On Thursday, Iranian-backed militias in northeast Syria attacked an American base with unmanned drones. As a result, according to press reports, a U.S. contractor died. In addition, another contractor and five U.S. service members were injured due to a self-destructing drone striking the coalition base.
In response, President Joe Biden ordered retaliatory strikes. According to the Washington Post, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin explained that at the direction of President Biden, U.S. forces in the region carried out airstrikes against facilities affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
Secretary Austin explained, “The airstrikes were conducted in response to today’s attack as well as a series of recent attacks against Coalition forces in Syria by groups affiliated with the IRGC.” Though Fox News has reported that in the hours since the U.S. responded to the attack, Iran proxy forces have launched “about seven rockets targeting a U.S. base in Northeast Syria.” However, it appears that, according to first assessments, there are no reported U.S. casualties.
These events are the latest in a series of Iranian militia and Islamic terrorist attacks on American forces and American retaliatory strikes. For example, last July 31, 2022, the United States conducted airstrikes that killed Al-Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri. While in August of 2022, the U.S. military announced it had destroyed ammunition and logistics bunkers in Syria that were used by groups affiliated with Iran’s IRGC.
There is still an active terrorist threat in the world, especially a rising threat in Africa, which is a challenge since there are increasing challenges for the United States not only in the Middle East but in Asia and all over the world. For example, The Wall Street Journal has reported that the clashes with Iranian militias are coming when there are worries about U.S. influence in the world and the Middle East, saying, “Iran and Saudi Arabia are moving to restore diplomatic relations with China’s help. Tehran is edging closer to becoming a nuclear threshold state, though it has so far stopped short of producing a nuclear bomb.” Not to mention the dangers involved with an increasingly aggressive China, Ukraine War and not to mention the increasing partnership between China, Russia, and Iran.
Moreover, the increasing challenges come at a time when the United States continues to demonstrate weakness and a lack of military preparedness, which severely affects America’s capacity for deterrence. For example, it has been noted that the Biden administration is not necessarily increasing defense spending that strategic planners consider necessary to keep Americans safe.
As a recent WSJ Editorial explained, the U.S. Navy has no ship-building plan, the Air Force is underpowered, and military recruitment has plummeted. Additionally, American weapons arsenals continue to be depleted at a time when the dangers to American national security seem to be increasing exponentially, leaving defense officials concerned. As a recent expose explained, “Industry consolidation, depleted manufacturing lines, and supply chain issues have combined to constrain the production of basic ammunition like artillery shells while also prompting concern about building adequate reserves of more sophisticated weapons including missiles, air defense systems, and counter-artillery radar.” No wonder The Atlantic recently declared that “the Age of American Naval Dominance is Over.”
Thankfully, Congress has somewhat remedied President Biden’s weak preparedness posture when last year it approved, in a resounding bipartisan fashion, an additional $45 billion in defense spending from what the White House requested. Furthermore, recent reporting has demonstrated that defense planners have begun to search for ways to remedy the deficiencies in America’s national security preparedness. For example, “procurement budgets are growing,” and the military now offers suppliers multiyear contracts. Also, it seems there is coordination between major contractors like Lockheed Martin, Pentagon support “are looking across the United States to bring on new suppliers for missile programs” while also the Defense Department is seeking ways to reduce production bottlenecks and, allegedly, President Biden has begun to use the Defense Production Act to facilitate new missile programs faster for the Air Force, the Army, and the Navy.
Yet, these changes are likely to take time to produce an effect, which begs the question, how can America increase its military strength and preparedness quickly, especially since dire predictions of looming conflict with China have become more common? Does the United States have the time or the industrial capacity to meet the military challenges of the twenty-first century?
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