Pacific Vanguard 2020 exercise

What the U.S. Can Do to Prepare for a War With China

The U.S. is unprepared for an impending great-power conflict. That’s widely understood, but most commentary on American military preparedness misses three critical points: the time horizon for a conflict with China, the logistical challenges of building and sustaining American military power, and the industrial difficulties of replenishing and expanding current stockpiles. A war with Beijing wouldn’t be decided primarily with high-end weapons systems but with the traditional elements of military power.

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A new cold war has begun. At its heart is a fundamental disagreement between the U.S. and China over the structure of Asian security considerations. The original Cold War’s antagonism stemmed from Soviet insistence that Washington remove itself from Europe and Eurasia more broadly. China’s strategic effort to deny U.S. forces access to international waters where a naval conflict could occur, its increasing numbers of military bases around the world, and its growing ability to interrupt logistic communications with America’s Indo-Pacific allies demonstrate that Beijing has the same ambition today. Just as Soviet Russia sought to destroy the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and thereby eliminate U.S. political engagement in Western Europe, communist China now seeks to capture Taiwan and to fragment the U.S. alliance system in Asia.

China has something against which to measure its policy that the Soviets never had: history. Beijing has studied Moscow’s Cold War mistakes, notably the tendency among Soviet strategists to wait patiently until their military power exceeded that of the U.S. This never occurred, primarily because the West engaged in a massive military expansion in the 1980s that nullified Soviet gains over the preceding two decades.

The Chinese aren’t going to wait patiently. They are prepared to capitalize on an apparent shift in their favor. China enjoys a growing advantage in geographic position, fleet size and missile numbers. In Xi Jinping, it also has a leader willing to use force to achieve political objectives. China stands a better chance now than it ever has of defeating the U.S. and its allies in a major war. The U.S. should expect an attack on Taiwan within this decade, perhaps as soon as 2025.

Read the rest at WSJ.

Seth Cropsey is founder and president of  Yorktown Institute. He served as a naval officer and as deputy undersecretary of the Navy and is author of “Mayday” and “Seablindness.”

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