The crew of the US Coast Guard Cutter Sherman unloaded roughly 11 tons of cocaine in San Diego on August 18. The haul was the result of seizures performed by USCG Cutters Alert, Reliance, Sherman, Tampa, and Vigorous in the eastern Pacific from mid-June through July.
The drug shipments were intercepted in international waters off the coast of South America, which is a major cocaine production area, and of Central America, which has become a major drug transshipment point in recent years.
The eastern Pacific Ocean has become an important thoroughfare for illegal narcotics produced in South America and headed for the US and points elsewhere.
Latin American criminal organizations often coordinate to move shipments north from the Pacific Coasts of Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia (which produces the most coca in the world), to destinations in Central America, particularly Guatemala, and parts of Mexico’s west coast.
Mexico’s Pacific ports and other coastal areas have also become areas of competition for that country’s drug cartels, driving violence up.
In March this year, Admiral Kurt Tidd, head of US forces operating in Central and South America, told lawmakers that US forces were ill-prepared to meet the goal of interdicting 40% of the illegal traffic moving from the region toward the US.
“I do not have the ships; I do not have the aircraft, to be able to execute the detection-monitoring mission to the level that has been established for us to achieve,” Tidd said at the time.
Dai Xu, a People’s Liberation Army Air Force colonel commandant and the president of China’s Institute of Marine Safety and Cooperation, suggested in December 2018 that China’s navy should ram US Navy ships sailing in the international waterway.
Zhang Junshe, a researcher at China’s Naval Military Studies Research Institute, gave a speech in January 2019 saying that if any conflict does break out between the US and China on the South China Sea, no matter the context, the US bears the blame.
The amphibious assault ship Boxer firing a Sea Sparrow missile during a missile-firing exercise in the Pacific Ocean in 2013.
(US Navy photo by Kenan O’Connor)
Bonnie Glaser, the director of the China Power Project told Business Insider that these commentators, mainly researchers, didn’t officially speak for China, but said they shouldn’t be totally ignored.
Following the hike in pro-war rhetoric from Beijing, official Chinese media announced the deployment DF-26 “carrier killer” missiles to northwestern China, where they could range US ships in the South China Sea. China previously tested missiles like these against mock-ups of US aircraft carriers and has designed them to outrange and overwhelm the ships.
China fiercely censors any speech that clashes with the Communist Party’s official ideology or goals, so it’s meaningful that the Chinese researcher’s open discussion of killing US Navy sailors was picked up by global media.
“The fact that these hawkish admirals have been let off the leash to make such dangerous statements is indicative of the nationalist’s clamor for prestige that is driving Chinese policy in the region,” John Hemmings, a China expert at the Henry Jackson Society, told Business Insider.
The Ticonderoga-class guided-missile cruiser Chancellorsville and the container ship USNS 2nd Lt. John P. Bobo behind the Navy’s forward deployed aircraft carrier, the USS Ronald Reagan.
(U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Kenneth Abbate)
Can China scare off the US with a ‘bloody nose’ attack?
A “bloody nose” attack means what it sounds like. Basically, it’s a quick, isolated strike that demonstrates an aggressor does not fear a foe, and it theoretically causes the foe to go off running scared.
“What the United States fears the most is taking casualties,” Luo reportedly said at his speech at the 2018 Military Industry List summit on Dec. 20, 2018, adding that sinking one carrier could kill 5,000 US service members.
“We’ll see how frightened America is,” he said. “Attack wherever the enemy is afraid of being hit. Wherever the enemy is weak.”
In the US, some fear Luo may be right that the loss of an aircraft carrier could break the US’ resolve.
Jerry Hendrix, a former captain in the US Navy, cautioned at a Heritage Foundation talk in December 2018 that aircraft carriers have become “mythical” symbols of national prestige and that the US may even fear deploying the ultra-valuable ships to a conflict with China.
“There is, unfortunately, the heavy potential of conflict coming, but the nation is not ready for heavy battle damage to its navy and specifically not to its aircraft carriers,” Hendrix said.
But the US has lost aircraft carriers before, and remained in the fight.
Aircraft from the Freedom Fighters of Carrier Air Wing 7 fly in formation above the Nimitz-class aircraft carriers USS Abraham Lincoln and USS Harry S. Truman.
(US Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Brian M. Brooks)
A great power war China won’t win
“The decision to go after an aircraft carrier, short of the deployment of nuclear weapons, is the decision that a foreign power would take with the most reticence,” Bryan McGrath, founding managing director of The FerryBridge Group LLC, a naval consultancy, told Business Insider. “The other guy knows that if that is their target, the wrath of god will come down on them.”
McGrath emphasized that threats to US carriers are old news, but that the ships, despite struggling to address the threat from China’s new missiles, still had merit.
“I would have been more surprised if we had seen former Chinese rear admiral say, ‘The fact that we’re building aircraft carriers is one of the dumbest moves of the 21st century given the Americans will wax them in the first three days of combat,'” said McGrath, dismissing Luo’s comments as bogus scare tactics.
Hemmings shared McGrath’s assessment of China’s true military posture.
“This Chinese posturing and threatening is about as counter-productive as one can be. The Chinese navy is simply not prepared for a real war, nor is its economy prepared for a war with Beijing’s largest trade partner,” Hemmings said.
The USS Ronald Reagan, the Navy’s only forward-deployed aircraft carrier.
(US Navy/Petty Officer 3rd Class Nathan Burke)
While China’s navy has surpassed the US’ in ship count, and its military may one day surpass the US in absolute might, that day has not yet come. China’s generals openly discuss their greatest weakness as inexperience in combat.
China may find it useful for domestic consumption or to garner media attention to discuss sinking US ships and carriers, but McGrath said he doubts China’s military is really considering such a bold move.
“If China sinks a carrier, that would unleash the beast. I’m talking about the real s— major power war,” he said.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
Preparing for the abs portion of your PT test might trick you into thinking you have a six pack, but those workouts are potentially getting you into worse shape. Stop taking ab selfies in the gym mirror and listen up.
“Core exercises” are a part of every service’s PT test, whether it’s crunches, sit-ups, or what the Navy inexplicably calls, “curls-ups.”
This is a curl-up… right?
If you’ve carefully read the procedural guidelines for your service’s PT test, you already know how easy it is to cheat on these ab exercises. Or maybe you’re just really bad at counting…
…8, 9, 10, 17, 18, 36, 74… Teamwork at its finest.
Even if you’re not a cheater, the abdominal portion of the PT test is still only testing your ability to do that one hyper-specific movement, not your overall core strength. Strength is specific to how you train, and how you train should be specific to what you do (you know, like your job). What job in the military are any of these exercises specific to? Those crunches will make you able to sh*t really fast and keep your breaks short and your NCO happy, but it won’t make you stronger.
The Navy PRT guidelines state that, “the curl-up, when performed properly, can help develop abdominal strength and endurance, which are important factors in preventing low-back injuries.”
Nice view, okay smell…
While ab strength definitely protects the spine, the curl-up is far from targeting the actual core muscles needed for that job. The abdominals have many functions, and only one of them is flexion of the spine.
Flexion: that’s the one where you flex your abs, and your spine makes the same shape as Gollum’s.
That’s right — stretch it out.
The other functions of the abs include but are not limited to, breathing, coughing, sneezing, stabilizing, and maintaining posture.
External obliques help pull the chest downward to increase pressure in your abdomen, which is important for the Valsalva maneuver. Divers, pilots, and people who move heavy weight couldn’t survive without them.
The transverse abdominis is the deep, corset-like muscle that provides stability and postural support for the spine. Without it, you would rupture a spinal disk every time you farted.
The rectus abdominis is the sexy one. The rectus abdominis’ primary function is to flex your trunk. It also happens to be the only one really tested in any PT test.
An exercise program that only tests one function of the abs leaves a huge gap in both knowledge and functionality for both you and your service of choice.
Judging from your PT scores alone, no one can tell if your body is actually structurally sound. So, the next time you go to dig a fighting hole, load a torpedo, or crank a wrench may just be the time that your weak back and tight rectus abdominis conspire against your spine, even if you scored among the best.
In order to have full spinal protection, you need to ensure you are working all the muscles of your core, from front to back. That includes the erector spinae. These are the muscles that are growing weak while you crunch your way to some non-specific lower back pain.
Having a strong rectus abdominis and weak erector spinae creates the kind of postural imbalance that causes back pain and loss of mobility and, as a service member, if you can’t hold up your body, you’re about as useful as a poopy-flavored lollipop.
Since you only have to do curl-ups for your PT test, why bother ensuring your low back muscles are equally as strong as your abs? Having a strong lower back isn’t going to get you promoted faster. But low back pain is the most common type of pain in existence today. 84% of humans have reported that, at one point in their life, they experienced back pain of some kind.
The military is not exempt from this statistic. I’ve known 19-year-old LCpls with “chronic” back pain. This type of highly preventable injury crushes combat readiness.
“Hey, Devildog! Get up! We still have 6 klicks to the objective!” “I can’t Sergeant, my L3 is throbbing! I have chronic back pain.” “Didn’t you get a 300 on your PFT? You’re supposed to be in shape!”
So, following the clues, not only does the PT test not prove that you can function adequately to conduct your job, it inadvertently causes you to injure your back by becoming hyper-focused on your front.
This takes REAL core strength.
Try these “core exercises” instead: squats, deadlifts, lunges, and farmers’ carries. These exercises load your core the way it is designed to work: with all core and back muscles engaged equally and totally.
Kim Jong Un has arrived in Singapore ahead of a historic summit with US President Donald Trump — and he brought his toilet.
The North Korean leader is said to always travel with several toilets, including one in his Mercedes.
Daily NK, a South Korean website focusing on North Korea news, reported in 2015 that “the restrooms are not only in Kim Jong Un’s personal train but whatever small or midsize cars he is traveling with and even in special vehicles that are designed for mountainous terrain or snow.”
The publication quoted an unnamed source as saying, “It is unthinkable in a Suryeong-based society for him to have to use a public restroom just because he travels around the country.” Suryeong is a Korean term meaning “supreme leader.”
So, why does Kim always travel with several lavatories at his disposal? According to The Chosun Ilbo, a South Korean newspaper, the portable toilets “will deny determined sewer divers insights into to the supreme leader’s stools.”
The secrecy of the North Korean leader’s health is, apparently, paramount.
“Rather than using a public restroom, the leader of North Korea has a personal toilet that follows him around when he travels,” Lee Yun-keol, a former member of a North Korean Guard Command unit who defected, told The Washington Post.
Lee explained, “The leader’s excretions contain information about his health status so they can’t be left behind.”
Kim’s urine and fecal matter are periodically examined to check for illnesses and other health indicators, according to Daily NK.
The Pentagon’s Defense Innovation Unit Experimental (DIUx) is working with industry to implement AI, automation and machine-learning technology into aircraft as a way to anticipate and predict potential maintenance failures, service and industry officials said.
In a collaborative effort with DOD and the Air Force, C3 IoT is working on a deal to integrate AI-driven software into an F-16 and an E-3 Sentry AWACS surveillance aircraft, industry developers explained.
Developers say the new software should be operational on the aircraft within six months.
The plan is to gather and analyze data, such as operationally relevant maintenance information during or after missions so that crews and service engineers can utilize predictive maintenance.
“F-16s will benefit from predictive maintenance as a way to inform pilots of which aircraft are at the highest risk in terms of being unreliable. We pinpoint systems such as engines and subsystems such as the propulsion,” said Ed Abbo, president and CTO of C3 IoT.
The C3 IoT Platform enables the DOD to aggregate and keep current enormous volumes of disparate data, including both structured and unstructured datasets, in a unified cloud-based data image, running on Amazon Web Services, company statements said.
AI can draw upon all available information and assess on-board systems to know when a given component might fail or need to be replaced, bringing logistical advantages as well as cost-savings and safety improvements.
“If a machine fails during a desert landing, then algorithms can recognize that from analyzing other failure cases. We are looking at different properties and looking at prior failure cases so algorithms can determine when something like a propulsion system is likely to fail,” Abbo said.
Depending upon the kind of avionics in an aircraft, on-board sensors can collect essential maintenance data and either download telemetry upon landing or process information right on the aircraft, Abbo explained.
“LINK 16 can transmit data coming directly from on-board sensors, allowing information to be analyzed in real-time during flights by using machine learning and analytics,” Abbo said.
Some aircraft, for instance, have newer sensors able to perform on-board analytics and, in some instances, even record a pilot’s voice as a way to process language information.
This initiative is entirely consistent with a broad service-wide Air Force effort to extend data security beyond IT and apply AI, automation and machine learning to larger platforms.
Six Soldiers belonging to C Troop, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault) received the Soldier’s Medal during a ceremony last month for a daring rescue.
On Nov. 28, Staff Sgt. Beau Corder, Staff Sgt. Richard Weaver, Staff Sgt. Engel Becker, Sgt. Damon Seals, Spc. Christopher White and Pfc. Ryan Brisson were recognized by Gen. Mark A. Milley, Army chief of staff, for their heroic actions following a UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter crash, Jan. 31, on Fort Campbell.
“I’m very humbled to be a part of this,” said Milley. “I’ve been in the Army for 40 years and I’ve only seen a few Soldier’s Medals. It’s a very rare thing. What you (Soldiers) did took tremendous courage; you knew it was very likely you would be hurt yourself, but you did it anyway. You make anyone who has been associated with the 101st enormously proud.”
The aircraft, flown by four crew members from the 101st Combat Aviation Brigade, 101st Airborne Division (Air Assault), crashed into a forest on the installation shortly after takeoff. According to eyewitness accounts, the location of the crash, and the fact that the aircraft suffered major fuselage damage and was inverted, created a complex scene.
“The way it landed upside down in the ravine made it very difficult to access the crew. It also began to catch fire very quickly,” said 1st Sgt. Adolfo Dominguez, C Troop, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment senior enlisted leader. “The whole experience opened our eyes that these emergencies can happen. But it was amazing to see the Soldiers’ mentality of ‘I will do anything I have to do’ in order to save these pilots’ lives.”
A post-crash fire soon engulfed the aircraft wreckage in heavy smoke and flames. The responding Soldiers used water, fire extinguishers and soil to control the fire, allowing them to remove and treat three of the injured crewmembers. They then performed multiple immediate and inventive actions to remove the fourth trapped crew chief, ultimately freeing him from the still-burning wreckage. All of their actions were taken with full understanding of the significant risk to their own safety, and contributed directly to saving the lives of their fellow Soldiers that day.
“What this unit did, from the time the incident happened, was pure agility and pure instinct,” said Lt. Col. Adisa King, 1st Squadron, 32nd Cavalry Regiment commander. “It is what they do on a daily basis. When you know that your brother is down, nothing is going to stop you. We talk about leaving no Soldier behind, and they proved that. It didn’t matter what it took to get that crew and those pilots out, these Soldiers were going to do it.”
The Soldier’s Medal is the Army’s highest peacetime award for valor. According to Army Regulation 600-8-22, the directive that outlines military awards and decorations, the performance must have involved personal hazard or danger and the voluntary risk of life under conditions not involving conflict with an armed enemy.
Col. Derek Thomson, 1st Brigade Combat Team commander, described the rarity of the Soldier’s Medal and described the actions taken by the Soldiers that day in January.
“It is given for bravery and valor in a non-combat situation; this award was created for exactly the kind of act these Soldiers performed,” said Thomson. “Very few are awarded each year. This is a remarkable recognition. These Soldiers knew they had only seconds to react as the aircraft became engulfed in flames. The fact that these six individuals stuck with it no matter what, putting the lives of others ahead of their own, is extremely special.”
The Soldiers recognized were happy to receive this notable commendation, but at the time of the incident it was the furthest thing from their mind.
“At first, none of us really thought about it. We were just happy that everyone survived,” said Corder. “We were just doing our job, we wanted to save them.”
Although six individual Soldiers received the medal, the entire unit responded to the crash. Some commented that they were just a member of a great team.
“I’m happy to be receiving it, but it was a combined effort of everybody,” said White. “I don’t think I’m any more special than anyone else that was out there.”
In attendance at the ceremony were friends, families and fellow Soldiers of the awardees. But one individual had an extremely close connection to the incident. Spc. Grant Long, 5th Battalion, 101st Aviation Regiment, 101st Combat Aviation Brigade crew chief, was on-board the helicopter and injured in the incident. In a touching moment, Milley invited Long to help him pin the medals on the Soldiers who saved his life.
Iran seized a South Korean tanker and arrested its crew in the Persian Gulf on Monday as the US military continued an on-again, off-again military build-up around its border. The maneuvers came days after the first anniversary of the US assassination of a top Iranian general.
Little more was known about the seizure of the Korean ship on Monday morning.
The US and Iran have been flexing their military and rhetorical might over the past few weeks around the one-year anniversary of the US drone killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani on Jan 3, 2020. Iran has threatened revenge for the targeted killing of the country’s most powerful military official.
National security advisors convinced Trump not to conduct a pre-emptive strike on Iran’s nuclear facilities last November, according to a New York Times report, despite strong encouragement from Israel. The Israeli government fears the incoming Biden administration will take a softer line on the Iranian nuclear program. Iran has responded angrily to the provocations, which included last year’s assassination of a top Iranian nuclear scientist reportedly by Israeli operatives.
The reversal of the Nimitz’s movements over the past five days alarmed several NATO officials who have repeatedly expressed concerns about what they see as erratic US national security moves post-election.
“I feel like my briefings are on a 24-48 hour delay,” said a NATO official in Brussels, who asked not to be named criticizing a close ally.
“What we believe is that after weeks of pushing additional material and warships into the Gulf region to pressure Iran, it was decided to send the Nimitz home after a mission off the coast of Somalia in an effort to reduce tensions,” said the official. “NATO supported this de-escalation because tensions were dangerously high and there’s more than enough military firepower in the region to deter Iran.”
When asked why such an immediate reversal, the NATO official admitted that it was too early to tell.
“I guess I need a briefing,” said the official. “I suspect they will say there was new information or a new threat and that the Nimitz was needed to stay in the area but there will be widespread suspicions that Trump overruled the redeployment for his own political or emotional concerns.”
A former US national security official, who is expected to join the Biden administration and thus asked not to be identified, said that the previous overflights of the region by long-range bombers — which the official described as not particularly useful for defensive operations — might have inflamed regional allies enough that the Pentagon concluded the Nimitz had to go, only to be overruled by Trump three days later.
“The B-52s [sent from US bases] are useful on the first day of a major war because they can target command and control centers and anti-aircraft defenses from range with cruise missiles,” said the former official. “It’s an offensive threat and so long as they were over the Gulf, Iran would have been convinced of an imminent attack. But they go home after a few hours, the Nimitz can stay and support a much wider range of operations. So it’s an operational mistake to have tried to send it home at all but maybe this was forced by the outcry over the B-52s. Now there’s double confusion everywhere.”
The USS Nimitz — one of the world’s most powerful warships with dozens of attack and support aircraft — had been operating off the Horn of Africa in support of US forces deployed in Somalia as recently as Dec. 28, according to the US Navy. It is believed to be returning to a patrol position in the northern Gulf of Oman.
For its part, Iran announced just minutes after that it had detained the South Korean tanker that it finds South Korea sanctions unreasonable and planned to discuss the sanctions and the detained ship with the South Korean deputy foreign minister, who is due in Iran this week for talks.
China’s navy needs Maverick and Goose — and many, many more fighter jocks for its growing carrier force.
The Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy is desperately searching for pilots to fill its carrier air wings as the country pushes to build a formidable carrier fleet.
The PLAN launched its 2019 pilot recruitment program Sept.15, 2018, with “the highlight of this year’s recruitment [being] the selection of future carrier-borne aircraft pilot cadets,” according to the Chinese military, which noted that as China’s armed forces shift from “shore-based” to “carrier-based” abilities, the PLAN intends to develop a pilot recruitment system “with Chinese naval characteristics that can adapt to carrier-borne requirements.”
The language appears to indicate a strategic shift from home defense to power projection on the high seas, thinking consistent with Chinese efforts to build an advanced blue water navy.
The lack of pilots trained for carrier-borne operations and combat has been a problem for China in recent years. “They don’t have a whole lot of pilots. Not a lot of capacity in that area,” Matthew Funaiole, a fellow with the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, explained to Business Insider in August 2018.
By the end of 2016, there were only 25 pilots qualified to fly China’s carrier-based fighters, the Hong Kong-based South China Morning Post reported Sept. 18, 2018.
A J-15 fighter jet sits on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
(Photo by Zhang Lei)
Recruiters will travel across the country to 23 provinces, municipalities, and autonomous regions to find suitable navy aviators. “Some of the pilot cadets recruited in 2018 will receive the top and most systematic training as carrier-borne aircraft pilots,” a PLAN Pilot Recruitment Office official revealed.
Pilots selected and trained to fly carrier-based aircraft will fly the fourth-generation Shenyang J-15 Flying Shark, the heaviest carrier-based fighter jet in operation today and the type of fighter that composes the carrier air wing for China’s only operational aircraft carrier, the Liaoning.
The ongoing recruitment program, according to SCMP, marks the first time the Chinese navy has directly recruited pilots for the J-15, a problematic derivative of a Soviet prototype which has been blamed for several fatal training accidents. In the past, aviators from the navy and air force who were trained to fly other types of aircraft were pulled to fly the J-15.
A J-15 ship-borne helicopter prepares to land on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier Liaoning.
(Photo by Zhang Lei)
“Becoming a naval pilot is the best choice for those who want to become heroes of the sky and the sea,” the Chinese military stressed on Sept. 18, 2018, emphasizing the Chinese military’s interest in developing advanced power projection capabilities.
China is rapidly building an aircraft carrier fleet with one carrier already in service, another undergoing sea trials, and a third in development, but China is still very new to complex carrier operations. Chinese Navy pilots successfully completed their first nighttime takeoffs and landings in May 2018.
“An elite team among the pilots also has carried out night landings, widely considered the riskiest carrier-based action, and have become capable of performing round-the-clock, all-weather operations,” the China Daily reported Sept. 19, 2018.
In addition to a pilot shortage, China still struggles with power and propulsion, aircraft numbers and reliability, carrier launch systems, and a limited experience with carrier operations.
This article originally appeared on Business Insider. Follow @BusinessInsider on Twitter.
A recent ambush of British special operations forces in Mosul reportedly required hand-to-hand combat for survival.
Military sources told The Daily Star on July 2 that an intelligence gathering operation by Special Air Service personnel in Iraq turned into a firefight with roughly 50 ISIS terrorists. Over 30 were killed near a riverbed before the British troops ran out of ammunition.
“They knew that if they were captured, they would be tortured and decapitated,” a source told the Star. “Rather than die on their knees, they went for a soldier’s death and charged the ISIS fighters who were moving along the river bed. They were screaming and swearing as they set about the terrorists.”
The Daily Star reported that the SAS operators had roughly 10 rounds between them, so they charged the ISIS bad guys with knives, bayonets and improvised weapons.
One terrorist was reportedly drowned in a puddle by an operator.
“[The warfighter] then picked up a stone and smashed it into the face of another gunman wrestling with one of his colleagues,” the source said. “Another killed three of the fighters by using his assault rifle as a club. Others were stabbing at the gunmen who wanted to capture the British troops alive.”
The team, all suffering injuries, eventually met up with Kurdish allies after the remaining ISIS fighters fled.
When ISIS launched its attack on Mosul in 2014, they were outnumbered by opposition forces by almost 40 to one – yet they took the city. Now a group of scientists working on the frontline in Iraq have analysed what motivates such fighters in research they say could help combat extremists.
While predicting the will to fight has been described by the former US director of national intelligence James Clapper as “imponderable,” researchers say they have begun to unpick what leads members of groups, including ISIS, to be prepared to die, let their family suffer, or even commit torture, finding that the motivation lies in a very different area to traditional ideas of comradeship.
“We found that there were three factors behind whether people were willing to make these costly sacrifices,” said Scott Atran, co-author of the research from the University of Oxford and the research institution Artis International.
Those factors, he said, are the strength of commitment to a group and to sacred values, the willingness to choose those values over family or other kin, and the perceived strength of fighters’ convictions – so-called “spiritual strength” – over that of their foes.
The findings support the idea, put forward by previous research, that the will to fight lies not in rational action but in the idea of the “devoted actor” – individuals who consider themselves strongly connected to a group, fighting for values considered to be non-negotiable, or “sacred.”
Writing in the journal Nature Human Behaviour, Atran and an international team of colleagues describe how they came to their insights by travelling to the frontline in Iraq.
As well as speaking to captured ISIS fighters, the team carried out in-depth interviews with Arab Sunni combatants, as well as Kurdish fighters from the PKK, Peshmerga, and members of the Iraqi army. The frontline approach, the authors note, was crucial to capturing the sacrifices individuals actually make for their values, rather than merely what they claim they might do.
The results revealed that all followed the model of “devoted actors”, but that the level of commitment to making costly sacrifices, such as dying, undertaking suicide attacks, or committing torture varied between groups. With the sample size of fighters small, the team also quizzed more than 6,000 Spanish civilians through online surveys.
The results revealed that the majority of civilians placed their family above a value they considered sacred. However, in a finding that echoed evidence from the frontline, the team discovered that those who placed their sacred value above their group said they were more willing to make dramatic, costly sacrifices such as dying, going to prison or letting their children suffer.
Surveys of the Spanish population also revealed that they made links between spiritual – but not physical – strength and the willingness to make sacrifices.
But the team stress that decisions made by devoted actors on the frontline were not made without emotional turmoil.
“One particular Peshmerga fighter had to make a decision when the Islamic State guys decided to enter his village – he wasn’t in a position to take his family with him and escape and get in front of the ISIS fighters, and so what he did was he left his family behind,” said Richard Davis, co-author of the research from the University of Oxford and Artis International.
While being interviewed, the fighter received a phone call from his wife behind ISIS lines, knowing the penalty if caught would be death. “You could see the man getting emotional, and as he gets off the phone, he begins to lament the decision that he had to go through to leave his family behind, but he indicated that fighting for Kurdistan was more important, and that he hoped that God would save his family,” said Davis. “When you hear things like that and you see a broken man – then you recognise how difficult this was for people.”
The team note that understanding the willingness to fight and die among devoted actors could prove valuable in fostering forces against ISIS, including in exploring ways to elicit deeper commitment to, and willingness to sacrifice for, values such as democracy and liberty.
“Instead of just taking volunteers into an army, we might be able to screen who we put into the army based upon the types of values they commit to, and this would create an entirely different fighting force than the one that melted in Mosul in 2014, ” said Davis, adding that the study could also inform efforts attempting to prevent fighters from joining ISIS.
Stephen Reicher, professor of social psychology at the University of St Andrews welcomed the research, adding that it contributed to the understanding of terrorists as “engaged followers”. “The fundamental finding is that those prepared to kill – and die – for a cause are to be understood not in terms of a distinctive personality but in terms of their immersion in a collective cause and their commitment to the ideology of that cause,” he said.
U.S. military officials say American airstrikes in Syria on Jan. 21 killed up to 150 Islamic State fighters in a command center in the Middle Euphrates River Valley.
The U.S.-led coalition fighting the Islamic State says the strikes were near As Shafah, which is north of Abu Kamal in eastern Syria. They targeted an IS headquarters and were assisted by Syrian Democratic Forces who watched the area before the attack.
The coalition says there was a heavy concentration of fighters at the site and they appeared to be “massing for movement.” The large number of fighters killed in the attack underscores U.S. assertions that the Islamic State group continues to be a threat in Syria and hasn’t been defeated.
The coalition says only IS fighters were killed in the strikes.
When a veteran or member of the armed forces dies, he or she is entitled to a ceremony that includes the presentation of a U.S. flag to a family member and a bugler blowing Taps. Most of the time, there is a three-volley rifle salute if requested by family members. But now, if the deceased served in the Air Force, the three-volley salute is not an option because the Air Force can no longer support riflemen for funeral services for veteran retirees.
Seven member services for retirees included six members to serve as pall-bearers, a six member flag-folding detail, and a three riflemen to fire the salute. Veteran’s funerals now only receive the services of two-member teams, who provide a flag-folding ceremony, the playing of taps, and the presentation of the flag to the next of kin.
“To me, without the 21-gun salute, it just does not make it complete a proper military burial,” veteran Wayne Wakeman told Honolulu’s KHON 2 News. “I think because of sequestration or the lack of funds or whatever excuse they’re giving, that they had to hit the veterans.”
Rose Richeson, from the Secretary of the Air Force’s Public Affairs Press Desk, told We Are The Mighty the policy of restricting the funeral honor is an Air Force-wide requirement.
“The requirement is consistent with DoD policy which require a minimum of two personnel,” Richeson said. “Any number of personnel above two that is provided in support of military funeral honors is based on local resources available.”
A three-volley salute is the correct term for what is commonly (though mistakenly) referred to as a 21-gun salute. There are often seven riflemen, totaling 21. The origin of the three-volley funeral honor lies elsewhere, according to the Tom Sherlock, an Arlington National Cemetery Historian. A 21-gun salute is reserved for Presidents of the United States or visiting heads of state.