Saturday, December 4, 2010
Is China a threat?
A friend sent me the following email:
In a waiting room yesterday I happened to see a number of military-related magazines, some of which wrote about
China and how the military might have to engage the Chinese military. Interestingly, US was never mentioned. Apparently the assumption is that Taiwan is indefensible. Taiwan
Instead, the main worry appeared to be that preemptory Chinese missile attacks (non-nuclear) would neutralize US forward bases in Korea, Japan, the Philippines, etc – after which the US would face a nearly impossible logistics challenge of bringing the war to China. The
response would be basically limited to shooting non-nuclear missiles back and to submarine commerce against Chinese import and export shipping. US
In this scenario the
US mainland (including Hawaii and , at least at present) would be unscathed, although the Chinese mainland could receive damage. In exchange for that, however, the Chinese would secure a military sphere of influence in Alaska Asia. There are concerns that the range of Chinese non-nuclear missiles will eventually extend to Guam, Hawaii, and . Alaska
Frankly I don’t see how the
can stop any of this. That’s why the strategy must be diplomatic and engagement with US China so that the Chinese see war with the as deadly to their own economic interests. Am I missing something? US
In response, I wrote:
I think the assumptions about
Taiwan might be two-fold: its indefensible and the U.S. lacks the political will to adopt policies and programs today that would make defensible in the future. Taiwan
Non-nuclear Chinese missile attacks on
U.S. bases in the Far East would almost certainly trigger a war that could easily become nuclear. The public, I don't think, would accept anything less than war. Attacks on those military bases seem analogous to the attack on U.S. Pearl Harbor, to which the nation expected a declaration of war. You're right about the logistics of moving the war to ; missiles and subs represent the most likely responses. Of course, this is one reason that the Navy wants to maintain carrier battle groups, portable landing fields that are difficult to destroy without resorting to nuclear weapons. I wonder to what extent the articles reflect a commitment to continuing to build a military force for which no enemy exists. China
Finally, if the
U.S. took the radical step (for it) of adopting a multilateral rather than unilateral view, the U.S. in case of an attack by China on its bases in the Far East would align itself with . India India, for good reason, fears Chinese dominance in Asia. India could provide bases, personnel, and other logistic support in a war against . Chinese concerns about such an alliance might well deter the probability of any such missile attack by China China, probably more effectively than increased defense spending. U.S.
I wrote those comments after reading this column that appeared in The Guardian, written by former UK Labour government minister Simon Jenkins, which a reader suggested in a comment to my post, Swords into plows.
As Jenkins suggests for the
United Kingdom, the should conduct a true baseline review of its defense needs. What are the real threats? What are potentially viable, affordable responses to those threats? Honest efforts answering those questions would result in a much smaller military with very different foci than the current US Department of Defense. Savings would represent a step toward forging swords into plows. United States