Cold WarThreats

We are in a new Cold War. I bid Patriotic Republicans to fly a replica of John Fremont’s flag.

Seer Jon

Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte must end his “policy of subservience” towards Beijing, lawmakers and foreign policy experts have said, warning that the Filipino leader’s silence is sending the wrong signal as hundreds of Chinese “maritime militia” vessels continue to congregate within Manila’s exclusive economic zone (EEZ) in the South China Sea.

While several Filipino officials, including the country’s top diplomat and the defence chief, have openly demanded that the Chinese vessels immediately leave the country’s waters, Duterte has kept quiet for weeks.

During an address on Thursday night, Duterte did not mention the South China Sea. His spokesman said earlier that the president preferred to pursue his “diplomatic initiatives” in “private”

Earlier on Thursday, the Philippine Coast Guard revealed that despite repeated demands by Manila that Chinese ships leave Whitsun Reef, at least 240 Chinese vessels remained in the area and surrounding waters as recently as Wednesday.

“What’s bad?” he asked Hendrickson.

“The Ford and the Miller, they’re gone.”

“What do you mean gone?”

That dialogue is an exchange between two characters in a novel that imagines a future war with China.

The plot includes a devastating surprise attack in which the United States loses two aircraft carriers, 35 other warships, and thousands of sailors after Chinese cyberwarfare blinds the U.S. Navy and disables satellite-reliant weapons.

In the book 2034: A Novel of the Next World War, authors James Stavridis, a retired supreme commander for NATO, and Elliot Ackerman, a former Marine, paint a cautionary tale about what could happen if China employs a “blind the elephant” strategy and the U.S. is over-reliant on computer-networked weapons, such as ships, planes, and tanks.

It’s fiction, but it’s based on real trends in cyberspace warfare.

Here, Sandy, the fictional deputy national security adviser, briefs a senior admiral on the Chinese victory:

“They got the drop on us, or shut us down, or I don’t even know how to describe it. Reports are nothing worked. We were blind. When we launched our planes, their avionics froze, their navigation systems glitched out and were then overridden. Pilots couldn’t eject. Missiles wouldn’t fire. Dozens of our aircraft plunged into the water. Then they came at us with everything. A carrier, frigates and destroyers, diesel and nuclear submarines, swarms of unmanned torpedo boats, hypersonic cruise missiles with total stealth, offensive cyber. We’re still piecing it all together.”

Could it really happen?

“China is expanding not only its fleet but its entire suite of counter-carrier weapons, including advanced offensive cyber weapons, hypersonic cruise missiles, new undersea platforms, both manned and unmanned, and the ability to link it together via command and control from space,” Stavridis, a retired four-star admiral, told the Washington Examiner. “That is what’s happening today — so it seems entirely plausible that on the current trajectory, they will much more capable in 10-15 years when 2034 is set.”

Already, at least twice this year, formations of Chinese jets and bombers appeared to carry out a mock attack on U.S. aircraft carriers in the South China Sea, exercises that appear aimed at practicing ways to sink the supercarrier and its escort ships.

The U.S. strategy for deterring China, and if necessary, winning an all-out war in the Pacific, is to embark on an ambitious plan to build a massive fleet of manned and unmanned ships and aircraft, including ghost ships and underwater drones, that would be controlled from space and driven by artificial intelligence to give U.S. commanders a “decision advantage.”

But lawmakers, such as Virginia Rep. Rob Wittman, the ranking Republican member on the House Armed Services Seapower and Projection Forces Subcommittee, worry that the headlong rush to spend billions on robot ships before the technology exists to link them together on a secure computer network is a risk.

“I fear that the extended range [unmanned underwater vehicles] and the large [unmanned surface vessels] efforts both potentially have the cart before the horse,” Wittman said at a hearing last month.

“Command and control of unmanned vessels is not essential. It is paramount. … A few fundamental questions need to be answered before we start any new unmanned program,” he said, including “how to address anti-tampering.”

“You can have all the weapons systems in the world. We can build all the airplanes and all the ships, and if our adversaries have the ability to shut all of those platforms down by either taking out a satellite or a cyberattack, then that is really spending a lot of money in a very unwise way,” said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith at a Reagan Foundation event this month.

The real race, Smith argued, is not to build more ships but to perfect the AI algorithms that will determine the winners of future conflicts.

“You can think of AI as a borderline Manhattan Project. Just like back in World War II, we had to get to nuclear weapons first before Hitler did or we were all going to lose, we have to get to AI first or we’re going to be in a much, much weaker position,” he said.

The Navy’s top admiral, Chief of Naval Operations Mike Gilday, doesn’t need convincing.

In his guidance to the fleet issued in January, he said that aside from building new ballistic missile submarines, “there is no higher development priority” than fielding the Naval Operational Architecture, a collection of networks, infrastructure, data, and analytic tools that connects all ships and planes.

“I think we have to put ourselves in a position of advantage, not only to command and control a hybrid fleet of manned and unmanned vehicles in the air, on the sea, and under the sea, but also to put us in a position of advantage with respect to decision-making against our key adversaries,” Gilday told reporters.

As Iran found out the hard way this month, a cyberattack can be every bit as effective as dropping conventional munitions on a target, and it is much harder to trace.

Israel is suspected of using covert cyberwarfare to cause a power outage at Iran’s “secure” underground nuclear facility at Natanz, which then triggered a powerful explosion just one day after Tehran announced it had begun testing its newest advanced nuclear centrifuge, designed to enrich uranium at a faster pace.

In the annual report of worldwide threats released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence this month, China was cited as having “substantial cyber-attack capabilities” and “counter-space weapons intended to target U.S. and allied satellites,” including ground-based missiles that can destroy satellites in low earth orbit and ground-based lasers intended to blind or damage sensitive space-based optical sensors.

It’s the very scenario China uses to blind the Pacific fleet that Stavridis and Ackerman describe in their novel of “cautionary fiction.”

“I’d be surprised if cyber is not the primary offensive weapons in a decade, particularly as quantum computing comes online toward the end of the 2020s,” Stavridis said. “It will be not only a tool that great powers, U.S., China, and Russia, can wield, but very likely within reach of small to midsize countries, too, such as Iran and North Korea.”

Stavridis said that in the coming years, defense spending will need to be carefully balanced, with less money invested in conventional weapons, such as aircraft carriers, manned fighter jets, and tanks, and more on cyber tools and unmanned systems, from space to the ocean bottom.

“For the first time since World War II, the United States’s technical predominance, which undergirds both our economic and our military competitiveness, is under severe threat by the People’s Republic of China,” said former Deputy Defense Secretary Bob Work, now the vice chairman of the National Security Commission on Artificial Intelligence, whose recent report warned that the U.S. is falling dangerously behind China.

“We are not organized to win this competition. We just are not,” Work said during a briefing at the Pentagon. “We have not organized ourselves to win the competition. We do not have a strategy to win the competition. We do not have the resources to implement a strategy, even if we had one.”

About Royal Rosamond Press

I am an artist, a writer, and a theologian.
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