washington, the only carrier that is home-based in the western Pacific.

Admiral Van Buskirk took command of the U.S. Navy’s 7th Fleet last fall. 7th Fleet is the naval command that would be on the front line of a potential maritime conflict with China.

It’s not surprising that the leader of this command would come forth with a strong statement discounting the ASBM – just imagine how it would look if he made a statement saying that there was no realistic defense against the ASBM. (Not exactly confidence-inspiring!)

The truth is that nobody knows for sure if the ASBM will work as advertised. There are a number of extremely high technical hurdles that the Chinese will have to solve in order to achieve a operational, fully capable weapon system. The commander of United States Pacific Command (USPACOM – two echelons of command up the chain from 7th Fleet), Admiral Robert Willard stated in an December 2010 interview that the ASBM has reached a state of development roughly equivalent to what in the U.S. defense establishment is called “initial operational capability.” This means that some units can be expected to have received the equipment and have the ability to employ it. It does not mean, however, that all the pieces of the necessary targeting systems, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) networks and associated technologies are at a sufficient state of development to fully support the weapon. Indeed. many U.S. defense analysts believe that these supporting technologies are about five years away from being fully operational. (It’s probably good to point out right here that the U.S. has been pretty poor at making accurate predictions about when various Chinese military technologies and hardware will come into service – see also the J-20 stealth aircraft, the prospects of the Chinese deploying an aircraft carrier in the near term, etc.)

In the same interview, Admiral Willard stated that a full over-water test of the ASBM system had not yet been observed. There was some speculation last summer that the PRC might do such a test in conjunction with bellicose rhetoric about U.S. naval operations in the Yellow Sea, but it never came to pass. (The U.S. naval operations were part of the combined response – along with the South Koreans – to the sinking of the ROKS Cheonan by North Korea earlier in 2010.)

I’d like to go back to what Admiral Van Buskirk said about the ASBM in the quote above – “It’s not the Achilles heel of our aircraft carriers or our Navy – it is one weapons system, one technology that is out there.” [emphasis added] Very true. But it’s one part that is very provocative, since only China has anything like it, and because it appears to be directly intended to counter a key U.S. strength in an asymmetric fashion.

In recent testimony before the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission, an expert from the RAND Corporation described China’s anti-access approach to be a “system-of-systems”; that China’s ability to effectively employ its joint anti-access strategy in the Western Pacific would be dependent to a great extent on establishing an effective operational system (meaning the right kinds of units, manned with people trained in the right way) to employ its anti-access capabilities (including the ASBM), and at the same time that China still needed to work on full deployment and integration of a host of battle management and ISR networks to be able to effectively target at long distance, for instance, a U.S. aircraft carrier heading toward the Taiwan Strait. I believe this is what Admiral Van Buskirk was alluding to when saying that the ASBM is but one piece of the overall system. The U.S. has to worry about all of the threats, not just one.

A final quote:

Still, van Buskirk said the Navy has no intention of altering its mission because of the new threat and will continue to operate in the seas around Japan, Korea, the Philippines and anywhere else it deems necessary.

“We won’t change these operations because of this specific technology that might be out there,” he told The AP while the USS George Washington was in its home port just south of Tokyo for repairs last week. “But we will carefully monitor and adapt to it.”

I think that to some extent the Navy (and other branches of the U.S. armed forces) have indeed altered their operations in response to threats like the Chinese ASBM (thought it is hard to prove something like this). A greater impact in this realm has almost certainly been exerted by Chinese short- and medium-range missiles, which have been a focus of particular expansion by the Chinese over the past decade (chiefly as an axe to hold over the head of Taiwan). One could in fact argue that a factor in the shift of some U.S. troops from Okinawa in the much more distant U.S. outpost of Guam has been the Chinese ballistic missile threat. Okinawa is well within range of several types of Chinese ballistic missiles and its utility as a platform to support U.S. combat operations in a China contingency could be degraded quite quickly by the wealth of missile capabilities the PRC would potentially be able to lavish upon it. No wonder the U.S. wants to be able to port an aircraft carrier in Guam and is also expanding its air power and ISR profile there.

US weapons sales to Taiwan, 2011 redux

January 22, 2011
Hu Jintao

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China has been all over the news lately. Between President Hu Jintao’s recent US trip and the test flights of the J-20 stealth aircraft that coincided with US Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates‘s visit to China earlier this month, it’s been pretty much non-stop. In the run-up to Hu’s US trip, a lot of folks wrote about whether or not Sino-US relations were faring well or heading toward another fallout. Whether or not relations are good or bad right now, if the rumors of new round of weapons sales to Taiwan that began to swirl just prior to Hu’s visit turn out to be true, then we can pretty much assume that relations will be in the tank again soon.

We can make this assumption based on, among other things, the PRC’s reaction to the last round of US weapons sales to Taiwan, which was announced a year ago. This package, which boasted a sticker price in excess of $6 billion, consisted chiefly of utility helicopters like the ones that @Starbuck_WOI flies, missile defense systems (the latest version of the venerable Patriot system), and command and control equipment. In response, the PRC cut military-to-military ties to the US for nearly the balance of the year. These “mil-to-mil” ties are an important part of the regime of confidence building measures (CBMs) in place between the US and the PRC, mainly because the PRC government is not forthcoming with information about many things, in particular defense and security-related issues.

During the moratorium on US-China defense ties in 2010, Secretary Gates requested to make a visit to China in conjunction with a trip that already had him in Asia. The PRC response was that the timing  was “not convenient,” and his request was denied.

Gates was finally able to make the trip this month, and while he was there, the PLA trotted out its new J-20 stealth aircraft for some very public test flights. (US-based observers freaked out.) The PRC vowed the timing was purely coincidental. Of course it was.

Also seemingly not coincidental was the timing of a Taiwan missile exercise during Hu Jintao’s US trip. It is also possible that the results were not coincidental – one third of the missiles tested failed (most of these were US-supplied weapons of a rather old vintage). Could this be a plea to the US to provide “more weapons, more quicker?”

The rumored new weapons sales will not be quite as expensive as the 2010 version ($4 billion this time), and supposedly would include upgrades for Taiwan’s aging F-16 fighter jets, including avionics, engines, and missiles (Washington Times, Foreign Policy).

The US agreed, in the 1982 Joint Communique with the PRC, to decrease both the quantity and quality of the weapons sold to Taiwan over time, but in practice this has been contingent on the military threat to Taiwan being reduced.

The US has not backed away from making weapons sales to Taiwan in the interim, but one could argue that too much accommodation of Beijing’s anticipated reaction has affected at least the timing of the weapons sales, if not the content (though likely this as well – after all, whatever happened to the submarines and F-16s that Taiwan was supposed to get?).

Because of the perceived “sell-out” involved with agreeing to curtail weapons sales to Taiwan, at the same time that the 1982 Joint Communique was being negotiated, the US provided Taiwan with what has become known as the “Six Assurances.”  The assurances indicated that the US would not set and end date for weapons sales to Taiwan; that the US would not alter the Taiwan Relations Act (see below for more on it); that the US would not consult with Beijing in advance of weapons sales to Taiwan; that the US would not mediate between the PRC and Taiwan; that the US would not alter its position on Taiwan’s sovereignty, which is that it was something that needed to be peacefully resolved by the Chinese themselves (and would not pressure Taiwan to enter into negotiations with Beijing); and that the US would not formally recognize Chinese sovereignty over Taiwan. You can see how these assurances directly go against the 1982 Communique’s assertion that weapons sales would taper off.

But the US’s continued insistence on selling weapons to Taiwan, despite knowing that there will be a price incurred each time in Sino-US relations, as mentioned earlier, is predicated on a decreasing military threat to Taiwan. Anyone familiar with the PRC’s military modernization and expansion in the past couple decades, in particular the massive numbers of short-range ballistic missiles (SRBM) that are arrayed against Taiwan, knows that this has not been the case. So the weapons sales will continue.

The US knows that its weapons sales will not right the cross-Strait military balance, but does want to keep it from getting too far tilted in Beijing’s favor. (See more useful debunking of myths about weapons sales here, in a piece from the Center for Strategic and International Studies published not long after the last round of weapons sales.)

Taiwan also knows that there are some weapons the US simply will not sell them, so they must be produced indigenously. For example, Taiwan recently decided not to deploy a Taiwan-developed multiple-launch rocket system (MLRS) on its offshore islands near the PRC to avoid provocation. Missile development is but one facet of what one observer calls an “evolving defense doctrine” characterized by greater self-sufficiency.

Defense Secretary Gates, when asked by a US senator last year what could be done to reduce or stop US weapons sales to Taiwan (referred to by the senator as a “substantial irritant” to US-China relations), replied that the issue was political, not defense-related. Until the Taiwan Relations Act of 1979, which mandates that the US will “make available to Taiwan such defense articles and defense services in such quantity as may be necessary to enable Taiwan to maintain a sufficient self-defense capability”, is amended (note that the Six Assurances guaranteed that the TRA would not be amended) or repealed, there is no escaping this requirement. Gates replied similarly to a question about Taiwan weapons sales during his recent China trip, adding that in his view, that until the threat to Taiwan is reduced much more than it has been even in the era of cross-Strait rapprochement since the Ma Ying-jeou administration took office in Taiwan in 2008, that the weapons sales will still be necessary.

I can’t disagree. If you look at the capabilities that the PRC has aimed its defensive modernization and upgrades at, it seems quite clear that they are aimed at triumphing over the US in a limited regional war to take Taiwan. The PRC anti-access/area denial strategy supports it, development of 5th generation stealth aircraft supports it, expansion of the submarine fleet supports it.

In conclusion, when the next round of weapons sales to Taiwan are announced, don’t be surprised – surprised that the sales took place, or surprised that the PRC will be all aflutter about it. It’s nothing new, and it won’t be changing anytime soon.

On national service

January 3, 2011

We interrupt the regularly scheduled broadcast… to bring you this worthwhile (but not exactly related to the mainstay of this blog’s focus) video of Matt Pottinger, formerly a reporter for the Wall Street Journal in China, formerly a U.S. Marine Corps officer who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, now the Edwin R. Murrow Press Fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations delivering an address to his high school last Veteran’s Day.

Pottinger graduated from the Milton Academy in 1991 and was invited back to speak nearly 20 years later.  It’s funny and a little bit interesting to see the emphasis he puts on how he was less than totally dedicated to his studies while a student there, particularly in light of his subsequent professional success both as a reporter for one of the world’s premier newspapers and as a military officer.

It’s an interesting speech to me on a number of levels – first, it’s clear that his story is not typical.  Rarely in the modern day do you see people leave behind rewarding positions like the one Matt had with the WSJ in Beijing to do selfless things like join the Marine Corps to fight, though Matt’s story is not the only one like this – even more well-known was pro-footballer turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman; and there are many more who are relatively more obscure, like the investment banker from San Francisco I personally know who, like Matt, joined the Corps for a single tour in wartime, but in his case it was as a “conscience-clearing” to justify in his own mind the ridiculous amounts of money he was making (he has since returned to investment banking after four years of honorable service that included a tour in Iraq).  We need more people like Matt and my investment banker friend who are willing to step up and serve their countries.

It is also interesting because of the outsize success that Matt enjoyed during his time in the Corps.  He served only 5 years, but accomplished more during that time than many officers can claim in a whole career.  For instance, he innovated the first Marine Corps female engagement teams (FET) in Afghanistan that took advantage of local perceptions about women that allowed female Marines greater access and trust in the local society than the male Marines they served with.  Unlike the male Marines, the female Marines were seen as OK to enter local households without necessitating revenge in the Pashtun honor society system.  Since the FETs were able to get inside the homes of locals, they could better collect information and also tell the locals about what the coalition forces were trying to accomplish, an information operations (IO) bonanza of the first order. (For more on FETs and IO, this recent piece in The Nation discusses the difficulties the Marines and now the Army are having in sourcing personnel for the FETs and more importantly discusses some of the limitations and problems in their use.  This master’s thesis (PDF) from a student at Marine Corps University discusses the need for improved intelligence support to information operations in the types of fighting and nation-building that the US is doing in Iraq and Afghanistan.)

Probably largely on the strength of innovating the FETs he was named the 2009 Marine Corps Intelligence Officer of the Year.  He followed that up by deploying to Afghanistan for a second time, and this time around he co-authored (with two high-level intelligence officials also serving in Afghanistan at the time) an influential critique of American intelligence efforts there.  Entitled Fixing Intel: A Blueprint for Making Intelligence Relevant in Afghanistan (recommended reading here at Facing China about a year ago) that advocated, among other things, establishing positions for officers whose jobs would be not unlike that of a newspaper reporter – traveling widely around Afghanistan to speak face-to-face with people on the ground, then taking the information they gleaned at the tactical level back to the headquarters to fuse it together to provide the “real” picture that was getting lost in all the layers of bureaucracy and in the overdependence on technical intelligence collection (no doubt his background as a reporter in China informed this recommendation).

I think Matt makes a good argument for the importance and value of performing national service of some nature – it by no means has to be in the military.  I wonder if through his appearance at his alma mater Matt was able to convince any young Americans of the significance and virtue of seeking service to the point that they resolve to take action.  Only time will tell.

As he says in the speech, Matt has now completed his service and is back at his first love – writing.  I know I am looking forward to what I am sure will be relevant and insightful contributions from him at CFR.

The video is about 40 minutes long, so if that’s too long, you can at least read the “Cliffs Notes” version of it here, in a news release from the Milton Academy.

Picking up the pace in 2011

December 31, 2010

Facing China has been around for more than a year now, and a goal I have in the new year for the blog is to post at least once a week. Not just the “link drop” posts that I have added in recently, but things like the recent post I did on Taiwan and the new Korean War. If I can get a good post in each week in the first few weeks of 2011 (while I am still working on academic requirements for the fall semester), then I should be doing OK. Wish me luck!


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