This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth - We Are The Mighty
Articles

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Myth: The way a soldier’s horse is portrayed in an equestrian statue indicates how the soldier died.


This myth, perpetuated by many a tourist guide the world over, simply isn’t true.

(Not unlike how tourist guides around the equator will often tell you that what hemisphere you’re in effects the way the water swirls down the toilet or drain. They’ll even sometimes take you a few hundred meters on one side of the equator and show you water swirling one way, then a few hundred meters from that on the other side of the equator and show it swirling the other. Magic! In fact, of course, what hemisphere you’re in has almost nothing to do with the way water swirls down toilets and drains.)

Also read: The 10 most famous ghosts in the White House closets

An example of a tourist guidebook that perpetuates the equestrian myth is the 1987 Hands on Chicago:

At Sheridan Road and Belmont Avenue, the statue of [General] Sheridan beckons troops to battle. The horse General Sheridan rides is named Winchester…Winchester’s raised leg symbolizes his rider was wounded in battle (the legs of [General] Grant’s horse are on the ground, meaning he was not wounded).

This gives a pretty good account of the myth as it is generally stated, but leaving out the third commonly said option of the horse having both front legs in the air, implying the soldier died in battle. Another caveat is that if the rider died of complications from wounds received in battle, but at a later date from the battle, most versions of this myth have it that just one leg should be up as with the people who were wounded but didn’t die of complications from the wound.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Army photo by Sgt. 1st Class Jacob Boyer

According to the US Army Center of Military History, no such tradition has ever existed. This is not surprising considering that examples of multiple equestrian statues of the same person tend to be inconsistent in terms of the horse’s legs positioning. But let’s not take the US Army historian’s word for it, let’s look at some examples.

First, take a walk around Washington DC, which has the largest collection of equestrian statues of any city in the world. From this, you’ll quickly be disabused of the notion that the depiction of the horse’ legs has anything to do with the way the person died, with only about 30% of this city’s statues conforming to the above “rules”. (Given that there are 3 options here, that 30%-ish seems rather fitting.)

One of the oldest known equestrian statues in the United States is the 1853 statue of General Andrew Jackson in Lafayette Park, Washington D.C., which was made in celebration of Jackson’s victory over the British at the Battle of New Orleans.

In this statue, the horse has both forelegs in the air. Of course, Jackson did not die in battle, but of tuberculosis. The person who cast that sculpture, Clark Mills, was the first sculptor in the United States to cast a horse with a rider where the horse has some of its legs in the air (in this case both) — at this point it was more of a mark of the skill of the artist to have the horse with legs in the air rather than any sort of tradition relating to battle and death.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Andrew Jackson, 1853, Sculptor: Clark Mills, Location: Lafayette Park. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

In cases where the same sculptor made multiple equestrian statues that could potentially apply to this “rule,” such as the case of world renowned Irish sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, we see that he, at-times, violated the supposed tradition and other times seemed to adhere to it.

One such statue he made of General William Techumsa Sherman has one of the front legs of the horse raised.

Indeed, General Sherman was wounded twice in battle, and even had 3 horses shot out from under him. He did not die in battle, but lived to the ripe old age of 71, and is thought to have died from pneumonia. So from that respect, this one fits. It should be noted, though, that this statue also has one of the horse’s rear legs lifted. The equestrian statue horse legs myth doesn’t seem to cover what that potentially would mean…maybe…just maybe…it means the horse is supposed to look like it’s running and has nothing to do with the rider’s death/wounds…

More reading: This is how piracy became totally legal during wartime

There is also a major equestrian statue of General Sherman at the General Sherman Memorial in Washington DC. This statue has the horse with all four legs on the ground. (This is a common theme where multiple equestrian statues exist. One would guess the differences have something to do with sculptors wanting theirs to look markedly different than the already existing statue(s).)

The only place where this equestrian statue “tradition” seems to hold with any sort of consistency is with a few statues of soldiers who fought in the Battle of Gettysburg. (This is thought to be how the myth got started in the first place.) Of the nearly 500 monuments at Gettysburg, there are 6 equestrian statues. Five of the six conform to the myth and the sixth loosely does, but the problem is the statue of General John Sedgwick, who died at the Battle of Spotsylvania Court House- his equestrian statue has all four hooves are on the ground.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Statue of General John Sedgwick. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

(Aside: General Sedgwick’s last words were: “What? Men dodging this way for single bullets? What will you do when they open fire along the whole line? I am ashamed of you. They couldn’t hit an elephant at this distance.” He then took a bullet through his head fired from about 900-ish meters (1000 yards) away.)

Of course, it could be argued that this “tradition” was meant only to refer to what happened at the battle of Gettysburg, in which Sedgwick was not wounded nor did he die in. If that’s the case, then his is correct. However, if that’s the case then the statue of James Longstreet in that collection is not. He wasn’t wounded in Gettysburg, but his statue has the horse with one foot raised.

(He was wounded in the Battle of Glendale, so that would fit there, but not if we’re limiting the statue’s positioning based on the battle of Gettysburg to make the statue of General Sedgwick fit.)

Even then, it seems odd such a code would be created just for 6 statues of prominent people who fought in the battle of Gettysburg, and even more odd that if the code did exist that they would have broken it in one of the statues. Given there is no record of the sculptors having done this intentionally, and the discrepancy, it’s really not clear that this is what they were going for. It’s possible given the small sample size and that this is the only place we find this somewhat consistent correlation, it just randomly happened to work out that way with the way the sculptors decided to make the statues.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
The America’s Response Monument, aka Horse Soldier statue, sits in its final resting place at Liberty Park, NYC. (DoD Photo by Capt. Eric Hudson)

So this covers pretty thoroughly the statues in America. What about the equestrian statues across the pond? The Ancient Romans had numerous examples of equestrian statues, but unfortunately nearly all were destroyed or melted down for use in other things. One of the very few surviving equestrian statues from Rome was of Emperor Marcus Aurelius who died in 180 of an illness.

His horse in that statue has one foreleg up in the air. There is no record of Marcus Aurelius ever being wounded in battle and as a prominent Roman and eventual Emperor, it’s unlikely he saw much direct, close-up battle time (though was a part of many battles).

(Aside: funny enough, probably the only reason the statue of Marcus Aurelius survived when most all the others did not is that for a long time it was misidentified as a statue of Emperor Constantine the Great, who was a Christian Emperor. Why is this important to its preservation? Because many of the Roman statues were melted down to make things like church bells, coins, and sculptures for churches. Melting down a statue of Constantine would have been borderline blasphemy.)

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Marcus Aurelius. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

There is a surviving equestrian statue of Emperor Constantine with the horse having both front legs up. Constantine did not die in battle, rather of natural causes.

Fast-forward to more recent times, in Medieval Europe and there really aren’t many equestrian statues, as they were (and are) very expensive to make and require a skilled sculptor. The few examples that exist don’t seem to correlate at all with any sort of horse leg tradition. For one brief, slightly more recent example, we have King Louis XIV who had an equestrian statue at Versailles with both forelegs on the horse in the air.

Louis XIV died of gangrene at the age of 77, not in battle.

Given that many a sculptor has worked on equestrian statues throughout history, if there is supposed to be some sort of code, even if not generally followed, there would be documentation of it somewhere — after all, they have to pass that code on. Not surprisingly, there is not.

It’s almost as if the sculptor just chooses the horse’s attitude to suit personal artistic preference…

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is how soldiers illegally brewed beer on deployment

Alcohol is a staple of military culture and troops have been consuming it en masse since the first sailor left port for lands unknown. But as times have changed, so, too, have the rules of consumption. Since the good ol’ days, the rules for drinking have become much stricter — especially in combat zones. But, that doesn’t stop service members from finding a way to get their fix.

Reddit user Lapsed_Pacifist shared a story of how he and his buddies essentially made home brews out of their makeshift barracks room during one of their deployments — violating the UCMJ for a cold one.


If you plan to brew beer out of your barracks room (we don’t recommend it), make sure you do plenty of research beforehand and exercise extreme caution — and, of course, don’t go telling people we gave you the idea.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Of course, no one has control over what someone else sends them… Right?

(U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Brian Ferguson)

It all started when a soldier deployed to Iraq wanted the taste of the sweet nectar known as beer but, of course, couldn’t find enough to quench his thirst. He had friends mail him some hoppy, carbonatedcontrabandknowing that not all of the mail coming into base would be checked, and that worked out for a while— butit just wasn’t enough.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

This is what one of these kits looks like.

(Photo by Coin-Coin)

This soldier had heard tales of another member of his unit stashing brewing equipment in locations throughout another base but, where he was living, obtaining such materials was no easy task. After a discussion with some friends, they decided to risk it all by ordering, directly from Amazon, a home-brewing kit.

After a tense waiting period, their equipment finally arrived and they were able to begin their own underground (and highly illegal) brewing operation.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Don’t f*ck with the UCMJ.

(Air Force photo by Senior Airman Naomi Griego)

Now, possessing alcohol in a combat zone violates the Uniformed Code of Military Justice — but it seems like these guys didn’t give a flying f*ck. Their goal was to have the sweet taste of alcohol bless their tongues, fill their bloodstreams, and mingle with their livers.

In no time at all, their room began to smell like a chemist’s lab and their adventure in illicit alcohol picked up speed.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

This is how the professionals do it.

(Photo by Hong Reddot Brewhouse)

You see, the home-brewing kit they ordered only could only produce 3 gallons of beer with every fermentation cycle, which took a couple of weeks. They had several months left of their deployment, and they simply couldn’t wait that long to drink so little.

So, what did they do? They started fermenting in plastic water bottles. To use a direct quote from the story,

Professional brewers and distillers don’t brew or distill in plastic 2-liter water bottles of dubious origin because, in short, they are not f*cking morons.
This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Cheers!

(U.S. Army photo by Pfc. Evan Loyd)

Needless to say, their illicit brewing company, referred to as “Riyadh Brewing Corporation, Ltd. (Established 2008),” ended up blowing up in their faces — literally. The plastic bottles couldn’t withstand the pressure build-up and they ended up losing more of their stock than they wanted.

Thankfully, they were able to clean up the mess and cover their tracks before anyone too high in their chain of command could find out — and now we have this beautiful story to laugh about.

To read the full story, check it out here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

China increases military spending by $175 billion

China plans to increase its military spending by 8.1% in 2018 in an effort to modernize its armed forces.


Beijing proposed spending 1.11 trillion yuan ($175 billion) on its military, according to its budget report presented ahead of the opening of China’s 13th National People’s Congress on March 5, 2018, according to Reuters.

Also read: The State Department is withering and China is taking advantage

Premier Li Kequiang said in his opening address that China will “advance all aspects of military training and war preparedness, and firmly and resolvedly safeguard national sovereignty, security, and development interests.”

He also said the military, the government, and its people must always be as “strong as stone.”

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
PLA troops undergo live-fire exercises in Djibouti. Source: Government handout.

China’s defense spending has increased following Xi’s appointment as Commander-in-Chief of the Joint Operations Command in April 2016. The budget grew 7.6% in 2016, and 7% in 2017.

Related: Why the US should worry more about Xi Jinping than Putin

At the time he was appointed, experts said Xi’s designation as Commander in Chief stressed his control over the country and its military power.

Xi has also pledged to modernize the army, promising to unveil a “world-class” armed forces by 2035.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what soldiers should expect from the new Army Greens

The Army has been tossing around the idea of adding another uniform to their wardrobe for a while now. During last year’s Army-Navy game, Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey wore an updated version of the classic, WWII-era “Pinks and Greens,” which had many people predicting the iconic uniform would be making a comeback. Well, now it’s official.

The Army announced the upcoming addition of new Army Greens on November 11th and with it comes a whole slew of information that soldiers need to know.


This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Say what you will about the garrison cap, but it does bring back a bit of style back to the uniform.

(U.S. Army)

First and foremost, they’re not called “Pinks and Greens” like the old WWII-era uniforms. These are called, simply, “Army Greens.” It seems like someone finally got around to realizing that the beige-colored shirt and pants aren’t actually pink.

While the Dress Blues will still act as a soldier’s dress uniform and the OCPs will still be used in the field or deployment, the Greens will be worn during duty hours while the soldier is stationed in garrison stateside or outside the continental US, like in Germany or South Korea.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Get ready for uniform inspections on a near daily basis everyone…

(U.S. Army)

The biggest concern that a lot of soldiers have about the new uniform change is the price — which is entirely understandable. The Army has said that the change in uniform is “cost-neutral” and won’t be coming out of tax payers’ pockets.

That being said, enlisted soldiers will need to buy them using their annual clothing allowance. Sgt. Maj. of the Army Dailey told the Army Times in September that they are doing everything in their power to keep the costs low. Even still, it’s going to cost a bit for the average Joe.

Since it’s a duty uniform, the average soldier will need at least three sets to make it through the week before doing laundry. It will also require that soldiers spend more time preparing their uniforms for the next day, setting their ribbon racks right, shining their shoes, and keeping everything ironed. This could also off-set “hip pocket training” from being more sporadic as leaders would be less willing to mess up perfectly good uniforms.

Take that as you will.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

I speak for all Army veterans when I say “F*ck yes!” to that jacket.

(National Archives)

Costs and effort aside, there are a lot of positives coming with this change.

First off, the slight variations in the uniform seem poised to revive a strong sense of pride in the Army. It hasn’t been officially mentioned yet, but it seems as though airborne and Rangers will still wear their berets instead of the garrison cap. Units authorized to wear jump boots will wear those in lieu of the brown leather oxfords. The Greens also allow for more choices for female soldiers, as they can choose between pants or a skirt and pumps or flats.

Also, the new Greens will supposedly feature an “Ike-style” bomber jacket that goes over the Greens — and that’s badass.

New soldiers will receive Greens in basic training by summer 2020 and it’ll be entirely mandatory, service-wide, by 2028.

As with most uniform changes, it’ll probably look better on the soldiers that take the initiative and start buying them as soon as they hit the PX in summer 2020.

MIGHTY TRENDING

This Iraq War interpreter joined the Army and is now a US citizen

“I didn’t have a normal and safe childhood,” Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum said woefully. “I did this so my kids could live, and be safe.”

Kadhum was born and raised in Baghdad, Iraq. Growing up, he never considered the life he lived was anything out of the ordinary, until he was an adult and attending his first year of college in 2003, when U.S. forces entered Iraq.

“It was a complicated feeling then,” Kadhum remembered. “We were happy, but it was also scary, because during the Saddam regime we had nothing. In 2003, we had hope.”


Iraq had become a warzone right in front of his eyes.

“When the coalition forces had come to Iraq to free us from Saddam, I was in college and decided I needed to help.”

Kadhum was hired by a U.S. contractor and used the time to establish himself and work on his English. When the request for translators was made from the U.S. Army, he knew he could do more.

Kadhum learned immediately that his job as an interpreter could have either a negative or positive effect based on his translations.

“If I missed one word when translating, then something could have happened,” he said.

Kadhum started his job as an interpreter working with a Military Transition Team. His team worked directly with the Iraqi army, training them and providing guidance on how to use equipment, clear rooms and other necessary tactical skills.

Being in the position he was in, Kadhum was sometimes the only connecting piece between the Iraqi forces and U.S. forces. Eventually, he would become a target of the enemy and had to start concealing his identity whenever traveling outside of his job.

“Our people think we aren’t good people because we help the U.S. Army,” he said. “They started threatening us and following us many times. They would threaten us either directly or indirectly.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Pvt. 1st Class Yasir Kadhum, an 88M (truck driver) assists in fueling vehicles during a driver’s training class, July 26, 2018.

(U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jessica DuVernay)

I had to move my family with me from place to place. “

As a result of the threats, Kadhum felt pressured to leave the Military Transition Team and started working at a prison, still as an interpreter.

“This was another challenge for me,” he said. “To help the prisoners, and most of them were terrorists. But it was their human right.”

Kadhum said he gained experience in the proper and fair treatment of prisoners, despite the crime they committed. Ensuring the imprisoned received the right food and water in accordance with their rights was, at times, difficult for Kadhum, but despite his struggle, he continued to help facilitate the standard.

In 2007, Iraq had become a more dangerous place. Enemy forces were relentless with their attacks on the government, U.S. forces and the people of Iraq.

Kadhum’s main purpose for working with U.S. forces was to benefit the country and people of Iraq. Unfortunately, others did not feel that was the purpose of the interpreters.

“I felt like I was serving my country more than I was serving the U.S. Army,” Kadhum said. “I don’t feel like I did something wrong in my country, but other people did.

“All the time I must hide everything, even the ID I had, I had to hide in my boot. We had to travel together [the interpreters] to go home to make sure we were safe.”

Kadhum continued his support to the American forces until he determined it was no longer safe to stay in Iraq.

“I was scared for my son when he went to school,” Kadhum explained. “My wife would go with him and wait because maybe someone would kidnap him; every time he went to school my wife stayed with him.”

With the help of the program established for interpreters who assist the U.S., he was able to get a Special Immigration Visa and come to America with his wife and two children in August 2016.

“I feel like at first when I came here I felt safe,” he said. “My oldest is almost ten and my daughter is now three. Now I feel safe.

“If my son wants to go to the playground, I’m not scared someone will kidnap him. I’m not scared someone will be threatening me through him,” Kadhum continued. “Now I feel like my kids can grow up normal.”

A few months later, Kadhum was in a U.S. Army recruiter’s office looking for a way to give back to the very institution that he had already given so much.

“Right now for me the Army is not a job, it’s not a career,” he started. “I’m serving. This is what I feel because at least I can pay back what the U.S. Army did for me.

I came here and the first thing I thought was I needed to serve; because this Army has worked to help people to do better in their life. I believed it at the time even when I was an interpreter.”

In early July 2018, Kadhum recited the Naturalization Oath of Allegiance to the United States, and became an official U.S. citizen with more than 15 other soldiers during a ceremony on Fort Hood.

“I’m really happy but at the same time it is a big responsibility,” he said. “While serving in the Army it is a responsibility, but even if I get out of [the] Army as a civilian I still have more responsibility.

When you choose to get that citizenship it is different from the people who are born with the citizenship. When it’s harder to get it, it is a big commitment. I have more appreciation for it.”

Kadhum is looking ahead to the future for himself and his family.

“The best thing is because of the naturalization, I can do anything now,” he said. “My hopes are for my kids that they get to live a normal life and every thing will be perfect for them.”

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

Articles

Battle brewing to build the U.S. Army’s next rotary wing aircraft

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
An artist’s conception of V-280 Valors supporting a tank battle. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)


The U.S. Army is hosting a fly-off starting a year from now, and some of the biggest names in defense manufacturing are working in earnest to win it.

The Army put out a “request for proposals,” better know in procurement circles as an “RFP,” last year as the first step in their Joint Multi-Role Technology Demonstrator (JMRTD) program, and the competition is down to two efforts: The V-280 “Valor” by Bell Helicopter and the SB-1 “Defiant” by Boeing and Lockheed-Martin. The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

The two designs take wildly different approaches to meet the JMRTD performance requirements that include the ability to reach an airspeed of 230 knots and fly a combat radius of around 275 miles. The Valor is a tiltrotor aircraft, which builds on Bell’s experience and learnings with the V-22 “Osprey,” and the Defiant is a coaxial rotor design, which uses two rotors spinning in opposite directions above the fuselage and a thruster aft.

“We realize there’s still a pretty significant filter out there about the troubled history of the tiltrotor,” said Robert Hastings, Bell’s EVP for communications and government affairs . “But the Marines today would tell you it’s transformational. Younger pilots who never had to unlearn bad habits from other airplanes are flying the V-22 in ways we never imagined.”

Hastings, who flew Cobras and Blackhawks in the Army and also served as the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs during Robert Gates’ tenure at the Pentagon, related a conversation he had with a V-22 squadron commander during the most recent Singapore Air Show. The CO told him that at that moment he had Ospreys in Australia, Okinawa, and the Philippines as well as at the show.

“He was a lieutenant colonel with an operational sphere of influence as big as what an admiral had a generation ago,” Hastings said. “To quote Gen. Davis, the Marine Corps’ assistant commandant for aviation: ‘The V-22 has not only changed the way we operate; it changed the way the enemy worries about us.'”

But while Hastings readily lists the V-22’s successes in the nation’s most recent conflicts, including how the CV variant has been used by the Air Force Special Operations Command, he is quick to point out that the V-280 is what he called a “clean sheet design.”

“The V-22 is largely a 1980s product,” he said. “Manufacturing is different today.”

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
The first Valor on the assembly line in Amarillo. (Photo: Bell Helicopter)

Hastings explained digital designs along with more precise machining allows parts “to slip into place very nicely” instead of having to be sanded down and otherwise manipulated by technicians along the assembly line as they had to while making the Osprey. With these sorts of improvements, Bell is striving to make the V-280 cost half of the V-22’s $71 million unit flyaway cost.

Bell has partnered with Lockheed-Martin to give the Valor a state-of-the-art cockpit suite, building on what engineers and test pilots have learned during the development of the F-35. While there’s no plan for helmet visor symbology (which has been a challenge to develop during F-35 testing), Hastings said the cockpit’s “open architecture” could afford V-280 pilots that capability in the future. The cockpit also accommodates a wide array of sensors and mission packages, which are designed to give the Valor a lot of combat agility.

Bell is calling their JMRTD candidate a “third generation” tiltrotor. (V-22 is second generation.) The V-280 differs from its predecessor in a number of ways: It’s much lighter because it’s constructed entirely of carbon-based materials. It has a straight wing instead of the Osprey’s forward-swept wing. It has a side door instead of an aft ramp.

Hastings also pointed out that — with an internal fuel cell added in the cabin area — the Valor can fly 2,100 miles, which will give the Army a self-deploy capability it’s never had before.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Artist’s conception of a section of Valors ingressing during a mission. (Courtesy of Bell Helicopter)

“Imagine a future where the 82nd Airborne is told to deploy, and the aviation division commander says to his aviation unit commander, ‘Meet me at the Horn of Africa in three days,'” Hastings said. “He doesn’t have to worry about a third of his strategic lift assets being tied up by those helicopters.”

The JMRTD fly off program will last two years, and at the end of it the Army will pick one of the two airplanes to replace its force of 2,000 Blackhawks and 800 Apaches. (And Hastings pointed out that the utility and attack variants of the Valor have 85 percent commonality beneath the prop-rotor — another cost-saving feature, he said.) The Army wants the new airplanes ready for war by 2029.

“We believe that helicopters will be around forever,” Hastings said, “but we think helicopters have reached as far as you can expand them. We think tiltrotors have a ton of growth in terms of what you can do with them.”

Articles

Holocaust survivor reunites with his US Army liberator

In 1945, Sid Shafner, a member of the U.S. Army with the 42nd Infantry Division, liberated Marcel Levy from Dachau Concentration Camp in southern Germany. This month — just over seventy years later — the two met again.


Friends of the Israel Defense Forces sponsored the Denver, Colorado resident and his family on an eight-day trip to Israel and Poland as part of it’s “From Holocaust to Independence” delegation to Poland and Israel. The World War II veteran was honored at a Holocaust remembrance ceremony for his helping to set approximately 30,000 prisoners free. Marcel Levy was one of those who is alive today as a result of the Allied Forces’ heroic and compassionate efforts.

In an interview with ABC, Peter Weintraub, president of the organization who sponsored the trip, said the two men met for the first time when Shafner’s convoy was stopped near Marcel Levy who asked that Shafner and his men leave their route and help the prisoners – to which they agreed. The two men became friends.

On May, 10th at an Israeli military base, Levy, 90, who walks with a cane and Shafner, 94, who is in a wheelchair – had a reunion filled with tearful embraces that was captured on camera. Weintraub told ABC that Levy told Shafner, “Everything I have today, all of my children, grandchildren and great grandchildren, is due to you, Sid.”

This was the first time the organization reunited a survivor with his or her liberator.

Watch:

MIGHTY TRENDING

The Navy is still fully invested in its railgun tech

Following a flurry of reports in December 2017 predicting the Navy’s $500 million electromagnetic railgun experiment was dead on arrival, the chief of Naval Operations told lawmakers in March 2018 that the death of the program was greatly exaggerated.


“[We are] fully invested in railgun; we continue to test it,” Adm. John Richardson told the House Appropriations subcommittee on defense during a hearing on Navy and Marine Corps budget issues. “We’ve demonstrated it at lower firing rates and … shorter ranges. Now we have to do the engineering to, sort of, crank it up and get it at the designated firing rates, at the 80- to 100-mile range.”

Also read: The Navy’s deck guns are getting a hypervelocity upgrade

Richardson was responding to a question from Rep. Tim Ryan, D-Ohio, who expressed concern about the proven capability of the Navy’s railgun weapon, which has yet to leave its test site at Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division, Virginia.

“My understanding is these weapons can fire projectiles at extremely high speeds with a range exceeding a hundred miles once fully operational,” Ryan said. “I know China has demonstrated a capability for shipboard railguns, and I’m just concerned, again, that maybe we’re falling short here.”

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Particle debris ignites as a test slug exits the Office of Naval Research 32 MJ Electromagnetic Railgun laboratory launcher located at the Naval Surface Warfare Center Dahlgren Division. (Photo by US Navy)

Photos showing what appears to be a railgun mounted on the Chinese landing ship tank Haiyang Shan emerged in February 2018. The evidence of what appears to be deployable Chinese railgun technology came to light following a handful of reports indicating the Navy’s own gun development program was losing steam.

Related: Why your next battle buddy might be a robot armed with a railgun

Business Insider reported in December 2017 that the Pentagon’s Strategic Capabilities office was shifting research efforts from the railgun, which uses electromagnetic energy to shoot large projectiles at speeds of up to 4,500 miles per hour, to broader high-velocity projectile study.

The Navy has never acknowledged a loss of interest in railgun technology, however. July 2017, officials with the Office of Naval Research told reporters that the power behind the gun would be increased to 32 megajoules over the summer, giving the weapon a range of 110 miles.

In testimony released March 7, 2018, Richardson indicated the weapon had yet to reach that range in spite of predictions.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
An electromagnetic railgun prototype on display aboard the joint high-speed vessel USS Millinocket. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kristopher Kirsop)

“That involves a number of technologies,” he said. “The barrel itself is probably the limiting case, the engineering on that, the materials required to sustain that power pulse, and the heat and pressure that’s involved in launching those projectiles. And we’re doubling down on that.”

Engineers have found the gun’s barrel wears out rapidly when metal projectiles are fired at the blistering rates the railgun’s technology delivers. Another unresolved issue is the power source for the gun; currently, only the new three-ship Zumwalt class of class of mega-destroyers is reportedly capable of supplying the electromagnetic charge needed to operate the gun. The Navy wants to deploy a version of the railgun aboard smaller-sized destroyers.

More: This stunning video shows how fast a railgun can shoot

While Richardson acknowledged the challenges and said Navy brass were “very conscious” of reported Chinese achievements in railgun technology, he maintained the service was still invested in the program.

“As a benefit, too, of the program — the railgun program, we have developed a projectile — high-velocity projectile, which is actually usable across the fleet in a number of different applications, not only in the railgun,” Richardson said. “And so, it’s a very fruitful program that we continue to invest in.”

Articles

10 ways war has changed since the Cubs’ last World Series win

It’s been a long time since the Cubs won the World Series. 108 years, in fact; the last time the Cubs won was in 1908, when they captured two World Series titles in a row.


Last night they made history and broke the Curse of the Billy Goat by clinching Game 7 of the World Series in extra (rainy) innings with a final score of 8-7.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
The 1908 Cubs and their perfectly normal looking mascot. Source: NBC News

A lot has happened in the world since 1908.  The internet, Communism, Justin Bieber.  But what about warfare?

Well, the military has changed quite a bit too, and some of the changes have completely revamped the way wars are fought today.  Here are ten of the biggest military innovations and changes that occurred since the last time the Cubs won the World Series:

1.  No more cavalry charges

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Horses and trenches don’t mix. | Source: Pinterest

Cavalry charges were still pretty common in the early 20th century, and in World War I all sides used horses to some extent.  The Germans stopped utilizing armed cavalry on the battlefield shortly after the war’s outset, but the Ottoman Empire and the British used cavalry extensively in the Middle East theater.

During World War I, machine guns cut through horses in swaths, and the chemical weapons first used by the Germans killed many more.  They were still used to drag equipment through the mud, however, and at one point German troops were told that the life of a horse has more tactical value than that of an infantryman.

Ultimately, though, machine guns and artillery rendered the horse-led cavalry charge obsolete.  The horses were replaced by tanks, although these didn’t truly live up to expectations until World War II.

2.  Planes flying around, shooting stuff, dropping bombs

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
arly airplanes: sometimes they fly, sometimes they crash. | Source: Pinterest

Although the Wright Brothers first flew a heavier-than-air manned airplane in 1903, planes in warfare didn’t come about until around 1911.  During World War I airplanes became very important for reconnaissance missions, and as they became more maneuverable, some planes were designed to shoot down the recon planes.  This led to fighters, bombers, and the jets that we know today.

Modern warfare generally favors the side that controls the skies, and for that reason, high-tech planes with sophisticated radar and other technologies are closely guarded secrets by states concerned about their leakage.  The United States’ protracted counterinsurgency wars, however, have proven that even though you control the skies, it doesn’t always mean you win.

3.  U.S. Army Special Forces started operating operationally

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
US Army Green Berets with South Vietnamese troops. | Source: Pinterest

The first true Special Forces Group, the 10th, was formed in 1952 under Col. Aaron Bank.  They evolved from Office of Strategic Services troops that had served behind enemy lines during World War II.  Concurrent with this was the founding of the Psychological Warfare School, later known as the John F. Kennedy School of Special Warfare.  The original goal of the Army’s Special Forces was “to infiltrate by land, sea or air, deep into enemy-occupied territory and organize the resistance/guerrilla potential to conduct Special Forces operations, with emphasis on guerrilla warfare.”

Special Forces have fought in every conflict since Korea and evolved into a number of different roles.  They have grown in number and size and now consist of some of the most elite soldiers in the United States Army, trained in multiple missions, including direct action and foreign internal defense.

4.  Chemical weapons: a sick burn

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
A gas attack during World War I. | Source: WWvets.com

The Cubs might have gone 108 years without winning a world series, but the world has only gone 101 years since the first chlorine gas attack.

On April 22, 1915, a man named Fritz Haber oversaw the world’s first successful chemical weapons use.  The German scientist had been attempting to convince a German commander to use the gas on Allied troops but had thus far met with scorn and derision.  One commander, however, let him try it, and when the wind finally turned toward the Allied troops, he unleashed the gas.

That single attack killed more than 1,100 Allied troops.  By the end of World War I, more than 50 different poisons had been used on the battlefield, and gas masks had become a tactical necessity.

Today, the use of chemical weapons is a war crime, although that didn’t stop Saddam Hussein from gassing thousands of Kurds in northern Iraq, or Bashar al-Assad using gas on his own people.

5.  Meals, Ready to Eat began constipating troops everywhere

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
The first MRE, 1981. | Source: MRE Info

The Department of Defense decided to re-vamp their combat rations in 1975, when they declared the MRE would be the new way of feeding troops in combat.  The first delivery of MRE’s occurred in 1981, and they were first field tested by the 25th Infantry Division in 1983.

MRE’s were a huge step forward for field rations because they could be kept almost indefinitely, and they did not require a flame to heat the entrees.  MRE’s nowadays are much tastier than the maggot-filled tack that soldiers of the Continental Army used to eat, and troops can pick and choose menu items.  Plus, Jalapeno cheese.  Enough said.

6.  Aircraft carriers became a thing

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
The Japanese seaplane carrier Wakamiya, circa 1914. | Source: Wikipedia

With the advent and importance of aircraft in modern warfare, it was only natural that nations sought to project that flight power to different parts of the world.  After all, what good was a runway for planes if it wasn’t near the combat zone?

To that end, armies and navies first tried launching balloons off of wooden ships, but when the propeller plane came around, they started putting aircraft on ships.  The Japanese ship Wakamiya lowered seaplanes onto the water using its crane in 1914 during the battle of Tsingtao, making this the first use of an “aircraft carrier” in warfare.

During the 1920’s, truly dedicated carriers with launch pads were commissioned and became an integral part of shaping the way the world fights wars.  Nowadays, the US Navy’s powerful carriers carry lethal jets and ground forces to places all over the world in order to project United States military power.

7.  Tanks

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
British Mark I tank, 1916. | Source: Wikipedia

Tanks, along with airplanes and aircraft carriers, changed the way that wars are fought.  Although the infantry was the major component of fighting in World War I, by World War II the way was being led by quick, lethal tanks that could maneuver and shoot accurately at the same time.  The armor provided by the vehicle shielded its occupants from most small arms fire and allowed infantry to follow behind.

Modern land warfare owes its origins to the tank, which debuted at the Battle of the Somme in 1916 to limited success.  They simply could not operate in the artillery-churning mud of the front, and often became bogged down before even advancing.

During World War II, the Germans used their lightning-fast tanks in the Blitzkrieg doctrine in combination with airplanes and infantry.  Later on, tanks became more and more technologically advanced, and in modern times a tank can make an enormous difference on the battlefield, although they are still vulnerable to ever-more-lethal anti-tank rockets and missiles.

8.  Night vision let people see the night, visually

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
An M16A1 fitted with an AN PVS-2 starlight scope. | Source: Wikipedia

In the early days of World War II German scientists experimented with night vision devices with some limited success, even going so far as to equip their Panther tanks with night vision.  But it wasn’t until the Vietnam War that the first practical, mass-produced night vision devices, the AN/PVS-1 and 2 starlight scopes, were introduced.  Even though they were bulky and easily broken, these scopes gave U.S. troops an advantage on the battlefield.  They used ambient light to amplify the picture around them, allowing troops to see enemies moving in the dark.

Today, the United States military has some of the best night vision around, giving it advantages in the wars that it fights worldwide.  Each member of an infantry or special operations unit can have his or her own individual night vision device, which are now compact and project pictures in high definition.  Some devices even incorporate thermal imaging along with amplified ambient light to produce a better picture.  This gives US troops a massive advantage over enemies in Afghanistan and Iraq, who have to use captured equipment and have little repair capability.

9.  Widespread use of body armor

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
Two American Servicemen in Korea, 1951, wearing body armor. | Source: Wikipedia

While the concept of protecting oneself from harm with armor has existed for millennia, the modern age of personally-issued body armor didn’t occur until around the time of the Korean War.  Even then, the vests were issued mostly for protection from shrapnel, and were bulkier and heavier than modern vests.

It wasn’t until the 1971 discovery of Kevlar by scientist Stephanie Kwolek that body armor became ligher and able to stop real bullets, including most pistol rounds.

In 1975, American Body Armor introduced a vest that used 15 layers of Kevlar and a “shok plate,” which could protect against high-velocity rifle rounds.  This set the standard for modern military body armor, which now often consists of so-called “soft” armor for pistol rounds and shrapnel, and hard ceramic plates for high-velocity bullets.  Advances in technology have made it so that troops, particularly those in well-funded special operations units, can have the best of both worlds: lightweight protection for vital organs and ultimate maneuverability.

10.  Missiles and precision-guided munitions

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
A Regulus guided missile. | Source: Wa3key.com

While airplanes changed the way wars were fought in the 20th century, the way airplanes were used was changed just as fundamentally with the advent of guided missiles.  Although civilizations had been experimenting with rocketry for centuries, the V1 and V2 rockets of Germany in World War II were the first true guided missiles used in warfare.  Following that, various countries began using missiles on their ships, jets and trucks, and creating massive, world-travelling Intercontinental Ballistic Missiles equipped with nuclear warheads.  If it weren’t for our massive experimentation in missile technology, the world would not have known the war-shaping theory of Mutually Assured Destruction, or the standoff capabilities of a guided missile destroyer launching cruise missiles into Saddam Hussein’s Iraq.

Modern missiles use Global Positioning Systems to find and destroy the enemy, and are becoming ubiquitous for the United States; today, more than 80 percent of bombs dropped by the United States military are precision-guided  They are essential in preventing civilian casualties in a world where states fight terrorist groups rather than each other.

More from American Grit:

MIGHTY HISTORY

How losing Vietnam was actually a victory for 5 other countries

On Jan. 27, 1973, President Richard Nixon signed the Paris Peace Accords, formally ending U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War. On Apr. 30, 1975, the country of South Vietnam formally came to an end as North Vietnamese tanks rolled across bases and airfields and into the southern capital of Saigon.

While many look back and see the war as a waste of money, manpower, and materiel given the outcome, there are more than 475 million people who would disagree.


This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

The foundation of that figure of 475 million is the current population of Thailand, Indonesia, Singapore, Malaysia, and the Philippines. It doesn’t mention the relatives of those populations who are no longer alive and didn’t live under the constant threat of global Communism because of the line in the sand drawn by American forces in Vietnam.

World War II-era Navy veteran, Georgetown University professor, and former member of the National Security Council under four presidential administrations, William Lloyd Stearman, wrote about the accomplishments of the United States in the Vietnam War in a recent Wall Street Journal opinion piece. In it, he argues that the Vietnam War was not only winnable, the North Vietnamese were constantly surprised that the Americans didn’t cut off the Ho Chi Minh Trail by invading Laos – a move the NVA thought was inevitable – and thus, win the war for the South.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

The U.S. didn’t want to widen the war, but if the NVA was already in Laos. It was already wider.

While the 96-year-old Stearman spends much of the article rehashing the causes for the outcome of the Vietnam War, the important aspects he adds to the discussion are what the United States and her allies actually achieved through their involvement there, rather than dwelling on what we lost. He argues that without the intervention of the U.S. in Vietnam, the West would have been forced into harder choices in more difficult areas as Communist insurgencies rocked other countries in the region. Quoting Singapore’s visionary leader Lee Kuan Yew, who wrote about this subject in his memoirs:

In 1965, when the U.S. military moved massively into South Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and the Philippines faced internal threats from armed insurgencies and the communist underground was still active in Singapore. Indonesia [was] in the throes of a failed communist coup. America’s action enabled noncommunist Southeast Asia to put their own houses in order. By 1975, they were in better shape to stand up to the communists. Had there been no U.S. intervention, the will of these countries to resist them would have melted and Southeast Asia would most likely gone communist.”
This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Lee Kuan Yew is famous for taking Singapore “from third world to first world” in a single generation.

The U.S. troop buildup in South Vietnam in 1965 spurred Britain to reinforce Malaysia. That same year, Indonesian forces were inspired by anti-Communist action and troop build-ups in the region and successfully fought off a Chinese-led Communist insurgency there. If the insurgency in Indonesia were successful, it would have spread to the Philippines and forced the U.S. to come to the Philippines to fight the Communists, rather than in North Vietnam.

That situation, Stearman argues, would have been far worse and far more costly than the fighting in Vietnam.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russia threatened the UK with nukes after nerve agent attack

British Prime Minister Theresa May accused Russia of carrying out a nerve agent attack on UK soil against a former spy — and Moscow’s response has been extremely aggressive, with veiled nuclear and death threats.


After blowing a UK-imposed deadline to answer for the attack, which UK experts assess used a Russian-made chemical weapon, a Russian foreign ministry spokesman warned the UK not to threaten nuclear powers.

Also read: This is the nerve agent used on a former Russian spy

The UK also possesses nuclear weapons, but Russia has more firepower and newer nuclear systems than any other nation and has frequently taken to threatening its neighbors and bragging about its capability to end life on Earth.

Additionally, Russian state TV broadcaster Kirill Kleimenov went on Russia’s popular Channel One to make veiled threats and insinuations that politically motivated murders in Britain would continue.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
British Prime Minister Theresa May.

“The profession of a traitor is one of the most dangerous in the world,” Kleimenov said. “It’s very rare that those who had chosen it have lived in peace until a ripe old age.”

Outside of military threats, Russia has said it would respond in kind if the UK moves to expel Russian diplomats or scraps the media license for RT, a Russian-funded media organization.

“Not a single British media outlet will work in our country if they shut down Russia Today,” Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said in response. International news outlets in Russia already operate under heavy scrutiny and cannot spread their news freely to the Russian people.

Related: This is what a fancy Russian spy compound actually looks like

If Britain chooses to acknowledge the attack as having been carried out by Russia on its own soil, it can invoke Article 5 within NATO and trigger a response, possibly war, from the 29-member alliance.

But Russia stands accused of killing 15 former spies on UK soil, and experts tell Business Insider it’s unlikely the UK will go to war over the nerve agent attack.

Articles

‘Vets Make Movies’ lets former troops express themselves with film

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
(Photo courtesy of LACMA)


On any given weekend, visitors to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art might notice a gathering of fledgling filmmakers behind cameras capturing some action or seated in front of desktop editing station assembling their footage into a coherent narrative.

And the sight of filmmakers hard at work might not strike passersby as unusual — after all, this is LA, home of Hollywood and the epicenter of the movie business. But this group at LACMA isn’t just any collection of potential Spielbergs or Bays.

Welcome to “Veterans Make Movies,” a three-year initiative focused on highlighting the veteran experience presented in collaboration with the Los Angeles Public Library. In 2013, LAPL launched Veterans Resource Centers within library branches throughout Los Angeles in response to the growing need for veteran support programs and social services.

Watch “Tacit Veritas” by veteran filmmaker Levi Preston:

The library identified the lack of an expressive outlet for veterans to share their perspectives about service or their unique coming home story to a wider audience of both veterans and civilians, so LACMA offered to develop a multilayered filmmaking program tailored to veterans’ personal, creative, and social needs, building on the museum’s ongoing initiative to engage communities through art and film. The program is free to students, in part due to the support of organizations like the Institute of Museum and Library Services, Sony Pictures Entertainment, and The Safeway Foundation.

VMM is an 8-week curriculum that takes a group of 16 military veterans through a series of 3-hour workshops taught by artists and industry experts. The graduation exercise for each student is to create a 3-minute short film suitable for screening at the end of the session.

“These classes are designed to take somebody who’s never picked up a camera before and learn how to make a film,” says Sarah Jesse, LACMA’s associate vice president of education.

Watch “A Chaos Within” by veteran filmmaker Jason Fracaro:

Jesse explains that the basic premise of the course is that when it comes to the medium of film, “you can’t separate the technical aspect from the story aspect.”

The course starts with analysis of a wide variety of filmmaking technics “to give students a sense of how others have communicated,” Jesse says. That’s followed by reflective writing exercises that are then morphed into storyboards that guide the filmmakers as they actually shoot the footage. After that comes the extensive process of editing and post producing the work, arguably the most important part of realizing the artistic vision.

Jesse points out that an important part of getting vet students into the right frame of mind is creating the right atmosphere.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth
VMM participants work on post production. (Photo courtesy of LACMA)

“It’s a safe place where vets feel comfortable sharing experience,” she says. “It’s not a therapy program, but art-making is cathartic.”

Jesse explains that halfway through the second session the instructors, who are also veterans, feel like they have added to their knowledge of the military community as much as they’ve managed to teach the students about filmmaking.

“The vet experience is diverse and people can have a lot of different types of jobs in uniform,” she says. “We went into this thinking we were going to bridge the military-civilian divide but we’ve also seen a vet-vet divide.”

Jesse says the instructors have noted a camaraderie develop between the vets over the course of the eight weekends they spend together.

“They crew for each other’s films,” she says. “They help each other out.”

Word-of-mouth about VMM has quickly spread around the LA veteran community.

“We’ve had a ton of people apply,” Jesse says. “It’s catching on.”

Veterans can begin to apply for VMM’s winter/spring session starting October 15, 2016. Access the application here.

To watch other veteran-made movies created in the VMM program go here.

And if you’re going to be in LA on October 30, check out VMM’s celebration of Veterans in the Arts and Humanities Day. Television legend Norman Lear (creator of “All in the Family,” “One Day at a Time,” and “Maude”) will be in attendance to screen a collection of veteran films. For more information go here.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Garbage collection in Syria is crucial to fighting ISIS

Just a few years ago, I was a diplomat working on the Turkish-Syrian border. My job was managing the U.S. government team responsible for delivering aid to Syrian towns and cities loyal to the Syrian opposition.

These were towns that had turned against President Bashar al-Assad when the Arab Spring swept across the Middle East and Assad ordered his army to shoot peaceful civilians protesting against him.


Now I’m retired from the Foreign Service and teaching international relations at the University of Washington in Seattle, where my students struggle to understand why the U.S. never seems to learn from past mistakes in the conduct of our foreign affairs.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

University of Washington in Seattle.

Given recent decisions and announcements by President Trump about withdrawing much of our aid and our troops from northern Syria while the civil war continues and the Islamic State Group, or “IS,” still threatens, it’s a timely question.

Stability and local services

To understand what’s at stake in Syria, it’s helpful to look at Iraq.

More than 15 years after the U.S. invaded Iraq and eight years after the U.S. said it was leaving the country, Iraq is unstable. Five thousand U.S. soldiers remain in Iraq today, tasked with shoring up the still struggling Iraqi armed forces.

One of the reasons for the instability is the U.S. decision in 2003 to dismiss nearly all leaders of the Iraqi civil service when it toppled dictator Saddam Hussein because they were members of Hussein’s Baath Party.

With much of the civil service gone, local services like water and electricity fell apart and essential public employees fled. That left a perfect vacuum for extremist groups like IS to exploit by taking control of essentially ungoverned territory. The U.S. continues to pay the price for this avoidable decision today.

If the U.S. cuts off support for communities inside Syria that oppose Bashar al-Assad and fly the Syrian Opposition flag, and withdraws American troops from the fight against IS – as President Trump has announced – we will be making the same mistake again. We’ll be creating a vacuum our enemies can exploit.

Keeping local officials on the job

The U.S. has supported these communities since 2012. I directed the distribution of hundreds of millions of dollars in U.S. government aid from 2012 until 2016, as head of the team known as the Syria Transition Assistance Response Team.

Syrian refugees will never go back home if their towns can’t offer the basic services they enjoyed before the war.

Our simple strategy was that when peace returns to Syria, key local officials would still be on the job, ready to reconnect their communities to the national systems that provided services before the war.

Thus would begin the long, difficult process of reuniting Syria.

The money and supplies my team and I delivered helped keep important local officials on the job so they wouldn’t give up and flee their country to seek refuge in Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan, like millions of others before them. These were experienced civilians who could keep the water and power on, manage the sewers and clean the streets.

We helped them with small stipends – a portion of their former salary – because the Syrian government had stopped paying them. And we provided equipment they needed to do their jobs: garbage trucks, generators, water tanks and fire trucks. We helped teachers, doctors and local police with small stipends, supplies and equipment, too.

Nothing was more satisfying for me than seeing videos of a new garbage truck that we sent from Turkey removing piles of garbage from the streets of Saraqib or one of the new ambulances we provided tending to innocent civilians injured in the latest barrel bombing in Aleppo.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

International aid paid for the rehabilitation of an unreliable electricity grid in a town near Aleppo, Syria in 2015.

(Syria Recovery Trust Fund, Author provided)

It’s in everyone’s interest to keep civil service workers on the job, paid something and equipped. That will help put Syria back together again someday and deny ungoverned space for IS and other extremist groups. The last thing the U.S. and countries in the region need is for Syria to disintegrate into warring regions, like Iraq and Libya today.

International aid

Other countries joined the effort to rebuild Syria, notably the U.K., the Netherlands and Denmark. Still more countries are contributing to an international fund based in Jordan that helps the same communities; my team cooperated closely with this effort.

Stopping this funding means jeopardizing Syria’s future at the worst possible time, just as the conflict appears to be coming to an end. I believe that reuniting the country should be the priority now.

Syria’s neighbors, especially Turkey, long supported the U.S. approach because it kept Syrians in Syria, diminishing the flood of refugees to Turkey.

Of course, the Syrian government and its supporters, Russia and Iran, opposed our aid. The assistance we gave sustained communities that the government and its allies continue to bomb into submission and surrender, particularly in Idlib province.

But the aid President Trump cut, sometimes called stabilization assistance, goes to local civilian officials, working to help the sick and wounded and keep children in school.

This is the debunking of the military horse statue myth

Larry Bartlett, senior adviser for the Syria Transition Assistance Response Team meets with members of the Civil Administration of Manbij, Syria, in August 2018.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Staff Sgt. Izabella Sullivan)

An opening for IS

Similarly, withdrawing U.S. troops sent to Syria to eliminate IS – when our own count suggests at least 1,000 IS fighters remain there – may serve short term political ends, but will likely come back to haunt the U.S. and Syria’s neighbors.

President Trump may worry about the price tag for rebuilding Syria, once the war ends. He is right to be concerned. The cost will be enormous and arguably the U.S. should not spend a dime.

The old adage – you broke it, you fix it – applies to the Syria conflict. I believe we should let Syria, Russia and Iran pay the billions it will take to fix what they broke – the infrastructure of bombed-out cities and towns.

The modest U.S. investment in local communities that the White House cut off – 0 million, not billions – could have helped prevent the collapse of communities in the future.

So, what do I tell my students in Seattle?

I remind them that they are our future leaders. I tell them that if we are not to repeat the mistakes of my generation, they should study and learn from history, and avoid short-term fixes to disentangle the U.S. from future foreign interventions.

“Silver bullets” don’t work – and usually force us to return later, at a greater cost.

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

Do Not Sell My Personal Information