Apr 27, 2009

Pakistan's Craven Government

60 Miles From Islamabad
New York Times
April 27, 2009

If the Indian Army advanced within 60 miles of Islamabad, you can bet Pakistan’s army would be fully mobilized and defending the country in pitched battles. Yet when the Taliban got that close to the capital on Friday, pushing into the key district of Buner, Pakistani authorities sent only several hundred poorly equipped and underpaid constabulary forces.

On Sunday, security forces were reported to be beginning a push back. The latest advance by the Taliban is one more frightening reminder that most Pakistanis — from top civilian and military leaders to ordinary citizens — still do not fully understand the mortal threat that the militants pose to their fragile democracy. And one more reminder to Washington that it can waste no time enabling such denial.

Pakistanis don’t have to look far to see what life would be like under Taliban rule. Since an army-backed peace deal ceded the Swat Valley to the militants, the Taliban have fomented class revolt and terrorized the region by punishing “un-Islamic” activities like dancing and girls’ attending school. The more territory Pakistan cedes to the extremists, the more room the Taliban and Al Qaeda will have to launch attacks on American and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

And — most frightening of all — if the army cannot or will not defend its own territory against the militants, how can anyone be sure it will protect Pakistan’s 60 or so nuclear weapons?

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was right last week when she warned that Pakistan was “abdicating to the Taliban.” American military leaders in recent days have also begun to raise the alarm, but for too long they insisted that Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, chief of staff of the army, did recognize the seriousness of the threat. We certainly have not seen it.

On Friday, even as Mr. Kayani insisted “victory against terror and militancy will be achieved at all costs,” he defended the Swat deal. On Sunday, government officials insisted again that the deal remained in force despite obvious Taliban violations. Mr. Kayani complains that his troops lack the right tools to take on the militants, including helicopters and night-vision goggles. The army should have used some of the $12 billion it received from Washington over the last seven years to do just that, instead of spending the money on equipment and training to go after India. The next round of aid should include these items but also require that they be used to fight the militants.

Pakistan’s weak civilian leaders, including President Asif Ali Zardari and the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, are complicit in the dangerous farce, wasting energy on political rivalries. They must persuade General Kayani to shift at least part of his focus and far more resources away from the Indian border to the Afghan border.

Things are not going smoothly on the American side either. President Obama was right to recognize the need for an integrated strategy dealing with both Afghanistan and Pakistan. But his team has a lot more work to do, including figuring out ways to strengthen Pakistan’s government and its political will.

Congress is mulling two different bills increasing aid to Pakistan. Whichever prevails should set clear benchmarks, especially on military spending. Like Pakistan, Washington cannot afford to waste any more time figuring out the way forward — not with the Taliban 60 miles from Islamabad.

Apr 24, 2009

Sect Gates visits Marines !

Gates Visits Lejeune
Jacksonville (NC) Daily News
April 24, 2009
By Jennifer Hlad

The Marines had a special guest at their training Thursday, as they wrap up pre-deployment exercises in preparation for a tour in Afghanistan.

Secretary of Defense Robert Gates visited Camp Lejeune, stopping by to watch 2nd Light Armored Reconnaissance Battalion conduct a mock attack on a village at the Military Operations in Urban Terrain facility, and see 2nd Battalion, 8th Marine Regiment, train to recognize roadside bombs.

The Marines will leave in the next few weeks to join the 2nd Marine Expeditionary Brigade in southern Afghanistan.

"You know the challenge," Gates told the Marines from 2nd LAR, after they completed their attack. "We will do everything we can to support you. ... Get those guys."

In the LAR exercise, the Marines were acting on intelligence that a high-value target was in the village, and the objective was to capture him. Maj. Steven Sutey, operations officer for 2nd LAR, said urban operations are some of the most difficult to conduct.

Sgt. Anthony Bellido, a vehicle commander with 2nd LAR Battalion, said the idea was to "get in there as quickly as possible and get him out."

The training incorporated the vehicles and the Marines in an urban environment, said 2nd Lt. Phil Ernst, first platoon commander. Having Gates present was good for the Marines' morale, he said.

"Most of the work we do, there's not a single person watching," Ernst said.

Gates said the visit was a great opportunity to talk to the Marines, who he called "incredibly impressive," and see their training.

He addressed a question about repeated deployments, saying the fact that many service members are on their fourth or fifth deployment makes them "the most battle hardened force the United States has probably ever had in its history."

"I think these men and women want to be in the fight," he said. "Frankly, for months, (Marine Commandant) Gen. (James) Conway has been telling me that the Marines in Anbar province in Iraq are, frankly, bored, and want to get into the fight; and that certainly was the impression I got this morning."

Still, he said the growth of the Marine Corps and the drawdown in Iraq will hopefully result in more time at home between deployments.

Bellido has deployed to Iraq three times and said he is looking forward to deploying to Afghanistan. Ernst said he also is excited to deploy.

"I think all the guys are ready, they're all prepared," Ernst said

Apr 20, 2009

Firefight in Afghanistan - CJ Chivers, NYTimes

Don't let it be said the NY Times is anti-military:

A Blast, an Ambush and a Sprint Out of a Taliban Kill Zone
April 20, 2009

ALIABAD, Afghanistan — The two Army lieutenants crouched against boulders beside the Korangal River. Taliban gunfire poured down from villages and cliffs above, hitting tree branches and rocks and snapping as the bullets passed over the officers’ helmets.

An American platoon was pinned in the riverbed, which had blossomed into a kill zone. One squad and the radio operator were trapped in a wheat field on the far side. An improvised bomb had just exploded in their midst. The blast wave had blown the soldiers down, and, though the platoon did not yet know it, killed a soldier on the trail.

The platoon leader, company executive officer and another squad crouched exposed at a stream junction, trying to arrange help as the bomb’s smoke drifted through the misty rain. A third squad was on the slope behind them, returning fire.

Two footbridges separated the three American groups. No one could run across them during fire like this.

Another pitched firefight in a ravine in eastern Afghanistan had begun, shaped by factors that have made the war against the Taliban seem unending: grueling terrain that favors ambushes and prevents American soldiers from massing; villages in thorough collaboration with insurgents; and experienced adversaries each fighting in concert with its abilities and advantages.

The Taliban fighters had struck with surprise, stealth and familiarity with the ground, executing the sort of ambush that Afghan guerrillas have mastered for generations..

The Americans, seasoned by years of war here and in Iraq, would seek to create an intricately violent response, designed to undo the odds, save the pinned soldiers and kill the insurgents who, for a moment, had shown themselves.

Second Lt. Justin R. Smith, the platoon leader, called for help from an artillery battery, then radioed Sgt. Craig W. Tanner, the squad leader on the opposite side. Each man had found what cover he could. The platoon would fight where it was.

“Lead element: stand by where you’re at,” the lieutenant said. “If you come back across the river you’re going to expose yourself.” He glanced across the water at his radio operator, Specialist Robert Soto. “Soto!” he shouted. “Stay there! Stay! There!”

There are moments in many firefights that verge on chaos. This was one of them. Specialist Soto’s ears were ringing. He could not hear. “We gotta move!” he shouted.

The American patrol had left Korangal Outpost, the base for Company B of the First Battalion, 26th Infantry, on Wednesday, roughly an hour before the ambush. Its mission had been to enter the village of Laneyal and meet with local elders.

Preparing for the mission, the company’s Second Platoon had predicted a fight. The platoon had ambushed a Taliban unit a few days before, killing at least 13 insurgents. The Taliban would want revenge, said Sgt. First Class Thomas Wright, the platoon sergeant, and a patrol to Laneyal meant a walk into a bad village.

Afghanistan is myriad wars within a war, with varying terrain, climates, economies and insurgent groups creating a puzzle of shifting contests for influence. The Korangal Valley is the center of one of the most vicious contests of all.

Relatively few Arabs or foreigners come here, the company’s officers say. But the Korangalis, a hardened and isolated people with their own language, have managed to lock the American Army into a bloody standoff for a small space for more than three years. The Korangalis have fought, the officers say, in part because they support the Taliban and in part because they are loggers and the Afghan government banned almost all timber cutting, putting local men out of work.

Korangal Outpost itself symbolizes the dispute. It occupies a former sawmill, and the mill’s displaced owner is a main organizer of the insurgency. The Taliban pay the best wages in the valley now, the officers said.

Company B’s relations with local villagers are cordial but ultimately unhelpful, undermined by deception. After the platoon ambushed the Taliban patrol several days earlier, for instance, elders arrived at the outpost to say that the Americans had shot up a search party of local men who were looking for a lost girl. The company commander, Capt. James C. Howell, told the elders it was one of the most ridiculous lies he had ever heard.

The platoon reached Aliabad, the village on the slope opposite Laneyal, and began the descent down a stone staircase to the river. On the way down they met Zarin, an elder from Laneyal, who was heading up. Zarin exchanged pleasantries and shook hands with Company B’s executive officer, First Lt. John P. Rodriguez, and bounded quickly away.

The platoon continued on. With several soldiers remaining in Aliabad with guns aimed at the opposite side, two squads and the officers crossed a narrow footbridge and reached a point where two branches of the river converge.

Then the lead squad crossed the second bridge, entering a terraced wheat field. The Taliban let the first five men cross, then detonated the bomb under Pfc. Richard A. Dewater, 21, as he walked up the trail. It was a huge explosion, heaving dirt and rock high in the air.

The Taliban opened fire. The ambush was on.

Lieutenant Smith asked Sergeant Tanner for a report. The blast had blown the sergeant off his feet, spinning him around and throwing him down. He was disoriented. He said he thought he had all of his men.

As the firing neared its peak, Lieutenant Smith ordered the men around him to disperse so they could not all be struck by a single burst of fire. Then he provided covering fire so the artillery observer and a machine gun team could run back across the first bridge, gain elevation in Aliabad and cover the squad in the field.

A soldier caught in an ambush — looking for safety while returning fire, with ears ringing and skin pouring sweat — can feel utterly alone, trapped in a box of crisscrossing lead and terrifying sound, with death an instant away.

He is actually part of something more complicated. Bullets flew down into the riverbed from three sides. But as the lieutenants worked their radios, soldiers outside the kill zone were trying to erode the Taliban’s opening advantage.

Within the platoon, the squad in the rear of the column set up its machine guns and was firing on several of the Taliban shooting positions. A group of Afghan National Army soldiers, directed by a Marine corporal, was also firing.

In American firebases on ridges along the valley, soldiers with heavier machine guns and automatic grenade launchers focused on Afghan buildings in three villages — Donga, Laneyal and Darbart — from where the trapped platoon was taking fire.

Farther back, at Company B’s outpost, a pair of Air Force noncommissioned officers was directing aircraft into position, while two 120-millimeter mortars were firing high-explosive and white phosphorus rounds at targets the platoon had identified.

Alternately crouched and standing on the open rock spur, the lieutenants rushed to influence the fight and plan an escape from the trap. Once the American response began to build and the Taliban firing subsided, Lieutenant Rodriguez told Lieutenant Smith, they would throw smoke grenades along the river bank and pull back.

Specialist Soto could not wait. After mortar rounds began landing, he and a photographer for The New York Times dashed down the bank, splashed into the chest-deep brown river, lunged across the current and crawled out on the opposite side.

They staggered up the Aliabad slope and slipped behind a building as the platoon’s guns fired, covering their dash. They had made it out of the worst of the kill zone.

The Taliban kept firing. The American squad in the wheat field, perhaps 50 yards away, radioed that insurgents were getting closer and that the soldiers risked being overrun. At almost the same time, Air Force Staff Sgt. Kenneth Walker radioed Lieutenant Rodriguez with news that the first 500-pound aircraft bomb was about to strike.

“They’re going to do the drop in, like, 30 seconds!” Lieutenant Rodriguez shouted to Lieutenant Smith.. “Let your boys know!”

The aircraft had arrived just in time. A Taliban fighter appeared behind a stone fence. He was almost atop the soldiers in the field.

“We got muzzle flashes,” Lieutenant Smith said, and now the Americans had clear targets. The stones beside where the Taliban fighter had stood began to splinter as the platoon’s bullets struck it. Then the satellite-guided bomb whooshed in and exploded.

Two stray rocket-propelled grenades landed to the lieutenants’ left side. But the Taliban’s firing decreased, as if the insurgents, experienced with American tactics, had sensed the battle shifting and were being ordered back.

The platoon threw smoke grenades, obscuring visibility in the riverbed. Five soldiers appeared at the edge of the green stand of wheat, running toward the officers.

They leapt into the water. The two lieutenants had spent the fight exposed; now they ran back across the first footbridge. The platoon climbed the steep staircase into Aliabad and took cover.

As the soldiers panted for air, they cursed Zarin, the elder who had walked through the kill zone just before the ambush; he had set them up, they said.

Two more airstrikes blew apart two buildings on the opposite side from where the Taliban had been firing. The battle quieted.

Pfc. Rogger J. Webb looked at Specialist Soto, the last man to cross the bridge before the bomb had exploded on the trail. “Man, I thought...” he said. “You thought I was gone?” Specialist Soto said.

Private Webb nodded. The platoon did a head count and came to an awful realization: Private Dewater was missing. He had walked into the wheat field with the squad. He had not run out.

Private Webb swore. Had the Taliban captured him? Had he been struck during the fight? The soldiers did not know. The platoon retraced its steps toward Laneyal as the sun set.

Back at the outpost, American and Afghan soldiers flowed out into the darkness. The Afghans would scour the riverbed in case the missing soldier had ended up in the water. The captain told the platoons to be prepared to search every house in the villages, in case the Taliban had dragged him off.

Wearing night-vision equipment, the platoon combed the ambush site in the rain. The company waited for news. At 8:10 p.m., Specialist Soto’s strained voice came over the radio. “Break, break, break,” he said, using the convention for stopping all conversations.

Everyone knew what it meant. Lieutenant Smith’s voice replaced Specialist Soto’s. “We found him,” he said. The first explosion had killed Private Dewater and lifted his body into a tree. “Roger,” the captain answered. “Understand all.”

Sgt. Matthew R. Kuhn climbed the branches to free the missing man. In an instant, Second Platoon’s mission had changed. It would carry Private Dewater on the first steps of his journey home.

The soldiers gently rested their friend onto a stretcher, organized into teams of litter bearers and began the long walk back, over the two footbridges, up the Aliabad staircase and past the other soldiers and Marines, who provided security and stood quietly in respect.

He was the fourth member of Second Platoon killed during nine months in the valley.

When the platoon reached its outpost at midnight, the company’s commander, Captain Howell, was waiting. The soldiers gathered in the darkness. The captain spoke of his pride in the platoon and offered the first of many words of condolence. “There is nothing I can say or anybody else can say that will bring Dewater back,” he said, and reminded the platoon of its own ambush of the Taliban the week before. “But the best thing we can do for him is to continue to do the type of stuff that you guys did the other day.”

The soldiers headed for the plywood shacks where they live, for the remainder of a night in which almost no one would sleep.

In the morning they disassembled and cleaned their weapons and recalled their friend as they played his favorite song: “Nothing Else Matters,” by Metallica. A heap of their bloody clothes burned in a small fire.

Private Dewater had been a combat replacement in the platoon: “A real humble dude, and totally positive about everything we did,” Specialist Soto said. His body had already been flown off the outpost by helicopter in the night, the next step of the trip back to the United States.

A few hours later, the soldiers slipped into their body armor and helmets, hoisted their weapons and walked back out for an overnight patrol.

Apr 18, 2009

Why We Should Get Rid of West Point

Why We Should Get Rid of West Point
By Thomas E. Ricks
Sunday, April 19, 2009

Want to trim the federal budget and improve the military at the same time? Shut down West Point, Annapolis and the Air Force Academy, and use some of the savings to expand ROTC scholarships.

After covering the U.S. military for nearly two decades, I've concluded that graduates of the service academies don't stand out compared to other officers. Yet producing them is more than twice as expensive as taking in graduates of civilian schools ($300,000 per West Point product vs. $130,000 for ROTC student). On top of the economic advantage, I've been told by some commanders that they prefer officers who come out of ROTC programs, because they tend to be better educated and less cynical about the military.

This is no knock on the academies' graduates. They are crackerjack smart and dedicated to national service. They remind me of the best of the Ivy League, but too often they're getting community-college educations. Although West Point's history and social science departments provided much intellectual firepower in rethinking the U.S. approach to Iraq, most of West Point's faculty lacks doctorates. Why not send young people to more rigorous institutions on full scholarships, and then, upon graduation, give them a military education at a short-term military school? Not only do ROTC graduates make fine officers -- three of the last six chairmen of the Joint Chiefs of Staff reached the military that way -- they also would be educated alongside future doctors, judges, teachers, executives, mayors and members of Congress. That would be good for both the military and the society it protects.

We should also consider closing the services' war colleges, where colonels supposedly learn strategic thinking. These institutions strike me as second-rate. If we want to open the minds of rising officers and prepare them for top command, we should send them to civilian schools where their assumptions will be challenged, and where they will interact with diplomats and executives, not to a service institution where they can reinforce their biases while getting in afternoon golf games. Just ask David Petraeus, a Princeton PhD.

Thomas E. Ricks is a senior fellow at the Center for a New American Security and author of "The Gamble," about the Iraq war from 2006 to 2008.

Apr 15, 2009

April 15 - Patriots Day !

April 15 is Patriots' Day

By Paul Begala
CNN Contributor

Happy Patriots' Day. April 15 is the one day a year when our country asks something of us - or at least the vast majority of us.

For those who wear a military uniform, those who serve the rest of us as policemen and firefighters and teachers and other public servants, every day is patriots' day. They work hard for our country; many risk their lives -- and some lose their lives.

But for the rest of us, the civilian majority, our government asks very little. Except for April 15. On this day, our government asks that we pay our fair share of taxes to keep our beloved country strong and safe.

Freedom isn't free. That's what the courageous World War II veterans of the American Legion taught me back in Texas Boys State decades ago. That phrase had special meaning for them. Those guys had seen buddies blown apart at Anzio or Guadalcanal.

I grew up in a different era. There was no draft, and while I have friends and family members who joined the military, most of my peers, like me, opted for the security and prosperity of the private sector.

This country has showered me with the blessings of liberty. So what do I owe my country in return? Paying my fair share of taxes, it seems, is the least I can do. Thanks to President Obama and the Democratic Congress, 95 percent of Americans will get a tax cut this year. No one -- not even the wealthiest 1 percent -- will have to pay higher income taxes until 2011.

So why are a bunch of Fox News clowns and right-wing cranks hosting "tea parties" all over the country? The Boston Tea Party, in case the clods at Fox didn't know it, protested "taxation without representation." Note the second word: without. The goofballs tossing tea bags today have representation. They voted in the election; they lost.

That a bunch of overpaid media millionaires would lead a faux-populist revolt is comical. They somehow held their populist instincts in check as George W. Bush and the Republicans cut taxes on the idle rich and put the screws to the working stiffs.

Bush's tax policies were a godsend to the Paris Hilton class, but they sent the country on the road to bankruptcy and helped ruin the economy. But now that we the people have decided to set things right, now that we've hired Obama to fix the mess conservatives created, now they're protesting?

Give me a break. Instead of tossing tea bags for the cameras, the Fox phonies ought to go to Walter Reed Army Medical Center. There they would find better, braver men who have truly sacrificed for their country. They deserve nothing but the best -- not the shameful and shoddy conditions they endured during the Bush administration. iReport.com: Share your thoughts on taxes and tea parties

You want something to protest? How 'bout protesting how little we give back to our veterans? Or how 'bout protesting that the entire budget of the National Cancer Institute (where government researchers battle a disease that will strike half of all men and a third of all women) is 0.03 percent of what we gave the bandits at American International Group alone? Oh, but veterans benefits and cancer research might cost money. It might require -- dare I say it? -- paying taxes.

If the whiners at Fox News want to advertise their selfishness, they are free to do so. But please don't dress it up as patriotism. Patriotism is putting your country ahead of yourself -- which is the precise opposite of what the tea party plutocrats are doing.

Apr 14, 2009

"Month of the Military Child" from Pres Obama

April 13, 2009

“In 1986, April was designated as the Month of the Military Child, and I am proud to mark the special recognition the Department of Defense has given to military children. Like all Americans, I am grateful to the brave men and women in uniform who are serving our nation. They are the living embodiment of the ideals of sacrifice, honor and duty that have always made this nation great – and their sacrifice is their families’ sacrifice too. Their children, especially, display tremendous strength and courage each day, bravely bearing the burden of having a loved one serving in harm’s way. They may move many times – across the nation and even around the world – as they grow up. They may not see their loved ones for months on end. It is not easy, and Michelle and I, as well as the Vice President and Dr. Jill Biden, admire and are deeply grateful to each and every one of them. I call on all Americans to keep military children in their thoughts and prayers and to do their part to reach out to and support them and their families.”

Apr 8, 2009

Harvard & The Marines

Harvard And The Marines

Why not give our officers the best education?
Wall Street Journal
April 8, 2009

By Joseph Kristol and Daniel West

'ROTC must go because we oppose the policies of the United States and we oppose the military that perpetrates them. The lines are clearly drawn; the time to take sides is now."

It was the spring of 1969, and the leaders of the Harvard chapter of Students for a Democratic Society were (with the above statement issued to the student newspaper) agitating to cleanse their campus of "imperialist exploitation." To opponents of the Vietnam War, members of the military -- even students in the Reserve Officers Training Corps -- embodied the policies they despised.

Forty years ago tomorrow, April 9, 1969, this sentiment culminated in a mob of students storming University Hall. Eager to be at the forefront of radical activism, they turned to violent protest. Arsonists torched a Marine Corps classroom, and the administration buckled. ROTC was purged from campus, symbolically repudiating the Vietnam War.

Today, America congratulates itself for having overcome the knee-jerk radicalism of that era. "Support the troops, oppose the war" is the modern battle cry of the antiwar movement. Americans seem to recognize that those in uniform shouldn't be blamed for policies set by elected officials.

But not at Harvard, where ROTC remains officially unwelcome.

The students of 1969 have become the faculty of 2009, and today students who wish to participate in ROTC are forced to train at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. We are pawns in a political chess game. The issue is no longer Vietnam, but President Bill Clinton's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy that bars gays from openly serving in the military. Because of that policy, the university classifies ROTC as a discriminatory organization and has severed all remnants of support.

So Harvard today happily pays for future bankers to take accounting courses at MIT, but refuses to pay for aspiring military officers who take ROTC courses. Since 1994, anonymous donors have generously picked up the tab, providing hundreds of thousands of dollars per year for Harvard's ROTC students.

Sadly, the number of Harvard students who choose military service has dwindled. Harvard, where ROTC was founded in 1916 and which once boasted over 1,000 participants, is now home to only 29 cadets and midshipmen, spread over four years and four branches of service. Recruitment opportunities are deliberately limited, and the student handbook cautions students against joining ROTC, remarking that the program is "inconsistent with Harvard's values." And cadets begin every semester seeking to avoid the professors known to exhibit hostility toward students who wear their uniform to class.

Rather than embracing the mutually beneficial relationship Harvard might share with the military, the faculty prefers to stand in the way of progress, abdicating its responsibility to contribute to one of our nation's most important institutions.. The same Harvard that once produced 10 recipients of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and warrior-scholars such as Teddy Roosevelt and John F.. Kennedy, now turns its back on its proud, patriotic history.

But there are reasons to be hopeful that the 40-year exile of ROTC may be drawing to a close. Today, the faculty is out of touch with a student body that is generally supportive of ROTC. The support that both Barack Obama and John McCain expressed during the 2008 presidential campaign for the return of ROTC to elite college campuses showed Harvard's stance to be far from mainstream.

We are also fortunate that Harvard's new president, Drew Faust, has privately praised and met with cadets and midshipmen, and publicly stated her hope that the day ROTC returns to campus is not far off. Though she remains bound by Harvard's discrimination policy, she spoke at last year's commissioning ceremony and expressed her desire to see our numbers grow.

This is encouraging, but it falls short of the appropriate policy: support for the military and those who serve in it, regardless of federal policies. ROTC should be fully and unequivocally welcomed back to Harvard. Accomplishing this would take leadership and courage from President Faust. Perhaps she will be inspired to show this leadership as she joins Gen. David Petraeus in recognizing the ROTC graduates at our commissioning ceremony in June.

Messrs. Kristol and West, seniors at Harvard University, will be commissioned second lieutenants in the United States Marine Corps in June.

Apr 6, 2009

A USMC High School??

Marine Corps School Would Give Kids 'A Niche'

By Kristina Torres
Atlanta Journal-Constitution

It will be one of a kind--Georgia’s first public military high school and the only U.S. Marine Corps public school in the nation founded on educational theory and the discipline of long-standing JROTC programs.

The DeKalb Marine Corps Institute will focus its academics on math and science, coupled with a military-style regimen. It will have a principal and a commandant. The school, scheduled to open in August, will eventually include 650 students from throughout DeKalb County.

The school has drawn opposition, both from neighbors who say the proposed site is too small and from people who object to the Marines’ involvement. But the Marines say all they want to do is help.

William McHenry, national director for the Marine Corps’ Junior Reserve Officers’ Training Corps, talked to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution about the school.

Q: Where did the idea originate?

A: We received an exploratory phone call from the state department of education. Georgia has had a long and continuing relationship with all services, as far as JROTCs are concerned, and so, building on that relationship, some forward-thinking folks at the state gave us a call and said, “What would the best look like?”

Q: But there are other schools like this, including in Chicago?

A: There are, but they’re basically [military] academies. The idea [in DeKalb] was to do really data-driven decision-making. Let’s look at the empirical data … and build a model. So the idea was, if we’re going to do something, let’s base it on the science of education.

Q: But what do the Marines get out of it?

A: We accomplish our mission. Our mission given to us by Congress is to build leadership and character in the kids of America. And it provides a niche for kids. All kids need a niche. It might be on the football field, it might be on the stage as a member of the drama club. Or it might be in ROTC.

Q: We’ve had some folks protest the school will be used to recruit more Marines.

A: An inherent part of this program is kids will be taking 15 college [credit] hours in their senior year. To me, that creates an amazing amount of opportunity for well-deserving kids who might not have otherwise had the chance to go on to college. I’m glad there is public dialogue, because it’s important in a republic that we voice our concerns. But giving a kid a good education and getting them started with their first year of college, I think, opens up more doors than closes them.

Q: There’s no military commitment for these kids?

A: Absolutely none. And it costs them nothing to go there.

Q: But there is a financial commitment by the Corps to the school?

A: Our start-up to outfit the school with uniforms and equipment will be between $1.3 million and $1.4 million.

Q: So it has the potential to be the first in the nation, in terms of its focus.

A: We hope and intend that it reaches a demographic that, you know, the smart kid that wouldn’t ordinarily have the opportunity because of either economics or socio-cultural limitations, that kid now has equality of opportunity to go on and succeed in life. To me, that’s what this is all about.

Apr 1, 2009

Gen James Jones on NPR

Jones: Afghanistan Strategy A ‘Three-Legged Stool’
National Public Radio
March 31, 2009

Morning Edition (NPR), 7:10 AM

STEVE INSKEEP: Now, Iran is just one of many factors on the mind of President Obama’s national security adviser. As part of this week’s string of meetings in Europe, retired Marine General James Jones attends a meeting of NATO, the alliance with Europe that has been strained in some recent years.

JAMES JONES (National Security Adviser): We have to rebuild a lot of relationships. We have reached out to everyone that we possibly can.

INSKEEP: James Jones wears civilian suits now, but still keeps the business-like bearing of a 6’4” Marine. The European trip takes him to familiar grounds since he once commanded the North Atlantic alliance. Now, he wants the help of Europeans and others with the war in Afghanistan.

Last week, the president rolled out his new strategy; the U.S. is sending more troops, but Europeans as we heard from Michele Kelemen, may not. So General Jones tries to focus on the extra civilian aid that the Europeans might provide.

JONES: More mentors to help them in economic planning, to help them in agricultural planning, more emphasis on judicial reform, more emphasis on developing more capacity for the Afghan army and the Afghan police so they can do more themselves.

If you will, we’re trying to put a three-legged stool together. We have done the security leg pretty well, but we haven’t done the other two legs, that is, economic development and rule of law in government.

INSKEEP: There was a Dutch general who was quoted the other day in Afghanistan saying, we’ve had the concept for a while and we’re finally resourcing the concept. Is that a fair way for me to think of the strategy?

JONES: That’s exactly the right way to do it, yes. That’s what we’re doing now.

INSKEEP: Obviously, the last administration was talking about strengthening the government of Afghanistan and strengthening the government of Pakistan, which will make people wonder what’s really different here.

JONES: The main difference in the strategic approach is that in order to deal with Afghanistan, you also have to deal with Pakistan. You have to deal with things as a region. The Pakistan side of the coin is the one that’s least developed because it’s the most recent. In Afghanistan, you think of the presence of the U.N., of NATO, of the EU, the World Bank, the IMF, and so you ask yourself, why is there a sense that we’re backsliding in Afghanistan? And part of it is that we just haven’t been able to coordinate all three legs of that stool I was referring to and this is a different approach. It’s the one that people have been asking for, it’s the one that makes sense and it’s the one that we’re going to have do well if we’re going to be successful.

INSKEEP: When you focus on the situation in Pakistan, what’s within your control to influence or change? And what’s out of your control?

JONES: Well, what’s in our control to influence and change is our diplomacy, obviously, a sovereign nation is going to have the right of refusal, but we’ve already reached some accord with the Pakistani military that they would approach the benefit of some training. It’s extremely important that for us to be successful that we remove that safe haven of operation that insurgents have been able to navigate in, and I’m quite sure with our plan right now that we’ll get there.

INSKEEP: The British defense minister said in January that NATO has to step up more, that if the United States is an insurance policy for Europe, that NATO countries can’t forego paying the premiums and I’m paraphrasing here, but that was the analogy that he used.

Is that really the situation that Europe needs to step up and do more?

JONES: Well, I think all allies need to do what they can. France has already announced that they’re going to do more things. Germany is excited about it. Italy is excited about it. A lot of the major players in the alliance have already signaled their enthusiasm, and frankly, including the softer power of things, we’re doing exactly what people have criticized us for not doing in the past, so we’ll see how far we go.

INSKEEP: What can Iran add to that mix?

JONES: Well, Iran is a regional power and it has great concerns about their borders being used for drug running. I think we can have regional economic conferences that could probably do more to stimulate trade, kind of a broader approach to stabilization that we hope to bring to the issue.

INSKEEP: I’m trying to understand that a little better, I mean, if you go to a particular European country, you could ask them for troops, they might or might not agree.

JONES: Right.

INSKEEP: You could ask them for any number of civilian kinds of assistance. What’s something specific you could ask Iran for?

JONES: Well, we’re not planning on asking Iran for anything. We’re certainly not thinking about troops from Iran or anything like that.

INSKEEP: Of course not, of course not, but I’m trying to get a sense of a concrete way that they could be helpful.

JONES: I think this is very embryonic and we’ll just have to wait and see what’s possible.

INSKEEP: Do you need Iran’s help to solve the problem of Afghanistan?

JONES: We need regional stability and to the extent that all countries can participate in stability in the form of economic stability, political stability, that’s helpful and we’ll just have to wait and see exactly what they decide to do or not do.

I want to be very clear that we’re not asking Iran to do anything in particular in Afghanistan except not to make trouble.

INSKEEP: General Jones, thanks very much.

JONES: Thank you.

INSKEEP: General James Jones is President Obama’s national security adviser.