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Why America Could Lose a War with Russia or China

The U.S. Military possesses considerable conventional power and reach, but it currently lacks the endurance to prevail in a protracted war against a near-peer opponent. The destructiveness of modern unlimited conventional warfare will rapidly exhaust the existing base force leaving few military options for the nation.  

Incremental improvements in doctrine, global basing, and force structure are all steps in the right direction, but they are fundamentally insufficient to allow the United States to prevail in a large-scale conventional war. Political and military leaders seek solutions in sterile funding debates, vociferous force size comparisons and acquisition deliberations, but then fail to address one of the elements critical to success in warfare – endurance. The ability to regenerate expended war-fighting capability is essential to maintain military staying power in a protracted war. The United States must build this kind of endurance into future force design and emphasize those military means that can be regenerated quickly and affordably to preserve military options.

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The United States must transform its military and support network from the cumbersome model that defines it today into a resilient and agile information age model that combines endurance with lethality. Getting this transformation right will rely on accepting three premises. First, assume that the nature of warfare is still grounded in the destruction of lives, material, and ideas. The side which can dominate this cycle of destruction can control the pace and direction of the conflict. Then, anticipate that the enemy will continuously disrupt the digital, physical, and economic systems essential for reconstitution of fighting forces. Finally, accept that full national mobilization, of the sort that occurred in the United States during the Second World War, is unlikely to happen for the next war. By filtering conceptual thinking through these assumptions, force planners and policymakers can pursue the right mix of high-volume, low-cost options to build the high-endurance, resilient military formations the United States needs for the future.

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Future War - Relentless Destruction

Warfare in this century will remain a contest grounded in relentless destruction.Geographically, warfare will extend from the points of physical contact between belligerents to spaces Americans tend to regard as sanctuaries and strategic support areas. The future of interstate war will involve the conventional expressions of violence on the land, the sea, and in the air with conflict in space and cyber-space domains. Advances in the speed and range of target identification and engagement will make platforms, like aircraft carriers, submarines, and support vessels, vulnerable to a broader range of opponents.  General Mark Milley,the U.S. Army's Chief of Staff bluntly emphasizes a vision of future warfighting where the levels of attrition may rival the Second World War.

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Any conflict against a determined and capable opponent will fully stress all areas of the logistics chain that underpins contemporary American military power. The intensity and pace of combat will rapidly overwhelm the logistics systems intended to reconstitute or extend the endurance for forward-deployed forces. In fact, studies like the Rand Corporation’s highly publicized report concerning a theoretical Russian invasion of the Baltics, only reinforce this idea. Combatant commanders will find themselves in a race with opponents to achieve military objectives. Supporting the forward warfighters will involve tremendous effort and expense as the battleground extends to the homeland and the military-industrial base.   

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