I have written and reported on the military under four presidents, eight confirmed defense ministers, and a few other incumbent Pentagon chiefs. During this time I have heard countless official phrases that the Grand Poobahs have adopted as their new national security mantra – including “multi-domain operations”; “Increased lethality”; and let’s not forget the “safe and orderly exit” in Afghanistan.
Each of these buzzwords has proven to be as useless as the earplugs US troops have been wearing in Iraq and Afghanistan for 20 years.
So I wasn’t surprised when Politico reported this week that the Pentagon will now use the term “strategic competition” to describe the ongoing Cold War with China. The new wording has been cut and pasted from President Joe Biden’s Provisional National Security Guide published in March.
“Taken together, this agenda will strengthen our lasting advantages and enable us to compete strategically with China or another nation,” the guideline reads.
Get used to hearing about “strategic competition”, because Politico also reports that the sentence will replace the previous favorite catchphrase of the Pentagon: “great power competition”.
For those of you who have lived on planet Earth since 2018, defense officials for the past three years have started and ended every sentence they say with the words “great power competition.” This is how the Pentagon can justify the demand for more money while it cannot defeat the Taliban.
The term “great power competition” has become so ubiquitous that it can change to the topic in any tricky situation. It is quite possible that one day a Pentagon official will explain why he came out of a Polish strip club full of tooth marks by saying, go. “
But I digress.
Whether or not the Pentagon is calling our current battle with China “strategic competition” doesn’t change the fact that the world’s most advanced military has headquarters where it is virtually impossible to connect to the Internet from your desk. Yes, the Pentagon is the world’s largest dead zone for most forms of electronic communications, which could come in handy if our nation’s military were ever called upon to fight the country that is literally building the phones for everyone in the world .
The US military’s apparent inability to shut down the Defense Travel System bodes badly for its odds against a technologically advanced adversary who may have the crucial advantage of being able to update its software.
Let’s face it, the thing the Pentagon does best is buy crap that doesn’t work. We might as well give China a couple of F-35s to screw up their buying process for the next 30 years.
None of the Department of Defense’s underlying weaknesses will be changed by the transition from “great power competition” to “strategic competition”.
The truth is that if a conflict with China breaks out, the United States is nowhere near at war. That’s because most of the industrial muscle that America had in 1941 has gone overseas.
For the military, this means the United States is unable to repair or replace warships that would be damaged or sunk in a war against China.
A war with China could also leave the military in a critical shortage of raw materials to make ammunition. Earlier this year, the Department of Defense proposed legislation to increase spending on rare earth minerals, which are also important components of electronics and hypersonic weapons, Defense News reporter Joe Gould revealed.
“China is currently the sole source or main supplier of many of the chemicals used to make ingredients in missiles and ammunition end products. In many cases, there is no other source for these overseas materials and no drop-in alternatives are available, ”reads the proposal obtained by Defense News.
To address these issues, the United States must radically change the way it spends money. But that requires something that the military cannot do: a functioning government.
Legislators cannot agree on infrastructure spending or repaying national debt because Congress no longer seems to be solving problems. Instead, unscrupulous politicians are trying to fester the nation’s wounds in order to generate resentment that will help them be re-elected or run for president.
Without responsible elected leaders, the Pentagon is virtually powerless against China, and a new buzzword will not solve the problem of “strategic competition”.
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