Thursday, February 11, 2016

Run To The Hills, The US Military Is Doomed. No, Wait....

Ah, the panic, oh, the suffering of the armies of flag-waving uber-"patriotic" fanboys. US Military is in "ruins" and evil Russkies are about to encircle Chicago and bomb the hell out of Detroit, which, at this point, will make no difference for Detroit whatsoever. That is what armchair "strategists" take from Lt. Colonel (Ret.) Daniel L.Davis' piece in The National Interest:

Before those who read this piece and are about to commit seppuku or go apoplectic, I would suggest--do not leave this world as of yet. And here is the reason, or, rather reasons.

1. US Armed Forces still remain the most potent force in the world, especially US Navy. 
2. American soldiers and sailors are among the best in the world. 
3. Lt. Colonel Davies said NOTHING new what has not been known to anyone with even the modicum of analytical ability and knowledge of modern (20th-21st Centuries) military history. In fact, this phenomenon, which Lt.Colonel Davis refers to, is endemic in the American system. And I don't mean just the process of acquisition and procurement of the weapons. I also mean US media-military-industrial complex which acts totally within Hollywood paradigm of Dream Factory or, in layman's lingo--BS. Granted, that it takes sometimes Paul Verhoeven's tongue in cheek genius to bring a piece of reality into the contemporary la-la military toys' world of media universe. 


And here I am forced, yet again, to deviate from writing Military Power and write something which was, otherwise, planned for that series of the posts. Let's, for starters, give definition to all those terms: Hyperpower, Superpower etc.

"The truth is, the United States is nowhere near as powerful and dominant as many believe."(c)   

If we will look in the history of the term "Superpower" we may see how it came to be defined as it is defined in Wiki:

Superpower is a word used to describe a state with a dominant position in international relations and which is characterised by its unparalleled ability to exert influence or project power on a global scale. This is done through the combined-means of technological, cultural, military and economic strength, as well as diplomatic and soft power influence. Traditionally, superpowers are preeminent among the great powers (e.g., as the United States is today).        


Is the United States a superpower? Absolutely! There is no even discussion about that, what discussion MUST be about is how much "super" is in this "superpower", what the doughnut, so to speak, is filled with. That MUST be the focus of a discussion. Since this blog is driven mostly by military-political and geopolitical issues, let's start with....yes, military power. A Hard Power, so to speak, as defined by late Samuel Huntington. 

Here, Davies makes (almost) a correct observation. 

"In the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm in 1991, there was great celebration in America that the crushing military victory over Saddam Hussein’s Iraq, “kicked the Vietnam syndrome once and for all” and demonstrated the United States was now the world’s sole military superpower. That was no empty bluster. Even Beijing and Moscow were impressed and openly lamented they were militarily inferior. Americans across the board were optimistic and proud. However justified that pride might have been at the time, it quickly mutated into distasteful arrogance. Now, it is an outright danger to the nation."

Why almost? Here is why. This statement proceeds from ignoring the state of development of the Soviet Armed Forces circa 1990 and here we have a problem. The problem is in what, by that time, Gorabachov and his "team" represented both metaphysically and in terms of their "activity". Long since discredited both at home and abroad, and thrown into the dust bin of history, this "statesman", due both to his incompetence and cowardice, followed a path of destruction which resulted in the geopolitical shock of the millennium. While US side tends to emphasize, for obvious reasons, as Lt.Colonel Davis does, that Moscow was impressed (I don't know how China even factored in here--it wasn't even a first rate military power then), the term "Moscow" must be explained. And here what was happening then:

1. Moscow by 1991 was not a homogeneous (or monolith) entity. The de-sovietization was in a full swing and the first and  strategic goal was to ultimately discredit Soviet Armed Forces as one of the main pillars of the Soviet State. This absolutely doesn't mean that Soviet Armed Forces didn't have issues--they did and some of those were huge and required serious reforms. But nobody in Soviet military circles, who had a minimum of professional common sense, had any illusions about staying power of Saddam's Army. The military reputation of Arab "allies" in the Soviet Union was approaching zero. So, the question was not if Saddam could  resist coalition, which comfortably pre-deployed without any interference from Iraq, but how fast will it collapse. It was the speed with which Iraq was defeated that impressed "Moscow". That was a military anomaly. And so it remains even today. Traditional Arab militaries' utter tactical and operational incompetence, inadequacy in operating even the "monkey models" of weapons were legendary and very few in the Soviet Armed Forces had any illusions.  

2.  While trailing in some issues related to communications and computers behind US military, Soviet Armed Forces by 1980s were fast closing the gap, for some it was too fast. Massive "digitizing" started as early as mid-1970s. By 1980s the gap was narrowing very fast and was becoming extremely narrow. It was precisely then, in 1980-1982, when MiG-29s and SU-27s started to be procured in large numbers for Soviet Air Force. Arguably the best strategic bomber of generation, TU-160 Blackjack, went into the production. Other, new and capable, weapon systems were being deployed, including first rate ECM and ECCM capabilities. Computerization was in a full swing. Nowhere this state of the affairs manifested itself more than in the Soviet Navy. Introduction of the submarine launched S10 Granat (SS-N-21 'Sampson' GRAU:3M10) cruise missiles, with the range of 3000 kilometers, in 1986 was one of such many developments. By mid-1980s Soviet Navy was deploying one of the best submarine force in the world and led some of the most advanced research in cutting edge technologies. In the army, the procurement of very advanced T-90 tanks was expected in early 1990s.  Here is some CIA report on one of many Soviet Precision Guided Munitions developments:

Soviet Artillery PGMs 

So, to put it mildly, talks of Soviet military "inferiority" were greatly exaggerated. But, most importantly, all these military technologies and ability to conduct operations by modern Russia, which became both the subject of admiration and jealousy (and hatred) in the West lately are ALL, without any exception, results of Soviet military technological and operational development of 1970s and 1980s. In the mayhem of Perestroika, which unleashed massive destructive forces in USSR and, eventually, resulted in the collapse of the country, the fact of the Soviet Armed Forces undergoing deep modernization, was forgotten or grossly misinterpreted by the self-proclaimed Cold War "victors" in their own favor against the background of the victory over utterly incompetent, third rate, however large, Arab army. The event almost repeated itself on 08-08-08, during Russian-Georgian War, when it took elements of Russia's 58th Army roughly 60 hours to demolish Georgian Armed Forces (trained and partially equipped by the "West" and Israel) and to open the road to Tbilisi and, eventually, to a partition of Georgia. A lot of rumors and criticism ensued but, with all Russian shortcomings, both real and many others very much fabricated, the result was pretty impressive. Nobody, however, celebrated anything in Russia, Russian Armed Forces in general were subjected to great domestic criticism for not doing the job even faster and more efficiently. Nobody also talked about overcoming Afghan "syndrome", if one ever existed to begin with. Nobody also filled the streets of Russian cities in jubilation when perpetrator of many atrocities terrorist Shamil Basayev was liquidated. The reason for these very much tame attitudes was very simple--most Russians did not and do not consider Georgia a serious military power. They also view Chechnya wars as tragic necessity.

Being "impressed", which did take place, and resigning as the prime military power are two very different things. It took Yeltsin and his coterie of criminals, overt and covert, who put in place suicidal economic and foreign policies which effectively demolished the remnants of the Soviet Armed Forces without creating new Russian ones. That came to tragic "fruition" during First Chechen War, when badly trained, supplied and constantly betrayed at the top political echelons of Russia, Russian Army still managed to take Grozny, while paying a steep price. However, even during those grim times, Russia remained a nuclear power which was still unassailable by anyone, including "sole military superpower" which came to all the wrong conclusions out of its triumph in Iraq. Self-proclaimed "victors" in the Cold War still never conquered Russia, never marched at the Red Square in parade of the victors (except on 9th May 2010 as dear guests and WW II Allies), never fought Russia, yet, for some inconceivable reasons equated, even weakened and humiliated, Russia to Iraq. A massive, and very dangerous, misjudgement, amplified greatly by triumphalist and incompetent US media, on part of US military and policy makers occurred.  

The issue in early 1990s was not that the volume of Russian arms deliveries collapsed, for obvious reasons, the issue was that wrong conclusions were made on the account of this collapse. Evidently many, not all, Western analysts based on their, often wrong, perceptions of Russia's realities in 1990s, concluded that American conventional superiority was a given and that Russia was a done deal. What they didn't see was an enormous Soviet scientific and industrial potential behind Russian military development. True, Russia's military-industrial complex was left to fight for its survival alone. But by 1994 Russia opened new export markets, such as UAE or Malaysia, or even South Korea. Weapons which went there were effectively Soviet weapons and those should have given a very serious shock to the Desert Storm triumphalists. That is when the issue of, in the words of Lt.Colonel Davies' "the truth is, the United States is nowhere near as powerful and dominant as many believe", should have taken a center stage at US doctrinal and political discussion. But this didn't happen and having a human and political buffoon in Kremlin seemed to define West's perception and vision of Russia. 

The fact that even in 1990s Russia was selling abroad some of the most advanced weapon systems which were on par, and, sometimes, better than the best US could offer not only abroad but for itself, generally, went missing on many people. Post-Desert Storm triumphalism reigned supreme both in media and in political establishment. The obvious fact that fighting non-existent Iraqi Air Force, which was nothing more than hodge-podge collection of basic aircraft, the core of which were 236 Mig-21s, "monkey versions" of 1950s design jets, was not the same as fighting trained and determined Air Force which operated MiG-29s, SU-27 and monster of an interceptor MiG-31s also went missing on many. Iraq's "Integrated Air Defense", a favorite cliche by US media, was nothing more than a collection of outdated, easily suppressed, obsolete missile systems. All that, and much more, was lost on people who declared the "end of history",  the unfolding of "New World Order" and other cliches for the consumption of a jubilant public. The very notion that what Russia was selling on the global weapons' market place being as good, if not better, than what US had to offer seemed blasphemous for some. The "American Way Of War" was pronounced to be the only way and US military technology to be the best and that was it. 

Well, many people in US, actually, thought otherwise. Especially those who bothered to at least check on state of Russia's military once in a while and who had real military experience. It was Colonel Douglas Macgregor's Breaking The Phalanx, which came out in 1996 which rang some bells. There were others, such as, later in mid-2000s, Professor Roger Thompson with his, shocking for some, Lessons Not Learned.

But no matter how many, or, rather, few professionals were trying to address some serious doctrinal, operational and technological issues, the post-Desert Storm delusion endured and resulted:

1. In horrendous strategic miscalculations which led to Iraq catastrophe, among many others;
2. A complete loss of situational awareness on the account of emerging or "returning" superpowers, who, like Russia were able not only to narrow or even close military-technological capability gaps but to come up with the lead in some crucial areas. 

All it took for the shit to hit the fan in US was a salvo of, actually, very mature Kalibr complex from small missile ships of Russian Caspian Flotilla at the terrorist targets in Syria, plus demonstration by the "rusty" elements of Russian Air-Space Forces an operational tempo and  the range of Precision Guided Munitions which US thought only its forces had. The question here is not in the fact of US mainstream media having an aneurysm from this fact or, the fact that most of US political establishment resides in geopolitical la-la land, or, if one may, parallel universe, no. The question here is that it was happening all along, in the open, since mid-1990s not only Russia demonstrated its military development openly, in fact, Russian Military Industrial Complex aggressively promoted its technologies and tactical and operational concepts which came with those at the international weapons markets, it was done in the best marketing way possible. What, didn't US military know that Kalibr and Onyx missile complexes were in production since early 2000s? Didn't they know that super-maneuverability in aircraft development was becoming a mainstay and that new development radar technologies (yes, pioneered by Russia) were making stealth even more vulnerable? I don't doubt for a second that US military was aware of that. But maybe, just maybe something wrong is not with Russia but with this whole US leviathan military-industrial-media complex. This monster thought that the future of war is still in blowing badly trained Arab pilots in their badly maintained obsolete aircraft from the sky, or fighting in the ECM (ECCM) free environments, or with the opposition which never had any stand-off weapons. Well, should they have studied real Russian/Soviet military history, they should have known better. 

Now, we all face a hysteria in US media, when it became obvious that military capability gap not only closed or narrowed, but some non-US weapons, such as game-changer Zirkon hyper-sonic missiles to be procured, together with revolutionary Armata platforms or with S-500 coming online soon are simply beyond current US technological capability. Yes, this is not Arab military, it is from the country which smashed Wehrmacht at the peak of its might. But I will elaborate more on that back in my Military Power series. As for now, US still remains a military superpower and will remain one for a long time but it will be more and more constrained by emerging advanced military technologies and operational concepts which will require US "response" on such a financial scale that F-35 or LCS will look like a pocket change and how US will be able to afford it--it is not for fainthearted to understand.

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