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Thinking outside the base regarding China

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By Bill Costello

The U.S. military needs to reinvent itself. If it continues to hold on to antiquated paradigms, U.S. national security could be at risk.

Consider what’s happening in China. The nation’s rapidly growing economy has enabled it to significantly increase its military budget. Over the past decade, China’s military-related spending has roughly doubled.

In a recent issue of Foreign Policy, Nobel Prize-winning economist Robert Fogel predicted that China’s GDP will reach $123 trillion by 2040. He also predicted that the U.S.’s share of global GDP will be roughly one third that of China’s. If China’s GDP surpasses that of the U.S., then it’s very likely that China’s military budget will also surpass that of the U.S.

Admiral Robert Willard, the leader of the U.S. Pacific Command, said the modernization of the Chinese military has occurred faster than U.S. intelligence predicted, and his greatest concern about China is “the uncertainty with regard to the military power that they’ve developed over the past year, which they’ve developed at an unprecedented rate.”

China’s military is taking a hybrid approach to military readiness by investing in both traditional and asymmetric military capabilities. Traditional capabilities include combined arms forces, combat intelligence, and nuclear weapons. Asymmetric capabilities include electronic warfare, computer network attacks, and anti-satellite operations.

China’s military still has a long way to go to catch up to the traditional capabilities of the U.S., which is why it’s leveraging its position by also investing in asymmetric capabilities. Asymmetric weapons are generally used to counter military superiority by forces weaker than their adversaries in traditional capabilities. Rather than playing to an enemy’s strengths, asymmetric weapons exploit an enemy’s weaknesses.

For example, destroying U.S. satellites would make the nation more vulnerable to attacks. China demonstrated this capability in 2007 when it launched an anti-satellite missile that destroyed one of its own satellites.

The concept of “hybrid warfare” is not unique to China. Hezbollah has been successfully using it against the Israeli Defense Forces for years. Michele Flournoy, U.S. under secretary of defense for policy, said, “We can expect to see more hybrid conflicts in which the enemy combines regular warfare tactics with irregular and asymmetric forms of warfare.”

Despite this acknowledgement, the U.S. military is still heavily invested in traditional capabilities and not prepared to meet the asymmetric challenges. This situation is analogous to the creation of the Maginot Line, which was a massive line of concrete fortifications France constructed along its borders after World War I to keep enemies out. The fortification system was considered impenetrable. So instead of assaulting the Maginot Line directly, the Germans simply went around it in 1940 to attack France.

The U.S.’s superiority in traditional capabilities is a modern-day Maginot Line that adversaries can avoid by using asymmetric weapons. In the interest of national security, the U.S. military needs to rethink the strategic mindset dominated by traditional capabilities. It needs to focus on developing superiority in asymmetric capabilities while maintaining its current traditional capabilities.

This shift in thinking becomes increasingly important as China’s military budget continues to rise with the nation’s economy. If it surpasses the U.S.’s military budget, the U.S. risks losing superiority in traditional capabilities. At that time, asymmetric capabilities will be more important than ever to the U.S.

The U.S.’s massive debt — which poses a national security problem, not just an economic one — increases the likelihood that China’s military budget will surpass that of the U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates recently said, “We can’t have a strong military if we have a weak economy.”

Instead of planning to fight past wars, the U.S. military needs to prepare for future ones. To do this, it needs to start “thinking outside the base” so it can reinvent itself.

Bill Costello, M.Ed., is a U.S.-based education columnist, blogger, and author of "Awaken Your Birdbrain: Using Creativity to Get What You Want." He can be reached at www.makingmindsmatter.com.

© Japan Today

©2021 GPlusMedia Inc.

13 Comments
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We need to bring the U.S. Military and taxes to pre-WWI levels.

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In principle this article is quite sound. But there are several considerations that may impact China's capacity for world domination.

Unrest: Division between haves and have nots is likely to lead to unrest and problems in China for years to come.

Decling global oil reserves: Peak oil will retard both China and India's growth. The cost of diminishing reserves is likely to make stellar growth for both unsustainable.

Politics: How long can China be state capitalist and openly capitalist without political upheaval?

Finally, corporates. We owe China's rapid climb to the will of corporations and consumers. Corporations looking for cheap labor and new frontiers to exploit are undermining the economic power of their home countries. Equally consumers demanding cheap products have created both trade and economic issues.

Stop consuming cheap goods and press companies to hire at home. This will slow China as well. This will happen anyway as workers in China demand more money and benefits, the cost of their products will rise and the less desirable they will become for the cheap products world. We have seen this in the earlier rounds of globalization.

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Or we can attack China while we still have an advantage :)

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I will definitely ponder on this issue from my bamboo solar powered porch in Costa Rica in 2040 as a geezer. Perhaps I will see a Chinese aircraft carrier off the coast with the whales (if any left)- hardly unlikely to see Chinese Top Guns- what a scary thought- Mavelick, Goose and Chin in the danger zone! China is an economic disaster with 2 billion gimme gimme in the pot.

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Elephunk, let me grab you a parachute and some guns. I'm sure I can arrange for you to be dropped off somewhere in China and maybe you can update your daily blog on how you're kicking the PLA's arses, k?

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I do not believe the US can significantly change the military developments paradigm it has pursued for several decades (re: former Pres. Eisenhower's Farewell Speech - the US has done what he warned about). Nor do I think the PRC would be pursuing the path the US has gone - history is replete of failures. Only certain types of powers pursue massive military growth.

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Interesting commentary, but obviously without a lot of thought. Hezbollah has not been successful against Israel, as Israel was pressured by the international community to stop. "Hybrid warefare" was developed by the US pre-WWII, and has been highly refined. Who is this commentator, and why does he think he has any qualifications to make these kinds of speculations?

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Thee points:

The U.S. shouldn't be too complacent. While their troops are better trained and more experienced it won't take China long to catch up. Also China has made lots of allies in Africa and is heavily invested in South Africa, which has Armscor, one of the top developers of military hardware in the world, so China's hardware will soon be on at least the same level as the US's.

The U.S. has ignored sovereignty in all of its modern conflicts and has set a very dangerous precedent that basically "might makes right". This will come back to haunt them when China has the might that makes their aggression right, and the U.S. will have no-one to blame but themselves.

At the end of the day military conflict is secondary to economic conquest. If one examines the U.S.'s recent conflicts they've all be centered around securing resources such as oil, mining rights, etc. Should China pursue a similar strategy... well, start studying Mandarin everyone.
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We're being invaded now. Mexican drug lords are seizing vast tracks of land in the American southwest.

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"China’s military is taking a hybrid approach to military readiness by investing in both traditional and asymmetric military capabilities. Traditional capabilities include combined arms forces, combat intelligence, and nuclear weapons. Asymmetric capabilities include electronic warfare, computer network attacks, and anti-satellite operations." Why makes the author think the U.S. isn't thinking along the same lines? Because I'm sure they aren't ignoring this. It's a question how much to spend and the quality of the research. And I would put the quality of U.S. research up against China's. research up against Chh

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Or we can attack China while we still have an advantage :)

will you be the first to sign up for front line duty?

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Well, basically, it all is very simple:

"The US and China: One Side is Losing, the Other is Winning"

http://www.lahaine.org/petras/b2-img/petras_china.pdf

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As long as the military of China can enslave/control the populace and tax them at the highest rate possible you should not have to many domestic issues. The real fight will be for resources including food for 1B+. Right now China is doing an A+ job going after resources. China also is doing a good job with wind/solar/hydro (free) energy.

Again: Feeding a 1B+ growing populace is difficult. -Even Japan cannot feed its' own much smaller population.

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