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A New Defense Strategy for America

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The American people have been treated to many “new” defense strategies, military force postures, nuclear strategies, and other policy proposals – mostly from the anti-military Left – over the last few decades. Most of these “new” policy proposals were aimed at cutting and gutting the US military while lulling the American people into a false sense of security by claiming that the policy proposals were “new” and thus somehow better, while the previous (and contemporary) policies, strategies, and force structure are supposedly bad per se and obsolete. This is, of course, utter nonsense.

By contrast, what my new defense strategy aims to do is to provide a framework for preserving US military strength to the greatest extent possible, protect crucial US national interests and key allies, and keep the peace while steering America out of unwise military adventures and reshaping the US military for the threats and wars of the future.

My strategy is based on the following simple principles:

  • The US must have the strongest military, including the largest and most survivable arsenal, in the world, and invest whatever amount of money is necessary to accomplish that. No ifs, buts, or ands.
  • The US must completely reject the ridiculous notion that the world would be more peaceful and more secure if the US just disarmed itself, or scrapped its nuclear arsenal. It wouldn’t. Accordingly, NO further cuts in America’s nuclear deterrent should EVER be made. EVER.
  • The US must also completely reject the equally ridiculous notion that there will ever be a world without nuclear weapons, short of even more powerful weapons being invented. Nuclear weapons’ importance, and therefore the need for a large American nuclear deterrent, is growing, not shrinking. As CSBA’s Barry Watts and Jim Thomas, and other scholars, have pointed out, the world is now in a Second Nuclear Age.
  • The US should protect its national interests at home and around the world, and protect key allies, but not useless allies or freeriders. A bad alliance is worse than no alliance at all. At the same time, Washington needs to remember that executing any strategy or military campaign successfully in any region of the world requires strong, secure allies.
  • The US should intervene militarily only where and when necessary – not everywhere. Humanitarian crisis are deplorable, but they are not a threat to America’s interests. If, repeat if, the US does intervene militarily somewhere, it needs to observe the principles set out by Reagan Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger in 1984. It needs to apply overwhelming force to defeat the enemy decisively and then bring the troops home. No nationbuilding and no prolonged wars with no end in sight. As Sun Tzu taught, “There is no instance of any country having benefitted from prolonged warfare.”
  • Foreign aid, except to Israel, should be ended.
  • The DOD should not be in the “soft power”/”development assistance” business. Its sole role is protection and warfighting. It’s supposed to be the coercive stick accompanying US diplomacy.

Based on those principles, I propose the following strategy.

The world’s center of gravity is in the Asia-Pacific region, and that’s where the US should concentrate its military and nonmilitary assets. The largest threat to America’s (and other countries’) security is an increasingly aggressive, militaristic, hegemony-minded China, which has a dangerous combination of the historical grudges of a Weimar Republic, the militant nationalism of an Arab state, and an expansionist binge like the Soviet Union. It promises a “hand-to-hand” fight with the US, claims the entire South China Sea as its internal lake, and has supplied ICBM launcher vehicles to North Korea.

The US must therefore counter China militarily, economically, and diplomatically, in the ways advised below.

In the Persian Gulf, the US should continue to keep its option to bomb Iran to stop its military program open, as it is highly unlikely that diplomacy and sanctions will stop that program – Iran is already the world’s pariah (along with North Korea) and one of the most isolated countries in the world, but its leaders don’t care about that one iota, and its nuclear program continues unabated. As in the Asia-Pacific, the US should provide a large, modern nuclear umbrella to its allies in the Gulf to discourage them from going nuclear.

In Europe, the US should close the vast majority of its bases and withdraw all 4 Army BCTs, along with the tanker wing, the 4 USN missile defense capable ships, and one of the fighter wings, currently based there. Those assets should all be dedicated to the Asia-Pacific region. The US should retain only one fighter wing, tactical nuclear weapons, and the most important (strategically important) bases there, such as Ramstein and Lakenheath.

The Europeans should be told, in no uncertain terms, that they’re essentially on their own now and must start providing for their own defense; that the US will continue to provide a nuclear and missile defense umbrella for them, but they must provide for their own conventional defense and pay part of the cost of deploying US BMD systems in Europe.

In Cuba, the US should resume working towards the overthrow of the regime of the Castro brothers, and also aim to overthrow Nicolas Maduro in Venezuela and Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua.

The US also needs to revitalize its alliance with the United Kingdom, which could be repaired e.g. by recognizing Britain’s claim to the Falklands if the UK allows the US to use the Diego Garcia base in the Indian Ocean in any contingency with China or Iran. Ties with France should also be improved.

As for reshaping the US military itself, the US should move the military away from weapons and capabilities design for counterinsurgency wars and theaters, and for other theaters where the only opponents are insurgents or primitive states unable to contest control of the air. The military should instead shift quickly towards weapons and capabilities useful in highly-contested environments – where the opponents are nation states equipped with e.g. advanced fighters and air defense systems and thus able to contest control of the air.

This means setting priorities within the defense budget. Any real strategy is about setting these, and not everything can be a priority – because when everything is a priority, nothing is. A failure to set priorities would essentially be the same thing as sequestration.

This means the military should divest itself of Predator and Reaper drones, other nonstealthy drones, Littoral Combat Ships, aircraft carriers, nonstealthy fighters and bombers, nonstealthy or short-range missiles, and other unsurvivable weapons as soon as possible.

Instead, it should quickly field, in large numbers, weapons such as stealthy bombers and carrier-capable drones, stealthy long-range cruise missiles, submarines (including guided missile submarines), conventional prompt global strike weapons (such as FALCON aircraft), missile defense equipment, anti-submarine weapons (aircraft, sonar, torpedoes, ships), demining ships and equipment (including demining drones), ASAT weapons, hardened satellites, base dispersal and hardening, and cyberweapons – both defensive and offensive. That is where the vast majority of defense R&D and procurement spending should be focused.

Of course, none of those investments, and indeed, maintaining US military power in general, won’t be possible unless Congress drops its knee-jerk opposition to authorizing long overdue reforms of the military’s pay, healthcare, retirement, and other personnel programs, as well as base closure and the retirement of excess Global Hawk and C-27J aircraft. That must include increasing, at least somewhat, TRICARE program premiums for military retirees (these premius are already almost 10 times less what the average American pays in premiums) and increasing the number of years required for a military pension from 20 to 25, so that people have an incentive to stay in the military for longer, when they’re still in their prime, in their 40s or early 50s, and still able to give the nation at least 5 years of service.

The DOD has repeatedly asked Congress, year after year, for authorization of such reforms, yet Congress has repeatedly refused to do so, or to acknowledge that these costs are unsustainable. The defense authorization bill recently produced by the House Armed Services Committee continues that dishonorable trend.

This must change. Without these crucial reforms – which virtually all think-tanks across the political spectrum, from the right to the left, support – the DOD will become, within a few decades, nothing more but a benefit-administering agency. To prevent that from happening, these and other, sometimes painful, personnel program reforms and base closures, must be enacted.

Annex: How US foreign policy and defense posture should be reshaped

In the diplomatic arena, the US should:

  • Seek cordial relations with all of China’s neighbors and try to form an “Asian NATO” with them. It should include Japan, Vietnam, Indonesia, Singapore, Australia, India, Thailand, and any other willing country – as long as these countries maintain sufficient military capabilities to back the US up. South Korea should also be invited, but Seoul is currently unwilling to challenge Chinese hegemonic aspirations.
  • Reaffirm its commitment to Taiwan’s defense and sell any weapons Taiwan may need or want – including submarines, missile defense systems, and F-35 jets. Taiwan should be used as a form of pressure on China to rein in North Korea. (Likewise, the US should sell all of its other allies any weapons they may need or want.)
  • Inform South Korea that the US will, from now on, provide only a nuclear umbrella to South Korea, but not conventional defense. South Korea has twice the population and 40 times the GDP of North Korea. It is time for Seoul to take exclusive responsibility for its conventional defense.
  • Endorse India’s territorial claim to Kashmir.
  • Cancel the European Phased Adaptive Approach and recognize Kosovo as a part of Serbia if Russia, in turn, redeploys its tactical nuclear weapons to Asia, agrees to limit their number, stops violating the INF treaty, allows the US military to use Russian airspace and bases in case of America finding itself in conflict with China, and signs a firm, verifiable commitment not to sell any military equipment of any kind, nor any energy resources, to China, Iran, or Venezuela.

In terms of military deployments and America’s overseas military posture:

  • All US troops except nuclear-capable aircraft squadrons and the Ramstein wing should be withdrawn from Europe.
  • Cancel the plan to deploy 2,500 Marines in Australia. There, they will be too far from any potential hotspot. The plan to move some Marines out of Okinawa should be cancelled.
  • Disperse its units, ships, and aircraft across a larger number of bases and harden at least the most important ones. Also, the runways at Andersen AFB on Guam should be repaired.
  • Cancel the European Phased Adaptive Approach (EPAA) to missile defense, which is essentially a gift from American taxpayers to Europe. It won’t protect the US, only Europe. The Europeans should provide for their own missile defense.
  • Deploy more ships, aircraft, and military units to allied countries in the Asia-Pacific, but not deploy them within 1000 kms of China to avoid putting them in the range of China’s short-range ballistic missiles. Okinawa should be the only exception to this rule. (One ship forward-deployed abroad, e.g. in Japan, is worth four warships based in the US.)
  • Deploy missile defense systems at Guam, in the Philippines, and in Texas.
  • The SBX radar should be permanently present in the Asia-Pacific to monitor China and North Korea.
  • The US should permanently base 1-2 frigates or other surface combatants (not LCSes) in Singapore to close the Malacca Strait (and thus deny China its oil supply) in case of war with China.
  • No bombers should be permanently based at Guam, as that island is already a target for both China’s and North Korea’s ballistic missiles.
  • All US troops based within 1,800 kms of Iran should be withdrawn from such bases.

In terms of weapon inventories and programs, the US should:

  • Maintain a large nuclear deterrent (no fewer than 5,000 warheads in total, including no fewer than 1,700 operationally deployed) to discourage Japan, South Korea, and other allies from going nuclear. The US also needs to publicly acknowledge the fact that China has at least 1,600-1,800, and quite possibly up to 3,000, nuclear warheads and 3,000 miles of tunnels in which to hide them and their delivery systems.
  • Speed up the development of the Next Gen Bomber, of a stealthy UCLASS carrier-capable drone, of the F/A-XX 6th generation fighter, and of the next-gen cruise missile (which should have a range of at least 2,000 kms). Also develop an electronic warfare/jamming variant of the UCLASS drone. Build at least 200 Next Gen Bombers. Retire the B-1 bomber as soon as possible.
  • Cut the carrier fleet to 9 while significantly increasing the submarine fleet and its missile launch capacity, and increasing its cruise missile inventory. All future Virginia class subs should be fitted with the Virginia Payload Module. USN subs and surface ships should also become able of rearming at sea.
  • Zero-time and structurally strengthen all P-3 Orion ASW aircraft, procure more P-8 Poseidon ASW planes if budgets allow, and equip all surface combatants with towed array sonar. Practice ASW hunting, including against advanced subs such as those of the Gotland, Scorpene, and Type 212 classes, frequently.
  • Field laser missile defense systems and EM railguns on surface combatants ASAP.
  • Stop procuring JASSM-ER missiles.
  • Develop a next-gen long-range air to air missile and equip it with active radar, IR-guided, and passive anti-radar homing seekers.
  • Retire all nonstealthy drones, as well as Global Hawk drones and C-27J cargo aircraft.
  • Make China the highest priority for the US intel community, collect whatever information can be gathered on it by any means, and routinely conduct cyberattacks against Chinese government networks, including and especially those of the PLA.
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