Pubblicato in: Armamenti, Devoluzione socialismo, Stati Uniti

Cina. Vincerebbe un conflitto contro gli Stati Uniti. – Pentagono.

Giuseppe Sandro Mela.

2022-10-07.

Banca Centrale Cina

«Modern war is prodigiously costly: It destroys some of the most exquisite, expensive creations modern societies can produce. It consumes epic quantities of missiles, artillery shells and other munitions; it can wreck hard-to-replace planes, tanks and warships in large numbers»

«La guerra moderna è prodigiosamente costosa: distrugge alcune delle creazioni più raffinate e costose che le società moderne possano produrre. Consuma quantità epiche di missili, proiettili d’artiglieria e altre munizioni; può distruggere aerei, carri armati e navi da guerra difficili da sostituire in gran numero»

«Fools learn by experience, the very quotable German chancellor Otto von Bismarck once remarked. Wise men learn from other people’s experience. It is always better to glean hard lessons from someone else’s war than from one’s own.»

«Gli sciocchi imparano dall’esperienza, ha osservato una volta il citabilissimo cancelliere tedesco Otto von Bismarck. I saggi imparano dall’esperienza degli altri. È sempre meglio trarre dure lezioni dalla guerra di qualcun altro che dalla propria»

* * * * * * *

La guerra in Ukraina ha insegnato come in un tempo brevissimo si consumino quasi tutte le scorte di costosissimi armamenti. Terminati questi, o si va al confronto atomico oppure ad una guerra di logoramento.

Ma non è solo una questione di costi. Il vero collo di bottiglia è costituito dai tempi molto lunghi di fabbricazione delle armi. Rimpiazzare una flotta affondata richiede quasi dieci anni di lavoro.

Gli Stati Uniti non sono in grado di sostenere un conflitto con la Cina.

Stanno crepando schiacciati da un immane debito pubblico e da una inflazione a due cifre. Il loro sistema economico produttivo sta implodendo.

* * * * * * *

La guerra in Ucraina dimostra che l’esercito americano non è pronto per la guerra con la Cina. Fornire armi a Kiev ha esaurito in modo allarmante le munizioni del Pentagono, e difendere Taiwan sarebbe molto più costoso.

Gli sciocchi imparano dall’esperienza, ha osservato una volta il citabilissimo cancelliere tedesco Otto von Bismarck. I saggi imparano dall’esperienza degli altri. È sempre meglio trarre dure lezioni dalla guerra di qualcun altro che dalla propria.

Oggi gli Stati Uniti devono trarre una lezione fondamentale dalla guerra in Ucraina – così come dalla loro stessa esperienza, generazioni fa, nella Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Se l’America vuole vincere una potenziale guerra tra grandi potenze con la Cina tra qualche anno, è meglio che inizi a riarmarsi molto più seriamente prima che si inizi a sparare. La crisi scoppiata in agosto, dopo che la presidente della Camera Nancy Pelosi ha visitato Taiwan e Pechino ha risposto con la più grande dimostrazione di forza nel Pacifico occidentale in un quarto di secolo, ha fatto temere a molti funzionari statunitensi che il conto alla rovescia verso il conflitto fosse iniziato. Il Pentagono ha avvertito per anni che l’accumulo militare della Cina sta cambiando la correlazione delle forze in Asia orientale. Ma la volontà di molti legislatori, come la Pelosi, di inimicarsi Pechino senza alcuno scopo strategico dimostra che non si rendono conto di quanto la situazione sia diventata allarmante. I wargame giocati in condizioni meno favorevoli di solito si risolvono in una vittoria cinese.

La guerra moderna è prodigiosamente costosa: distrugge alcune delle creazioni più raffinate e costose che le società moderne possano produrre. Consuma quantità epiche di missili, proiettili d’artiglieria e altre munizioni; può distruggere aerei, carri armati e navi da guerra difficili da sostituire in gran numero. La guerra in Ucraina non è una lotta tra due grandi potenze, ma è un esempio di quanto possa essere difficile continuare a combattere in un conflitto ad alta intensità: Una coalizione del mondo libero guidata da una superpotenza globale ha lottato per soddisfare le esigenze del governo di Kiev senza esaurire pericolosamente le proprie scorte.

La guerra in corso, tuttavia, è anche un segnale di allarme rosso lampeggiante su quanto sarebbe difficile mantenere le forze statunitensi rifornite se dovessero combattere un conflitto contro la Cina. Le perdite di navi e aerei potrebbero essere peggiori di quelle subite dalle forze armate statunitensi dalla Seconda Guerra Mondiale. Secondo un recente gioco di guerra, gli Stati Uniti potrebbero perdere due portaerei e 700-900 aerei da combattimento (quasi la metà del loro inventario globale). Questo se le cose dovessero andare relativamente bene.

Alcune statistiche di base rendono l’idea. Alla fine della guerra, gli Stati Uniti avevano prodotto quasi 300.000 aerei, molti di più di Germania e Giappone messi insieme. Nel 1944, i cantieri navali statunitensi hanno prodotto 2.247 navi da guerra, più di tutti gli altri Paesi del mondo messi insieme. L’industria americana non si limitò a rifornire le forze americane, ma sostenne l’intera Grande Alleanza. Con il Lend-Lease, gli Stati Uniti hanno spedito ai loro alleati (principalmente Regno Unito e Unione Sovietica) più di 37.000 carri armati e quasi 800.000 camion, mezzi che hanno fatto la differenza nelle battaglie da Stalingrado a El Alamein. Le cose più importanti in questa guerra sono le macchine, disse Stalin nel 1943. Gli Stati Uniti… sono un Paese di macchine.

Gli Stati Uniti sono ancora la prima economia del mondo, ma questa volta il loro probabile avversario, la Cina, funge da officina del mondo. Pechino possiede un vantaggio produttivo di circa 3 a 1 nella costruzione navale, ad esempio, che si rivelerebbe molto utile dopo che entrambe le parti avranno perso molte navi nelle prime settimane di una guerra. La base industriale della difesa americana è progettata per l’efficienza in tempo di pace, non per la produzione di massa in tempo di guerra, perché mantenere la capacità inutilizzata per la mobilitazione è costoso.

Sebbene il Congresso, da parte sua, sia stato disposto a far lievitare questi bilanci, l’inflazione sta intaccando il potere d’acquisto del Dipartimento della Difesa. E poiché l’amministrazione Biden ha enfatizzato la ricerca e lo sviluppo e le capacità future nei suoi primi bilanci, chi ha perso è stato in genere l’approvvigionamento – l’acquisto di capacità che esistono oggi. Se gli Stati Uniti aspetteranno ancora per riarmarsi seriamente in vista di un conflitto che i loro stessi funzionari avvertono come imminente, avranno aspettato troppo a lungo. La Cina non sta commettendo questo errore. Mentre gli organi di propaganda di Pechino lanciano minacce agghiaccianti su ciò che accadrà ai suoi nemici in caso di conflitto, i suoi cantieri navali e le sue fabbriche sfornano navi da guerra e munizioni a un ritmo sbalorditivo. L’arsenale dell’autocrazia potrebbe presto essere pronto per la guerra. L’arsenale della democrazia sarà all’altezza della sfida?.

* * * * * * *

«Ukraine war shows the us military isn’t ready for war with China. Providing Kyiv with weapons has depleted the Pentagon’s munitions alarmingly, and defending Taiwan would be far more costly»

«Fools learn by experience, the very quotable German chancellor Otto von Bismarck once remarked. Wise men learn from other people’s experience. It is always better to glean hard lessons from someone else’s war than from one’s own.»

«Today, the US needs to take a vital lesson from the war in Ukraine — as well as from its own experience, generations ago, in World War II. If America wants to win a potential great-power war with China a few years from now, it had better start rearming far more seriously before the shooting starts. The crisis that erupted in August, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan and Beijing responded with its largest show of force in the Western Pacific in a quarter-century, made many US officials fear that the countdown to conflict had started. The Pentagon has been warning for years that China’s military buildup is changing the correlation of forces in East Asia. But the willingness of many legislators, such as Pelosi, to antagonize Beijing for no good strategic purpose shows they do not realize just how alarming the situation has become. Wargames played under less favorable conditions typically result in a Chinese victory.»

«Modern war is prodigiously costly: It destroys some of the most exquisite, expensive creations modern societies can produce. It consumes epic quantities of missiles, artillery shells and other munitions; it can wreck hard-to-replace planes, tanks and warships in large numbers. The Ukraine war isn’t a fight between two great powers, but it is a case study in how hard it can be simply to keep fighting in high-intensity conflict: A free-world coalition led by a global superpower has struggled to meet the Kyiv government’s needs without dangerously depleting its own stockpiles.»

«The current war, though, is also a flashing red warning signs about how hard it would be to keep US forces supplied if they had to fight a conflict against China. Losses of ships and planes could be worse than anything the US military has experienced since World War II. According to one recent war game, the US might lose two aircraft carriers and 700 to 900 combat aircraft (nearly half its global inventory). That’s if things go relatively well.»

«A few basic statistics make the point. By the end of the war, the US had produced nearly 300,000 airplanes, far more than Germany and Japan put together. In 1944, US shipyards produced 2,247 naval vessels, more than every other country in the world combined. American industry didn’t just supply American forces; it sustained the entire Grand Alliance. Under Lend-Lease, the US shipped its allies (principally the UK and the Soviet Union) more than 37,000 tanks and nearly 800,000 trucks, assets that made a vital difference in battles from Stalingrad to El Alamein. The most important things in this war are machines, said Stalin in 1943. “The United States … is a country of machines.»

«The US still has the globe’s leading economy, but this time its likely adversary, China, serves as the workshop of the world. Beijing possesses a roughly 3-to1 production advantage in shipbuilding, for instance, which would come in very handy after both sides lose lots of vessels in the opening weeks of a war. America’s defense industrial base is designed for peacetime efficiency, not mass wartime production, because maintaining unused capacity for mobilization is expensive.»

«Although Congress, for its part, has been willing to bump those budgets, inflation is eating away at the Defense Department’s buying power. And because the Biden administration has emphasized R&D and future capabilities in its early budgets, the loser has typically been procurement — buying capabilities that exist today. If the US waits any longer to get serious about rearming for a conflict that its own officials warn is coming, it will have waited far too long. China isn’t making this mistake. As Beijing’s propaganda outlets issue chilling threats about what will happen to its enemies if conflict occurs, its shipyards and factories are spitting out warships and munitions at an astounding rate. The arsenal of autocracy may soon be ready for war. Will the arsenal of democracy be up to the challenge?»

* * * * * * *


Ukraine War Shows the US Military Isn’t Ready for War With China

Providing Kyiv with weapons has depleted the Pentagon’s munitions alarmingly, and defending Taiwan would be far more costly.

“Fools learn by experience,” the very quotable German chancellor Otto von Bismarck once remarked. “Wise men learn from other people’s experience.” It is always better to glean hard lessons from someone else’s war than from one’s own.

Today, the US needs to take a vital lesson from the war in Ukraine — as well as from its own experience, generations ago, in World War II. If America wants to win a potential great-power war with China a few years from now, it had better start rearming far more seriously before the shooting starts.

Historians may one day look back on 2022 as the moment when the free world truly realized that “great-power competition” entails an inherent risk of great-power conflict. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February drove home the threat of autocratic aggression across the democratic world. The crisis that erupted in August, after House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan and Beijing responded with its largest show of force in the Western Pacific in a quarter-century, made many US officials fear that the countdown to conflict had started.  

This isn’t some well-kept secret: National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan recently told Bloomberg News that there is a “distinct threat” of a Chinese invasion of Taiwan. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines has characterized that threat as “acute.” In public, the Pentagon now says only that it does not expect an invasion in the next two years.

The impression one gets from conversations around Washington is that many officials believe that a major Chinese use of force against Taiwan — whether an outright invasion or simply a coercive blockade — could come in the next three to five years, once President Xi Jinping is more confident that his fast-modernizing People’s Liberation Army can prevail. Whether the US is ready for the train wreck that so many of its own officials see coming is a different matter.

The Pentagon has been warning for years that China’s military buildup is changing the correlation of forces in East Asia. But the willingness of many legislators, such as Pelosi, to antagonize Beijing for no good strategic purpose shows they do not realize just how alarming the situation has become.

                         Beijing’s Buildup

China’s military expenditure has historically outpaced economic growth

Wargames played under fairly favorable conditions indicate that the US might be able to squeak out a victory in a war over Taiwan, albeit at a potentially prohibitive price in manpower and materiel. Wargames played under less favorable conditions typically result in a Chinese victory.

No one really knows what would happen, of course: The war in Ukraine demonstrates that motivation, leadership and other intangibles can make a huge difference. Yet that war also demonstrates that the US might struggle enormously to compensate for losses it suffered early in a conflict with China, and to provide itself — to say nothing of its allies — with the tools of victory.

Modern war is prodigiously costly: It destroys some of the most exquisite, expensive creations modern societies can produce. It consumes epic quantities of missiles, artillery shells and other munitions; it can wreck hard-to-replace planes, tanks and warships in large numbers.

The Ukraine war isn’t a fight between two great powers, but it is a case study in how hard it can be simply to keep fighting in high-intensity conflict: A free-world coalition led by a global superpower has struggled to meet the Kyiv government’s needs without dangerously depleting its own stockpiles.

The US reportedly provided one-third of its overall stockpile of Javelin antitank missiles to Ukraine in the first, most desperate weeks of the fighting. It may take years for Washington and other countries to replenish their armories.

Ukraine, surely aided by US intelligence, has shown an uncanny ability to put High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS, and the rockets they fire to devastatingly good use. Yet Kyiv’s requests are increasingly in tension with Washington’s need to assure it has adequate reserves of weapons that figure centrally in its own war plans.

To be sure, there is no better use right now for these weapons than giving them to a fragile democracy that is inflicting an epic beating on a brutal tyranny. The current war, though, is also a flashing red warning signs about how hard it would be to keep US forces supplied if they had to fight a conflict against China.

As Michael Beckley and I write in our new book, “Danger Zone: The Coming Conflict with China,” the opening stages of a US-China war would be shocking in their intensity and destruction. US forces would burn through missiles, torpedoes, precision-guided bombs and other relatively scarce weapons as they tried to stymie a Chinese invasion and break an air and sea blockade of Taiwan.

Losses of ships and planes could be worse than anything the US military has experienced since World War II. According to one recent war game, the US might lose two aircraft carriers and 700 to 900 combat aircraft (nearly half its global inventory). That’s if things go relatively well.

These losses would mount as a conflict dragged on — as any major war between the US and China probably would, since neither side would be keen to concede defeat in a contest for supremacy in the most strategically and economically crucial region of the world.

Wouldn’t a long war favor the US, with its world-leading economy? Americans who think they know the history of World War II might imagine that the answer is surely yes. After all, America won that conflict by putting its economy on a wartime footing and simply outproducing the world. We often forget, though, what World War II-era mobilization really entailed and why it succeeded. This amnesia distorts our understanding of how a Sino-American war would play out today.

World War II was an existential contest in endurance, and the US won by tapping its unrivaled economic and industrial potential. US factories and shipyards produced the aircraft carriers that laid waste to Japanese forces across the Pacific; the vast armadas of aircraft that won air superiority over oceans, battlefields and even the enemies’ homelands; the tanks and trucks that helped win the war on the ground; and the countless cargo ships that carried the means of victory to theaters around the world.

A few basic statistics make the point. By the end of the war, the US had produced nearly 300,000 airplanes, far more than Germany and Japan put together. In 1944, US shipyards produced 2,247 naval vessels, more than every other country in the world combined. American industry didn’t just supply American forces; it sustained the entire Grand Alliance. Under Lend-Lease, the US shipped its allies (principally the UK and the Soviet Union) more than 37,000 tanks and nearly 800,000 trucks, assets that made a vital difference in battles from Stalingrad to El Alamein. “The most important things in this war are machines,” said Stalin in 1943. “The United States … is a country of machines.”

This superiority in production gave the US and its allies a staying power that their enemies lacked. American troops weren’t always superior to German or Japanese forces in quality, but they eventually wielded such a crushing quantitative superiority that marginal differences in fighting skill didn’t make a difference.

“I cannot understand these Americans,” one German commander in Normandy lamented. “Each night we know that we have cut them to pieces, inflicted heavy casualties, mowed down their transport. But in the morning, we are suddenly faced with fresh battalions, with complete replacements of men, machines, food, tools, and weapons. This happens day after day.”

This may be a very reassuring memory for those who worry about a new era of global conflict. Yet the story of wartime mobilization was more complicated than we remember.

It took years — until late 1943 or even 1944 — for US mobilization to fully hit its stride, because it took time to overcome bottlenecks and raw-materials shortages, to shift from making civilian goods to making tanks and bombs, and otherwise to convert a peacetime economy to wartime production.

Even then, the US could only mobilize so effectively because it had an industrial-age, mass-production economy that was well-suited to making the tools of global war. That economy, moreover, had plenty of spare capacity that could be tapped quickly, because the Great Depression had left so many workers and plants idle.

Above all, the US was able to achieve world-beating production figures during World War II because it didn’t wait until the day of infamy to start mobilizing. That process began well before the nation even entered the war.

US defense spending began to rise dramatically after the Munich crisis of 1938, which put Hitler well on the path to European dominance. President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as well as many congressional leaders, were convinced that the world was becoming too dangerous for America to remain disarmed. US defense spending was well under 2% of GDP in 1938 and 1939; it rose to over 5% by 1941, then soared after US entry into the war.

                         Dwindling Arsenal of Democracy

The US Army began preparing for war in earnest in 1939; Congress passed the Two-Ocean Navy Act, which signaled the coming era of American maritime supremacy, in 1940. The first Higgins boat, the flat-bottomed landing craft that allied commander Dwight D. Eisenhower later credited with winning the war, was tested months before Pearl Harbor; Roosevelt approved what would become the Manhattan Project, which developed the atomic bombs used against Japan, when the US was still at peace. America wasn’t ready for war in December 1941. But it was far readier than it would have been had it waited to begin mobilizing until after it had been attacked.

The differences between then and now are glaring. The good news is that the US is starting from a far better position than it occupied in the mid-1930s: The American military is, in aggregate, the best in the world. Yet it would be a serious mistake to assume that, if war comes, the US can effortlessly outproduce its enemies once again.

The US still has the globe’s leading economy, but this time its likely adversary, China, serves as the workshop of the world. Beijing possesses a roughly 3-to1 production advantage in shipbuilding, for instance, which would come in very handy after both sides lose lots of vessels in the opening weeks of a war. The economist Noah Smith has even estimated that, “While Russia itself can’t manufacture the materiel for a protracted local conflict with Europe, China can manufacture enough to sustain both itself and Russia” in a global fight against the democratic world.

The US defense industrial base is also significantly weaker than it once was. The number of major US military contractors has fallen dramatically since the end of the Cold War, making it far harder for the Pentagon to scale up production quickly in a crisis.

There isn’t much spare capacity in this system, or in US manufacturing more broadly: America lacks even the basic building blocks, such as adequate machine tools and a trained labor force, that it would need for wartime mobilization. As Mark Cancian of the Center for Strategic and International Studies writes: “America’s defense industrial base is designed for peacetime efficiency, not mass wartime production, because maintaining unused capacity for mobilization is expensive.”

As a result, the US could find itself in a terrible position after just a few months — even just a few weeks — of fighting. It might struggle to replace the precision-guided, long-range munitions that would be crucial to striking Chinese ships in the waters around Taiwan without having to venture into the teeth of China’s anti-ship missiles and air-defense systems. The loss of large numbers of ships or planes might make it difficult to win a protracted war in the Western Pacific; even if Washington did prevail, those losses might leave the military crippled for years.

Short of war, too, weaknesses in the defense industrial base create serious problems. There is lots of talk in Congress and the executive branch about rapidly arming Taiwan with more anti-ship missiles, drones and other capabilities that can turn the Taiwan Strait into a deadly gantlet. Yet it is not clear where those weapons will come from, absent significant increases in production levels — or a decision to plunder the stocks that the US itself would need if a conflict erupted.

US officials recognize the problem. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks has been at the forefront of the effort to scale up production where it is needed most. The Army is laying plans to redouble the manufacture of ground-launched rockets and artillery rounds. The Pentagon is looking to buy more Javelin and Stinger shoulder-fired missiles. It’s not clear, though, that the problem is being solved.

Expanding production capacity is not a simple matter, especially when supply chains are snarled and key components are in short supply, in part because of the Covid pandemic. Yet at some level, the issue is ultimately one of money.

The defense industry will build new production lines, or expand existing ones, if it has a reasonable expectation that the money will be there to support new investment in facilities and personnel. But if it doesn’t, it won’t. Right now, the signals from the US government are mixed.

It’s not as though Washington is incapable of alacrity: The Pentagon has performed minor miracles in getting weapons to Ukraine as quickly as it has. Yet President Joe Biden’s administration doesn’t seem to be in a hurry to increase the defense budget. Both of Biden’s budget requests so far have represented real-dollar decreases in Pentagon outlays.

Although Congress, for its part, has been willing to bump those budgets, inflation is eating away at the Defense Department’s buying power. And because the Biden administration has emphasized R&D and future capabilities in its early budgets, the loser has typically been procurement — buying capabilities that exist today. If the US waits any longer to get serious about rearming for a conflict that its own officials warn is coming, it will have waited far too long.

China isn’t making this mistake. As Beijing’s propaganda outlets issue chilling threats about what will happen to its enemies if conflict occurs, its shipyards and factories are spitting out warships and munitions at an astounding rate. The arsenal of autocracy may soon be ready for war. Will the arsenal of democracy be up to the challenge?

Un pensiero riguardo “Cina. Vincerebbe un conflitto contro gli Stati Uniti. – Pentagono.

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