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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

All you need to know if you want to study architecture

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If you are thinking about studying architecture, it is important that you take into account the sacrifice and the difficulty it entails, but at the same time the versatility it offers. It is a hard career, but the effort has its reward.

Multitude of options

Architecture is a multidisciplinary career, with very varied subjects, from artistic drawing to the most technical calculation of structures, through the classes of “projects” in which you learn to design buildings and spaces from scratch.

The good thing is that after that you have very diverse career opportunities; you can try your luck in a large international studio, you can focus on specific topics specialising with masters such as the MCH Master, or you can even work in construction on site, to give a few examples. The different subjects, which seemed to be unrelated to each other, are then connected, depending on the path you decide to choose.

Sailing nights

Choosing architecture means getting into one of the toughest careers, which will take a lot of effort to get through. No matter how difficult it may be, it’s hard to get used to the pressure. Even if you’ve organized yourself in advance, and you want to take everything to the day, in the end there are always times when you have to work all night to be able to get to the deliveries on time. Do not be discouraged by sleepless nights, you have to be mentalized from the beginning of the sacrifice to be made, but, if you share those moments with your peers, who will be in a similar situation, it becomes much more bearable, and even fun.

Learning to search for life

All the effort and dedication invested during the years of your career will not only help you obtain your degree, but you will also acquire work habits that will last a lifetime. There will be many occasions when you will have to manage to get what the teachers demand of you, but it is important to get used from the beginning to not always getting things done, and to be able to find solutions by yourself. Keep in mind that all these tools that you develop now you are going to be able to apply them later in many fields, not only professionals.

Another way of seeing the world

A very important part of the career takes place outside the university, and even outside the city where you study. It’s about travelling, because to be an architect it’s essential to visit other cities, other countries and see different things that make you think. It is necessary to see a lot, but also to analyze and ask questions, to realize when something is working and when it is not. You can only experience all this if you live it for yourself.

As you have been able to realize, architecture is a career of permanent learning; you will leave knowing a little of everything, but a lot of nothing. Whether you decide to specialize in a particular field studying a master, or if you choose another of the many options, the important thing is to always keep an awake mind, not lose the curiosity and desire to learn, and, above all, enjoy along the way.

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The Importance and Usefulness of Medical Posters in Research

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medical-poster

The results of scientific work and research projects in the medical field can be disclosed in a variety of ways. Along with the scientific article and the oral presentation, medical poster presentations are one of the most important and most common communication formats among researchers in the medical field.  The medical poster is a graphic summary of a previous research whose composition consists of a short title; an introduction to the hypothesis: an overview of the experimental approach; the most interesting results, and a discussion about the results obtained. It is also important to include a list of the relevant articles used during  research. And, when there is still room available, it is worth to mention the persons or institutions that have contributed to the work by giving funding or technical assistance.  

Why are medical poster presentations relevant?

Medical posters are an alternative to oral presentations because they offer the opportunity to present research projects or papers that cannot be presented orally for various reasons – for example, if the author resides in a country other than that of the conference venue. Plus, they help to achieve the ultimate goal of all communication in a scientific congress: the transmission of a message by the author and its capture by the audience. This is possible because medical posters allow the attendees to analyze research results at a speed that matches their knowledge and skills, and also because it is easier to remember images – especially if you have time to look at them carefully – than to remember the content of an oral presentation.

In the medical field, posters are a form of communication with great potential because they enable the concise, clear and permanent transmission of their content, without the time restrictions imposed by oral conferences. Medical posters offer the possibility of establishing direct communication with the author(s) of the poster promotes the one-to-one exchange of opinions with a tranquillity that is difficult to achieve in the context of a large-scale conference. E- poster platforms such as https://www.postersessiononline.com/ have virtual galleries where the delegates have access to all the posters and they can interact in the same way they did during the congress, contacting the author, downloading the poster and even starting a discussion in the forum.

On the other hand, an additional advantage of medical posters is that the author does not have to prove his erudition and the presentation does not become a difficult oral examination, which is especially important when research is presented in a language other than mother tongue. It also allows doctors who find it difficult to overcome the pressure of an oral presentation to expose the results of their work.

How is the ideal medical poster?

The design of the poster is important both to attract the interest of people who visit the room where the poster is displayed and to comprehend in a very short time the most relevant aspects of our work. The reading of the poster -and the subsequent understanding of the content should take less than 10 minutes. A poster must be visually attractive and that is why it is important not only to know how to combine colors, letters, images and graphics, but also that it does not contain too much written information: the maximum recommended is 800 words. Therefore, the information should be synthesized so that, in a few minutes, the attendees have a clear idea of the objective and result of the research that they are reading. In this regard, a well-designed medical poster must satisfy the following criteria: Visual appeal, personality, aesthetic balance, clarity in the explanation of ideas, quick understanding of the hierarchy and distribution of the parts, synthesis and rigor.

You also have to take into account the font and size that is used, as some are too complicated to read. Times New Roman, for example, is often used in written texts but is not suitable for a poster as it is difficult to see and read from a distance. The color chosen for our poster is also important. Do not use colours that are too light on a light background or dark colours on a dark background. It is also advisable to avoid loud colours. Another common mistake is to plague the poster with too much information. Don’t forget that the medical poster is not an article in large print. Try to reduce the text and use more graphic resources such as tables, figures or images.

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Students' Column

Learn to Speak Spanish fluently step by step

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Learn Spanish Street

With a large Latino population in the english speaking countries and the booming Latin economies, employers are desperate for people who speak Spanish. There is a huge demand of Spanish-speakers in nursing, construction management and media, among many other positions. So, either if you want to promote or get a better position, If you’d like to travel to a Spanish-speaking country or you have been there for a long time but you have,’t managed to master the language perfectly, you are probably asking yourself the following question: What can I do to speak Spanish fluently?

Well, first thing you can do is acknowledge that learning a language is not the same thing than speaking a language. You can study grammar and read books for years, but when you travel and try to communicate, you are unable to understand the natives. On the contrary, there are people who can barely read in a language but who can talk with other people just fine. Why is that? Because, as it happens in music, we can play an instrument by ear without knowing a single thing about music theory. If you want to be fluent in Spanish, there is only one thing you can do: speaking Spanish. Sure, learning the basic grammar and vocabulary will help, but you will only master the language if you practise your speaking –and make the subsequent mistakes often.

Step 1: Sign up for an online course

To learn how to be fluent in Spanish in less time, the ideal would be to go to Spain or a Latin country and dive into the language immersion. However, this option is not available for everyone, so the closest you can get to that is by using the best learning tool of all times: the Internet. You will find endless tools and resources that will help you and facilitate the process. There are several online courses based on developing your communication skills such as the one offered by http://www.hablarespanol.com where you will be able to learn the basic grammar and vocabulary and learn how to use them in context.

Step 2: Learn all the vocabulary you are capable of

A part of the essence of a language is found in its vocabulary. Words are like bricks that allow us to build our discourse and make communicative exchanges. No matter what level of Spanish you are currently in, there are always new words to learn. Opt for a thematic approach. There are many vocabulary manuals composed of thematic cards. Learning 30 words a day, you will be able to cover 70% of the Spanish vocabulary in a few months. The idea is not to memorize the entire dictionary, but to find the necessary resources to learn the vocabulary you need based on your goals. You can start learning how to introduce yourself in Spanish, talking about everyday objects or adressing your professional skills

Step 3: Study the grammar basics

Grammar is what allows you to build and structure sentences. Sometimes it is the most complicated part of learning a language, but the good news is that you can use it even without understanding the mechanics of it. If you listen enough native speakers, you will mimic their structures when you speak without thinking about it –just as little kids do.

It is best to learn about 1,000 words before beginning to study grammar. You will need several days to get used to the main grammatical structures in Spanish –you can find them in an online course, textbooks or just searching online. But as soon as you have learn the basics, move on to speaking practice.

Step 4: Speak. Practice pronunciation. Speak again.

The ideal is that you get to speak at least 2 – 3 hours of Spanish per week. Find a language Exchange tandem or a tutor online to practice conversation. . In each session, focus on keeping the conversation flowing each other rather than on not making mistakes. You can also try to translate your thoughts or say them out loud. In any day-to-day situation, get used to ask yourself: How would you say this in Spanish? To improve your pronunciation, listen to native speakers. You can do so by listening to music, radio and podcast in Spanish and watching movies and TV series in Spanish (first with subtitles, then without them).

Step 5: Keep improving by learning and writing in Spanish

Reading will allow you to learn new words or structures and will encourage your memorization. After a few weeks, once you have acquired a solid foundation, start reading in Spanish: press articles, book, magazines, online articles, and so on. Any resource is good to read and improve your vocabulary and expressions. In addition, since when we write we memorize everything much better, it is also a good idea to keeping a diary in Spanish. Try to write a few paragrahps about how your day was every nigh. The more you write, the better you will assimilate the language.


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