Austin Bay: America’s Next Wars: Lose One, Hold One?

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Austin Bay

Can the United States only fight one war with a chance of winning?

According to Admin. Mike Gilday, the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO, senior naval officer), the answer is yes – at least as far as the US Navy participating in the war is concerned.

According to Stars and Stripes, during a May 12 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo, asked Gilday, “What would be the impact on the Navy’s ability to respond to its operational requirements in (Europe) if we were to retain the naval forces of Europe in order to deter Chinese aggression in (the Pacific)? »

Gilday replied that the current fleet of around 298 ships “is not sized to handle two simultaneous conflicts”. The Navy is “sized to fight one and defeat a second adversary, but in terms of two all-out wars, we’re not sized for that.”

Given the real threat posed by communist China – whose navy is already larger than the US navy – it’s a jaw-dropping statement for the senior naval officer to say publicly.

Consider the elements of information and narrative warfare — and the Biden administration emphasizes “perception” above all else. At a minimum, Gilday’s assessment is seen as a misstep of diplomatic perception – it signals weakness. At the most hyperbolic – albeit extreme – the imperialist dictatorship in Beijing could read an invitation to attack Taiwan. Given Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, never dismiss the hyperbolic, mindless aggression of a dictatorship as impossible.

Major caveat: Ukraine’s fierce resistance to Russian aggression should give Beijing’s aggressors a second and third thought.

Alas – Gilday exposes an unfortunate vulnerability. My US political explanation: He wants more money for the Navy and its current acquisition programs.

Another reason? Every sensitive member of the Senate Armed Services Committee knows that the US military is structured to “fight one and hold one.”

The first “one” signifies a must-win war.

In this strategic link-up, we bet we win whoever we choose to fight first, then we’ll win whoever we hold – or hope we hold.

“Win, Hold, Win” – a bumper sticker that is the organizing principle.

In July 2001, then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, via a Pentagon leak, indicated that America would no longer deploy – and pay for – an army built to fight a “strategic of two wars”.

By the late 1990s, a bipartisan consensus in Washington believed that the United States no longer faced the strategic threat of simultaneously waging major wars in the Atlantic/Europe and Pacific/Asia.

In a column written in July 2001, I suggested that Rumsfeld was telling America that World War II and its Cold War aftermath had finally reached a strategic endpoint. The Cold War was the long farewell of World War II, with American and Russian troops facing each other in a divided Germany. America’s direct involvement in Asian turmoil like the Korean and Vietnam Wars was the consequence of Japan’s defeat and then confrontation with Communist China and the USSR.

To be fair in the context of Rumsfeld in 2001 (but before 9/11), he was addressing a concept of late 1990s Pentagon planning to fight “two major regional wars.”

Rumsfeld wanted to align Pentagon strategy with budget if not strategic threat. Since 1993, Congress had been spending the so-called “peace dividend” from the end of the Cold War.

As for reality? In 1993, Russia was kaput. In 1993, it appeared that China wanted to make money. In 2022, China is “the rhythmic threat”. It’s the Pentagon for America’s most powerful enemy.

In his written pre-testimony remarks, Gilday used slang to make his point: “Sea control and power projection are essential to United States national security and economic health at long term.” China, “our stimulus threat, clearly recognizes this…”

In 2018, Congress stipulated that the Navy would deploy a fleet of 355 ships “as soon as possible”, but the fleet was reduced due to budget requirements. The Chinese fleet already has 355 ships.

Lose the big one, what does the catch matter?

Austin Bay is a syndicated columnist and author.


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