Why Mattis did an about-face on nuclear weapons - We Are The Mighty
MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Mattis did an about-face on nuclear weapons

The retired U.S. Marine Corps Gen. Jim Mattis used to doubt the need for the U.S.’s massive stockpile of nuclear weapons, but he has changed his tune since joining President Donald Trump’s administration as secretary of defense.


When Trump’s team rolled out the Nuclear Posture Review, a report laying out U.S. nuclear policy, Mattis, who vocally opposed expanding or even keeping all of the nuclear arsenal in the past, gave it his blessing.

In 2015, Mattis questioned whether the U.S. still needed ground-based intercontinental ballistic missiles, as he found the risk of accidental launches a bit troubling. When the Senate was confirming him as Trump’s secretary of defense, Mattis refused to offer his support for a program to update the U.S.’s air-launched nuclear cruise missile.

But now, Mattis has signed off on a new nuclear position that not only will modernize the ICBMs and cruise missiles but also calls for the creation of two new classes of nuclear weapons.

An unarmed U.S. Air Force Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test May 3, 2017, at Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. A team of Air Force Global Strike Command Airmen assigned to the 341st Missile Wing at Malmstrom Air Force Base, Mont., launched the Minuteman III ICBM equipped with a single test reentry vehicle. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Daniel Brosam)

“We must look reality in the eye and see the world as it is, not as we wish it to be,” Mattis wrote in the review, perhaps an acknowledgment that, as secretary of defense, Mattis learned something about U.S. national security that changed his mind.

The nuclear review, rolled out this year along with new national defense and national security strategies, points to a U.S. more focused on combating major powers like Russia and China. Before joining the president, Mattis openly questioned the purpose of U.S. nukes: Do they exist only to deter attacks? Or do they have an offensive value?

The nuclear posture now advocated by Mattis calls for an increase in an already massive arsenal and actually advocates building smaller nuclear weapons to make them more usable in “limited” nuclear conflicts.

Times a-changin’

In the years since 2015, when Mattis spoke of reviewing the U.S.’s 400-some hair-triggered nuclear ICBMs, the world was a different place but starting to change. China was building islands in the South China Sea, and Russia had only just swept into Crimea.

Now the U.S. has resolved to match Chinese and Russian military strength and change up the rules of engagement. The nuclear review advocates using nuclear force against nonnuclear attacks, like massive cyber campaigns targeting U.S. infrastructure.

Also Read: The US is ready to hit North Korea with tactical nukes

Additionally, the review indicates that the U.S. believes Russia is building an underwater nuclear torpedo as a kind of doomsday device.

Mattis has always offered thoughtful answers and pledged to operate on the best information he had on the topic of nuclear weapons, but he has clearly done an about-face since joining the Trump administration.

The abrupt change in Mattis’ nuclear posture prompts the question: What new information did he receive upon joining the Trump team?

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why so many in the military are getting STDs

Unfortunately, we’ve got some decidedly unsexy news for you. The number of cases of sexually transmitted diseases is on the rise across the U.S. Specifically, there’s been in increase in cases of chlamydia, gonorrhea, and syphilis – the later of which was on the verge of extinction just ten years ago.


Just how bad are the increases in STDs? According to the military’s Medical Surveillance Monthly Report, released September 2017, the number of syphilis cases has doubled over the course of a decade.

While there’s been an increase in cases among civilian populations, the rate of STDs is three to six times higher among the enlisted. Many military medical professionals are starting to ask themselves, “why is it that the odds of contracting an STD increase when a troop first puts on a uniform?” The reasons are many.

First, joining the military makes you part of an expanded social network. Not only are troops looped into a group that’s made up, primarily, of young adults, they’ll also be sent to bases in new cities with entirely new local populations. Couple those two additions to a troop’s existing community back home—that’s a lot of potential partners.

Hospital Corpsman 1st Class Oliver Arceo draws blood for a Sailor’s annual Human Immunodefificiency Virus (HIV) test at North Island Medical Clinic, Naval Air Station North Island, Coronado, Calif. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 1st Class Marie A. Montez)

Second, demographics matter: almost half (44%) of troops enlisting are from the South, where gonorrhea and chlamydia are most present. Many STDs have delayed or subtle symptoms, meaning it’s easy to unwittingly bring something with you to the barracks. Now, this isn’t a dig at the south—just plain statistics.

Third, perception is key. A recent study of Navy women reveal that many believe carrying or insisting on the use of condoms makes them appear sexually promiscuous. We all remember our high-school health teachers parroting that abstinence is the only way to prevent STDs entirely, but the second best (and more reasonable) solution is to use protection. Unfortunately, there’s a stigma associated with contraceptive use, potentially contributing to the rate at which STDs are spreading.

This isn’t a new problem. As far back as WWI, the military has struggled with STD rates among the ranks, and it’s no surprise why. Being part of the military means high stress, so it only makes sense that troops seek an outlet. However, it’s still mystifying as to why the enlisted, who have free access to health care, condoms, and screenings are affected more than civilians.

Hello, ladies. (British Army Poster used during WWII, 1944)

We’re not going to tell you to keep it in your pants, but we do suggest you bag it up. Not just for your health, but for the health of your partners, your partners’ partners, and populations worldwide.

MIGHTY CULTURE

This is what a Marine can expect from IRR muster

So, you’ve been navigating the vast ocean of civilian life, all while growing an impressive beard and wearing that veteran’s hat to places. Suddenly, one day, you get a letter — orders for Individual, Ready Reserve Muster. But at this point, you’ve been out for so long, and you’re wondering why they’re calling you back. Well, the Marine Corps wants to check in and make sure you’re still ready to be called back into active service should they need you back in the rain, dealing pain.

It may seem like an inconvenience and, sure, it might be, but it’s really not that bad. It’s only a few hours on the weekend, and you can choose to go in the morning or the afternoon. On top of that, you’ll get paid somewhere around $250, for three hours of time. You might show up and hear a bunch of fellow Marines complain, but it’s not a field op. It’s not raining. You just sit in a few rooms, fill out some paperwork, and then you’re on your way.

Overall, here’s what you can expect:


It almost brings a tear to your eye. Almost.

(U.S. Marine Corps photo by Cpl. Lucas Vega)

You get treated like a human being

There’s going to be a ton of staff NCOs and officers hanging around muster. None of them are going to yell at you for your lack of shave, haircut, or proper greeting of the day. Not a single one will hit you with a, “hey there, Devil Dog,” just to chew your ass for not saying good morning.

Furthermore, when you talk to the admin clerks and other Marines running the muster, they won’t even require you to address them by rank. Here’s the thing: they know you’re a Marine, but they actually just treat you like another person, which is an improvement.

Waiting in lines

Did you expect anything different? Most of your time at muster will be spent in lines… go figure. Waiting to leave rooms, waiting to have someone look at a medical form, etc. You know the drill. Honestly, it’s not as bad as any other line you’ve been through in the Marines. Not even close.

The only thing that makes those lines bad is the fact that you’re trying to get out of there to go do civilian things, like eat real food, not shave, and not worry about formation.

It’s seriously not bad.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)

Briefs

No, not your underpants — you know what we mean. You’re going to get two briefs for a max of, like, 20 minutes, tops. One is from the VA and the other is to tell you about your options in the Reserve. It’s definitely not anywhere near as bad as annual training briefs, which span the course of several days, and last for about eight hours each.

Medical screening

Right after you go through the briefs, you’ll fill out a medical form to list any ailments you may have. If you do have some medical issues, you’ll wait to go into a room for a screening where they’ll decide whether or not you’re still in good enough condition to deploy if necessary. Otherwise, you go straight to the administrative room.

It doesn’t take long, honestly.

(U.S. Air Force photo by Daniel Hughes)

Administrative tasks

This part probably takes the longest, and it’s mostly just waiting (again, go figure). You’re just there to verify that your contact information is correct as well as your Record of Emergency Data and other things. It’s just a quick scan, sign, date, and then you verify your bank information, turn in the paperwork, and you’re out of there.

A lot of other people might complain but, realistically, IRR Muster is not the worst thing you could do on a Saturday — especially when you compare it to your Saturdays spent as a Marine.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Taliban calls off US peace talks just hours after announcing them

Afghan Taliban representatives say they have called off two days of peace talks with U.S. officials in Qatar, just hours after they had announced the talks would take place without any delegates from Afghanistan’s government.

A Taliban representative in Afghanistan had told Reuters early on Jan. 8, 2019, that the talks would begin in Qatar’s capital, Doha, on Jan. 9, 2019.

That Taliban figure also had said the group was refusing to allow what he called “puppet” Afghan officials to take part in the Doha meetings.


But a Taliban representative in Doha told RFE/RL’s Radio Free Afghanistan later on Jan. 8, 2019, that the militant Islamic group had “postponed” the talks “until further consultations” could resolve an “agenda disagreement.”

Another Taliban source told Reuters the disagreement focused on Washington’s insistence that Afghan government officials must be involved in the talks.

He said there also was disagreement on a possible cease-fire deal and a proposed prisoner exchange.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjOAiXIECOU
Afghan Peace Talks Off Called Off By Taliban, Citing ‘Puppet Officials’ Asked To Attend

www.youtube.com

“The U.S. officials insisted that the Taliban should meet the Afghan authorities in Qatar and both sides were in disagreement over declaring a cease-fire in 2019,” he said. “Both sides have agreed to not meet in Qatar.”

The Taliban has consistently rejected requests from regional powers to allow Afghan government officials to take part in peace talks, insisting that the United States is its main adversary in Afghanistan.

The talks in Doha in early January 2019 would have been the fourth in a series between Taliban leaders and U.S. special envoy Zalmay Khalilzad.

The Taliban also called off a meeting with U.S. officials in Saudi Arabia early January 2019 because of Riyadh’s insistence on bringing the Western-backed Afghan government to the negotiating table.

Former Afghan Interior Minister Omar Daudzai, a senior adviser to Afghan President Ashraf Ghani, was traveling to Pakistan on Jan. 8, 2019, for expected talks with Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Shah Mahmud Qureshi about the peace process.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

U.S. rejects ‘appalling’ claims of Bosnian election-meddling

The U.S. Embassy in Bosnia-Herzegovina has rejected “appalling accusations” that Washington has sought to interfere in the country’s October 2018 elections, and blasted “irresponsible actors” who are dragging the United States into “conspiracy theories, unfounded accusations, and lies.”

In a statement posted on its website on Sept. 27, 2018, the embassy says the United States does not back any candidate or party, and refuses to be part of a preelection “manipulation.”

During campaigns ahead of the national elections set for Oct. 7, 2018, the public discourse has been “entirely dominated by fear-based rhetoric” that has created a “very poisonous atmosphere,” the statement says.


It criticizes “self-centered politicians” who try to turn the United States and other countries into “adversaries,” instead of addressing the country’s “real enemies” — corruption, unemployment, and poor public services.

The statement did not name any politician or political party, but Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has accused the United States and Britain of supporting his opponents and seeking to influence the outcome of the upcoming elections.

Dodik, who is running for the Serbs’ seat in Bosnia’s tripartite presidency in the elections, said on Sept. 27, 2018, that Washington and London have secured millions of euros to finance various opposition groups in the country’s predominantly Serbian entity, Republika Srpska.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

The pro-Russian president of Republika Srpska in August 2018 accused the United States of using its development agency to interfere in Bosnia’s internal affairs and election process, a charge dismissed by Washington.

Western leaders have also accused Moscow of interfering in the internal affairs of Bosnia and other former Yugoslav republics.

During a visit to Banja Luka, the administrative center of Republika Srpska, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on Sept. 21, 2018, that Moscow respected Bosnia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and was not interfering in the country’s elections.

Bosnia is split into two entities: the ethnic Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosniaks and Croats. The two entities are linked by joint state-level institutions, including a tripartite presidency.

Featured image: Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik.

This article originally appeared on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Follow @RFERL on Twitter.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Russian power in Europe is more dangerous than ever

The former top U.S. Army commander in Europe said Russian battlefield tactics in eastern Ukraine show sophisticated integration of drones, electronic warfare, and mortar and artillery, posing major challenges for Ukrainian forces.


Retired Lieutenant General Ben Hodges also said on Jan. 24 that U.S. and European allies should do more to publicize Russia’s capabilities on the ground in eastern Ukraine, including the region historically known as the Donbas.

Hodges, who retired as commander of the U.S. Army’s European forces last year, made the comments in Washington, at the Helsinki Commission, a U.S. government agency charged with monitoring human rights in Europe and elsewhere.

Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe, Lt. Gen. Ben Hodges, shares a toast after receiving an award from the Hungarian Defense Force. (Image from DoD)

The United States and its NATO allies have helped train and supply the Ukrainian armed forces since the outbreak of fighting in eastern Ukraine in April 2014. About 250 U.S. soldiers are helping in the training, Hodges said, plus Canadians and other NATO allies.

‘Diplomatic solution’

In all, more than 10,000 people have been killed and more than 1 million displaced in the conflict pitting Ukrainian forces against Russia-backed separatists.

Russia has repeatedly denied its forces have been involved, or that it has supplied weaponry or equipment, assertions that independent observers and journalists have largely debunked.

Hodges said the recent U.S. decision to supply Ukraine with more sophisticated weaponry, including Javelin anti-tank weapons, was important for persuading the Russians to negotiate an end to the conflict.

“There has to be a diplomatic solution to this,” he said. “Russia has to, at some point, agree to stop supporting the separatists or pull out to allow the re-establishment” of Ukrainian control of its border with Russia.

Also Read: Finland once snuck inside the Soviet air force to bomb Russia

Electronic warfare capability

In eastern Ukraine, Hodges said, there are about 35,000-40,000 Russia-backed fighters, and around 4,000-5,000 are actual Russian military officers or commanders.

He said many of the tanks and vehicles operated by both Ukrainian and Russia-backed forces are now covered with reactive armor, a specialized type of plating designed to protect against rocket-propelled grenades and weapons other than small arms.

He also said Russia-backed commanders have honed tactics that include using drones, artillery, and electronic warfare. That’s allowed Russians forces, for example, to eliminate Ukrainian mortars and artillery units. He said one Ukrainian unit that was using a U.S.-supplied radar was taken out by Russian rocket fire with surprising speed.

Quadcopter drones are readily available to both military and civilian buyers and may play a large role in future conflicts. (USAF photo by Kenji Thuloweit)

“The [Russian] electronic warfare capability; again that’s something we never had to worry with that in Afghanistan and Iraq. The Ukrainians live in this environment,” he said. “So you cannot speak on a radio or any device that’s not secure because it’s going to be jammed or intercepted or worse, it’s going to be found and then it’s going to be hit.”

“Certainly we have the capability to show everybody what Russia is specifically doing in the Donbas, that would be helpful to keep pressure on Russia, to live up to what they’ve said they’re going to do,” he said.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Purple Heart recipients will move to the head of VA lines

Purple Heart recipients will soon take priority in the queue for Department of Veterans Affairs claims adjudication, VA Secretary Robert Wilkie announced Feb. 26, 2019.

In a hearing before the House Appropriations Military Construction, Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Subcommittee, Wilkie said veterans who have earned the Purple Heart will be placed “at the front of the line when it comes to claims before the department.”


According to Wilkie, the change is in “recognition of wounds taken in battle.”

He didn’t provide details on how the change will be implemented but said it is among the many improvements the department is making as part of the claims and appeals modernization effort.

The VA launched a new process for handling compensation claims appeals Feb. 19, 2019, with a goal of reducing the wait time for a final decision from three to seven years to roughly four months.

VA Secretary Robert Wilkie.

The new process, created under the Appeals Modernization Act, gives veterans three choices for appealing their claim, including providing new evidence to the original reviewer; having a more senior adjudicator review the decision; and appealing to the Board of Veterans Appeals.

Wilkie described the change as part of a 21st-century transformation at the department.

The VA appeals backlog, which will be handled by the legacy system of appealing decisions to the board, stands at roughly 402,000 cases.

The new system will not only be used for disability compensation claims decisions, it will tackle decisions on education and insurance applications, vocational rehabilitation, caregiver benefits and claims with the National Cemetery Administration, according to the VA.

This article originally appeared on Military.com. Follow @militarydotcom on Twitter.

Articles

ISIS’s finances are taking a serious hit, and it’s hurting morale inside the terrorist group

Photo: Youtube screenshot


As a US-led coalition hammers ISIS’s oil infrastructure and other financial institutions in the Middle East, the terrorist group has cut salaries and infighting has broken out within the rank and file and senior leadership.

Reports of infighting within ISIS — aka the Islamic State, ISIL, or Daesh — aren’t new, but increased financial and territorial losses might be worsening the stress fractures that are splintering the group.

The Washington Post reported on Monday that ISIS is now facing an “unprecedented cash crunch” as the coalition ramps up strikes on its sources of wealth. Strikes have been hitting oil refineries and tankers as well as banks and buildings that hold hard cash.

ISIS salaries are taking a hit as a result of the financial losses. Some units reportedly aren’t being paid at all, and some fighters’ salaries have been cut in half, according to The Post.

The salary cuts specifically appear “to have significantly hit the organization’s morale,” according to Charles Lister, a resident fellow at the Middle East Institute.

“There are more and more frequent reports … of infighting, armed clashes breaking out in the middle of the night in places like Raqqa between rival factions,” Lister said on Friday during a panel discussion in Washington, DC, referring to ISIS’s de-facto capital in Syria.

“These are all indications of a significant drop in morale and a decrease in internal cohesion. And the cohesion argument was always something that analysts like myself always said was one of ISIS’ strongest strengths,” he said.

Part of what has made ISIS’s message so potent is the money that has come along with it — which is said to be a major factor in ISIS’s recruiting success. For locals in war-torn Syria especially, ISIS has been able to offer more money than people could hope to make elsewhere.

But the salary cuts have strained the loyalties of fighters to the group.

Abu Sara, a 33-year-old engineer from Iraq, told The Post that ISIS members are becoming disillusioned.

“Their members are getting quite angry. Either they are not getting salaries or getting much less than they used to earn,” Sara said. “All of the people I am in contact with want to escape, but they don’t know how.”

Some fighters “throw down their weapons and mingle with the civilians” in battle, according to Sara.

ISIS’s financial problems are compounded by the group’s territorial losses. Syrian forces recently retook the ancient city of Palmyra, while Iraqi forces are starting to move in toward Mosul, ISIS’s stronghold in Iraq.

Territorial losses could hurt ISIS’s recruiting efforts because they run counter to the group’s central message of “remaining and expanding.”

The losses also hit at ISIS’s coffers because taxation and extortion make up a large share of ISIS’s revenues. Unlike other terrorist groups that rely on outside donations from wealthy individuals, ISIS squeezes money from the local populations it controls.

But ISIS isn’t likely to disappear anytime soon.

Hisham al-Hashimi, an Iraqi military strategist, told The Post that ISIS still controls significant oil resources across the territory it holds in Iraq and Syria.

“They’re not going through a financial crisis that will lead to their collapse,” Hashimi told the newspaper. “They still have 60 percent of Syrian oil wells and 5 percent of Iraq’s.”

 

MIGHTY TRENDING

Why Kim Jong Un dying may not be a good thing

As stories continue to bubble to the surface regarding the health and potential demise of North Korea’s Supreme Leader Kim Jong Un, social media has already taken to making memes about the leader of the reclusive state, celebrating the death of a man many see as a modern day tyrannical despot.

To be clear, I’ve spent years covering North Korea (and some other modern despots) in the defense news-sphere, and while I could happily provide a long list of Kim’s failings as a leader and a human being, I can’t help but feel as though we, as a people, should be careful what we wish for.


Of course, I’m not suggesting that you should lose any sleep over the potential death of a tyrant… but it’s important to consider the ways Kim Jong Un’s death could affect the Korean Peninsula, North Korea’s relations with the United States, and the future of the region as a whole.

Kim Jong Un shown with Russian President Vladimir Putin

(Kremlin)

Kim Jong Un has proven to be a cunning tyrant

While it fashionable to dismiss the acts of evil doers as inherently evil and therefore wrong, the truth is, as former Secretary of Defense and legendary Marine general James Mattis once put it, America has no preordained right to victory on the battlefield. In other words, simply coloring this conflict in shades of black and white, good guys and bad guys, doesn’t do a whole lot of good from a strategic standpoint. From the vantage point of many within North Korea and its government, they are the good guys, and America is the “imperial bully” responsible for their misfortune.

While we in America often chuckle at North Korea’s ham fisted military propaganda, Kim has proven in the years since he took power in 2011 that, despite his nation’s ailing economy and reclusive foreign policy, he’s capable of accomplishing quite a bit with his limited resources.

Kim Jong Un (bottom right) inspecting a long range ballistic missile.

(KCNA)

While it’s all but certain that North Korea’s population is suffering under Kim’s decision to continue his pursuit of nuclear weapons even under a myriad of international economic sanctions, many mistake Kim’s nuclear efforts for nuclear intent. The truth is, it seems clear the Kim Jong Un does not want to develop nuclear weapons to use them, he wants a nuclear arsenal so other nations are forced to engage with him.

As a non-nuclear state with minimal conventional military power, it was only through the development of nuclear weapons and intercontinental ballistic missiles that can carry them to far away targets that Kim was able to secure a meeting with the President of the United States and commence talks that could lead to lifting North Korean sanctions.

Kim Jong Un meets with American President Donald Trump

(White House Photo)

Kim’s nukes are about leverage, not war

As a nuclear power, Kim Jong Un has enjoyed more positive exposure from an American president in recent years than either of his predecessors managed. Some may contend that Trump tends to buddy up with tyrants like Kim, but once North Korea’s tests demonstrated that they were rapidly positioning themselves to be capable of launching nuclear strikes on the American mainland, there’s little a U.S. president can do outside of opening negotiations. The only alternative, at that point, would have been kinetic intervention (military action), as sanctions alone have proven insufficient to deter North Korea’s nuclear program.

Kim has not ordered another test since sparse talks with Trump commenced, which can be credited to open diplomatic channels between the Trump administration and North Korea, but in a number of ways, it may also benefit North Korea to put these tests on hold.

Previous tests showed that while North Korea may be able to reach American shores with missiles, they still seemed to be struggling with the survivability of their nuclear re-entry vehicle. They have also failed to demonstrate how effective their targeting apparatus is at such long ranges. In other words, North Korea may not be as nuclear capable as they are perceived to be by many around the world… and Kim likely wants to keep perceptions right where they are. Continued tests increase the opportunity for malfunction, and a loss of some of the credibility his government has gained.

Let there be no mistake, a nuclear North Korea is bad for everyone, but in Kim’s hands thus far, his nuclear weapons have appeared to be a means to gain leverage, rather than a means to initiate war.

Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo receives photos from his meeting with Chairman Kim Jong Un from Chairman Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, in Pyongyang, Democratic People’s Republic of Korea on October 7, 2018.

[State Department photo/ Public Domain]

There seems to be no clear line of succession

While many may want to celebrate the potential passing of Kim Jong Un, it remains unclear exactly who would take the lead of the reclusive state upon his death. Many contend that Kim’s sister, Kim Yo Jong, would be next in line for Supreme Leader, which would mark the first female leader in modern North Korean history. Questions remain about whether the North Korean system would readily accept a female leader, as well as what damage the premature death of Kim Jong Un could do to the popular North Korean sentiments about the near-deity role of their supreme leader.

While Kim Jong Un is a bad guy, he’s a fairly stable one with a firm grip on the North Korean populace. If questions arose regarding who is supposed to be in charge, North Korea runs the very real risk of seeing entire facets of its system collapse under competing claims over the role of Supreme Leader… and that would be bad news for just about everyone on the planet.

(Image courtesy of North Korea’s KCNA)

A nuclear arsenal with new hands on the button

If Kim Jong Un passes away, the United States will be faced with the daunting challenge of re-initiating nuclear talks with a person that is far less predictable, at least early on, than Kim–who has served as the “devil you know” for nearly a decade. A new leader may not share Kim’s sense of self-preservation when it comes to nuclear war, and may choose aggression over Kim’s theatrics. While we tend to scoff at many of North Korea’s efforts to garner attention on the world stage, the truth is, those efforts are in many ways better than taking overt and aggressive action that could lead to bloody war.

A more aggressive leader may push harder for an end to sanctions by using the threat of nuclear attack–which in all likelihood would end in war, rather than an end to said sanctions… but even that would be a better alternative than a breakdown of the North Korean system altogether.

Despite stalled talks with President Trump, North Korea has not restarted ICBM testing.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

There are many lingering questions about North Korea’s nuclear chain of command, but in the event North Korea finds itself with multiple potential leaders jockeying for position — the person with their hand on the nuclear button will almost certainly gain a significant leg up. Worse still, if civil conflict breaks out, the chance of nuclear launch or even losing nuclear weapons entirely as they’re sold to nefarious third parties becomes a very real possibility.

A nuclear North Korea is bad, but North Korean nukes falling into the hands of an extremist organization that aims to attack the United States would be worse.

North Korean troops peering over the border into South Korea

(WikiMedia Commons)

A refugee crises in the making

Unrest in North Korea, prompted in part by the diminishing standard of living many of North Korea’s citizens have experienced under Kim’s rule, could result in an absolutely massive refugee crises on both South Korean and Chinese borders.

In 2017, a North Korean soldier named Oh Chong-Song defected by fleeing across the heavily guarded demilitarized zone between North and South Korea. North Korean soldiers opened fire on Oh, ultimately hitting him five times. He was soon rescued by South Korean troops who airlifted him to a nearby hospital, where he underwent lifesaving surgery.

Actual shot of North Korean defector xx making a break for the border under fire.

(UNC)

The results of that surgery, however, also gave us important insights into the conditions within the reclusive state. Because of the high profile troops stationed on the border receive, North Korea tends to provide them with the best of supplies and resources. Oh was found to have little more than hardened corn kernels in his stomach, alongside large parasitic worms. If Oh’s condition was better than many within North Korea, it stands to reason that many inside Kim’s nation are truly desperate, and currently held at bay by the nation’s strict governmental rule.

If that rule were to waiver, or the system were to become unstable, many North Koreans could see that as the opportunity they need to seek a better life elsewhere, prompting millions to pour over the borders into neighboring states. Such a refugee crises would put nations like China and South Korea under incredible strain. As such, China, who can be seen as North Korea’s closest ally of sorts, is already invested in securing the stability of the nation by sending doctors to assist with whatever is going on with Kim Jong Un.

(Official White House Photo by Shealah Craighead)

The devil you know

There is no debate about whether Kim Jong Un is a villain from the vantage point of the Western world, but the devil you know offers some advantages over one you don’t. Kim Jong Un may be a despot, but in many ways, he’s a fairly predictable one. A new leader could make things better, but losing Kim could potentially make things much worse… provided a more aggressive leader were to take his place or worse still, no clear leader emerges.

In many ways, preventing war with North Korea is a balancing act… and while few may weep for Kim if is dead, it’s hard to say if a North Korea without Kim will tip toward a better future, a worse future, or no future at all.

This article originally appeared on Sandboxx. Follow Sandboxx on Facebook.

MIGHTY TACTICAL

Soldiers use video games to help develop new combat vehicle

Thirty soldiers from the 4th Infantry Division recently tested new technologies in a video-game environment to provide feedback for the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross-Functional Team.

“This latest experiment will provide us with an understanding of which technologies are most critical for the robotic combat vehicle to be successful in an operational environment,” said Brig. Gen. Ross Coffman, NGCV CFT director.

Coffman will be one of the speakers Oct. 14, 2019, at a NGCV Warriors Corner presentation at the Washington Convention Center where more about the experiments will be explained.


The soldiers from 4ID’s 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the NGCV CFT’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

The campaign of learning is part of GVSC’s virtual prototyping process that helps the Army test new technologies without soldiers needing to start up an engine or even set foot in the field — saving valuable resources.

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division support the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)

The soldiers provided feedback on vehicle crew configuration, formations, vehicle capabilities, enabling technologies — such as unmanned aerial vehicles and aided target recognition — and networked capabilities.

The experiment examined multiple questions including how soldiers dealt with constraints such as signal degradation, lack of mobility while using certain features, task organization, and which variants of the vehicles proved the most useful.

“One of the things we are looking at is if a lighter, less-protected RCV can achieve similar battlefield effect as a heavier but more protected one, while both having the same lethality package,” Coffman said.

For the five-day virtual experiment, soldiers employed RCVs in open and urban terrain against a simulated near-peer adversary. Observations and data were collected as to how soldiers use the RCVs and enabling technologies such as smoke generation, tethered unmanned aerial systems, target designator, and signal boost in offensive and defensive roles and in both open and urban environments.

Soldiers from the 2nd Infantry Brigade Combat Team, 4th Infantry Division supported the Army’s Ground Vehicle Systems Center Virtual Experiment #3 last month to help inform the Next Generation Combat Vehicle Cross Functional Team’s campaign of learning for Manned and Un-Manned Teaming.

(Photo by Jeroma Aliotta)

“RCVs were able to effectively designate targets and conduct target handoff with other RCVs which executed the target using Hellfire missiles,” said an infantryman who participated in the experiment. [soldier names are withheld due to research protocol.]

These type of events will continue throughout the year with each virtual experiment increasing in capability and fidelity to support a live soldier experiment in March and April 2020. The next virtual experiment will be conducted with support from the 1st Cavalry Division Dec. 9-13, 2019, at the Detroit Arsenal.

“These soldier touch points are essential to how Army Futures Command is executing the Army’s modernization priority,” Coffman said. “Soldiers are at the center of everything we do, and their insight is crucial to developing these new technologies.”

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

MIGHTY TRENDING

Mattis calls North Korea a ‘threat to the entire world’

The regime of North Korea’s Kim Jong-un remains a danger to the world, Defense Secretary James N. Mattis said Jan. 26 in Honolulu, while emphasizing diplomatic efforts to resolve the North Korean nuclear issue.


The goal remains the complete, verifiable, and irreversible denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, Mattis told reporters at U.S. Pacific Command‘s headquarters at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam, with South Korea Minister of Defense Song Young-moo.

“The Kim regime is a threat to the entire world,” Mattis said. “It’s an international problem that requires an international solution.”

He noted three unanimous United Nations Security Council Resolutions on North Korea.

“Our response to this threat remains diplomacy-led, backed up with military options available to ensure that our diplomats are understood to be speaking from a position of strength,” the secretary explained.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis gives the keynote address to kick off the 2017 annual meeting of the Association of the U.S. Army (AUSA) at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington, D.C., Oct. 9, 2017. (DoD photo by Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith)

U.S.-South Korea ‘ironclad and irreplaceable’ alliance

Mattis and Song reaffirmed the strength of their countries’ alliance and America’s pledge to defend South Korea and maintain peace and stability on the Korean Peninsula.

The U.S.-South Korean alliance is “ironclad and irreplaceable,” Mattis said.

“Our combined militaries stand shoulder-to-shoulder ready to defend against any attack” on South Korea or the United States, he said.

Mattis praised South Korea’s “steadfast action upholding United Nations sanctions at sea,” noting South Korea has impounded two ships that were found violating the U.N. Resolutions using ship-to-ship transfer at cargo at sea.

Also Read: South Koreans are not happy to be Olympic partners with the North

South Korea “leads by example in carrying out the United Nations’ sanctions,” Mattis said, adding North Korea is reminded that “risking its economy to boost its rockets makes it less secure, not more.”

Enduring Pacific power

Mattis said Song is always welcome at the Pacific Command headquarters in Honolulu. This was the last stop of the secretary’s trip that also took him to Indonesia and Vietnam.

“Here in beautiful Hawaii we’re reminded that America is an enduring Pacific power — five of our states plus territories all touch on this shared ocean,” he said.

Reckless rhetoric, dangerous provocations

Mattis said the United States and South Korea welcome the Olympic Games talks between North Korea and South Korea, but at the same time, “remain steadfast with the international economic pressure campaign to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.”

‘2018 PyeongChang Winter Olympic Games’ Medal. (Image Republic of Korea Flickr)

The talks for the Olympics, Mattis explained, do not address the overarching problems with North Korea.

“Diplomacy should repose reason on Kim’s reckless rhetoric and dangerous provocations,” he said.

North Korea is sending athletes, including hockey players for a unified South Korea-North Korea team, to the 2018 Winter Games in South Korea. The games begin Feb. 9.

MIGHTY TRENDING

Storm clouds are gathering over the Korean Peninsula

“Storm clouds are gathering” over the Korean Peninsula, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis declared Dec. 22.


And as diplomats try to resolve the nuclear standoff, he told soldiers that the US military must do its part by being ready for war.

Without forecasting a conflict, Mattis emphasized that diplomacy stands the best chance of preventing a war if America’s words are backed up by strong and prepared armed forces.

“My fine young soldiers, the only way our diplomats can speak with authority and be believed is if you’re ready to go,” Mattis told several dozen soldiers and airmen at the 82nd Airborne Division’s Hall of Heroes, his last stop on a two-day pre-holiday tour of bases to greet troops.

Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis enters Michie Stadium before the 2017 graduation ceremony at West Point. Army photo by Michelle Eberhart.

The stop came a day after Mattis visited the American Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, becoming the first defense secretary to visit in almost 16 years.

Also read: This video answers the question of the casualty radius of Mattis’ knife hand

Mattis’ comments came as the UN Security Council unanimously approved tough new sanctions against North Korea, compelling nations to sharply reduce their sales of oil to the reclusive country and send home all North Korean expatriate workers within two years. Such workers are seen as a key source of revenue for North Korean leader Kim Jong Un’s cash-strapped government.

President Donald Trump and other top US officials have made repeated threats about US military action. Some officials have described the messaging as twofold in purpose: to pressure North Korea to enter into negotiations on getting rid of its nuclear arsenal, and to motivate key regional powers China and Russia to put more pressure on Pyongyang so a war is averted.

The Daily Telegraph reported earlier this week that the Trump administration had had “dramatically” stepped up preparations for a “bloody nose” attack to send Pyongyang a message.

Also this week, when asked about the US’s stance toward the stand-off with North Korea, National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster, said the US had “to be prepared if necessary to compel the denuclearization of North Korea without the cooperation of that regime.”

For the military, the focus has been on ensuring soldiers are ready should the call come.

At Fort Bragg, Mattis recommended the troops read T.R. Fehrenbach’s military classic “This Kind of War: A Study in Unpreparedness,” first published in 1963, a decade after the Korean War ended.

“Knowing what went wrong the last time around is as important as knowing your own testing, so that you’re forewarned — you know what I’m driving at here,” he said as soldiers listened in silence. “So you gotta be ready.”

Read More: US considers a ‘limited strike’ to bloody Kim Jong Un’s nose

The US has nearly 28,000 troops permanently stationed in South Korea, but if war came, many thousands more would be needed for a wide range of missions, including ground combat.

The retired Marine Corps general fielded questions on many topics in his meetings with troops at Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba and Naval Station Mayport in Florida on Thursday and at Camp Lejeune and Fort Bragg in North Carolina on Friday. North Korea seemed uppermost on troops’ minds as they and their families wonder whether war looms.

Asked about recent reports that families of US service members in South Korea might be evacuated, Mattis stressed his belief that diplomacy could still avert a crisis. He said there is no plan now for an evacuation.

“I don’t think it’s at that point yet,” he said, adding that an evacuation of American civilians would hurt the South Korean economy. He said there is a contingency plan that would get US service members’ families out “on very short notice.”

Mattis said he sees little chance of Kim disrupting the Winter Olympics, which begin in South Korea in February.

“I don’t think Kim is stupid enough to take on the whole world by killing their athletes,” he said.

Mattis repeatedly stressed that there is still time to work out a peaceful solution. At one point he said diplomacy is “going positively.” But he also seemed determined to steel US troops against what could be a costly war on the Korean Peninsula.

 

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and South Korean Minister of Defense Song Young-moo visit the Demilitarized Zone between North and South Korea during a visit to the Joint Security Area in South Korea, Oct. 27, 2017. DoD photo by US Army Sgt. Amber I. Smith.

“There is very little reason for optimism,” he said.

Mattis is not the only senior military official cautioning troops to be ready for conflict.

Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marines in Norway this week that he saw a “big-ass fight” in the future, cautioning them to remain alert and ready. Neller said he believed the Corps’ focus would soon shift away from operations in the Middle East toward “the Pacific and Russia.”

“I hope I’m wrong, but there’s a war coming,” Neller told Marines in Norway according to Military.com.