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Mattis: No Indication Trump Wants To Withdraw From Afghanistan

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 02:25 PM PDT

Although President Donald Trump has made clear that he wants U.S. troops to leave Syria as soon as possible, Defense Secretary James Mattis said on Monday that the president has not indicated he wants to withdraw from Afghanistan.

  • "We're there to do a job. We're not there to stay forever," Mattis told reporters Monday at the Pentagon. "The job comes first. As a matter of fact, we have a number of nations adding forces as we speak. The missions are on track."
  • ISIS has carried out suicide bombings in Kabul that have killed nearly 100 people within a week. A U.S. service member was killed Monday in Eastern Afghanistan and another service member wounded during combat.
  • When asked if ISIS' attacks in Kabul show that the terrorist group has the initiative, Mattis said emphatically: "No. They set off a bomb among innocent people."
  • The Taliban delayed announcing the start of their spring offensive until April 25 because they were "taken aback" by the U.S. commitment to stay in Afghanistan and Afghan President Ashraf Ghani's offer for peace talks, Mattis said.
  • "We anticipated that they would do their best to try to bring bombs right into Kabul," he said. "This is the normal stuff by people who cannot win at the ballot box, so they turn to bombs. This should be completely expected. It's what they do."


This post is part of BULLET POINTS, our running SITREP of the military stories you need to read now. Sign up for more updates in your inbox here.


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Don’t ‘Spray And Pray.’ Send Your Resume With The Precision Of A Sniper

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 01:21 PM PDT

Here's a career truth I didn't believe until I experienced it myself: Quantity will not help you get a job. The "spray and pray" method of blasting out resumes and cover letters to as many jobs as possible is a recipe for wasted time and frustration.

I know because I've been there, and have had dozens of friends, family and acquaintances in the same position. You tally the total positions you've applied for, the hours spent uploading resumes and filling out page after page of digital applications, and you realize you're no closer to landing an interview than you were before you applied.

Instead of a free-for-all, you'll need to be methodical about your approach. These steps will get you started:

Choose your target

When I left the Army I felt like I was qualified for at least a dozen different careers. I had served as an intelligence officer but had handled logistics as an executive officer, management at three different levels, gained human resources skills as a platoon leader, and had teaching experience from a number of additional duty roles such as physical security and information security officer. While the military may make you the consummate jack-of-all-trades, the civilian world usually prefers skilled specialization.

This means you have to pick a focus. If you want to get into sales, you'll need to strategize your resume, cover letter, and LinkedIn for any possible sales experience. If you're aiming for logistics, you'll need to craft your cover letter to highlight all relevant logistics skills and projects you have under your belt. Having a target (even if you're not yet 100% sure about the career) helps if you need a portfolio or work sample, certifications or schooling, or volunteer experience to get your foot in the door. Once you a choose a direction, it's easier to see what your next step may be. If you leave every career possibility door open, you can become paralyzed with indecision and too many choices. On a practical note, you also confuse recruiters and hiring managers when you seem like you're desperate for any job. It's also hard to help someone when it seems like they don't know what they want. Get focused to get started.

Find an in

Many of the people I served with moved on to roles in corporations, such as PwC, JP Morgan Chase, USAA, and American Express. It's not exactly a surprise how they landed there; large companies generally have a diversity hiring initiative or even a whole, separate veteran pipeline. Use these to your advantage! Any leg up is worthwhile, especially for your first job post-military. It can be so hard to get a human to read your resume and recognize the value you can bring to an organization. When a company actually spends the money and time to recruit veteran candidates, you know you're already a few steps ahead.

For those who don't want to work for large, established companies, use any network you have or can find. Maybe it's your alma mater or former commander. Perhaps it's a local meetup group in your town. Finding personal connections can get you one step closer to the job you want. Don't be afraid to ask people for advice or help. If you know someone in the industry you want to work in, ask to sit down for coffee and a discussion about what skills you need to success.

Last thoughts

Imagine throwing a hundred basketballs at the hoop in a pitch-black gymnasium versus taking aimed, measured, controlled shots from the free throw line with the lights on. That's the difference between pounding out applications blindly and sending them off at every chance you get and taking a calm, strategic, and patient approach to the job search. The more you know about the industry and career you want, the easier it is to focus and hone your skills to fit the role. Sure, this method takes more time, thought, and energy, but it gets you infinitely closer to the career you want versus shooting off random shots with a hope and a prayer.


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More Sexual Assaults Are Reported In The Military, But Fewer Cases Are Going To Trial

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 01:00 PM PDT

More cases of military sexual assault are being reported, but fewer are being referred to courts-martial because commanders are increasingly relying on administrative action and discharges for accused offenders, according to the latest report on sexual assaults in the military.

The drop in courts-martial may be due in part to changes in the Uniform Code of Military Justice since 2012, said Nate Galbreath, deputy director of the Pentagon's Sexual Assault Prevention and Response Office.

"In our conversations with military justice attorneys, they've talked a little bit about how the rules have changed — that you need more evidence to go forward in certain cases than others," Galbreath told reporters on Monday. "So that reduces the percentage that they may be able to take action on because they need more evidence. Some of those cases went into 'insufficient evidence of a crime to prosecute.'"

Related: 'Continuum Of Harm': The Military Has Been Fighting Sexual Assault In Its Ranks For Decades, But Women Say It's Still Happening»

When pressed on whether changes in the UCMJ have made it harder to prosecute sexual assault cases, Galbreath replied, "I can't say that."

Overall, the number of reported cases of sexual assault rose nearly 10%, from 6,172 in fiscal 2016 to 6,769 in fiscal 2017, Pentagon statistics show. The Army reported 2,706 cases of sexual assault, an increase of 8.4%; the Navy reported 1,585 cases, an increase of 9.3%; the the Air Force reported 1,480 cases, an increase of 9.2%; and the Marine Corps saw a nearly 15% increase, with a total of 998 reported cases.

The percentage of substantiated sexual assault cases in which charges were preferred to courts-martial has dropped from 71% in fiscal 2013 to 54% in fiscal 2017, according to the data. In that same time period, the percentage of cases resolved through administrative action and discharges has increased from 12 to 26%.

"This probably reflects more of victim choice here," Galbreath said. "Because it's very, very challenging to go through the court-martial process and testify, victims may opt to not testify. Rather, commanders are now left with administrative actions and discharges to hold people appropriately accountable. That's probably why we saw an increase in those."

Related: 'Continuum Of Harm': The #MeToo Movement Will Rock The DoD, Whether The Pentagon Is Ready Or Not»

Galbreath stressed that the Pentagon cannot mandate that a certain number of sexual assault cases go to court-martial, because doing so would be considered unlawful command influence, and the alleged offenders would be able to walk free. In May 2017, an airman's conviction for rape and assault was overturned over the appearance of unlawful command influence by Air Force leadership.

The Service Women's Action Network issued a statement on Monday decrying the drop in courts-martial and convictions for sexual assault.

"An increase in reporting is only good if it leads to justice," Lydia Watts, CEO of the group, said in the statement. "It hasn’t. Despite the increase in reporting, actual convictions from sexual assault reports have decreased over the last three years. The military is encouraging victims to come forward, and when they do, it hangs them out to dry."


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Why You Have To Edit Your Resume Every Time You Apply

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 12:15 PM PDT

Have you been working hard to update your resume? Have you made sure to translate all of those military acronyms? Do you think you have it ready to send out to every company and every job in which you have interest?

Well, think again.

Your resume should be different for every role to which you apply.

There are a lot of tips on good resume writing. They'll tell you how long it should be; how many bullet points each section should have; what font to use; whether or not to put the date of when you graduated, etc…

But the first step in writing a good resume is reading the job description.

A job description is full of clues as to what the company is seeking in an ideal candidate. Those clues are in the company description, the position summary, the list of responsibilities and they are certainly in the requirements section. Before you even think about hitting that "apply" button, take the time to make sure that your resume clearly shows that you are the ideal candidate, not for any job, but for each job that you apply to.

Does the word "data" appear in the job description seven times? If so, your resume should have the word "data" in it as well indicating your specific experience with data. Does the role require three or more years of "project management" experience? Then a recruiter needs to see these specific words and the amount of years of experience on your resume. Does the role require "people management" experience? Then make sure that your resume highlights what you've done in this area.  

You may have called it "statistics" or "operations planning" while you were in service – but if the company is seeking data and project management, then those are the words that a recruiter is seeking as well. You may assume that listing your rank on your resume makes it clear that you managed people, but it's important to make no assumptions and clearly articulate all of your skills in the same language used in the job description.

The same holds true for a cover letter – you should write a new cover letter for each submission. The cover letter should have information that is not in your resume. Maybe you want to explain some time off or a "gap," in your resume; or explain a part of your service and how it relates to the role you're applying for; or maybe you want to explain that you're planning to relocate to the location of this position and will not require relocation assistance to do so – a cover letter is the place to do just that.

But make sure that you read it over and over, checking for grammatical errors and correct spelling. And always check the name of the company and name of the addressee before you submit it. Candidates have been declined for starting a cover letter with "I've always wanted to work at Company A" but sending it to Company B. The last thing you want is to have a great resume and get declined because your cover letter shows poor written communication skills.

All of this becomes more important when you consider the role of technology in recruiting. Many companies are using Applicant Tracking Systems to filter out resumes in the selection process, eliminating and selecting resumes based on keywords in the document.  If you can't get pass the automated computer check, then it is even harder to get your resume to the next level and in front of a recruiter who will actually read your resume and cover letter.

Before you hit apply, also take a few more minutes to review the company website, as well as sites like Glassdoor to get more information on the company. What is the company's mission statement? Does the company mission align with your views? Are there key words there that you could incorporate into your resume? This is your chance to make a first impression, so take your time and get it right – let this company know that you are focused on this role and their company by being thoughtful in your resume and you'll increase your chances of getting selected for the next step in the hiring process.

Chad Gutierrez is a Manager and Human Resources Business Partner at TIAA.

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19 Extremely Important Military Questions About ‘Avengers: Infinity War’

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 12:02 PM PDT

Like almost every other human being on the planet, T&P staffers saw much-anticipated Marvel blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War this weekend and were left with a number of lingering military questions regarding the tactics, strategy, and organizational structure that define Earth's Mightiest Heroes.

Marvel true believers, be warned: Some (minor and inconsequential) plot-spoilers and serious comic book nerdery ahead.

  1. How much back pay does America owe its Captain? As of 2016, Steve Rogers was due about  $4.6 million (adjusted for inflation), but do they still owe him anything now that he’s AWOL?
  2. If James Barnes' family received death gratuity payments when he was “killed” fighting Hydra in Europe in 1945, do his surviving relatives have to recoup the government (and with interest)?
  3. Does Congress require a new Authorization for the Use of Military Force to deploy U.S. military personnel like Lt. Col. James Rhodes (War Machine) in defense of the planet? Or does the whole 'Infinity' thing implicitly claim the 2001 AUMF as its basis?
  4. Why the hell are those Avengers who signed the Sokovia Accords reporting to Secretary of State Thaddeus 'Thunderbolt' Ross and not the Secretary of Defense? Are the Avengers like U.S. Africa Command, with a joint DoD-State HQ? The chain of command is deeply unclear here.
    avengers: infinity war military tactics
  5. What exactly is the current organizational relationship between the Avengers and the UN and the U.S.? The Ultimates (the spiritual inspiration for the cinematic portrayal of the Avengers) were clearly a U.S.-chartered agency (formerly) operating under the auspices of S.H.I.E.L.D. Even with the Sokovia Accords, this just seems like some ambiguous Justice League bullsh*t.
  6. Would S.H.I.E.L.D’s budget or have been affected by sequestration? How about the Joint Terrorism Task Force that Everett Ross spearheads in Captain America: Civil War? Is this why nobody shows up to help out the Wakandan security forces?
  7. How much have S.H.I.E.L.D. and the Avengers cost the American taxpayer in terms of baseline operational funding (and excluding collateral damage, which is handled by the Department of Damage Control after The Avengers)? And is it more or less expensive than the cost of rescuing Matt Damon?


  8. Do Cap and Bucky have to check in their shield and metal arm to the armory for inspection at the end of an op? Sam Wilson sure was worried about Joint Task Force personnel rocking his wings during Captain America: Civil War. How does one even pick up a certification to examine Wakandan vibranium?
  9. Would the Hulk technically fall under the Department of Energy considering he's a radioactive asset?
  10. Isn't this the second time that the Scarlet Witch has abandoned her post guarding a strategic asset after bailing on the vibranium core when Quicksilver dies in Age of Ultron? So much for good order and discipline.
  11. Why is it that it’s always the U.S. military personnel on the Avengers squad in Wakanda (Sam Wilson and James Rhodes, the latter of which is technically a Marine in the comics) end up playing CAS? After his injury in Civil War, wouldn't Rhodey much prefer to play armor from a safe distance?
    avengers: infinity war military tactics
  12. Did the Department of State have an embassy on Asgard? If so, who maintains security? S.H.I.E.L.D personnel or U.S. Marines?
  13. Are the Avengers covered by TriCare? When they get out, are they eligible for VA benefits? Sam Wilson certainly did while working for the VA during Captain America: Winter Soldier.
  14. Are the Guardians of the Galaxy technically private military contractors? Relatedly, does Groot's, uh, hands-on combat style violate the Geneva Conventions?
  15. Who actually has operational command during the Wakanda battle: Cap or Black Panther?
  16. Wouldn’t Lt. Col. James Rhodes (War Machine) outrank “Captain” Steve Rogers, and therefore be in charge of the Avengers? Or is "Cap" more of a billet?
  17. Is Stormbreaker a WMD?
  18. Why has the Army not put Captain America up for a Medal of Honor yet?
  19. When do the brave combatants of the Infinity War get their parade?

What's your burning question from Avengers: Infinity War? Share it in the comments below.

The post 19 Extremely Important Military Questions About 'Avengers: Infinity War' appeared first on Task & Purpose.

Why ‘Battlefield: Bad Company 2’ Remains The Greatest Military Shooter Ever Made

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 11:17 AM PDT

I've played my fair share of first-person shooters, but few can stack up to the glory of Battlefield: Bad Company 2.

I was first introduced to the franchise back in the early 2000's when Battlefield 1942 showed up. Running around Wake Island trying to fend off a Japanese invasion was a paradigm shift from previous non-sandbox shooters. Unlike other World War II games at the time, you weren't just playing out a scripted set of sequences that ended in victory; if you thought your team needed to take down those Japanese fighters, then by God you would find the nearest anti-air gun and get to work.

The open world of Battlefield allowed for complex group tactics and strategy at its best, and mayhem at its worst. The game may have been arcade-style in nature, but it taught me how proper group communication and a sound strategy will beat a disorganized team every time.

Battlefield 1942EA DICE

Running around in the sand in BF1942

This marvel of a game blew my mind, its successor was even better. Battlefield 2 was still kicking as the modern shooter standard back when I signed up for four years of Uncle Sam's wild ride. They even had a Battlefield 2 PC setup to drain your bank account at the on-base arcade at Lackland Air Force Base in Texas when I was stationed there.

High-octane follow-up Battlefield 2142 gave us all a taste of the future of war — which was pretty similar to our current ones, just with more drop pods inserting troops everywhere, and the occasional hover-tank or walking battle-mech. Getting off work at Tinker Air Force Base for much of 2008 simply meant moving from the squadron office to fighting in the climate change-ravaged southern European battlefields of BF2142.

Battlefield 2EA DICE

Battlefield 2 Trailer

After this, Battlefield languished in development hell. The original Battlefield: Bad Company appeared for console gamers, but as a stalwart defender of the PC, this held as much appeal to me as an omelet MRE. After trying the Xbox beta, I found it suffered from the main flaw of shooters on consoles: the controller just doesn't cut it for getting sweet, sweet, headshots.

Battlefield 2142Battlefield 2142

Battlefield 2142 Trailer Mechs

With few options, I was forced to suffer through years without a proper graphically impressive open world Battlefield game — until I returned from the hinterlands of Afghanistan to discover that Battlefield: Bad Company 2 had appeared on PC. Somewhat tentative and fearful that Bad Company 2 was merely a lousy port of a console game, I jumped in with low expectations — low expectations that were detonated in a cavalcade of gunshots, tracers, missiles, and collapsing buildings

Bad Company 2 had fully destructible environments. Matches would start with an entire map filled with buildings, villages from faraway lands faithfully recreated in the Frost Engine to fight from flag to flag taking and holding objectives. And by the end of the match, most of these buildings would be completely flattened. Prior to this, and even since, it’s rare to have a game where you can deal with the problem of a sniper by shooting a Carl Gustav at the rough vicinity of the wall behind which the sniper hides, and eliminate the threat (plus, there is no Law of Armed Combat to keep you from simply leveling every building you consider a threat. Possible squad holed up in that corner store? Better pop open the mortar and start shelling it, just in case).

Battlefield: Bad Company 2EA

Helo Ops in Battlefield: Bad Company 2

But the most important I noticed the first time I fired up Bad Company 2, was how accurate the sound design was. Explosions near and far are rendered faithfully, and the changing sounds of weapons fire at different distances are amazingly accurate. I discovered that Swedish game developer DICE actually sent their audio team to work with the Swedish military to record the sounds in the game; they even mic'd up an entire military exercise.

The efforts of the DICE team carried over to the follow-up games — but the pure destructibility did not. Although the series brought back limited destructibility after Battlefield 3, it wasn’t nearly at the same level as the golden age of Bad Company 2.

With Battlefield 5 around the corner, we can only hope that an Andrew Jackson-style total war campaign will remain an option. But until then I think I may boot up Battlefield: Bad Company 2 and bust a few holes in some walls.

Disagree? Tell us your favorite military shooter in an email or the comments below.

Battlefield: Bad Company 2EA

Small Arms Ops in BF:BC2

The post Why ‘Battlefield: Bad Company 2’ Remains The Greatest Military Shooter Ever Made appeared first on Task & Purpose.

US Service Member Killed, Another Wounded In Eastern Afghanistan

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 10:53 AM PDT

A U.S. service member was killed and another wounded on Monday during a combat operation in eastern Afghanistan, defense officials announced.

  • The Pentagon has not yet identified the fallen or wounded service members pending next of kin notification. The wounded service member is in stable condition and is being treated at Bagram Airfield's hospital, according to U.S. Forces-Afghanistan
  • Several members of the Afghan security forces were also killed and wounded in the operation, a news release from U.S Forces-Afghanistan says.
  • "My thoughts and those of U.S. Forces-Afghanistan are with the families and friends of our fallen and wounded service members," Army Gen. John Nicholson, who leads U.S. and coalition troops in Afghanistan, said in a statement. "Their valiancy in battle, and that of the brave Afghan partners they fought alongside, will endure in our hearts and history."
  • Eastern Afghanistan is home to the Afghan branch of ISIS, which has claimed responsibility for recent suicide attacks in Kabul that have killed scores of civilians.

This post is part of BULLET POINTS, our running SITREP of the military stories you need to read now. Sign up for more updates in your inbox here.

The post US Service Member Killed, Another Wounded In Eastern Afghanistan appeared first on Task & Purpose.

No Sky Dong Over Ramstein, Air Force Tells T&P About Phallic-Looking Contrails

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 07:52 AM PDT

Do not look for the sky penis. That is impossible. Instead, only try to realize the truth: There is no sky penis.

On April 27, the unofficial Air Force amn/nco/snco Facebook page posted an image of contrail loops over Ramstein Air Base in Germany that looked as if a military aircraft had drawn a gigantic "Schwanz" in the sky.

But a spokeswoman for the 52nd Fighter Wing told Task & Purpose on Monday that none if its aircraft flew abnormal patterns over Ramstein on the day the pictures were taken.

"The pilots conducted their normal flight patterns, which are based on planned tactics frequently involving circles and straight lines," Air Force Capt. Andrea Valencia said in an email. "The weather permitted those contrails to be visible from the ground and simply showed the patterns that our pilots do on a day to day basis. The contrails were not intended to signal anything to anyone on the ground, the pattern and multitude was not an intentional act."

Two Navy aviators were disciplined after they used their EA-18G Growler to draw a sky penis over Washington state in November. Those hoping to catch a glimpse of a massive dong in the heavens will have to keep watching the skies.


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‘Army Of None’: A Clear-Eyed Look At The Rise Of Autonomous Weapons

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 06:30 AM PDT

Part historical survey, part ethics discussion, part science fiction, Paul Scharre's Army of None delivers a comprehensive look at autonomous weapons. Paul brings his years of experience as a policy expert on military technology ethics and practical experience from serving in the United States Army to deliver an easy-to-read book on autonomous weapon systems without heavy jargon.

The book's first major contribution is to actually define 'autonomous' weapon. The discussion surrounding artificial intelligence (AI) and warfare is fraught with misunderstandings and vague language. Scharre expertly defines autonomy, from human-in-the-loop to fully autonomous, with historical and present-day examples. His definitions and examples are an important step forward in understanding autonomous weapons and lays out a useful framework for meaningful discussion on their use (or ban).

Army of NoneArmy of None

Army of None Book Cover

Army of None presents a well written in-depth legal and ethical discussion on autonomous weapons use. Scharre brings in viewpoints from various experts on AI, weapons in war, international law and others to provide the reader a survey of the legal and ethical issues surrounding autonomous weapons. He covers the history and necessity of these various laws with examples—including the legal case for necessitating the use of autonomous weapons in war.

The book discusses everything from present-day utilitarian views on using autonomous weapons to science fiction stories of autonomous weapons gone use gone wrong. When it comes to potential policy decisions to ban or use autonomous weapons, Scharre's recommendations are thought-provoking and well-reasoned. He suggests policies for autonomous weapons that address the ambiguity around autonomy and that have worked well historically.

One area that was a bit light in Army of None was the design of AI systems. Scharre mentions some of the earliest rule-based AI algorithms and only touches briefly on cutting-edge AI: machine learning. He focuses on one machine learning algorithm and one supervised learning task. This misses many important aspects of machine learning such as unsupervised learning, reinforcement learning, and feature engineering, which will all profoundly impact what AI systems can do.

He does highlight one of the most important parts of actual AI implementation: adversarial machine learning.  The chapter on adversarial machine learning is the apex of the book, as the nascent but fast-growing field could completely negate the benefits of AI on the battlefield or, at a minimum, greatly reduce AI's applicability as a weapon system.

This leads to a discussion of why AI and machines can make formidable—and brittle—weapon systems. Scharre expertly highlights how machines can operate at speeds and scales that humans can never achieve, like playing games or trading stocks to accomplish tasks at superhuman speeds. His analyses of various cases studies explicate, even for non-technical readers, the fundamental benefits and risks of using machines. The reader comes away understanding why using AI and machines are so attractive and also why they tend to fail when confronted with new situations that they were not designed to address.

Overall, Army of None is a must-read for anyone interested in AI and the future of warfare. Paul Scharre creates a framework to understand autonomous weapons and incorporates many sides of the discussion on their use, buttressed by an in-depth history of autonomous weapons. While some technically savvy readers may find the book wanting, all readers can appreciate his in-depth yet accessible ethical and legal discussions.  His conclusion about the ethical and moral decisions and consequences that come with taking a human life are compelling. Warfare has always been a human activity and perhaps it both should and will remain that way.

Captain Iain J. Cruickshank is a USMA Graduate, class of 2010, and is currently a PhD Candidate in Societal Computing at Carnegie Mellon University as National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellow. His previous assignments include Company Commander for D Company, 781st Military Intelligence Battalion (Cyber), and Sub-Element lead for planning and analysis and production on a National Mission Team in the Cyber National Mission Force. The views expressed in this article do not officially represent the views of the US Army, the US military or the United States Government, and are the views of the author only.


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Trump Talks Tough. But After 15 Months, He’s Actually Been Risk Averse When It Comes To Military Force

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 06:00 AM PDT

He tweets about “fire and fury” and threatens “an event the likes of which nobody’s seen before.”

But after 15 months in the White House, Donald Trump has shown that his use of military force may be the most conventional aspect of his presidency.

To date, Trump has launched two limited military strikes against Syria and increased the use of airstrikes and special operations raids in Somalia and Yemen to kill Islamic extremists, killing more civilians as well. He has equivocated over pulling troops from Syria amid its civil war and reversed President Obama’s drawdown of American forces from Afghanistan.

It adds up to a shift from Obama’s military strategy, but more incrementally than by the 180 degrees that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric has suggested since his days on the campaign trail.

“The president is erratic, but he does also seem to be pretty risk-averse where the use of military force is concerned,” said Kori Schake, who held several security roles in George W. Bush’s administration and wrote a book with Trump’s secretary of Defense, James N. Mattis.

“He asks basic and important questions, often asks for military planning for operations that alarm the professionals, but so far hasn’t chosen to enact them,” Schake said, adding, “He doesn’t appear to want to spend his presidency on the wars.”

trump syria strikes chemical weapons attack responseAssociated Press/Evan Vucci

President Donald Trump speaks during a cabinet meeting at the White House, Monday, April 9, 2018, in Washington.

Trump stands at a key juncture in defining his national security policy. John Bolton, his third national security advisor in little more than a year, began his job this month, with a history of advocating aggressive use of force and a reputation from his Bush-era service as a bruising infighter to get his way within the federal bureaucracy.

One White House National Security Council official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said that the stamp the more interventionist Bolton will put on Trump’s military policy is still a “wait and see” proposition.

Administration officials would not grant interviews with security staffers amid Bolton’s transition and the ongoing shakeup in the National Security Council. Several top aides have resigned or been ousted as Bolton forms his own team.

In the same week that Bolton arrived in the West Wing, Trump ordered the latest airstrikes against Syria — a dramatic act, but one that was sharply dialed back by military advisors to minimize tensions with the Russians, who are backing Syrian strongman Bashar Assad.

Meanwhile, after months of bellicose warnings that he might use force to halt North Korea’s nuclear program, Trump is seeking to win his biggest bet yet, on a summit with the isolated country’s autocratic leader, Kim Jong Un.

Security experts from across the spectrum — many of whom opposed Trump’s election — still hold significant concerns about his temperament, his willingness to risk a fatal miscommunication with global rivals and his impatience with detailed policy analyses. Some, particularly on the left, worry that Bolton will push him toward perilous military interventions.

Yet, so far, the biggest surprise has been the gulf between Trump’s talk and his military actions.

Related: North Korea's Shocking Nuclear And Missile Test Announcement Isn't What It Seems »

“A lot of this, Hillary Clinton would have done,” said Derek Chollet, an assistant secretary of Defense for international security affairs under Obama and an advisor to Clinton when she was secretary of State.

In some ways, Trump is discovering what Obama and other predecessors learned about the limits both of presidential power in the face of global conflicts and of the options from military advisors to confront them.

He initially hoped to withdraw from Afghanistan but was persuaded by advisors to raise troop levels instead. Syria may follow a similar course.

Trump recently called for an abrupt withdrawal of the roughly 2,000 U.S. troops from Syria, yet the following week felt compelled to retaliate against Assad’s use of chemical weapons. That episode only reinforced the arguments of Trump’s national security advisors that he shouldn’t leave Syria to Russia and Iran, Assad’s protectors. Lately, Trump has taken to describing his goal of bringing troops home as vaguely aspirational.

From the start Trump’s vision has been blurred by seemingly contradictory impulses. While he promotes a nationalist, noninterventionist agenda, the president exudes hawkish bravado, boasting about the size and strength of the military, often surrounding himself with soldiers and military equipment.

During the campaign, he vowed to enlarge the military for the sake of deterrence, to avoid unnecessary wars or nation-building adventures. Yet he also promised to “bomb the hell out of ISIS,” an acronym for the Islamic State. And as president, he has threatened “fire and fury like the world has never seen” against North Korea.

Supporters say Trump’s doctrine is modeled after President Reagan’s “peace through strength” dogma. “Extravagance is his personality” but it also serves a purpose in projecting strength, said Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union.

Trump made a similar point during an interview on “Fox & Friends” on Thursday, recounting his threatening tweets toward Kim months ago, which have given way to a softer tone as Kim has moved toward diplomacy. He even called the autocrat “very honorable.”


“It was very, very nasty with ‘Little Rocket Man’ and with the buttons — ‘my button’s bigger,'” he said, adding about himself, “Everyone says, ‘This guy is going to get us into nuclear war.’ Let me tell you: Nuclear war would happen if you had weak people.”

Many security analysts outside Trump’s circle are unwilling to ascribe any doctrine to his record, calling it more a loose collection of gut instincts, machismo and military deference than coherent strategy.

“President Trump is a lot about looking tough, being dramatic and not being his predecessor,” said Michael V. Hayden, a retired general and former CIA director who served in both Democratic and Republican administrations.

Yet, Hayden continued, “What President Trump did in Syria was simply what President Obama was doing. He just amped it up a little bit. There weren’t any sharp turns there.”

Hayden defined Bush by his willingness to commit large numbers of troops to two wars for long periods. Though Obama campaigned against those policies, Hayden noted, he nonetheless left many deployed, if at a lower profile, for extended periods.

Trump, in contrast to both of them, seems “comfortable with high levels of violence but only for short periods of time,” said Hayden, whose book “The Assault on Intelligence: American National Security in an Age of Lies” is about to be published.

Trump shares Obama’s inclination to withdraw from conflicts in the Middle East, but also finds himself boxed in by military advisors who warn that withdrawals could heighten instability, empower terrorist groups or otherwise weaken American interests.

After spending several weeks promising to leave Syria, the president sounded chastened during a joint news conference with French President Emmanuel Macron on Tuesday.

“I do want to come home,” he said, “but I want to come home also with having accomplished what we have to accomplish.”

The April 14 missile strikes in Syria were intended to send a message that Trump, in contrast to Obama, was willing to employ force against the use of chemical weapons. Yet they were limited, like the previous one in April 2017. Although Trump declared “Mission Accomplished!” the next day, the strikes may not prevent future chemical attacks and didn’t stop Assad’s forces from continuing to kill civilians.

“He wants to be seen as decisive. He wants to be seen as hitting back. But he doesn’t want to own Syria,” Chollet said. “He doesn’t want this to be seen as a fight against Assad, but neither does the U.S. military.”

Trump allies say the president is not given enough credit for thinking through military strategy. Jim Hanson, who is president of the conservative think tank Security Studies Group and in frequent contact with administration officials, disputed portrayals of Trump as “a shoot from the hip, make snap judgments” sort of commander in chief.

Hanson said Trump asks basic questions about the implications of security decisions, with an emphasis on U.S. interests.

Other advisors, however, have said that the president continues to resist lengthy policy discussions.

Much of Trump’s policy is defined not by those private discussions but by his public pronouncements, especially on Twitter, that often take even advisors by surprise. Supporters say Trump, by those outbursts, intends to provoke reactions or air frustrations more than to convey specific policy.

“He likes to throw over all the conference room tables, knock over the rice bowls,” Hanson said. “He likes to throw everyone for a loop and see what the reactions are.”

On that, Trump’s critics agree. And they continue to worry that he will unintentionally spark a conflict. Kathleen Hicks, who served in top defense positions under Obama, worries that an adversary will react or that Trump might overestimate his ability to contain the use of force.

Even if Trump has been inclined to avoid risk in deploying force, his Twitter finger is another story, Hicks said.

“It’s clear his tendency is toward willingness to risk a little miscalculation in order to talk tough,” she said. “It really is, ‘Speak loudly and carry a big stick.'”


©2018 the Los Angeles Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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Hey Army: Here’s A Damn Sensible Idea For The Future Of Cyber Warfare

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 05:30 AM PDT

"Establish a U.S. Army Reserve Cyber Command in Silicon Valley, where most of these private-sector companies are located, not Fort Gordon, Ga. The Reserve could potentially restructure a command already located in the area.”

—Maj. Jamie Schwandt in the May issue of ARMY magazine.

I am glad to see this idea being discussed. But he doesn't address the problem of the Army requiring three years of active service before putting people into reserve cyberunits.

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US Tanks Just Marched Down German Roads For The First Time In 15 Years

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 05:00 AM PDT

The U.S. military and its NATO partners have been looking to reassert their presence in Europe in the wake of Russian action in Crimea.

NATO has deployed multinational units to Eastern Europe, and the U.S. Army has been looking to boost its armor for more rotational deployments. Armored units on the continent are also expanding their training repertoire.

Soldiers from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, from the 1st Infantry Division, arrived in Europe in September 2017, with roughly 3,300 personnel, 87 tanks, 125 Bradley fighting vehicles, and 18 Paladin self-propelled howitzers for a nine-month rotation at locations in Poland, Germany, Romania, Hungary, and Bulgaria.

When they disembarked in Gdansk, Poland, it would be “the first time two armored brigades transition within the European theater sending a full complement of soldiers and equipment into Germany and Poland in support of Operation Atlantic Resolve,” Eastern Europe operations command spokesman U.S. Army Master Sgt. Brent Williams said at the time.

The unit’s rotation is also concluding with something of a first. Between April 22 and April 25, the 2nd ABCT carried out a tactical road march with over 700 vehicles on public roads between the Grafenwoehr and Hohenfels training areas in southeast Germany — the first time the exercise has been done at the brigade level in 15 years, according to the Army.

us tanks march germany Grafenwoehr Training AreaU.S. Army/Spc. Dustin D. Biven

A M1 Abrams tank from 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division, during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.

“The 7th Army Training Command, who conducts the exercise, decided to leverage the two training areas in Bavaria to connect multiple locations and units to create a more realistic training environment in Europe,” said Capt. Orlandon Howard, 2nd ABCT public-affairs officer.

The exercise was part of the Combined Resolve multinational exercise, which is taking place between April 9 and May 12 and includes personnel from 13 countries. The exercise is designed to give rotational brigades a graded culminating event in a realistic and complex training environment before they return to the U.S.

After a maneuver live-fire drill, the brigade was ordered to conduct the march to Hohenfels, where it would start preparing for the 10-day, force-on-force portion of the exercise.

The road march required only limited recovery operations and avoided major damage to roads and towns along the route, which the release noted was a significant accomplishment in light of the size of some of the vehicles involved.

Soldiers from the 2nd ABCT were joined by the Polish army’s 12th Mechanized Division, and a number of local residents stopped to watch the procession.

us tanks march germany Grafenwoehr Training AreaU.S. Army/Spc. Dustin D. Biven

A German citizen greets U.S. vehicles from the 2nd Armored Brigade Combat Team, 1st Infantry Division during a tactical road march from Grafenwoehr Training Area to Hohenfels, Germany, April 23, 2018.

A German family waved at the soldiers while a German man held a U.S. flag across his body. Others wore shirts or hats with U.S. Army printed on them or with unit patches. One local man, Ralf Rosenecker, and several of his friends set up a display of three remote-controlled tanks with U.S. flags, according to an Army release.

At the time, NATO said the planned deployments — which included U.S. troops to Poland and Germany, Canada, and the UK sending 1,000 troops each to Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were strictly defensive, through Russia rebuked what it saw as an armed buildup by Western countries in Eastern Europe.

Rotational forces have continued to cycle through Europe, carrying out training exercises with partner forces there.

NATO itself is also looking at ways to increase its readiness and streamline its operations in Europe. NATO movements on the continent have been hindered by differing conflicting regulations and customs rules, differing road standards, and outdated infrastructure across member states.

In January, a convoy of U.S. Paladins traveling from Poland to exercises in southern Germany was briefly stranded, after German border police stopped the Polish contractors transporting them for violating transportation rules.

us tanks paladin howitzers germany Spc. Dustin D. BivenRex Features/Associated Press

U.S. howitzers in transit from Poland to Germany stopped due to unsuitable conditions, Bautzen, Germany on Jan. 10, 2018.

In March, NATO announced its new logistics command — is meant to ensure the quick movement of troops and material across Europe in the event of conflict — will be based in the southern German city of Ulm.

The EU has also said it is devising a plan for military personnel and equipment to move quickly across Europe in a crisis, avoiding border delays and bridges and roads too weak to handle military vehicles.

“Rosenecker said he was excited to see so many tanks because it had been over 15 years since such a large tactical road march was conducted on German roads,” the Army release said.

The U.S. deployed hundreds of tanks, trucks, and other military equipment, accompanied by about 4,000 troops, to Europe at the beginning of 2017. The deployment, part of Operation Atlantic Resolve, was meant to reassure U.S. allies in the face of what many of them perceived as Russian aggression.

Read more from Business Insider:


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Tom Ricks Is Hitting The Road For The Paperback Edition Of ‘Churchill And Orwell’

Posted: 30 Apr 2018 04:30 AM PDT

I'll be out there in America soon in connection with the publication of the paperback edition of Churchill and Orwell: The Fight for Freedom.

Here are events that are open to the public:


Monday, May 14

Kramerbooks & Afterwards

6:30 PM Talk & Signing

1517 Connecticut Avenue, NW

Washington, DC


Wednesday, May 16

7 PM Talk & Signing

Jimmy Carter Presidential Library

441 Freedom Parkway

Atlanta GA 30307


Thursday, May 17

6:30 PM Talk & Signing

Cambridge Public Library

449 Broadway

Cambridge MA 02138


Also, for the couch potatoes amongst you, I will be yakking on a variety of TV and radio shows in the coming weeks. If you come to one of my talks wearing a "Long March" t-shirt, I'll try to get a front row seat for you.

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