Why the Arctic Matters

The vast majority of Americans are not worried about the Arctic. That is understandable. With only a small fraction of the population, and one very large state, locally positioned in the Arctic, it simply isn’t on anyone’s radar as an issue. Many only see Alaska as an extension of Hawaii on weather maps, and even that generally gets only a sunny or snowy icon on it. Like all things though, it is the last place we are concerned with that poses the greatest potential for threat. Case in point, the arctic.

For the last few years, the northern ice sheets have been melting. This effect has not only changed the habitats for many animals, but had a direct influence on shipping, commerce, and military capabilities. Remembered most clearly by Alaskans, the June 1942 invasion of two islands in Alaska by the Japanese caught the US off guard. Still reeling from the attack on Pearl Harbor six months prior, the US forces initially did very little.

By January of 1943 though, the US Alaska Command had increased its force strength to 94,000 Soldiers. In March of the same year, a large naval battle occurred between US and Japanese forces at the Battle of Komandorski Islands. Although badly beaten, the US side proved victorious when the Japanese forces surprisingly retreated.

On May 11, 1943, 11,000 US troops landed on Attu and fought to uproot the Japanese invaders. After nearly two weeks of fighting, a fierce counter attack by the Japanese surprised the Americans and made it all the way to the American support lines, but this ultimately proved unsuccessful and, after losing over 1,000 soldiers, the Americans were victorious.

Ice MeltAll of this may seem irrelevant today, but the reality is that Alaska was the only region in which Americans fought on US soil. It was also a brutal, albeit short, campaign due to the weather, challenging climate, and fierce enemy opposition. One out of every 11 Soldiers that attacked to retake Attu died in the process, making it one of the bloodiest battles of the war for Americans by ratios alone.

Today, with the ice breaking and ships being able to traverse where they were not able to previously, it is within our interests to reassess our national presence in the Arctic. It is for more than simply commerce reasons – although the oil development process has been a boom for the country. The axis of the earth and the size differences at the poles means that any form of missile defense is most effective from an Arctic location. That means it can range effectively to neutralize rockets fired against nearly the entire US before it reaches our homeland.

In comparison with the American draw down, Russian forces are building more bases in the Arctic, fourteen at last report. Chinese forces sent three surface combat ships, one amphibious ship, and one supply ship to within 12 nautical miles of the Alaskan islands.

The fact remains that the Arctic is not simply an important area, it is a strategic one. As each country continues to flex its capabilities within the region, we are likely to see more friction in the waters, just as we see in the skies overhead. The ability of our country to predict, provide early warning, and react to an impending threat may be limited by our own unwillingness to look sincerely at the Arctic as the next large build up location.

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler

Kyle Soler is an active duty Infantry Officer serving in the US Army. He has served in the military for more than 10 years, working his way from an Infantry Squad Leader to a Company Commander with multiple combat deployments to both Iraq and Afghanistan in between. Kyle earned his bachelor’s degree in History from Willamette University, and three Master degrees from Jones International University in Information Security Management, Health Care Management, and International Business. He also holds certifications in Six Sigma Lean and Six Sigma Lean Black Belt. His primary focus is realigning organizational priorities to get the most out of the time available in terms of training and development. Prior to entering military service, he worked as a fire fighter and an EMT. His areas of knowledge include military, training, leadership, disaster and continuity planning.
Kyle Soler

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