You are here

The National Interest

Subscribe to The National Interest feed The National Interest
The National Interest online seeks to provide a space for vigorous debate and exchange not only among Americans but between U.S. and overseas interlocutors. This is the new home for informed analysis and frank but reasoned exchanges on foreign policy and international affairs.
Updated: 3 weeks 5 days ago

Who Would Joe Biden Pick for Vice President?

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 14:07

Hunter DeRensis

Politics,

Assuming Biden is able to seal the deal, who is he likely to choose for his vice-presidential nominee to complete the ticket?

Following the results of Super Tuesday, Joe Biden has been able to reclaim his status as frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He leads his nearest opponent, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont, by 900,000 votes and over 75 delegates. Able to appeal to both black voters and white suburbanites, it appears Biden will be able to ride this commanding coalition to victory at the national convention and possibly the White House.

Assuming Biden is able to seal the deal, who is he likely to choose for his vice-presidential nominee to complete the ticket?

“There’s at least nine women I can think of who are fully capable of being president,” Biden said in January, when asked about a possible shortlist of running mates. As a man who served as Barack Obama’s vice president for eight years, Biden certainly has an idea of what the job entails and who he’d prefer.

A vice president should be both a reflection of the top of the ticket, and a contrast, covering areas where the presidential nominee is the weakest. In Biden’s case, this is a woman, preferably under the age of sixty-five, who shares his moderate, center-left politics. At seventy-seven, and with rampant speculation about his diminishing cognitive abilities, any person chosen to be vice president must be considered experienced and responsible enough to handle the office under any unfortunate circumstances.

Using these metrics, and based on Biden’s own description, the National Interest has compiled a list of the most likely vice-presidential candidates.

Senator Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota stands near the top of the list. The fifty-nine-year-old has raised her national profile during her presidential campaign, which she suspended this week to endorse Biden. On her third term in the senate, Klobuchar has created a brand as a bipartisan workhorse, with strong connections to Midwest voters. Her endorsement is largely responsible for Biden’s unexpected victory in Minnesota on Super Tuesday.

Senator Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona’s election in 2018 was one of the highlights of the Democratic Party’s midterm gains. Only forty-three years old, Sinema had already served three terms in the House prior to her senate victory. A progressive activist in her youth, since her election to congress Sinema has built a record as one of the most conservative members of the Democratic caucus. Adding her to a national ticket would both add representation (Sinema is openly bisexual) and make the chance of picking up Arizona more likely.

Governor Gretchen Whitmer of Michigan is fresh from giving the Democratic response to the State of the Union. Elected in 2018, Whitmer had spent the previous fourteen years in state government. Michigan is one of the swing states that Democrats must win in 2020, and her selection would push towards that goal. Whitmer endorsed Biden earlier this week, which may be the tipping point in next week’s contentious Michigan primary.

Senator Catherine Cortez Mastro of Nevada was elected in 2016, after serving eight years as the state attorney general. In her years in the senate, she’s pushed for the ban on bump stocks, and shares Biden’s opinion on Obamacare, favoring modest improvements rather than an overhaul. Fifty-five years old and Mexican American, Cortez Mastro could be an outreach to Hispanic voters (a demographic where Biden is weak), although she does not speak fluent Spanish.

Senator Kamala Harris of California has been listed as a possible vice-presidential nominee since she suspended her presidential campaign in December. A prosecutor and state attorney general before her election to the senate in 2016, Harris has been considered an up-and-comer in the party before her campaign failed to take off. Alternatively moderate and progressive, the fifty-five-year-old clashed with Biden in the early debates, although he has mentioned her by name as a possible pick. She has not yet endorsed Biden, before or after he lost the California primary.

Former Georgia statehouse member Stacey Abrams has been a darling of the Democratic Party and media since her failed gubernatorial election in 2018. Abrams, who still refuses to concede her defeat, served a decade in the Georgia House of Representatives, six of them as Minority Leader. At forty-six years old, she has announced her availability for a vice presidential selection and her eventual presidential ambitions. Biden has referenced her as a possibility.

Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire, both of which Biden has said he’d consider for his vice president. Both women are former governors and come with decades of political experience. Hassan, at sixty-two, is younger than the seventy-three-year-old Shaheen. Both women share Biden’s center-left politics and represent a swing state the Democrats narrowly won in 2016.

Former Assistant Attorney General Sally Yates, the last of whom Biden has referenced by name as being on a hypothetical shortlist. Appointed by Barack Obama to her position in 2015, Yates was Acting Attorney General for the first ten days of the Trump administration before her abrupt dismal for refusing to implement the president’s controversial travel ban. Having lived her fifty-nine years as a lawyer, Yates has never served in elected office and up until recently was described as apolitical.

Hunter DeRensis is the senior reporter for the National Interest. Follow him on Twitter @HunterDeRensis.

How an F-14 Tomcat Fighter (Like in Top Gun) Shot Itself Down

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:54

Kyle Mizokami

Security,

How can that happen? Somehow, it did.

One of the most beloved fighter jets of all time was the Grumman F-14 Tomcat. The F-14 had a lengthy career as a defender of the U.S. Navy’s carrier task forces and then multi-role fighter before retiring in 2006. Few people realize however that the F-14 earned the dubious distinction of being one of the few aircraft to ever shoot itself down, an accident that hasn’t been duplicated since.

The F-14 Tomcat was designed to provide a first-class air superiority fighter for the U.S. Navy. A large, twin-engine fighter with a powerful AWG-9 radar and not two but three types of air-to-air missiles, the Tomcat was equally at home intercepting Soviet bombers at long ranges and dogfighting with MiGs. In the final years of its career, the F-14 would evolve into a strike aircraft, capable of carrying the Paveway series of laser-guided bombs.

The F-14 Tomcat was developed in the early 1970s, in response to U.S. Navy air combat experiences in the skies of Vietnam. One of the three missiles carried by the F-14 was the AIM-7 Sparrow medium-range air to air missile. The Sparrow was a radar-guided missile that worked in conjunction with the F-14’s (at the time) world-beating radar system. Once launched, the Sparrow would be guided to the target by signals sent from the launch aircraft, as the AWG-9 tracked the enemy target. This allowed the Sparrow to engage targets beyond visual range. (The Sparrow was eventually replaced in U.S. Military service by the AIM-120 AMRAAM missile.)

On June 20, 1973, something unexpected happened during weapons testing in the skies over the Pacific Ocean. Grumman test pilots Pete Purvis and Bill “Tank” Sherman were flying an early production F-14 over the Pacific Missile Test Range off the coast of Southern California, preparing to launch an AIM-7 Sparrow missile when disaster struck. The plane, struck by its own missile, quickly caught fire and went out of control. The two pilots ejected the stricken aircraft and were rescued, unharmed, on the ground.

The AIM-7 Sparrow missile was not launched like other missiles. Missiles such as the AIM-9 Sidewinder were carried aloft on launcher rails, igniting their motors, sliding off the rail, and then streaking off to find their targets. The AIM-7 was carried flush with the lower fuselage of the aircraft, with half of the missile and guidance fins recessed inside the airplane. Once the pilot pulled the trigger, explosive bolts released the missile, which went into freefall downward. The missile’s rocket motor would kick in and the Sparrow went on its way.

At least that was how it was supposed to work. On that day in June 1973, Purvis and Sherman believed theirs would be a relatively uneventful test launch. Engineers had assured them the missile would drop as planned, and similar Sparrow launches from other stations on the aircraft went off without a hitch. After all, a similar launch system was used for the Sparrow missile on the F-4 Phantom II, the Navy’s current frontline fighter.

During the test flight, the aircraft was flying at 0.95 Mach at an altitude of 5,000 feet. At the moment of truth, Purvis pulled the trigger that was supposed to send the  AIM-7E-2 test missile on its way. The aircrew heard a much louder launch noise than they’d heard before and the missile passed the nose of the Tomcat. To their surprise, the two jet pilots saw the Sparrow tumbling end over end, spewing fire.

Things moved quickly at that point. The botched missile launch had created debris, which the F-14’s left side Pratt & Whitney TF-30 afterburning turbofan engine instantly ingested. The engine quickly caught fire, and Purvis lost control of the stricken aircraft. Purvis and Sherman ejected, parachuting in the waters of the Pacific Ocean below. Both men managed to scramble into life rafts and were picked up, safe and sound, by rescue helicopters vectored in by chase planes that had seen the entire incident.

The F-14 was one of the greatest fighters of the postwar period, but it wasn’t without its share of development problems. The 1973 incident is a clear example of why weapons systems, particularly aircraft, undergo exhaustive testing to ensure they are safe to use. The F-14 will forever be known as one of the few U.S. military aircraft to shoot itself down, helping to contribute to legendary warplane’s colorful reputation.

Sébastien Roblin holds a Master’s Degree in Conflict Resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Image: Reuters.

Think Coronavirus Is Bad? The Spanish Flu Pandemic of 1918 Killed 50 Million People

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:47

Robert Farley

Health, Americas

Including 675,000 Americans.

Coronavirus isn’t the first pandemic to strike the United States. In 1918, just as the United States geared up for the Western Front, a new and virulent disease began to strike US Army training camps. The virus, which eventually took the name “Spanish Flu” in the erroneous belief that the disease came from Spain. Eventually, the Spanish Flu would wreak a terrible toll in the United States and elsewhere.

The Virus

In its first years, World War I had promised (or threatened) to overturn the ancient relationship between war and disease, the reality that sickness killed more soldiers than enemy action. This relationship (associated with similar events such as the plague that devastated Athens during the Peloponnesian Wars, and the Plague of Justinian that nearly overwhelmed the Byzantine Empire during its efforts to reconquer Western Europe), resulted from the collection of huge numbers of human beings in close quarters, often with bad food and poor sanitation.

On the one hand, advances in medical technology and sanitation worked to dramatically reduce the toll of disease, especially on the Western Front. On the other, the lethality of automatic weapons and heavy, long-range artillery meant that an increasing proportion of soldiers would die at the hands of the enemy, rather than as a result of viral infections and bacteria. 

For the first three years of the war, at least on the Western Front, the modern menace of artillery managed to put the ancient problem of disease in the backseat. This would change with the Spanish Flu, a respiratory disease misidentified as coming from Spain due to the Spanish government’s early identification of the problem. The disease, which most often killed by generating lethal cases of pneumonia, predominantly affected adults between twenty and forty-five, an unusual pattern. This would leave the armies of World War I, including the US Army, deeply vulnerable. 

The U.S. Army

As the work of Carol Byerly highlights, the U.S. Army had worked as hard as any to limit the depredations of disease in the early twentieth century. A typhoid epidemic during the Spanish-American War had killed thousands and embarrassed both the Army and the government. As a result, the Army devoted considerable attention to sanitation and to basic medical treatments that would reduce the toll of the disease. The deployment of the Army in tropical areas (such as Panama and the Philippines) had further emphasized the need to find an answer to the spread of disease.

None of this prepared the Army for the Spanish Flu. The first cases of influenza were detected in March 1918 at Army camps in Kansas and Georgia. The first wave of the flu was relatively mild, weakening many soldiers but killing few. As American soldiers began to travel to Europe to fight on the Western Front though, they took the flu with them, often contaminating entire troopships. 

The second wave would prove far more devastating. In September 1918, the Allies launched a major concerted offensive that aimed to roll back the successes of the German Ludendorff Offensive, and, indeed, drive the Germans from France. The Meuse-Argonne offensive would be the greatest test of American arms of the war, and American leadership hopes that success would ensure a central position for the United States in post-war peace negotiations. Tragically, the Spanish Flu intervened. During the offensive, the U.S. Army suffered 1,451 fatalities from influenza. By October, the number of sick patients exceeded the number of available beds by some 20,000. The need to transport and care for patients disrupted logistics and transport along the front, contributing even to Erich Ludendorff’s perception that something was sapping the strength out of U.S. offensives. 

The U.S. Navy

Sailors, both from the U.S. Navy and from commercial vessels, helped transmit the disease across the port cities of the United States. New York, Boston, Philadelphia, and New Orleans were particularly hard hit. The Navy estimated that over 5000 sailors died of influenza during the war, a toll that affected the ability of the service to man the ships that protected trans-Atlantic supply lines from German submarines. Efforts to maintain quarantines and prevent the transmission of the disease to and from civilian populations were undercut by the military imperative to get as many troops to France as rapidly as possible.

Civilians

The war also made things more difficult for the civilian population. One famous war parade in Philadelphia in October 1918 led to a massive increase in total cases, and consequently to widespread death across the city. 200,000 people attended the parade on September 28, just as the Spanish Flu was reaching its highest degree of lethality. 2,600 died in the first week after the parade, and another 1,900 in the next week. The war had drawn away many doctors and nurses, limiting the availability of quality medical care. Another parade in Boston had similar effects. Moreover, the devastation wrought by influenza did not end with the peace of November 1918. A final wave of the disease struck in 1919, less lethal than the second wave but worse than the first, and wrought an awful toll on returning soldiers and their families.

Conclusion

More than a quarter of the U.S. Army would eventually catch the Spanish Flu, with the Navy suffering a similar proportion of cases. 82 percent of the deaths by disease in the U.S. Army (a slight majority of total morbidity in the Army during the war) were inflicted by influenza. Overall, perhaps fifty million worldwide succumbed to the Spanish Flu, including 675,000 Americans. The war precipitated the pandemic by creating the conditions for its spread, affected the course of the war by weakening armies at critical moments, and reaped the dividends of the war by preying on a weak, hungry populace in the wake of the conflict. Fortunately, the world faces the threat of a modern coronavirus pandemic at a time of relative peace, although ongoing fighting in Syria, and the refugee flow that such fighting might generate, undoubtedly merits serious concerns about the control of the disease.

Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to TNI, is a Visiting Professor at the United States Army War College. The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the Department of the Army, Department of Defense, or the U.S. Government.

Image: Reuters

Coronavirus Is A Killer (But the Spanish Flu Killed Five Times More People Than World War I)

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:45

Robert Farley

Health, Europe

Did it impact the end of the so-called Great War?

As the spring of 1918 opened, the end of the largest war that humanity had yet undertaken appeared to be in sight. The collapse of the Russian Empire resulted in a brutal sort of “peace” in the East, allowing the transfer of German soldiers to the Western Front. The senior commanders of the Reichswehr knew that they needed to win the war rapidly, as famine was taking hold in the homeland and ever more Americans were arriving in France. Either the Germans would strike a decisive blow in the West, or the Allies would overwhelm them. Either way, an end to the carnage was foreseeable.

What no one appreciated was that another enemy, far more lethal than either the Allies or the Central Powers, was lurking. The Spanish Flu first struck in early spring, just as the Ludendorff Offensive was getting underway. It rested during the summer but in the fall attacked again with dreadful effect. By the end, the Flu would kill five times as many people as all of the guns, bombs, and torpedoes of all the combatants in World War I. 

The Impact in Europe

The impact of the Spanish Influenza in Europe is more difficult to isolate than its impact in the United States. Wartime censorship often prevented full statistics from reaching the news, thus making it more difficult for historians to assess the course of the disease. In some countries (Germany especially), the flu mingled with general hunger caused by the British blockade. Much of Eastern Europe suffered in the same situation. 

The influenza struck in three waves, which coincided with three phases of the war. The first, milder wave came in the spring of 1918 as Germany ramped up what it hoped would be a war-winning offensive against the Western Allies. The second, far more lethal wave struck in fall, as German forces fell back and the Allied armies advanced across France. The last hit in 1919, during the revolutionary chaos that swept the defeated powers. 

Germany

By spring 1918, Germany had won the war in the East and believed that it potentially had a decisive advantage in the West. Consequently, the Germans prepared a massive offensive named after its primary architect, Erich Ludendorff, designed to break Allied lines and bring about an end to the war. Launched on March 21, the offensive tore huge holes in Allied lines and threw the Allies back at a rate unseen since 1914. Eventually, however, the offensive flagged as the Germans ran low on troops, and as the Allies poured personnel, tanks, aircraft, and heavy artillery into the front. By mid-July, the initiative had passed to the Allies. The flu undoubtedly sapped the strength of the Ludendorff Offensive; Ludendorff himself reported that daily illness reports left him worried for the survival of the army. However, because of its relatively mild impact in the first wave, and also because the French, British, and U.S, armies were also seriously afflicted by the disease, it’s likely wrong to suggest that the Flu defeated the German offensive.

The second wave was different. As the Allies launched what became known as the Hundred Days Offensive, the virulent recurrence of the influenza struck the Germans hard, in large part because of a drop in morale in the wake of the failure of the Ludendorff Offensive, but also because of the increasingly dire supply situation that left German soldiers hungry and vulnerable. Fourteen thousand German soldiers reportedly died of the flu, although wartime censorship may mean that the figure is much higher. Worse for the Germans, the flu left much of the army incapable of fighting during the desperate days of autumn 1918. Soldiers from Austria-Hungary suffered at similar rates.

The Western Allies

The British Expeditionary Force identified the first influenza cases in April 1918. Canadian soldiers, along with the Americans, helped bring the virus to the British Army. The first wave of the epidemic was operationally devastating to the French, even if it caused relatively few fatalities. By May, the French were evacuating as many as two thousand soldiers per day from the front because of influenza. This left an obvious toll on the French logistical system, although the French undoubtedly benefited from fighting on their own territory.

At least 7,500 members of the BEF died of influenza in 1918. Overall, modern estimates suggest that the flu killed some 230,000 Britons altogether. Overall, some 30,000 French soldiers died as a result of the disease, along with perhaps 250,000 civilians. As was the case with the Americans, the weakness inflicted by the Flu undoubtedly reduced the lethality of the British and French Army offensives of late 1918 but it did not fatally undermine them. 

Russia and the East

In large part because of the chaos that afflicted Eastern Europe at the end of the war and during the Russian Revolution, we have little solid data regarding the impact of the Flu. Some estimates suggest a very low rate of infection, possibly because of relatively light population density. However, given that none of Poland, the Soviet Union, Ukraine, or any of the other successor states to the Russian Empire had the ability to collect widespread data at the Flu's height, the real impact of the flu on the military situation seems largely unknowable. The devastation inflicted by the Russian Revolution and the Civil War would certainly have undermined any existing public health systems across the region. 

We do know that Poland suffered between 200,000 and 300,000 dead, by the best estimates available. Deaths peaked in the winter of 1919/1920, which coincided with the Polish-Soviet War. The tide of the war turned against Poland in early 1920, although it’s difficult to conclude with any confidence that this resulted from the Flu, rather than from other operational and strategic factors. 

Concluding Thoughts

It is difficult to assert conclusively that the Spanish Flu had a direct effect on the end of the war; the flu struck all combatants simultaneously, weakening their armies while also attacking the homelands. But on balance weakness matched weakness, and the primary causes of the German defeat were military, rather than viral.

Robert Farley, a frequent contributor to the National Interest, is the author of The Battleship Book. He serves as a senior lecturer at the Patterson School of Diplomacy and International Commerce at the University of Kentucky. His work includes military doctrine, national security and maritime affairs. He blogs at Lawyers, Guns and Money, Information Dissemination and the Diplomat.

4 Reasons You Need a Smartwatch in 2020

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:34

Mark Episkopos

Technology,

You still don’t need a smartwatch the same way that you would need a smartphone or laptop, but there are now some good reasons to invest in one. Here are a few of the most compelling.

Should you buy a smartwatch?

Ten years ago, the answer would have been an unequivocal no. The smartwatches of yore simply did too little, were too bulky, and possessed too short a battery life to be worth your time. But in 2020, the smartwatch landscape looks radically different-- Apple is on their fifth Apple Watch series, Samsung is constantly adding new models to their Galaxy Watch lineup, and a growing number of traditional watch manufacturers like Fossil and Skagen have successfully branched out into the smartwatch market.

You still don’t need a smartwatch the same way that you would need a smartphone or laptop, but there are now some good reasons to invest in one. Here are a few of the most compelling.

1. Notifications

It was a rocky road to get here, but the current incarnations of Apple’s WatchOS, Android’s WearOS, and Samsung’s Tizen software offer seamless access to virtually any notification that would normally appear on your phone, whether it be text messages, emails, or social media alerts. For those of us who own large phones or spend the better part of their day on the move (I happen to fall into both categories), it’s difficult to overstate the convenience of not only being able to read notifications with the flick of a wrist, but having the ability to reply to texts and emails without constantly needing to pull your phone out of your pocket or bag.

2. Fitness Tracking

The gap between dedicated fitness trackers and flagship consumer smartwatches is now smaller than ever, with the latter boasting extensive and generally well-designed features to monitor distance and steps, as well as heart and pulse rates. The Apple Watch 5 takes these basic health features a step further with built-in electrocardiogram (ECG) capability. Apple's ECG app can detect cardiac problems by monitoring for irregular heart rhythms, and there have already been several testimonials from Apple Watch customers claiming that their wearable potentially saved their life by prompting them to seek medical help for heart conditions that they never knew they had.

3. Easy Controls

Listening to music on your phone isn’t nearly as seamless as it should be, requiring you to whip out and sometimes even unlock your mobile device just to pause/resume, adjust the volume, or skip to the next track. By giving you near-instant access to something that you’d normally have to reach for your phone to do, a smartwatch makes media controls that much faster. But the benefits don’t end here: Samsung’s SmartThings and Apple's Home apps make it easier than ever to control your lights, thermostats, cameras, and televisions all from your wrist, while dedicated navigation apps make for a more seamless walk or commute.

This is not quite as revolutionary for those of us who are already using modern audio solutions like Apple’s AirPods, but many flagship smartwatches can take calls with a built-in microphone; this feature becomes more interesting if you opt for the cellular-enabled variant, allowing you to receive and answer calls and texts even if your phone isn’t nearby.

4. Customizability

Smartwatches, like many traditional watches, come with a wide range of easily swappable bands. Unlike their traditional counterparts, however, smartwatches also offer extensive options in watch face customization. From custom background options to hundreds of choices in details and complications, there is little about a smartwatch face that can’t be tailored to your liking. Want a Mickey Mouse watch face? No problem. Or maybe you prefer chronograph-style face packed with fine measuring tools? That’s fine too.

Mark Episkopos is a frequent contributor to The National Interest and serves as a research assistant at the Center for the National Interest. Mark is also a PhD student in History at American University.

BOOM! U.S. Army Artillery Strikes from 40 Miles Away

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:30

David Axe

Security,

The U.S. Army just fired two 155-millimeter-diameter howitzer shells out to a distance of 40 miles.

The U.S. Army just fired two 155-millimeter-diameter howitzer shells out to a distance of 40 miles.

The test shots at Yuma Proving Ground in Arizona on March 6, 2020 signal the beginning of a major overhaul of the Army’s artillery.

The ground-combat branch is spending billions of dollars extending the firing range of its howitzers and rocket launchers while also developing new, long-range rockets -- all in an effort to match, then exceed, the artillery capabilities of rivals such as Russia.

The Army’s current howitzers -- the towed M-777 and the self-propelled M-109 -- fire just 14 miles with normal shells and 19 miles with rocket-assisted shells. Russian howitzers already can shoot as far as 43 miles.

The Army during the 2000s lagged behind its major rivals in artillery development.

That changed as China began exerting more influence in the Asia-Pacific region. The change accelerated when Russia invaded Ukraine in 2014. The Army deployed back to Europe two battalions of rocket launchers that it previously had withdrawn from the continent.

The howitzer that took the 40-mile shots in Arizona was one of the Army’s prototype Extended-Range Cannon Artillery systems. The ERCA combined the latest M-109A7 chassis with a new, 30-feet-long gun.

The Army expects to field the first 18 of the farther-firing guns in 2023.

The Yuma test involved two different shell types. An Excalibur GPS-guided shell and an M1113 rocket-assisted projectile. The M1113, which is slated to enter the regular force in the next couple of years, extends the firing range of older M-777s and M-109s to 24 miles.

A new ramjet-propelled shell that a Norwegian firm is developing further could boost the ERCA’s range out to 60 or even 80 miles.

The ERCA is the first in a series of new long-range weapons for the Army. The service also is developing new rockets for its wheeled High-Mobility Artillery Rocket System and tracked Multiple-Launch Rocket System.

The current, standard Guided Multiple Launch Rocket System rocket flies as far as 43 miles. A new extended-range version of the GMLRS, which the Army hopes to field starting in 2020, flies more than twice as far.

The current, large-diameter Army Tactical Missile System, which also is compatible with HIMARS and MLRS, has a maximum range of 186 miles. The new, lighter Precision Strike Missile -- due to enter service in 2023 -- boasts a 310-mile max range.

The Army also is studying a concept for a gigantic new, truck-towed cannon that could fire shells as far as 1,000 miles.

While larger in scale than any existing artillery piece, the Strategic Long-Range Cannon doesn’t actually require much in the way of new technology, Col. John Rafferty, who in 2018 led the Army’s long-range-fires modernization effort, told Breaking Defense.

Rafferty said the new gun would borrow elements of existing 155-millimeter cannons. “I don’t want to oversimplify, [but] it’s a bigger one of those,” Rafferty said. “We’re scaling up things that we’re already doing.”

The ground-combat branch also is working with the Navy to develop a common hypersonic glide vehicle, which would launch atop a rocket then travel 1,400 miles or farther at a top speed exceeding Mach five.

The ERCA is a tactical weapon that’s most suitable for directly supporting nearby forces. Farther-firing HIMARS and MLRS launchers give the Army some ability to hit enemy forces well behind the front line.

The conceptual thousand-mile cannon and the in-development hypersonic missile, by contrast, could allow the Army to strike targets such as staging bases, logistical networks and air bases -- targets that, before, were the sole responsibility of Air Force and Navy planes and missiles.

Targeting could pose a problem for these far-away targets. According to Breaking Defense, the Army is working on artificial intelligence and wireless networks so its howitzers and rocket-launchers can receive target coordinates from the service’s own drones as well as from drones, spy planes and satellites belonging to the other armed services.

David Axe serves as Defense Editor of the National Interest. He is the author of the graphic novels  War FixWar Is Boring and Machete Squad.

Six Chinese Cities End Daily Coronavirus Updates

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:23

Mitchell Blatt

Health,

They will only make further updates if any new cases develop, but they claim there have not been any new cases for days or weeks.

Six cities in China that consider the coronavirus situation to have been locally resolved have announced they will no longer publish new daily announcements.

The six cities are located in Henan province, which borders Hubei to the north, and Anhui province, which borders Hubei to the east. They are Kaifeng, Shangqiu, Xinxiang, and Hebi in Henan, and Fuyang and Chuzhou in Anhui, according to a report by The Beijing News. They will only make further updates if any new cases develop, but they claim there have not been any new cases for days or weeks.

Also, according to Da He Bao, a local Henan newspaper, Henan agriculture officials have announced the opening of live poultry markets.

Shangqiu, Kaifeng, Xinxiang, and Hebi are prefecture-level cities in the north of the province that all border one of the others. Shangqiu, the ancient capital of the Shang dynasty, one of China’s first, and Kaifeng, home to a small community of Chinese Jews whose ancestors came along the Silk Road, are both home to many historic sights.

According to official numbers, Shangqiu, has not had a new case in the past 19 days. Among the 91 cases that had been announced in the Shangqiu, which has an urban population of 1.5 million and 7.3 million in the prefecture, 88 have recovered, and 3 have died. Xinxiang, with a prefecture population of 5.7 million, has had 57 cases. Kaifeng and Xinxiang both reported less than 30.

According to officially-reported numbers, the entire province of Anhui had no new cases on March 5, and Fuyang and Chuzhou, neighboring prefectures with a combined population of 7.1 million, had 4 and 3 people released from the hospital respectively.

Across the country, many provinces had also announced days of no new cases in the past few weeks. The number of cases in the whole country increased by less than 1,000 from March 1 to March 6, according to the data cited on the Johns Hopkins CSSE dashboard, with almost all of them being in Hubei province, while the number of cases in the rest of the world has increased by 13,000 during that same time frame.

Previously, when no new cases had been reported, People’s Daily or local propaganda outlets would create graphics to be shared on social media to celebrate. For example, on February 22, People’s Daily’s graphic claimed 21 of the 27 provinces had suffered no new cases for at least one day. Now, the policy of some cities to curtail daily updates might indicate a shift in messaging to try to move to the next stage.

Cities in Zhejiang that were previously on lockdown have been moved from red to yellow or green level. Full-service restaurants are starting to reopen in Hangzhou. Intraprovince bus service in Jiangsu, the province to the east of Anhui, has resumed.

Currently based in China, Mitchell Blatt is a former editorial assistant at the National Interest, Chinese-English translator, and lead author of Panda Guides Hong Kong. He has been published in USA Today, The Daily Beast, The Korea Times, Silkwinds magazine, and Areo Magazine, among other outlets. Follow him on Facebook at @MitchBlattWriter.

Why Is Everyone Running for President So Old?

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:22

Chelsea Follett

Politics, Americas

Better life expectancy.

Every remaining major candidate vying to become a nominee for the U.S. presidency is a septuagenarian. While the aged field of candidates comes with its own set of concerns, it is a sign of the country’s progress toward keeping people alive and healthy for longer than ever before.

In the race for the highest office in the land, the so‐​called Silent Generation is making itself heard. Senator Bernie Sanders (D‑VT), the oldest candidate, is 78 years old, as is former New York mayor Mike Bloomberg, who dropped out of the race this morning. Former vice president Joe Biden is 77 years old. President Donald Trump is 73 years old. At 70 years old, Senator Elizabeth Warren (D‑MA) is the youngest of the major candidates. She was born in mid‐​1949.

Several major candidates have birthdays coming up before the Election Day. By November 3rd, Senator Sanders will be 79, President Trump will be 74 and Senator Warren will be 71 years old. Biden will turn 78 shortly after the election, on November 20th.

When the current President was sworn into office at the age of 70, he was the oldest president ever inaugurated in the United States. It looks like he or whoever assumes the presidency in 2021 will beat that record.

Even among the minor candidates still in the race, septuagenarians are represented. Former Massachusetts Governor Bill Weld, who is challenging the president for the Republican nomination in a protest campaign, is 74 years old. Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (D‑HI), who is polling at less than 2 percent nationally, is the only remaining candidate born after 1950. She is 38.

When the septuagenarian candidates were born, the polio vaccine was yet to be created, there were no commercial computers, no human being had yet been to outer space and interracial marriage was still illegal in several U.S. states.

In 1950, U.S. life expectancy stood at 68.2 years, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). The U.S. life expectancy has soared since then and a temporary dip over the last couple of years due to the opioid epidemic has since reversed. The CDC’s most recent figures estimate that the U.S. life expectancy reached 78.7 years in 2018—an increase of 0.1 year from 2017. That means that just within the lifetime of Senator Warren, the youngest major candidate, U.S. life expectancy has expanded by over a decade.

“Healthy life expectancy” or the number of years one can expect to enjoy good health, has also increased significantly. An American can expect to enjoy around 68 and a half years of good health, on average, according to the World Health Organization’s most recent estimate, for 2016.

The actuarial tables suggest that whichever septuagenarian wins in November, he or she will likely survive the next four years. Based on the average for their age, that’s a 76.8 percent chance for Sanders; 79.2 percent for Biden; 84.8 percent for Trump and, reflecting that women tend to outlive men, a 91.8 percent chance for the relatively youthful Warren. Still, there is no doubt that the vice presidential candidates will matter more than usual this election cycle.

The country’s Founding Fathers likely could not have imagined a future with such remarkable longevity. The septuagenarian field of major candidates has sparked concerns over the state of the various candidates’ health and mental acuity. While those worries should be taken seriously, the fact that so many septuagenarians are running reflects the broader demographic trend of Americans living longer, healthier lives and remaining active for many more years—a fact that should be celebrated.

This article by Chelsea Follett originally appeared in the CATO at Liberty blog in 2020.

Image: Reuters.

Is Turkey's Military a Drone Superpower?

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:07

Charlie Gao

Security, Middle East

We know at least one thing: the weapons they carry can cause some serious damage.

The success of Turkish armed drones and its push into Syria in February and March 2020 has shone a spotlight on Turkey’s indigenous drone and armament industry. Turkish drones reportedly destroyed multiple Russian-made but Syrian-operated air-defense vehicles, though Russian sources dispute this. However, their effectiveness at pummeling other targets is undisputed.

Just as the characteristic weapon of American MQ-1 Predator drones has been the AGM-114 Hellfire missile during the global war on terror, Turkey has also developed a drone-ideal weapon in the MAM-L missile. However, unlike the Hellfire which remains the similar in its drone and helicopter variants, the MAM-L was significantly redesigned from its parent missile to be a drone-specific weapon.

The MAM-L is derived from the Turkish L-UMTAS anti-tank missile. But as it is designed to be dropped from drones, the MAM-L omits the rocket engine of the L-UMTAS, allowing it to be around half the length and lighter than the L-UMTAS. However, seeker, control surface, and warhead technology are borrowed from the L-UMTAS. The MAM-L is also available with more types of warheads than the L-UMTAS, which only has a tandem HEAT warhead. The MAM-L is offered with high explosive fragmentation, thermobaric, and tandem HEAT warheads, probably with the anticipation that it might be used against a wider variety of targets. This is in line with other micro drone munitions, which make up for the small size of the warhead by offering specialized variants that are optimized for specific target types, as opposed to larger warheads which can be decent at both fragmentation and HEAT effect if the warhead is designed with a fragmentation rings.

However, the MAM-L does have some drawbacks. Broadly, the missile is comparable to the American AGM-176 Griffin, with both weighing less than 25 kilograms and being around 1 meter long. But the MAM-L’s fixed fins limit it to usage as a drone weapon. The Griffin features jack-knife fins that pop out, allowing it to be carried and launched from tubes. This allows for more Griffins to be carried in a specific unit, and allow for innovative mountings that allow for firing from the ramps of cargo aircraft.

It’s possible that these features will be added to the MAM-L with time, but Roketsan, the MAM-L’s manufacturer appears to be focusing more on the MAM-C, a thinner but longer munition that retains fixed fins. Regardless, the MAM-L proves that Turkey’s investment into building its arms industry has paid off. It’s proven to be able to produce analogs to other modern systems quickly and effectively, adapting existing technology and earlier designs.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.

Image: Reuters.

See This Old Picture: Meet Russia's Rocket Artillery That Beat Hitler

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:07

Victor Kamenir

History, Europe

A World War II legend that still exists. 

The fighting at Orsha saw the first battlefield use of the Red Army’s experimental battery of BM-13 multiple-launch rocket systems. Later in the war, these fearsome weapons were lovingly nicknamed Katyusha (Little Kate) after a popular wartime song.

The development of these weapons began well before the war, in 1938, with a small trial run of 40 systems built by the time of the German invasion. The prototypes of BM vehicles had mounted launchers at right angles to their long axes; however, this proved very unstable and the launch rails were remounted lengthwise.

First Combat for Stalin’s Organ

The command staff of the first field battery, headed by Captain Ivan A. Flerov, included two civilian advisers to train the crews, A.I. Popov, one of the creators of the launch platform BM-13, and D.A. Shytov, one of the developers of the M-13 round. The first battery consisted of nine launch systems in three firing platoons, a fire direction platoon with one 122mm howitzer for fire correction, an ammunition platoon, a transportation platoon, a POL (petroleum, oil, and lubricants) platoon, and a medical detachment. One volley of this battery delivered 112 132mm M-13 rockets with high explosive or fragmentation rounds. The highly mobile battery numbered 44 trucks, allowing the transport of 600 rounds of ammunition and enough fuel, POL, and food for at least three days of operations.

The first application of the Katyusha’s firepower was directed at Orsha’s railroad station. While not intended for pinpoint accuracy, the new weapon system delivered a devastating amount of fire over a wide-area target, destroying several trains and causing significant German casualties. The success of its first combat deployment kicked the production of BM-13 systems into high gear, and close to 10,000 systems of all types were produced by the end of the war. In addition to the original BM-13 models, there were multiple variations of 81mm BM-8 systems, some of them mounted on jeeps, and heavy BM-31 launchers for 310mm rockets. The special place of the Katyushas in the Soviet arsenal earned them the official title of Guards Mortars. The Germans called them Stalinorgel, meaning Stalin’s Organ.

In the early stages of the war, the Soviets took great pains to safeguard these weapons, with the immediate security of Katyusha batteries provided by detachments of NKVD (secret police) troops. In cases when a launch vehicle became disabled and retrieval was impossible, it was blown up in place to deny the Germans an intelligence coup. Battery commanders were responsible with their lives for the destruction of disabled launch vehicles. Just such a fate befell Captain Ivan Flerov’s battery. Caught in a cauldron at Vyazma in October 1941, with his vehicles immobilized by marshy terrain and out of ammunition, Flerov ordered them blown up. When fewer than a third of the battery’s soldiers made it out of the encirclement alive, Captain Flerov was not one of them.

Further Development of the Katyusha

Katyushas were inexpensive and uncomplicated to produce and easily mounted on many platforms, initially including only trucks but quickly progressing to tanks, tractors, armored trains, and even small naval vessels. Later in the war, many Lend-Lease tanks, which the Soviet specialists did not consider to be up to the task of armored warfare on the Eastern Front, were used as mounting platforms. However, American Studebaker two-and-one-half- ton trucks were highly regarded for their off-road performance, and thousands of them were used as mounting platforms for Katyushas.

The end of World War II did not end the Katyushas’ service. Thousand of them were exported to Soviet client states during the Cold War and were built in several countries under license. American forces faced them during the Korean War and decades later in Iraq.

This article by Victor Kamerin first appeared at the Warfare History Network.

Image: A battery of Katyusha rocket launchers firing at the enemy, German forces, during the Battle of Stalingrad in 6 October 1942, during the Eastern Front which lasted from 1941-1945, part of World War II. 6 October 1942. RIA Novosti.

How the Legendary F-35 Was Born a Winner

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 13:05

Kris Osborn

Technology, Americas

Unstoppable.

Key point: With better sensors and integration, the F-35 can see further than previous planes. In fact, it can engage from a distance before the enemy even knows it is there.

As 60 enemy fighters closed in on a US Air Force 4th Generation fighter aircraft, blinding the jet with electronic warfare attacks, an experienced pilot faced unseen life threatening attackers closing in -- during an air-combat Red Flag exercise closely replicating actual warfare scenarios.

Yet, in a life-saving flash, the endangered 4th pilot was told to “turn around” by an F-35 operating in the vicinity who radioed an instant warning. The 5th-Gen, multi-role stealth fighter then used its long-range sensors and weapons to “kill” the enemy aircraft, according to an Air Force news report.

This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Air Force Col. Joshua Wood, 388th Operations Group Commander was part of the exercise.

“I’ve never seen anything like it before. My wingman was a brand new F-35A pilot, seven or eight flights out of training. He gets on the radio and tells an experienced, 3,000 hour pilot in a fourth-generation aircraft. ‘Hey bud, you need to turn around. You’re about to die, There’s a threat off your nose,’” Wood explained in the service report.

The Red Flag exercise, and annual live combat-like training event, drew from an unprecedented amount of advanced threat scenarios, representing "near peer" threats. Red Flag aggressors, according to the Air Force report, included “advanced integrated air-defense systems, an adversary Air Force, cyber-warfare and information operations.”

Red Flag pilots also flew in GPS-denied environments where communications were jammed or rendered inoperable by enemy EW attacks, according to the Air Force report. Taking place at Nellis AFB in Nevada, they exercise included 3,000 personnel from 39 units, including the US Navy, US Air Force, Royal Air Force and Royal Australian Air Force.

“The F-35 ‘redefines’ how you go to war with a platform. it fuses data at a very core level, providing pilots with information to be lethal in the battlespace,” Edward “Stevie” Smith, F-35 domestic business development director, Lockheed Martin, told Warrior Maven in an interview.

Developers explain that the F-35 is, by design, intended to draw upon its stealth configuration to “Suppress Enemy Air Defenses” while monitoring air-to-air and air-to-ground threats.

An engineer familiar with F-35 technology explained it this way - “There is a FLIR (Forward-Looking Infrared) built into the airplane. The DAS (Distributed Aperture System with 360-degree cameras) and the EOTS (Electro-Optical Targeting System to track and attack long range targets) can see things in midwave IR at pretty significant ranges, tracking them from a long way.”

Describing F-35 weapons engagements, Lockheed F-35 pilot Billie Flynn said F-35s could fire Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles without being seen by adversaries - operating at the margins of detectability.

"We could launch and leave," Flynn explained.

At last year’s exercise, the Air Force and Navy explored a range of similar threats, including efforts to refine F-22 dogfighting skills. The F-22 at last year’s exercise, from the 27th Fighter Squadron, Langley Air Force Base, Virginia, performed air interdiction, combat search and rescue, close air support, dynamic targeting and defensive counter air operations in mock combat scenarios.

Confronting simulated “Red” force ground and air threats, F-22s attacked targets such as mock airfields, vehicle convoys, tanks, parked aircraft, bunkered defensive positions and missile sites.

Although modern weapons such as long-range air-to-air missiles, and the lack of near-peer warfare in recent years, means dogfighting itself is less likely these days. As the service prepares for future contingencies against technologically advanced adversaries, maintaining a need to dogfight is of great significance. For instance, the emerging Chinese J-10 and Russian 5th Gen PAK-50 clearly underscore the importance of this.

Advanced dogfighting ability can greatly expedite completion of the Air Force’s long-discussed OODA-loop phenomenon, wherein pilots seek to quickly complete a decision-making cycle - Observation, Orientation, Decision, Action – faster than an enemy fighter. The concept, dating back decades to former Air Force pilot and theorist John Boyd, has long informed fighter-pilot training and combat preparation.

If pilots can complete the OODA loop more quickly than an enemy during an air-to-air combat engagement, described as “getting inside an enemy’s decision-making process,” they can destroy an enemy and prevail. Faster processing of information, empowering better pilot decisions, it naturally stands to reason, makes a big difference when it comes to the OODA loop.

Connectivity with air and ground combat assets, drawing upon emerging data-link technology, has been a key part of the exercise as the Air Force strengthens efforts to work with other services on cross-domain fires operations.

The OODA Loop is of equal importance to the F-35 which, while engineered to dogfight as well, is built to draw upon its long-range sensors to complete the process - before ever seen by an enemy.

The Air Force plans to actualize key aspects of this with, for instance, LINK 16 upgrades to the F-22 that enable it to improve data-sharing with the F-35 and 4th-generation aircraft in real-time in combat.

First operational in 2005, the F-22 is a multi-role fighter designed with stealth technology to evade enemy radar detection and speeds able to reach Mach 2 with what is called "super-cruise" capability. Supercruise is the ability to cruise at supersonic airspeeds such as 1.5 Mach without needing afterburner, a capability attributed to the engine thrust and aerodynamic configuration of the F-22.

The F-22 is built with two Pratt & Whitney F119-PW-100 turbofan engines with afterburners, Air Force statements said. The aircraft has a 44-foot wingspan and a maximum take-off weight of more than 83,000 pounds.

Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army - Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has a Masters in Comparative Literature from Columbia University. This first appeared in 2019 and is being reposted due to reader interest.

Image: Reuters

Why Evangelicals Voted for Donald Trump in 2016

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 12:33

Randall J. Stephens

Politics, Americas

Clearly, Baptists, pentecostals, charismatics, and others were willing to overlook Trump’s myriad sins: the misogyny, the implicit and explicit racism, the religious bigotry, his remarks about never having asked God for forgiveness.

Evangelicals, or born-again Christians, account for approximately 25.4% of the US population – and Donald Trump should thank them for their support. Exit polls show that roughly 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump. That percentage is even higher than what George W. Bush received from the faithful in 2000 and 2004.

Clearly, Baptists, pentecostals, charismatics, and others were willing to overlook Trump’s myriad sins: the misogyny, the implicit and explicit racism, the religious bigotry, his remarks about never having asked God for forgiveness. On the whole, they thought, Trump would uphold their values.

He would appoint Supreme Court justices who had strong pro-life credentials. Trump promised to support religious liberty laws, which allow private businesses to deny service to individuals they deem sinful (read: homosexual).

Trump’s running mate Mike Pence fought a hard battle as governor of Indiana to maintain that state’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act, which relaxes anti-discrimination restrictions on businesses. The Pew Research Center reports that “evangelicals also overwhelmingly prefer Trump to Clinton when it comes to handling a wide variety of specific issues, from gun policy to the economy, terrorism, immigration and abortion”.

White evangelicals made their decision as the American political landscape darkened noticeably. Sure, mudslinging, character assassination, and downright nastiness have long been part of the dark art of politics in the US since the days when candidates wore knee breeches and powdered wigs. What’s different now is that the nastiness emanates from the candidate himself. In years gone by, largely anonymous party hacks did the dirtiest work; in 2016, Trump did it himself.

And yet, millions of conservative white Christians turned out for him. Why?

Willful ignorance

Their willingness to forgive Trump his sins was no secret. During the firestorm over the Access Hollywood tape in which Trump bragged about his sexual prowess and lewd attitudes towards women, Jerry Falwell, Jr. proclaimed: “We’re all sinners, every one of us. We’ve all done things we wish we hadn’t.”

To further allay fears of those within the fold, Franklin Graham, son of famous evangelist Billy Graham, assured fellow believers that everyone has sinned, and that God had used many individuals in the Bible who had deep flaws, including King David and Moses. Perhaps they now hope the Trump presidency will turn out to be little short of a true Biblical epic.

Franklin Graham’s bus on tour in Austin, Texas. Robert Cicchetti/Shutterstock.

After the election, Graham’s Facebook page said that the massive Republican victory had divine roots. “Political pundits are stunned,” he wrote triumphantly. “Many thought the Trump/Pence ticket didn’t have a chance. None of them understand the God-factor.”

But there was something else at work besides the “God-factor”, something that doesn’t get covered in the press all that much: Trump is as committed a knowledge-denier as many of the evangelicals are.

Another world

For years, evangelical Christians stood firm on the front lines of the culture war, which they regarded as a fight against the agents of secularism, pluralism, political correctness and science. To paraphrase Michael Gove, Britain’s former justice secretary and staunch Brexit campaigner, evangelicals have long been saying: we have had enough of experts.

With the far-right Breitbart News Network in his corner, Trump grounded his campaign in conspiracy-driven politics and bold-faced lies. Before voting in the primaries even began, the University of Pennsylvania’s FactCheck.org reported that:

In the 12 years of FactCheck.org’s existence, we’ve never seen [Donald Trump’s] match … He stands out not only for the sheer number of his factually false claims but also for his brazen refusals to admit error when proven wrong.

Approximately 64% of white evangelicals reject human evolutionary science; like Pence has done, many of them also promote what’s known as “conversion therapy”, pseudoscientific treatments purported to “cure” people of homosexuality; and they lash out at the “liberal media” and the professorial overlords of left-leaning colleges and universities. Evangelicals believe that Trump will protect them from the onslaughts of secularism at a time when traditional Christianity is losing ground in the US.

In 2015, 37% of evangelicals polled said “there is no solid evidence that the earth is getting warmer”. Another 33% believed that global warming is happening, but that it is not caused by human activities. They probably cheered at the sight of a notorious Trump tweet from 2012, which read: “The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive.”

 

Perhaps not wanting to disappoint the devout, Trump has just named arch-climate change denier Myron Ebell to head his Environmental Protection Agency transition team. White evangelicals may also be elated to know that fellow Christian conservative and former Alaska governor Sarah Palin, of “drill, baby, drill” fame, is being considered for Secretary of the Interior.

And so here we are, at the end of what the New York Times recently called an “exhausting parade of ugliness”. That’s an apt description – but this particular parade has now been extended by at least four years. We can expect Trump to stay vulgar, cavalier and ill-informed once he’s sworn in as president in January 2017. He will keep up his brazen denials of truth, keep pandering to the bitter angels of the white mob’s nature, and keep piling on the invective.

Evangelicals, like many others who voted Republican on Tuesday, see in Trump a powerful, non-establishment figure, who will shake up Washington and champion their values. In a matter of months, the scales may fall from their eyes.

Randall J. Stephens, Reader in History and American Studies, Northumbria University, Newcastle

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Why Trump and the Republican Party Should Fear AOC

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 12:16

Peggy Nash

Politics,

AOC is shaking up politics.

The youngest woman ever elected to the United States Congress, Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, is a force to contend with. With clear and forthright language, she speaks the truth of people’s reality – and one that is rooted in her own lived experience.

With a megawatt smile and a wink to her demographic, she also has verve and style. Two days after she debated 10-term incumbent congressman Joe Crowley last June during the primaries, she tweeted her lipstick shade, which promptly sold out on the Stila and Sephora web sites.

Social media powerhouse

AOC, as she is popularly known, has more than three million followers on her Instagram account and four million follow her @AOC Twitter account, a 600 per cent increase from last June and more than 2.6 million gained in the past eight months. How does she do it?

Unlike other politicians, she speaks the language of now, especially to her generation. She is down-to-earth and personable. In some of her video postings, she shares her life both in Congress and at home, as if you are getting caught up with a friend.

As a former member of Parliament in Canada, I can tell you, it would be a mistake to brush AOC off a just the flavour of the month. She is no lightweight. AOC’s social media presence is based on trust and authenticity. Her messages are about taking action. And they are a perfect foil to what U.S. President Donald Trump represents.

The fury of the U.S. public

On Nov. 8, 2016, the U.S. elected a president who bragged about sexual assault and racism. In addition, right-wing parties were on the rise in Europe and inequality in the U.S. had intensified. People were angry.

The Women’s March on Washington the day after Trump’s inauguration has been called the largest one-day demonstration in U.S. history. There followed Trump’s attacks on immigrants and refugees  and the spectacle of the Brett Kavanaugh hearings and the testimony of Christine Blasey Ford. The proceedings echoed the Clarence Thomas hearings, which discounted the testimony and courage of law professor Anita Hill. The committee even had some of the same members as a generation earlier.

The fury of the American public led to the greatest number of diverse candidates to ever run in the U.S. midterm elections last fall. Many of those candidates lost. But several of them won.

Indigenous, queer, Muslim, Black and women candidates are now represented in greater numbers than ever before. And many of those who lost had a strong showing. This means they have teams in place, voters identified, name recognition and often money in the bank. They just have not won yet.

AOC’s appeal drives Republicans crazy

Enter Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She campaigned in a safe Democrat seat but argued that milquetoast Democrats were enabling the growing divide between the one per cent and the 99 per cent. Her campaign video blew up the internet and thrust her into the lives of New Yorkers like a force of nature. That she could beat a congressman as powerful as Crowley shows that she tapped into the reality of her fellow New Yorkers.

Most importantly, Ocasio-Cortez began shaking up the Washington establishment with her bold proposal to reshape America with her Green New Deal, in the spirit of President Roosevelt’s New Deal to get the U.S. out of the Great Depression. Her stimulus plan aims to phase in renewable energy sources and rebalance the social and economic pie in the United States with a proposed tax hike on the richest Americans.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez@AOC

 · May 11, 2019

Replying to @AOC

US GDP is at an all-time high. As a nation, we are more prosperous than we ever have been.

But that’s simply not the lived truth. Even now, I’m paid similar to a doctor or corporate lawyer - many who‘d think they are “rich,” but it’s nowhere near what we actually mean in policy.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez@AOC

When we say “tax the rich,” we mean nesting-doll yacht rich. For-profit prison rich. Betsy DeVos, student-loan-shark rich.

Trick-the-country-into-war rich. Subsidizing-workforce-w-food-stamps rich.

Because THAT kind of rich is simply not good for society, & it’s like 10 people.

123K

12:54 PM - May 11, 2019

Twitter Ads info and privacy

38.7K people are talking about this

She is also advocating for free tuition, universal single-payer health care, a job guarantee with decent wages and benefits and transitioning the U.S. economy to 100 per cent renewable energy sources. Her vision is far to the left of the cautious and ultimately uninspiring Hillary Clinton, but current Democratic presidential hopefuls are falling over themselves to endorse her plan.

Both her audacious goals and her bold style drive her Republican opponents crazy. They believe that her socialist politics will lose the Democrats the votes of more moderate Americans so they have fixed a negative spotlight on her.

Alternatively, AOC might just be tapping into the anxiety of Americans across party lines as they struggle to make ends meet while harbouring anxieties about climate change.

Women’s rising power in politics

One thing is clear, Ocasio-Cortez is making an imprint on a generation of Americans, especially young women, with a message to get informed, get organized and get involved. Young women in the U.S. are becoming more politically engaged, from the Parkland students to the #MeToo movement.

Here in Canada, we can see a similar pattern in the number and diversity of candidates running for election and applying to programs like Women in HouseDaughters of the Vote and the Institute for Future Legislators at Ryerson University and UBC.

To old-style politicians, AOC supporters say “step up or step aside.” She may not be a vampire slayer or have an army or a quiver of arrows. Nevertheless, she’s as fierce a fighter inspiring young Americans to seek change as any cultural superhero, a combination of Buffy, Okoye and Katniss.

In addition to her bold platform, her real superpower seems to be her fearless confrontation, her spirited style and her ability to inspire others to action.

The test will be if it continues to spread beyond the Bronx.

[ Like what you’ve read? Want more? Sign up for The Conversation’s daily newsletter. ] Screen reader support enabled.

o:spt="75" o:preferrelative="t" path="m@4@5l@4@11@9@11@9@5xe" filled="f"
stroked="f">

















alt="The Conversation" style='width:.6pt;height:.6pt;visibility:visible;
mso-wrap-style:square'>
o:title="The Conversation"/>

style='mso-element:field-begin;mso-field-lock:yes'> SHAPE style='mso-spacerun:yes'> \* MERGEFORMAT

id="Rectangle_x0020_1" o:spid="_x0000_s1026" style='width:11.4pt;height:11.4pt;
visibility:visible;mso-wrap-style:square;mso-left-percent:-10001;
mso-top-percent:-10001;mso-position-horizontal:absolute;
mso-position-horizontal-relative:char;mso-position-vertical:absolute;
mso-position-vertical-relative:line;mso-left-percent:-10001;mso-top-percent:-10001;
v-text-anchor:top' o:gfxdata="UEsDBBQABgAIAAAAIQC75UiUBQEAAB4CAAATAAAAW0NvbnRlbnRfVHlwZXNdLnhtbKSRvU7DMBSF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" filled="f" stroked="f">



id="_x0000_i1025" type="#_x0000_t75" style='width:11.4pt;height:11.4pt'>

, Distinguished Visiting Professor, Faculty of Arts and Faculty of Community Services, Ryerson University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters.

 

Israel's 'Shield' for U.S. Army Tanks Isn't Working So Well

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 12:07

Charlie Gao

Security,

How come? And can it be fixed?

Active protection systems (APS) are rapidly becoming a must-have feature for heavy armored vehicles on the modern battlefield. Experiences from Syria and Ukraine have shown that anti-tank guided missiles (ATGMs) are lethal threats for even prepared crews. Hard-kill APS are one of the strongest counters to these ATGMs, they are designed to detect and neutralize them with a spray of projectiles.

The U.S. Army has long planned to fit APS onto their Infantry Fighting Vehicles (IFVs) and Main Battle Tanks (MBTs). However, these projects have been slow going due to expenditure on Iraqi and Afghan operations until the recent push to rearm for conventional wars and the entry of U.S. troops into Syria. APS are also rarely “drop in'' upgrades, requiring positioning of bulky sensors and interception modules with (ideally) 360 degree coverage of the vehicle. This can result in APS systems interfering or blocking the line of sight or fields of fire of auxiliary weapons or sights on the top of a vehicle.

However, the Army’s plan to integrate the Israeli Iron Fist onto the Bradley has proven difficult, and faces major delays in 2020. Many technical programs were revealed during the program being “fast-tracked” in 2019, and the lack of technical maturity has led to the Army delaying the program.

Joseph Trevithick covers one issue with Iron Fist on the Bradley in detail in an article for The Drive, the current versions of the Bradley don’t have enough power to run the Iron Fist’s suite of sensors and interceptors, requiring an add-on auxiliary power unit (APU) to function. This is a rather critical limitation, APUs add complexity, repair difficulty, and fuel consumption. Also, they are typically mounted on the outside of a vehicle, though the details about the add-on APUs on the Bradley are scarce. This can possibly result in hits to the APU knocking out the APS capability of the vehicle, or power to other critical systems in the Bradley.

Iron Fist, as installed on the Bradley, was also found to have issues with internal power management. The Army’s program manager, in an interview with Defense News, emphasized that this was not related to the Bradley’s general inability to power Iron Fist, power failures occurred on a test vehicle which was modified to provide sufficient levels of power to allow Iron Fist to function effectively. Iron Fist was also found to have problems with missing or “dudding”, when the hard-kill interceptors failed to fire or hit their target.

These issues lead the Army to cut funding for the project, preventing simultaneous production and testing in FY2021. But it’s important to note that Iron Fist is only an “interim” APS, with the Army developing more advanced systems which will likely be better integrated for its next-generation IFVs.

The issues with Iron Fist on the Bradley are illustrative of how retrofitting modern technology to older chassis can prove to be far more complicated than it would appear. APS’ need to be fully integrated into the design of a vehicle to function optimally.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.

Image: Reuters.

Greenland Is Rapidly Losing Ice - 3.8 Trillion Tonnes Since 1992 to Be Exact

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 11:45

Inès Otosaka, Andrew Shepherd

Environment, World

A disaster in the making. 

Greenland has lost 3.8 trillion tonnes of ice since 1992, according to our latest research. It can be hard to imagine a number that big: 3.8 trillion tonnes is 3,800 billion tonnes or even 3.8 million billion kilograms. If you put all that ice into a single cube it would be 16 kilometres along each side and twice the height of Mount Everest.

But what’s really important here is the impact this has globally. All that ice making its way into the ocean has already caused the sea level to rise by more than a centimetre, and future sea level rise will mean lots more coastal flooding.

For example, a rise of 60cm by the year 2100, as predicted by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), would put 200 million people at risk of permanent inundation and 360 million people at risk of annual flooding. And 60cm is only the IPCC’s “central estimate” – in that period the sea could rise by as little as 28cm or as much as 98cm.

By far the largest uncertainty in sea-level projections concerns the ice stored in Antarctica and Greenland, both of which have complex interactions with the climate system and are difficult to model. Greenland alone holds enough frozen water to raise the sea by 7.4 metres were it to melt. Therefore, finding out how much ice it has lost so far is hugely important for us scientists who are trying to determine how much it will contribute to sea level rise in future.

The rate of ice loss is increasing

This is why we used satellites to measure Greenland’s ice loss between 1992 and 2018. Our assessment, now published in the journal Nature, is produced by an international team of scientists who combined the results of 26 different surveys as part of a programme known as the ice sheet mass balance inter-comparison exercise (IMBIE). In all, measurements from 11 different satellite missions launched by the European Space Agency and NASA were used to track changes in the ice sheet’s volume, speed and gravity.

We found that the Greenland ice sheet lost around 3,800 billion tons of ice in that 26-year period. This is enough water to cause the sea level to rise by around 10.6mm.

Although Greenland has been losing ice since the early 1990s, the rate has increased dramatically over time and peaked at 335 billion tons per year in 2011 towards the end of a period of intense surface melting. In fact, almost half of the ice loss occurred between 2006 and 2012 and, although cooler atmospheric conditions – associated with a shift of the North Atlantic Oscillation – followed, the rate of ice loss has remained high since then.

Snowfall can’t keep up with melting

How does an ice sheet actually “lose ice”? In Antarctica, almost all the losses come from glaciers being warmed to the point where they slide slightly faster into the ocean and “calve” into icebergs. This happens in Greenland too. But Greenland also has much warmer summers than Antarctica, and this means around half of its ice is also lost through summer melting exceeding winter snowfall.

Periods of extreme melting have become more frequent in Greenland, with record air temperatures being repeatedly broken. In summer 2019, unusually warm air caused widespread melting across the entire ice sheet. Satellites revealed new ponds of surface meltwater and bridges collapsed after the intense runoff swelled proglacial rivers. If glacier speeds remain high, 2019 could be a record year for total ice loss from Greenland.

Sea level rise from Greenland according to this new study (black line) is matching the IPCC’s upper estimate (red). Shepherd et al / Nature, Author provided

In its fifth assessment report, the IPCC included a range of projections for Greenland ice sheet losses. Our study shows that the ice sheet has been tracking the upper range of these projections – the worst case scenarios – which predicts an additional 10cm of global sea level rise by 2100 over and above the central estimate. This would place a further 60 million people at risk of annual coastal flooding and suggests that a reassessment of the impacts of climate warming is urgently needed.

Click here to subscribe to our climate action newsletter. Climate change is inevitable. Our response to it isn’t.

Inès Otosaka, PhD Researcher, Climate Science, University of Leeds and Andrew Shepherd, Professor of Earth Observation, University of Leeds

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Coronavirus vs. the Flu: Which Is Worse?

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 11:30

Sebastien Roblin

Health,

What should you fear the most?

Every morning of late I wake up and hear a series of grim new statistics on the radio—the number of persons infected with COVID-19 (short for “coronavirus disease 2019”) and the number of deaths attributed to it.

The disease’s progression around the globe and its potential to continuously spread inspires a palpable psychic toll of dread and despair.               

Yet homo sapiens have a difficult time evaluating the relative severity of threats to our lives. We are captivated by rare but novel diseases and shocking incidents such as terrorist attacks and airliner crashes while filtering out mundane dangers, even when they represent a threat several orders of magnitude greater. 

Statistically, a swimming pool is over a hundred times more likely to kill you than an extremist with an online manifesto. And for years now, we have endured seasonal flu epidemics averaging higher annual death tolls than U.S. casualties in the entire Korean War.   

By March 6, 2020, COVID-19 has infected over 100,000 persons and claimed the lives of 3,404 persons across the globe. But between October 1 and February 29, the Center of Disease Control estimates a minimum of 19,000 people, and as many as 52,000, died of the seasonal flu in the United States alone.

Certainly, it’s sensible to be concerned about COVID-19 for reasons explained below.  Aggressive, proactive measures to contain its spread are justified despite their disruptive economic effects.

But understanding how we already cope with existing diseases can put our risks in perspective.

Routine but ever-evolving influenza strains kill between 290,000 and 650,000 persons annually across the globe. On average, each infection causes 1.3 other infections—a measure of disease contagiousness called R0. 

In the United States, only 1 percent of those infected with influenza require hospitalization, and the disease proves fatal in .01 percent of cases, or one in every ten thousand persons infected.

While annual flu deaths in the United States tend to hover around 40,000 annually, factors both internal and external to the flu strains, such as weather or the effectiveness of flu vaccines, lead to significant variation in the number of deaths each year.  In 2017/2018, deaths surged to an estimated 61,000, for example, whereas only an estimated 23,000 died from 2015/2016 flu.

So how does COVID-19 compare?

Typical symptoms of COVID-19 include sneezing, coughing, fever, a runny nose and a sore throat. However roughly one out of every five infections escalates into more severe conditions with symptoms including pneumonia, breathlessness and even organ failure.

On the whole, each COVID-19 infection is significantly more likely to be fatal than a flu infection. Some studies place the mortality rate for infected persons between 1 and 2.8 percent. A March 3 briefing by the World Health Organization (WHO) claimed mortality rate as high as 3.4 percent but that figure may be inflated due to the authorities being more aware of only the most serious cases. Countries with broader testing COVID-19 testing regimes tend to report lower fatality rates.

Even a mortality rate of 1 percent, however, implies each coronavirus infection is a hundred times more likely to prove fatal than the seasonal flu. Deaths from the virus are also dramatically more common in those over the age of sixty.

Another worrying factor about COVID19 is its comparatively high transmission rate, with an estimated R0 of 2 or 3.

However, not all authorities appear to agree with that figure. The March 3 briefing by the WHO claims COVID-19  “does not transmit as efficiently as influenza, from the data we have so far. With influenza, people who are infected but not yet sick are major drivers of transmission, which does not appear to be the case for COVID-19.”

This may be because coronavirus is believed to primarily spread though airborne droplets—in other words, an infected person coughing or sneezing fluids which physically contact another person. Surfaces touched by infected fluids may also be contagious, though the virus’s longevity in such circumstances is unknown. Disposable face masks are worn by infected persons, or those living/working near them, can significantly mitigate (though not eliminate) risk of transmission. Healthcare workers tending COVID-19 patients are advised to use more sophisticated N95 masks.

All in all, coronavirus is apparently individually deadlier than the flu—but it hasn’t infected nearly as many people so far. However, the seasonal flu is a relatively known quantity that routinely peters out by the middle of the year, whereas the extent and duration of COVID19’s propagation remain hard to predict. Furthermore, vaccines are not yet available for coronavirus, though they are under development.

COVID-19 may have the potential to cause more deaths than seasonal flu but it has yet to do so. This explains the importance of efforts to curb and contain the disease’s spread before it can have that wider impact. 

As for measures one can take on an individual level to minimize risk of exposure and transmission, the CDC’s recommended preventative measures include repeated washing of hands during the day for at least twenty seconds; avoiding touching one’s eyes, nose or mouth with unwashed hands; avoiding close contact with sick individuals; and staying home from work when sick.

Sébastien Roblin holds a master’s degree in conflict resolution from Georgetown University and served as a university instructor for the Peace Corps in China. He has also worked in education, editing, and refugee resettlement in France and the United States. He currently writes on security and military history for War Is Boring.

Image: Reuters

Expert Explains Lyme Disease - the Same Disease Justin Bieber's Been Battling

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 11:22

Hany Elsheikha

Public Health, World

Lyme disease can have a considerable impact on many aspects of the lives of the patient and their families.

Justin Bieber recently announced that for the last couple of years he’s been battling Lyme disease. Lyme disease, which is caused by the bacterium Borrelia burgdorferi, can be transmitted to humans if they’re bitten by an infected tick. In fact, it’s one of the most common tick-borne diseases in the west. An estimated 300,000 people in the US are diagnosed with it every year. The disease causes a range of debilitating symptoms, which can include severe headaches, neck stiffness, arthritis, joint pain and rashes. These symptoms can last for months or even years.

After being bitten, most people develop a red, circular rash, which may slowly expand beyond the bite site. Only around 20-30% of people will develop the characteristic bullseye rash. Without prompt treatment, the bacteria will spread from the bite site to tissues and organs, leading to additional skin lesions and a range of debilitating and persisting symptoms, such as pain, fatigue, memory problems and arthritis.

Perhaps alarmingly, instances of Lyme disease have actually become more common. In England and Wales the number of cases has increased from 1,134 in 2016 to 1,579 cases in 2017. The increase might be explained by a number of factors, including global warming (ticks survive better in warm weather) and increasing wildlife populations. Better diagnostic tools and increased awareness might also explain the surge in Lyme disease diagnoses.

Lyme disease can have a considerable impact on many aspects of the lives of the patient and their families. In severe cases, patients can be bedridden or wheelchair-bound for years without knowing if they will recover. Affected people may also experience anxiety, depression or distress, which can reduce their quality of life and deeply affect their mental wellbeing – potentially even resulting in thoughts about suicide.

In most cases, a person will be diagnosed with Lyme disease based on whether they have the illness’s characteristic skin lesions – especially if they live in an area where ticks carry Lyme disease. Although blood tests can also be used, these tests might only be 30-40% effective at detecting the disease in its early stages. But if the disease has already spread throughout a person’s body, these results can be 100% accurate.

Difficult diagnosis

Giving a clear diagnosis of Lyme disease can be difficult, however. This is because many patients have a range of non-specific clinical symptoms, such as fatigue, malaise, headache, fever, sweats, joint aches and brain fog. Disease test results might also be similarly difficult to interpret, especially in patients that do not have the hallmark skin rash of Lyme disease and lack a recent history of exposure to tick bites. This makes dealing with the lingering infection difficult, especially where tests give inconclusive results.

In fact, people suffering from Lyme disease can also suffer from other tick-borne illnesses, such as babesiosis, which can be transmitted with Borrelia burgdorferi during the tick bite. This makes treatment even more complicated. As well, there is still some controversy about the right length of effective antibiotic therapy to treat patients with persistent, chronic Lyme disease. As a result, patients can, and usually do, feel helpless amid conflicting medical advice in fighting the disease.

Lyme disease is primarily treated with antibiotics. Early skin lesions and symptoms can be treated with the oral antibiotic doxycycline, usually for anywhere between ten to 21 days. Patients with neurological symptoms (including meningitis and encephalitis), heart inflammation or arthritis, are usually treated with a two-week course of intravenous ceftriaxone therapy. In most cases, timely diagnosis and prompt antibiotic treatment can improve symptoms.

But a misdiagnosis or late diagnosis can result in long-term illness, excessive use of antibiotic therapy, and expensive healthcare costs. Ignorance of the complex nature of this illness, especially the associated mental health issues, will further delay recovery. Dealing with these psychosocial problems – regardless of whether they were triggered by Lyme bacteria or not – can complement treatment and promote a quicker recovery.

Continued research and awareness about Lyme disease will be important for improving treatment and diagnosis. Developing more reliable diagnostic tests, identifying which patients are most likely to benefit from which antibiotic treatments, and taking measures to control tick populations will all be important for reducing instances of this disease in the future.

People can cut down on their risk of contracting Lyme disease by covering their skin in tall, grassy, wooded areas where disease-carrying ticks thrive. If you think you’ve been bitten by a tick, contact a doctor or health professional.

Hany Elsheikha, Associate Professor of Parasitology, University of Nottingham

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license. Read the original article.

Image: Reuters

Why the New Dune Movie Could Be a Disaster

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 11:01

James Jay Carafano

Culture,

Dune is destined to be another crashing bore, because the actual characters in the story are not very relatable or likable.

True story. Years ago, even before dudes wanted a Dell, a gaggle of Army generals gathered to ponder how to integrate computers into military operations. One prefaced his prognosticating by admitting to being a “Trekkie,” having grown up watching the 1960s TV-series. He went on to talk about the future of warfare as though they would all be Captain Kirks firing photon torpedoes from the command deck.

Science fiction and the future have a messy relationship. Much science fiction either meditates on the present or mines the past. The technology may be mundane (taken from the pages of Popular Mechanics) or magical (casting aside the laws of physics).

Since it’s often not really about the future, using science fiction to plan the land of tomorrow is life imitating bad art. Yet, good science fiction, like all good fiction, can tell us much. We should not ignore the entire genre.

Which brings us to the new film version of Frank Herbert’s classic 1965 sci-fi novel Dune, slated to come out later this year.

This sprawling story first hit the silver screen in 1984. It was a mind-numbingly bad adaptation. Then came two so-so TV mini-series: Dune (2000) and Children of Dune (2003). The latter was largely inaccessible to those who had not already read the books.

Will Hollywood’s latest try be a hit or a flop? Time will tell if it’s the next Star Wars (1977) or just another Jupiter Ascending (2015).

The makers of this Dune start with a serious advantage. The original book sparked decades of writing by the author, his son and a co-author. At last count there are about 18 books on the Dune universe spanning from when humans started to exploit space travel to their scattering to the ends of the universe. The original Dune book sandwiches somewhere in the middle of the story. Thus, the screenwriters start with the advantage of understanding the whole saga, being able to reflect and foreshadow on everything that ever happens. This would have been like George Lucas starting Star Wars knowing who Luke’s father was.

The history of Dune is particularly important. The past turns out to be a vital driving force in Herbert’s version of science fiction. Technology is a bit player. There are no robots, no computers, and a lot of sword play. That is because of a much earlier event called the Butlerian Jihad, when humans destroyed all the “thinking machines.” No Terminators (1984) here.

The lack of advanced weaponry significantly impacts the nature of governance and war in the Dune universe. Great houses compete for power using weapons of intrigue like spying, disinformation, diplomacy, double-dealing, assassination, and troops that look suspiciously like special forces.

Contemporary audiences may relate more to Dune than Cold War audiences identified with the original novel. The interstellar politics of Dune feel a lot like the geopolitics of our age of “great power competition.”

The environment is also a key component of the Dune mythology. That, too, should resonate given our own debates over climate change.

And, like the world of Dune, everyone is fighting over the great substance that controls the universe. In Dune it’s called the “spice melange”—a drug necessary for space travel that is a billion times more powerful than opioids on steroids. In our world, it’s data. The power that can collect, analyze, manipulate, and exploit the most data is on its way to becoming the master of our universe.

Here is the big disconnect between us and Dune. Our future is inextricably intertwined with technology. Unless the screenwriters can figure out how to bridge that divide, Dune will be no more relatable than the dragons in the Game of Thrones.

In the real world, how we handle technology could dramatically impact the course of great power competition. If those challenges are woven into the film, it might well provoke some serious thinking about our future—making the movie truly great science fiction.

Otherwise, we’ll have to hope it has terrific special effects and a music score equal to what John Williams produced for Star Wars. Lacking that, Dune is destined to be another crashing bore, because the actual characters in the story are not very relatable or likable.

A Heritage Foundation vice president, James Jay Carafano directs the think tank’s research into matters of national security and foreign relations.

Image: Creative Commons.

Forget Trump: Why Coronavirus Could Be the Chinese Military's Greatest Foe

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 10:30

Charlie Gao

Security,

As it could impact arms production.

The disruption that COVID-2019 coronavirus has inflicted on China’s industry is well documented. Wuhan, a major industrial center, is still in lockdown as of early March 2020. Many factories have gone to a standstill, with major effects on the supply of goods around the world. However, less talked about is the effect the coronavirus has had on the Chinese military industry. While this is understandable, given how China has restricted information about the coronavirus’s effects and the general opacity of the Chinese military industry, some information has come out.

Evidently the effect on the military industry is waning, as announcements of resumption of production of certain items have come out. On February 21, Shenyang Aircraft Corporation announced that it was resuming production of J-15 fighters after a short pause due to coronavirus fears. This follows announcements earlier that other aviation industry firms had resumed full production. Measures against further coronavirus infections were also included in speeches in which productions were resumed, including regular temperature checks among the workforce. In other sectors, such as shipbuilding, major efforts have taken place to resume full pace production, including the use of reserve manpower to replace those who are sick.

However, there remains the issue of Wuhan, which is still on lockdown. Wuhan houses many firms related to the Chinese defense industry, being part of China’s “Optics Valley” dedicated to electro-optical equipment. Despite not being on the coast, Wuhan also hosts many naval engineering firms and institutes. Statements by Chinese analysts suggest that work is being minimally affected, as none of the staff at military-related institutions at Wuhan are said to be infected. But there is the admission that there could be an impact on productivity as well as security risks as the number of workers working from home with sensitive information increases.

The implications of the minimal impact, if true, are interesting. It suggests that China’s military industry’s supply chain is relatively insulated from that used to supply the factories that produce goods for export. Articles discussing the start of Wuhan’s civilian industry are not optimistic, saying materials may run out as other sectors of the Chinese economy remain disrupted. Chinese authorities appear to be aware of this, and have initiated pushes to restart production from the bottom up in military industries. A quote provided to the South China Morning Post reinforces this: “Other state-owned enterprises like steel plants have also resumed production, and it’s impossible for the aircraft and naval industry to slow up production once the heat treating furnaces are turned on,”

Whether the return to norms in the military industry will boost the rest of China’s economy has yet to be seen. But their relative insulation from the original shocks of coronavirus suggest that while they may be quicker to recover, their recovery will be isolated.

Charlie Gao studied political and computer science at Grinnell College and is a frequent commentator on defense and national security issues.

Image: Reddit.

The Civil War's Little-Known Turning Point: The Battle of Shiloh

Sat, 07/03/2020 - 10:22

Roy Morris Jr.

History, Americas

And it led to the rise of Robert E. Lee and Ulysses S. Grant...

No one expected this—not the fiercest “fire-eater” in South Carolina or the flintiest abolitionist in New England. By the time the guns fell silent at Shiloh on the night of April 7, 1862, soldiers on both sides of the battlefield realized that they had endured something never before seen in American history. Nearly 24,000 men had fallen dead or wounded among the peach orchards and tangled woods in southwestern Tennessee, more than the total loss from all three of America’s previous wars combined. Small wonder that New Orleans writer George Washington Cable, himself a former Confederate, would later write: “The South never smiled again at Shiloh.” 

Neither, for that matter, did the North—at least not for another three long years. Shiloh was the first truly disorienting battle in the national experience, a battle in which large numbers of poorly led troops stumbled into one another, blazed away, fell back, came together again, and stopped butchering each other only after darkness, rain, and exhaustion put an end to the fighting. There would be other battles like Shiloh in 1862, many of them commemorated in this special issue of Civil War Quarterly.

Where America’s Childhood Ended

But there would never be another Shiloh, for that was where America’s childhood ended. After Shiloh, all cocky talk of bloodless victories and cowardly foes gave way to the sickening realization that a war started almost cavalierly one year earlier would not be ending easily—or any time soon. It was no coincidence that the two generals destined to lead the main armies of the opposing regions rose to prominence in 1862. For the North, it was an unprepossessing, rumpled officer from the Midwest, Ulysses S. Grant, a man who had failed at almost everything he touched since graduating from the United States Military Academy at West Point two decades earlier. Grant began his improbable march to high command with his stunning victory at Fort Donelson in February 1862 and his hairbreadth survival at Shiloh six weeks later. For the South, the rising star was Robert E. Lee, also a graduate of West Point, but a man from a very different background than Grant. The patrician son of old-line Virginia royalty, Lee would lead the Army of Northern Virginia through some of its bitterest battles in 1862: Second Manassas, the Battle of Antietam, and Fredericksburg. Two of those would be overwhelming Confederate victories, but the third—Antietam—would be a crushing defeat (and the bloodiest single day in American history). Grant and Lee would begin their long march toward each other in 1862, although it would be another two years before they met for the first time on the battlefield.

A Watershed Year for Both Sides

In the meantime, there were other battles to be fought in 1862, including the significant Union victory in the western theater of the war at Pea Ridge, Arkansas, in March. Sandwiched between them were other Union victories, these on the water, when Admiral David Farragut successfully seized the South’s largest city, New Orleans, and a Federal ironclad, Monitor, fought off the Confederate behemoth Virginia at Hampton Roads, Virginia, ushering in a new era in naval warfare. For both sides, 1862 would be a watershed year, a time in which the amateur armies raised so hastily the previous spring would learn how to fight, and kill, each other with increasing efficiency. From the men in the ranks to the officers on horseback, the war would progress with a grim inevitability. The only certainty was that there would be even worse days to come. Shiloh had seen to that.

This article by Roy Morris Jr. first appeared at the Warfare History Network in February 2019.

Image: "Plenty of Fighting Today": The 9th Illinois at Shiloh by Keith Rocco. The National Guard.

Pages