Sun Tzu advocates knowing your enemy. The same principle applies between nations and now, stateless organizations. So who are the enemies of the US? Some say China, Russia, Iran, nKorea, ISIS (remnants reforming in Africa), and as Captain Reneau in Casablanca would say, “the usual suspects.”
But are they really enemies? What distinguishes enemies from competitors and countries vying for dwindling resources and national self-respect? What threats, if any, do these countries pose to our Constitutional Republic?
If we are concerned about a land invasion by armed forces of an “enemy” that is pretty far-fetched. The Canadians are too nice and the Mexicans do not want to destroy the gravy train! Land armies in quantities sufficient to be a threat cannot get here without somebody noticing. Ships bearing the thousands or millions of soldiers necessary to attack will be pretty visible and vulnerable to our land, air, and sea-based weapons [remember the Brits sailing to attack the Falklands reported nightly on TV].
Let’s digress for a moment though. Can you imagine the lunacy of a nation declaring it would not be a first strike user of WMDs? Part of Sun Tzu’s philosophy is dedicated to deception. Whether a country can morally use WMDs is a separate argument from making your enemies believe you would. The enemy must think we will use any means at our disposal to defend our nation. Taking anything off the diplomatic table without a quid pro quo is moronic (although we have historic precedent to prove we are not exempt from that trait). Unilateral disarmament telegraphs weakness to the enemy and suggests that one does not have the iron will necessary to win. We must never declare we will not use every method and weapon at our disposal to defend our nation.
So, back to our discussion of an invasion of the homeland [to distinguish the Nazis’ “Fatherland” and the Russians’ “Mother Russia”]. A sea-based assault is beyond doomed. A force of the requisite size necessary to attack the US mainland would be highly vulnerable to attack thousands of miles from our shores. The same reasoning applies to any Russian armies massing in Siberia across the Bering Sea from Alaska [besides Sarah Palin would see them coming and alert us].
Enemy air forces are more of a threat from land forces because of the shorter reaction times, but again, our detection capabilities and anti-air defenses are formidable. Besides, it would take so many bombers or transports that they would be an inkblot on radars and satellites. Bombers, at least manned bombers are passé, to much risk for such a small reward. Remotely piloted or suicide bombers would pose a greater threat, but our country is huge, it would not be adequate to defeat us [Note to USAF – manned bombers are obsolete, spending billions does not make them relevant].
Now ICBMs are a definite concern, but we would have a certain amount of time, between 20 and 30 minutes to employ air and sea defenses, but it could be messy. Besides, ICBMs are technically not an invasion, it may be invasive, but not an invasion. If we devote adequate defenses to the air, seas, and sub-sea surrounding our nation, we are virtually free from conventional attack.
Presently, there is no enemy that can invade (border caravans notwithstanding) the US, even with China establishing a toehold in Central and South America. The threats are from space and asymmetrical warfare. Huge armies, navies, and air forces are little match for asymmetrical warfare. The threats we face are from cyber warfare, space-based weapons, and satellites since they travel at terminal velocities. Russia, China, and India have the capability to conduct space operations that could be dangerous for the US [missiles launched from satellites would get here muy pronto].
Therefore, the US should devote its current resources to the construction of territorial defenses for the air, sea, and sub-sea lines of attack against the US, which can be immediately accomplished by reorganizing our military strategic and tactical operational plans. We have stuff.
Asymmetrical warfare is similar to war in different dimensions. Through the dimension of cyber warfare, the enemy attacks silently and stealthily through the airways and commutation lines with electrons and also the kinetic application of electrons with a concentrated wallop!
The enemy can also attack through terrorism against soft targets (i.e., civilians, infrastructure, transportation, and banking) or military targets, but most terrorism is directed against non-combatants to frighten and obstruct the norms of life. Attacks on military targets are executed to draw a response that in modern nations constitute the deployment of forces, curtailment of activities, and demonstration that even the military is vulnerable. The destruction of ISIS demonstrates the horror of terrorism but its vulnerability to modern warfare.
Lastly, the last frontier, space provides the most vulnerable area of operations to all nations. The militarization of space allows enemies to conduct offensive warfare in both the asymmetrical dimension and kinetic spectrums. Developing and deploying anti-satellite weapons can render a country that is dependent upon satellites for communications, navigation, spying, and defending space virtually blind and speechless. Satellites have become an integral part of our civil and military establishments. Space must be defended because the destruction of satellites or the launch of kinetic weapons from space will have serious consequences on the victim.
Anyone with a computer can potentially inflict cyber damage. Also, a determined enemy that is willing to die can successfully carry out terror attacks, including EMP (electro-magnetic pulse) weapons that are cyber but on a kinetic level.
We can still keep a rotation of carrier battle groups to project power, but increasingly such formations become targets to kinetic and hypersonic weapons. Placing large numbers of Americans at risk as a show of force is extravagant. Furthermore, if we stop “projecting military power” and focus on economic power projection, we will stir-up fewer enemies. Just because we got a big stick doesn’t mean we got to show it to everybody!
Increasingly the world will evolve into zones of interest or spheres of interest driven by resources and trade, but the Islamic world is a serious threat to Eastern and Western societies alike. Either Islam has a “come to Jesus” moment and seeks to co-exist with the world or it will face destruction through starvation and mismanagement – Africa is the current model for that. As the world’s dependence on Mid East oil lessens, the power brokers of Islam will become marginalized in their own countries and prisoners of their own religion.
The reader may note the omission of a discussion of land forces. That is because robots will fight future warfare and drone swarms. We will require special operations forces for those times when only slashing throats and seizing hostages will do. We will continue to need an expeditionary, integrated force, the Marines (bias admitted) to kick-down doors and rescue Americans, but future wars will not require thousands of war-fighters. They are too vulnerable. Once objectives have been seized and there is a need to occupy, send the Army, but a much smaller, reorganized, lighter, and more lethal Army.
What about Europe? Maintaining large conventional forces for the defense of Europe makes no sense. The great landmass of the steppes of Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia will provide adequate warning of a build-up of Russian conventional forces and their movement west. The defense of Europe will rest with light infantry, close air support, robots, drone swarms, and WMDs. Cyber is the greatest threat to Europe because of the civil strife it can cause by disabling banking, transportation, and food distribution. Even Russia itself could again become the target from the south, the east and the west in a quest for its vast natural resources.
The future of warfare is rapidly advancing, and a new look at war and international relations must follow suit. The targets are big, but the weapons are small. The future of warfare is cyber, and we had better start addressing our vulnerabilities and build adequate forces to defend against the asymmetrical enemy of the not so distant future.
Semper fi, Colonel sends