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Spc. Kristina Gupton, U.S. Army

Spc. Kristina Gupton, U.S. Army

Should strategy hinge on what one must do or on what one can do? Over the past decade, a lot of American military challenges have stemmed in Africa, and yet American military presence goes remarkably unnoticed on the continent. Even their choice of military investments seems to steer their tactical future away from Africa. European countries have therefore invested Africa, and if the US is intending to tackle the problem from their origin, it needs to re-think the type of equipment it uses.

It’s not to say that the US is not aware that Africa exists, or even that it contains a strategic problem for them. The Pentagon is fully aware that several states in Africa do not control their territory, such as Nigeria, Kenya, and may others: anything goes in those areas, where vast amounts of territory escape government control. In a 2013 listing (1) by Business Insider on failed states, 90% of the countries listed were on the African continent.

This situation is not exclusive to Africa: a few Asian states find themselves in the same category, with Pakistan (2) and Afghanistan (3) in pole positions. Even if both of those states contain elements which are more or less hostile to the US, it doesn’t mean they are in favor of loose cannons roaming and plotting in uncontrolled areas, as they hamper and disrupt government policies. And there seems to be little local governments or US forces can do to change the situation.

The American choice has been traditional: technological domination through extreme-high tech and getting their soldiers ever further away from the battlefields with intense drone capacity development. The F-22 and F-35 are state-of-the-art weapons, which would conveniently suit confrontation with developed armies (Western Europe, Russia (4), China (5)…) but are grossly oversized for fighting insurgents. A short scene in the CIA movie Syriana perfectly illustrates how billions of dollar worth of military power can be outplayed in seconds by nimble and clever insurgents. As a US observation drone tracks a car containing a hostage driving in the desert; the car is joined by 3 other identical cars, which drive in circles for 30 seconds, forming a large cloud of dust with the sand. They then part in 4 different directions, leaving a disoriented drone behind them America can keep pouring dollars into its hegemonic military equipment, but simpler would probably be better to fight the fights it needs to fight. A long-range, low-sound-signature, heavily armed nuclear submarine is a simple waste of money (and therefore military power) facing mujahedeen or Janjaweed tribes.

Other countries don’t make the same technological choices. Traditionally, Africa has been France’s area of influence (6). For decades, therefore, France has opted for simple, rugged, combat-proven equipment. In Mali, the Nexter systems VBCI (7) appeared to be the perfect choice: it is fast enough to catch up with nimble and speedy insurgent forces, and once it has established contact, it provides the necessary protection against AK-47s and RPGs (insurgents’ traditional weapons of choice), as well as superior firepower. The VBCI was built with all-terrain wheels, high-power engine, to thrust it up to 100 km/h (plenty to catch up with insurgent 4×4), and a 25- and 7-mm cannon to suppress enemy forces. Because it is so modular and independent in its operation, it enables the French army to work at a small scale, which other armies seem to find difficult doing, despite necessity for doing so. Michael Shurkin, from the Rand Corporation, says (8) “The US Army can operate “small,” but it is not designed to do so and appears to do so against its will, with all sorts of assorted inefficiencies. The French Army operates small by design and has made an art out of what the US Army does only when it has to.” In the key findings (9) of Operation Serval’s survey, was “The French Army in Mali operated using small, scalable, and task-organized combined arms forces and built them up or folded them into larger, scalable formations.”

The Caesar artillery system (10) was built along the same lines. Very piece of French equipment is built on the assumption that things will go wrong, once they are fielded and deployed. French military engineers assume logistics will be disrupted, that ammo will run short, and so on. Therefore, the new French cannon can reach ranges of 42 kilometers with standard NATO ammo, be fitted on standard chassis, and be transported by land, air or sea. It resists dirty bombs and IEDs.

The association of both weapon systems made a deadly trap for insurgents in Mali. Artillery positions denied entire areas to rebels, and in the little space left for them to operate, the high-speed motorized infantry would relentlessly track them down. In the words of the French narrative “The enemy could never catch its breath”, despite “the fact that one is perpetually outnumbered and under-resourced”. When one continually has the initiative on the enemy, something speed and visibility will give you, being outnumbered doesn’t matter. In addition, the highly modular characteristics of French equipment reduces the necessary logistics to a strict minimum, making movements swifter. In the Rand Organization report on Operation Serval, it is quoted that “The French use relatively lightly armored wheeled vehicles, which have smaller sustainment requirements compared with heavier, tracked vehicles.”

Globally, French armament is designed in a way that reflects French strategy. French strategy is military, not political. In other words, their equipment doesn’t aim at impressing with costly and fragile technological options, it aims at working and defeating the enemy and collaborating with allies. It aims at preserving their interests and the stability within the regions in which they lie, and it does it well. It needs to be said that this is not the result of necessity, but of choice. French Engineers are fully able, as are British, Germans, Danish and others, to build high-tech equipment. The Rafale and the Tiger helicopter come as proof of scientific capacity.

It would be in America’s interest to consider the “fluidity of the insurgency market”. Terrorists and insurgents go where they can exercise their “craft” in the best conditions. The French witnessed this phenomenon first-hand: when fighters were no longer at home in Libya after the fall of Gaddafi, they went simply went elsewhere, (11) which enticed the French to deploy in Mali. Though the American deployments in Afghanistan and Iraq can hardly be deemed victories, it must be said that it is no longer a safe haven for terrorists and insurgents, due to increased government control, through American assistance or not. Now, given that leeway is low and shrinking in Asia (Pakistan and Afghanistan, mostly), it is very likely that the strategic heat will move towards Africa, where insurgents can operate in peace.

The fact is that the Vietnam War still weighs upon American policy: there is great fear within the Pentagon at the idea of getting “bogged down” in any theater of Operations. It happened in Vietnam, and in Iraq and then in Afghanistan again. With excessively elaborate military techniques, the US ran out, in a few years, of political will to continue despite the lack of traction, unable to achieve notable results quickly, the way it had against Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan in 1941. But whether the Pentagon likes or not, there are now high-level intensity conflicts on the horizon, and World War 2 is nowhere near returning. It needs to stop secretly wishing to return on a battlefield on which victory was granted and start from scratch again. The M-16 machine gun did the job perfectly well in the Vietnam Jungle, and so did Bell helicopters. The US needs to accept fighting simpler battles.

(1) http://www.businessinsider.com/the-25-most-failed-states-on-earth-2013-6?op=1&IR=T
(2) http://seeandsaynews.in/exclusive/7766-rohingyas-and-the-larger-question-of-population-control
(3) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Durand_Line
(4)http://in.rbth.com/blogs/2014/10/12/why_the_f-35_is_a_sitting_duck_for_the_flankers_38959.html
(5)http://www.news.com.au/technology/innovation/f-35-in-new-dogfight-over-chinese-russian-stealth-fighter-advances/story-fnpjxnlk-1227181998650
(6) http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/22/opinion/global/the-return-of-francafrique.html?_r=0
(7) http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/vbci-frances-wheeled-apc-04100/
(8) http://mars-attaque.blogspot.fr/2014/10/about-operation-serval-in-mali.html
(9) http://www.rand.org/pubs/research_reports/RR770.html
(10) http://www.army-technology.com/projects/caesar/
(11)https://www.google.fr/search?q=lybian+fighters+go+to+mali&ie=utf-8&oe=utf-8&channel=rcs&gws_rd=cr&ei=Eka2VZieKsXiUZ7cjYAP

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Students' Column

The Benefits of Online Education

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So many universities are offering to teach online and long distance, and there are many benefits to taking these kind of courses. Where you can learn depends on how much you have to spend, where you live, if you have transport, and can stop many people from getting onto the the course they want to, or even getting educated at all.

There are so many benefits to getting qualifications. You can get into sectors that need to to have specialized experience like working in a hospital, or getting into law. Learning is a great to get into a different line of work, or challenge yourself intellectually. Whatever your reasons, long distance learning can benefit a lot of people.

You Can Learn Anywhere

If you live in the middle of nowhere and physically can’t access a university campus then you have difficulty finding the course you want to study near you, or somewhere you can easily access. Unlike traditional education, there doesn’t need to be a number of students for a class to run, because students are all over the country. Therefore, you have a better chance of studying exactly what you want, and getting exactly the classes you want to study.

You can study from home, or anywhere else you want. Many people work best from, or don’t want all the distractions and inconveniences that come from attending classes, so get a better learning experience by working from home. You never know, an online msn degree could be for you. Sometimes a bit of comfort and relaxation in your own home can help to you to learn better, and retain that information.

Make Your Classes Work Round You

Attending classes on campus means you have to make time for travel and time for the actual classes too, which can take up a lot of your time. If you have families, jobs, or other commitments this can be very difficult. With online classes, however, they are much more flexible. This means you don’t have to sacrifice your other commitments, or use your time unnecessarily, because you can make your classes work round you. Are you a night owl? Then you can learn all you want when you work best.

Save Money

Online classes are notoriously cheaper than traditional ones. This is because you don’t have to be constantly present on campus, and you won’t be using as many resources either. Having cheaper tuition is a bonus, and make these courses accessible to many more people than traditional ones.

You also be saving on travel too. Travel is a huge expense for many people who take courses, and can really add up when you are already paying tuition. Save time and money by learning online.

There are so many great benefits to learning online, rather than in person on campus. These courses are becoming increasingly popular, because they are in demand. More people can study exactly the course they want, and can do so even if they live on remote parts of the country. There are so many benefits to taking online courses, so find about ones available to you today.

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Students' Column

How Online Education Could Change the World

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online education

Online education, whether it be via Massive Open Online Courses from the likes of FutureLearn, edX and Coursera or via top colleges and universities around the globe, are not only very convenient for those students who want save money and learn in their own time – they might just change the world.

Sound like a big claim to make? Consider the following:

You Can Learn Anything for Free

This might not seem like a big deal to you if you were lucky enough to have a full college fund or obtain a scholarship when you turned 18, nor might it matter much to you if you were able to take out a reasonable loan for your degree, but there are lots of people all over the world who simply cannot afford to get an education. Because they cannot earn enough money to pay for an education, they, their families and their communities are stuck in poverty. If they could learn the skills they need to move up the ladder and make more of their lives, then all of us will benefit as a result.

All it would take would be for poor towns and villages to be set up with internet access and a handful of devices to access them, and the uneducated could become educated.

Access

Of course, a lot of people living in a lot of places, particularly in the third world, don’t have access to a decent education simply because there is no infrastructure to support them – there are no schools and colleges nearby, and online courses could change this too.

We Can All Learn Anything We Want

When learning is as simply as logging on to a computer at your convenience, you no longer have to worry about moving half-way across the country to do the only ba policing degree that’s suitable for you or the only writing course that’s worth a dime, which means fewer of us will have to settle in the future and consequently more of the right people will enter the right occupations. That is something that will benefit us all.

Lifelong Learning Will Become the Norm

Being able to learn anything online, and often for free or a very small fee is sure to convince more of us to go on learning long past when we would usually have settled into a routine. This means we will have more people in the workforce who have a wide range of knowledge and ideas, and of course, the more educated we all are, the better our prospects for the future are as a collective.

It’s Better for the Environment

Think about it – when we have fewer people commuting to school, using physical textbooks and making regular trips to the library, instead choosing to learn from the comfort of their own home, it is going to have a positive effect on the environment and that is exactly the kind of thing that we need right now.

If online learning continues to get better and be more widely available, it is surely going to change the world, sometimes in a big way, sometimes small, but for sure, it will shake things up!

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Students' Column

Which Countries Rank For The Best Quality Of Education?

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People who want to study abroad should take the time to research their country of choice. Some nations offer a much higher quality of education than others. With that in mind, this article should serve to point you in the right direction. Just ensure you continue your research after clicking away from this page.

Belgium

Belgium is a quiet country with a vibrant population. It’s a peaceful place where the government invests heavily in education for its citizens. Foreigners can apply for university with ease, and some of the best minds in Europe lecture at the top colleges.

Finland

Most people overlook Finland because they know little about the country and its people. However, in recent rankings, Finland achieved second place when it came to determining the best quality of education in the world. So, maybe you should take a look at some of the universities?

Switzerland

Switzerland is considered the best place in the world to go for a first-class education according to most experts. Only 5% of children attend private schools in that nation because the public education system is fantastic.

If you’d like to know more about the potential costs involved when going to Europe for an education; just take a moment to check out the infographic published below. It offers some excellent information that should help to ensure you leave no stone unturned. Studying abroad isn’t for everyone, but it’s guaranteed to become a life-changing experience you will never forget. So, what’s holding you back? Now is the best time to set the wheels in motion.


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