We must recognize this very clearly.
is pursuing a policy of annexation through normalization. Disputed territories are being patrolled on a regular basis so that over time other countries slowly come to accept the situation as normal. The Air Defense Zone, while illegal in its implementation, is being enforced to establish the normalcy of the control. The legal Economic Exclusion Zone is being illegally interpreted as a military exclusion zone with a goal of habitual enforcement to establish its legitimacy and normalcy. Tiny outposts and oil wells are being established on disputed points of land (they barely qualify as islands) to establish normalcy of Chinese control over those points. Eventually, most of these actions will come to be accepted (a fait accompli) and those that aren’t can be claimed to be legitimate through years of “ownership” (squatter’s rights or possession is nine tenths of the law) and presented to the court of world opinion as custom and tradition (common law). China
appears to recognize that Chinese control over the region is undesirable and ought to be prevented. Of course, we cannot hope to counter US ’s expansionist movement alone. The China must develop close ties with the Pacific countries in and around the East and US . Ideally, we would also partner up with countries further away from the area but still invested in the events and results. Together, this coalition may eventually be able to counter South China Seas ’s moves. China
Do you see the disconnect in the previous paragraphs?
is able to pursue (successfully, so far!) its plans for regional domination with only its own internal forces and capabilities. It is not part of a broad coalition of like minded countries pursuing a mutually agreed upon conquest of the area. It’s simply acting on its own. The US, on the other hand, is seemingly paralyzed, unable to act without the backing of a coalition, despite having far greater military might, more resources, and a stronger economy (for the moment, anyway!). Where is our will to act forcefully and, if necessary, unilaterally to achieve our goals? Have we become so timid that we cannot and will not act alone? Where is our will to win? Lead, and others will follow - that's how you build a coalition. China
I’m not going to address the political aspect of this (although recognizing that the political and military are intimately bound together!) since this isn’t a political blog. Instead, let’s look at the military, specifically naval, actions that we can take, alone, to counter current Chinese moves.
The basis of
’s expansion is normalcy and the methodology is routine patrols and outposts in disputed areas to establish that normalcy. We must counter that with our own routine patrols in disputed areas. Ideally, every Chinese patrol ship should have a China ship sailing in close formation. Ideally, the countries involved in the territorial disputes should establish their own tiny outposts with resupply and patrol support from us. We should be routinely and heavily transiting the air defense zone and economic exclusion zone (EEZ) so as to invalidate Chinese normalcy and re-establish the normalcy of international rule and law of the sea. We should emphatically re-establish our right of passage in international waters. US
|Chinese Outpost at Johnson South Reef|
What we should not do is leave the 20-30 nm vicinity of a Chinese naval group in international waters when told to do so. What we should not do is curtail flights and passages through illegal air defense zones and EEZ’s just to avoid confrontations. What we should not do is allow the establishment of illegal outposts on disputed islands.
So, what do we need to accomplish these goals? The overwhelming answer is numbers. We need lots of ships and planes to establish routine patrols. I can hear the whine, now: “We can’t afford so many ships and planes.” Well, that’s true in a sense. On the other hand, can we afford to cede the entire East and
to South China Seas ? What will be the ultimate cost of that? Can we afford to someday engage in a war with China in which they will have fortified the entire first island chain because we didn’t have enough ships and planes to prevent it? Yeah, but even so, we just don’t have the budget to build additional ships and planes even if we wanted to. Right and wrong. We have the budget but we’re not spending it correctly. Three Zumwalts aren’t going to appreciably help us with the Pacific Pivot but the $24B or so that they’ve cost would have bought a lot of aircraft and smaller ships (there’s a use for your frigate). Even at a cost of $1B each, we could have built 24 frigates for the cost of three Zumwalts. Which would be more useful in the Pacific Pivot, three Zumwalts or 24 frigates? We could buy a lot of Super Hornets, UAVs, and patrol aircraft for what the JSF program is costing us. The LCS could have been the patrol ship for this scenario except that it has no credible weaponry and insufficient range and endurance to operate for extended patrol periods. Perhaps the coming upgunned LCS will have improved range and endurance and find a purpose, at long last. China
The needs of a Pacific Pivot are fairly clear. Now, we just need to align our procurement with our needs and muster the will to act.