The real reason the Pentagon is sounding the alarm on China’s hypersonic missile


Marc Milley. Illustrated | Getty Images, iStock

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Mark Milley, senior US military officer, warned wednesday about a scary new “hypersonic” missile. “I don’t know if it’s a Sputnik moment, but I think it’s very close to that,” he said in an interview, referring to the famous Soviet satellite. Supposedly, these weapons are faster, more precise and more difficult to detect than any previous nuclear weapon.

Milley is exaggerating enormously. As Cameron Tracy of the Union of Concerned Scientists explains in detail, a hypersonic missile is essentially little different from the intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs) that have been around for decades. They’re not much faster, more stealthy, or immune to detection. And while a hypersonic missile would be nearly impossible to shoot down, it’s already true ICBMs which themselves can travel at 20 times the speed of sound. Tests of anti-ballistic missile technology under ideal conditions have sometimes worked and sometimes failure, but a realistic massive multiple-warhead missile attack would be impossible to defend.

Even if all the most Elon Musk-like hype about this hypermissile was correct, it wouldn’t change the logic of nuclear competition. Even if China could actually destroy every American city and nuclear facility in one quick strike with 100% certainty, it would still face the existential threat of retaliation from China. nuclear submarines – without speaking about Nuclear winter, plus the fact that the Chinese economy would collapse instantly without America buying its exports. The logic of mutual destruction that kept the USSR and America out of war for 40 years holds.

The real reason Milley is stirring up panic is later in the interview: “We’re going to have to adjust our army in the future”, he said. It’s a code to spend billions and billions of dollars on our own sophisticated hyper-weapons that also serve no strategic purpose (and in all probability won’t even work).

With fears related to terrorism declining, the military-industrial complex needs a new bogeyman to justify the ridiculously swollen and wasteful Pentagon budget. A new cold war against China would fit this bill. So the is danger from hypersonic missiles – that they will be used to stoke fear in both China and the United States, and cause those countries to waste ridiculous amounts of unnecessary murder gimmicks that would be better spent helping their own citizens.

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