DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

The latest survey of active-duty and reserve-component service members’ spouses shows the spouses are, by and large, happy with the military lifestyles they lead.

Defense Department officials briefed reporters at the Pentagon Feb. 21, 2019, on the results of the surveys, which were conducted in 2017.

The survey of active-duty spouses and a similar survey of National Guard and Reserve spouses showed similar results, they said. Among active-duty spouses, 60 percent claimed they are “satisfied” with their military way of life. Among the reserve components, 61 percent were satisfied.


While both surveys showed a slight decrease from the last previous survey, conducted in 2015, the 2015 and 2017 results both were higher than results from the same question on the 2008 survey, officials noted.

James N. Stewart, performing the duties of the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness, told reporters the surveys cover areas including satisfaction with military life, spouse employment, deployment and reintegration. Questions also touch on issues such as finances and the impact of deployments on families and military children.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

A soldier from the Florida Army National Guard’s 806th Military Police Company greets his family.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Thomas Kielbasa)

Survey results inform decisions

Results are used to inform decisions about how the U.S. military provides services to families, he said.

“These surveys allow us to identify areas of concern and understand what’s working, and more importantly, what’s not,” Stewart said. “This information also helps our internal leaders evaluate programs, address issues and gaps, and determine the need for new services.”

Paul Rosenfeld, the director for DOD’s Center for Retention and Readiness, said positive results of the surveys included general spouse support for military members continuing to serve. Among reserve component spouses, for instance, 81 percent support continued service for their spouse.

Regarding financial matters, 71 percent of active-duty spouses report being comfortable with their financial situation, while 68 percent of reserve-component spouses say the same thing.

Of concern, Rosenfeld said, is that among active-duty spouses, 61 percent support continued military service for their spouse — that’s a drop from 68 percent in 2012. “Spouse support for service members staying on duty predicts actual member retention,” Rosenfeld said.

Other points of concern revealed by the surveys are high levels of “loneliness” reported by spouses when military members are deployed and unemployment rates for active-duty military spouses. Among active-duty spouses, Rosenfeld said, unemployment sits at 24 percent. Among the spouses of junior enlisted members in the E-1 through E-4 pay grades, he said, that number sits at 29 percent.

It’s all about the kids

When it comes to military spouses, Rosenfeld said, family is most important, and children top the list.

“Child care continues to be a key need for active-duty families,” he said, adding that 42 percent of active-duty spouses with children under age 6 report regularly using child care. It’s 63 percent for spouses who are employed.

Carolyn S. Stevens, director of DOD’s Office of Military Family Readiness Policy, said some 40 percent of military members have children. Of those children, she said, about 38 percent are under the age of 6.

Past survey results showed that availability of child care — in particular, hours of operation — had been an issue for military families, Stevens said. Where hours of operation for child care may have affected service members’ ability to do their mission, hours were expanded, she added.

Subsequent survey results show that now, among those who don’t make use of child care on installations, only 2 percent say it’s due to hours of operation, she said.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Sinead Politz kisses her daughter, Lorelai, at the return of Lance Cpl. Ryan L. Politz.

“We believe, then, that those responses are a confirmation that we’ve listened to a concern, that we’ve responded to that concern, and that in fact we’ve hit the mark,” she said.

Also of concern when it comes to child care is cost and availability. About 45 percent of respondents on the survey say cost of child care is a problem for military families, Stevens said. She noted that in some situations, appropriated funds can be used to lower the cost of child care for families who use installation child care. And for some families, she said, fee assistance programs can be used to lower costs for those who use community-based child care.

Still, Stevens acknowledged, that’s not possible for every family who needs it, and more work needs to be done. “We are unable to provide fee assistance to all of our families, and we continue to see this as an issue that requires more attention and focus as we try to find solutions for families,” she said.

Next survey: 2019

For the 2017 survey, about 45,000 active-duty spouses were asked to participate, and about 17 percent of those responded. Among reserve-component spouses, 55,000 were invited to participate, with a response rate of 18 percent.

Invitations to participate in the 2019 survey went out to reserve component spouses in January 2019. An invitation will be sent to active-duty spouses in May 2019.

A.T. Johnston, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for military community and family policy, said the results from the 2017 survey, and the now ongoing 2019 survey, will continue to be used to improve quality of life for military families.

“The research information we receive guides me and my team to ensure we provide the tools, information and services that military families need to be successful, fulfilled, and able to manage the challenges they may encounter during military service,” Johnston said.

MIGHTY FIT

What supplements in the Exchange are worth your money? Part 3

This is it, part 3. There’s some weird stuff on this list, but don’t make the mistake of overlooking something or you may miss out on that “1 weird trick” to more gains than you ever thought possible. I’m only partially joking, I give a very clear recommendation to help boost your own endogenously produced free testosterone…check it out below.


DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

If your workout is typically less than an hour you literally don’t need this supplement.

(Photo by Sgt. Jonathan Wright)

Intra-workout (AKA something you need to take while training)

I covered this pretty solidly in my article on PFT nutrition here. I covered it even more completely on my website here.

I’ll sum it up for you one more time just to really beat this horse harder (I hate horses after all).

If your workout is less than 90 minutes, it’s probably completely unnecessary.

If your workout is 90 minutes or longer a simple beverage of ~40 grams of fast carbs, like Gatorade, ~15 grams of protein, and electrolytes (AKA salt and potassium) like those provided in a Gatorade every hour at and after the 90-minute mark should satisfy your need.

Maybe there’s an intra-workout that satisfies that need more simply than some fruity flavored protein powder and a Gatorade. I’m not sure, I haven’t looked that deeply into it recently. If you have one that you like, tell me in an email at michael@composurefitness.com, and I’ll include it in a future article on the best intra-workout supplements.

The one that seems to be purchased the most on bodybuilding.com contains no carbs and costs nearly dollars. That’s a bullshit product that completely misses the point/purpose of an intra-workout.

How to Increase Testosterone Naturally | Science Explained

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Testosterone support

This is a good time to talk about blends, proprietary recipes, and trademarked ingredients. If the supplement you are considering has any of these in them, DO NOT buy that supplement. These terms are just clever marketing and, more often than not are an excuse to hide the fact that the supplement is completely ineffective.

The specific testosterone support supplement I looked at in my bodybuilding.com search didn’t contain half of the vitamins/minerals that have been shown to have the most efficacy in boosting testosterone. It did have a bunch of unverified nonsense and herbal remedies in it like fenugreek, maca, and boron. I wouldn’t spend any money on this or any similar product for testosterone support.

If you truly have a testosterone deficiency, talk to your doctor about getting a no kidding testosterone cycle to help your medically recognized deficiency.

If you are simply trying to increase your testosterone because you think that’s good then try taking these with a dietary fat containing meal for at least a month to see if things change for you:

  • zinc (10–30 mg)
  • magnesium (200–350 mg)
  • vitamin D3 (50–75 mcg / 2,000–3,000 IU).

Buying those three should be much cheaper per serving than any nonsense that is 15 ingredients mixed together.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Of course you could just get this one from your diet.

(Photo by Iñigo De la Maza on Unsplash)

Omega-3 fatty acids

Before I even get into Omega-3s ask yourself why you’re taking it. If it’s for joint health, then continue on. If it’s for heart health, stop and have a more in-depth conversation with your doctor. It seems that even though Omega-3 fatty acids have a positive effect on triglycerides and blood pressure they don’t actually seem to prevent cardiac events.

As far as joint health goes, the rule is simple. You want to be supplementing with 3 grams of combined EPA and DHA to get the effect you’re searching for. If the supplement you’re looking at has that serving size and no other nonsense in it, go for it.

Alternatively, you probably don’t need to supplement if you are eating fatty fish like salmon a few times a week. Make the decision for yourself. If you have access to salmon regularly, I don’t know why you’d waste your time taking more pills than you need.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Pssst… Tryin’ to get a pump?

(Photo by Sgt. Kevin Stabinsky)

Pump stimulator

WTF is this/why do you need it? Seriously, I want to know. If you take something that is specifically designed to give you a pump, email me at michael@composurefitness.com and tell me why.

The pump stimulator I looked at had two ingredients that seem to be intended to do something:

  • Glycerol: It’s supposed to help your muscle cells to hold on to more water and therefore increase output. I found one weak paper on the topic. I’m not convinced. It will probably make you feel like you have a bigger pump since it’s allowing more water to be stored in your muscle…the only group I can see caring about this is bodybuilders. But even then, it may inhibit vascularity due to the increased water retention. TLDR: Meh.
  • A proprietary blend of something containing nitrate and who-knows-what-else. Stay away from trademarked or patented combinations like the plague. They lack evidence and efficacy (translation: it’s someone trying to pull the wool over your eyes.)
How Do Muscles Grow ? #1 HYPERTROPHY

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Mass gainer

Sure. If you’re trying to put on weight and everything else fails, then maybe try a mass gainer.

Actually, hold on a second there. There is a very clearly defined way to bulk:

Eat a calorie surplus.

I lay out a very clear set-by-step guide for how to do this in the smartest/simplest way possible in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide (Which is free in my Free Resources Vault here).

If you choose to achieve said calorie surplus using a mass gainer, then go ahead. All a mass gainer typically is just a butt-ton (or is it an ass-load? I always get them confused) of carbohydrates… Guess where else you can get carbohydrates. In just about every delicious food!

If you prefer the mass gainer over all other foods, I guess go ahead, weirdo. In my own personal experience of anyone, I’ve ever seen purchase mass gainer is that it sits on top of the fridge 80% full until it expires. Pretty sure that’s the definition of a waste of money.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

(ME)

Those are the 12 most commonly purchased categories of sports nutrition supplements purchased on bodybuilding.com. Chances are you’ve seen them in your local supplement store/megastore and considered purchasing one or all of them. Hopefully, this guide has shown you where to spend your money and where to save it.

As I mentioned multiple times throughout this article, if you have any questions or alternative opinions on my take on these types of supplements, do not hesitate to email me at michael@composurefitness.com.

As always, when it comes to nutrition, your number one solution to any dietary need or hack should be to alter your diet of real foods to get adequate quantities and proportions of macro and micronutrients. Only after you have that dialed-in like I very explicitly outline in The Ultimate Composure Nutrition Guide should you bother walking down the supplement aisle.

If you made it this far in the article, you clearly care about your health and fitness. Why then have you not joined the Mighty Fit FB group? If you are in the group, post in there which category of sports supplements that I covered in this article that you are the most disappointed by.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life
MIGHTY MOVIES

GOT author puts rumors about the final two novels to rest

Unless you live under a rock, you remember the series finale of “Games of Thrones and massive fan uproar that ensued. The criticism lead many to question whether George R.R. Martin, author of the unfinished book series that inspired the show, would alter his plans for the end of the novels. Finally, Martin is speaking out about the speculation and putting rumors to rest.

The author told Entertainment Weekly that despite pressure from fans, he’ll proceed with the final two “A Song of Ice & Fire” installments as planned. “You’ve been planning for a certain ending and if you suddenly change direction just because somebody figured it out, or because they don’t like it, then it screws up the whole structure,” he said.


DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

George R.R. Martin

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

Martin also revealed that he was not immune to the immense pressure from fans, especially because the TV show got ahead of the books. “Yes, I told [showrunners David Benioff and Dan Weiss] a number of things years ago,” he said. “And some of them they did do. But at the same time, it’s different. I have very fixed ideas in my head as I’m writing “The Winds of Winter” and beyond that in terms of where things are going.”

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

David Benioff and Dan Weiss.

(Photo by Gage Skidmore)

But in the end, the author decided to stay true to the world he had built. “I want to write the book I’ve always intended to write all along,” Martin said. “And when it comes out they can like it or they can not like it.” The release date for the final two novels, “The Winds of Winter” and “A Dream of Spring,” has yet to be announced.

This article originally appeared on Fatherly. Follow @FatherlyHQ on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

One Navy officer and a pink phone prevent all-out war with North Korea

It happens at least twice a day. A pink phone in the U.S.- South Korean part of the Joint Security Area rings. On the other end is North Korea. The phone is an old-timey touchtone phone, and the calls come in at 0930 and 1530 every day. This is the first time since 2013 these calls have been made. Picking up the phone is Lt. Cmdr. Daniel McShane, U.S. Navy, and while he’s not talking to Kim Jong Un, these are the most important talks with the North since President Trump went to Hanoi.


DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

It didn’t hurt, though.

In a piece for the Wall Street Journal, McShane told Timothy W. Martin that he actually has eight people on the other side of the demilitarized zone that he talks to now. While their exchanges are amenable but often brief, the important part is that someone is calling. For the years between 2013 and 2018, they weren’t – and that was a big problem.

“If they’re talking, they’re not shooting,” says McShane, who will speak to his counterparts in either English or Korean. In-between coordinating the return of Korean War dead, removing mines, and coordinating helicopters, the North Koreans have come to know McShane has a Korean girlfriend and that he loves baseball, especially the LA Dodgers. When there is no message, that’s okay too. They still call to tell McShane there is no message to send that day.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Even North and South Korea have begun to coordinate in recent years.

He’s not the only one who answers the phone, according to the Wall Street Journal, but he’s the most widely known. A few others around the office help him manage phone calls. The younger, enlisted people who have picked up the phone at times have marveled at how well the North Koreans speak English

“I worried about a communication barrier, but there are times when I think, ‘Wow, your English is better than mine!’ ” says Air Force Tech. Sgt. Keith Jordan. He and a handful of others help enforce the UN-brokered cease-fire. The two groups have even met face-to-face, the few groups who do so unarmed. For the time being, it seems that casual conversations about choco-pies and the Dodgers will be the limit of U.S.-North Korean interaction. But as long as that interaction is happening, neither side will be mobilizing for war.

MIGHTY SPORTS

The NFL’s most generous legend gives homeless veterans a new life

1977 was a big year for Chicago’s Walter Payton. After two years in the NFL, he was the league’s leading rusher and was selected to play in the 1977 Pro Bowl, where he was named the Pro Bowl MVP. His on-the-field performance turned the struggling Bears franchise around, but his off-the-field performance would earn him the NFL’s Man of the Year Award, an honor that would later bear his name.


Throughout his 13-year career, Payton was an exceptional member of his team, the example by which all team members should follow – in any kind of group, setting, or sport. He only missed one game in that entire span and, despite being the league’s premier running back, he was able to do anything the team asked of him, throwing eight touchdown passes and even setting a game rushing record with a 101-degree fever.

Heck, he wanted to kick,” Bears Head Coach Mike Ditka told ESPN. “We wouldn’t let him kick.”
DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

“Never Die Easy” was Walter Payton’s motto.

(NFL)

But it wasn’t his football performance that prompted the NFL to name its prestigious award after him. What he did in his spare time left a legacy of humanitarianism and generosity that prompts NFL players to use their high earnings to good works within their local communities to this day.

As a young black man in Mississippi, Payton helped integrate his local high school and its football team. From there, he would go on to play at tiny Jackson State University, but his determination at running back caught the NFL’s eye, earning him his spot in the 1975 NFL draft. He didn’t make waves in his first season with the Bears, but he would soon be one Chicago’s — and professional football’s — most legendary athletes.

He founded the Walter Connie Payton Foundation to give back to the city that gave him so much. Though Payton died of a rare liver disorder that led to bile duct cancer, his legacy lives on through his foundation.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Walter Payton with beneficiaries of his foundation’s support.

What began as an effort to help Chicago’s children now includes Chicago’s homeless veteran population. The foundation works with the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community in providing veterans with everything they need to live with dignity and pride.

Concord Place Assisted Living is a 55-and-older community, but homeless veterans can live there thanks to Walter and Connie Payton’s foundation. The new homes include food, health care, and physical activities. It keeps them off the cold streets of Chicago while offering them a chance to build new lives. The project is so close to the foundation’s heart that 100 percent of donations for vets will go to the project.

The foundation is now run by Payton’s widow, Connie, to whom he was married for 23 years.

I had no idea how many veterans had no place to go,” she told the Chicago Tribune. “They serve us knowing there might be a chance that they’ll never come home. … I wanted to find a way to do something to help.”

They turned the entire 15th floor of the assisted living community into veteran housing. A mere ,500 funds a room for a vet, complete with bed, TV, food, health care – the works. Once the 15th floor was filled, they started on the 14th. The foundation continues to fund the rooms using its other charitable works.

[Walter] was a kind, genuine person, and the foundation was important to him,” Payton said. “We always felt that when you’ve been blessed, why not learn to give back to other people and bless them, and hopefully someday they can bless someone else.
DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Walter and Connie Payton Foundation President Connie Payton oversee the renovation of the Northlake, Ill. Concord Place Assisted Living Community.

(WLS ABC 7 Chicago)

Today, the NFL’s Man of the Year Award is named for Payton, honoring players who display Walter Payton-level excellence in every aspect of their lives. The award for 2017 went to the Houston Texans’ J.J. Watt, an outstanding defender who raised million for those in Houston affected by Hurricane Harvey.

The frontrunners for the 2018 award are the Vikings’ Kyle Rudolph, the Cowboys’ Dak Prescott, and Robbie Gould of the San Francisco 49ers.

Articles

These are the 7 articles of the French Foreign Legion’s Code of Honor

Hundreds of people are knocking on the door to serve in the Legion and roughly 10-15 make the cut per recruiting class.

But newly-minted Foreign Legionnaires receive the distinctive white Kepi of the legion upon finishing the first four weeks of Basic Training and moving on to the next phase of their training.


When they do, they recite the Legion’s seven-article Code of Honor.

Article 1.

Legionnaire, you are serving France with Honour and Fidelity.

Article 2.

Each legionnaire is your brother in arms whatever his nationality, his race, or his religion might be. You show him the same close solidarity that links the members of the same family.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life
Sappers of the French Foreign Legion.

Article 3.

Respect for traditions, devotion to your leaders, discipline, and comradeship are your strengths, courage, and loyalty your virtues.

Article 4.

Proud of your status as legionnaire, you display this in your always impeccable uniform, your always dignified but modest behaviour, and your clean living quarters.

Article 5.

An elite soldier, you train rigorously, you maintain your weapon as your most precious possession, and you take constant care of your physical form.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life
French Foreign Legionnaires in Afghanistan.

Article 6.

The mission is sacred, you carry it out until the end and, if necessary in the field, at the risk of your life.

Article 7.

In combat, you act without passion and without hate, you respect defeated enemies, and you never abandon your dead, your wounded, or your arms.

Learn more about the French Foreign Legion in the video at the top.

Watch More Elite Forces:

This is what made ancient Roman gladiators so fierce

This is how Rome’s Praetorian Guard held so much power

This is why Cossacks are Russia’s legendary fighting force

These 4 Gurkha stories will make you want to forge your own kukri knife

This is the legend of the Knights of the Round Table

MIGHTY HISTORY

The only successful missile attack on a US warship was an Iraqi sucker punch

On May 17, 1987, a long-range luxury business jet approached the USS Stark, which was on a routine patrol in the Persian Gulf. The Iran-Iraq War was nearing its end, but attacks from both sides were still brutal and frequent. When Stark requested the plane identify itself, it instead fired two Exocet anti-ship missiles, killing 37 sailors and wounding another 21.


The Stark was well outside the war zone and wasn’t expecting to run into any kind of attack, especially from Iraq, which was a de facto ally of the U.S. The crew of the Stark saw what they believed was an Iraqi Mirage fighter coming their way, and, as such, was no real cause for alarm. But the F-1 Mirage wasn’t a fighter at all — it was a classified, modified business-class plane, specially adapted to raid Iranian targets.

The Americans never saw it coming.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Most reports say the Stark was attacked by an Iraqi F-1 Mirage fighter.

The ship’s electronic surveillance systems didn’t see the missiles and neither did the radar, despite both systems being able to track the business jet. The jet made a few quick turns, coming closer with each turn. When it was 30 miles out, it fired and sped away. The second missile hit Stark 30 seconds after the first. The crew had no time to respond.

According to the Navy’s official investigation of the incident, Stark’s crew and officers believed the plane would “benignly pass them by.” The Tactical Action Officer took no action, even though he knew the Mirage fighter they believed the plane to be was capable of firing missiles from 38 miles away. The TAO tried to increase the ships readiness level in the minutes before the first missile hit, but by then it was too late.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

There was plenty of blame to go around. The Weapons Control Officer was not at his station, the Fire Control Technician had already left the operations room on personal business, the automatic detector-tracker was off, the fire control radar was on standby, and the Mk-92 fire control radar was not locked onto the attacker until the missiles were already on their way.

The first Exocet penetrated the hull but did not explode, hitting right beneath the bridge. Its unspent fuel sparked a huge fire aboard the ship. The second missile hit the same spot, but this one exploded, blowing a 3×4.6-meter hole in the ship’s hull. Of the 37 sailors who died, 29 were killed immediately, two were lost at sea, and eight more died of their wounds.

Strangely enough, it was an Iranian helicopter and a Saudi Arabian ship that assisted the Navy in rescue and salvage operations.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Stark was still afloat and managed to hobble back to port in nearby Bahrain with the help of destroyers USS Waddell and USS Conyngham, along with the destroyer tender USS Acadia. Captain Glenn Brindel was relieved of command of the Stark, eventually taking non-judicial punishment and retiring early.

Iraq initially claimed the ship violated the war-zone area, but upon seeing the Navy’s evidence to the contrary, relented. They announced they would pursue their own inquiry into the incident and apologized to the United States after President Reagan called an emergency meeting of the National Security Planning Group.

If this attack was carried out by Iraqi planes, then it ‘would have been the result of confusion by the pilots’,” the Iraqi Foreign Minister told the Guardian. It’s not known what became of the pilot but the Iraqi investigation found he thought the Stark was an Iranian tanker.

MIGHTY MILSPOUSE

American pirates? Us privateers could help win a war with China

After nearly two decades of counter-terror operations the world over, the United States military is now shifting its focus back toward great power competition with the likes of China and Russia. Unfortunately, as is so often the case, the past two decades have left the U.S. military particularly well suited for the war at hand, but not very well positioned for the wars that are feasibly to come.

During this era of counter-terror operations, China has had the opportunity to seek higher degrees of technological and tactical parity, while having the benefit of not being actively engaged in expensive combat operations on the same scale. That has allowed China’s sea-faring power to grow at an exponential rate in recent years, with an active fleet of more than 770 vessels sailing under the banners of the People’s Liberation Army-Navy, their militarized Coast Guard, and a maritime miitia that takes its orders from the Chinese military as well.


DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Chinese Navy on parade (Chinese state television)

The addition of China’s massive ballistic missile stockpile, including hypersonic anti-ship platforms the U.S. Navy currently has no means to defend against, has further established China’s advantage in the Pacific. Even if the U.S. Navy leveraged every vessel in its 293-ship fleet, American forces would still be outnumbered by Chinese ships by more than two to one. Importantly, however, the United States likely couldn’t devote its entire fleet to any single conflict due to its global commitments to security and stability, especially regarding essential shipping lanes.

Today, the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps are both actively seeking ways to mitigate China’s numbers advantage, as well as the area-denial bubble created by China’s anti-ship platforms. Multiple possible solutions are being explored, ranging from hot-loading Marine Corps F-35Bs on austere airstrips on captured islands in the case of the Marines, to the Navy’s ongoing development of the MQ-25 aerial refueling drone that aims to extend the reach of America’s carrier-based fighters. Still, thus far, there has been no magic bullet. In fact, concerns about a near-peer conflict with China has even prompted several high-ranking defense officials to question the practicality of America’s fleet of super-carriers, both because of their immense cost, and because of the likelihood that they could be sunk by China’s hypersonic missiles long before they could get close enough to Chinese shores to begin launching sorties of F-35Cs and F/A-18 Super Hornets.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Mohamed Labanieh/Released)

The fundamental challenges a war with China would present are clear: Finding a way to mitigate the risks posed by advanced anti-ship missiles and offsetting the significant numbers advantage Chinese forces would have within the region. In the past, we’ve discussed the possibility of arming commercial cargo ships with modular weapons systems in a “missile barge” fleet as a means to bolster American numbers and capabilities. Another feasible option that could even work in conjunction with this strategy would be issuing “letters of marque” to private operations, effectively allowing non-military forces to serve as privateers for the U.S. government.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

The Capture of a French Ship by Royal Family Privateers by Charles Brooking

American Privateers or Pirates?

The concept of issuing letters of marque to American privateers was recently discussed by retired Marine Colonel Mark Cancian and Brandon Schwartz in the U.S. Naval Institute’s publication, “Proceedings.” Although the idea seems almost ridiculous in the 21st Century, the legal framework outlined by Cancian and Schwartz is sound, and one could argue that their assertions about the viability and strategic value of privateer fleets are as well.

Cancian and Schwartz argue that privateering is not piracy, as there are laws governing it and precedent for the practice established in past U.S. conflicts, including the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812.

“Privateering is not piracy—there are rules and commissions, called letters of marque, that governments issue to civilians, allowing them to capture or destroy enemy ships. The U.S. Constitution expressly grants Congress the power to issue them (Article I, section 8, clause 11).”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

However, despite their argument being technically right, it’s difficult to dismiss how the piracy narrative would almost certainly affect public perception of the use of privateers, and potentially even the conflict at large.

While the United States could argue that privateers operate with specifically outlined rules and commissions, even the American public would likely see American privateers as pirates. And because America has found itself trailing behind nations like China and Russia in terms of manipulating public narratives, that narrative could indeed hurt not only public support for the conflict; it could even jeopardize some international relationships.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

The Pride of Baltimore, left, and the Lynx, two privateer vessels, reenact a battle of the War of 1812 in Boston Harbor during Boston Navy Week 2012. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Elisandro T. Diaz/Released)

Privateers are not pirates in the literal sense only because a government is sanctioning their piracy. In the eyes of those who don’t recognize America’s authority to grant such permissions in far-flung waterways, the two terms would be interchangeable.

Regardless of vernacular, the United States has used this approach to great success in the past. Although the last time American privateers set sale was more than 200 years ago, their approach was modern enough to set precedent for a return to the concept.

“The privateering business was thoroughly modern and capitalistic, with ownership consortiums to split investment costs and profits or losses, and a group contract to incentivize the crew, who were paid only if their ship made profits. A sophisticated set of laws ensured that the capture was ‘good prize,’ and not fraud or robbery. After the courts determined that a merchant ship was a legitimate capture, auctioneers sold off her cargo of coffee, rum, wine, food, hardware, china, or similar consumer goods, which ultimately were bought and consumed by Americans.”
-Frederick C. Leiner in “Yes, Privateers Mattered

In the event of a large-scale conflict with a nation like China, that potential narrative blowback may be a necessary evil. However, the ramifications of that evil could be mitigated through a concerted narrative effort to frame privateer actions in the minds of the populous as an essential part of a broader war effort that has the American people’s best interests in mind.

In the War of 1812, privateering saw such public support (in large part thanks to the profits it drove) that some took to calling the conflict the “War of the People.” Managing the narrative surrounding American privateers could make the concept far more palatable to the American people.

As for the legal aspects of privateering, you can read a thorough legal justification for the practice in a separate piece written by Schwartz called “U.S. Privateering is legal.”

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

(Italian Center for International Studies)

The role of American privateers at war

China’s massive fleet of vessels in the Pacific can be broken down into their three command groups, all of which ultimately answer to China’s People’s Liberation Army. China’s maritime militia accounts for approximately 300 vessels, the militarized Coast Guard has 135 more, and the PLA-Navy itself boasts an ever-growing roster expected to reach 450 surface vessels by the end of the decade.

In the event of a war with China, the American Navy would have more than its hands full engaging with such a massive force, limiting its ability to cut China off from one of its most significant revenue sources, overseas trade. China’s reliance on shipping products to other nations has helped its economy grow rapidly, but it also represents a strategic disadvantage, as Cancian and Schwartz point out, if America can find the means to disrupt this exchange.

“Thirty-eight percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) comes from trade, against only 9 percent of U.S. GDP. Chinese social stability is built on a trade-off: The Chinese Communist Party has told the people they will not have democratic institutions, but they will receive economic prosperity.”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

In 2018, China’s merchant fleet was already approaching 2,200 total vessels, thanks to massive external demand for inexpensive Chinese exports. America’s Navy would likely be stretched too thin to actually blockade such an expansive merchant fleet. Like with aircraft, America’s preference for large and expensive ships that are capable of fulfilling multiple roles has offered increased capability but significantly decreased numbers. At its peak during World War II, the U.S. Navy boasted more than 6,000 ships. Today, the Navy has 293 far more capable vessels, but none can be in more than one place at a time.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

(DoD Photo)

American Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyers, for instance, are too big and expensive to task with waiting out Chinese ships hiding in foreign ports, and would likely largely be assigned to Aegis missile defense operations. This is where American privateers could offer an important service.

American privateers wouldn’t be tasked with engaging the Chinese Navy or even with sinking merchant ships. Instead, they would be tasked with capturing Chinese cargo vessels, offering them a multi-million dollar bounty on each, and quickly compromising China’s ability to sustain its export sales.

“Since the goal is to capture the hulls and cargo, privateers do not want to sink the vessel, just convince the crew to surrender. How many merchant crews would be inclined to fight rather than surrender and spend the war in comfortable internment?”
-“Unleash the Privateers!” In Proceedings

Of course, despite Cancian and Schwartz’ dismissive take on how apt Chinese crews would be to fight to maintain control of their ships, it’s important to remember that these privateers would likely be engaging in close quarters fighting with Chinese crews or security on board. As American privateers proved more costly to the Chinese government, an increased emphasis on protecting these cargo ships would almost certainly follow.

This begs an essential question: Where do you find privateer crews?

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Private security contractors in Iraq (DoD photo)

Private infrastructure already exists

While the concept of American privateers seems borderline fantastical, the truth is, the United States has already leveraged the premise of using non-military personnel for security and defensive operations the world over. American security firm Blackwater (now Academi) is perhaps the highest-profile example of America’s use of private military contractors. In fact, contractors in Iraq have reached numbers as high as 160,000 at some points, nearly equaling the total number of U.S. military personnel in the region. At least 20,000 of those private contractors filled armed security roles.

So while the term “privateer” or even pirate suggests an entirely unconventional approach to modern warfare, the premise is already in play. Terminology may dictate perception to a significant degree, but in practice, privateering wouldn’t be all that different from existing relationships the United States maintains with private security outfits. Further, private security firms, including Blackwater, have already operated at sea in a similar manner to privateers, from Blackwater’s armed patrol craft policing Somali pirates off the Horn of Africa to countless armed and privately owned boats patrolling the Indian Ocean today.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

In 2007, Blackwater acquired the McArther from the NOAAS. (WikiMedia Commons)

Many such organizations, with existing infrastructure and established relationships with the U.S. government, would likely seek and win contracts, or letters of marque, in the early days of a burgeoning Sino-American war, and stand up their own forces far more quickly than the United States could expand its naval force in the same volume. Rather than building ships and enlisting crews, the United States could simply authorize existing ships with existing crews to go on the offensive against China’s commercial fleets.

The American government’s experience with military contractors throughout the War on Terror means these relationships would not be as without precedent as they may seem, and the existing private military industry would make American privateers a quick and effective means to grow America’s offensive capabilities.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

China claims sovereignty over much of the South China Sea (shown in red). A conflict with China would undoubtedly play out here. (WikiMedia Commons)

A complicated solution to a complex problem

Of course, there are many variables at play when discussing a future conflict with China. Incorporating privateers into such a strategy admittedly seems rather extreme from our vantage point in 2020, but it’s important to note that there is no precedent for what something like a 21st Century Sino-American war might look like. The massive sea battles of World War II may offer some sense of scale, but the rapid advancement of technology in the intervening decades creates a hypothetical war that is simply incongruous with the World War II models.

America does boast the largest and most powerful military in the world, but China’s rapidly expanding and modernizing force has not been growing in a vacuum. From space operations to warship construction, China has been developing its war-fighting apparatus with America specifically in mind. China isn’t interested in competing with the United States on its terms and instead has been focused on identifying potential American vulnerabilities and tailoring new capabilities to leverage those flaws.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

China’s Type 002 Aircraft carrier (Tyg728 on WikiMedia Commons)

Large scale warfare between technological and economic giants would play out differently than any conflict we’ve ever seen. In order to emerge from such a conflict successfully, America has to do much more than win. Once the price of victory begins to compromise America’s ability to sustain its way of life thereafter, that victory becomes less pronounced.

In order to win in such a conflict, the United States will need to dig deep into its bag of tricks. On the home front, it would mean finding ways to rapidly expand America’s industrial base to replenish vehicles, supplies, and equipment as they’re expended or destroyed on the front lines. The U.S. Navy, Marine Corps, Army, Air Force, and Space Force will all be required to communicate and rely on one another in ways never before accomplished on a battlefield.

And China’s massive numbers advantage would have to be mitigated somehow. American privateers, or pirates as the press would surely call them, might just do the trick.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY HISTORY

VA Clinic renamed in honor of two World War II Veterans

The beat of the Native American drums reverberated through the halls of the clinic as Crow Nation drummers proudly sang a war song. The ceremony began with a Crow Nation prayer and the presentation of colors.

Hundreds were on hand to witness the long-awaited renaming ceremony of the Billings clinics for World War II Veterans Dr. Joseph Medicine Crow, the last member of the Crow Tribe to become a war chief, and Benjamin Steele.

The Community Based Outpatient Clinic was renamed in honor of Medicine Crow and the Community Based Specialty Clinic was renamed in honor of Steele at the ceremony in February.


Honored heroes

Shirley Steele beamed with pride while talking about her late husband. He was born and raised in Roundup, Mont., and joined the U.S. Army Air Corps in 1940. He was a Bataan Death March survivor and prisoner of war for more than three years. He died in September 2016 at the age of 98.

Tiara Medicine Crow, granddaughter of Joseph Medicine Crow, a Bronze Star holder, talked about her love of her grandfather and all that he meant to the Crow Nation.

A.J. Not Afraid, grandson-in-law of Joseph Medicine Crow and chairman of the Crow Nation, spoke to his history and accomplishments.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

A.J. Not Afraid and a child performer attended the ceremony in traditional Crow Nation dress.

www.blogs.va.gov

Joseph Medicine Crow was born on the Crow Indian Reservation in eastern Montana. He earned a master’s degree from the University of Southern California in 1939. Medicine Crow was the first member of his tribe to attain that level of education. Medicine Crow joined the U.S. Army in 1943. He received the Presidential Medal of Freedom for his service. He died in April of 2016 at the age of 102.

The photo at the top of this story is of Not Afraid and Shirley Steele.

This article originally appeared on VAntage Point. Follow @DeptVetAffairs on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian subs can strike European capitals

NATO naval officials have repeatedly warned about Russia’s submarines — a force they say is more sophisticated and active.

US Navy officials have said several times that Russian subs are doing more now than at any time since the Cold War, though intelligence estimates from that time indicate they’re still far below Cold War peaks.

They’re also worried about where those subs are going. US officials have suggested more than once that Russian subs are lurking around vital undersea cables. (The US did something similar during the Cold War.)


But the most significant capability Russian subs have added may be what they can do on land.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Long-range Kalibr cruise missiles are launched by a Russian Navy ship in the eastern Mediterranean.

(Russian Defense Ministry photo)

Asked about the best example of growth by Russia’s submarines, Adm. James Foggo, the head of US Naval Forces in Europe and Africa, pointed to their missiles, which offer relatively newfound land-attack capability.

“The Kalibr class cruise missile, for example, has been launched from coastal-defense systems, long-range aircraft, and submarines off the coast of Syria,” Foggo said on the latest edition of his command’s podcast, “On the Horizon.”

“They’ve shown the capability to be able to reach pretty much all the capitals in Europe from any of the bodies of water that surround Europe,” he added.

The Kalibr family of missiles — which includes anti-ship, land-attack, and anti-submarine variants — has been around since the 1990s.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Ranges of Russia’s Kalibr missiles when fired from seas around Europe. Light red circles are the land-attack version. Dark red circles indicate the anti-ship version.

(CSIS Missile Defense Project)

The land-attack version can be fired from subs and surface ships and can carry a 1,000-pound warhead to targets between 930 miles and 1,200 miles away, according to CSIS’ Missile Defense Project. It is said to fly 65 feet above the sea and at 164 to 492 feet over land.

After the first strikes in Syria, the Russian Defense Ministry said the Kalibr was accurate to “a few meters” — giving them a capability not unlike the US’s Tomahawk cruise missiles.

In 2011, the US Office of Naval Intelligence quoted a Russian defense industry official as saying Moscow planned to put the Kalibr on all new nuclear and non-nuclear subs, frigates, and larger ships and that it was likely to be retrofitted on older vessels.

But the system wasn’t used in combat until 2015.

In October that year, Russian warships in the Caspian Sea fired 26 Kalibr missiles at ISIS targets in Syria. The submarine Veliky Novgorod fired three Kalibrs from the eastern Mediterranean at ISIS targets in eastern Syria later that month, and that December a Russian sub fired four Kalibrs while en route to its home port on the Black Sea.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

A Russian Navy ship launches Kalibr cruise missiles from the Caspian sea at targets over 1000 miles away in Syria.

(IN THE NOW / Youtube)

Russian surface ships and subs have fired Kalibr missiles at targets in Syria numerous times since. But their use may be more about sending a message to Western foes than gaining an edge in Syria.

“There’s no operational or tactical requirement to do it,” NORTHCOM Commander Adm. William Gortney told Congress in early 2016. “They’re messaging us that they have this capability.”

Russia has used “Syria as a bit of a test bed for showing off its new submarine capabilities and the ability to shoot cruise missiles from submarines,” Magnus Nordenman, the director of the Transatlantic Security Initiative at the Atlantic Council, told Business Insider in early 2018.

A 2015 Office of Naval Intelligence report cited by Jane’s noted that the “Kalibr provides even modest platforms … with significant offensive capability and, with the use of the land attack missile, all platforms have a significant ability to hold distant fixed ground targets at risk using conventional warheads.”

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

A long-range Kalibr cruise missile is launched from the Krasnodar submarine in the Mediterranean.

(Russian Defense Ministry photo)

“The proliferation of this capability within the new Russian Navy is profoundly changing its ability to deter, [or to] threaten or destroy adversary targets,” the report said.

While Russia’s submarine force is still smaller than its Soviet predecessor, that cruise-missile capability has led some to argue NATO needs to look farther north, beyond the Greenland-Iceland-UK Gap that was a chokepoint for Russian submarines entering the Atlantic during the Cold War.

Today’s Russian subs “don’t have to go very far out in order to hit ports and airports and command and control centers in Europe, so they don’t have to approach the GIUK Gap,” Nordenman said in a recent interview. “In that sense the GIUK Gap is not as important as it used to be.”

Foggo said US submarines still have the edge, but the subs Russia can deploy “are perhaps some of the most silent and lethal in the world.”

Concerns about land-attack missiles now mix with NATO’s concern about bringing reinforcements and supplies from the US to Europe during a conflict.

“That’s why Russian submarines are a concern,” Nordenman said in ealry 2018. “One, because they can obviously sink ships and so on, but related, you can use cruise missiles to shoot at ports and airfields and so on.”

“We know that Russian submarines are in the Atlantic, testing our defenses, confronting our command of the seas, and preparing a very complex underwater battle space to try to give them the edge in any future conflict,” Foggo said. “We need to deny that edge.”

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

US Navy crew members on board a P-8A Poseidon assisting in search and rescue operations for Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 in the in the Indian Ocean, March 16, 2014.

(US Navy photo)

This has led to more emphasis on anti-submarine warfare, a facet of naval combat that NATO forces focused on less after the Cold War.

The US Navy has asked for more money to buy sonobuoys, supplies of which fell critically short after an “unexpected high anti-submarine warfare operational tempo in 2017.” NATO members also plan to buy more US-made P-8A Poseidons, widely considered to be the best sub-hunting aircraft on the market.

But the Kalibr’s anti-ship capability has also raises questions about whether ASW itself needs to change.

At a conference in early 2017, Lt. Cmdr. Ian Varley, deputy commander of the Royal Navy’s Merlin helicopter force, said anti-ship missiles were pushing ASW away from “traditional … close-in, cloak and-dagger fighting” to situations where an enemy submarine “sits 200 miles away and launches a missile at you.”

“That becomes an air war,” he said. “We need to stop it becoming an air war. We need to be able to have the ability to defend against that.”

This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 things you didn’t know about ‘Band of Brothers’

In 2001, DreamWorks and HBO Films released one of the most critically acclaimed miniseries. Band of Brothers follows a group of well-trained Army Paratroopers as they go from grueling training to being thrust into the hell that is World War II. The story chronicles the unique bond of the brave men of Easy Company, 506th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 101st Airborne Division.

Spielberg proved his ability to faithfully capture the intensities and personalities of World War II in his 1998 blockbuster, Saving Private Ryan. This time around, Spielberg took the executive producer’s chair.

Although many people are familiar with this amazing piece of film, there are a few facts about the classic miniseries that even the most die-hard fans don’t know.


Also Read: 6 things you didn’t know about ‘Top Gun’ (probably)

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The actors went through a tough, 10-week boot camp

To get the actors to appear like real paratroopers, the producers turned to decorated Marine veteran Capt. Dale Dye to get the on-screen talent up-to-speed on World War II-era infantry tactics. Capt. Dye was on a mission to not only educate the talented cast on how to maneuver and communicate, but to expose the actors to the real exhaustion that paratroopers endured in combat.

This way, the actors would get an emotional understanding. When it was time to film a tough scene, they had their own personal references to draw from, making their reactions organic and realistic.

The uniforms

Since the miniseries covers multiple characters from different countries, the costume designers had to come up with 2,000 authentic German and American combat uniforms — including approximately 500 pairs of era-appropriate jump boots.

In order to get the details just right, the costume designers spent countless hours researching materials, manufacturing techniques, and design choices.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Tom Hanks watches as dozens of extras fall in line and head to the set

(HBO Films)

Set locations

The massive production took a total of three years and cost over 0 million. The scenes were shot primarily on a 1,100 acre back lot located in Hatfield, England. 12 acres of land were continuously modified in order to work for 11 different on-screen locales.

“It’s about five things bigger than what we had on Saving Private Ryan,” executive producer Tom Hanks reported.

Massive-scale pyrotechnics

Nearly every fan of film has seen 1998’s Saving Private Ryan. Aside from the powerful performances from talented actors, the audience enjoyed incredibly lifelike explosions and gunshots. By the time the crew had finished filming the third episode of Band of Brothers, they’d already surpassed the number of explosions and squibs used in entirety of Saving Private Ryan.

Saving Private Ryan had around half the budget of Band of Brothers.

www.youtube.com

The Battle of the Bulge

While setting to film TheBattle of the Bulge,the production department constructed a massive forest inside an airport hangar. To make the scene feelrealistic, they neededvegetation. So,the production turned to the special effect department whobuilt nearly250 hollowed-out trees,made from fiberglass, hemp, and latex.

When a tree exploded on set, most of the debris fell on top of the actors,helping them deliver an authenticon-screen performance.

Articles

Meet the female Peshmerga fighters battling ISIS

The Kurdish Peshmerga has been battling the ISIS terror group since it swept through much of Iraq and Syria in 2014, and one of its most unique aspects has been the use of female fighters on the front lines.


Unlike most other militaries, the Peshmerga not only allows women within its ranks, but they also serve shoulder-to-shoulder with men in combat. According to Zach Bazzi, Middle East project manager for Spirit of America, there are about 1,700 women serving in combat roles within the Peshmerga.

“We are not meant to sit at home, doing housework,” says Zehra, a commander who has served for 8 years. “We are on the frontlines, fighting to defeat ISIS.”

Related: 6 female military units you don’t want to mess with

In partnership with The Kurdish Project, Spirit of America recently profiled female fighters serving on the front lines with the Peshmerga — a Kurdish word for “those who face death.” The video interviews were published on a new website called “Females on the Frontline.”

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life
Photo: flickr/free kurdistan

“From what I have observed, these women are patriots fighting to defend their families and their homelands from the threat of ISIS,” Bazzi told Business Insider. “But there is no doubt that they also want to send an unmistakable message, that, as women, they have a prominent and equal role to play in their society.

Bazzi told Business Insider that it depends on the policies of individual Peshmerga units for the mixing of male and female fighters. Still, he said, most women are accepted and fully integrated into the ranks.

“As a matter of fact, people in the region view it as a point of pride that these women share an equal burden in defense of the homeland,” he said.

Also read: Former sex slaves are getting payback on the ISIS sleazebags who held them

The Females on the Frontline site features short interviews with Sozan, Nishtiman, Kurdistan, and Zehra, four Peshmerga soldiers who have served in different roles and in varying lengths of duty.

“On our team, we women are fighting along with the men shoulder to shoulder on the front lines,” says Nishtiman, a 26-year old unit commander who has served for four years in the Peshmerga. She fights alongside her alongside her husband and brother, according to the site.

You can check out the full website here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

How Russia’s UN vetoes have enabled mass murder in Syria

Since the start of Syria’s uprising in March 2011, Russia has vetoed 12 UN Security Council resolutions concerning the conflict. Among other things, these resolutions covered human rights violations, indiscriminate aerial bombing, the use of force against civilians, toxic chemical weapons, and calls for a meaningful ceasefire.

Russia’s behavior at the Security Council is not motivated by humanitarian concerns. Its vetoes have provided political cover for the Assad regime, protected Moscow’s strategic interests and arms deals with the Syrian state, and obstructed UN peacekeeping. They’ve helped shift the locus of peace talks from a UN-backed process in Geneva to a Russian-led one in Astana. And they’ve had real and dire consequences for the people of Syria.


The Syrian conflict has claimed more than 500,000 lives, turned millions of people into refugees, and all but destroyed the country. While all sides have contributed to this catastrophe, the Assad regime in particular has made repression, brutality, and destruction its signature tactics — and Russia has chosen to protect it.

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

Russian President Vladimir Putin and Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

Some seem resigned to dismiss this behavior as everyday international politicking. Emily Thornberry, the shadow foreign secretary of the UK’s opposition Labour Party, recently offered an excuse: “People will always block resolutions. If you look at the number of resolutions America has blocked, I mean that’s the way of politics.”

This is nothing more than idle whataboutism. Yes, it’s right to note what the US has done in defiance of the UN over the years, not least over Iraq and with its 44 Israel-related vetoes in the Security Council. But Russia has taken vetoes to another level on Syria, covering for and enabling atrocities while working to make sure the UN cannot do what it needs to do to stop the carnage.

Regime maintenance

Moscow first intervened militarily to prop up Assad’s deadly authoritarian rule in September 2015; had it not entered the fray, Assad’s reign would have almost certainly given way to a successor. But Russian backing for Assad began well before 2015.

For a start, his government has long been a major Russian arms client. While public data is incomplete because many transactions are highly opaque, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute has tracked the build up of Syrian weapons purchases in the years leading up to the 2011 uprising. Russian military resources to Syria increased from 9m in 2000 to 272m in 2011.

Consider the Russian (and Chinese) veto of February 4 2012, which blocked a draft resolution calling on Assad to relinquish power. At the time, there was uncertainty about whether Russia would abstain or vote no. Facing defeat amid mass protests and now armed resistance, the Assad regime accelerated its brutality through bombing. On the eve of the scheduled Security Council meeting, Assad’s forces bombarded the city of Homs, murdering scores of civilians.

Was this massacre designed to signal to Russia that Assad was prepared to go all out, burn the country, and win at any cost, meaning Moscow might as well back him? Or was Assad informed in advance that Russia would cast the veto, so he could slaughter with impunity? Does a veto clear the way for more brutality, or do acts of brutality force Russia to veto UN reprisals?

DOD survey finds that most spouses are satisfied with military life

A poster of Syria’s president at a checkpoint on the outskirts of Damascus.

(Photo by Elizabeth Arrott)

The most likely answer is both. The pattern is now firmly established: Assad kills civilians and political opponents, the Security Council considers a resolution, Russia vetoes it and puts outs propaganda to provide cover for Assad’s abuses, and the cycle of mass killings goes on. As Russian vetoes have become routine, they have emboldened Assad. As an Oxfam report said, even UN resolutions which were not blocked “have been ignored or undermined by the parties to the conflict, other UN member states, and even by members of the UNSC itself”.

The vetoes flaunt Moscow’s power to the world and reassure Russians at home. They are also helping Russia maintain a permanent military and political presence in the Middle East and eastern Mediterranean. In exchange for intervention, the Kremlin has gained access to Syria’s energy infrastructure and secured the future of its major Syrian bases on the Mediterranean.

The wrong path

But Russia still has a choice: it can be a force for peace, liberty, and inclusion, or it can continue to shelter and defend tyrants. Given the Kremlin’s general hostility towards equality, liberalism, and democracy, it has chosen another path: to thwart the Security Council, violate its own ceasefire agreements, and overlook the consequences for civilians. This implicates it in the deaths of thousands of Syrians – more than the so-called Islamic State and the rebel group Jabhat al-Nusra combined.

To be sure, not all Security Council resolutions are worthy of support, and Russia cannot be held responsible for all of Assad’s crimes and human rights abuses. Western nations are certainly not unbiased; their decisions and interventions have had long-lasting pernicious effects on civilian populations in the Middle East, and they too have failed civilians in Syria and elsewhere.

The US intervened in Iraq to oust a dictator, Russia intervened in Syria to preserve one in power. Both moves have turned out to be disasters. But to document that Russia has killed civilians via its military and political interventions is not Russophobic. The death of each Syrian matters, regardless of who fired the shot, dropped the bomb, or maintained the siege.

Providing political cover for one tyrant will embolden others everywhere, as they learn how far they can push the boundaries of oppression. And all along, steps could have been taken to prevent or at least limit the carnage. Russia’s failure to do so in Syria and elsewhere will be to its eternal shame.

This article originally appeared on The Conversation. Follow @ConversationUS on Twitter.