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Well, they’ve done it again. Chinese hackers have been raiding the Pentagon cookie jar, the Department of Defense announced this week, stealing classified data about some of our most sensitive defense weapons systems.
The list of “systems designs and technologies compromised via cyber exploitation” is staggering. It includes the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (maybe the Chinese engineers who will get this information can let us know how to finally get it up and flying), the V-22 Osprey helicopter, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, AMRAAM or Advanced Medium Range Air to Air Missile system, the unmanned reconnaissance drone Global Hawk, the Littoral Combat Ship, the Navy’s Standard Missile and its Mk 54 Light Weight Torpedo, plus Electronic Warfare systems and Advanced Signal Processing technologies for radars–it goes on and on.
All this data, of course, will now be helpful for developing countermeasures to those systems and technologies – and all just in time for President Obama’s much-vaunted “Pacific Pivot,” when our major military assets are supposed to be repositioning from the Middle East to East Asia, where the Chinese will be ready and waiting for them.
So what’s been our response? The usual finger wagging and mutual verbal warnings from Obama’s national security team that China had better stop all this cyber attack stuff or–well, we might to do something. Though it’s not clear what.
Meanwhile, we’ve invited the Chinese to join us in our 2014 Rim of the Pacific or RIMPAC naval exercises–the first time the People’s Liberation Army Navy has been invited to join in that event, presumably so that they can get a closer look at the naval vessels their sophisticated array of anti-ship missiles is designed to blow up.
This is disgraceful. Disinviting the Chinese to RIMPAC should have been the very first move after the Defense Science Board’s hacking report; likewise, banning their vessels from any future anti-piracy exercises off the Somali coast. Sadly, that’s not going to happen, because the latest Chinese hacker foray has uncovered another truth about the Obama administration: it really doesn’t have a strategy on how to deal with China, either militarily, economically, or geo-politically.
Obama’s Pacific Pivot is actually a smoke screen for drawing down our forces and abandoning our commitments in the Middle East. It’s involved nothing more than a few highly visible press conferences with Asian leaders, while moving a few more ships around the Pacific and 2,500 Marines to a new base in Darwin, Australia, where they’ll be hostages to fortune in the event of rising tensions with China–and worse than sitting ducks in a real shooting war.
Instead, the real Obama strategy is hoping that by making nice with China and ignoring their serial provocations, we’ll make them see the virtues of multilateralism and behave. Yet since Obama took office, the Chinese have only grown more bellicose. They’ve bullied their neighbors in the South China Sea, doubled down their support for North Korea, and expanded their hacking activities around the world as well as their naval reach into the Indian Ocean. Their navy has also launched its first aircraft carrier while laying down plans for two more – future assets for still more Chinese power projection by the PLAN.
But what’s to stop them? When they look at our navy, they see a force very different from the one that forced them to back down in the Taiwan Straits in 1996. They see a fleet that’s under-manned, vulnerable to their anti-ship missiles (especially our carriers), and slated to shrink by as much as 60 ships over the next decade, thanks to sequester.
Their admirals are spoiling for what one senior officer calls “a hand-to-hand fight with the U.S.,” which they think they’ll win – and the additional data they’ll now have on our Aegis missile defense, our electronic warfare systems, and our data communications links will only make them more confident they can do it.
The war drums are beating louder, both in Syria and in the South China Sea. Our response has been total passivity in the first case, and now humiliating appeasement in the other.
China, Russia, Iran, and the world’s other aggressors are counting on at least another three years of American decline under Obama to complete their plans. Let’s just hope the clock runs out before that decline becomes irreversible–and disaster overtakes all of us.