By Jonathan Davis
Many experts have said throughout the atomic age that world war was no longer feasible or possible because of ‘mutually assured destruction’ from the use of nuclear weapons.
Indeed, most of today’s great powers are all nuclear-armed, to one degree or another: The U.S., Russia, China, India, France, Great Britain, Pakistan. Great or regional powers like South Korea, Japan, Australia, and European nations are all protected, via treaty or security agreement, by nuclear weapons.
So when I see someone opine that global war is still possible despite the existence of these weapons, I take notice.
In a column for Real Clear Defense, Brandon J. Weichert argues that not only is another world war on the horizon, but the U.S. military is but an “expeditionary force” far too small to handle it.
Thus, conscription will, once again, become necessary.
He writes that the current “All Volunteer Force” (AVF) concept is insufficient to sustain high-intensity combat operations that will occur as any great power conflict begins. And he says the U.S. lacks the industrial capacity to “surge” into weapons construction, as happened during World War II and, to a lesser extent, Korea.
Today, however, the chances for great state conflict are high. As the threat of interstate warfare increases, America’s small expeditionary force (which is wearing thin from decades of constant deployments) will be insufficient to meet the challenges that rival great powers, such as China or Russia, pose to the U.S. military. This is especially true, considering the focus of America’s enemies on depriving U.S. forces of their aforementioned technological advantages.
As I detail in the opening chapter of my forthcoming book, Winning Space: How America Remains a Superpower, which will be released in 2020 by the Republic Book Publishers, the first shots of another world war will be fired in space against America’s satellite constellations. From there, cyber and information warfare techniques will be used to sow chaos and degrade America’s resistance quotient—before U.S. military forces can even respond to an attack by either Russia or China. Once U.S. forces deploy, with their technological abilities stunted, they will then have to penetrate intense anti-access/area denial (A2/AD) bubbles where U.S. warplanes and transports will likely suffer high attrition rates if they move in too close.
This is where technologists will assert hypersonic weapons will be key. But, suppose the United States does not have a robust enough arsenal of hypersonic vehicles, how long does Washington wait for enough of those units to be built in order to retaliate against those who attack American forces? And, what happens during that interregnum? Or, how will these weapons systems operate effectively in a degraded environment where GPS signals were being jammed? Meanwhile, the loss of America’s satellites will ensure that U.S. forces responsible for defending either Europe or rolling back a Chinese invasion of Taiwan will be too small, disoriented, and isolated away from America’s power base to effectively resist either a Russian invasion of Eastern Europe or a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.
The AVF model will simply be insufficient to supply the military with the force levels that will be required to go up against China’s 2.18 million-man military or Russia’s more than one million-man force. American troops will also have to learn to fight in a pre-1970s manner, where smart bombs will be dumber; quantity will be more preferable to quality; America’s global logistical supply chain will not be secured, and any war will be as bloody as either of the world wars. It will also be a time when not even the American homeland will be spared from the devastation and chaos of a great power war (nor would the homelands of either China or Russia).
The United States does not have the industrial capacity to surge the construction of weapons and materiel needed to outlast and defeat its rivals in either China or Russia. Already, U.S. shipyards are having trouble meeting the increased demand for output in terms of building the Navy’s new Virginia-class submarines. These industrial flops are occurring all over America’s domestic supply chain. America’s latent industrial capabilities proved to be a decisive advantage over its foes in both world wars. This is a capability that America lacks today—and it will take much time and effort to rehabilitate (if it happens at all).
Interestingly, Weichert does mention the “exchange” of nuclear weapons, which would destroy much of the world and leave the globe in irradiated tatters.
For that reason alone, he argues that Congress, the president, and the Pentagon should begin preparing now for the eventuality of a draft, not as a thought exercise but as a matter of pressing concern and practicality.
But the gist of the column — global war — is not really addressed in any meaningful way. How would such a conflict begin? What would be the objective of the aggressor (presumably Russia or China)? How are those two countries equipped, industrially and economically, to withstand a sustained global conflict? What preparations has the U.S. military already made in anticipation of global war? What geopolitical dynamics will have occurred to force the leader of a great power to commit national (and global) suicide?
These are important questions to answer before we can seriously entertain any notion of a new world war in the enduring nuclear age. That said, addressing the need for a conscription force, as a matter of prudence, might be useful.