The Pentagon’s military posture based on post-Cold War dominance will not work against new Russian and Chinese strategies and must be urgently updated, or the US risks losing a war against either power, a new report warns.
America needs a “new way of war,” according to a report authored by Chris Dougherty of the Center for New American Security (CNAS) and published on Wednesday.
“For the first time in decades, it is possible to imagine the United States fighting—and possibly losing—a large-scale war with a great power,” Dougherty warns.
While the US remains stuck in the “implicit and explicit mental framework” for military strategy and operations that emerged during the 1991 Gulf War, he adds, China and Russia have been devising new strategies and weapons to defeat the US in war should that become necessary.
The current American way of war will not work against China and Russia. They have gone to school on our way of war, but DoD’s concepts and weapons systems haven’t kept pace. https://t.co/nKbqeZEdFC
— Christopher M. Dougherty (@C_M_Dougherty) June 12, 2019
Dougherty argues that Beijing and Moscow have “offset their relative weakness versus the United States by using time and geography to their advantage” and developed weapons and strategies to target US vulnerabilities, to the point they could defeat the US and allies in a regional war.
“The United States is a status quo power navigating a period of disruptive change,” he writes, and the way of war that emerged after the Cold War “will not work” in the present day and age.
There is no going back to the post–Cold War era of US military dominance.
“It rests on a foundation of strategic and operational assumptions that were the product of an anomalous historical period of unchallenged US military dominance,” Dougherty wrote. “The assumptions from that period are now deeply flawed or wholly invalid and must be updated for an era of great-power competition.”
No amount of money thrown at the Pentagon will help if it is used to invest in “flawed concepts.” This would be a waste of resources and “an enormous lost opportunity to make better investments,” Dougherty wrote.
The mere perception that a US defeat is possible could “unravel” the constellation of alliances and partnerships underpinning the global order that has benefited Washington since the end of the Second World War, the report warns.
Dougherty has rung the alarm bells over this issue before, incorporating some of his insights into the January 2018 National Defense Strategy while he worked at the Pentagon.
A former US Army Ranger, Doughtery has also worked at the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Assessments (CSBA). In 2014, he wrote a compelling essay in the National Interest about the short-sighted focus on short wars.
It remains to be seen how much of an effect his new study will have, however. While the Trump administration has raised the Pentagon’s budget repeatedly and pledged to rebuild the “depleted” military, it has had little love for CNAS. The think tank enjoyed considerable influence in Washington during the Obama administration, and has several of its veterans among its directors and advisory board.