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This essay provides ideas for incorporation in the coming version of “The National Defense Strategy of the US” (NDS) and its successors. It is paired with a second essay addressing “The National Security Strategy of the US” (NSS). These two national-level documents have/should have a close, symbiotic relationship. Likewise, the writer’s NDS and NSS essays share a common logic, structure, and multiple cross-references. The ideas within them are severable, and the reader does not have to subscribe to one to endorse the other, though they are written with that linkage in mind. Suggestions for action are offered in a spirit of utmost respect for the offices involved.
Revise the National Defense Strategy of the US (NDS) to reflect the geopolitical perspective of a new National Security Strategy (NSS), specifically:
That the US, as a geopolitical sea power in competition with two great continental powers, must exploit its innate advantages, including formation of alliances that attract many, enduring allies, and a superior ability to prosecute military-economic warfare.
To the main effort directed at defeating the enemy’s armed forces in war, the NDS must add military-economic warfare:
- To attack the enemy’s war and civil economy through blockade, supported by all elements of civil power of the US and its allies, plus with a new weapon, cyber.
- To force the enemy into undesirable strategic choices and reduce as close to zero as possible his ability and willingness to fight.
Recognize that blockade is geographic escalation which must be global in scope; it is maritime, denying the enemy access to the world ocean for any purpose, military or civil; and it is to be conducted against targets at sea without, unless desired, strikes on the enemy’s homeland or other vertical escalation in the war’s level of violence.
Recognize that blockade is not an alternative to other uses of the nation’s seapower, that it will inevitably arise in a war with a great power, and that ad hoc blockade would be worse than no blockade at all.
Rectify the omission of the world ocean in the current NDS and acknowledge the reality that a military contest with continental adversaries can be decided by who controls the sea, as well as who can prevail on the ground in the key regions of Eurasia.
Recognize that the nation must always possess sea control capabilities for defensive use in the protection of the strategic sea lines of communication (SLOCs) that connect the US with its allies; without control of the SLOCs:
- The alliance system on which the national strategy is centered will collapse.
- The US will lose the war — regardless of how successful its ground and land-based air forces may prove to be.
Defensive sea control can also be used to deny the enemy use of waters needed to execute his own initiatives; for example, a submarine and mine warfare defense of Taiwan could defeat a Chinese attempt to invade or blockade the island and prevent resupply of any forces ashore there; action would be entirely at sea, manifestly defensive, and would not involve strikes on the Chinese homeland with consequent risk of a wider conflict.
Recognize that a revised NDS can, for the first time, put these same sea control capabilities to use on offense:
Namely, global blockade which utilizes all elements of US and allied sea power (including sea-based air) to sweep the seas of enemy civil and naval ships and is supported by the Joint Force on the ground in regions that impact the course of the battle at sea.
Recognize that economic and technological developments have made the US’s great continental competitors dependent on the use of the seas and so vulnerable to coercion by denial of that use. China, in particular, is well aware of this vulnerability.
Military-economic warfare, centered on blockade, would, as in the world wars of the 20th century, affect the course of major war in the 21st and could yield the margin of victory.
(The NDS can incorporate military-economic warfare before the NSS is rewritten with a geopolitical perspective, but ultimately the NDS and the NSS should be aligned with each other and with comparable plans of the military services to ensure the logical coherence of the national planning system.)