The next world war is coming—and so is the draft

Not only have private contractors augmented the U.S. AVF, but so too has technology. What the Chinese routinely refer to as “American Magic” has become a force multiplier for that relatively small, expeditionary AVF. Satellites, airpower, cyber combat, drones, and a coterie of other technical assets have allowed for the relatively small U.S. military to punch above its weight. Yet, the U.S. military and its leaders have come to fetishize high-technology and rely far too much on it to make up for real weaknesses in its overall force structure. The wünderwaffe will not save U.S. forces when a world war starts. U.S. Policymakers today tend to forget that wars are still fought and won by men, not machines. American rivals have not forgotten this timeless truth…

The United States does not have the industrial capacity to surge the construction of weapons and materiel needed to outlast and defeat its rivals in either China or Russia. Already, U.S. shipyards are having trouble meeting the increased demand for output in terms of building the Navy’s new Virginia-class submarines. These industrial flops are occurring all over America’s domestic supply chain. America’s latent industrial capabilities proved to be a decisive advantage over its foes in both world wars. This is a capability that America lacks today—and it will take much time and effort to rehabilitate (if it happens at all). American rivals will not wait around for the United States to reconstitute those lost capabilities. Meanwhile, countries, notably China, do possess such industrial capabilities today. Thus far, U.S. industrial policy, despite the enactment of a trade war against China, and demands to “reshore” U.S. manufacturing abilities from abroad, has been mostly unchanged.

One thing is certain, though, when another great power war erupts, it will not be relegated to being fought between two, well-trained forces of professionals on distant battlefields. Nor would the fighting be quick, short, and sharp. It will be waged along the lines of previous great wars wherein great powers possessed of relatively equal capabilities leveled each other. Mark Cancian believes that “after about nine months of intense peer conflict, attrition would grind the U.S. armed forces down to something resembling the military of a regional power.” That is unless the United States can embrace a total warfare ethos—as it did in the world wars.

Such a total war, mind you, will devastate the world order. Premodern tribalism will quickly replace postmodern enlightenment—especially as the technological trappings of modernity were stripped away. The exchange of nuclear, not to mention biological and chemical, weapons will be a high probability as the combatants looked for leverage over one another, just as the Germans and Allies did with chemical weapons in the First World War, the longer that war ground on. This would especially be the case after early-warning missile satellites were knocked out in the opening phases of a space war. Being blind in the nuclear age is rarely good…

U.S. policymakers should start planning now for the inevitable need to reconstitute the draft and should start anticipating how best to prepare for the demands placed upon its future force—and the country overall—in the event of another world war. When God told Noah to build the ark, he did not wait until the rain began. Similarly, U.S. policymakers have a moral duty to better prepare the country for the coming storm right now. A lack of planning will ensure the worst possible scenario befalls the United States when a great power war begins.

Already, the forces of Russia, China, and Iran are conducting joint naval drills, Russian and American forces have already brawled with each other in Syria, and Russia has announced a key breakthrough in hypersonic weapons technology. It is only a matter of time before the situation becomes too tense, and the fighting begins. Washington must be ready for this dark future, as preparations will likely help to delay it and give U.S. forces a fighting chance at victory.

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