Talk we must about General Mike Minihan

(Liu Rui/Xinhua via AP, File)

For those of you who have been watching tensions growing across the Taiwan Strait and becoming nervous about the possibility that we might wind up in a hot war with China, you might take some comfort in knowing that you’re not alone. In fact, a four-star Air Force general is alarmed enough over the situation that he sent out a memo to his troops on the subject. General Mike Minihan predicted that the United States will be at war with China by 2025 and urged his people to practice with their sidearms and “aim for the head.” But this memo has already come under scrutiny and Minihan might not be the best source to rely on for such prognostications. (NBC News)


A four-star Air Force general sent a memo on Friday to the officers he commands that predicts the U.S. will be at war with China in two years and tells them to get ready to prep by firing “a clip” at a target, and “aim for the head.”

In the memo sent Friday and obtained by NBC News, Gen. Mike Minihan, head of Air Mobility Command, said, “I hope I am wrong. My gut tells me will fight in 2025.”

Air Mobility Command has nearly 50,000 service members and nearly 500 planes and is responsible for transport and refueling.

I’m not going to completely dismiss the general’s concerns out of hand. Plenty of us have been watching the situation in Taiwan with trepidation. China has been ratcheting up the tensions with frequent and aggressive military drills and Xi Jinping has made no secret of the fact that he wants to “reintegrate” the island nation with the mainland. China has also been rapidly expanding its naval and air warfare capabilities, so we need to be taking them seriously.

But as I mentioned above, Minihan is a rather imperfect messenger for a situation such as this. First of all, as military analyst Dr. James Joyner points out today at Outside the Beltway, the general is a cargo pilot working in logistics. If any of his people wind up in a shootout with the Chinese, things will have gone well and truly off the deep end.

The memo comes across as a bit silly, especially given that Minihan is a cargo pilot commanding the logistics side of the Air Force, not a fighter or bomber pilot commanding a warfighting force. Things have gone horribly wrong if one of Minihan’s people needs to fire his personal weapon at the enemy. It reeks of false bravado and fake machismo. (Which is rather undermined by a “signature” that looks like it should belong to Minnie Mouse.) …

Aside from the Tom Clancyesque scenario for fighting in 2025 and the cheesy business about support personnel firing for the head, the rest of the memo is rather banal stuff. People are being directed to train and ensure their personal affairs are in order. That’s the nature of military service. And, because, commanders have a relatively short time in the saddle, they have to pretend that, were it not for their inspiring leadership, it wouldn’t otherwise be happening.


The general bases his assumption on the fact that both Taiwan and the United States have elections coming up in 2024. He suggests that the leadership of both nations may be “distracted” by that fact, opening the door to the Chinese seeing an opportunity to take advantage of the situation. But we have elections on a regular basis. That doesn’t impact our ability to continue military operations as we somehow managed to do all through the war in Afghanistan.

I don’t think Joyner is going too far by suggesting that the memo “reeks of false bravado and fake machismo.” It certainly does sound a bit over the top. He also goes on to note that the memo lacked a Controlled Unclassified Information marking or some other appropriate level of classification for a document discussing warfighting policies and scenarios. This suggests that he intended it to be read by the public, presumably to generate a reaction. He probably didn’t anticipate that reaction including a significant amount of ridicule, however.

Of course, General Minihan will have the last laugh if his prediction turns out to be accurate. And if the Chinese attempt to cross the strait by 2025, we could find ourselves in either a hot war or at least a proxy war with Beijing with virtually none of our allies taking our side. And as we’ve discussed in the past, that could wind up being a war that we are simply underequipped to sustain for a significant period of time.

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