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Military Tag

Only a year ago, Obama was berating Russian president Vladimir Putin for his "KGB mentality" and "old expansionist ideas."  Now, however, Obama wants to quadruple military spending in Europe. CNN reports:

President Barack Obama's administration said Tuesday it was seeking to expand U.S. military spending in Europe four-fold in a bid to reassure allies still unsettled by Russia's incursion into Ukraine.

The new spending would increase to $3.4 billion under the new plan, which is set to be formally unveiled next week as part of Obama's final presidential budget.

Bowe Bergdahl, who reportedly left his post to go look for al Queda, was charged with desertion and misbehavior before the enemy.  Today, it was announced that Bergdahl will face a court martial and a possible life sentence. CNN reports:

U.S. Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl will face a military court on charges of desertion and endangering fellow soldiers, the U.S. Army announced Monday.

Gen. Robert Abrams, the commander of U.S. Army Forces Command, ordered the court-martial on Monday, breaking with the U.S. military officer overseeing Bergdahl's preliminary hearing who recommended that Bergdahl be referred to a special court-martial and face no jail time.

Abrams on Monday ordered Bergdahl's case to a general court-martial, which means Bergdahl could face life imprisonment if convicted of "misbehavior before the enemy by endangering the safety of a command, unit or place."

Tibor Rubin passed away a few days ago at age 86. I didn't recognize the name when I saw some articles about his passing. Now I'm glad I've done some research. Tibor Rubin was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor by President George W. Bush in 2005. That would have been remarkable in itself, since the award is so rarely given. But the award was not for service in Iraq. It was for service in the Korean War.  Stars and Stripes reported at the time:
Just minutes after Tibor Rubin received his medal of honor at a White House ceremony Friday, he announced he still wanted to do more for his country. “I’m working on my second Medal of Honor,” the Korean War veteran said, smiling proudly. “This country has done so much for me. I never figured this was going to happen. I’m just as happy as I can be.” ....

Today U.S. officials confirmed that the Turkish military fired upon a Russian jet when it repeatedly violated Turkish airspace near the Turkey-Syria border. The jet crash landed in the Jabal Turkmen area of the coastal Syrian province of Latakia, and it is now believed that both pilots have died under fire from rebel Turkmen forces. More via Fox News:
U.S. defense official said that two Turkish F-16s fired heat-seeking air-to-air missiles at the Russian aircraft. “This will get complicated,” the official said. Tuesday's incident is the first time since the 1950s that a Russian or Soviet military aircraft has been publicly acknowledged to have been shot down by a NATO country, according to Reuters. Russia's main stock index dropped more than 2 percent after the incident, while Turkish stocks fell 1.3 percent amid fears of an escalation between the two countries. Russia said the Su-24 was downed by artillery fire, but Turkey claimed that its F-16s fired on the Russian plane after it ignored the warnings.
Fox has posted amateur video claiming to show the crash:

At a political breakfast event in New Hampshire this week, Hillary Clinton enthralled the guests at her table with a story about the time she tried to join the Marine Corps. Glenn Kessler reports at the Washington Post:
Hillary Clinton’s claim that she tried to join the Marines “He looks at me and goes, ‘Um, how old are you. And I said, ‘Well I am 26, I will be 27.’ And he goes, ‘Well, that is kind of old for us.’ And then he says to me, and this is what gets me, ‘Maybe the dogs will take you,’ meaning the Army.” One Clinton story that has often been greeted with skepticism is her claim, first made in 1994, that she once tried to join the Marines in 1975. On the campaign trail, she brought up the story again. Can this story be confirmed?

Late yesterday the Pentagon announced that it launched a drone strike against Islamic State terrorist Mohammed Emwazi, the man who served as the "face" of the group's gruesome and infamous beheading videos. Emwazi, also known as "Jihadi John," was wounded a year ago during airstrikes in Anbar Province that killed 10 terrorists and wounded at least 40 others. Emwazi had joined tribal leaders from around the region in a bunker near the Iraqi-Syrian border to pledge their allegiance to ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi. Intelligence following the strikes was muddied, but officials believed that Emwazi was taken to a local hospital before being returned to ISIS headquarters. Over the past year, western officials have conducted extensive surveillance in an effort to determine Emwazi's whereabouts---and if reports are correct, they finally found him. Yesterday's strike hit outside of the de facto ISIS capital of Raqqa in northern Syria. Officials have yet to confirm whether or not Emwazi died in the attack; Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said, "We are assessing the results of tonight’s operation and will provide additional information as and where appropriate.” A U.S. senior official told CNN that authorities are confident that the strike was successful; a second source said that authorities positively identified Emwazi before they launched the drone at the vehicle Emwazi was riding in.

China has been a global hub for manufacturing counterfeit electronics and consumer goods, but as the Asian giant asserts its dominance in the Asian Pacific and beyond, its defense establishment is using the same approach to modernise its vast armed forces.  Despite its large standing and reserve army, Chinese Armed Forces technologically lags behind US, Russian and NATO forces. China has decided to manufacture ‘counterfeit’ high-end defense technology on a large scale to overcome its existing strategic weakness. According to a recent report published by the US Naval Institute, China is using military espionage and reverse engineering to build a modern army with “cloned weapons.” Using cyber espionage and by making secret deals with US arms buyers, China has managed to obtain advance US weapons technology. China is reportedly also targeting Russia in its quest for high-end military technology. The Chinese often buy single units of Russian advanced military systems on a “trial” basis and reverse-engineer the weaponry to produce a large-scale Chinese version:

Earlier this week, the Pentagon announced that the U.S. Navy planned on sending a destroyer into disputed waters in the South China Sea. In the first of a series of missions, the USS Lassen would breach the 12-mile "buffer" zone around the man-made islands in the Spratly archipelago as a way of challenging China's belligerent assertions of sovereignty in those waters. Today, China rebuked the US for this "freedom of navigation" patrol, protesting it as a form of harassment, and announced that they had "shadowed" the Lassen:
The U.S. destroyer sailed within 12 nautical miles of Subi Reef, one of seven artificial islands built up by China in the past year.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter has laid out a new plan for U.S. forces sent overseas to "degrade and defeat" ISIS. The Obama Administration has fielded several month's worth of criticism over the ineffectiveness of current strategy; Carter's changes reflect a growing need to take a more active role. From ABC News:
The changes are intended to build on the Obama administration’s strategy to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria where the tactical fight against the terror group has stalemated. “The changes we’re pursuing can be described by what I call the 'three R’s': Raqqa, Ramadi, and Raids,” Carter said in testimony today before the Senate Armed Services Committee. The idea of more raids builds on Carter’s previous comments a Pentagon news conference Friday that there would be more raids similar to the one where American special operations forces assisted Kurdish troops in the rescue of 70 hostages held by ISIS.

China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have spent years debating whose sovereignty holds supreme over territory in the South China Sea. Back in 2014, China began the work of turning the Subi and Mischief reefs in the Spratly archipelago into permanent land forms; before China began this massive dredging project, these "islands" would disappear during high tide. Now, however, China has laid exclusive claim to the new islands, as well as a 12 nautical mile buffer zone around them. China has jealously guarded this territory, but the United States Navy is about to defy that claim. Tonight, the Navy will send the USS Lassen through those waters and into the 12 mile buffer zone surrounding the Spratly archipelago in the first of a series of missions into the area. Via Reuters:
The ship would likely be accompanied by a U.S. Navy P-8A surveillance plane and possibly P-3 surveillance plane, which have been conducting regular surveillance missions in the region, according to the defense official, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Last week, U.S. Forces teamed up with Kurdish Peshmergas to rescue captives held at an Islamic State compound in northern Iraq. The mission freed around 70 hostages, but led to the death of Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler---the first U.S. service member to die in combat in Iraq since 2011. After the mission was complete, the Kurdistan Regional Government---the same body who requested the raid and the help of U.S. forces---released footage from a helmet cam worn by one of the Kurdish soldiers. Watch (the footage is intense, but not NSFW): According to CNN, a U.S. military official has confirmed the authenticity of the video.

The Pentagon has identified 39-year-old Master Sgt. Joshua L. Wheeler of Roland, Oklahoma as the first US service member to die in the ground fight against ISIS. Wheeler was part of a mission aimed at rescuing captives held at an Islamic state compound in northern Iraq. Officials received intelligence that led them to believe that the captives faced imminent mass execution, prompting the Kurdish Regional Government to request the raid. US special forces teamed up with the peshmerga (the Kurdish regional militia) and freed 69 hostages during the approximately 2 hour-long mission. According to Reuters, US officials have said that special forces' involvement in the mission was not tied to suspicion that there were any Americans amongst the captives; instead, US forces acting as advisors were "sucked in" to the battle when the Kurds came under heavy fire. More from Fox News:

In a previous post, I noted that the U.S.-Israel military relationship remains solid. But back in 1948, America failed to support Israel militarily when the fledgling Jewish state needed it most. In fact, as former Middle East peace envoy Dennis Ross writes in his important new book, the U.S. government was downright hostile to Israel in its early years. Ross, who now serves as the William Davidson Distinguished Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and as Distinguished Professor in the Practice of Diplomacy at Georgetown University, notes that nearly all of President Harry S. Truman’s major foreign policy advisors saw the emergence of Israel as “doom and gloom for the United States.” At the time, this was also the predominant view within America's national security establishment. Support for the Jewish state was considered of “no strategic benefit.” The fear (totally unfounded, as Ross points out) was that it would come “at enormous cost to our relations with the Arabs.” In a chapter devoted to the Truman presidency, Ross describes how most leading U.S. national security officials at the time were on a “mission against the Jewish state.” Then senior members of the State Department, the Pentagon, and the CIA maintained a “hostile posture toward the Jewish state and continued to see only risks associated with U.S. support for it.” Most also thought it highly “improbable that the Jewish state would survive over any considerable period of time.” So the consensus was that siding with the Arabs was the safer bet. To be sure, as Ross rightly remarks, “Truman was a good friend of Israel.” But the “actual support he provided was limited.”

For years we've been reporting how President Obama has been trying to insert as much daylight as possible between the United States and Israel. But the reality is that the American-Israeli “special relationship” will weather the storm of this “needlessly combative” administration. Israel is wildly popular among the American public. Americans recognize the shared values and common interests that bind the two countries together. A congressional majority understands the threats Israel faces from the region’s oppressive dictatorships which routinely call for Israel’s destruction, and from political and religious leaders who incite their people to murder Jews.

Obama's goal of reversing the ban on transgender troops serving openly in the military seems likely to manifest itself next year.  Reports suggest that the transgender ban is slated to end in May, 2016.  In keeping with the Obama policy and perhaps angling himself to run to the left of Hillary and to the right of Sanders, Joe Biden announced Saturday that he backs transgender troops openly serving. The New York Times reports:
Vice President Joe Biden is throwing his unequivocal support behind letting transgender people serve openly in the military, as the Obama administration considers whether and when to lift the longstanding ban. Biden's declaration at the Human Rights Campaign's annual dinner Saturday goes further than anything the Obama administration has said before, evoking memories of when Biden outpaced President Barack Obama in endorsing gay marriage. . . . . Biden is considering running for president. He says transgender rights are "the civil rights issue of our time."
During the same dinner, Biden applauded gay rights activists for "changing the course of America." The Hill reports:

Last weekend, I wrote about Secretary of the Navy Mabus rejecting the Marine Corps study that showed that units with women underperform when compared to all-male units. This week, the Marine Corps is pushing back and opening up a debate about whether or not Mabus can veto Marine Corps decisions.  The Marine Times reports:
The Marine Corps is expected to ask that women not be allowed to compete for several front-line combat jobs, inflaming tensions between Navy and Marine leaders, U.S. officials say. The tentative decision has ignited a debate over whether Navy Secretary Ray Mabus can veto any Marine Corps proposal to prohibit women from serving in certain infantry and reconnaissance positions. And it puts Gen. Joseph Dunford, the Marine Corps commandant who takes over soon as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at odds with the other three military services, who are expected to open all of their combat jobs to women.
This is of particular interest because while Mabus is a politician, General Dunford is career military and about to become chairman of the Joint Chiefs . . . . with the power, presumably, to approve the waiver that he's just submitted as Marine Corps commandant.  The Marine Times continues:

The military is gearing up to meet the 2012 directive of then-Defense Secretary Panetta that women be integrated into infantry forces by January, 2016 unless exemptions are obtained by the end of this month. Women, however, are not doing particularly well in the training programs: of the 29 who attempted the Marine Corps' Infantry Officer Course, none were successful; only 34% of women who signed up for infantry training in the Marine Corp finished successfully; and only 12 women have passed the Army's prerequisite Ranger Training and Assessment Course, two of whom went on to become Army Rangers in August of this year. The Navy SEALS announced that it, too, will be open to women, though none so far are reported to have applied.  Watch: