The .45

Here’s a nice piece on my favorite piece.

Original 1911 pistol. Kyle mizokami photo

The 1911 is one of the most notorious handguns in history and easily the most famous in America, having seen action in every U.S. conflict since World War I. One of the most successful product designs ever, the 1911 has achieved something rare in the world of machines: immortality. Over a hundred years old, it remains largely unchanged.

What Apple is to consumer electronics, John Browning was to late 19th and early 20th century firearms. The 1911 is his most famous design. The typical 1911 is 8.25 inches from tip to tail and weighs 2.49 pounds empty — about as much as a trade paperback book. The 1911 is made of steel, steel and more steel, and takes a magazine that holds seven bullets.

The 1911 has seen service in World War I, Mexico, Haiti, Nicaragua, the Dominican Republic (twice), Lebanon, World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam, Iran, Grenada, Panama, the Gulf War, the Iraq War and Afghanistan. It has chased bad men from Pancho Villa to Osama Bin Laden.

Minor adjustments have been added here and there, but the general appearance and function of the gun has largely been left unchanged. The 1911 is the personification — among weapons, anyway — of what architect Louis Sullivan termed “form follow[ing] function.” The 1911 was not designed to be beautiful; it was designed to be useful. Ergonomically everything is where it should be for maximum efficiency.

I’m not really a purist, though. I’m happy with virtually any decent 1911 style pistol. In fact, my favorite carry piece from long ago was a Star PD in .45.

And I understand the appeal of some newer designs. I personally dislike the Baretta M9/Model 92. I know LT Rusty likes his. I guess it just fits nicely in his purse.

Goldwater Nichols ‘86 in the Post-Post-Cold War Era

Galrahn’ Information Dissemination is always a good place for some deep thinking. Especially since we so often disagree with him. Keeps us on our toes, as it were.

And G’s added another contributor to his site, Lazarus. Lazarus’ first piece takes a look at the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986 that established our current Department of Defense organization and how the Joint Chiefs and the regional Combatant Commanders interact and interface with the civilian National Command Authority.

A good example of a piece of history that ought to be re-examined by historians is the defense reform movement of the 1980s and the notable legislation it produced. The effort’s primary product, the Goldwater Nichols Act of 1986 has for all intents and purposes become canon law for the U.S. military. It is referred to reverently in U.S. Defense publications as if it were the Declaration of Independence or the Magna Carta. Its legislative creators thought that empowering the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs and his staff to manage service issues would end inter-service bickering, prevent future Vietnam wars, and free the nation from the tyranny of military novices like Lyndon Johnson picking military targets over lunch. Critics like Navy Secretary John Lehman countered that the legislation would not cut defense costs and would prevent the individual military services from effectively allocating resources and personnel to their respective areas of warfare expertise. What resulted was more of a compromise. The Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (CJCS) gained considerable power at the expense of the military service chiefs but the organization of the JCS remained unaltered despite the efforts of reformers to replace it with a council of retired officers who would not have service-centric views.  Although intended to improve Cold War military planning and organization, it made its strongest claim for legitimacy in a post-Cold War conflict. Goldwater Nichols was widely touted by its legislative backers as one of the keys to victory in the 1991 Gulf War by preventing excessive service chief and civilian meddling in the conflict and organizing the disparate U.S. military service into a victorious joint force. Buoyed by these pronouncements Goldwater Nichols sailed on through the 1990s and 2000s, unlike many other Cold War-era programs and organizational doctrines without significant review.

One change G/N brought was that the Chairman of the JCS became the sole primary military advisor to the President, as opposed to the individual service chiefs. The idea was to reduce interservice rivalry. As Lazarus notes, it has been a shift from rivalry to simply protecting each service share of the defense dollar pie.

It also greatly increased the command authority of the combatant commanders (COCOM)  in the field. Effectively, while the Chairman is the principal military advisor, he has no command authority over the COCOMs. In operational command, he’s just the messenger between the NCA and the COCOMs.  The chain runs from the President to the SecDef to the COCOM.

The individual service chiefs, such as the Chief of Staff of the Army or the Commandant of the Marine Corps likewise have no command authority over operations. Instead, they are responsible for providing ready, trained, equipped forces to the COCOMs to fulfill their missions.

G/N had two other major influences. First, “jointness” was greatly stressed, in an effort to increase the interoperability of the services. This has lead to a requirement for officers wishing to advance to flag rank to serve time on a Joint Staff.  To some extent, reducing parochialism is a good idea. But it has also lead to a fair amount of “make work” postings, inventing jobs so people can get their ticket punched. And there is a risk that time spent outside a warfare specialty will lead to a dilution of the very skillset these officers are prized for. Tom Clancy once had one of his characters, Bart Mancuso, asking himself how serving on a joint staff better prepared him to serve as COMSUBPAC, the commander of all Pacific Fleet subs.

G/N also greatly pushed for a more centralized planning in procurement for the DoD. Intended to reduce duplication of effort, we would argue instead that the need to justify every Program of Record through the Office of Secretary of Defense (OSD) has merely added complexity to an already byzantine process.  Some commodity areas are well suited for centralized procurement, such as foodstuffs and medical supply. But can we not safely assume that when it comes to major end systems, the Navy is probably better suited to determining what they need in a new destroyer than a panel of civilians backed by a staff from all the services?  How many votes at the table should the Air Force get when the Army starts looking at what it wants from its next generation Ground Combat Vehicle.

Among the “working class” officers of the services, mostly field grade officers, there is a strong sense that G/N has lead to an explosion in the numbers of General Officer/Flag Officer positions (and of course, their bloated staffs!) that is wholly inconsistent with the smaller actual field forces available to the country. The easy example is our Navy currently having more Admirals than ships. All the services are somewhat guilty.

Is it time to scrap Goldwater/Nichols? Probably. I mused at Information Dissemination that the organization should probably be shuffled every 20 years or so just to shake things up.

But the question isn’t so much “Should we replace G/N?” but rather, “What should replace G/N?”

I’m certainly open to suggestion.

This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive » The Iraq Medal of Commitment: Still in “5-Sided Asylum” Limbo

Many of you may remember an article Jonn did some time ago on the proposal by the government of Iraq to award a an “Iraq Medal of Commitment“. The new medal would go to those who served in Iraq between Mar 2003 and Dec 2011.

via This ain’t Hell, but you can see it from here » Blog Archive » The Iraq Medal of Commitment: Still in “5-Sided Asylum” Limbo.

I’m a little surprised this hasn’t come to pass yet. Though, if I recall correctly, it took years for the foreign awards from Desert Storm to come through.

I received two awards for the Liberation of Kuwait, one from the Saudi Government (and it was a rather splendiferous bauble) and a rather more restrained medal from the government of Kuwait. I think it took until almost the mid-1990s for the Kuwaiti version to be approved.

As one of the commenters at This Ain’t Hell notes, it’s not the end of the world if he doesn’t get one. But given the sacrifice made by so many Americans, it would be nice to receive some recognition from the Iraqis. I’m sure there’s a reasonable explanation for the delay, but I just don’t see how hard it is to gin up a medal, and get it approved. But then, I’ve never had a Pentagon tour.

Libya and the Powell Doctrine

Craig here.

Putting aside the very important debate about the War Powers Act and Libya for the moment, I’m struck by the continuing “death rattle” of doctrines which have until recently dominated US foreign policy in the post-Cold War era – those developed by Caspar Weinberger, refined by Colin Powell, and eventually amended in the post-9/11 world by both Powell and Donald Rumsfeld.  These policy statements formed the cornerstone to US foreign policy through five presidential administrations, spanning over twenty-five years.

Some observers have proclaimed the death of the Powell doctrine in recent years – partly due to decisions made by the current administration with regard to Afghanistan.    Yet, even to this day the famous “tests” of that doctrine continue to frame any discussion about the use of military force – especially with regard to Libya. For something now “dead” the former JCS Chairman and Secretary of State’s philosophy seems very much in play!  The “bumper sticker” version of the Powell doctrine holds that the US should only use military force where objectives are clear, support at home is overwhelming, and with the full weight of force to end the affair quickly.  But like most things in our 24-7 news cycle, that’s oversimplification.

Powell based his list of tests upon ideas laid down in 1984 by then Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger.  In a speech to the National Press Club, Weinberger put forth a set of parameters where military force might be used as an instrument of foreign policy:

  • Vital interests of the US or its allies is at stake.
  • Clear intention of winning in any combat operations.
  • Clearly defined political and military objectives.
  • Commitment of only the force levels needed to achieve those objectives, and re-adjusted as needed during the operation.
  • Commitment of forces only with the support of public opinion and of course the Congress.
  • Commitment of forces considered only as the last resort.

Of course, Weinberger derived this doctrine based in part on his personal observations in the post-Vietnam and early Reagan years – particularly with reference to the Marine Barracks in Beirut and the invasion of Grenada.  Not directly stated was the intent to limit the exposure of US forces in both numbers and deployment time.  The long shadow of Vietnam necessitated such.  For a nation whose original foreign policy was “no foreign entanglements,” Weinberger’s statements made sense.

Arguably the first real test of this doctrine came in 1989 with  Operation Just Cause.  But later during the run-up to the 1991 Gulf War, the media coined the phrase “the Powell Doctrine” to describe the JCS Chairman’s application of the Weinberger doctrine.  When asked if Kuwait was worth going to war for, Powell made the case by outlining the “test” for such intervention.  In addition to Weinberger’s points about national interests, objectives, and national support, Powell added some additional criteria, putting a military planner’s eye on the action:

  • Assessment of risks and costs.
  • Defined exit strategy.
  • Consideration of consequences of action.
  • Existence of international support.

Powell stressed repeatedly (and continues to this day as he makes the talk show circuits) that, as Weinberger stated, the use of military force is only a last resort option.

Although heralded as a great victory for the “Powell Doctrine” (by 1991 Weinberger’s links to the policy were downplayed), the Gulf War also showed many cracks in the logic.  By purposely limiting commitments and scope, American leaders found their strategic options limited.  In much the same light as McAurther in Korea and Patton racing to Berlin, history presents a great “what if?” regarding Schwarzkopf and Baghdad in 1991.  But the muse reminds us not to fall into such speculative traps.

But we can say for sure the lessons from the Gulf War’s end were not heeded, if even identified, at the time.  In the following decade, the US sent troops to Somalia, Bosnia, and scores of other places – with all deployments processed through the tests of the Powell Doctrine.  We might debate the earnestness of the Somalia and Bosnian operations at length later.  But here, let us focus on what that doctrine imposed on operations.  Keeping with limitations on force levels, the military planners were unable to keep pace with changes to the political objectives.  Worse yet, the strict adherence to “exit strategies” tied military operations to something akin to a project plan, with only cumbersome allowances for situational changes.  The Weinberger-Powell doctrine fell on its own weight.

After the events of 9/11 the doctrine seemed to take a new tangent.  While many decry the “Bush Doctrine” and consider it at odds with the previous decade of foreign policy stances, I’d point out at the macro-level little actually changed.  Indeed, detached now by nearly ten years, OEF seems to stand within the constraints of the Weinberger guidelines for the use of military force.  In the run up to OIF, of course, unofficially (and denied at least in public) Powell added the “Pottery Barn Rule” to the doctrine, really just amending the “exit strategy” line.  The historian’s question in years to come will be if Rumsfeld’s weekly catch-phrase-laced press conferences outlined real deviations from the existing doctrine, or simply logical applications of the doctrine to a real situation.

But as we have been told for some time now, elections have consequences.  Now a different administration, without the continuity of Powell or Rumsfeld, has committed military force to Operation Odyssey Dawn.  In some regards, the run up to the war – and lets call it what it needs to be called – decision makers and planners consulted the same tests and measured the same criteria as with Afghanistan in 2001 and Iraq in 2003.  What’s different here is the decision makers fixated on the finality of the exit strategy, not heeding the lessons learned from Iraq and Afghanistan, gambling on a “early in – early out” win in spite of the lack of firm objectives.  Furthermore planners, who were perhaps reluctant to act in the first place, hedged their bets with a nearly zero physical presence of US personnel in the operation.

No, I’d submit the Powell Doctrine is not dead.  At least not yet.  All we are really lacking is a name to apply against the “Drones are Not Troops” rule.