America’s Next War

The US has been engaged in war for the last three decades.

Big Red Car here on a fallish Texas day, fallish meaning it will not be 90F today.

So, today, we talk about our next war. There is war on the horizon, y’all. It will be a vastly different war than recent ones.

Let’s review where we’re been.

 1. In the Gulf War — 2 August 1990 to 28 February 1991 — a US led coalition of thirty-five nations extricated Saddam Hussein’s Iraq from Kuwait. The war was subdivided into Operation Desert Shield (the build up of forces from 2 August 1990 to 17 January 1991) and Desert Storm (combat operations from 17 January to 28 February 1991). The war was decided much quicker than the dates indicate. We left that war with Saddam Hussein still in charge of Iraq, but with his army on the edge of destruction. We did not follow his defeated army to Baghdad.

American armor outclassed the Iraqi armor in an unequal match based on military equipment alone. Our gunnery and target acquisition capabilities were far superior to our enemies. We controlled the air. We jammed the enemies ability to communicate.

 2. In the Iraq War (the Second Gulf War) — 20 March 2003 Operation Iraqi Freedom was launched and the American involvement in Iraq didn’t end until 2011. Again, American warfighting capabilities destroyed an inferior army in short order.

In the wake of this war, ISIS was spawned in the void we left when the US withdrew its troops and failed to obtain a SOFA (status of forces agreement) to provide for a long term security element.

 3. In the Afghanistan War — October 2001 to the present — the US punished the Taliban for shielding Osama bin Laden and for hosting terror training camps. The war continues to this day.

The role of Pakistan as a safe harbor has never been adequately addressed though it has finally been acknowledged.

 4. In the War on Terror, we mark its inception with the terror attack on the World Trade Towers and the Pentagon on 11 September 2001. That war continues. The term “War on Terror” was first used by the US on 20 Aeptember 2001.

 5. In 2004, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi established al Qaeda in Iraq (AQI), the precursor to ISIS which term is first used in 2006. Since then, we have been at war with them in Iraq and Syria. ISIS became a world wide threat and continues to this day.

OK, Big Red Car, WTF?

The reason we take such trouble to relate the wars we fought and are currently fighting, is to assess the capabilities of our military and what the requirements might be going forward.

These were fairly small engagements in which US military expertise and combined arms (ground forces, armor, artillery, air power, naval power, regular forces, special forces) have always been capable of carrying the day.

These engagements have been small unit actions rarely elevated beyond the battalion level though in the Gulf Wars the US fought with divisions deployed. The actual combat actions were smaller.

What has happened to the US military establishment is a focus on small engagements, local lethality, and a knowledge that we always had the battlefield advantage in intelligence, communication, firepower, and troops.

There is no Taliban force which can go toe-to-toe with a Ranger company or a company of Marines. The Marines are extraordinary warfighters.

The job of the infantry is to “find ’em, fix ’em, kill ’em.” In that regard when American troops find and fix an enemy unit (fixing meaning pinning them to a location from which they cannot escape), we have had no problem destroying them. It has been decidedly one sided.

The next war will not be the same.

The next war, Big Red Car?

The next war will kick off with a cyber attack to damage US battlefield communications. It will attempt to destroy the ability of the Pentagon to communicate with troops in the field while destroying air traffic control, the supply chain, location information, intelligence gathering and transmission, and every aspect of warfare that is digital. It will knock out GPS.

At the same time, a similar attack will attempt to blind US surveillance capabilities starting with satellites, drones, and air surveillance. Pictures which exist will be destroyed before they can be transmitted to places where they can be analyzed.

Our next adversary will be as good as we are when it comes to digital warfare and they will strike first. They will not wait for us to declare war.

The next war will be fought by much bigger units. This is particularly troubling at a time when we have contracted our Army, Marines to absurd pre-WWII levels. Our reliance upon Reserves and National Guard will penalize us as these units cannot mobilize quickly enough. The war is likely to be over before we can get them to the battlefield.

We will have navies involved which will find themselves vulnerable in a manner they have never contemplated. US aircraft carrier battle groups will find themselves assailed by missiles which can fly further than their shipbound aircraft can fly to protect them and return. A cruise missile will fly at wavetop altitude and come from an unlikely direction and slam into an aircraft carrier at or below the water line.

These missiles may be nuclear. Carriers will find themselves vulnerable to these attacks 24/7 and when they are faced into the wind to launch or recover their aircraft, the enemy will strike.

The US Navy will own the top of the ocean and the depths, but will not, initially, own the air above it. I am talking missiles here, not conventional aircraft.  There will be massive losses at the beginning of the war. Retaliation by the US will be swift and violent, but it will be too late to stop the first wave of such attacks.

The next war will be infinitely more violent than anything we have seen since World War II. When an enemy force is able to fix an American unit, they will destroy it with this heightened level of violence. They will destroy the ability for American units engaged in fights to be resupplied. They will attack the front line and the logistics channels simultaneously.  A soldier with no water, food, ammunition, medical care is ineffective.

Holy smokes, Big Red Car!

This how the next war will start and how it will be fought, but the US will still have huge advantages. We will have the ability to strike back with the same level of lethality, but it will, likely, require the use of nuclear weapons.

We have an extraordinary cyber capability, but we have to remember this is a form of combat that does not require much manpower. It is expertise v bayonet strength.

We will have to send our navy into waters in which they will take losses while inflicting horrific damage to the enemy.

Our air force will have to respond with a force wide deployment and counterattack. They will have to fly enormous distances, deliver huge payloads, refuel, return safely, rearm, and return. It will be an enormous undertaking.

It will be a test of wills and our deeper bench should ultimately carry the day.

Remember our enemies will be trading million dollar cruise missiles they can fire and forget from 1,500 miles at multi-billion dollar aircraft carriers. From a benefit-cost perspective, we are in a difficult position.

Once we identify the location of the threat, it will only be an hour before the ground is turned into glass, but there will losses until then.

How does this pertain to North Korea, Big Red Car?

North Korea has only one card to play — proximity to US ally South Korea. North Korean artillery can reach the north side of Seoul and wreak havoc. That is the only credible threat they currently possess. That will change as they continue to develop ICBM delivery systems and miniaturize their nuclear weapons. This will put the continental US into play.

Right now, we could probably take out the majority of the forward deployed NK artillery in the first hour of the war, but the question is how much are we unable to destroy before it can fire?

Even in the calculus which is set forth, the issue is how many casualties will be sustained before North Korea is wiped from the Earth and will the Chinese get involved?

I believe the Chinese will intervene in much the same way they did in the Korean War of 1950.

Action plan it, Big Red Car?

Here are some things we need to do and do right away.

 1. We need to increase the size of our Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marines. I am particularly high on the Marines.

 2. We need to plan to fight a war with larger units. This will not be a special operations war. This will be massive deployments, big battles, big losses, big victories.

 3. We need to dramatically increase our cyber warfare capabilities. America always loses the first battle of the next war (Pearl Harbor, Kasserine Pass, the North Korean invasion of South Korea, the World Trade towers, the Iraqi invasion of Kuwait) and we cannot allow that to happen. The second the balloon goes up, we have to be able to shut down our enemy’s ability to communicate and see.

 4. We need to solve problems before they outgrow our capabilities to fashion cheap solutions. The North Korea situation goes back to ineffective and feckless American leadership of Clinton, Bush, and Obama. We left this little lizard grow into a monster.

 5. Our naval assets have to stay deployed and be on a continuous combat footing at every instant of the day above, on, and below the waves. The US Navy needs to stay on a wartime footing forever.

 6. We have to insist that our alliance partners maintain a similar level of readiness.

 7. We need to start yesterday.

But, hey, what the Hell do I really know anyway? I’m just a Big Red Car.


6 thoughts on “America’s Next War

  1. There are two books that come to mind as I read your post. The first is Ghost Wars, by Steve Coll. It’s an entertaining and informative history of the CIA and how those actions led up to the wars you described. The second is a book about what the beginning of the first cyber war may look like. It’s called Space Wars: The First Six Hours of World War III, A War Game Scenario by Michael Coumatos, William Scott, and William Brines. It’s a must read on this topic.

  2. As you point out, America always loses the 1st battle.

    What are the odds that we are forced into the initial strike?

    Seriously, if a hydrogen nuc is successfully launched and detonated over the ocean in the coming days/weeks, what choice do we have?

    There is a madman pushing buttons to “protect” his country from invasion.

    The lust for power can drive men to cut off their own heads.

    And the MSM sides with the madman’s take on matters regarding Trump. Pathetic.

  3. That’s a lot to consider!

    I’ll give a first-cut response!


    For various war scenarios, we might want some means of evaluating them. I’ve been there; done that.

    Once I did an evaluation of the survivability of the US SSBN fleet under a special scenario of global nuclear war but limited to sea.

    It appears that a generalization of that evaluation, with likely some added optimization, would be relevant so will outline what I did.

    Intuitively a stochastic process is something that varies over time randomly. Standard examples are the price of Amazon on the NYSE, the air temperature in DC, radio noise in some frequency band, ocean waves, vibration in an airplane, etc.

    A special case is a Markov process where at each point in time, the past and future are conditionally independent given the present. So, the present acts like a state of the process. Here the past might do quite well predicting the future, but given the present the past doesn’t help the predictions.

    There are some well known stochastic processes that are Markov, but usually in practice a Markov assumption is a big guess usually justified just intuitively.

    A Markov assumption is important in practice because it is such a huge simplification, that is, can take some enormously complicated situation and reduce it to something much easier to work with. Then, sure, the simplification is so great there is considerable question about the relevance of the results!

    Well, suppose there are two sides, Red and Blue. Red has 20 weapon system types — e.g., aircraft carriers, guided missile cruisers, strategic bombers, attack submarines, SSBNs, etc. — and some number of instances of each type. Blue has something similar.

    Since we’re talking the oceans, most or all of these weapons systems move, on, through, or over the oceans.

    Sometimes a Red instance and a Blue instance have an encounter, i.e., are close enough for at least one of them to detect the other and, then, maybe shoot. If there is shooting, then there are four possibilities, (i) the Red dies, (ii) the Blue dies, (iii) both die, (iv) neither dies.

    Then at any point in time, the state of the process is the number of instances of each type for each of Red and Blue.

    There was some work in WWII

    B. O. Koopman, OEG-56, Search and Screening

    which, given the speeds of two instances, the area of the ocean, and the detection radii, gave the encounter rate (like the rate of Geiger counter clicks, that is, the arrival rate of a Poisson process).

    Then make a Markov assumption, write a little software, use a random number generator to simulate 1000 cases, average those, apply confidence intervals, and get a result.

    I did that, in just the time the Navy gave me, two weeks.

    Prof J. Keilson gave my work a technical review. He’s first remark was:

    There is no way your code can fathom the enormous state space.

    I responded

    After some time t, the number of SSBNs remaining is a random variable. It is bounded. With the 1000 cases, I have 1000 independent, identically distributed samples. Thus, the strong law of large numbers applies, and if I add the 1000 and divide by 1000 I get an estimate of the expectation of that random variable. The confidence intervals say how accurate my estimate is, but just from common experience for the 1000 and the realistic number of SSBNs, the estimate will be plenty accurate.

    Basically the simulation puts the effort where the action is.

    He responded

    That’s a good way to look at it.

    So, my work passed his review.

    It appears that some people in DC got happy!

    The Markov assumption with that simplistic state space is simple, simplistic, childishly simple, laughably simple, but, still, somehow right away the math and the code gave realistic looking results.

    Well, for the BRC post here, what I did as above might be used for a fast, first-cut evaluation.

    Then for some optimization, might want to stage the responses and figure out how best to do that. And might want to optimize that dynamically over time as the war evolves — that would be stochastic optimal control.


    Of course, likely the first stage to be considered would be intelligence, e.g., from satellites, signals intelligence, cyber intelligence, human intelligence, etc.

    In this way should track the capabilities of the potential attacker. And, in real time, should monitor the attacker and get an alert when anything looks anomalous at which time devote resources to try to diagnosis the anomaly.

    Uh, such monitoring is basically forced to be some continually applied statistical hypothesis tests, both multi-dimensional and distribution-free. I know of only one source of such tests; the source has lots of such tests; I wrote and published the paper! I did the work for monitoring server farms and networks, but it did occur to me that the work could be used for monitoring potential enemies. Indeed, at one time some Soviets watched lights at a building of the British military to see if there were changes in the lights that might indicate an anomaly. I gave a presentation of my work at the IDA, analytical smarts for the Joint Chiefs, and the audience seemed to see my work as for credit card fraud detection. Bummer!

    Cyber Attacks

    My guesses would be that in the US (A) the commercial world is now significantly immune to cyber attacks over the Internet and (B) national security is quite immune.

    By now, such good immunity should be relatively routine. So, if we are not immune, then we should do what we need to get immune.

    Uh, for something like the recent case of Experian, my understanding is that the problem was not technology but (dumb) management.

    US Surface Fleet

    A guess is that so far the role of the US Navy’s surface fleet is for wars against enemies much less capable than in the BRC post.

    And, even there, the Navy has been working on some defensive weapons, e.g., electromagnetic rail guns:

    For ships:

    [Uh, Sand Hill Road information technology VCs, shut up, sit down, and look up, listen up, and learn how to do projects, designed on paper, low risk and high payoff after the paper passes expert review.]

    No doubt the fleets at sea get good information on enemy forces second by second.

    For the subsurface, of course we can guess that one way and another the US Navy hears essentially every sound in the oceans including whale calls.

    E.g., the fleet should see threats coming.


    Sure, the US has been making efforts at hypersonic missiles that could fly to any spot on the globe in, what, 2 hours or so. If GPS is working, then the target accuracy should be within a foot or so.

    There are hints that Boeing has worked out a missile that can fly over an enemy location and ruin the local electronics by a, presumably non-nuclear, strong electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

    The US B-2 bomber has stealth and is no doubt immune to EMP.

    A common assumption is that in a serious war, if the enemy can find an SSBN, then the enemy can sink it. But, still, it’s tough to find even one SSBN. Sinking just one SSBN would the start of a major war where the US would no doubt respond by shooting from all the other SSBNs, etc. Finding and sinking all of the SSBNs at one time is next to impossible.

    North Korea

    Here is my guess about what Trump is doing:

    (1) Diplomacy

    So, Trump is lining up South Korea, Japan, China, Russia, and the UN.

    Trump has tried to build trust with Xi and, with Putin, e.g., on the issue of Syria and ISIS.

    The first point of agreement is that North Korea should have no nuke bombs. Apparently Trump has agreement on that with all but the UN.

    The second point of agreement is that North Korea should be under sanctions.

    Main Consideration: China and Russia don’t really want NK to have nukes either, and they also don’t want what Trump does in NK to spill over the northern border of NK into China or Russia.

    So, in his UN speech, Trump’s

    … we will have no choice but to totally destroy North Korea.

    Then, sure, China and Russia would fear that there would be “spill-over”. So, China and Russia are, then, motivated to work with Trump on, e.g., sanctions.

    (2) Navy.

    The US, England, and maybe Japan and South Korea are accumulating quite a navy just off the coasts of North Korea.

    The first use of this navy will be to enforce sanctions, e.g., a blockade.

    Also, this navy is strong enough that if NK gets violent with that navy, say, over sanctions, then the navy can respond — NK is deterred from attacking the navy over the sanctions.

    The navy may be able to shoot down NK missiles during launch phase. If such a missile carried a nuke, NK might regret the launch.

    (3) Other Defenses.

    The US may have deployed and well tested lots of means to shoot down NK missiles, during all of launch, high altitude, or reentry phases.

    (4) Strategy.

    With the sanctions, Trump can wait for winter when the people of NK will be cold and hungry. Then soon Dumb Dung Dong Uno Rocket Boy will be done for, and NK will be de-nuked.


    (A) Some NK guy or soldier may read some leaflets about heaping platters of tasty, hot, nutritious food just waiting for him in a comfortable, attractive warm building and get hungry enough just to shoot Rocket Boy.

    (B) The top layers of Rocket Boy’s government, also cold and hungry, may accept a covert deal from the US to get rid of Rocket Boy and head a new NK government without nukes.

    (C) SK may send in some special forces to whack Rocket Boy and then have the top layers form a government, etc.

    (D) Mattis may use some Boeing EMT thing to turn turn off the electronics of NK when, then, SK special forces do the thing with the top layers.

    To add some motivation to all of this, the US and SK may do some low level Mach 1.5 flights over Rocket Boy’s Ping Pong Yang areas.

    China may send in someone to chat with Rocket Boy and offer him a nice place near western Manchuria.


    It looks like by spring, Trump will have some just terrific progress on NK, ISIS, Akrapistan, health care, taxes, immigration, The Wall (have the US Army Corp of Engineers build it by renovating the existing fences), NAFTA, stopping drug imports, and economic growth and be well on his way to Mount Rushmore!

    In addition, Hillary may be on her way to jail, and Trump may have a sit down with the representatives of Ayatollah Kockamamie.

  4. Hello from your #1 British fan!

    “The role of Pakistan as a safe harbor has never been adequately addressed”

    Absolutely! Their government, military and secret service have colluded with radical Islamic terrorists in numerous unprovoked attacks on India over the years, yet Obama has given Pakistan billions in aid including military hardware while Hillary launched a smear campaign against the Indian Prime Minister. Good to see Trump has put Pakistan on notice (a lot of people are quietly rooting for Trump in India!)

    “We have to insist that our alliance partners maintain a similar level of readiness”

    Yes! European liberals often criticize the US for spending too much on the military and not enough on welfare, without acknowledging that much of Europe has often failed to meet its NATO obligation to spend 2% of GDP on defense. Again good work to Trump for calling out the NATO partners.

    In Britain we now have Jeremy Corbyn, leader of the Opposition (and God forbid our next Prime Minister), who is determined to ruin our economic security with socialism, but also our national security with his calls to scrap our military, not renew our nukes and withdraw from NATO (not to mention his support for Hamas, Hezbollah, the IRA and receiving payouts from the Iran government!)

    It boils my blood that 12.8 million Brits actually voted for this clown! Even Bernie looks like a saint in comparison!

    • I know that British spelling is not always exactly the same as American spelling, but did you mean what here in America we call Pukistan, that is, next to Akrapistan?

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