North Korea's emerging free market threatens to topple the regime - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

The US has stood on the brink of nuclear war with a totalitarian regime in Asia before, and in the end it was economics, not military might, that brought the Soviet Union down.


The US’s nuclear arsenal has failed to scare North Korea away from developing its own nukes, sanctions have failed to restrict its access to markets, and leveraging the US’s relationship with China has failed to starve the country into submission.

But the US’s greatest weapon, capitalism, might just do the trick.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
(North Korea State Media)

What North Koreans really think of Kim Jong Un

The Washington Post’s Anna Fitfield talked to 25 North Koreans around Asia about life under Kim Jong Un, the country’s dictatorial leader since 2011, and revealed a pro-market current to everyday life that threatens to undercut the regime.

“Increasingly, North Koreans are not fleeing their totalitarian state because they are hungry,” wrote Fitfield. “Now, they are leaving because they are disillusioned.”

North Korea: 7 nasty ways Kim Jong Un executes people

Fitfield’s interviews with North Koreans paint a picture of a state economy which has come to a halt and a growing trend toward capitalism among common people. The market activity brings with it Western information, as North Koreans travel to China for work and come back enlightened to the realities of life outside the Kim regime.

Though North Korean authorities may punish possessing South Korean media with death, it has become a trend among North Korea’s elite to speak with a South Korean accent, indicating their power, independence from the state, and access to outside information, according to the New Yorker’s foreign correspondent Evan Osnos.

“North Korea technically has a centrally planned economy, but now people’s lives revolve around the market,” a university student who left the country in 2013 told Fitfield. “No one expects the government to provide things anymore. Everyone has to find their own way to survive.”

With state infrastructure no longer supporting people’s livelihoods, fissures between the actual lives of common people and the total loyalty demanded by the state could render the Kim regime out of touch and in danger of disposal.

2016 survey of 36 North Koreans found that all of them thought the country provided goods sufficient for a good life. Only one of the 36 said they did not make jokes at the government’s expense behind closed doors.

“Among my closest friends, we were calling [Kim Jong Un] a piece of s—,” another student told Fitfield. “Everyone thinks this, but you can only say it to your closest friends or to your parents if you know that they agree.”

‘Impure’ attitudes among high-rank leaders

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

South Korea’s National Intelligence Service reports that North Korea recently disciplined two of its highest ranking military officers for having “impure” attitudes, according to the Associated Press. The crackdown on the North Korean military’s second in command comes as international sanctions have weakened the state’s economy more than ever before.

Daily NK, a Seoul-based news website that purports to have a large network of informants within North Korea, reported that US-led sanctions have affected the economy in the country and now citizens may turn on the Kim government.

As a result, Daily NK reported that security has increased at monuments to the Kim dynasty for fear that citizens will vandalize the paintings and sculptures, which the state demands citizens give incredible reverence to.

Thae Yong Ho, a former North Korean diplomat and the highest-level defector of the Kim regime, discussed North Korean youths sneaking in “nose cards,” or small SD cards loaded with South Korean media hidden inside their noses.

Thae said that although Kim Jong Un would stamp out protests in the street with tanks, outside information and soft power could bring down the regime.

“The chasm between the Kim Jong Un regime and the general public is widening every year, and some day, the two sides will ultimately break like a rubber band,” Thae said in August. “I think that day will come within the next 10 years.”

Welcome to the free market, North Korea

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
President Donald J. Trump and First Lady Melania Trump visit South Korea, November 7, 2017 (Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

Rodger Baker, the lead analyst of the Asia-Pacific region for Stratfor, a geopolitical consulting firm, previously told Business Insider that North Korea’s government might be stronger than defectors are willing to admit.

“A lot of the West’s vision of North Korea is from defector testimony, which is going to have a political bent,” Baker said. He added that the idea that air-dropping South Korean DVDs and music into North Korea would eventually sway the population against Kim “overestimates the draw of material goods over nationalism and national identity.”

But history shines with examples of people refusing to be repressed and finding prosperity one way or another. North Korea cannot stand comparison to the prosperous, democratic South.

Much like how President Donald Trump calls Kim Jong Un’s reign a “cruel dictatorship” and threatens military action against the rogue nation, former President Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union an “evil empire” at the height of nuclear tensions between Washington and Moscow in 1983.

Though the US and the Soviet Union both held tens of thousands of nuclear weapons and enough troops to start World War III, no fighting came about. Throughout the 1980s and early 1990s, the US enjoyed stellar economic growth while the Soviet Union imploded. In 1997, Mikhail Gorbachev, Reagan’s former communist rival, starred in a commercial for Pizza Hut in Moscow.

The military did not defeat communism in the Cold War, capitalism did. Decades later with North Korea, it may be time for another victory for the free market.

Articles

Air Force loosens flight suit sleeve rules

The Air Force is allowing its pilots, navigators and airmen who wear flight suits to roll up their sleeves whenever they’re not on in-flight duty, according to a new memo.


The latest policy, first published on the popular Air Force blog John Q. Public, mimics what airmen who wear the Airman Battle Uniform are already allowed to do when they’re not performing official duties, said Air Force spokesman Maj. Bryan Lewis.

Also read: 15 years later, Pararescueman awarded Air Force Cross for valor

“The flight suit sleeve policy was updated to align with the Airman Battle Uniform coat [shirt] wear policy,” Lewis said in an email Monday.

The change amends Air Force Instruction 36-2903, “Dress and Personal Appearance of Air Force Personnel,” which already states in the case of the ABU that “commanders may authorize sleeves to be rolled up on the ABU coat; however, the cuffs will remain visible and the sleeve will rest at, or within 1 inch of, the forearm when the arm is bent at a 90-degree angle.”

“Regardless as to whether the sleeves are rolled up or unrolled, the cuffs will remain visible at all times,” the AFI says.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

Similarly, airmen who wear a Flight Duty Uniform or Desert Flight Duty Uniform can roll or tuck their suit sleeves under, Lewis said, and “are now approved to pull the sleeves up to within 1 inch of the elbow using the Velcro, already incorporated in the suit, to hold them in place.”

Lt. Gen. Mark Nowland, deputy chief of staff for operations, enacted the change — effective immediately — on Jan. 23, according to the memo.

Airmen “will still be required to have sleeves rolled down to the wrist when performing aircrew duties in-flight,” Lewis said — for example, while flying or on the flight line.

The previous policy for flight suits stated airmen could have their sleeves rolled under “if not performing in-flight duties.” However, the rolled-under sleeve “will not end above the natural bend of the wrist when the wearer’s arms are hanging naturally at their side.”

Lewis could not say if similar provisions for flight suits were made in the past.

Articles

Fast-mover hit by enemy ground fire over Afghanistan

 


North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
An F-16 launching with external fuel tanks.

AFP is reporting that an American F-16 was hit by small arms fire over Paktia Province in eastern Afghanistan over the weekend. The damage to the jet was severe enough that the pilot decided to jettison all external stores (drop tanks and bombs) before returning to Bagram Air Base north of Kabul.

Although a number of rotary wing aircraft have been shot down or damaged by ground fire while operating over Afghanistan, tactical jets have been basically untouched by the enemy since the first airstrikes started in October of 2001.  The Taliban don’t have much in the way of an integrated air defense system (a la Desert Storm-era Iraq), and jets can usually remain out of the reach of shoulder-fired surface-to-air missiles (like Stingers) and small arms fire by flying above 10,000 feet while delivering GBUs or JDAMs.

So, in order to have been hit by bullets, the F-16 pilot had to have been flying pretty low.  Pilots generally fly low for two reasons:  A “show of force” pass or a strafing run.  Non-precision (“dumb”) bombing can cause a pilot to bottom out at low altitude, but it’s unlikely the Falcon was carrying other than smart weapons, even for a close air support mission.

The Taliban claimed to have downed the F-16 and pictures have emerged of them posing with wreckage, but the U.S. military responded with the following statement: “On October 13, a US F-16 encountered small arms fire in the Paktia Province in Afghanistan. The surface to air fire impacted one of the aircraft’s stabilizers and caused damage to one of the munitions.”

Now: 4 things that made the F-16 years ahead of its time

Articles

These 74 dead sailors from the Vietnam War are not honored on the Wall

The most notable part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington D.C. is “The Wall,” which features a list of 58,315 personnel killed during the Vietnam War. An effort to add the names of 74 sailors, though, has been rebuffed by the Navy.


According to a report by FoxNews.com, the 74 sailors were killed when the Allen M. Sumner-class destroyer USS Frank E. Evans (DD 754) was rammed by the Australian aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R 21) during a South East Asia Treaty Organization (SEATO) exercise.

The destroyer was cut in half, with the bow sinking in a matter of minutes, taking 73 sailors with it. A single body was recovered from the South China Sea, bringing the total to 74 lives lost.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
The Wall, the most prominent part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington, DC. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Among the dead were the three Sage brothers from Niobrara, Nebraska – the worst loss any family had suffered since the Sullivan brothers were killed when the anti-aircraft cruiser USS Juneau (CL 52) was sunk during the Guadalcanal campaign.

The portion of the Frank E. Evans that remained afloat was taken to Subic Bay, where it was decommissioned on July 1, 1969. On Oct. 10, 1969, the ship was sunk as a target.

The Navy’s initial refusal to place those 74 names on the Wall was due to the fact that the destroyer was outside the “Vietnam combat zone.”

According to U.S. Navy criteria, “Vietnam and contiguous waters” was defined as “an area which includes Vietnam and the water adjacent thereto within the following specified limits: From a point on the East Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with China southeastward to 21 N. Latitude, 108° 15’E. Longitude; thence, southward to 18° N. Latitude, 108° 15’E. Longitude; thence southeastward to 17° 30’N. Latitude, 111° E. Longitude; thence southward to 11° N. Latitude; 111° E. Longitude, thence southwestward to 7° N. Latitude, 105° E. Longitude; thence westward to 7° N. Latitude, 103° E. longitude, thence northward to 9° 30’N. Latitude, 103° E. Longitude, thence northeastward to 10° 15’N. Latitude, 104° 27’E. Longitude, thence northward to a point on the West Coast of Vietnam at the juncture of Vietnam with Cambodia.”

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
The aircraft carrier HMAS Melbourne (R21), which rammed US Frank E. Evans (DD 754). (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

According to the website of the Frank E. Evans Association, the accident occurred 110 miles from the Vietnam Combat Zone.

FoxNews.com reported that the Navy has offered to place an exhibit about the collision in a planned Vietnam Veterans Memorial educational center, but many families are skeptical due to lagging efforts at fundraising for the proposed $130 million project.

Articles

Mattis says ISIS militants are caught in a military vise

Expelled from their main stronghold in northern Iraq, Islamic State militants are now trapped in a military vise that will squeeze them on both sides of the Syria-Iraq border, US Defense Secretary Jim Mattis said.


Mattis arrived in the Iraqi capital on an unannounced visit August 22 just hours after President Donald Trump outlined a fresh approach to the stalemated war in Afghanistan. Trump also has vowed to take a more aggressive, effective approach against IS in Iraq and Syria, but he has yet to unveil a strategy for that conflict that differs greatly from his predecessor’s.

In Baghdad, Mattis was meeting with senior Iraqi government leaders and with US commanders. He also planned to meet in Irbil with Massoud Barzani, leader of the semi-autonomous Kurdish region that has helped fight IS. Mattis told reporters before departing from neighboring Jordan that the so-called Middle Euphrates River Valley — roughly from the western Iraqi city of al-Qaim to the eastern Syrian city of Der el-Zour — will be liberated in time, as IS gets hit from both ends of the valley that bisects Iraq and Syria.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
DoD photo by Air Force Staff Sgt. Jette Carr

“You see, ISIS is now caught in-between converging forces,” he said, using an alternative acronym for the militant group that burst into western and northern Iraq in 2014 from Syria and held sway for more than two years. “So ISIS’s days are certainly numbered, but it’s not over yet and it’s not going to be over any time soon.”

Mattis referred to this area as “ISIS’s last stand.”

Unlike the war in Afghanistan, Iraq offers a more positive narrative for the White House, at least for now. Having enabled Iraqi government forces to reclaim the Islamic State’s prized possession of Mosul in July, the US military effort is showing tangible progress and the Pentagon can credibly assert that momentum is on Iraq’s side.

The ranking US Air Force officer in Iraq, Brig. Gen. Andrew A. Croft, said that over the past couple of months IS has lost much of its ability to command and control its forces.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
Members of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service present Gen. Joseph F. Dunford, a flag from Bartilah, a town recaptured by the Iraqi army just outside of Mosul from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Dominique Pineiro.

“It’s less coordinated than it was before,” he said. “It appears more fractured — flimsy is the word I would use.”

Brett McGurk, the administration’s special envoy to the counter-IS coalition, credits the Trump administration for having accelerated gains against the militants. He said August 21 that about one-third of all territory regained in Iraq and Syria since 2014 has been retaken in the last six or seven months.

“I think that’s quite significant and partially due to the fact we’re moving faster, more effectively,” as a result of Trump’s delegation of battlefield authorities to commanders in the field, McGurk said. He said this “has really made a difference on the ground. I have seen that with my own eyes.”

It seems likely that in coming months Trump may be in position to declare a victory of sorts in Iraq as IS fighters are marginalized and they lose their claim to be running a “caliphate” inside Iraq’s borders. Syria, on the other hand, is a murkier problem, even as IS loses ground there against US-supported local fighters and Russian-backed Syrian government forces.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
ISIS patrol the streets of Raqqa, Syria. Image from Raqqa Is Being Slaughtered Silently.

The US role in Iraq parallels Afghanistan in some ways, starting with the basic tenet of enabling local government forces to fight rather than having US troops do the fighting for them. That is unlikely to change in either country. Also, although the Taliban is the main opposition force in Afghanistan, an Islamic State affiliate has emerged there, too. In both countries, US airpower is playing an important role in support of local forces, and in both countries the Pentagon is trying to facilitate the development of potent local air forces.

In Iraq, the political outlook is clouded by the same sectarian and ethnic division between Sunni, Shiite, and Kurdish factions that have repeatedly undercut, and in some cases reversed, security gains following the toppling of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003.

An immediate worry is a Kurdish independence referendum to be held September 25, which, if successful, could upset a delicate political balance in Iraq and inflame tensions with Turkey, whose own Kurdish population has fought an insurgency against the central government for decades. McGurk reiterated US opposition to holding the Iraqi Kurdish referendum.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
Photo courtesy of Kurdish YPG Fighters Flickr.

“We believe these issues should be resolved through dialogue under the constitutional framework, and that a referendum at this time would be really potentially catastrophic to the counter-ISIS campaign,” McGurk told reporters in a joint appearance with Mattis before they flew to Iraq.

With the Iraqi military’s campaign to retake the northern city of Tal Afar now under way, Mattis has refused to predict victory. He says generals and senior officials should “just go silent” when troops are entering battle.

“I’d prefer just to let the reality come home. There’s nothing to be gained by forecasting something that’s fundamentally unpredictable,” he told reporters traveling with him over the weekend.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Kim Jong Nam might have been plotting to overthrow his brother

Days before he was killed by a toxic nerve agent, Kim Jong Nam, the brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un, met with a U.S. intelligence official on a Malaysian island, a police official told courts on Jan. 29.


The police official’s testimony seems to confirm a May 2017 report from The Asahi Shimbun, which described Kim Jong Nam meeting a Korean-American who Malaysian officials suspected was a U.S intelligence agent.

According to the report, the two met on Feb. 9 and Kim’s computer showed a record of a thumb drive being inserted, which some have speculated was used to offload vital information to the suspected U.S. agent. The report includes a photo that purports to show the two meeting, though the suspected agent’s face is cropped out. On Jan. 29, the police official seemed to confirm the encounter took place.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
Security footage showing the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the half-brother of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. (YouTube Screenshot)

Four days later, Kim was dead. Two women accused of killing Kim have said they thought they were pranking him for a reality-TV show.

Why was Kim meeting with US agents?

While reports about Kim’s life say he was a gambler with no ambitions to rule North Korea, he would make sense as someone whom the U.S. — and even China — would want to groom and leverage to possibly remove Kim Jong Un from power.

At 34 years old, Kim Jong Un could lead North Korea for another three to five decades. While his leadership makes obvious its hostility to the U.S., he is also no fan of China.

Citing three sources, Nikkei Asian Review reported in August 2017 that top government officials in China and North Korea seriously considered a plot to remove Kim Jong Un in 2012, however the plot reportedly fell through and resulted in the dictator having his own uncle killed.

Also Read: All about the chemical agent VX that allegedly killed Kim Jong Nam

Unlike his predecessors, Kim Jong Un has never visited Beijing nor had Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Pyongyang. Kim Jong Un has never met with another head of state, and has increasingly been viewed as out of Beijing’s control, while threatening the U.S. with nuclear weapons.

Kim Jong Un has effectively put a giant nuclear target on China’s borders, and risks having his country overthrown and occupied by U.. troops. Kim also has had top officials with ties to China brutally assassinated with packs of dogs or anti-aircraft guns, according to reports.

As a result, both the U.S. and China have plenty of reason to wish for something to end Kim Jong Un’s rule over North Korea. Because North Korea is ruled by the Kim family dynasty, Kim Jong Un could theoretically be replaced with another Kim in a relatively bloodless coup.

(5 News | YouTube)

Such an opportunity may have proven too enticing for both the U.S. and China to pass up, and too risky for North Korea to ignore.

Kim family infighting becomes geopolitical

An anonymous source told South Korea’s JoongAng Ilbo in November 2017 that Chinese authorities blocked a plot from seven North Korean assassins to enter the country and kill Kim Han Sol, the son of Kim Jong Nam.

Though North Korea denies any involvement in the murder of Kim Jong Nam, the same country that has worked to build up a nuclear arsenal while under the heaviest sanctions on earth might not think twice about offing a member of the Kim family to protect from coups orchestrated by outsiders.

Kim Han Sol, another legitimate Kim, now fears for his life as he represents the heir to a bloodline that could unseat one of the world’s most brutal rulers.

Articles

The Air Force wants to replace ‘terps with tech

As anyone who’s ever deployed with a unit that required an interpreter knows, language barriers make a tough mission tougher. And considering how the U.S. military has treated the locals hired to do interpretation for U.S. ground forces in Iraq and Afghanistan, it’s a wonder we’re able to recruit ‘terps’ at all.


North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
“He says: ‘So… this is the guy we kill when you leave yeah’?” (U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Also Read: Afghan Interpreters Risked Their Lives For Us — Now We’re Abandoning Them

So it makes sense the Pentagon would have a need for something that provides real-time translation to the boots on the ground. It should come to no surprise to anyone who regularly shops around on FedBizOpps.gov (the U.S. government’s business opportunities site with a name as legit as any Cash4Gold site), to see the Air Force Research Laboratory posting a need for what it calls “human language technologies.”

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
Meanwhile, the Navy continues to pursue its strange obsession with dolphin language . (U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 1st Class Brien Aho RELEASED)

The Air Force wants to conduct research and development in “automatic speech recognition, machine translation, natural language processing, information extraction, information retrieval, text-to-speech synthesis, and other speech and language processing technologies.” Maybe the military should just ask Skype how they made theirs.

The Air Force’s mind-blowing rationale is that “much of the information needed to effectively understand, anticipate, manage, and operate in the global environment is found in foreign language speech, text, videos, and images” and the military is especially interested in “lesser spoken languages that have high military interest but lack sufficient linguists and automated language processing capabilities.”

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

Basically, everything we want to know for via signals intelligence and human intelligence is another language and we don’t have enough people who will help us translate it and the Air Force will spend $10 million over a five-year span to develop the technology to do it without human help.

 

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Veterans #StillServing in the COVID-19 era

Volunteering is gratifying for anyone and is especially so for veterans. The sense of teamwork and purpose that volunteering provides is a natural fit for military veterans. To do so alongside the civilian population to which we have returned (and sometimes are challenged to adjust to) is an opportunity to be seen as we are – a neighbor, friend or colleague. Too often, the veteran is “othered” as a population in need of service rather than able to give it.

We are still in what President Donald Trump said began as a war footing against COVID-19, the novel coronavirus that has touched many of our families, communities and economies.


Thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands, of Americans are volunteering sewing masks, filling pantries, doing childcare, errand running for the vulnerable, providing clinical and non-clinical medical support, joining tech SWAT teams, funding emergency resources, making deliveries, donating blood, providing transportation, offering free legal or financial advice, counseling and the list goes on. What can go unnoticed is that veterans are joining, if not leading, the fight against COVID-19, right next you.

According to the Corporation for National Community Service’s 2018 Volunteering in America Report, veterans give 25% more time, are 17% more likely to make a monetary donation and are 30% more likely to participate in local organizations than the civilian population.

For former military, raising our hand to meet these needs is right up our alley. For us, COVID-19 is another mission. You might not recognize us managing and distributing PPE, like National Guard veteran Fred Camacho in Wisconsin, or sewing masks to donate like U.S. Air Force veteran Darin Williams in Colorado, but we are there. Even in small ways, we are finding opportunities to serve others amid this pandemic. As for me, I organized a community service project for my daughters and other members of their YMCA camping program. Along with their friends, they made cards and drew pictures for frontline medical workers and we sent dinner along with well-wishes to local hospitals.

It might seem like a small act, but that’s the point. I am teaching my daughters to help others in whatever ways they can, no matter how small the gesture. A U.S. Navy veteran, I gave for my country, and like so many of my fellow veterans, I continue to give daily. I am #StillServing even in small ways and even when nobody is watching.

Are you a veteran that is #StillServing? Visit vfw.org/StillServing and share how you continue to answer the call to serve in ways big and small, and let’s show the world how vibrant and active America’s veterans are.

MIGHTY MOVIES

Borne the Battle: The state of military film

“1917” and “The Last Full Measure” will soon be coming to a theater near you. These military movies have been carefully crafted to capture an authentic look at life in the military. Fortunately, many military films and TV shows have been carefully crafted with the help of veterans like Dale Dye, Travis Wade, Jennifer Marshall, and Hiram Murray. They came on Borne the Battle to discuss the business of making military films in the current Marvel and Call of Duty era.


THE LAST FULL MEASURE Official Trailer (2020) Sebastian Stan, Samuel L. Jackson Drama Movie HD

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According to the panel, Hollywood often looks to veterans for military advising, but only recently has it begun to see the benefits of casting veterans as actors. The panel discusses professionally balancing the two roles on set.

Additionally, the panel talks how difficult it is to make military films. From getting the right actors at the right time to placating Hollywood execs. In the panel, Dye mentions why it is worth it to “herd cats” on set.

No Better Place To Die

www.youtube.com

Finally, the panel lays bare that these films need the support of veterans. In the current superhero climate, veteran support of military films and TV series are what show Hollywood that these types of films have a large audience that wants to see these stories.

Tango Down OFFICIAL TRAILER #1

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

MIGHTY SURVIVAL

Here are 7 battlefield-tested tips from a US Army sniper on how not to lose your mind in isolation

On the battlefield, snipers often find themselves isolated from the rest of the force for days at a time, if not longer.

With people around the world stuck at home in response to the serious coronavirus outbreak, Insider asked a US Army sniper how he handles isolation and boredom when he finds himself stuck somewhere he doesn’t want to be.


Obviously, being a sniper is harder than hanging out at home, but some of the tricks he uses in the field may be helpful if you are are starting to lose your mind.

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Sniper in position in the woods

U.S. Army National Guard photo by Spc. John Bright

Remember your mission

As a sniper, “you’re the eyes and ears for the battalion commander,” 1st Sgt. Kevin Sipes, a veteran sniper from Texas, told Insider, adding, “There’s always something to look at and watch.”

He said that while he might not be “looking through a scope the whole time, looking for a specific person,” he is still intently watching roads, vehicles, buildings and people.

“There are a lot of things that you’re trying to think about” to “describe to someone as intricately as you possibly can” the things they need to know, he said. “Have I seen that person before? Can I blow a hole in that wall? How much explosives would that take?”

There is always work that needs to be done.

Break down the problem

One trick he uses when he is in a challenging situation, be it lying in a hole he dug or sitting in a building somewhere surveilling an adversary, is to just focus on getting from one meal to the next, looking at things in hours, rather than days or weeks.

“Getting from one meal to the next is a way to break down the problem and just manage it and be in the moment and not worry about the entirety of it,” said Sipes, a seasoned sniper with roughly 15 years of experience who spoke to Insider while he was at home with his family.

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Work to improve your position

“You’re always trying to better your position,” Sipes told Insider. That can mean a number of different things, such as improving your cover, looking for ways to make yourself a little more comfortable, or even working on your weapon.

Take note of things you wouldn’t normally notice

“What is going on in your own little environment that you’ve never noticed before?” Sipes asked.

Thinking back to times stuck in a room or a hole, he said, “There is activity going on, whether it’s the bugs that are crawling across the floor or the mouse that’s coming out of the wall.”

“You get involved in their routine,” he added.

Look for new ways to connect with people

In the field, snipers are usually accompanied by a spotter, so they are not completely alone. But they may not be able to talk and engage one another as they normally would, so they have to get a little creative.

“Maybe you can’t communicate through actual spoken word, but you can definitely communicate through either drawings or writing,” Sipes said.

“We spend a lot of time doing sector sketches, panoramic drawings of the environment. We always put different objects or like draw little faces or something in there. And, you always try and find where they were in someone’s drawing.”

He added that they would also write notes about what was going on, pass information on things to look out for, and even write jokes to one another.

Think about things you will do when its over

“One big thing I used to do was list what kind of food I was going to eat when I get back, like listing it out in detail of like every ingredient that I wanted in it and what I thought it was going to taste like,” Sipes said. He added that sometimes he listed people he missed that he wanted to talk to when he got back.

Remember it is not all about you

Sipes said that no matter what, “you are still a member of a team” and you have to get into a “we versus me” mindset. There are certain things that have to be done that, even if they are difficult, for something bigger than an individual.

He said that you have to get it in your head that if you don’t do what you are supposed to do, you are going to get someone else killed. “Nine times out of 10, the person doing the wrong thing isn’t the one that suffers for it. It is generally someone else.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Catholic Church is trying to oust an African dictator

Democratic Republic of Congo’s President Joseph Kabila has refused to relinquish power for more than a year, and the Catholic Church has emerged as the leader in the fight against him.


Since December 2017, when Kabila again refused to step down, the church and a spiritual group called the Lay Coordination Committee have organized a handful of protests, all of which have ended violently.

Most recently, anti-government protests in the capital city of Kinshasa on Feb. 25, 2018, left four people dead and two more injured, according to the Associated Press.

Related: These are the living descendants of infamous dictators

Kabila’s refusal to step down has also aggravated violence between government forces and multiple armed groups in other areas of the country. This includes the Kasai and Kivu regions, where mass atrocities have been carried out by both sides, killing and displacing thousands in the last few years.

Here’s what’s going on:

President Joseph Kabila took power of the DRC in 2001 after his father’s assassination.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
President of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Joseph Kabila.

Kabila helped unify the country after the two Congo wars of 1996-97 and 1998-2003, bringing back international business and raising GDP.

But at the same time, his government has been accused of gross incompetence, corruption, and human rights abuses.

Source: AFP

Kabila was supposed to step down after his two-term mandate expired on December 19, 2016, but he stayed on after invoking a controversial law requiring a successor to be elected. This sparked a wave of protests.

Also read: 6 most stubborn world conflicts happening right now

In January 2017, the Catholic Church brokered a deal between Kabila’s People’s Party for Reconstruction and Democracy and opposition parties that elections would be held in December 2017 and that Kabila would step down.

In December 2017, Kabila again refused to step down, saying that an election would have to be held at the end of 2018 because the government didn’t have enough money.

Election officials have even said that, because of continued financial and logistical problems, the election might be even held later than that.

With opposition parties in disarray, the Catholic Church, which had previously tried to stay neutral, organized anti-government protests together with a spiritual group called the Lay Coordination Committee.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime
The Cathedral of Notre Dame, Republic of Congo. (Image via Flickr user David Stanley)

In the first demonstration on Dec. 31, 2017, seven demonstrators were killed by government forces.

On Jan. 21, 2018, another protest was held in which government forces killed 5 more protesters, firing live rounds and tear gas into crowds of demonstrators.

“We were dispersed by tear gas, stun grenades, and live bullets. We have again seen deaths, injuries, priests being arrested, and the theft of citizens’ property,” Cardinal Laurent Monsengwo said after the protests, according to Reuters.

“How can you kill men, women, children, youths, and old people all chanting religious songs, carrying bibles, rosaries, and crucifixes? Are we now living in an open prison?”

Source: Al Jazeera

But the church and the LCC have not stopped.

Related: The 21 most authoritarian regimes in the world

They organized another protest on Feb. 25, 2018, after mass, but government forces surrounded the churches that were planning to participate in the demonstrations before the parishioners could even take to the streets.

As police confined them, many churchgoers prayed and chanted slogans.

But violence soon erupted.

Police again fired live rounds and tear gas into crowds, and even beat, kicked, and arrested priests and protesters who were peacefully marching, which the video below shows.


 

Source: Jason Stearns

The violence reportedly left four dead and 47 more injured.

Source: Associated Press

The political violence unfolding in Kinshasa and other cities has also aggravated conflicts in different regions of the country, namely the regions of Kasai and Kivu.

In Kasai, the Congolose military has been battling a militia group called Kamuina Nsapu since August 2016, and in the Kivu, it has been battling an Islamist group called the Allied Democratic Forces since the 1990s.

Source: US News

The fighting between the two sides in Kasai has left more than 3,300 people dead and 1.4 million displaced since August 2016.

Dozens of mass graves have also been found in the region, which the Congolese military blames on the Kamuina Nsapu militia.

More: 4 of the craziest assassination attempts in U.S. history

But the UN has also hinted that the Congolese military dug the graves after battling the militia.

Meanwhile, in Kivu, the Islamist Allied Democratic Forces killed 15 UN peacekeepers and five Congolese troops in December 2017.

Late February 2018, the Congolese military attacked an ADF base, and gruesomely massacred a number of its fighters.

Between June and November 2017, “at least 526 civilians were killed … at least 1,087 people were abducted or kidnapped for ransom, and there were at least 7 incidents of mass rape,” according to Human Rights Watch.

While Kabila has blamed militia groups for much of the violence, his own troops have been accused of carrying out a bulk of the human rights violations, according to Jason Stearns of the Congo Research Group.

With tensions continuing to rise, and Kabila seemingly intent on holding as long he can, only time will tell what the future holds for the DRC.

MIGHTY TRENDING

A timeline of the political crisis in Venezuela

For the past two months, Venezuela has been locked in a dramatic political crisis, which has seen countries around the world disavow its president and back an upstart politician in his bid to depose him.

In less than two months, Venezuela’s Juan Guaidó went from being a little-known lawmaker to the opposition leader posing one of the greatest threats to President Nicolás Maduro’s socialist rule in recent years.

But the tensions between the socialist government and the opposition party dates back more than a decade, spanning over accusations of vote rigging, violent protests, and a humanitarian crisis.

Here are the events that culminated in the current crisis.


• Socialist leader Hugo Chavez died in 2013, when his vice president Nicolas Maduro stepped in to take over. Chavez had been in charge for 14 years.

• Soon after, shortages and crime ravaged the country. Anti-Maduro mass protests broke out, and 43 people died.

• Leopoldo Lopez, the most prominent opposition leader, was charged for fomenting unrest in the 2014 protests. He spent three years in prison and is now under house arrest.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

Leopoldo Lopez speaking to a crowd.

• In December 2015, the opposition party won a majority of seats in the National Assembly for the first time since Chavez took power in 1999.

• As oil prices continued plummeting, the oil-dependent economy tanked, and the government could not afford to import many foods. Maduro declared a state of “economic emergency” in January 2016.

• Maduro’s government faced significant protests in 2017 as it created the Constituent Assembly, which took over most important legislative functions. The Supreme Court also tried taking over the functions of the opposition-led National Assembly, but failed.

• On Jan. 5, 2019, the little-known lawmaker Juan Guaidó was appointed the head of the National Assembly, shorn of most of its power.

• Just five days later, Maduro started a second presidential term. His election win was dogged by accusations of vote-rigging. Domestic opposition parties, the US, and 13 other countries in the Americas do not recognize the result.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

​Juan Guaidó speaking at a demonstration.

• Tens of thousands of people around the country staged protests saying that Maduro’s presidency was unconstitutional and fraudulent, and told him to resign. They were met with pro-government rallies.

• On Jan. 23, 2019, Guaidó declared himself Venezuela’s interim president, on the basis that there is no legitimate president of Venezuela, and called for free elections.

• With opposition leader Lopez still under house arrest, Guaidó emerged as the new face of the anti-Maduro movement.

• The US, Canada, and most Latin American nations immediately recognized Guaidó as interim president. Maduro severed diplomatic ties with the US in response.

• Guaidó began to urge soldiers, especially high-ranking ones, to join the opposition. The military is the backbone of Maduro’s power, with generals holding important government positions. The national guard is frequently deployed against protesters.

• In an op-ed for The New York Times, Guaidó offered amnesty to everyone opposing Maduro’s government, and members of the armed forces who haven’t committed crimes against humanity. Many members of Venezuela’s military — a solid power base for Maduro — are implicated in human rights abuses and drug trafficking, according to The Associated Press.

• Venezuela’s Supreme Court imposed a travel ban for Guaidó and froze his assets on Jan. 30, 2019, saying he is being investigated for “usurping” power.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

Maikel Moreno, the president of Venezuela’s Supreme Tribunal of Justice.

(Maikel Moreno Twitter via TSJ Noticias)

• Some of Europe’s most important nations, such as Germany, France, Britain, and Spain, backed Guaidó on Feb. 4, 2019.

• On Feb. 22, 2019, Guaidó defied his travel ban. He left Venezuela to attend the “Venezuela Live Aid” concert in Colombia, organized by British billionaire Richard Branson.

• The following weekend, opposition supporters tried to bring in US-backed humanitarian aid over the Colombian and Brazilian borders, which the government closed. The armed forces barred their entry, killing two and injuring more than 300. The Venezuelan government shut the country’s bridge to Brazil on Feb. 21, 2019, and to Colombia on Feb. 23, 2019.

• International leaders rejected the possibility of sending their militaries into Venezuela to take over control. Guaidó had tweeted that “all options are open” after Maduro barred US-backed aid to enter.

• Guaidó traveled around South America to meet world leaders who back him, including US Vice President Mike Pence and the presidents of Colombia, Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina and Ecuador.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

Guaidó, Colombian President Ivan Duque Marquez, and US Vice President Mike Pence meet in Colombia.

(Official White House Photo by D. Myles)

• Guaidó announced March 4, 2019, as his definitive return date to Venezuela, risking arrest and imprisonment for going against the travel ban.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

Guaidó announces his return on a livestream.

(Juan Guaido’s Periscope)

• Guaidó arrived in Venezuela and passed through immigration on March 4, 2019, he said on Twitter. He was met by European diplomats.

• Thousands of supporters welcomed him at a rally where he called for a new round of protests on March 9, 2019.

• On March 5, 2019, Guaidó met with unions to win their support, he tweeted. He is planning to organize a public sector strike, but the details have yet to be confirmed. On the same day, Maduro announced an “anti-imperialist” march to rival Guaidó’s

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

Articles

The 13 funniest military memes of the week

The days are getting shorter, the nights are getting longer. It must be Fall.


Mourn Summer’s passing with the 13 funniest military memes of this week.

1. Some of you are going back to school… don’t be that guy wearing half his old uniforms to class.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

2. You Might get some funny looks. But you’re probably used to that. (h/t: Air Force Nation)

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

3. Football is back! And the rivalry shots are already fired.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

4. September is a special month, not just the end of summer. (h/t: Operation Encore: A Veteran Music Project)

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

5. Longer days may mess with your sleep cycle, no matter which shift you work.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

6. You know you have to perform, no matter what you did the night before. (h/t: Air Force Memes Humor)

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

7. Medical won’t have much sympathy for you.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

8. Neither will leadership. (h/t U.S Army W.T.F! moments)

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

9. It could always be worse.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

10. Just show up and do the job.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

11. If you make it past lunch, you can stomach the whole day (h/t: The Salty Soldier)

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

12. Just remember these rough days when it’s time to reenlist. (h/t: U.S Army W.T.F! moments )

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

13. And silently remember how face-wreckingly awesome you are.

North Korea’s emerging free market threatens to topple the regime

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