Think Strategically

I wanted to pass along the conclusion of strategist James Holmes’s reaction to China’s having tested a hypersonic missile system:

Such are the vagaries of strategy in the second nuclear age. More and more competitors of different shapes, sizes, and strategic cultures join the nuclear-weapons club, complicating the geometry of deterrence. And as newcomers join the club, oldtimers from the first nuclear age, a.k.a. the Cold War, ponder whether to reduce, hold static, or expand their nuclear inventories.

Asymmetry and complexity abound.

And yet. Strategy is a process of interaction among antagonists bent on imposing their will on rivals, preferably without resorting to armed force, but resorting to force should they feel driven to it. A seesaw, back-and-forth dynamic characterizes strategic competition as the parties to the competition try to outdo one another. China’s nuclear-capable hypersonic missile appears impressive from the sketchy information available to date.

There is no cause for panic. Let’s think strategically, allocate resources, and reply to the China challenge.

My own view is congruent with that but somewhat different. Walt Kelly said it best: we have met the enemy and he is us. I am a lot less concerned about the “China challenge” than Dr. Holmes and much more concerned about the forces within the United States that prevent us from doing the things we need to do. They extend from Ike’s “military-industrial complex” to the massive complex of social services NGOs which live one government grant to the next to business executives who refuse to employ sufficient digital security on their businesses’s networks because it would cost too much (in one way or another) or elect to move manufacturing facilities offshore to save a few pennies on the dollar to progressives in Congress for whom military spending is an impediment to their spending what they want to domestically to hawks who never met a challenge they didn’t want to apply military force to solve. That conflict is a multi-front one which will be difficult to wage.

4 comments… add one
  • jan Link

    More and more people are attributing china’s ability to have this advanced hypersonic technology to the Clintons, who traded it for donations to their Clinton Foundation coffers.

  • bob sykes Link

    China claims the test involved a reusable reentry vehicle like the Shuttle or X-37B and not a hypersonic missile. Whatever. Reentry vehicles have military uses, too, as the X-37B fully demonstrates. Even Shuttle launches were used for military missions.

    I think the more important tests were North Korea’s launching two ballistic missiles from a submerged submarine. North Korea is far more likely to pull the nuclear trigger than is China, which wants another generation of peaceful develop to raise up its remaining 600 peasants.

    But the real threat is the US itself, which continues to push hard on both Ukraine and Taiwan, both potential triggers for world war. The hubris of our own badly educated, stupid “elites” is the real threat of war.

  • I am a foreign policy realist which means I think that China, North Korea, and Ukraine all have national interests and will pursue them. So do we. IMO our national interests are viewed far too broadly these days.

  • steve Link

    Planefag does nice stuff on this. Old concept. Assuming we are as close to air breathing hypersonics as he thinks, his term, we are ahead of the Chinese in this area. Still, sounds like a bit cheaper and more flexible alternative for China.


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