Wednesday, February 10, 2016

The Next War

Battle of Rocroi - 1643, Thirty Years War by Augusto Ferrer-Dalmau (Source)
The other day, FRaVMotC day Paweł made this comment regarding my post Women in Combat Units -
...US has grown too accustomed to wars of choice and picking on 3rd world militaries. Sooner or later it will have to confront a true peer competitor in global warfare.
As most good comments do, this made me think. Is it inevitable that the United States will have to face off with another country that is able to project power on a global scale? Is there any other country on the planet, short of launching ICBMs, which can project power outside of the region next to their own border?

The way I see it, at this moment in time, only the U.S. can project power anywhere on the Earth. To include, God forbid, nuclear weapons. Russia and China aren't quite there yet. Even the old Soviet Union was more of a regional power than a global power. Their navy, while large, was hemmed in by the NATO navies. One thing which every Russian leader since Peter the Great has yearned for is a warm water port which gives access to the sea without going through a choke point like the Sea of Marmara.

Without that, they would have a huge amount of difficulty projecting power much beyond their borders. Of course, that distance includes much of Western Europe. While they could have thrown their weight around in Asia, I'm sure that China, again short of the nuclear option, would stop them cold.

Again, that was the old, now defunct, Soviet Union. Though Putin would love to see the old Russian (read Soviet) empire resurrected, they're not there yet.

Though the PRC is making lots of noise in the South China Sea, and they have a huge army and an increasingly capable and dangerous navy, they too are still a regional, not a global power. Again, as long as things stay non-nuclear.

So what are the chances of a major conflict involving the United States and a "peer" competitor occurring in the next, say, fifty years? A hundred years? How about twenty-five?

Trenches of the 11th Cheshire Regiment at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, on the Somme, July 1916. One sentry keeps watch while the others sleep. Photo by Ernest Brooks (Source)

Much has changed since the days of World War II, where the battle lines literally encircled the globe. There was almost no place at peace outside the polar regions. Mass armies setting forth to conquer land held by others are events launched by absolute rulers, not elected leaders, and not even by unelected collectives such as the PRC. Yes, China was involved in Korea from 1950 to 1953, but that was in reaction to Allied forces approaching the border between North Korea and China. Made them nervous it did and quite rightly so. Nations get nervous when large armies approach their border in hot pursuit of a defeated enemy.

Through flak and over the destruction created by preceding waves of bombers, these 15th Air Force B-24s leave Ploesti, Rumania, after one of the long series of attacks against the No. 1 oil target in Europe. Photo by Jerry J. Jostwick, the only survivor of the 16 cameramen of the operation. (Source)
Quite honestly, I can't see a scenario occurring within the next few decades where two major powers square off against each other and having it escalate into a major war. I hope I'm right. You would think that humanity has learned something from the bloody 20th Century.

Then again, we didn't learn much over the preceding few thousand years did we?

Your thoughts?



34 comments:

  1. "Then again, we didn't learn much over the preceding few thousand years did we?" No, we did not. Even when our Institutions remember the hard earned lessons, our Political Masters decline to take the opportunity to benefit from those lessons. Frack Tommy if there is political hay to be made.

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  2. My reading of history tells me that no one saw WWI and WWII coming. There's a lot of revisionist history that says otherwise, but contemporary accounts are all pretty clear that national leaders were expected to work things out short of war. That would have worked fine, except for the rose colored crystal balls humans tend to use.

    The next one will be a surprise. I can imagine China moving troops into Mexico or Canadia or both, then invading. How certain are we that our leaders would "never allow" the Chinese to gain a toehold? Far fetched, but possible. And I'd wager that the next one will be more of a surprise than that opium dream scenario. And that revisionist historians will later crow "you shoulda seen it coming!"

    If there is a later.

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    1. ...contemporary accounts are all pretty clear that national leaders were expected to work things out short of war... and there lies the rub. Prior to both world wars the so-called "national leaders" were dazzled by what they wanted to see, not what they should have seen.

      Today's "leaders" are even less capable than those earlier fellows. Nowadays "leaders" are elected in a popularity contest by uninformed voters who just want more "bread and circuses." The next one probably will be a surprise to everyone but the NCOs and JOs. You have scared me Shaun, this election scares me.

      Einstein allegedly said "I know not with what weapons World War III will be fought, but World War IV will be fought with sticks and stones."

      Let's hope we don't get to test that thesis.

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    2. What he said. The next big one will be a terrible surprise to everybody and we'll slip into it like it's going to be a walk-in-the-park. Historically, when you are ready for war, there is no war. When you are not ready, they just seem to happen. As Gallipoli showed, the ability to project power successfully doesn't mean those who can't won't have a lash at it anyway.

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    3. Good points Cap'n. Gallipoli is a brilliant example of the "inability to project power doesn't mean they won't try."

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    4. I expect it in five years, ten years tops. When China says out loud that they are building up the PLAN, " to take the Pacific away from the PACFLT ", and are acting the way they have been for years now, I get uneasy. But I believe that WW III will be a group of small wars that combine into a conflagration. China will take a step too far. While they are messing up the Philippines and / or outlying Japanese islands, or perhaps taking Vietnamese oil fields, tying us up, Russia will see us occupied, and harvest Syria, or some more ex Soviet states. Sweden is paranoid about being mugged by Ivan, who knows, it could happen. While all Hell is breaking loose, Iran,and her ISIS/Hamas/Al Queda proxies will see the weak horse running in circles, and decide it is time for Israel to die a nuclear death. I am not sanguine about the future.

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    5. I am actually far more optimistic than that. The Vietnamese will not lay down to Chinese aggression, China will find that the cost in blood and treasure there is more than even they can bear.

      Who is going to occupy the U.S.? The Russians? In the Middle East Israel will act before she is attacked.

      There will be small wars, I don't see a major bloodbath like WWII in the near future.

      I'm just not seeing it, I hope I'm right. One never knows, one false step could set things off.

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    6. Other than Attu and Kiska, no one occupied the CONUS during the first two world wars, either. This may change with the admission of Moslem 'refugees". I have long used the term feral, myself, and I see Detroit and Dearborn are headed in that direction. Inner city Chicago is already there, with the hip-hop thug culture and the Chicago Machine urging it on.

      Israel will possibly be nuked "out of nowhere", by a Klub coming off a container ship in the Red Sea, or the Suez Canal

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    7. I get you Scott, I hope you're wrong. I pray you're wrong.

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    8. I pray I am wrong, too, but I fear I am right.

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  3. Today's political leaders are more concerned about getting elected and re-elected than with learning anything about potential opponents.
    Their attitude and actions could push those opponents far enough into a corner...

    Then there's those pesky little things with which we're already involved.

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    1. One reason I'm all for term limits.

      Yes, those pesky things which have already cost much blood.

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  4. Well, to be honest, neither 3rd Reich nor Imperial Japan were truly ready for the WW2 (one of the reasons they have failed). Italy was not even remotely close to being ready for global warfare.
    Yet look at all the trouble they have made for the Allies. Enemy often does calculate in other terms than we do.
    And here is your news for the day: http://www.janes.com/article/57828/russia-completes-reformation-of-1st-guards-tank-army
    when US has one light armor brigade in Europe, and Poland has more tanks ready than what has been left of the Bundeswehr (let alone UK that is having about enough MBTs left to guard Buckingham palace in the case Putin will suddenly drop paratroopers on Heathrow).
    And then look where was Chinese military in 1990, and where it is now. Big jump from MiG-19 copies to indigenously built stealth fighters...
    I dont expect neither of these powers mounting invasion of America, but they are both perfectly capable of creating mayhem in Europe and Asia, respectively, on scale that US has not fought since WW2. Baltics, Poland, Taiwan, Japanese smaller islands with Okinawa as crown jewel, all are perfectly within reach of the "local powers". Add to this factor of the leadership (let's see, how much would you trust Bernie Sanders to keep US security guarantees to ANYONE?) "He whose name should not be invoked to avoid breaching internet laws" was not trying to start world war in 1939, he counted on the UK to stay out. Chamberlain, let him be counted as penance for Munich, proved to be his miscalculation. Rest was history...

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    1. Neither was ready but it didn't stop them from heading down the warpath. Key thing is that the guys in charge thought they were ready. Italy should have learned their lesson in Ethiopia.

      First Guards Tank Army, wonderful. I suppose it's just a name but it does give rise to memories which many in Eastern Europe probably don't want to hear. I'm not saying it's up there with the Germans naming an armored division Leibstandarte but...

      As for the Chinese, we really don't know how good their indigenous stealth fighters are. Stealth is hard, stealth is expensive. Calling something stealthy does not make it so but yes, the Chinese have come a long way.

      It concerns me when certain powers are arming themselves to the teeth while others are cutting back force levels and retrenching for the sake of gaining votes.

      Yes, Russia and China are dangerous local powers (local extending to the Oder-Neisse and to the Middle East for the Russians and to Taiwan and maybe the Ryukyu Islands for China) but extending their adventures beyond that? History seems to indicate that they are just not that good at logistics. Extending power well beyond your borders is a logistical nightmare.

      Then again, Russia's current involvement in Syria gives me pause. Chinese submarines surfacing in the midst of a Carrier Strike Group is even more concerning.

      Your point of leaders miscalculating is well-taken. Again you've made me think Paweł. There may be more posts in this vein. We live in interesting times.

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    2. We live in interesting times. Yes, and it scares the snot out of me!

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  5. Even a regional conflict involving nukes will provoke a larger response, and it escalates from there. I don't think we've learned anything at all.

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    1. If nukes are employed it will be in desperation. Probably because someone was pushed to the wall and saw no other way out.

      Any use of nuclear weapons will end civilization as we know it. Even if it doesn't escalate beyond a regional conflict, which is very unlikely. Any release of nuclear weapons will bring the big powers in.

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  6. Latest news:
    http://www.usnews.com/news/world/articles/2016-02-10/nato-chief-expects-ok-for-greater-forward-presence

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    1. And the U.S. will pay for that...

      In many ways.

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  7. As one commenting from the UK please allow me to make the following comments. I didn't serve in the military but did 32 years as a cop and served with a lot of 'cold warriors', people who did time in Germany waiting for the Warsaw Pact to invade. I am a keen student of history however and my thoughts are roughly - 1) I just don't expect the Slavonic hordes to come storming westwards through the Fulda Gap any time now. Russia has enough internal problems as it is just keeping a lid on the population. 2) As many have said we just don't know what will happen next. Expect the unexpected. 3) From a UK point of view I fear for the future of our national security with the quality of our political leadership. When the UK fought in the Falklands we still had politicians (on both sides of the house) who had fought in WW2 and knew what warfare entailed. Now? we have a full time professional political class who merely look to re election as an end in itself and for whom the concept of service is alien. We have some truly strange ideas coming out of the political class in the UK, one idea was GOCO (Government Owned Contractor Operated) meaning the govt owned the assets and a private contractor operated them. i.e warplanes operated by a private company, the emergency services comms network operated by Huawei to name but a few. I can see a few flaws there. With regard to the comments about nuclear war I seem to remember that at the end of the 20th century India and Pakistan were regarded as the most likely place that a nuclear conflict would occur.
    For myself I have just heard the term 'feral cities' and I think the problems of the future will take place in failed cities, or failed parts of cities. Some of these cities may be in otherwise functioning states. These cities will be all over the developed world in Europe and the USA as well as the third world. This will require a restructuring of armed forces and police forces as criminals tool up and terrorists become even more involved in crime.
    Retired

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    1. Feral cities. I like that. It's apt. It's the future when they start to default on their loans and nobody will loan them any more money at any interest rate. UK problem is military fights at the whim of parliament and the soldiers are arrested for doing so by the police serving parliament for warcrimes dug up and investigated by an out of control GOCO funded by parliament to punish war criminals. Now that's out of control feral.

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    2. @Anonymous - I remember the possibility of an India/Pakistan nuclear exchange regarding Kashmir. Very nasty business, right now I'm thinking the Middle East (a possible Iranian/Israeli exchange) is more likely than India/Pakistan. But you never know. You raise some excellent points. That GOCO thing sounds very much like something a politician would think up.

      Turmoil in a "feral" city could trigger a military response from the government, which could lead to all sorts of complications.

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    3. @HMS Defiant - Oh dear, is the UK really that far gone?

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    4. And that is unbelievable. Can we be far behind?

      The West is failing.

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    5. In answer to the above yes, we do have problems in the UK both with the political/media class and lawyers. I believe the term used these days is 'lawfare'. You tie up the military/law enforcement/government bodies/large corporations with spurious court cases. Fighting them costs money and gets publicity for your cause. I was told by fellow police officers who had been recalled to serve in Former Yugoslavia, Iraq and Afghanistan that UK law firms were touting for business in these places. They were shown to be working with what can best be described as a lack of integrity. Google the Al Sweady inquiry to see what happened. This cost the UK taxpayer 31 million pounds in setting up the inquiry.
      Getting back to the original point I feel that the main trouble will start on mainland Europe fairly soon. The influx of refugees into Germany has caused problems and people there are getting fed up and the welcome mat is being rolled up, this is replicated in other parts of Europe which have seen the arrival of large numbers of refugees' Being realistic or cynical I see a large group of angry men of fighting age with cultures and beliefs that are not compatible with how I want to live my life. As was said elsewhere thanks to Chancellor Merkel the Germans are on their way to destabilising Europe three times in a century. My prediction is that urban trouble will probably start in France, the estates (housing projects) are in a more or less constant state of low intensity disorder which escalates every now and them.
      No, it's not hopeful and I worry what world my children and grandchild will inherit.
      Retired

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    6. Bad tidings indeed. I have contacts inside of Germany who have said things in the major cities are getting pretty bad with the "refugees." Can you say "Fifth Column"?

      There are elements in France who are pulling strongly to the right (Front National for one) and are gaining support. The politicos don't have to live in the shite, so they don't get it (or refuse to get it).

      I think you're absolutely correct as regards things heating up in French urban areas with large "refugee" populations.

      Whether it blows up into a major war we'll have to wait and see.

      Merkel has made a bad situation much worse.

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  8. UNBELIEVABLE PHOTOS! I'M BACK SARGE.

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  9. Cuba is an unsinkable aircraft carrier astride access from the gulf ports to the Atlantic. They are no friends of ours and are friends with anyone who opposes us. Far fetched idea?

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    1. Well, that's true. But right now they are an unsupplied unsinkable aircraft carrier. There is no more Soviet union "sugar daddy" for them.

      Venezuela is another hot spot in our hemisphere. Not to mention the drug cartels in Mexico running amok.

      There is much to keep an eye on in this world.

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Just be polite... that's all I ask. (For Buck)