U.S. military planners continuously war-game scenarios under which our country's forces would have to deal with military action taken by our adversaries. During my days at the Naval War College and the Pentagon, I participated in many of these exercises, but none of these provided the insights and realistic experience that Peter Singer and August Cole offer in "Ghost Fleet."
Not only does this book provide a realistic scenario of what might happen if a brewing Cold War with China and Russia might turn hot in the next couple of decades, it does it through the eyes of multiple military and civilian officials from both sides of the conflict. Moreover, it does it in such a convincing way that the reader feels like to he or she is part of the action.
It The bookis also remarkably accurate in depicting what it is like to be in the heat of battle or the situation rooms of both antagonists. Having served on active duty as a naval flight officer in a patrol squadron, it felt like I was back in action as early as page 5, when a Navy patrol plane spotted the Chinese trying to drill for gas in international waters. In fact, that incident is remarkably similar to what is occurring as the Navy's current patrol plane, the P-8 Poseidon, monitors Chinese land reclamation projects in the disputed islands in the South China Sea.
The title of the book refers to the 18 ships that the Navy had mothballed over the past couple of decades but had to rely on after the Chinese did a Pearl Harbor 2.0 attack on the its currentthe Navy's active fleet in Hawaii. The Air Force also had to rely on its own ghost fleet, the "boneyard fleet," after the F-35 proved ineffective due to malicious hardware and software attacks by the Chinese.
Singer and Cole doThe book does a remarkable job of pointing out the flaws in some of the weapons systems the Pentagon is currently building, like the littoral combat ship, the Osprey and the F-35, and the problems they will likely experience in the real world of battle. It also shows how important the role of women will be in the future functioning of our nation's defense establishment, as both the secretary of defense and the admiral in charge of the carrier battle group are women.
"Ghost Fleet" also takes a hard look at our allies and industrial capacity and finds it wanting. In the novel, the U.S. gets little support from our eight NATO allies in a battle taking place in the Pacific, and it is difficult to mobilize the U.S. private sector, especially the tech sector, to aid in the war effort when many of the U.S. corporations are actually controlled multi-nationally.
The novel offers keen insights The book is also remarkably insightful about future Chinese strategy. Even though it was completed well before the Chinese issued their most recent defense policy document, Singer and Cole's book reads like they had received an advance copy. The Chinese strategy document states says that China intends to project naval power in the open ocean in the coming years. In Singer and Cole's take, this leads to a Chinese attack on U.S. forces in Hawaii to neutralize the U.S. military's Pacific presence.
Most importantly, "Ghost Fleet" the book presents the human dimension of war. The real hero of the operation hat the Navy launches to take back Hawaii from the Chinese and Russians is the Simmons family. Commander Jamie Simmons, who starts out as the executive officer of an LCS, does not want to take a command because of what prolonged sea duty and its resulting family separation is doing to his current family, and because of what his father's extended absences at sea did to his own family while he was growing up.
A But after the captain of the LCS is killed, however, Simmons he takes command, and is later placed in command of the USS Zumwalt, the first of just three ships built of the problem-plagued class of destroyers.
Now a captain, When now-Captain Simmons learns that takes command, one of his crewmembers is his estranged father, a retired Navy chief who has come back on active duty after the Chinese attack, following a life spent putting his Navy career over his family.
By the talebook's end, the U.S. succeeds in restoring the status quo ante by using the Ghost Fleet and by waging an insurgency in Hawaii to raise the costs of the Chinese occupation, causing the Chinese to overreact. Eventually, they realize they cannot win and eventually realize they could not win.
While sSome may compare this thriller to those of Tom Clancy, but this thriller, in addition to packing a hefty punch of adrenaline, it is much more accurate. Each chapter is meticulously footnoted, and the actual capabilities of U.S., Chinese, and Russian military equipment has been carefully considered.
Singer and Cole's book is a gripping combination of Tom Clancy and Robert Kaplan, fiction plus non-fiction, and as the authors claim, "inspired by real-world trends and technologies."
Lawrence J. Korb is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, a senior advisor to the Center for Defense Information and an adjunct professor at Georgetown University. He served as assistant secretary of defense (manpower, reserve affairs, installations and logistics) from 1981 through 1985.
Dr. Korb served on active duty for four years as a naval flight officer, and retired from the Navy Reserve at the rank of captain.