To prevent war, prepare to win

“The capitalists will sell us the rope with which we will hang them.”

It’s a pithy quote of dubious parentage — often attributed to Lenin or Stalin. But no matter who came up with those words — or when — one could easily imagine them being uttered today by Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Beijing enjoys a $500 billion dollar trade surplus with the United States, and it is using those riches to develop an array of advanced high technology weapons that may defeat us in any future conflict.

{mosads}These weapons are not designed for military parity with the United States but military supremacy. The threats to the United States include potential attacks against ships at sea, hypersonic missiles to penetrate our defenses, and space arms that could block our military communications and operations.

By 2030, China’s navy will boast roughly 550 warships and submarines — an armada twice the size of the U.S. Navy. The massive expansion of naval power is seen as part of a plan to push the U.S. out of Asia to become the world’s superpower by 2030.

China is also engaged in cyber attacks that have resulted in the loss of critical military secrets from our weapons development research. These attacks have enabled China to save billions of dollars in weapons research and development.

President Trump has taken a good first step by imposing tariffs on China and rewriting other trade policies. More needs to be done to discourage Beijing’s build-up, but that’s not the only challenge confronting U.S. defense officials.

Russia is also pursuing a robust military buildup and modernization. The navy has added 150 ships since Vladimir Putin became president. His government is focused on expanding its nuclear warheads to 8,000 by 2026.

We can no longer rely on our NATO allies or alleged friends in the South Pacific to support us in a war with China or Russia. Germany is buying natural gas from Russia, and France has recently condemned our decision to withdraw from the treaty with Iran.

If China reaches military parity with the United States, Australia, South Korea, Japan, the Philippines and Thailand will act in their own self-interests.

The U.S. military would be incapable of fighting a war on two fronts, if hostilities erupted with China and Russia. That’s the conclusion of the 2019 “Index of Military Strength” just released by the Heritage Foundation in Washington, D.C.

The “Index” is a comprehensive assessment of world military power and serves as an invaluable guide in educating both policymakers and the American public about the state of U.S. military readiness. Here’s a quick look at some of the “Index” findings that highlight the crisis.

The Navy’s overall ability to pull its weight in a two-region conflict is only “marginal.” It rates even lower in the important category of capacity, where it is considered weak.

The Air Force received “weak” ratings in terms of readiness, a problem compounded by a crippling shortage of fighter pilots and fighter aircraft.

The Army’s faces a huge readiness problem. Its Brigade Combat Teams are the building blocks of American ground combat power, yet only 15 of the 31 teams are considered “ready,” and only eight are rated as “fully ready.”

The Marine Corps, worn down by years of near continuous combat engagement and insufficient reinvestment, is in the worst shape of all the services. With half of its amphibious ship and tactical aircraft fleets unavailable for current operations, the Index rated the corps as “weak” overall.

The best way to prevent war is to be prepared to win one. We must shift from the defensive mentality the U.S. military has had for the past 15 years.

It takes a lead time of 10 years to 12 years to achieve a new weapons system. We must accelerate our present research and develop weapons that can match or exceed those of our enemies. We cannot expect success fighting tomorrow’s conflicts with yesterday’s weapons. And we cannot afford failure.

J. William Middendorf is a former United States ambassador and secretary of the Navy. In that role he obtained financing for three major weapons systems still in use today. He is now a member of the board of trustees at the Heritage Foundation. His third book, an analysis of the threats facing the United States, “The Great Nightfall,” will be published in 2019.

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