The Pentagon is preparing for protracted conflicts.
On February 10, 2023, the United States Armed Forces Joint Competition Concept was released . The document was issued under the auspices of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and signed by its chairman, General Mark Milley. It belongs to the field of doctrines and the secrecy stamp has been removed from it, that is, the Pentagon command link has already familiarized itself with it, and now it is being released for familiarization to the masses.

The main idea of ​​this concept is that “ The United Forces will expand their competitive thinking and their competitive approaches. Joint Forces with a competitive mindset will view strategic competition as a complex set of interactions in which the Joint Forces contribute to the broader efforts of the US government to gain influence, advantage, and leverage over other participants and, ultimately, to achieve favorable strategic outcomes. Together with its interagency partners, the Joint Force can create competitive opportunities by using military capabilities to proactively probe enemy systems to identify vulnerabilities; establish behavioral models that the combined forces can use in times of crisis to hide US intentions until it is too late to respond effectively ; shift competition to areas where the United States can use its advantage, leverage, and initiative; and to try to divert the attention and resources of adversaries into subfields of secondary or tertiary importance to the United States.”

A fairly reasonable decision in light of the fact that in an open conflict the United States is unlikely to be able to withstand a war on two fronts (with Russia and China), as a number of American strategists warn about. So they will resort to a strategy of deception and try to probe the weaknesses of their opponents, that is, Russia and China.

To do this, you need to perform a number of tasks:

“ Develop a competitive mindset. Competitive thinking begins with the recognition that our adversaries have a completely different concept of warfare; they intend to defeat the United States strategically without resorting to armed conflict to defeat the United States militarily.

Competitive thinking also means perceiving strategic competition as a permanent and enduring challenge to national security; accepting the important but supportive contribution of the Joint Forces to strategic competition; and, where appropriate and necessary, the development, design, and deployment of forces and capabilities necessary to support the competitive efforts of other US government departments and agencies.

Form a competitive space. The competitive space is vast, amorphous, and indefinable. Dividing it into manageable and more understandable sub-areas for analysis and planning will allow the Joint Forces to develop comprehensive competitive strategies targeting those sub-areas most likely to lead to strategic success. At the direction of the president or secretary of defense, the Joint Forces will form a competitive space to optimize their influence, advantages and leverage over adversaries and, ultimately, to achieve favorable strategic results.

Where and when the interests of the United States and the enemy coincide, the Joint Forces will selectively interact with adversaries and seek opportunities to cooperate with them for mutual benefit in achieving common or complementary strategic interests (for example, the fight against terrorism, piracy).

Promote a comprehensive campaign. The Comprehensive Campaign is based on the understanding that the Joint Forces cannot and must not act alone in strategic competition. Even when ensuring the prevalence of resources, the Joint Forces tend to campaign in support of other departments and agencies of the US government. The combined forces will identify approaches that allow them to use their military capabilities proactively, and in some cases differently, to gain influence, advantage and leverage over adversaries to create the necessary conditions for achieving strategic results .

The joint concept of an integrated campaign and the emerging doctrine of global integration (the first such concept was released in March 2018) and globally integrated operations require the integration of the actions of joint forces and their coordination with the actions of interagency and allied partners at the operational level. It is noted that the Joint Forces should seek opportunities to integrate their operations in time, space and purpose with the activities of interagency partners, proxies and surrogates .

These provisions indicate the application of the US double standards, since, when necessary, they are ready to work with their opponents under any pretexts. In addition, the mention of proxies and surrogates speaks of the constant work of the American system on the formation of its agents abroad, which, if necessary, can be used for their own purposes.

Since strategic competition has been talked about for a long time and a number of US think tanks, such as RAND and CSIS, have already released their studies and reports on this topic, it can be assumed that this phenomenon is accepted as an imperative for US foreign policy, including the use of military forces.

The document defines strategic competition as “a persistent and long-term struggle that takes place between two or more adversaries seeking to pursue incompatible interests, without necessarily entering into armed conflict with each other. Normal and peaceful competition between allies, strategic partners and other international actors that are not potentially hostile goes beyond this concept.”

And this also confirms the interests and readiness of Washington to play long to defeat its designated opponents, and officially these are China, Russia, Iran and North Korea.

Read on. “ In strategic competition, success means maintaining freedom of action to pursue national interests at acceptable risk and acceptable costs and avoiding armed conflict with adversaries.

Competitive advantage can be achieved by shifting competition to areas where the United States has a sustained comparative advantage over our adversaries so that our actions keep our adversaries on a strategic defensive or force them to take retaliatory measures that are relatively costly or counterproductive to them in in light of their strategic goals. For example, one of the long-term relative strengths of the United States is its ability to build and lead broad coalitions of allies and partners. Such areas can be considered as positions or conditions. competitive asymmetry, competitive leverage or competitive initiative. Competitive asymmetries between actors exist wherever differences exist—including interests, political will, strategies, attitudes, capabilities, interactions, and relationships—and these differences generate clear advantages and disadvantages depending on the context .

Indeed, historically, the United States has created military-political alliances that it has managed in its own interests. From NATO to ANZUS to the relatively new QUAD and AUCUS, Washington has a leading role in all of them.

Examples of strategic competition in the document include the struggle between Athens and Sparta, the era of the warring kingdoms in China, the Great Game between Britain and the Russian Empire from 1830 to 1907, the confrontation between Germany and France for dominance in Europe, which began in 1870, and also the Cold War between the USSR and the USA, including local wars in different regions.

The document is sustained in the spirit of political realism, since it constantly talks about national interests and the balance of power.

It is said that “ by definition, strategic competition is associated with the pursuit of national interests. When such interests are considered critical or fundamental, nations will pay a high price in blood and valuable assets to protect or advance these interests, up to and including armed conflict. However, the destructive power of modern armed conflict is such that, when viewed in the context of the enduring nature of strategic competition, its use may ultimately be too costly at best, and downright counterproductive at worst. To avoid this, actors must trust that they can make progress towards their strategic outcomes without incurring unacceptable risk to their national interests.

Maintaining such a balance and avoiding escalation requires a mutually acceptable balance of power, in which all parties assess that the competitive advantages of their opponents do not pose an unacceptable risk to their own interests .

However, there is one inclusion that relates to the theory of liberalism in international relations.

It states that “ while there is no sovereign body or “judge” for strategic competition, there are still generally accepted international laws, agreements and norms (hereinafter “rules”) that determine how international actors should compete. These rules have a significant impact on how interactions in strategic competition proceed. States usually interpret the rules to their advantage, but a stable and open international system moderates and limits international behavior in a generally successful effort to limit international conflict. As a result, countries compete to increase their ability to influence the international system and the rules that govern international interactions. The OCC assumes that maintaining US leadership in a stable and open international system will remain a priority national security goal . By participating in the information environment and other competitive activities, the Joint Forces can maintain a supporting role in shaping international norms and establishing principles for responsible behavior in the international arena .”

Here again we see those “rules” that Washington constantly talks about, while not hiding the fact that they are needed, because they help maintain US leadership.

It goes on to say that “ competitive space is distinct from competing entities or activities. This is the playing field where international actors compete. The totality of the competitive space is too large and complex to be considered directly within a single strategic approach. It is necessary to break down the competitive space into manageable sub-areas that are more amenable to analysis and planning and that allow efforts to be focused on areas of strategic competition that are in line with US priorities.

The choice of sub-domains based on an assessment of the impact of the competitive environment on US national interests will eliminate conflicts, synchronize and integrate joint operations, activities and investments within and between sub-domains .

On page 13 of the doctrine there is an interesting diagram showing these sub-areas and their interrelationships. There are four main areas that overlap each other – cognitive, geographical, zonal and thematic. The cognitive one includes ideology, education, information and innovation. Geographic represents the regions of the planet – the United States itself, Latin America, Europe, Africa, South Asia with the Indian Ocean, the Arctic, Central Asia, the Middle East and East Asia with the Pacific Ocean. Zonal – these are the components associated with the types of armed forces, that is, the areas of land, sea, cyberspace, air and space. Thematic topics include international order, global markets, climate, security, medicine, technology, and violent extremism. This is what the US military is dealing with. Therefore, religions, media,

On the example of China, it is considered how strategic competition works in practice. In general, China’s interest in the Arctic region and Beijing’s efforts to enter the Arctic and obtain the appropriate status (China’s definition of itself as near the Arctic power) are emphasized.

Among the instruments of national power that can be used are:

  • diplomatic;
  • information;
  • military;
  • economic;
  • financial;
  • reconnaissance;
  • legal;
  • socio-cultural;
  • technological;
  • commercial and industrial;
  • geophysical (environment);
  • ideological-theological;
  • public health.

Again, this is a fairly broad category. And the US military is preparing to work intensively in this complex system of relationships.

Although traditional deterrence is referred to in the field of conflicts with the use of military force, the limitations of these tools of deterrence are discussed further, which is why strategic competition should be developed.

The conclusion seems to be trivial. ” The more competitive the United States is in terms of providing access, basing and flying; developing a military industrial base; strengthening alliances and partnerships; and spurring technological development; the better positioned the United States will be to fight and win armed conflict. “

That is, in the end, all the same, the war and the desire to win it.

Interestingly, on page 34, the Tao de jing of the Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu is quoted, and in the bibliography one can find a mention of Sun Tzu, as well as more modern Chinese concepts of warfare (the theory of unrestricted war). However, quoting Halford Mackinder’s Geographic Axis of History, the works of Henry Kissinger, Joseph Nye, Jr., and others indicate that the US military is just as firmly following the precepts of its ideological and geopolitical guidelines.

The appendix gives recommendations on how to identify threats and risks, actors who may be competitors or friends for the United States, and receive a strategic advantage. The importance of identifying instruments of power and sub-areas that are relevant to the field of competition, including alternative strategies, is also indicated. And as a result, develop an integrated theory of success.

At a minimum, the document should give an understanding that the United States is set to use the full range of opportunities to suppress competitors. Although China is mostly mentioned, one should not be under any illusion that Russia is also implied, which Washington wants to crush without entering into a direct conflict. It is no coincidence that proxies and surrogates are mentioned, one of which is the Armed Forces of Ukraine in Ukraine, and the other is terrorists in Syria.

This doctrine deserves serious attention and the development of measures aimed at countering its implementation by the United States.

It is clear that some of the indicated actions are already being used against Russia, while others will be used at the first opportunity. One should also keep in mind the statement “hide the intentions of the United States until it is too late”, increasing intelligence activity and not trusting a single word of the representatives of the American establishment.

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