A large portion of the U.S. defense establishment is operating under the mistaken belief that a future conflict involving a great or middle power in the Pacific will be a long-range missile duel. China is building a formidable conventional military with a heavy reliance on a mix of air and missile defenses and long-range conventional and nuclear missiles. There are growing concerns that large U.S. naval platforms, particularly aircraft carriers, will be excessively vulnerable if they attempt to enter the range rings of Chinese anti-ship cruise and ballistic missiles. So convinced are the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps that long-range missiles will dominate future conflict that they are prepared to cede the Western Pacific to China at the start of a conflict. Countering great power A2/AD threats, whether in Europe or the Western Pacific, will require an array of assets. But deterring or defeating Russian and Chinese threats to U.S. friends, allies and interests must be based, first and foremost, on a robust, highly lethal and survivable forward deployment of U.S. forces. I discuss here five reasons why a great power conflict in the Western Pacific cannot and will not be a long-range missile duel but, instead, an in-close knife fight.
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