The United States is going to lose the next major war. That’s what the U.S. Navy’s top enlisted sailor, Senior Chief Gunner’s Mate Norman Mingo, assessed about the Navy’s tactical capabilities. According to him, “The Navy is prepared for inspections, not war.”
Norman Mingo’s analysis is hardly unique these days.
In fact, across the United States armed forces there’s a collection of disturbing reports indicating breakdowns in training, practices, standards and capabilities — all of which could result in America getting beaten by one of its great power rivals in war.
The Department of Defense has rightly identified the People’s Republic of China as the No. 1 near-peer strategic competitor that the United States will face in the years ahead. Already, China’s seemingly inexorable rise has disrupted the international order. As China continues to exert its increased power and influence around the world, conflicts between itself and the existing superpower, the United States, are coming to the fore.
China’s National People’s Congress (NPC) recently announced Beijing’s intention to increase China’s defense spending by 6.8% and to focus their society and economy on becoming the dominant technology and economic power over the next decade. Beyond that, China’s autocratic President Xi Jinping asserted that his military “must be prepared to respond to difficult situations.” Mr. Xi further articulated China’s need for “high-level strategic deterrence and a joint combat system.”
China’s threat to the United States and its allies is only increasing. This, at a time when the United States appears unable to respond to China’s growing challenge.
“The United States does not have the qualification to say that it wants to speak to China from a position of strength,” crowed China’s Politburo member, Yang Jiechi, to the U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at a recent, contentious summit between delegates from China and the United States in Alaska.
The U.S. military is at one of its weakest points in history.
America’s armed forces are unable to adequately defeat terrorists or to extricate itself from Afghanistan — after 20 years. The U.S. military has not deterred either North Korea or Iran in their mad quest to acquire nuclear weapons with which to threaten their neighbors.
Meanwhile, the Defense Department cannot contain either China or Russia. American forces are spread thin throughout the world, being pushed to their breaking point. Military suicides are up, too. There’s much strain being placed on the military’s equipment. Further, Congress refuses to do anything about this sad state of affairs.
This is what a spent force looks like.
Should a conflict erupt between the United States and China, it is believed that the first battles will be waged in the seas nearest to China’s shores. But what happens if U.S. forces can’t get close enough to where the fighting takes place?
Beijing has invested heavily in weapons systems that could prevent the United States military from using force against their territory in what’s known as “Anti-Access/Area-Denial” (A2/AD) capabilities. China’s military has also developed a radical strategy for denying the Americans access to critical satellite constellations in what’s known as “counterspace” capabilities. China also has long-range ballistic missiles capable of tracking and destroying US Navy aircraft carriers.
According to a 2020 report, U.S. Navy shipyards are unable to meet the Navy’s demand for building at least three Virginia-class submarines per year. In any war with China, most strategists believe that submarines will play a decisive role. Yet, the Navy does not have enough of them nor can the Navy build enough submarines.
It’s not only the Navy that is struggling.
The Air Force has sunk more than $1 trillion over a decade on the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter which continues to prove that it was not worthy of the massive investment. The Army can’t win the ground wars it fights anymore. The newly formed Space Force, which was intended to prevent a space Pearl Harbor, has yet to develop effective countermeasures for protecting America’s satellites — or for threatening the satellites of America’s enemies.
The Biden administration must quickly address these well-known weaknesses of the U.S. military. Mr. Biden’s team must work with Congress to strengthen those weaknesses at all costs. America cannot wait to address these glaring military weaknesses. After all, weakness is provocative whereas strength deters. The more enfeebled America appears to its rivals, the more likely that war will begin — and the more likely it is that U.S. forces will be defeated.
Great powers like the United States don’t stay great if their rivals think America can be beaten. Why else would China act as they’ve been? Let’s not find out if China is right.
• Brandon J. Weichert is the author of “Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower” (Republic Book Publishers). He manages The Weichert Report: World News Done Right and can be followed via Twitter @WeTheBrandon.