Hector Garcia: We train soldiers for war. Let’s train them to come home, too – Filmed November 2015 at TED Talks Live

Before soldiers are sent into combat, they’re trained on how to function in an immensely dangerous environment. But they also need training on how to return from the battlefield to civilian life, says psychologist Hector Garcia. Applying the same principles used to prepare soldiers for war, Garcia is helping veterans suffering from PTSD get their lives back.



Why Zimbabwe’s Military Sticks With Mugabe – By Philip Martin – September 12, 2016


Zimbabwe is headed for turbulent waters. Over the last few months, a protest movement has highlighted popular dissatisfaction with what many Zimbabweans see as the economic mismanagement and heavy-handed tactics of the government of President Robert Mugabe. Opposition groups are joining forces in an effort to defeat the ruling party in the 2018 elections. Even members of the national war veterans’ association, who traditionally have been reliable supporters of Mugabe’s party, the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF), have publicly denounced the president. Together with a deep economic crisis, these developments have set off fears of impending instability, political violence, and even civil war or state collapse. Any of those outcomes could produce a humanitarian catastrophe.

The good news is that the event that could trigger the worst violence—the loss of control over Zimbabwe’s armed forces by the country’s civilian government—is still unlikely. That is because the ZANU-PF government and the top echelons of the Zimbabwe Defense Forces (ZDF) enjoy an unusually close relationship. Their bond developed during their shared struggle as part of the Zimbabwe African National Union (ZANU), one of the groups that fought against the white Rhodesian settler state for more than a decade before taking power in 1980 as the newly independent Zimbabwe’s first ruling party.

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Expand the Draft to Women – By Elisabeth Braw July 19, 2016

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Earlier this year, an expert commission that the Swiss government had charged with reviewing the country’s conscription system delivered its final report. The committee’s conclusion: Switzerland should extend its military draft to women.

“Our armed forces need 18,000 new soldiers each year, and it’s getting harder and harder to reach this number,” Major Daniel Slongo told me. Slongo, the secretary-general of the Swiss military officers’ association, is a member of the commission and has concluded that extending the draft to women is the best way of filling the armed forces’ ranks. “Today we can’t fill some of our positions,” he explained. “If we get access to women for the draft, suddenly our conscript pool will be twice as large.”

Staffing the military is more important than ever. Growing tension in Europe is making territorial defense—which requires large numbers of soldiers—a priority. Yet soldiers are not easy to come by. In many countries, military service doesn’t bring advantages on the labor market, which means that talented potential soldiers often try to get out of it. Defense officials are also concerned about declining fitness among potential recruits. In the United States, for example, a recent study showed that one-third of young adults are too fat to enlist. Such figures are making defense officials consider drafting women, who form a largely untapped talent pool.

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Letting LGBTQ soldiers serve isn’t just for equality. It also makes the military stronger. – Updated by German Lopez on July 1, 2016, 12:00 p.m. ET

With the end of the bans on LGBTQ troops, the military has expanded its recruitment pool.

Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

Kristoffer Tripplaar-Pool/Getty Images

When President Barack Obama took office in 2009, LGBTQ soldiers couldn’t serve openly in the US military — as a result of “don’t ask, don’t tell” (DADT) for gay, lesbian, and bisexual individuals and a ban, through military medical regulations, for transgender people.

As of June 30, both bans are gone: Congress repealed DADT in 2010, and the US military officially implemented the repeal in 2011. This week, the Pentagon announced it would phase out its ban on trans troops over the next year. It’s a remarkable shift in just a few years — one of the biggest LGBTQ victories in a time period full of LGBTQ victories.

These repeals have been a long time coming, with LGBTQ advocates pushing hard for the changes and the Obama administration eventually coming around as a strong ally, even as some of the military’s top brass remained skeptical.

To this point, much of the conversation about these issues has focused on equality. To be sure, equality is by itself a good reason to allow LGBTQ soldiers to serve openly.

But there’s also another benefit: It makes the military better at its job. If LGBTQ people are going to serve in the military (and history shows they will), it makes far more sense to fully integrate them into the institution than not. Not only does that increase the potential pool of recruits, but it can also improve morale and trust among soldiers.

As the Department of Defense put it on Thursday, it “must have access to 100 percent of America’s population for its all-volunteer force to be able to recruit from among the most highly qualified, and to retain them.”

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Military Plans to Lift Ban on Transgender Service Members – By PAUL SONNE June 24, 2016 6:04 p.m. ET

Move expected as early as next week, Defense Department spokesperson says

The Pentagon is expected to announce the decision lifting the ban on transgender service members in the coming weeks, possibly as early as next week, a Defense Department spokesman said.

The Pentagon is expected to announce the decision lifting the ban on transgender service members in the coming weeks, possibly as early as next week, a Defense Department spokesman said.  — Photo: Saul Loeb/Agence Frabce-Presse/Getty Images


WASHINGTON—The U.S. military is preparing to lift its prohibition on transgender service members as early as next week, ushering in a cultural change in the armed forces, a Defense Department spokesman said.

The move comes after the Obama administration lifted measures that prevented women from taking certain combat roles and stopped the “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy that prohibited gay and lesbian soldiers from serving openly.

Eric Pahon, a spokesman for the Defense Department, said the Pentagon would issue the decision lifting the ban on transgender service members in the coming weeks, possibly as early as next week. A number of details must still be finalized before the decision can go ahead, the official said.

“They have really taken their time to make sure they have come up with a policy that balances the needs of service members and mission readiness,” Mr. Pahon said.

For years, transgender soldiers effectively have been barred from serving openly in the U.S. military. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter vowed to change the policy last year. He recently faced criticism for delays in implementing the shift.

Mr. Carter said during an appearance in Colorado Springs last month that the military was working through a careful and thorough implementation plan. He denied that the delays were a reflection of any impasses in the process.

“There aren’t any hang-ups,” Mr. Carter said, describing the matter as a complicated issue. “We know exactly where we’re going. I established the direction some time ago.”

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The Revival of the Russian Military – By Dmitri Trenin May/June 2016 Issue

How Moscow Reloaded

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After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian military rotted away. In one of the most dramatic campaigns of peacetime demilitarization in world history, from 1988 to 1994, Moscow’s armed forces shrank from five million to one million personnel. As the Kremlin’s defense expenditures plunged from around $246 billion in 1988 to $14 billion in 1994, according to the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, the government withdrew some 700,000 servicemen from Afghanistan, Germany, Mongolia, and eastern Europe. So much had the prestige of the military profession evaporated during the 1990s that when the nuclear submarine Kursk sank in the Barents Sea in 2000, its captain was earning the equivalent of $200 per month.

From 1991 to 2008, during the presidency of Boris Yeltsin and the first presidential term of Vladimir Putin, Russia used its scaled-down military within the borders of the former Soviet Union, largely to contain, end, or freeze conflicts there. Over the course of the 1990s, Russian units intervened in ethnic conflicts in Georgia and Moldova and in the civil war in Tajikistan—all minor engagements. Even for the operation in Chechnya, where Yeltsin sent the Russian military in 1994 in an attempt to crush a separatist rebellion, the Russian General Staff was able to muster only 65,000 troops out of a force that had, in theory, a million men under arms.

South Korea, U.S. and Japan Plan Joint Drills on North Korean Threat – Hyung-Jin Kim / AP 3:43 AM ET

A man watches a TV news program showing a file footage of a missile launch conducted by North Korea, at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 23, 2016. North Korea on Saturday fired what appeared to be a ballistic missile from a submarine off its northeast coast, South Korean defense officials said, Pyongyang's latest effort to expand its military might in the face of pressure by its neighbors and Washington. The Korean letters at top left read: "North Korea fires a submarine-launched ballistic missile or SLBM." (AP Photo/Lee Jin-man)

A man watches a TV news program showing a file footage of a missile launch conducted by North Korea, at the Seoul Train Station in Seoul, South Korea, Saturday, April 23, 2016.

(SEOUL, South Korea) — South Korea, the United States and Japan will hold their first joint military training next month focused on cooperating to detect signs of missile launches from North Korea and trace missile trajectories, a Seoul defense official said Monday.

The drills set for around June 28 will be held on the sidelines of biennial multinational naval exercises scheduled for waters of Hawaii from June to August, which the three countries regularly attend, the official said requesting anonymity citing department rules.

The trilateral drills will involve Aegis-equipped ships from the three countries, but that they will not involve missile-interception training, the official said. The three countries have held joint search-and-rescue drills in the past.


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Left divided over women registering for the draft – By Rebecca Kheel – 05/14/16 03:11 PM EDT



Some see the issue as one of basic gender equality, arguing women should face the same requirements as men. Others argue that no one should be required to register for the draft, and that including women would be a step in the wrong direction.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a man, a woman or a houseplant—we need to abolish the Selective Service,” Rep. Peter DeFazio (D-Ore.) said in a statement to The Hill. “Allowing women to be included in the Selective Service would just double the number of people punished unnecessarily by the government over inclusion in a mean-spirited and outdated practice.”“My position is the position on the draft in general,” Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.) said. “I’m just against the draft.”

Liberal activists have also taken up the cause. A Care2 petition with nearly 14,000 signatures urges lawmakers to end the draft instead of requiring women to participate.

“While this is unfair and sexist — women should be allowed to serve in combat roles just as men are — it is immoral to force people to go to war, no matter their sex,” Julie Mastrine, the petition’s author and Care2’s activism marketing and social media manager, says in the petition document.

The Military and the Academy – By Thomas G. Mahnken May 2016

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Christopher Sims’ “Academics in Foxholes: The Life and Death of the Human Terrain System” contributes to the ongoing debate about the U.S. military’s performance in Iraq and Afghanistan and, more specifically, the relationship between the U.S. government and the academy. As the authors point out, there is much that both scholars and practitioners can learn from the successes and failures of the Human Terrain System (HTS), which brought together civilian academics and military personnel. Even more broadly, however, the experience reveals much about the relationship between the U.S. armed forces (primarily the army) on the one hand and academic social scientists (primarily anthropologists and sociologists) on the other.

HTS was created in 2007 as a response to the U.S. military’s need to better understand the cultural and ethnic geography of Iraq and Afghanistan. In part because of long-standing lack of institutional emphasis on cultural factors, U.S. forces had a poor understanding of the composition of Iraqi and Afghan society. At times they overlooked sources of support for insurgency; at other times they alienated potential allies. Addressing the shortcoming in the middle of a war inevitably came at a great expense and the process was less effective than diagnosing and remedying the problem in peacetime.

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Return to Keflavik Station – By Gregory Winger and Gustav Petursson February 24, 2016

Iceland’s Cold War Legacy Reappraised