One Big Reason America is Not Ready for World War III

I was on this hill as a battery commander with six 88-millimeter antitank guns, and the Americans kept sending tanks down the road and we kept knocking them out. Finally, we ran out of ammunition and the Americans didn’t run out of tanks.

[Nazi Artillery Commander, Battle of Salerno]

At the start of World War II, the combined economies of Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan were only half the size of the United States. If for no other reason than the sheer weight of its factories and work force, America thereby held the strategic high ground.

In fact, the statistical correspondence between economic power and military might in World War II is startlingly. While the United States could field over three hundred thousand military aircraft, a combined Germany and Japan had less than two hundred thousand.

In the Western Pacific, the United States had about 350 destroyers compared to Japan’s 63. Meanwhile, on the European continent, the United States had over seventy thousand tanks compared to less than forty-five thousand for Germany—Exhibit A, the Allied victory at the Battle of Salerno.

The broader Stalinesque “quantity has its own quality” point is simply this: While brave American soldiers and sailors and flyers at the frontlines ultimately won World War II, they had at their backs heartland factories that could churn out tanks and planes and ships at rates far greater than the enemy could destroy them—definitive proof of the winning ways of what the great Prussian strategist Carl von Clausewitz once aptly referred to as “war by algebra.”

Today, however, many of those heartland factories that won World War II for America have been shuttered and moved to cities with names like Chengdu, Chongqing and Shenzhen. And here’s the obvious strategic problem:

If World War III does indeed arrive—triggered by some trigger-happy PLA captain in the South China Sea or a nuclear strike by Pyongyang on Seoul or America coming to Japan’s defense over some “rocks in the sea”—the United States will no longer have mass on its side.

Read the Remainder at National Interest

One thought on “One Big Reason America is Not Ready for World War III

Comments are closed.