Be Ready to Fight

By Captain Kevin Eyer, U.S. Navy (Retired)

Allison’s work is seminal. For the first time, a nascent fear of China is given sensible flesh. It certainly appears that Allison’s ideas have caught the attention of many U.S. leaders. Consider the 2018 National Defense Strategy: “As China continues its economic and military ascendance, asserting power through an all-of-nation long-term strategy, it will continue to pursue a military modernization program that seeks Indo-Pacific regional hegemony in the near-term and displacement of the United States to achieve global preeminence in the future.” On 30 May, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said the following: “In recognition of the increasing connectivity between the Indian and Pacific oceans, today we rename the U.S. Pacific Command to U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.” Does this change suggest a new policy of “containment” regarding China? The same day, Stars and Stripes reported that China’s invitation to participate in the Rim of the Pacific (RimPac) exercise—(as it had done in 2014 and 2016)—was rescinded owing largely to China’s activities in the Spratly Islands. Vietnam, long a wary adversary of China, was invited to participate in the exercise. 

Chief of Naval Operations Admiral John Richardson now discusses China not as a near-peer economic competitor, but within the context of great-power competition. He has asked: “What can we do to make each one of our platforms more capable, more lethal, more competitive in this great power context?” About what country does one think he is talking?

Meanwhile, at the operational level of war, more significant work is being done. Anyone who has not considered carefully Admiral Scott Swift’s three most recent articles in this journal (January, February, and May) is missing the boat. Swift explains what may be thought of as a complete revision of how the next Pacific war will be fought. In particular, his May contribution, “A Fleet Must Be Able to Fight,” describes the necessity to disaggregate the carrier strike group (CSG) to achieve wide-area effects in a series of closely related campaigns across time. Suddenly, the “Fleet Problem” of 1939 is returned in which the Navy war-games the real world at the operational level.

A great tide is turning, and time grows short. It is estimated that China will achieve military parity with the United States by 2025, and there is a fair probability that the next Admiral Husband Kimmel already is serving in a junior flag assignment. 

It is time to awake from the slumber of the past 30 years of relative peace. The United States no longer can afford the luxury of political and social agendas in the Navy. If you are a commander—at any level—and are not thinking about warfare with great energy and passion, you are doing your command and your nation a disservice. When and if it comes, this is a war that will have existential consequences and one that could be lost—just read in the May Proceedings Navy Captain Dale Rielage’s “ How We Lost the Great Pacific War.


Captain Eyer served in seven cruisers, commanding three Aegis cruisers: the USS Thomas S. Gates (CG-51), Shiloh (CG-67), and Chancellorsville (CG-62).

 

 
 

Conferences and Events

Maritime Security Dialogue

Wed, 2018-08-01

Maritime Security Dialogue A discussion with ADM Karl L. Schultz, USCGCommandant, U.S. Coast Guard Moderated by VADM Peter H....

The New China Challenge

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Mon, 2018-07-23

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