Defining Defense Down

Across the spectrum of military technologies, the U.S. is losing its edge as competitors gain ground.

This, combined with America’s failure to build its own fortified islands in the South China Sea and line their shores with a gauntlet of antishipping missiles, will amount to the de facto surrender of international waters to a covetous competitor.

.. If the U.S. cedes international waters, watches as parts of Europe fall away (as in Crimea and the Donbas), deploys a defenseless fleet, and by default opens vulnerabilities in its nuclear deterrent, the international system will shatter as allies defect to rivals for whom American capitulationists will arise to do the rivals’ bidding and adopt their principles. We have seen the dawn of such things in the Iran deal, “strategic patience,” apology tours and fundamental transformation.

.. it isn’t merely a question of money but of its proper allocation, of strategic clarity and of political will. According to Rep. Adam Smith (D., Wash.), “We are not in a position to have the defense budget that a lot of people envision when they start spelling out these nightmare scenarios.”
.. But that is not all. The unremediated military decline in relation to potential enemies is the cause of a dangerous alteration in doctrine, which in itself is a form of early, if unconscious, appeasement. The new doctrine is expressed by Gen. John Raymond, chief of Air Force Space Command, who stated in April that the U.S. will respond to an attack on its assets in space “at a time, place, manner, and domain of our choosing.” He called this “a huge change in our overall strategy,” and it is.
.. These are admissions that the U.S. cannot proportionally and equally defend itself in space, cyber, and response to tactical nuclear weapons except through the threat of escalation and intrusion into other domains. At the beginning of the nuclear age, American withdrawal of conventional forces in Europe led to reliance on strategic nuclear weapons as a response to Soviet invasion. As the Soviets acquired their own nuclear arsenal, doctrine matured and it became obvious that a flexible response, restricted as much as possible to matching methods and means of the challenge, was necessary to avoid disastrous escalation.
.. As Michael Griffin, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for research and engineering, succinctly warns, if the U.S. fails to shape up in regard to, for example, defense against hypersonics alone, China and Russia will “hold at risk our carrier battle groups . . . our entire surface fleet . . . our forward deployed forces and land-based forces,” with the only choice “either to let them have their way or go nuclear.”
.. Thus the U.S. will have put itself in the position of Russia, which has continued the promiscuous and dangerous Soviet nuclear doctrines upon which it relies because of weakness in its conventional forces and a dearth of “soft” powers. In short, American failures in vigilance may force a doctrinal step up the escalation ladder, and a step back into a more perilous nuclear age.
.. Save for the near miracles of ingenuity that have in the past served the U.S. so well, the only way to prevent this is with a massive, properly directed, long-overdue infusion of funds that will allow us to avoid the knife edge of risk upon which otherwise we will soon be dancing.