However, getting to 2030 without a major confrontation will be a major achievement. While the US is likely to maintain the upper hand in terms of military power for at least another 15 to 20 years, asymmetric warfare could undercut the US’ advantage should China engage in cyberattacks on US electronic and satellite systems, along with attacks on infrastructure.
In response to China’s capability to project power many hundreds of miles from its borders, the US — as I have suggested for the past 25 years — should develop a long-range bomber capable of penetrating sophisticated defenses and delivering great force. As US security interests shift to the Pacific region, it now relies on increasingly vulnerable forward land bases and carrier fleets with tactical aircraft that have a combat radius of between 482km and 805km.
However, a long-range bomber would be more cost-effective than standoff bombers with cruise missiles and, unlike shorter-range tactical bombers, its bases would be invulnerable to attack.
That said, the US’ most serious challenge right now is to get its economy and its governance in order.
It can achieve that aim.
However, unless and until it does, thereby giving US President Barack Obama a firm basis from which to engage Xi on issues requiring international statesmanship, the prospect of trouble between the US and China will continue to grow.
Harold Brown is a former US secretary of defense, a member of the Defense Policy Board and co-author with Joyce Winslow of Star Spangled Security: Applying Lessons Learned Over Six Decades Safeguarding America.
Copyright: Project Syndicate