As Americans pause to reflect on Imperial Japan’s brutal attack on Pearl Harbor — 82 years ago Thursday — the US military faces an even bigger threat coming from Asia once again.
There’s ample evidence that if China were to go to war against America, it would use the same strategy as Japan to try to achieve a quick and dirty victory — but with a modern twist: a massive “bolt-from-the-blue attack” that could, in not even a day, wipe out most of our military assets in the Indo-Pacific region and perhaps forever mark the end of the United States as a superpower.
And the saddest part of this scenario is that the Biden administration is well aware of it and has done almost nothing to reverse the threat.
First, a bit of history.
Back in the 1990s, China became obsessed with trying to neutralize US military power in Asia.
That problem became more acute when America and China faced off in multiple crises over Taiwan in the mid-1990s.
China’s leaders would find they could not even target US aircraft carriers near Taiwan for a simple reason: They didn’t have the technological means to locate them.
US bases would also be hard to target.
America would dominate the battlefield in a war.
China would, in time, and after spending billions of dollars over several decades, come up with a solution.
Beijing needed an asymmetric weapon it could build cheaply and on a large scale to counter US military dominance.
That meant building thousands of ever-more-advanced cruise and ballistic missiles.
China has enough advanced missiles to not only destroy nearly every US military base in Asia quickly but also target and attack most US Navy warships in the region.
Indeed, Beijing has one-of-a-kind missile platforms designed to destroy US Navy aircraft carriers.
Some experts have even declared such weapons make our mighty supercarriers — the pride and symbol of American military might — as obsolete as the old battleships of the 20th century.
But China wouldn’t target just military assets; it would attempt to blind our armed forces, ensuring a counterattack would not be easy.
Beijing has specialized satellite-killer missiles created to go into space and knock out military satellites, as well as commercial satellites that provide GPS data.
In fact, China’s missile buildup in the Indo-Pacific is so massive that even if the US military moved every single missile-defense asset it has globally to Asia, it would be unable to stop much of China’s own version of Pearl Harbor.
So what is the Biden administration doing about it?
The sad reality is the US defense community has widely discussed this style of attack, and Team Biden does not seem worried in the slightest.
Yet China continues to this day to develop ever more advanced weapons that make its missiles look tame by comparison.
Beijing is building a fleet of aircraft carriers, hypersonic missiles and more stealth fighters based on stolen US designs, as well as dramatically expanding its nuclear arsenal.
The good news is, not all is lost.
There is bipartisan consensus that China must be confronted, and America’s allies are already building up their military capabilities in the region.
We must do the same and fully fund new weapons like the B-21 Raider stealth bomber — building 200 bombers or more — to ensure we can attack from range, negating Beijing’s missile capabilities in many respects.
If not, and if China smells weakness like Imperial Japan did, war in Asia could once again be a part of our future.
Harry J. Kazianis is a senior director for national security affairs at the Center for the National Interest (founded by President Nixon) and executive editor of its publishing arm, the National Interest.
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