The Rise and Fall of Los Zetas
This article originally appeared at InSight Crime. At the time of the Zetas formation in the early 2000s, as an armed wing of the Gulf Cartel, little seemed to distinguish the group from scores of predecessors and contemporaries. Mexico‘s cartels have long deployed teams of shock troops willing to engage in all manner... Read more
Counterinsurgency, Policing and the Militarization of America’s Cities
I can remember both so well. 2006. My first raid in South Baghdad. 2014. Watching on YouTube as a New York police officer asphyxiated — murdered — Eric Garner for allegedly selling loose cigarettes on a Staten Island street corner not five miles from my old apartment. Both events... Read more
The Strange Story of How North Korea Smuggled in 87 U.S. Scout Helicopters
On July 27, 2013, as a column of armored personnel carriers and tanks rumbled before the stand of Kim Jong Un to commemorate the end of a bloody war with the United States 60 years earlier, four small American-made MD 500E helicopters buzzed low overhead. You can see it... Read more
Even the Army’s Crowd-Control Rulebook Says Ferguson Police Tactics Were Dumb
This story  originally appeared on Aug. 15, 2014. The crackdown by police in the Ferguson, Missouri in 2014 protests revealed just how militarized American law enforcement has become. But it’s not just militarization of the police that’s a problem—it’s that police departments also are taking the wrong lessons from... Read more
No, the Israeli Air Force Won’t Race to Iraqi Kurdistan’s Rescue
Here in Iraq’s Kurdish autonomous region, a friend recently overheard some of his countrymen discussing the prospect of an independent Iraqi Kurdistan coming under attack from Baghdad or its neighbors. They dismissed this prospect out of hand, very matter-of-factly, by insisting that the Israeli Air Force would come to... Read more
In Syria, Two Isolated Villages Witnessed Hezbollah’s Rise
Heroic portraits of Syrian president Bashar Al Assad gradually disappear the farther north you drive from Aleppo. The red, white and black colors of the Syrian flag give way to the yellow and green banners of Hezbollah. For three and a half years, the rural towns of Nubul and... Read more
South Korea Deploys Its Own Missile Shield
In the spring of 2017, the United States began deploying Terminal High Altitude Air Defense missile batteries to South Korea. The expensive THAAD system is designed to shoot-down ballistic missiles on their terminal trajectory as they plunge down their targets. While North Korea will likely soon possess missiles that... Read more
Imagine Almost Every Russian Warship With Hypersonic Missiles
If everything goes according to plan, sometime in the mid-2020s the Russian Navy will adopt an anti-ship cruise missile called the Zircon. It’s a highly maneuverable and hypersonic cruise missile — meaning a weapon capable of traveling at speeds in excess of Mach 5 due to its advanced scramjet... Read more
Soon U.S. Warplanes Could See Through Clouds
Despite big advancements in sensor technology in recent years, clouds can still block a warplane crew’s view — and make it impossible to support troops on the grounds. Synthetic aperture radars can peer through weather, but these sensors generally are too big and unwieldy to help in a fast-evolving... Read more
Let’s Talk About Who Really Benefits From U.S. Defense Spending
Hawks on Capitol Hill and in the U.S. military routinely justify increases in the Defense Department’s already munificent budget by arguing that yet more money is needed to “support the troops.” If you’re already nodding in agreement, let me explain just where a huge chunk of the Pentagon budget... Read more
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