What does it take to reach the bottom of the world?
For starters, you’ll need a well-designed hull, tapered like a football for maximum maneuverability. Then add a generous supply of horsepower; 75,000 is a good round number. Finally, you’ll need some weight to help break the thick ice, about 13,000 tons. To round this equation out you’ll need experience, especially the understanding that the best way to operate an icebreaker is to avoid ice in the first place.
In short, there’s no single factor that makes the Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star‘s icebreaking possible. It’s an art that began with the first sketches of its blueprint and is still being perfected each time a new ice pilot qualifies to drive the 399-foot cutter. Each winter (summer in the Southern Hemisphere, Polar Star’s normal operating area) the crew is run through an icy gauntlet that tests every element of the ship’s capability.
“We began seeing sea ice near 62 degrees latitude south, but the pack ice we found further down was no real challenge as it was under heavy melting stress, rapidly retreating and further narrowed by a growing polynya, or ice-free area, opening northward from the other side,” said Pablo Clemente-Colón, the U.S. National Ice Center‘s chief scientist, who just happens to be aboard the Polar Star for their 2016 mission. “Then we hit the fast ice, where we are now; where the work starts.”
The work indeed started in McMurdo Sound with 13 miles of ice between the open Ross Sea and the U.S. Antarctic Program’s McMurdo Station 18 days prior to the first supply ship’s arrival.
First, the cutter collides with the edge of the fast ice at about six knots. The 13,000-ton cutter’s 1.75-inch thick steel bow and the aforementioned power and weight come into the equation here, upon initial approach toward McMurdo Station.
“We have diesel electric engines for general open-ocean steaming and some grooming of very light ice, up to six feet of ice,” said Lt. Cmdr. Kara Burns, the Polar Star’s engineer officer. “Then we have what we consider our boost mode, our main gas turbines. They really allow us to get through six feet of ice or upwards to 21 feet of ice when we’re backing and ramming.”
Those gas turbines, enormous pieces of machinery that can each transform jet fuel into 25,000 horsepower, are the key to putting the Polar Star where it needs to be: above the ice. When the cutter rams a thick plate, that power drives the rounded bow up on top of the ice, at which point gravity takes over.
“We carry three times the fuel capacity of a 378 or a [national security cutter],” said Burns, comparing the Polar Star to the Coast Guard’s largest non-icebreaking cutters. “The extra weight on the ship, as far as the liquid load capacity, is used as a cantilever mechanism. As the vessel rides up on the ice, the hydrostatic pressure forces the stern up and pushes the bow down, acting as a hammer on the ice.”
In this case, the world’s biggest hammer.
Rest assured control of such awesome power is not handed out on a whim. It’s only after qualifying to maneuver the cutter in normal open water conditions, and a meticulous review from the commanding officer, that a new ice pilot is able to take the throttles and the helm from the ship’s aloft conn: a small control center five stories above the highest deck.
“They have to understand the different kinds of ice; they have to understand the ship’s capabilities and its limitations, and how to break ice safely,” said Capt. Matthew Walker, commanding officer, Polar Star. “The best way to break ice is to avoid ice, but when we’re down here we can’t do that.”
If the Polar Star crews of years and decades past hadn’t given the ice its due respect, the ship wouldn’t have made it to the 40th birthday it had in January. Before it comes to backing and ramming, the ice pilot has to know to dodge, or at least look for thinner ice when possible.
Carefully navigating through wayward floes in the Southern Ocean and beginning to break only when necessary, the crew accomplished another trip from one side of the planet to another. The grunt work, the supply vessel escort of Operation Deep Freeze 2016, the U.S. military’s logistical support of the NSF’s U.S. Antarctic Program, lies ahead.
With power and weight, with lessons passed down from one crew to the next, and with a hull made particularly for this type of work, the Polar Star moored at McMurdo Station Jan. 18, 2016. They’re as far from their home in Seattle as they could possibly be, but on familiar ground at the bottom of the world.
Almost 30 years after being convicted for espionage, Jonathan Jay Pollard will be eligible for parole in November 2015 — and the U.S. may release him. In 1987, Pollard became the first American ever convicted for passing intelligence to a U.S. ally. In espionage acts the U.S. says were unnecessary, Pollard was personally adamant Israel was not getting the full intelligence picture due to a U.S. ally and so took it on himself — as a civilian member of U.S. Navy intelligence — to provide that information.
Pollard didn’t go to trial because he pled out to get leniency for himself and his wife. He was handed a life sentence, with eligibility for parole after 30 years.
He has become a cause célèbre in some Jewish and Israeli circles. Yet both sides of the American political aisles argue against his release: the conservative publication National Review and the liberal Slate both published pieces against it, and many former Department of Defense officials are against his release. Some prominent Jewish-American figures are against it. Even once-ardent supporters of Pollard disagree with the timing. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator who caught Pollard after he handed more than a million documents to Israeli agents over 18 months, believes the spy should stay in jail. So does Vice-President Joe Biden. Then-CIA director George Tenet threatened his resignation if President Clinton released Pollard in the late 1990s.
Pollard’s disclosures to Israel have never been fully revealed to the public. A 46-page memo viewable by Pollard and his defense attorneys was provided to the court at his sentence hearing by then-Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger, who said Pollard gave information that caused grave damage to the national security of the United States.
This included the 10-volume Radio and Signal Intelligence [RASIN] manual, aka “the Bible,” detailing the entire U.S. global listening profile, “frequency by frequency, source by source, geographic slice by geographic slice. RASIN was in effect, a complete roadmap to American signal intelligence.” The manual revealed which communications channels of which powers, in which regions, the NSA was intercepting and in what order of priority, providing insight on where and what actions the U.S. military might take next. It was this specific disclosure which led the sentencing judge to send Pollard away for life.
The full disclosure of secrets Pollard passed to Israel are so damaging the memo detailing the gravest of them is itself Top Secret; he essentially revealed the “sources and methods” of all American intelligence gathering. Secretary Weinberger asserted Pollard had a photographic memory and the ability to go on disclosing secrets into the foreseeable future (a summary is available here).
“It is difficult for me, even in the so-called ‘year of the spy,'” wrote Weinberger, “to conceive of a greater harm to national security than that caused by the defendant in view of the breadth, the critical importance to the U.S., and the high sensitivity of the information he sold to Israel. That information was intentionally reserved by the United States for its own use, because to disclose it, to anyone or any nation, would cause the greatest harm to our national security.”
In his defense trial, Pollard claimed he was motivated by altruism for Israel’s security and not greed, but was still paid $11,000 (almost $24,000 adjusted for inflation) and a diamond and sapphire ring he used to propose to his girlfriend. He would eventually receive $2,500 (more than $5,700 in 2015) each month for his work for Israel, as well as cash for hotels, meals, and other luxuries. Pollard admitted to taking the money. The government alleged he was a habitual drug user who burned through cash as fast as he could get it. In the above video, Marion Bowman called him a very “venal person.”
The government’s case against Pollard included unsuccessful attempts to broker arms deals with South Africa, Argentina, Taiwan, Pakistan, and Iran. When the Israelis were asked to return the material, they returned only low-level classified documents, but the U.S. was aware of more than 10,000 documents Pollard passed, at times by loads in suitcases, copied by Israeli agents with two high-speed copiers in a DC apartment. Ron Olive, the NCIS investigator handling the Pollard case, later detailed more than a million documents.
“By his own admission, he gave enough information to fill a space six feet by six feet by ten feet.”
A Texas native, Pollard attended Stanford University and graduated in 1976. After a few failed attempts at graduate school, he also failed to get a job at the CIA, being unable to pass the polygraph test necessary for the CIA’s Top Secret clearance. He was able to get a job at the Naval Intelligence Support Center, Surface Ships Division. While there, his boss tried to fire him, but he was instead reassigned to a Naval Intelligence Task Force.
Along the way he had a meeting with Adm. Sumner Shapiro, the Commander of Naval Intelligence Command, which led to the admiral ordering his security clearances revoked. Shapiro, who insists Pollard was too low ranking to know what the U.S. was sharing with Israel, described Pollard as a “kook,” saying “I wish the hell I’d fired him.” His clearance somehow wasn’t revoked but was downgraded, only to be returned after Pollard filed a lawsuit to get it back.
In college, Pollard made a lot of outrageous claims; he was an agent of Mossad, Israel’s intelligence service (who have an active policy of not spying on the U.S.), he claimed to have killed an Arab while guarding a kibbutz in Israel, and that he was a Colonel in the Israeli Defense Forces. None of this was true, but in June 1984, while working at Task Force 168, he met an actual Colonel in the Israeli Air Force, Aviem Sella. Pollard volunteered to spy for Israel, telling Sella his belief there were secrets the U.S. was not sharing with Israel that were vital to Israeli interests.
In an exhaustive 1987 report, NCIS investigator Ron Olive alleged Pollard passed material on to South Africa and tried to pass it on to Pakistan. He took intelligence documents about China which his wife used to advance her business interests. He passed No Foreign Access (NOFORN) information on to an Australian Navy officer.
He was caught when a coworker noticed he was removing classified material from the work center, but didn’t seem to be taking it anywhere relevant. He was put under surveillance and the FBI caught him moving classified documents. He told the FBI he was taking them to another agency for a consultation, but that turned out to be false. During the voluntary interview, Pollard asked to call his wife, using a code word (“cactus”) which meant the game was up and that she should destroy all the classified material in their home.
Pollard agreed to a search of his house, which turned up documents his wife missed. Since there was no proof of passing the documents on, the case was given to his supervisors. When they asked him to submit to a polygraph, he admitted to passing the documents on but didn’t mention Israel. Meanwhile, Pollard’s neighbor — himself a naval officer — began to cooperate with the FBI, handing over a 70-pound suitcase full of classified material Mrs. Pollard gave him for safekeeping. Pollard and his wife were again put under surveillance by the FBI.
This time, Pollard and his wife tried to seek asylum at the Israeli Embassy in Washington, D.C. but were turned away. They tried invoking the Israeli Law of Return, but were still rebuffed. As soon as he left the embassy, he was taken down by FBI agents. His wife evaded capture for a few more days, alerting Sella and allowing all the Israelis involved to escape via New York.
When U.S. investigators traveled to Israel, the Israelis were uncooperative, forcing every question and answer to go through Hebrew-English translation (everyone spoke English), purposely creating a schedule designed to tire the investigators, denying them sleep, stealing items from their luggage and withholding Sella’s identity. Most of the documents taken by Israel were not returned.
Pollard pled guilty to one count of conspiracy to deliver national defense information to a foreign government. The terms of agreement included the caveat that neither Pollard nor his wife could speak publicly about his crimes or the kind of information that was passed on. Pollard and his wife immediately broke that plea in an interview with the Jerusalem Post and then 60 Minutes where he told them the kind of information he passed.
Among the information Pollard admits giving to Israel:
Detailed information about a Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) HQ in Tunisia
Iraqi and Syrian chemical warfare factory locations and production capabilities
Regular PLO operations plans
Soviet arms shipments to Arab states unfriendly to Israel
Soviet fighter jet information
Information about Pakistani nuclear weapons programs
The Israelis first insisted Pollard was part of a rogue operation but later admitted their complicity in 1998. Pollard’s supporters argue his intelligence leaks weren’t pertaining to the United States but they fail to mention the problems surrounding Israeli use of the information, such as the possible outing of CIA sources abroad. The same supporters also argue against the severity of his life sentence, saying prosecutors didn’t seek it, but the judge gave it to him anyway after receiving the full details of the damage Pollard caused via the Weinberger memo, and that may other spies were given far more lenient treatment.
Pollard’s detractors counter this with the accusation that Israel may have turned over the same information to the Soviet Union in order to get the Soviets to allow more Jewish emigres to leave the Soviet Union for Israel — including the ways the U.S. Navy tracked Soviet submarines worldwide. Israel is also believed to have traded Pollard’s intelligence to other nations.
He gave Israel information about VQ-2 electronic surveillance plans, which allowed the U.S. to monitor the 1973 Yom Kippur War, the 1982-83 evacuation of Beirut, and American bombing of Libya in April 1986. This revealed American “time and place acquisition methods,” allowing Israel to track America’s own intelligence capability in the Mediterranean and even over Israel itself.
In a 1998 Washington Post Op-Ed, three former Navy Intelligence Chiefs argue that Pollard has a nest egg hidden away in foreign banks, and that with the “sheer volume of sensitive information betrayed, Pollard rivals any of the traitors who have plagued this nation in recent times.” They added that the movement to release Pollard is a “clever public relations campaign.”
Ever since the devastation caused by World War I and World War II, people have hypothesized how another globe-encompassing war would play out. World War III in the public consciousness tends to envisage a nuclear exchange, this playing out from fears created during the Cold War. However, despite the fall of the Soviet Union, it is still a fear and image that resonates in the contemporary mind, one that has developed for over half a century.
The Origins of World War III
It was inevitable, considering the possible political fallout (pun intended) of the conclusion of World War II and the development of atomic weapons that had been concurrent with the war, that the idea of another world war immediately succeeding World War II was a possibility. “Operation Unthinkable” was a scenario put into development by the British Prime Minister Winston Churchill in the waning months of the war against Nazi Germany. Its purpose would have been to: “impose upon Russia the will of the United States and British Empire.”
Churchill saw Joseph Stain as untrustworthy and saw Soviet Russia as a threat to the west. World War III in this instance would have hypothetically started on July 1, 1945. It encompassed the idea of total war, with the aim being to occupy enough metropolitan areas to reduce Russia’s capacity “to a point at which further resistance becomes impossible” and the defeat of the Russian military forces to a point where they could no longer continue the war. The implementation of this plan to start World War III was partly held back due to the three-to-one sheer overwhelming numerical superiority of Soviet Forces in Europe and the Middle East when compared to the Allies.
Nevertheless, following the successful deployment of nuclear weapons in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in early August 1945, a new element arose to a more prominent position in the conceptualization of World War III. After the success of these bombings, Churchill and right-wing policy-makers in the United States pushed forward the idea of a nuclear bombing of the USSR. An unclassified FBI note read:
‘”He [Churchill] pointed out that if an atomic bomb could be dropped on the Kremlin, wiping it out, it would be a very easy problem to handle the balance of Russia, which would be without direction.”
Nuclear bombing would prevent Allied casualties in a war against a heavily beleaguered Soviet Union coming out of the Second World War. By 1949, the Soviet Union had detonated its first nuclear weapon; World War III would now have a new deadly, nuclear element.
The Dynamic Nuclear Element
The Cold War is cited in general as a period of paranoia, an age where humanity seemed to be on the point of blundering into extinction. It was a human condition, that if man was in possession of weapons capable of causing worldwide destruction, then they would inevitably use them. The brinkmanship of some of the more famous crises of the Cold War, such as the Cuban Missile Crisis, offer haunting glimpses into how close we could have come to a World War III, but more importantly how at these tipping points people genuinely believed in the real potential of an apocalyptic World War III. This is the popular view of World War III conjured in the modern mind, the apocalyptic vision that shows up in popular culture and real fears generated by current affairs.
However, to deny that World War III would be exempt of conventional warfare would be a misdemeanour. Nuclear responses were often incorporated together with conventional responses in plans. Able Archer 83, the background to German drama Deutschland 83, was part of series of military exercises that envisaged an escalation from conventional warfare into chemical and nuclear warfare. In this instance, 40,000 U.S. and NATO forces moved across western Europe. The life-like nature of the wargame and increasing tensions due to recent events such as the shooting down of Korean Airlines Boeing 747, which resulted in the death of all 269 people on board, and Reagan’s famous “Evil Empire,” all contributed to the Soviet Union believing a nuclear attack was imminent. Even with the increasing potency of nuclear weapons, Able Archer anticipated that World War III might involve traditional military maneuvers and actions, combined with nuclear warfare.
Likewise, the Warsaw Pact also accounted for a World War III that took conventional and nuclear war and made them into one. In 2005, the newly-elected conservative Polish government released a map from 1979, the simulation entitled “Seven Days to the River Rhine,”whichshows the possible response to a conventional NATO attack, involving overwhelming forces. It would have entailed nuclear bombardments on major German cities in Germany, such as Munich and Cologne, as well as the capital of the West German capital of Bonn. Further targets included the base of NATO headquarters, Brussels, and targets in Denmark, Belgium, and the Netherlands. The name of this proposed scenario is titled due to the conventional counter-attack that would have been carried out by military forces against NATO, that would try and reach the Franco-German border within seven days, and it would also involve a push to the North Sea.
Interestingly, nuclear attacks on France and the United Kingdom were not planned, perhaps more surprisingly in the case of the U.K., who unlike France was part of NATO’s military structure. Of course, the plan took into account the almost certain prospect of nuclear retaliation. Key eastern European cities, such as Prague and Warsaw, however, it also included bombing across the Vistula River to prevent Warsaw Pact reinforcements reaching the frontline. This also shows how an idea of a “nuclear-conventional” combined arms approach would have been used in World War III.
This combined approach has much older origins, as seen through Churchill’s “Operation Unthinkable.” However, the deployment of nuclear weapons also needs to be taken into account, as this would have been a large part in a hypothetical World War III. For example, the U.S advantage in weapons and bombers at the start of the Cold War faced the threat of new jet-powered interceptors. The introduction of B-47 and B-52 reduced this threat. Meanwhile, submarine-based deployment, such as the U.K.’s Trident, is yet another example of how physical assets have a large influence on nuclear warfare. If these assets can be potentially threatened by more conventional means, then it is certain they would form part of a nuclear war with more traditional elements.
World War III could have also amounted as an escalation of conventional proxy wars. In See Magazinein March 1951, CBS War Correspondent Bill Downs wrote, “To my mind, the answer is: Yes, Korea is the beginning of World War III.” A common fear was that the Korean War would escalate into a conflict between China, the Soviet Union, and the U.S. The Yom Kippur War of October 1973 is also an example of a possible escalation. Although neither the U.S. nor the USSR participated directly in it, the Soviet Mediterranean Squadron and U.S. Sixth Fleet came close to blows. Admiral Murphy of the United States believed there was a 40 percent chance that the Soviet squadron would lead a first strike against his fleet.
These cases show how World War III was not only a constant danger, but was also still seen in traditional and conventional military terms as a hybrid with the much more destructive capabilities of nuclear arsenals. Therefore, we can infer that World War III was not always seen as necessarily apocalyptic by governments and militaries, despite the existence of concepts such as Mutually Assured Destruction (MAD).
Finally, it is essential to admit the varying degrees of intensity in east-west relations, through the cooling effects of détente to the heightening of hostilities in the 1980s, when studying a hypothetical World War III.
A Popular Culture Phenomenon
World War III is also an ever-growing concept in popular culture throughout multimedia. The theme is generally post-apocalyptic in its nature, though a World War III “in action” is still present. The earliest forms of the pop-culture World War III coincide with World War II, much like the political idea of World War III, but the idea of an actual nuclear war, regardless of its status as a “third global war,” precedes these. In his 1914 novel, The World Set Free, H.G. Wells developed the idea of a uranium-based hand grenade that would explode unlimitedly, with the novel following the traditional lines of mass destruction. This novel is the emergence of the apocalyptic, yet atomic, war in popular culture.
Stories appeared even before the Hiroshima and Nagasaki bombings in the World War II era, but the growing paranoia over a World War III following the end of the war led to a seemingly-anxious output. This is a Cold-War pattern in varying forms. In 1951, Collier, more known for investigative journalism, dedicated an entire 130 pages — all of the content — to a hypothetical World War III with the heading “Preview of the War We Do Not Want.” Although the U.S. and the Soviet Union exchange nuclear salvos, we do see conventional Soviet forces invading Germany, the Middle East, and Alaska, all starting from events in Yugoslavia.
We see growing self-doubt and anxiety in popular culture as the Cold War progresses. The war does not now emerge from the political establishment, but rather from technological blunders and the nature of humanity. The helpless sense of inevitability is building up in multimedia. In Stanley Kubrick’s 1964 film Dr Strangelove the mental health of a general is the new non-political factor. In Fail Safe, a film released the same year, a glitch causes U.S. bombers to launch a first strike against Moscow. The tragic element is that a bomb must also be dropped on New York City to appease the Soviets and to avoid an apocalyptic exchange. All of this is due to a technological fault, rather than any political or military hierarchy. The 1977 film Twilight’s Last Gleaming is a product of its age. This time, the renegade air force officers seize a nuclear missile silo because the U.S. government withheld information from its people. They knew there was no realistic chance of winning the war in Vietnam and only continued for the Soviet image of them; that they were unwavering in their fight against communism, weakness being revealed as a threat. In these instances, it is not simply the Soviet Union who causes World War III, but a tragic narrative develops, perhaps due to real efforts to smooth relations following the deadly Cuban Missile Crisis.
Popular culture also took aspects of World War III as seen by the militarists and politicians and added other elements to them. The Sword of Shannara trilogy by Terry Brooks combines fantasy with the post-apocalyptic, as we see other creatures like elves and gnomes among humans as a result of mutation. The popularFallout series of video games, retro-futurist in its nature, not only has a range of mutants as a result of nuclear war, but also escapes standard time constraints. The nuclear war takes place in 2077 and involves the U.S., the Soviet Union, and China in an alternate history. In Tom Clancy’s 1986 Red Storm Rising, World War III is caused by Islamic extremists from Azerbaijan and the war is fought by conventional means, never escalating into nuclear war.
In post-apocalyptic popular culture we also see a new emerging narrative that is competing with the World War III image. This is the environmental disaster, not surprising considering the current political and social climate around global warming. The 1995 film Waterworld takes place on an earth where all the polar ice caps have melted and the planet is almost completely covered in water and the 2009 video game Fuel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where extreme weather is a potent danger caused by global warming. Therefore, we must admit that a hypothetical and nuclear World War III are not the only factors that play into the post-apocalyptic popular culture.
Regardless, World War III is still an image on the popular spectrum in various forms of multimedia. It provides a powerful insight in how the hypothetical war is seen outside of politics and it also provides an image of the doubts instilled in all of us regarding our future and relationship with the most destructive of weapons.
The Modern Spectre
World War III is still associated a lot with the Cold War and the potential conflict that could have emerged as a result of it. However, World War III remains a fear of many and it is often interpreted in a new light in the contemporary world. One of the first instances to show that there was room for an apocalyptic global war following the collapse of the Soviet Union was in 1995, during the Norwegian Rocket Scare. It was in this instance that the suitcases to enter the nuclear codes for a retaliatory strike against the United States were open, the cause being a research rocket that was mistaken for an EMP attack and, following that, a missile carrying multiple nuclear warheads. This incident, under Boris Yeltsin, proves that there was room for World War III in the post-Cold War era.
After 9/11, the “War on Terror” was declared. To many this was seen as a new World War. Even U.S. President George W. Bush likened it to World War III and many compared the 9/11 attacks to a Pearl Harbor-like event. The style of combat employed in the concept of “terrorism” is separate from the conventional notions of World War III. However, many groups such as the Taliban and Al-Qaeda still have attacked military targets, as well as civilian targets and had large functioning armies which would fit into the standard concept of a world war. In 2015, the Taliban had an estimated 60,000 recruits in their core, fitting this idea. In recent history, the rise of Islamic State has also brought this question back to light, seemingly more vigorously.
However, the World War III of this millennium’s second decade has also seen the return of the nation state as a potential adversary. North Korea and Vladimir Putin’s Russia are headline hitters when it comes to a prospective World War III. For Russia, there is a new Cold War brewing between the east and west, primarily caused by his hard approach to handling political authority. The invasion of Georgia in 2008 and the conflict in Ukraine have shown that he is willing to assert territorial influence. In the case of North Korea in May 2016, during a rare party congress, leader Kim Jong-un praised his country’s nuclear achievements. Efforts to reduce Iran proliferating nuclear weapons seem to be working, as economic sanctions have recently been lifted against them after an International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) report has shown it has taken steps to limit its nuclear-based plans. Therefore, it appears Iran is now less likely to develop nuclear weapons.
These examples show the ever-evolving scene of the hypothetical World War III in the modern world. Political tensions between major nations will always trigger fears of a larger scale war, whether it would be nuclear or more akin to the conventional global wars of the 20th century. Nevertheless, we have seen that new powers and new forms of combat are rising to add to and, in some respects, replace the traditional narrative of World War III. We must, however, realize that the prospect of World War III does not affect much of humanity’s approach to everyday life in the modern world and it still seems a far-fetched prospect, despite the continued political wrangling of modern nation states.
The Curtain Falls
As we have seen, the idea of World War III was an idea inevitable in its existence as soon as World War II started. It is impossible to stop humans speculating; they always have and always will. It is for reason that we have had military plans for a major global war and a reflection of the concept of World War III throughout popular culture. We live in a word where political tensions still play a significant role, yet perhaps not at the level of the Cold War, there is still considerable debate over the role the ever-dangerous nuclear weapon will play in the future.
World War III is also an evolving idea and it will always be based on the context of the form or time of the idea. The role of conventional warfare, the role of the nuclear bomb and the political/human nature of the cause are all factors that affect the view of a hypothetical World War III. We must, therefore, view the idea of World War III as not only an inevitability, but also one that is destined to change with the passage of time.
At some point in their military careers, all servicemembers have said: “I can’t believe we’re paying for this.”
From 1975 to 1984, a division of government contractor Litton Industries and two of its executives were accused of defrauding the government of $15 million through grossly inflated prices in its contracts. A 1986 book titled “The Pentagon Catalog” documented some of the Pentagon’s worst buys and the contractor who charged the government for them. It included a claw hammer sold by Gould Simulation Systems to the Navy for $435, McDonnell Douglas’ $2,043 nut, and the same McDonnell Douglas’ $37 screw.
Other items offered in the catalog include a $285 screwdriver, a $7,622 coffee maker, a $214 flashlight, a $437 tape measure, a $2,228 monkey wrench, a $748 pair of duckbill pliers, a $74,165 aluminum ladder, and a $659 ashtray. And those examples listed above aren’t the only expensive military programs. Those aren’t even the most ridiculous programs the U.S. military implemented lately. Here are a few more things the Pentagon saw fit to buy without shopping around.
1. Giant, unmanned surveillance blimps
A live symbol of military spending run amok, in October 2015, a surveillance blimp escaped from its mooring in Maryland’s Aberdeen Proving Ground. The balloon took out power lines as it floated 100 miles over Pennsylvania.
Its technical name is the Joint Land Attack Cruise Missile Defense Elevated Netted Sensor System (or JLENS). It’s part of a $2.7 billion test to see if it can detect all the cruise missiles and aircraft that are constantly bombarding Maryland.
2. Luxury villas in Afghanistan
Complete with private security, the Defense Department spent $150 million on these Afghan McMansions between 2010 and 2014. The villas were built for 5-10 Pentagon employees from the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO), a group whose mission includes rebuilding Afghanistan.
The $150 million they spent was approximately one-fifth of their operating budget. The villas included queen-size beds, mini refrigerators, and flat-screen TVs with DVD players. All meals had to come with at least two entree options and three side order options. The TFBSO spent $800 million before it was disbanded in March 2015.
3. What should have been the world’s most amazing gas station
The same IG who uncovered the lush Afghan villas, the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR), found the same task force – the Task Force for Business and Stability Operations (TFBSO) – awarded a $3 million contract for a gas station in Afghanistan. The final price tag ballooned to $42.7 million.
USAID’s $259.6 million program is a dangerous one, considering all the harm that could come to the health facilities. The SIGAR report that documented the missing hospitals noted the attack on the Kunduz hospital highlighted the need for the military to have GPS coordinates of hospitals and other healthcare facilities.
5. An 80-year supply of V-22 Osprey parts
The Defense Logistics Agency recently purchased spare parts for the V-22 from Bell Helicopter and Boeing at a total cost of $9.7 million. The U.S. military goes through roughly two aircraft frames per year. The DLA purchased 166.
This probably means that when the rest of the military is flying hovercraft and Iron Man suits in 2097, the Marine Corps will still be running off of Ospreys. To make matters worse, the IG reports the markup on some of those parts was a whopping $8,123.50, up from $445.60 – as much as eighteen times what the military should have paid.
6. Bomb-sniffing elephants
This one may sound like a crazy Cold-War era scheme that was somehow going to bring down the Iron Curtain, but no. In 2015, Sen. John McCain slammed the DoD for a study trying to find if elephants were more useful than dogs in sniffing bombs. The surprise is that they are but – to no one’s astonishment – they are not as practical.
Another Afghan boondoggle, Afghanistan’s Highway 1 was funded jointly with American and Saudi money. The 1677-mile stretch of road whose shoddy construction means high maintenance costs on top of construction costs. The $4 billion project also costs $5 million per mile to rebuild or maintain.
Designed to link Afghanistan’s major cities, the highway was of no real use to Afghan civilians and is primarily used by foreign militaries. This last fact means it’s also a bomb magnet, only adding to its deterioration. On top of that, billions of dollars tagged for the project just disappeared.
8. The HQ no one needed…
… to the tune of $25 million, no less. This headquarters office is 64,000 square feet of prime Afghan real estate that three generals tried to kill before it could be built. No dice, though. The new HQ features a 125-person auditorium, special entrance for VIPs, and $2 million worth of furniture.
The HQ is in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, with an additional $20 million of infrastructure built around the base to support it, even though U.S. troops left Helmand after the temporary surge in 2010.
9. Warlord Truckers
This should be a reality show, except it’s not a show; it was a program that hired local truckers in Afghanistan to move material with their own trucks.
Except twenty percent of that money went to local warlords for protection, which fueled unrest, corruption, and warlordism. It’s kinda like that $37 million bridge from Afghanistan to Tajikistan built by the Army Corps of Engineers, which really just helped drug runners run drugs. Unfortunately, that’s not the first time the military helped spur on an illegal trade.
10. Paying stoners from Florida to be their arms traffickers
It must have been a huge surprise to everyone involved when the Pentagon awarded an actual lowest-bid contract to a few unknown stoners from Miami Beach. These guys were awarded a $300 million contract to deliver arms to U.S. allies in Afghanistan. Instead of shiny new weapons, the guys run old Communist guns from the Balkans and repackage Chinese ammo. It’s the subject of the new Jonah Hill-Miles Teller movie “War Dogs.”
“War Dogs” is in theaters August 19th. The U.S. military will be throwing money around like an Afghan warlord long after that.
“As I reflect back on four decades of service in uniform, it is clear that the pace of change has accelerated significantly,” Dunford said.
He noted that when he entered the Marine Corps in the 1970s, he used much the same equipment that his father used during the Korean War. “I used the same cold-weather gear my dad had in Korea 27 years earlier,” he said. “The radios I used as a platoon commander were the same uncovered PRC-25s from Vietnam. The jeeps we drove would have been familiar to veterans of World War II, and to be honest, so would the tactics.” Marine units, he added, fought much the same way their fathers did at Peleliu, Okinawa or the Chosin Reservoir.
Accelerated Pace of Change
Today, “there are very few things that have not changed dramatically in the joint force since I was a lieutenant,” Dunford said.
He spoke of visiting a Marine platoon in Farah province, Afghanistan. “This platoon commander and his 60 Marines were 40 miles from the adjacent platoons on their left and right,” he said. “His Marines were wearing state-of-the-art protective equipment and driving vehicles unrecognizable to Marines or soldiers discharged just five years earlier. They were supported by the High Mobility Artillery Rocket System, which provided precision fires at a range of 60 kilometers.”
The platoon, Dunford recalled, received and transmitted voice, data and imagery via satellite in real time, something only possible at division headquarters just five years before his visit.
These changes are mirrored across the services and combatant commands, the chairman said, giving commanders amazing capabilities, but also posing challenges to commanders on how to best use these new capabilities.
“Leaders at lower and lower levels utilize enabling capabilities once reserved for the highest echelons of command,” Dunford said in the article. “Tactics, techniques and procedures are adapted from one deployment cycle to the next.”
This accelerated pace of change is inextricably linked to the speed of war today, the general said. “Proliferation of advanced technologies that transcend geographic boundaries and span multiple domains makes the character of conflict extraordinarily dynamic,” the chairman said. “Information operations, space and cyber capabilities and ballistic missile technology have accelerated the speed of war, making conflict today faster and more complex than at any point in history.”
Shortened Decision-Space Adds New Risks
The American military must stay ahead of this pace because the United States will not have time to marshal the immense strength at its command as it did in World War I and II and during Korea, Dunford said. “Today, the ability to recover from early missteps is greatly reduced,” he said. “The speed of war has changed, and the nature of these changes makes the global security environment even more unpredictable, dangerous and unforgiving. Decision space has collapsed and so our processes must adapt to keep pace with the speed of war.”
The situation on the Korean Peninsula is a case in point, the chairman said. In the past, he said, officials believed any war on the peninsula could be contained to the area. However, with the development of ballistic missile technology, the North Korean nuclear program and new cyber capabilities that is no longer possible, Dunford said. A war that once would have been limited would now spiral, almost immediately, with regional and global implications, he said.
“Deterring, and if necessary, defeating, a threat from North Korea requires the joint force to be capable of nearly instant integration across regions, domains and functions,” Dunford said. “Keeping pace with the speed of war means changing the way we approach challenges, build strategy, make decisions and develop leaders.”
This means seamlessly integrating capabilities such as information operations, space and cyber into battle plans, the chairman said. “These essential aspects of today’s dynamic environment cannot be laminated onto the plans we have already developed,” he said. “They must be mainstreamed in all we do, and built into our thinking from the ground up.”
Integrated Strategies Improve Responsiveness
Dunford said the joint force must also develop integrated strategies that address transregional, multidomain and multifunctional threats. “By viewing challenges holistically, we can identify gaps and seams early and develop strategies to mitigate risk before the onset of a crisis,” he said. “We have adapted the next version of the National Military Strategy to guide these initiatives.”
The military must make the most of its decision space, so military leaders can present options at the speed of war, Dunford said. “This begins with developing a common understanding of the threat, providing a clear understanding of the capabilities and limitations of the joint force, and then establishing a framework that enables senior leaders to make decisions in a timely manner,” the chairman said.
Leadership is essential, said the chairman, noting the joint force depends on leaders who anticipate change, recognize opportunity and adapt to meet new challenges.
“That is why we continue to prioritize leader development by adapting doctrine, integrating exercise plans, revising training guidance and retooling the learning continuum,” Dunford said. “These efforts are designed to change the face of military learning and develop leaders capable of thriving at the speed of war.”
Adaptation and innovation are the imperatives for the Joint Force, the chairman said. “The character of war in the 21st century has changed, and if we fail to keep pace with the speed of war, we will lose the ability to compete,” he said.
“The joint force is full of the most talented men and women in the world, and it is our responsibility as leaders to unleash their initiative to adapt and innovate to meet tomorrow’s challenges,” Dunford said. “We will get no credit tomorrow for what we did yesterday.”
Newly unveiled British intelligence documents detail how the National Security Agency worked with its British counterpart when carrying out drone strikes in Yemen and Pakistan and how they targeted terrorists, The New York Times reports.
The documents, released to the Guardian newspaper by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden and shared with The New York Times, also detail how often those strikes go wrong.
The documents also reveal that US forces conducted a strike in 2012 to kill a doctor, identified as Khadim Usamah, who the US believed was surgically inserting explosives into potential Al Qaeda operatives.
Britain’s military has carried out drone strikes in war zones in Afghanistan, Iraq and Libya, but the documents suggest that British intelligence also helped guide strikes by the US outside of those zones.
Outcries against the use of drones were renewed when President Barack Obama disclosed in April that two Western aid workers who were held hostage by Al Qaeda had been killed after a strike against the terrorist group in Pakistan.
Instances in which civilians have been killed and uncertainty about drones’ accuracy in hitting their target has led to increased public scrutiny of the use of drones. In the case of the hostages who were killed, intelligence officers were unaware they were present at the time of the strike.
Meanwhile, an Algerian terrorist who had been reported dead by the Pentagon after a strike appears to still be alive, according to the Times. And American officials only learned a few days after an attack in Yemen that they had killed the leader of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula.
Officials argue that missiles fired from unmanned aircrafts are the most precise way to target terrorists. But for the shots to be as precise as possible, the documents highlight the importance of surveillance and eavesdropping in order to determine not only the exact location, but also whether everyone in a strike zone poses a threat. The documents also detail how that use of technology is flawed.
The British Government Communications Headquarters’ (GCHQ) guide to targeting outlines the importance of identifying whether a phone is used by one or more people, as tracking smartphones is often used to identify a target. Because of the obvious flaw in targeting people only by the location of their smartphones, the agencies also try to identify terrorists by voice and physical appearance.
The guide also says that whether a call was terminated right after a strike is a good way of knowing whether it hit its target.
Amid a parliamentary investigation into whether the UK was part of unmanned aerial vehicle strikes (UAV) in Yemen, British defense minister Mark Francois said “UAV strikes against terrorist targets in Yemen are a matter for the Yemeni and US governments,” according to the Times.
But the new documents suggest that the country provided intelligence for different American strikes, including one in Yemen.
The NSA and CIA both declined to comment to the Times. But the GCHQ said in a statement that it expects “all states concerned to act in accordance with international law and take all feasible precautions to avoid civilian casualties when conducting any form of military or counterterrorist operations.”
Upon taking the highest office in the land, President-elect Donald Trump will need to address the growing North Korean missile threat “almost immediately.”
“More often than not, we measure the mettle of presidencies by the unexpected crises that they must deal with,” said Victor Cha, a senior adviser and the Korea Chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. “For President Bush, this was clearly the terrorist attacks of 9/11, which completely changed every element of his presidency. For President-elect Trump, this crisis could very well come from North Korea.”
Speaking on a panel at CSIS’s Global Security Forum, Cha added that the North would “challenge the new administration almost immediately upon taking office.”
The normally aggressive regime has been exceptionally busy in 2016 with an increased tempo in testing. The North has launched 25 ballistic missiles this year and remains the only country to have detonated nuclear devices in this century.
“Every launch that he launches, he learns more. He gets more capability,” retired US Army Gen. Walter “Skip” Sharp, a former commander of US Forces-Korea said during the panel.
“UN Security Council resolutions have been numerous that have told him he cannot do this, and I personally think it’s time to start enforcing this,” Sharp said.
The acceleration and frequency in testing shows not only the North’s nuclear ambitions but also that the rogue nation has developed something of an arsenal.
The following graphic from CSIS’s Missile Defense Project illustrates specifications and ranges of North Korea’s ballistic-missile arsenal.
Such buzzing incidents have been common. In April 2016, the Daily Caller reported that the guided-missile destroyer USS Donald Cook (DDG 75) was buzzed in the Baltic Sea by Su-24 Fencers while in international waters.
In June 2016, the USS Porter had entered the Black Sea to take part in NATO exercises. At the time, Russia threatened retaliation for the vessel’s entrance.
Arleigh Burke-class destroyers have a single five-inch gun, two MK 41 vertical launch systems (one with 32 cells, the other with 64), a Mk 15 Phalanx Close-In Weapon System, and Mk32 324mm torpedo tubes.
Air Force pilot Capt. Brian Udell is one of the only pilots in history to survive after ejecting from a fighter at supersonic speeds. The force of the air moving at more than 768 mph on his body was so strong that it nearly killed him.
“It felt like somebody had just hit me with a train,” said Udell. “When I went out into the wind stream, it ripped my helmet right off my head, broke all the blood vessels in my head and face, my head was swollen the size of a basketball and my lips were the size of cucumbers. My left elbow was dislocated and pointed backward, the only thing holding my leg on was an artery, the vein, the nerve and the skin and my left leg snapped at the bottom half.”
His body was essentially being torn apart by the wind.
The following day Udell learned that his Weapon Systems Officer in the back seat was killed when he ejected. This video shows Udell describing his harrowing experience.
The Pentagon said that after Syrian jets had bombed US-backed forces fighting ISIS in Syria and ground forces headed their way with artillery and armored vehicles, US jets made a strafing run at the vehicles to stop their advance.
But then a Syrian Su-22 popped up laden with bombs.
“They saw the Su-22 approaching,” Navy Capt. Jeff Davis, a Pentagon spokesman, told reporters on June 21st, as CNN notes. “It again had dirty wings; it was carrying ordnance. They did everything they could to try to warn it away. They did a head-butt maneuver, they launched flares, but ultimately the Su-22 went into a dive and it was observed dropping munitions and was subsequently shot down.”
A US F/A-18E off the USS George H.W. Bush in the Mediterranean then fired an AIM-9 Sidewinder missile at the Syrian jet, but the Su-22 had deployed flares causing the missile to miss. The US jet followed up with an AIM-120 medium range air-to-air missile which struck its target, US officials told CNN.
The pilot ejected over ISIS territory, and Syrian forces declared him missing in action.
The focus of the US’s airpower in recent years has turned to providing air support against insurgencies or forces that do not have fighter jets of their own. Before the Su-22, the US had not shot down a manned enemy aircraft since 1999.
Since the downing of the Syrian jet, Russia has threatened to target US and US-led coalition jets flying over Syria west of the Euphrates river.
Both Syria’s Su-22 and the US’s F/A-18E Super Hornet are updated versions of 1970s aircraft, but Russia and the US both have much more advanced systems to bring to bear. Fortunately, an air war seems unlikely between major powers in Syria.
Service members and their families at Fort Lee, Virginia, asked the Commander in Chief tough questions during a town hall meeting broadcast by CNN Sept 28.
President Barack Obama covered varied topics, including the Syrian civil war, sending more U.S. troops to Iraq, issues affecting veterans and protests during the playing of the national anthem.
When a soldier asked the president for his opinion about football players taking a knee during the playing of the national anthem, Obama said that honoring the flag and the anthem “is part of what binds us together as a nation,” but that he also respects the right to have a different opinion.
“We fight sometimes so that people can do things that we disagree with,” he said. “But that’s what freedom means in this country.”
He said American democracy can be frustrating at times, “but it’s the best system we’ve got. And, the only way that we make it work is to see each other, listen to each other, try to be respectful of each other, not just go into separate corners.”
The president added, “I do hope that anybody who is trying to express any political view of any sort understands that they do so under the blanket of protection of our men and women in uniform and that that appreciation of that sacrifice is never lost.”
Hosted by CNN’s Jake Tapper, the town hall-style event included questions about sending 600 additional U.S. troops to Iraq to help in the coming offensive against the Islamic State. Obama said the decision to send troops into harm’s way is the most important one he makes.
“I’ve always been very mindful that when I send any of our outstanding men and women in uniform into a war theater, they’re taking a risk that they may not come back,” the commander in chief said. “And so, there has not been a change from the time I came into office to the time that I leave office in which that is not a somber decision.”
The president said the nature of the missions has changed during his tenure. In Afghanistan, U.S. troops have transitioned from a combat role to an advise-and-assist role, with about 9,000 U.S. service members there.
“In Iraq, our goal is to provide air support, and we’ve flown 100,000 sorties, 15,000 strikes, to decimate ISIL,” he said. “But our job is not to provide the ground forces that are rolling back territory. That’s the job of the Iraqis, where we provide training and assistance [and] logistical support.”
U.S. special operators are in Iraq and Syria to go after high-value targets and to gather intelligence, the president said. He noted that about 5,000 U.S. troops are in Iraq, and about 300 are in Syria.
“But, it’s the nature of the role that has changed, rather than how I assess it,” the president said. “I am always mindful that any time our men and women in uniform are in a war theater, there is risk.”
U.S. personnel are engaging in a fight that is dangerous, the president said. “Each and every time we make a decision, I want to make sure that the Pentagon is describing how it is that those folks are going to add to our ability to dismantle ISIL in a smart and sustainable way,” he said.
The president told the service members that he constantly reviews options as he looks at the Syrian civil war. “There hasn’t been probably a week that’s gone by in which I haven’t re-examined some of the underlying premises around how we’re dealing with the situation in Syria, and explored whether there are additional options that we haven’t thought of,” he said.
Those include military options, the president said. “We have, by a mile, the greatest military on Earth, he said. “And we are going to always be in a position to defend the United States, defend our personnel, defend our people, our property and our allies.”
Obama said the question he always asks himself as commander in chief is whether inserting large numbers of U.S. troops will provide a better outcome.
“There have been critics of mine that have suggested that, well, if early enough you had provided sufficient support to a moderate opposition, they might have been able to overthrow the murderous Assad regime,” he said. “The problem with that is, as we’ve seen, that the Assad regime is supported by Russia. It’s supported by Iran.”
Because the Assad regime did not directly threaten the United States, Obama said, any deployment of troops would have violated international law.
“And unless we were willing to sustain a large presence there and escalate, if and when Russia or Iran got involved, then we were going to be in a situation where at some point the situation would collapse, except we would have a bunch of folks on the ground, and be very much overextended,” he said.
The key in Syria at this point, the president said, is to get the parties involved to talk together on diplomatic and political tracks.
“We will try to mitigate the pain and suffering that those folks are undergoing,” he said. “This is part of the reason why our approach to refugees, for example, has to be open-hearted, although also hard-headed, to protect our homeland.”
The Veterans Affairs Department received some criticism from the audience, and the president acknowledged the validity of the complaints. VA medical care must improve, he said, adding that there has been progress. The department had been underfunded for years, Obama said, noting the administration has increased its funding by 85 percent. But this is not a problem that will be solved by throwing money at it, he said. The department, he added, has to change procedures and its culture.
The president noted that VA makes 58 million medical appointments per year. Like a large ship that has turned and is on the right course now, he said, it will take time to reach its destination.
“We now have a situation where about 80 percent of individuals who interact with the VA are satisfied that they’re getting timely treatment,” Obama said. I want that to be 100 percent, and that requires more work.”
Well into the attack, the USS Arizona took four devastating direct hits from 800kg bombs dropped from high altitude Japanese planes. One of the bombs ripped into the Arizona’s starboard deck and detonated. The explosion collapsed the ship’s forecastle decks, causing the conning tower to fall thirty feet into the hull.
Due to the events of that traumatic day, 1,177 Sailors and Marines lost their lives, but the numbers of those men buried at the historic site continue to increase.
Master Chief Raymond Haerry (ret), served as a Boatswain’s Mate on the Arizona as it was bombed by enemy forces in the pacific fleet, which threw him from the ship and caused him to land in the oil and fire covered water.
Haerry had to swim his way to Ford Island — then got right back into the fight by firing back at the enemy. He was just 19 years old.
75 years after the attack, Haerry returned; his ashes were laid to rest inside the sunken ship’s hull, rejoining approximately 900 of his brothers. More than 100 people gathered at the USS Arizona Memorial for the symbolic funeral in his honor — a ceremony only offered to those who survived the deadly attack.
The retired Master Chief became the 42nd survivor to be placed at the site out of the 335 men who survived.