Chinese military drill simulates attack on Taiwan’s presidential building

The Presidential Office Building (總統府) in the Zhongzheng District in Taipei houses the Office of the President of the Republic of China on Taiwan.

Across the Taiwan Strait in the People’s Republic of China (PRC) a recent military drill had soldiers storm what appears to be a replica of Taiwan’s Presidential Office Building. 66 years after the Chinese Nationalists, defeated by the Communists in civil war, retreated to the island of Taiwan, the Communist Party in Beijing still insists Taiwan is “a part of China and maintains its right to use force in reclaiming the island.

Here’s a video of the drill aired by China Central Television on July 5.

Chun Han Wong reports for Wall St. Journal, July 23, 2015, that the newsreel featured dramatic footage of an annual military exercise in northern China—spanning fiery artillery barrages, imposing armored columns and infantry assaults on a mock-up city. The video went largely unnoticed until yesterday (July 22), when a Shanghai-based media outlet said it demonstrated how Beijing “would use force to solve the Taiwan issue.”

The CCTV report swiftly struck a nerve in Taiwan, where President Ma Ying-jeou’s engagement policies with China have proved divisive, compounding the declining public support his ruling Nationalist Party is experiencing over economic and social fairness issues. Many commentators on Taiwanese media directed their ire on segments from the newsreel that appeared to show Chinese troops advancing toward a red-and-white structure that closely resembled Taiwan’s Presidential Office—built in a distinctive European-style in the 1910s by Japanese colonial administrators.

Taiwan's presidential officeMajor Gen. David Lo, spokesman for Taiwan’s Ministry of National Defense, told local media the implied assault on Taipei was “unacceptable for the Taiwanese public and the international community. The Chinese Communist Party hasn’t given up on armed assault on Taiwan, and their military preparations are still geared toward the use of force against Taiwan.”

Denying that Taiwan was the object of the drill, Beijing’s defense ministry said in a statement the drill “is a routine annual military exercise, and isn’t directed at any particular target.”

The exercise was the latest in a series of military drills that kicked off last month at a training base in China’s northern Inner Mongolia region. The exercise involved a simulated battle to capture urban strongholds, featuring mock-up structures that replicate actual urban environments, according to a report by the People’s Liberation Army’s official newspaper, PLA Daily.

Officials in Taipei have denounced the drill as harmful to the rapprochement of recent years between Taiwan and China. Political and military experts, meanwhile, say the apparent targeting of an important political symbol for Taiwan marks Beijing’s latest bid to sway Taiwanese voters ahead of a key presidential poll next January.

Shanghai-based military scholar Ni Lexiong said, “Militaries routinely practice fighting in combat scenarios based on their operational priorities and strategic realities. For the PLA, this would mean missions in the South China Sea, in the East Sea, and of course Taiwan.” Even so, Ni said the decision to feature an easily recognizable Taiwanese political landmark was likely an attempt by Beijing to send a signal to Taiwan’s main opposition force, the Democratic Progressive Party, whose leader Tsai Ing-wen is favored in polls to win a presidential election in January. That prospect unsettles Beijing given the DPP’s longstanding support for Taiwan’s independence from the mainland.

Beijing sees Taiwan as a breakaway province and has never relinquished a threat to retake the island by force. It has used military drills in the past to signal displeasure with prevailing political winds on the island, such as in 1995 and 1996 when Beijing fired missiles into the waters off Taiwan and conducted large-scale amphibious assault drills near Taiwanese-controlled territory, hoping to dissuade Taiwanese voters from re-electing a president deemed by Beijing to be pro-independence.

The latest drill, however, suggests a shift in Beijing’s tactics, some experts say.

J. Michael Cole, a Taipei-based senior fellow with the University of Nottingham’s China Policy Institute, said, “Over the years, the PLA threat to Taiwan has become largely abstract, and ordinary Taiwanese now tend to shrug off news of traditional PLA exercises. That may have compelled Beijing to up the ante.”

Cole said the apparent targeting of Taiwan’s presidential palace “strikes at the heart of what is recognizable to ordinary Taiwanese—downtown Taipei. This is a symbol of nationhood, the seat of power in Taiwan. By making the threat more recognizable and immediate than missiles fired off Taiwan’s northern and southern tips, or drills simulating an amphibious assault, Beijing may hope to engage ordinary Taiwanese not at the intellectual and abstract level, but on an emotional one.”

See also:

~StMA

Obama admin to end ban on transgenders in military

In June of last year, the Obama administration sent a covert signal on transgenders in the military when, despite slashes in the Pentagon’s budget, precious resources were expended on a publicity effort to recruit transgenders, using as their spokesperson a transgendered former Navy SEAL, senior chief petty officer Christopher Beck who now calls “herself” Kristin Beck.

A year later, the administration is prepared to make a formal change to the military’s policy.

Defense Secretary Ash Carter (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Defense Secretary Ash Carter (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Lolita C. Baldor reports for the AP that on July 13, 2015, Defense Secretary Ash Carter said that the Pentagon’s current regulations banning transgender individuals from serving in the military are outdated, and ordered a six-month study aimed at formally ending one of the last gender- or sexuality-based barriers to military service.

Carter said he is creating a working group of senior military and civilian leaders who will review the policies and determine if lifting the ban would have any impact on the military’s ability to be ready for battle. But the group will begin with the presumption that transgender people should be able to serve openly “without adverse impact on military effectiveness and readiness, unless and except where objective, practical impediments are identified.”

Note: In other words, the result of the working group’s review is already predetermined.

The plan gives the services time to methodically work through the legal, medical and administrative issues and develop training to ease any transition, and senior leaders believed six months would be sufficient.

Some of the key concerns involved in the repeal of the ban include whether the military would conduct or pay for the medical costs of surgeries and other treatment associated with any gender transition, as well as which physical training or testing standards transgender individuals would be required to meet during different stages of their transition.

Officials said the military also wants time to tackle questions about where transgender troops would be housed, what uniforms they would wear, what berthing they would have on ships, which bathrooms they would use and whether their presence would affect the ability of small units to work well together. The military has dealt with many similar questions as it integrated the ranks by race, gender and sexual orientation.

Transgender people — those who identify with a different gender than they were born with and sometimes take hormone treatments or have surgery to develop the physical characteristics of their preferred gender — are banned from military service. But studies and other surveys have estimated that as many as 15,000 transgender people serve in the active-duty military and the reserves, often in secret but in many cases with the knowledge of their unit commander or peers.

Brynn Tannehill, who services in Individual Ready Reserve and was a Navy pilot before leaving the force and transitioning to a woman, recalled the difficulties when serving: “It was stressful and it was something that I couldn’t talk with anyone about, because if you even breathed a word of it you didn’t know what was going to happen. You could lose your career, that I’d worked so hard for.”

Several Congress members, including Rep. Adam Smith, ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, expressed support for Carter’s decision. But Family Research Council questioned the change. Retired Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin, the council’s executive vice president, said, “Considering the abysmal condition of our military and a decline in readiness, why is this a top priority for the Obama administration? The Pentagon must answer whether this proposed policy makes our military more capable of performing its mission. The answer is a very clear and resounding no.”

The latest Pentagon move comes just weeks after the Supreme Court upheld the right of same-sex couples to marry.

Officials said the chiefs of the Army, Navy, Marine Corps and Air Force did not express opposition to lifting the ban. Instead, they asked for time to figure out health care, housing and other questions and also to provide information and training to the troops to ensure a smooth transition.

The transgender issue came to the fore as the military struggled with how to deal with convicted national security leaker male-to-female transgender Bradley Manning‘s request for hormone therapy and other treatment while in prison. Manning, who now goes by the name Chelsea, is the first transgender military prisoner to request such treatment, and the Army approved the hormone therapy, under pressure from a lawsuit.

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Tuesday, July 30, 2013, after receiving a verdict in his court martial. Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge he faced — but was convicted of espionage, theft and other charges, more than three years after he revealed secrets to WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

Army Pfc. Bradley Manning is escorted out of a courthouse in Fort Meade, Md., Tuesday, July 30, 2013, after receiving a verdict in his court martial. Manning was acquitted of aiding the enemy — the most serious charge he faced — but was convicted of espionage, theft and other charges, more than three years after he revealed secrets to WikiLeaks. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)

See also:

H/t CODA’s M.S.

~StMA

Japan’s Parliament passes legislation allowing military to fight in foreign wars

Both the Chinese government and people long have feared and accused post-WWII Japan of “remilitarization” — a revival of and return to its imperialist military aggression.

Now that Beijing has declared its sovereignty (via an Air Defense Identification Zone) over the disputed Sengaku or Diaoyu islets in the East China Sea, as well as over the South China Sea, that Chinese accusation is becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. On July 16, 2015, the Japanese Parliament approved of legislation that, for the first time since the end of the Second World War, empowers the military to fight in foreign conflicts.

China-Japan ADIZsJonathan Soble reports for the New York Times, July 16, 2015, that Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s party and its allies in the lower house of Parliament approved the package of 11 security-related bills after opposition lawmakers walked out in protest and as demonstrators chanted noisily outside, despite a gathering typhoon. The upper chamber, which Abe’s coalition also controls, is all but certain to endorse the legislation as well.

The legislation would allow the Japanese military, known as the Self-Defense Forces, to cooperate more closely with United States forces by providing logistical support and, in certain circumstances, armed backup in international conflicts. It complements guidelines in a bilateral agreement governing how Japanese and United States forces work together, which was signed by the two governments this year.

The vote was the culmination of months of contentious debate in a society that has long embraced pacifism to atone for wartime aggression. It was a significant victory for Abe, who has devoted his career to moving Japan beyond guilt over its militarist past and toward his vision of a “normal country” with a larger role in global affairs.

But Abe’s agenda goes against the wishes of much of the Japanese public, and his moves have generated unease across Asia, especially in countries Japan once occupied and where its troops committed atrocities. Final passage of the bills would represent a break from the strictly defensive stance maintained by the Japanese military in the decades since the war.

Critics, including a majority of Japanese constitutional specialists, say the legislation violates the country’s postwar charter, which renounces war. But the legislation is supported by the United States, which has welcomed a larger role for Tokyo in regional security as a counterweight to a more assertive China. In an address to a joint meeting of the United States Congress in April, Abe had pledged that he would enact the legislation to strengthen Japan’s already close ties to the United States.

Abe’s success pushing through the vote has political costs: Voters oppose the legislation by a ratio of roughly two to one, according to numerous surveys. The Abe government’s support ratings, which were once high, have fallen to around 40% in several polls taken this month.

Katsuya Okada, head of the largest opposition party, said before the opposition walkout, “It is a huge mistake to set aside a constitutional interpretation built up by governments for 70 years without sufficient public understanding and debate.”

Abe has presented the package as an unavoidable response to new threats facing Japan, in particular the growing military power of China. He seized on the murder of two Japanese hostages by the Islamic State militant group in January as an example of why Japan needs to loosen restrictions on its military, suggesting that the military might have rescued them if it had been free to act. “These laws are absolutely necessary because the security situation surrounding Japan is growing more severe,” he said after Thursday’s vote.

China condemned passage of the bills, describing them as a potential threat to peace in Asia and invoking Japan’s wartime aggression. Hua Chunying, a Foreign Ministry spokeswoman, said in a statement: “We solemnly urge the Japanese side to draw hard lessons from history, stick to the path of peaceful development, respect the major security concerns of its Asian neighbors, and refrain from jeopardizing China’s sovereignty and security interests or crippling regional peace and stability.”

With opposition lawmakers boycotting the vote, the bills passed with the support of the Liberal Democratic Party, led by Abe, and its smaller coalition partner, Komeito, which control a majority of seats in the legislature’s lower house, the House of Representatives. To become law, they must still be approved by the upper chamber, but in the unlikely event that the package is rejected, the lower house can override that decision. Japanese judges are mostly unwilling to overrule the government on matters of security.

The upper house is scheduled to debate the legislation for 60 days, keeping the issue in the public eye and potentially fueling more protests.

Abe has long argued that the Constitution should be amended to remove its restrictive antiwar provisions, but changing the charter would require a national referendum that he would probably lose. For now, at least, a contested reinterpretation of the Constitution appears to be the most he can hope for.

On Wednesday night, large crowds gathered outside Parliament after the bills were approved by a committee in an emotional and chaotic session. The crowds were estimated by organizers to number some 100,000, which would make the protest the largest antigovernment demonstration in Japan since protests in 2012 against the proposed restart of nuclear power plants, a year after the nuclear accident in Fukushima.

See also:

~StMA

Egypt said to be on the verge of civil war

Zero Hedge is a popular financial blog that aggregates news and presents editorial opinions from original and outside sources. Launched in January 2009, the blog has an Alexa ranking in the U.S. of 982, and a global ranking of 2,085. Contributors to Zero Hedge all write under the collective pseudonym of Tyler Durden. The blog is credited with bringing the controversial practice of flash trading to public attention in 2009.

3 days ago, Zero Hedge republished an article on a website called Gefira, with the alarming title “Egypt Is On the Edge of Full Blown Civil War.” Here’s the most relevant paragraph from the Gefira article of July 1, 2015:

In the past days there have been dozens of separate attacks in Egypt, from the Sinai up to Cairo. Probably more than 60 people have died, when the Egyptian army used F16 fighter jets to protect itself against it disgruntled population. It is clear that the Egyptian rulers are not going to be able to contain the current situation, today could be marked as the start of Egypt’s civil war.

Egypt mapI found very little information on Egypt’s rumored civil war on the net. The following article of July 2, 2015, from Al Jazeera, “Egypt in ‘a state of war’?,” is the most informative

Egypt is introducing sweeping new anti-terrorism laws following unprecedented attacks in its lawless Sinai region and growing opposition to a government crackdown on dissent.

Government leaders say the new legislation will provide “quick and just deterrence” against what it called “terrorism”.

Egypt’s chief prosecutor was killed by a car bomb explosion on Monday, while the Sinai assaults mark a significant escalation in fighting in the desert peninsula.

Fighters say they simultaneously attacked 15 military checkpoints in El Arish, Sheikh Zuweid and Rafah.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which the Egyptian government considers a terrorist organisation, is calling on supporters to “rise in revolt”, after accusing police of killing 13 of its members.

A statement by the group said: “To the proud people of Egypt… This unjust tyrant has done his worst. Rise in revolt to defend your homeland, your lives and your children … Oust the heinous murderer.”

See also “Egyptian government shuts down 27,000 mosques”.

~StMA

China military practices Taiwan invasion in Bashi Channel

Bashi ChannelChina practices Taiwan invasion with civilian ferries, bomber flights in Bashi Channel

Richard D Fisher Jr and James Hardy
IHS Jane’s Defense Weekly
June 16, 2015

A series of Chinese military exercises between late May and early June showcased the ability of the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) to project land, air, and naval power into the area around Taiwan.

While China has made no official connection, the exercises also coincided with the 29 May to 3 June visit to the United States of Tsai Ing Wen, the leader of the anti-unification [Taiwan]Democratic Progressive Party (DPP), who could win the presidency in elections scheduled for 2016.

Perhaps the most interesting was the PLA Daily ‘s 10 June review of a mobility exercise from late May in which a 20,000-ton civilian roll-on/roll-off (ro-ro) ferry was assigned to the Transportation Department of the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). It transported personnel and trucks from the Bohai Sea to the South China Sea.

To compensate for the relatively small size of its formal naval amphibious transport fleet the PLA has co-funded construction of a large number of ferries used by civilian companies. They will be made available to the PLA during emergencies and are a frequent element in civil-military transport exercises.

The PLA Daily article featured an image of an officer giving a briefing with a digitally barely concealed map of Taiwan. In early 2014 an Asian government source told IHS Jane’s that with combined military-civil transport, the PLA could move eight to 12 divisions to Taiwan.

China also conducted a series of exercises sending air and naval forces through the Bashi Channel and then to the region east and south of Taiwan. On 10 June PLA Navy spokesman Liang Yang confirmed the naval deployments.

These “imitated real combat conditions in waters east of the Bashi Channel, south of Taiwan,” according to a Chinese press report. The naval formation included a Type 052B destroyer, a Type 054A frigate, and a Type 904 underway replenishment ship.

On 21 May PLA Air Force spokesman Shen Jinke confirmed that the PLAAF had conducted exercises through and beyond the Bashi Strait. This included the first PLAAF deployment of the Xian Aircraft Corporation H-6K bomber in this region.

The H-6K is a highly modified version of the bomber that can carry six KD-20 land attack cruise missiles on wing pylons plus one or more in its bomb bay. It can also carry a wide range of new precision-guided munitions available from four Chinese weapon manufacturers.

See also:

Editors of world’s most prestigious medical journals say much of scientific literature may be false

Lancet and the New England Journal of Medicine are the two most prestigious medical journals in the world. Stunningly, their chief editors admit that corruption is “endemic” in science, and that much of the scientific literature may simply be lies.

The Lancet first issueIn the April 11, 2015 issue of The Lancet, its Editor in Chief Dr. Richard Horton writes:

A lot of what is published is incorrect.” …much of the scientific literature, perhaps half, may simply be untrue. Afflicted by studies with small sample sizes, tiny effects, invalid exploratory analyses, and flagrant conflicts of interest, together with an obsession for pursuing fashionable trends of dubious importance, science has taken a turn towards darkness…. The Academy of Medical Sciences, Medical Research Council, and Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council have now put their reputational weight behind an investigation into these questionable research practices. The apparent endemicity of bad research behaviour is alarming. In their quest for telling a compelling story, scientists too often sculpt data to fit their preferred theory of the world. Or they retrofit hypotheses to fit their data. Journal editors deserve their fair share of criticism too. We aid and abet the worst behaviours. Our acquiescence…fuels an unhealthy competition to win a place in a select few journals. Our love of “significance” pollutes the literature with many a statistical fairy-tale. We reject important confirmations. Journals are not the only miscreants. Universities are in a perpetual struggle for money and talent, endpoints that foster reductive metrics, such as high-impact publication. National assessment procedures, such as the Research Excellence Framework, incentivise bad practices. And individual scientists, including their most senior leaders, do little to alter a research culture that occasionally veers close to misconduct.

After offering suggestions to “fix” the problem, Dr. Horton concludes that “The good news is that science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously. The bad news is that nobody is ready to take the first step to clean up the system.”

“Science is beginning to take some of its worst failings very seriously”?

Horton is being overly optimistic. More than 6 years ago, the editor in chief of the New England Journal of Medicine, Dr. Marcia Angell, had sounded the exact same alarm on medical science.

New England Journal of Medicine Dr. Marcia AngellWriting in the January 15, 2009 issue of The New York Review of Books, Dr. Angell warned:

[C]onflicts of interest pervade medicine…. Indeed, most doctors take money or gifts from drug companies in one way or another. Many are paid consultants, speakers at company-sponsored meetings, ghost-authors of papers written by drug companies or their agents, and ostensible “researchers” whose contribution often consists merely of putting their patients on a drug and transmitting some token information to the company. Still more doctors are recipients of free meals and other out-and-out gifts. In addition, drug companies subsidize most meetings of professional organizations and most of the continuing medical education needed by doctors to maintain their state licenses.

No one knows the total amount provided by drug companies to physicians, but I estimate from the annual reports of the top nine US drug companies that it comes to tens of billions of dollars a year. By such means, the pharmaceutical industry has gained enormous control over how doctors evaluate and use its own products. Its extensive ties to physicians, particularly senior faculty at prestigious medical schools, affect the results of research, the way medicine is practiced, and even the definition of what constitutes a disease….

A few decades ago, medical schools did not have extensive financial dealings with industry, and faculty investigators who carried out industry-sponsored research generally did not have other ties to their sponsors. But schools now have their own manifold deals with industry and are hardly in a moral position to object to their faculty behaving in the same way. A recent survey found that about two thirds of academic medical centers hold equity interest in companies that sponsor research within the same institution. A study of medical school department chairs found that two thirds received departmental income from drug companies and three fifths received personal income. In the 1980s medical schools began to issue guidelines governing faculty conflicts of interest but they are highly variable, generally quite permissive, and loosely enforced.

Because drug companies insist as a condition of providing funding that they be intimately involved in all aspects of the research they sponsor, they can easily introduce bias in order to make their drugs look better and safer than they are. Before the 1980s, they generally gave faculty investigators total responsibility for the conduct of the work, but now company employees or their agents often design the studies, perform the analysis, write the papers, and decide whether and in what form to publish the results. Sometimes the medical faculty who serve as investigators are little more than hired hands, supplying patients and collecting data according to instructions from the company.

In view of this control and the conflicts of interest that permeate the enterprise, it is not surprising that industry-sponsored trials published in medical journals consistently favor sponsors’ drugs—largely because negative results are not published, positive results are repeatedly published in slightly different forms, and a positive spin is put on even negative results. A review of seventy-four clinical trials of antidepressants, for example, found that thirty-seven of thirty-eight positive studies were published. But of the thirty-six negative studies, thirty-three were either not published or published in a form that conveyed a positive outcome….

Many drugs that are assumed to be effective are probably little better than placebos, but there is no way to know because negative results are hidden…. Clinical trials are also biased through designs for research that are chosen to yield favorable results for sponsors…. Perhaps most important, many members of the standing committees of experts that advise the FDA on drug approvals also have financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry….

In recent years, drug companies have perfected a new and highly effective method to expand their markets. Instead of promoting drugs to treat diseases, they have begun to promote diseases to fit their drugs. The strategy is to convince as many people as possible (along with their doctors, of course) that they have medical conditions that require long-term drug treatment…. To promote new or exaggerated conditions, companies give them serious-sounding names along with abbreviations. Thus, heartburn is now “gastro-esophageal reflux disease” or GERD; impotence is “erectile dysfunction” or ED; premenstrual tension is “premenstrual dysphoric disorder” or PMMD; and shyness is “social anxiety disorder” (no abbreviation yet). Note that these are ill-defined chronic conditions that affect essentially normal people, so the market is huge and easily expanded….

Since there are no objective tests for mental illness and the boundaries between normal and abnormal are often uncertain, psychiatry is a particularly fertile field for creating new diagnoses or broadening old ones. Diagnostic criteria are pretty much the exclusive province of the current edition of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders [DSM], which is the product of a panel of psychiatrists, most of whom, as I mentioned earlier, had financial ties to the pharmaceutical industry….

Given its importance, you might think that the DSM represents the authoritative distillation of a large body of scientific evidence. But…it is instead the product of a complex of academic politics, personal ambition, ideology, and, perhaps most important, the influence of the pharmaceutical industry….

Some of the biggest blockbusters are psychoactive drugs. The theory that psychiatric conditions stem from a biochemical imbalance is used as a justification for their widespread use, even though the theory has yet to be proved. Children are particularly vulnerable targets…. We are now in the midst of an apparent epidemic of bipolar disease in children (which seems to be replacing attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder as the most publicized condition in childhood), with a forty-fold increase in the diagnosis between 1994 and 2003. These children are often treated with multiple drugs off-label, many of which, whatever their other properties, are sedating, and nearly all of which have potentially serious side effects.

Dr. Angell dolefully concluded that:

The problems I’ve discussed are not limited to psychiatry, although they reach their most florid form there. Similar conflicts of interest and biases exist in virtually every field of medicine, particularly those that rely heavily on drugs or devices. It is simply no longer possible to believe much of the clinical research that is published, or to rely on the judgment of trusted physicians or authoritative medical guidelines. I take no pleasure in this conclusion, which I reached slowly and reluctantly over my two decades as an editor of The New England Journal of Medicine.

Writing for ZeroHedge on June 1, 2015, George Washington points out that all of this is exacerbated by the federal government using its “raw power to cover up corruption in the medical and scientific fields.”

Washington concludes with the warning that “Corruption is not limited to the medical or scientific fields. Instead, corruption has become systemic throughout every profession … and is so pervasive that it is destroying the very fabric of America.”

~StMA

U.S. military becoming a separate warrior class, distinct from civilians

soldier hugs flagIt is unhealthy for a country to have its military be very different from the civilian population, especially in political beliefs and values. But that is increasingly the case in the U.S.

Below is a lengthy excerpt from David Zucchino and David S. Cloud’s “Special Report: U.S. Military and Civilians Are Increasingly Divided,” in Los Angeles Times, May 24, 2015:

Multi-generational military families like the Graveses form the heart of the all-volunteer Army, which increasingly is drawing its ranks from the relatively small pool of Americans with historic family, cultural or geographic connections to military service.

While the U.S. waged a war in Vietnam 50 years ago with 2.7 million men conscripted from every segment of society, less than one-half of 1% of the U.S. population is in the armed services today — the lowest rate since World War II. America’s recent wars are authorized by a U.S. Congress whose members have the lowest rate of military service in history, led by three successive commanders in chief who never served on active duty.

Surveys suggest that as many as 80% of those who serve come from a family in which a parent or sibling is also in the military. They often live in relative isolation — behind the gates of military installations such as Ft. Bragg or in the deeply military communities like Fayetteville, N.C., that surround them.

The segregation is so pronounced that it can be traced on a map: Some 49% of the 1.3 million active-duty service members in the U.S. are concentrated in just five states — California, Virginia, Texas, North Carolina and Georgia.

The U.S. military today is gradually becoming a separate warrior class, many analysts say, that is becoming increasingly distinct from the public it is charged with protecting. 

As the size of the military shrinks, the connections between military personnel and the broad civilian population appear to be growing more distant, the Pew Research Center concluded after a broad 2012 study of both service members and civilians.

Most of the country has experienced little, if any, personal impact from the longest era of war in U.S. history. But those in uniform have seen their lives upended by repeated deployments to war zones, felt the pain of seeing family members and comrades killed and maimed, and endured psychological trauma that many will carry forever, often invisible to their civilian neighbors.

Today’s military enjoys a lifestyle that in many ways exceeds that of much of the rest of the country: regular pay raises and lavish reenlistment bonuses, free healthcare, subsidized housing and, after 20 years of service, generous retirement benefits unavailable to many other Americans.

Senior officers live in large houses, travel on their own planes and oversee whole continents with little direction from Washington. Special-operations teams carry out kill missions and drone strikes — some even targeting U.S. citizens — that most civilians never even hear about.

H/t CODA’s M.S.

-StMA