Image credit: Spencer Platt / Getty Images
January 15, 2020
Defense Strategy for a Post-Trump World
In a recent piece warning about an emerging arms race in hypersonic missiles, The New York Times quoted Will Roper, the Air Force’s senior acquisition and technology official, saying that the United States needed to invest more in such advanced weapons “if we want to dominate this new domain of fast flight.” This kind of statement is emblematic of a defense establishment that thinks in terms of military superiority — a paradigm that requires the United States to be capable of overmatching anyone at any time.
Not long ago, I argued in an essay for the Texas National Security Review that military superiority is politically unsustainable. American progressives make somewhat different wagers and accept different risks than the defense establishment when it comes to national security, which includes rejecting the principle of military superiority that has guided U.S. force structure and defense strategy since the end of the Cold War. They instead seek no more than what I described as “military sufficiency.” That argument proved controversial. As Robert Farley commented (sympathetically) about the essay, “the term ‘sufficiency’ is laden with all manner of disputed meanings.”
Farley’s not wrong. For a generation, U.S. defense strategists have treated nothing less than military superiority — that is, the ability to overmatch plausible adversaries in large-scale conventional wars — as sufficient for force planning. And I should have foreseen that leaving even the smallest rhetorical space for conventional thinking would permit defenders of the status quo to evade calls for doing defense differently —What’s “sufficiency” anyway, am I right?
Read the full article in War on the Rocks.
More from CNAS
Our Military Leaders Need a National Security ‘Fast Lane’ to Compete With China
The spy balloon is a wake-up call that highlights the boldness and aggression of China. This should remind Americans to expect more focus and agility from their government’s n...
By General Mike Holmes, U.S. Air Force (Ret.) & Dan Patt
Calling Check: Technology Competition with China
This week Emily Kilcrease, director of the Energy, Economics, and Security program at CNAS, joins The Asia Chessboard podcast from CSIS for a wide ranging discussion on the i...
By Emily Kilcrease
Atomic Strait: How China’s Nuclear Buildup Shapes Security Dynamics with Taiwan and the United States
This report examines the intersection of China’s nuclear modernization and cross-Strait tensions, especially how they might play out during a crisis, contingency, or conflict ...
By Jacob Stokes
Opportunities and Challenges for Trade Policy in the Digital Economy
This hearing addresses digital trade, and I will focus my testimony on the national-security problems in this area posed by China – specifically, concerns about China’s open a...
By David Feith