In the early days of the Revolutionary War, 4,000 British troops were sent to occupy Boston and put down the rebellion. Total defeat of the nascent independence movement was a possibility.
During the Civil War, there were times of great doubt that the country would ever again consist of “united” states.
Not since those two historic events has our nation been as vulnerable as it is today. We are vulnerable to “attack” in various ways by one or more of the following enemies: China, Russia, Iran and North Korea. Let’s look at each and the unique threat it poses.
The supreme leader has repeatedly declared that it is Iran’s duty to destroy America and Israel. Iranian leaders recently explained they are “within six months” of having a nuclear weapon. President Joe Biden’s reduced sanctions are leading to a more aggressive Iran, increased global terrorism, a more destabilized Middle East and a greater threat to the U.S.
Iran will now likely use the fall of Afghanistan to provide direction and support of a safe haven for terrorist training, thereby ratcheting up the global war on terror with a particular focus on taking down the United States.
Speaking before the U.N. General Assembly in September 2017, the North Korean foreign minister warned that a strike against the U.S. mainland is “inevitable.”
North Korea is estimated to have 30-40 nuclear weapons. Is it capable of attacking the U.S.? Yes. In May, North Korea resumed missile testing. Biden said, “We will respond if North Korea escalates.” Renewed missile testing is escalation.
Since the end of the Cold War, the strength of NATO has served as the deterrent to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s expansionist plans. Those days are over. The U.S. has been the leader of NATO since 1949; Biden can say he is the leader, but will key European countries follow?
The May pipeline cyberattack on the U.S. oil pipeline was a Russian trial balloon with zero ramifications. Biden’s response was to provide Putin a list of 16 critical infrastructure targets that “should be off-limits to attack, period, by cyber or any other means.” Should anyone believe Putin is above using that list to take down our country?
China is executing a long-range strategic plan to rule the world and reduce U.S. global influence. Part of the plan is to take over Taiwan and control everything in the South China Sea.This will be its first test of America’s resolve following our horrific failure in Afghanistan.
In addition to attacks from these specific countries, there are other vulnerabilities this nation faces. Cyberattack is the most likely threat. For example, there are 30 substations in the nation’s electric grid operations. A Federal Energy Regulatory Commission report says, “Destroy nine interconnection substations and the entire U.S. grid could be down for at least 18 months, probably longer.”
Nations capable of cyberattack include China, Russia, North Korea and Iran.
Likewise, an electromagnetic pulse, a huge burst of electromagnetic energy from a nuclear explosion high in the atmosphere, would instantly shut down all transportation, computers, networks, electronic equipment, medical and communication systems. Nations capable of doing this: China, Russia, North Korea and, soon, Iran.
We are more vulnerable than ever in our history and much more today than just two months ago. What causes a nation to become vulnerable? In a word, weakness.
Aug. 14-16 has already become a “defining moment” in the history of this country. While Afghanistan provincial capitals were falling to the Taliban on average of two per day, President Biden flew away to begin his vacation. As the situation deteriorated, we were repeatedly told by White House staff that the president was in “constant contact with his principals.”
With thousands of American civilians in the grip of Taliban soldiers, Biden returned to the White House to deliver a prepared script telling us that his decisions have been correct. Following his speech, having generated more questions than answers, he literally and figuratively turned his back on America and the media and exited stage left returning to his helicopter to resume his vacation.
To be “the leader of the free world,” Biden must earn the respect and trust of the American people and our allies while also being respected, if not feared, by our enemies. Respect and trust must be earned by actions and deeds, not some cheap sound-bite like, “America is back.”
Our enemies see America in free-fall; they will likely test us while we are most vulnerable.
Marvin L. Covault, Lt. Gen. U.S. Army, (ret.), is the author of “Vision to Execution.”