America Faces Multi-Front Proxy Warfare

America Faces Multi-Front Proxy Warfare
The USS Carney in the Mediterranean Sea on Oct. 23, 2018. (Mass Communication Spc. 1st Class Ryan U. Kledzik/U.S. Naval Forces Europe–Africa via AP)
Austin Bay
10/25/2023
Updated:
10/26/2023
0:00
Commentary

Defeat in detail, a classic military stratagem, occurs when a comparatively weaker combatant secures victory over a more powerful opponent through the piecemeal destruction of the stronger force. The weaker combatant never lets the stronger adversary bring all of its power to bear.

Bit by bit, the piecemeal attrition degrades the strong to the point that the once-powerful retreats.

Israel faces a three-front war with Iranian proxies. Hamas in Gaza, its kin on the West Bank, and Hezbollah in Lebanon are Iranian proxy armies—armed, trained, and paid by Tehran’s ayatollah regime. Hamas and its allies man the southern (Gaza) and eastern (West Bank) fronts. Hezbollah mans the north (Lebanon).

Israel’s fourth front with Iran, a war involving ballistic missiles and potentially nuclear weapons, isn’t proxy. It’s Armageddon. Don’t dismiss this. For decades, the ayatollahs have called tiny Israel a “one-bomb state.”

Israel is small in size and lacks territorial strategic depth—which means it has no room to retreat. However, with its high-tech forces, high morale, and just will to win, I think Israel can handle its local three-front war and deter the terrible fourth front, especially if the United States provides unswerving support.

To the exasperation of Israel’s enemies, especially Iran, U.S. military and economic power give Israel immense strategic depth.

However, there’s emerging evidence the Iran–China–Russia axis has set a defeat in detail trap for the United States.

Since Oct. 18, the Islamic Resistance of Iraq (an Iranian proxy) has launched drone and rocket attacks on U.S. forces and assets in Iraq and Syria. So, call that the Iraq–Syria proxy front. Iranian forces in the Persian Gulf, on the Gulf’s littoral, and in the Arabian Sea have also increased activity. They aren’t proxies per se, but this is another front that requires the presence of U.S. and allied air and naval forces to deter. What does the United States do if Iran decides to close the Strait of Hormuz to oil tanker traffic?

On Oct. 19, the USS Carney, a Navy guided-missile destroyer on patrol in the northern Red Sea, shot down several missiles and drones launched by Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Houthis are a major Iranian proxy army. The Pentagon said the Houthi missiles and drones weren’t targeting the Carney. Israel was the likely target.

Red Sea Front? Here’s the bigger picture: The United States took military action to defend Israel from a proxy attack. Guided-missile warships carry a limited number of offensive and defensive missiles. A drone and missile “swarm” attack by a proxy force could deplete a warship’s missile magazine and leave it vulnerable to a coup de grâce.

Such an attack amounts to a tactical defeat in detail—the powerful ship lacks ammunition.

Communist China is no proxy force; it’s an Iranian ally that benefits from a distracted United States. Confrontations between Chinese and Filipino vessels have increased in the past four months. China’s probes of Taiwan and interceptions of U.S. aircraft are increasingly aggressive.

China is testing U.S. responses. Beijing wonders if the United States can fight “two simultaneous wars” in widely separated geopolitical theaters. Two wars at once was a Cold War requirement, but the United States no longer has the Cold War military structure.

Could an enemy proxy wage war in the United States? Customs and Border Protection (CBP) issued a warning on Oct. 20 that said Gaza may serve “as a catalyst for violent actors.”

My guess is that CBP is focusing on lone-wolf terrorists. In fiscal year 2023, CBP apprehended 736 known or suspected terrorists (KST) along the southern and northern continental U.S. borders. That means that they were on terror watch lists. However, there were 1.7 million illegal migrant gotaways. If 2 or 3 out of 1,000 gotaways are KSTs, that’s 3,000 to 5,000 violent enemies infiltrating the U.S. homefront.

A sobering thought. Perhaps, we need to train and equip national guard and police forces to identify and destroy terror cells preparing to launch Hamas-style atrocity attacks in the United States—potentially in concert with Iranian, Chinese, and Russian international aggression.

After all, distractions can lead to defeat in detail.

Views expressed in this article are opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Epoch Times.
Austin Bay is a colonel (ret.) in the U.S. Army Reserve, author, syndicated columnist, and teacher of strategy and strategic theory at the University of Texas–Austin. His latest book is “Cocktails from Hell: Five Wars Shaping the 21st Century.”
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