The US Would Lose a War with China

Wargames reveal a military too small and too slow to contend with great powers

The US Would Lose a War with China
Photo by Zachary Catron (The appearance of U.S. Department of Defense visual information does not imply or constitute endorsement)

If war broke out between the US and China tomorrow, would the US win?

An unimaginable question mere decades ago, data analysis from wargames carried out over the past several years suggests that the answer is no.

Previously classified data from mass wargames that took place in the Fall indicated that a full-scale military conflict between the US and China would likely last a decade or more and ultimately result in an American loss.

American assets are too slow to maneuver against a Chinese strategy likely to rely on space-based reconnaissance and area-denial operations rendering the possibility of an effective American troop surge next to nil.

This news comes as something less than welcome amid reports that China is actively planning an attack on US-allied Taiwan which, if carried, out, could severely damage US global standing regardless of its outcome.

According to CNN, RAND Corporation analyst David Ochmanek said of the situation that “The US and its allies do not have sufficient combat power.”

The Army is looking to change that, however, and is currently seeking to expand and enhance its multi-domain capacity by creating units able to operate within contained battles in enemy territory.

There’s just one problem: The strategic transformation is planned to take 14 years, meaning that the US will possibly be ready for war with China in 2035.

Numerous issues have led to this state of affairs. Chief among them is how thinly spread the military has become since the Cold War. The US military simply does not have the resources to be everywhere at once, and yet national strategy is leading it to make the attempt anyway.

Whether it be sinking money into new bases throughout the Pacific in the hopes of leveraging a better position should war break out China or a new focus on developing military capabilities throughout the arctic in an effort to counter Russian influence, the US does not have the manpower, materiel, and money required.

This issue is further compounded by the fact that the military is wholly incapable of adequately countering new threats such as cyberattacks and bioweapons without the assistance of the private sector.

The fact is that the US military is the smallest it has been since World War II in terms of manpower, seacraft, aircraft, and influence abroad. At home, roughly 59 percent of Americans aged 17–24 fail the basic health requirements for military enlistment and another 25 percent fail the educational requirements. Of those young Americans remaining, only about 1 percent have a desire to join the military.

Simply put, the US has neither the capacity nor the will to unequivocally win any type of war with a great power.

Unfortunately for all, US foreign policy leaders are well and firmly stuck in their attempts to maintain the global status quo, and continue to develop so-called strategies that attempt to endlessly proliferate allied dependency on the American military and safeguard economic interests at every corner of the globe.

It is no longer the 1990’s, however. Current civilian and military leadership need to recognize that the status quo now ends with America losing.

With this in mind, the US must recalibrate its hopes for global trade supremacy, temper its wont to deploy an already thin military across too wide a frontier, and focus on developing a workable strategy for defending the homeland without resort to foreign adventurism.

Anything less will continue to hasten the nation down a path terminating firmly with American defeat.


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