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Operation Iraqi Freedom

Why the First US Military Raid Under Trump Was in Yemen

Decorated U.S. Navy SEAL William “Ryan” Owens was tragically killed this weekend in Yemen. The first publicly acknowledged U.S. raid under President Donald Trump did not go as smoothly as planned, though the Pentagon labelled the mission — which reportedly killed 14 militants — a success. According to Reuters, the U.S. special ops mission targeted Abdulrauf al Dhabab, a senior al Qaeda leader.

The mission hit a snag when the SEAL team’s V-22 Osprey endured a “hard landing,” injuring at least three service members. Additionally, the SEAL Team 6 crew unexpectedly faced resistance from multiple female jihadis, which vastly complicated the mission and may have resulted in the deaths of civilians caught in the crossfire. However, according to U.S. Central Command, the SEALs secured “information that will likely provide insight into the planning of future terror plots.”

So, was it all worth it? And what brought the nation’s most decorated warriors into Yemen in the first place?

The continuing destabilization of the Middle East nation has created a void filled by the world’s most dangerous terrorists, who use the state to plan missions both domestically and abroad.

Civil War

There is an ongoing civil war in Yemen that has resulted in the deaths of tens of thousands of soldiers, militants, and civilians. Much of the country has become a battleground between a Saudi-led coalition (which includes the United States) and Iran-backed Houthi insurgents. Amidst the chaos, a vacuum has been created that has allowed the local Islamic State and al Qaeda branches to flourish, leaving only the U.S. and its allies to check their vast expansion.

AQAP

Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP), which is headquartered in Yemen, is without a doubt the most dangerous al Qaeda affiliate worldwide. The group has managed to control swaths of territory in Yemen and has a global reach that extends to the United States and Europe.

AQAP, which is tasked with coordinating overseas attacks against America and its allies, was designated a Foreign Terrorist Organization by the U.S. in 2010. It has on several occasions managed to infiltrate and carry out terror plots in Western countries. The group urges recruits inside America to “strike at home,” as damaging the U.S. is their most important duty.

Many of AQAP’s devotees are inspired by the late al Qaeda cleric Anwar al-Awlaki, the deceased imam who left America after 9/11 to became the leader of the al Qaeda Yemen branch. Several U.S.-based terrorists, including the shooters at Ft. Hood and Chattanooga drew motivation from Awlaki.

The 2009 Christmas Day “Underwear Bomber” — a Nigerian native who planned on bringing down a commercial jet — carried out his orders directly from AQAP. Thankfully, he failed to detonate his explosives.

Additionally, the tragic 2015 mass killings at the “Charlie Hebdo” offices in Paris was the work of AQAP jihadis.

Islamic State-Yemen

ISIS, like AQAP, also controls territory in Yemen, under the name Wilayat Sanaa — or, the Sanaa Province (of the Islamic State). The group, which seeks to impose a worldwide caliphate under its rule, has successfully conducted massive suicide missions, which have killed hundreds and wounded countless more. Islamic State operations in Yemeni provinces are a relatively new phenomenon, but the terror outfit has shown that it can operate and plan major attacks in the country.

U.S. counterterrorism efforts

America’s counterterrorism strategy in Yemen during the Obama administration relied on drone strikes and small, specialized military raids on jihadi compounds inside the country. In 2015, a U.S. drone strike killed AQAP’s No. 2 in charge. As previously mentioned, al-Awlaki was also taken out thanks to a U.S. drone strike.

Whether the strategy has been a success is a matter of debate. Experts have pointed out that targeted killings of AQAP leaders may temporarily weaken the group, but new leaders will emerge as long as the group has a safe haven in Yemen. Therefore, U.S. officials have expanded the mission to, at times, deploy special ops on the ground for aggressive missions on AQAP strongholds.

As details unfold pertaining to the past weekend’s raid in Yemen, what’s clear is that the country has become the perfect environment to plot jihadi terror against the United States. It appears that President Trump has recognized the threat and dedicated his first mission toward helping to eradicate the menace in the Gulf. (For more from the author of “Why the First US Military Raid Under Trump Was in Yemen” please click HERE)

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New for the Army in 2017? Beards, Nail Polish and Earrings

Army leaders are considering some big changes to the service’s uniform and appearance policies in 2017.

The Army Research Lab has been conducting a compatibility study of protective equipment with facial hair, long hair and head coverings, an ARL spokeswoman confirmed. This includes testing combat helmets this fall at Aberdeen Proving Ground, Maryland, with volunteers – male and female – who have hair with more than two inches of volume when tied back.

And as for beards, the Army’s top enlisted soldier is open to them.

“From a personal perspective: Am I opposed to it? Not really,” Sergeant Major of the Army Dan Dailey told Army Times in November. “I think we have to look at it, we have to research on it, we have to be informed by it” . . .

The Marines, Navy, Coast Guard and Air Force all currently allow nail polish, and all of those except the Marines allow small, stud earrings in their utility uniforms. (Read more from “New for the Army in 2017? Beards, Nail Polish and Earrings” HERE)

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Navy Begins Transgender Indoctrination

With only a few weeks left of Barack Obama’s presidency, his administration is doing all it can to solidify the radical changes it has introduced — especially in the armed forces. After winning repeal in 2010 (from a lame duck Congress) of the law against homosexuality in the armed forces, the administration set out in 2016 to complete its extreme LGBT makeover of the military by opening the doors to transgender service members as well. Defense Secretary Ash Carter revoked longstanding policies against transgender military service on July 1, 2016, and a year later, on July 1, 2017, the armed forces are currently scheduled to begin actively recruiting persons who identify as transgender.

A series of regulations have since been handed down explaining how “gender transition” will be handled in the military, as well as what medical treatments will be made available to the spouses and children of service members. Now, however, the direct indoctrination of the force into accepting this radical agenda has begun.

First, the Washington Free Beacon reported that the U.S. Naval Academy would be offering 90-minute “Transgender 101” classes to both staff and midshipmen. The training was to be conducted by two Google employees, Kevin Perry and Marnie Florin. Florin is reportedly a “diversity consultant” who “identifies as gender neutral and goes by the pronouns ‘ze’ or ‘they.’”

While the training at the Academy was described as optional, it may only be a test run. The Free Beacon reports, “All active duty sailors must complete transgender training by January 31.”

The report also noted, “Midshipmen and staff who take the training course will get the opportunity to display cards outside their door that show they are allies of the LGBT community.” (Yet only four months ago, a military court upheld the court-martial of a Marine who dared to post a single Bible verse by her work station.)

Family Research Council has been contacted by service members expressing concern about “transgender training” in the military. One enlisted naval reservist spoke to me on December 14 about the transgender training he recently experienced during a drill weekend at a Naval Reserve Center on the west coast. This session did not feature any transgender “diversity consultants” — rather, it was the Commanding Officer of the Center who presented a 45-minute PowerPoint.

Attendees were informed that the issue is “not up for negotiation or debate.” To service members who may have religious objections to the new policy, the CO said, “Talk to me and I’ll help you.” Help you find an accommodation that will allow you to act upon your deeply-held religious beliefs? Oh, no — “help you get out of the Navy.”

The reservists were told that not only will they be required to serve with colleagues who identify as transgender, but they will also be expected to use the pronouns of the person’s choice. In other words, those who believe (correctly) that one’s male-ness or female-ness is a God-given biological characteristic that is identified at birth (and fixed even earlier) will be required to speak lies in order to avoid showing “disrespect.” This is ironic at best (and tragic at worst), given the emphasis that the military usually places on integrity, honesty, and truth.

I mentioned to the reservist that the military’s hostility to religious viewpoints would likely damage recruiting in the very parts of the country where people are most likely to consider a military career, such as the Bible Belt. He agreed, noting that “west coast liberals aren’t pounding the doors to join the military.”

Although transgender activists vehemently deny that any privacy problems arise from allowing those with gender dysphoria to use bathrooms, sleeping and bathing facilities designated for the opposite biological sex, the Navy is implicitly making concessions to such problems. In new policy guidance announced November 7, the Navy stated, “There will be new modesty policies to allow for increased privacy in berthing, shower and head facilities.”

I recently wrote an op-ed explaining the medical reasons why allowing people who have had, or are having, hormone therapy and or gender reassignment surgery to serve in the military is a threat to readiness and the ability to deploy anywhere in the world. It is becoming increasingly clear that it is a threat to freedom of thought, speech, and religion as well. (For more from the author of “Navy Begins Transgender Indoctrination” please click HERE)

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Pentagon Officials Admit Afghan Soldiers Have Disappeared From US Military Bases

It is no secret that thousands of Afghan troops have come to the United States for training by the military.

What has just been revealed, however, is that since January 2015, 44 Afghan soldiers have disappeared from U.S. bases, Pentagon spokesman Adam Stump told Reuters.

Eight men disappeared in September alone.

Some of the missing troops have ended up in Canada with the help of an illegal pipeline, while others have presumably attempted to go unnoticed in the United States.

At a briefing Thursday, Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said 32 of the missing soldiers had been located.

Since 2007, the United States has trained approximately 2,200 Afghan troops on various American military bases.

While the number of missing Afghan soldiers is relatively small compared with the number to successfully complete their military training, a U.S. defense official called the incidents concerning and “out of the ordinary.”

The disappearances could prove to be an embarrassment to the Obama administration, which has spent billions of dollars training Afghan soldiers so that they can return home and protect their country.

“The Defense Department is assessing ways to strengthen eligibility criteria for training in ways that will reduce the likelihood of an individual Afghan willingly absconding from training in the U.S. and going AWOL,” Stump said.

Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump has been vocal in his criticism of President Obama and his inability to vet immigrants arriving in the U.S. from countries with a Muslim majority.

Throughout his campaign, Trump has promised to crack down on illegal immigration when he becomes president.

Some experts blame low morale, improper military training and lack of opportunities in Afghanistan for the soldiers’ decisions to abandon their positions.

Michael Kugelman, a South Asia specialist at the Woodrow Wilson Center in Washington, explained why he believed the troops have gone AWOL.

“They face a formidable enemy, with very limited resources and many Afghan troops aren’t getting paid on time,” he said. (For more from the author of “Pentagon Officials Admit Afghan Soldiers Have Disappeared From US Military Bases” please click HERE)

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Retired Navy Chaplain Says Military Is Now Hostile to Christianity

Newly retired Navy chaplain Wes Modder said in a recent interview that the military has become openly hostile to Christianity.

In an interview with OneNewsNow, Modder, who the Navy tried to fire in 2015 for failing to act properly “in [a] diverse and pluralistic environment,” said that Christians need to understand if they remain in uniform, they will be attacked by military officials hostile to their beliefs.

The problem is even worse for Christians just now joining the military.

“If you’re a Christian and you come into the military today, it’s going to be difficult for you,” Modder added.

Modder was serving at the Nuclear Power Training Command in Charleston, South Carolina, with regard from his superiors, but that all changed in 2014. A gay lieutenant junior grade officer poked and prodded Modder during private counseling sessions to answer questions about homosexuality and same-sex marriage the officer knew would land him in hot water.

At the time, Modder had no idea the officer was gay.

“I came to find out later that he was a gay activist, and I was targeted,” Modder told OneNewsNow. “And, of course, the chaplain I was working with at this Navy Nuclear Power Training Command in Charleston — she was a very liberal United Methodist command chaplain. She decided to escalate it, brought charges that I was intolerant [and] not able to function in a diverse pluralistic environment.”

The officer then carefully noted the answers provided and used them to build a case against Modder, who previously had earned high praise from his commander officer Capt. Jon R. Fahs, namely that as a chaplain he was “the best of the best.”

Five months later, Fahs turned on Modder and said he discriminated against his students, creating an open controversy about religious freedom in the military.

With a complaint in hand from Equal Opportunity representatives, the Navy removed Modder from his duties.

The Navy attempted to fire the chaplain, but the investigation found that the case was remarkably weak, leading to the removal of the “Detachment for Cause” action against him. First Liberty, a legal defense group focused on religious liberty, provided representation for Modder, allowing him to retire after 20 years of service on September 6 with an honorable discharge and medal of accommodation. (For more from the author of “Retired Navy Chaplain Says Military Is Now Hostile to Christianity” please click HERE)

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Obama’s Stealth War: Placing Special Ops in Syria and Libya … to What End?

Place our brave soldiers into an Islamic civil war first, ask questions about national security interests and strategy later. That has essentially been the modus operandi of our military adventures in the Middle East for this past generation.

In the waning months of the Obama presidency, few in the media have bothered to report that Obama is continuing to ratchet up the missions of our special operators, using them as his private mercenary force to save political face from quagmires in the Middle East until he leaves the White House and everything falls apart on the watch of the next president. As we observed in July, despite the much-vaunted debate over pulling out from Iraq and Afghanistan, Obama has actually increased troop levels in those regions in recent months. At the same time, he has placed draconian restrictions on their ability to fight the enemy and has failed to formulate any long-term strategic goals.

Meanwhile, the Taliban reportedly operate in more territory than they did before the 2001 U.S.-led invasion. The military just dispatched another 100 soldiers to Helmand province, which is overrun by the Taliban. Earlier today, at least one U.S. soldier was killed there in a roadside bombing and another one was seriously injured. What exactly are these 100 soldiers to do? How many more good men have to die for an aimless mission to prop up a Sharia government?

Obama wants to use our special ops as his private band aid as a panacea for the deep wounds he has sown throughout the region. Misusing special operators for impetuous crisis management with no broader strategy allows Obama to keep troop levels artificially low and avoid scrutiny from Congress or the media. Now he has added two more theaters to the war to nowhere: Libya and Syria.

Libya

Although the dubious mission behind Benghazi might seem like a thing of the past, our lack of strategy in the country has continued to fester since 2012. Obama has kept special operators on the ground for years, and now, according to the Washington Post, the Pentagon is finally admitting that they are involved in ground and air campaigns against the Islamic State in Sirte. While any war against the Islamic State sounds worthy, Obama is getting us sucked into the same Middle East sink hole that has plagued us for over a decade. Who exactly are we fighting for? Who will hold this ground?

While our troops on the ground are busy fighting an aimless war, the elected government in Tobruk just voted against joining the US-backed (and UN) Government of National Accord (GNA) in Tripoli. Obama is trying to successfully block reformers from fighting the Muslim Brotherhood, much like he tried to do in Egypt against the government of el-Sisi.

In 2014, the only democratically held elections resulted in the creation of a government in Tobruk (northeastern Libya) committed to rooting out the radical Islamists. The duly-elected Libyan House of Representatives appointed Khalifa Haftar commander of the Libyan army. Haftar successfully took back much of eastern Libya from the radical Islamists and fought the various terrorist factions, including those associated with the Muslim Brotherhood. Haftar was so feared by the Islamists that Ansar al Sharia, the group behind the Benghazi attack, accused Haftar of launching “a war against the religion and Islam backed by the West and their Arab allies.” Naturally, Obama and the international community didn’t appreciate the war on their Muslim Brotherhood friends so they installed a government in Tripoli, which includes a number of Islamist factions and is not very popular. Now, the Tobruk government has rejected the U.S. backed government – all the while our troops are on the ground fighting for …?

Syria

It’s not just the Islamic State that is in Syria. A multitude of Islamic factions, along with the Assad Administration, are fighting each other. Yet, our special operators are on the ground there to help “the rebels.” Not only is it unclear what ground they are holding and for whom, our soldiers are not even allowed to engage in combat while being placed in combat. As Eli Lake reported last week, their job is to not get shot at! This is similar to the dynamic in Afghanistan where special operators are being tasked with keeping the entire country together with a small force but they must call a lawyer before even calling in close air support. What happens when our soldiers are placed in an untenable situation? Last week, they were almost bombed by Syrian aircraft because nobody is coordinating a broader mission there that serves our strategic interests.

Syria is full of multiple enemy factions. Al Nusra recently decided to get in on the “Syrian rebel” racket that western countries have been offering. They decided to cut ties with Al Qaeda and rename themselves Jabhat Fath al-Sham (JFS), seizing the opportunity to unite the rebel factions. They now have an English-speaking Aussie spokesman with a Twitter account to boot. So will Obama’s myopic focus in Syria now lead him to back these Islamists as well simply because they are rebels? It’s no coincidence that Obama’s UN envoy vetoed an effort to designate Ahar-al-Sham, a close ally of Nusra, as a terror group. After all, these Islamist rebels have been more “effective” against the Islamic State than the Pentagon-backed rebels, who themselves have been pitted against CIA-backed rebels.

As Andy McCarthy puts it, by doubling down on the Syrian engagement “we’d simply be empowering one set of anti-American Islamists against another.” The entire effort against Assad and the Islamic State is dominated by groups with ties to Al Qaeda and the Taliban, as Thomas Joscelyn chronicles so clearly at The Long War Journal. What do we stand to benefit from getting involved in a viper pit full of enemy factions?

Why are we placing our troops into this untenable circus without first formulating a long-term plan? When there is no big picture of what we are fighting for, or worse, if we are downright fighting for the Muslim Brotherhood, the last thing we should be doing is placing our troops on the battlefield.

When Congress returns from summer recess, they have the opportunity to address Obama’s backwards strategy in the Middle East in both the defense authorization bill and the continuing resolution funding bill for fiscal year 2017. They can easily bar any funding, training, and equipping of rebel groups in Syria and deny any logistical support for the inept GNA in Libya. Given the track record of this Republican Congress, it’s unlikely they will even raise any concerns over Obama’s “strategy,” much less take any action. (For more from the author of “Obama’s Stealth War: Placing Special Ops in Syria and Libya … to What End?” please click HERE)

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US Military Is Going Soft: The Millenials Have Taken Over

By Kevin Lilley. Are younger service members — so-called ‘millennials,’ born in 1980 or later — soft?

Are they too reliant on technology? Are they buried so deep in social media that face-to-face communication becomes impossible? Are they too busy questioning orders to follow them?

It’s not uncommon to hear such complaints from members of the Old Guard, some of whom are quick to stereotype the new breed as too desperate for praise and too ill-disciplined.

Across the services, leaders certainly are scrambling to adapt to the millennial mindset, even as the generation is taking over. . .

“The problem that we do have is that right now the generation we have coming in is not as disciplined as we would like them to be,” said Command Sgt. Maj. Michael Gragg, the senior enlisted soldier for the Center for Initial Military Training, earlier this year. “So we have to provide them with discipline over a longer period of time.” (Read more from “US Military Is Going Soft: The Millenials Have Taken Over” HERE)

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Obama Cuts Military Pay for 3rd Year in a Row

By Livenews. While shouting that the minimum wage for illegal aliens working at McDonalds should be $15 an hour, President Obama used a loophole in the US Code deter a pay raise to the military.

The lower pay increase translates to a Pay Grade E-4 (Corporal, Petty Officer 3d Class, Specialist 4, Senior Airman) with less than three years in service will earn less than $3.00 an hour.

Under the 2016 pay scale, a Pay Grade E-1 undergoing recruit training will be paid roughly $2.15 an hour. (Read more from “Obama Cuts Military Pay for 3rd Year in a Row” HERE)

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Iraqi Freedom

A Crisis of Military Leadership as Obama Doubles Down on His Political War in Afghanistan

Every day brings another fresh scandal or outrageous policy from this administration. Earlier this week, Obama announced his intention to keep most of the 9,800 troops in Afghanistan for the remainder of his presidency. While this story was washed away from the public eye by the Hillary Clinton-James Comey email server saga, it represents one of the bigger scandals of Obama’s presidency. Obama is keeping our troops, mainly elite special operators, in a meat-grinder with no mission, no strategic goals, and the most outlandish rules of engagement imaginable. Sadly, Congressional Republicans and conservative foreign policy establishment gurus are cheering this decision. To them, as long as troops remain in the theater, there is nothing more to discuss and they move onto the next issue. In reality, keeping our soldiers in a meat-grinder is worse than pulling them out.

After 15 years in Afghanistan, 1,856 killed in action, over 20,000 wounded and a trillion dollars spent, we have nothing to show but Al Qaeda being stronger than ever and the Taliban controlling more territory than any time since 2001. Two-thirds of those casualties occurred under Obama’s watch between years eight and 12 of the conflict. We are left propping up a corrupt, sharia-compliant government with a constitution (set up by U.S. officials) which mandates the sort of draconian version of Islam we are supposedly at war with. Shouldn’t all sides agree that at this point we should either identify a strategic mission and outcome that is beneficial to our security interests and pursue it with everything we have – or leave entirely?

As I explained a few weeks ago, to place our soldiers in the most precarious situations but deny them the ability to even defend themselves, much less go on offense, is an immoral affront to our most elite troops. Having them do so for a government that hates us and is not too different from the Taliban is even more vexing.

On the one hand, Obama admitted in his announcement Wednesday that the situation in Afghanistan is “precarious.” n the other hand he is saying that our troops are only there to advise and train the Afghani military. Worse, as the Wall Street Journal reported, the rules of engagement are so bad that even elite special forces have to call a lawyer before taking a shot at the Taliban in the heat of battle. This is a lethal combination. The reality is that they are not advisors and are not just there to train Afghanis. They are some of our best special operators who go behind enemy lines together with Afghani soldiers (who are often unreliable) in the most intense special operations missions. The Afghan government is aware of every operation ahead of time and is rotten to the core. They are placed into combat yet can’t engage in combat. Obama is using them as pawns to keep just enough of Afghanistan intact so there is no Saigon-style fall of Kabul during his tenure.

After 15 years of failure we need to think broader than the binary choice of “pulling out” vs. a “troop surge.” You can never win a war when you can’t define the enemy and understand that enemy’s threat doctrine. The threat doctrine is Sharia, yet somehow our military and government leaders think it is worth our blood and treasure to establish a Sharia-government in Afghanistan all the while refusing to build a broader long-term vision of how to keep that region together and how it fits in with our overall strategic interests. We have a crisis of leadership in the civilian and military leadership in the Pentagon whereby in order to forge a successful career one must completely support the whitewashing of Sharia and social engineering in the military. This entire generation of generals is rotten to the core, as witnessed by not a single leader resigning or protesting what Obama is going to our military, the whitewashing of Sharia-compliant training, and the shocking and disrupting social engineering mandates.

Immediately following Obama’s Afghanistan announcement, Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas (F, 52%), Chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, blasted Obama for not putting enough troops and funding behind the endless Afghanistan war. It’s time Republican leaders on military affairs understand that the crisis in our military and foreign policy is much more foundational than a lack of resources. It’s a moral crisis that predated Obama, although he certainly exacerbated it to an unconscionable level. We are now seeing scores of GOP foreign policy elites cast their lot with Hillary Clinton. Putting aside legitimate conservative concerns about Trump, these individuals are not opposing the GOP nominee for good reasons. They are opposing him because they are fearful, rightfully or wrongly so, that he will actually reverse the political correctness in the military and the willful blindness to our true enemy. Everyone I know who worked in intelligence or special operations strategic planning circles is very adamant that the willful blindness towards Sharia-based Islam and the Muslim Brotherhood – both domestically and abroad – began during the Bush years.

For Republicans to continue droning on about “staying the course” and increasing funds for Afghanistan while our troops are being used as pawns in a war of misinformation is a disservice to those who are shouldering the burden of the willful blindness, which is embedded in the highest ranks of military and civilian command. It’s time for an entirely new approach on the Right, and that begins with a full understanding of what and who we are fighting. (For more from the author of “A Crisis of Military Leadership as Obama Doubles Down on His Political War in Afghanistan” please click HERE)

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Marine Corps Gives Women the Option of Ditching Pullups for Pushups Instead

The Marine Corps has rolled out a series of physical fitness changes Friday, saying women can simply do pushups as an alternative to pullups and admitting the service lowered standards to keep women from failing.

Marine Commandant Gen. Robert Neller has called this physical fitness standards update the most dramatic since 1972.

Brian McGuire, deputy force fitness branch head for the standards division of Marine Corps Training and Education Command, told Marine Corps that the pushups were implemented to make sure that the Marine Corps didn’t “create a manpower problem by having some female Marines failing.”

In other words, pushups constitute lowered physical standards in an effort to make sure that more women don’t wash out of the service.

In November, the Marine Corps launched a review of physical fitness standards (PFT) and finalized the changes as of Friday. The new standards, which come as a final solution to the problem of women failing at pullups, will kick in January 1, 2017, Military.com reports.

Instead of the previously offered flexed-arm hang as a substitute for doing pullups, the new substitute is a set of pushups — for both men and women. But with pushups, the maximum PFT score achievable is lower than the maximum PFT score for pullups.

For example, women can reach the highest PFT score of 100 if they complete seven to ten pullups, whereas if they opt for pushups, their max score is 70, which limits opportunities for upward mobility in the service.

If women choose for the pushups option, they’ll have to complete anywhere from 40-50. For men who choose to do pushups over pullups, they’ll have to complete 70-80, depending on age.

“Push-ups become an option on the PFT, but Marines are incentivized toward pull-ups, as these are a better test of functional, dynamic upper body strength and correlate stronger to physically demanding tasks,” Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told troops Friday, according to Military.com. “Push-ups are also a valid exercise and good test; however maximum points can only be earned by executing pull-ups.”

Although the service previously relied on flexed-arm hangs as a substitute for pullups, it became clear that it was a poor substitute, and so Marine leadership eliminated the option in 2012. Instead, the plan was to mandate that women perform at least three pullups. But that plan of mandating three pullups never really saw implementation, as leadership delayed it repeatedly because it turns out that more than 50 percent of women in boot camp couldn’t pass even that low of a standard. (For more from the author of “Marine Corps Gives Women the Option of Ditching Pullups for Pushups Instead” please click HERE)

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Obama Makes Clear It’s Better to Be America’s Adversary Than Ally

Rarely has the stark contrast between being an adversary of America and being an American friend been more in evidence than in the news this week from the western Pacific.

With the inauguration of Tsai Ing-wen, Taiwan saw the fourth democratic transition in the island’s leadership since the end of martial law in the 1990s. Tsai, head of the Democratic Progressive Party, had scored a major victory over the Kuomintang’s Eric Chu in elections this past January. As important, the Democratic Progressive Party won enough votes to also secure control of the Legislative Yuan, Taiwan’s legislature, reflecting broad public support.

While the Democratic Progressive Party has generally stood for Taiwan independence, Tsai has been very careful in her comments and remarks not to push for separation. Indeed, during the campaign, as well as prior visits to the United States, she has avoided raising the subject.

Nonetheless, Beijing has insisted that she must acknowledge the “one-China” principle, in effect rejecting the idea of Taiwan independence.

This would include accepting the “1992 Consensus,” a framework reportedly reached by semi-official representatives from the two sides, whereby both sides agreed that there was only one China, but held different unstated interpretations of what that meant, i.e. Republic of China (on Taiwan), including the mainland or People’s Republic of China, including Taiwan.

Tsai very prominently referenced her respect for the 1992 Consensus in her inaugural address. She did not, however, formulate it as explicitly as Beijing would prefer, and of course, she did not directly reference the “one-China” principle. Given both the centrality of Taiwan identity and independence in the nature of the Democratic Progressive Party, as well as the overwhelming victory it had scored, it is remarkable that she went as far as she did.

For Beijing, however, it is “all or nothing.” Failure to meet its formulation would lead to the suspension of cross-Straits dialogue, a threat that Beijing has now fulfilled. Chinese officials tied the ending of talks directly to Tsai’s failure to acknowledge that Taiwan is part of China or otherwise formally reject any move toward independence.

Normally, this would draw an American response. Under the Taiwan Relations Act, the U.S. has made clear that it supports stability in the Taiwan Straits; any effort at reunification must be peaceful and be supported by the population on both sides.

It is Beijing, not Taipei, that has refused to commit to a peaceful resolution. The People’s Republic of China has always reserved the right to forcibly reunify the two sides; the People’s Liberation Army is constantly preparing for a Taiwan contingency.

Instead, the U.S. has invited that same People’s Liberation Army Navy to attend the Rim of the Pacific, or RIMPAC, 2016 exercises this year. This will be the second time the People’s Liberation Army Navy participates in the exercises, having also attended the previous Rim of the Pacific 2014.

While the U.S. Navy dispatched only one ship to join the four People’s Liberation Army Navy ships attending the 2014 exercises, this time the U.S. Navy dispatched an entire carrier battlegroup, centered around the USS John Stennis. The battlegroup is apparently conducting joint maneuvering and training with the five Chinese ships Beijing is sending to Rim of the Pacific 2016. It is unknown whether the Chinese have also dispatched a spy ship, as they did to Rim of the Pacific 2014.

Meanwhile, the Taiwan navy remains on the sidelines. Unlike Beijing, Taipei has received no invitation from the Obama administration to attend Rim of the Pacific.

It’s getting harder to tell who is an adversary and who is a friend, based on how the U.S. government treats them. (For more from the author of “Obama Makes Clear It’s Better to Be America’s Adversary Than Ally” please click HERE)

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