Tuesday, January 23, 2018

It's Back to the Good Old Days of War Fighting

It's the White Hats versus the Black Hats again, the good old days before the Berlin Wall came down.

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.


Toby said...

Back in the fifties I occasionally read comments in American publications in which politicians and/or business types referred to "our" (meaning American) resources in what was then called the Dominion of Canada. There was never any sense or indication that Canada had any right to these resources be they uranium, aluminum, oil, copper, lumber, water or whatever. It struck me at the time that the US would righteously invade Canada any time it decided that its access to its resources were being impeded.

In any dispute in the Arctic we can be sure that the Americans would defend what they believe to be their resources. In such a case we can expect to see the Canadian Arctic become effectively an American one with permanent military bases. Manifest Destiny is not dead.

Jay Farquharson said...

The Canadian Arctic is shallow, strewn with islands and reefs, and subjected to prevailing winds and storms, and rapidly shifting ice packs.

The Russian Arctic is deep, has few reefs or islands, rarely has icepacks closing off navigation, and the landmass shields the sea from much of the prevailing winds and storms.

The NorthEast Passage also lies astride the currently developing trade routes, while the treacherous NorthWest Passage is a 1500 nm detour.

The One Belt, One Road project will leave much of North America an economic backwater like Austro Hungary in the 1900's.

Anonymous said...

I have read about the North East passage but never 'fully' understood it's implications.
Perhaps this will help..


With western manufacturing becoming important to only itself , this trade route has huge implications.

This is the Panama canal or Suez canal of the twenty first century.


The Mound of Sound said...

This isn't about shipping lanes but access to and control of seabed resources which lie at the heart of Russia's claim to the north pole. China likewise aspires to grab a share of those seabed resources and seems willing to challenge traditional boundaries if necessary.

The military dimensions of the Arctic encompass both the resource aspects and the Cold War issues.

I think it's a bit premature to imagine the northeast passage as some death knell to the North American economy. Should that happen it could be one factor but only one of several.

Jay Farquharson said...

Aside from fish, oil and gas, there's not a lot of "exploitation" of seabed resources,


and Arctic fishing, well,


Summer weather conditions will probably become more unpredictable with worse storms due to the heat/energy factors.

With the window closing on viable ice roads, and drunken forests, melting permafrost and methane sinks, supplying the Arctic overland is going to become harder, not easier.

Similar weather conditions will also make air and surface marine operations harder, and will barge operations even be viable or will we have to dredge and canalize the rivers?

Are "fighting" Icebreakers even viable in an environment of AD/AC hypersonic missiles?

Nuke subs will still be viable, in the deepwater channels, but they're not along the Canadian Arctic Coast.

The "Great Game" will still be in the 'stan's, the Balkan's, the Middle East and North Africa, to prevent the One Belt, One Road link up, and along the Chinese Coast, as China continues to try to create a protected coastal shipping lane to the Persian Gulf, behind their island chains.


Trailblazer said...

The future of weapons is here and it's scary.
Forget your F35's and nuclear submarines.
This is precision strike at it's pinnacle.