Joint Chiefs Chairman Disconnected from Reality Regarding China

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by James Nault at

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Mark Milley displays shocking naiveté in remarks on China; compare to a military leader who doesn’t have his head in the sand

We have long documented the total lack of hard-nosed military leadership of Army General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, on topics ranging from his embrace of CRT and DEI initiatives, to his unqualified support for giving away a third of our critical front-line anti-tank and anti-air missile systems, to his presiding over a major military recruiting crisis due to his own embrace of wokeness and COVID vaccine mandates:

We’re not the only ones who have noticed.

Last week, in Commander Salamander’s excellent Substack, comes an on-point but stark comparison between remarks made last week about China by General Milley and comments previously made about China by Admiral Charles A. Richard, until recently the Commander of the U.S. Strategic Command (STRATCOM), which is responsible for the employment of the nation’s nuclear weapons, among other responsibilities.  The substance of the two speeches could not be more different.

As Salamander points out in an article entitled “A Tale of Two 4-Stars,” Admiral Richard, who retired in December 2022, had this to say while still the Commander of STRATCOM:

“We are witnessing a strategic breakout by China. The explosive growth and modernization of its nuclear and conventional forces can only be what I describe as breathtaking. And frankly, that word breathtaking may not be enough,” he said.

China is rapidly improving its strategic nuclear capability and capacity, Richard said.  It’s growing and enhancing its missile force, including multiple independently targetable reentry vehicles.  These include intermediate range ballistic missiles, mobile ICBMs and submarine-launched nuclear ballistic missiles.

Beijing is also pursuing advanced weapons such as hypersonics, he said.

Beijing is also pursuing advanced weapons such as hypersonics, he said.

“Because of these challenges our current terrestrial- and space-based sensor architecture may not be sufficient to detect and track these hypersonic missiles,” he said.

In 2019, China tested more ballistic missiles than the rest of the world combined, he noted.

Beijing is also developing a modern nuclear command and control capability and is modernizing its conventional forces to include ships, submarines and aircraft, he added.

“They have the largest Navy in the world and they have the third largest air force in the world,” he said.

Admiral Richard addressing the crowd at at the Space & Missile Defense Symposium in Huntsville, Alabama in 2021:

Full disclosure, I never served on the same submarine with Admiral Richard, but I did interact with him often during my Navy career.  While I was Executive Officer of USS Boston (SSN-703), then a front-line attack submarine in the mid-1990s, he was Officer-in-Charge of NR-1, then the United States Navy’s only nuclear-powered, deep-submergence submarine, which was often on the same waterfront as USS Boston at the sub base in Groton, CT.  Later, while I was the staff submariner on the Navy’s Sixth Fleet in the Mediterranean, Admiral Richard came and briefed my surface warfare admiral, me, and a few select others on the sub force’s latest intel collection capability, some of which I hadn’t even been briefed on (need to know, etc.), which left the admiral I worked for quite surprised, shocked even. The brief was a tour de force—-standard operating procedure for Admiral Richard.

Anyway, compare Admiral Richard’s hard-boiled, factual, chilling observations about the country that is rapidly reaching par with our own military capabilities, if they’re not there already, with the following comments from Army General Mark A. Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff:

The Joint Chiefs chairman warned against the rise of “overheated” rhetoric of a looming U.S. war with China, and he said he doubts China’s chances of “conquering” Taiwan….

“I think there’s a lot of rhetoric in China, and a lot of rhetoric elsewhere, to include the United States, that could create the perception that war is right around the corner or we’re on the brink of war with China,” Milley said in an interview with Defense One.

“And that could happen. I mean, it is possible that you could have an incident or some other trigger event that could lead to uncontrolled escalation. So, it’s not impossible. But I don’t think at this point I would put it in the likely category,” said Milley. “And I think that the rhetoric itself can overheat the environment.”…

Milley said Taiwan needs air defense, anti-ship cruise missiles, and anti-ship mines. But he said the island itself, its population of 23 million—including 170,000 active duty military and 1-to-2 million reserves,—and China’s lack of experience make a takeover unlikely. “It favors the defense. It would be a very difficult island to capture,” he said.

“For the Chinese to conduct an amphibious and airborne operation to seize that island—to actually seize it?—That’s a really difficult operation. But Xi put the challenge out there, and we’ll see where it goes.”

As Salamander says, these are “[t]wo very different men with two very different approaches.  Pick your player.”


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