Winning World War IV

Recent coverage of the Rand Corporation’s war simulations showed the U.S. would lose badly in the first stages of a conventional shoot-out with Russia in the event of invasion of our NATO allies in the Baltics, or a Chinese strike as part of an attack on Taiwan.

Much of the problem comes from the neglect of anti-air and anti-missile forces during the Obama years. The Trump administration, however, has proposed a big increase for future defense spending in this area, and we don’t lack for deployable systems already.  Aegis Ashore and THAAD are already available and our allies like Japan are interested in buying these systems as well.  

Even better, President Trump and his Reaganite advisers are going to replay one of the Gipper’s best moves -- mobile intermediate range missiles. It’s not too much to suggest the weapon that most contributed to winning the Cold War was President Reagan’s Pershing II missile. He put hundreds of these cheap and devastating weapons into Germany, capable of carrying both conventional and nuclear warheads.  Road mobile and with hypersonic re-entry warheads, the Soviets had no answer for them.

Up until then, NATO was thought to have a strategic disadvantage, because the Red Army’s enormous tank armies could drive deep into Germany before we could counter them. Then we would be faced with the no-win choice of either the surrender of much of Europe or hitting back in an all-out nuclear war.

Pershing II, however, checkmated 40 years of Soviet strategy. It guaranteed that hundreds of thousands of Red Army soldiers would die almost as soon as they crossed the West German frontier. No wonder Gorbachev was so eager to sign the INF treaty and effectively cede the Cold War (World War III) without a shot being fired in Europe.

Now, in the face of years of bad behavior by Russia’s Putin, we have pulled out of the INF, and will once again have the U.S. Army field cheap, powerful mobile missile batteries. The DoD is already reconfiguring cruise missiles for ground launch mode (GLCM). The first new ballistic systems will likely be what amounts to a little brother of the Pershing-Raytheon’s DeepStrike Missile. Longer range mobile missiles will also be developed. Unlike a ship-based or airplane loaded missile, this type of weapon rides on a truck no bigger than a school bus. They are cheap to buy and to operate. 

Hiding out on the forest roads of Eastern Europe, these weapons systems would wreck any Putin-sponsored invasion force as soon as it appeared.

Such missiles could also be deployed to Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and possibly the Philippines, ready to take out Red China’s coastal military forces, and any invasion fleet, if the shooting started. China has spent untold billions on planes and ships designed to sink an American aircraft carrier, in the hopes that they could bluff us out of the Western Pacific. But just like the Soviets, they have no answer for cheap, powerful American missiles riding on the back of a truck.

Having put American defense posture on the road to a much more sensible strategy of mobile missiles, the Trump administration still has its work cut out with our NATO allies. You would think these cheapskates would be all on board to get their own mobile missile forces, to replace expensive air and naval assets. But no. The big talk now is of a “European” aircraft carrier. A giant, expensive aircraft carrier that each European country would take turns operating, like the family with a bunch of teenagers and just one car. Frau Dummkopf is all for it. This at a time when the U.S. Navy is so unsure of the cost effectiveness of its own mighty fleet that the relatively new USS Harry S Truman is being retired early.

It’s pathetic, when you think about just how far down the Russians at this point really are. A declining population and an oil-dependent economy makes them weaker every year. They still develop some modern weapons, especially radars and missiles, but they cannot afford to field them in large numbers. Much of their existing surface fleet is going to be scrapped because they don’t have the money for a large navy.

With with a population of over 500 million people, our European allies, if they just contributed the bare minimum to real defense spending, would have a military force that could annihilate Putin’s ambitions. And allow America to concentrate on the long-term threats in the Middle East and Pacific.

On the other side of the globe, it is interesting to see what a country that really has to worry about its defenses and America's resolve is up to. The Republic of China (Taiwan) isn’t waiting for anybody; they have a crash course to modernize their missile programs. They even have a quiet program to recycle the venerable GE J85 jet engine from their retired fighters to power a new homemade fleet of cruise missiles, with a range of over 750 miles. Enough to put everything the Chicoms care about in Peking and Shanghai directly in danger. 

That’s the sort of credible deterrence that wins world wars -- by making sure they never actually get started. 

 Frank Friday is an attorney in Louisville, KY.