America is teetering on the edge of war, right now as you read this. Whether or not we go over that edge is currently up to Congress, so it may not even happen. Even still, though we may not know the wars of the immediate future, we know what weapons it will be fought with.'
Right now it's easy to tell how we're going to fight this next Middle East war, simply because we've become so proficient at fighting them, in various forms, over the past decade. What's less clear is whether or not we actually will go to war, with President Obama pushing for it, House Republicans saying they'll vote against it, and the EU hedging its bets either way.
Even less clear than that is whether or not we even should be going to war. It's at this point where you would expect me to take a strong and defiant stance on either side, but truth be told (and call me a coward if you want, but if there's anything I despise more than anything else in the world its pundits who claim they know everything all the time and thus the course of action they recommend is the CORRECT ONE because they are the ones recommending it and on and on into a downward tautological spiral) I'm having a hard time feeling one way or the other about it. Is this another Iraq, where we go in nines blazing on a hunt for weapons of mass destruction that may or may not exist, or do we make a feeble attempt at redeeming ourselves for our failure to act in Rwanda, which was the site of the most efficient modern genocide this side of the Holocaust?
And, oh yeah, Syria's already moving soldiers into schools. So there's that.
No matter what the American government decides, only time will tell if it was the right thing to do. Right now, though, it looks as if the government is leaning towards the precipice of involvement in the Syria conflict. So if we're going to charge into this full steam ahead, why don't we look at the tools we'll use to do it?
The BGM-109 "Tomahawk" Cruise Missile
The Tomahawk is likely to be our primary weapon of choice. As a cruise missile, a jet engine intake and wings pop out of the body of the weapon after an initial boost phase. The Tomahawk has a range of over 1,000 miles, and skims along the ground, under the radar of its adversary, until it finds its target. Some Tomahawks have what's known as a "loitering" capability nowadays, effectively turning them into drones until whoever is controlling them decides on an alternative target to strike.
These puppies don't come cheap though, at approximately $1,000,000 per use, depending on who's counting what.
Image credit: Tim Evanson
The Ohio-class converted SSGN Cruise Missile Submarine
Originally built to carry Trident submarine-launched ICBMs, the Ohio class were (and in most cases, still are) the harbingers of the nuclear apocalypse. Four Ohio-class ballistic missile subs, the USS Ohio, Michigan, Florida, and Georgia, were supposed to be decommissioned with the end of the Cold War, but were instead converted from the "SSBN" ballistic-missile configuration into a "SSGN" configuration. Now able to carry up to 154 Tomahawk missiles, each sub is almost capable of fighting a low-intensity conflict on its own, let alone four of them. They're sneaky bastards too, as they fire their missiles while still underwater.
Check out this video of a British SSGN, the HMS Astute, test-firing one of its own Tomahawks:
Image credit: US Navy
The Arleigh Burke-class Destroyer
Another Cold-War era design, the Arleigh Burke-class of Destroyers has become the US Navy's go-to in a variety of situations. Aircraft carrier defense, anti-submarine warfare, land attack platform, you name it. They're so versatile, in fact, that we just can't quit building them. This class of Destroyer can carry up to 96 Tomahawks in its Vertical Launching System, which is still nothing to sneeze at.
The B-2 Spirit
The B-2 is the original stealth bomber, and with less than 20 of them left in operational service they still are the workhorse of first-strike capability. Dodging radar, it has the capability to drop literally tons of "Bunker Buster" bombs, to get at those hard-to-reach places.
The BLU-109 "Bunker Buster"
Let's face it, if you're going to use equipment to deploy chemical weapons, you're going to want to hide it in a place that's hard to destroy. Lucky for us, I guess, that we have the BLU-109 Bunker Busting bomb. Designed to penetrate hardened concrete-and steel structures and then explode on the inside, it's unlikely to be retired anytime soon due to its massive explosive capability.
So there you have it. A lot of standoff weapons, and supposedly we won't be putting any soldiers on the ground to get in harm's way. So there's that. Will we be using other weapons, like the F-22? Maybe, but it depends on how far down the rabbit hole we want to go.