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.