Eighty years after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, my Japanese-brand SUV (made in Liberty, Ohio) is parked next to my husband’s competing-brand SUV (made in Hiroshima, of all places). In my mind, I hear President Roosevelt’s iconic voice saying, “December 7, 1941, a date which will live in infamy,” and I marvel at the evidence of postwar cooperation in our garage.
But there is another memorable Pearl Harbor-related quote that a Hollywood film attributed to attack planner Adm. Isoroku Yamamoto: “I fear all we have done is to awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”
Regardless of whether that statement was truth or fiction, it raises three relevant questions: First: Does the U.S. still have the will to inflict “terrible resolve” against its enemies? Second: Eight decades after Pearl Harbor, could the U.S. become embroiled in another two-front war if Russia invades Ukraine and China invades Taiwan? Third: Would the U.S. emerge victorious?
Currently, the answers to all three are uncertain, and therein lies the problem.
Surely such questions are raised during private discussions between Russian and Chinese dictators-for-life Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping while they collaborate on military exercises, extend their 20-year-old friendship treaty, and inch closer to a formal alliance. One imagines them strategizing how best to capitalize on America’s political, military, and cyber weaknesses. Meanwhile, their overarching question is a low-tech and psychological one: Do we fear the United States and President Biden?
Moreover, do Putin and Xi think Biden is a weak leader incapable of galvanizing America and its allies into taking military action against them? That answer is of paramount importance since perceived weakness likely gives way to the more aggressive pursuit of Putin’s goal to refold Ukraine into the Russian Federation and China’s desire to bring Taiwan back under its control after 72 years of autonomy.
Unfortunately, the U.S. and its allies cannot rest until both matters are favorably resolved, but open conflict is guaranteed to be fraught with not just bloodshed but extensive global business and security repercussions. Consider this: Taiwan’s Semiconductor Manufacturing Co. produces 92% of the world’s advanced chips found in high-tech products such as cellphones and fighter jets. Overall, Taiwan’s semiconductor contract manufacturers account for 63% of the global market share.
Simply stated, if China were to control chip manufacturing, it would dominate the world.
That fact feeds the dangerous notion that China perceives Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris as increasingly weak, unwilling, or incapable of stopping it from retaking the breakaway province. And it’s why our two top leaders could be considered, in effect, a threat to national security.
Then consider what happened on Monday: In a Newsmax interview, former President Trump said, “Now I see that Biden is going to be talking to Putin, and that’s not a fair match.” He continued, “The election was rigged, and it was stolen, and this is what we got. This is not a match that should even be allowed. This is the New England Patriots playing your high school football team. That’s what you have right now.”
With that statement, Putin and Xi heard something they have never heard before: A recent ex-president — the de facto leader of the Republican Party — publicly demeaning his successor before a high-profile discussion. Trump’s timing only enhanced Biden’s political weakness, which Russia and China can and will exploit.
In the meantime, Biden is trying to govern an increasingly ungovernable, polarized nation where half the people do not believe a word he says, with Trump cheerleading that opposition.
Worse, the American people have a zero tolerance for war, further solidified after the botched Afghanistan withdrawal. So imagine Putin’s and Xi’s glee as they watched America being humiliated and thinking, “Hey, Joe — good luck sending troops anywhere now.”
Let’s revisit those three initial questions: Does the U.S. have the will to demonstrate “terrible resolve” against its enemies? Are we careening towards a two-front war? And would we be victorious?
Before you answer, consider the following:
After last weekend’s annual Reagan Defense Forum, Defense News reported: “Several U.S. defense leaders said Saturday they are worried that a confrontation with China over Taiwan would lead to a wave of significant cyberattacks against U.S. critical infrastructure that could disrupt day-to-day life.”
The ensuing domestic chaos would be unimaginable and a potential deterrent to U.S. action.
Furthermore, in a November Washington Post op-ed, Space Force Gen. David Thompson was quoted saying, “We’re really at a point now where there’s a whole host of ways that our space systems can be threatened.” He added, “Both China and Russia are regularly attacking U.S. satellites with non-kinetic means, including lasers, radio frequency jammers and cyber attacks.”
It certainly sounds like we are already at war. Or is the U.S. afraid to admit that China and Russia are at war with us? Remember, the 9/11 Commission Report famously concluded that U.S. suffered from a “failure of imagination.” Is there a lesson here?
Then there is faltering military readiness. According to Air Force Magazine: “Mission capable rates dropped in 2021 for every Air Force fighter type except the A-10, reversing progress in 2020.”
And according to John Rossomando, a senior analyst at Defense Policy, the Navy is “rusting away.” He notes that “the U.S. Navy used to scoff at images of rusting Soviet ships as a sign of lagging seamanship and warfighting abilities.” Now, he warns, “Mismanagement seems to be the name of the game in today’s Navy.”
And quietly, a Defense Department report admits, “China has the biggest maritime force on the globe with an inventory of about 355 vessels.”
Worst of all, after “a fictional confrontation with China,” the U.S. lost war games in what primarily would be an air and naval war.
And regarding Ukraine, where tank combat would dominate, the U.S. has only one tank factory (located in Lima, Ohio).
Ultimately, our severely polarized nation — with its weak leadership, an ex-president fanning discord, and withering military capabilities — could soon be confronted with the greatest national security crisis since World War II.
And again, the final painful question: Is the U.S. a “sleeping giant” capable of awakening with “terrible resolve,” or has our nation slipped into a coma?
When the alarm goes off, the world will know the answer.