- The Washington Times - Friday, February 18, 2000

China maneuvers

The Pentagon is closely watching southern China for any signs the People's Liberation Army will conduct threatening military exercises in the next few weeks. The big concern is that the PLA will use the exercises to threaten Taiwan in the period before presidential elections now set for March 18.
One recent Chinese news report said the PLA planned to conduct air-defense exercises later this month, but so far there are no signs.
"We're just not seeing any movement right now that would portend this exercise," a military official told us. "They have a lot of 'paper' exercises saying they are doing things without actually moving stuff around. But that's not to say they aren't spring-loaded to do something."
During 1996 military exercises the PLA fired test missiles north and south of Taiwan in what U.S. officials said was an effort to intimidate the Taiwanese before the vote. The United States responded by sending two aircraft carriers to waters near the island.
Flights by both Chinese and Taiwanese jets along the demarcation line running through the Taiwan Strait are continuing at low levels, the official said.

More Marines say no

Gen. James Jones, the Marine Corps commandant, has sent a message to the fleet naming replacements for seven colonels who turned down command assignments.
Some Marine officers say the high number shows the Corps is losing its allure among some senior officers.
But Maj. Patrick Gibbons, a spokesman for Gen. Jones, maintains that the number of turn-downs went up from two last year because the commandant changed the assignment system. He explained the change:
When Gen. Jones became the top Marine last summer, one of his reforms was to open up the yearly command selection process.
In the past, the board of nine generals would select some 50 commanders, then manpower personnel would talk to the selectees about assignments. If anyone declined, an alternate was picked.
But the private contacts created the appearance of favoritism. So Gen. Jones ordered the board to make both the selections and assignments in one motion. Those who declined were replaced in the commandant's message.
"There was a possible perception of favoritism," Maj. Gibbons said. "We always had confidence in it but I think Gen. Jones wanted to be as straight up as he could."
One Marine officer with whom we spoke was skeptical.
"There's a lot of good guys who didn't get a command who'd kill for a chance to command a battalion, squadron or Marine barracks," he said. "They'd never dream of saying 'no' because their wife had a good job or the kids like their school. I must be missing something, but it must mean to some of these officers that the relative value of command has declined."

Arming Africa

Defense Secretary William S. Cohen completed a visit to Africa this week that was nearly invisible to the U.S. news media. Mr. Cohen cut short his trip to Morocco and South Africa after a sandstorm prevented him from flying to Nigeria.
In preparation for the visit, the Defense Intelligence Agency recently wrote up a classified report on the arms flow to the Democratic Republic of Congo. According to DIA, Congolese President Laurent Kabila concluded a secret agreement with Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe in October.
The deal involves several companies that have formed a joint venture and will allow Zimbabwe, Namibia and Congo to pool their military and other resources against Jonas Savimbi's rebel forces in Angola.
The companies are enriching those nations' leaders with gold and diamonds and also purchasing arms and weapons from a former Rhodesian arms dealer based in Belgium named John Bredenkamp, who has been granted an "arms monopoly" by Mr. Mugabe.

Here's your chance

"You know, if we could just find one … I don't want to prosecute anybody. I want to fire somebody. That will send the right signal to people." So said CIA Director George Tenet during a Senate hearing in 1998 in expressing his anger at leaks.
Now the government's top official who is charged with protecting secret information has a chance to act on the threat. This newspaper revealed on Monday that the Justice Department not only didn't prosecute its top intelligence official, Richard Scruggs, for disclosing secret intelligence information but he still holds a "top secret" clearance as a federal prosecutor in Miami.
A CIA spokesman said Mr. Tenet has no plans to revoke Mr. Scruggs' "top secret" security clearance because the information involved plans for electronic surveillance of the Japanese terrorist group Aum Shinri Kyo under the 1979 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is not CIA data.

Short takes

Gen. Eric Shinseki, Army chief of staff, has spoken by telephone with some captains to find out firsthand why they are leaving the service.
The Army has become alarmed by an increasing quit rate for midlevel officers and commissioned a study at Fort Benning, Ga., its infantry headquarters. The study, first reported by The Washington Times, found that of those who are resigning most cite the boredom of peacekeeping operations and a too-bureaucratic Army.
* Gen. James Jones, Marine Corps commandant, may have an "in" if Sen. John McCain is elected president. When Mr. McCain was a Navy captain in charge of congressional liaison in the early 1980s, Gen. Jones was a young major working under him. Gen. Jones is being mentioned in defense circles as a possible candidate next year for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. No Marine has held the job as the nation's highest military officer.
* Speaking of Gen. Jones, the four-star officer has penned a foreword to a new book by a former Marine who takes the against-the-grain position that U.S. forces defeated the Viet Cong and North Vietnamese Army.
The book, "Unheralded Victory," argues that American troops actually achieved battlefield superiority before they began withdrawing in the early 1970s. Author Mark Woodruff served with Gen. Jones in 1968 with Company F, 2nd Battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment.
Gen. Jones writes that the press and Hollywood frequently depict the war as a bungled operation, from the White House all the way down to platoon leader, and fought without regard to civilian casualties.
"The difficulty for many veterans of the war is that these criticisms do not ring entirely true… . In the end, the principal lesson of 'Unheralded Victory' may be that in war you can do almost everything correctly in the field and still not end up on the winning side."

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