When Richard Overton fought at Pearl Harbor, he was already 35 years old. But the Army veteran of the Pacific Theater of World War II is still alive and, as America’s oldest known living veteran at 112 years old, has a lot of wisdom to share.
He still lives on his own, walking around his home and driving when he needs to. He even downs whiskey, smokes cigars “the healthy way,” and takes his lady friend out on a regular basis.
Watch the video below to get some life lessons from Overton. The documentary was filmed when he was 109 years old (his birthday is May 11th):
Most national governments have some sort of official apparatus for pushing its views in other countries. The U.S. has the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, Qatar has Al Jazeera, Russia has Russia Today and Russia Beyond the Headlines. China has a few outlets as well, including China Military. We took a quick tour to see what they’re talking about right now.
International Army Games 2018: Obstacle course contest held in Fujian, China
It also has paratroopers participating, and it’s bragging that its team is the only one using only domestically produced weapons and equipment. That domestic production of equipment is an odd flex since it only matters if you think you might lose access to key imports during a conflict.
But while China’s flexes might be odd, don’t count them out on performance. Their special operators have done well for themselves at the Warrior Games in Jordan.
(Studio Incendo, CC BY 2.0)
The White House is lying about Chinese military forces near Hong Kong
China has a bit of a problem in its Special Administrative Region of Hong Kong. Widespread protests there have only grown and international news coverage is turning against the central government. A recent Bloomberg report said that America was tracking Chinese troop deployments near the border of Hong Kong.
China can hold the Taiwan Straits against anything, even without new Russian missiles
China has been seeking to “re-unify” for years with Taiwan. If you don’t know, this is a pretty deliberate misnomer. Taiwan was one a part of China the same way that Texas was once part of Mexico. During a brutal civil war, the Communists took control of mainland China while the Republic of China fell back to Taiwan and has defended the island ever since.
The S-400 is the same missile system that Russia turned to to defend Kaliningrad, Crimea, and other important strategic positions. It’s very capable, and even the export version can hit targets over 150 miles from the launcher. It’s simply madness to claim that deployment of such an advanced system on the Strait of Taiwan won’t affect the balance of power there.
China is not a major threat to the U.S. militarily
These arguments have some serious holes. First, China’s Belt and Road Initiative is very much about expanding a sphere of influence that China already has, and it has been using an oversized coast guard to punish neighbors and seize territory in the Pacific. Second, China is under-mechanized and modernized, but it has been rapidly closing that gap for 20 years. And finally, China hasn’t engaged in a war in decades because it wasn’t ready for one. That’s no longer the case.
But, it is still a good sign that Chinese military officers are arguing for peace. It’s most likely a ruse or a tactic to buy time by keeping some Americans hopeful for long-term peace, but if China starts abiding by agreements like the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea, China and the U.S. could avoid more confrontation and potential conflict.
The U.S. Navy tests a prototype railgun in 2008. China has deployed its prototype weapon.
Chinese scientists are creating new marvels of naval might
FEP is useful on any vessel because it allows smooth, consistent power. But it is especially valuable on warships designed to fire energy weapons and electromagnetic railguns, the kinds of weapons that would make a big difference in a future naval fight. China is aggressively pursuing railguns, recently sending its first railgun-equipped vessel out for sea trials.
China does appear to be behind the U.S. in most naval tech that matters, but it’s moving fast and it has the industrial capacity to mass produce any weapon and platform designs that work in trials. But it also has a tendency to over-tout its breakthroughs. So it’s unclear whether this hinted full-electric propulsion advance really means anything.
Chinese troops are securing U.N. compounds and missions in Africa
China has troops deployed in Africa on a peacekeeping mission and China Military and CGTN.com have devoted resources to trumpeting the Chinese role in securing a base after it was hit by a suicide attack. French, Malian, and Estonian troops were injured in the attack.
China Military wants everyone to know that, “Chinese sentinels used high-powered telescopes to strengthen observation and the snipers occupied the commanding heights to prepare for shooting.” Basically, Chinese troops took over guard towers or similar positions and used scopes and binoculars.
From vigorous barking to dashing through water-based obstacles, military working dogs and handlers with the 6th Security Forces Squadron participated in water aggression training to maintain full spectrum readiness at Adventure Island amusement park in Tampa, Florida, Oct. 29, 2018.
“We have 7.2 miles of coastline around MacDill and we always have to be ready to patrol it,” said Tech. Sgt. Matthew McElyea, a military dog trainer assigned to the 6th SFS. “We never stop training and it’s our job to keep our dogs engaged and excited about the job we accomplish together.”
Additionally, eight Tampa law enforcement agencies unleashed their own K9s during the joint training exercise.
“We do this training annually,” said Eddie Durkin, Tampa Police Department public information officer. “Some dogs don’t get enough exposure to water-based scenarios and this type of training gets them more confident and comfortable in the water.”
U.S. Air Force Senior Airman Damion Morris, a military dog handler assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron, tests the water with his military working dog, Lleonard, at Adventure Island, Tampa, Fla. Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Scott Warner)
MacDill’s military working dogs, Lord, Zeno, and Lleonard, participated in a wave of training scenarios involving suspect apprehension and deterrence in an unfamiliar environment.
“We are always looking for new ways to evolve our training and be ready for any contingency situation,” McElyea said.
The event simulated three water-based scenarios, from an obstacle course to waves and large depths of water. The training fully encompassed what a military working dog might experience in the field.
U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Jeffrey Greene, a military dog trainer assigned to the 6th Security Forces Squadron, practices water aggression training with 6th SFS military working dog, Lleonard, at Adventure Island, Tampa, Fla. Oct. 29, 2018.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Scott Warner)
“Lord was outstanding in every water-based evaluation, and Zeno and Lleonard made significant progress throughout the day,” McElyea said. “This situational training is invaluable when our dogs need to be ready to respond to anything.”
Whether it’s inside of the base or at a point of entry, MacDill’s working dog handlers and their partners continuously practice detection, bite drills, obeying commands and apprehending suspects.
“We are the best at narcotic and bomb detection and deterrence,” McElyea said. “But our local law enforcement agencies are experts in patrol, so collectively these joint training exercises are mutually beneficial since we can learn so much from one another.”
Taiwan is pursuing a two-pronged upgrade to its armed forces as people on the island worry about recent shows of force by powerful rival China during a political stalemate.
Last week, the Taiwanese navy signed a memorandum of understanding with two local companies to develop submarines over the next four years. Construction of the vehicles, ideal for warfare against a stronger adversary, could reach $85.8 million, though the final price is not set, the defense ministry spokesman said.
Taiwan’s ambition to design its own submarines stems partly from China’s pressure against other governments to avoid selling the island any arms.
Last week the Taiwan president called the submarine project “the most challenging aspect” of a broader plan to foster an independent local defense industry, per a local media report.
Taiwan now operates two Dutch-designed Hai Lung submarines, bought in the early 1980s, and two Guppy II-class submarines dating back to 1946. China has the world’s third most powerful armed forces overall, with Taiwan in 19th place, according to the GlobalFirePower.com database.
The navy has not fixed on a number of submarines to develop as part of the agreement signed Tuesday, the defense ministry spokesman said.
“Because in the past, Taiwan has the technology to build boats, we hope to make use of this domestic industry,” said senior Taiwan legislator Lee Chun-yi. “We hope we can use the construction (of submarines) to encourage domestic industries, and there’s a definite help for Taiwan’s defense sector.”
Separately, U.S. President Donald Trump may approve a sale of advanced weapons to Taiwan in the first half of the year according to media reports from Washington.
“Without speaking to any specific cases, we can say that under long-standing U.S. policy, U.S. arms sales to Taiwan are … based on an assessment of Taiwan’s defense needs,” said Sonia Urbom, spokesperson for The American Institute in Taiwan (AIT), which unofficially represents U.S. interests in Taipei.
“Defensive arms are helpful for Taiwan’s security,” Lee said. “We hope for them and welcome them. We also all hope the United States can have a closer military dialogue and that the United States will approve this package as soon as possible and let Taiwan process it as soon as possible.”
Taiwan defense ministry spokesman Chen Chung-chi said Monday the government would urge Washington to make the arms sale.
The administration of former U.S. President Barack Obama stopped an arms sale to Taiwan in December. Some analysts expect Trump at least to unblock it. The United States may sell advanced rocket systems and anti-ship missiles to Taiwan in the next package, news reports from Washington say.
“I wouldn’t necessarily characterize it as urgency,” said Ross Feingold, Taipei-based analyst with an American political consultancy. “The time has come to make a decision and the Obama Administration decided to punt, and now the Trump Administration is following up in a reasonable and appropriate time frame.
“A better question would be what’s going to come next because we are simply approving things that were on the table and under discussion already,” he said.
Chinese officials fume when other countries, especially the United States, sell weapons to Taiwan. Taiwan is looking to Trump because he risked China’s anger by speaking to Tsai by phone in December and his staff has taken a tough line against Beijing’s military expansion at sea.
China temporarily cut off some exchanges with the United States in 2010 when Obama approved a $6.4 billion arms package for Taiwan. After Washington announced a $1.83 billion package in 2015, China formally protested to the U.S. Embassy in Beijing.
Some see Obama’s decision to stop an arms deal in December as a goodwill gesture toward China, and say approval by Trump would risk China calling off any cooperation with the United States on containing North Korea.
People in Taiwan have been particularly on guard since the Liaoning aircraft carrier, the only ship of its type in the Chinese navy, sailed around Taiwan in December and January. Taiwan is just 160 kilometers away from China at its nearest point.
This month China flew 13 aircraft east of Taiwan, near Okinawa. Taiwan’s defense ministry is also watching as Beijing builds military infrastructure in the disputed South China Sea.
“China is doing some activities in the South China Sea recently, and even though they’re not always directed toward Taiwan, in the Pacific region it’s stronger and stronger, so people in Taiwan feel that without the ability to resist we will be diminished in terms of bargaining position,” said Ku Chung-hua, a standing board member in the Taipei-based political action group Citizens’ Congress Watch.
Taiwan frets because the Communist leadership claims sovereignty over the self-ruled island despite opinion polls showing most Taiwanese oppose China’s goal of eventual unification. The two sides talked regularly from 2008 to 2015 but stopped after Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen took office last year.
Tsai takes a more guarded view of relations with China than her predecessor and Beijing is seen using military displays as well as diplomatic and economic measures to pressure Taiwan back into talks. China has not renounced the use of force, if needed, to reunify with the island.
Taiwan’s parliament would need to allocate money separately for a U.S. arms package, but the China threat is marshaling public support in favor, analysts say. The existing military budget for this year comes to $10.24 billion, or 2.05 percent of the Taiwan GDP.
“With the cross-Strait situation not only stagnant, but in some respects deteriorating, this is as good a time as any both to garner domestic support within Taiwan to purchase weapons and to hope for a sympathetic ear in Washington,” said Alan Romberg, East Asia Program director with American think tank The Stimson Center.
Countries are jockeying for position as the changing climate makes the Arctic more amenable to shipping and natural-resource extraction.
Conditions in the high north are still formidable, requiring specialized ships. That’s felt acutely in the US, mainly because of the paucity of its ice-breaking capability compared with Arctic countries — particularly Russia.
Moscow, which has the world’s largest Arctic coastline, has dozens of icebreakers, some of which are heavy models for polar duty, and others that are designed to operate elsewhere, like the Baltic.
The US has just two, only one of which is a heavy icebreaker that can operate in the Arctic and Antarctica.
The Coast Guard cutter Polar Star cuts through Antarctic ice.
(US Coast Guard photo by Chief Petty Officer David Mosley)
That heavy icebreaker, the Polar Star, is more than 40 years old and clinging to service life — something former Coast Guard commandant Paul Zukunft was well aware of when he was asked to send the Polar Star north.
“When I was the commandant, the National Security Council approached me and said, ‘Hey, we ought to sent the Polar Star through the Northern Sea Route and do a freedom of navigation exercise,'” Zukunft, who retired as an admiral in 2018, said December 2018 at a Wilson Center event focused on the Arctic.
“I said, ‘Au contraire, it’s a 40-year-old ship. We’re cannibalizing parts off its sister ship just to keep this thing running, and I can’t guarantee you that it won’t have an catastrophic engineering casualty as it’s doing a freedom of navigation exercise, and now I’ve got to call on Russia to pull me out of harm’s way. So this is not the time to do it,'” Zukunft said.
The Polar Star was commissioned in 1976 and refurbished in 2012 to extend its service life. It’s the Coast Guard’s only operational heavy icebreaker, and it can chop through ice up to 21 feet thick. (The Healy, the service’s other icebreaker, is a medium icebreaker that is newer and bigger but has less ice-breaking capability.)
The Polar Star is more than 40 years old.
(US Coast Guard photo by Rob Rothway)
The Coast Guard’s other heavy icebreaker and the Polar Star’s sister ship, the Polar Sea, was commissioned the same year but left service in 2010 after repeated engine failures.
Like Zukunft said, the service has been stripping the Polar Sea of parts to keep the Polar Star running, because many of those parts are no longer in production. When they can’t get it from the Polar Sea, crew members have ordered second-hand parts from eBay.
The icebreaker makes a run to McMurdo Station in Antarctica every year. On its most recent trip in January 2018, the ship faced less ice but still dealt with mechanical issues, including a gas-turbine failure that reduced power to the propellers and a failed shaft seal that allowed seawater into the ship until it was sealed.
Harsh conditions wear on the Polar Star — it’s the only cutter that goes into drydock every year. It also sails with a year’s worth of food in case it gets stuck. As commandant, Zukunft said the Polar Star was “literally on life support.”
Contractors work on the hull of the Polar Star while the cutter undergoes depot-level maintenance.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Matthew S. Masaschi)
The Coast Guard has been looking to start building new icebreakers for some time.
In 2016, Zukunft said the service was looking to build three heavy and three medium icebreakers. Along with the Navy, it released a joint draft request for proposal to build a new heavy icebreaker in October 2017.
The Homeland Security Department, which oversees the Coast Guard, requested 0 million in fiscal year 2019, which began Oct. 1, 2018, to design and build a new heavy polar icebreaker. (That request included million for a service-life extension project for the Polar Star.)
But the department is one of several that have not been funded for 2019, and it’s not clear the icebreaker money will arrive as lawmakers focus on other spending priorities, such as a wall on the US-Mexico border.
The Coast Guard cutter Healy approaches the Russian-flagged tanker Renda.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Sara Francis)
The 0 million was stripped by the House Appropriations Committee summer 2018 — a move that was protested by House Democrats. The Coast Guard commandant, Adm. Karl Schultz, said early December 2018 that he was “guardedly optimistic” that funding for a new polar icebreaker would be available.
The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.
When asked what infrastructure was needed in the Arctic to support US national defense, Zukunft stressed that much of it, like ports, would be dual-use, supporting military and civilian operations.
“But the immediate need right now is for commercial [operations], and that was driven home when we didn’t get the fuel delivery into Nome,” Zukunft said, likely referring to a 2012 incident in which the Alaskan city was iced-in and a few weeks away from running out of fuel.
“At that point in time we were able to call upon Russia to provide an ice-capable tanker escorted by the Coast Guard cutter Healy to resupply Nome.”The need for Russian assets to support the US in the high north would not be unprecedented, however.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We all have our favorite gear, for whatever reason. Maybe it saved our asses, maybe it repaired a weapon, maybe it just made it possible to get a few hours sleep through a long, cold night. There’s nothing better than a reliable piece of gear to keep coming back to over and over. Often, troops will try to keep as much of their field gear as possible when they separate.
After reading through a few Amazon reviews, it’s easy to understand why. What’s your favorite?
1. 550 Cord – 5 Stars
Also known as parachute cord, the 550 comes from its breaking strength of at least 550 pounds. It’s made of nylon, wrapped around an internal core which increases strength and keeps the main rope from fraying. The cord was originally used in parachute suspension lines, but its use became widespread as paratroopers would cut the cord from the chutes as a useful tool for the future. These days, troops use it to secure packs to vehicles, set up camouflage nets, make lanyards, or tie up bracelets or belts that can be unraveled when needed.
2. Issue Anglehead Flashlight – 5 Stars
The anglehead design was first used by the U.S. military in World War II and has been a staple of all branches ever since. The chief supplier of these lights, Fulton, supplied them to the U.S. government since the Vietnam War. There are plenty of knockoff versions of it. If yours is a real one, it will have “MX-991/U” imprinted on the side of the light.
Here’s one review:
“I served in the Army over 20 years ago under SOCOM, so this flashlight has a minimum of that many years under its belt and all the action marks that comes with it… I clicked on the power button – not expecting anything special, and… IT TURNED ON.”
3. Woobie – 4.5 Stars
The “Woobie” is a nylon-polyester blanket, really the liner for the standard-issue poncho. It’s known as a Woobie because of the great affection troops have for it, the way a baby loves its blanket. Woobies are lightweight, easily packed, and do a great job of keeping troops warm in cooler temperatures.
A reviewer writes:
“Of all the pieces of U.S. military kit I’ve ever seen (through 20+ years of military service), none equal the Wubbie [sic] for value for money, utility, and comfort.
I bought my first poncho liner in Vietnam in 1964. It was one of the old ones from back when they were made from parachute silk. Now, almost fifty years later, I’m still using it. I guess I’m a 65 year old man with a blankie!”
4. Chem-lights – 4.5 Stars
Chem-lights are designed for 360-degree visibility up to a mile away for up to 12 hours. There are, of course, some variances. They also need to be durable, waterproof, and flame retardant. They have a number of uses when a flashlight or fire isn’t the right tool, and the light gets brighter as the temperature gets warmer.
“In my decade and a half in the military I have probably gone through thousands of Cyalume ChemLight just myself. They have a million uses, both fun and functional. But most important the Cyalume models have proven to be utterly reliable and bright.”
They can also be used as flares to mark an area without worrying about fire or flame. The uses for them are only limited by imagination, from Christmas lights to Fourth of July ‘rockets’ there is a lot of fun and use to be had.”
5. Gerber MP600 Multi-Tool – 4.5 Stars
This tool’s usefulness practically speaks for itself. With 14 components, providing knives with different edges, screwdrivers, a ruler, bottle and can openers, wire cutters, crimpers, and a file, all with a lanyard ring (perfect for 550 cord loops), the multitool is perfect for minimizing space and weight while providing myriad uses.
“It has all the tools I need as a soldier and it has done very nicely for me.
With a potential need to carry in a deployed environment, the matte black finish is certainly a plus.”
6. 100mph Tape (Duct Tape) – 4 Stars
Also known as “olive drab green reinforcement tape,” it covers shiny objects and tapes things down to reduce rattling noises when on patrol, but it’s so much more than that. Since supplies have historically been an issue in the large scale wars of the past, troops needed an all-purpose way to make quick fixes without all the necessary equipment.
From one review:
“The only downside that I can find is that it is literally so strong that anything even touching the edge of the roll will stick to it just from the small amount of adhesive that comes in contact with it.
All duct tape is not created equal
I always have a roll of this stuff, and 550 Cord in my Gear. I’ve used it for everything from quick repairs, marking my luggage, to camouflaging my gear for Patrols. Not sure about the 100 MPH thing, but I do know that once you tape it to your gear, you’ll need to cut it off.”
Getting supplies to Marines ashore is growing more complex as new threats reach the space between ships and the beach, so leaders are looking to high-tech self-driving ships to get the job done.
The Navy’s mysterious 132-foot-long autonomous Sea Hunter vessel could move fuel, ammunition, and other heavy supplies from large ships out to small teams of Marines, sea service leaders said May 8, 2019, at the Sea-Air-Space expo outside Washington, D.C.
“If we can do what we’ve demonstrated with Sea Hunter … with logistics, to program that connector to meet that force at a location to sustain them and provide them with what they need, that is where we’re going to have to practice, practice, practice and learn and adapt our structure to be responsive to that,” said Rear Adm. Jim Kilby, director of warfare integration.
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.
(US Navy photo)
Marines and sailors recently practiced sustaining ground troops operating at various points ashore during amassive amphibious exercise called Pacific Blitz. During that exercise, it became clear they must leverage the distance unmanned vessels can travel without risk to personnel, Brig. Gen. Stephen Liszewski, director of operations for Marine Corps Plans, Policies and Operations, told Military.com.
“The unmanned piece is the untapped potential,” Liszewski said. “We know that is one way we can get after this ability to operate in a more distributed and lethal environment.”
Ideally, the services would use a mix of drone aircraft and unmanned ships to get the job done, he added. There are times when they’ll need the speed and range of unmanned aircraft, he said, but they can’t carry everything.
Sea Hunter, an entirely new class of unmanned sea surface vehicle.
(US Navy photo)
“With a surface connector, you’re going to be able to move larger volumes of things, particularly if you’re talking ammunition or bulk liquids like water or fuel,” Liszewski said. “Clearly, aviation speed or range is what you get, but it’s not one or the other. You’ve got to have both [surface connectors and air assets].”
Vice-President Joe Biden is still struggling with the death of his son, Beau. Beau Biden served in the Delaware Army National Guard, Judge Advocate General (JAG) Corps, 261st Signal Brigade. He deployed to Iraq’s Camp Victory near Baghdad for nearly a year of active duty, from the Autumn of 2008 to Autumn 2009. The younger Biden succumbed to brain cancer earlier this year. He was 46.
In a recent interview with Stephen Colbert, the Veep recounted how he felt during a visit to Denver, when someone who served with Maj. Biden called out to him.
“Maj. Beau Biden. Bronze Star, sir. Served with him in Iraq,” the man said, Biden recalled. “I was doing great,” Biden said. “But then I lost it. You can’t do that.”
The Vice-President’s first wife and 1-year-old daughter were killed in a car accident weeks after he was first elected to the Senate in 1972. He said that his faith helped sustain him, and he said he felt he would be letting his family down, including Beau, if he let his grief overtake him – that he needed to “just get up.”
Beau Biden joined the Delaware National Guard in 2003. He deployed while serving as Delaware’s Attorney General. In his absence, he appointed a Republican to take his spot while he was in Iraq. During his service, he requested to be able to wear a different last name on his uniform, in an effort not to receive special treatment from his subordinates and superiors alike. While in Iraq, he was awarded a Bronze Star and the Legion of Merit.
American news media barely touches on these stories at times — they certainly don’t always make the top headlines. Maybe a conflict has been going on for so long that it barely seems like news anymore or maybe it doesn’t affect the American public the way other stories do. Perhaps these conflicts don’t get airtime because, simply, they don’t sell newspapers or commercial time like other stories.
So, here’s a rundown of the most intractable crises in the world right now, complete with why they started, how old they are, and what makes them so damn tricky.
6. The Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar
The Rohingya are Muslim people in Buddhist Myanmar (or Burma if you prefer) who are considered one of the world’s most persecuted minorities. On top of religious differences, they speak a different dialect and they’re a different ethnicity. They live in Myanmar (as they have for centuries), but are not considered citizens.
The Burmese government doesn’t see them as Burmese, but rather as squatters from neighboring Bangladesh that they’re now trying to expel (using violence and persecution) after centuries of living in Burmese ghettos. As a result, 700,000 of the estimated 1.1 million Rohingya have fled their homes, seeking shelter in neighboring countries.
5. Venezuela and the US
Venezuela’s relationship with the United States has been on the decline since the days of Hugo Chavez. Chavez’ long time in power saw Venezuela move from the U.S. camp in favor of traditional American adversaries, like Cuba and Iran. Relations have been pretty much ice cold ever since. After Chavez died, his successor, Nicolas Maduro, took over. Being neither as popular nor as charismatic as Chavez, Venezuelans have been less than thrilled with his economic performance.
The U.S. is increasingly critical of Maduro’s authoritarianism. While Venezuela’s economy remains in steep decline, the Obama and the Trump administrations both tried to force Maduro from power using sanctions, which he strongly resists. Meanwhile, Russia and China both continue to forge business partnerships in the country, making any political progress driven by economics difficult.
4. Iran and everyone
Iran fights so hard to maintain a degree of independence from the outside world. Its foreign policy is designed to keep other countries from fighting in Iranian territory. While much of the past 20 or so years have seen a lot of death and destruction in the region, areas just within Iran’s borders are noticeably untouched. Why? The Quds Force and Revolutionary Guard’s activity in Shia areas in the Middle East force other countries to fight there, instead of in Iran.
But Iran has more to worry about. The Iran-Saudi conflict, the Iran-Israeli conflict, the Iran-U.S. conflict are all wars of words (and in some areas, like Yemen, proxy wars) where neither side is talking to one another. There’s a lot of fighting with no diplomacy that could easily escalate into a greater war. In the meantime, fighting in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen will continue even as Iran struggles with its own internal politics.
There are so many trouble spots in Africa that it’s difficult to understand where U.S. foreign policy should start. American forces already intervene in the Horn of Africa and Niger. Meanwhile, French troops take the point on more recent conflicts and uprisings in West African countries, like Mali. But that’s not all. Fighting in the area known as the Congo has been ongoing for decades.
Africa is not the center of any geopolitical struggle like the Middle East is. African “Big Man” politics have not traditionally welcomed Western outsiders dictating their next courses of action – and when they did, it was usually to make a power play for money or arms against a superpower’s rival. The best course of action is for outsider to form unified support for the African Union and give that organization real teeth.
2. North and South Korea
Since August of 1945, there’s been an ongoing conflict between North and South Korea. In the early 1950s, the Korean War pushed peninsular violence to its zenith, until a stalemate was declared in 1953. Since then, fighting has continued in the form of words and sporadic violence along the ironically-named Demilitarized Zone. In that time, North Korea has become something no one could’ve seen coming — the world’s only Communist Stalinist state with dynastic family rule. Even a widespread famine after the fall of the Soviet Union, taking much of the DPRK’s subsidized food away, couldn’t topple the Kim Regime.
Eventually, South Korea became a worldwide economic powerhouse and a regional military hegemon (with the unquestioned, continued support of the United States). Now, at a point where a conventional war could easily reunite the peninsula under the South Korean flag, North Korea leveled the playing field with tactical nuclear weapons that could keep the war of words going for another 60-plus years.
The slight warming of relations at the 2018 Olympic Games notwithstanding, North Korea is seemingly immune to economic sanctions, so threats of war and violence are often the only way to bring any attention to the conflict.
1. The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
This is an ongoing conflict that has seen many potential ends-in-sight but narrowly averted them in order to continue the status quo. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not so much a war for independence as it is a divorce: both sides want the house and the car and the kids, but neither side is willing to concede anything or negotiate in real earnestness.
Not only has this been a conflict brewing since the British promised the land known today as Israel to both Jewish and Muslim Palestinians, any attempt at mediation has either led to widespread opposition, unintended consequences, or, even worse, an excuse for violence in the region against innocent Israelis and Palestinian civilians.
The latest moves by the Trump administration extend the divorce metaphor further: Now that Judge Trump gave Israel the house (Jerusalem), most people in the West Bank believe they are further from a two-state solution than ever before.
Forgive us for stating the obvious, but life is pretty damn stressful right now. The economy is on life support. Schools and camps are closed. We’re working from home and balancing child care. We’re concerned about our friends and relatives. We can’t casually scroll social media without stumbling into something overwhelmingly hateful. And, oh yeah, COVID-19 is still an enormous threat. So it’s understandable for all marriages to be under a lot of pressure right now.
Stress eats into relationships. It puts us all on edge, leading to less understanding and more arguments. Flare ups are bound to happen. While inoculations aren’t available, there is some relationships advice that can help people cope. Like giving one another the benefit of the doubt more often. Or being specific about the language you use when having an argument. Or making sure to vocally appreciate a partner half more often. Here’s some relationship advice all stressed out parents should keep in mind.
1. Set Boundaries
We’re all more or less jammed into the same space right now. This is unavoidable. But that doesn’t mean we have to be on top of each other all the time. Sit down and discuss lines of demarcation. Designate a work space for one another. Give yourselves the spaces you need to be productive and active without crowding them. If this means sitting in the car to make calls, so be it. We’re all making due.
Importantly, however, these boundaries must also apply to when you’re giving your attention to your work and when it’s time for family. Let your spouse know that he or she is still a priority by putting the phone down and closing the laptop when work is through.
“When you work from home, it’s easy to answer emails first thing in the morning and late into the evening,” says therapist Eliza Kingsford. “For some, this is fine as it creates flexibility throughout the day at other times. But be aware that it doesn’t start to consume your days.” Frustrations will certainly occur. Take note and make changes as necessary.
2. Get Intentional
According to Dr. Susan Mecca, author of The Gift of Crisis, one of the most important steps we can all take during any crisis is to stop and say to yourself: Who do I want to be during this and how do I want to act? Creating this intention, she says, helps keep yourself in check. Are there going to be times when blow up when you want to be calm and measured? Absolutely. We’re all human. But if we make this intention and share it with a spouse or someone else it can be help you get back on track. “Planes don’t fly in a straight line. They’re always changing course,” says Dr. Mecca. “So as a parent you’re always going to be readjusting. But if you don’t know your course, you don’t know what you’re readjusting to.”
3. Schedule Alone Time
We all need time to ourselves to destress or just zone out for 20 minutes. The need is even more so now. This means we must all schedule time to go outside, be alone for a minute, or do whatever is needed to mentally recalibrate. Without doing this, we’re much more likely to snap at our partners or put more emotional stress on them.
In busy households, this need can only be made clear through proper communication. Couples need to sit down and discuss this. What time do you need? When can we set that time in the schedule? It’s also important to be understanding of your partner’s need for the same. Therapist Ben Hoogland, MS, LFT says it’s crucial for couples to not be passive or resentful towards someone asking for alone time. So schedule that alone time. And if your partner is being reluctant, offer to take the kids or set up something for them that forces them to take some moments alone. Everyone needs it.
4. And Schedule Time as a Couple
Right now, it’s can be easy to feel like roommates or co-workers instead of romantic partners. Couples must be sure to take measures to recognize this side. Order in from that place you like. Take a long walk together while the kid is asleep in the stroller. Watch an old movie you both love. Schedule a Zoom class together.
5. Give One Another the Benefit of the Doubt
When stress is high, it’s very easy to misinterpret someone else’s completely normal actions. A good rule of thumb: When you’re communicating with your partner, give them the benefit of the doubt. “You’re both dealing with increased stress and unpredictability, so it’s likely that your partner isn’t actually trying to annoy you or act selfishly — they’re probably genuinely overwhelmed and not thinking as clearly as usual,” says Jessie Bohnenkamp, a licensed professional counselor in Virginia. “If you need to bring up an issue, focus on the specific behavior that’s bothering you rather than criticizing your partner’s character or personality.”
6. Set Aside Time to Vent
In stressful times, it’s easy to forget to touch base with one another. Not a good look. So be mindful and set aside a specific time at the end of every day to talk about what’s happening. Bohnenkamp says that during this scheduled time each partner gets ten or 15 minutes to talk about whatever’s on their mind — work stress, worry about their parents’ health, money concerns, whatever. The other person simply listens, validates, and supports (“No problem solving unless specifically asked for!,” reminds Bohnenkamp.) Then, it’s the other person’s turn and roles are reversed. “This time to come together and support each other is a wonderful way to stay on the same page, reduce each other’s stress, and stay connected and strong during this stressful time,” she says.
7. Practice Gratitude
Is this a bit cheesy? Sure. But sometimes that’s what we all need. Take some time together to share things for which you’re thankful. They can be as large or small as you want. Think: I’m thankful our baby loves belly rubs. I’m thankful they still make Flamin’ Hot Cheetos. Or I’m thankful our friends are there for us. Write them down together or share them over text throughout the day. They’ll do wonders for your state of mind. Why? “The more you practice gratitude, the less you practice fear,” says Kingsford. Her larger recommendation: Each day write down at least 10 things for which you are grateful. Pretty soon, it’ll become second nature.
8. Get Back to Communication Basics
Although parents’ pandemic to-do list is extra-long right now, it’s well worth penciling in a refresher course on communication while in social distancing jail together. “It’s always helpful to practice essential communication skills, which are to reduce criticism and give and receive compliments and positive attention,” says Menije Boduryan-Turner, Psy.D., a psychologist in Woodland Hills, California.
One trick to improve communication is to ask each other, “What did you hear me say when I said, ‘take out the trash’?” for example, says Thomas McDonagh, Psy.D., founder of Good Therapy SF. “Often we misinterpret or twist what our partners are saying, and in an overly negative way,” McDonagh says. This trick, he adds, helps to correct the issue if a partner hears instead, continuing the example, “You’re lazy and I have to do everything around here.”
9. Don’t Neglect Self-Care
Self care is discussed endlessly these days. But it doesn’t make it any less important. “You absolutely have to take care of the basics,” says Dr. Mecca. And by you doing it, you can make sure your kids are doing it.” Meditate for five minutes. Do some deep breathing exercises. Eat good food. Get proper sleep.
Everyone should be asking themselves: What actually does make me feel better? Keep track. If you hop on social media to chat with friends for a few minutes but then find yourself feeling worse because of all the social media mind-fuckery, then figure out an alternative. Set up Zoom Meetings or Google Hangouts with friends instead. Grab a beer with a buddy over FaceTime. “The goal is understanding what you need to do to be the best parent and person you can be right now,” she says.
10. Learn How to Move on From Arguments
Disagreement is unavoidable in any marriage. One of the defining aspects of a strong, happy relationship, however, is the ability to get past a fight. “It doesn’t matter if you argue, because all couples do, it’s about coming back to the table afterwards and talking about what happened and owning your part,” notes marriage and family therapist Melissa Davis Thompson. “It allows a couple to share deeply how they feel without being angry or frustrated during an argument.”
11. Be Open About Your Appreciation
Validation is one of the most important things couples can do for each other. Knowing that your partner hears what you’re saying, appreciatesyou, and understands you speaks to a basic need for connection. Did they nail that bedtime routine? Tell them. Did they expertly handle a tantrum or cry-fest? Tell them. Were they a remote learning all-star? Tell them. Parents often stroke kids and acknowledge their terrific poem or great game they played, but we don’t acknowledge what we appreciate about our partners. Doing it is a show of support and love for their hard work at a time when it’s definitely needed — and, in the long run, shows an example to children as to what a loving, supportive relationship looks like.
12. Pay Attention to the Little Things
Small gestures carry a lot of weight, and for couples who have mutual respect, those small gestures are second-nature. A simple love note or a slightly longer hug can make your partner feel validated and appreciated. “One short and sweet text or email per day can make your lover’s heart pitter-patter — without causing his or her head to spin from electronic overload,” offers family psychotherapist Dr. Fran Walfish “Be sure to include an intimate and heartfelt detail in your notes as a key way to boost your bond.”
13. Understand What Respect Truly Requires
Partners who respect one another work better. This is both simple and not. Because when it comes to building respect equity in their relationship, couples need to focus on being responsible for how their actions affect the other. “Some of it is common sense and usually centers around being personally responsible,” Aricia E. Shaffer, MSE, a therapist and coach specializing in parenting, told us. “Don’t put the empty milk carton back in the fridge, clean up after yourself, let your spouse know if you’re running late. In other words, basic human consideration. But it also means taking responsibility for your own triggers or needs and having a talk with your partner as needed.” In other words: Without constant communication, true respect will never be achieved.
The seven-month odyssey of a “blue-green” flotilla that saw combat in Yemen and Syria and conducted training exercises across a large swath of the globe demonstrates the enduring importance of the Navy-Marine Corps team overseas, commanders of the 11th Marine Expeditionary Unit said May 24.
Departing San Diego on Oct. 14, the 11th MEU and the Makin Island Amphibious Ready Group reportedly supported a Jan. 29 raid in Yemen in which a Navy SEAL — Chief Petty Officer William “Ryan” Owens — was killed. They also brought artillery and infantry troops to Kuwait for later duty, providing firepower to Kurdish partners besieging Raqqa, the Syrian city that doubles as the capital for the terrorist Islamic State.
The howitzers manned by the Marines conducted more than 400 fire-support missions in Syria, firing more than 4,500 shells at ISIS targets, according to the 11th MEU.
“It was the right Marine air-ground task force to provide supportability, mobility, and lethality,” 11th MEU spokesman Maj. Craig Thomas said during a news conference May 24 at Camp Pendleton. “The Marines supported local Syrians who are fighting to rid ISIS from their country.”
Citing the classified nature of the Yemen operations, Thomas said he couldn’t comment on that raid.
His report card for the MEU comes during a series of debates not only about America’s policies toward Yemen and Syria but also grumbling concerns about the future of Marine expeditionary units.
Experts continue to fret about how Marine battalions will conduct their amphibious missions in an age of super-fast and precise, long-range anti-ship-air missiles, plus Pentagon budget woes that appear to prioritize submarines and destroyers over amphibious assault ships like the Makin Island.
That flagship vessel returned to San Diego on May 15. It and the fellow amphibious assault ships Somerset and Comstock combined to carry more than 4,500 sailors and Marines, spending three months in the Pacific Ocean and four months in the waters off the Middle East and Africa.
Beyond the combat operations in Syria, the group held exercises in Hawaii, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Malaysia, Djibouti, Oman, and the Persian Gulf. Marines also stood ready to evacuate the embassy in the South Sudanese capital of Juba during hostilities there — the sort of mission that makes an amphibious ready group and Marine expeditionary unit “the 9-1-1 organization from the sea,” 11th MEU commander Col. Clay Tipton said.
Retired Marine Col. Mark Cancian — a senior adviser with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a nonpartisan think tank based in Washington, D.C. — echoed Tipton’s perspective that the MEU remains a lasting example of flexible armed response from the sea.
“What makes a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force so valuable is the ability of the Marines to mix and match capabilities,” Cancian said. “That’s what they’re doing and that’s what they should be doing.”
And that’s particularly important for Syria because how the Marines were used dovetails with President Donald Trump’s foreign policy goals — defeat the Islamic State without putting too many boots on the ground, he added.
“The thing that the Marine Corps can provide that’s really needed is fire power for allies like the Kurds or Iraqis — artillery, mortars, aircraft,” Cancian said. “So far, Trump’s policy has been adamant about not using infantry, except in a limited role to protect artillery and other units that are on the ground to add firepower for allies.”
If the mission in Syria grows, Cancian could envision Marine and Navy logistical heft toting more supplies to Kurdish militias or the Free Syrian Army, perhaps even occupying an airfield and using it as a forward operating base. The Corps also could deploy more artillery observers and so called “Joint Terminal Attack Controllers” who call in airstrikes, but Cancian doubts the White House would land a large number of “boots on the ground.”
Potential rivals at sea such as Russia, China, and Iran increasingly field anti-ship and surface-to-air missiles that can be fired from hundreds of miles away. Large amphibs, their hovercraft and lumbering armored troop carriers that take hours to wade ashore and unload, would be punished by precision missiles, experts contend.
The Makin Island is one of the world’s largest amphibs. But it’s also considered a transitional vessel, with similar but superior high-tech “Big Deck Amphibs” like the San Diego-based America poised to share space in the piers.
“The answer, to me, is that we had better prepare to fight for command of the sea,” said James Holmes, a professor of strategy at the U.S. Naval War College and a former Navy surface warfare officer who is widely considered one of the world’s top experts on maritime battle. “As the greats of sea power tell us, you have to be able to win command of the sea if you want to use the sea to do things like conduct amphibious landings.
“So we need to be ready to do these things, but chances are there will be delays while we fight our way into the theater, reduce shore-based missile batteries and on and on. Sea power is no longer just about navies,” he added.
Holmes believes the Marines might fret about the future of the amphibious fleet because ongoing studies have called for converting some assault ships into light aircraft carriers and replacing them with other vessels when they’re retired, but the Navy must strike the right balance.
“As far as priorities, certainly the types of ships we need to defeat our enemies and take command of the sea must take precedence,” he said, adding that it’s “a lot easier to improvise a fleet of amphibious transports than it would to improvise destroyers or nuclear-powered attack submarines.”
Holmes said Marines could be called to seize islands, much as they did in World War II. Cancian added that the Corps also might return to traditional missions like coastal artillery batteries, working alongside the Army and other services to to defend anti-ship missile batteries on the islands and shoals peppering the Pacific Ocean.
That concept is still a work in progress.
“The bottom line is that there’s no answer about the ultimate future of the ships and the marine expeditionary units, but we do know that in peacetime they’re very useful,” Cancian said. “You’re seeing in the Middle East just how useful they are.”
Iran says its ballistic missile strike targeting the Islamic State group in Syria was not only a response to deadly attacks in Tehran, but a powerful message to arch-rival Saudi Arabia and the United States, one that could add to already soaring regional tensions.
The launch, which hit Syria’s eastern city of Deir el-Zour on June 18th, appeared to be Iran’s first missile attack abroad in over 15 years and its first in the Syrian conflict, in which it has provided crucial support to embattled President Bashar Assad.
It comes amid the worsening of a long-running feud between Shiite powerhouse Iran and Saudi Arabia, with supports Syrian rebels and has led recent efforts to isolate the Gulf nation of Qatar.
It also raises questions about how US President Donald Trump’s administration, which had previously put Iran “on notice” for its ballistic missile tests, will respond.
Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard, a paramilitary force in charge of the country’s missile program, said it launched six Zolfaghar ballistic missiles from the western provinces of Kermanshah and Kurdistan. State television footage showed the missiles on truck missile launchers in the daylight before being launched at night.
The missiles flew over Iraq before striking what the Guard called an Islamic State command center and suicide car bomb operation in Deir el-Zour, over 370 miles away. The extremists have been trying to fortify their positions in the Syrian city in the face of a US-led coalition onslaught on Raqqa, the group’s de facto capital.
Syrian opposition activist Omar Abu Laila, who is based in Germany but closely follows events in his native Deir el-Zour, said two Iranian missiles fell near and inside the eastern town of Mayadeen, an Islamic State stronghold. He said there were no casualties from the strikes. The IS group did not immediately acknowledge the strikes.
Iraqi lawmaker Abdul-Bari Zebari said his country agreed to the missile overflight after coordination with Iran, Russia, and Syria.
The Guard described the missile strike as revenge for attacks on Tehran earlier this month that killed at least 18 people and wounded more than 50, the first such IS assault in the country.
But the missiles sent a message to more than just the extremists in Iraq and Syria, Gen. Ramazan Sharif of the Guard told state television in a telephone interview.
“The Saudis and Americans are especially receivers of this message,” he said. “Obviously and clearly, some reactionary countries of the region, especially Saudi Arabia, had announced that they are trying to bring insecurity into Iran.”
June 18th’s missile strike came amid recent confrontations in Syria between US-backed forces and pro-government factions. The US recently deployed a truck-mounted missile system into Syria as Assad’s forces cut off the advance of America-backed rebels along the Iraqi border. Meanwhile, the US on June 18th shot down a Syrian aircraft for the first time, marking a new escalation of the conflict as Russia warned it would consider any US-led coalition planes in Syria west of the Euphrates River to be targets.
The Zolfaghar missile, unveiled in September 2016, was described at the time as carrying a cluster warhead and being able to strike as far as 435 miles away.
That puts the missile in range of the forward headquarters of the US military’s Central Command in Qatar, American bases in the United Arab Emirates, and the US Navy’s 5th Fleet in Bahrain.
The missile also could strike Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia. While Iran has other ballistic missiles it says can reach longer distances, the June 18th strike appears to be the furthest carried out abroad. Iran’s last foreign missile strike is believed to have been carried out in April 2001, targeting an exiled Iranian group in Iraq.
Iran has described the Tehran attackers as being “long affiliated with the Wahhabi,” an ultraconservative form of Sunni Islam practiced in Saudi Arabia. However, it stopped short of directly blaming the kingdom for the attack, though many in the country have expressed suspicion that Iran’s regional rival had a hand in the assault.
Since Trump took office, his administration has put new economic sanctions on those allegedly involved with Iran’s missile program as the Senate has voted for applying new sanctions on Iran. However, the test launches haven’t affected Iran’s 2015 nuclear deal with world powers.
Israel is also concerned about Iran’s missile launches and has deployed a multilayered missile-defense system. When Iran unveiled the Zolfaghar in 2016, it bore a banner printed with a 2013 quote by Khamenei saying that Iran will annihilate the Israeli cities of Tel Aviv and Haifa should Israel attack Iran.
On June 19th, Israeli security officials said they were studying the missile strike to see what they could learn about its accuracy and capabilities. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to reporters.
“We are following their actions. And we are also following their words,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said. “And I have one message to Iran: Do not threaten Israel.”
Iranian officials meanwhile offered a series of threats of more strikes, including former Guard chief Gen. Mohsen Rezai. He wrote on Twitter: “The bigger slap is yet to come.”