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According to Jonathan Askonas, an assistant professor of Politics at Catholic University of America, the U.S. military could not win a war against China with its current volunteer-only forces.
Given the state of global affairs and rising tensions between China, Taiwan, and the U.S., the military would need to radically transform its current structure in order to adequately address the burgeoning threat. Askonas argues that those changes could even include reinstating conscription.
"This is a five-alarm fire," Askonas said on April 11 during a discussion with the Hudson Institute think tank. "We're facing global threats and we have a force structure which we know will not work against those threats," he added.
"We basically can't fight a war larger than Iraq with the all-volunteer force," Askonas concluded.
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The U.S. military has been an all-volunteer organization since 1973, when direct U.S. involvement in the Vietnam War ended, and the draft was canceled.
However, Askonas noted that the all-volunteer structure regrettably did not generate enough forces to fight a war between great powers. He also added that difficult logistical processes were likely too inefficient to be useful in a war against either China or Russia.
"We have a Goldilocks problem," Askonas said. "Our army is too small as constituted to actually prosecute a war with these countries, but it's large enough that it's sucking a lot of resources away," he added.
"We have to be ruthless. We need to adapt our force structure not to hypothetical threats or in some universal Swiss army knife approach, but to the actual threats that we face," Askonas concluded.
As a solution to the shortage of soldiers, Askonas suggested reinstituting a "cadre" system for deploying troops, similar to what was used during World War II.
As a result, the military would remain lean during peacetime, freeing up important financial resources for such things as munitions, subs, ships, heavy artillery, etc., while reducing the burden of paying for full-time service members.
However, in today's society where some young adults complain about working a full 8-hour shift at Starbucks, one can already hear the shouts of discontent and demands for waivers and exemptions.