The lasting military legacy of the Trump era

President Trump lasting military legacy, according to  Michael T. Klare, is not how Trump waged or failed to wage the global war on terror.

It is something far different—the conversion of the U.S. military from a global counterterror force into one designed to fight an all-out, cataclysmic, potentially nuclear war with China and/or Russia.

In the Cold War years, Western strategists generally imagined a contest of brute strength in which our tanks and artillery would battle theirs along hundreds of miles of front lines until one side or the other was thoroughly depleted and had no choice but to sue for peace (or ignite a global nuclear catastrophe).

Today’s strategists, however, imagine far more multidimensional (or “multi-domain”) warfare extending to the air and well into rear areas, as well as into space and cyberspace.  In such an environment, they’ve come to believe that the victor will have to act swiftly, delivering paralyzing blows to what they call the enemy’s C3I capabilities (critical command, control, communications, and intelligence) in a matter of days, or even hours.

Only then would powerful armored units be able to strike deep into enemy territory and, in true Patton fashion, ensure a Russian defeat.  The U.S. military has labeled such a strategy “all-domain warfare” and assumes that the U.S. will indeed dominate space, cyberspace, airspace, and the electromagnetic spectrum.

In a future confrontation with Russian forces in Europe, as the doctrine lays it out, U.S. air power would seek control of the airspace above the battlefield, while using guided missiles to knock out Russian radar systems, missile batteries, and their C3I facilities.  The Army would conduct similar strikes using a new generation of long-range artillery systems and ballistic missiles.

Only when Russia’s defensive capabilities were thoroughly degraded would that Army follow up with a ground assault, Patton-style.

Russia is a nuclear power on a par with the United States, and China also has nuclear weapons.  So the administration’s 2018 Nuclear Posture Review called for development of a new generation of unclear weapons, including battlefield weapons.

 It called for the introduction of two new types of nuclear munitions: a “low-yield” warhead (meaning it could, say, pulverize Lower Manhattan without destroying all of New York City) for a Trident submarine-launched ballistic missile and a new nuclear-armed sea-launched cruise missile.

President Trump scrapped the Intermediate-range Nuclear Forces (INF) treaty, which limited short-range nuclear missiles in Europe.  He has refused to renew the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which expires Feb. 5, 2021—just two weeks after Joe Biden’s inauguration.

At best, this commits the United States to an expensive new arms race at a time when government on all levels is short of money to maintain basic infrastructure and provide for basic needs.  At worst, it threatens a nuclear war that would destroy industrial civilization and a large fraction of the human race.

I don’t think Trump alone is to blame for this. The call for nuclear modernization and a new strategy originated in the Pentagon and its allied think tanks during the Obama administration.

Hillary Clinton was one of that administration’s war hawks and I doubt she would have opposed the new strategy.

Joe Biden may step in to renew START, but it will be hard for him to change course otherwise.  Production of some of the new weapons has already begun.

The sad fact is that the military-industrial complex is one of the main U.S. job creators and has strong political support.

Cutting back on military spending during an oncoming economic depression would make the depression worse, unless there is some offset.  The same is true of industries that produce or depend on fossil fuels, but that is a topic for another time.


How to Make War, Twenty-First Century Style, and Lose a World by Michael T. Klare for TomDIspatch.  (Hat tip to Bill Harvey)

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2 Responses to “The lasting military legacy of the Trump era”

  1. Fred (Au Natural) Says:

    The world in a nutshell:

    China is sensing that it will be the next great superpower and will dominate the globe. This is not an unrealistic vision. There are plenty of things that could go wrong with this vision, many of which are inherent to China’s political system, but China is blind to its own shortcomings. They are starting to make their claim on the world. What is happening in the South China Sea (nine-dash line) and the East China Sea (Senkoku islands) and the belt and road initiative are the first tentative steps.

    Russia sees a surging China with mixed feelings. Yes, China does afflict the US and makes life in Eastern Europe easier for them but it is a short term benefit. There are many points of contention between Russia and China. In a conventional war, Russia would lose much of eastern Siberia (which they have fought over in the past) including critical Vladivostok which China has publicly claimed belongs to them.

    Any Sino-Russian relationship depends on common enmity for the US or it falls apart. Russia is loathe to accept the subordinate role in the relationship which Chinese economic and military power (and Emperor Xi Jinping’s pride) would dictate. The only reason Russia isn’t in such a state right now is its nuclear arsenal. They can’t be a conventional military powerhouse in both the east and the west.

    Ultimately, I see Russia moving to the west rather than becoming a Chinese economic satellite. China may be big and strong but the west is also big and strong if it can get its act together. One of the things Trump did was to continue the “pivot to the East.” There is a very real alliance in place between India, Australia, Japan, and the US (aka the “Quad”) with support from other players (S. Korea, Vietnam, Taiwan, Philippines, Indonesia, etc.) in the region. India in particular has really ramped up its military. I don’t see anyone going to war over the Paracell’s or the Spratley’s but if China tries to enforce its nine-dash line claims or moves on Taiwan or Senkoku or Kashmir, there will be buckets of blood.

    Even if they won locally (doubtful), China would lose globally. I expect they’ll just continue their process of micro-slicing the salami in the east, just as I expect Czar Putin will in the west. I just hope China doesn’t make the same mistake Japan did in 1941.


  2. philebersole Says:

    Since the breakup of the Soviet Union, the U.S. government—the “establishment” or deep state or whatever you want to call it—has sought military domination of the planet.

    It is an impossible goal.

    It has been of enormous cost in money and in human life (although, in recent years, not so much of American lives, only the lives of brown and black people in the Greater Middle East).

    The Chinese and Russians don’t have to match the U.S. buildup. All they have to do is to be able to counter U.S. forces around their borders, which by many accounts they seem to be able to do.

    Russia, a weak country, is harmed by U.S. sanctions and a U.S.-led arms race, but this is of no benefit to us Americans.

    China, a strong country, is growing ever stronger and the U.S. cannot stop it. The United States, also a strong country, is becoming ever weaker.

    We Americans should be concentrating on rebuilding our own strength, not trying to stifle other countries.

    The danger of nuclear war is not zero. If you gamble with nuclear war, you only have to lose once.


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