Whether you call them silkies or Ranger panties, the overly-tight short-shorts of the military are here to stay.
Just about every military member has experienced either wearing — or much worse, viewing — troops in silkies. They are so well known, some Marines even have a Facebook page dedicated to them. So it was quite amusing to see one of the uninitiated discover the shorts at the tech website Gizmodo.
“Clearly all you need is a fresh pair of Ranger Panties and a patriotic spirit and you’re ready to take on the world,” writes Adam Clark Estes.
After finding his black Ranger Panties on Amazon, he reads some reviews. The top one, which he cites in his decision to buy, comes from a reviewer who claims to be a U.S. Marine stationed in Cairo: “If you love bald eagles, freedom, and flexing your quads at strangers for the simple pleasure of gauging their reaction, then I highly encourage you to hop on the freedom train and purchase these shorts,” the reviewer writes. “They do not disappoint.”
“If you have not experienced these shorts, they will change your life,” writes another reviewer. For the record, I’ve worn silkies and my life was not changed. Still, that’s besides the point.
Estes orders a medium-sized pair (dude, don’t you know they are supposed to be way tighter than that?) and tests them out. Turns out, even civilians can love them. What comes next is an 1100-plus-word explainer and review of the Soffe-brand classics.
Now, the review — much like silkies — could have been much shorter, in my opinion. Something like: The military silkie-shorts, also known as “Ranger Panties,” are physical training shorts that are so short they belong only on NBA basketball players in the 1970s. But people still wear them anyway.
But I digress.
After his girlfriend doesn’t allow him to leave the house to test the shorts out in social engagements, he does get a chance to take them on some athletic endeavors. Estes writes:
Nevertheless, I was able to try my Ranger Panties out in various athletic environments. While the shorts are ideal for running, they’re less than ideal for a crowded yoga class. Just as I’d read on Amazon, the inner liner is a thin shield between being appropriately clothed and “[wanting] the world to see your twig and berries.” I appreciated the presence of the lining in my first yoga class, but I definitely double bagged it in public after a few close calls there.
In the end, Estes says he loves his Ranger Panties and urges you to buy some too. But he does concede that the danger of your “twig and berries” popping out is a legitimate concern.
And frankly, that’s enough for me to urge you not to buy them. Because that’s not a world I want to live in.
The military has very talented photographers in the ranks, and they constantly attempt to capture what life as a service member is like during training and at war. Here are the best military photos of the week:
Two Israeli F-35 “Adirs” fly in formation and display the U.S. and Israeli flags after receiving fuel from a Tennessee Air National Guard KC-135, Dec, 6, 2016. The U.S. and Israel have a military relationship built on trust developed through decades of cooperation.
Airmen, assigned to the 366th Fighter Wing, perform diagnostic checks on an F-15E Strike Eagle at Mountain Home Air Force Base, Idaho, Dec. 3, 2016. Their particular F-15E was gearing up to deploy to the annual Checkered Flag exercise hosted by Tyndall AFB. Checkered Flag is a large-force exercise that gives a large number of legacy and fifth-generation aircraft the chance to practice combat training together in a simulated deployed environment.
U.S. Soldiers assigned to Charlie Battery, 1st Battalion, 320th Field Artillery Regiment, 2nd Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division fire a M777 A2 Howitzer in support of Iraqi security forces at Platoon Assembly Area 14, Iraq, Dec. 7, 2016. Charlie Battery conducted the fire mission in support of Combined Joint Task Force – Operation Inherent Resolve, the global Coalition to defeat ISIL in Iraq and Syria.
Ukrainian Soldiers assigned to 1st Battalion, 80th Airmobile Brigade fire a ZU-23-2 towed antiaircraft weapon before conducting an air assault mission in conjunction with a situational training exercise led by Soldiers from 6th Squadron, 8th Cavalry Regiment, 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 3rd Infantry Division, Nov. 28, 2016 at the International Peacekeeping and Security Center. This training is part of their 55-day rotation with the Joint Multinational Training Group-Ukraine. JMTG-U is focused on helping to develop an enduring and sustainable training capacity within Ukraine.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 11, 2016) Petty Officer 3rd Class Alexis Rey, from Stratford, Conn., conducts pre-flight checks on an EA-18G Growler assigned to the Zappers of Electronic Attack Squadron (VAQ) 130 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Dwight D. Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
MEDITERRANEAN SEA (Dec. 10, 2016) Petty Officer 1st Class Jeremy Parrish, from Apopka, Fla., signals to the pilot of an F/A-18E Super Hornet assigned to the Sidewinders of Strike Fighter Squadron (VFA) 86 on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Dwight D. Eisenhower (CVN 69). Eisenhower, currently deployed as part of the Eisenhower Carrier Strike Group, is conducting naval operations in the U.S. 6th Fleet area of operations in support of U.S. national security interests in Europe.
A Marine participates in a field training exercise during Exercise Iron Sword 16 in Rukla Training Area, Lithuania, Nov. 29, 2016. Iron Sword is an annual, multinational defense exercise involving 11 NATO allies training to increase combined infantry capabilities and forge relationships.
Combat cargo Marines grab a short nap in the well deck of USS Carter Hall (LSD-50) December 1, 2016 before the ship prepares to receive amphibious craft during Amphibious Ready Group, 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit Exercise off the coast of Onslow Beach, North Carolina. The Marines worked nearly 20 hours the previous day on-loading and securing equipment and vehicles to Carter Hall. These Marines were assigned the combat cargo billet as a part of ship taxes and come from a myriad of military occupational specialties native to the Marine units aboard the ship.
An aircrew aboard a U.S. Army CH-47 Chinook helicopter, from Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., prepares to take the load of a 14,000 pound buoy that washed ashore just south of the entrance to Tillamook Bay, in Garibaldi, Ore., Dec. 12, 2016. The Army aircrew assisted the Coast Guard in recovering the beached buoy that normally marks the navigable channel into Tillamook Bay.
Coast Guard Cutter Munro crewmembers render honors to the national ensign during colors at an acceptance ceremony for the Munro on December 16, 2016 on the ship’s flight deck at Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula, Mississippi.
Speaking to reporters following an address at the Brookings Institution in Washington, D.C., on Tuesday, Zukunft said the Navy’s change had prompted a brief internal evaluation for the Coast Guard — and one with a definite conclusion.
“With the Master Chief Petty Officer of the Coast Guard [Steven Cantrell], we said, ‘What would the workforce think about this,’ and it would cause chaos,” Zukunft said. “I cannot afford chaos when every person in the Coast Guard has a 24-by-7 job to do.”
The Coast Guard, the smallest of the branches, has an active-duty force of about 40,000, compared to the Navy’s nearly 324,000. It also has a smaller ratings system, with fewer than two dozen separate ratings compared with 89 for the Navy.
The Navy and Coast Guard use the same naval rank system, which is different from that used by the Army, Air Force and Marine Corps.
Coast Guardsmen are “very proud of the rating badge that they wear on their sleeve,” Zukunft said, “so I’ve listened to my master chief and he’s provided me the best advice. So that was a very easy question for me to say ‘no’ to.”
The Navy has also had to contend with pushback from sailors and Navy veterans who have strong attachments to the 241-year-old ratings system, with culture and community built around certain titles.
A WhiteHouse.gov petition to reverse the decision reached 100,000 signatures within a month, prompting a member of the White House staff to issue a response backing the overhaul and promoting the Navy’s goals of creating additional opportunities and career paths for sailors and a more straightforward transition to jobs matching their skills as they enter the civilian sector.
The chief of naval personnel, Vice Adm. Robert Burke, has engaged in a number of efforts to sell the concept to sailors, writing opinion pieces and essays addressing the fleet and traveling to the Middle East to participate in town hall meetings with some 9,000 sailors at the end of October and beginning of November.
Navy officials say the full transition to the new system will take time and be done in stages. Key decisions have yet to be detailed, including the future of Navy ratings badges.
Burke published a timeline in October indicating plans to update uniform insignia in keeping with the new job title system, but it remains possible that the badges will be redesigned rather than eliminated.
“Did we choose an easy path forward? Absolutely not,” Burke wrote in an op-ed published by Military.com on Nov. 20. “But I believe this change needs to occur, and now is the right time to do so.”
When Harold Berg stepped onto the white beach of Guadalcanal in late July, he carried memories of the battle he participated in 75 years ago, and also of his buddies he left behind.
“That to me, is the greatest thing. I didn’t know the men who died, but I’ll be representing the Marines that should be there. I feel that I am doing that,” he said. “I feel that I am representing the Marines who should be there.”
Berg, 91, is among the last of the World War II Raiders, an elite unit that was the precursor of special operations in the US military. And this soft-spoken, former insurance salesman from Central Peoria is the only veteran of that battle able to make the trip to the Solomon Islands for the dedication of a new memorial to honor the Raiders who fought and died there.
And what a trip. He flew from Peoria to Los Angeles to a small airport in the Fiji Islands. From there, he caught a connecting flight to Guadalcanal, a mere five hours away. Also to be present were members of the modern Raiders, the Marines with the US Marine Corps Special Operations Command, which carries on the namesake of their World War II brethren.
Berg was asked to participate because he is among the last of those who served in the original Raider battalions, which were based upon British commando units. The two-year experiment was a way to bring the fight more quickly to the Japanese who, until Guadalcanal, had ridden roughshod across the Pacific. Raiders weren’t designed to win big battles.
They conducted small unit raids. Essentially, they were to land on Japanese-held islands before the main force of Marines, disrupt the beach defenses, and to cause as many casualties and as much destruction as they could. They were on their own, without much support.
Berg dropped out of Woodruff High School as a junior and enlisted in the Marines when he was 17. “It might not be politically correct, but I wanted to fight the Japanese,” he told the Journal Star late last year.
And he did, participating in Guadalcanal, where he waded ashore in early 1943. The bulk of the fighting was over, but thousands of Japanese soldiers still were on the island looking to kill as many GIs as they could. He also was wounded in Guam and participated in the battles for Saipan, Bouganville, and New Georgia.
After the Raiders were folded into the 4th Marine Regiment, he participated in Okinawa as a squad leader. All 12 of his men were killed or wounded during the fighting. He, too, was injured in the Pacific’s last big campaign.
Berg wants to go not just to honor his fallen Marines but also to bring history to life for the younger generation. For many, he says, the war has become nothing more than words on paper. By talking at memorials or reunions or functions, Berg shows a more human side and that it was, indeed, real.
“I have a lot of friends that I meet every week and I tell them what I see,” he said of his frequent outings with area veterans. And his son, Brad Berg, agrees.
“This is a chance to tell his story and for others to hear it. Am I nervous? Yes, he’s going a long way, but he’s going back there to help and to honor the Marines and others,” his son said. “I am proud of him.”
U.S. defense officials say a long-range Patriot missile battery may be deployed to the Baltic region later this year as part of a military exercise.
If the move is finalized, it would be temporary, but still signal staunch U.S. backing for Baltic nations that are worried about the threat from Russia.
U.S. Defence Secretary Jim Mattis is visiting one of the Baltic countries — Lithuania. And he’s declining to confirm the specific deployment.
But Mattis says “we are here in a purely defensive stance.”
U.S. officials say the Patriot surface-to-air missile system could move into the Baltic region during an air defense exercise in July. They say it would be gone by the time a large Russian military exercise begins in August and September.
In a U.S. territory half a world removed from the continental United States, what does it mean to be American? To find out, Meals Ready To Eat host August Dannehl shipped off to the far reaches of Pacific Micronesia, to Guam.
Guam is a tiny island with a full dance card of seemingly competing cultural histories. Its indigenous people, the Chamorro, called it home for 4000 years, but after the island was “discovered” by Ferdinand Magellan in 1521, it experienced several centuries of European colonization, capture, and rule that heaped Spanish, Catholic, American, and Japanese cultural influence atop the foundations of its identity.
But where other territories with similar fraught histories stumble through the modern era in crisis and without a firm sense of collective “self,” Guamanians wove themselves into the fabric of democratic and multicultural America. They celebrate their 21st century hybridity with exuberance, with fervent patriotism and military service, and with a food culture so funky and delicious, people travel from all over the globe to get in on it.
Why choose? (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
In Guam, you find patriotism in its purest form, animated by gratitude for life. Guamanians have earned a deep understanding of how precarious human existence can be, whether it’s an island in the middle of the ocean or an oasis in the heart of the desert or a small, blue planet in the void of space.
Guamanians don’t just feel gratitude, they act on its behalf. As a people, they serve in the U.S. military at a higher rate than any of the 50 states.
When the Americans came and liberated us, they became family. That patriotism from our ancestors or those even living today, it continues on. And that’s an honor to be part of a nation that gives freedom, to be part of something greater than this tiny island…that’s what makes us American. —Sgt. Joleen Castro, U.S. Air Force
Their service reflects their dedication to the American ideal, yes, but it’s also an expression of inafa’maolek, or interdependence, the core value of the Chamorro people. Guamanians, at the deepest level of their tradition, celebrate collective prosperity, unity and togetherness. They celebrate the good.
Unsurprisingly, they throw incredible parties. (Meals Ready To Eat screenshot)
The siege of Mosul and targeted killings of chemical weapons experts in US-led coalition airstrikes have significantly degraded the Islamic State’s production capability, although the group likely retains expertise to produce small batches of sulfur mustard and chlorine agents, a London-based analysis group said on June 13th.
In a new report, IHS Markit said there has been a major reduction in IS’ use of chemical weapons outside the northern Iraqi city. It has recorded one alleged use of chemical weapons by the group in Syria this year, as opposed to 13 allegations in the previous six months. All other recorded allegations of IS using chemical agents in 2017 have been in Iraq — nine of them inside Mosul and one in Diyala province, it said.
“The operation to isolate and recapture the Iraqi city of Mosul coincides with a massive reduction in Islamic State chemical weapons use in Syria,” said Columb Strack, senior Middle East analyst at IHS Markit.
“This suggests that the group has not established any further chemical weapons production sites outside Mosul, although it is likely that some specialists were evacuated to Syria and retain the expertise.”
IS has lost more than half the territory it once controlled in Iraq. It’s now fighting to defend a cluster of western neighborhoods in Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. Mosul is the last major urban area held by the group in Iraq, and is believed to be at the heart of its efforts to produce chemical weapons.
IHS Markit says the militant group has been accused of using chemical weapons at least 71 times since July 2014 in Iraq and Syria. Most of these involved either the use of chlorine or sulfur mustard agents, delivered with mortars, rockets, and IEDs.
It warned, however, that the extremist group likely retains the capability to produce small batches of low quality chlorine and sulfur mustard agents elsewhere. It could use such agents to enhance the psychological impact of suicide car bombings in urban areas or in terrorist attacks abroad.
But there are those out there who try their best to nail it.
Here are 13 upcoming shows and movies that get it right, according to Got Your 6.
1. “American Veteran”
The feature length documentary tells the story of U.S. Army Sergeant Nick Mendes, who was paralyzed from the neck down by a 500 pound improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in 2011. The documentary follows Nick for five years following the explosion as he rebuilds his life and falls in love with Wendy, an extraordinary medical caregiver he meets in a VA hospital. The film chronicles his long recovery, struggles, and pain, but never perpetuates the stereotype of the “wounded veteran.” BetterThanFiction Productions
2. “Criminal Minds”
The long-running American police crime drama, set primarily at the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit (BAU) based in Quantico, Virginia, follows a group of FBI profilers who catch various criminals through behavioral profiling. The plot focuses on the team’s cases and their personal lives, depicting the hardened life and statutory requirements of a profiler. Actor Joe Mantegna plays Supervisory Special Agent David Rossi, a senior level profiler who happens to be a Vietnam veteran as well as a moral core of the show. His service is primarily mentioned in passing, depicting his veteran status as one of many characteristics as opposed to defining his identity. The Mark Gordon Company, ABC Studios, CBS Television Studios
Directed by Denzel Washington with a screenplay by August Wilson based upon his Pulitzer Prize-winning play, “Fences” follows Troy Maxson in 1950s Pittsburgh as he fights to provide for those he loves. Troy once dreamed of a baseball career, but was deemed too old when the major leagues began admitting black players. He tries to be a good husband and father, but his lost dream of glory eats at him, and causes him to make a decision that threatens to tear his family apart. Troy’s brother Gabriel, a disabled veteran, acts as a shining beacon of hope, despite his traumatic backstory. Gabriel is a fresh take on the sorts of wounds soldiers endure and showcases the strength of the human spirit. Paramount Pictures, in association with Bron Creative and Macro Media
4. “Five Came Back”
Netflix’s “Five Came Back” is a three-part adaptation of Mark Harris’ bestseller, directed by Laurent Bouzereau. Meryl Streep narrates Harris’ story of how five esteemed Hollywood directors – Frank Capra (“Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”), George Stevens (“Swing Time”), William Wyler (“The Letter,” “Jezebel”), John Ford (“Stagecoach,” “The Grapes of Wrath”), and John Huston (“The Maltese Falcon”) – volunteered to make propaganda films for the United States and its fighting corps. For the adaptation, it was Bouzereau’s vision to ask five current filmmakers – Guillermo del Toro, Francis Ford Coppola, Steven Spielberg, Lawrence Kasdan and Paul Greengrass – to consider the Hollywood quintet who went to war and returned forever altered by what they saw and did. Amblin Television, IACF Productions, Netflix, Passion Pictures, Rock Paper Scissors Entertainment
5. “Megan Leavey”
This film is based on the true life story of a young U.S. Marine corporal (played by Kate Mara) whose unique discipline and bond with her military combat dog saved many lives during their deployment in Iraq. Directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite (“Blackfish”) and written by Pamela Gray, Annie Mumolo, and Tim Lovestedt, the film documents their journey of more than 100 missions until an IED explosion injures them. Bleecker Street/LD Entertainment
6. “Sand Castle”
Set in Iraq in 2003, “Sand Castle” follows a platoon of U.S. Army soldiers in the early days of Iraq War. Inexperienced Private Matt Ocre (played by Nicolas Hoult) and his unit are ordered to the outskirts of the village Baqubah to repair a water pumping station damaged by U.S. bombs. Ocre struggles with the true cost of war and learns that trying to win the hearts and minds of the locals is a task fraught with danger. The film was written by U.S. Army veteran and Tillman Scholar, Chris Roessner. Treehouse Pictures, Voltage Pictures, 42/Automatik, Netflix
7. “Seeing Blind”
A digital short produced by Crown Royal as part of its “Living Generously” campaign, “Seeing Blind” tells the story of U.S. Army Major Scotty Smiley, a combat veteran who was blinded in Iraq and continued to serve in active duty for another decade as the Army’s first blind commander. To thank Major Smiley for his service, Crown Royal paired him with internationally renowned poet Matthew Dickman to help him visualize his hometown of Pasco, Wash., in a poetic new way. Good Company
8. “Seven Dates With Death”
This moving documentary short is about Moreese Bickham, a man jailed for an act of self-defense who survives half his life in prison by holding onto his faith, resilience, and hope. Viewers don’t learn he is a veteran until the end credits when an American flag is draped on his coffin at his funeral; however, this symbolic end showcases the depth of Moreese’s life and sacrifice. The short documentary is currently playing in film festivals across the U.S. and London and is expected to be publicly released by the end of 2017. Executive Producers Joan M. Cheever, Mike Holland
A television series based on the “Taken” film trilogy, this series acts as a modern day origin story for former Green Beret Bryan Mills (played by Clive Standen), who overcomes a personal tragedy while starting his career as a special intelligence operative. As a former CIA agent and post-9/11 veteran, Mills has spontaneous flashbacks to his military service. While the show touches on his service, it allows the audience to be empathetic with his experience and the skills learned while in uniform. “Taken” consulted with Got Your 6 team members on specific issues regarding active duty service and veteran reintegration. FLW Films, Universal Television, Europacorp Television, NBC
10. “The Vietnam War”
This 10-part documentary film series directed by Ken Burns and Lynn Novick will air on PBS in September 2017. In an immersive 360-degree narrative, Burns and Novick tell the epic story of the Vietnam War through the testimony from nearly 100 witnesses, including many American veterans who served in the war and others who opposed it, as well as Vietnamese combatants and civilians from both the winning and losing sides. Florentine Films, PBS
11. “This is Us”
This hit American television series stars Milo Ventimiglia (Jack) and Mandy Moore (Rebecca), parents of triplets – two natural-born and one adopted after their third child is stillborn. The series follows siblings Kate, Kevin and Randall as their lives intertwine. After 18 episodes, it is revealed that Jack – who must balance being the best father he can be with the struggles of supporting for his family of five – is a Vietnam War veteran. This dramedy challenges everyday presumptions about how well we think we know the people around us. Rhode Island Ave. Productions, Zaftig Films, 20th Century Fox Television, NBC
12. “VOW” (digital shorts)
“VOW” (Veterans Operation Wellness) is a Spike campaign created to inspire veterans to make the same commitment to their health and wellness that they made to their country. Two of the campaign’s digital shorts, “Operation Surf Helps Returning Soldiers” and “NYC Veterans Day Parade 2016,” were awarded 6 Certified status. In addition to featuring inspiring veterans, the shorts serve to motivate civilians to connect with veterans through community-building events and activities. Witness Films, Viacom
13. “When We Rise”
This four-part mini-series event which chronicles the real-life personal and political struggles, set-backs, and triumphs of a diverse family of LGBTQ men and women who helped pioneer the last legs of the U.S. Civil Rights movement. Ken Jones (played by Michael K. Williams and Jonathan Majors), an African-American Vietnam veteran, joined the gay-liberation movement in San Francisco, only to discover and confront racism within the gay men’s community. For years he organized services for homeless youth, worked to diversify the gay movement, and led efforts to confront the devastation of the AIDS epidemic. ABC Studios
Logan Vath left the Navy in 2012 to be pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. Crowdfunding his first album, Logan started to find success, playing wherever he could, building relationships in the music industry, and keeping up with old friends.
Vath has a unique take on his experience thus far: “I visited a recruiter’s office, and, what happened to me usually happens to most people who visit a recruiter’s office — I joined the Navy,” Vath laughed. “On my 2nd deployment, on the USS Monterey, I was actually performing weekly when the ship would pull in. We were doing ‘Show Your Colors’ tours on the boat and the Captain, Captain Jim Kilby, had me playing in the corner, in my dress uniform during receptions. I was lucky, everyone I’ve ever encountered in the military was always really supportive of my music. I think they all knew that this was what I was going to do at some point, or try to do at the very least.”
He says that what he learned in the Navy wasn’t always directly related to the skill set he maintained in order to perform his duties. “Playing to a crowd of people can teach you a lot about how to win over an audience if the subject matter isn’t something that is totally interesting to them,” he said. “Still to this day I use a lot of humor in shows in between songs just to keep people involved — to let them know that I’m not that sad of a person actually. The music can be, but I think performing on the ships is something that helped build my style.”
As he frequently laid topside, looking up at the stars, Vath admits that his lyrics frequently reference his own experience. “I think lyrically, things still sneak in from being out there and spending so many nights staring at the stars,” he said. “I think it’s extremely easy to romanticize the ocean and even songwriters that weren’t in the Navy do it frequently. I’ve never written specifically about things that have happened, but I would say there are definitely some themes from my experience.”
However, not every part of his career was a cakewalk. At one point, Vath let on that the ship he was stationed on, the USS Nassau, suffered from a fuel leak and simultaneous air-conditioning snafu off the coast of Africa. “I lived off of powered milk and Red Bull for a while even though they said the water was good,” Vath recounted. “Something in my body would not allow me to drink water that tasted like fuel for some reason, I don’t know why [laughing]. But that lasted a while; that was horrible. I just remember so many horrible, horrible sweaty nights in those racks with no A/C, just in a giant, baking tin-cup.”
Setting out to get out of Nebraska and make his own way, Vath remembers the day he chose what he would do in the Navy. “When I was at the recruiter, they gave me four jobs,” he said. “What prompted my choice of AG, (Aerographer’s Mate), was the recruiter saying, ‘This never comes up; you gotta do this job. You’ll love it.’ So, I signed up and said I’d do it — and he was correct. We had such a small community. The beautiful thing about being an AG, was that when you went out to a boat, nobody really knew what you did, so you can fly under the radar often. You have a lot of things that you have to take care of, but it’s a very isolated, quiet job.”
Vath says the turning point in his life started in boot camp. “The most important part was being cut off from everything,” he said. “That shaped me for so much about life. I always think about that, the most scared I ever was, was surrendering that cell phone after the first call because I had gone from a life of complete connection to nothing. I didn’t have anybody, I didn’t know anybody yet. And I think that that’s really good for people to be put in those situations because so many people aren’t. It’s terrifying to be a situation with no way out. You learn a lot about yourself in that.”
Admitting that maybe his expectations weren’t completely accurate when imagining who he would be as a result of his service, Vath says he thought the Navy was going to be a cure-all. “I thought I was going to become cleaner, faster, more efficient and abandon all my old habits,” he admitted. “That didn’t really happen. What I liked about the Navy, and everyone says you get what you put into it, and that’s so true. If you do it correctly, the Navy allows you to take whatever personality traits you have that are strong and utilize them in a lot of different ways.”
He discovered not only himself, but a new perspective on the world around him as he experience what life in the Navy entails. Says Vath, “I think everything I thought I would get out of the military, I got. It taught me that things can be a lot worse sometimes, things can be a lot better, you don’t always get to do what you want, sometimes you just have to do things that are completely against the way you would do them just because it’s just the way it is. Which I think is a really good skill to have and that people don’t often have it. I anticipated it would make me a harder worker — it did. I anticipated it would make me not take home or family for granted — it did, which is huge for me. I anticipated I would make great friends and see the world — I did. And I anticipated that after four years, I would come out a more rounded individual with better critical thinking and life experience and I did. I am in debt to it for that, as an organization because it gave me a lot of opportunities.”
Reminiscing on his first experiences, Vath admits that the part of his service that he misses the most is the ‘firsts’ of everything. “When you hop on your first boat, I remember that feeling of just being overwhelmed; going out to sea for the first time,” he said. “And there’s so many things you get to do like that in the Navy such as the first time you take off from a flight deck. You’ll never get that first feeling back, and so many first feelings that you’re given the opportunity to feel. I miss that a lot. I have goosebumps right now, thinking about coming home on the USS Nassau for the first time and playing ‘City of New Orleans’ by Arlo Guthrie while coming in, getting ready to dock.” He began signing,”‘Good Morning America, How are you?‘” He paused for a moment and took a deep breath, “Beautiful song — I’ll always associate that song with that feeling. And you can never get that back.”
Once known for a satirical song entitled ‘The Fraternization Song’, Logan chose to remove the tune from the public eye after receiving a lot of publicity for the song’s comedic twist on enlisted-officer relationships in the Navy. Says Vath, “It was kind of a spur of the moment thing. I was playing a show in Charlottesville, VA and there was a big media writeup in Charlottesville and a lot of it focused on the song. I didn’t want to use the military as a novelty. I’m happy to be a veteran and I had such a good time in the Navy, it was nothing but good to me. I have nothing but good things to day about it and I didn’t want to use that in the music. Any fans I gained, I wanted to gain organically. I wanted to earn their respect instead of them listening to be because I was a sailor.”
Logan has recently been working with a record label in Brooklyn, NY to record his next album. Vath declines to pigeonhole his music into a genre, choosing instead to focus on its substance. “I sing about personal experience but not in a storytelling way,” he said. “It’s more drawing parallels of everyday things and trying to view them differently. Putting myself in a genre is hard. People who do what I do usually say Indie Folk, but I’m not sure that that’s where I am.” He takes a sip of his beer and looks up, “Being able to hold a room of 50 people for an hour to an hour and a half and they are genuinely interested in what you’re saying is an incredible feeling. Of course the next time you’re in town, hopefully that number is 75, and eventually you’re moving into a venue that can fit 100. It’s a cool progression to watch. The trend is, for me, that if there is good music, people are going to listen to it; regardless of genre. Good music is good music.”
Brittany Slay is the Editor of American Veteran Magazine and a US Navy veteran, completing a 9 month deployment to Bahrain in 2014. She’s a fan of dark humor and enjoys writing, visiting breweries, and meeting people.
The Marine Corps has unveiled a new badge for its elite Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command operators, an eagle with outstretched wings clutching a Raider stiletto with a constellation that represents the Marines who served in the Pacific in World War II.
“The individual MARSOC operator must be trained and educated to think critically and function in an increasingly complex operating environment — to understand and interact in dynamic, dangerous and politically-sensitive battlefields,” Maj. Gen. Carl E. Mundy III, commander, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Special Operations Command, said in a press release. “Our rigorous training pipeline ensures that a newly minted critical skills operator has developed the skills required for full spectrum special operations. This badge serves as a visual certification that they have trained and prepared to accept their new responsibilities.”
The same press release details the badge’s symbols:
The center of the 2-inch x 2.75-inch insignia consists of the bald eagle, representing the United States, with outstretched wings to symbolize the global reach of the U.S. Marine Corps. A dagger clutched by the eagle reflects the emblem of Marine Raider Battalions and the Marine Special Operations School. The Southern Cross constellation superimposed on the dagger represents the historic achievements of the Marines serving during the Pacific campaign of WWII, specifically those actions on Guadalcanal. The Southern Cross remains a part of the legacy of modern-day Marine Corps Raider units.
MARSOC is the newest of the major special operations commands and was officially formed in 2006 so the Marine Corps would have a headquarters which could work directly with U.S. Special Operations Command.
The unit’s lineage is traced back to Marine Raiders of World War II who conducted vital operations against Japanese defenders in the Pacific Theater of that war.
Three Raider battalions make up the primary fighting force of MARSOC. The first Raiders of this modern unit were recruited out of top-tier units like Marine Reconnaissance and Force Reconnaissance battalions.
Before the tank entered the lexicon of military history, there was horse cavalry.
The horse, like the modern day tank, provided support to the infantry and artillery. However, while every kingdom, like every modern nation today, has some sort of mobile land support designed to punch holes through enemy lines, only a handful of nations have the best trained. So here we take a look at 5 epic cavalry formations of the ancient world.
1. The Numidians (light cavalry)
The Numidians were from what is now Algeria and were known for their cavalry abilities.
The Numidian cavalry of the ancient world. (Photo Wikimedia Commons)
Hannibal used these Numidian cavalrymen during the Second Punic War. So what made the Numidian cavalry so darn good?
The Numidians saw many battles during Hannibal’s campaign in Roman Italy. The Greek historian Polybius, describes the Numidian warriors as light cavalry armed with missile weapons (javelins). The Battle of Cannae 216 BCE, showcased their abilities.
What made the Numidian cavalry so effective at Cannae is that unlike the Spaniard and Celtic cavalries that also accompanied Hannibal, the Spaniard and Celtic horsemen were heavy cavalries that fought en masse, much like the Roman cavalry. The Numidians, being light cavalry, fought in a much looser formation and because of this, they harassed the Roman cavalry with complicated tactics before disengaging.
And while the Celtic and Spaniard cavalries had the Roman cavalry fixed, the Numidians went from harassment to providing shock support once the Roman cavalry turned their back. This caused the Roman cavalry to flee once the Numidians made contact and understood that if they do not make a break for it, they would be enveloped and decimated.
2. The Scythians (light cavalry)
The Scythians may not be the original inventors of asymmetrical warfare, but one could argue that they perfected it.
(Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The Scythians were ancient nomadic horse warriors who were first mentioned by the Assyrians during the reign of Sargon II (reigned 722 – 705 BCE). What made these horsemen so powerful was that they were raised in the saddle and were typically armed with a distinctive composite bow.
The Scythian bow is unique and revered throughout the ancient world by kings, historians, and a philosopher. King Esarhaddon of Assyria had a Cimmerian bow, the Babylonian armies of Nebuchadnezzar II and Nabonidus were equipped with their bows and arrows, and even Hercules’ Greek portrait displays him armed with a Scythian bow. The Greek philosopher Plato said,
The customs of the Scythians proves our error; for they not only hold the bow from them with the left hand and draw the arrow to them with their right, but use either hand for both purposes.
When one examines the Scythian lifestyle, one can easily gain an understanding of the type of warfare necessarily carried on against more sedentary (non-migratory) people, like those in Mesopotamia. The Scythian took a guerilla approach to warfare as their method, using small bands to conduct military operations. Herodotus mentions their method of warfare when King Darius of Persia campaigned against them.
It is thus with me, Persian: I have never fled for fear of any man, nor do I now flee from you; this that I have done is no new thing or other than my practice in peace. But as to the reason why I do not straightway fight with you, this too I will tell you. For we Scythians have no towns or planted lands, that we might meet you the sooner in battle, fearing lest the one be taken or the other wasted. But if nothing will serve you but fighting straightway, we have the graves of our fathers; come, find these and essay to destroy them; then shall you know whether we will fight you for those graves or no. Till then we will not join battle unless we think it good.
The description indicates that the Scythians against whom Darius was warring had no center of gravity. King Darius’ military campaign into Scythia (modern Ukraine) went for nothing. As he could not catch them, the Scythians burnt their own their fields, destroyed Persian supplies, and harassed his forces with hit and run tactics.
In the end, Darius turned his large army around and headed home before it was annihilated.
3. The Parthians (light cavalry)
The Parthian horsemen are much like the Scythians.
The Parthians also known as the Parni/Aparni, originated from eastern Iran and like the Scythians, wore light attire, carried a composite bow and a sidearm — possibly a sword or a dagger. What made the Parthian horse archers so powerful was their ability to hit and run, and this was demonstrated at the Battle of Carrhae in 53 BCE between the Roman Republic and the Parthian Empire.
(Photo Wikimedia Commons)
The Roman general Crassus led his Roman legions into the desert wilderness thinking they were going to face a pussycat. Instead, they found themselves face-to-face with an equal foe. Once Crassus gave the order to form a square, the Parthian horse archers saw an opportunity. They showered the Romans with raining death.
The average Parthian horse archer, with a quiver of 30 arrows, loosed between eight to ten arrows a minute at Carrhae. It would take almost three minutes to exhaust his arsenal before needing to be resupplied. The amount of Parthian horse archers at the battle is estimated at 10,000. Now, if all 10,000 fired away for 20 minutes, the amount of arrows fired by an individual horse archer would have been between 160-200 arrows. Take 10,000 and the amount of arrows fired upon the Roman soldiers are estimated to have been an astounding 1.6-2 million arrows in a 20-minute timeframe.
In the convulsion and agony of their pain they writhed as the arrows struck them; the men broke them off in their wounds and then lacerated and disfigured their own bodies by trying to tear out by main force the barbed arrow heads that had pierced through their veins and muscles.
Romans could do little, for if they break formation they are dead, if they stand still they are dead but have a chance. Only nightfall saved them. While the Parthian horse archers showered the Romans with death, the Parthian cataphract was the hammer.
4. The Parthian Cataphract (heavy armored cavalry)
When it comes to heavy cavalry in the ancient world, the Parthian cataphract takes the lead.
Parthian heavy armored cataphract. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)
The word cataphract comes from the Greek Kataphraktos means “completely enclosed.” The origins of the cataphract may not have started with the Parthians but with the Massagetae, who also inhabited portions of Eastern Iran three centuries before the arrival of the Parthians. If you want more info on this, click “here.”
The Parthian cataphract in many ways looked like the medieval knights of Europe. What made them so effective on the field of battle was that the rider and horse were covered in armor. The rider would carry a lance, sword, and presumably a bow.
At the Battle of Carrhae, the cataphract would charge into Roman lines once the legions locked shields to protect themselves from the arrows. According to Plutarch, the cataphracts would hit the lines with such a force that “many (Romans) perished hemmed in by the horsemen. Others were knocked over by the pikes or were carried off transfixed.”
This hit and run attack would go on for some time until the Roman broke and fled.
5. Late Roman Equites Cataphractarii and Sassanid Clibanarii (very heavily armored cavalry)
It may be an understatement to say that Equites cataphractarii were heavy cavalry as they were indeed the heaviest of the bunch.
among them were the full-armoured cavalry (whom they called clibanarii or cataphracti equites), all masked, furnished with protecting breastplates and girt with iron belts, so that you might have supposed them statues polished by the hand of Praxiteles, not men. Thin circles of iron plates, fitted to the curves of their bodies, completely covered their limbs; so that whichever way they had to move their members, their garment fitted, so skilfully were the joinings made
The Clibanarii were Sassanid. However, the Sassanids also used this term to describe the Equites cataphractarii. The description provided by Ammianus Marcellinus about the Clibanarii goes as follows:
Moreover, all the companies were clad in iron, and all parts of their bodies were covered with thick plates, so fitted that the stiff joints conformed with those of their limbs; and the forms of human faces were so skilfully fitted to their heads, that, since their entire bodies were plated with metal, arrows that fell upon them could lodge only where they could see a little through tiny openings fitted to the circle of the eye, or where through the tips of their noses they were able to get a little breath. Of these some, who were armed with pikes, stood so motionless that you would think them held fast by clamps of bronze.
The Persians opposed us serried bands of mail-clad horsemen in such close order that the gleam of moving bodies covered with closely fitting plates of iron dazzled the eyes of those who looked upon them, while the whole throng of horses was protected by coverings of leather.
So who had the best cavalry in the ancient world? Well, the answer to that question is the various nomads who dotted the Eurasian Steppe, Central Asia, and the Iranian plateau. These various nomads are the ones who not only perfected horse archery and heavy cavalry, they also brought civilization the chariot.
However, horse archers and heavy cavalry — no matter the kingdom — would come to an end once the gunpowder age arrived. Eventually new tactics took the rider off his mount and placed him into a tank.
The year 2020 was a good year for almost no one, especially anyone in North Korea. Despite overtures from the administration of U.S. President Donald Trump, reconciliation between North and South Korea never materialized. Rapprochement with the U.S. never fully took hold, either.
Then the global COVID-19 pandemic hit. North Korea needed help, and for a country like the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, there’s only one game in town: China.
According to the Korean Central News Agency, the DPRK’s state-run and only media outlet, North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un marked the 60th Anniversary of its mutual defense treaty with a warm message.
He told Chinese Leader Xi Jinping that his government is taking a “fixed stand” to “ceaselessly develop the friendly and cooperative relations” between his government and that of China, according to KCNA.
The Chinese president responded like anyone who’s dealing with a stage-5 clinger, acknowledging that his country and North Korea have “always supported each other,” according to Chinese state-run media agency Xinhua.
“The world has recently seen accelerating changes unprecedented over the past century… I wish to lead bilateral relations to unceasingly rise to new levels to the benefit of the two countries and their peoples.”
Translation: “We have always supported North Korea for whatever reason and we like their money, so we’ll keep on until they collapse under their own weight.”
For North Korea, its relationship with China is essentially a lifeline in times of crisis. Despite claims of self-sufficiency, the DPRK relies heavily on Chinese aid and support. North Korea has been hit particularly hard in recent years by crippling U.S. sanctions.
Although the country has released no information on how hard it was hit by the coronavirus, experts believe the pandemic only exacerbated the desperation inside the world’s last Stalinist communist state.
Relations between the two communist countries date back to the 1930s and the mutual war against Japanese occupation. After World War II, the North was bisected from the South by the Soviet Union. When the People’s Republic of China was finally established in 1949, the two officially established diplomatic relations.
Western Allies occupied South Korea. During the Korean War, Chinese soldiers intervened on the side of North Korea in order to maintain the North’s presence as a buffer against western aggression on its Yalu River border. Keeping western troops from having a foothold on its doorstep is China’s primary national security concern with North Korea.
Although the United States maintains a deterrent presence in South Korea, especially along the demilitarized border with North Korea, China does not deploy troops to North Korea.
In 1961, the two countries signed the Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance, promising to again go to war together in case either one was attacked from the outside. North Korea was not always the worldwide pariah state it is today. Under the protection and aid of the Soviet Union, the North flourished. When the USSR collapsed in the early 1990s, North Korea’s decline began in full.
The North has suffered from food shortages, widespread famine and crippling sanctions since 1994. With the rise of its nuclear weapons program, those sanctions have only increased and its reliance on China has become more important than ever.
In 1839, England went to war with China because it was upset that Chinese officials had shut down its drug trafficking racket and confiscated its dope.
Stating the historical record so plainly is shocking — but it’s true, and the consequences of that act are still being felt today.
The Qing Dynasty, founded by Manchurian clans in 1644, expanded China’s borders to their farthest reach, conquering Tibet, Taiwan and the Uighur Empire. However, the Qing then turned inward and isolationist, refusing to accept Western ambassadors because they were unwilling to proclaim the Qing Dynasty as supreme above their own heads of state.
Foreigners — even on trade ships — were prohibited entry into Chinese territory.
The exception to the rule was in Canton, the southeastern region centered on modern-day Guangdong Province, which adjoins Hong Kong and Macao. Foreigners were allowed to trade in the Thirteen Factories district in the city of Guangzhou, with payments made exclusively in silver.
The British gave the East India Company a monopoly on trade with China, and soon ships based in colonial India were vigorously exchanging silver for tea and porcelain. But the British had a limited supply of silver.
Starting in in the mid-1700s, the British began trading opium grown in India in exchange for silver from Chinese merchants. Opium — an addictive drug that today is refined into heroin — was illegal in England, but was used in Chinese traditional medicine.
However, recreational use was illegal and not widespread. That changed as the British began shipping in tons of the drug using a combination of commercial loopholes and outright smuggling to get around the ban.
Chinese officials taking their own cut abetted the practice. American ships carrying Turkish-grown opium joined in the narcotics bonanza in the early 1800s. Consumption of opium in China skyrocketed, as did profits.
The Daoguang Emperor became alarmed by the millions of drug addicts — and the flow of silver leaving China. As is often the case, the actions of a stubborn idealist brought the conflict to a head. In 1839 the newly appointed Imperial Commissioner Lin Zexu instituted laws banning opium throughout China.
He arrested 1,700 dealers, and seized the crates of the drug already in Chinese harbors and even on ships at sea. He then had them all destroyed. That amounted to 2.6 million pounds of opium thrown into the ocean. Lin even wrote a poem apologizing to the sea gods for the pollution.
Angry British traders got the British government to promise compensation for the lost drugs, but the treasury couldn’t afford it. War would resolve the debt.
But the first shots were fired when the Chinese objected to the British attacking one of their own merchant ships.
Chinese authorities had indicated they would allow trade to resume in non-opium goods. Lin Zexu even sent a letter to Queen Victoria pointing out that as England had a ban on the opium trade, they were justified in instituting one too.
It never reached her, but eventually did appear in the Sunday Times.
Instead, the Royal Navy established a blockade around Pearl Bay to protest the restriction of free trade … in drugs. Two British ships carrying cotton sought to run the blockade in November 1839. When the Royal Navy fired a warning shot at the second, The Royal Saxon, the Chinese sent a squadron of war junks and fire-rafts to escort the merchant.
HMS Volage‘s Captain, unwilling to tolerate the Chinese “intimidation,” fired a broadside at the Chinese ships. HMS Hyacinth joined in. One of the Chinese ships exploded and three more were sunk. Their return fire wounded one British sailor.
Seven months later, a full-scale expeditionary force of 44 British ships launched an invasion of Canton. The British had steam ships, heavy cannon, Congreve rockets and infantry equipped with rifles capable of accurate long range fire. Chinese state troops — “bannermen” — were still equipped with matchlocks accurate only up to 50 yards and a rate of fire of one round per minute.
Antiquated Chinese warships were swiftly destroyed by the Royal Navy. British ships sailed up the Zhujiang and Yangtze rivers, occupying Shanghai along the way and seizing tax-collection barges, strangling the Qing government’s finances. Chinese armies suffered defeat after defeat.
When the Qing sued for peace in 1842, the British could set their own terms. The Treaty of Nanjing stipulated that Hong Kong would become a British territory, and that China would be forced to establish five treaty ports in which British traders could trade anything they wanted with anybody they wanted to. A later treaty forced the Chinese to formally recognize the British as equals and grant their traders favored status.
More war, more opium
Imperialism was on the upswing by the mid-1800s. France muscled into the treaty port business as well in 1843. The British soon wanted even more concessions from China — unrestricted trade at any port, embassies in Beijing and an end to bans on selling opium in the Chinese mainland.
One tactic the British used to further their influence was registering the ships of Chinese traders they dealt with as British ships.
The pretext for the second Opium War is comical in its absurdity. In October 1856, Chinese authorities seized a former pirate ship, the Arrow, with a Chinese crew and with an expired British registration. The captain told British authorities that the Chinese police had taken down the flag of a British ship.
The British demanded the Chinese governor release the crew. When only nine of the 14 returned, the British began a bombardment of the Chinese forts around Canton and eventually blasted open the city walls.
British Liberals, under William Gladstone, were upset at the rapid escalation and protested fighting a new war for the sake of the opium trade in parliament. However, they lost seats in an election to the Tories under Lord Palmerston. He secured the support needed to prosecute the war.
China was in no position to fight back, as it was then embroiled in the devastating Taiping Rebellion, a peasant uprising led by a failed civil-service examinee claiming to be the brother of Jesus Christ. The rebels had nearly seized Beijing and still controlled much of the country.
Once again, the Royal Navy demolished its Chinese opponents, sinking 23 junks in the opening engagement near Hong Kong and seizing Guangzhou. Over the next three years, British ships worked their way up the river, capturing several Chinese forts through a combination of naval bombardment and amphibious assault.
France joined in the war — its excuse was the execution of a French missionary who had defied the ban on foreigners in Guangxi province. Even the United States became briefly involved after a Chinese fort took pot shots at long distance at an American ship.
In the Battle of the Pearl River Forts, a U.S. Navy a force of three ships and 287 sailors and marines took four forts by storm, capturing 176 cannons and fighting off a counterattack of 3,000 Chinese infantry. The United States remained officially neutral.
Russia did not join in the fighting, but used the war to pressure China into ceding a large chunk of its northeastern territory, including the present-day city of Vladivostok.
When foreign envoys drew up the next treaty in 1858 the terms, were even more crushing to the Qing Dynasty’s authority. Ten more cities were designated as treaty ports, foreigners would have free access to the Yangtze river and the Chinese mainland, and Beijing would open embassies to England, France and Russia.
The Xianfeng Emperor at first agreed to the treaty, but then changed his mind, sending Mongolian general Sengge Rinchen to man the Taku Forts on the waterway leading to Beijing. The Chinese repelled a British attempt to take the forts by sea in June 1859, sinking four British ships. A year later, an overland assault by 11,000 British and 6,700 French troops succeeded.
When a British diplomatic mission came to insist on adherence to the treaty, the Chinese took the envoy hostage, and tortured many in the delegation to death. The British High Commissioner of Chinese Affairs, Lord Elgar, decided to assert dominance and sent the army into Beijing.
British and French rifles gunned down 10,000 charging Mongolian cavalrymen at the Battle of Eight Mile Bridge, leaving Beijing defenseless. Emperor Xianfeng fled. In order to wound the Emperor’s “pride as well as his feeling” in the words of Lord Elgar, British and French troops looted and destroyed the historic Summer Palace.
The new revised treaty imposed on China legalized both Christianity and opium, and added Tianjin — the major city close to Beijing — to the list of treaty ports. It allowed British ships to transport Chinese indentured laborers to the United States, and fined the Chinese government eight million silver dollars in indemnities.
The Western presence in China became so ubiquitous, and so widely detested, that an anti-Western popular revolt, the Boxer Rebellion, broke out in 1899. The hapless Qing Dynasty, under the stewardship of Dowager Empress Cixi, first tried to clamp down on the violence before throwing its support behind it — just in time for a multi-national military force of U.S., Russian, German, Austrian, Italian, French, Japanese and British troops to arrive and put down the rebellion.
It then spent an entire year looting Beijing, Tianjin and the surrounding countryside in reprisal.
‘Century of Humiliation’
It’s hard to over-emphasize the impact of the Opium Wars on modern China. Domestically, it’s led to the ultimate collapse of the centuries-old Qing Dynasty, and with it more than two millennia of dynastic rule. It convinced China that it had to modernize and industrialize.
Today, the First Opium War is taught in Chinese schools as being the beginning of the “Century of Humiliation” — the end of that “century” coming in 1949 with the reunification of China under Mao. While Americans are routinely assured they are exceptional and the greatest country on Earth by their politicians, Chinese schools teach students that their country was humiliated by greedy and technologically superior Western imperialists.
The Opium Wars made it clear China had fallen gravely behind the West — not just militarily, but economically and politically. Every Chinese government since — even the ill-fated Qing Dynasty, which began the “Self-Strengthening Movement” after the Second Opium War — has made modernization an explicit goal, citing the need to catch up with the West.
The Japanese, observing events in China, instituted the same discourse and modernized more rapidly than China did during the Meiji Restoration.
Mainland Chinese citizens still frequently measure China in comparison to Western countries. Economic and quality of life issues are by far their main concern. But state media also holds military parity as a goal.
I once saw a news program on Chinese public television boasting about China’s new aircraft carrier Liaoning— before comparing it to an American carrier. “They’re saying ours is still a lot smaller,” a high school student pointed out to me. “And we have only one.”
Through most of Chinese history, China’s main threat came from nomadic horse-riding tribes along its long northern border. Even in the Cold War, hostility with the Soviet Union made its Mongolian border a security hot spot. But the Opium Wars — and even worse, the Japanese invasion in 1937 — demonstrated how China was vulnerable to naval power along its Pacific coast.
China’s aggressive naval expansion in the South China Sea can be seen as the acts of a nation that has succumbed repeatedly to naval invasions — and wishes to claims dominance of its side of the Pacific in the 21st century.
The history with opium also has led China to adopt a particularly harsh anti-narcotics policy with the death penalty applicable even to mid-level traffickers. Drug-trafficking and organized crime remain a problem, however. The explosion of celebrity culture in China has also led to punitive crackdowns on those caught partaking in “decadent lifestyles,” leading to prominent campaigns of public shaming.
For example, in 2014 police arrested Jaycee Chan, son of Jackie Chan, for possessing 100 grams of marijuana. His father stated he wouldn’t plead for his son to avoid imprisonment.
Past history does not always determine future actions. Chinese sentiments toward the United Kingdom today are generally positive despite the Opium Wars. The escalating military confrontation over the South China Sea is a reality of our times, but that doesn’t mean China’s leaders will forever be committed to a strategy of expansion and confrontation.
Nonetheless, fostering better relations requires that we understand how China’s current foreign policy has it roots in past encounters with the West.