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Biden’s First “Great Power” Test

George Gilder

Posted April 08, 2021

George Gilder

Today’s Daily Prophecy was written by one of my Senior Analysts, Richard Vigilante.

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The WSJ today asks how President Biden will face his first “great power” test. 

China is stepping up its naval harassment of the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Indonesia — attempting to turn the South China Sea into a Chinese lake. 

Russian is massing forces on the Ukraine borders. 

What will the US do with this crisis? May we suggest turning it into an opportunity?

(No) Love and War

The first part of wisdom, which neither Democrats nor Republicans will admit is how little we can do. Short of war, we cannot defend the interests of the southeast Asian nations and if it comes to war we will lose.

Our main vehicle of force projection for many decades has been the aircraft carrier. The fleet has been useful to us in recent decades in small wars against relatively primitive nations. Yet in a great power fight to the finish, the carriers are now worse than useless.

The last time carriers were used in a major conflict against a modern enemy was 1945. Carrier tactics were grounded in the idea that the great ships could hide anywhere within the vast circle covered by their attack planes. It was all about hide and seek.

Now there are satellites. No more hide and seek. And there are missiles.

The carrier groups have missile defense. But they are unlikely to withstand hours or days of attack from hundreds of precisely guided missiles coming at them vertically as well as horizontally. Eventually the missiles will win.

What should we do with the carriers then? How about give them away? Donate our carrier groups to the navies of Vietnam, Australia, the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Japan et al. 

True, the carriers would not be any more use to them than to us in an all-out war against China. But all-out war is not what is happening in the South China Sea. It’s more like a school yard game of Zombie Apocalypse, or maybe bumper cars at the amusement park.

Who can put more, somewhat scary ships in a tiny area to bully others out of the way, usually without firing a shot?

Carrier groups would be very good at playing bumper cars, especially as the Chinese don’t have one. Empowering the smaller maritime Asians to help themselves could keep us out of a losing war with China.

But what about Russia?

Turing the Attention

As for Russia, why do we think we can stop the Russians taking back the Ukraine if that’s what they really want? 

Neville Chamberlain tried to make up for blundering away the Rhineland and Czechoslovakia by drawing the line at Poland. Yet, even Churchill bemoaned this UK pledge defend of a country even further east whose relief would require crossing a now Nazi-militarized central Europe. The Ukraine is further east and less accessible than Poland

If the Russians really want Ukraine and we can’t stop them taking it, what is the advantage in merely annoying them about it as we do now?

Our readers know how strongly we believe in maintaining good relations with China, while remaining strong enough to defend our interests. An alliance with Russia would make a “peace through strength” stance toward China much more credible.

Geography makes China and Russia natural enemies and the US and Russia natural allies. Let’s do what comes naturally.

Regards,

Richard Vigilante
Senior Analyst, Gilder's Daily Prophecy

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