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In Israel, the Middle East, Ukraine, and Taiwan: Will the United States Encounter ‘Strategic Overload’?

"Israeli troops transport the remains of Israeli civilians who were victims of an attack by Palestinian militants in the southern Israeli region of Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 10, 2023."
Israeli troops transport the remains of Israeli civilians who were victims of an attack by Palestinian militants in the southern Israeli region of Kibbutz Kfar Aza on October 10, 2023.

WashingtonAfter Hamas attacked Israel, the United States dispatched the Ford aircraft carrier strike group to the eastern Mediterranean. At a time when the U.S. military’s strategic resources are already under heavy pressure due to the war in Ukraine, fierce conflicts have broken out between Israel and Hamas armed forces. Coupled with the U.S. military’s commitment to the Asia-Pacific region, will the United States encounter “strategic overload”? Analysts believe that although this is the largest bloody war in the Middle East in many years, the conflict is not enough to put serious pressure on the US military’s commitment to Asia and will not affect the US military deployment in the Asia-Pacific region.

The U.S. military has not yet directly intervened in the Middle East conflict

The U.S. Navy’s latest generation aircraft carrier, the USS Ford, has sailed to the eastern Mediterranean and is stepping up its efforts to deliver equipment and ammunition to Israel. Additionally, President Biden has pledged further military assistance to Israel. Even so, analysts believe that the possibility of the US military taking direct military action is very small.

Douglas Streusand, professor of international relations at the U.S. Marine Corps Command and Staff College, noted that while Hamas has successfully launched attacks by surprise and has large quantities of rockets, Hamas and Hezbollah also have large stockpiles of rockets. , but Israel has sufficient military strength to deal with Hamas.

“The likelihood of the United States taking military action in the current conflict between Israel and Hamas is extremely unlikely,” he said to the media, stressing that this was his personal opinion.

Aaron Danis, a professor at The Institute of World Politics, agreed that the current situation “does not yet require U.S. troops to deal with Hamas in Gaza; the Israelis should be able to handle them.” 2006 During the 2006 Lebanon War, Israel was at war with Hezbollah armed forces supported by Iran for more than a month. The United States paid close attention to the development of the situation but did not intervene directly.

Danis also believes that judging from the current situation, it is still doubtful whether the Middle East conflict will evolve into a large-scale Middle East war involving the direct participation of the US military.

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The Wall Street Journal reported Monday that senior members of Hamas and Hezbollah, another Iran-backed militant group, said Iranian security officials helped plan Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on Saturday. If Iran is confirmed to be directly involved in the attack, it will increase the risk of a full-scale conflict in the Middle East, but Iran has denied participating in this bloody attack which is rare in Israel’s history.

Dennis said to the media that the reason Iran launched attacks using proxy forces such as Hamas, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, and Hezbollah was precisely because it did not want to be directly involved in a tough war. On the Israeli side, the current conflict involves hostages and human shields, some of whom are Americans and other foreigners. “This will increase the pressure on Netanyahu and make him act more cautiously.”

Is the US military already facing “strategic overload”?

US military
US military

Although the US military has strike power and delivery capabilities that no country has, its strategic goals are scattered around the world, including traditional hotspots in the Middle East, and it also has to deal with threats from Eurasia, Russia, and China. After the Cold War, the US military strived to maintain the ability to win two “Major Regional Contingencies” (MRC) at the same time. However, as time goes by, the standards of the two wars have been questioned.

The Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, has released an annual report since 2015 evaluating this strategy. This year’s “2023 Index of U.S. Military Strength” points out that the current U.S. military no longer has the ability to “win two wars at the same time.” The report said the 2023 Index concluded that the U.S. “military capabilities may not be capable of additional missions and are clearly ill-equipped to handle nearly simultaneous conflicts in two major regions.”

From the “pivot to Asia” to the “Indo-Pacific strategy”, the shift of the US strategic focus to Asia can be said to be the core of the US military’s post-Cold War redeployment of global strategic resources. The United States once had 160,000 troops stationed in Iraq alone. According to Pentagon data in June this year, the total number of U.S. military officers and soldiers in various countries in the Middle East is only about 30,000. As the situation in the Middle East and Afghanistan stabilizes, the U.S. Department of Defense has begun to transfer weapons such as B-1 and B-52 long-range bombers and “Global Hawk” drones from the Middle East and Southwest Asia to the Pacific region. Hal Brands, Special Assistant to the Secretary of Defense for Strategic Planning, also wrote an article last year and revealed that in order to deal with China’s challenges, the United States withdrew scarce local resources such as missile defense systems from the Middle East in 2021.

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Just before Hamas launched this large-scale attack, the Wall Street Journal reported on October 5 that as the focus shifts from the Middle East to the threat from China, the Pentagon is preparing to reduce the special operations that have repeatedly achieved success in the Army’s fight against terrorist attacks. force, reducing its size by as much as 3,000 soldiers, or about 10% of the special operations force. The newspaper’s report said the cuts would allow the Army to create the large conventional ground forces needed in potential battles in Asia.

The war in Ukraine has also been rapidly depleting the U.S. arms reserves. In view of the overstretched local arsenals, the United States had begun to use a large number of ammunition stored in Israel before this conflict. The Israeli media reported at the time that Israel was also facing threats. Officials are deeply concerned that U.S. arms stockpiles have dwindled due to the war in Ukraine.

Brands, now a professor at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies, predicted last year that the United States might find itself facing not only continued tensions in the Pacific but also a serious security crisis in the Middle East, possibilities that hinted at a deeper A problem that has accumulated for many years: strategic overstretch.

The US military is still able to operate with ease, and the deployment of military forces in the Indo-Pacific will not be affected.

However, some analysts believe that the US military is still capable. Dennis of the Institute of World Politics pointed out that the Ford aircraft carrier strike group sent to the Mediterranean is using existing resources already deployed in the Mediterranean, “and will not reduce its capabilities elsewhere.”

The USS Ford aircraft carrier strike group is the latest and most advanced aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy. It is also the third-generation nuclear-powered aircraft carrier of the U.S. Navy. Its various superior performances make it an important tool for the U.S. military to maintain military superiority at sea around the world, including maintaining security in the Taiwan Strait. Key strength. China used the USS Ford as the target in a recent war game and set the strike group to be parked near Taiwan, claiming that it could sink it with only 24 missiles.

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Dennis, a former U.S. Army intelligence officer, said that even if more troops are needed in the Arabian Gulf, the United States can send additional troops on short notice. The Ford can also extend its deployment in the Mediterranean if necessary.

Dennis said that some of the strategic adjustments made by the United States toward the Indo-Pacific region should not affect the United States’ projection capabilities in the Middle East. The United States’ long-range bombers often take off from Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean. If necessary, They can easily carry cruise missiles to the Middle East, “which is why the United States and its allies have built this global network of bases… and the ability to move forces laterally.”

Bill Hayton, author of “South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia” and “Vietnam: Rising Dragon,” wrote in a letter to the United States In an email, Yin said that he could not see any reason why the U.S. military would be involved in the conflict between Hamas and Israel at present. The warships sent by the United States were from the Mediterranean Fleet, not the Indo-Pacific Fleet. “U.S. policymakers may be paying more attention to the Middle East for some time, but the military will continue to carry out its mission in Asia,” he said.

Zack Cooper, a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, said the U.S. military presence in the region will increase slightly in the coming months and may see more surface ships and perhaps warplanes. Rotating around the region, but these are manageable given existing U.S. commitments. “I don’t think it’s going to be a serious strain on the U.S. military,” he said.

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