Monday, March 30, 2009

On the border

DHS Secretary Napolitano seems to equate homeland security with immigration.  This isn't much of a surprise as her focus was shaped by her time as governor and attorney general of the state of Arizona.  She is calling for more resources to be shifted to the Southwest border to address the immigration issues posed by thousands of people trying to cross into the United States. Secretary State Clinton has added her voice saying these immigration issues are the fault of the United States.  Both secretaries are bolstering their arguments by pointing out the amount of illegal drugs being smuggled into the United States via the border.

Secretary Napolitano's has coined the term "man-made threats" to replace "terrorists" in a recent speech.  Her choice of words and emphasis on immigration issues is both predictably and disappointing.  North Korea, China, Russia and Iran are more volatile than ever yet the department created to protect the United States seems more concerned about illegal aliens as an immigration issue rather than as a security issue.

Bringing back the drug problem is uninspired.  Drugs have been coming through the Southwest border for many years and no interdiction efforts have been able to stem the flow.  As some of you know, I was the commander of the counterdrug task force here in Ohio back in the 90's.  One of the last cases we worked illustrates why the drug problem will not be handled by any policies created by DHS, the State Department or any other federal agency.

The prices are dated but the economies of scale are still relevant. I couldn't understand why drug dealers in Ohio could order a 50lbs bale of marijuana from Mexico and would not have to pay until a week later.  Drug dealers are not some of the most reliable business partners and at a going rate then of over $1,200 the level of trust afforded by a week did not make sense.  Then I began to understand the economies at work.

A bale of marijuana in Mexico sold for $25.  Get it smuggled across the border and the same bale was now worth $75 on the US side.  The bale's price jumped to over $100 as soon as you got it to the nearest city in Texas.  Once the bale got past San Antonio, the value would jump to around $500.  Get the bale to Ohio and its value sky-rocketed to over $1,000.

If the drug dealer in Ohio got busted or otherwise failed to pay, the Mexican dealer was only out a $25 investment.  If the Ohio connection managed to not get busted and paid, the Mexican dealer made a 5 five fold profit.

I have no reason to believe these economies of scale have changed, if anything the profits are even higher.  The Office of National Drug Control Policy (ONDCP or "drug czar") was created to address the drug problem over 20 years ago.  Policy will cannot stop the drug problem due to the enormous profits involved.  If the ONDCP wasn't able to impact the drug problem, I don't see what tools DHS or the Department of State can do.

To illustrate the problem facing DHS, you need to go to El Paso and look across the river.  El Paso is like any other major American city filled with stores, restaurants and businesses.  To the South, you will Juarez which just a shanty town.  One look will tell you why people try any means to cross over into the US but you don't see the opposite.  Jobs and money exist on the US side, neither of which exist on the Juarez side.

In order to buy drugs, you need money.  You can't sell drugs in Juarez for the same price you can get just across the border in El Paso.  Using my earlier example, the further you can smuggle the drugs into the United States the greater the return on your investment.

It stands to reason if an organization is skilled in smuggling drugs and illegal immigrants, they can also smuggle other things such as terrorists or weapons of mass destruction.  The attempt to "secure" our borders is important but we should not deluded ourselves that this alone will make us safer.  We need to do something about the economic incentives to smuggling drugs into the United States.  Secretary Clinton needs to take the lead on creating economic prosperity on the South side of the border decreasing the need for people to come North looking for work and prosperity.

Sunday, March 29, 2009

For First Time, Tokyo Says It Will Deploy Missile Interceptors Against Rocket or Debris From Pyongyang's Planned Launch

From the Wall Street Journal

TOKYO -- Japan's move Friday to deploy missile interceptors is the boldest challenge North Korea faces so far to its plan to launch a rocket in the next few days.

Japanese Defense Minister Yasukazu Hamada said he ordered the deployment of missile interceptors to Japan's northern coast to prepare to shoot down the rocket and any debris that could fall on Japanese territory. It was the first such order Japan had issued, a ministry spokesman said.

North Korea said it will launch a rocket carrying a satellite between April 4 and April 8, and warned that fragments could fall into the Sea of Japan between the two countries as well as southeast of Japan in the Pacific Ocean.

Japan and its allies suspect the rocket is a new long-range missile, and have demanded that Pyongyang cancel the plan. A launch would violate United Nations Security Council sanctions imposed in 2006 after North Korea tested a long-range missile.

A military truck with parts of land-to-air missiles from Iruma Air Base, north of Tokyo, arrives at the Defense Ministry in Tokyo Friday. Japan mobilized against possible threats from North Korea's planned rocket launch.
Any action Japan takes would be restricted to shooting at material that threatens to fall on Japanese land or sea. Nevertheless, the move is a bold one for Japan, which has a pacifist constitution that strictly restricts its military to measures of national defense.

Japan is particularly worried about North Korea because of its proximity to the rogue nation. After Pyongyang's launches in recent years, Tokyo imposed sanctions on North Korea and pushed the U.N. Security Council to enact further sanctions. At the time, Japan didn't have the missile-defense capabilities it has today.

Analysts say that by warning that it will intercept a rocket or debris, Japan is walking a fine diplomatic line between cautious preparation at home and tough talk to put North Korea on notice -- without antagonizing the country. Japanese defense officials say that while they don't expect debris or a rocket to fall on the nation, they will do everything possible beforehand to protect the nation by preparing for such an event.

Before the 2006 tests, North Korea didn't emphasize, as it has this time, that it will be launching a space rocket.

In recent years, Tokyo has expanded its military role. It has sent noncombat troops to Iraq and has a refueling mission in the Indian Ocean that supports U.S. forces in Afghanistan.

The U.S., which Japan relies on for its defense, has to proceed cautiously. U.S. diplomats are now dealing with North Korea's arrest of two U.S. journalists on the North Korea-China border on March 17.

The U.S. has been leaning against trying to shoot down the North's projectile and a senior U.S. official this week said the administration has ruled it out.

The Japanese government said two destroyers carrying sea-to-air missiles would also be deployed in nearby waters, joining U.S. and South Korean warships in the area.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Counter Terrorism Training and Anti Terrorism Training: a Blended Approach is Key

Here is an article sent to me from Henley-Putnam University:

The United States Institute of Peace (USIP) recently held a briefing with top counter terrorism and Middle East policy researchers and experts on the future of Iraq and the Obama administration. Many of these experts agreed that the U.S. troop withdrawal plan over the next few years must rely upon both continued Iraqi security force training to improve regional stability as well as the development and reconstruction of Iraqi civil society. One could call the military-based approach an exercise in counter terrorism training for Iraqi security forces, whereas the development based approach includes anti terrorism training for Iraqis. The Iraqi government, security services, and greater population will require both counter terrorism training and anti terrorism training, which brings one to question what exactly is the difference between anti terrorism and counter terrorism and how can U.S. policy best incorporate both types into an effective strategy in other countries as well as its own terrorism prevention policy.

Counter terrorism operations are a tactical approach used by governments, militaries, local law enforcement, and other parties towards dealing with terrorists. Counter terrorism includes applying intelligence and using force to eliminate terrorists, and is essentially a strategy of repression or suppression. The U.S. military defines counter terrorism as “operations that include the offensive measures taken to prevent, deter, preempt, and respond to terrorism.” (Joint Publication 1-02 Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms; U.S. Department of Defense ; 12 July 2007) The short term goal of counter terrorism policy is not to eliminate root causes of terrorism, but to bring the current crisis under control. Continued counter terrorism training of Iraqi security forces is an integral component for a timely withdrawal of U.S. troops, as Iraqi security officers need to prepare to deal tactically with Al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI) and other subversive forces on the ground. Experts from the USIP briefing suggested key steps related to counter terrorism policy for the new administration should include the continued training and equipping of Iraqi security forces, among other efforts. (USIP briefing; “Iraq in the Obama Administration,” December 2008) Continued Iraqi security and reconstruction, however, is also dependent upon anti terrorism training.

While similar and often incorrectly interchanged with the term “counter terrorism,” anti terrorism is a strategic, long- term effort towards reducing and altogether halting terrorism by focusing on root causes and seeking to change the environment which fosters terrorism. “Anti terrorism tactics consist of gathering information and disseminating it broadly, promoting public discourse, lobbying policy makers to encourage violence reduction policies and legislation, conducting civil litigation against terrorist actors, and organizing social institutions to accomplish these functions. Anti terrorism is a strategy of expanding democracy to eliminate the causes and resources enabling terrorism.”(Paul de Armond; “Rock, Paper, Scissors: Counter Terrorism, Anti Terrorism, and Terrorism,” Public Good Occasion Paper #6, 1997) Experts suggest that the U.S. government must continue to lobby for a settlement between the Kurdistan Regional Government and the central government, develop a strategy for national elections, and support peaceful power transitions – all efforts that can be categorized as anti terrorism training. (USIP briefing, December 2008)

The suggestions made by terrorism and Middle East experts for a successful and timely withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq illustrate the importance of a blended approach towards dealing with terrorism in Iraq, across the globe, and within the U.S. Anti terrorism and counter terrorism strategies are jointly important for the United States’ continued success in preventing and eliminating the terrorist threat in the present and in the future. This blended approach highlights the importance of developing policies under the rubric of strategic security, which is the multi disciplinary, global view of past, present, and future security issues that permits the timely accumulation of accurate, objective knowledge. Strategic security thinking is vital for the continued safety and protection of the U.S., as well as states around the globe.

Lauren Harrison – Henley-Putnam University Staff

Wednesday, March 18, 2009


The safety and well being of a community is normally something we only think about when something goes to terribly wrong. Cincinnati just went through some introspection over the murder of a young 13 year old girl. The suspect has a long history of sexual assault and violence. He was living in a halfway house until violent behavior caused him to be kicked out of the house. He then was out roaming when he came across his victim.

I’m not using names here because my intent is not to focus on the crime but rather on how we arrived at this point. The first demands were to close the halfway house, as though closing it would somehow or make the community safer and not simply increase the homeless problem. A halfway house is not a jail or prison, it is a place to help people cope with functioning in the community.

The next demand was to prevent people with violent histories from being released to halfway houses. Prisons and jails are already overcrowded, releasing those inmates who can function in society reduces the strain on the prison system.

As late as today, the news had a story about city council wanting to the close the halfway house that the suspected murder was from. Politically expedient I supposed but such a draconian measure gets to the heart of the problem.

Prisons and halfway houses are crowded with people who have mental health issues. These people often have no support system (be it family, friends or community) to help them cope with their problems. They end up homeless and lacking the proper medical attention, act out in violent ways. Without any other alternatives, these people end up in prisons and jails. Those who are able to show signs of coping (are simply non-violent enough) get released to halfway houses or even just back out on the street. The result can be exactly what happened to a 13 year old girl.

The solution isn’t to close halfway houses or increase our overcrowded prison system. The answer is to get these people help BEFORE they are forced to act out. Mental health institutions fell out of favor over arcane practices, however with their demise came a bigger problem…what to do with the thousands of people in our communities who suffer from mental health problems?

The argument of course is where is the funding going to come from to create these mental health institutions? Part of the solution is to help the community to develop alternatives to incarceration and halfway houses. If people can intervention early enough, some can avoid becoming part of the corrections system. Those who do commit crimes need to be referred to mental health systems instead of being locked up with other criminals.

Why invest in such a difficult an potentially costly endeavor? Creating a viable alternative to incarcerating people with mental health issues could lead to a much safer community. I don’t know if the suspected murderer could have been saved through intervention. What I do know is our present system isn’t working.

Gates readies big cuts in weapons - The Boston Globe

Gates readies big cuts in weapons - The Boston Globe

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Corrupt CEOs and anachronistic auto manufacturers are receiving billions of dollars to do the same thing they did to before the bailout, yet the military has to take drastic cuts. They are many weapon systems (the F-22 and F-35) that probably need to be rethought, however other systems such as a new air refueling platform is desperately needed. Hopefully Sec Gates will not the same mistake many of his predecessors are guilty of; drawing faulty conclusions from the past. The American military is the most lethal and modern force on the planet, however that doesn't mean we will always be that way. China, Iran and Russia are all posturing to become the next superpower. Gates' cuts could mean in the very near future, one of these nations could close the gap between their military the United States.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Michelle Obama pledges to help military families

The Cincinnati Enquirer had the following story on their website:

FORT BRAGG, N.C. — The nation owes not only gratitude but tangible assistance to the nation's military and their families, and she'll make that a focus of her time in the White House, first lady Michelle Obama says.
Underscoring her commitment to the plight of America's military families, Mrs. Obama used a trip to Fort Bragg as a stage for her first television interviews since the inauguration. One with ABC's "Good Morning America" was to air Friday.

In the interview she said she wanted military families to know they have a friend in the White House.

"It hurts. It hurts," Mrs. Obama said of hearing about military families on food stamps. "These are people who are willing to send their loved ones off to, perhaps, give their lives -- the ultimate sacrifice. But yet, they're living back at home on food stamps. It's not right, and it's not where we should be as a nation."

I'm glad to see the situation many military families face to get some attention. There are many family support programs out there to be sure, however it still offends me whenever I read about or meet a military family that have to use food stamps. If you consider the hours of training demanded of the military member and to maintain a constant state of readiness, with the likelihood of losing your life, then the rate at which enlisted members are compensated is low. Special forces troops are required to maintain fitness levels commensurate to elite athletes as well as their military skills yet they too are compensated at a ridiculously low rate. Compare the salaries of an E-6 (pay grade) in the SEALS, SF, Para-rescue or Force recon to what their civilian counterparts make in Blackwater or Dyn Corp.

I applaud the First Lady's attention on military families and hope that she is able to bring some needed attention to the problems facing the families of our service members.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Reflections about leadership

I was once asked to define a leader to which I replied, “A leader is someone who can inspire others to go beyond what they normally think they are capable of doing.” Webster’s provide a surprisingly reflective definition; a leader is a person who leads. Well I think we could have guessed that.

Two seemingly unrelated stories in the local news caused me to reflect on leaders and leadership. The first story is the latest incident dealing with Cincinnati firefighters. Two videos have surfaced both shot in what appear to be Cincinnati fire houses. One shows a stripper doing some erotic things with fire equipment, the other is a take-off of a Budweiser “Real American Hero” ad shot in an apparent dispatch room.

Three Cincinnati firefighters have been arrested this year alone, and nearly 60 members of the department have been disciplined since January 2005 for administrative or criminal infractions, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer.

The fire chief and city manager both disapprove of the actions of the firefighters involved with the videos (and other disciplinary issues) but neither really addresses the problem; namely a failure of leadership. None of the firefighters involved in disciplinary issues operated in a vacuum. The fire service is an extremely close-knit community, perhaps even more so than the military. Each of the firefighters who received discipline issues most likely had signs of problems BEFORE their issues made it into the newspaper. Where were the leaders to help their brothers and sisters? The firefighters union made some asinine remark that the firefighters involved in making the videos were not on-duty. What difference does that make? The story is in news and people aren’t going to remember the duty status, they will remember they are firefighters.

The Cincinnati Fire Chief has only made the perfunctory comments about the inappropriateness of the videos but has yet to make any real comments about what is going on in the Cincinnati Fire department. Granted, 60 is a small percentage compared to the total of 841 firefighters on the department but the question remains, where are the leaders?

T.J. Houshmandzadeh, formerly of the Cincinnati Bengals, signed with the Seattle Seahawks last week. There was much hand-wringing by some fans as T.J. was the most reliable wide receiver on the team that did not get into the news for shenanigans off the field. T.J. was thought to be a leader by some but I tend to disagree. When the 2008 voluntary weight training session started, T.J. opted to remain in California to do his own training. Leaders are with their teammates and train with them (regardless of it we are talking sports, firefighting or the military). To me, T.J. remaining in California instead of returning to Cincinnati to train was a sure sign that he wasn’t a team leader.

These two unrelated stories make me wonder where the leaders have gone? The country is in one of the worst economic situations in many years. The state, county and Cincinnati are facing similar economic challenges. Leaders are needed to inspire people to do more than they think they are capable of. So far, I’m not seeing a lot of leaders out there.