President Donald Trump’s trip to France for the country’s Bastille Day parade in July left a big impression. So big, in fact, that he wants to replicate the experience back home.
As Trump met with French President Emmanuel Macron, Trump gushed about seeing France’s military might on display in the streets of Paris during his visit. And he told reporters that he is looking into the possibility of having the parade down the streets of Washington on Independence Day to show the US’s “military strength.”
“I was your guest at Bastille Day, and it was one of the greatest parades I’ve ever seen,” Trump told Macron, who sat next to him. “It was two hours on the button, and it was military might, and I think a tremendous thing for France and the spirit of France.”
“To large extent because of what I witnessed, we may do something like that on July Fourth in Washington down Pennsylvania Avenue,” Trump said.
The comments prompted laughter from Macron and other officials sitting around them. The leaders were meeting in New York ahead of the United Nations General Assembly. But it isn’t the first time that Trump has talked about wanting a military parade in the streets of Washington.
Before the inauguration, Trump officials inquired with the Pentagon about having armored vehicles participate in his inauguration parade, according to documents obtained by the HuffPost. And he told The Washington Post in January that he hoped that during his tenure, the US’s military might would be on display.
“Being a great president has to do with a lot of things, but one of them is being a great cheerleader for the country,” Trump said in the January interview. “And we’re going to show the people as we build up our military, we’re going to display our military.”
“That military may come marching down Pennsylvania Avenue. That military may be flying over New York City and Washington, DC, for parades. I mean, we’re going to be showing our military,” he added.
Though Trump is deeply unpopular in France, he was invited for the 100th Bastille Day ceremony in Paris by Macron in an effort to strengthen the relationship between the two countries and its new leaders. The lengthy parade seemed to thrill the president, who has long held a fascination with military might.
On Sept. 18, seated next to Macron, he boasted about the levels of US military spending in his first term. And he said that his goal would be to “try to top” what France did.
“I think we’re looking forward to doing that,” Trump said. “I’m speaking with General Kelly and with all of the people involved, and we’ll see if we can do it this year,” he added, referring to his Chief of Staff John Kelly.
The Pentagon did not immediately respond to requests for comment about plans to hold such a parade.
We shouldn’t have to say this, but starting a war on the Korean Peninsula is a bad idea. I am not the first person to make the case that a war on the Korean peninsula would be bad for America —and for South Korea and probably for Japan. Recently, professor Barry Posen laid out just how difficult it would be to conduct a successful pre-emptive attack against North Korea. He further presented how terrible a conflict on the peninsula would be in terms of lives lost — North Korean, South Korean and American. Professor Posen’s piece, however did not go far enough in explaining how a pre-emptive attack — and then war — on the Korean peninsula would damage U.S. interests.
With the administration’s statements leaving the door open to a pre-emptive strike against North Korea, it is a good time to catalogue why such a concept is a bad idea—regardless of one’s view of the threats posed by the North Korean regime and its nuclear and missile programs. Professor Posen captures the likely human toll of a second Korean war well. The costs of the conflict and its aftermath would leave the United States and its allies poorer. And ultimately, the United States would likely be less secure than it is today.
Difficulty of Escalation Control
North Korea has signaled, for decades, that any attack against it would be met with swift retribution. For much of the post-Korean War era, this meant massive artillery bombardment of Seoul. Now that North Korea possesses missiles with intercontinental range, that retribution could be against targets as far away as New York or Washington. The idea that the United States could conduct strikes against limited targets—such as North Korea’s missile facilities or nuclear weapons complexes—with little to no North Korean response is gambling with millions of lives at stake. Were North Korea to follow through on its repeated statements of retaliation, and a U.S. or allied territory to be struck, it would likely result in activation of one or more of the U.S. mutual defense treaties, and the commitment of significant U.S. forces to a conflict on the Korean peninsula. At that point, what was presented as a limited strike will have become a full-blown war.
It is therefore critical to recognize the limits of escalation control when dealing with military options against North Korea. And Professor Posen makes a clear and compelling argument about the likely catastrophic human consequences of such a conflict. One must also consider additional strategic consequences for the United States, specifically the financial toll and effect on regional alliances.
North Korea’s active-duty military is estimated to number over 1 million personnel. South Korea maintains a 650,000-person army. Even if the combined U.S.-South Korean force is better trained and equipped than its North Korean adversary, North Korea has spent nearly 70 years developing hardened shelters and stowage points for its personnel and artillery pieces. The four kilometer-wide De-Militarized Zone (DMZ) is also the most heavily mined area on the planet, limiting the ability of ground forces to move through it easily.
North Korea is believed to have developed tunnels across the DMZ to move its army or special forces rapidly into South Korean territory — and to bypass the mines laid along the DMZ. Even assuming U.S. and South Korean ground forces can quickly move through the DMZ to the North, the mountainous terrain would make rapid ground movement difficult—especially with heavy tanks or artillery. All of this is before considering the impact of North Korea’s nuclear weapons or its stockpiles of chemical weapons and biological weaponswould have on the conflict.
The sum of these factors suggest that prosecuting a war in North Korea has the potential to be more expensive than the $1.5 trillion spent so far on the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Winning the war would be only a small portion of the total costs, however. The real costs to the United States—and South Korea—would come from the needed investments to develop North Korea’s economy and rebuild its society after a successful military campaign, and to rebuild the portions of South Korea destroyed in a war.
By way of comparison, 20 years after the reunification of Germany, Germany’s Finance Minister stated that the annual cost of reunification was approximately 100 billion euros per year—or nearly 2 trillion euros. East Germany’s per capita GDP was, at the time of reunification, approximately one half of West Germany’s. North Korea’s GDP today is only 3 percent of South Korea’s.
The Regional Security Consequences
Even if it wins, the United States could find itself less secure in Northeast Asia after a war with North Korea.
China has long been concerned about U.S. military presence in Korea, believing U.S. forces there could pose a threat to China’s sovereignty and security. Should the U.S.-ROK force prevail against North Korea in a war, the long-standing basis for keeping U.S. troops on the Korean peninsula — to defend South Korea from North Korean invasion — would be moot. China would likely push the South Korean government (especially if it were the de facto government of the entire Korean peninsula) to change its relationship with the United States and reduce or eliminate U.S. forces from the peninsula.
Should U.S. forces leave the Korean peninsula, China would likely use the withdrawal to build a narrative that the United States is retreating from Asia, that it is not a reliable security partner, or both. Consequently, the United States would have less diplomatic credibility, less military capability, and less influence with allies in the region.
A potentially more dangerous — and more likely — scenario is that the United States could find itself with troops dangerously-close to China’s border. It was Chinese fear of U.S. encroachment on its border that led Mao Zedong to intervene in the Korean War on North Korea’s behalf in 1950. With U.S. and Chinese troops mere miles apart, the risk of a U.S.-China stand-off escalating quickly from a skirmish to a major exchange would increase.
From China’s perspective, the continued existence of North Korea as a separate country provides a buffer between its own borders and U.S. forces. A unified Korean peninsula, with U.S. troops still present, would be perceived as negatively impacting China’s security.
The likely result of fighting a war against North Korea to eliminate the threat that it would use its nuclear weapons against the United States or its allies is that the United States would instead increase the likelihood of conflict with far more potent nuclear-armed adversaries in China.
Deterrence: A Better Deal
With war on the Korean peninsula too costly, from human, economic, and security perspectives, what options remain? Fortunately for the United States and our allies in Asia, managing new nuclear powers is something the United States has experience with, and it is called deterrence.
The window to remove North Korea’s nuclear weapons by force has passed. Instead, the United States will need to work with allies and partners to ensure North Korea understands the consequences of its continued reliance on those weapons, and the implications for North Korea’s future if those weapons are used. Additionally, the United States will need to continue working with South Korea and Japan to maintain a unified approach toward North Korea.
All three allies will also have to work closely to pressure China and Russia to deter North Korea’s continued pursuit of a nuclear weapons program, and especially toward using those weapons in the future.
The number of countries that have closed their embassies in North Korea and who have shown a willingness to work with the United States to limit North Korea’s access to financing and materiel speaks highly of the potential for focused and patient diplomacy. Ensuring the United States and South Korea remain positioned to respond to North Korean aggression, should it happen, is essential. Maintaining the diplomatic pressure that has begun to bear fruit will also be essential if the United States is to avoid a situation where through impatience it turns a strategically difficult situation into a strategic setback.
Iranian officials knew their military had shot down a passenger jet and lied about it for days, Ukraine said Sunday, citing a leaked audio recording of an Iranian pilot communicating with air-traffic control in the capital Tehran.
In the leaked audio recording — said to be from the night in January when Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 was shot down — a pilot for Iran Aseman Airlines radioed the air-traffic control tower to say he saw the “light of a missile,” Reuters reports.
The control tower can reportedly be heard trying, unsuccessfully, to reach the Ukrainian passenger aircraft on the radio as the Iranian pilot says he saw “an explosion.”
Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky.
Aseman Flight 3768 was close enough to the airport in Tehran to see the blast, the Associated Press reported, citing publicly available flight-tracking data.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a television interview that the recording “proves that the Iranian side knew from the start that our plane had been hit by a missile.”
Ukraine International Airlines said, according to Reuters, that the audio was “yet more proof that the UIA airplane was shot down with a missile, and there were no restrictions or warnings from dispatchers of any risk to flights of civilian aircraft in the vicinity of the airport.”
UIA Flight 752 was flying from Tehran to the Ukrainian capital, Kyiv, on January 8 when it was shot down shortly after takeoff, killing all 176 people on board. The incident happened just hours after Iran launched a barrage of ballistic missiles at US forces in Iraq in retaliation for a US drone strike that killed Iranian Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the country’s air-defense systems were on high alert.
Though it blamed “human error,” Iran also sought to cast responsibility with the US, arguing that the killing of Soleimani had led to a dangerous spike in tensions that resulted in the accident. Still, Iranian citizens and international observers questioned why Iran didn’t ground civilian air traffic after its missile attack on US-occupied bases in Iraq.
Iran said it mistook the airliner for an enemy missile. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the incident a “grave tragedy” and an “unforgivable mistake.”
Iran’s Civil Aviation Organization is in charge of investigating aviation incidents, with one official saying Ukraine’s decision to release the confidential recording, which aired on Ukrainian television, had “led to us not sharing any more information with them.”
Major James Capers (centered). Featured photo courtesy of The Veterans Project.
Major James Capers Jr. is a living legend.
If you do not know who “The Major” is, it is highly recommended that you read here to learn more about this great American and highly decorated war hero. Capers was born in Bishopville, South Carolina in the Jim Crow south. During the Vietnam War, just three generations removed from slavery, he became the first African American to receive a battlefield commission as part of Marine Force Recon. Capers’s team, which called themselves “Team Broadminded” conducted more than 50 classified missions in 1966 alone.
During his 22-years of service, Major Capers has been awarded the Silver Star; two Bronze Stars; and Combat V; four Purple Hearts; Vietnam Cross of Gallantry; a Joint Service Commendation Medal; Combat Action Ribbon; three Good Conduct Ribbons; Battle Stars; Navy Commendation Medal; Navy Achievement Medal; CG Certificate of Merit; and multiple letters of Merit, Appreciation, and Commendation. There is a new push for him to be awarded the Medal of Honor, but it remains to be seen whether or not it will ever happen during the Major’s lifetime; he turned 83 years old on August 25.
On Friday, August 28, Capers’s hometown of Bishopville, South Carolina held a ceremony in honor of his service and dedication to this great country.
After several high profile guests bestowed deserved recognition and honors upon Capers, he began his speech with a tribute to his dear wife, Dottie Capers, and son, Gary Capers. They have sadly both passed away, several years ago, but clearly still have a special place in his heart and mind. Capers began his speech by saying: “I’m a little bit overwhelmed because my precious Dottie is not here, and my wonderful baby [Gary] is not here. They are in heaven and God has promised me that I will see them again.”
The event included a parade through Bishopville accompanied by USMC veteran Danny Garcia from Honor Walk 2020 and a color guard comprised of Marine Raiders.
The Mayor of Bishopville presented “Capers Boulevard and intersection,” a bronze wall sculpture with his likeness. Additionally, Major Capers was recognized by Congressman Ralph Norman and other elected officials. He was also given South Carolina’s “Order of the Palmetto.” This is the state’s highest civilian honor. It is awarded to citizens for extraordinary lifetime service and achievements of national or statewide significance. The award was presented by Senator Gerald Malloy.
In addition to a large crowd of civilians, Marines from several generations were also present to honor Major Capers and witness the public outpouring of gratitude and respect for his service.
Since retiring from the Marine Corps, Capers has continued to mentor countless young Marines who look to him for natural and spiritual guidance as they navigate life. Major Capers’s legacy is not only long-lasting because he was a warrior and leader, but also because he was a devoted husband to his late-wife Dottie and a loving father to his late-son Gary. As he neared the conclusion of his speech, Major Capers stated, “All of these accolades today mean a lot to me, and it means a lot to Dottie because she’s up there watching.”
A humble and soft-spoken man, Capers said, “I don’t deserve all of this.” To which the captivated crowd strongly disagreed. The reality is that no one deserves this honor and respect more than he does. He is a true patriot, great American, and hero to the highest degree.
The U.S. Air Force will reduce exterior lighting at a Hawaii facility to help protect endangered and threatened seabirds there.
The Air Force agreed to reduce lighting at a mountaintop radar facility on the island of Kauai, The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports. After the announcement, the Center for Biological Diversity said it no longer intends to sue the Air Force.
The nonprofit conservation group says the threatened Newell’s shearwater and Hawaiian petrel are attracted to bright lights at night, which can cause crashes onto the ground and sometimes death.
The center believes lights at the Kokee Air Force Station caused more than 130 birds to fall out of the air in 2015, including Hawaiian petrels, endangered band-rumped storm petrels and Newell’s shearwaters. Most of them died, the center said.
The Kokee Air Force Station was founded in 1961 to detect and track all aircraft operating near Hawaii.
The Air Force also said in June 2016 that it had agreed to turn off outside lights from April through December, when birds are going to and from colonies.
But the Center for Biological Diversity threatened legal action at the end of June 2016, saying the Air Force was violating the Endangered Species Act by not updating its formal consultation about seabirds with the Fish and Wildlife Service.
The center said the Air Force reinitiated the consultation and agreed to ongoing protective measures in response.
The Air Force is “committed to protecting the threatened and endangered bird species that frequent the area around Mt. Kokee Air Force Station,” Col. Frank Flores wrote in an email to The Star-Advertiser.
Flores is the commander of the Pacific Air Forces Regional Support Center, which provides oversight for Kokee Station.
“We have collaborated closely with U.S. Fish and Wildlife Services over the years on this issue. We take environmental stewardship very seriously and will continue to partner with USFWS to protect these species,” Flores wrote.
The gym echoed with sounds of bodies hitting the floor as instructors watched their students wrestle each other to the ground.
The students trained tirelessly for the past week and were showing signs of wear and tear: cuts, bruises, and red, sweaty faces steaming with pain.
This is the Phoenix Raven Qualification Course, perhaps the most rigorous training program in the Air Force Security Forces world. The Air Mobility Command’s Phoenix Raven program centers on the concept of specially trained security forces airmen flying with and protecting AMC aircraft around the world.
The trained airmen are to “provide close-in security for aircraft and airfields that AMC has deemed as having inadequate security,” said Air Force Staff Sgt. Joseph McGuire, 421st Combat Training Squadron Phoenix Raven Qualification Course instructor. “We guard the aircraft, protect the personnel, and whatever else is on board.”
This particular class, however, is different: instead of taking place at the program’s training hub at Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst in New Jersey, it was conducted by a mobile training team sent to U.S. Air Forces in Europe-Air Forces Africa headquarters here.
The students in the course came from three squadrons in the Kaiserslautern Military Community: the 86th and 435th Security Forces Squadrons, and the 569th United States Forces Police Squadron.
Vigorous physical training
The course involves vigorous physical training sessions, Armament Systems and Procedures Baton training, use-of-force scenarios, combatives classes, and live-fire training, as well as 15 academic classes.
McGuire added that it is not uncommon for some students to fail the course and get sent home. A few have already washed out since they started Jan. 22.
“It is extremely hard,” he said. “You have to be mentally and physically tough. You have to have heart. You have to have dedication … and mental tenacity. And you have to be able to make proper decisions while being in a stressful environment.”
Students who graduate from the program receive the Raven tab, which they may wear on their uniform, and also a coin with their Raven number.
Former National Security Agency contractor Harold Martin allegedly stole documents that seem far more sensitive than what has come from the Snowden leaks.
For more than two decades, Martin allegedly made off with highly-classified documents that were found in his home and car that included discussions of the US military’s capabilities and gaps in cyberspace, specific targets, and “extremely sensitive” operations against terror groups, according to an indictment released Wednesday.
Martin was arrested by the FBI at his home on August 27, 2016. Agents found thousands of pages and “many terabytes of information” there, according to court documents reviewed by The New York Times.
With the release of the indictment, it has become more clear of what was apparently in those files.
The indictment charges Martin with 20 counts of having unauthorized possession of documents from not only the NSA, but also from US Cyber Command, the National Reconnaissance Office, and the Central Intelligence Agency. While many of the documents leaked by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden were top-secret, they mostly consisted of PowerPoint presentations and training materials.
Top-secret documents allegedly stolen by Martin, however, offer much more specific and damaging details to potential adversaries. Here’s a sampling (via the indictment):
A 2014 NSA report outlining intelligence information regarding foreign cyber issues, containing foreign cyber intrusion techniques
A 2009 draft of a United States Signals Intelligence Directive, which outlined specific methods, capabilities, techniques, processes, and procedures associated with [computer network operations] used to defend the United States.
An NSA anti-terrorism operational document concerning extremely sensitive US planning and operations regarding global terrorists.
With just those three documents, an adversary would have details on how the NSA stops hackers from penetrating its networks and what kind of gaps still exist, along with how the agency plans operations against terror groups. Though it’s not apparent from the indictment that Martin passed the documents along to anyone, if he did so it would be a huge setback to the intelligence community.
Soon after Martin’s arrest, his lawyers told The New York Times that he “loves his family and his country. There is no evidence that he intended to betray his country.” A US official described him as a “hoarder.”
The indictment continues (emphasis added):
An outline of a classified exercise involving real-world NSA and US military resources to demonstrate existing cyber intelligence and operational capabilities.
A description of the technical architecture of an NSA communications system.
A USCYBERCOM document, dated August 17, 2016, discussing capabilities and gapsin capabilities of the US military and details of specific operations.
A USCYBERCOM document, dated May 23, 2016, containing information about the capabilities and targets of the US military.
A 2008 CIA document containing information relating to foreign intelligence collection sources and methods, and relating to a foreign intelligence collection target.
For at least a portion of Martin’s career, he served in the NSA’s Tailored Access Operations unit, an elite group of government hackers tasked with breaking into foreign networks. Some US officials told The Washington Post that Martin allegedly took more than 75% of TAO’s library of hacking tools, a potentially massive breach of an outfit that has been shrouded in secrecy.
According to The New York Times, some investigators suspect Martin may possibly be the source of the trove of TAO hacking tools that were posted online last year by a group calling itself “The Shadow Brokers.” Those disclosures likely spurred “a lot of panic” inside the agency, according to a former TAO operator who spoke with Business Insider last year.
“The FBI investigation and this indictment reveal a broken trust from a security clearance holder,” Special Agent in Charge Gordon B. Johnson of the FBI’s Baltimore Division said in a statement.
“Willfully retaining highly classified national defense information in a vulnerable setting is a violation of the security policy and the law, which weakens our national security and cannot be tolerated. The FBI is vigilant against such abuses of trust, and will vigorously investigate cases whenever classified information is not maintained in accordance with the law.”
Martin faces a maximum sentence of 200 years in prison. His initial court appearance is scheduled for February 14.
While scouring the waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean over the past several months, the crew of the US Coast Guard cutter James seized 19,000 pounds of cocaine.
The James’s haul was about half of the 38,00o pounds of cocaine its crew offloaded on Nov. 15, 2018, in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. Those drugs were seized in 19 interdictions at sea carried about by six US Coast Guard ships — nine of which were conducted by the James.
The total haul had an estimated wholesale value of about $500 million.
“Operating in the dark of night, often under challenging conditions, these outstanding Coast Guard men and women … driving our boats, flying our armed helicopter swiftly interdicted drug smugglers operating in a variety of vessels used to move these tons of narcotics, from the simple outboard panga to commercial fishing vessels to low-profile high-speed vessels and even semi-submersibles designed to evade detection,” Capt. Jeffrey Randall, the commander of the James, said Nov. 15, 2018.
A pallet of interdicted cocaine being offloaded from the Coast Guard Cutter James by crane in Port Everglades, Florida, Nov.15, 2018.
(US Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Brandon Murray)
The drugs were unloaded just a few weeks after the end of fiscal year 2018 on Sept. 30, 2018. During that fiscal year, the Coast Guard intercepted just over 458,000 pounds of cocaine — the second highest total ever. Fiscal year 2017 set the record with 493,000 pounds seized, topping the previous record of 443,000 pounds set in fiscal year 2016.
The increase in seizures comes amid growing cocaine production in Colombia, the world’s largest producer of the drug and the main supplier to the US market. Production of coca, the base ingredient in cocaine, has steadily risen since hitting a low in 2012.
Colombia is the only South American country that borders both the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, but most of the cocaine it sends to the US takes a westerly route.
“In 2017, at least 84 percent of the documented cocaine departing South America transited the Eastern Pacific,” the US Drug Enforcement Administration said in its most recent National Drug Threat Assessment.
“Shipments around the Galapagos Islands increased to 17 percent of overall flow in 2017, up from four percent in 2016 and one percent in 2015,” the DEA report found. “In 2017, 16 percent of cocaine moved through the Caribbean, nine percent traveling through the Western Caribbean and seven percent through the Eastern Caribbean.”
The Coast Guard’s activity in the eastern Pacific, where it works with other US agencies and international partners, is meant to stanch the drug flow at its largest and most vulnerable point: at sea.
“The Coast Guard’s interdiction efforts really employ what I call a push-out-the-border strategy. We’re pushing our land border 1,500 miles deep into the ocean here a little bit, and that’s where we find the success taking large loads of cocaine down at sea,” Adm. Karl Shultz, the commandant of the Coast Guard, said Nov. 15, 2018, during the offload.
“When we take down drugs at sea it reduces the violence. It maximizes the impact. When these loads land in Mexico, in Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, they get distributed into very small loads, very hard to detect, and there’s associated violence, corruption, instability,” Shultz added. “It’s just very hard to govern in that space when there’s that much associated disarray here that surrounds these drugs, so we’re really proud of the ability to push that border out.”
The Coast Guard Cutter James crew, Claire M. Grady, acting Department of Homeland Security Deputy Secretary, Adm. Karl Schultz, Coast Guard Commandant, Ariana Fajardo Orshan, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Florida, Rear Adm. Peter Brown, commander of Coast Guard 7th District with 18.5 tons of interdicted cocaine on deck Nov. 15, 2018 in Port Everglades, Florida.
(Coast Guard Photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Jonathan Lally)
Coast Guard officials have said after having success against self-propelled semi-submersibles, which are like subs but typically can’t fully submerge, the service has seen an uptick in the use of low-profile vessels, which look similar to speedboats but sit lower in the water, often with their decks right at water level.
“The low-profile vessel, it’s evolutionary,” Schultz told Business Insider in a 2018 interview. “The adversary will constantly adapt their tactics to try to thwart our successes,” he said, adding that the increase “reflects the adaptability” of traffickers.
Asked on Nov. 15, 2018, about smuggling trends the Coast Guard has observed above and below the water, Schultz said again pointed to increased use of low-profile vessels.
“We’re seeing these low-profile vessels now, which is a similar construct [to semi-submersibles] but with outboard engines,” Schultz told reporters. “They paint them seafoam green, blue. They’re hard to detect … from the air.”
Schultz and Randall both touted the Coast Guard’s work with its US and foreign partners.
Claire Grady, third in command at the Homeland Security Department, put the service’s high-seas interdictions squarely within the government’s broader efforts to go after drugs and the smugglers bringing them north.
“We must take actions abroad in addition to our actions at home. This merging of the home game and the away game represents the layered defense that we employ to keep the drugs off our streets and dismantle the criminal organizations that wreak violence and instability,” Grady said aboard the James on Nov. 15, 2018.
“The Coast Guard is critical to this effort, and the seized narcotics that you see behind me represents a major victory.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
St. Patrick’s Day has an entirely different meaning in the United States than it does in elsewhere in the world. The actual Irish hold a solemn, religious holiday, while the diaspora of those of Irish descent take the time to celebrate their heritage. Non-Irish Americans celebrate the day for good luck and use it as a perfect excuse to go drinking with the guys.
The city of Savannah, Georgia, however, holds their own St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. The river turns green, everyone wears green, and civilian women show their love to the boys in green. Soldiers from nearby Army installations join in on the city’s parade and, traditionally, women jump into the formations and kiss on the cheeks of a handsome soldier — leaving a huge, red lipstick mark.
On March 8, 2018, official spokesmen from Fort Stewart and parade chief organizers put an end to the kisses.
Savannah is an Army town with Hunter Army Airfield, Fort Stewart, Fort Jackson, and Fort Gordon all within a relatively short distance’s drive. This is perhaps one of the few times where volunteering for parade duty is worth it. The marching soldiers must keep their composure and remain as stoic as possible while beautiful women kiss them.
The reasons given for ending the tradition are that the “soldiers need to look professional” and that “red lipstick is not part of the uniform.” So far, there’s been no word on if the green beads the soldiers are given are also too unprofessional.
Another (more genuine) reason for prohibiting the kisses is safety. Many security concerns are raised in allowing countless spectators to jump the barricades and run up on the troops, even if it’s done with literally the best intentions.
A silver lining is that no defined punishment has been set. If a soldier just happens to be marching and a woman just happens to kiss him, the punishment is likely going to simply involve push-ups.
That doesn’t sound that bad. You’re about to see the happiest any troop has ever been while getting the sh*t smoked out of them.
In the run-up to the 1988 Summer Games in Seoul, South Korea, North Korea bombed South Korea Air Flight 858, killing 115 people. Afterward, when South Korea remained steadfast in its desire to host the games, North Korea suddenly offered high-level talks. North Korea toned down its rhetoric and tried to negotiate a co-hosting of the Olympics, but this effort fell apart. This historical lesson is corroborated by one of the Flight 585 bombers who was caught and turned. She is still alive today and recently warned not to trust North Korea’s current dictator Kim Jong-un’s outreach.
The 2018 Winter Olympics in Pyeongchang, South Korea is well underway and once again North Korea is attempting to use the games for their ends. North Korea is trying to steal international attention, break sanctions, and drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea.
Kim has already made himself take center-stage, using a dramatic opening to South Korea to force the international spotlight onto himself. Right now, cooperation is his chosen tool of persuasion, as he spoke of reunification, restarted the North Korean-South Korean hotline, and worked to convince South Korea that both Olympic teams should march under one neutral flag. Kim also launched a charm offensive to show he is serious about negotiations. This has included toned-down rhetoric, a smaller military parade, and sending flashy bands to perform at the Olympics. He also sent North Korean pop star and propagandist Hyon Song-wol to find a venue for an orchestra, causing a sensation which bedazzled South Korean journalists and citizens.
In the background of all this distraction, North Korea is preparing to make a show of force. Satellite imagery showed 13,000 troops and 150 vehicles drilling for the small Feb. 8 military parade that featured a new missile system. Kim knows he can have a larger parade to send a message anytime he wants. It remains to be seen if he will engage in any missile or nuclear tests during or right after the Olympics.
North Korea’s appearance of reconciliation also purposefully includes sanctions violations. One of these sending senior North Korean officials to visit South Korea despite being banned from traveling. South Korea will have to decide if it wants to make an exception to the ban, but without certain waivers from the United Nations Security Council, such visits would violate the law. Meanwhile, it is unclear how the US would respond. Already Kim’s less notorious sister, Kim Yo-jong, who is not barred from visiting, has had a successful time charming the South Korean and American media.
Kim will likely get away with several sanctions violations because he will extract them as the cost of North Korean cooperation. Even if they are minor, these violations will test the limits of what others will tolerate. They will make the point that North Korea always has been – and always will be – able to do as it pleases.
Finally, Kim would love to see the South Korean-American alliance rendered a dead letter. Although it is a very unlikely goal, Kim attempts to accomplish this by contrasting South Korea’s willingness to talk with the bellicosity of US President Trump. North Korea’s aim is to create the perception that the Koreas are working together against interference by America. When North Korea returns to aggression, Kim will claim that it is America’s fault. By cozying up to South Korea and then walking out, Kim hopes to drive a small wedge into the alliance.
South Korea should talk to Kim, and so should America, mainly to lower the odds of accidental war. However, talks require realizing that nuclear weapons will not be up for serious discussion and that North Korea will continue its pattern of behavior. Sudden shifts to threats place pressure on South Korea and shifts to friendliness invite confused opponents to the bargaining table on Kim’s terms. Wise policymakers anticipate this pattern, rather than being angered or duped by it. To take Kim Jong-un’s overtures at face-value is foolish, and South Korea should assume that the Supreme Leader is after something more than the gold at these Olympics.
As of Monday, Christopher Miller is the new (acting) Secretary of Defense. He is now responsible for the entire US military behemoth. A tough proposition, despite his experience navigating bureaucracy as the Director of the National Counterterrorism Center and as Assistant Secretary of Defense for Special Operations and Low Intensity Conflict.
But Miller has a vast special operations background to assist him in his new position.
When the terrorist attacks took place on 9/11, Miller, who was a major at the time, was commanding a Special Forces company in 3rd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group.
Army Special Forces primarily specialize in Unconventional Warfare, Foreign Internal Defense, Direct Action, and Special Reconnaissance. Their ability to partner with a government or guerilla force and train, organize, and lead it to combat is what distinguishes the unit from the rest of America’s special operations forces.
A mere few days after the 9/11 attacks, Colonel John Mulholland, the then commander of the 5th Special Forces Group, sent Miller to Special Operations Command Central (SOCCENT) with instructions to get the unit into the fight. SOCCENT is responsible for all special operations in the Central Command’s (CENTCOM) area of operations, which is Central Asia and the Near and Middle East.
At the time, the Pentagon was somewhat at a loss on how to respond to the attacks. The shadow of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan loomed above the planning process. There was no question that the US military could pound to history Al-Qaeda and their Taliban protectors. But a full-blown invasion would be susceptible to the same tactical and strategic woes the Soviets had encountered – fast forward 19 years, and this has become apparent.
So, the unconventional warfare approach gained traction in some planning circles. Why shouldn’t we send Special Forces teams with all the airpower they can handle to partner with friendly forces and defeat the enemy, a small group of planners asked.
Known as the “True Believers,” these men pushed for an unconventional warfare approach to Afghanistan. And they managed to persuade their superiors. The outcome was a sweeping campaign, with Special Forces soldiers, CIA operatives, and Tier 1 operators at the forefront, that defeated Al-Qaeda and drove the Taliban out of power.
In all of this, Miller was key in getting his unit to be a core part of the Joint Special Operations Task Force Dagger, which led the fight. (If you wish to learn more about how that campaign was fought from a Special Forces perspective, Eric Blehm’s “The Only Thing Worth Dying For” offers a brilliant account.)
Miller went on to participate in the invasion of Iraq in 2003. And, as the commander of 2nd Battalion, 5th Special Forces Group, Miller was responsible for all Special Forces operations in central Iraq in 2006 and 2007. All in all, he was responsible for 18 Special Forces Operational Detachment Alphas (ODAs) and three Special Forces Operational Detachment Bravos (ODBs).
Interestingly, Miller’s appointment as the Secretary of Defense means that both the top civilian military leader and the top military leader, General Mark Miller, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, are Special Forces qualified, both having served in the 5th Special Forces Group.
On a side note, like in General James Mattis’s case, the administration will have to obtain Congress’ approval in order for Miller to become a permanent Secretary of Defense. By law, no person who has served in active duty as a commissioned officer can be appointed as the secretary of defense within seven years of his separation from the service. Miller retired in 2014, so he is a year away from meeting the constitutional (non-waivered) requirements for the permanent position. With a new administration coming in, however, that might not be necessary.
This year, the only two Medal of Honor recipients were both Army veterans, who were receiving the medals for courageous, sacrificial actions in combat during the Vietnam War. Here are the stories of Spc. Five James McCloughan and Capt. Gary M. Rose, presented again to commemorate their courageous, sacrificial actions that earned them the highest military honor in the land.
On July 31, President Trump awarded the Medal of Honor to former to former Spc. 5 James McCloughan during a White House ceremony for gallant actions in the Vietnam War.
McCloughan, a medic, was one of 89 Soldiers in Company C, 3rd Battalion, 21st Infantry Regiment, 196th Infantry Brigade, Americal Division who fought on Nui Yon Hill, near the city of Tam Kỳ, from May 13 to 15, 1969.
Within minutes of landing there on May 13, about 2,000 enemy soldiers had the unit surrounded and two of the unit’s helicopters were shot down, Trump related during the ceremony. Seeing a badly wounded Soldier lying in an open field, McCloughan blazed through 100 meters of enemy fire to carry the Soldier to safety.
When North Vietnamese forces ambushed the unit a short time later, McCloughan again rushed into danger to rescue his wounded men. As he cared for two Soldiers, shrapnel from an enemy rocket-propelled grenade “slashed open the back of Jim’s body from head to foot. Yet, that terrible wound didn’t stop Jim from pulling those two men to safety, nor did it stop him from answering the plea of another wounded comrade and carrying him to safety atop his own badly injured body. And so it went, shot after shot, blast upon blast,” the President said.
As the darkness of night approached, McCloughan continued to crawl through rice paddies, dodging bullets, to rescue wounded Soldiers and bring them to a medevac helicopter. When McCloughan’s lieutenant, seeing the extent of the medic’s own injuries, ordered him to get into the medevac as well, McCloughan refused, saying “You’re going to need me here.”
McCloughan would later say, “I’d rather die on the battlefield than know that men died because they did not have a medic,” Trump related.
Over the next 24 hours, without food, water or rest, McCloughan fired at enemy soldiers, suffered a bullet wound to his arm and continued to race into gunfire to save more lives, the President said.
“Though he was thousands of miles from home, it was as if the strength and pride of our whole nation was beating inside of Jim’s heart,” the President said. “He gave it his all and then he just kept giving.”
In those 48 hours, Jim rescued 10 American Soldiers and tended to countless others, Trump said, adding that of the 89 in the company, their strength had dwindled to 32 by the end of the fighting.
Following the war, McCloughan taught sociology and psychology at South Haven High School in Michigan, and coached football, baseball, and wrestling for 38 years.
McCloughan was joined at the White House ceremony by members of his family, eight other Medal of Honor recipients, and 10 Soldiers who served with him during that epic battle, five of whom McCloughan personally saved.
More than 47 years after his heroic actions in the nation of Laos, during the Vietnam War, Capt. Gary Michael “Mike” Rose was recognized with the Medal of Honor by President Trump at the White House on Oct. 23.
During the Vietnam War, Rose served as a combat medic with the Military Assistance Command Studies and Observations Group, part of Special Forces. He was recognized for actions during a four-day period that spanned Sept. 11 through 14, 1970, in Laos. The mission he was part of, called “Operation Tailwind,” had for many years been classified.
Operation Tailwind was meant to prevent the North Vietnamese Army from funneling weapons to their own forces through Laos, along the Ho Chi Minh trail. The operation inserted 136 men by helicopter, including 16 American Soldiers, deep inside Laos.
“Once they landed in the clearing, they rushed to the jungle for much needed cover,” Trump said. “Soon, another man was shot outside their defensive perimeter. Mike immediately rushed to his injured comrade, firing at the enemy as he ran. In the middle of the clearing, under the machine gun fire, Mike treated the wounded Soldier. He shielded the man with his own body and carried him back to safety.”
That was just the start of the four-day mission, Trump said. There was much more to come.
As the unit moved deeper and deeper through the dense jungle, dodging bullets and explosives, Rose continued to tend the wounded during the four-day mission, even at the risk of extreme danger to himself.
Rose was himself injured, Trump said. On the second day, Rose was hit with a rocket-propelled grenade, which left shrapnel in his back, and a hole in his foot.
“For the next 48 excruciating hours, he used a branch as a crutch and went on rescuing the wounded,” Trump said. “Mike did not stop to eat, to sleep, or even to care for his own serious injury as he saved the lives of his fellow Soldiers.”
When the unit evacuated by helicopter on the fourth day, Rose’s helicopter crashed due to a failed engine. After being thrown from the helicopter, Rose rushed back to the scene to pull his fellow Soldiers out of the burning wreckage.
At the conclusion of Operation Tailwind, thanks to the efforts of Mike Rose, all 16 American Soldiers were able to return home.
During those four days in Laos, “Mike treated an astounding 60 to 70 men,” Trump said. And of the mission, which proved to be a success, “their company disrupted the enemy’s continual resupply of weapons, saving countless of additional American lives.”
In addition to members of his family, 10 of Rose’s brothers-in-arms from the operation also attended the ceremony.
“To Mike and all the service members who fought in the battle: You’ve earned the eternal gratitude of the entire American nation,” Trump said. “You faced down the evils of communism, you defended our flag, and you showed the world the unbreakable resolve of the American armed forces. Thank you. And thank you very much.”
The White House has decided to designate Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps as a foreign terrorist organization, as the Trump administration steps up its maximum-pressure campaign against Iran.
This is the first time the US has applied the designation to part of a foreign government, which the White House on April 8, 2019, said “underscores the fact that Iran’s actions are fundamentally different from those of other governments.”
“This unprecedented step,” President Donald Trump said in a statement April 8, 2019, “recognizes the reality that Iran is not only a State Sponsor of Terrorism, but the IRGC actively participates in, finances, and promotes terrorism as a tool of statecraft.”
“This action sends a clear message to Tehran that its support for terrorism has serious consequences,” the president added.
Designating the Revolutionary Guard as a foreign terrorist organization clears the way for US prosecutors to target those who provide material support to it. Conducting business with the group will now be considered a criminal offense punishable by law.
President Donald Trump.
(Photo by Michael Vadon)
“This designation is a direct response to an outlaw regime and should surprise no one,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said April 8, 2019, further commenting that the Quds Force, which is also being identified as a foreign terrorist organization, was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US troops in Iraq.
“The Middle East cannot be more stable and peaceful without weakening the IRGC,” a senior administration official said on background before April 8, 2019’s announcement. “We have to diminish their power. The IRGC has been threatening American troops and our operations almost since the time it was formed.”
The Pentagon said that Iran-backed militants killed 603 US troops from 2003 to 2011, meaning that Iran is held responsible for 17% of all US deaths in Iraq during that window. “This death toll is in addition to the many thousands of Iraqis killed by the IRGC’s proxies,” the State Department added, according to Military Times.
Iran, responding to rumors before the White House announcement, has already threatened to retaliate.
“We will answer any action taken against this force with a reciprocal action,” Iranian lawmakers said in a statement April 7, 2019, Fox News reported. “So the leaders of America, who themselves are the creators and supporters of terrorists in the [Middle East] region, will regret this inappropriate and idiotic action.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.