Category Archives: Our Military

About the operation of our military. It’s strengths and weaknesses.

America’s gift to the world: exports of the best armed drones

Summary:  America has played a special role in the post-WWII era, repeatedly unleashing horrors on the world. We started the nuclear arms race by bombing Japan, staged the first cyberattack on Iran (we now live in fear of the next being on us), and now we’re flooding the world with armed drones. Here Stratfor explains the likely consequences.

Stratfor

The Unstoppable Spread of Armed Drones
Stratfor, 25 October 2016.

Forecast

  • The United States will continue to lead in the development of armed drone technology, but China has taken the lead in drone exports and therefore has a bigger influence on the application of armed systems.
  • Only the United States and China have exported armed drones, but other countries are expected to join the lucrative market, causing a surge in globally available systems.
  • Because exporting states do not perceive a threat from armed drones, there is little willpower to establish a legal framework to curb their proliferation.

Analysis

The presence of armed drones is a reality of the modern battlefield, but only a limited group of countries has the technological ability to produce them or the military capacity to operate them. The United States once held the edge in drone development and use, but as more countries gain access to the technology, armed drones have entered a new stage of proliferation. From the perspective of the United States and others, this proliferation is dangerous. Attempts to curb the spread of armed drones are becoming more difficult now that the United States is no longer their sole developer. China, in particular, has grown as a global exporter of unmanned combat systems, and other countries are planning to follow suit.

Though the use of unmanned aerial vehicles has spread across all sectors at an incredible pace, the military in particular was quick to embrace drone technology. Even less-developed militaries now typically have some capability, though limited, to deploy unmanned platforms for surveillance and reconnaissance. So, too, do non-state actors, including militant and terrorist groups, albeit using technologically restricted commercial drones. The deployment of dedicated combat drones carrying offensive weapons systems has progressed at a reduced rate, however. Besides the significant legal and ethical concerns that surround the use of lethal platforms, only two suppliers are known to exist: the United States and China. More countries, such as Russia, Israel, Turkey and South Korea, are likely close behind. The increased availability will give other countries more opportunities to acquire armed drones.

Many countries have sought access to armed drones, but only a few have found suppliers willing to sell them. Of those, even fewer have actually employed the vehicles in combat. The United States has so far exported armed drones to only the United Kingdom and Italy, and just last year more stringent requirements were placed on U.S. exports to keep the technology out of the wrong hands.

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Martin van Creveld introduces his new radical book: “Pussycats”

Summary: Martin van Creveld has published another book, perhaps his most controversial yet (however difficult to imagine). He tackles the great enigma of our wars since 9/11: how western armies — certainly the most powerful every fielded by almost every metric — have been unable to defeat poorly trained, poorly equipped, almost unfinanced armies of the jihad.

 

Just published: Pusscats

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 28 April 2016

Posted with his generous permission

 

In the kingdom(s) of the West, something is rotten. Collectively, the countries of NATO are responsible for almost two thirds of global military spending. In terms of military technology, particularly electronics, communications and logistics, they have left most of the rest so far behind that it is no contest. Yet since at least the end of the Korean War back in 1953, almost every time they went abroad and fought non-Westerners they were defeated and had to withdraw without achieving their objectives. As happened, to cite but two recent cases, in Iraq and Afghanistan; and as may yet happen if and when Islam keeps spreading into Europe, as it is doing right now.

What went wrong? How did the ferocious soldiers, who between 1492 and 1914, brought practically the entire world under their control, turn into pussycats? Readers of this website will recognize some of my earlier attempts to answer these questions; now those answers have been extended and put together in a single book.

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Another assassination of a jihadist leader. Here’s what comes next…

Summary: Another week, another assassination of a top jihadist leader, the usual glowing stories in the news. Next comes amnesia, as the wonderful results fail to appear — and the jihadist movement continues to spread across the world. Perhaps someday we will connect the dots and learn the ineffectiveness of this tactic (part of the larger inability of foreign armies to defeat local insurgencies).

“Insanity is repeating the same mistakes and expecting different results.”
— From “Step 2: A Promise of Hope” by James Jensen, a Narcotics Anonymous pamphlet published by the Hazelden Foundation (1980).

New CIA Logo

Reuters: “Afghan Taliban meets on succession
after U.S. drones target leader

“The Afghan Taliban’s leadership council met on Sunday to start considering succession after a U.S. drone strike in Pakistan targeted its commander …The strike targeting Mullah Akhtar Mansour on Saturday was perhaps the most high-profile U.S. incursion into Pakistan since the 2011 raid to kill al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and sparked a protest by Islamabad that its sovereignty had been violated.”

How many times have we read such headlines since 9/11? Many times. How many jihadist leaders have we assassinated since 9/11? Many. With what effect? We have created martyrs and convince increasing numbers of the Islamic peoples that America is Skynet, an evil entity sending killers from the sky. Al Qaeda has become a global franchise. Its Islamic State spin-off has become a proto-state in Syria and Iraq (albeit a besieged one). Africom is rapidly expanding to chase multiplying insurgencies (e.g., in Mali, in Nigeria).

No matter how small the results, journalists (aka DoD’s stenographers) report each as a major accomplishment from which great things are expected. Journalists write these stories because we do not learn. Otherwise we would laugh at them — which is poison to media narratives.

Reuters (best of breed in news) strikes a realistic note at the end of the article.

A second U.S. intelligence official was more pessimistic. “It’s at least equally likely that killing Mansour will destroy any chance to get the Taliban into negotiations with the (Afghan) government, not that there ever was much of one,” said the second official, who specializes in South Asia and also spoke on the condition of anonymity. “His successor could be even more loathe to negotiate.”

Also note that this hit marks another expansion of the drone campaign by our Nobel Peace Prize President.

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Photos of those serving America abroad on Armed Forces Day

Armed Forces Day

On 31 August 1949 President Harry S. Truman designated May 21 as Armed Forces Day, a time for citizens to come together and thank our military members for their patriotic service in support of our country. This represented the important unification of the Armed Forces under the Department of Defense, and replaced the separate Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force Days.

To put faces to this Day, here are a few U.S. Army photos from Kuwait by Staff Sergent Ian M. Kummer of 40th Combat Aviation Brigade. These represent the 1.3 millions active duty troops and the 811 thousand in the Reserve and National Guard forces.

 

A Helocast: Jumping from the helicopter

Soldiers jump from the back of a CH-47 Chinook helicopter from Company B, 1st Battalion, 168th Aviation Regiment, 40th Combat Aviation Brigade, during a Helocast exercise in the Persian Gulf May 2. Helocast is a method of inserting teams of troops into combat zones that might not be otherwise accessible.

Army soldiers helocast: rafting to the target

Solders from the 86th Engineer Dive Detachment pick up the Soldiers.

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America needs a smaller and more lethal Army for the 21st century

Summary: The failures of our military in Vietnam and our occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan have sparked discussion about how the US Army can best meet the wide range of threats facing us in the 21st century. Here Robert Prescott reviews the Army’s planning for this new century of war. There are no easy answers. All we see for certain is the need for change.

Military spending

We see the massive power of the US military at work in our media, as not a week has gone by since WWII by without slickly produced articles clamoring for more money for DoD. Such as “America Needs a Larger, More Modern, More Lethal Army” by Daniel Goure at the National Interest, 4 May 2016. Goure (bio here) is one of the military-industrial-complex’s apparatchiks, rotating between positions in DoD and its supporting civilian ngos — now at the Lexington Institute, a right-wing “think-tank” apty described as the “defense industry’s pay-to-play ad agency“. But amidst the propaganda there are more sensible voices, such as this …

Should America Build a Smaller, More Lethal U.S. Army?

By Robert Prescott
From The National Interest, 22 April 2016
Reposted with the author’s generous permission

In the Old Testament book of Judges, the Almighty tasks Gideon with leading the Israelites against their oppressor, the Midianites. In assembling an Israelite army, the Almighty commands Gideon to reduce his numbers. Gideon obeys and ultimately triumphs with the remaining force of three hundred men employing an elaborate ruse. Reducing the size of an armed force seems counterintuitive, but, as the story illustrates, organizational design, and not end strength, is critical to military effectiveness.

In the present day, headlines are replete with American Army leadership warning of risks arising from the reduction in the service’s end strength. Unfortunately, Army leadership indicated the risks could only be addressed by providing the service with more resources, namely appropriation dollars to afford additional personnel and new equipment.

Given the Department of the Army’s record in managing prior manpower increases and modernization programs, Congress is right to be skeptical as to whether simply providing more of both would best minimize the risks raised by the service’s leadership.

The Commission on the Future of the Army, tasked by Congress with an examination of these matters, concluded “in general terms, the Army is appropriately sized, shaped, and ready to meet the strategic guidance it has been given… but only just so.” [Emphasis added].

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Martin van Creveld looks at our military white elephants

Summary: Today Martin van Creveld looks at one of the most exceptional aspects of US defense policy, our weapons. A naïf would describe it as quite mad, unaware of the lavish salaries and great corporate fortunes created by tapping the almost limitless flow of taxes from the apathetic and credulous citizens of America.

“In the year 2054, the entire defense budget will purchase just one aircraft. This aircraft will have to be shared by the Air Force and Navy 3-1/2 days each per week except for leap year, when it will be made available to the Marines for the extra day.
— One of Augustine’s Laws.

Augustine Law of aircraft costs

 

White Elephants

By Martin van Creveld
From his website, 28 April 2016

Posted with his generous permission

 

At least since 9/11, and possibly since the First Gulf War back in 1991, it has been clear that the most immediate threat facing developed countries is not other developed countries. It is terrorism, guerrilla, insurgencies, asymmetric war, fourth generation war, war among the people, nontrinitarian war (my own favorite term), whatever. Follows a list — a very partial one, to be sure — of expensive new American weapons and weapon systems, now in various stages of development, all of which have this in common that they are not relevant to the threat in question.

The USAF’s new bomber

America’s last bomber, the B-2, was an absolute disaster. Originally the program, which went back to the late 1980s, was supposed to result in a fleet of 132 aircraft. That figure was later reduced to just 20, plus one used for all kinds of experimental purposes. The machines cost $500,000,000 each, which is far more than almost any conceivable target. Some sources, taking development costs into consideration, provide a much higher figure still. Yet so vulnerable are the machines that, when they are not in the air, they need to stay in air-conditioned hangars. That in turn means that they can only be operated from the Continental US and take hours and hours to reach their targets.

Nevertheless, fixated on bombers as the USAF has been for so many years, none of these problems have prevented it from going for an even more ambitious program. This is the so-called Next Generation Bomber of which 175 are planned. Suppose, which in view of past experience seems rather unlikely, that anything like this number is in fact produced at a cost of God knows how many dozens and dozens of billions. The contribution to effectively fighting the kind of organization that has mounted 9/11? Zero. Zip.

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DoD’s next challenge: managing the fall of our military welfare state

Summary: The military is often described as a test tube for American social science, running experiments such as integration of race, sex, and gender in its relatively controlled society. But the largest social science experiment in the military — perhaps the largest in US history — is DoD’s socialism. We close our eyes, preferring not to see it. Now the military’s spending priorities are changing, and we’ll see the effects on recruitment and retention as it is eroded away. Here Jennifer Mittelstadt explains the history and workings of the military “welfare state”.

 

Military socialism under siege

Under pressure from the increasingly outlandish cost of hardware (e.g., carriers, the F-35), DoD has chosen to cut compensation of its people. It is one of the most important and least covered defense issues (a minor sideshow, keeping the A-10 Warthog, has received 100x the attention).

One of the best articles I’ve seen in years about this is “Welfare’s last stand” by Jennifer Mittelstadt (Assoc Prof of History at Rutgers) at Aeon, 21 September 2015 — “Long in retreat in the US, the welfare state found a haven in an unlikely place – the military, where it thrived for decades.”

Her essay does not respond the usual rebuttal to these facts: this social safety net is compensation for risk borne by our troops. In fact it covers everybody in our uniformed services, during peace and war. It is not limited to those in war zones. It is not limited to those experiencing non-combat risks greater than those of most civilian jobs (and the even smaller number exposed to risks greater than those of the most dangerous civilian job (logging and fishing).

I assume Mittelstadt called it “military welfare” for the shock value. In fact welfare is much more selective in its benefits than the “safety net” inside the military — so “military socialism” fits better.

For more see her book The Rise of the Military Welfare State (2015) — which I ordered today.

Opening of “Welfare’s last stand”

Over the past four decades in the United States, as the country has slashed its welfare state and employers gutted traditional job benefits, growing numbers of people, especially from the working class, grasped for a new safety net – the military. Everyone recognises that the US armed forces have become a global colossus. But few know that, along with bases and bombs, the US military constructed its own massive welfare state. In the waning decades of the 20th century, with US prosperity in decline, more than 10 million active‑duty personnel and their tens of millions of family members turned to the military for economic and social security.

The military welfare state is hidden in plain sight, its welfare function camouflaged by its war-making auspices. Only the richest Americans could hope to access a more systematic welfare network. Military social welfare features a web of near-universal coverage for soldiers and their families – housing, healthcare, childcare, family counselling, legal assistance, education benefits, and more.

The programmes constitute a multi-billion-dollar-per-year safety net, at times accounting for nearly 50% of the Department of Defense budget (DoD). Their real costs spread over several divisions of the defence budget creating a system so vast that the DoD acknowledged it could not accurately reckon its total expense.

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