Strategic Reality 101
by J. R. Nyquist, Global Analyst. January 3, 2009
The year 2009 will mark the end of failed policies and false assumptions. In all probability, there will be new policies based on new false assumptions. Washington will be forced to rethink the country’s priorities: New assessments will appear as Barack Obama enters office; American troops will be pulled out of Iraq; the U.S. Congress will allow the nation’s nuclear arsenal to sink into disrepair; government programs will be cut as the economic crisis worsens; millions will be thrown out of work; bankruptcies will occur on all sides. Some will say that capitalism has failed and socialism is the only alternative. In South America, Asia and Africa a new anti-American bloc will rise against capitalism.
How will America meet the challenge?
Consider the ideas offered in Douglas A. Macgregor’s Adapting to Reality in Warfare. This is strategic rethinking at its imaginative best. Macgregor asks us to look at “relevant questions” in order to formulate “new strategic assumptions.” According to Macgregor we need to streamline the U.S. military with a more effective command structure, with an emphasis on ground maneuver forces and better leadership. I am drawing the reader’s attention to Macgregor’s presentation because, among other merits, its point of departure is worth stealing. If we use Macgregor’s “relevant questions” to rethink U.S. grand strategy, we can analyze America’s overall position from the ground up. It may be unwelcome to suggest a complete strategic rethink, but in my opinion the “big picture” cries out for reformulation. And the first “relevant question” must be, “Who are America’s enemies?”
We prefer to believe that everyone is a friend, or a potential friend. Why should we have enemies at all? The answer is simple. The United States has enemies because some people hate America (or they hate what America stands for, or they hate the capitalist system). Rather than accepting this point and moving on, there is a tendency to depict certain enemies as figures of sympathy, victims of injustice, misunderstood and mishandled (e.g., Julius and Ethel Rosenberg, Alger Hiss, Ho Chi Minh and Fidel Castro). Another tendency also occurs, especially in academic circles, in which the United States government is considered “the enemy.” Taking these and other tendencies into account, it becomes clear that American culture is confused on this subject, and distrusts the concept “enemy,” often treating it as proof of the paranoia of those who use the word.
I believe there is a societal motive behind our culture’s marginalization of “enmity,” and it should be discussed; but first let us give an example of enmity’s marginalization. As America has been targeted by Islamic forces, America’s political establishment refuses to see Islam as an enemy. In fact, today’s Western culture adroitly fends off the notion that traditional Islam signifies universal submission to the will of Allah. Regardless of the fact that nominal Muslims readily coexist with Westerners, the teachings of Islam are unequivocal. The only reason Europe is not under Islamic law today, is because Europe’s military power surpassed that of Islam in the sixteenth century. This point is lost on nearly everyone, and shows the extent to which enmity has been marginalized in the West.
As noted above, the West has a societal motive for marginalizing enmity. First and foremost, we have become a commercial civilization, increasingly Epicurean. From the perspective of commerce, war is less and less thinkable as the methods of warfare become more and more terrible. In part, this stems from a perfectly understandable rejection of atomic warfare. From the standpoint of commercial civilization, atomic warfare is absurd. From the standpoint of atomic warfare, however, commercial civilization is absurd – in the same sense that mounted chivalry was absurd in the face of effective archery or gunpowder. For those who have deep bomb shelters, plenty of underground supplies, and the ruthlessness to sacrifice billions of lives, nuclear war might be viewed as an effective tool for sweeping away commercial civilization in favor of another type of civilization.
We should not pretend that mass murdering dictators have disappeared from history. Communists, anarchists and National Socialists long ago denounced commercial civilization as “bourgeois” or “Jewish.” It is a matter of record that Nazis and Communists killed over 100 million people in the twentieth century. Why would today’s totalitarian governments, in Moscow and Beijing, refrain from using nuclear weapons to achieve their objectives in the twenty-first century? What is to stop them? It is well known that the West leaves itself open to annihilation, relying on a retaliatory version of the Maginot Line (i.e., “mutual assured destruction”). For that matter, the West is not building bomb shelters; neither are they determined to build an effective missile defense. In the dead reckoning of commercial civilization, the price tag on survival is too high. Better to eat, drink and be merry – and hope the fatal day is many years off.
The bourgeois approach to nuclear warfare is understandable. What choice does the West have? On the other side of the Great Divide, the haters of the western bourgeoisie, the grandchildren of Stalin and Mao’s revolutionary cadres, will never give up their nuclear weapons in favor of genuine peace. If they pretend to disarm, we should not believe them. Nuclear weapons are essential tools in their calling. This is why they are building and improving their ICBMs and warheads while America falls behind. If they wished to give up their nuclear ambitions, they would’ve set aside their expensive arsenals in favor of commercial competition. In other words, they would join commercial civilization and follow the example of the Japanese – who have long prospered under a pacifist constitution. But the leaders of Russia and China have not disarmed, and will not disarm. This is because they are preparing for the next world war, which will be fought against a weakened and isolated America. For this is what Russian and Chinese policy aims to achieve.
The key to winning a nuclear war is to strike so that the enemy cannot strike back. The grand strategy of Russia and China revolves around this idea. If the weapons are used rationally, as they were at Hiroshima and Nagasaki, the environmental damage is tolerable (as many studies have shown). While this kind of thing sounds crazy to normal people, it seemed perfectly sensible to Harry Truman – who bombed Japan into submission with two atomic weapons in 1945. Any power that gains nuclear supremacy can force an enemy to capitulate. It worked once, it can work again.
Vladimir Putin and Hu Jintao know what they are doing. They have enabled Iran’s nuclear program, armed North Korea, and sent warships to encourage Hugo Chavez’s anti-American stand. Such is the policy of undermining the United States at every opportunity. Of course, we hear occasional words of “friendship” from Russia and China; but we should not be so simple as to believe the Russian lies. Let us credit words when they are matched by deeds.
So my answer to the first “relevant question” may be summarized as follows: The ruling circles in Russia and China consider themselves to be in an undeclared war with the United States; this undeclared war has been waged from the time of Mao and Stalin until today. Whatever conflicts or disputes may exist between the Russians and Chinese, their strategic inferiority vis-à-vis the United States necessitates their collaboration. This collaboration is visible to those who watch events closely, who study the moves of Russia and China with care.
The second “relevant question,” is to ask about the enemy’s grand strategy. I believe it is a strategy that employs sophisticated new methods of warfare, opening new frontiers of battle. The war is waged through language, words and concepts. The war is waged through media and the influencing of vital institutions (including churches, universities, banks, publishing houses, organized crime and parliamentary government). The war is waged through trade, finance and the seduction of businessmen. It is waged by attacking Internet sites, by invading sensitive computer systems. There are many fronts in this war. Immediate measurements of conventional military strength are irrelevant, because the power of conventional forces can be augmented or reduced due to strategic successes in non-military theaters of action. It is even possible that America’s nuclear arsenal could be neutralized through non-military attacks.
The third “relevant” question, of course, is how to counter the enemy strategy. Assuming the authorities grasped the scale, subtly and complexity of the Russian and Chinese combination, there would have to be significant changes in the way America does business. The CIA and FBI would have to be reformed. New social attitudes would have to be promoted. This would be a massive project, and would inspire bitter controversy. Given the extent to which anti-American ideas have penetrated American thinking, there is no guarantee that American officials could convince the public of the danger. In fact, there is every reason to believe that the West is incapable of countering Russian and Chinese strategy.
To prove my point, I will point to Senator Dianne Feinstein’s piece in Saturday’s Wall Street Journal, with the cheery title “Let’s Commit to a Nuclear-Free World.” Keep in mind that Feinstein represents the Senate majority, which has already blocked efforts to replace America’s aging nuclear warheads. To show her bipartisanship, Feinstein quotes President Ronald Reagan: “We seek total elimination one day of nuclear weapons from the face of the Earth.”
We may all agree with Reagan’s sentiment, but it should not be the basis for U.S. grand strategy. The first “relevant question” should not be “which weapon threatens mankind.” The first relevant question should be “who are our enemies?” If our enemies have nuclear weapons, if our enemies cheat on arms control agreements, we’d better not propose a disarmament treaty. And yet, that is the strategic “thinking” of a United States Senator and a host of illustrious “others.” The victory of emotion over intellect is now complete. Fear of nuclear weapons has overtaken fear of the enemy.
“Seeking new weapons and maintaining massive arsenals makes no sense,” writes Senator Feinstein. The solution, of course, is for the United States to “lead the way” in nuclear disarmament. The Bush administration’s push for replacing obsolete U.S. warheads is dismissed as “threatening.” Nothing is said about Russia’s ICBM deployments or China’s nuclear buildup. In Feinstein’s view, nuclear weapons are evil. “Today,” writes Feinstein, “there are enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world hundreds of times.” This statement is sadly misinformed. Today’s U.S. arsenal cannot even guarantee the destruction of the main military targets in Russia. Incredibly, the senator is engaged in a “moral crusade” against a weapon that has preserved her life, and her country’s life. What she proposes, I believe, is her own elimination – though she doesn’t know it. From her point of view, the leaders in Moscow and Beijing are not the problem. Our enemy is not some foreign power. Our enemy is a weapon. “We must recognize nuclear weapons for what they are – not a deterrent, but a grave and gathering threat to humanity.”
The year 2009 will mark the end of failed policies and false assumptions. In all probability, there will be new policies based on new false assumptions.
© 2009 J. R. Nyquist