It is difficult to answer if the US could fight a four-front war. To prevent a war, the US must be prepared to fight and win conventional wars in multiple theaters at the same time and make investments to improve our allies’ self-defense capabilities.
A war against Israel, an ally of the United States, was started by Hamas, an Iranian terrorist organization, while President Biden was trying to renegotiate the Iran nuclear deal. Foreign policy professionals acknowledge that the United States must protect its allies to maintain credibility, despite the Democratic Party’s progressives’ argument that Israel should be sacrificed on the altar of political correctness. Iran would benefit from an attempt to placate it in nuclear talks in return for Hamas restraints as part of its long-term plan to control the territory extending from the Tigris-Euphrates Valley through Syria, Lebanon, and Gaza.
According to an unknown official, the weapons sent to Kiev have been found in the possession of Mexican cartels and Hamas.
In his 1919 work “Democratic Ideals and Reality,” Halford John Mackinder—possibly the father of geopolitical analysis—emphasized how crucial the Holy Land was to Great Britain’s ability to control the Suez Canal. From a broader geopolitical standpoint, he emphasized how constructing railways throughout Siberia may enable land power to mobilize resources throughout Eurasia and subvert the dominance of sea power, either by itself or in coalition. To prevent the powers that threatened to rule what Mackinder referred to as “the Heartland” from controlling the nation-states of the Eurasian littoral, two world wars and the Cold War were fought.
Mackinder’s geopolitical fear seems to be coming true now. In cooperation with North Korea and other states, three autocratic regimes—Iran, China, and Russia—occupy Mackinder’s Heartland and have a significant impact on the liberal-democratic regimes in Europe, India, and the Far East. China is establishing economic, cultural, and military ties throughout Eurasia as part of its Belt and Road Initiative. This threat’s geographical range includes the South China Sea, Taiwan Strait, East China Sea, Bering Strait, and the Baltic and Black Seas in the west.
There are several flashpoints surrounding Eurasia’s maritime rimland that the US and its allies must contend with. Russia is still threatening Ukraine to solidify its takeover of Crimea. In the 1994 Budapest Memorandum, the United States guaranteed Ukrainian territorial integrity in exchange for Ukraine giving up its nuclear weapons. Russia has succinctly illustrated how worthless these assurances are. Meanwhile, Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania—all Baltic states that are members of NATO—are under attack from Russia. For the United States’ credibility, a successful invasion of a NATO member would be catastrophic.
China has rejected the idea of “one country, two systems,” which allowed Hong Kong to maintain its independence. According to Chinese President Xi Jinping, Taiwan will become a part of China, even if it means using force. China is preparing to attack or blockade Taiwan, endangering American dependence on Taiwan for semiconductors and cutting-edge technology as well as serving as a port to restrain Chinese aspirations in the Pacific. China has erected islands in the South China Sea to exert sovereignty over important maritime channels, and it has claimed the Japanese Senkaku Islands in the East China Sea. China has started invading its land-based neighbors, such as Bhutan and India, and is currently posing a threat to all of its marine neighbors. Hong Kong and Tibet are occupied, conquered regions.
The threat posed by rogue autocratic regimes is rising. Iran controls Lebanon and Syria through Hezbollah, backs the Houthi rebels in Yemen, fosters Shi’ite unrest in the Gulf States and Iraq, and poses a threat to shipping through the Gulf of Hormuz. In addition to its nuclear program aimed at the United States, North Korea is a conventional threat to South Korea.
The Shanghai Cooperation Organization is an alliance that unites several of the authoritarian nations that occupy Mackinder’s Heartland. It is led by China and supported by Russia. China is the autocratic peer adversary of the United States for the first time in a generation. NATO defense spending remains stagnant, whereas China’s military spending has been growing exponentially. We must battle where our enemies are strongest and we are weakest if we are to fight and win wars in their backyards.
The United States declared at the height of the Cold War that it was capable of fighting one minor war and two big conflicts. That military power has steadily declined in comparison to our enemies’ capabilities. The magnitude of the US naval force is one important sign of the country’s declining military power. A 600-ship fleet was something the US aimed to keep during the Reagan years. Since then, the U.S. fleet’s size has drastically decreased. “The U.S. Navy… has 101 ships deployed around the world… yet the entire fleet is only 297 vessels strong,” claims Seth Cropsey. There aren’t enough ships to handle the difficulties off the coast of China, much less prevent aggression across several Eurasian flashpoints. Despite China’s declared aim to invade Taiwan, the United States will not have a carrier stationed in the Asian-Pacific region as part of the Seventh fleet in the foreseeable future.
Experts in national security must take into account the possibility of concerted action from our enemies when evaluating the threat facing the United States. What if Taiwan, Israel, North Korea, and South Korea launched simultaneous four-front wars against each other, using nuclear weapons to deter each other, while Iran closed the Strait of Hormuz? Would the United States and its allies be able to handle such a situation? These kinds of assaults would probably be coupled with cyberattacks against the nation’s financial and physical infrastructure.
Does the US military have the capability to handle these kinds of concurrent challenges? Are we ready to defend our allies and uphold our treaty obligations with nuclear weapons? Which of these conflicts would the United States prioritize if difficult decisions were to be made? To prevent a war with multiple fronts, the US must be prepared to fight and win conventional wars in multiple theaters at the same time and make investments to improve our allies’ self-defense capabilities.
American national security specialists have overlooked the geopolitics that gave rise to Mackinder’s nightmare for far too long. Autocrats have the luxury and the burden of making choices without going through legislative debate; authoritarian forces have a long history of uniting and coordinating their activities. A multi-front conflict will undoubtedly break out if the United States is unable to stop the axis of autocracy—China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea—from taking synchronized action.