Americans, especially the last two or three generations have grown up on a steady diet of complacency when it comes to national security.
They have been told since birth that the United States possesses the greatest military in world history, that it is unequaled in strength on the battlefield, that is better led, better fed, and better trained than anyone. Further, there is the belief that since the United States cannot lose a war, we should never focus our attention on winning, rather, how we are going to exit a conflict, and how quickly we can finish.
This is increasingly a fool’s paradise.
The strategic equation is changing via four reasons.
First, America’s relative economic strength is declining in comparison to other great powers. One cannot maintain military primacy unless you have the economic resources to fuel it. Second, the other great powers have been busy finding vulnerabilities, weak points, and asymmetric tactics, especially the famous anti-access, area-denial methods. Third, American will is in question, if it is not actually lacking, there is a palpable perception that it might be. Finally, the American neglect of the role of space as the next frontier in which powers are masters rather than slaves is the most shocking.
Much of this was illustrated in the National Defense Strategy Commission, “Providing for the Common Defense: The Assessments and Recommendations of the National Defense Strategy Commission,” which came out in November of 2018. The summary of the report should be frightening to America and her allies.
“The Commission argues that America confronts a grave crisis of national security and national defense, as U.S. military advantages erode and the strategic landscape becomes steadily more threatening. If the United States does not show greater urgency and seriousness in responding to this crisis and does not take decisive steps to rebuild its military advantages now, the damage to American security and influence could be devastating.”
The conclusions are numerous and devastating. These include the inability to fight a two-front war, or even deter one of the great powers. The military is overstretched, under-resourced, and military strategy is not fully integrated into diplomatic, intelligence, and economic goals.
The report recommends serious reform and changes including expanding the size of the army, and the Navy’s ability to project power, modernizing our nuclear force, and taking seriously the deficits in a Space strategy, cyber-war, munitions stockpiles, readiness, research and development, and missile defense.
The report should be coupled with startling results from recent wargames where United States forces are devastated by a series of attacks that blunt or obliterate our advantages in air-superiority, and aircraft carrier dominance. These are not flights of fancy, but realistic scenarios based on current adversaries’ capabilities which turn our advantages into a burden. In a recent RAND wargame, “red forces” destroy our F-35 fighters on the ground, sink our carriers with long-range missiles, crater our airbases, annihilate the army’s supply depots and shut down our networks with cyber-attacks in what China states is “system destruct warfare.” RAND recommends buying more missiles, upgrading our air defense, and securing command and control. This is not the first serious wargame in recent memory where America lost and lost badly.
The most serious threat comes from an inability to see space and all its components from a strategic vantage point.