A military in rapid decline

The US military is tried and found wanting by the Heritage Foundation:

Since the inaugural 2015 “Index of U.S. Military Strength,” subsequent editions have described an unsettling trend, and the 2018 “Index” leaves no room for interpretation—America’s military has undoubtedly grown weaker. A quick look at some of the findings of the 2018 “Index” readily demonstrate this fact:

  • The U.S. Air Force is currently short nearly 1,000 fighter pilots, and of the service’s 32 combat-coded fighter squadrons, only four are actually ready for combat.
  • Of the U.S. Army’s 31 Brigade Combat Teams (BCTs), the building blocks of American ground combat power, only three are considered ready to “fight tonight.”
  • In 2017, the Marine Corps’ overall strength rating was downgraded to “Weak,” given declining capacity and readiness issues. This downgrade means half of the service branches (Army and Marines) are both rated “weak.”

From the full executive summary of the study:

Overall, the 2018 Index concludes that the current U.S. military force is likely capable of meeting the demands of a single major regional conflict while also attending to various presence and engagement activities but that it would be very hard-pressed to do more and certainly would be ill-equipped to handle two nearly simultaneous major regional contingencies. The limits imposed on defense spending and the programmatic volatility created by continuing resolutions, passed in lieu of formal budgets approved on schedule, have kept the military services small, aging, and under significant pressure. Essential maintenance continues to be deferred; the availability of fewer units for operational deployments increases the frequency and length of deployments; and old equipment continues to be extended while programmed replacements are either delayed or beset by developmental difficulties. […]

As currently postured, the U.S. military is only marginally able to meet the demands of defending America’s vital national interests.

That’s not very reassuring.

Failure to launch

Well done

Hey, North Korea, maybe you should just give up

A North Korean missile launch that failed shortly after it was fired may have been thwarted by cyber attacks from the US.

The medium-range missile exploded seconds after it was launched on Sunday from a site near the port city of Sinpo, as Mike Pence, the US vice president, arrived in Seoul for talks with the South Korean government over how to deal with Pyongyang’s belligerence.

“It could have failed because the system is not competent enough to make it work, but there is a very strong belief that the US – through cyber methods – has been successful on several occasions in interrupting these sorts of tests and making them fail,” the former Conservative foreign secretary Sir Malcolm Rifkind told the BBC on Sunday. […]

Experts have suggested that the United States may be carrying out “left-of-launch” attacks on the missiles using electromagnetic propagation or cyber attacks, including through infected electronics aboard the weapon that confuse its command and control or targeting systems.

Eamonn Fingleton suggests another possible culprit:

Rifkind could have added that Japan and South Korea, where many of the chips in the North Korean rocket were probably made, may also have played a part in the outcome.

Will Canada go east?

This essay by strategist Edward Luttwak (a.k.a. the Machiavelli of Maryland), on why Canada should turn its military attention to the Pacific, also serves as a mini recap of the theme of Luttwak’s book The Rise of China vs. the Logic of Strategy:

It would appear that China’s leaders badly misread the 2007-2008 financial crisis and greatly overestimated China’s gain in relative strategic power. This prompted them to abandon the very successful “peaceful rise” (中国和平崛起) or “peaceful development” (中国和平 发展) foreign policy officially presented in 2004, but long practised before then. This policy set aside all Chinese claims against regional parties in order to have everyone’s co-operation in China’s economic growth.

Once that policy was abandoned, there ensued the loud and practically simultaneous assertion of Chinese territorial claims against Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Sultanate of Brunei, Indonesia, Vietnam, and India, in a half-circle of expansionist pretensions. Newly aggressive forms of border and maritime patrolling, increasingly frequent territorial intrusions, and even outright occupations added greatly to the concerns provoked by China’s verbal demands.

Inevitably, the threatened countries started to strengthen themselves militarily and to coalesce diplomatically. They did this mostly in pairs that became increasingly interconnected, but also in threes, as in the case of the India-Japan-Vietnam trio that accelerated Vietnam’s deployment of Russian submarines. […]

Nobody can reasonably suggest that Canada should restructure its armed forces on a very large scale in order to become a major power in Northeast Asia. But given that Canadian political and economic leaders know very well that the centre of gravity in world politics has changed, it would behoove Canada to gradually acquire a significant stabilizing role, in the agreeable company of Australia.

The essay also contains this nugget of strategic wisdom:

All of this is in perfect accordance with the paradoxical logic of strategy which prohibits any form of linear progression in the realm of conflict. This logic ordains that great powers can defeat middle powers, but not small ones.