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Monday, March 2, 2020

A Military Revolution?

For John, BLUFWe hear about these things from time to time.  Nothing to see here; just move along.

Here is the sub-headline:

Times have changed and America can no longer project its military power like it did in Iraq. Those days are over.

From Russia Insider, Mr Dmitry Orlov, republished now, but first published on 21 April 2018.

Here is the lede plus four:

For the past 500 years European nations—Portugal, the Netherlands, Spain, Britain, France and, briefly, Germany—were able to plunder much of the planet by projecting their naval power overseas.  Since much of the world’s population lives along the coasts, and much of it trades over water, armed ships that arrived suddenly out of nowhere were able to put local populations at their mercy.

The armadas could plunder, impose tribute, punish the disobedient, and then use that plunder and tribute to build more ships, enlarging the scope of their naval empires.  This allowed a small region with few natural resources and few native advantages beyond extreme orneriness and a wealth of communicable diseases to dominate the globe for half a millennium.

The ultimate inheritor of this naval imperial project is the United States, which, with the new addition of air power, and with its large aircraft carrier fleet and huge network of military bases throughout the planet, is supposedly able to impose Pax Americana on the entire world.  Or, rather, was able to do so—during the brief period between the collapse of the USSR and the emergence of Russia and China as new global powers and their development of new anti-ship and antiaircraft technologies.  But now this imperial project is at an end.

Prior to the Soviet collapse, the US military generally did not dare to directly threaten those countries to which the USSR had extended its protection.  Nevertheless, by using its naval power to dominate the sea lanes that carried crude oil, and by insisting that oil be traded in US dollars, it was able to live beyond its means by issuing dollar-denominated debt instruments and forcing countries around the world to invest in them.  It imported whatever it wanted using borrowed money while exporting inflation, expropriating the savings of people across the world.  In the process, the US has accumulated absolutely stunning levels of national debt—beyond anything seen before in either absolute or relative terms.  When this debt bomb finally explodes, it will spread economic devastation far beyond US borders.  And it will explode, once the petrodollar wealth pump, imposed on the world through American naval and air superiority, stops working.

New missile technology has made a naval empire cheap to defeat.  Previously, to fight a naval battle, one had to have ships that outmatched those of the enemy in their speed and artillery power.  The Spanish Armada was sunk by the British armada.  More recently, this meant that only those countries whose industrial might matched that of the United States could ever dream of opposing it militarily.  But this has now changed:  Russia’s new missiles can be launched from thousands of kilometers away, are unstoppable, and it takes just one to sink a destroyer and just two to sink an aircraft carrier.  The American armada can now be sunk without having an armada of one’s own.  The relative sizes of American and Russian economies or defense budgets are irrelevant:  the Russians can build more hypersonic missiles much more quickly and cheaply than the Americans would be able to build more aircraft carriers.

This is a problem, unless we get a counter.  We can pretty much stand down the Army, since, aside from Airborne and SOF, they won't be going anywhere.

Hat tip to my friend Ricard Byrd.

Regards  —  Cliff

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