It's the United States and its subordinates (i.e. Canada, plus Europe, Japan and perhaps South Korea) in the White Hats versus Russia and China, the Black Hats.
The "PWS" or Permanent Warfare State has had nearly 20 years of the asymmetrical warfare, counter-insurgency and counter-terrorism business, at a cost to the treasury of many trillions of dollars and bugger all to show for it. Oh, ISIS is gone, really? You believe that? Why, because the Orange Bloat told you so? And, like, it was all America's doing?
You see all the King's horses and all the King's men have pretty much failed to deliver any significant, permanent victories. Those little bastards never fought fair. They didn't stand up and let us mow them down with our infantry brigades, our tanks and armoured vehicles, our artillery, our attack helicopters and strike fighters, our drones and heavy bombers, even salvos of submarine launched cruise missiles. So now it's time to move on.
US defense secretary, James Mattis, has rolled out his government's new National Defense Strategy.
Today, we are emerging from a period of strategic atrophy, aware that our competitive military advantage has been eroding. We are facing increased global disorder, characterized by decline in the long-standing rules-based international order—creating a security environment more complex and volatile than any we have experienced in recent memory. Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security.
China is a strategic competitor using predatory economics to intimidate its neighbors while militarizing features in the South China Sea. Russia has violated the borders of nearby nations and pursues veto power over the economic, diplomatic, and security decisions of its neighbors. As well, North Korea’s outlaw actions and reckless rhetoric continue despite United Nation’s censure and sanctions. Iran continues to sow violence and remains the most significant challenge to Middle East stability. Despite the defeat of ISIS’s physical caliphate, threats to stability remain as terrorist groups with long reach continue to murder the innocent and threaten peace more broadly.
China and Russia now move to the top of the enemies heap, followed by North Korea and Iran. This is the grand pivot away from insurgencies and terrorism toward peer-on-peer conflict, the good old "drang und sturm" warfare.
Here's a little something that should get your panties in a bunch. In this new/old era of warfare we're embarking upon, one of the major contested playgrounds will be our own backyard, the Arctic. Like it or not, Putin has poured in a load of personnel and resources into re-militarizing the Arctic. And Russia is not alone. China also wants in and claims it has a legitimate right to maintain a permanent and powerful military presence in the Arctic. China has even argued that standard Law of the Sea rules over seabed resources do not apply in the Arctic suggesting they figure to take whatever they can extract. Just sayin'.
Do we really want Trump's Pentagon to take the lead in defending Canada's Arctic territorial sovereignty? This is the guy who still maintains that the US should have taken Iraq's oil in tribute for toppling Saddam Hussein. It's bad enough having to worry about Russia's military build up and China's adventurism without having the avaricious Orange Sphincter looking over our shoulder, breathing down our necks.
One more thing. Secretary Mattis' defense strategy describes China as a "strategic competitor." That brings to mind an opinion piece published several months ago in Proceedings, the journal of the United States Naval Institute. The author, a USN officer, lamented that the United States might be overtaken by China "without a fight."
The implication was that America has some solemn duty to militarily contest the ascendancy of rivals, economic or political. The growth of Chinsa's economic and geopolitical prowess was, in effect, a casus belli. This is in keeping with the manifesto of the now-defunct Project for the New American Century (from which Bush's key administration posts were filled) as later embodied in the Bush Doctrine.
The growing chorus of bellicosity sent me in search of the historical record of a dominant power confronted with an ascendant equal or, worse, a successor. There have been a number of instances of this, not a lot but several. I wanted to know how many of these transitions occurred peacefully. Apparently about a third, which is probably a remarkable figure, did not lead to war. The other two thirds were marked by armed conflict.
Given all the circumstances in play today - the rivalries, the arms races, the thinly-veiled bellicosity, the decline in American power and prestige, the rise of the Chinese economic and Russian military rivals, the new contested 'front lines' in the Arctic, Africa, Asia and the Middle East, the loss of American purpose and rationality, and now the realignment of American military posture to peer-on-peer warfare, I think there's reason to worry and not that far into the future either.