Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY CULTURE

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Western models of spycraft are failing. Traditional models of spycraft seek to inform decision-making based on predictive analysis, but this is no longer effective in today’s environment. By nature, closed and authoritarian regimes, such as Russia and China, have an easier job of spying on their more progressive and open adversaries — the United States and the West — and currently possess the advantage. What follows is the author’s abridged philosophy of intelligence on this revolution in spycraft.

Last year, Foreign Policy magazine introduced a provocative thought piece highlighting the ongoing revolution in espionage: namely, that intelligence agencies must adapt (or die) to disruptive changes in politics, business, and technology.


At the risk of irrelevance, Western intelligence agencies are learning that traditional models of spying are outdated and losing out to more nimble, collaborative, and less fragile adversaries. As the article adeptly notes, “the balance of power in the spy world is shifting: closed societies now have the edge over open ones. It has become harder for Western countries to spy on places such as China, Iran, and Russia and easier for those countries’ intelligence services to spy on the rest of the world.”

Circumstances such as unprecedented levels of legislative and judicial scrutiny, technological advances in mobile phones and electronic data, public skepticism of domestic and international intelligence activities, and general political scrutiny in liberal democracies are symptomatic of such difficulties. They represent an underlying revolution that is significantly disrupting traditional notions of Western spycraft.

Standards of Cold War-era surveillance detection disintegrate when applied to modern cities rife with CCTV cameras, such as Beijing or even London. The absence of an online “footprint” (i.e. social media or other publicly available data) instantly warrants additional scrutiny.

Thus, we must examine several philosophical nuances of this intelligence revolution, based on the premise that the Western way of spying is indeed losing out to oftentimes less sophisticated but more effective adversaries, who possess fundamentally less fragile models of spycraft than do Western counterparts.

Lest the author receive undue credit, it must be noted that the framework for this analysis is derived from several schools of thought, ranging from the Roman Stoics to economist-turned-philosopher Nassim Taleb. Indeed, the reader may be familiar with the latter’s concept of anti-fragility, or things that gain from uncertainty, chaos, or randomness. Western models of spycraft certainly do not fit this notion and are, in the author’s opinion, quite fragile.

Western intelligence, and other such similarly traditional systems, are based largely on the value of predictive analysis that can be used to inform decision-making and thereby shape understanding and policy. But what if, as we are now seeing, environments far outmatch capability in complexity, speed, or scope? It is the author’s opinion that the U.S. Intelligence Community is designed on an outdated and fragile premise and, in the face of overwhelming environmental dissonance, must be re-assessed in the framework of anti-fragility.

Put differently, the present U.S. model of spycraft plays to the margins. Western spycraft invests inordinate amounts of manpower and resources into its Intelligence Community only to yield arguably disproportionate and marginal gains in understanding. It is not enough that the intelligence is gleaned in the first place (which remains an altogether impressive feat and a testament to the dedication and professionalism of its practitioners).

Alas, it is growing increasingly challenging to properly inform policy-making in an aggressively partisan and politicized environment. One only need reflect on the overall character of the ongoing Russian bounties discussion as evidence of this model and its debatable effectiveness. And such debatable effectiveness is certainly not for a lack of trying. The effectiveness of the Intelligence Community is a reflection of the broader environment in which it operates.

In the spirit of ancient Roman Stoic philosophers, we must acknowledge that environments cannot be changed and that at best significant national effort is required to “shape” them (and even then, with limited “control” of the exact outcome). In this instance, it is perhaps useful to examine U.S. strategy (or lack thereof) over the course of 20+ years of engagement in Afghanistan in an effort to reflect on any unilateral or coalition efforts taken to shape any semblance of “success” in the country.

Let us introduce a more tangible instance: That brief electronic communication from a foreign diplomat’s privileged conversation? That was probably the result of many factors: Of 17 years of technological research and development; of several successful (and more failed) recruitments to identify and gain sufficient placement and access for an exploit; and immeasurable bureaucratic “churns” to actually manage and manipulate the complex systems and processes in place designed to collect, process, analyze, exploit, and disseminate the information to its consumers. Entire professional careers are the substance of such churns.

While environments cannot be changed, one’s disposition within an environment most certainly can be. Thus, it is perhaps more useful to explore an intelligence model that divorces success from the ability to accurately predict the future. But then, what does this model look like and how is it employed?

In the author’s opinion, an effective spycraft model would maintain the intent to inform policy-making but disregard traditional models of operational risk management in favor of a more aggressive operational culture. In short, the change intelligence agencies must make is largely cultural, but also procedural.

Rather than embark on “no-fail,” highly sensitive (read: events that would cause inordinate damage if learned, i.e. fragile) operations, and futile attempts to accurately predict the future (read: failure to predict or act upon 9/11, Pearl Harbor, the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and countless other so-called intelligence failures), it is more useful to focus efforts on intelligence activities that have, in Taleb’s words, more upsides rather than downsides.

This model would remove, within reason, attempts to mitigate risk and would instead truly accept failure and mistakes — regardless of their perceived damage if made public — as a natural feedback mechanism. Rather than the frenetic New York banking system, we have Silicon Valley’s “fail fast” mentality. Rather than the Sword of Damocles, we have Hydra. Rather than post-traumatic stress, we have post-traumatic growth. Instead of isolated muscle hypertrophy, we have complex, multi-functional movements. The comparative benefit of this model is clear and can apply to intelligence systems as well.

So what does this new model of spycraft look like?

For one, it harnesses the power of publicly available data and information to leverage the power of public opinion and access to technology. What previously was known only to few becomes known to many, and with that knowledge comes the ability to influence. Information, which is the bane of closed societies, but also its favorite weapon against open ones, is harnessed to dismantle closed societies from within.

Here’s the bombshell: such a system, albeit in incomplete and slightly “impure” form, already exists in the form of the Russian intelligence apparatus. Indeed, there is a benefit to be gained by examining the nature and relative effectiveness of this chief U.S. adversary.

While far from a perfect comparison, the oftentimes blunt nature of Russian security services does lend itself to a somewhat anti-fragile system. Namely, despite numerous “failures” (in the sense that its operations are consistently made public), the Russian model is such that its public mistakes do not appear to significantly impact the system’s ability to continue to iterate, adapt, and pester its Western opponents.

An additional example can also be found in the spirit of the CIA’s historical predecessor, the Office of Strategic Services (OSS). Known affectionately as the “glorious amateurs,” the OSS was the first of its American kind that weathered many failures but also effectively operated in complex environments. By nature of relative American intelligence inexperience, the OSS succeeded in exploiting the upside of its activities simply by being a young, nimble, and discovery-based (i.e. tinkering, iterating, or “risk-bearing”) organization. The OSS was an anti-fragile organization.

Thanks to many of the same advances in technology, politics, and business that challenge Western espionage efforts, Russian spies have been caught on CCTV footage, publicly outed or arrested, appropriately accused of dastardly acts, and of possessing an intolerable appetite for disinformation targeting open societies and liberal democracies. However, it was presumably in Russia’s best interests that, knowing full well the possibility of such downsides, it chose to pursue such activities given the major upsides they produce (discord, division, polarization, etc.).

Indeed, as Foreign Policy magazine adeptly wrote, and as the reader can observe by way of reflecting on other seeming successes reaped by Russian active measures, there is an unrefined yet effective nature to the blunt manner in which Russian security and intelligence services operate.

It must be stated that this model does not advocate for recklessly “burning” any sources and methods, nor for engaging in renegade covert activity that lacks oversight or grounding in well-formed policy. However, it does require a significant cultural paradigm shift that will provide more space for downsides that have not been historically well-received (e.g. temporary injury to bilateral relationships, strained diplomatic interactions, etc.).

The U.S. Intelligence Community is already a complex system, comprised of 17 unique agencies that seek to inform policy-making. It is a long cry from the “glorious amateur” days of the OSS. Thankfully, we do not require complicated systems, regulations, or intricate policies to ensure the community’s success. The more complicated a system, the more we experience “multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects.” In other words, less is more; simpler is better.

The competitive edge of traditional, risk-based intelligence operations is growing smaller. The state of affairs is such that closed societies find it easier to spy on open adversaries more than the opposite. As such, it benefits Western intelligence to undergo aggressive changes that evolve or significantly alter this paradigm. It is time for the Intelligence Community to become a risk-bearing system, rather than a risk management system. It must experience a culture shift that will make it open to accepting failures. This may create short-term downsides for U.S. statecraft but will allow the system to iterate and improve. In the end, it must become anti-fragile.

Thanks for listening.

This article originally appeared on SOFREP. Follow @sofrepofficial on Twitter.

MIGHTY HISTORY

These are the Soviet drone tanks of World War II

When the Red Army crossed the border into Finland in 1939, along with them came a battalion of remote-controlled tanks, controlled by another tank some 1000 meters behind them. Along with the usual heavy armaments, the tank drones shot fire from flamethrowers, smoke grenades, and some were even dropping ticking time bombs, just waiting to get close to their target.

It’s a surprising technological feat for a country that had only just recently undergone a wave of modernization.


The Soviets had this remote technology in its pocket for a decade, having first tested the tanks on a Soviet T-18 in the early 1930s. While the earliest models were controlled with a very long wire, the USSR was soon able to upgrade to a more combat-friendly radio remote. By the time the Nazis invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941, the Red Army had two battalions of the drones, which it called teletanks. At this time, the teletank technology was in Soviet T-26 tanks, called the Titan TT-26, and there was a big list of tanks, ships, and aircraft on which the Soviets wanted to equip with tele-tech.

Unfortunately, the TT-26 wasn’t able to fully participate in the Soviet Union’s Great Patriotic War. In the beginning of Operation Barbarossa, Hitler’s Luftwaffe was able to destroy the vast majority of the Red Army’s TT-26 teletanks. In the months that followed, it proved to be more economical and timely to produce a regular version of the T-26 and man them with human crews.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

T-20 Komsomolets Teletanks

It would have been unlikely that the teletank technology would have made the difference on the Eastern Front of World War II anyway. They were notoriously unreliable in unfamiliar terrain and were easily stopped by tank spikes. If a teletank managed to outpace the range of its controller, it simply stopped and did nothing. The Soviets mitigated this by mining the hatches of the tanks, but an inoperative tank is still not very useful to the Allied cause.

Eventually, the USSR’s remaining teletanks were converted to conventional tanks in order to join the fight against the Nazis. Perhaps the emerging technology of the time was an interesting aside for military planners before the war, but the fun and games must stop when you have to start fighting for survival.

MIGHTY TRENDING

North Korean troops fired 40 rounds at the defector in the DMZ

Four North Korean soldiers fired about 40 rounds at a comrade fleeing into South Korea and hit him five times in the first shooting at the jointly controlled area of the heavily fortified border in more than 30 years, the South’s military said Nov. 14.


South Korean soldiers did not fire their weapons, but the Nov. 13 incident occurred at a time of high animosity over North Korea’s nuclear program. The North has expressed intense anger over past high-profile defections.

The soldier is being treated at a South Korean hospital after a five-hour operation for the gunshot wounds he suffered during his escape across the Joint Security Area. His personal details and motive for defection are unknown and his exact medical condition is unclear.

South Korea’s military said he suffered injuries in his internal organs but wasn’t in a life-threatening condition. But the Ajou University Medical Center near Seoul said the soldier was relying on a breathing machine after the surgery removed the bullets. Lee Guk-jong, a doctor who leads Ajou’s medical team for the soldier, described his patient’s condition as “very dangerous” and said the next 10 days might determine whether he recovers.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
A South Korean soldier stands guard within the Joint Security Area of the DMZ. Army Photo by Edward N. Johnson.

On Nov. 13, he first drove a military jeep but left the vehicle when one of its wheels fell into a ditch. He then fled across the JSA, with fellow soldiers chasing and firing at him, South Korea’s military said, citing unspecified surveillance systems installed in the area.

Suh Wook, chief director of operations for the South’s Joint Chiefs of Staff, told lawmakers that North Korea fired a total of about 40 rounds in a shooting that his office suggested started while the soldier was in the jeep.

Related: The 9 most-ridiculous North Korean propaganda claims

The solider was found beneath a pile of leaves on the southern side of the JSA and South Korean troops crawled there to recover him. A U.N. Command helicopter later transported him to the Ajou medical center, according to South Korean officials.

The North’s official media haven’t reported the case as of Nov. 14. They have previously accused South Korea of kidnapping or enticing North Koreans to defect. About 30,000 North Koreans have fled to South Korea, mostly via China, since the end of the 1950-53 Korean War.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Sgt. Dong In Sop, a North Korean defector was interviewed by two members of the United Nations Command Military Armistice Commission (UNCMAC), and the Neutral Nations Supervisory Commission at UNCMAC headquarters on the Yongsan Army Garrison on September 16, 1999. The interview was moderated by Maj. Gen. Peter Sutter (Swiss member) and Maj. Gen Kurt Blixt (Swedish member). Sgt. Dong In Sop defected to South Korea on September 14, 1999. During the interview Sgt. Dong In Sop expressed a strong desire to remain in South Korea. (U.S Army photo by Spc. Sharon E. Grey)

The JSA is jointly overseen by the American-led U.N. Command and by North Korea, with South Korean and North Korean border guards facing each other only meters (feet) apart. It is located inside the 4-kilometer-wide (2 1/2-mile-wide) Demilitarized Zone, which forms the de facto border between the Koreas since the Korean War. While both sides of the DMZ are guarded by barbed wire fences, mines and tank traps, the JSA includes the truce village of Panmunjom which provides the site for rare talks and draws curious tourists.

Monday’s incident was the first shooting at the Joint Security Area since North Korean and U.N. Command soldiers traded gunfire when a Soviet citizen defected by sprinting to the South Korean sector of the JSA in 1984. A North Korean soldier defected there in 1998 and another in 2007 but neither of those events involved gunfire between the rivals, according to South Korea’s military.

The 1984 exchange of gunfire happened after North Korean soldiers crossed the border and fired, according to the U.N. Command. In Monday’s incident, it wasn’t known if the North continued firing after the defector was officially in the southern part of the Joint Security Area. The U.N. Command said Tuesday that an investigation into the incident was underway.

The Joint Security Area was the site of some bloodshed during the Cold War but there hasn’t been major violence there in recent years. In 1976, North Korean soldiers axed two American army officers to death and the United States responded by flying nuclear-capable B-52 bombers toward the DMZ in an attempt to intimidate the North.

MIGHTY HISTORY

The soil new infantrymen walk on is bloodied from every American war

Deep in the swampland along the Alabama-Georgia border is U.S. Army Infantry School at Fort Benning. It’s home to many beautiful locales, such as Sand Hill, where you’ll hear drill sergeants snapping the civilian out of young infantrymen, and the Red Diamond Land Navigation course, where you’ll blink and run into a banana spider web. Most importantly, however, is the Inouye Parade Field at the National Infantry Museum.


Built and commemorated in 2009, the National Infantry Museum houses the rich history of America’s infantry dating back to the Revolutionary War. The parade field just outside is no different. Sprinkled across the field is ‘Sacred Soil‘ from the battlegrounds of Yorktown, Antietam, Soissons, Normandy, Corregidor, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Everyone graduating out of Ft. Benning walks these hollowed grounds. (Photo by Patrick A. Albright MCoE / PAO Photographer)

Descendants of Alexander Hamilton, Founding Father and commander of the infantrymen who forced the British surrender at Yorktown, laid their soil first. Henry Benning Pease Jr., descendant of Brig. Gen. Benning and namesake for the installation, laid the soil from America’s bloodiest single-day battle, Antietam.

Samuel Parker Moss, grandson of the most decorated officer of WWI, Lt. Col. Samuel I. Parker, and George York, the son of Sgt. Alvin York, spread the soil of Soissons, France. Theodore Roosevelt IV, grandson of Theodore Roosevelt Jr., who earned the Medal of Honor on D-Day, and great-grandson of President Teddy Roosevelt, spread the sand from the Normandy beach. Son of Charles Davis, Kirk Davis, spread the dirt of Corregidor Island to represent the WWII Pacific Theater.

Col. Ola Lee Mize, who held Outpost Harry and earned the Medal of Honor, and Gen. Sun Yup Paik laid ground from Korea. Lt. Gen. (Ret.) Hal Moore and Command Sgt. Maj. (Ret.) Basil Plumley brought the soil from the Ia Drang Valley and other Vietnam battlefields. And finally, Command Sgt. Maj. Marvin Hill, the senior enlisted adviser to Gen. David Petraeus, spread soil from the battlefields of Kuwait, Iraq, and Afghanistan to honor Operations Desert Storm, Iraqi Freedom, and Enduring Freedom respectively.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
The field also holds plenty of smoke from the shows Drill Sergeants put on for military families. And maybe some sweat from a cocky private… (Photo by Patrick A. Albright MCoE / PAO Photographer)

In 2014, the parade field was named after the late Sen. Daniel Inouye, who held his ground at San Terenzo, Italy against overwhelming forces and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Ever since that bright March morning in 2009, every single infantryman who graduates out of Fort Benning will have the honor of walking among the heroes of every major conflict in American history.

 

Articles

USNS Invincible harassed by Iranians – AGAIN

The missile-range instrumentation ship USNS Invincible (T AGM 24) was involved in a second incident with Iranian forces in as many weeks, this time with speedboats from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps.


According to a report by BusinessInsider.com and Reuters, the speedboats came within 600 yards of the Invincible, forcing the ship to change course. Last week, an Iranian frigate came within 150 yards of the Military Sealift Command vessel, an action deemed “unprofessional” by the Department of Defense.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
USNS Invincible (T AGM 24). (MSC photo)

Iran recently carried out a number of ballistic missile tests, drawing sharp criticism from Nikki Haley, the United States Ambassador to the United Nations. Iranian government officials have openly called for the destruction of Israel in the past.

Related: Test shows that A-10 can obliterate Iran’s small boat swarms with ease

Iran has a history of provocative actions in the Persian Gulf region. Last summer, the guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94) was harassed by similar speedboats while carrying out routine operations. The Cyclone-class patrol craft USS Squall (PC 7) fired warning shots at other speedboats that harassed the ship in the region.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Iranian fast-attack boats during a naval exercise in 2015. (Wikimedia photo by Sayyed Shahaboddin Vajedi)

That fall, Iran also threatened U.S. Navy surveillance aircraft and also pointed weapons at a Navy MH-60 helicopter. This past October, Iranian-backed Houthi rebels fired anti-ship missiles at the guided-missile destroyer USS Mason (DDG 87) multiple times, not scoring any hits.

The Nitze later carried out a Tomahawk strike on the rebels.

In January, less than two weeks before President Trump was sworn in, the guided-missile destroyer USS Mahan (DDG 72) fired warning shots at Iranian speedboats.

Also read: The US Navy unloaded on the Iranians in the most explosive surface fight since WWII

Iran was listed in the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) Freedom of Navigation (FON) Report for Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 for “Restrictions on right of transit passage through Strait of Hormuz to Parties of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea” and “prohibition on foreign military activities and practices in the EEZ.”

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Guided-missile destroyer USS Nitze (DDG 94), front, steams in formation with USS Stout (DDG 56), USS Mason (DDG 87), USS Monterey (CG 61) and USS Roosevelt (DDG 80). The Mason and Nitze have been involved in three missile ambushes by Iran-backed Houthi rebels off the coast of Yemen. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Ryan U. Kledzik/Released)

The 16th Edition of Combat Fleets of the World noted that Iran has over 180 speedboats of various types, armed with heavy machine guns, RPGs, and multiple rocket launchers. When asked about the incident, a spokesman for United States Central Command said, “we do not comment on the movement and destination of U.S. Navy vessels in the AOR.”

MIGHTY HISTORY

Wreaths Across America: How one tribute started a movement

National Wreaths Across America Day has become such a big tradition that it’s hard to believe it began from just one personal tribute.

How it Happened

The Worcester family of Harrington, Maine, owns their own tree farm. In 1992, they had a surplus of wreaths during the holiday season, so the family patriarch, Morrill — who had long felt indebted to our fallen veterans — got help from a Maine politician to have those spare wreaths placed beside graves in Arlington National Cemetery in areas that received fewer visitors each year.


Several volunteers stepped up to help, including veterans from American Legion and Veterans of Foreign Wars posts and a truck company owner who transported the wreaths to Arlington, Virginia, where a small ceremony was held at the cemetery’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. This remained a small yearly tradition for nearly 15 years until a photo taken at the 2005 ceremony went viral. Almost immediately, thousands of people wanted to know how to help or how they could begin a similar tradition in their states.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Christmas wreaths adorn headstones at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., in December 2005.

(Photo by Master Sgt. Jim Varhegyi)

By the next year — with the help of some civic organizations and volunteers, including in the trucking industry — there were 150 simultaneous ceremonies held across the country. By 2008, the movement to remember, honor and teach had grown so much that Congress had declared the third Saturday in September National Wreaths Across America Day.

By 2014, the now-nonprofit Wreaths Across America had reached its goal of placing a wreath at all 226,525 graves in the cemetery.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Navy personnel from the Navy International Programs Office, Washington, distribute wreaths to volunteers during the Wreaths Across America event at Arlington National Cemetery, Va., Dec. 15, 2012.

(Photo by Chief Master Sgt. Robert W. Valenca)

Wreaths Across America today

The event continues to grow. In 2018, the organization shipped a staggering 1.75 MILLION wreaths to 1,640 locations that held ceremonies across the U.S. A few dozen locations overseas also participated. According to the organization, this was the first year it was granted permission to place wreaths at Normandy to honor those who died during World War II’s D-Day invasion.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Charles C. Orf salutes a headstone at Fort Richardson National Cemetery during the annual Wreaths Across America Day at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, Alaska, Dec. 16, 2017.

(Photo by Staff Sgt. James Richardson)

Veterans and Gold Star families are many of the roughly 2 million volunteers who prepared the wreaths, shipped them across the country, and put them on graves.

This article originally appeared on the United States Army. Follow @USArmy on Twitter.

Articles

This is how the Gadsden Flag became America’s first meme

The simple yellow flag, a coiled rattlesnake, and those four famous words have been emblazoned on everything from license plates to soccer jerseys, a Metallica song to a U.S. Army Drill Sergeant Badge, waved by classic Libertarians, Tea Party Republicans, and everyone in between.


For many, the Gadsden flag embodies the spirit of America and our willingness to fight for what we believe in.

Now, looking at the flag as a meme requires a strict interpretation of the first definition and a loose one for the second. Merriam-Webster describes it as “an idea, behavior, style, or usage that spreads from person to person within a culture.” Everything about the flag screams Americana. Its rebellious spirit has been carried with it since its inception and has many variations holding onto that spirit.

As for the definition of “an amusing or interesting item (such as a captioned picture or video) or genre of items that is spread widely online especially through social media.” That came after the internet became a thing.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Redditor DeltaHDot submitted this photograph to /r/funny and it got 6,340 points within a week. (image via Imgur)

Benjamin Franklin is often cited as starting the joke in the Pennsylvania Gazette in 1751. At the time, the Brits didn’t have Australia as a colony, so they sent their convicts to America. Franklin suggested that Americans repay the UK by sending them rattlesnakes.

He found the snake fitting. Unlike the current idiom of “snakes in the grass,” in pre-revolution America being called that was an honor — a symbol for the underdog. Something that, if stepped on, would strike back hard.

Fun fact: Franklin supported the symbol of the rattlesnake and never mentioned turkeys on the Great Seal until much later.

The rattlesnake stuck with Franklin and the Gazette years later when he created the “Join, or Die.” cartoon. It showed the rattlesnake cut into eight parts for the eight regions of the colonies. Bear in mind, New England is one segment, Delaware is considered part of Pennsylvania, and well, sorry Georgia. Historians think it’s because they were just frontier land and didn’t count back then.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
I guess you could say: Georgia didn’t make the cut. (Image by Pennsylvania Gazette)

The Boston Gazette printer, Samuel Kneeland, recreated it with the phrase “Unite and Conquer” coming from the snake’s mouth. In 1774, Paul Revere modified it into the masthead of Thomas’ Boston Journal.  Already we’re seeing adaptations on what Richard Dawkins describes as memetics, or the cultural evolution that determines cultural relevance and success.

The cartoon would appear all across the colonies. Uniforms, newspapers, and Georgia put the whole “not being mentioned on the most iconic revolutionary era cartoon” aside and put it on their $20 bill.

For the traditional Gadsden flag that we all know of today, an anonymous writer to the Pennsylvania Journal by the name of “An American Guesser” penned the need for the flag.

“I observed on one of the drums belonging to the Marines now raising, there was painted a Rattle-Snake, with this modest motto under it, ‘Don’t tread on me.’ As I know it is the custom to have some device on the arms of every country, I supposed this may have been intended for the arms of America.”

The anonymous writer, who many historians believe was still Franklin, continues, “She never begins an attack, nor, when once engaged, ever surrenders: She is therefore an emblem of magnanimity and true courage. … She never wounds ’till she has generously given notice, even to her enemy, and cautioned him against the danger of treading on her.”

Colonel Christopher Gadsden designed the flag and hoisted it as the personal symbol for his Marines and his flagship. Since then, the flag has been hoisted by Marines, American revolutionaries, and patriots across the nation.

MIGHTY CULTURE

Moving with the Military and Operation Deploy Your Dress come together at Fort Hood

Two Army spouses joined forces at Fort Hood, Texas, to keep a military tradition alive, even as the pandemic continues to force closures.

As military balls face cancellations this year, even into 2021, Army spouses Maria Reed from Moving with the Military and Yvonne Coombes from Operation Deploy Your Dress (ODYD) pushed ahead with creating the ultimate dress shop at one of the Army’s largest installations.

ODYD is a non-profit organization that provides free dresses and other formal attire, including shoes and accessories, to service members and dependents. Located at military installations across the country, the boutique at Fort Hood is the eighth shop to open, with another opening at Fort Drum, New York, last month. More ODYD boutiques are set to open in 2021.

Moving with the Military is a home improvement and lifestyle television series dedicated to helping military families turn a house into a home. Reed, the creator of the series, also offers DIY tips and tricks to help create beautiful pieces for any personal space.

Together both Coombes and Reed designed and created a dress boutique for ODYD’s Ft. Hood location. While the two met in person at the annual Armed Forces Insurance Military Spouse of the Year Award ceremony in 2019, it was Christina Hendrex, the spouse of the III Corps Command Sergeant Major, who connected them.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
This armoire, donated by Christina Hendrex who is responsible for setting up the collaboration with Reed and Coombes, is now a part of the ODYD Ft. Hood location (Photo provided by Moving with the Military)

“She knew what I was doing with Moving with the Military and my design background, and said, ‘Hey, would you be interested?’” Reed said.

Reed adds she jumped on the opportunity because she believes in the mission and Fort Hood is her home. From there, a collaboration was born.

“The stars in Texas just aligned,” Coombes joked.

The dress shop was set to open in April of 2020, but the pandemic set their timeline back.

“We tried our hardest to meet the cutoff [before the pandemic] but we just couldn’t,” Reed said.

The Fort Hood location officially opened in September. The entire process to create a beautiful boutique space wasn’t an easy one, especially with COVID-19 guidelines and protocol, on top of regular military protocol for using a space on an installation.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

“When doing something like this on a military base, you can’t nail or drill anything into the walls,” Reed said. “So we had to be really creative on how to create a functional yet beautiful space inside an industrial space.”

And outside of creating a space that was pretty to look at in the big picture, and functional for what ODYD needed, Reed also wanted to focus on the details.

“I wanted [people] to walk in and feel like they were at a real dress boutique,” Reed said. “We had all these little details from the platforms for women to stand on to try on their dresses to gorgeous flowers draping over the corners of the walls that just added an elegant touch to everything.”

“Even though we were in this warehouse, it didn’t feel like that by the end,” she added.

Coombes agreed.

“Even down to those minor little details — she got these perfect chairs for when people are sitting and waiting … with little bows on the back … everything was just perfect,” Coombes said.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Photo provided by Moving with the Military

The day of the opening was a special one for Coombes and Reed. It was almost a year-long process, from idea to fruition, and both felt that the end result was better than what they could have imagined.

“When we first started Operation Deploy Your Dress … it was just a lot of us trying to find out where to put these dresses. It was just racks in a room with … pop-up canopies that we would put curtains around.

“I had some wild imaginations of what [Reed] could do because I had seen her other stuff, but when I walked in [to the Fort Hood location], I was seriously floored. It’s like walking into … what you see on ‘Say Yes to the Dress.’ It’s beautiful,” Coombes said.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Photo provided by Moving with the Military

“I wanted [shoppers] to have a very different experience when walking in. I didn’t want them to feel like they were getting a ‘used’ dress. And that’s what happened — the first four shoppers walked in … and wow; it was really spectacular,” Reed said.

Both Reed and Coombes wanted to make each military family that visited the Fort Hood location to feel special and welcome. They enlisted help from the local community to foster that connection as well.

“Instead of making several larger dressing rooms, we made some smaller ones and one handicap accessible one,” Reed said.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Photo provided by Moving with the Military

“Everyone who worked on it did an amazing job … A local home store here called Homebase donated materials. Moving with the Military donated the decor, and the spouses club donated some items,” she said.

“We had a service member, who donated his Saturdays [and who is] a professional carpenter, come and help build each weekend. His family, my family; we worked every Saturday — cutting, painting, building  — until the space was done,” Reed said.

In the end, both Coombes and Reed couldn’t be happier with the space that was created at Fort Hood.

“We still love our other shops that have the big dressing rooms with all these spouses coming together to try on dresses, but the boutique [at Fort Hood] is just something else. Especially in a time when the spouses of Fort Hood need our support,” Coombes said.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Photo provided by Moving with the Military

“We want [ODYD] to be about the dresses, and about the love that has gone into deploying these dresses to military spouses,” Coombes said. “And Fort Hood exemplifies that.”

Just three days after opening, the location has served over 50 families.

“I know [Reed] helps one family at a time. But this is going to help so many families,” Coombes said.

Check out ODYD to find out if there is a location near you. Hours vary as each shop is run by volunteers.

This article originally appeared on Military Families Magazine. Follow @MilFamiliesMag on Twitter.

MIGHTY MOVIES

5 lessons we can all learn from Marine Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley

In what is widely considered the best role of his acting career, legendary film and television star Louis Gossett Jr. plays Marine Corps Gunnery Sgt. Emil Foley, a hardcore drill instructor, in the 1982 film An Officer and a Gentleman.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
(Paramount Pictures)

Gossett Jr.’s portrayal of a no-nonsense DI in the film earned him the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. If you watch his performance, you’ll quickly see why Oscar came calling. The character is crude and tough on the group of would-be pilots attending a 13-week Naval Aviation Officer Candidate School where he serves as the primary instructor.

Like many great actors who have donned the campaign hat on the silver screen, as DI Foley, Louis Gossett Jr. imparts knowledge on how to survive the daily challenges of life in his own unique way.

Here’s what we can all learn from Gossett Jr.’s Oscar-worthy performance.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

(Paramount Pictures)

Humble yourself

Some of the best and most memorable lines of the film come in the early scenes when new recruits line up to hear Gunnery Sergeant Foley talk about what they should expect in the next 13 weeks of training. Foley knocks each person down a couple of pegs by making them understand they are, in fact, not special.

When Foley asks one of the recruits named Della Serra if he was a “college boy,” the character quickly lists his academic accolades, saying he graduated in mathematics with honors.

Della Serra gets a rude awakening from Foley when the Marine shows him his cane with notches on it. Each notch represents each “college puke” who has dropped on request during his time in the program. Foley suggests Della Serra may be one of those notches and then tells the group that half of them will not make it through the training.

In this powerful scene, DI Foley lets all the recruits know that his authority outweighs their individualism.

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Have good character

Although Mayo has all the skills and physical traits to pass the course, Foley consistently questions Mayo’s strenght of character. Officer Candidate Mayo is an arrogant and self-centered individual only looking out for himself. He’s also quite the hustler, selling inspection-ready boots and belt buckles to his fellow recruits to make a quick buck.

After discovering Mayo’s little racket, Foley gives him a chance to straighten up his act during a weekend-long smoke session. Foley breaks Mayo down physically and emotionally. It’s during this sequence that the audience is treated to the film’s famous scene in which Gere’s character screams, “I got nowhere else to go!” This is the turning point. From here on out, we see a change in Mayo’s character and attitude.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

(Paramount Pictures)

The importance of teamwork

Mayo’s change of attitude is clear when instead of trying to achieve an individual obstacle course record, he goes back to encourage one of his fellow classmates, a young lady named Seeger, as she struggles to get over a 12-foot wall. Thanks to Foley, Mayo learns the true value of teamwork.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

(Paramount Pictures)

Quitting is not the answer

Tensions between the two main characters rise yet again toward the end of the movie. Following the death of his friend, Mayo wants to speak with Foley in private.

After Foley dismisses his request, telling him to get back to work, Mayo gives his DOR. Instead of accepting his resignation, Foley asks to meet Mayo a nearby hanger — where they fight it out. After fists fly, Foley tells Mayo that if he still wants to quit, he can. By that point, Foley knows the recruit has come too far to quit now.

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Respect

At the end of the movie, the officer candidates earn the rank of ensign. Per tradition, each new officer receives his or her first salute from the instructor and, in turn, each officer hands Foley a silver dollar. When Mayo hands Foley his coin, the Marine places it in his right pocket instead of his left. This act symbolizes respect for Mayo as an exceptional candidate.

“I won’t ever forget you, sergeant,” Mayo says after the salute. You can see Foley start to choke up just a bit when he replies, “I know.” The mutual respect between the two is evident.

Although it’s only a movie, many veterans may have encountered someone in real life who reminds them of DI Foley.

Tell us who made an impact on your life during your time in the military in the comments.

Follow Alex Licea on Twitter @alexlicea82

MIGHTY CULTURE

What life is like for 10 countries with mandatory draft

A recent report shows that the US is looking into its draft program, weighing options from mandating service for women to getting rid of the draft altogether.

While a reinvigorated draft may alarm US citizens, nearly 60 countries around the world still have some form of conscription.

Some, like Israel, need the draft to ensure it can maintain its armed forces. Others, like China, often have enough recruits that a draft is unnecessary.

Some countries, like Norway and Israel, have allowed transgender people to serve for decades.

This is a look at 10 countries that still require every man, or every woman and man, to serve.


Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

1. Russia

One year of military service is required for Russian men between the ages of 18 and 27.

The country allows for some exceptions — sons or brothers of men killed during their military service are released from conscription, for example.

Even with these exceptions, Russians have been evading the draft at alarming rates, and the government has considered forcing men to report even if they have not been selected.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

2. Switzerland

Military service is mandatory for Swiss men.

As recently as 2017, Switzerland was considering adding women to its draft roles.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

3. Israel

Israeli men must serve in the defense force for three years.

Women are conscripted for two years.

Transgender Israelis have been allowed to serve since 1993.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

4. Norway

Norway was the first NATO country to expand conscription to include women. It was also one of the first countries in the world to allow transgender people to serve, changing its policy in 1973.

The country’s conscription is selective; everyone has to register but won’t necessarily be called to serve.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
(DoD photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Chad J. McNeeley)

5. China

Although China does mandate military service, it has routinely exceeded recruitment goals and has not needed to force conscription.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

6. Iran

Conscription is mandatory for Iranian men, who must serve from 18 months to two years.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

7. North Korea

North Korea has the longest conscription period in the world.

Men are required to serve for 10 years, starting at age 17.

Women must serve for seven years.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

8. Egypt

Egyptian men must serve for a period of one to three years, depending on their level of education.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

9. Austria

In Austria, men can choose between six months of military service and nine months of civil service.

Austria has allowed transgender troops to serve since 2004.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

10. Meanwhile, other countries like Taiwan are getting rid of conscription altogether.

Taiwan pledged in 2011 to end conscription. The country is moving closer towards its goal of an all-volunteer force, but is facing hurdles as younger generations are choosing not to serve.

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

MIGHTY HISTORY

That time a Boy Scout built a nuclear reactor out of common household items

Imagine looking out your window to see an eerie green glow resonating from your neighbor’s shed. Or seeing government trucks being loaded with barrels marked radioactive by men dressed in hazmat suits outside your home.


The residents of Golf Manor, Michigan, don’t have to imagine it, because in 1995, a young teenage boy built a nuclear breeder reactor in his mother’s potting shed, an idea he came up with while working on his Atomic Energy merit badge in attempt to earn Eagle Scout status.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Offering an Atomic Energy badge seems like a bad idea.

It wasn’t until David was interviewed for an article in Harper’s Magazine that the entire story was told. Even investigators from various federal agencies were shocked to find out some of the details.

At an age when most adolescents are consumed with sports, friends, or dating, Hahn spent his free time conducting chemical experiments. Much to the chagrin of his parents, he had several chemical spills and even created an explosion that rocked their tiny house and left David “lying semi-conscious on the floor, his eyebrows smoking.”

Even his scout troop was not immune to his scientific curiosity. David once appeared at a scout meeting, “with a bright orange face caused by an overdose of canthaxanthin, which he was taking to test methods of artificial tanning.” Then there was the night at camp where his fellow scouts accidentally ignited a pile of powdered magnesium he had brought to make fireworks.

There’s no question that David was increasingly bold in his attempts to learn more about the chemical compounds of our world, but even with the goal in mind to build a nuclear breeder reactor, you have to wonder how he obtained the radioactive elements.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

David worked a series of jobs at fast-food joints and grocery stores after school to finance his experiments. He admitted to Harper’s that he used several aliases and a string of mail communications with individuals working for agencies that control nuclear elements. None were as helpful as the Nuclear Regulatory Commission, where David was able to engage the agency’s director, Donald Erb.

Erb provided David with a list of contacts who provide commercial sale of some elements and how to harvest others. David broke apart smoke detectors to obtain americium-241, commercial gas lanterns provided him thorium-232, and with the help of a Geiger counter, he found an antique luminous clock that contained a vial of radium paint used to keep the clock face glowing. He even purchased $1000 worth of batteries to extract the lithium.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution

After several attempts to create energy, David was finally successful but he soon learned that his small reactor was producing so much radiation that it was spreading through his neighborhood. Unfortunately, his safety precautions only consisted of wearing a makeshift lead poncho and throwing away his clothes and shoes following a session in the potting shed. So he took apart the reactor.

Stashing some of the more radioactive elements in his house and the rest in his car, he was later found by the police after a call was made about a young man trying to steal tires. The police opened his trunk to find an array of scientific materials and a tool box locked with a padlock and sealed with duct tape. The police were rightly concerned about the box, and after David advised that it was radioactive, they were worried he had a nuclear bomb.

While being questioned by the police, David’s parents became afraid that they would lose their house, so they ransacked his room and his “laboratory” and tossed everything they could find. This left the authorities with nothing but what was in the car.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
Looks like he got that atomic energy badge (top left).

“The funny thing is, they only got the garbage, and the garbage got all the good stuff,” Hahn told Harper’s.

David never went back to his experiments and later served four years in the U.S. Navy – including service aboard the USS Enterprise, a nuclear-powered aircraft carrier. He also briefly served in the Marine Corps before returning home to Michigan. In 2016, David died from alcohol poisoning – not from exposure to radiation.

Though David Hahn is gone, the small town of Golf Manor will never forget their “Radioactive Boy.”

MIGHTY TRENDING

How the US can make North Korea back down

While the White House seems to mull over an attack on North Korea, former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair pointed out that the U.S. military has backed down North Korea before and, if need be, they should do it again.


In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Blair debunked a few misconceptions popular among the public and policymakers.

While Blair doesn’t think that sanctions have been ineffective, that North Korea will never give up its nuclear weapons, or that North Korean leader Kim Jong Un with an arsenal of nuclear inter-continental ballistic missiles won’t be deterred from attacking the U.S. like the Soviet Union was, he also takes issue with the idea that military force doesn’t work on Pyongyang.

“Military preparedness, and the use of military force are vital components of American policy towards North Korea,” wrote Blair. Citing the U.S. and South Korea’s joint war plan to reclaim the entire peninsula in the event of war, Blair wrote that North Korea would be wary of entering a war it knows it will lose.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
U.S. Marines engaged in street fighting during the liberation of Seoul, circa late September 1950. (Image Wikipedia)

“Damage will be heavy on all sides, but there is no question about the outcome,” Blair wrote.

Blair pointed to a history of the U.S. military asserting its dominance over North Korea as evidence that Kim doesn’t want war, and instead wants to keep his provocations below the level that will prompt a strong U.S. response.

North Korea can and has been tamed with force

In 1976, U.S. Army and United Nations personnel went into the demilitarized zone between North and South Korea to trim a tree that blocked the view of U.N. observers. North Korean soldiers showed up and killed two of the U.S. Army officers with their own axes they had set aside while pruning the tree.

Within hours, U.S., South Korean, and U.N. personnel returned with a massive convoy of military vehicles, attack helicopters, and soldiers trained in martial arts with axes. They came without warning and removed the tree entirely. The North Koreans could do little but watch in the face of a resolute, united front against them.

Also Read: 6 of the bravest aviators of the Korean War

“Every time the US-ROK response has been relevant and strong, supported by contingency plan preparations that make it clear that if North Korea escalates the Alliance is ready for major war, North Korea backs down. It will later in the future commit further and different provocations, but it will retreat in the near term,” Blair wrote.

Similarly, in 1994, when the U.S. cooked up plans to bomb a North Korean nuclear reactor, Pyongyang soon submitted to talks, though they ultimately backed out.

What is Pyongyang going to do about it?

In light of that, the U.S. and its allies “should respond promptly and disproportionately to North Korean provocations such as missile tests that land on or near American, South Korean or Japanese territory and nuclear tests in the Pacific Ocean,” Blair wrote, referring to North Korea’s standing threat to detonate a nuclear missile over the Pacific Ocean or to fire missiles at U.S. military bases in Guam.

Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
B-26 Invaders bomb logistics depots in Wonsan, North Korea, 1951

While most experts have dismissed the Trump administration’s reported notion of a “bloody nose” attack on North Korea in response to some provocation as madness that will lead to nuclear war, Blair, who at one point commanded the U.S. military’s Pacific area of operation, disagrees.

If the U.S. responded to some provocation with Pyongyang, Blair argued, “North Korea will understand that the actions are retaliation for what North Korea has done.”

Blair suggested the U.S. and its allies “raise its readiness level so the North Koreans know that if they escalate the confrontation, they risk starting a war they know they will lose.”

popular

Why the Punisher is so beloved by the military

The Marvel Comics universe has such a wide and diverse assortment of characters that there’s a superhero for everyone. Within that vast collection of characters, there are many heroes who have military backgrounds, each of which represents a different aspect of military service. Captain America, for example, is remisicient the soldier who’s willing to lay down his life for the betterment of mankind. Falcon is the airman who’s always going to help his fellow veteran. Even the Coast Guard gets a champion in Spectrum, who’s always going to protect the homefront.

But you don’t usually see Cap’s shield spray painted by troops onto the sides of Hesco barriers while deployed — but you’ll definitely see the Punisher’s skull. It doesn’t matter which branch a troop serves in; universally, troops find more in common with the vigilante anti-hero whose only real power is shootin’ real good than they do with some morally-unwavering, genetically-enhanced super soldier.


Western spies are failing against Russia and China: time for a spycraft revolution
The rest of the heroes can handle all the big superhero fights. The Punisher is after all the scum the caped heroes won’t touch and he’ll make sure they stay down. (Wikimedia Commons)

Frank Castle, better known as The Punisher, is a very deep character. In his first appearance in Amazing Spider-Man #129, he was actually an antagonist pitted against our favorite wall-crawler. He’s hired to kill Spider-Man by a villain seeking revenge for the death of Norman Osborn (known as the Green Goblin by most), which was pinned on Spidey. Castle puts up a good fight, but eventually has a heart-to-heart with Parker. He reveals his frustrations with being a vigilante killer, but it’s something, in his mind, that has to be done sometimes.

Many writers have penned fantastic stories for the Punisher since his 1974 debut, but throughout them all, the heart of the character remains the same. He’s a highly-skilled Marine Corps veteran who lost his family to criminals and is forced into taking extra-judiciary measures to ensure the killers can’t strike again. From storyline to storyline, Castle dons his infamous white skull on black gear and puts a bullet into the worst of the worst of the Marvel universe.

He’s not a typical hero — he definitely commits countless crimes for the sake of good — but he’s also not a villain. He will go out of his way to not harm the innocent. He’ll gather information on whoever he’s going after to know if they’re really evil, he’ll spare any low-level bad guy who wants to surrender, and (perhaps the most prominent piece of evidence against villainy) he never enjoys killing.

He’s comfortable with it, and his mind is at ease knowing someone innocent is safe because of his actions, but he has never been shown, in all of his 45-year-long comic history, enjoying the act of killing. That’s what separates him from the psychotic villains he encounters. It’s his duty to protect the innocent. It’s his burden to have to do terrible things to make it so. That’s something many troops can get behind.

It also helps that he truly encapsulates the rest of the minor moments that come with being a veteran. Like his monologue in Daredevil season 2.

For all intents and purposes, Chris Kyle was the real-life Punisher. No ifss, ands, or buts.

 

Another key element of the Punisher that’s enjoyed by fans is the famous skull logo. You can’t drive around a barracks parking lot without seeing a lifted Ford F-150 with adorned with a Punisher decal modified to have either the U.S. flag pattern or the “Back the Blue” stripe incorporated.

Related: Why death iconography is a beloved part of military culture

Though the skull has its origins in comic book, it’s taken on an entirely new meaning with the troops. It’s now a brand for anyone willing to stand for what’s right. Sure, Captain America’s shield might be a more apt symbol for that, but the Punisher’s skull has more of an impactful meaning easily caught by the viewer.

Chris Kyle explained his use of the skull best in his autobiography, American Sniper:

“Our Comms guy suggested it before the deployment. We all thought what the Punisher did was cool: He righted wrongs. He killed bad guys. He made wrongdoers fear him. That’s what we were all about. So we adapted his symbol  — a skull — and made it our own, with some modifications. We spray-painted it on our Hummers and body armor, and our helmets and all our guns. And we spray-painted it on every building or wall we could. We wanted people to know, we’re here and we want to f*ck with you… It was our version of PsyOps. You see us? We’re the people kicking your ass. Fear us. Because we will kill you, mother f*cker. You are bad — we are badder.

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