Many of the factors responsible for the fading of US military dominance are directly attributable to US actions and policy. From Federico Pieraccini at strategic-culture.org:
Starting from the presidency of George W. Bush to that of Trump, the U.S. has made some missteps that not only reduce its influence in strategic regions of the world but also its ability to project power and thus impose its will on those unwilling to genuflect appropriately.
Some examples from the recent past will suffice to show how a series of strategic errors have only accelerated the U.S.’s hegemonic decline.
ABM + INF = Hypersonic Supremacy
The decision to invade Afghanistan following the events of September 11, 2001, while declaring an “axis of evil” to be confronted that included nuclear-armed North Korea and budding regional hegemon Iran, can be said to be the reason for many of the most significant strategic problems besetting the U.S..
The U.S. often prefers to disguise its medium- to long-term objectives by focusing on supposedly more immediate and short-term threats. Thus, the U.S.’s withdrawal from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM Treaty) and its deployment of the Aegis Combat System (both sea- and land-based) as part of the NATO missile defense system, was explained as being for the purposes of defending European allies from the threat of Iranian ballistic missiles. This argument held little water as the Iranians had neither the capability nor intent to launch such missiles.
As long as Russia and the US can wipe each other out with nuclear weapons, Russia’s vaunted hypersonic weapons don’t really change the strategic calculus. From Michael Brenner at consortiumnews.com:
The West is out of practice when it comes to serious strategic appraisal of the U.S.-Russian arms race, writes Michael Brenner.
Part of an exhibition of advanced weapons and equipment that President Vladimir Putin visited in December 2019. (The Kremlin)
Deployment of Russia’s hyper-sonic missiles is causing heartburn in the West. Media headline the news as a dramatic breakthrough on a par with the first Sputnik. “Experts” are rushed into play like those self-styled pundits pronouncing when the initial exit polls appear on Election Day. Pentagon officials assure us that the United States is at the top of the nuclear game and able to respond to (if not exactly match) anything that the Russians can put out there.
Ninety eight percent of all this instant reaction is “fog-horning.” It simply signals that something big and important is out there even though we don’t have a clear picture of its actual shape or dimensions — or its significance. That’s normal. What counts is moving swiftly to the “searchlight” stage of close observation and hard thinking.
Whether analysts, official or otherwise, get there is problematic. We’re out of practice when it comes to serious strategic appraisal. After all, we’ve been flailing about in Afghanistan for almost two decades with no realistic aim or evaluation of the chances of achieving it by whatever means at whatever cost. The disorientation on Syria is even greater. There, we haven’t as much as figured out who are the “bad guys” and who are the “good guys” — except for ISIS.
Putin’s announcement of Russia’s new hypersonic weapons was met with disbelief in 2018. It’s now clear he wasn’t bluffing, and most of the weapons are now operational and flying at more than 5 times the speed of sound. The Avangard can travel at 27 times the speed of sound. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
It’s official: exactly one year after Putin oversaw the final test of Russia’s most advanced hypersonic weapon, on Friday a the intercontinental weapon that can fly 27 times the speed of sound became operational, Russia’s defense minister reported to President Vladimir Putin, bolstering the country’s unprecedented nuclear strike capability, one which the US has yet to match.
As AP reports, Russia’s Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu informed Putin that the first missile unit equipped with the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle entered combat duty.
“I congratulate you on this landmark event for the military and the entire nation,” Shoigu said later during a conference call with top military leaders.
The Avangard is launched atop an intercontinental ballistic missile, but unlike a regular missile warhead that follows a predictable path after separation it can make sharp maneuvers in the atmosphere en route to target, making it much harder to intercept.
Pepe Escobar reviews Andrei Martyanov’s book The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs and shares the books conclusion that technological developments in Russia and China will thwart the American empire. If this conclusion sounds like something you might have read on Straight Line Logic it is—see “The Illusion of Control, Part One,” by Robert Gore, posted almost three months ago. Escobar makes some good points, he’s just a little late to the party. From strategic-culture.org:
Andrei Martyanov’s latest book provides unceasing evidence about the kind of lethality waiting for U.S. forces in a possible, future war against real armies (not the Taliban or Saddam Hussein’s).
Once in a blue moon an indispensable book comes out making a clear case for sanity in what is now a post-MAD world. That’s the responsibility carried by “The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs,” by Andrei Martyanov (Clarity Press), arguably the most important book of 2019.
Martyanov is the total package — and he comes with extra special attributes as a top-flight Russian military analyst, born in Baku in those Back in the U.S.S.R. days, living and working in the U.S., and writing and blogging in English.
Right from the start, Martyanov wastes no time destroying not only Fukuyama’s and Huntington’s ravings but especially Graham Allison’s childish and meaningless Thucydides Trap argument — as if the power equation between the U.S. and China in the 21stcentury could be easily interpreted in parallel to Athens and Sparta slouching towards the Peloponnesian War over 2,400 years ago. What next? Xi Jinping as the new Genghis Khan?
(By the way, the best current essay on Thucydides is in Italian, by Luciano Canfora (“Tucidide: La Menzogna, La Colpa, L’Esilio”). No Trap. Martyanov visibly relishes defining the Trap as a “figment of the imagination” of people who “have a very vague understanding of real warfare in the 21st century.” No wonder Xi explicitly said the Trap does not exist.)
Posted in Book Reviews, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Governments, History, Imperialism, Military, Nonfiction, Technology, War
Tagged American empire, China, Hypersonic weapons, Russia
First it was Russia and now it’s China coming up with weapons that can probably end US military hegemony. From Scott Ritter at theamericanconservative.com:
Last week’s military parade previewed a series of game-changing weapons that could neutralize American seapower.
For decades, the United States has taken China’s ballistic missile capability for granted, assessing it as a low-capability force with limited regional impact and virtually no strategic value. But on October 1, during a massive military parade celebrating the 70th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China (PRC), Beijing put the U.S., and the world, on notice that this assessment was no longer valid.
In one fell swoop, China may have nullified America’s strategic nuclear deterrent, the U.S. Pacific Fleet, and U.S. missile defense capability. Through its impressive display of new weapons systems, China has underscored the reality that while the United States has spent the last two decades squandering trillions of dollars fighting insurgents in the Middle East, Beijing was singularly focused on overcoming American military superiority in the Pacific. If the capabilities of these new weapons are taken at face value, China will have succeeded on this front.
The US empire may be history’s last.
The illusion of control that has sustained the US’s nominal government and its behind-the scenes power since World War II is fading both at home and abroad. In many areas the US military is no longer unquestionably superior and in some is demonstrably inferior. As military prowess goes so goes the American empire. Amplifying the decline and compounding its severity are the US’s perilous finances, deteriorating economy, and mounting political unrest.
That US military power was never all it was cracked it up to be was apparent to astute observers after the Korean War, and was obvious after Vietnam. Possible escalation and humanity’s extinction precluded use of nuclear weapons. However, in both Korea and Vietnam local populations, with assistance from outside allies, withstood mind-boggling barrages of conventional bombs and munitions to gain in Korea a stalemate and in Vietnam a victory.
Vietnam demonstrated the difficulty for invaders of fighting determined insurgents using guerrilla tactics—usually labeled terrorism—defending their home territory. The insurgents know the territory and the language and often enjoy the covert support of the local, ostensibly non-combatant population. In Vietnam they also received covert and overt support from China and the USSR.
Posted in Collapse, Foreign Policy, Geopolitics, Governments, History, Imperialism, Insurrection, Military, Politics, Technology, Uncategorized, War
Tagged Andrei Martyanov, guerrilla warfare, Hypersonic weapons, Russia, US empire, Vladimir Putin
Hypersonic weapons will upend current war strategies. From R. Jeffry Smith at publicintegrity.org:
How hypersonic missiles — which travel at more than 15 times the speed of sound — are touching off a new global arms race that threatens to change the nature of warfare.
This story was published in partnership with The New York Times Magazine.
On March 6, 2018, the grand ballroom at the Sphinx Club in Washington was packed with aerospace-industry executives waiting to hear from Michael D. Griffin. Weeks earlier, Secretary of Defense James Mattis named the 69-year-old Maryland native as the Pentagon’s under secretary for research and engineering, a job that comes with an annual budget of more than $17 billion. So the dark-suited attendees at the McAleese/Credit Suisse Defense Programs Conference were eager to learn what type of work he would favor.
The audience was already familiar with Griffin, an unabashed defender of American military and political supremacy who has bragged about being labeled an “unreconstructed cold warrior.” With five master’s degrees and a doctorate in aerospace engineering, he was the chief technology officer for President Reagan’s Strategic Defense Initiative (popularly known as Star Wars), which was supposed to shield the United States against a potential Russian attack by ballistic missiles looping over the North Pole. Over the course of his career, he also wrote a book on space vehicle design, ran a technology incubator funded by the C.I.A., directed NASA for four years, and was employed as a senior executive at a handful of aerospace firms.
Griffin was known as a scientific optimist who regularly called for “disruptive innovation” and who prized speed above all. He had repeatedly complained about the Pentagon’s sluggish bureaucracy, which he saw as mired in legacy thinking. “This is a country that produced an atom bomb under the stress of wartime in three years from the day we decided to do it,” he told a congressional panel last year. “This is a country that can do anything we need to do that physics allows. We just need to get on with it.”
Here’s another one for the China-doesn’t-innovate-it-copies file. From Tyler Durden at zerohedge.com:
At Mach 5 (3,836 mph), a hypersonic vehicle enters a dense atmospheric layer, the ambient gas undergoes not only density change, but also a significant temperature increase. This physical-chemical reaction is associated with the flight speed is converted into heat and chemical energy, which is a considerable heat barrier that had researchers around the world scrambling for new materials that could withstand temperatures far higher than the melting point of metal.
It seems that researchers in central China, studying hypersonic heat transfer, a subdivision of aerodynamics that studies gas motion laws, have developed a non-carbon-based heat-resistance material for hypersonic flight, according to the Global Times.
The lead scientist, Fan Jinglian from Central South University in Central China’s Hunan Province, developed a composite of ceramics and refractory metals that can endure hypersonic flight at Mach 5-20 within the atmosphere for several hours, or temperatures of about 5,400 Fahrenheit.
Americans are in for their biggest technological shock regarding the Russians since Sputnik. From Gilbert Doctorow at antiwar.com:
To the vast majority of Americans, including the foreign policy establishment, the question posed in the title may seem something of a joke. After all, absolute military superiority over Russia and other potential rivals for global influence has been the objective of US military policy for the last twenty-five years or more, at vast budgetary expense. One instrument for its achievement has been the roll-out of a system known as the global missile defense, which in effect encircles Russia and China, posing the threat of massive simultaneous missile strikes that could overwhelm any defenses. To intelligence specialists at the Pentagon, who likely have been watching, as I have done, what the Kremlin disseminated earlier today in Russian only versions so far, the question of Moscow turning the tables is entirely serious and shocking.
When Vladimir Putin first publicly described Russia’s latest state-of-the-art weapons systems in development and deployment one year ago, during his 1 March 2018 Address to the bicameral legislature, he said these systems would ensure the re-establishment of full strategic parity with the United States. Western media sniggered. US politicians, with a very few exceptions, chose to ignore what they considered to be just domestic electioneering during a presidential campaign that Putin was expected to win handily. It was all a bluff, they said.
In his annual Address this past Wednesday, 22 February, President Putin expanded on those developments in armaments, reported which systems were now entering active service. He made it clear one of them is the planned Russian response to a likely consequence of US withdrawal from the Intermediate Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty: the stationing by the U.S. of nuclear armed cruise missiles like the Tomahawk on land and directed against Russia, all of which would reduce the warning time of incoming attack in Moscow to just 10–12 minutes and constitute an existential risk.
One day western elites will bitterly rue not paying attention to Vladimir Putin, or worse, disparaging everything he said. From Dmitry Orlov at russia-insider.com:
An article I published close to five years ago, “Putin to Western elites: Play-time is over”, turned out to be the most popular thing I’ve written so far, having garnered over 200,000 reads over the intervening years. In it I wrote about Putin’s speech at the 2014 Valdai Club conference. In that speech he defined the new rules by which Russia conducts its foreign policy: out in the open, in full public view, as a sovereign nation among other sovereign nations, asserting its national interests and demanding to be treated as an equal. Yet again, Western elites failed to listen to him.
Instead of mutually beneficial cooperation they continued to speak the language of empty accusations and counterproductive yet toothless sanctions. And so, in yesterday’s address to Russia’s National Assembly Putin sounded note of complete and utter disdain and contempt for his “Western partners,” as he has usually called them. This time he called them “swine.”
The president’s annual address to the National Assembly is a rather big deal. Russia’s National Assembly is quite unlike that of, say, Venezuela, which really just consists of some obscure nonentity named Juan recording Youtube videos in his apartment. In Russia, the gathering is a who’s-who of Russian politics, including cabinet ministers, Kremlin staffers, the parliament (State Duma), regional governors, business leaders and political experts, along with a huge crowd of journalists. One thing that stood out at this year’s address was the very high level of tension in the hall: the atmosphere seemed charged with electricity.