America’s future wars: It is time to rethink our military strategy
NAPLES, FL: Preparing for our next war, military leadership is now ordering the weapons they believe will be necessary to be victorious. A look at that inventory clearly shows what they envision.
Planners expected to wage a short war against a peer or near-peer enemy, and are placing all their eggs into a very small basket of high technology weapons. In doing so they place our nation in peril because they are forgetting the lessons from past wars.
The history of the 20th Century American wars clearly shows us that our leadership needs to rethink their present war planning. Those plans are predicated on the use of high technology to obtain a quickly won victory. The realities do not indicate a short war or a quick victory against either China or Russia.
Looking back, the last war we won, unconditionally, was WWII.
That victory was possible only because of our ability to produce mass quantities of weapons expediently enough to outpace losses on the battlefield. For every great battle fought, and the bravery of the men fighting it, they could not have won if production at home did not provide them with the ships, planes, tanks, artillery, rifles, and ammunition needed to successfully fight those battles.
Almost all of those weapons were easy to manufacture. Today’s weapons are so full of technology that providing the electronics alone for a tank to interact with Air Force B-21’s, Navy F-35‘s and Marine or Army battlefield management systems to aim artillery or mortars, takes months to produce. (The F-35 Isn’t Enough: The Navy Needs A 6th-Generation Jet Fighter)
How do you replace battlefield losses?
While WWII weapons systems were well engineered and well made, they were mostly one step behind our adversaries in technology. Near the end of the war that changed to a degree, but not in the critical first half that made the difference between victory and defeat.
There are several examples, including the Sherman tank. That weapon could not compete with Germany’s tiger and leopard tanks, yet we beat those better weapons because we had so many more inferior Sherman tanks that we overpowered their superior weapons. In the end, it leads to their defeat.
There are many dynamics that caused Germany’s loss, but suffice it to say that they relied on technology to defeat us, while we beat them through mass production at home.
In the Pacific, the Japanese Zero fighter airplane was the terror of the sky.
It could literally fly rings around any fighters we had. Improved aerial combat tactics help to close the gap, but we were able to replace every P-40 Tomahawk and F4F Wildcat fighter we lost, and then some. By the time better Army and Navy fighters were introduced, Japan had lost so many experienced pilots and planes that they could not keep up with their losses. Again, mass production won over better technology.
In either example, it was American ingenuity that made the difference, not technology. And therein lies the problem facing our military planners today, overreliance on technology. Examples abound, but an incident from our space program best exemplifies our overreliance on technology.
At the height of the space race, recording events required writing notes. How to do so took two different approaches. The problem was how spacemen were going to log daily events in a zero-gravity environment. This was prior to tablets and personal computers.
American scientists developed a super zero gravity pen. It took over a year to ensure the ink would flow even if the pen were underwater, upside down, sideways, horizontal or vertical. It utilized a miniature compression system. The pen cost several million dollars to produce and sidetracked our space program in other engineering areas during its development.
On the other side of the world, the soviet counterparts involved in their space program encountered the very same problem. Their solution was to issue each cosmonaut a number 2 lead pencil. It performed equally as well as America’s multimillion-dollar zero gravity pen and didn’t set back their space program development a single day. America’s reliance on technology had begun with our space program.
Technology in combat
The combat role of technology was cemented in the minds of war planners at the conclusion of Gulf War I, when through the use of superior technology we defeated the fourth-largest standing military in the world in only 100 hours on the ground. That war saw the use of GPS, space and aerial real-time surveillance, command and control throughout the battlefield utilizing shared information networks for the first time in warfare.
Since then those systems have been upgraded and integrated into war planning so deeply, that today’s military leaders have lost sight of the realities of battle.
By preparing for a short, highly technological war, planners are neglecting contingencies of what happens after we have expended all of our expensive and very hard to reproduce highly technical weapons.
They have made no contingency plans, as is evidenced by the weapons they are ordering in the fiscal year 2020. The numbers of weapons ordered, or in supply today, are sufficient for a very short war only. Once those stocks are gone we are left with the choice of all-out nuclear war or defeat.
If war in the 20th Century has taught us anything, it is that we tend to underestimate our adversaries’ tenacity.
Vietnam is a prime example. During that conflict we ran out of gravity bombs, copper was in short supply at home due to the number of bullets expended, and to end the war we had to resort to WW II style strategic bombing. All contingencies that our generals have yet to address.
Today the majority of our bombs are smart or standoff that requires external guidance. Our ammunition production is limited to the point that any large government contract would stifle supply, as happened under Obama.
We do not have enough bombers in the Air Force to launch a single raid like those in operation Linebacker II in December 1972. The raid that ended the Vietnam War, let alone the numbers needed for a sustained campaign.
As wars drag on, replacing weapons to fight those war becomes more important than soldiers on the field, because without proper weapons they are no more than sheep to the slaughter. The need for planning a war fought with limited, or no technology must begin today.
It should have begun a decade ago.
Our next war will begin in space because it is the hub of all our over the horizon and standoff weapons as well as command and control. President Trump knows this and is why, over the objections of all the generals and admirals, he pressed forward creating the fifth branch of the armed forces, the United States Space Force.
Those same admirals and generals are the very same ones planning for future wars with peer forces.
In order to prepare for a conflict with China or Russia, we need to introduce weapons capable of waging war over an extended period on a massive scale, unless we want a nuclear war. The need for weapons that are simple, do not rely on high technology over long distances must be a part of our long-range planning. Call it a backup plan. So far the Pentagon has put all our eggs into a small basket of choices.
It is time to rethink our long-term military strategy. The consequences of not doing so are too frightening to contemplate.
About the author:
Joseph Ragonese is a veteran of the United States Air Force, a retired police officer, has a degree in Criminal Justice, a businessman, journalist, editor, publisher, and fiction author.