USS Theodore Roosevelt
While confidence in almost every American institution has sharply declined, not so with the military. Confidence in our armed forces rose dramatically after 9/11 and remains high. This lack of connection with war and the military among the vast majority of people allows us to blithely enter conflicts with nary a thought as to what might go wrong. After all, we are the most powerful military nation the world has ever seen. We can’t lose
Never mind that we e haven’t won since World War II, save for the brief First Gulf War, pushing Saddam out of Kuwait. Korea was a draw. We did not achieve our objectives in Vietnam. After toppling Saddam, Iran has increased its power and leverage in Shiite Iraq. Libya is a basket case. Syria is in turmoil. It remains to be seen whether or not the Taliban returns to power in Afghanistan. ISIS still rears its ugly head.
Today everyone “supports” the troops but few know anything about them. We no longer have a comfortable closeness with our military. In many ways they are not us. We don’t poke fun at their foibles anymore.
There is little accountability for modern wars; we have put the Iraq war behind us. We have spent trillions on equipping our forces only to see our military fail in it’s mission. We have not succeeded in achieving any of our overall strategic goals in Iraq or Afghanistan..
The perception that we cannot be defeated leads us deeper and deeper into unwinnable conflicts and the separation of the military and war from the people keeps us from learning anything from our defeats.
Joe Biden says we are leaving Afghanistan by 9/11. It has been 20 years and the “most powerful military on earth” has changed nothing. Contractors however have made a lot of money. Once the Taliban returns there will be no music anymore. No shaving. Dancing boys will return; after all, watching dancing girls is a forbidden.
So how strong is our military really?
Since World War II our military has operated on the “expeditionary force” model.
U.S. military operations over the course of 75 years have relied on a methodical, months-long buildup of forces to uncontested bases in the region, followed by U.S. aircraft dominating the skies and then carrying out devastating attacks on the enemy’s command-and-control systems. Both Iraq wars were preceded by massive build-ups in Saudi Arabia and subsequently Kuwait. Other wars relied on bases South Korea, South Vietnam just as World War II was staged from England.
In the year of the pandemic, Taiwan has become the potential flashpoint of a major was between the United States and China. Last September Chinese combat aircraft intentionally flew over the rarely crossed median line in the Taiwan Strait in the direction of Taipei an unprecedented 40 times and conducted simulated attacks on the island that Taiwan’s premier called “disturbing.” Amid those provocations, China’s air force released a video showing a bomber capable of carrying nuclear weapons carrying out a simulated attack on Andersen Air Force Base on the U.S. Pacific island of Guam.
In case the new U.S. administration failed to get the intended message behind all that provocative military activity, four days after President Biden took office, a large force of Chinese bombers and fighters flew past Taiwan and launched simulated missile attacks on the USS Roosevelt carrier strike group as it was sailing in international waters in the South China Sea.
So what would happen if China massively attacked Taiwan, which China considers its territory and whose independence is “non-negotiable?”
Well for years the Pentagon has been running war games with just that scenario.
And lately we have been losing faster.
China’s answer to our expeditionary force model was a well-funded strategy that the Pentagon refers to as “anti-access, area denial” (A2/AD), meaning it would prevent an adversary like the U.S. from being able to carry out the sort of significant military buildup it carried out during the two Iraq wars. The PLA’s military plans rely on space-based and airborne surveillance and reconnaissance platforms; massive precision-guided missile arsenals; submarines; militarized man-made islands in the South China Sea; and a host of conventional air and naval forces to hold U.S. and allied bases, ports and warships in the region at risk.
Because it lies only 90 miles from Taiwan, China needs only to hold U.S. forces at bay for a matter of weeks to achieve its strategic objective of capturing Taiwan, at which point we would be faced with a fait accompli.
“Whenever we war-gamed a Taiwan scenario over the years, our Blue Team routinely got its ass handed to it, because in that scenario time is a precious commodity and it plays to China’s strength in terms of proximity and capabilities,” said David Ochmanek, a senior RAND Corporation analyst and former deputy assistant secretary of defense for force development. “That kind of lopsided defeat is a visceral experience for U.S. officers on the Blue Team, and as such the war games have been a great consciousness-raising device. But the U.S. military is still not keeping pace with Chinese advances. For that reason, I don’t think we’re much better off than a decade ago when we started taking this challenge more seriously.”
Last fall, the U.S. Air Force simulated a conflict set more than a decade in the future that began with a Chinese biological-weapon attack (presumably pandemic inspired) that swept through U.S. bases and warships in the Indo-Pacific region. Then a major Chinese military exercise was used as cover for the deployment of a massive invasion force. The simulation culminated with Chinese missile strikes raining down on U.S. bases and warships in the region, and a lightning air and amphibious assault on the island of Taiwan.
We lost even faster. We are still focused on “terrorism.”
Now suppose at the same time, Russia moved on Ukraine?