As we close out 2017 and look forward, however gingerly, to 2018, two things caught my eye:
- First, as reported by my friends on Army.ca, the US RAND Corporation has issued a new report entitled “U.S. Military Capabilities and Forces for a Dangerous World; Rethinking the U.S. Approach to Force Planning;” and
- Second, the Financial Times has an excellent article, headlined “US rhetoric on North Korea runs into logistical reality,” which says that the US is, quite simply, not ready for a war with North Korea.
As I have said before, the US has, without a doubt, the military capacity, right now, to launch a “pin-point,” surprise, “decapitating” attack on North Korea, unless China, simultaneously, engineers a “take down” of Kim Jong-un and agrees to a reunification of Korea, then the outcome will be a destructive conventional war which it is not clear that the USA/South Korea could win. In fact there would be no “winners’ because South Korea, the 11th largest economy in the world, would be a shattered ruin and that would be a disaster for everyone, including America and China. What the US may not have is the capability to fight more than one war at any time. Many years ago the US strategic goal was to be prepared to fight an win 2½ wars ~ one major war in Europe, one major war somewhere else and, simultaneously, on small, local war against a second rate enemy. Whether or not that aim could be accomplished has always up for debate, but it was an aim. Now it looks like the US is read y for one war, only.
Despite President Trump’s bluster and despite the immense current strength of the US military, it seems to me that the US is:
- Ready, now, to engage Russia ~ even in Eastern Europe, but only after Russia inflicts have damage on the US and its allies;
- Ready to decapitate North Korea, but not ready or able to fight a general war there; and, possibly
- Unprepared for ANY war on the East Asian mainland … it fact it is not clear that the US can ever win a war on the East Asia mainland in which China is an opponent.
I remain fairly confident in (re)asserting that:
- China is a global strategic competitor that does not want any “hot” war with anyone. China has strategic aims; aims which will be less than good for America, Australia, Britain, Canada, Europe, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines and Singapore, but aims which it is committed to achieving without fighting. But, we must understand that China will break any rule to achieve its goals;
- The threat of a nuclear war in West Asia (think Pakistan and/or Iran) and the Middle East remains dangerously high. It is not clear what the outcomes might be … it is even less clear that America can do much;
- North Korea remains a major, unpredictable threat to world peace ~ its missiles can strike America, Australia, Britain, Canada and Japan. But it is being protected by China and, as the Financial Times article suggests, America appears unwilling or perhaps feels unable to do more than bluster; and
- Russia is still an adventurous opportunist on the world stage, trying to provoke the West into making a mistake and then taking advantage of our disunity.
The logical strategic conclusion, it seems to me, is that the US led West (forget that the US might not want to lead any sort of broad, general Western
alliance grouping) should keep Russia in its operational sights at all time … it is the most serious threat. Next, the US led West must engage with China in looking for an acceptable way (I believe there is one) to oust Kim Jong-un and to reunify Korea, peacefully, as a robust, capitalist democracy that is America’s and the West’s friend and economic partner but which lies within China’s sphere of influence. Then the West must turn its diplomatic attention to the Middle East and West Asia. I suspect that there are opportunities for some sorts of less bad solutions to e.g. the Palestine and refugee problems (which it must be recognized are just as much or more the fault of Arab nationalists as they are of the Israelis). Pakistan will not be “denuclearized” and Iran is very likely to join the club. Israel is the strategic deterrent to a regional nuclear war … Israel needs to be supported, strategically if not diplomatically and politically. Finally, the US led West needs to engage China in the soft power war which it is waging (and might be winning) under our noses.
Canada, specifically, needs to:
- Look to its own strategic defences … the threat of a nuclear strike did not end when the USSR collapsed and we have not modernized the NORAD agreement to include a continental ballistic defence arrangement with the USA ~ this is not, just, Justin Trudeau’s fault, the blame lies with Stephe Harper, Paul Martin and, especially, Jean Chrétien who decided that appeasing Canadians knee-jerk anti-Americanism was more important than defending the realm;
- Mend its defences which have been allowed to languish, since 2012, or which have been cut since 2016. That’s a big, Big, BIG Money issue … 2% of GDP is just a number but, in my opinion, it would get us closer to what Canada needs to spend, wisely, in order to get the sort of military capacity and capabilities that it needs; and
- Strengthen our political and diplomatic ties with like minded nations around the world ~ in Europe and Asia, especially. Those would be our NATO partners and the countries, like Australia and Japan, that Prime Minister Trudeau just insulted when he, childishly, decided to scupper TPP talks … Canada is, now, likely, shut out of Asia’s main political summit.
None of those quite essential things are likely to happen as long as Justin Trudeau remains prime minister … he is, quite simply, not up to the job.
It is, a cold, cruel world and the sobering reality for 2018 is that China is still on the rise, it has father to go; the Middle East remains in dangerous turmoil and could explode at any moment; North Korea is led by a nuclear armed madman; Russia remains a significant threat to world peace; the United States has decided to take a rest from being the leader of the West; and Canada is led by a man-child who is focused on sunny ways and selfies.
Oh, and have a Happy New Year, too …