My argument (which in retrospect isn’t as comprehensive as it should be) is that any foe we fight no matter the size, skill, etc. will fight us asymmetrically because of our vast military superiority in conventional terms.
I do presuppose that the US will continue to fight Iraq-style conflicts, because of our superior power, hence, there is a long term reason to retool. The feelings of the American public is irrelevant since they won’t be the ones who decide how to fight off an American attack, our foes will; and my post was not about the likelihood of a Sino-American war, just what it would look like.
Also, you say:
“Because most of us agree that maintaining a strong degree of superiority is a good thing, this retooling is wholly undesirable.”
I don’t believe that the US superiority will be threatened at all if the military decides to change its procurement policies for asymmetric warfare. We are actually that superior. Examples: In 2003, U.S. defense spending was greater than the next 15 countries combined. The U.S. also spends more on R&D than Germany and the United Kingdom spend on defense in total (Brooks and Wohlforth reading). China’s own intelligence agency has estimated that by 2020 the country will possess between slightly more than a third and slightly more than half of U.S. capabilities (technology, military, and geographic). Fifty percent of China's labor force is employed in agriculture, and relatively little of its economy is geared toward high technology (again, Brooks and Wohlforth reading).
More examples of conventional superiority: the fiscal year 2007 military budget imposes no cuts on the Air Force and Navy's Joint Strike Fighter program (a total of 2,443 planes over the next several years). It slightly boosts the number of F-22 stealth fighter planes to be built by 2010 from 178 to 183 (at the combined cost of $9 billion) when we already have over 100 stealth fighters that no one seems capable of shooting down . The Navy wants the SSN-774 Virginia-class nuclear submarine, which costs $2.6 billion per submarine, even though we currently have 60 nuclear subs patrolling the oceans. The QDR also states that the Navy plans to produce two new submarines every year, a rate of production not seen since the Cold War. The Navy is also lobbying for the CVN-21 aircraft carrier ($1.1 billion) and the DD(X) destroyer ($3.4 billion), even though we have 12 aircraft-carrier strike groups, and more deck space than any of the other world’s navies combined. So how many aircraft-carrier groups is enough? The Navy often cites China as a reason for their new weapon systems, but China only has two old Soviet aircraft carriers, and they are both currently used as floating museums.
In short, we kick ass; but do we still want to procure as if we're planning to fight the Soviets on the central plains of Europe?
If after 20-30 years the US has pursued solely asymmetric warfare procurement, at that point other countries may have started to catch up, and conventional warfare will be realistic again, but this is hardly, “Retooling to fight the exceptions to the rules.” For at least the next few decades, if you fight the US, asymmetric warfare will BE the norm. After several decades if the military does need to start waging conventional warfare I don't think a transition back will be a problem. Conventional warfare is too much a part of the military's institutional memory. Lastly, we have a robust nuclear deterrent, so I don’t think American territory will ever be threatened if we were to pursue asymmetric procurement policies.