Trump’s Military Buildup Promises Little For The Working Grunts

Once again, the big money goes for the fancy weapons, while the troops carry old rifles.

CAMP LEJEUNE, N.C. ― The USS Gerald R. Ford, the new aircraft carrier President Donald Trump praised recently, is costing some $13 billion to build. That doesn’t count the airplanes. It’s the most expensive naval vessel in history, and it will fit easily into the “massive” military buildup Trump has demanded.

But at Camp Lejeune, the sprawling Marine Corps base where the working-class military lives, trains and deploys, there’s not enough money for Cpl. Edward L. Kiser, an anti-tank gunner, to train properly. Kiser, a 20-year-old from Butler, Pennsylvania, needs to be proficient at firing TOW missiles in the desperate heat of battle to kill enemy tanks about to overrun his position. “I’ve been in the Marine Corps two years, and I’ve only shot the thing one time,” said Kiser.

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Hurtling To The Ground Is The Easy Part For These Paratroopers

In a massive military exercise, they’re aiming for one small drop zone.

Going out the aircraft door at a thousand feet over the farmland of central Poland, strapped to a parachute and 130 pounds of combat gear, turns out to be the easy part.

A relief, in fact, after a 10-hour flight from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, strapped into fold-down seats along the edges of the C-17 cargo jet’s immense hold and dozing until a few hours out from the drop zone. Then struggling to your feet, shrugging on the 55-pound parachute and balancing in mild turbulence to strap the rucksack between your legs, weapons case by your left leg and auxiliary chute on your chest. An Army rigger checking each paratrooper, fussing like a medieval squire helping his knight into a suit of armor. The riggers running a finger along each strap to trace out any kinks or loose ends, tugging on each steel snap link and shackle, smoothing knots — nothing here to snag on your way out. Recoiling the 15 feet of static line that you’ll clip onto the overhead steel cable so that as you drop, your chute is yanked out. Until then, the loops of that yellow web strap are held in place by rubber bands, which will snap as you go.

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Trump’s War To ‘Annihilate’ ISIS Is Raising Civilian Casualties

In a sharp reversal, the U.S. has started prioritizing battlefield gains over civilian safety.

Overturning more than a decade of careful “hearts and minds” military operations, the United States has signaled that the major U.S.-backed combat offensives against ISIS in Iraq and Syria should proceed regardless of the cost to civilians.

Under orders to “annihilate” the extremist group that calls itself the Islamic State, the Defense Department is unleashing airstrikes, long-range artillery and rocket fire against ISIS-held neighborhoods in Raqqa, Syria, where civilians have been told by U.S.-backed militias to shelter in place. Meanwhile, airstrikes continue against ISIS positions in the Iraqi city of Mosul.

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These Military Vets Have Found A Smarter Way To Fight The War On Terror

“We just can’t keep killing our way out of this problem.”

During four hard combat tours as a Marine commander, Jake Harriman began to understand why the United States is failing to eradicate violent Islamic extremism.

Individual heroics and immense sacrifice over 16 years have enabled American combat troops and special forces to win their battles with the Taliban, al Qaeda and the Islamic State. Those extremist militias are virtually powerless against U.S. drones and airstrikes, which have killed dozens of senior leaders. But still, jihadist movements persist and grow.

Afghan kids keep joining the Taliban, which controls a growing swath of Afghanistan. ISIS, despite battlefield setbacks, recruits passionate believers in Syria, Afghanistan and Libya, not to mention Manchester, England, and Minneapolis. Extremist militias across Africa, around the Middle East and in Southeast Asia draw volunteers. And terrorism continues.

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Forget North Korea. The Next Nuclear Crisis Festers On The India-Pakistan Border

Terrorism is fueling fears of unintended war between the two bitter enemies.

WASHINGTON ― While President Donald Trump is focused on North Korea’s nuclear madman, a more alarming threat is rising in South Asia: an explosive mix of nuclear weapons, terrorism and hair-trigger war plans.

Pakistan, already a major nuclear weapons power with well over 100 warheads and the missiles to carry them, is racing to expand its arsenal of short-range tactical weapons meant as a deterrent against India, its larger, more powerful neighbor and blood enemy. India is thought to have around 100 nuclear warheads of its own. (North Korea is estimated to possess enough fissile material to make several warheads.)

But it’s not the numbers of weapons between India and Pakistan that most worry analysts and diplomats. It’s the instability of their nuclear stand-off and the possibility that an accident, a miscalculation or a terrorist attack could ignite a catastrophic nuclear war.

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North Korea’s Simple But Deadly Artillery Holds Seoul And U.S. Hostage

“These perfectly positioned offensive artillery firing positions are virtually impenetrable, extremely difficult to take out by counterfire.”

Burrowed into hard granite mountain faces and protected behind blast doors, 15,000 North Korean cannons and rocket launchers are aimed at the glass skyscrapers, traffic-choked highways and blocks of apartment buildings 35 miles away in Seoul ― and the U.S. military bases beyond.

In a matter of minutes, these heavy, low-tech weapons could begin the destruction of the South Korean capital with blizzards of glass shards, collapsed buildings and massive casualties that would decimate this vibrant U.S. ally and send shock waves through the global economy.

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The U.S. Military Thinks Missiles And Bombs Work Better With A Strategy, Too

They would like to know Trump’s intent in North Korea, Syria and elsewhere.

They dispatched the carrier strike force toward North Korea. They launched the cruise missiles at Syria. But the U.S. military, stung when it was sent to war before without a clear plan and then blamed for the resulting mess, is expressing caution about being thrust deeper into any of the conflicts raging around the world.

Combat-ready American and allied troops are deployed today against heavily armed opposing forces in Europe and the Korean peninsula. Gen. Curtis Scaparrotti, U.S. and NATO commander in Europe and the former top U.S. commander in South Korea, last year described their situation like this: They’re ready “to fight tonight if deterrence fails.” But a plan would be good.

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Hello and welcome to my new website.  I'm excited about the launch of my upcoming book, What Have We Done:  The Moral Injury of Our Longest Wars, and I'm eager to share with you what I've learned.  I'll be posting updates here regularly on my reporting and other travels. Please check back often and be sure to follow me on Twitter and Facebook