“Speak softly and carry a big stick,” Vice President Teddy Roosevelt told an audience at the Minnesota State Fair on Sept. 2, 1901, just two weeks before his elevation to the presidency following the assassination of William McKinley.
Those who adhered to that mantra, Roosevelt promised, “will go far.”
According to National Geographic, the well-known phrase would go on to form the basis not only for Roosevelt’s foreign policy but for an entirely new school of American diplomatic thought, under which “carefully mediated negotiation” is “supported by the unspoken threat of a powerful military.”
Unfortunately, America has forgotten that mantra in recent decades, rarely engaging in firm negotiation, sometimes falling behind other superpowers in the development of advanced military technology, and often mobilizing the military strength it does have more than it should.
And what’s more? The nation’s enemies — the authoritarian regimes that call China and Russia home — have begun taking up the philosophy of “Big Stick” diplomacy in recent years.
According to The National Interest, Chinese scientists and Communist Party media celebrated in June as ground tests saw the nation’s hypersonic scramjet program leapfrog the capabilities of previously developed DF-17 hypersonic glide-boost missile, putting China back on track in efforts to develop hypersonic intercontinental ballistics.
Unwilling to fall behind, the United States Armed Forces quietly indicated Tuesday they for some time have been rising to meet the challenge and remain competitive in the hypersonic missile technology arms race.
I know what you’re thinking. It’s already Thursday and the DOD hasn’t unveiled a new hypersonic program yet this week. Is there something wrong?
— Steve Trimble (@TheDEWLine) August 13, 2020
Aviation Week reporter Steve Trimble recently revealed on social media that the Air Force Research Laboratory has put out a Request For Information from potential U.S. military contractors regarding their ability to develop a newly designed, expendable multi-mission hypersonic weapon demonstrator called “Mayhem,” which would be fueled by an air-breathing scramjet engine.
According to the RFI, the demonstrator would be “capable of carrying larger payloads over distances further than current hypersonic capabilities allow.”
It also apparently would be capable of carrying “at least three distinct payloads in order to execute multiple government-defined mission sets” in one flight.
For laymen such as myself, military news network Task & Purpose dumbed things down: The vehicle is going to fly very fast and more than likely be able to hit more than one target on each bombing run.
The outlet did make clear that the RFI remains vague as to “whether this demonstrator would be a missile or some other form of hypersonic glide vehicle.”
Regardless of the Defense Department’s tight-to-the-chest attitude with regard to exactly how the Mayhem will fit into U.S. military operations overseas, any step toward the development of better hypersonic technology is a good one.
The technology long has been hailed as the future of high-speed missile delivery, and Congressional Research Service data suggests the U.S. Armed Forces are investing heavily as a result, with a March 13 report from the public policy group revealing the Pentagon requested a more than 430 percent increase in its hypersonic research and development budget between fiscal years 2020 and 2021.
A variety of news reports indicate America’s enemies already have begun deploying fully operational hypersonic weapons systems, with China unveiling a ship-destroying missile system two years ago and Russia touting nuclear-capable hypersonic missiles last December.
Meanwhile, the United States was forced in February of this year to roll back some of its hypersonic weapons development programs over budget constraints, Defense News reported.
It doesn’t take a warhawk to see how this might quickly become a problem.
Only the most short-sighted of pacifists would argue against American efforts to, at the very least, remain in China’s and Russia’s peripheral vision when it comes to weapons such as these.
In fact, even the most isolationist of conservatives — myself included — might argue it would be best for us to outpace our enemies on this front.
The world is safer when America is the one carrying the big stick.
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