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Quick reminder: We’re on the eve of destruction as the INF Treaty expires
We're all going to die.
That doesn't mean we're all going to die tomorrow, but before we delve into the United States government's withdrawal from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty, it's worth remembering that we are all mortal and our corporeal existence will end one day even if the world is not consumed by a nuclear holocaust or global warming or the heat death of the sun (Your daily motivation courtesy of your friend and humble narrator).
First, let's take a trip back in time to 1987, when the INF Treaty was first signed. At the time, the Soviet Union was led by Mikhail Gorbachev, who came to power after his three predecessors died in quick succession between 1982 and 1985. For Soviet reformers, Gorbachev's accession gave hope that Stalin's generation of cronies was finally starting to die off. Gen Xers and Millennials can relate.
The INF Treaty, intended to defuse the possibility of a global thermonuclear war, paved the way for the Soviets to dismantle their inventory of 654 SS-20 nuclear cruise missiles, which were difficult for NATO to track because they were so mobile and could strike targets in Europe with little notice, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies' Missile Threat website.
Flash forward to the present: Current Soviet leader Vladimir Putin has shown the INF Treaty as much respect as he has given to the territorial integrity of Georgia and Ukraine. Russia has developed a new ground-launched cruise missile with the designator 9M729, making the United States the only country actually living up to the treaty. As President Barack Obama can attest, nice guys who play with Russia really do finish last.
On Friday, the United States formally withdrew from the INF Treaty. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement claiming, "Russia is solely responsible for the treaty's demise."
For defense industry, the end of the 32-year-old treaty meant to prevent Armageddon is surely more exciting than Christmas, July 4th, and the Super Bowl all wrapped up in an orgasm. Expect to see companies rolling out new lines of missiles for Prime Day; after all, nothing says "I love you" like a $500,000 million gift card for Raytheon.
However, it will take several years for the Defense Department to field any new weapons systems, said Pentagon spokeswoman Air Force Lt. Col. Carla Gleason, who added that not only is the Pentagon is only looking to test and develop new systems for conventional weapons rather than nukes, but it's far too early to say where these new weapons might be deployed.
"In light of Russia's continued violation of the INF Treaty, the Department commenced Treaty-compliant research and development activities in 2017," Gleason said in a statement. "DoD's initial R&D [research and development] efforts led the department to focus on mobile, conventional, ground-launched cruise and ballistic missile systems."
Now that the INF Treaty is history, the U.S. military has an opportunity to develop hypersonic weapons and other conventional systems that would come in handy in a war against China, said retired Army Maj. Gen. Robert Scales, author of Scales on War, a.k.a. the bible for lethality.
These new weapons systems could be launched by bases held by Marines to take out Chinese missiles, which have ranges between 1,200 and 2,200 miles, Scales said. The U.S. military can now also develop long-range anti-ship missiles.
In other words, the Pentagon is free to become more lethal, and if there's one thing the U.S. military loves, it's lethality, which top civilian and uniformed officials are known to mix with baking powder and smoke it like crack cocaine.
But one unresolved question is whether leaving the INF Treaty makes war against a great power such as Russia or China more likely, especially since humanity will have brand new tools of self-destruction.
It's also worth noting that President Donald Trump has shown great enthusiasm for using destructive weapons, such as the GBU-43/B Massive Ordnance Air Blast or "Mother Of All Bombs."He recently said he could win the war in Afghanistan at the cost of millions of lives. (He's right, you know.)
So where does that leave us?
The best advice your humble Pentagon correspondent can give is this: Treat every day as if it were your last. Eventually, you'll be right.
Jeff Schogol covers the Pentagon for Task & Purpose. He has covered the military for 14 years and embedded with U.S. troops in Iraq and Haiti. Prior to joining T&P, he covered the Marine Corps and Air Force at Military Times. Comments or thoughts to share? Send them to Jeff Schogol via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or direct message @JeffSchogol on Twitter.
Senators Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) and Johnny Isakson (R-GA) will announce legislation Wednesday aiming to "fix" a new Trump administration citizenship policy that affects some children of U.S. service members stationed abroad.
The inside story of how The Village People shot the Navy's most controversial recruiting video onboard an active warship
The video opens innocently enough. A bell sounds as we gaze onto a U.S. Navy frigate, safely docked at port at Naval Base San Diego. A cadre of sailors, dressed in "crackerjack" style enlisted dress uniforms and hauling duffel bags over their shoulders, stride up a gangplank aboard the vessel. The officer on deck greets them with a blast of a boatswain's call. It could be the opening scene of a recruitment video for the greatest naval force on the planet.
Then the rhythmic clapping begins.
This is no recruitment video. It's 'In The Navy,' the legendary 1979 hit from disco queens The Village People, shot aboard the very real Knox-class USS Reasoner (FF-1063) frigate. And one of those five Navy sailors who strode up that gangplank during filming was Ronald Beck, at the time a legal yeoman and witness to one of the strangest collisions between the U.S. military and pop culture of the 20th century.
"They picked the ship and they picked us, I don't know why," Beck, who left the Navy in 1982, told Task & Purpose in a phone interview from his Texas home in October. "I was just lucky to be one of 'em picked."
Defense Secretary Mark Esper on Tuesday casually brushed aside the disturbing news that, holy shit, MORE THAN 100 ISIS FIGHTERS HAVE ESCAPED FROM JAIL.
In an interview with CNN's Christiane Amanpour, Esper essentially turned this fact into a positive, no doubt impressing public relations and political talking heads everywhere with some truly masterful spin.
"Of the 11,000 or so detainees that were imprisoned in northeast Syria, we've only had reports that a little more than a hundred have escaped," Esper said, adding that the Syrian Democratic Forces were continuing to guard prisons, and the Pentagon had not "seen this big prison break that we all expected."
Well, I feel better. How about you?
On Wednesday, the top U.S. envoy in charge of the global coalition to defeat ISIS said much the same, while adding another cherry on top: The United States has no idea where those 100+ fighters went.
A senior administration official told reporters on Wednesday the White House's understanding is that the SDF continues to keep the "vast majority" of ISIS fighters under "lock and key."
"It's obviously a fluid situation on the ground that we're monitoring closely," the official said, adding that released fighters will be "hunted down and recaptured." The official said it was Turkey's responsibility to do so.
President Trump expressed optimism on Wednesday about what was happening on the ground in northeast Syria, when he announced that a ceasefire between Turkey and the Kurds was expected to be made permanent.
"Turkey, Syria, and all forms of the Kurds have been fighting for centuries," Trump said. "We have done them a great service and we've done a great job for all of them — and now we're getting out."
The president boasted that the U.S.-brokered ceasefire had saved the lives of tens of thousands of Kurds "without spilling one drop of American blood."
Kade Kurita, the 20-year-old West Point cadet who had been missing since Friday evening, was found dead on Tuesday night, the U.S. Military Academy announced early Wednesday morning.
"We are grieving this loss and our thoughts and prayers go out to Cadet Kurita's family and friends," Lt. Gen. Darryl Williams, superintendent of West Point, said in the release.
The U.S. Army's Next Generation Squad Weapon effort looked a lot more possible this week as the three competing weapons firms displayed their prototype 6.8mm rifles and automatic rifles at the 2019 Association of the United States Army's annual meeting.
Just two months ago, the Army selected General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems inc., Textron Systems and Sig Sauer Inc. for the final phase of the NGSW effort — one of the service's top modernization priorities to replace the 5.56mm M4A1 carbine and the M249 squad automatic weapon in infantry and other close-combat units.
Army officials, as well as the companies in competition, have been guarded about specific details, but the end result will equip combat squads with weapons that fire a specially designed 6.8mm projectile, capable of penetrating enemy body armor at ranges well beyond the current M855A1 5.56mm round.
There have previously been glimpses of weapons from two firms, but this year's AUSA was the first time all three competitors displayed their prototype weapons, which are distinctly different from one another.