Alliances Mean Victory

Alliances Mean Victory

Isolationism is not a strategy; it is its abdication.

Revitalizing the Industrial Base

To effect the appropriate change, duplication and inefficiencies must be eliminated. This requires structural change at the highest levels. The National Defense Industrial Strategy promulgated by the Pentagon in 2023 is insufficient, for it is incremental.

Before Pearl Harbor, President Roosevelt and Henry Ford, among other visionaries, realized that the war to come would be industrial and not artisanal in scale. Ford pioneered the moving production line to mass-produce automobiles. This concept would be applied magnificently in the creation of the Willow Run plant, which would produce one B-24 Liberator heavy bomber every hour. This was the epitome of America’s Arsenal of Democracy, for, during the war, the plant built over 6,000 planes.

In the wake of World War II, the advent of nuclear weapons, jets, and missiles presaged an age in which weapons became too complex to be built in factories that resembled civilian production lines. Weapon design and production methods diverged markedly from those geared to consumer products. With this bifurcation came a concomitant reduction in America’s surge capacity with respect to our defense industrial base. The decimation of our non-military shipbuilding industry has accelerated this reduction.

The advent of drones, coupled with inexpensive computers that employ artificial intelligence, must change our post-war construct. Based on the insights obtained through the war in Ukraine, we must reinvent America’s defense industrial base to incorporate a surge capacity—focused on our military’s ability to adapt commercial research and design practices, production facilities, and techniques to create an Arsenal of Democracy for this century.

The war in Ukraine has shown that conflict with a near-peer belligerent will require massive quantities of ordnance and drones of all types. Commercial drones made by China’s Shenzhen DJI Sciences and Technologies, which controls over three-quarters of the worldwide market for consumer drones, have been repurposed by both Ukrainian and Russian forces. Inexpensive drones have been successfully employed to destroy military assets that cost millions.

Innovation is Critical

Throughout history, immense advantages have been conveyed to the side that prized innovation in weapons and tactics. Drones with intrinsic autonomy, several generations beyond those currently in use, may be fielded far faster than was previously considered possible. This revolution can only be attained by channeling America’s technology industries to produce dual-use products that can rapidly expand our defense production base. 

A new administration can use Section 232 findings to effect change in America’s surge capacity; this law permits the president to determine whether imports “threaten to impair the national security.” As an immediate measure to realize a prudent level of self-sufficiency with regard to domestic or allied commercial drone production, Section 232 could be employed to ensure a specified level of the nation’s drone supplies is provided by domestic or allied sources.

Since innovation and investment in the commercial sector now match or, in many cases, outpace those that occur within traditional defense companies, the inclusion of new corporate entrants into the field of defense production must become a national priority. New defense companies that embrace non-traditional business models include a raft of start-ups with impressive valuations. These contenders have demonstrated powerful technologies involving artificial intelligence, directed energy systems, and drone and counter-drone warfare. These advances are vital because future battles will be marked by the application of arsenals infused with such capabilities. 

Holding the Line

Should the United States broker a peace agreement between Russia and Ukraine in the months to come, our nation must not thwart Ukraine’s righteous objectives and its requirements for future security. In the search for peace, America must eschew any course that is disadvantageous to Ukraine’s ultimate welfare and territorial integrity. 

The United States cannot allow President Putin and President Xi to view our efforts to end the conflict as an American accommodation or weakness. It is not difficult to envision that Xi would take action to turn future events in Ukraine to the Chinese Communist Party’s advantage and denigrate our status as a superpower. China could mount such actions against Taiwan, the Philippines, or in the South China Sea. We must be on watch: Our efforts to achieve noble ends can and will be turned against us if we are not vigilant.

Despotic regimes champion the state as possessing meaning and purpose while denying such attributes to the individual, who is only deemed of consequence if it acts as a vessel to achieve the ideological objectives of those in power. This is not America’s heritage. It is not Ukraine’s future. We must realize that the people of Ukraine are patriots in the same sense as our Minutemen, for their path follows our own.

Isolationism is not a strategy; it is its abdication. In aiding Ukraine in obtaining victory, we must not forget that the lessons of this conflict constitute nothing less than a blueprint for how we may contest and ultimately defeat Russia, China, and Iran. Part of this knowledge will permit us to reform our defense industrial base so that it remains unequaled during a time of immense technological change. 

Correction: An initial version of this article referred to the Neutrality Act of 1939 in the first sentence of the second paragraph when the intended legislation referenced was the Neutrality Act of 1937. The National Interest apologizes for this error. 

Richard B. Levine served as the Deputy Assistant Secretary of the Navy in charge of the Department of the Navy’s technology transfer and security assistance organization during the Reagan administration. Mr. Levine also served on the National Security Council Staff in the White House as Director of International Economic Affairs and as Director of Policy Development. Mr. Levine holds an MBA from the Harvard Business School and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy, with honors, from the Johns Hopkins University. Mr. Levine is the recipient of two Presidential letters of commendation and the Department of the Navy’s highest honor given to a civilian employee, the Distinguished Civilian Service Award.

Mr. Levine serves as a principal advisor to former senior officials on matters involving national security, government, and economics. He is the author of the new book Pillars for Freedom and the coauthor with Vice Admiral John M. Poindexter and Robert C. McFarlane of America’s #1 Adversary, both published by Fidelis Publishing.

Image: Dmytro Larin /