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.