Prompt Global Strike
Debate Rounds (3)
The U.S. military should invest in long-range conventional strike systems capable of striking high valued targets anywhere in the world in one hour or less. Current DoD initiatives are known collectively as Conventional Prompt Global Strike (CPGS): https://www.fas.org...
Comment for acceptance.
3)Counterarguments & Conclusions
Justification for Global Strike Missions
As those who remember history know all too well, the need for CPGS weapons dates back to 1998 when it became abundantly clear to US military planners that 75 of our most advanced Tomahawk cruise missiles had missed killing Osama Bin Laden in Zhawar Kili, Afghanistan by "some hours," hitting mostly empty tents instead (1). Interest in CPGS weapons for long-range strike missions again peaked with the opening salvos of the Afghanistan War- whereas the DoD (to the public's frustration) was much delayed in its response to the 9/11 attacks due to the inaccessible mountain ranges of Afghanistan along with the country's distance from the United States. The Pentagon's need for new range, speed, lethality, and flexible weapon systems was again pressed hard to US policymakers with the 2001 Nuclear Posture Review (and many subsequent defense reviews), which formally argued that a new generation of conventional strike systems should be developed "for the diverse set of potential adversaries and unexpected threats that the United States might confront in the coming decades;" most notably the borderless battlefields of the global war on terror, along with new asymmetric threats which include rouge states developing Weapons of Mass Destruction (2)(3). In order to meet these new unprecedented security challenges, forward operating bases, carrier battle groups, and large nuclear arsenals are simply not enough, and CPGS proponents (like Marine Gen. James Cartwright) have argued that "unless you want to go nuclear, traditional military response time is measured in days, maybe weeks." (4) In fact, current conventional methods of power projection, such as carrier battle groups and airwings, can take up to as much as 96 hours to deploy overseas (4)(5). Statistics like these are obviously woefully ill-suited for long-range global strike missions which must be accomplished in the short time window that targets are vulnerable - such as Osama Bin Laden in 1998, or hypothetically, Iranian and North Korean nukes. The case for CPGS and similarly fast global strike systems is strong, and the US will greatly improve its offensive and defensive capabilities against all threats by investing in Conventional Prompt Global Strike.
Doing More with Less & Securing the Future with CPGS
Key elements of CPGS include hypersonic gliders, scramjet boost technology, and ICBMs tipped with conventional warheads with an option for orbital launch platforms, these systems altogether will allow the United States to strike high-valued targets anywhere on Earth in as little as an hour. Doctrine essentials from Full-Spectrum Dominance along with current Joint-Force theory rely on the incredible assumption that the US military can deploy anywhere in the world and operate with impunity. Unfortunately, these doctrines and advanced strategies may soon be called into question as rival countries (such as Russia & China) continue to modernize their forces and proliferate high-tech arms across the world. Already we've seen Russia agree to proliferate S-400 area denial systems to Syria and Iran (repudiating our air access), the Iranians and N.Koreans developing ICBMs, six countries developing 5th generation fighters, and the Chinese developing assassin mace technology which takes CPGS concepts and applies them to sinking American carriers. Overall, as NATO defense budgets continue to shrink, post-Cold War battlefields continue to expand to new locations, enemies continue to modernize A2AD weaponry, and American bases continue to close worldwide, it becomes clear that American power projection abilities are waning and that United States needs a CPGS system.
CPGS promises to do more with less, allowing targets to be struck abroad rapidly directly from the United States. No longer will the US President need permission for airspace and basing rights from another country in order to protect American citizens, rely solely on aging nuclear arsenals for deterrence, suffer from lack of strategic options to actionable intelligence on a terrorist's location, worry about our carriers being potentially sunk to diesel submarines (6), or worry about large numbers of US troops being potentially put into harms way on expensive long-term deployments. CPGS will provide the DoD with unprecedented global reach and battle space dominance, and its just the edge we need to maintain America's security for the future. Though opponents to CPGS will argue that CPGS risks beginning a new arms race and that potential launches could be misinterpreted for a nuclear attack, these dangers are avoidable by negotiating new START treaties, allowing international inspections of CPGS land systems (which is already done for nukes) and designing new delivery systems and flight trajectories that are easily distinguishable from a typical ICBM launch. History also shows that the best way to stop an impending arms race is to win it, and that new advanced weaponry typically acts as a deterrent rather than a provocation (from cold war history). Right now however -whether the American public wants to admit it or not - the US may already be in an arms race with other countries and terrorists groups as we mutually compete for our best interests in globalized economies. Its smart and better for us then to stay one step ahead with CPGS.
1) Triggering nuclear war: As Pro has already noted, the principle fear of CPGS is that it could trigger a nuclear war. The whole point of this system is "to attack anywhere in the world on short notice" with conventional, intercontinental ballistic missiles based in the U.S. . It is probable that such a launch will be misinterpreted as a nuclear attack and thus trigger an instant retaliation by countries such as Russia or China. Pro has suggested some ways to mitigate such misunderstandings, and I will save my response to those for the rebuttal round. Suffice it to say that, even with every possible mitigation in place, the risk can never be eliminated. China or Russia could never be totally sure such a missile was not intended for them, especially since many of the current prototypes are designed to change course in mid air. They could also never be sure the missile was conventional rather than nuclear. Furthermore, a CPGS designed to strike in under an hour does not give rival nations sufficient time to decide on how to react. In less than 60 minutes a nation would have to decide whether it was under attack, whether that attack was conventional or nuclear, and whether to retaliate. Such an alarming situation would undoubtedly cause panic, which leads to panicked decision making. Using this weapon would put other countries in a bad position. The research paper cited by Pro says it best: "when nations might have incomplete information about the nature of an attack and too little time to gather more information and plan an appropriate response. Faced with these circumstances, a nation who was not an intended target, such as Russia, might choose to respond quickly, rather than to wait for more information." It is no exaggeration to say that CPGS might speed us to our own extinction.
2) When would we ever use this? This entire system is designed for some notional scenario where the U.S. needs to attack almost instantly at great distances to begin some unforeseen conflict. Although not impossible, such a scenario would be very rare and unique, and current U.S. weapons technology could still respond to it. Because of this, the paper cited by Pro goes so far as to call CPGS a "niche" weapon . Given, there may be some reward in having a "niche" weapon in rare scenarios, but when that reward comes at the cost of many billions of dollars, it's not worth it. There is hardly a scenario imaginable that current U.S. weaponry and force postures could not respond to, albeit with a slightly slower deployment time (by a few hours or a few days). But slower is not necessarily bad, which brings me to my next point...
3) An instant response is not always smart - Hasty decision making yielding instant results is not always a good thing when we're talking about ballistic missiles. Yet this is precisely what CPGS seeks to enable. Yes, it may take a few extra hours or a few extra days to use long range bombers or maneuver carrier groups into position, but that is good. The decision to start a war SHOULD take a few days, or, at least, a few hours. No government should have the power to push a button and end 1000's of lives in under 60 minutes. Leaders need a few hours and days to debate, decide, plan, and gather intelligence. Employing CPGS actually seems a bit silly - because although the missiles may strike key targets in under an hour, it would still take several days to insert troops onto the battlefield. It would accomplish little more than alerting the enemy to our intentions, and giving them a few days to recover and prepare before the main wave to arrive.
Pro may counter that no ground troops are needed, CPGS would wipe the enemy out in one fell swoop. But history shows that rarely works. We need look no further than the air campaign against ISIS - where massive precision bombing without significant ground troop pressure is having very little effect.
4) Where does the intelligence come from? - Obviously, the CPGS targets would be selected based on intelligence. But it is difficult to develop and analyze the necessary intelligence within the time it takes to make CPGS useful (less than an hour). Think about it - how do you react to an unforeseen conflict, identify, analyze, and confirm targets, and launch within an hour? It's absurd. It promotes panicked, hasty intelligence gathering which is a recipe for disaster. Even assuming that it might work a few times, imagine the cost when it doesn't work - bad, hastily gathered intel leading to the launch of an ICBM that hits the wrong target and kills hundreds of civilians.... all while potentially starting WWIII. A few dead terrorists (who could be killed by many other means) are not worth it. The risk far outweighs the reward.
5) $$$$ - Now we get into the literal cost. According to my rough calculation of the funding history outlined in Pro's source, the DoD has spent upwards of $1.5 billion on this program between 2003-2015 and STILL has no viable prototype. There have been some successes, such as the Army's AHW model, but each test still yields serious problems. It's impossible to predict how much more money will be needed to develop a reliable weapon. In addition, we have not even factored in the annual costs of maintaining this system once it's fielded to keep it ready to deploy at a moment's notice. These are astronomical numbers, and all in the name of pursuing a "niche" weapon. This is money the DoD desperately needs allocated elsewhere. Once again, the costs far outweigh the benefits.
In summary, I'm willing to admit that CPGS might work a few times in very rare scenarios. But the cost of having it go wrong are unacceptable. This system encourages hasty intelligence gathering, instant decision making, billions of dollars, and may place our nuclear armed rivals in situations where they have to decide between life and death in less than 60 minutes. We already have weapon systems that can respond globally, they just take a few hours or days to deploy, and that's often a good thing. The costs of CPGS far outweigh the benefits, therefore, we should not invest in it.
Thanks Con! On to rebuttals!
1) On "When would we ever use this?"
Let's be real here, CPGS is purposely OP, and the supreme ability to knockout high-valued targets anywhere in the world on less than an hour's notice with surgical precision is not akin to a sports car never leaving the garage. In fact, there are a number of tactical possibilities and strategic leverages for having a CPGS system in place. Many of them of course, have to do with actionable military missions as well as deterrence (weapons that aren't used but still prevent conflicts).
Take for example:
-CPGS is easily the next adaptation to the highly successful US drone program; whereas drones have been used for targeted-killings following real-time surveillance (killing 9 of 20 of Al Qaeda's senior leaders )(1); CPGS takes this to the next level with global reach and increased lethality against hardened terrorist targets. By capitalizing on time-sensitive intelligence, and by adding greater efficiency to killing terrorist leaders, it may be possible to prevent future terrorist attacks. The US failure to kill Mr. Bin Laden in 1998 by "some hours" and Taliban leaders who escaped the opening salvos of Enduring Freedom are still my chosen examples.
Averting Nuclear War
-CPGS reduces the likelihood of using nuclear weapons by adding conventional strike options to targets typically reserved for nuclear forces. If for instance, the US needed to immediately subdue a country's WMD arsenal, the President now has the option to order a conventional strike instead of a nuclear one. If CPGS proves it's worth, it may even be possible for the US to adopt a "no first use" nuke policy, which may also further reduce the possibility of nuclear conflict.
-CPGS systems that can strike anywhere in the world with impunity may also reduce the probability for prolonged conflict by targeting a nation's centers of gravity in the opening stages of a conflict. If enough of the enemy's vital C2 systems, energy supplies, and military infrastructure is knocked out, country's may be forced to the negotiating table long before needing US ground forces.
-Having a CPGS system in place may also add to the credibility and sureness of US military action, and therefore acts as a deterrent. Who's going to start something with a global superpower that can promptly attack targets anywhere in the world faster than you and I could make a sandwich?
2) On $$$$
Furthermore, utilizing CPGS in these scenarios is infinitely less expensive, less risky, more practical, and more efficient than having to slowly position thousands of US troops around the globe to new hotspots (and negotiate for basing rights) just so we can have viable military options. Take the recent "pivot to Asia." What a #$%! up that was! Just when the DoD thought it was okay to move US bases out of Europe and the Middle East, Russia, Iran, Syria, and Islamic terrorists runaway again with the evening news, and US forces -having left to contain China- once more find themselves overstretched, under funded, and ill-prepared for a multi-polar world with no clear answers as to what their doing or where the heck they should actually be. Just recently, the DoD announced because of sequestration that it could no longer advocate a two-front war (2), proving that US power projection abilities are declining and that the DoD ultimately needs flexible weapon systems that can "do more with less." Cost effective systems like CPGS.
3) On Nuclear Ambiguity
On this, I concede that Con is right. The principle fear of CPGS is that it could trigger a nuclear war. However, any military action in the world from a nuclear power has the potential to trigger a nuclear war, whether its some NATO exercise in the Baltics, the downing of a Korean Airliner in 1983, or spending money on some fictional "star wars" program. What's important to remember however, is that these risks can be mitigated (see R1 arguments) and that this fear in general, is often overrated.
Take the Fractional Orbital Bombardment System for example. A high-tech global prompt nuclear strike system developed by the Soviets in the 1960s that was successfully tested in outer space and in service for over two decades. Or the USAF's mysterious X-37 space plane. Despite being both being early technology demonstrators to many of the proposed CPGS missions (like orbital bombardment and hypersonic reentry) - the threat of nuclear war did not occur, the US and USSR were not condemned, and nor did the world make it illegal to have CPGS weapons in outer space.
Finally, if there is an unavoidable risk to nuclear war, then we must also acknowledge that there is also a risk to CPGS apathy, as Russia and China are both confirmed to be developing hypersonic capabilities (3). This risk too, that a rival country might pass us up, is also one that can't be avoided.
4) On Hasty Decision Making
Contrary to Con's argument, quick decision making and fast reaction times is a boon across the full spectrum of all military operations. John Boyd's ODDA loop explains this well, which states that in order for armies to gain martial advantages, decision makers must "operate at a faster tempo or rhythm than our adversaries," and that speed will ultimately make us appear more "ambiguous and unpredictable" in nature, thereby generating "confusion and disorder" among our adversaries, who will be unable to generate mental images and precise countermeasures that agree with the character as well as the rhythms or patterns of our operations (4). As a result, the boon of military blitzkrieg and fast decision making in general, is the timeless principle of seizing the initiative.
And in the case of ballistic missiles (and CPGS) where one might worry about appearing "ambiguous," we can disagree with Con because the end result with quick military doctrines -when taken to the extreme- isn't just countermeasures that disagree with the exact nature of operations, but a total erosion of the enemy's own cognitive decision making process, leading in effect to decision making paralysis.
5) On "where does intelligence come from?"
This is no doubt the strongest argument put forward by Con. The enabling-tech that goes into making CPGS work in conjunction with ISR systems is absurdly confusing and complex. But I submit to you however, that the nature of future conflict is changing, and the fog of war is no longer about "not knowing," but "knowing too much." And that the slow process often used to make intelligence estimates is only going to improve as we learn to sort through the digital age with greater speed and efficiency. Intelligence agencies should be very excited for the arrival of the quantum computer.
Obviously, the speed of CPGS systems would be still be tied to the speed of intelligence gathering, but even with the absence of some better ISR technologies, we already have a working model with the successful US drone program. Leading the fight against the war on terror -more than any other weapon system- is the quick confirmation of high-level targets that's leads to a real-time strike. Though the outcome isn't always perfect, is it obviously still the most potent weapon system we have and it is the desired course for the future of war; doing more with less without needing to risk American lives. And in the post-9/11 era, where asymmetric threats can come from anywhere, and must be confronted before they materialize, you really can't go wrong with CPGS.
To close, I'd like to stress a final time that current US military strategy assumes that the United States military can deploy anywhere in the world and operate with impunity. If this debate then is to be determined then by evaluating risks vs. benefits to national security strategy, then the one system that best maintains our security and doctrines in the future is CPGS.
1. Pro admits that risking nuclear war is a chief concern, yet says these risk can be avoided. They mention things like new START treaties, international inspections of CPGS sites, and developing new trajectories that avoid contested airspace. These things might help, but they will not eliminate the risk of misinterpretation. Treaties can be broken, and according to Pro's source, Russia has already expressed grave concerns about the CPGS program under the New START treaty . International inspections would do little more than ensure that CPGS weapons were non-nuclear at the moment of inspection. Nothing would prevent the U.S. from quickly swapping conventional warheads with nuclear ones between inspections, and a cautious Russian defense strategy would surely suspect such a move. If a CPGS launches without warning 2 months after the last inspection, China is back to square one - is it nuclear, or conventional? From China's perspective, it would be reckless to assume that America "probably" didn't switch the warheads. Finally, new trajectories would do little to calm fears. A CPGS missile is designed to change course in mid-flight if needed, so a calculated trajectory means almost nothing. Furthermore, this mitigation requires that other nations will assume that "conventional" trajectories indicate conventional warheads. This is asking our nuclear armed rivals to place a great deal of trust in the U.S., which prudence dictates they remain cautions of.
Pro says there has always been a risk of nuclear war since 1945, and we got through the Cold War just fine. But the difference is, we got through the Cold War by never actually launching any missiles. CPGS is designed to be launched - multiple times, without warning. The world has never had to react to a real-life ICBM launch, and the potential for panic is very high.
The bottom line is this: All the mitigations in the world go out the window once a missile is in the air. CPGS is designed to strike almost instantly without warning. This deprives rival nations the time to assess the threat and select a response. They will have to choose between trusting the U.S. or playing it safe, and playing it safe is always the best bet. An instant strike mandates an instant response, and we may not like the outcome. The risks outweigh the rewards.
2. Killing terrorists - Pro says CPGS would be a great weapon for killing terrorist leaders. Maybe so, but I contest that killing a terrorist in Yemen with a U.S. based ICBM is like killing an ant with a jackhammer - it's unnecessary. Drones are already doing a great job delivering small payload precision strikes against time sensitive targets. Any range limitations or time delays in drone platforms can be overcome by further investment in this already effective technology. Funneling that investment into a multi-billion dollar experimental weapon called CPGS is unnecessary and impractical. We already have a technology that works, it would be silly to switch to something completely different.
Pro cites missing Bin Laden in a Tomahawk strike "by some hours" as justification for developing CPGS. But misses would still happen with CPGS - misses will always happen no matter which weapon you use. This is because at the end of the day, the enemy gets a vote too, the enemy can be unpredictable and evade detection, and he will try to do so at every turn. One easy evasion is to hide in cities (which terrorists already do). The U.S. would never launch an ICBM into a city just to kill one terrorist - the collateral damage would be catastrophic. So my question remains - when would we ever use CPGS?
3. Strategic paralysis - Pro says CPGS is great for disabling a nation's centers of gravity and forcing an enemy to negotiate without using ground troops. That is a fantasy that, I fear, military commanders will continue to dream about until the end of time. There has never been a single war since the invention of airborne weapons where a nation was forced to the negotiating table through air power alone. Not WWI, not WWII, not Korea, not Vietnam, not Kosovo, and no, not even Desert Storm. Destruction from the air, even very heavy destruction, always plays a supplementary role to ground forces. In war after war, enemies prove remarkably resistant to infrastructure bombing. Any nation that can be brought to its knees with air power alone would never attack the U.S. in the first place - that would be a truly foolish endeavor.
4. $$$ - Pro says CPGS is less expensive than maneuvering US ground troops. That may be true, but we must keep in mind that CPGS would be an expense in ADDITION to already existing ground forces, not IN PLACE of them. The US would never say, "well, we have CPGS now, time to cut the Army and Marines in half." To the contrary - the very nature of the asymmetric warfare that Pro cites demands that we maintain, and even expand, our global military presence. CPGS would be an added expense to an already overstretched defense budget, and an unnecessary one at that.
5. OODA loops and hasty decision making - Pro says essentially that the faster we are, the better we are. They actually use the term "blitzkrieg" in describing CPGS. I wish to point out however, that blitzkrieg often produces serious strategic problems after gaining initial tactical success, as the Germans found out many times in WWII. Pro cites Boyd's "OODA Loop" as necessary for gaining advantage in combat. OODA stands for "Observe, Orient, Decide, Act." No one would doubt that making fast decisions is essential in war - but that speed is only helpful up to a certain point. It takes time to observe, orient, decide, and act, and when you go through the OODA loop too fast you begin to make mistakes. Under 60 minutes is too fast to correctly observe, orient, decide, and act intelligently to an intercontinental ballistic missile. Mistakes will undoubtedly be made which could be catastrophic. Boyd advocated quick decision making, he did not advocate instant decision making. I once again propose that taking a few hours or days to progress through the OODA loop with existing technology is much preferred to the CPGS alternative.
6. Intelligence through drones - Pro answers my question of "where would the intelligence come from?" with drones. To this I simply say - exactly! Drones would certainly be used to observe potential CPGS targets. But, the obvious question is then: if a drone is in range to observe a CPGS target, why not just use the drone? Like killing the ant with the jackhammer, CPGS is an unnecessary redundancy, and one that introduces unacceptable risk onto the world stage.
== Conclusion ==
In closing, I have no doubt that CPGS would be a fearsome and lethal weapon. But the risks associated with those rewards are too great. The threats CPGS is designed to counter can already be countered with current technology. It's an unnecessary weapon that costs billions of dollars and pushes the Doomsday Clock ever closer to midnight. I say, do not invest.
3 votes have been placed for this debate. Showing 1 through 3 records.
Vote Placed by donald.keller 9 months ago
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Reasons for voting decision: RFD in Comments: This is a Voter's Union vote.
Vote Placed by Hayd 10 months ago
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Reasons for voting decision: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1Qk3F2cGY1TFiDfU6mrUvnr1DVo1U1X65bg7WdUG5SpQ/edit?usp=sharing
Vote Placed by FaustianJustice 10 months ago
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Reasons for voting decision: Con's rebuttal #6 I feel is where Pro's argument is made obsolete. There is no point in developing additional weapon systems like the one mentioned if the immediate recon platform can be further weaponized. Secondly, niche orientation. A weapon like this is designed for nations/factions that don't have a functioning defensive system. I don't see how you can keep drones over a target, and expect to mount an attack against modern militaries. Lastly, assuming "paralysis" is occurred, nuclear retaliation seems to be the only option, as well as the immediate threat of misidentification of projectiles to be nuclear from the onset. Con has addressed and expanded the immediate frailties and potential hazard of Pro's position to the point it can not be made up for through benefit. s
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