Listen to your enemy. He’ll tell you what he fears most.
Let’s take the case of
. The China military is dithering over its overall force structure and the Navy seems totally lost as far as having a coherent vision of what the fleet should look like. More LCSs? Less? Are carriers obsolete or still a potent weapon system? Do we need more amphibious ships? With or without well decks? Anybody want a frigate? Should we have small missile boats? U.S.
In theory, we should be able to turn to our uniformed, professional naval strategists for guidance although that seems to be producing nothing but conflicting signals. Fortunately, there is one other source of expert opinion on the Navy’s fleet composition and that is
. Who better to tell us what our strengths and weaknesses are and what weapons and platforms threaten them the most? But they’d never tell us that, you say? Sure they will – if we listen closely. In fact, they’ve been telling us all along. China
|China's Biggest Fear?|
What else is
telling us? In addition to verbal protests, the Chinese are telling us what platforms they see as valuable by their own building program. Obviously, they’re trying to build platforms that they believe have the most value. What are they trying to build? Two ship types jump out. One is the aircraft carrier. They’re pushing hard to develop their own carrier capability. That should tell us how they perceive the value of a carrier. Odd, isn’t it, that at the very moment when we’re debating whether the carrier is obsolete, the Chinese are trying desperately to develop their own? They’re telling us something if we’ll only listen. China
The other ship type is the submarine which has been a point of emphasis by the Chinese for many years. They’re rapidly increasing both the numbers and quality of their submarine fleet. Interestingly, they have a significant non-nuclear submarine force although that may be more a cost and construction/operational expertise limitation than a long term plan. On the other hand, maybe they see value in a submarine type that we don’t.
What else might the Chinese be telling us? That intermediate range ballistic missiles are a potent threat? That small missile boats that disperse striking power among multiple platforms are a difficult threat to counter? That long range conventional bombers carrying long range anti-ship missiles constitute a significant anti-shipping threat? That mine warfare produces results all out of proportion to their cost and technology? That quantity matters more than quality?
Admittedly, some of the trends in Chinese military development may be due more to their own unique requirements than to a direct fear-based response to our capabilities but, still, if we listen closely and consider what we hear wisely, we can learn a lot about what our best platforms and weapons are, or should be.
Your enemy will tell you what you want to know if you’re willing to listen.