By Jody Roundhouse
Americans have not seen true war in more than half a century. We haven’t seen the cleansing of entire towns across the country as all military age men are drafted and sent overseas. Daily body counts in the double digits haven’t been a reality since the Vietnam War more than 50 years ago. Post-Cold War America has become soft in a societal sense. A total war will bring back, to a large degree, common sense to the average American population and bipartisan political policies from Congress that truly benefit the country rather than their home districts and states.
Everything rests, ultimately, with who’s residing in the White House at the time any conflict were to erupt. Political will and passing any military matters to the generals rather than micromanaging any type of conflict (as former-president Obama did), are paramount. American nationalism, as seen post-9/11, is also vital. Trump and his Cabinet have been steadily vilifying China in its remarks, policies, and sudden policy shifts, especially in matters of trade. The American populace is becoming increasingly indoctrinated, mostly through media outlets, that the Chinese are not our friends.
China is the near-peer competitor that poses the greatest threat. Utilizing its A2/AD (Anti-access/Area-denial) defensive strategy, it seeks to kick American military assets from the Asian region and to reduce its hegemonic status in the Asian Pacific. Utilizing cutting-edge missile technology (China has invested in the most ambitious missile development program in the world as of 2018), China has lined its coast with anti-ship and anti-air defensive missile batteries. Its de facto control of the South China Sea also promises its own challenges, as its military installations built on artificial islands (namely the Spratly Islands) enhance its A2/AD capabilities.
People frequently ask if the age of the aircraft carrier has passed. Coming into its own in World War Two, perhaps it has. As the adage goes, nations must prepare for the next war, not the last.
Ship-killing missiles such as the Chinese DF-21D (traveling up to an astonishing Mach 10 – more than 7,500 miles per hour) pose game-changing challenges for any navy attempting nearby military operations. In this case, the United States Navy would be greatly hampered and would have to, on paper, retreat east from the South China Sea and reposition naval assets past the first island chain (See banner image above), which would be behind the Philippines. The Philippine Sea would be a likely rallying point for American forces, which would then be between the first and second island chains awaiting reinforcements and supplies.
“Fifth Dimension Operations,” the core of current U.S. military doctrine, lists “Land, Air, Sea, Space and Information” as its priority, with the latter being new to 21st-century warfare between two great-power competitors. To be clear, however, the United States, as of 2018, retains its status as the world’s hegemon; militarily and economically.
Cyber operations will play a major, albeit mostly unseen, role in the world’s next major conflict. The potential for a mass attack against civilian infrastructure, however, should be accepted in advance. America’s electric grid, communication centers, nuclear plants, and certain strategic “centers of gravity” will most likely be targeted by Chinese cyber operations. But America’s own Cyber Command has abilities that are blacked out from most media outlets.
America’s next major war will most likely be with China, and it’s bound to be full of blood and floating debris as the two powerhouses try out new military strategies, tactics and technologies. To emphasis once more, if America has the political will, and the population is fully mobilized, both literally and psychologically, for a major war, then America would most likely win, as of 2018.
Heavy losses would be incurred on both sides. But since the war’s theater of operations would be in China’s backyard, it would have to worry most about U.S. attacks against its own civilian and military infrastructure and supply chains.
* Part Two to come soon *