A mysterious photograph that surfaced early December 2018 appeared to show China’s top stealth fighter sitting at a US military airbase in Georgia.
The apparent Chengdu J-20 Mighty Dragon was spotted at Savannah-Hilton Head Airport Dec. 5, 2018, The Aviationist reported, citing a photo provided by an unnamed source. The US Air Force confirmed Dec. 9, 2018, the existence of the aircraft.
“It is a full-scale replica,” Col. Emmanuel Haldopoulos, Commander of the Savannah Air Dominance Center, explained to The Aviationist, further explaining that the US Marine Corps “is funding and directing the training objectives of this device.”
The training tool was located at the Savannah Air Dominance Center from Dec. 4 to 6, 2018. The exact purpose of the replica is not publicly known.
The initial photograph caused a lot of speculation, with some observers suggesting that the photo was doctored and others guessing that the aircraft was a movie prop. That the mock aircraft is real and serves as a training tool for Marines suggest that the US is taking Chinese defense developments quite seriously, The Aviationist posited.
The focus of the 2018 National Defense Strategy is great power competition, specifically the challenges posed by Russia’s resurgence and China’s rise in Asia.
The Chinese J-20 stealth fighter is a fifth-generation aircraft meant to rival the US F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, two elite combat-proven weapons systems.
An increasingly-capable platform, one really only held back by its engine, the Chinese J-20 has the ability to carry out air superiority, intercept, and long-range strike missions. With exceptional endurance, it offers China the ability to better project power in its home region.
The Chinese stealth fighter recently showed off its arsenal of missiles at an airshow in southern China.
The J-20’s chief designer says the world has yet to see the best that the aircraft has to offer, although it is unclear if this is reality or hype. Regardless, the US military is actively taking steps to maintain overmatch in the face of Chinese and Russian defense developments.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
It takes more than a billion years for a pair of galaxies to merge.
But in the constellation of Ophiuchus, about 400 million light-years from Earth, two galaxies are almost ready to become one.
The galaxies are in the process of violently crashing into one another. Astronomers estimate it will take them another 10 to 20 million years to fuse completely; at that point, they’ll form a new galaxy called NGC 6240.
Both galaxies contain a supermassive black hole in their center, and those are expected to merge as well.
This whole process is difficult to capture on camera, however. Black holes’ gravity is so strong that nothing can escape — not even light — so astronomers attempting to see them have to rely on light from the matter that gets sucked in (before it disappears). The first-ever photograph of a supermassive black hole was published in April 2019.
But an international team of astronomers recently captured a sharp photo that shows how two supermassive black holes are caught in the galactic collision that’s forming the NGC 6240 galaxy.
The astronomers used the Atacama Large Millimeter Array (ALMA), a powerful telescope funded in part by the US National Science Foundation, to assemble the image. They presented their research at the annual meeting of the American Astronomical Society in Honolulu, Hawaii, on Sunday.
The black holes themselves aren’t visible in the photo, but you can see the glowing gas that surrounds them (the blue stuff in the images below).
NGC 6240 as seen with ALMA (top right) and the Hubble Space Telescope (bottom right).
(ALMA (ESO/NAOJ/NRAO), E. Treister; NRAO/AUI/NSF, S. Dagnello; NASA/ESA Hubble)
That gas is located within the black holes’ “sphere of influence” — the innermost region of a galaxy where the black hole is the dominant force of gravity. The two black holes are feeding on the gas, which causes them to grow bigger as the galaxies merge. Previous images weren’t able to capture this gas in such detail.
‘A chaotic stream of gas’
Ezequiel Treister, an associate astronomy professor at Pontificia Universidad Católica in Santiago, Chile, told the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO) that the gas doesn’t form a rotating disk, as some scientists anticipated.
“We don’t find any evidence for that,” he said. “Instead, we see a chaotic stream of gas with filaments and bubbles between the black holes. Some of this gas is ejected outwards with speeds up to 500 kilometers per second. We don’t know yet what causes these outflows.”
Gas that isn’t ejected from the sphere of influence will likely get sucked into the black hole.
Revolve Around a Black Hole Accretion Disk in Amazing Visualization
The black holes are less massive than researchers expected
The image also challenges astronomers’ ideas about the masses of these particular black holes. By observing the photo, the team found that a lot of the gas was stuck in the spheres of influence instead of the black holes themselves. That means the black holes are much less massive than anticipated.
Until recently, astronomers believed that the supermassive black holes in the NGC 6240 galaxy had a mass equivalent to about 1 billion suns. The new photo suggests, however, that the black holes are about as massive as a few hundred million suns.
The finding suggests black holes involved in other galaxy collisions could also be smaller than expected.
“This galaxy is so complex that we could never know what is going on inside it without these detailed radio images,” Loreto Barcos-Muñoz, a researcher at the NRAO, said in a statement. “We now have a better idea of the 3D structure of the galaxy, which gives us the opportunity to understand how galaxies evolve during the latest stages of an ongoing merger.”
Our own Milky Way galaxy is expected to merge with the nearby Andromeda galaxy in about 4 billion years.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
This week in 1974, the country saw both the Watergate scandal come to an end and Richard Nixon’s presidency come to a close. The scandal that began on June 17, 1972, took two long years to unfold. In the end, the sitting President was impeached and subsequently resigned the office of the presidency, making him the first and only President ever to do so.
It’s been 46 years, but to this day, Watergate remains one of the most infamous political scandals in American history, complete with intrigue, cover-ups, money trails, secret informants and proverbial smoking guns.
For today’s history lesson, here’s a quick refresher and a timeline of events in the Watergate Scandal leading up to the resignation of former President Richard M. Nixon.
June 17, 1972
Five men — James McCord, Frank Sturgis, Bernard Barker and two accomplices — were arrested while trying to bug the Democratic National Committee’s headquarters at the Watergate hotel. Among their possessions were rolls of film, bugging devices and thousands of dollars in cash.
Bob Woodward, a young Washington Post reporter, was sent to the arraignment of the Watergate burglars, and another young reporter, Carl Bernstein, starts to do some digging of his own.
June 20, 1972
Bob Woodward had his first contact with “Deep Throat,” his source and informant for the story. Deep Throat’s identity remained hidden for 30 years. In 2005, (at the age of 91) Mark Felt, the Associate Director of the FBI (as the scandal played out), admitted that he was, in fact, Deep Throat.
Alfred Baldwin, a former FBI agent involved with the scandal, agreed to cooperate with authorities in the investigation. Baldwin names E. Howard Hunt and G. Gordon Liddy as two of Nixon’s campaign aides who were involved in the burglary.
Aug. 1, 1972
The Washington Post reported that a ,000 check (funds intended for Nixon’s 1972 re-election campaign) was deposited in the bank account Bernard Barker — of one of the Watergate burglars.
In the same news conference, Nixon insists that there is no need for a special Watergate prosecutor.
Deep Throat told Bob Woodward that the money for the burglary was controlled by assistants to Former Attorney General John Mitchell, who incidentally was now serving as the chief of Nixon’s re-election campaign. In words that would become Rule #1 in any good investigation, Felt told Woodward to “follow the money.”
September 29, 1972
The Washington Post reports that John Mitchell did, in fact, have control over that secret fund, while he was serving as Attorney General. When they reached out to Mitchell for comment, instead of cooperating, an enraged Mitchell threatened the reporters and Katherine Graham (publisher of The Washington Post). Woodward and Bernstein did not back down; instead, they printed Mitchell’s threat in the Post.
Oct. 10, 1972
Woodward and Bernstein report that the FBI made the connection between Nixon’s aides and the Watergate break-in.
November 7, 1972
Richard Nixon is elected to a second term in office; winning by a landslide against George McGovern.
Jan. 8, 1973
The Watergate break-in trials begin. Seven men go on trial, five of whom plead guilty.
Jan. 30, 1973
G. Gordon Liddy and James McCord were convicted for their roles in the Watergate break-in.
March 23, 1973
James McCord wrote a letter to Judge Sirica, who presided over the Watergate trial. The letter points to a conspiracy and a cover-up in the White House. The letter is read in open court.
April 30, 1973
President Richard Nixon accepted responsibility for the scandal but maintained that he had no prior knowledge of it.
Archibald Cox was appointed as a special prosecutor to lead the investigation into both Nixon’s re-election campaign and Watergate.
July 23, 1973
President Nixon was known to have recorded his calls in the Oval Office. It was believed he was in possession of dozens of tapes that proved his involvement in the cover-up; those tapes became known as the “Nixon Tapes.” The Senate Watergate Committee issues subpoenas for The Nixon Tapes after the President refused to turn them over.
July 27 -30, 1974
The articles of impeachment were approved by The House Judiciary Committee and proceedings begin. The articles of impeachment included obstruction of justice (impeding the Watergate investigation), abuse of power and violating public trust, and contempt of Congress by failing to comply with congressional subpoenas.
August 5, 1974
Folding under intense pressure, President Nixon finally releases the transcript of his conversations with then chief-of-staff, H. R. Haldeman. These transcripts proved that the President ordered a cover-up of the burglary at the Watergate Hotel on June 23. 1972, six days after the burglary.
August 8, 1974
In a nationally televised speech, the 37th President of the United States formally resigned, making him the first and only President ever to do so.
August 9, 1974
Richard Nixon signed his letter of resignation, and Gerald Ford was sworn in as the 38th President of the United States.
The United States and the Soviets disagreed on almost everything; except the fact that anti-tank infantry capabilities are necessary for decisive offensive combat. The Soviets fear our tanks because of their armor, speed, and firepower and raced us in the manufacture of rocket propelled grenades, also known as RPGs. Due to the variety of RPGs in circulation, we will focus on the RPG-7, the most widely used of all Soviet-era anti-tank weaponry.
(TRADOC BULLETIN NO. 3 U.S. Army)
The RPG-7 anti-tank grenade launcher is cheap, simple, and effective. The RPG-7 is part of one of many evolutionary branches of rockets. It is a decedent of the German Panzerfaust anti-tank weapon from which all RPG series stem from. In 1961 the RPG-7 was adopted by Soviet Armed forces.
The RPG-7 is 37.8 inches in length and weighs 14.5 lbs unloaded and 19 lbs when loaded with the 85mm caliber round (the rocket). It has a rate of fire of 4-6 rounds per minute at an arming range of 5 meters. It has a sighting range of 500 meters and a maximum range of 900 meters, at which point it self destructs. This speed is more or less three football fields per second.
The initial velocity of the rocket is 117 meters per second that increases up to 294 meters per second when the rocket assist engages. At full speed, it can penetrate up to 13 inches of armor at zero degrees.
This weapon has seen a wide range of use throughout the world along with the communist favorite AK-47.
The grenade is separated into two parts, the warhead and sustainer motor, and the booster charge. These two parts must be screwed together before the grenade is ready to fire.
When the projectile is first launched it is powered by a small strip powder charge to reduce the backblast area from harming the gunner. At approximately 11 meters the sustainer rocket kicks in, ignites, and boosts the rocket to maximum velocity.
The fins open after launch with canted surfaces that spin the rocket and stabilize the rocket in flight.
The rocket itself is 36.62 inches long and weighs 4.6 pounds. HEAT rounds are olive drab, and practice rounds are black. They use a point impact fuse with a base detonator.
The shape of the warhead is to penetrate tank armor by using the Munroe Effect:
The greatly increased penetration of an explosive into a surface (as of metal or concrete) that is caused by shaping a conical or hemispherical hollow in the forward end of an explosive cartridge – Merriam-Webster Dictionary
When the round detonates a small cone of metal forms and burns through the armor. There is no explosion after the core penetrates the armor, it is often the metal continuing out the other side of the target.
Since the RPG-7 is a direct fire weapon, it’s effectiveness on the battlefield is directly affected by the ability of the gunner. The weapon’s biggest weakness is crosswind when leading a target down range. In winds greater than 7 miles per hour, a gunner cannot expect to hit more than 50% of the time beyond 180 meters. They must calculate both wind direction and velocity, but even then results may vary.
There are two standard sights for this weapon: Iron sights and a telescopic sight.
Iron sights are permanently attached and can sight 200 to 500 meters with no wind or lead adjustment. In a conventional force, it is the backup sight system, but since most forces who use this weapon are unconventional, it is usually the primary.
The Soviet tactical doctrine regarding the RPG-7 states that it is most effective at 300 meters or at a point blank target with a height of two or more meters. The reasoning for 300 meters is that it will reduce the target reaction time to take evasive action or to counterattack. Even if it doesn’t kill the target, it’s still going to scare the sh*t out of it long enough to reload and strike again.
A U.S. Army test against a stationary M60 tank concluded that at 300 meters the probability of a gunner hitting his target is 30%. A second round has a 50% chance of hitting. The round was designed to penetrate 13 inches of armor but in practice penetrates 11 inches of steel instead.
During these tests, the U.S. Army also found that exposed tanks not in defilade are twice as vulnerable as one that is. A troop is to react immediately when fired at by an RPG-7. Because a second round is more likely to hit, it is imperative to suppress with machine guns, pop smoke, and move out of the kill zone.
Out of all the Soviet weapons, the deadliest is their propaganda infecting governments around the world.
Late yesterday afternoon Rep. Duncan Hunter, R-Ca., added an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that would require female American citizens to register for the draft when they reached 18 years old. The amendment passed in the House by a vote of 32-30. Ironically, Hunter voted against his own amendment, saying that he added it only to force a debate about the issue.
“A draft is there to put bodies on the front lines to take the hill,” Hunter said. “The draft is there to get more people to rip the enemies’ throats out and kill them.”
But it looks like the Marine Corps veteran lawmaker’s plan may have backfired in that the measure actually passed and seems to have the support of many of his colleagues.
“I actually think if we want equality in this country, if we want women to be treated precisely like men are treated and that they should not be discriminated against, we should be willing to support a universal conscription,” Rep. Jackie Speier, D-Ca., said.
Another veteran congressman, Rep. Martha McSally, who flew A-10s in combat and recently went after the Air Force over their close air support budgetary priorities, suggested that Hunter’s rhetoric was long on emotion and short on fact, pointing out that draftees aren’t all sent to the front lines but also used to fill support billets.
The twin-engine fighter, built by Chengdu Aerospace Corp. for the People’s Liberation Army’s air force, first flew in 2011 and made its public debut in November when the PLAAF showed off two of the aircraft at an airshow over coastal city Zhuhai.
Also in the fall, China downplayed reports that the J-20 was spotted at the Daocheng Yading Airport near Tibet or that it may be deployed near the Indian border.
With a reported top speed of 1,300 miles per hour and the ability to carry short- and long-range air-to-air missiles, the jet is often compared to the twin-engine F-22 Raptor, a fifth-generation stealth fighter made by Lockheed Martin Corp. for the U.S. Air Force.
But the J-20 is believed to be far less stealthy than the F-22.
“The forward-mounted canards, poorly shielded engines and underside vertical stabilizers all limit the amount that its radar cross section — which determines how visible the aircraft is to a radar — can be reduced,” Justin Bronk, a research fellow at the Royal United Services Institute in London, has written.
Even so, the apparent arrival of an operational J-20 highlights China’s growing role as a military power.
The country, the second-largest spender on defense after the U.S., is also developing with private funding the Shenyang FC-31, a twin-engine multi-role fighter that resembles Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter. A production variant of the FC-31 may fly in 2019.
U.S. lawmakers have in the past questioned Pentagon officials why the government hasn’t retaliated against China for copying the designs of its most advanced fighter jets.
“What they’ve been able to do in such a rapid period of time without any RD … I understand there might be some differences as far as in the software and the weaponry and this and that,” Sen. Joe Manchin, a Democrat from West Virginia, asked during a hearing in 2015. “But they’re making leaps, which are uncommon, at the behest of us, and we know this, I understand, but we’re not taking any actions against them.”
Robert Work, deputy defense secretary, at the time acknowledged that the Chinese “have stolen information from our defense contractors and it has helped them develop systems,” but he added, “we have hardened our systems.”
All jobs in the military carry real risks, but some jobs are much riskier than others. Here are 10 of the most dangerous:
Pararescue jumpers are basically the world’s best ambulance service. They fly, climb, and march to battlefields, catastrophic weather areas and disaster zones to save wounded and isolated people during firefights or other emergencies.
2. Special operations
While this is lumping a few separate jobs together, troops such as Navy SEALs, Army green berets, Air Force combat controllers and others conduct particularly risky missions. They train allied forces, hunt enemy leaders, and go on direct action missions against the worst of America’s adversaries. They get additional training and better equipment than other units, but the challenging nature of their mission results in a lot of casualties.
3. Explosive ordnance disposal
The bomb squad for the military, explosive ordnance disposal technicians used to spend the bulk of their time clearing minefields or dealing with dud munitions that didn’t go off. Those missions were dangerous enough, but the rise of improvised explosive devices changed all that and increased the risk for these service members.
Not exactly shocking that infantry is one of the most dangerous jobs on the battlefield. These troops search out and destroy the enemy and respond to calls for help when other units stumble into danger. They are the primary force called on to take and hold territory from enemy forces.
The cavalry conducts reconnaissance and security missions and, if there is a shortage of infantry soldiers, is often called to take and hold territory against enemy formations. Their recon mission sometimes results in them fighting while vastly outnumbered.
6. Combat Engineers
Combat engineers do dangerous construction work with the added hazard of combat operations going on all around them. When the infantry is bogged down in enemy obstacles, it’s highly-trained engineers known as Sappers who go forward and clear the way. The engineers also conduct a lot of the route clearance missions to find and destroy enemy IEDs and mines.
Artillery soldiers send massive rounds against enemy forces. Because artillery destroys enemy formations and demoralizes the survivors, it’s a target for enemy airstrikes and artillery barrages. Also, the artillery may be called on to assume infantry and cavalry missions that they’ve received little training on.
Medics go forward with friendly forces to render aid under fire. While medics are protected under the Geneva Convention, this only helps when the enemy honors the conventions. Even then, artillery barrages and bombing runs can’t tell which troops are noncombatants.
9. Vehicle transportation
Truck driving is another job that became markedly more dangerous in the most recent wars. While driving vehicles in large supply convoys or moving forward with advancing troops was always risky, the rise of the IED threat multiplied the danger for these soldiers. This was complicated by how long it took the military to get up-armored vehicles to all units in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Aircraft provide a lot of capabilites on the battlefield, but that makes them, their crews, and their pilots targets of enemy fire.
11. Artillery observers
Like medics, these soldiers go forward with maneuver forces. They find enemy positions and call down artillery strikes to destroy them. The enemy knows to take them out as quickly as possible since they are usually carrying radios.
President Trump caught a lot of flak for sharing intelligence with the Russians last year. Specifically, in May when he shared classified info from Israel with Russian envoys Sergey Kislyak and Sergey Lavrov.
What Trump shared was information regarding a new ISIS weapon and the Saudi bomb maker who developed it — laptop computer bombs that are undetectable at airport security.
Vanity Fair detailed how Sayeret Matkal forces — elite Israeli counter-terror troops — flew undetected across Jordan and then north into Syria. The helicopters dropped the troops and Syrian Army jeeps a few miles away from their target. They then drove on toward their objective.
They were on their way to a meeting house of an ISIS cell. The Israelis wanted to ensure it was tapped so they could hear every word. An operative in the field guaranteed them valuable information would come from there. At first it sounded like the bug was a bust — no one was saying anything.
Then it happened. The ISIS troops started talking about how to build the laptop weapon that couldn’t be detected at airports. The bombs would cause airplanes to fall from the sky in huge fireballs. Once the Mossad had the info, they quickly shared it with other potential targets, namely the United States.
Al-Qaeda’s chief bomb maker in Yemen and Saudi Arabian national Ibrahim al-Asiri was thought to be the mastermind behind the weapon.
That’s what President Trump shared with the Russian Foreign Minister.
Only the Mossad knows what happened to Israel’s inside man in Syria as a result of his location being leaked. An Israeli official told Vanity Fair that, “whatever happened to him, it’s a hell of price to pay for a president’s mistake.”
The National Defense Strategy document released in January 2018 emphasized dynamic force employment as a method to maintain the US Navy’s combat capabilities while changing the duration and intensity of its deployments.
It was intended to be “strategically predictable, but operationally unpredictable.”
According to Adm. James Foggo, head of US naval forces in Europe and Africa and the chief of NATO’s Joint Force Command in Naples, Italy, it’s already working — leaving Russia guessing about what the Navy is doing.
The USS Harry S. Truman transits the Atlantic Ocean, Dec. 12, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Scott Swofford)
When asked for an example of the successful use of dynamic force employment on the latest episode of his podcast, “On the Horizon,” Foggo pointed to the USS Harry S. Truman carrier strike group’s recent maneuvers.
“They were originally not scheduled to be in the European theater for the entire deployment. We had other plans,” Foggo said. “But because of dynamic force employment, they came here. They immediately proceeded to the eastern Mediterranean and conducted strike missions in support of Operation Inherent Resolve.”
“Then they moved to the Adriatic, and this was interesting because it was a move coincident with Vice Adm. Franchetti’s command of BaltOps 2018 in the Baltic Sea,” he said, referring to Vice Adm. Lisa Franchetti, commander of the US 6th Fleet, which operates around Europe.
“So the Harry S. Truman, to my knowledge, is the first carrier to participate in a BaltOps operation with airpower from the Adriatic.”
A US sailor takes a photo of Jebel Musa from the flight deck of the USS Harry S. Truman, Dec. 4, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 3rd Class Joseph A.D. Phillips)
Baltic Operations, or BaltOps, is an annual US-led exercise that was one of more than 100 NATO exercises in 2018, held during the first half of June 2018. After that, Foggo said, the Truman strike group returned to US for about a month.
“I don’t think anybody, let alone the Russians, expected that, and that kind of puts them back on their heels,” he added.
“In fact, we were starting to see some articles in Russian media about the carrier heading back into the Mediterranean, but she didn’t go there. She went up north. She went to the Arctic Circle.”
The Truman left its homeport in Norfolk, Virginia, at the end of August 2018, and about six weeks later it became the first US aircraft carrier since the early 1990s to sail into the Arctic Circle.
“It was our intent at that time to put her into the Trident Juncture [live exercise], and she was a force multiplier,” Foggo said, referring to NATO’s largest military exercise since the Cold War.
“This is the first time that we’ve operated north of the Arctic Circle with a carrier that high up in latitude since the end of the Cold War,” Foggo added. “I think that she proved through dynamic force employment that she can be strategically predictable but operationally unpredictable.”
An F/A-18E Super Hornet launches from the USS Harry S. Truman, Oct. 19, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 2nd Class Thomas Gooley)
The Truman strike group eschewed the traditional six-month deployment that carrier strike groups have normally undertaken, sailing instead on two three-month deployments.
Between April and July 2018, it operated around the 6th Fleet’s area of operations, including strikes against ISIS in Syria, as mentioned by Foggo.
After five weeks in Norfolk, it headed back out, operating around the North Atlantic and the Arctic — forgoing the traditional Middle East deployment.
Adm. John Richardson, the chief of naval operations, said at the end of November 2018 that the first dynamic-force-employment deployment had gone “magnificently” and that the strike group had carried out more types of missions in more diverse environments that wouldn’t have been possible with a normal Middle East deployment.
Adm. John Richardson, chief of naval operations, joins sailors for a Thanksgiving meal on the USS Harry S. Truman, Nov. 22, 2018.
(US Navy photo by Mass Comm. Specialist 1st Class Sarah Villegas)
“I would say that the Navy by nature is predisposed to being dynamic and moving around. It is very good to kind of get back into that game a little bit,” Richardson told the press in the days before Thanksgiving 2018.
The stop in Norfolk July 2018 was a working visit for the Truman and the rest of its strike group.
The strike group departed the 6th Fleet area of operations on Dec. 11, 2018, and returned to Norfolk on Dec. 16, 2018, marking the transition from its deployment phase to its sustainment phase, when the group’s personnel will focus on needed repairs and maintaining their skills.
In July 2018, “we came back in working uniform and we got to work,” Rear Adm. Gene Black, the commander of the Truman strike group, said in late November 2018, according to USNI News. “This time we’re going to have the whole homecoming with Santa Claus and the band and the radio station, and all the good stuff that comes with that.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Political analysts are buzzing this week over rumors that presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is seriously considering a high-ranking former Army general as his running mate. And while many on the right — and even some on the left — are applauding the move, history shows former military leaders don’t necessarily make good political ones.
Retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, the former top spy for the military, has been a vocal Trump supporter since he left the Army as the head of the Defense Intelligence Agency in 2014, and has recently taken on a role as a foreign policy advisor for the campaign. But lately, his name has been floated by Trump associates as a potential vice president for the Republican real estate mogul.
“I like the generals. I like the concept of the generals. We’re thinking about — actually, there are two of them that are under consideration,” Trump told Fox News in reference to his VP vetting process.
A pick like Flynn might appeal to a broad political spectrum. He’s a registered Democrat, has leaned pro-choice on abortion, and has criticized the war in Iraq and the toppling of Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi. But he’s also been a critic of Hillary Clinton and her handling of classified information and was forced to retire after publically denouncing the Obama administration’s foreign policy.
And while a no-nonsense, general officer style might work in a service environment and appeal to voters looking for something new, history shows plenty of landmines for military men who turn their focus from the battlefield to the ballot box.
While two of America’s most senior officers in history, General of the Armies George Washington and General of the Army Dwight D. Eisenhower, enjoyed successful careers as presidents after military service, their compatriot General of the Army Ulysses S. Grant led an administration marked by graft and corruption.
On the list of generals-turned-president, Andrew Jackson and Rutherford B. Hayes were respected in their times, but Jackson’s wife died due to illness aggravated by political attacks during his campaign.
So, why do successful general officers, tested in the fires of combat and experienced at handling large organizations, often struggle in political leadership positions?
The two jobs exist in very different atmospheres. While military organizations are filled with people trained to work together and put the unit ahead of the individual, political organizations are often filled with people all striving to advance their own career.
And while backroom deals are often seen as a failure of character in the military, they’re an accepted part of doing business in politics. One senator will scratch another’s back while they both look to protect donors and placate their constituencies.
Plus, not all military leaders enter politics with a clear view of what they want to accomplish. They have concrete ideas about how to empower the military and improve national security, but they can struggle with a lack of experience in domestic policy or diplomacy after 20 or 30 years looking out towards America’s enemies.
These factors combined to bring down President Ulysses S. Grant whose administration became known as the “Era of Good Stealings” because of all the money that his political appointees were able to steal from taxpayers and businesses. It wasn’t that Grant was dishonest, it was that he failed to predict the lack of integrity in others and corrupt men took advantage of him.
Of course, at the end of the day it’s more about the man than the resume, and Flynn and McChrystal both have traits to recommend them. McChrystal was seen as largely successful as the top commander in Afghanistan where he had to work long hours and keep track of the tangled politics of Afghanistan.
Military movies can often remind Veterans of their service. They can also bring up painful memories of the past.
Air Force Veteran and Silver Star recipient John Pighini is someone who knows both sides of this issue. He recently worked as a technical adviser on a major motion picture that showcased the bravery of service members, but also brought up a painful past. These movies can sometimes show Veterans dealing with their own struggles: anger, paranoia, edginess, regret and survivor’s guilt.
Pighini saw those struggles on the big screen after working on the movie. “It feels like they take post-traumatic stress and they set it right in your lap,” he said. “Don’t go to this movie and not take a handkerchief or tissues with you. You will not make it through.”
PTSD in Veterans
These are the feelings Pighini knows all too well. He served as a pararescueman during Vietnam, which led to his role on the movie as a technical adviser. As members of Air Force Special Warfare, pararescue specialists rescue and medically treat downed military personnel all over the world. These highly trained experts take part in every aspect of the mission and are skilled parachutists, scuba divers and rock climbers, and they are even arctic-trained in order to access any environment to save a life when called.
Dr. Paula Schnurr, executive director for National Center for PTSD in VA’s Office of Mental Health and Suicide Prevention, started studying PTSD in 1984. She said Vietnam Veterans are still dealing with effects because the lack of support when they returned from deployment.
“Vietnam Veterans, like Veterans of earlier wars, were expected to come home and get on with their lives,” she said. Schnurr added the publicly opposed war made Vietnam Veterans’ transition hard to come home.
The National Vietnam Veterans Readjustment Study, completed in 1988 by the Research Triangle Institute, was pivotal for Veterans and the medical community. At the time, it was the most rigorous and comprehensive study on PTSD and other psychological problems for Vietnam Veterans readjusting to civilian life.
The study findings indicated about 30% of all male and 27% of female Vietnam theater Veterans had PTSD at some point during their lives. At the time, that equated to more than 970,000 Veterans. Additionally, about one half of the men and one third of the women who ever had PTSD still had it.
PTSD symptoms may increase with age after retiring from work, or from medical problems and lack of coping mechanisms.
Having a mission
Having a mission can help Veterans deal with PTSD. While working on a recent movie, Pighini recalled the struggles he still deals with–50 years after his Vietnam service.
“The early days, we didn’t know what we had,” he said. “As we get older, we become more melancholy. We’re not busy and we’re not out there on the firing line.”
While filmed in Thailand, Pighini said the smells from Southeast Asia raised the hairs on the back of his neck. Despite the flashbacks, Pighini said he hopes viewers realize the importance of putting a spotlight on PTSD. He added movies also depict the courageousness of military members. In the movie he worked on, the movie told the story of an Air Force pararescuemen who lived by their motto, “That others may live.”
“That means you lay it out,” Pighini said. “You do whatever you need to do to save a life. It’s the ethos we have. It’s what we live by. If you have to lay down your life or one of your limbs or whatever it is, you do it. It means everything.”
China’s expansive claims in the South China Sea and its broad interpretations of international law often lead it to protest what many other countries consider to be normal naval maneuvers in the area. But farther afield, Beijing’s activity indicates that it doesn’t abide by the standard it applies to others.
China frequently protests military operations by US and other countries in its Exclusive Economic Zone, which can extend up to 230 miles from a country’s coast. Beijing has referred to those operations as “close-in surveillance.”
The US and other countries have countered that the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, or UNCLOS, permits military activity inside EEZs. (The US is not a signatory to the UNCLOS.) An international tribunal has also ruled that China’s claims in the South China Sea have no legal basis.
In addition to its protests about military operations inside its EEZ, China has also protested ships passing within the territorial waters — which extend nearly 14 miles from a coast — of disputed islands in the South China Sea where China has constructed military facilities. The international tribunal also rejected those claims.
According to the US Defense Department, however, China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy has carried out a number of military operations inside the exclusive economic zones of other countries, seemingly contradicting the stance it takes in waters closer to home.
“Although China has long challenged foreign military activities in its maritime zones in a manner that is inconsistent with the rules of customary international law as reflected in the [law of the sea convention], the PLA has recently started conducting the very same types of military activities inside and outside the first island chain in the maritime zones of other countries,” the department said in its annual China military-power report, released this week.
“This contradiction highlights China’s continued lack of commitment to the rules of customary international law,” the report adds.
Since 2014, the Chinese navy has conducted what the Defense Department refers to as “uninvited” operations throughout the Pacific and Indian Oceans.
In 2017, a Chinese spy ship entered Australia’s EEZ to observe US and Australian ships during military exercises; entered the US’s EEZ around the Aleutian Islands, in what was likely an attempt to monitor testing of the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense system; and carried out air and naval operations inside Japan’s EEZ.
Chinese naval vessels also carried out a delivery to Beijing’s base in Djibouti, which is China’s first overseas base and is near a major US outpost.
In 2018, China dispatched a spy ship to monitor the US-led Rim of the Pacific exercise around Hawaii, as it has done in years past, after the US rescinded Beijing’s invitation to the exercise over the latter’s actions in the South China Sea.
US Navy destroyer USS John S. McCain conducts a patrol in the South China Sea.
(U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class James Vazquez)
The US and other countries involved in those incidents have not protested the presence of Chinese ships in their EEZs, seeing it as allowed under international law. Some have cited China’s presence in foreign EEZs as justification for similar movements in China’s EEZ and as a tacit acknowledgement by Beijing of those rules.
In the South China Sea, the US has continued to carry out freedom-of-navigation operations around disputed islands, in part to show it does not recognize China’s claims there as valid under international law.
Days after one of the most recent FONOPS, as they are known, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis promised more and underscored their significance.
“They’re freedom of navigation operations. And you’ll notice there’s only one country that seems to take active steps to rebuff them or state their resentment of them,” Mattis said in late May 2018, adding that the US would continue “confront what we believe is out of step with international law, out of step with international tribunals that have spoken on the issue.”
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.