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Military vs. Trump, Or What Current Troops Are Afraid of
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Military vs. Trump, Or What Current Troops Are Afraid of

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WASHINGTON — October 19, 2018

Nearly half of the military men believe that the world is on the brink of war, which causes great fear and anxiety amongst their ranks. In particular, according to a new poll of active-duty troops, they fear a war with Russia or China.

Thus, about 46% of troops who responded to the anonymous survey of currently serving Military Times readers said they believe the U.S. will be drawn into a new war within the next year. That’s a jarring increase from only about 5% who said the same thing in a similar poll conducted in September last year.

Military vs. Trump, Or What Current Troops Are Afraid of

Another 50% think the country will not end up in a major conflict during the next year, but that number is falling, down from more than two-thirds of those surveyed last fall who said a war was unlikely. And it should be noted that this 50% are referring to a global conflict. As for a local conflict, almost 90% of all troops believe that the U.S. is on the brink of a revolution.

The fears of war come as over the past year U.S. President Donald Trump has repeatedly emphasized improving military readiness in the face of growing threats from foreign adversaries—both loosely affiliated terrorist groups and traditional major power rivals. At the same time, top Pentagon officials have spoken publicly about the need to prepare for a conflict against a “near-peer” adversary.

In support of Trump's words, military sources openly declare that large-scale military exercises are conducted throughout the country with the use of modern technological military means.

As for an internal conflict, another recent survey showed that Trump is less popular among the military in comparison with last year's figures, which fell by 3%.

Military vs. Trump, Or What Current Troops Are Afraid of

About 44% of troops had a favorable view of Trump’s presidency, polls showed, compared to 43% who disapproved.

Still, the latest survey shows that military service members are more supportive of the president than the American public at large, which, according to the most recent Gallup poll, approves of Trump at a rate of 43% compared to the 53 % who disapprove.

"The general rule of thumb with the military is that it moves along with public opinion but lags conservative," said Peter Feaver, a former adviser to former President George W. Bush who is now a political science professor at Duke University and an author of several books on military culture. "In this case, we're seeing military members shifting along with the public, but still staying a little more pro-Trump than the rest of the country."

According to high-ranking generals, Trump truly gives more to the military than did President Obama.

Young military men, just starting their service, partly agree.

"[Trump's] definitely improving the readiness of the military and giving us the resources we need to get the mission done, not hamstringing us by cutting our budget," said Staff Sgt. Kyle Overholser, a 31-year-old airman stationed in Arizona.

Yet other service members have voiced concerns about Trump's temperament and suggested that it was eroding his support among troops.

"After he got elected, most of the people in the military wanted to give him [Trump] a chance," said Jordan True, a 25-year-old petty officer first class in the Navy.

"But to me, it seems like his presidency is a popularity contest for his ego. I think he rushes through decisions a lot based on emotion or helping his friends out. I’m just thankful I’m getting out of the military because him [Trump] rushing decisions could lead us into an unnecessary war."

But, only 13% believe that Obama's military was in better shape

It should be noted that there are also strong gender differences in Trump's support. Military women, as well as civilians, show practically no support for the president’s policies and actions.

Military vs. Trump, Or What Current Troops Are Afraid of

According to the survey, his disapproval rating among women is 62%. In the Military Times poll, that figure topped 68%, with only about 26% of military women expressing a favorable view of the president.

This disagreement is largely due to the perception that many women have that Trump is a man who fights against them by any means possible.

Returning to the latest survey on the possibility of war in the near future, it shows that most concern is about Russia and China in light of the latest world news. About 71% of troops said Russia was a significant threat, up 18 points from last year’s survey. And 69% of troops said China poses a significant threat, up 24 points from last year.

Military vs. Trump, Or What Current Troops Are Afraid of

Some top Pentagon officials have voiced similar views. Last year, Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Robert Neller told Marines that he thought there was a “big-ass fight” on the horizon.

"I hope I'm wrong, but there's a war coming," Neller told Marines in Norway.

In terms of warfare methodology, according to the poll, the military and the Pentagon are most afraid of cyber-terrorism and cyber attacks from a potential enemy.

In particular, nearly 89% of those surveyed cited it as a significant threat, with more than half of those calling it a major concern.

And many current troops worry the U.S. is not fully prepared for cyber warfare. One-third of service members say they disapprove of the country’s current policies on combating cyber terrorism. Only about 13% said they strongly back government and military efforts underway.

Foreign terrorist organizations like Al Qaeda and the Islamic State were seen as less of a threat than domestic terrorist groups. About 57% of troops see U.S.-based Islamic extremists as a significant threat, compared to 49% for other domestic terrorist groups, and 48% for foreign ones. Last year, more than 59% of troops said Al Qaeda and ISIS posed significant threats.

The troops most of all referred to Russia’s supposed interference in the country’s internal affairs—supposed interference in the last election, hacker attacks, and the supposed sending of specially trained special services representatives to the U.S.

Thus, according to the poll, almost 80% are concerned about the state of affairs related to Russia, while 16% say there is no threat.

Another large concern shown in this year’s poll is North Korea, with 46% considering it a significant threat, although that is far lower than last year’s more than 72% of troops who saw the country that way.

The U.S.’s posture towards North Korea has seen a dramatic shift over the past year. Trump moved from mocking North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on social media last fall and calling him “Little Rocket Man,” to publicly proclaiming his respect for the controversial dictator following a peace summit between the two in June.

Even with U.S. forces still deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan—or perhaps because of it—those countries were seen as a significant threat by less than 13% of the armed forces. That’s well behind Iran (41%), Syria (24%) and Saudi Arabia (18%).

Similar to past year’s polls, those conflict zones were also seen as a lesser threat to U.S. national security than white nationalists (35%, up slightly from a year ago) and immigration (23%, holding steady from a year ago).

One of the poll respondents, an Army recruiter with more than 18 years of service, said Trump's handling of the standoff over North Korea’s nuclear weapons looked risky at times, but overall the soldier approves of how Trump is going “toe-to-toe” in negotiations.

"It was kind of scary, but he had the guts to go over there and stand up for what a lot of Americans believe in," the recruiter, who asked not to be identified by name, said.

On the other hand, some services members believe that President Trump is contributing to instability and fears. One soldier, a female Army sergeant first class based in Hawaii who asked to remain anonymous, said she's has seen junior enlisted soldiers opt to not re-enlist due to fears that a major war could erupt soon, and that Trump has made the chances of such a war more likely.

"I feel it has never been this bad and with this many adversaries, because of the way he [Trump] chooses to do business," she told Military Times in a telephone interview.

She is afraid of a “constant conflict” occurring soon, of endless deployments, and fighting.

"With the way we're growing our force, I tell my soldiers the reason we are growing the force is that we need you, and we’re going to fight," she said.

Troops voiced overwhelming support for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, the retired Marine Corps general, and hope that he will curtail some of the president’s riskiest impulses.

"I think that it is a scary thing when I hear some of the stuff on the news and how stuff is being handled. I do think we have an excellent secretary of defense who kind of keeps us on an even keel as much as he can," said an enlisted sailor based in California who asked for anonymity. "But it is scary to think about what could happen, just from somebody saying the wrong thing."

Chief Warrant Officer 2 Jay Thompson, an Army helicopter pilot at Fort Drum, New York, said he doesn’t think China or Russia wants war any more than the United States does, and that that will help temper tensions.

"No one is seeking the peer-on-peer war," he said.

Who will fight?

This probably should have been the first question, but the main indicator of the poll was that the U.S. army reduces by a certain percentage every year. The indicator continues to fall rapidly.

Initially, such a survey was conducted by the RAND Corporation that showed the U.S. army is almost not even ready for military conflict, and that most of the branches of the military have problems in the field of orientation, sleep, physical fitness, and computer games.

Roughly 17,000 service members from the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Coast Guard participated in the survey between November 2015 and March 2016.

In particular, as the study showed, the main problems currently besetting the U.S. military include recruits being overweight (65.7% of US military branches have such problems), andpromiscuity or possible sexual assault (19.4% have had more than one sex partner in the past year, about 2% raped women and have been charged). Among others problems were belonging to one or another LGBT group (6.1%), PTSD (9.9%), having chronic pain (37.8%), a propensity towards suicide (1.4%) and the use of drugs for sedation and sleep (8.6%).

The current poll shows that one of the main problems is overweight and obesity (74,3%). In North Carolina, for example, an estimated 72% of the population is ineligible to join the military, due to being overweight, lacking adequate education, or having a history of crime or drug use.

"We know that the military cannot solve this problem on its own," said retired Lt. Gen. Thomas Spoehr. "Children as young as 2 are experiencing rising obesity rates, and these rates increase with age. This demonstrates the need for obesity prevention beginning very early in life and continuing through high school and beyond."

In addition, according to the survey, young people of military age often have difficulty imagining real hostilities, except for those who are in Iraq or Afghanistan. The indicator shows 91% versus 5% believe that youth are not likely to survive in a real war.

Soldiers who serve within the U.S. mostly refuse to take part in local conflicts abroad, despite the good bonus payments.

The survey received 829 responses from active-duty troops. The IVMF used a standard methodology to estimate the weight of each individual observation of the survey sample.

The poll audience was 89% male and 11% female and had an average age of about 31 years old. The respondents identified themselves as 76% white, 13% Hispanic, 9% African American, 5% Asian, and 6% other ethnicities.

Author: USA Really