China is working to combine Western technology with Eastern stratagems, aiming to be able to seize the initiative in the event of a conflict by exploiting the element of surprise. The Chinese approach would entail destroying or disrupting the U.S. military's communications networks and launching preemptive attacks, to the point where such attacks, or even the threat of such attacks, would raise the costs of U.S. action to prohibitive levels.
[The war-gaming exercise] pitted the United States against an "unnamed Persian Gulf military" meant to be a stand-in for Iran. The outcome was disquieting: what many expected to be yet another demonstration of the United States' military might turned out to be anything but.
The "Iranian" forces, led by retired Marine Corps Lieutenant General Paul Van Riper, successfully countered the U.S. forces at every turn. The U.S. fleet that steamed into the Persian Gulf found itself subjected to a surprise attack by swarms of Iranian suicide vessels and antiship cruise missiles (ASCMs). Well over half the U.S. ships were sunk or otherwise put out of action in what would have been the United States' worst naval disaster since Pearl Harbor.
Which brings us back to today: how do we ensure that our strengths remain strengths, and that our adversaries aren't able to force us to give away those capabilities too cheaply? This very struggle is playing out today in Afghanistan, where questions mount about the utility of air power. Taliban information operations (IO) have been extremely effective in demonizing coalition airstrikes, casting American forces as indifferent to civilian casualties while drawing attention away from the insurgents' own atrocities. "The inability to discern the presence of civilians and assess the potential collateral damage of those strikes is inconsistent with the U.S. government's objective of providing security and safety for the Afghan people," said a recent CENTCOM report. This is certainly true, but how do we make sure we don't abandon an extremely useful capability for the purpose of rhetorical consistency?