Archive for September, 2010

  Military Suicides And American Indifference

Posted by Chris van Avery on 30Sep10.

Swampland has a post today about Adm. Mullen’s unpublicized comments to a group of journalists during a breakfast meeting.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was talking of the military’s ability to fight future wars Wednesday when he suddenly changed gears. “We had five suicides in the Army last weekend,” the nation’s top military officer abruptly volunteered. And, he warned, such horrors are only going to grow.

He almost seemed to spit out these words, unbidden – as if to push them out quickly might temper their sting. “I think we’re going to see a significant increase in the challenges that we have in terms of troops and our families,” Mullen continued. As the demands for troops in the war zones eases, problems are going to rise as war-weary soldiers return home. “Things that have been pent up, or packed in, or basically suppressed or sucked up — whatever term you want to use — we’re going to start to see that as well,” he warned at a breakfast meeting with reporters.

“Dealing with PTSD, dealing with the injuries, dealing with just the overall pressures that so many have dealt with for so long,” Mullen said, “I think we’re going to see a growth in that before we see a decline.” But there remains one challenge that trumps all others. “The emergency issue right now for me is the suicide issue,” Mullen conceded. “It’s a very difficult problem.” Suicide in all the military services “has gone up dramatically since 2004.”

His distress is understandable, and I have little doubt the things Adm. Mullen lists are contributing to the problem. In the back of my mind, however, I think the problem is much deeper that he admits.

Consider the condition of America after nearly a decade of wars. The economy’s in the dumps and some claim defense spending is slowing the recovery. Congress is in gridlock. Infighting among the most senior levels of the chain of command has broken onto the public stage. American foreign policy is in disarray. The Commander in Chief appears to be indifferent to victory and playing politics with the conflict. And if one believes the hype, America is losing its place in the world to China.

What sane person who stepped up to defend America and its ideals wouldn’t despair? I can’t help but think many of these troubled men and women have asked themselves, “Have I been fighting for this ?”, and don’t like the answer.

I know I’ve asked that question.

And I don’t like the answer.

  Former Signalman Tony Curtis Dead At 85

Posted by Chris van Avery on 30Sep10.

Signalman Tony Curtis Another witness to history passes: actor and former Sailor Tony Curtis passed away yesterday.  He credited the Navy with launching his acting career.

I can’t thank the Navy enough, as it was like a mother to me, feeding me and even fixing my teeth,” he said. “They kept me out of trouble and let me see the world, and when I came home I had the GI Bill and I was able to go to school and study acting — I really can’t thank them enough.

Navy times has the best coverage of his time in the Navy.

  Politics & Culture News Today – 9/30/10

Posted by Chris van Avery on 30Sep10.

Senate to block recess appointments
By technically staying in session, the chamber will keep the president from bypassing Congress.

Sign of Changing Times: U.S. Senate Panel Trims 2011 Defense Appropriations Bill
As spending cuts go, the $8 billion that U.S. Senate appropriators trimmed from next year’s defense spending bill wasn’t much – a little more than 1 percent off the $678 billion requested by President Barack Obama. But to many who monitor defense budgets closely, the fact that the defense budget was cut at all was more significant than the amount.

First ‘habitable zone’ planet found outside solar system
For the first time, astronomers have detected a rocky planet in another solar system that has the most basic and essential conditions needed to support extraterrestrial life.

  Security News Today – 9/30/10

Posted by Chris van Avery on 30Sep10.

Woken Up by a Stirring Dragon
The stability of the next decade may depend on Chinese leaders focusing on avoiding a scenario where China is left with just two choices: retreat, which would unleash nationalist fury inside the country, or chance an outright clash.

China releases three Japanese citizens
China on Thursday released three of the four Japanese citizens who had been detained since last week, accused of illegally videotaping a military site. The three were released, according to China’s Xinhua news agency, after admitting their violation and showing “regret for their mistake.”

Taiwanese cool to China’s overtures
When Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao offered to remove missiles pointed at Taiwan without mentioning the one-China principle, suspicions grew of a masterplan to gradually lull the island’s military, business leaders and then the population into passivity. People on the island are not that easily fooled.

North Korea To Strengthen Nuclear Deterrent
North Korea vowed on Wednesday to strengthen its nuclear forces due to the threat posed by the United States. “As long as U.S. nuclear aircraft carriers sail in the seas around our country, our nuclear deterrent can never be abandoned, but should be strengthened further,” North Korean Deputy Foreign Minister Pak Kil-yon told the UN General Assembly. “This is the lesson we have drawn,” he said.

Nothing’s going right for Obama’s foreign policy
With the likely withdrawal Saturday of the Palestinians from their ill-advised direct talks with Israel, it looks increasingly like Barack Obama’s foreign policy is headed for catastrophic failure. Nearly across the board, the president’s initiatives are going down in flames.

Russia Intensifying Annexation of Georgian Territories
On September 29, 2010, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Georgia made a statement accusing the Russian Federal Security Service (FSB) troops stationed in the occupied Georgian province of Tskhinvali region/South Ossetia of conducting “illegal ‘border demarcation works,’” which will “further limit free movement in the region for the local population,” including areas adjacent to the line of occupation.

Chris van Avery is an Asia-Pacific FAO and Military Professor at the Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, and blogs on a variety of topics at The Yankee Sage .

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