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Losing the Next War

October 5, 2018

Though we are focused on the fight to nominate a conservative justice to the U.S. Supreme Court, we should be more concerned about the absence of a strategy to win the next war.

Recall that newly elected President Donald Trump announced that he was sending an “armada” to back up his threats to “Little Rocket Man.”  Somehow the Navy Department wasn’t notified where the carrier attack group was to go. The Carl Vinson “armada” was engaged in a joint action with the Australian Navy in the Indian Ocean. Eventually, President Trump deployed several carriers in the South China Sea.

Good strategy–for World War II. But, not for 2018 when Russia and China have readied new anti-aircraft carrier missile systems.

As long ago as 1982 when Argentina used French Exocet missiles to damage or destroy British ships including a guided missile destroyer and a container ship, it became clear that aircraft carriers were, as one Defense Department analyst observed, “floating coffins.”

Apparently, President Trump isn’t aware of that and in March 2017 aboard the USS Gerald Ford declared that this most expensive aircraft carrier was unsinkable and pledged to fulfill a plan to build twelve new carriers.

It takes about five years after a major war for the U.S. military to decline and lose its ability to fight the next war. That was the case after WW II when, in 1950, General McArthur was caught unprepared when communist China crossed into North and South Korea. After the war in Vietnam concluded in 1975, it took about eight years to understand that we were not adequately prepared for even a minor invasion of Grenada.

Military strategy, like national security strategy, requires grand strategists, but they are hard to find.

Ronald Reagan, though a former actor, thought long and hard about how to win a war with the Soviet Union and conceived of a space-based Strategic Defense Initiative. That was nearly 40 years ago and James Holmes , Professor of Strategy at the Naval War College, finds only two 20th century strategists who may be ranked in the top five: Sir Julian S. Corbett (1854-1922) and the American, J. C. Wylie (1911-1993).


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