In a recent Wall Street Journal article (“America’s naval strategy is at sea”) Seth Cospey, the author, argues that the US does not have a maritime strategy to conduct a naval war against the rapidly growing Chinese fleet.
There are two parts of his argument:
- The number of US naval combatants is much smaller that during the Reagan years and that numerous commitments has reduced readiness in terms of training and maintenance status. This part of his argument is true and shameful. What goes unsaid but is implied is that there is not a surge strategy to deal with a conflict situation.
- There is neither a set of strategic naval objectives nor a how to fight a naval battle in the Pacific doctrine. To this I would say he is only a little bit correct.
Any conflict in the Pacific is not going to be only a naval effort. The doctrine of multi-domain warfare makes it clear that most engagements in any conflict will be fought using resources from several services and several type—air, cyber, long range missiles, ground forces, etc.
In my recent set of articles about the defense of Taiwan I introduced the concept of long range engagements of Chinese naval forces by ground based missiles on small islands manned by soldiers or Marines. In a simulation of such a concept we manned an island with a small multi-domain force—air defense, very small ground defense, drone and satellite feeds, long and short-range artillery and missiles. The mission was to defend the island against a much superior attacking Chinese naval force.
The attacking force’s location was determined by satellite reconnaissance and the engagements in depth began by air launched missiles that were remotely guided. As the naval force got closer it was engaged by land based missiles and long range artillery. And finally, when the much depleted force tried an assault it was engaged by shorter rangr artillery and other defensive force systems. The naval assault failed.
Now consider that there is a checkerboard of such manned small island redoubts throughout the Pacific and that they are mutually reinforcing, when possible, whose mission is to deny the Chinese Navy freedom of movement and to attrit it. Then the naval forces would be the mobile counter attack force once the Chinese naval force had been discovered and engaged so as to remove the threat from one set of checkerboard squares and go on to the next. A checkerboard island defense and a mobile attack force—a lethal combination. I contend that eventually the US military will get there (They are over half way there now.)
What needs to be added is the mobilization and rapid deployment of the island manning and other forces needed. This will be the expensive part and maybe the limiting part. Reconnaissance and selection of the islands to be occupied at the beginning of a conflict is relatively inexpensive and could be done tomorrow. Creating the multi-domain task forces, at least on paper, from existing resources would not be too difficult. (The Marines are working on art of this right now.) Maybe, besides resource acquisition, the hardest part will be developing the mental agility to fight multi-domain battles.
Finally, strategic goals should reinforce the US belief in the freedom of seas and not threaten the existence of the existing Chinese government. To do that would be to seek a world war that could escalate to the use of nuclear weapons.
Need readers to respond.