Throughout history, the U.S. relied on and offered substantial assistance in return to its alliances and partners that, in their turn, provide military and political support whenever the U.S. needed it. For example, during World War II, the main allies were the U.K., France, and the U.S.S.R., to whom the U.S. donated substantially with money, equipment, and other means (Herman, 2012). The U.K. and France fought at the side of the U.S., sent troops, and supplied weapons in the following military conflicts (e.g., the war in Afghanistan).
Among the U.S. alliances, the special role played by the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), which was established in April 1949 and currently consists of 30 member states. The example of NATO demonstrates that alliances apart from being a source of support for the U.S. also bring certain costs. More precisely, the Cold War was accompanied by NATO, which theoretically put the U.S. under extra mobilization and resource pressure, as it had to assist any allying country (Beckley, 2015). At the same time, NATO remains one of the most influential foreign policy tools, meaning that the benefits of maintaining this alliance outweigh the costs.
From what is stated above, it could be inferred that the stability and security of our great nation rests in our ability to establish and sustain strong alliances domestically and abroad. Maintaining strong alliances and partnerships enables the strategic readiness of the nation and serves as the best underwriter of future peace and economic prosperity across the globe. These relationships remain essential in an era of great power competition filled with emerging and unconventional threats. However, the current paper argues that mobilization in the 21st century presents challenges that could prove pivotal to our ability to effectively activate a whole nation response. These challenges further reinforce the need for a strategy that upholds the importance of alliances and partnerships if faced with a national or global threat or conflict.
Current U.S. Mobilization Strategy
Before discussing how alliances and strategic partnerships affect the modern mobilization of the U.S., it is necessary to devote some attention to the peculiarities of the current mobilization strategy. According to the 2018 National Defense Strategy (N.D.S.), “the fully mobilized Joint Force will be capable of: defeating aggression by a major power; deterring opportunistic aggression elsewhere; and disrupting imminent terrorist and W.M.D. threats” (Mattis, 2018, p.6). In the N.D.S., it is also stated that the U.S. greatly relies on its allies and partners to suppress the competitors, “forcing them to confront conflict under adverse conditions” (Mattis, 2018, p.5). Therefore, the U.S. is expected to be powerful enough to sustain any military conflict with minimal costs. Still, the facts and experience prove otherwise.
Current mobilization policies prevent the country from fulfilling its defensive potential, especially during a possible major conflict. Mattis (2018) claims that the Department of Defense (DoD) over-optimization costs it the ability to make a decision in short order. The peculiar feature of the armed conflicts in the 21st century is that they often evolve rapidly, leaving another party little time to get prepared. Historically, the U.S. has not faced such an experience, and currently, the nation seems unprepared to mobilize its resources for wartime needs quickly.
Additionally, the U.S. lost its position of the most technologically developed country due to Chinese rapid economic and military development (Rudlof, 2020). In addition to that, it is essential not to let China outperform the U.S. in terms of military strength because this country threatens the political and economic superiority of the U.S. More precisely, Belt and Road Initiative is a way to undermine the U.S. without an act of war. Although in the epoch of weapons of mass destruction, the armed conflict between any two great powers is unlikely to occur because it will destroy the entire world, the administration understands the importance of technological development. The “enduring American military advantage in the U.S.-China security competition” is going to be achieved through the implementation of the Innovation Superiority Strategy (Hicks et al., 2020, para. 1). Therefore, even though current mobilization policies are, to some extent, ineffective, the nation still strives not to lose former glory and puts a lot of effort into technological innovations for military use.
Another factor that affects the efficiency of the current U.S. mobilization strategy is the Selective Service System (S.S.S.). The S.S.S. is outdated, only covering the male population of a select age range (Kania & Moore, 2019). It is suggested to expand the age range by ten years and register men as well as women (Kania & Moore, 2019). This strategy would allow to utilize talents and skills of more people in any potential large-scale conflict. The U.S. could borrow the experience of Norway, Sweden, and Israel, where women are also conscripted. The military strength of these countries is incomparably smaller compared with one of the U.S. Nonetheless, Norwegian and Swedish women serve on equal terms with men. Hence, it could be suggested that the idea to conscript women might work in the U.S.
In spite of these benefits, expansion of the age range and removing restrictions on gender is impossible without the amendment of law by Congress. The implementation of these changes is complicated by the 1981 decision of the Supreme Court. Forty years ago, the Supreme Court decided that the deprivation of women of the ability to register themselves in the S.S.S. did not violate the Constitutional claim for equality of all U.S. citizens rights.
One more significant weakness of the existing mobilization system is characterized by the absence of planning and organization for whole-of-nation mobilization, including unclear stakeholder roles (Kania & Moore, 2019). The Joint Publication 4-05 (2018), a document that regulates conduction of joint military mobilization, demobilization, use of force, and volunteers, contains instructions only for the total force mobilization. The role of government or businesses in mobilization is eliminated in this publication. These two actors play an essential role in mobilization because they possess a mechanism for mobilizing technological and industrial resources for wartime needs (Kania & Moore, 2019). Therefore, the mobilization of these resources without the assistance of the business stakeholders and the government could slow down the speed of mobilization in case of an unexpected armed attack on the country.
Since China is regarded as a critical rivalry of the U.S., the mobilization systems of these two countries should be compared. In the People’s Republic of China (P.R.C.), even in peaceful times, the specialized National Defense Mobilization Commission coordinates the allocation of resources so that to use them in case of war (Kania & Moore, 2019). The given point makes it apparent that China, in contrast to the U.S., is ready to mobilize resources more quickly because it coordinates resources beforehand. Besides, it could be concluded that in the P.R.C., businesses are a significant actor in mobilization. During World War II, the U.S. administration entered into a contract with private companies to encourage them to reorganize their production for wartime needs. Undoubtedly, in the modern epoch, the current administration will undertake the same actions in case of war. However, if such a plan was created in advance, it would be easier and faster to mobilize resources for the needs of the army.
The argument about the immense role of private organizations in mobilization leads to the conclusion that technologies and involving other stakeholders, including foreign organizations, might facilitate the mobilization process to some extent (Kania & Moore, 2019). The mobilization of foreign businesses resources implies that these businesses should be located in the allied nations. Otherwise, the mobilization of resources from abroad would be impossible. The U.S. does not have experience in mobilizing foreign stakeholders for wartime needs. During the last major conflict, World War II, and after it, other countries, namely, the U.S.S.R. and the U.K., relied on the resources provided by the U.S., not vice versa.
Effects and Benefits of Alliances and Strategic Partnerships
There are numerous reasons that attract countries to participate in various kinds of unions. For example, weaker states tend to align with more powerful nations to protect themselves and gain benefits (Mearsheimer, 2001). The formation of NATO and the Warsaw Pact Organization during the Cold War shows that smaller states are better off when they take the side of either of the two superpowers. Furthermore, that was the matter of ideology: countries joined their forces against the representatives of another worldview. In modern history, the example could be derived from the 2003 invasion in Iraq when the joint forces of the U.S., U.K., Australia, and Poland were opposed by Iraq, Syria, and Libya supported by Russia. Without a doubt, a group of countries have a more considerable weight on the international stage and also a great way to benefit from the allies strong economy. Before discussing how alliances and strategic partnerships affect the U.S. mobilization, it is necessary to outline, in general terms, the pros and cons of alliances, coalitions, partnerships.
Pros and Cons of Alliances, Partnerships, and Coalitions
One of the most critical advantages of forming or joining a group of states or non-state actors is the ability to mobilize the resources of the members and gain their assistance in urgent situations. Lewis (2002) emphasizes that some of the alliances give the partners unique rights and allow them to become parties of exclusive agreements. Even though Lewis (2002) writes about commercial companies, some of his implications could be scaled to states. For example, only the NATO members have a right to collective defense in case of an unauthorized invasion in one of the member-states. Other nations that do not belong to NATO could not rely on immediate and unquestionable assistance and resources of NATO’s member-states. Additionally, alliances, partnerships, and coalitions are a platform for exchanging information and experience between the members. For instance, the 37 members of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (O.E.C.D.) in 2012 have agreed to the automatic exchange of information on taxpayers (O.E.C.D., 2015).
In the military context, the formation of an alliance significantly facilitates war planning. Military alliances are also sources of effective control over the actions and coordinating them (Weitsman, 2010). However, such alliances have a weak side as well. If nations want an alliance that was created during a peaceful time operate during wartime, the transition will take some time and might impede an effective fighting process. That is due to the “rigid structures” that enable countries to focus on maintaining stability in conditions of absence of war (Weitsman, 2010, p. 33). Thus, when a union of states enters a conflict, these structures should be destroyed or modified that might be rather challenging.
Another negative implication for both alliances, coalitions, and partnerships is that there are no guarantees that the contribution of parts into warfare will be more or less equal. Weitsman (2010) claims that usually, the situation of some parties is more complicated, and they are under a greater threat. Therefore, the extent of engagement and assistance to a large extent depends on whether a country is potentially in danger or not.
Basing on what is written in the current subsection, it could be concluded that nations have several powerful reasons to join alliances or coalitions during wartime. Mobilization of partners resources is the most significant one. However, nations could never blindly rely on the allies’ support because, according to the realist theory of international relations, every government prioritizes its well-being over the one of its partners and coalition members. For example, in 1938, Poland was betrayed by its allies (the U.S., France, the U.K.) because these countries wanted to defend themselves from the upcoming threat. Returning to the topic of the present paper, it should be noted that a country that does not want to lose a war should have an effective mechanism of mobilization for the warfare to protect itself in case of the partners betrayal.
Implications of Alliances and Strategic Partnerships on the U.S. Mobilization
Considering the spontaneous nature of mobilization, alliances and partnerships are instrumental in the multifaceted dynamics of mobilization worldwide. If any U.S.’s competitor launches a global campaign that targets U.S.’s sources, then it wants to “drive the U.S. and its partners into a kinetic fight where the outcome is pre-determined” (Bebber, 2020, para. 21). This way, the U.S. mobilization strategy should be based upon this assumption, and the military strategists should foresee the plans of rivalries. Bebber (2020) also argues that the current U.S. mobilization policies fail to generate competitive advantages and should focus on how to enhance the power instead of developing only counter campaigns. In addition to that, the competitive advantage sources should be created in such a way so that the U.S. could sustain both military and information attacks (Bebber, 2020). Indeed, the multifaceted dynamics of mobilization reflects that non-kinetic wars have become more widespread than traditional ones with the use of armament.
This transition became possible due to technological development and scientific innovations. As the experience shows us, cyber-attacks and fake news are a useful way to destroy the domestic stability of a country and undermine its economic well-being without initiating a full-fledged military conflict. What is more, the Post Staff Report (2011) calls kinetic military actions hell. In comparison with conventional wars, information ones at least do not kill thousands of citizens and destroy cities. To some extent, the latter is more humane but still effective.
For the U.S., the main competitor remains China due to its unprecedented speed of economic and technological development and ambitions to become the new world’s leader. In fact, this scenario was discussed long before China surprised the world with its ability to undermine American superiority. More precisely, Organski (1958) managed to predict that the U.S. at some moment will become a mighty nation that will pose a threat to the declining dominance of the U.S. The P.R.C. establishes alliances and partnerships with the members of the Eurasian Economic Union (E.A.E.U.), the E.A.E.U. itself, and the neighbors in Asia to become another center of power in the world and protect the allies from the American influence. The U.S., in its turn, has established the Philippine – U.S. alliance that allows for a defensive posture in the Pacific (De Castro, 2017). This cooperation is relevant as China continues its emergence.
At first sight, the Philippines seems to be a small third-world country that hardly could help the U.S. Still, the strategic significance of this state lies in its geographical location in Southeast Asia and sharing sea borders with China. Therefore, the alliance with the Philippines allows the U.S. military presence near China and in Southeast Asia and defends the South China Sea from Chinese aggression. In the case of Chinese attacks, the U.S. could always easily mobilize its forces located in the Philippines and quickly respond to the danger posed by the P.R.C. Simultaneously, the Philippines acquired a mighty patron that could promote its interests in case of need.
The Philippines’ case shows that alliances and partnerships enable further expansion of the force structure, especially naval and defensive activities (Congress of The United States, 2016). Apart from the Philippines, American naval bases are also located in Bahrain, Cuba, Greece, Italy, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Spain, and the U.K. The air forces of the U.S.A. are located in Afghanistan, Aruba, Kenya, Estonia, Poland, the Netherlands, Germany, and Italy, to name but a few. The U.S. also has army installations in Belgium, Bulgaria, Cameroon, Israel, Iraq, North Macedonia, Kosovo, and Spain. Military bases spread worldwide to enable the U.S. to project its power and influence even in remote territories. Besides, it is a way to affect foreign policies and events in countries where bases are placed. Finally, as has already been mentioned above, widespread military bases allow to quickly mobilize resources in case of a conflict that happens far away from the American borders and threatens its interests.
In the second section of this paper, it was argued that the current speed of the U.S.’s ability to mobilize resources is not fast enough. Still, it should be noted that the U.S. undertakes some actions to change the situation for the better. More precisely, it produces defense items jointly with Japan and Egypt. According to Salmonson (2020), this co-production with the allying and partnering countries facilitates mobilization readiness. This happens because effective and rapid mobilization is impossible if allies have outdated weaponry or their supply is insufficient.
The U.S. benefits from such cooperation in the production of defense items are not limited to increasing the speed of mobilization. Salmonson (2020) explains that the partnership with Egypt was established because, through this country, the U.S. accesses the Middle East and could support anti-terrorist operations and suppress possible undesirable movements. At the same time, Egypt cannot resist American suggestions because cooperation with the U.S. is beneficial for national security. Japan is known for its scientific developments, and the U.S. strategists could not miss a chance to initiate an exchange of experience and breakthroughs in the military sphere. Currently, Japan and the U.S. jointly produce Hydra rockets (Salmonson, 2020). What is more, the U.S. established several military bases in Japan, meaning that in case of need, these rockets could be utilized where they were produced, minimizing transportation costs.
The ongoing pandemic of COVID-19 also revealed some weak points in the vulnerabilities in the supply chains. These weak sides would become critical in the case of immediate military mobilization because the mobilization of resources for fighting coronavirus could be compared with the mobilization of resources for fighting a real war (Pinkus & Ramaswamy, 2020). In other words, the coronavirus outbreak threatens the efficiency of the U.S. military logistics, that is the process of resources, systems, and personnel’s transportation and sustaining. A country cannot become a strong military power and achieve success in a military operation if its military supply chain is weak (Lora, 2020). Dezenski and Austin (2020) claim that the pandemic period increased governments reliance on rare earth metals used in the production of digital devices and medical equipment. This market is controlled and headed by China, the main and the most powerful competitor of the U.S. The U.S. – The China trade war held under the Trump administration shows that both countries do not want to cooperate and are not interested in the search for compromise.
From this, it could be inferred that the U.S. should create a way to circumvent the dominance of China in the identified market. Dezenski and Austin (2020) note that the U.S. could amend the supply chains vulnerabilities via cooperation with the allies. American partners in Europe are interested in suppressing Chinese influence on global supply chains because it is a part of the solution to the unemployment issue (Dezenski & Austin, 2020). In addition to that, it might be suggested that cooperation between the U.S. and alliances aimed at weakening Chinese control over the supply chains would be beneficial for domestic businesses. The foreign companies would not operate under conditions proclaimed by the third party, i.e., China. Therefore, it would be easier for the domestic government to mobilize the private sector’s resources and capabilities in an urgent case.
Currently, the U.S. mobilization faces certain impediments that affect its efficiency.
Alliances and strategic partnerships will only continue to benefit the mobilization posture of the U.S. as new threats continue to emerge in the era of great power competition. The decision-making process is slow, the S.S.S. is outdated, American technological supremacy is shaken, and the global supply chain is dominated by the P.R.C. Nevertheless, the ability of the U.S. to effectively respond to any type of attack is based upon allying and entering into strategic partnerships with other nations. The fact that the U.S. has military bases in almost two dozen countries and collaborates with several ones over technological developments issues allows it to mitigate the previously discussed mobilization strategies.
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