By Alan W. Dowd
The US Army’s top man in Europe is ordering the troops under his command to wear the American flag on their uniforms at all times. “In light of our expeditionary operations and in recognition of the Army’s commitment to the global war on terrorism,” General B.B. Bell announced to Army commanders in Europe, “it is now appropriate and proper for all soldiers to proudly and permanently wear the American flag on their field/combat uniform—whether they are committed to an operation or in garrison.”
According to a report in the armed forces daily Stars and Stripes, Bell’s directive represents a bit of a policy shift, since soldiers typically wear the flag only when away from their home stations. For example, under the old policy, US soldiers based in Germany would wear the flag when deployed to Kosovo or Kuwait, but not when they are back in Germany. Since the Army is reexamining these policies, troops under other regional commands will probably be wearing the Red, White and Blue more often as well. According to Bell, “These requirements were established at a time when our Army was not committed to war and expeditionary operations/deployments to the extent we are now.”
Predictably, the troops are pleased with the change. Some are motivated by patriotism, others by simple economics: Bell’s order means that the troops under his command will not have to purchase as many sets of uniforms to comply with the Army’s old geography-based regulations.
The Big Switch
Bell’s troops will be busy this spring, as the Pentagon rotates hundreds of thousands of personnel in and out of Iraq. With units based out of Germany leading the way, the US armed forces are in the midst the largest movement of troops and equipment since the end of World War II. It’s being called “Operation Iraqi Freedom II”
The fresh troops are coming from bases in both Europe and the States, as detailed in a recent Stars and Stripes analysis. The 1st Cavalry, joined by National Guard units, will replace the 1st Armored in the Baghdad area. The 1st Infantry Division and units of the 2nd Infantry Division are headed to a sector in north-central Iraq, where they will relieve the 101st Airborne and 4th Infantry. And the 1st Marines and units of the Army’s 25th Infantry will take over a large swath of territory west of Baghdad now administered by the 82nd Airborne.
When the dust settles, eight of the Army’s ten active divisions will have been redeployed. While most are headed into or out of Iraq, the bulk of the 25th Infantry Division and key Marine units will relieve the 10th Mountain Division in Afghanistan.
For its part, the Army concedes that the rotation is needed. As The Washington Post reports, an internal Army assessment indicates that those four divisions returning from Iraq will be given the Army’s lowest readiness ratings—C-3 or C-4. The divisions will bring back 650 helicopters, 5,700 tanks and armored vehicles, and 46,000 transport vehicles—all of which will need to be overhauled. It will take between 120 and 180 days for the divisions to be replenished and re-equipped.
According to Lt. Col. Kevin Gainor, “We’re trying to ensure the experience and knowledge from those units who have been here [in Iraq] is passed on to units that are arriving.” Once completed, the operation will move something on the order of 120,000 troops out of Iraq and replace them with 105,000 new troops. The rotation should be complete in June.
After a year of diplomatic wrangling over Iraq, the United States and European Union finally have found something on which they can agree: the future of the Internet.
During the UN’s World Summit on the Information Society, the US, EU, Japan and Canada blocked a proposal by less-developed nations that would turn control of the Internet over to the United Nations. Ambassador David Gross, who led the US delegation, praised the cooperative effort to protect the Internet from encroachment by the UN or other government organizations. “The Internet is the responsibility not only of governments,” he explained in a Washington Times report, “but primarily of the private sector, civil society and others both in the developed and the developing countries.”
The less-developed bloc wanted to create a forum or governing body inside the UN where they could submit complaints, set standards, play a more direct role in divvying out domain names and monitoring servers, and perhaps levy and collect taxes. Currently, this “governing role” over cyberspace is played by an odd mix of ISPs, individual users, businesses, nonprofits, and quasi-government organizations such as the US-based Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers. These entities, like the Internet itself, are beyond the UN’s reach. Let’s hope it stays that way.
Published monthly in the American Legion Magazine, Under the Radar provides a snapshot of current challenges in international politics, U.S. foreign policy and national security.