Ironically, the blizzard of YJ-82X cruise missiles launched from the Chinese subs lying off the coast of Baja California crossed the beach directly over the SEAL training complex on Coronado. America had decided that its special forces were a cheap substitute for the less glamorous hardware and formations that had traditionally been the foundation of American military power. Now, those elite warriors watched helplessly as the missiles roared overhead north toward the two carriers berthed at North Island.
The casualties would have been much higher if the Navy had been able to fully man the U.S.S. Carl Vinson and the U.S.S. Ronald Reagan. As it was, when the missiles tore into their hulls and exploded, only several hundred sailors died instead of thousands. Still, in a few moments, two of America’s nine carriers were twisted hulks spewing radioactive smoke. Another dozen Navy ships berthed at local bases were in flames.
Only the people lining the downtown San Diego waterfront saw what was happening, though local TV camera crews were filming the carnage live. Their stations tried to upload the footage to the network satellites but they could not connect. The satellites were gone, knocked out by Russian ASAT missiles.
The rest of America was oblivious to the catastrophe in San Diego, and the similar disaster in Norfolk.
The TV stations next tried the Internet, but it was as if someone had just flicked it off. There was nothing but electronic silence. A coordinated cyber strike had hacked through America’s electronic defenses and shut down the web. Many of the hacks came not from Chinese and Russian teams across the world but from agents within America, infiltrated into key positions in American government and business, who introduced their malware directly into vital systems with thumb drives.
Simultaneously, outside major metropolises, groups of well-trained commandos, driving SUVs, followed the routes between power transmission stations that they had rehearsed using paper street maps (America’s GPS satellites having been eliminated in the opening minutes). With rifles, they opened fire on the critical transformer equipment, which was guarded only by chain link fences and cameras that no one monitored. When the irreplaceable equipment was shorted out and burning, they drove on to the next site and destroyed it. Between the cyber chaos and physical attacks, cities began to black out.
America ground to a halt, blind and paralyzed.
At sea in the Far East, anti-ship ballistic missiles appeared on the screens of the U.S.S. George Washington, the flagship of the only American carrier task force still in the Pacific. The guided missile cruisers cut when military budgets were slashed to fund record entitlement spending might have been able to save it. As it was, the missiles dived in at hypersonic speeds, punching through the flight deck and ripping the mighty ship apart.
American warships, for so long the hunters, became the hunted. Within a few hours, America’s 265-ship Navy had become a 100-ship Navy.
The President was about to speak at a rally to protest the opposition party’s “War on the Poor.” The other side had suggested holding military budget cuts to 15% instead of 18%, and the President was gleefully citing the cruelty of the opposition for funding the military-industrial complex on the backs of those living off of entitlements.
The military’s first instinct was to hustle the President to the 747 flying command post aircraft, which the enemy expected. The enemy could have disrupted that plan if it wished with an attack on the airfield by commandos, but they preferred the President remain in control.
The President’s flying command post took off, guarded by a flight of four F-15C fighters that were pushing 35 years old. It would have been six escorts, but two planes were down awaiting parts.
The President’s senior military advisor was a general, chosen for the job not because of a sterling combat record but for being the Public Affairs section’s telegenic face of “The New Military.” The general would have been hard pressed to explain the President’s options if they had not been so stark.
“Your options? You do have the capacity to launch a nuclear strike,” said the general.
There were still 100 Minuteman III missiles in silos in Montana that had not been eliminated during the last round of arms negotiations. Due to cuts in maintenance, only 62 were functional that day; they were safe from cyber-attack only because their 1970’s era computer systems were literally too primitive to be hacked. And there were three nuclear missile subs on patrol in the oceans; two were known to be combat effective, while the third may have been sunk – it was unclear.
“I won’t use nuclear weapons. Ever,” said the President, confirming the opinion reached by the teams of Chinese and Russian intelligence analysts, psychologists and game theorists who had studied the Commander-in-Chief in preparation for that very moment. Deterrence only deters when the threat is credible.
“What are my other options?” asked the President. The general looked down, shuffling papers.
“We don’t have a conventional option.”
“The Army? The Marines?”
“There are a few units forward deployed, but we’ve brought most of our forces home. What we have left we can’t move fast enough and most of it is designed for counterinsurgency, not conventional warfare – we’ve cut our armored forces because they cost so much to maintain. And to move them we’d need foreign ships, but we can’t count on them. We can’t even count on the sea lanes being clear.”
“The Air Force doesn’t have bombers? Fighters?” the President asked.
“Not enough, and not modern enough to get through Chinese and Russian air defenses.”
The President turned to the Secretary of State. “What about our allies?”
“No commitments yet. In fact, there’s been no response from several key allies.”
“We invoked NATO Article 5, didn’t we? We’ve been attacked!” the President shouted.
“They don’t have any significant forces left. Even if they were inclined to assist…”
“Inclined?” asked the President, stunned.
“We need to understand that they may be making a calculated decision…”
The President did understand. “To go with the winner.”
No one spoke; the only sound was the noise of the 747’s jets until a communications officer spoke up.
“I have a video transmission off a Chinese satellite coming … to us. How did they get our communications data?” It was yet another security breach.
“Just put it onscreen,” ordered the President.
The transmission was a split screen, the Chinese Premier on the left, the Russian President on the right. They were smiling.
“What do you want?” the President asked.
The Russian President spoke. “We want peace. We want justice. And that is why we are here to provide you the terms of your surrender.”
This scenario is fiction, but if we fail to preserve our military it could be all too real. The views of the author are solely his own.