The recent events in Missouri have not been the only time that military armor has rolled into St. Louis County during the last few years. In July 2012, the real Army showed up.
Scores of heavily armored vehicles, including some tanks, MRAPS and humvees began rolling through St. Louis neighborhoods. The public was told only that it was a “training exercise.” This got the attention of some people who believe that the government is coming for them (“Army Prepares Tanks For War On America,” “Obama Orders Army Death Squads to Terrorize USA Under Martial Law”). It also got the attention of serious military writers who could not understand why troops had been pulled in from Fort Detrich, Md., and other far away bases that already had their own realistic “urban environment training sites.”
It is not clear whether these incidents are meant to acclimate the military or the public to armored action on local streets.
Last week, citizens of Minneapolis and St. Paul were awakened by Black Hawk helicopters of the Army’s 160th Special Operations Aviation Regiment flying surprise war drills over apartment buildings and houses. More than 200 people called 911.
Our military is preparing for contingencies, some unpleasant, none discussed seriously by people we have elected or the people in the media who are supposed to inform us about what is happening or why.
As politicians make pretend talk about a plentiful, low-cost energy future, all branches of the military continue their crash program to significantly improve fuel consumption of ground vehicles and planes. Aged Senators talk tough about America making other countries and peoples do whatever we want. It’s not going to be that way. JOE said so.
That’s not a guy named Joe. It’s the Joint Operating Environment, a report issued every several years by the U.S. Joint Forces Command to identify evolving threats and put our armed services on the same page. The last two JFC commanders were General Mattis, who was soon appointed commander of our forces in the Middle East, and General Odierno, now the 38th Army Chief of Staff, so JOE reports are big medicine. The summaries are published and poured through by professional officers and defense analysts. And arms manufacturers.
The 2010 JOE said very plainly that the U.S. will have to share more and more international decision-making with new powers, including China, Russia and India. JOE discussed “conflicts sparked by water scarcity” that “could destabilize whole regions.” It expressed concerns about climate change and “its potential to cause natural disasters and other harmful phenomena such as rising sea levels.” It delved into the potential for disease pandemics, cyberwar, the rise of radical political ideologies and the probability of significant increases in energy and food demands, exacerbated by urban sprawl.
It is like an inventory of everything some angry voices insist wouldn’t be a problem if only someone else was in the White House. People who put lives on the line don’t see it that way.
“Over the next quarter century, U.S. military forces will be continually engaged in some dynamic combination of combat, security, engagement, and relief and reconstruction, ” said JOE. “We will find ourselves caught off guard by changes in the political, economic, technological, strategic, and operational environments.”
We can’t eliminate surprise. The key to security in the future will be to recognize what conditions have changed and rapidly adapt to confront them.
JOE has always been interesting. The 2010 JOE was eye opening. So much so that there won’t be another.
Not long after the 2010 report was published, Secretary of Defense Gates announced that JFC was being eliminated, supposedly as a budget-saving measure. It went out of existence in August 2011.
JOE didn’t stick to the script. Could Americans handle it if someone leveled with them?
Michael Miller has worked in state and local government. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org