China and our force structure

M1A1 Abrams heavy tanks with Abrams Integrated Management System and the new Tank Urban Survivability Kit in Iraq.

The Challenge From China

Mark Helprin in the Wall Street Journal:

As we content ourselves with the fallacy that never again shall we have to fight large, technological opponents, China is transforming its forces into a full-spectrum military capable of major operations and remote power projection. Eventually the twain shall meet.

Obviously, today’s war requires us to transform our military into one capable of fighting and winning low-intensity campaigns against low-tech enemies and then following up with a long period of stability operations. But while we need to do this, we need to be careful not to over-compensate.

One thing I’ve been thinking about is the idea that maybe the National Guard combat units remained focused almost exclusively on traditional army-on-army tactics and equipped with the heavies to fight and win such wars while the active duty Army is morphed over time to face current situations.

This would allow more stable training and equipping of the Guard, hopefully making them better able to be used quickly in the event things go south. The active Army, while retaining a good portion of its big war capability, could be tweaked as things change. Full-time troops could more easily train for new missions and equipment than Guard troops, and they could do so with the assurance that sufficient heavy divisions are available if needed.

This would have the added effect of removing many Guard units from the rotation of deployments to the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, but I think in the long run that’s a benefit. You’d probably have to grow the active Army a bit more, but, again, that’s long overdue in any event.



  1. I whole heartedly support this concept. I would rather slow down and scale back current ops than expand the army, but something in the Army will have to change.

  2. He’s right about the threat, but then he says:

    We must revive our understanding of deterrence, the balance of power, and the military balance. In comparison with its recent history, American military potential is restrained. Were we to allot the average of 5.7% of GNP that we devoted annually to defense in peacetime from 1940-2000, we would have as a matter of course $800 billion each year with which to develop and sustain armies and fleets. During World War II we devoted up to 40% of GNP to this, and yet the economy expanded in real terms and Americans did not live like paupers.

    Yeah, that’s the problem all right. We don’t spend enough. We are spending at Cold War levels now, but that’s not enough because the private sector has managed to expand our economy and therefore it is just right that the military-industrial get their usual cut. It’s called ‘protection money’ not ‘a shake down’. You gotta problem wit dat’? It’s no wonder people are blowing off the threat posed by China as just one more way to give more of their hard earned dollars to the wasteful defense department. The 4th generation fighters were designed and made operational in 3 or 4 years. Those were designed with slide rules and paper drawings. Today with computers everywhere we can’t manage to do the same thing in less than 25 years? Uh, tell me again about how the problem is we don’t spend enough money? In WW2 it took about a year to design a fighter and get it operational. And how do you like the bs about how wonderful things went when we were spending 40% of GNP on defense? Hello. Ever heard of rationing? Yet another history rewrite brought to you by your friendly globalist elite class. ‘Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated!’

  3. I find it a bit ironic that the article is suggesting we will have to increase defense spending to contain the Chinese. After all, it has been our trade policy that has helped lead to the rise of China’s economy and military. The Wall Street Journal was a big cheerleader for MFN status with China in the first place. The author makes a good point when he says, ‘The problem is cheap labor. The solution, therefore, is automation’. Yet how many times has the WSJ demanded open borders to bring in ‘cheap’ labor instead of forcing domestic producers to automate? How many times have they supported companies shipping factories to China to get ‘cheap’ labor rather than automating here? Finally, I wonder if we will end up spending more to contain China militarily than we will have saved by offshoring so many of our factories to them.

  4. Not a bad plan. I’ve always thought that setting up a few brigades (or even a division) of heavy military police/occupation troops would not be a bad idea. These troops would be highly trained in counterinsurgency tactics, winning hearts and minds, building schools and septic systems, psyops and so on, and each would have a core urban warfare group for hitting things hard that need to be hit when all the making nice falls down. Since it would be their specialty, they would be presumably be better at it than a random transport batallion or mech infantry brigade. And the people in it would have a snese of purpose, too, because that would be their job, rather than merely being detailed to it while nominally being something else. They could also act as trainers for other non-specialized units assigned to their area. Having something like that would also free up, to a degree, active duty combat troops for more typical combat training and action. And of course, we need more robots.