Thirty years is a long time to stick it out in any career, let alone one where a person is routinely put into harm’s way over and over again. But that’s exactly what retired Army Sgt. 1st Class Victor Wright did. Wright served our country for thirty years, first as a Sailor and then later as a Soldier. Wright’s decade’s long career offers him a prestige that many never receive. He’s served in every conflict since the Vietnam War.
For those in the military, it’s often difficult to find a path. We want adventure but we also want stability. OCONUS moves are a way to see the world but they take us far from home. It’s even more difficult to find that balance with high op-tempos and jobs that take all our energy.
But none of that stopped retired Army Sgt. First Class Victor Wright. Instead of getting bogged down with the details, his thirty-year career kept him pushing forward. Wright didn’t let the challenges of work-life balance stop him from achieving his goals.
A Legend in the Making
Victor Wright enlisted in 1974 because he wanted to see the world. He served on the USS Enterprise, the first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. Wright deployed to Vietnam shortly after enlisted. During his three decades of service, Wright earned twenty-four awards.
Whereas some might use their accomplishments as an opportunity to brag, Wright remains honest and unassuming. Wright insists he’s not a legend or a hero, despite the fact that his campaign rack might say otherwise. Instead, he maintains he’s just “enjoyed his life” exploring the world.
The humble sixty-two year-old Victor Wright retired on August 21, 2018. After his retirement, Wright began working as an Apache Helicopter Mechanic and Instructor. In true Army fashion, he’s always looking for a way to give back – a by-product of his 30 years of service, no doubt.
Under his instruction, new service members not only learn new vocabulary and how to employ technology, but how to live a life fulfilled and well-travelled.
Wright remains optimistic regarding the future of the Army. “I’m coming off the wall, and I’m glad there are others that are still willing to stand.
As one of the last retiring Vietnam War veterans, we can only hope that Wright’s dedicated service and commitment to America continue to inspire future generations of warfighters.
Dai Xu, a People’s Liberation Army Air Force colonel commandant and the president of China’s Institute of Marine Safety and Cooperation, suggested in December 2018 that China’s navy should ram US Navy ships sailing in the international waterway.
Zhang Junshe, a researcher at China’s Naval Military Studies Research Institute, gave a speech in January 2019 saying that if any conflict does break out between the US and China on the South China Sea, no matter the context, the US bears the blame.
The amphibious assault ship Boxer firing a Sea Sparrow missile during a missile-firing exercise in the Pacific Ocean in 2013.
(US Navy photo by Kenan O’Connor)
Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project told Business Insider that these commentators, mainly researchers, didn’t officially speak for China, but said they shouldn’t be totally ignored.
Following the hike in pro-war rhetoric from Beijing, official Chinese media announced the deployment DF-26 “carrier killer” missiles to northwestern China, where they could range US ships in the South China Sea. China previously tested missiles like these against mock-ups of US aircraft carriers and has designed them to outrange and overwhelm the ships.
China fiercely censors any speech that clashes with the Communist Party’s official ideology or goals, so it’s meaningful that the Chinese researcher’s open discussion of killing US Navy sailors was picked up by global media.
“The fact that these hawkish admirals have been let off the leash to make such dangerous statements is indicative of the nationalist’s clamor for prestige that is driving Chinese policy in the region,” John Hemmings, a China expert at the Henry Jackson Society, told Business Insider.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville and the container ship USNS 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo behind the Navy’s forward deployed aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)
Can China scare off the US with a ‘bloody nose’ attack?
A “bloody nose” attack means what it sounds like. Basically, it’s a quick, isolated strike that demonstrates an aggressor does not fear a foe, and it theoretically causes the foe to go off running scared.
“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Luo reportedly said at his speech at the 2018 Military Industry List summit on Dec. 20, 2018, adding that sinking one carrier could kill 5,000 US service members.
“We’ll see how frightened America is,” he said. “Attack wherever the enemy is afraid of being hit. Wherever the enemy is weak.”
In the US, some fear Luo may be right that the loss of an aircraft carrier could break the US’ resolve.
Jerry Hendrix, a former captain in the US Navy, cautioned at a Heritage Foundation talk in December 2018 that aircraft carriers have become “mythical” symbols of national prestige and that the US may even fear deploying the ultra-valuable ships to a conflict with China.
“There is, unfortunately, the heavy potential of conflict coming, but the nation is not ready for heavy battle damage to its navy and specifically not to its aircraft carriers,” Hendrix said.
But the US has lost aircraft carriers before, and remained in the fight.
Aircraft from the Freedom Fighters of Carrier Air Wing 7 fly in formation above the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Harry S. Truman.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Brooks)
A great power war China won’t win
“The decision to go after an aircraft carrier, short of the deployment of nuclear weapons, is the decision that a foreign power would take with the most reticence,” Bryan McGrath, founding managing director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, a naval consultancy, told Business Insider. “The other guy knows that if that is their target, the wrath of god will come down on them.”
McGrath emphasized that threats to US carriers are old news, but that the ships, despite struggling to address the threat from China’s new missiles, still had merit.
“I would have been more surprised if we had seen former Chinese rear admiral say, ‘The fact that we’re building aircraft carriers is one of the dumbest moves of the 21st century given the Americans will wax them in the first three days of combat,'” said McGrath, dismissing Luo’s comments as bogus scare tactics.
Hemmings shared McGrath’s assessment of China’s true military posture.
“This Chinese posturing and threatening is about as counter-productive as one can be. The Chinese navy is simply not prepared for a real war, nor is its economy prepared for a war with Beijing’s largest trade partner,” Hemmings said.
The USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier.
(US Navy/Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke)
While China’s navy has surpassed the US’ in ship count, and its military may one day surpass the US in absolute might, that day has not yet come. China’s generals openly discuss their greatest weakness as inexperience in combat.
China may find it useful for domestic consumption or to garner media attention to discuss sinking US ships and carriers, but McGrath said he doubts China’s military is really considering such a bold move.
“If China sinks a carrier, that would unleash the beast. I’m talking about the real s— major power war,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Who knew the word to be used most often in 2020 would be quarantine? With travel being restricted, social isolation being encouraged – plus states closing down schools and offices; it’s leaving many feeling anxious about the uncertainty of the days ahead. Freud suggested that humor is one of the highest forms of defense and he knows a thing or two about the human mind.
So, without further ado – let’s dive into the 10 most epic songs to make you laugh through your quarantine.
Destiny’s Child – Survivor (Official Music Video) ft. Da Brat
As the world is increasingly self-quarantining or “socially isolating” to prevent community spread; the lyrics to this one are epically funny: “Now that you’re outta my life, I’m so much better, You thought that I’d be weak without ya, but I’m stronger.” This one is sure to be a fun anthem for your whole family. Especially with words like: “Long as I’m still breathin’, not leavin’ for no reason.”
Elvis Presley – Are You Lonesome Tonight? (Official Audio)
This amazing classic is the perfect anthem as you continue to stress over the increasingly chaotic world. “I will survive. Oh, as long as I know how to love, I know I’ll stay alive,” let these lyrics calm your nervousness, you got this. Pandemic-smandemic.
Slightly dramatic, but still epic just the same. “I’m locked up; they won’t let me out. No, they won’t let me out” should give you a chuckle. No, none of us are really locked up in our homes, but it’s sure going to feel that way over the coming weeks. Take a breath, fire this one up, and know it could be worse. You could literally be in jail. Their food is terrible, and I bet they actually run out of toilet paper.
Kelly Clarkson – Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You) [Official Video]
Press play on this powerhouse of a song and feel that endorphin rush! Lyrics like: “What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, stronger; Just me, myself and I” should empower you! Embrace the suck of social isolating with this one.
In the mood to sing moodily into your hairbrush? This is the perfect quarantine ballad for you. The lyrics will speak to your socially isolated heart:
Oceans apart day after day And I slowly go insane I hear your voice on the line But it doesn’t stop the pain If I see you next to never How can we say forever Wherever you go Whatever you do I will be right here waiting for you
If this one doesn’t make you almost spit your quarantini drink in laughter, you need a better sense of humor. With lyrics like: “I told you homeboy u can’t touch this, yeah that’s how we’re livin’,” how can you not laugh? Never mind that the chorus being epically perfect for this pandemic: “You can’t touch this”! Go ahead, laugh. You know you want to!
The RMS Titanic was billed as “unsinkable.” Many conflicting reasons have been proposed as to why but, nonetheless, they were proven wrong. When the RMS Titanic sank to the bottom of the North Atlantic Ocean, she took with her over 1,500 of her 2,224 estimated passengers and crew.
Countless expeditions were sent to go salvage the wreckage, but it wasn’t until 1985 when it was “suddenly” located. For many years, there was a shroud of mystery surrounding exactly how it was found. The truth was later declassified by the Department of the Navy. As it turns out, finding the Titanic was a complete accident on the part of U.S. Navy Commander Robert Ballard, who was searching for the wreckage of two Navy nuclear submarines.
A simple task, but it was far from what Robert Ballard wanted to do.
Ballard had served as an intelligence officer in the Army Reserves before commissioning into the active duty Navy two years later. While there, he served as a liaison between the Office of Naval Research and the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
He spent many years of his life dedicated to the field of oceanography. Even before enlisting, he had been working on his own submersible, called Alvin, with the Woods Hole Institute. He’d continue designing submersibles and technologies until he finished his famous craft, the Argo. The Argo was equipped with high-tech sonar and cameras and had a detachable robot called Jason.
It was then that the U.S. Navy secretly got in touch with Ballard about finding the USS Thresher and the USS Scorpion in 1982. Both nuclear submarines had mysteriously sank at some point in the 1960s, but the U.S. government was never clear on what exactly happened.
Of course, discovering the Titanic was an historic moment, but the Scorpion and the Thresher could be leaking nuclear radiation…
The approximate locations of the submarines were known, but exactly how well the nuclear reactors were holding up after 20 years on the ocean’s floor was a mystery. They sent Ballard and his team to go find out. To cover their tracks, they said they were embarking on a regular expedition to search for the lost Titanic (which, despite the outcome, wasn’t the objective at the time).
The mission was to take four one-month-long expeditions — two months per lost submarine. Ballard asked if he’d ever get the chance to look for the Titanic while he was out there, a chance to fulfill his childhood dream. The Navy struck a bargain. They said that he could look for the sunken behemoth after he found the two subs, if time and funding permitted.
His theory about the ship splitting in two was also proven.
He received his funding and set off with the French research ship Le Suroit. Ballard kept most of the crew in the dark, opting instead to stick with his cover story of searching for the Titanic. He’d personally go down in a submersible and check on the status of each nuclear reactor and their warheads. He had a rough idea where to look, but he followed debris trails on the relatively smooth ocean floor to get to each destination.
Once he finished checking on the USS Scorpion and USS Thresher, he had twelve days remaining. Between the two wrecks was a large debris field that littered the ocean floor. This was far from where many experts claimed the Titanic would be.
Just like the two submarines, Ballard believed that the Titanic imploded, leaving behind a massive trail of debris as it drifted to its final resting place. He used what he learned from the submarines and applied the same theory to the Titanic.
First he found the ship’s boiler, and then, eventually, the entirety of the hull.
He knew that his remaining time was short and a storm was quickly approaching, so he marked his exact location on the map and returned to the wreckage the following year. For a year, he didn’t tell a soul, for fear of others showing up and trying to remove artifacts from the ship. He eventually returned on July 12th, 1986, and made the first detailed study of the wreckage.
Ballard would later investigate the wreckages of the Bismarck, the RMS Lusitania, the USS Yorktown, John F. Kennedy’s PT-109, and many more. The story of the Titanic, of course, would later be turned into a film that won 11 Academy Awards — which conveniently left out the fact that the ship’s wreckage was actually discovered due to a top-secret government operation.
The Russians appear to have backed off their earlier threats after the US Marine Corps sent them a clear message.
The Pentagon, US Central Command, and Operation Inherent Resolve have all confirmed that Russia has stayed out of the deconfliction zone and is no longer insisting on conducting operations or launching precision strikes in the area near the At Tanf garrison, where US Marines are based.
Russia warned the US twice on Sept. 1, 2018, and again on Sept. 6, 2018, that the Russian military, together with Syrian and pro-regime forces, planned to carry out counterterrorism operations inside the 55-kilometer deconfliction zone. It accused the US and its coalition partners of harboring terrorists.
Immediately following Russia’s threats, the US Marine Corps conducted a live-fire demonstration at the At Tanf garrison to drive home the point that the US military did not need Russia’s help eliminating terrorists.
U.S. Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Carter Sampson, an anti-tank missile gunner with 3rd Battalion, 7th Marine Regiment, attached to Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force, Crisis Response-Central Command, fires a FGM-148 Javelin, a shoulder-fired anti-tank missile, at his target during a live fire demonstration near At-Tanf Garrison, Syria, Sept. 7, 2018.
(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Roderick Jacquote)
“The United States does not seek to fight the Russians, the government of Syria, or any groups that may be providing support to Syria in the Syrian civil war,” the US Central Command spokesman Lt. Col. Earl Brown previously told Business Insider, adding: “The United States will not hesitate to use necessary and proportionate force to defend US, coalition, or partner forces as we have clearly demonstrated in past instances.”
“The US does not require any assistance in our efforts to destroy ISIS in the At Tanf deconfliction zone, and we advised the Russians to remain clear,” he added.
In the nearly two weeks since, the Russians have not contacted the US military about operations inside the deconfliction zone, an area the Syrians and the Russians want to access to build a strategic land bridge between Tehran and Damascus.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
The Taliban are seizing new territory, civilian casualties and US military deaths are once more on the rise, and insider attacks on American and Afghan forces have more than doubled this year. That’s the grim reckoning of a US inspector general’s report released Oct. 26 even as the Pentagon and allied forces seek to implement President Trump’s strategy for the 16-year-old conflict.
The central government in Kabul has ceded more territory to the Taliban since the early days of the Afghanistan War, with the terrorist group now in full or partial control of 54 of the country’s districts, according to the latest quarterly survey to Congress from the office of the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction.
The report contains sobering findings for Mr. Trump and his generals, even as the parallel war against Islamic State and other radical terrorist movements in Syria and Iraq has made significant gains this year.
The Taliban, which are mainly concentrated within the eastern and southern segments of the country, claimed control of nine districts previously held by government forces over the past six months. As a result, more than 3.7 million Afghans, or just over 11 percent of the country’s entire population, now live under the radical Islamist movement’s control, the SIGAR inspectors found.
Those gains come despite a marked uptick in US combat operations in Afghanistan, where American and allied forces executed more airstrikes against Taliban and Islamic State strongholds in the country than in any year since 2014. US and NATO forces carried out 2,400 airstrikes during an eight-month period this year against insurgent targets tied to the Taliban and forces loyal to Islamic State’s Afghan cell.
American and allied forces executed over 700 airstrikes against insurgent targets in Afghanistan in September alone, in line with the hard-line wartime strategy for Afghanistan that Mr. Trump outlined in August.
“Afghanistan is at a crossroads,” said SIGAR head John F. Sopko. “President Donald Trump’s new strategy has clarified that the Taliban and Islamic State-Khorosan will not cause the United States to leave. At the same time, the strategy requires the Afghan government to set the conditions that would allow America to stay the course.”
The downbeat SIGAR findings — its 37th quarterly survey of the war — come amid reports that the US military has begun to restrict the information flow on the war as the conflict grinds on. The New York Times reported this week that the Pentagon has stopped providing figures on the size of the Afghan security and police forces, the state of their equipment, and Afghan casualty figures.
The Pentagon told the newspaper that the information was being withheld at the request of the Afghan government, but even the SIGAR report released this week revealed that the Afghan army and the national police force had a net loss of manpower in the most recent reporting period.
Roughly 3,900 more US troops are being funneled into Afghanistan to support the 8,400 soldiers, sailors, and Marines already there, with a majority supporting the NATO-led adviser mission dubbed Operation Resolute Support. Other American troops, mostly special operations units, are conducting counter-terrorism missions against the Taliban and Islamic State under a separate mission.
Mr. Trump’s blueprint abandons the timeline-based approach to the American mission in Afghanistan in favor of a “conditions based” strategy. Administration critics claim the decision will effectively restart US-led combat operations in Afghanistan, which officially ended in late 2014 under President Obama and draw the US into an open-ended conflict.
While officials in the Pentagon and their counterparts in the government of Afghan President Ashraf Ghani claim the shift will provide much-needed reassurance to the Afghan Security Forces, the situation on the ground shows that fight will likely be much tougher than anticipated.
Despite the uptick in US action, the Taliban continue to carry out high-profile attacks, including some in the heart of Afghanistan’s capital.
Roughly 90 people were killed and over 400 wounded, including 11 American contractors, in a brazen suicide attack on the German Embassy in Kabul in May. The attack was one of the worst to hit the capital since US and NATO forces ended combat operations in the country in 2014.
On Oct. 31, four people were killed and 13 wounded in a suicide attack inside the “green zone” — the heavily fortified sector in central Kabul that is home to the US Embassy and the Afghan presidential palace. Members of ISIS-K carried out the Oct. 31 attack, according to reports from Amaq news agency, the main social media propaganda network for Islamic State.
When the US ended combat operations three years ago, the Ghani government held roughly 60 percent of the country, according to government-led analysis, as well as reviews by private-sector analysts.
But those gains appear to be slipping from Kabul’s grasp, and the Taliban’s gains in the country over the past six months have taken a toll on the country’s military.
Battlefield casualties continue to increase among the ranks of the Afghan National Defense and Security Forces, while Kabul continues to combat high levels of attrition among the country’s armed forces. The Afghan army’s ranks have dropped by 4,000 troops and the national police lost 5,000 people, according to SIGAR’s latest findings.
By contrast, the Taliban continue to show signs of strength within their traditional base in the southern and eastern parts of the country, but also in northern and western Afghanistan, where they had not had significant sway in the past.
Hundreds of Taliban fighters amassed in the western Afghanistan’s Farah province during a show of force in October. The gathering, posted as part of the group’s propaganda videos, showed the Afghan jihadis assembling in broad daylight without fear of being targeted by Afghan and coalition forces, according to analysis by the Washington-based Foundation for the Defense of Democracies.
In a rare interview with The Guardian, senior Taliban commander Mullah Abdul Saeed said Washington’s new aggressive approach would not be enough to turn the tide against the group.
Since “150,000 Americans couldn’t beat us,” the 4,000 troops Mr. Trump has authorized “will not change the morale of our mujahedeen,” Mullah Saeed said. “The Americans were walking in our villages, and we pushed them out.”
He said the Taliban would consider a peace deal, but only on the condition that the “foreigners must leave, and the constitution must be changed to [Islamic] Shariah law.”
US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson (left) and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani. Photo from US State Department.
Peace talks, possibly including the Taliban, have also been a key part in the White House’s Afghanistan strategy. On Nov. 1, Secretary of State Rex W. Tillerson reiterated that the administration was open to peace talks with the Taliban, though not with Islamic State elements in Afghanistan.
“There are, we believe, moderate voices among the Taliban, voices that do not want to continue to fight forever. They don’t want their children to fight forever,” Mr. Tillerson said during his unannounced visit to Kabul.
“We are looking to engage with those voices and have them engage in a reconciliation process leading to a peace process and their full involvement and participation in the government,” the top US diplomat added.
Afghanistan and Pakistan agreed to hold peace talks with the Taliban in 2013, coinciding with the Taliban’s unprecedented move to open a political office in Doha that year. At the time, officials in the Obama administration saw the potential talks as a vehicle to help accelerate the withdrawal of US forces from the country by 2014. But Pakistan’s decision to withdraw from the talks eventually scuttled any effort to reach a deal with the terrorist group.
Featured Image: 1st Sgt. David W. Christopher and Army Staff Sgt. Gordon M. Campbell stand by after setting fire to a Taliban shelter along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border. (Army photo by Spc. Matthew Leary)
Somewhere, probably in front of a brightly lit screen with Weird Al playing in the background, a bunch of pencil-pushing scientists are writing long formulas on whiteboards, looking at the formulas thoughtfully, and then trying to use all that science to make you nearly invulnerable to firearms.
Body armor saves lives, but it destroys knees.
(U.S. Army Sgt. Kiara Flowers)
Current body armor is great against most rifle, submachine gun, and pistol fire, but it’s far from perfect. It’s heavy, adding as much as 40 pounds to troops’ loads, and it cracks under repeated hits. Against high-velocity and high-caliber rounds, it will typically give way, allowing the rounds to pierce the target anyway.
And all of that’s without taking into account that the armor, when working perfectly and when hit by rounds it’s designed to stop, can’t absorb all the impact. Most of it gets transferred to the target, just over a larger surface, sometimes resulting in broken bones or internal bleeding.
So it could definitely deal with some serious improvements. And that’s where the Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology comes in. They have projects in the works that could give rise to futuristic body armor.
Researchers are modeling impacts with 10,000 or more particles that, as they rub together, could absorb the energies of bullets, shrapnel, or blasts that would otherwise kill a soldier.
(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)
One of the most exciting is possibly the “Superelastic Granular Materials for Impact Absorption.” Yup, it’s a boring title. This is science. They name stuff with “descriptive” titles instead of entertaining ones. But, basically, this is looking at how to give troops high-tech, wearable beanbags.
The idea is that a bunch of grains of elastic material or crystals can be packed into the armor and, as the armor is hit, the energy is dissipated by these objects through friction and “intra-particle martensitic phase transformation.”
That last phrase is about a fairly complicated scientific process, but it’s the same process that metal goes through when it’s tempered. At its most basic level, the microstructures of certain metals change when heated or placed under extreme stress. So, if a bullet hits a material that will go through the martensitic transformation, then that material will absorb energy as it changes, possibly saving the soldier who doesn’t have to absorb that energy instead.
This is a time-lapse image of a silica particle striking polymer materials. Watching the polymers at this micro-level requires sophisticated equipment, but allows researchers to get a much better idea of how these materials absorb impacts.
(Institute for Soldier Nanotechnologies, MIT)
Another project is looking at what materials future body armor should be made of. What will hold the superelastic granular materials? That’s the purview of “Design Testing of Polymers for Improved Soldier Protection.” They’re looking at current materials used in body armor and other applications and seeing how they respond to shock and impact.
The hope is that, with a proper understanding of how these materials work at the most microlevels, MIT can figure out how to synthesize even better materials for protecting troops. And these guys want the nitty gritty details on how the materials take hits, watching the materials and measuring their electromagnetic properties when microparticles are fired at them.
One of the specific things they want to know is what materials give up hydrogen atoms when hit and which ones take hydrogen atoms when hit, allowing them to blend materials together so they quickly create hydrogen bonds and crystalline structures when stressed.
One of the projects looks at how different nanocomposite materials react to different stresses.
The shockwave from an explosion travels through different tissues and different parts of cells at different rates, and so it causes the tissues and cells to deform, ripping them apart, potentially killing the soldier. And, that can happen even when zero shrapnel or heat hits the target.
If that shock can be mitigated—especially if it can be mitigated in extremely strong, light materials like graphene—then explosive weapons would lose a lot of their power against troops wearing new armor.
3rd Cavalry Regiment soldiers during a reconnaissance patrol in Iraq in November 2018.
(U.S. Army 1st Lt. Timothy Durkin)
If all the projects come to fruition and engineers are able to blend all the results together, we could see a revolution of body armor. Instead of simply using hard materials to stop attacks like we have for centuries, we could use flexible materials to create armor that moves like clothing and, if we’re really lucky, weighs about the same as traditional fabrics.
But when these fabrics are hit by blasts or by gunshots, the fibers harden themselves and stop the threat, crystalline structures packed inside of the armor absorb the energy, and the whole thing is cost-effective because we’ve figured out cheap ways to create the fabrics.
But it will likely take decades to create final products and get them to the field.
Until then, you’re just going to have to ruck with ballistic plates. Sorry.
US President Donald Trump has launched an extraordinary broadside at allies for failing to pay their fair share of the defense bill.
The billionaire leader used the highest possible profile platform of his first summit in Brussels to accuse members of the alliance of owing “massive amounts of money”.
Unveiling a memorial to the 9/11 attacks at NATO’s new headquarters, Trump also urged the alliance to get tougher on tackling terrorism and immigration in the wake of the Manchester attack.
Allies who had hoped to hear Trump publicly declare his commitment to NATO’s Article 5 collective defense guarantee were left disappointed as he made no mention of it and instead castigated them on their home turf.
“Twenty-three of the 28 member nations are still not paying what they should be paying and what they’re supposed to be paying for their defense,” the president said as fellow leaders looked on grim faced.
Trump said that even if they met the commitment they made in 2014 to allocate two percent of GDP to defense, it would still not be enough to meet the challenges NATO faces.
“This is not fair to the people and taxpayers of the United States. Many of these nations owe massive amounts of money from past years,” Trump added.
The diatribe stirred memories of his campaign trail comments branding NATO “obsolete” and threatening that states that did not pay their way would not necessarily be defended, which deeply alarmed allies.
NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg was repeatedly asked at a closing news conference about Trump’s comments but insisted that while the president might have been “blunt” his message was unchanged — the allies had to do more.
In dedicating the 9/11 Article 5 memorial, the president was “sending a strong signal” of his commitment to NATO, Stoltenberg said.
“And it is not possible to be committed to NATO without being committed to Article 5.”
“The NATO of the future must include a great focus on terrorism and immigration as well as threats from Russia and NATO’s eastern and southern borders,” the president said.
The surprising focus on immigration echoed another key feature of Trump’s campaign, which included a vow to build a border wall with Mexico, a measure derided in Europe.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel struck an entirely different note as she unveiled a memorial made up of a section of the Berlin Wall to mark the end of the Cold War.
“Germany will not forget the contribution NATO made in order to reunify our country. This is why we will indeed make our contribution to security and solidarity in the common alliance,” she said.
Trump’s rebuke came despite NATO saying it would formally join the US-led coalition against IS at the summit, despite reservations in France and Germany about getting involved in another conflict.
Article 5 has been invoked only once in NATO’s six-decade history — after the September 11, 2001 attacks on New York and Washington.
Analyst Thomas Wright of the Washington-based Brookings Institution said Trump’s failure to publicly declare this was “shocking and damaging”.
Brussels presented Trump with the first problems of a landmark foreign trip, including tense moments with the head of the European Union and with key ally Britain.
Trump announced a review of “deeply troubling” US intelligence leaks over the Manchester bombing, in which 22 people died, and warned that those responsible could face prosecution, the White House said.
He later discussed the row with Britain’s Prime Minister Theresa May, who had condemned the leaks that left British authorities infuriated with their US counterparts.
A meeting with European Council chief Donald Tusk and European Commission head Jean-Claude Juncker did not go smoothly either, despite hopes it could clear the bad blood caused by Trump backing Britain’s Brexit vote.
During his meeting with the two top EU officials, Trump launched a salvo against Germany and its car sales in the United States, Der Spiegel reported.
“The Germans are bad, very bad,” he said, according to the German weekly’s online edition.
“See the millions of cars they are selling in the US. Terrible. We will stop this,” he reportedly said.
Tusk had earlier said there were differences on climate change and trade but above all Russia.
“I’m not 100 percent sure that we can say today — ‘we’ means Mr. President and myself — that we have a common position, common opinion about Russia,” said Tusk, a former Polish premier who grew up protesting against Soviet domination of his country.
Trump on the campaign trail made restoring relations with Russia a key promise but he has faced bitter opposition in Washington and has since become embroiled in a scandal over alleged links to Moscow.
Trump also held talks with new French President Emmanuel Macron, with the pair appearing to engage in a brief yet bizarre battle to see who could shake hands the hardest.
Trump came to Brussels direct from a “fantastic” meeting with Pope Francis at the Vatican, after visiting Saudi Arabia, Israel, and the Palestinian Territories.
Western models of spycraft are failing. Traditional models of spycraft seek to inform decision-making based on predictive analysis, but this is no longer effective in today’s environment. By nature, closed and authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and China, have an easier job of spying on their more progressive and open adversaries — the United States and the West — and currently possess the advantage. What follows is the author’s abridged philosophy of intelligence on this revolution in spycraft.
Last year, Foreign Policy magazine introduced a provocative thought piece highlighting the ongoing revolution in espionage: namely, that intelligence agencies must adapt (or die) to disruptive changes in politics, business, and technology.
At the risk of irrelevance, Western intelligence agencies are learning that traditional models of spying are outdated and losing out to more nimble, collaborative, and less fragile adversaries. As the article adeptly notes, “the balance of power in the spy world is shifting: closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence services to spy on the rest of the world.”
Circumstances such as unprecedented levels of legislative and judicial scrutiny, technological advances in mobile phones and electronic data, public skepticism of domestic and international intelligence activities, and general political scrutiny in liberal democracies are symptomatic of such difficulties. They represent an underlying revolution that is significantly disrupting traditional notions of Western spycraft.
Standards of Cold War-era surveillance detection disintegrate when applied to modern cities rife with CCTV cameras, such as Beijing or even London. The absence of an online “footprint” (i.e. social media or other publicly available data) instantly warrants additional scrutiny.
Thus, we must examine several philosophical nuances of this intelligence revolution, based on the premise that the Western way of spying is indeed losing out to oftentimes less sophisticated but more effective adversaries, who possess fundamentally less fragile models of spycraft than do Western counterparts.
Lest the author receive undue credit, it must be noted that the framework for this analysis is derived from several schools of thought, ranging from the Roman Stoics to economist-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb. Indeed, the reader may be familiar with the latter’s concept of anti-fragility, or things that gain from uncertainty, chaos, or randomness. Western models of spycraft certainly do not fit this notion and are, in the author’s opinion, quite fragile.
Western intelligence, and other such similarly traditional systems, are based largely on the value of predictive analysis that can be used to inform decision-making and thereby shape understanding and policy. But what if, as we are now seeing, environments far outmatch capability in complexity, speed, or scope? It is the author’s opinion that the U.S. Intelligence Community is designed on an outdated and fragile premise and, in the face of overwhelming environmental dissonance, must be re-assessed in the framework of anti-fragility.
Put differently, the present U.S. model of spycraft plays to the margins. Western spycraft invests inordinate amounts of manpower and resources into its Intelligence Community only to yield arguably disproportionate and marginal gains in understanding. It is not enough that the intelligence is gleaned in the first place (which remains an altogether impressive feat and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its practitioners).
Alas, it is growing increasingly challenging to properly inform policy-making in an aggressively partisan and politicized environment. One only need reflect on the overall character of the ongoing Russian bounties discussion as evidence of this model and its debatable effectiveness. And such debatable effectiveness is certainly not for a lack of trying. The effectiveness of the Intelligence Community is a reflection of the broader environment in which it operates.
In the spirit of ancient Roman Stoic philosophers, we must acknowledge that environments cannot be changed and that at best significant national effort is required to “shape” them (and even then, with limited “control” of the exact outcome). In this instance, it is perhaps useful to examine U.S. strategy (or lack thereof) over the course of 20+ years of engagement in Afghanistan in an effort to reflect on any unilateral or coalition efforts taken to shape any semblance of “success” in the country.
Let us introduce a more tangible instance: That brief electronic communication from a foreign diplomat’s privileged conversation? That was probably the result of many factors: Of 17 years of technological research and development; of several successful (and more failed) recruitments to identify and gain sufficient placement and access for an exploit; and immeasurable bureaucratic “churns” to actually manage and manipulate the complex systems and processes in place designed to collect, process, analyze, exploit, and disseminate the information to its consumers. Entire professional careers are the substance of such churns.
While environments cannot be changed, one’s disposition within an environment most certainly can be. Thus, it is perhaps more useful to explore an intelligence model that divorces success from the ability to accurately predict the future. But then, what does this model look like and how is it employed?
In the author’s opinion, an effective spycraft model would maintain the intent to inform policy-making but disregard traditional models of operational risk management in favor of a more aggressive operational culture. In short, the change intelligence agencies must make is largely cultural, but also procedural.
Rather than embark on “no-fail,” highly sensitive (read: events that would cause inordinate damage if learned, i.e. fragile) operations, and futile attempts to accurately predict the future (read: failure to predict or act upon 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and countless other so-called intelligence failures), it is more useful to focus efforts on intelligence activities that have, in Taleb’s words, more upsides rather than downsides.
This model would remove, within reason, attempts to mitigate risk and would instead truly accept failure and mistakes — regardless of their perceived damage if made public — as a natural feedback mechanism. Rather than the frenetic New York banking system, we have Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” mentality. Rather than the Sword of Damocles, we have Hydra. Rather than post-traumatic stress, we have post-traumatic growth. Instead of isolated muscle hypertrophy, we have complex, multi-functional movements. The comparative benefit of this model is clear and can apply to intelligence systems as well.
So what does this new model of spycraft look like?
For one, it harnesses the power of publicly available data and information to leverage the power of public opinion and access to technology. What previously was known only to few becomes known to many, and with that knowledge comes the ability to influence. Information, which is the bane of closed societies, but also its favorite weapon against open ones, is harnessed to dismantle closed societies from within.
Here’s the bombshell: such a system, albeit in incomplete and slightly “impure” form, already exists in the form of the Russian intelligence apparatus. Indeed, there is a benefit to be gained by examining the nature and relative effectiveness of this chief U.S. adversary.
While far from a perfect comparison, the oftentimes blunt nature of Russian security services does lend itself to a somewhat anti-fragile system. Namely, despite numerous “failures” (in the sense that its operations are consistently made public), the Russian model is such that its public mistakes do not appear to significantly impact the system’s ability to continue to iterate, adapt, and pester its Western opponents.
An additional example can also be found in the spirit of the CIA’s historical predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Known affectionately as the “glorious amateurs,” the OSS was the first of its American kind that weathered many failures but also effectively operated in complex environments. By nature of relative American intelligence inexperience, the OSS succeeded in exploiting the upside of its activities simply by being a young, nimble, and discovery-based (i.e. tinkering, iterating, or “risk-bearing”) organization. The OSS was an anti-fragile organization.
Thanks to many of the same advances in technology, politics, and business that challenge Western espionage efforts, Russian spies have been caught on CCTV footage, publicly outed or arrested, appropriately accused of dastardly acts, and of possessing an intolerable appetite for disinformation targeting open societies and liberal democracies. However, it was presumably in Russia’s best interests that, knowing full well the possibility of such downsides, it chose to pursue such activities given the major upsides they produce (discord, division, polarization, etc.).
Indeed, as Foreign Policy magazine adeptly wrote, and as the reader can observe by way of reflecting on other seeming successes reaped by Russian active measures, there is an unrefined yet effective nature to the blunt manner in which Russian security and intelligence services operate.
It must be stated that this model does not advocate for recklessly “burning” any sources and methods, nor for engaging in renegade covert activity that lacks oversight or grounding in well-formed policy. However, it does require a significant cultural paradigm shift that will provide more space for downsides that have not been historically well-received (e.g. temporary injury to bilateral relationships, strained diplomatic interactions, etc.).
The U.S. Intelligence Community is already a complex system, comprised of 17 unique agencies that seek to inform policy-making. It is a long cry from the “glorious amateur” days of the OSS. Thankfully, we do not require complicated systems, regulations, or intricate policies to ensure the community’s success. The more complicated a system, the more we experience “multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects.” In other words, less is more; simpler is better.
The competitive edge of traditional, risk-based intelligence operations is growing smaller. The state of affairs is such that closed societies find it easier to spy on open adversaries more than the opposite. As such, it benefits Western intelligence to undergo aggressive changes that evolve or significantly alter this paradigm. It is time for the Intelligence Community to become a risk-bearing system, rather than a risk management system. It must experience a culture shift that will make it open to accepting failures. This may create short-term downsides for U.S. statecraft but will allow the system to iterate and improve. In the end, it must become anti-fragile.
Khalil and his team provide medical care, food, and water to the animals, and they must be prepared to evacuate in as little as 24 hours. Many of the rescued animals are traumatized and require special care after they are saved.
The vision of FOUR PAWS is simple: a world in which humans treat animals with respect, empathy, and understanding.
From cage fighting to illegal puppy trades to disaster zones, FOUR PAWS provides a voice — and action — for animals under direct human control.
Animals healthy enough for release will be returned to the wild. Others receive rehabilitation and safety for the rest of their lives in sanctuaries.
“Animals can build bridges between nations and this is important,” shared Khalil. Regardless of ideology, political beliefs, or languages, people and nations in war at least “never disagree about animals.”
Everyone wants to throat-punch ISIS, right? Right!
But what is ISIS…really? And who attacked the World Trade Center? And what’s the deal with Syria?
Keeping track of terrorist groups can be confusing, so here’s the quick and dirty on three hard-hitting groups the U.S. is currently fighting:
1. Al Qaeda
Al Qaeda is a Sunni Islamic militant organization founded by Osama bin Laden circa 1988 and is responsible for the attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001.
Originally organized to fight the Soviet Union during the Afghan War, al Qaeda continues to resist entities considered corrupt to its leaders, including differing Islamic interpretations and foreign (read: U.S.) occupation of their lands.
Al Qaeda operates under the belief that it is their duty to kill non-believers, including civilians.
After 9/11, a U.S.-led coalition launched an attack in Afghanistan to target al Qaeda, which had been operating under the protection of the Taliban government in the country. Operation Enduring Freedom successfully toppled the Taliban and dispersed al Qaeda throughout the region, but U.S. forces remain unable to fully eradicate the group.
From 1979-1989, the Soviet Union invaded and occupied Afghanistan. Afghan fighters known as the mujahedeen resisted, finally forcing the Soviet Union to withdraw from the country. In the aftermath, there was a power vacuum, with fighting among the mujahedeen until the Taliban was established in 1994.
The Taliban seized control of Afghanistan and imposed strict Islamic laws on the Afghan people. A Sunni Islamic fundamentalist political movement, the Taliban harbored al Qaeda operations, including bin Laden’s stronghold, which led to the U.S. invasion Afghanistan after the September 11 attacks.
Today, largely funded by opium production, the Taliban fights to regain control of Afghanistan, engaging with military forces in-country and claiming responsibility for terrorist attacks in the region.
The Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, or just the Islamic State, is a Salafi jihadist Sunni Islamic militant group established in 1999 with the intention of establishing their God’s rule on earth and destroying those who threaten it.
They are known for being exceptionally brutal, utilizing publicity and the social media to broadcast mass executions, beheadings, and crucifixions.
They once pledged allegiance to al Qaeda, but separated from it in 2014 and concentrated their attention on Syria and Iraq.
In January 2014, ISIS captured the city of Raqqa, Syria. For the next six months, the group overtook major Iraqi cities like Mosul and Tikrit before self-declaring a caliphate, an Islamic State with authority over the global Muslim population.
In August 2014, President Barack Obama approved airstrikes against ISIS.
Ballistic missiles, like the kind North Korea has been perfecting with the goal of being able to reach the U.S. with a nuclear warhead, pose a huge threat to the U.S. as they reenter the atmosphere at over a dozen times the speed of sound.
But as an ICBM takes off the launchpad and lurches up to speed, the entire missile, warhead and all, is a single target.
At that point, why not shoot it down with an air-to-air missile from an F-35?
The F-35 as a missile interceptor
The US Air Force has, for decades, had air-to-air missiles that lock on to hot, flying targets, and an ICBM in its first stage is essentially that.
In 2007, Lockheed Martin got $3 million to look into an air-to-air hit-to-kill missile system. In 2014, a test seemed to prove the concept.
But the F-35 program, usually not one to shy away from boasting about its achievements, has been hushed about the prospect of using it to defeat one of the gravest threats to the U.S.
“I can tell you that the F-35 is a multi-mission fighter,” Cmdr. Patrick Evans of the Office of the Secretary of Defense told Business Insider when asked about the program. “It would be inappropriate to speculate on future capabilities or missions of the weapon system.”
Rep. Duncan Hunter, a member of the House Armed Services Committee, was more open to speculating about why the Pentagon hadn’t gone through with missile-intercepting planes.
“Very simple — what we’re trying to do is shoot [air-to-air missiles] off F-35s in the first 300 seconds it takes for the missile to go up in the air,” Hunter said during a November meeting on Capitol Hill with the Missile Defense Advocacy Alliance, according to Inside Defense.
Hunter also pointed out that in some places North Korea is just 75 miles across — well within the F-35’s missile range, Aviation Week noted.
Hunter blamed a broken defense industrial complex for not picking up the air-to-air intercept sooner while spending $40 billion on ground-based missile interception.
“There’s not a retired general that works for Company A that says, ‘I would like to do that thing that costs no money and it doesn’t get me a contract,'” Hunter said, according to Inside Defense. “No one says that.”
An F-35 missile intercept over North Korea may be an act of war
The present crisis with North Korea may demand some expediency from the Pentagon regarding the F-35.
The drawback, though, is that the F-35 would need to get close to the target missile as it’s leaving the launchpad, which could mean firing interceptor missiles over enemy territory — something North Korea could see as an act of war.