I am the target demographic for this film, and I have been ever since my 8-year-old self cuddled up with nerdy/amazing hero novels, like The Rowan or The Song of the Lioness. I have been devouring epics featuring female heroes for as long as I can remember.
So have all the other women out there thirsting for heroes that look like them. Seeing representation on film and television empowers the people who are watching. This is why it’s so important and exciting to have women and people of color finally stepping into hero roles.
Full Metal Obsession.
2. I know the military world
I joined the military after 9/11 (probably as a result of the aforementioned hero literature). I wanted to literally fight evil. I was an Air Force captain, much like ol’ Captain Marvel herself. As a result, I’m very critical of how military women are portrayed in TV and film.
Edge of Tomorrow got it right. My list of who got it so, so wrong is too bitter to share here, but if your character wore a push-up bra, then you’re on it.
I’m an actor and filmmaker. I understand that Hollywood has to take some artistic liberties. I understand that a big name means selling-power for a film. I also understand the work it takes to bring a character to life.
I’d literally stab someone for love the chance to play a role like Captain Marvel — whoever they cast better make me so delighted to watch that I forget my debilitating FOMO about not playing the part myself.
Well guess what, Marvel? YOU NAILED IT.
Brie Larson has been on my radar since the effing fantastic Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
She’s been on the world’s radar since her Oscar-winning performance in Room. Larson is the kind of actor who effortlessly morphs into a world. She is extremely natural on-camera.
Also, she’s just cool.
In the comics, Carol Danvers is an Air Force officer whose DNA fuses with a Kree, giving her superhuman powers. I don’t know how the MCU will bring her story to life, but I’ve got my fingers crossed that screenwriter Anna Boden will take a cue from comic writer Kelly Sue DeConnick who pitched “…Carol Danvers as Chuck Yeager.”
I believe that she could be powerful. I believe that she could be a leader.
Larson is lovely, but her looks don’t define her. She doesn’t need to be glamorous (though she surely can be when she wants to). This is the same mindset that women in the military have. There’s a comfort level with sacrificing some femininity for the mission. That’s what Hollywood gets wrong so often when they hyper-sexualize their military roles.
But not this time. Marvel crushed it with Larson, and I cannot wait to see this film.
In October 1944, WWII was still raging all across Europe. On the Eastern Front, Red Army troops in Yugoslavia were making their way to bolster other Soviet forces in the region when American P-38 Lightning fighters started raining lead on them.
In response, the Soviet Air Force launched two groups of its premiere fighter of the time, the Yakovlev Yak-3. The Yaks fought the Yanks for a good 15 minutes over the Yugoslav (now Serbia) town of Niš. No one knows exactly how or where the error started, but each side fought the other viciously, thinking they were fighting Nazis.
The Americans’ small taste of the brutality of Eastern Front combat cost dozens of Soviet and American lives.
The Soviets claimed the American fighters were 400 kilometers off course, and thus saw the Red Army ground forces as an unknown German force. Others believe the meetup was intentional, but that the Red Army moved faster than anticipated. When the Americans encountered a significant force 100 kilometers ahead of the expected Allied position, they engaged.
No matter what, the result was an intense air battle that both countries have kept classified for decades. Norwich University calls it the 8th largest air battle in history, even though the exact number of American fighters is unknown.
In fact, most official details are still classified, but both the United States and Russia admit the event occurred. An estimated 30 Soviet ground troops and airmen died in the fighting and Soviet accounts tell of P-38 fighters being shot down.
Another account of the battle, from Soviet Colonel Nikolai Shmelev, details American fighters strafing the airfields near Niš as Russian Yakovlev-9 planes were taxiing to fend off the U.S. Lightnings.
This would not be the only time Soviet and American fighter pilots would tangle with each other in the coming years. They would also fight (unofficially) over the Korean Peninsula and Vietnam, not to mention the numerous Cold War incidents of airspace violations and interceptions.
Taxes, the season you love to hate depending on how you filed. But if you’re getting a refund this year, it’s time you think tactical and upgrade your gear.
With so many options to choose from, what is necessary and what is arguably a waste of money? What is tactical versus ‘tacticool?’ Military service is the one job where relying on equipment or gear can be the difference between pain or performing above pace. Knowing the difference is what we are here for.
Here are seven tactical upgrades to spend your refund on:
Metal frame rucksacks
The butt buffer before slamming into the earth like a meteor while executing a textbook parachute landing fall absorbs a fair amount of energy, taking a bit of a beating. Loading under fire into vehicles or unloading out of helicopters into the landing zone requires gear you can count on. Standard issue rucksacks come with plastic frames and underwhelming comfort, support, and space. Upgrading to a metal frame with ample padding and pocket space is the best money you’ll spend to ensure your gear holds up in any scenario.
Commercial made boots
Whether you are a door-kicking infantryman or supply, all soldiers spend an enormous amount of time each day on their feet. Standard issue footwear leaves much to be desired in terms of comfort and quality. Investing in the commercial counterparts might just save you from the bad back and bum knees every salty Staff Sergeant you know complains of.
If for no other reason, someone needs to help the Lieutenant find his way. Jokes aside, upgrading to a multipurpose, high-quality watch improves your overall performance as a soldier. Keep an accurate pace in your running group, self-pace during the PT test or maneuver your platoon with accuracy. Knowing exactly where you are is a part of the job.
Standard issue magazines are made of thin metal and temperamental inner springs. Two or twenty minutes into a firefight and the last thing you want to worry about is your magazine malfunctioning. Polymer magazines offer more durability when slamming your body or weapon unexpectedly down on the ground for cover. The peer through window option is a nice touch, giving the shooter a quick round count.
If you plan on hearing anything when you’re eighty or have ever tried communicating with standard-issue earplugs in, you’ll know why this made the list. Optional noise cancellation with radio capability means you won’t hear the bullets but will hear relayed commands. The alternative would mean switching between earplugs and radio handsets, tying up focus and lessening your reactiveness.
It’s not technically tactical, but considering your body is your paycheck in the military, taking care of your feet is critical. Running is a stressful activity for any body in general when practiced daily for years on end, it takes a toll. Generally speaking, shoe price is directly related to the quality and lifespan of a sneaker. Understanding the width and arch of your feet and seeking the correct support will provide the longevity your paychecks depend on.
If you’re wondering why your grandpa was issued the same style flashlight as you just received from basic, it’s because they haven’t changed. During night missions, rucks, or walking in general, having two hands instead of one is obviously beneficial. The range of headlamps outshines that of standard-issue flashlights, are lighter weight and have multiple one-touch color options. Your next land navigation score will thank you.
Before blowing your taxes on activities frowned upon by command, try investing in gear that will give back to you instead. Look the part with gear that makes the cut.
The M247 Sergeant York was officially designated as a “self-propelled anti-aircraft gun” but was for all intents and purposes a tank chassis with anti-aircraft guns attached to the top. The vehicle was named for one Alvin York, a famous and highly decorated WWI hero who captured over 100 German soldiers pretty much single-handedly. Unfortunately for the U.S. tax payers who spent just shy of $2 billion on it (about $4.8 billion today or, humourously enough, after appropriately adjusting for inflation to make the dollar values match, about 1/11th what the entire Apollo program cost), the final version of the weapon ended up being so useless its automatic targeting system couldn’t distinguish between a toilet vent fan and a jet plane, the vehicle itself couldn’t keep up with the tanks it was designed to protect, and it was made obsolete by advances in enemy weaponry after only a few dozen faulty units were made. Here now is the story of the forgotten M247.
This particular weapon was developed by the defunct off-shoot of Ford known as Ford Aerospace in response to a contract put out by the U.S. Army in 1977 requesting what they referred to as an, “Advanced Radar-directed Gun Air Defense System.” This was later re-dubbed, “Division Air Defense” which was itself shorted to DIVAD in official documentation.
In a nutshell, the Army wanted a drivable anti-aircraft system that was to serve alongside their newly developed M1 Abrams and M2 Bradley tanks in battle. The contract was put out in direct response to a battle tactic known as “pop-up” which essentially involved helicopters harassing tanks from a distance by hiding behind cover and then popping up briefly to let loose a volley of anti-tank missiles (which themselves were a newly developed technology) before hiding once again.
The U.S. Army found that the tactic was almost impossible to counter with the ground-based weapons it had available at the time as their leading anti-aircraft weapons system, the M163 Vulcan, only had a range of 1.2 KM (3/4 of a mile), while newly developed anti-tank missiles, such as the 9K114 Shturm used by the Soviets, could hit from a range almost five times greater than that. To add insult to injury, the Soviets had no problem countering the pop-up attack method thanks to their ZSU-23-4 Shilka, which is essentially what the United States wanted to copy.
To minimize production time and cost, the Army specified that the basis of the newly developed system had to be mounted atop an M48 Patton tank chassis (something the Army had in great surplus). Further, the system had to more or less use off-the-shelf parts, rather than anything being developed from scratch.
As to the final specific capabilities it was supposed to have, it had to be able to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed and be able to lock onto any target within 8 seconds, all with a minimum 50% chance to hit a target from 3 KM (1.9 miles) away with a single 30 second volley. It also had to be able to continually track up to 48 moving aerial targets, automatically identifying enemy aircraft, and intelligently prioritizing which should be shot down first. All the gunner had to do then was to select the target from the generated list and fire.
Several companies responded to the request with proposed systems, with the Army ultimately narrowing it down to two entrants- one developed by Ford Aerospace and one by General Dynamics, with both companies given $79 million to develop prototypes.
After extensive testing of two prototypes made by each company, in which General Dynamics’ reportedly shot down 19 drones vs. Ford’s 9, Ford was awarded the contract…
As you might have guessed, this decision was controversial, not just because the General Dynamics prototype outperformed Ford’s by a considerable margin, but because, unlike every other entrant, the M247 used more costly 40MM shells instead of 35MM ones which were extensively used by NATO at the time. Rumour had it that Ford stood to make more money from the use of 40MM rounds due to a business deal they had with the manufacturer. However, it should also be noted that the Army may have had good reason to favour the 40MM given its larger size and a newly developed 40mm round that had a proximity sensing fuse built in.
Whatever the case, Ford Aerospace won the lucrative contract and began immediate production of M247s in 1981.
Every M247 Ford produced had problems, mainly centered around their automatic targeting system. This ultimately led one soldier to speculate that the only way the M247 would manage to take out an enemy would be by “driving over the top of it.”
As an example of some of the issues here, in 1982 Ford was set to demonstrate the M247 to a gathered crowd of VIPs and military brass. However, the moment the M247’s tracking system was turned on, it immediately targeted the stands the gathered people were sitting in, resulting in complete chaos as those present trampled one another to get out of the way. Of course, the M247 required the operator to tell it to fire, so there was no real danger here, but one can imagine staring down a pair of 40mm cannons in a live demo would be a tad frightening.
After a while, the engineers thought they’d managed to fix the issue and the demo resumed, only to see the M247 shoot into the ground rather than the drone target it was “locked on” to.
In the aftermath, a Ford Aerospace executive claimed the “glitch” had been caused by the M247 being washed before the demonstration, damaging the targeting system. This explanation didn’t sit well with military brass or the many journalists present, one of whom, Gregg Easterbrook, mused that perhaps Ford Aerospace didn’t realize that it rained in Europe where the M247 was to be deployed.
Other problems with the M247’s targeting system included its seeming inability to tell the difference between helicopters and trees and its penchant for locking onto random other ground-based objects as threats. The most infamous example of this was that time an M247 ignored a passing drone it was supposed to be targeting and instead locked onto a nearby latrine exhaust fan, marking it as a low priority, slow-moving target.
The M247’s targeting system was so poor that even when presented with an unrealistically favorable scenario, such as a helicopter hovering completely still in mid-air, it still missed and took an agonizing 12 seconds just to acquire the target.
How was this targeting system so bad, given that it was developed using off-the-shelf parts that were shown to be reliable already? Mainly because the radar was one designed for the F-16 fighter jet. (In fact, it worked very well in the open air.) However, despite the efforts of the Ford and Army engineers, the random objects on the ground continually wreaked havoc on the radar’s ability to track low flying aerial targets like pop-up attacking helicopters. It also had significant problems tracking high flying targets because when the turrets were raised up they got in the way of the radar… (*queue Yakety Sax*).
On top of all this, the M247’s turret also couldn’t turn fast enough to track fast-moving targets and the hydraulics leaked in even marginally cold weather. Not a problem, of course, given it’s always balmy in the regions that were once the former Soviet Union… (In truth, even if it was balmy, it turns out the tracking system also struggled in high ambient temperatures and had trouble dealing with vibrations, such as generated continually when the M247 moved over the ground.)
Another major problem, as previously mentioned, was that the M247’s top speed wasn’t sufficient to keep up with the M1 and M2’s cruising speed, meaning it literally couldn’t drive fast enough to travel with the things it was specifically designed to protect. You might at this point be thinking that one’s on the Army because they’re the ones that made Ford use the M48 Patton tank as the base, and that’s not an entirely unfair thought. However, it should be noted that the M48 was previously capable of keeping up here, but Ford added about 17 tons to the original 45 in their modifications of the turret, making the tank much slower than it had previously been.
Despite all these problems to units being delivered, the Army continued to pump money into the project, mostly because there wasn’t a backup option and there was a very pressing need for such a weapon. However, rumors of the Army faking positive results for the M247 via putting it in unrealistically favorable conditions (such as hovering the drones and attaching radar reflectors), including Oregon state representative Dennis Smith going so far as to publicly accuse them of this, ultimately led to something of an inquiry on the matter. Specifically, in 1984, Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger decided to oversee a set of amazingly expensive tests costing $54 million ($144 million today) to better determine what this weapon could and couldn’t do.
The tests did not go well. When the system utterly failed to hit any realistically flown drones, they resorted to having them fly in a straight line. After further failures to actually hit a target, the drones were made to hold still and equipped with radar reflectors… (Rather ironic for a weapon named after a famed WWI soldier known for his incredibly sharpshooting ability.)
All was not lost, however. In one of the rounds of tests where a drone was moving the M247 did manage to slightly damage it, knocking it off course, at which point the safety officer remotely self-destructed it as he was supposed to do if a drone did such a thing. Nevertheless, this was interpreted by the press as the military trying to make it look like the M247 had actually managed a kill, leading to even more outcry that the Army was just trying to fake the results to make the massively expensive M247 look good.
(As to that cost, while it’s widely reported today that the project cost close to $7 billion (about $18 billion today), in fact, that number includes about three decades of anti-aircraft weapon development leading up to and including the actual figure of about $1.8 billion (about $4.8 billion today) spent on the development of the M247s.)
In any event, around the same time of the debacle that was the 1984 tests, the Soviet Union were deploying longer-range anti-tank missiles that were capable of being fired outside of the then current range the M247 could effectively counter the attacks, even if the system did aim properly.
Thus, despite the pressing need for such a system with little in the way of a backup, Weinberger, with support from Congress, some members of which had been present at the test, canceled the project rather than trying to sink more money into it to fix it. In the coming years, most of the M247s found their way onto target ranges where they were destroyed in various tests by weaponry that could actually aim properly. Today, only a handful of M247s still exist, one of which can be found at the Sgt. Alvin C. York State Historic Park.
Most service members deal with pretty crappy working hours while on deployment. We wake up for patrol when we’re supposed to and attempt to rack out when we don’t have anything else going on for the day. Sure, you’ll hear some hard-asses out there say that “sleeping is a crutch” as they man the front lines, trying to stay up as long as they possibly can — just in case.
Since a firefight can break out at any moment, many of us to have to go days without even taking a nap. We know that going without sleep can make us cranky, but, biologically, that’s the least of your worries.
Prohibiting our bodies from getting proper rest increases the production of beta-amyloid, a protein associated with Alzheimer’s disease. Unfortunately, when we don’t give ourselves time to achieve deep sleep, our brains are unable to wash away the unwanted proteins from our noodles. The more this protein builds up, the higher your chances of developing dementia later in life.
In fact, because of all the risks associated with this protein, the World Health Organization has even labeled nighttime work as a possible occupational carcinogen.
Sleep deprivation also affects our reproductive and immune systems, as well as reduces our testosterone levels.
That’s not good.
According to Matthew Walker, a professor of neuroscience and psychology at the University of California, Berkeley, once you’ve been awake for more than 16 hours, mental and physiological deterioration of the body begins. After 20 hours, the human mental capacity becomes impaired — similar to the level of being legally drunk behind the wheel of a car.
The U.S. Air Force recently awarded a $96-million contract to Raytheon to produce more Miniature Air-Launched Decoys, missiles that can be launched from jets or dropped out of the back of C-130s to simulate the signatures of most U.S. and allied aircraft, spoofing enemy air defenses.
Two Miniature Air-Launched Decoy missiles sit in a munitions storage area on Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, March 21, 2012. The missiles can dress themselves up like nearly any U.S. or allied aircraft and can fly pre-programmed routes.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Micaiah Anthony)
The missiles, which Raytheon calls “MALD® decoy,” can fly 500 nautical miles along pre-programmed routes, simulating missions that strike aircraft would fly. Modern variants of the missile can even receive new flight programming mid-flight, allowing pilots to target and jam “pop-up” air defenses.
To air defense operators on the ground, it looks like a flight of strike aircraft are coming in. So, they fire off their missiles and, ultimately, they kill nothing because their missiles are targeting the Air Force-equivalent of wooden ducks floating in a pond.
Meanwhile, real strike aircraft flying behind the decoys are able to see exactly where the surface-to-air missiles and radar emissions are coming from, and they can use anti-ship and anti-radiation missiles to destroy those defenses.
The Raytheon missiles are the MALD-J variant, which jams enemy radars and early-warning systems without degrading the illusions that make the decoy system so potent. This leaves air defenders unable see anything except for brief glimpses of enemy aircraft signatures — which might be real planes, but could also easily be MALDs.
The missile is a result of a DARPA program dating back to 1995 that resulted in the ADM-160A. The Air Force took over the program and tested the ADM-160B and, later, the MALD.
The Air Force began fielding the missile in 2009 and they might have been launched during attacks against Syria while emitting the signatures of Tomahawk cruise missiles, but that’s largely conjecture. In fact, it’s not actually clear that the MALD can simulate the Tomahawk missile at all.
Two Miniature Air-Launched Decoy missiles wait to be loaded onto a B-52H Stratofortress at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana, Ma 14, 2012. The B-52H crew can communicate with the missiles in flight and change the flight patterns to engage newly discovered enemy air defenses.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Jonathan Snyder)
Meanwhile, the Navy commissioned the MALD-N, a networked version of the missile, for their use.
Whether or not the missiles were employed in Syria, they represent a great tool for defeating advanced enemy air defenses, like the S300 and S400 from Russia or the HQ-9 and HQ-19 systems from China. While the missile systems and their radars are capable, possibly of even detecting stealthy aircraft like the B-1s and B-2s, they can’t afford to fire their missiles and expose their radars for every MALD that flies by.
At the same time, they also can’t afford to ignore radar signatures emitted by MALDs. They have little chance of figuring out which ones are decoys and which ones are real planes before the bombs drop.
US ‘Hurricane Hunter’ aircraft have been flying in and out of Hurricane Dorian, capturing wild photos of a storm that devastated the Bahamas and appears to be heading toward the US.
Dorian, one of the most powerful Atlantic storms in history, has been downgraded from a Category 5 storm to a Category 2, as winds have decreased to around 110 mph from their earlier 185 mph, but this hurricane remains a cause for concern.
The U.S. Air Force Reserve Hurricane Hunters fly in the eye of Hurricane Dorian, Aug. 31, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Diana Cossaboom)
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit located at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi., gathered weather information during a mission into Hurricane Dorian Sep. 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Christopher Carranza)
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, an Air Force Reserve unit located at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi., gathered weather information during a mission into Hurricane Dorian Sep. 2, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo by U.S. Navy Midshipman First Class Julia Von Fecht)
The 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron shared this photo from a mission on Sept. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
“We’ve made it back home to Keesler Air Force Base,” the squadron tweeted on Sept. 1, 2019.
(U.S. Air Force photo)
This image shows the “stadium effect” seen from the eye of the hurricane.
This image shows another view of the “stadium effect” seen inside Hurricane Dorian.
While Hurricane Dorian is not as strong as it was, it is still considered a very dangerous storm. The National Hurricane Center, a division of NOAA, sent out a notification Sep. 3, 2019, explaining that the storm may actually be getting worse given its growing size.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
We shouldn’t have to say this, but starting a war on the Korean Peninsula is a bad idea. I am not the first person to make the case that a war on the Korean peninsula would be bad for America —and for South Korea and probably for Japan. Recently, professor Barry Posen laid out just how difficult it would be to conduct a successful pre-emptive attack against North Korea. He further presented how terrible a conflict on the peninsula would be in terms of lives lost — North Korean, South Korean and American. Professor Posen’s piece, however did not go far enough in explaining how a pre-emptive attack — and then war — on the Korean peninsula would damage U.S. interests.
With the administration’s statements leaving the door open to a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, it is a good time to catalogue why such a concept is a bad idea—regardless of one’s view of the threats posed by the North Korean regime and its nuclear and missile programs. Professor Posen captures the likely human toll of a second Korean war well. The costs of the conflict and its aftermath would leave the United States and its allies poorer. And ultimately, the United States would likely be less secure than it is today.
Difficulty of Escalation Control
North Korea has signaled, for decades, that any attack against it would be met with swift retribution. For much of the post-Korean War era, this meant massive artillery bombardment of Seoul. Now that North Korea possesses missiles with intercontinental range, that retribution could be against targets as far away as New York or Washington. The idea that the United States could conduct strikes against limited targets—such as North Korea’s missile facilities or nuclear weapons complexes—with little to no North Korean response is gambling with millions of lives at stake. Were North Korea to follow through on its repeated statements of retaliation, and a U.S. or allied territory to be struck, it would likely result in activation of one or more of the U.S. mutual defense treaties, and the commitment of significant U.S. forces to a conflict on the Korean peninsula. At that point, what was presented as a limited strike will have become a full-blown war.
It is therefore critical to recognize the limits of escalation control when dealing with military options against North Korea. And Professor Posen makes a clear and compelling argument about the likely catastrophic human consequences of such a conflict. One must also consider additional strategic consequences for the United States, specifically the financial toll and effect on regional alliances.
North Korea’s active-duty military is estimated to number over 1 million personnel. South Korea maintains a 650,000-person army. Even if the combined U.S.-South Korean force is better trained and equipped than its North Korean adversary, North Korea has spent nearly 70 years developing hardened shelters and stowage points for its personnel and artillery pieces. The four kilometer-wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) is also the most heavily mined area on the planet, limiting the ability of ground forces to move through it easily.
North Korea is believed to have developed tunnels across the DMZ to move its army or special forces rapidly into South Korean territory — and to bypass the mines laid along the DMZ. Even assuming U.S. and South Korean ground forces can quickly move through the DMZ to the North, the mountainous terrain would make rapid ground movement difficult—especially with heavy tanks or artillery. All of this is before considering the impact of North Korea’s nuclear weapons or its stockpiles of chemical weapons and biological weaponswould have on the conflict.
The sum of these factors suggest that prosecuting a war in North Korea has the potential to be more expensive than the $1.5 trillion spent so far on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Winning the war would be only a small portion of the total costs, however. The real costs to the United States—and South Korea—would come from the needed investments to develop North Korea’s economy and rebuild its society after a successful military campaign, and to rebuild the portions of South Korea destroyed in a war.
By way of comparison, 20 years after the reunification of Germany, Germany’s Finance Minister stated that the annual cost of reunification was approximately 100 billion euros per year—or nearly 2 trillion euros. East Germany’s per capita GDP was, at the time of reunification, approximately one half of West Germany’s. North Korea’s GDP today is only 3 percent of South Korea’s.
The Regional Security Consequences
Even if it wins, the United States could find itself less secure in Northeast Asia after a war with North Korea.
China has long been concerned about U.S. military presence in Korea, believing U.S. forces there could pose a threat to China’s sovereignty and security. Should the U.S.-ROK force prevail against North Korea in a war, the long-standing basis for keeping U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula — to defend South Korea from North Korean invasion — would be moot. China would likely push the South Korean government (especially if it were the de facto government of the entire Korean peninsula) to change its relationship with the United States and reduce or eliminate U.S. forces from the peninsula.
Should U.S. forces leave the Korean peninsula, China would likely use the withdrawal to build a narrative that the United States is retreating from Asia, that it is not a reliable security partner, or both. Consequently, the United States would have less diplomatic credibility, less military capability, and less influence with allies in the region.
A potentially more dangerous — and more likely — scenario is that the United States could find itself with troops dangerously-close to China’s border. It was Chinese fear of U.S. encroachment on its border that led Mao Zedong to intervene in the Korean War on North Korea’s behalf in 1950. With U.S. and Chinese troops mere miles apart, the risk of a U.S.-China stand-off escalating quickly from a skirmish to a major exchange would increase.
From China’s perspective, the continued existence of North Korea as a separate country provides a buffer between its own borders and U.S. forces. A unified Korean peninsula, with U.S. troops still present, would be perceived as negatively impacting China’s security.
The likely result of fighting a war against North Korea to eliminate the threat that it would use its nuclear weapons against the United States or its allies is that the United States would instead increase the likelihood of conflict with far more potent nuclear-armed adversaries in China.
Deterrence: A Better Deal
With war on the Korean peninsula too costly, from human, economic, and security perspectives, what options remain? Fortunately for the United States and our allies in Asia, managing new nuclear powers is something the United States has experience with, and it is called deterrence.
The window to remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons by force has passed. Instead, the United States will need to work with allies and partners to ensure North Korea understands the consequences of its continued reliance on those weapons, and the implications for North Korea’s future if those weapons are used. Additionally, the United States will need to continue working with South Korea and Japan to maintain a unified approach toward North Korea.
All three allies will also have to work closely to pressure China and Russia to deter North Korea’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons program, and especially toward using those weapons in the future.
The number of countries that have closed their embassies in North Korea and who have shown a willingness to work with the United States to limit North Korea’s access to financing and materiel speaks highly of the potential for focused and patient diplomacy. Ensuring the United States and South Korea remain positioned to respond to North Korean aggression, should it happen, is essential. Maintaining the diplomatic pressure that has begun to bear fruit will also be essential if the United States is to avoid a situation where through impatience it turns a strategically difficult situation into a strategic setback.
World military spending decreased steadily in the years after the 2008-2009 global financial crash but has risen in each of the five years since 2015, the latest in what SIPRI researcher Nan Tian described as four phases in military spending over the past 30 years.
The post-Cold War years saw spending decline in what many saw “as a peace-dividend period,” Tian said Tuesday during a webcast hosted by the Stimson Center and SIPRI.
That decline bottomed out around 2000, when the September 11 attacks prompted years of defense-spending increases that peaked around 2010 and 2011, Tian said. Spending fell again in the early 2010s.
“But more recently, in the last three years, we really see that spending has really picked up,” Tian said. “The reason is the US announcing really expensive modernization programs … and also the end of austerity measures in many of the world’s global spenders.”
US military spending grew by 5.3% in 2019 to a total of 2 billion — 38% of global military spending. The US’s increase in 2019 was equivalent to all of Germany’s military expenditure that year, SIPRI said.
Military spending in Asia has risen every year since 1989, with China and India, second and third on the list this year, leading the way. (Tian said SIPRI’s numbers for China are higher than Beijing’s because SIPRI includes spending it defines as “military-related.”)
“In the case of India and China, we’ve seen consistent increases over the last 30 years,” Tian said. “While India and China really [were] spending in the early 1990s far less than Western Europe … Chinese spending really starts to pick up since about 2000.”
China’s spending, now several times that of France or the UK, and India’s growing expenditures point to “a change in the global balance,” Tian said.
“Whereas a few years ago we saw … [for] the first time that there are no Western European countries in the top five spenders in the world, this is the first time where we see two Asian countries, in India and China, being within the top three spenders, followed by Russia and Saudi Arabia.”
Data is not available for all the countries in the Middle East, but Saudi Arabia is by far the biggest spender for which SIPRI could estimate totals. In terms of arms imports, the Middle East “has now the largest share it has ever had since 1950, as a region,” SIPRI senior researcher Siemon Wezeman said on the webcast.
“That’s partly related to ongoing conflicts [and] very strong tensions, Iran vs. the Gulf States, Saudi Arabia. It is a very strong driver of arms imports, especially by the Gulf States,” Wezeman added, noting that Iran, under arms embargo, is not a major weapons importer.
Most of Africa’s military spending, 57%, is done by North African countries. “They have the money,” Wezeman said, “especially Algeria, and Morocco to a lesser extent, are basically the big ones buying there.”
“Many of the other African countries buy a couple of armored vehicles — a helicopter here, a little aircraft there — and do that every few years. That’s basically their armed forces,” Wezeman said, adding that fighting insurgencies, like Boko Haram, or peacekeeping, as in Somalia, also drove increased military spending.
Sub-Saharan Africa has seen “extremely volatile spending” in recent years, related to the many armed conflicts there, Tian said.
“As countries need to fight … they need to allocate resources to the military. But conflicts, of course, are extremely destructive on a country’s economy,” Tian added. “So we see that countries are increasing spending one year, decreasing spending another year.”
Overall military expenditures by Western European nations fell slightly between 2010 and 2019, but Eastern European countries have increased their military spending by 35% over the past decade.
“Some of this is really down to a reaction to the perceived threats of Russia,” as well as the replacement of Soviet-era equipment and purchase of US and NATO equipment, Tian said.
“European countries, aside from seeing a bigger threat from Russia, also are going through a cycle of replacing their fourth-generation combat aircraft with fifth-generation combat aircraft. So there is a big load of new combat aircraft, mostly or almost all of them US-exported weapons, going to Europe,” Wezeman added.
But an economic contraction sparked by the coronavirus pandemic is likely to bring down military expenditures.
“We’ve seen this historically following the ’08-’09 crisis, where many countries in Europe really cut back on military spending,” Tian said, noting that military spending as a share of GDP might increase if “GDP falls and spending doesn’t decrease as much as GDP.”
This time around, spending in Europe may “be stronger in the coming years” despite the coronavirus, Wezeman said, “because the contracts … in many cases have been signed.”
Below, you can see who the top 10 defense spenders were and how much of the world’s military expenditures they accounted for in 2019.
But back then he was just Ibrahim Awad Ibrahim Al Badry, a civilian detainee. He was one of some 80,000 detainees who were held at one of four detention facilities throughout Iraq. They were a mix of petty criminals and insurgents captured in house raids over the course of the war.
It was the Iraqi government who released Baghdadi.
Eventually, the 2008 U.S. Status of Forces Agreement with Iraq would set the terms for closing the prison system and moving the detainees to Iraqi custody. The American government was primarily concerned with some 200 prisoners they deemed most dangerous.
Baghdadi was not one of them.
At the time of his release, Baghdadi and the others who were released were considered “low level” and not much of a threat. After his release, he gravitated to the insurgent group led by Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, which came to be known as Al-Qaeda in Iraq.
Zarqawi was killed by U.S. forces in 2006. The Americans continued to systematically eliminate AQI’s leadership. In 2010, Baghdadi was promoted to a leadership position in what was left of the network.
No one really knows how Baghdadi rose in the ranks. When his name was revealed as one of the group’s leaders (which then started calling itself the Islamic State of Iraq), no one in U.S. intelligence knew any of their names. The seeds of what would become ISIS were sown.
“It’s a kinetic place,” Army Capt. Florent Groberg said Wednesday of Afghanistan’s Kunar province, where his instinctive tackling of a suicide bomber in 2012 earned him the Medal of Honor.
Of the 13 Medals of Honor awarded during Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, 11 have come from actions in either Kunar or neighboring Nuristan province, collectively dubbed the “Wild East” by the troops.
Seven were awarded for combat in Kunar, and four came in Nuristan. The other two were awarded to Marine Lance Corp. William Kyle Carpenter for his actions in southwestern Helmand province and Army Staff Sgt. Leroy A. Petry for combat in southeastern Paktia province.
“It’s just kinetic, they fight as we fight” along the rugged ridges and slot canyons of Kunar, Groberg said. “Kunar’s a tough place, if not the most kinetic place in the world,” he said. “There’s no specific explanation for it. It’s kinetic.”
Before President Obama began the troop withdrawals from Afghanistan and the combat mission was ended, successive U.S. and NATO commanders had wavered over the years on whether to maintain combat outposts that came under constant attack from a hostile population in Kunar and Nuristan, or simply to abandon the area.
On Thursday, the 32-year-old Groberg, who grew up in a Paris suburb and is a naturalized U.S. citizen, will become the 10th living American to receive the nation’s highest award for valor since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks when President Obama makes the formal presentation at a White House ceremony.
At a roundtable session with reporters Wednesday, Groberg was joined by three members of his unit who witnessed his sprint to get at the suicide bomber near a bridge in the Kunar village of Assadabad on Aug. 8, 2012 — Staff Sgt. Brian Brink, the platoon Sergeant; Sgt. Andrew Mahoney, the communications specialist; and Spc. Daniel Balderrama, the medic.
All said they felt uneasy as they approached on foot along a paved road to a bridge as the personal security detail for then-Col. James Mingus, now a brigadier general assigned to Fort Carson, Colorado. Mingus was headed to a meeting with an Afghan provincial governor.
“That day, it just felt a little different when we got on the ground,” Groberg said. Brink echoed him: “Everything felt a little different that day. It was a gut feeling. We all felt it. Nobody had to say it. Things just didn’t set right with us.”
In the rear, they heard a car revving its engine. Brink radioed back — “Get him off us, get him off us.” They later concluded that the revving engine was the signal for two men on motorcycles to approach from the front. Brink and others raised their weapons. The men dismounted and backed off.
The road narrowed near the bridge. To the right was a stone wall, to the left a drainage culvert.
Two other men appeared, walking backwards in parallel to the unit. Brink said the man closest to the unit had a bulge on his hip, with his right hand resting on the bulge. Brink raised his weapon again and just as he readied to pull the trigger, Groberg ran at the man, followed by Mahoney.
“You face a threat, you go towards the threat,” Groberg said. For an instant, the man made eye contact. “He had a blank stare,” Groberg said. “He did a 180 and cut directly toward the patrol. I hit him, then we grabbed him and threw him to the ground. He detonated at our feet.”
The second man also set off his explosive device but the force of the blast mainly went into the stone wall.
Groberg was knocked unconscious. About half of his left calf had been torn away. He also suffered a blown eardrum and a mild traumatic brain injury.
Balderrama, the medic, had also been knocked unconscious and suffered shrapnel wounds to his legs. The force of the blast had thrown him into the culvert.
“The first thing when I woke up in that ditch, I was so thankful. He (Groberg) was calling for me, yelling ‘Doc, Doc save my leg.’ I remember seeing his boots covered in blood, his legs covered in blood,” Balderrama said.
Balderrama tried to stand to get to his captain. He couldn’t. “I recall trying to stand up and falling down. I couldn’t put weight on my legs. I kind of shimmied over, I think on my knees or something,” he said.
Balderrama managed to get a tourniquet on Groberg’s leg. “I just wanted to get him to the next level of care,” he said.
The suicide bomber had taken a heavy toll. In addition to the wounded, four had been killed — Army Command Sgt. Maj. Kevin J. Griffin, 46; Army Maj. Thomas E. Kennedy, 35; Air Force Maj. Walter D. Gray, 38; and Ragaei Abdelfattah, 43, a Foreign Service officer with the U.S. Agency for International Development.
Thinking back on it, Brink said the enemy had planned well for that day. “As we approached the bridge, we were attacked just short of the bridge. It was an absolute choke point. There’s no doubt in my mind, looking back in my mind, that it was well planned, coordinated. They knew we would have to constrict our formation into a smaller group and they took advantage.”
Groberg never stops thinking back on it. “We all fought those demons of ‘why me.’ Why not me? And in the end, you know, it’s combat,” he said. “All we can do now is honor those guys and their families. And make sure that we are better people, that we live our lives for them. And every day when we wake up, we remember. And when it gets tough, we remember.”
“They made the ultimate sacrifice,” he said of the four who were killed. “We’re here to tell you this. I’m so blessed and honored for the medal, but it doesn’t belong to me, it belongs to them.”
The dust has finally settled in the battle between firearms giants Sig Sauer and Glock over the Army’s program to replace more than half a million M9 Beretta handguns after government investigators sided with Sig over a protest that claimed the company was selected unfairly.
In a June 5 report, the Government Accountability Office denied the protest by Glock of the January award of a massive contract to replace nearly 550,000 handguns in the Army and other services with a militarized version of the Sig P320 striker-fired pistol.
While the GAO said each was very close in performance and other factors that evaluators looked into, Sig came in with a program price nearly $130 million less than Glock.
“Based upon the technical evaluation and my comparative analysis of the proposals, the Sig Sauer proposal has a slight technical advantage over the Glock proposal,” the GAO said in its final report. “The advantage of the Sig Sauer proposal is increased when the license rights and production manufacturing factors are brought into consideration … making the Sig Sauer proposal overall the best value to the government.”
The evaluators said the Sig and Glock basically ran neck in neck when it came to reliability, accuracy, and ergonomics. But the Army hit Glock on its safety during the “warfighter evaluation” phase of testing, giving Sig an edge and prompting Glock to factor that into its protest.
The report is unclear on how the Glock safety negatively impacted the Army’s decision, but most commercial versions of both candidate handguns do not have a thumb safety, so each company had to design that into their submissions.
According to the report, Glock submitted one full-sized handgun (presumably the G17 or G19) and Sig submitted two, a full-sized and compact version of the P320. Sig is the only company of the two that manufactures a fully-modular handgun — one that can convert from a full-sized handgun into a sub-compact for concealed carry by changing out a few parts.