Friday, March 28, 2014

How Many Wars Should We Be Able to Fight?

We've reduced our ability to deploy forces down to one war's worth, as we define them. Do we pick Russia, China, North Korea, Iran, al Qaeda, or some enemy to be named later?

As Russia returns as a regional power, this article reminds us of the South China Sea:

The Chinese government speaks of the 1.35-million-square-mile South China Sea as a Chinese lake, "blue national soil" where its "indisputable sovereignty" extends over far-flung waterways and bits of land, even some that sit 50 miles from other nations' coasts but 1,000 miles from mainland China. Beijing has ratified the Law of the Sea Treaty limiting states' maritime sovereignty and economic rights, but in 2010 China's foreign minister insisted that the South China Sea is a "core national interest," adding: "China is a big country and other countries are small countries, and that is just a fact."

Yes. I've droned on about that region for some time, either as a region or in reference to Taiwan at the northern end.

We've abandoned the ability to fight more than one war at the same time. It wasn't so long ago that we thought our enemies had evaporated:

How much more money will it cost us to fight a single major war we can win at great cost over a long period of time than it costs to deter anyone from thinking they might win?

But what the Hell. Under Barack "Von Clausewitz" Obama, our global strategy has brilliantly neutralized Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, and al Qaeda so much that we can actually see the tide of war receding. Why would we possibly need the most powerful military in the world let alone the dominant military?

And after all, slashing our defense and avoiding blame are the only reasons Hagel is the nominee for Defense Department. Yes, we are truly and royally bucked.

Not that we've had a two-war standard for a long time. At best we had the ability to execute two wars in overlapping time frames. The model was win-hold-win. That is, win in one theater, hold in a second while we won the first war, and then win the second war by transferring forces to the second war.

Think of Iraq invading Kuwait and then North Korea invades South Korea. We'd win in Kuwait with a Desert Storm while stemming the North Korean advance, and then shift forces to counter-attack in South Korea and push the North Koreans north of the DMZ.

But now we don't even pretend to have that ability.

The better question is how many of our enemies or foes will choose wars to advance their interests, confident that there is another potential foe that we have to keep our military unengaged to face just in case, rather than stop their particular aggression?