Sunday, September 28, 2014

Manned and Unmanned Battle

An X-47B unmanned drone launch
from a U.S. aircraft carrier

There has been significant improvement in the operating capabilities of unmanned vehicles and systems in the last 20+ years. This technology has reached a level of development where it can be harnessed as a valuable force multiplier for U.S. military action. A doctrine of “Manned and Unmanned Battle” is proposed to create an organizing principle, roles, missions, and operational concepts for the employment of manned and unmanned systems in concert to achieve United States (U.S.) strategic, operational and tactical military objectives. Manned forces will constitute the principal military force for operations in both peace and war for the foreseeable future. Unmanned units however are likely to grow in capability and numbers over the course of the next forty years. They represent a significant force multiplier in combat operations and should be asymmetrically employed to reinforce U.S. strengths and to offset weaknesses. While a combination of manned and unmanned units might begin as a marriage of convenience, this cooperative effort has the potential to blossom as drone and artificial intelligence technologies further develop.

Historical Origins 
Colonel John Boyd, USAF
     The Air Land Battle doctrine developed jointly by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Air Force in the mid 1970’s provides the inspiration for Manned and Unmanned Battle. Air Force strategic theorist Colonel John Boyd began this activity by recommending that small, highly mobile forces should pick away at a major enemy offensive through “hit and run” raids that would disrupt opponent timetables and operational focus.  The Air Land Battle doctrine that developed from Boyd’s work, as well as that of Army Training Doctrine Command leaders like Generals William DePuy and Donn Starry postulated that Air and Special Forces would additionally attack an opponent’s reserves and rear marshalling and logistics points in order to slow and blunt a hostile land offensive. Friendly conventional land forces would face a reduced and less focused enemy attack and would have a greater chance of repelling that assault.
     The present U.S. military must also leave behind “traditional” concepts of battle and embrace a coordination of manned and unmanned assets working together to blunt hostile opponent activity in land, air, maritime, and space environments. In Manned and Unmanned Battle, the “manned” component is analogous to the conventional ground forces of Air Land battle and the “unmanned” component” is the equivalent to the air and Special Forces element of the 1970’s concept. Massed autonomous units deployed operationally and tactically may be used to blunt massed opponent missile firings, disrupt communications, attack enemy command, control, communication, intelligence, and logistics nodes and generally disrupt the movement of opponent reserve forces to active battle locations.
     Autonomous units should be fully integrated into present conventional manned forces rather than be deployed as separate strategic systems. These include ground, air, surface and subsurface maritime drone units. Some theorists have suggested that drone units would travel over intercontinental spaces to arrive in theater for combat operations. Current battery limitations and network threats and challenges would make such employment difficult. Present high endurance U.S. naval and air platforms provide the ideal deployment venue for advanced autonomous vehicles. Global U.S. strategic interests have resulted in an equally worldwide deployment of conventional U.S. military platforms. These units (medium and large warships, submarines and aircraft) can be positioned close enough to hostile territory to reduce drone deployment time, but distant enough from opponent forces to preclude detection and counter-attack. They also have the potential capabilities and storage space to rapidly deploy the large numbers of drones required for operational and tactical effectiveness on the battlefield. Aircraft carriers for example, might deploy large numbers of unmanned aerial vehicles. Amphibious warfare ships could deploy surface and subsurface unmanned platforms from their well decks. Automated units should also be deployable from conventional weapon launchers. Cruise missile launch devices such as the Mk 41 vertical launching system (VLS) and conventional submarine torpedo tubes might deploy rocket and torpedo-resident drones.

Roles and Missions 
     Principle roles and missions of automated units in wartime operations may include, but not be limited to the following:
-       Disrupt opponent C4ISR (Command, Control, Communication, Computer, Intelligence, Surveillance, and reconnaissance) systems and nodes through direct attack.
-       Provide defensive actions for conventional manned U.S. systems. Massed drones may eventually be employed for antiair and anti-missile defense.
-       Attack opponent logistics and reserve force marshalling locations.
-       Form a deployable and re-programmable/re-positionable marine minefield off opponent ports and near critical enemy maritime trade and supply routes.
-       Conduct strategic attacks on opponent centers of gravity at any point in a conflict
-       Cause general chaos and confusion in opponent rear areas, thus disrupting enemy battle rhythm. A drone force dispersed by air drop and other means could re-assemble, and conduct ad-hoc combat operations using pre-programmed functions and drone to drone communication. Such a force might spread fear and be disruptive even in small numbers. The U.S. air-dropped forces behind the beaches of Normandy on D-day is an operative example.

     This concept is presented in a skeleton, outline form to stimulate further discussion. Present unmanned vehicle features and near/remote term advancements offer great promise in expanding U.S. combat capabilities. The best interim method for harnessing the power of unmanned platforms and payloads is through direct integration with existing high endurance maritime and air platforms. Massed unmanned platforms with minimal network support offer commanders significant combat capability in both offensive and defensive actions.


Friday, September 19, 2014

Al Qaeda’s Recognition of the Importance of Seapower

For several years now, I've written about al Qaeda's interest in the sea as a not only as an avenue for attack, but as a means to facilitate the movement of men, money, and material.  After some initial confusion in reporting, it appears that the recent attack against a Pakistani naval frigate was indeed part of a larger plot to target U.S. naval vessels.  Rob Farley writes about the potential efficacy of that attack method in some detail.  But the story has strategic implications beyond just another failed maritime attack.  
Embedded image permalink
The accompanying propaganda piece entitled “Operation against the American Navy by the Mujahideen” by Osama Mahmood, spokesman of Al Qa’eda in the Subcontinent, was translated into six languages. I’ll spare you most of the usual Islamists tripe in the two page screed and get to the meat of it: 
“The reality is that the real target of the operation was the American Naval fleet in the Indian Ocean, which was to be targeted using Pakistani warships, including PNS Zulfiqar. The attackers were portrayed as outsiders who had infiltrated a Pakistani naval installation; whereas all the participants of this daring operation were commissioned officers of the Pakistan Navy."
If true, the most concerning aspect of this story is the infiltration of militants into Pakistan's navy, one with which the U.S. Navy occasionally partners with in the Indian Ocean.  Even more disconcerting is the thought that if AQSI members are in the Navy, then they are likely in other parts of the Pakistani military, including perhaps the Army and Air Force Strategic Forces, that maintain Pakistan's nuclear inventory.  The already tenuous relationship between Pakistan and the U.S. will be put under even more strain if another "insider" attack is attempted.
Mahmood goes on to write:
                "Why were Naval Targets Selected?
  • It is because of their naval strength that America and its allies have been able to impose a military and economic stranglehold on the Muslim world, especially the land of Makkah and Madinah. America’s naval-military capability represents the backbone of its global empire of oppression. Using its seven naval commands, America rules the seas and oceans of the world; and in this way, America is able to control vital maritime trade routes and straits in the Muslim world and pillage the resources of the Ummah. These same resources are then employed by America to perpetuate its aggression against the Muslim world.
  •  It is from American naval bases that fighter jets take off to rain death and destruction on the oppressed peoples of Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq and other Muslim countries. And the Crusader armies that are fighting against the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are also provided logistical support using this naval force.” 
So it appears that some elements of AQ realize that the sea is important not only to their overall offensive strategy, but that it is rather critical to America's economic and military power. 
Which means that U.S. vessels will continue to be a target for AQ franchises.  And as much as I hate to find myself agreeing with enemy propaganda, their recognition of the importance of American seapower is valid. The United States' continued ability to project force while fighting the Long War forward, away from our shores, has and will depend on a large, healthy naval fleet.  U.S. naval vessels provide eyes and ears to collect intelligence against the dispersed AQ network.  U.S. Navy aircraft, and occasionally subs and surface ships, have engaged terrorist targets in a number of countries.  These same vessels serve as afloat forward staging for special operators who also hunt AQ.  Finally, America's fleet provides strategic mobility and logistics support for times when American ground forces need to deploy against the enemy. 

The opinions and views expressed in this post are those of the author alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or the US Navy.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

AEI/Heritage Project for the Common Defense (USMC) Weekly Read Board

Monday, September 15, 2014

AEI/Heritage Project for the Common Defense (Navy) Weekly Read Board

Thursday, September 11, 2014

The Strategic Fallout from Scottish Independence

     It is surprising that such a dire event as the break-up of the United Kingdom is getting little coverage in the United States. Great Britain, the United States, and the rest of the world can ill-afford the strategic effects of Scottish independence at a time when there is growing global uncertainty and instability. The sundering of the United Kingdom will seriously affect the ability of the English/Welsh/Northern Ireland remnant to remain a significant military participant in securing global stability. The dissolution of the British Union may also spur other nationalist groups such as the Basques, Andalusians, Walloons, and other European minorities to demand their own states. A Europe divided and occupied by nationalist crisis would be ill-equipped to support the United States in its ongoing struggle with Islamic extremists, or be strong enough to aid fellow European states menaced by Vladimir Putin’s resurgent Russia. An independent Scotland is the potential tipping point for a new round of European disorder at a time when neither the continent nor the world can afford such activity. The United States should vigorously support a continuing unified Great Britain as Scottish secession will only accelerate global disorder at a time neither the U.S. nor its European allies can afford such an occurrence.
Damaged Britain and Dependent Scotland
SSBN HMS Vengeance in port Faslane
     The pro-independence Scottish National Party (SNP) has created a Defence White Paper detailing its “demands” on the British Armed Forces should the independence vote be successful. These include handing over one of Britain’s only two Typhoon fighter squadrons, 10% of Britain’s rapidly dwindling surface fleet, and 3 of the British Army’s 36 infantry battalions. These losses may seem small, but an independent Scotland would also demand the removal of Britain’s Trident nuclear ballistic missile submarines (SSBN's) and their associated support units from the longtime British submarine/nuclear weapons bases at Faslane and Coulport. Such a move could threaten the continuing viability of the British nuclear deterrent and likely cost thousands of jobs and millions of pounds in lost investment according to a report issued by the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) last month.
    Scotland’s overall security status would not enhanced in a post-independence environment.  The SNP claims it will maintain Scottish membership in both the European Union (EU) and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), but both organizations have rebuffed this claim , stating that an independent Scotland would need to seek membership in both as a new independent state. The re-admittance process for Scotland could take years to complete without any firm guarantee of success. Scottish financial freedom will also likely suffer. Several large defence contractors are delaying significant spending in Scotland until after the referendum. Furthermore, companies like BAE systems, Thales, and Babcock have discussed leaving Scotland entirely if independence is approved. This change will take thousands of defence jobs away from the would-be new state and cripple its economic output from the start. The SNP has claimed it will maintain the Pound Sterling as its currency, but Bank of England officials have clearly rejected such a proposal. SNP officials have placed great hope in the North Sea oil and natural gas deposits to fill the new nation’s financial coffers.  Unfortunately, North Sea oil production peaked in 1999, and while there is still oil to be had, significant new investment in equipment and infrastructure is needed to economically extract this increasingly elusive resource. Finally, SNP officials have suggested the new Scotland would operate like Scandinavian states with regards to its defence affairs. A Scotland however without a viable currency, defence jobs, significant military assets, oil income or a place in international security organizations is a state more equivalent to Kosovo or the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) than with Finland or Sweden.
Beginning of European and greater Global Chaos
     Beyond a loss of stability and economic fortune in the British Isles, Scottish independence could be the harbinger of further European national chaos. Other disaffected global minorities with state ambitions are watching the outcome of events in the United Kingdom with growing interest. Spain, which has significant populations of Basques, Catalans and Andalusians faces regular calls for greater self government and even independence from these nationalities. Belgium has seen significant tensions between its Walloon and Flemish peoples that have threatened to break up that nation. French-speaking citizens of Quebec have regularly agitated for independence. All of these groups, as well as others could be emboldened by the break-up of the British state.
   The present world security situation can ill-afford a Europe distracted by internal divisions. The  aggressive Russian state led by Vladimir Putin has used national conflicts in Georgia, the Caucuses, and now the Ukraine to break down potential pro-Western states on its borders. Scotland is not adjacent to Russia, but festering national crisis in otherwise stable nations could be exploited by unfriendly nationals and non-state actors to further their own non-democratic goals. 
Effect on the United States
     European nations menaced by such internal disputes will be unable to vigorously respond to aggression and threats to peace and stability elsewhere.  This condition represents a danger to the United States. The U.S. needs reliable colleagues for international military action.  Great Britain, Spain, and other European states weakened by major internal division are poor partners for such activities. Great Britain has been a most reliable U.S. ally for nearly a century, and a close friend for a far longer period. It has been a close partner in U.S. efforts to combat terrorism in the post Cold War and post 9/11 environment.  It is one of the few NATO nations that regularly meets its alliance military expenditure requirements.  A damaged and distracted Britain could seriously weaken U.S. attempts to build coalitions to combat the growing menace of the radical ISIS state in the Levant, or the aggression of Vladimir Putin.
     This author sincerely hopes that Scottish citizens will reject the surface trappings of independence offered by the SNP in favor of the deeper security and financial freedom provided by inclusion within the British state. Scotland is more stable, secure, and financially viable within Great Britain that it can ever be as a separate country. A separate Scotland will leave the remaining English/Welsh/Northern Ireland state weakened at a time when the West needs a stable front against multiple threats of aggression.

Hudson Announces American Seapower Stipend

When Seth Cropsey and I started the Hudson Center for American Seapower earlier this year, one of our primary objectives was to actively support scholars who study American Seapower.  While this is a modest start, as our Center grows and matures we will do even more.

Policy Center News

The Hudson Center for American Seapower is proud to solicit nominations for its 2015 American Seapower Stipend.
The Hudson Center for American Seapower will award one $5000 stipend to a student enrolled (during calendar year 2015) in an accredited Ph.D program worldwide, whose primary area of study is directly related to the strategic contributions of American seapower.
Interested scholars should provide a précis of between 250-500 words describing their area of study and its importance. The statement should identify where they are studying.
Each submission should be accompanied by a short (less than 150 words) statement of support from the scholar’s thesis adviser verifying the scholar’s work and the adviser’s support for it.
Submissions should be made by email to the Director of the Hudson Center for American Seapower, Dr. Seth Cropsey. All submissions must be received no later than December 1, 2014. The awardee will be announced on December 22, 2014.

Monday, September 8, 2014

AEI/Heritage Project for the Common Defense (Navy) Weekly Read Board

Friday, September 5, 2014

In Which I Quibble with Captain Adams' "Three Strategic Mistakes?"

Captain David Adams has written an important piece in this month's Proceedings entitled "Repeating Three Strategic Mistakes?" that has earned much praise from thoughtful reviewers. I am however, less enthusiastic about his main arguments than most, and I thought I would post some of those qualms and quibbles here.  I will use the technique I've used before when reviewing speeches and articles, which is to extract extended portions and comment thereafter.  Please read his piece all the way through, and do not rely solely on my selective comment to gain its full measure.

Almost no one, however, expected it to be so quickly overshadowed. CS21—now under revision—has been buried by the reemergence of conventional thinking embodied by Air-Sea Battle and a westward rebalance challenged in execution by recurring Middle East whiplash. Gone is the emphasis that preventing wars is as important as winning them and the subsequent elevation of soft power, humanitarian, and economic efforts to the same level as high-end naval warfare. 2 Dismissed from the Navy’s lexicon is the imperative to build cooperative maritime partnerships to counter irregular, catastrophic, and disruptive challenges. All but forgotten is former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates’ challenge to focus on the “wars we’re most likely to fight, not the wars the services would most like to fight.” 3 Back in vogue is the misguided idea that full-scale naval warfare is our greatest problem and our panacea.

It would be dishonest for me to suggest that we who were involved with CS21 predicted the financial crisis of 2008 and the emergence of a more regionally active China, and that these events would overshadow that document.  Yet I am on solid ground when I suggest that VADM John Morgan forcefully advocated that the document should be reviewed every two years in order to ensure its continuing relevance.  His suggestion was not accepted, but the idea of continually assessing our "corporate strategy" against a dynamic environment was a sound one.  By the time ADM Greenert's transition began, it was obvious that he too believed a refresh was in order.

But history is not my point here.  I wish to take issue with Adams' parallel constructions of "Gone is"..."Dismissed from"..."All but forgotten..." and "Back in vogue..." I am not sure exactly what he is talking about.  I remain relatively well connected to the world of Navy strategic thinking, and I cannot support any of these statements, at least one of which is built around a fundamental misconception about what CS21 was saying.  I hear no one suggesting that the emphasis on preventing war has declined in current thinking.  What I do hear is that many believe that prevention of war in the Pacific does indeed provide cause for re-evaluating the capacity and capability of our conventional high-end deterrence posture.  The prevention of war through enhanced conventional deterrence is certainly as legitimate a pursuit as the prevention of war through the low-end activities Adams points to.  Additionally, I find little appetite for dismissing the importance of cooperative maritime partnerships, though I will acknowledge that additional weight should be given to those who bring high end capacity to the relationship.  As for Secretary Gates' prescription, I think Adams and I would agree that world-ending nuclear war is the LEAST likely war we will fight, yet he does not shrink from elevating it to the position of that which must be deterred at all costs.  As for the "misguided" idea that full-scale naval warfare is our greatest problem and our panacea, one only has to briefly review the major headlines to see that great power dynamics are back in play in Europe and Asia, and that thinking about conflict with either Russia or China cannot simply be a matter of applying naval force to irregular challenges.

Just as we would like to put such conflicts in our rearview mirror, the dawn of irregular warfare is breaking across maritime horizons. Nowhere is this more true than in the Western Pacific, where the People’s Republic of China’s (PRC) conventional buildup masks and complements its effective execution of the first stages of an unrestricted, paramilitary maritime war for which we have few answers.

While I am well aware of the the tools that the PRC is using in its reshaping of its near abroad and the serious requirement we have to understand exactly what they are doing and respond strategically to it, am I to understand that their conventional buildup should be dismissed as some kind of a Sun-Tzu-esque strategem, and that we should weigh these clear and obvious military capabilities less than their use of customs and fisheries forces to support excessive claims?

If we have learned nothing else since 9/11, it is that relegating such irregular and unconventional challenges to a secondary priority is a debilitating strategic error.

So do the lessons we are supposed to have learned since 9/11 wipe away the lessens learned in Belgium and Czechoslovakia?  Are we to hide our heads in the sand as China asserts itself in East Asia and Russia seeks renewal of its past glory?  What good would relegating regular and conventional challenges to a secondary priority be?

While the service’s culture remains enamored of the conventional aspects of our last great war at sea, many disassociate it from that conflict’s tragic atomic ending. The dawn of the nuclear age irrevocably changed the dynamics of conflict in general and great power rivalry in particular. Given the nuclear dilemma and massive U.S. conventional superiority, all belligerents are gravitating toward increasingly effective hybrid approaches. Unfortunately, every time U.S. military forces face the realities of difficult, dirty, unconventional challenges, we cannot resist subsequent calls to re-embrace the conventional approaches with which we are comfortable. Just as the post-Vietnam era begat Air-Land Battle, it is no surprise that concepts like Air-Sea Battle have emerged in the post-Iraq and Afghanistan period. History tells us that these conventional ideas will at best produce brilliant tactical successes with too little strategic benefit.

Captain Adams--and many others who think similarly--believe that the U.S. experience with the Soviets and what worked to deter in the Cold-War can and does apply equally to other nuclear powers.  Unfortunately, China does not see it that way.  China had no problem taking on the Soviets in the border battles of 1969 for many reasons, one of which was their perception that the stakes involved were insufficient to trigger a nuclear reaction.  China also does not play the same game we do with respect to nuclear arsenals, pursuing a brand of limited deterrence that is anathema to us. Lastly, while the ending of our last great war was (with one opponent) an atomic event, one cannot so blithely dismiss the START of that war, and the impact that appeasement and insufficient readiness had in feeding the ambitions of the aggressors.

Conventional U.S. bias discounts the importance of strategic deterrence in underwriting the relative peace among nuclear powers over the past half century. Nothing but the dangerous absence of clear strategic dialogue on the subject has really changed since the Cold War. Just as the stability of Europe was fostered by a nuclear shadow, the best chance for Pacific stability rests foremost with the likelihood that major great-power confrontation incurs a real risk of nuclear war. Unsound theories to the contrary simply jeopardize the lives of millions. Political and military leaders must comprehend that “direct armed aggression as [an] instrument of policy against another nuclear power is not an option.” 7 Even if escalatory risks appear low, the catastrophic consequences of getting it wrong are not worth the slightest risk. Air-Sea Battle dangerously discounts this possibility.

Who are these people suffering from the aforementioned bias?  What is afoot here?  Do strategic deterrence theorists dismiss conventional deterrence, as they seem to think conventional theorists do with strategic capability?  And while I completely agree with the importance of strategic deterrence in managing great power conflict over the past half century, my dim memory of the Cold War includes a huge conventional presence in Europe, the Mediterranean, and the Western Pacific.  If we were as reliant on strategic deterrence as Adams suggests, what good were those forces?  The point is, we didn't sit back and rely on nuclear weapons only, we also maintained a serious conventional force--to deter and assure.  Any suggestion that war did not occur solely because of the strategic deterrent (which Adams is not making) seems ludicrous, though proving the negative is never easy.

That is why it is so important for U.S. nuclear strategy to draw the clearest possible line between any level of aggression and the invocation of nuclear defense of the United States and our allies. Delegitimizing U.S. nuclear deterrence plays right into China’s hands. Allies who lack confidence in U.S. extended deterrence will have no choice but to either bow to Chinese coercive influence or develop their own strategic arsenals. An unintended consequence of Air-Sea Battle is that it actually raises the nuclear threshold by demonstrating our intent to fight a full-scale conventional war with China. This fuels China’s incentive to prepare to win a hybrid war with conventional aspects that remain just below that threshold. It also risks severe miscalculation by undermining the certainty that conventional attacks might escalate into a calamitous nuclear exchange.

So let me get this Captain Adams suggesting a U.S. nuclear response or the threat of a U.S. nuclear response  to ANY act of Chinese aggression?  By this logic, we could call home the 7th Fleet and let our allies know, "hey, don't worry about all these conflicting claims with the PRC.  They won't try anything because they fear our nuclear weapons."  Talk about playing right into China's hands.  His extreme reliance on strategic deterrence and his dismissal of conventional deterrence -- which he wraps up in the Bogey-Man of Air-Sea Battle--is in my view far more likely to cause regional "bowing" to China's coercive influence than a more balanced approach that recognizes China's dramatically different view of the role of nuclear weapons and the utter lack of credibility that nuclear threats have to deter limited conventional overtures.

Just as the Chinese cannot be sure of our nuclear thresholds, we cannot be sure of theirs. Some analysts are convinced that China will not choose nuclear escalation even in the face of strikes on their homeland, citing the PRC’s long-standing restrained attitude toward the use of nuclear weapons. It would be a mistake, though, to assess China’s policy of restraint in light of anything other than its massive nuclear disadvantage.

And it would be a mistake to believe that nuclear threats that are utterly without credibility will constrain an opponent seeking a limited conventional gain.  Were China to grab the territory of a treaty-ally of the United States--say a few disputed islands or even something of slightly greater value--the injured party is supposed to believe that the people of the United States would support nuclear war?  Nuclear war with China is an incredibly remote possibility; nuclear war out of the blue with China is even more remote.  The most likely path to even the unlikely nuclear engagement with China is through conventional war, and it is the conventional war that MUST be deterred.

China is developing an increasingly credible nuclear deterrent at a time when there is a paucity of discussion and interest in reinforcing U.S. strategic and extended nuclear-deterrence policies. Whether or not the United States is willing to acknowledge intellectually the reality of nuclear deterrence, practically speaking the risk of any conflict escalating into a nuclear conflagration will severely constrain U.S. options during a crisis. If the United States proved unwilling to conduct mainland strikes against an extraordinarily weak, non-nuclear China during the Korean War, it is absurd to think that we would take such risks today. That is why any interpretation of Air-Sea Battle that targets anti-access capabilities on mainland China would be dangerously escalatory. Instead, we must ensure a clear mutual understanding that any significant Chinese aggression against U.S. territories and those of our key allies would inevitably invite the employment of the full force of the United States.

It seems to me that Adams has it backwards here when he asks whether or not "...the United States is willing to acknowledge intellectually the reality of nuclear deterrence, practically speaking the risk of any conflict escalating into a nuclear conflagration will severely constrain U.S. options during a crisis."  The nuclear deterrence argument has won the day; CNO Greenert has deemed the SSBN(X)  his most important acquisition priority.  The question isn't acknowledging the reality of nuclear deterrence, it is more correctly, acknowledging the reality of conventional deterrence.  Again, let's take Adams' logic to a not so far point.  Why not dramatically cut back on force levels in Asia?  What is the purpose of the Seventh Fleet if our alliances and friendships can be underwritten by extended deterrence?  Did Adams consider the presence of ground forces and air bases in Europe during the Cold War destabilizing?

Defending Taiwan, for instance, is the best worst-case to latch onto. Massive investments in Air-Sea Battle would be required to gain the access needed to counter a short-notice Chinese invasion or blockade of Taiwan. 12 Our only hope of success would be to disrupt and destroy certain targets early—missile launchers for instance—because even our most effective defenses would be overwhelmed by the vast array of sophisticated missiles currently staged across the straits. Even if we could afford to develop Air-Sea Battle sufficiently to defend Taiwan, the decision to engage these essential targets on mainland China takes us back down that unacceptable escalatory path. Fear of nuclear retaliation would severely restrain U.S. and Chinese options during any crisis. Former Deputy Chief of Staff of the Chinese People’s Liberation Army General Xiong Guangkai once exclaimed that “the United States will not likely trade Los Angeles for Taipei.” 13 While nuclear weapons may not deter a cross-strait incursion to forestall independence, they will certainly cause the PRC to take serious pause before they risk Beijing by striking Tokyo, Busan, or Tumon. Every move and countermove will be carefully weighed and mitigated against the escalation risks.

Adams and others are dismissive of Air-Sea Battle for many reasons, but the primary one is their fear that targeting facilities on the Chinese mainland would escalate to nuclear exchange.  Adams points to a Taiwan scenario as his object lesson, and then attempts to persuade why his in his understanding , Air-Sea Battle would never suffice.  All of which is very interesting if one ignores an unpleasant detail to his case, and that is, even in a world of the kind of strategic deterrence that Adams believes has kept our world safe, he points to a scenario where China invades Taiwan.  If strategic nuclear weapons were so handcuffing on the options of great powers, then why would this scenario even occur?  China should be so cowed by our mighty nuclear deterrent that it would be folly for it to undertake such an attack.

Instead of investing tens of billions to overcome our weaknesses and vulnerabilities, the United States should play up its strengths. Prioritizing our undersea advantage, for instance, will make it almost impossible for China to reap the rewards of outright conventional aggression in the maritime realm over the long haul. The great historian John Keegan rightly foresees future maritime battles characterized by seemingly empty oceans underneath which “warships great and small, will be exacting from each other the price of admiralty.” 15 If fielded in sufficient numbers, our attack submarines would certainly exact from China a heavy cost. The United States will also enjoy a significant advantage in the air, especially given that China will not likely risk attacks on our bases in the Pacific. Using these immense competitive advantages, the United States could counter full-scale Chinese aggression by collapsing China’s vast maritime territorial ambitions back to their coastline.

Again....if the nuclear deterrent that Adams spends the first third of his piece extolling is so effective, why then would we need even the conventional power of our SSN force?  Don't get me wrong, I'm all for keeping and extending our undersea advantage as I've written here many times, but I do so because I consider the warfighting advantage accrued to be of significant value in conventional deterrence.  But where Adams engages in a cannibalistic debate that I avoid, I prefer an approach in which we maximize our advantages AND address our weaknesses and vulnerabilities.  This is a war that we cannot afford to fight, and it is a war that we cannot afford to lose.  Over investing in capabilities that even Adams admits find purchase in addressing Chinese aggression "over the long haul" concedes to them the short haul.  And with it goes our strategic flexibility and options.

The United States needs to ensure that these forces are sufficiently trained and armed to sustain the fight until every last PRC ship, submarine, and aircraft is forced to return to base or finds itself on the bottom. To do this, the Navy must make difficult trade-offs to ensure both adequate carrier presence in the Pacific to deter aggression as well as a significant submarine inventory and presence to prevail in the unlikely event that conventional and nuclear deterrence fail.

Not to sound like a broken record, but as Adams' piece goes on, he increasingly recognizes the role of conventional deterrence.  I find it ironic though, that he would suggest that the destruction of some land-based radar sites or missile batteries on the Chinese mainland would bring a nuclear response, yet seems to have no fear of a similar reaction from the Chinese if we were to destroy their Navy and with it, thousands of Chinese lives.  How also, would our vaunted fleet pursue and destroy this Chinese fleet, given the landbased sea control capabilities that Adams would remove from the target list?

Beijing is keenly aware that moving against Taiwan or inciting a major war with Japan would undermine its long-term agenda. Irrespective of the outcome, any attempt to forcibly reunify Taiwan with the mainland or take the Senkakus would be akin to a Chinese Prague Spring and would likely escalate into a full-scale Cold War. As a result, the United States would likely garner substantial international support for deliberately countering China’s irresponsible rise. Such a war would quickly bring to fruition China’s anxiety of being contained. Any move to war would hasten the PRC’s economic downturn and exacerbate the Communist Party’s struggle for legitimacy, thereby catalyzing the possible political transition that the party fears most. 

Captain Adams is no-doubt better informed than I on what China's "long term agenda" is, but our friends in Japan and Taiwan would no doubt take little solace from his prediction that aggression would be met by the onset of a new "full scale Cold War".  What if China comes to see advantage in such an outcome?  What if it sees a path to consolidating its hemispheric power that is more attractive to it than the status quo?  Adams takes us down a logic train that could just as easily go in vastly different directions than the one he postulates, especially if the relative positions of the U.S. and China at the onset are even less favorable to our interests than today.

China’s goal appears to be to dial up hybrid activities, enlist time as an ally, and count on the fact that the half-life for international annoyance with its moves will be fairly short, and then compliance becomes accepted and routine. Recently, PLA Major General Zhang Zhaozhong described specifically how the PRC intends to capitalize on a hybrid approach: Combining coast guard ships, legal administration, fishermen, and navy warships so that contested areas are “wrapped layer by layer like a cabbage” will exert pressure and eventual PRC control. 17 All of this is designed to effectively blunt U.S. influence and slowly transform other Pacific nations into de-facto tributary states. If conflict intensifies, the PRC is building capacity to conduct an integrated campaign “so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network and mass media network are completely paralyzed” in order to compel peace on China’s terms. 18 All of this suggests that the People’s Republic has clearly embraced hybrid warfare as a potential game changer in great-power competition.

Here is where Adams is at his best, and I think his framing of the situation and his understanding of Chinese unconventional means (not quite sure if the Dean of Hybrid Wafare Frank Hoffman would call this "hybrid") to achieve its aims is superb.  And while I agree that we need to devote additional intellectual energy to the pursuit of strategies to contest Chinese lawfare/Three Warfares, I continue to believe that we must be there, we must be powerful, and we must be active--with the goal every day to be convincing PRC leadership that aggression will not be rewarded and it will be contested.  There is a lot that can be done to make complicate China's planning problems.  Jim Thomas at CSBA has done some great thinking about how to create A2AD zones for China to consider.  The U.S. Army is thinking very innovatively about the peacetime employment of air and missile defense forces throughout the region as a deterrence and assurance measure.  Some are calling for the U.S. to develop its own land based ASCM force.  Ultimately though, China's conventional buildup and modernization is not "masking" its progress with these unconventional means so much as it is reinforcing them.

A lot to chew on here, and this was too long.  But Captain Adams has produced a very thought-provoking piece, and it deserves to be discussed and countered.

Bryan McGrath

Thursday, September 4, 2014

AEI/Heritage Project for the Common Defense (USMC) Weekly Read Board

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

AEI/Heritage Project for the Common Defense (Navy) Weekly Read Board

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