Air-Sea Battle. It’s everywhere you see in defense news these days. I happen to believe it’s merely a new way for the greater military-industrial complex to continue their own corporate strategy of developing a technology – or in the case of the F-35, just partly developing it – and then convincing the government it needs to have it just because it’s cutting edge, regardless of whether or not we actually need it (don’t worry; we’ll develop a strategy to accommodate it). However, the little paranoid guy in me also believes, intentionally or not, it’s leading us toward a national defeat against what is now our greatest adversary.
We will never go head-to-head in a battle with China, or at least not for a very long time. Direct confrontation is not China’s way, as any reader of Sun-Tzu knows. Instead, they will seek to defeat us by subtlety and by proxy. If it was possible to have a bug in the Peoples Liberation Army’s strategy shop, I think we’d find Chinese strategists likely approve of the new Air-Sea Battle (ASB) concept. Knowing that in reality neither country could ever effectively project enough power across the Pacific to successfully defeat the other (sans use of nuclear weapons), while publicly decrying our ASB efforts, they’re likely smug in the knowledge they’re doing to us exactly what we did to the Soviets: bankrupting them through defense acquisitions. China’s working on a 5th generation fighter? We need squadrons of them now, whether or not the technology is proven, and whether or not China’s will actually be operational. China purchased an aircraft carrier (which is unlikely to be a fully functional credible threat for many years)? We need to beef up our Pacific forces now, even though one carrier isn’t an actual threat when compared to China’s anti-ship missile development (but it’s good enough to justify spending money!).
However, this time the U.S. is in even worse shape than the old USSR was in the 70s and 80s: had the Soviets been able to recognize what was happening, with the reins of power so tightly held in just a few fists, their efforts could have been realigned. In the case of the U.S., even if people much smarter than I decide to agree with me, politics, lobbyists and corporations will ensure that the hydra’s heads continue to disagree on which direction to go, with the body frequently ending up going in a completely irrelevant direction just so none of the heads get the upper hand.
China will continue to drain our resources further and seek to defeat us by proxy in various areas of the globe. Rather than confront us directly, the militaries of smaller nations where China has made economic and diplomatic inroads will be employed to confront neighboring nations where the U.S. has built up influence. As is our way, we won’t stand for this, and will likely send troops in (again) to quash the invaders, losing our own citizens and further squandering our treasure while China sits back and continues to conduct their orchestrated ballet.
With all the factors involved and the unpredictably of global events that seem to derail the best-laid plans of any nation, China may not win, but I fear we may lose.