The Department of Homeland Security as well as the FBI are investigating what is being called possibly the largest scale cyber-attack ever, according to Aljazeera.
On the morning of Oct. 21 the first wave of the cyber-attack began on infrastructure company Dyn, based in New Hampshire. The company is responsible for connecting individual internet users to websites by routing them through a series of unique Internet Protocol numbers. CNN reported that the company monitors more than 150 websites.
Friday’s cyber-attack used botnets — or devices connected to the internet that have been infected with malware — to launch a distributed denial of service attack that impacted companies like CNN, the New York Times, Twitter, PayPal, and others, Aljazeera reported.
USA Today explained that denial of service attacks turn unsuspecting devices into weapons by downloading malware to unprotected devices that allows them to be controlled by hackers. Hackers then use these weaponized botnets to overload the traffic to websites by sending hundreds of thousands of requests through the IP address, giving a false signal that the website is too busy to accept normal requests for access to the site.
While the cyber-attack was mostly annoying for internet users, it ultimately impacted the U.S. on a much larger scale, denying the 77 companies affected by the attack up to $110 million in revenue, according to Dyn CEO John Van Siclen.
The greater security concern is the access to individual devices that is granted because the devices were left with their default password intact, according to The Guardian. The devices used in Friday’s cyber-attack were all traced back to one company, the Chinese tech company XiongMai Technologies, which makes, ironically, security cameras.
The cyber-attack was felt as far away as Europe, and across the U.S. Wikileaks suggested in a tweet late Oct. 21 that its supporters were responsible for the breach, sending out a picture of the most affected areas in the U.S.
Military members can help protect their devices from being used as weapons by following their training on cyber awareness. Consistently changing passwords, logging out of accounts when on public computers, and protecting personally identifying information are recommended.
There’s nothing great about having to surrender. At best, the loser gets to keep most of his men alive. At worst, well… he doesn’t and the outcome is a room full slaughtered defenders. Brave defenders, sure. But they’re still outnumbered and slaughtered.
So sometimes, surrender is the best option – but no one brags about it, and it sure as hell won’t win any drinks at the bar. But at least your unit will still be at the bar later. Here’s a few people who also chose wisely.
1. The French Foreign Legion in Mexico.
In the 1860s, the United States was too busy beating the hell out of the Confederacy to enforce the Monroe Doctrine, which basically was meant to keep European powers from messing around with the Americas. Naturally, as soon as the U.S. turned its sights on the Civil War, France invaded Mexico.
During the fighting, the Foreign Legion was tasked with resupplying the French at the Battle of Puebla. Since only 65 of them weren’t struggling with dysentery and the Foreign Legion isn’t exactly known for not getting the job done, that’s the number of troops who rolled out to Puebla with the supplies. Along the way, they stopped at a place called Palo Verde – where they were immediately met by Mexican cavalry.
The Legion fought their way back to an inn in the city of Camarón, where they decided to make a stand. They didn’t know that the cavalry was just the beginning – the Mexicans had three battalions of infantry too, totaling 1,200 men and 800 cavalry. Even when the Mexican commander informed the French about how they were outnumbered 33-to-1, the French accepted the challenge.
Over the next 11 hours, the legion killed or wounded 600 of the Mexican attackers. The Mexican commander returned under a flag of truce to find only two Legionnaires remaining. After the Mexican demanded their surrender, the half-dead Frenchmen still demanded terms: immediate safe passage home, their wounded, their fallen captain, their weapons and their regimental flag.
The Mexican accepted.
2. Hezbollah gives in to the KGB.
In 1985, four Soviet diplomats were kidnapped in West Beirut – right in front of the Soviet embassy. They were held by one of the many extremist organizations in the decade-long Lebanese Civil War. The abductors called themselves “The Khaled Al-Walid Force” and were demanding the Soviet Union pressure its Syrian client to squeeze its factions to stop attacking Muslim-held positions in Tripoli. And they wanted the Soviets to evacuate their embassy in the city.
That was the plan, anyway.
When one of the abducted men was found dead in a field in Beirut, riddled with bullets, the KGB we have all come to know through ’80s movies and real goddamn life showed up. KGB station chief Col. Yuri Perfilev met with the Grand Ayatollah of Lebanon’s Shia muslims Muhammad Fadlallah and told him that “A great power cannot wait forever” and that waiting could lead to “serious action” and “unpredictable consequences.” The Russian then told him:
I’m talking about Tehran and Qom [Shiite holy city and the residence of Ayatollah Khomeini], which is not that far from Russia’s borders. Yes, Qom is very close to us and a mistake in the launch of a missile could always happen. A technical error, some kind of breakdown. They write about it all the time. And God or Allah forbid if this happens with a live, armed missile.
If that wasn’t enough, the KGB kidnapped a relative of a top Hezbollah leader, castrated the relative and sent his organs to Hezbollah – along with photos of his other relatives – and demanded the release of Soviet prisoners. The three hostages were released back at the embassy and no Soviet citizen was ever kidnapped in Lebanon again.
3. Japan surrenders to the Atomic Bomb.
The end of WWII was pretty harsh to Japan. Its surrender to the Allies had to be unconditional, which must have been a huge bitter pill to swallow for a warrior culture like Japan’s.
Still, after the Yalta Conference, the Soviet Union was forced to declare war on Imperial Japan in the weeks following the fall of the Third Reich. The Russians quickly moved into Manchuria as the Americans warned of “prompt and utter destruction” if they didn’t give up soon.
After mistranslating the Japanese for “no comment,” the Americans infamously rained nuclear death on Japan, first at Hiroshima and then at Nagasaki. The destruction itself wasn’t the biggest aspect of the choice to surrender – U.S. Army Air Forces General Curtis LeMay had been firebombing Japanese cities for much 0f 1945.
Still, wonton destruction isn’t a good look for any culture and the horrifying reports and photos – not to mention radiation and fallout – in the days that followed sealed the deal. the Emperor took to the radio (through a recording) and announced Japan would submit to the Allied demands.
4. Anyone surrendering to the Mongols.
The great Khans had one rule: give in and be spared. Cause a Mongol casualty and your city will be laid to waste and everyone inside will be killed or worse.
Even after many, many examples of the Mongols winning against great odds and destroying cities much greater than anything they’d build on their own, people still refused to submit to the Mongols. At Nishapur, an arrow killed Genghis Khan’s favorite son-in-law. In response, Khan killed every living thing in the city as he sacked it – an estimated 1.7 million people.
The fun didn’t stop there. Legendary cities like Kiev, Samarkand, and Herat were all put to the Mongol sword. Whereas those who surrendered were let off comparatively easy – the Mongols may kill off the royal family and do some light looting, raping, and pillaging for a few days. A light sentence compared to the mass murder and destruction of Baghdad, where the center of learning was destroyed, its contents thrown into the Euphrates.
After 21 years in an Army, mostly as a recruiter, Curtez Riggs promised himself one thing. Once he left the military, he would not accept a job that felt too much like work, left him uninspired or unfulfilled.
Riggs founded the Military Influencer Conference, which links veterans, active-duty service members and their spouses with entrepreneurs, industry leaders and other creative minds. Now Riggs’ company is taking the next step with Honor2Lead, an inaugural event that will originate in Atlanta and be livestreamed on leaderpass.com from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 10.
“I want [the military] to learn how to lead, thrive and grow in these crazy times that we’re all experiencing,” Riggs said. “We understand how our country currently is politically. You see the impact that COVID is having on nonprofits and also businesses. This should be an event that people come to, and they’re rejuvenated. They’re understanding how to pivot what they’re doing in order to grow and thrive.”
WWE star Lacey Evans served in the Marine Corps. Courtesy photo.
The speakers lined up for Honor2Lead, which will occur one day before Veterans Day and on the anniversary of the founding of the Marine Corps in 1775, all have military ties. Daymond John of ABC’s “Shark Tank” and WWE wrestler Lacey Evans are scheduled to participate, as are actor Alexander Ludwig, Fox News host Harris Faulkner and VFW Commander-in-Chief Hal Roesch II. The list of 24 speakers also includes Phyllis Newhouse, the Veteran Entrepreneur of the Year; Elena Cardona, an investor and author; and Jake Wood, the CEO of Team Rubicon.
Riggs expects Honor2Lead to attract at least 10,000 registrants. Early-bird pricing is available for tickets now, at . To register, go to Honor2Lead’s website.
“What excites me most is the number of people that we have the potential to reach,” said Riggs, who retired as a first sergeant. “Our desire [is] to reach as many people as we possibly can to educate them and to help them change what they currently see in front of them.”
After the livestream, Riggs said Honor2Lead will be available through On Demand. This event continues his company’s vision of creating content to empower the military community. It began with the Military Influencer Conference, and debuting in 2021, Riggs’ company plans to announce a venture with the Pentagon Federal Credit Union to help military women access financial resources to start their own businesses.
Military Influencer Magazine, which was inspired by the Military Influencer Conference, made its debut in September.
“Create your own results,” Riggs said. “We have a ton of skill sets that we’ve been taught that we can rely on to do some great things. A lot of us, we just don’t have faith in ourselves. The people that come to the event, they’re seeing people just like themselves. They’re seeing retirees. They’re seeing young service members that have separated, and they’ve started something and put them on a new trajectory to success.”
The Military Influencer Conference was postponed this year and rescheduled for May of 2021. In the meantime, Riggs is eager to see how Honor2Lead impacts the military community.
“When you leave the military, you don’t necessarily have to leave the military and get a job doing something that you’re not happy with,” Riggs said.
For my crime of earning a Naval Flight Officer’s Wings of Gold and being selected for training as an F-14 Tomcat radar intercept officer (like “Goose” in the movie “Top Gun”) I was sent to the Navy’s Survival, Evasion, Resistance, and Escape – SERE – School in Brunswick, Maine during the winter of 1984.
My fellow trainees and I stepped off the C-9 from Norfolk and were hit by a biting wind, the kind that’s normal for Maine in January. I immediately wondered why I hadn’t tried to push off SERE School until June or July.
The first couple of training days were conducted in a classroom. The lead instructor had been in the backseat of an F-4 Phantom that was shot down over Hanoi and had spent nearly three years as a POW. He explained that since we were all aviators there was a likelihood that we could fall into the hands of the enemy as well, therefore we needed to pay attention and take SERE training to heart. “This is the most important school the Navy will ever send you to,” he said.
The crux of the classroom training was an in-depth review of the Code of Conduct, a list of six “articles” created after American POWs suffered at the hands of their captors during the Korean War. They were all tortured in one form or another. Many were brainwashed; some even refused to return to the United States after the war.
Here are the six articles of the Code of Conduct:
I am an American fighting in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense.
I will never surrender of my own free will. If in command, I will never surrender the members of my command while they still have the means to resist.
If I am captured I will continue to resist by all means available. I will make every effort to escape and aid others to escape. I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy.
If I become a prisoner of war, I will keep faith with my fellow prisoners. I will give no information nor take part in any action which might be harmful to my comrades. If I am senior, I will take command. If not I will obey the lawful orders of those appointed over me and will back them up in every way.
When questioned, should I become a prisoner of war, I am required to give name, rank, service number, and date of birth. I will evade answering further questions to the utmost of my ability. I will make no oral or written statements disloyal to my country and its allies or harmful to their cause.
I will never forget that I am an American, fighting for freedom, responsible for my actions, and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.
The night before we were bussed across Maine and dropped in the mountains that border Canada, we decided to stuff ourselves with KFC, hoping that would give us the energy we needed to get through the field portion of SERE. Early the next morning we were issued cold weather clothing and reminded that it was more than we’d have if we’d had our jets shot from under us. And the fact we were also given snowshoes should have been a warning sign that the weather where we were going was more brutal than the already miserable weather at Naval Air Station Brunswick on the Atlantic Ocean side of the state.
After a four-hour drive westward into higher elevations we wandered off the bus and were greeted by a group of “partisans,” friendly locals who welcomed us to the Peoples Republic of North America – PRONA. The partisans explained that PRONA was a Soviet satellite (remember, this was 1984 and the Cold War was still in full swing) and that they were a small band of rebels fighting for freedom. (We found out later that the partisans, like everyone else in the land of PRONA, were actually a combination of local outdoorsmen on retainer and DoD personnel on loan to SERE School.) The partisans spoke English with thick eastern European accents. (They were acting, of course, but it was believable.)
The partisans broke us into groups of 10 and led us into the forest where they gave us instruction in some of the basics of survival, including how to use the snowshoes to navigate the massive snowdrifts we encountered. That night we were allowed to make a campfire and eat meat of unknown origin and huddle as a group to stay warm.
The next day our partisan told us that the army of PRONA was looming and we needed to break up the group and attempt to evade individually. I spent the balance of the daylight hours crunching through the forest trying to be sneaky in spite of the fact there was no way to be while wearing snowshoes. Right before it got dark I fashioned a quick snow fort as our partisan had instructed and climbed into my sleeping bag for a few hours of trying to keep the exposed part of my face from freezing.
At daybreak one of the partisans came and got me –obviously my hiding place sucked – and said that the enemy threat was gone for the time being and we were going to form up the entire group and march to a safe place. It was actually a trap (and a lesson in who not to trust during wartime).
The formation was interrupted by gunshots. The partisans disappeared into the forest and suddenly we were surrounded by military trucks and dudes in uniform yelling at us in a foreign tongue. Whatever training scenario context remained in our minds evaporated as our new captors slapped us – like hard – and threw us to the ground.
We were forcibly loaded into the back of the troop transports and driven along a long road down the mountain, repeatedly told during the trip not to look out the back of the trucks or we’d be shot. When the trucks stopped and we were yanked to the ground again I got a quick glance at my surroundings – a prison camp – before I was blindfolded and led to a cell.
The guard removed my blindfold and forced me to sit on a box that was barely a foot tall and place my arms along my legs with my palms facing upward – what he called “the po-seesh.” “Get in po-seesh!” he yelled, Prona-ese for “position,” I assumed.
The guard told me I was “War Criminal Number One Five” and that I should refer to myself as such. Then he pointed to a tin can lined with a plastic bag in the corner and explained that it was my “sanitary facility” in the event I had to use the bathroom, but I was not to use it without permission.
He slammed the door to my cell shut and then peered through the small hatch in the door and, seeing I was not in the po-seesh, promptly re-entered the cell and roughed me up for a bit. I spent the next hours doing the calculus of holding the uncomfortable po-seesh and relaxing with the understanding that if the guard caught me I’d weather another beating.
As I sat there wondering what was going to happen next a wide variety of psyops stuff blared through the speaker mounted high in one corner of the small cell. A mind-numbing cacophony of an out-of-control saxophone was followed by Rudyard Kipling reciting his poem “Boots” over and over in a very haunting voice. (No one who ever attended Navy SERE will forget “Boots.”)
Give it a listen (and try not to go insane in the process):
Occasionally instructions from the guards were piped over the speaker, for instance, the rules for heeding calls of nature: “War criminals wishing to use the sanity facilities must ask permission by saying, ‘War criminal numbering whatever wishes to urinate or defecate.’ Do not do so until you are told to do so!”
At some point a guard entered my cell, blindfolded me, and led me to an interview with the camp commander. His friendly demeanor led me to believe this was the “soft sell” portion of my interrogation. He asked me how I was feeling. I joked I was hungry. He looked concerned and said he’d get me some hot food right after I got back to my cell. I also joked that the music was terrible and I’d prefer the Beatles, and he said he’d make that happen right away too.
Then he asked me where I was stationed. I said I couldn’t answer that. He asked me what kind of airplanes I flew. I said I couldn’t answer that either. After a second round of refusals his friendly mood shifted into anger, and he ordered the guard to take me back to my cell, saying I was “insincere” and needed to see the provost marshal for further “re-edu-ma-cation.”
After another extended period in solitary confinement in my cell accompanied by “Boots” on repeat, I was blindfolded again and taken to another part of the camp. As I was led through the snow I heard loud banging and people screaming. Once inside the building my blindfold was removed and one of the guards told me to climb into a small box, barely big enough for me to fit.
Once I’d wedged myself in, the guard slammed the lid. He instructed me that when he banged on the box once I was to yell my war criminal number, and when he banged twice I was to yell my social security number. This went on for a while, and fortunately I don’t get claustrophobic, cause if I did the confined space would have freaked me out.
The box treatment was followed by some “up and jumps,” known to the rest of us as jumping jacks, and other calisthenics punctuated by guards slapping me and throwing me to the floor. When I was good and winded a guard led me to a room where a big burly man with a red beard was waiting.
Red Beard asked me a few questions about my military profile, and each time I didn’t answer he slapped me. He produced an American flag and threw it on the ground and told me to dance on it. I tried to avoid it but he pushed me and I wound up stepping on the flag and as I did a photographer appeared and snapped a shot.
After another round of questions I didn’t answer, Red Beard decided it was time for stronger measures. He pushed me to the floor and made me sit on my hands. He straddled my legs as he fired up some pipe tobacco and started blowing smoke into my face using a large rubber tube.
I couldn’t breathe. The room started spinning. My head hit the floor. I puked.
And to my horror – even though I’d hadn’t quite finished puking – Red Beard blew more smoke in my face.
This felt like real torture, and I was convinced he was going to kill me. As I fought to get a clean breath of air, I managed to beg him to stop and offered to tell him something, hoping to employ the technique where you try to bend but not break by throwing out some meaningless bullshit.
I told him I was stationed in Florida even though I was really stationed in Virginia and that I flew helicopters even though I flew jets. Red Beard laughed and called the guard back in, telling him to give me as much food and water as I wanted because I’d been very helpful.
As I was led back to my cell blindfolded I felt like a total pussy who’d caved too easily.
After another period in solitary with my morale at an all-time low, a guard came and got me and led me back to the camp commander’s office. The camp commander told me about a junior enlisted man who’d gone through the same torture but instead of talking he’d come off the floor screaming “Article Five!” – a reference to the Code of Conduct where it states a POW should only give name, rank, and date of birth. “You are supposed to be an officer, but an enlisted man is stronger than you,” he said. “And you are insincere. You told us wrong information. I am sending you back to the provost.”
Sure enough, after more time in my cell to contemplate my shortcomings as an officer, I was back in front of Red Beard.
I hated Red Beard. I hated PRONA. And I felt another emotion that was like an epiphany: I wasn’t about to let America down again. The nation was depending on me to be strong. That’s why they’d given me my Annapolis education and put me through flight school. (Seriously, all of these things ran through my brain in that torture chamber.) If I had to die, so be it. Let the smoke blow . . .
After some more passing out and puking followed by more passing out and puking, Red Beard let me go.
The next day we were let out of solitary confinement and forced to do hard labor around the camp where our tasks included carving a “heli-mo-copter pad” in the ice-covered ground – an impossible task for which we were beaten for our lack of progress. One guy was stripped to his underwear and forced to stand at attention as his clothes were burned in front of him.
The camp commander gathered us together and, holding a Bible aloft, told us our beliefs were bullshit and that the only religious figure Americans truly worshiped was St. Walt Disney. He threw the Bible down and stomped it, which caused some of the prisoners to react enough that the guards felt obliged to slap them and throw them on the ground.
This cycle of hard labor in the freezing cold followed by “re-edu-ma-cation” sessions from PRONA’s propaganda machine went on for hours and hours, until the sun was about to set on our miserable existence once again. Morale was low. We were sure we were never getting out of there and our lives as we knew them were over.
Suddenly there was another burst of gunfire and a group of guys in cammies rappelled over the walls of the compound at various spots. They took the camp personnel into custody and announced that they were Navy SEALs. The flag of PRONA hung against the main guard tower was replaced by the Stars and Stripes as the National Anthem played over the camp PA.
There wasn’t a dry eye among us as we sang along. We were Americans, and we were free again.
The Senate Intelligence Committee’s recent report on the CIA’s enhanced torture techniques during the early years of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan has restarted discussions about DoD’s methods and where they’re taught and learned. The SERE School curriculum has been lumped into those discussions.
But for me SERE wasn’t about the torture. It was about the realization that the pomp and ceremony, the pageantry and adulation that surrounded wearing a Navy officer’s uniform was meaningless without the courage and commitment that underpins them.
SERE taught me a big lesson in sacking up, and I can say without any hesitation that it was, in fact, the most important school the Navy ever sent me to.
(Editor’s note: This story deals with a specific SERE curriculum that no longer exists.)
The Senate has confirmed Heather Wilson as Air Force secretary, making her President Donald Trump’s first service secretary nominee to be approved by the GOP-led chamber after fits and starts for several others.
Senators voted 76-22 Monday to approve Wilson, who represented New Mexico in the House before becoming a defense industry consultant. Her post-congressional work drew scrutiny for several Democrats, who had questioned an arrangement with government laboratories that paid her $20,000 a month. Wilson denied any impropriety.
Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, the top Democrat on the Armed Services Committee, said he voted against Wilson’s nomination because of his lingering concerns with the payments. Reed also cited as troubling a call Wilson made a decade ago while still a member of Congress to a federal prosecutor handling a politically charged corruption probe.
Trump’s attempts to fill the other two service secretary jobs have failed so far. His picks for secretaries of the Army and Navy were forced to withdraw from consideration.
Mark Green, Trump’s second choice for Army secretary, stepped aside late last week amid growing criticism over his remarks about Muslims, and gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender Americans.
The president’s first pick to be the Army’s top civilian, Vincent Viola, dropped out in early February because of financial entanglements, and about three weeks later Philip B. Bilden, the Navy secretary nominee, withdrew for similar reasons.
The Trump administration has been slow to fill many other senior civilian posts at the Pentagon, leaving Defense Secretary Jim Mattis short of the support he needs to manage the nation’s vast military enterprise. The Senate Armed Services Committee is holding confirmation hearings Tuesday for three important financial positions at the Defense Department: comptroller, deputy comptroller and director of cost assessment and program evaluation.
After serving five terms in Congress from New Mexico, Wilson collected nearly half a million dollars in questionable payments from federally funded nuclear labs, the Energy Department’s inspector general said in a 2013 report. Wilson failed to provide documentation for the consulting work she did to earn $20,000 a month from the Los Alamos and Sandia national labs in New Mexico from January 2009 to March 2011, the report said.
Wilson deflected questions about the payments, saying during her Senate confirmation hearing that she’d performed the work and that the inspector general had found no fault with her.
The telephone call referenced by Reed, the senator from Rhode Island, was made by Wilson in October 2006 to David Iglesias, a U.S. attorney in New Mexico. Iglesias was one of seven federal prosecutors fired a few months later by the Bush administration. At the time, Iglesias was handling a number of public corruption cases. Reed said the call raised the possibility Iglesias may have felt pressured by Congress in an ongoing investigation. Wilson said she did nothing improper.
Wilson served as an Air Force officer in Europe during the 1980s and was on the National Security Council staff under President George H.W. Bush during the fall of the Berlin Wall. She graduated from the Air Force Academy in 1982 and later earned master’s and doctoral degrees as a Rhodes Scholar at Oxford University in England. Wilson is the first graduate of the academy to hold to hold the service’s top civilian post.
Wilson said that once confirmed she would resign as president of the South Dakota School of Mines Technology. She’d also assured the Defense Department’s general counsel that she would divest of stocks she holds in companies that do work for the U.S. military, including Intel, IBM, Honeywell and Raytheon.
Sen. John McCain of Arizona, the Republican chairman of the Armed Services Committee, called Wilson a “proven leader” and said she would lead the service to a stronger future.
Over the past several months, the entirety of Germany’s submarine fleet has gone out of action, the Bundeswehr, its armed forces, has outsourced helicopter training to a private company because its own helicopters are in need of repair, and more than half of the Bundeswehr’s Leopard 2 tanks, its most common model, were out of order, with just 95 of 244 in service.
Those are only the latest reports of German military deficiencies.
In spring 2017, the Bundeswehr contingent deployed to a peacekeeping mission in Mali was left hamstrung when heat, dust, and rough terrain knocked half its vehicles out of commission. In early 2016, it was reported that German reconnaissance jets taking part in the fight against ISIS couldn’t fly at night because their cockpit lighting was too bright for pilots.
In early 2015, as Berlin was preparing to send fighter jets to Syria, a military report emerged saying that only 66 of the air force’s 93 commissioned fighters were operational — and only 29 were combat-ready. In 2014, German troops tried to disguise a shortage of weapons by replacing machine guns with broomsticks during a NATO exercise.
Germany has high standards for its military equipment, experts say, and it’s believed that the country could mobilize much of its equipment in a short period if needed. Berlin also drew down its forces in 2011 in order to focus on asymmetrical warfare. It reversed course years later in light of Russian action in Ukraine and renewed concerns about conventional warfare, but much of that equipment has to be reacquired.
Those shortages of gear may hinder recruiting efforts, as the German military transitions from a conscripted force to an all-volunteer one. (The Bundeswehr’s recruitment drive has been criticized for targeting 16- and 17-year-olds.)
But the German military’s shortcomings have added to the country’s internal political debates, and Germany’s contribution to Europe’s collective defense is also facing scrutiny.
Hans-Peter Bartels, the parliamentary commissioner for Germany’s armed forces, has said while more limited operations may still be possible, the country’s military is not prepared for a larger conflict.
“The hard currency, which should be used to measure the success of the minister, is the Bundeswehr’s readiness for action,” Bartels told The Washington Post of Germany’s defense capacity, referring to Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen. “And this readiness has not improved over the last four years but has only gotten worse.”
Germany’s center-left Social Democratic Party, of which Bartels is a member, was part of a governing coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union, of which von der Leyen is also a member, but the SDP moved into the official parliamentary opposition after a disappointing showing in the September elections.
The SDP and CDU agree that Germany’s military — with 178,000 personnel and much-outdated equipment — needs improvement, but the SDP has balked at the CDU’s push to increase the defense budget to 2% of GDP by 2024. Industry estimates put 2017 defense spending at about 1.13% of GDP.
Such an increase would require Germany to grow military spending from 37 billion euros in 2017 to more than 70 billion euros by 2024, according to Deutsche Welle.
The two parties reached a preliminary agreement in early January that would boost defense expenditures to 42.4 billion euros in 2021, but the projected expansion of Germany’s economy would mean that sum would still only be a little over 1% of GDP. (The agreement did not specifically mention NATO members’ agreed-upon defense-spending target of 2% of GDP.)
Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel, an SDP member, has called expanding defense spending t0 2% of GDP a “pretty crazy idea,” and the SDP is not the only party resisting such an increase. The legacy of World War II and the Cold War have made some in Germany wary of military expansion, and others have argued the German military doesn’t have enough uses for such a rapid influx of defense funds.
Spending 2% of GDP on defense would bring Germany to the level agreed upon by NATO member countries, but the country’s political parties disagree on whether that agreement is actually binding.
President Donald Trump publicly scolded NATO members for “not paying what they should be paying” in 2017 and admonished Germany for owing the U.S. “vast sums of money” in March that year. Berlin dismissed that assertion, but the U.S. and other officials have continued to push Germany over its defense spending.
François Hollande (left), President of France, and Angela Dorothea Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, have a talk during the Meeting of the North Atlantic Council at the level of Heads of State and Government at the NATO Summit 2014, Newport, Wales, The United Kingdom. (NATO photo by Edouard Bocquet)
Wolfgang Ischinger, chairman of the Munich Security Conference and Germany’s former envoy to Washington, echoed accusations that Germany wasn’t contributing its fair share, saying it was “undignified” for Germany’s only contribution to the fight against ISIS to be reconnaissance flights.
“The biggest European Union state is all for victory over Islamic State in Syria and Iraq; we take photos, but we leave the dirty business of shooting to others,” he told Reuters in late January.
“We should not develop the reputation of being one of the world’s best freeloaders,” he added.
The debate has not been limited to German voices.
During a visit to Germany at the end of January, U.S. Army Secretary Mark Esper, a former Raytheon executive, said he would take the German government at its word that it would increase defense spending to the 2% target, but he cautioned against falling short.
“It’s important for all of our NATO allies to live up to their commitments,” Esper said. “If not, it weakens the alliance, clearly, and Germany is such a critical member of NATO.”
Amid rising tensions on Israel’s northern border, the IDF is launching its largest drill in close to 20 years, with tens of thousands of soldiers from all branches of the army, simulating a war with Hezbollah.
The drill, dubbed “Or Hadagan” (Hebrew for “the Light of the Grain”), will start on Sept. 5 and end on Sept. 14, The Times of Israel reported. Named after Meir Dagan, the former head of the Mossad, the exercise will see thousands of soldiers and reservists and all the different branches of the IDF – air force, navy, ground forces, intelligence, cyber – drilling the ability of all branches to coordinate their operations during wartime.
According to military assessments, the northern border remains the most explosive, and both sides have warned that the next conflict would be devastating for the other.
While the primary threat posed by Hezbollah remains its missile arsenal, the IDF believes that the next war will see the group trying to bring the fight into Israel by infiltrating Israeli communities to inflict significant civilian and military casualties.
The ten-day drill will focus on countering Hezbollah’s increased capabilities, and also include simulations of evacuating communities close to the border with Lebanon, The Jerusalem Post reports.
Israel last held an exercise of such magnitude in 1998, a drill that simulated a war with Syria and was led by Meir Dagan.
“The purpose of the drill is to test the fitness of the Northern Command and the relevant battalions during an emergency,” a senior IDF officer told Haaretz. In the drill scenario, the cabinet tells the armed forces to vanquish Hezbollah – “as I understand it, the state in which Hezbollah either has no ability or desire to attack anymore,” said the officer.
On July 20, 2017, the veteran community lost a valuable advocate in Chester Bennington, lead singer and front man of Linkin Park. Not only do his lyrics resonate deeply within the veteran community, he was a loud supporter of the U.S. troops.
To commemorate the life and support of Chester, let us never forget the acts of a true patriot.
1. He was a friend of Paul Rieckhoff, Founder and CEO of IAVA
2. He joined many celebrities on the “Convoy to Combat Suicide” tour
Along with Lady Gaga, Korn, Avenged Sevenfold, Cale Conley, and many MLB teams, the goals of the tour were to pass the Clay Hunt SAV Act, getting President Obama to take Executive action in this effort, and to connect over a million post-9/11 veterans with transitional resources.
3. His vocal support of the Clay Hunt SUV Act worked
Fellow Linkin Park band member Mike Shinoda said to Military Times, “Our effort to help soldiers is a humanitarian one, about people. I hope the veterans feel our deep gratitude for their service and hope our efforts help give them the support they need to re-establish their lives.”
5. Every stop on the “Carnivores” tour, he would give a shout out to the troops
In Linkin Park’s 2014 tour, Chester would take a moment to thank the troops and veterans in attendance. He would address the audience about veteran suicide in a somber tone. He encourages the crowds to join in with him for all the troops do for the country.
During the tour, Linkin Park flies twenty two flags, each flag symbolizing the Veterans Affairs Department’s estimate for daily suicide among veterans.
A deal between the United States and the Taliban is expected to be signed on February 29 provided a “reduction in violence'” due to enter into force at midnight proves successful, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on February 21.
The United States and the Taliban have been engaged in talks to facilitate a political settlement to end the conflict in Afghanistan and reduce the U.S. presence in the region, Pompeo said in a statement.
“In recent weeks, in consultation with the Government of National Unity, U.S. negotiators in Doha have come to an understanding with the Taliban on a significant and nationwide reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” Pompeo said.
“Upon a successful implementation of this understanding, signing of the U.S.-Taliban agreement is expected to move forward. We are preparing for the signing to take place on February 29,” Pompeo said, adding that intra-Afghan negotiations will start soon thereafter, with the final aim of delivering “a comprehensive and permanent cease-fire and the future political road map for Afghanistan.”
In a written statement, the Taliban confirmed the planned signing of a deal on February 29 “in front of international observers” and said that “the groundwork for intra-Afghan talks will be resolved,” although it did not mention when such talks would start.
The Taliban had previously refused to speak directly to the Afghan government, which it labeled a U.S. puppet.
Earlier on February 21, a senior Afghan official and several Taliban leaders said that the week-long “reduction in violence” will begin at midnight local time on February 22.
“We hope it is extended for a longer time and opens the way for a cease-fire and intra-Afghan talks,” Javed Faisal, Afghanistan’s National Security Council spokesman, was quoted as saying.
The talks between U.S. and Taliban representatives began in Qatar in 2018.
Afghan government troops will keep up normal military operations against other militants, such as the Islamic State (IS) group, during the reduction in violence period, Faisal said.
He added that Afghan troops will also retaliate to the smallest violation of the understanding by the Taliban.
“Local government and security officials have been instructed by the president [Ashraf Ghani)] himself on how to follow the regulations agreed upon for the period [reduced violence],” Faisal said.
One Taliban leader based in Qatar’s capital, Doha, told Reuters that the week-long lull could not be called a “cease-fire.”
“Every party has the right of self-defense but there would be no attacks on each other’s positions in these seven days,” he was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Both NATO and Russia hailed the announcement.
“It will be an important event for the peace process in Afghanistan,” Moscow’s Afghanistan envoy, Zamir Kabulov, told the state news agency RIA Novosti, adding that he would attend the signing ceremony if invited.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said the agreement opened a possible route to sustainable peace in Afghanistan.
“I welcome today’s announcement that an understanding has been reached on a significant reduction in violence across Afghanistan,” Stoltenberg said in a statement.
NATO has a 16,000-strong mission in Afghanistan to train, support, and advise local forces.
In the coming years, Washington, D.C.’s Pershing Park will be transformed as a memorial honoring the men and women who fought in the First World War is built, adding to where the statue of General John J. Pershing currently stands.
The 2015 National Defense Authorization Act established the World War I Centennial Commission, which was given the authority to build the memorial in the park. Over the course of a year, potential designs were submitted and voted on. In January 2016, the design, titled The Weight of Sacrifice, was chosen.
The designers, Joseph Weishaar, an architect-in-training currently located in Chicago, and collaborating artist sculptor Sabin Howard of New York, explained their vision:
The fall sun settles on a soldier’s etched features, enough to alight the small girl patting his horse. Above him 28 trees rise up from the earth, flamed out in brazen red to mark the end of the Great War. He stands on the precipice of the battlefield, surveying the rising tide which has come to call his brothers from their havens of innocence. The figures before him emerge slowly, at first in low relief, and then pull further out of the morass as they cross the center of the wall. They all trudge onward, occasionally looking back at the life that was until they sink back in and down into the trenches.
This is a moment frozen in time, captured in the darkened bronze form which has emerged from the soil to serve as a reminder of our actions. Along the North and South faces we see the emblazoned words of a generation gone by. 137 feet long, these walls gradually slip into the earth drawing their wisdom with them. Around the sculpted faces of the monument the remembrance unfolds. Each cubic foot of the memorial represents an American soldier lost in the war; 116,516 in all. Upon this unified mass spreads a verdant lawn. This is a space for freedom built upon the great weight of sacrifice.
The allegorical idea that public space and public freedom are hard won through the great sacrifices of countless individuals in the pursuit of liberty provides the original design concept for this project. A memorial and a park built to represent this truth should pay homage to the loss incurred in securing these freedoms. The raised figurative walls visually express a narrative of the sacrificial cost of war, while also supporting a literal manifestation of freedoms enjoyed in this country: the open park space above. The urban design intent is to create a new formal link along Pennsylvania Avenue which ties together the memorial to Tecumseh Sherman on the West and Freedom Plaza on the East. This is achieved by lowering the visual barriers surrounding the existing Pershing Park and reinforcing dominant axes that come from the adjacent context.
The raised form in the center of the site honors the veterans of the first world war by combining figurative sculpture and personal narratives of servicemen and women in a single formal expression. The integration of a park around and atop the memorial alludes to the idea that public space and personal freedom are only available through the sacrifice of our soldiers. Above all, the memorial sculptures and park design stress the glorification of humanity and enduring spirit over the glorification of war.
These themes are expressed through three sources: relief sculpture, quotations of soldiers, and a freestanding sculpture. The figurative relief sculpture, entitled “The Wall of Remembrance,” is a solemn tribute to the resilience of human bonds against the inexorable tide of war. The 23 figures of the 81′ relief transform from civilians into battered soldiers, leading one another into the fray. The central piece, “Brothers-in-Arms,” is the focus of the wall, representing the redemption that comes from war: the close and healing ties soldiers form as they face the horrors of battle together. The wounded soldier is lifted by his brother soldiers toward the future and the promise of healing.
The quotation walls guide visitors around the memorial through the changes in elevation, weaving a poetic narrative of the war as described by generals, politicians, and soldiers. The sculpture on the upper plaza, “Wheels of Humanity,” recreates the engine of war. These are soldiers tested and bonded by the fires of war to each other and to the machinery they command. For all of the courage and heroic stature they convey, each looks to the other for guidance and a signal to action. The bronze medium used throughout stands for the timeless endeavor we face in the universal pursuit and right of freedom.
One of the highest-ever ranked defectors from North Korea said Feb. 14, 2018 that Kim Jong Un is now engaging in diplomacy with South Korea because he fears a US military strike on North Korea.
“Kim Jong Un is afraid that the US will launch a preventative strike, and he is trying to buy time to complete his nuclear and missile programs,” said Ri Jong Ho, Yonhap News Agency reported. Ri, who worked for three decades in the North Korean office responsible for raising funds for Kim, was speaking at a Wilson Center Forum in Washington.
According to Ri, not only are President Donald Trump’s threats of military action having an effect on North Korea, the US’s diplomatic efforts to lock Pyongyang out of international trade have also started to bite.
“Kim Jong Un is struggling under the strongest-yet sanctions and military and diplomatic pressure, so he is trying to improve the situation by putting on a false front,” Ri said.
Ri, who defected in 2014, likely doesn’t know the current thinking in Pyongyang, but may have knowledge of the economic situation before the sanctions. Ri’s statements follow a handful of moves from the Trump administration that appeared to signal that they were on the verge of striking North Korea.
But Ri’s statements also conjured up one of the US’s worst fears in North Korea by suggesting that Kim did not legitimately want to pursue peace with South Korea, but rather that he wanted to use the ruse of diplomacy to buy time while he advances his nuclear program and continues to hold South Korean civilians at risk.
“Depending on the circumstances, North Korea could hold South Koreans hostage and continue its threatening provocations,” Ri said.
Ri’s thinking seems to agree with US Navy Adm. Harry Harris, who recently assumed command of the US military’s Pacific and Asian theater of operation, PACOM.
Kim is “after reunification under a single communist system, so he is after what his grandfather failed to do and his father failed to do,” Harris said, in testimony to the House Armed Services Committee.
But Kim’s end game is irrelevant at the present. There’s evidence that a US-led sanctions campaign has begun to work against the Kim regime, and North Korea could be hurting economically. Moves in Trump’s inner circle seem to heavily suggest he’s considering responding to future North Korean provocations with force.
No president before Trump has coordinated as great an international sanctions regime on North Korea, and none have so seriously offered up use of military force as an option.
In response, Kim has made the unprecedented move of agreeing to meet with a foreign head of state for the first time, and abandoned talk of preconditions beforehand, which some see as a concession.
The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants the bomb you’ve been tinkering with at home. DARPA’s latest initiative is identifying emerging threats by mining everyday technologies. According to the agency’s press release, this effort, called Improv, “asks the innovation community to identify commercial products and processes that could yield unanticipated threats.” So DARPA wants that homemade bomb you’ve been building in your garage.
This means they want to see what you can make out of everyday household items so they can prepare a countermeasure. This kind of thinking is meant to tap into the natural resourcefulness and creativity of humans.
“DARPA’s mission is to create strategic surprise, and the agency primarily does so by pursuing radically innovative and even seemingly impossible technologies,” said program manager John Main, who will oversee the new effort. “Improv is being launched in recognition that strategic surprise can also come from more familiar technologies, adapted and applied in novel ways.”
The agency is looking to see how everyday household materials can be used to threaten U.S. national security. It may sound odd to think of American wreaking havoc with common materials, but it isn’t unheard of. In 1996, Timothy McVeigh purchased only enough ammonium nitrate to fertilize 4.25 acres of farmland at a rate of 160 pounds of nitrogen per acre, a formula commonly used to grow corn. This did not raise any eyebrows in Kansas. McVeigh later used the fertilizer to blow up Oklahoma City’s Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building, killing at least 168 people.
“U.S. national security was ensured in large part by a simple advantage: a near-monopoly on access to the most advanced technologies,” DARPA said in a press release. “Increasingly, off-the-shelf equipment… features highly sophisticated components, which resourceful adversaries can modify or combine to create novel and unanticipated security threats.”
To enter, interested parties must submit a plan for their prototype for the chance at a potential $40,000 in funding. Then, a smaller number of candidates will be chosen to build their device with $70,000 in potential funding. Finally, top candidates will enter the final phase, which includes a thorough analysis of the invention and a military demonstration.
The Department of Defense would like remind potential contributors that they should only build weapons within the bounds of their local, state, and federal laws.
U.S. Central Command chief General Joseph Votel says he does not expect major changes in military strategy as a result of an updated assessment of the war effort in Afghanistan currently being conducted.
“I don’t envision something…that would likely lead to a major change in the overall strategy, which I believe is showing progress,” Votel told a news briefing in Washington on July 19.
Votel said his review work was more designed to consider adjustments that might be required to help Kabul reach its goal of bringing Taliban militants to the negotiating table.
As of July 20, 2018, it is reported that there have been 2412 U.S. deaths in Afghanistan since 2001.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Mallory S. VanderSchans)
Media reports earlier in July stated the United States was planning to undertake a major strategy review for the 17-year war effort in Afghanistan and that U.S. President Donald Trump was frustrated by a lack of progress. The U.S. administration at the time denied that a major reassessment was planned.
Trump on August 21, 2017, announced his new strategy for Afghanistan, leading to an eventual increase in the number of troops deployed to country, and backtracking on campaign pledges to end U.S. involvement there.
Officials said Trump had authorized an additional 3,000 U.S. troops, bringing the U.S. contingent in the NATO-led effort to about 15,000, although media have quoted administration officials as saying the president was reluctant to do so.
Trump also upped the pressure on neighboring Pakistan, saying the authorities there were providing safe havens to militants operating in Afghanistan and attacking U.S. forces.
Votel cited positive signs from Islamabad, but he urged Pakistan to arrest, expel, or target the militants with military action.
“We also need to see [Pakistan] continue to make efforts to compel the Taliban to come to the table and take advantage of these opportunities,” Votel said.
Afghan President Ashraf Ghani dismissed the Taliban’s rejection of his offer of peace talks, suggesting that the militant group can still be persuaded to come to the negotiating table.
In an exclusive interview with RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan in Kabul on July 16, Ghani said the Taliban’s opposition to peace talks was not “a full rejection.”
“It’s like when you ask someone’s hand in marriage and the family of the bride says no several times [before relenting],” Ghani said, referring to a culture in which refusal is seen as a sign of humility. “In reality, it is likely that we will get a positive answer.”
The Kabul government has struggled in the past year against resurgent Taliban fighters, as well as Islamic State (IS) and Al-Qaeda militants, nearly two decades after a U.S.-led coalition drove the Taliban from power in Afghanistan in 2001.
IS and Al-Qaeda were not included in the recent government-announced cease-fires.