appears to be inevitable. Many people don’t believe that or, rather,
don’t want to believe it. You know what,
though? For the purposes of this post,
it doesn’t matter. We’re going to
stipulate that a war with China is coming for the sake of
discussion. You don’t need to believe it
but it’s only wise to prepare for the possibility even if you don’t think it
will happen. To totally ignore the
possibility would be the height of foolishness.
This somewhat long-winded opening paragraph serves to set the stage for
this post and eliminate the inevitable “ China is our friend, a peace loving world
neighbor, and would never consider going to war” comments. I’m not going to allow a debate of whether China will or won’t go to war. Instead, we’re going to discuss and plan for
a war regardless of how likely or unlikely you or I, personally, believe it to
Whew! Glad to get that out of the way.
Now, what I’m going to discuss is general considerations associated with a war with
Note that most of this would apply in a general sense to any enemy and
any war. China
Before we go any further, we need to stipulate that the
will not start a war with US .
That means that a war will be started by China .
That initial condition dictates many aspects of the war. China will get the first strikes, will be
able to initiate land seizures, establish the initial location and conditions
of combat, etc. Thus, China ’s first actions will be purely reactionary
and defensive. America
The recognition that our first actions will be defensive should dictate our peacetime posture and raise questions such as,
- How many and what type of forces we should have forward deployed given that they will be hit hard and likely lost in the opening moments of a war?
- Should our few forward bases be hardened more than they are given the expected ballistic and cruise missile attacks?
- Do we have sufficient forward deployed engineering assets to quickly rebuild initially damaged bases?
- Is it wise to have naval forces
given the proximity to Chinese ballistic and cruise missiles and the resultant likelihood of their loss? Japan
- Are our forces positioned so as to quickly respond to initial invasion/seizure attempts?
- Are we willing to fight for
in the initial stages of a war? Taiwan
The issue of
is one that needs to be
addressed. In any war, Taiwan will be the first (or co-first)
objective of Taiwan for two main reasons: China has long wanted control over China and a war offers the perfect opportunity regardless of the actual purpose of the war. Taiwan
- More importantly,
simply cannot allow an enemy base to exist in its front yard during a war. Strategically and operationally, China must be eliminated as a threat. Taiwan
will have the choice of trying to
fight a very difficult battle to support/retake U.S. , deep in the heart of the Chinese
A2/AD zone or to abandon Taiwan and allow it to become a Chinese
fortress anchoring the first island chain A2/AD zone. Neither choice is particularly palatable but
the issue must be accounted for in initial war planning. Taiwan
Moving on, the biggest requirement in any war planning and, ironically, the biggest failing of most people who discuss war plans, is the need to define the desired end result. Presumably, that means victory, right? After all, who enters a war with losing being the desired end result? Ironically, and disturbingly, the
has not attempted to win a war
since WWII. Even Desert Storm turned out
to be a tactical and operational victory and a long term strategic failure. So, what general conditions would constitute
a desirable end result, if not victory, in a war with US ?
Let’s consider some possibilities. China
Conquer all of mainland
– Well, that’s just absurd. We don’t have the manpower, weapons, capacity,
or will to engage in that level of war and, even if we did, it’s highly
unlikely that we could successfully (meaning, for any cost that we’d be willing
to pay) subjugate a country of 1.4 billion people who have been raised to hate
us. While a conquered China that is no longer a threat to the
rest of the world is a highly desirable end state, it is just not realistically
This is just an idiotic non-starter of an idea.
Return to pre-war status quo – This is probably the end result that most people would choose. While this would return the world to “normal” it presents one major problem – we’ll have to fight the war all over again, down the road.
will learn military lessons, rearm
(while incorporating the lessons), and try again. This is essentially what happened with China and Saddam Hussein. We returned Iraq to the pre-war conditions and, sure
enough, wound up having to fight the same war/country/leader again. We had the opportunity at the end of Desert
Storm to permanently eliminate Iraq/Hussein and opted not to. Iraq
Status quo doesn’t gain anything for the
or the world. If we’re going to commit to war and pay a
horrific price in lives, it’s mandatory that we improve the world in some way –
not just return to status quo. US
This is a viable and achievable end result but it produces no net positive gain for the
or the world and ensures that we’ll
fight another war. US
Negotiated settlement – This allows
to achieve a portion of its goals
in exchange for peace – essentially, we “sell” various countries, locations,
rights, and controls at the negotiating table in order to avoid continued fighting. China gains, to a degree, undoubtedly a
significant degree, and we and the rest of the world lose. China
This also sets a horrible precedent that China can initiate a war, seize what it wants plus a bit more, and then return the parts it didn’t really want and keep the parts it did want while looking like it is negotiating in good faith and desires peace.
This guarantees future wars.
That pretty much covers the common end results. See what I mean about the disturbing lack of actual victory conditions? Only conquering all of mainland
is an actual victory and it’s
So, where does that leave us?
There is one, and only one, other logical end result and it happens to result in an actual victory with actual long term improvement in the world condition.
Military and Academic Annihilation – This results in the complete defeat of
’s military but does not require
occupation of China .
We simply, systematically, destroy China ’s military and destroy China ’s military industry. This, alone, however, is not enough. That end result would leave China ’s leadership in place and the
country intact. China would learn lessons and rebuild its
industry and military and we’d have to eventually fight the war all over again
at some point in the future. To prevent
this, we need to go a step further and utterly destroy China ’s academic capability. We need to destroy every university, every
think tank, every study group, every research facility, every school. We need to eliminate China ’s ability to produce new engineers
and scientists that can eventually design new military factories and new weapons. That’s how you prevent a repeat, future war. China
Having set the desired end result, we now have to set the initial conditions and, most importantly, our initial force disposition. Having already stipulated that the first strike will go to
, we have to consider a force
disposition that allows us to absorb a first strike without crippling damage –
in other words, not another China Pearl Harbor.
For example, having a single carrier based in
is inviting a first strike,
immediate loss of a carrier. We should
reconsider the wisdom and benefit of a single carrier in Japan versus the risk of immediate loss. Japan
Hand in hand with risk assessment, we should carefully review the defendability of
Guam and make major improvements if we
want to maintain it as a viable and survivable forward base.
Pearl Harbor and Guam, we need to establish a continuous
anti-submarine (ASW) barrier around and between those sites and .
Beyond absorbing the first strike, we also want to have forces positioned to enable us to hit back hard and quickly in response to the first strike in an attempt to produce a pause in combat which will enable us to “set” ourselves for continued combat.
Thus, we need a combat ready surge force. Unfortunately, our military leaders have produced a hollow force that is far from ready. Returning carrier groups, for example, are scavenged for aircraft, personnel, and equipment to transfer to deploying groups. The remaining aircraft and pilots barely get enough monthly flight hours to remain flight qualified.
Our aircraft availability rates are barely 50% across all services and aircraft types.
Our ships are barely seaworthy with multiple equipment failures, training lapses, and personnel shortages.
And so on.
As previously discussed, we need to end deployments and move to a mission based system in which we can reset our forces, catch up on maintenance, and train rigorously.
Hand in hand with initial kinetic strikes,
will launch massive cyber
attacks. We need to ensure that we are
prepared to defend our networks or function without them. Our crippling dependence on networks and our
naïve assumption that we will always have them is a critical vulnerability. China
This discussion leads to questions like what force structure and numbers do we need to implement the victory conditions but that’s a post for another time.
We now understand the initial conditions of war with
and the challenges we will
face. Now, before the shooting begins,
is the time to plan, prepare, and train.
We need to adjust our force structure, reposition our forces, build up
our bases, and train for the initial actions.
There is no hindsight required, here.
The initial conditions are easily anticipated. We need our modern War Plan Orange. China
Regarding comments, I’d like to have a reasoned, logical discussion about this.
I am specifically not going to allow comments suggesting that we can’t even sneeze in
’s direction because they might
begin using nuclear weapons. That’s
absurd beyond belief. Yes, there could
be a point where, in extremis, China would use nuclear weapons but it’s
not going to be because we shoot down a plane or some such trivial action. China