PLAN aircraft carrier

China Is Telegraphing Its Military Intent. Time to Listen.

A military exercises in the manner it plans to fight. This was true for Russia before the Feb. 24 invasion of Ukraine, true of the United States before the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and is true of China today. A missile test range the People’s Liberation Army is using in western China demonstrates its combat intentions toward Taiwan. The U.S. should reckon for this, and other information on PLA force posture, in its military planning.

Russia’s yearlong force and equipment buildup, and its force structure, signaled its intentions toward Ukraine. Its plan was irrational, but that it “abandoned” its doctrinal principles is not clear. Russia’s ground campaign did not coordinate axes of advance to stress Ukrainian defenses, but it did create multiple pressure points aimed at overwhelming Ukrainian resistance.

Moreover, while the Russian air force never destroyed Ukrainian air capacity, Russia’s air force was not designed to conduct a broad interdiction campaign akin to the Coalition air campaign in the 1991 Gulf War. The modern Russian air force, the VVS, is, like its Soviet predecessor, designed to control the airspace over the front line, conduct interdiction missions at a limited operational depth, and prioritize ground targets in a tactical, rather than theater-wide, capacity. In general, the best Russia analysts predicted the war’s initial pattern based on their understanding of Soviet and Russian doctrine. They ignored Ukrainian strategy, operational skill, and unshakable morale.

Similarly, the U.S. military fought—in broad terms—how it trained and exercised before its 2003 invasion of Iraq. Although the U.S. Army expected a larger ground force commitment, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld did not fundamentally transform America’s doctrinal approach to ground warfare.

Read the full article at Barron’s.

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