Russia on the march

Time Magazine published an incredible article about the resurgence of Russia in its April 15th edition.

While we in America have been focused on investigations into the President and savaging whoever isn’t on our political side, Russia has been on the move. Reaching across multiple continents, Russia has been deploying financial aid, military support, and diplomatic protection to a host of pretty awful leaders. “Tyrants,” as Time calls them. I agree.

The article (How Putin Built a Ragtag Empire of Tyrants and Failing States) is a must read, and a scary diagnosis of just how much power Russia has gained while we as a country have been focused on our own divided arguments and world-wide retraction as a stabilizing force for good.

Long-time readers of mine will know that I’ve been wary of (and fatigued by) America’s multiple commitments (and wars) across the globe since launching this website back in 2012. Long wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. A military that’s been stretched too thin. A national budget increasingly running higher into the red, and a national debt that’s grown just sickeningly high.

This commitment to worldwide stability in the past has cost us greatly as a country in dollars. And as a population, the costs of these wars have been mostly borne by a very small percentage of our population. (About one or two percent.)

I’ve been a frustrated citizen in the past decade or so over the high price of being the world’s policeman, but Russia’s moves the past few years (as brilliantly explained in the article above) shows there’s an uglier — and higher — cost to pulling back to our own borders. From stabilizing Syria, propping up Venezuela’s Maduro, and supporting cruel African dictators, Russia is showing it’s energetically ready to fill the void left by America.

Read the article and then tell me your thoughts. I’d love to have some high-level dialogue below. Where are you on the spectrum of worldwide engagement or retraction? And why?

(Please keep your commentary at a high level. Nasty political attacks — and know-it-all statements that sound like they were made by a ten-year-old who doesn’t want to listen to others —  will be immediately deleted.)

Semper Fidelis,

Stan R. Mitchell

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New front page graphic 2Stan R. Mitchell, author and prior Marine, is best known for a writing style that is “sharp, snappy, cinematic, and impacts with all the blunt force trauma of a hollowpoint to the head,” says Author Mark Allen.

A former newspaper journalist, Mitchell used to have to cram long stories into short sections of newsprint. He learned more than ten years ago how to cut the fat off a story, and he still to this day doesn’t believe in wasting time or space. (Not your time. And certainly not his time.)

Most people say his books read like movies, and even people who say they don’t “like to read” usually find themselves hooked on his books.

Pick up one of the works below and see if you don’t agree.

Stolen Daughter. Dolan has a ton of problems on his plate, but when the case of a missing seventeen-year-old girl falls in his lap, he answers the call. Dolan, a private investigator and former Army Ranger, is just the kind of guy to volunteer for such a thing. But he soon learns, as he races to the secluded mountains of North Carolina, that he’s in over his head. There’s a dirty cop involved. The mob, too. They want Dolan in the ground.

Take Down. Danny Acuff, a detective and former Force Recon Marine, uncovers a massive drug operation in the small, quaint town of Akin, Tennessee. And none of these locals are happy about a big-city cop from Memphis barging into their hometown. They want Danny gone, and they want him gone soon. Danny soon finds himself tangling with murderers, big boys from the hills sent to run him off, and even a dangerous couple of Special Forces men. A lot of people are going to die before this one finishes unwinding.

Sold Out (Nick Woods, No. 1). Nick Woods used to be one of our country’s greatest snipers. A Marine who completed a bloody, top-secret mission behind enemy lines years ago, he now just wants to live in peace with his wife. But the past is about to return in this tight sniper/CIA thriller.

Mexican Heat (Nick Woods, No. 2). The entire economy of Mexico is on the verge of collapse, dying under the crushing pressure of all the country’s drug cartels united under a single man. America doesn’t want to send troops, and the Mexican government is powerless to defend itself. That leaves one option: Find Nick Woods, let him hand-pick some men, and unleash him yet again.

Afghan Storm (Nick Woods, No.3). Time is ticking down on a deadly plot for the Taliban to overthrow the government of Afghanistan.  Time to send in Nick Woods and his private, military security company (Shield, Safeguard, and Shelter, or “S3”).

Nigerian Terror (Nick Woods, No.4). Nick Woods and his elite band of shooters from Shield, Safeguard, and Shelter (S3) deploy to Africa on their next mission to deal with an out-of-control terrorist group that now holds more than 20,000 square miles of land. This terrorist group, called the Boko Haram, has finally gotten the attention of America’s leaders. But what starts as a routine mission turns into something far more.

Little Man, and the Dixon County War. This book is an incredible story about a man too young to be wearing a badge, and too small to be enforcing the law. But the twenty-seven-year old Paul Zachary has been written up as a hero and he’s got some people who want him dead.

Soldier On. This short novel (approximately 70 pages long) is a moving story of World War II. As the war nears its end, the last elements of the German Army on the ground struggle to survive. The men know the war is lost and for the soldiers, it is pure hell. It is tough for the men, and tougher for the leaders. Hemmed in by Nazi SS units waiting to arrest or shoot retreating troops on one side, while advancing American troops advance mercilessly on the other, the men pray they must only endure the freezing weather of the last days. And that their supplies won’t run out. And that they won’t lose the honor and dignity they’ve spent years creating. Soldier On explores the mental struggles faced by every man who’s ever carried a rifle.

Two quick updates and one pretty cool video on future warfare challenges

Hey, guys!

Hope everyone is doing well! I have two quick announcements and one pretty cool thing to share.

nigerianterror_coverFirst, the paperback version of Nigerian Terror is now live and available for purchase. Sorry that it took a tad longer than expected, but I think you’ll agree it was worth the delay. It looks fantastic.

Second, Danny Acuff 6 will be published in just a couple of days or so! I’m getting the last edits done on it and I think you guys will love it. (Small preview: the Danny and Forrest showdown may finally take place!)

Finally, I thought I’d share this Marine Corps video, which gives a hint of what’s to come in the future.

The video is fascinating because it covers things I’d never considered, such as:

  • While newer weapon systems are deadlier, they are much heavier and more challenging to transport to the battlefield. They’re also less fuel efficient. Like, way less fuel efficient (because of the weight of their armor), which means you have to be able to transport more fuel in a combat zone.
  • The requirement for 3D printing on the battlefield, as well as the use of drones to move supplies and wounded Marines.
  • Implementation of exo-skeletons on the legs and other parts of the body, which will help men and women carry more weight.
  • And finally, robots and solar panels on packs. Plus a couple of other cool things.

The video is about four mins long, but I think you’ll enjoy it if you get a moment to watch it.

That’s it from here! And I’ll let you know the very minute Danny Acuff 6 is live and available for purchase. : )

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

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Stan R. Mitchell, author and prior Marine, is best known for his Nick Woods Marine Sniper series, which has remained in the Top 100 on Amazon for more than three years. The series has also been picked up by Audible.com for a multi-book audio deal. Additional works include a Western thriller, detective series, and World War II story.

Sadly, the battle for Mosul isn’t as clear as it seems. Nor is anything else.

Hey guys!

Hope everyone has had an awesome week! (And if you haven’t, just think: We’re just 10 days, 11 hours, and 15 minutes until the election is finally here!! After that, we can get back to checking facebook and being united and friendly again!)

Geez… Don’t get me started on the election.

But speaking of politics, and trying to be more informed, I wanted to share this recent news account regarding the battle for Mosul.

Like many (all?) Americans, I’ve been happy to hear that Iraqi forces are now liberating the city from ISIS control. And I’ve been following it pretty closely.

But this sobering account from a former Marine turned writer, who recently traveled to Mosul to witness the battle, has really dampened my enthusiasm.

Here are just a few of the highlights:

Iraq vs ISIS? Or Sunni versus Shia?

KELLY MCEVERS, HOST: Elliot Ackerman is a decorated Marine who now makes a living as a writer. He fought in Iraq with the Marines and the Special Forces, and he recently went back to Iraq on assignment for Esquire magazine. He spent time with Iraqi counterterrorism forces who are fighting to retake Mosul from ISIS. These troops have been trained by the U.S. They’re well-equipped, and they are supposed to represent all of Iraq. But Ackerman says that’s not how it looked to him.

ELLIOT ACKERMAN: From the back of their Humvees, you know, they’re flying the Shia flags as they go towards Mosul. You know, and these are the supposedly secular forces that are – you’re not supposed to be participating in any of the sectarian violence.You know, in the West, when we think of the Islamic State, I think what’s first and foremost in our consciousness are these terrorist attacks, whether it’s Paris or the Istanbul airport or the cells that have operated in the United States. But when you’re on the ground in Iraq, what’s really evident is that, you know, this is a Sunni-versus-Shia fight. And the Sunnis are represented by the Islamic State. And brutal as they are, a lot of everyday Sunnis are sort of withholding judgment to see what it’s going to be like under the Iraqi security forces.

And when the supposedly nonsectarian security forces come in flying Shiite banners, you know, it certainly sends the wrong message. And it’s probably in the long run going to make work more difficult for the Iraqi security forces in securing Mosul and winning over the support of the Sunni population there.

Fallujah, 12 years after its second liberation.

MCEVERS: You also went back to Fallujah. That’s a place where you fought in what’s called the second battle for Fallujah in late 2004. Fallujah has now gone through its fourth major battle. Iraqi forces have routed ISIS out of that city. What’s it like now?

ACKERMAN: Well, progress in Fallujah has been very slow. Only about a quarter of the population has come back to the city, and there’s still no water in the city. There’s no power. There’s no sanitation. So the people who are there basically bring in their own potable water, and they’re living off of generators. So if Fallujah is any predictor of what the rebuilding of a Mosul is like, you know, there are significant challenges ahead.

I only share this — I’m sorry, I know it’s depressing — because I’m increasingly convinced that things over there, and in Syria, too, are far more complex and difficult to understand than we could ever begin to imagine.

I can still remember before the Iraq War listening to one of President George Bush’s advisers saying the Shia and Sunni were like Methodists and Baptists; two religions that mostly got along. Clearly, we’ve learned that’s not the case.

It’s also worth noting that Iran and Iraq could become even more significant allies, since Iraq is 60 to 65 percent Shia and only 32 to 37 percent Sunni, according to the CIA.

This matters because before our invasion, Iraq was led by Saddam and the country served as a balance to Iran, which is 90 to 95 percent Shia.

Iraq also served as a buffer between Iran and Saudi Arabia, our long-time ally which is nearly90 percent Sunni.

Clearly, with the wide-spread fighting in Syria, Yemen, and a few other places in the region, we’re witnessing a war between the Sunni and Shia religions. Or perhaps you could term it Saudi Arabia versus Iran, with a whole lot of other actors involved such as the United States and Russia.

For me, I can’t get over the complexity of the situation. We’re essentially helping the Iraqi Army and Shia militias, backed by Iran, take back an Iraqi city from ISIS, who’s getting much of its funding from Saudi Arabia.

I know it’s so simple to rally around the flag here in the states and think, “ISIS is bad, look at all the terrorist attacks, let’s go crush them,” but I’m not so sure it’s that clear. We’ve been fooled before (see Iraq invasion: oil will pay for war; we’ll be greeted as liberators; etc.) and my radar is increasingly going off that we don’t have a clue about what’s really going on over there.

I just can’t get over the fact that Iraqi Army forces are openly flying Shia flags from their vehicles. This is so much more complex than Iraq versus ISIS.

That’s why it’s dangerous to want to send lots of ground troops into the region, to help destroy ISIS in Syria. We’re in the middle of a very ugly family fight, and I’m not sure either side is real big fans of ours. I’m also not real sure either host nation, Iran or Saudi Arabia, has placed us on their Christmas list, either.

I know we can’t completely withdraw, since that would further open the door for the Russians, who have already stepped in too much, but I’m a little tired of the pundits who think crushing ISIS would be easy if we just sent in a bunch of ground troops. I’m not saying we couldn’t defeat them (at least initially), but I AM saying I’m not in a hurry to rebuild Syria, as we tried to rebuild Iraq. (See note above about how little Fallujah has improved even after 12 years.)

We spent at least $1.1 trillion on Iraq, according to the most recent figures, and the country isn’t exactly a tourist hot spot.

I wish I knew what the answers were, but I don’t. And I dare say most of the pundits we listen to, don’t as well.

Yet while we don’t know the answers, it’s important to acknowledge that this is a dense, confusing topic. So the next time your loud-mouthed uncle or neighbor is bellowing about sending in more troops to fight ISIS, just tell them you think it’s not quite that simple.

Keep the faith,

Stan R. Mitchell

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Stan R. Mitchell, author and prior Marine, is best known for his Nick Woods Marine Sniper series, which has remained in the Top 100 on Amazon for more than three years. The series has also been picked up by Audible.com for a multi-book audio deal. Additional works include a Western thriller, detective series, and World War II story.