Today’s headlines are reinforcing the alarms sounded by defense policymakers and analysts warning of the perils of cuts to the defense budget, the blind meat-axe of sequestration, and the risks to America’s global position. From the cancerous spread of the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) to Iran’s intransigence on nuclear negotiations, to Russia’s invasion of Crimea and eastern Ukraine, to China’s slow but steady push into contested areas of the East and South China Seas, the United States seems to be on its heels.
But there is a deeper competition afoot, one that goes beyond the daily tactical game of foreign policy maneuvering and diplomatic talking points. It is a game played out over decades, and it’s one that the United States could very well lose. It is a competition that most national security figures and the broader mainstream media don’t seem to fully grasp. It’s a contest over military-technical superiority, and whether the United States can sustain its advantage deep into the 21st century or be overtaken by its competitors.