The great failing of the Goldwater-Nichols Act is the emphasis on joint and coalition operations for their own sake—and if there are any deficiencies, then what you need is more jointness. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told an audience in 2021 that a multidomain, integrated-deterrence grand strategy will lead to better results that mean working together in new ways “and all of us giving it our all.” This is a telling indictment of Goldwater-Nichols and its erroneous one-size-fits-all jointness panacea.
During the late Cold War, the U.S. Army and Air Force examined lessons learned from the Vietnam War and developed the air-land battle doctrine perfectly attuned to NATO’s Central Front against the Warsaw Pact, with operations based on rapid maneuver and close-air support. Likewise, the Navy developed the 1986 Maritime Strategy and its 600-ship fleet force structure to deter the Soviet Navy within its strategic bastions, while the Marine Corps developed its amphibious warfare and prepositioning doctrine to seize the littorals along the Soviet landmass.
Dr. Friedman does a superlative job providing the historical context, and Dr. Mahnken provides the geostrategic overview. Captain Tangredi provides an operational approach. Together, an ensured interdiction/commons dominance strategy using naval, air, and cyber forces can deter, deny, and constrain China’s military in the western Pacific island-chain commons without resorting to strikes on the Chinese mainland or the use of nuclear weapons.
—Marc C. DeLamater
Captain Roncolato raises many important issues for both the Navy and the U.S. military in general. The power of nations ebbs and flows. It is therefore necessary, before even considering war as an option, to determine whether the relative power of a state is falling or rising. In that regard, China is the workshop for the world, and the United States gorges on its goods.
The United States holds a weak nonnuclear hand with respect to China. U.S. options are to bluff, fold, or lose. Widening force disparities will eventually cause China to call the U.S. bluff. At that point, the available options will be to fold or lose.
Folding (withdrawal from the area) would result in loss of face. This may be of some significance to our Asian allies. But losing would be far worse. Failing to win outright in a limited and localized armed conflict with China would be disastrous for the United States’ reputation. And the loss of lives and equipment would further diminish remaining U.S. combat capabilities.
This means the country needs to come to a national consensus about what a “war of necessity” actually means. The danger lies in accepting an overly broad definition and possibly drawing the nation into battles that are not about existential survival and will only drain the nation’s resources and resolve.
U.S. decision-makers must figure out the parameters for when to fold versus when to stay in the game. The next step would be to decide, in advance, whether the invasion of Taiwan by the People’s Republic falls into the category of a war of necessity—and then act accordingly if it ever happens.