There is a terrific David Ignatius OP ED in the Washington Post (13 May 2020) reference this new work “THE KILL CHAIN” by Chris Brose. This book has also generated a flurry of supportive commentary by defense intellectuals whose opinion I value to include Dave Petraeus.
Chris Brose is a highly respected and knowledgeable expert on national security. He was an extremely influential former staff director on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a senior policy advisor to the late Sen John McCain.
There is a lot of truth to “The Kill Chain” central assertions that we are ill prepared to confront China’s rapidly growing national security threat in the western Pacific. Ignatius in particular finds this new work to be a very valuable thought piece.
The late and unlamented “Army Future Combat Systems” as an example was a stupid and enormously ($18 billion) expensive disaster. It was the most expensive single Army budget expenditure for years and expected to cost $340 billion. Decent Army Generals got sold a bill of goods by brilliant futurists. The whole concept was way over the top. The technology wasn’t there yet. There was a terribly ill thought out contract with Boeing. I listened to the most attractive and interesting four hour briefing on the concept you could ask for. Nothing came of it. We should have spent the money buying aboriginal boomerangs.
The aircraft carrier as the centerpiece of our naval deterrent power is clearly at the end of its lifespan. These carriers are now the eleven primary targets on the face of the earth. They are too big to hide. They have a horrendously expensive surrounding protective screen. They are a reasonably short-range weapon system without USAF refuelers. However, they still have enormous value in low intensity warfare and diplomatic-military power projection. What next?
The land-based ICBM component of the nuclear TRIAD probably needs to go. Nor is it obvious that we need a next generation manned bomber instead of intensified investment in lethal long-range UAV’s and a more robust protected space system.
The Marines should fight to retain their strategic value to strike from the sea and not only be an alternative small army with extremely high morale.
However, I have some concern about the author’s general hypothesis that our trillion-dollar annual US defense investment is powerless when facing the modernizing Chinese threat.
In my judgment, in the dread event of all out conventional war, we could overwhelm the Chinese military in a short, bloody, high-risk six-month campaign. We would not put the Navy’s carriers into the attack. We would not fight them on the ground. We could without question penetrate their airspace with missiles and stealth aircraft and conduct devastating precision long range strikes from the unsinkable land carriers of Japan, South Korea, and elsewhere. The Army will soon have long range precision artillery systems that will control the sea approaches from land. Our offensive cyber warfare capabilities are incredibly powerful. Our attack submarines are a devastating stealth lethal force. The Chinese Navy would be largely destroyed in 90 days.
However, the central weapon to respond to Chinese aggression would be a US attempt to achieve a 100% blockade of all their economic trade with the global community. Our US economic power is immensely complex and powerful. In China, the Party keeps a third of their population in slavery. We would choke them economically. China has huge internal challenges. They cannot effectively govern 1.4 billion people. There is terrible distrust and corruption among their coerced people and institutions.
Finally, all out war between the US and China would present our adversary with the probability that they would fight not just the US, Japan, South Korea, and Australia; but also, possibly Taiwan, India, Vietnam, and Thailand. If the Chinese actually knocked out our space systems to blind us and turn off our communications, they would have to assume the potential for the conflict to escalate into a tactical nuclear exchange aimed at military targets.
The bottom line is that all out conventional war between the US and China would be a mutually destructive and stupid act. No political objective would justify a turn to war. This is NOT going to happen unless by shameful misjudgment. (Trump and Xi).