The United States has the most powerful military in the world by a wide margin but routinely “gets its ass handed to it” in simulated wars. The problem may get even worse.
By Michael Beckley
Foreign Policy (11/20/19)
For most of its history, the United States has had the luxury of fighting its wars from safe havens. No major international battles have taken place on the continental United States in more than two centuries, and its offshore territory has not suffered a serious attack since Japan bombed Pearl Harbor in World War II. For the past few decades, even U.S. bases on foreign soil have faced few conventional military threats.
The unprecedented immunity has enabled a particular American way of war that involves massive assaults launched from nearly invulnerable and geographically removed sanctuaries. In recent wars in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, and Serbia, for example, the U.S. military used secure bases and logistics networks stretching from the U.S. heartland to the enemy’s borders. From these vast safe spaces, the military was able to pick its battles strategically and churn out air and missile strikes with industrial efficiency. As a result, the outcomes of the immediate wars—if not their aftermaths—were never in doubt.
In future wars, however, new technologies may enable rival great powers, such as China and Russia, to carry out precise and devastating attacks on U.S. military bases and logistics networks, even including those located within the United States itself. Advances in the fields of aerospace, robotics, machine learning, 3D printing, and nanomaterials are creating new classes of missiles and lethal drones that can be launched discreetly, travel great distances, and hamstring massed forces—all for a fraction of the cost of traditional manned weapons.
New hypersonic missiles, for example, combine the speed and range of ballistic missiles with the maneuverability and accuracy of cruise missiles. Unmanned aerial vehicles and underwater gliders have achieved transoceanic range. Algorithms can coordinate swarms of more than 1,000 drones. Carbon 3D printers can produce 1,000 drone bodies a day for less than $10 per copy, and nanomaterials can equip drones with warheads that are twice as powerful as conventional explosives.
The diffusion of these technologies will render the United States’ current way of war obsolete. Armed with large and growing arsenals of long-range missiles and armed drones, China and Russia are increasingly capable of denying the U.S. military operational sanctuary. …
(Commoner Call cartoon by Mark L. Taylor, 2018. Open source and free for non-derivative use with link to www.thecommonercall.org )