Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Ending War - True Victory

Today’s post addresses the issue of victory in a war.  As such, it relates to the formulation of a geopolitical strategy – victory being the presumed end result of any strategy – and builds on the previous discussion of the foundational principles of geopolitical strategy (see, “Foundational Principles of Geopolitical Strategy”).

War with China is inevitable.  The only question is when.  We’ve previously discussed victory conditions in a Chinese war and the need for a military strategy to achieve the desired victory conditions (see, "China War - Setting the Stage").  Most observer’s and commentator’s idea of strategy and victory conditions involve containing China within the first island chain.  If we can push them back to pre-war boundaries then we’ve ‘won’ in the sense that we will have achieved the specified victory conditions: in essence, a return to status-quo (see, "China War Strategy - Blockade").

The problem with this approach and this set of victory conditions is that it raises the nagging question of whether this is actually a long term victory. 

Before we go any further, let’s ask ourselves what ‘victory’ is?  The truest and most desirable ‘victory’ is when you never have to fight that enemy again.  Any other result is not really a victory, just a temporary cessation of hostilities during which the enemy can rebuild and rearm.

Will ‘victory’ that returns China to pre-war boundaries and status quo (assuming we can achieve it!) assure that we won’t have to fight China again?  I ask because a ‘victory’ that results in having to refight the war again is not really a victory, is it? 

Does history support this set of victory conditions (return to pre-war boundaries and status quo) as being an actual victory? 

Let’s look at the historical record of wars in modern times (since the 1900’s) that ended with the losing side intact and essentially returned to pre-war boundaries and status quo and see whether the ‘winners’ really won in the long term.

Russo-Japanese War 1904-5 – Japan won a significant victory but left an intact Russia.  .  What was the long term result?  Within 40 years Japan had to fight Russia again in WWII.  So, the war wasn’t really a victory for Japan, was it?

WWI – Germany was ‘defeated’ and returned to pre-war boundaries.  What was the long term result?  Within 20 years we had to fight Germany again.  So, WWI wasn’t really a victory, was it?

Korean War – NKorea was ‘defeated’ and returned to pre-war boundaries.  What was the long term result?  We’ve been fighting NKorea ever since.  They’ve developed atomic weapons, conducted vast cyber attacks against the US, torpedoed SKorean warships, brutally oppressed their people, developed intercontinental ballistic missiles, launched ballistic missiles into Japanese territorial waters, and forced the US to tie up significant military forces in SKorea.  So, the Korean War wasn’t really a victory, was it?

Cold War – While not an overtly kinetic war, the Soviet Union was ‘defeated’ and returned to pre-war boundaries, more or less.  What was the long term result?  The Soviet Union, now called Russia, is once again threatening Europe, annexing and invading countries, and threatening the US with new nuclear weapons.  Now, 20 years later, we’re engaged in a repeat of the Cold War.  So, the Cold War wasn’t really a victory, was it?

Arab-Israeli War (Six Day War 1967) – Israel defeated a coalition of Egypt, Jordan, and Syria.  While Egypt lost the Sinai territory, Egypt, Jordan, and Syria remained intact military and political entities with their pre-war boundaries more or less intact.  What was the long term result?  Israel was nearly destroyed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War just six years later.  So, the Six Day War wasn’t really a victory for Israel, was it?

Israeli-Palestinian/Hamas War – Israel has repeatedly engaged and defeated Hamas while allowing the Hamas ‘country’ to return to its pre-war boundaries each time.  What has been the long term result?  Israel has had to repeat the war over and over again.  So, the Israeli victories haven’t really been victories, have they?

Gulf War / Desert Storm – Iraq and Sadaam Hussein were ‘defeated’ and returned to pre-war boundaries.  What was the long term result?  Within 12 years we had to refight Iraq and Hussein.  So, Desert Storm wasn’t really a victory, was it?

India – Pakistan War of 1965 – Though technically a stalemate, India had the clear upper hand but both countries returned to their pre-war boundaries.  What has been the long term result?  The countries have engaged in numerous clashes over the subsequent years.  So, there was no victory, was there?

I considered including the 1982 Falklands War but it wasn’t a war in the sense that we’re discussing here.  It was a sovereignty dispute that resulted in combat but was conducted as a very limited battle with neither side attempting to attack the other’s homeland or non-disputed territories and, outside the narrow point of disagreement, neither side harbored any particular animosity towards the other.

What’s the common theme in these historical examples?  The losing side retained its boundaries and political existence, more or less unchanged and, in every case, the winner had to refight the war within a shockingly short time.  To put it bluntly, the winning side, in each case, lacked the will to decisively and permanently destroy its enemy which ensured that the war would be refought.

The Korean War represents a slight deviation from this conclusion in the sense that we haven’t had to engage in actual combat with NKorea again but we have, in every other way, been continually engaged with NKorea since the end of active hostilities.  Given the required commitment of massive military resources on an on-going basis, it might as well be war.


Now, let’s look at examples where the losing side ceased to exist as a military and political entity.

WWII – The Allies defeated Germany and Japan and occupied the countries, completely disarmed the military, and replaced the leadership and government.  The pre-war military, government, and leadership ceased to exist.  What was the long term result?  There has been no repeat of war with either country and both have become strong, peaceful, productive world contributors.  So, victory produced a permanent improvement for all parties.

Vietnam War – NVietnam defeated SVietnam and the US, occupied the country, disarmed the military, and replaced the leadership and government.  What was the long term result?  There has been no repeat of war and Vietnam has become a productive member of the world community with, astoundingly, improving relations with the US of late!  So, victory produced a permanent improvement for all parties.

Iraq War / Operation Iraqi Freedom – The US defeated Iraq, occupied the country, disarmed the military, and removed the leadership and government.  What was the long term result?  There has been no repeat war with Iraq.  So, victory produced a permanent improvement for all parties.


While ending a war as soon as possible often seems like a good thing, at the time, the sad reality is that it is always unwise.  Prematurely ending a war is appealing from economic, humanitarian, and other aspects but ultimately costs more than following through and establishing complete and total victory.

A war that leaves the losing side intact is all but guaranteed to recur in a shockingly short time.

We need to consider this as we formulate our geopolitical and military strategy towards China.




Note:  I’ve used the phrase, ‘returned to pre-war boundaries’.  I’m using it as an approximate statement.  I will not entertain any irrelevant comments debating the exact boundaries.  That’s not the point of the post.

Note:  There may be an isolated example somewhere in history that runs counter to the proffered premise but that doesn’t alter the general validity of the premise.  I’ll take a dim view of comments along these lines.  You’ll also note that I limited the analysis to modern times.  Earlier times had different conditions regarding war due to lack of modern transportation/mobility, communications, global economies, etc.

94 comments:

  1. The assessment of the German situation post WWI and WWII is largely false. The main difference was that post-WWII Germany became a strategically important asset for the cold war that was politically and militarily embedded into the Western block. And in turn it became a national interest for West Germany to behave like a good ally. Economic prosperity was a result of normalizing trade relations instead of going for crippling trade sanctions as was done post-WWI. Also, while the obvious figureheads of Nazi Germany disappeared. Second and third tier leadership in military, administrative services and even politics where largely the same.

    In addition to that, there were strategically important territorial losses after WWI (most notably severing the connection to eastern parts and giving Poland a coast), also all colonies were lost without any compensation. There was a comprehensive military occupation (including demilitarisation on the German side) of the territories west of the Rhine and the most important industrial areas in the Ruhr region. The military was severely limited, an airforce was completely forbidden.
    Those limitations were later slightly lifted without keeping the country politically in check or militarily enforcing red lines. Later even those new limitations were just ignored and nobody cared.

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    1. "The assessment of the German situation post WWI and WWII is largely false."

      The assessment is absolutely, factually, historically correct. Your interpretation of the post is largely false. The premise of the post is that total victory leads to total peace. The mechanism of that peace is irrelevant and is not mentioned in the post. Why total peace occurred does not matter - only that total victory ensured total peace.

      "there were strategically important territorial losses after WWI"

      Germany, post WWI, was left intact. Minor changes to boundaries were addressed in the post and will not be discussed.

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    2. WW2 was consequence of the peace of Versailles imposing too harsh terms on Germany in some aspects and too lenients in others.

      J

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    3. "WW2 was consequence of the peace of Versailles imposing too harsh terms on Germany in some aspects and too lenients in others."

      Irrelevant as far as the premise of the post is concerned. Total victory was not achieved. Germany was not subjugated, the military remained intact, national borders remained, and the government (newly formed!) remained in place. Contrast this end to the end in WWII. Quite a difference.

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    4. [quote]The premise of the post is that total victory leads to total peace. The mechanism of that peace is irrelevant and is not mentioned in the post. Why total peace occurred does not matter - only that total victory ensured total peace.[/quote]

      Isn't that a 'No True Scotsman' argument? Anything that doesn't achieve total peace is labelled as not total victory? After WWI the victors attempted to render Germany and Austro-Hungary impotent, dismantling and replacing their systems of government, stripping them of their colonies and huge swathes of land, getting rid of their armed forces and forcing them to pay massive reparations. If that isn't total victory what is? The difference with post-WWII wasn't that the victory was more total, it's that effort was poured into reconstruction of the country.

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    5. "After WWI the victors attempted to render Germany and Austro-Hungary impotent, dismantling and replacing their systems of government, stripping them of their colonies and huge swathes of land, getting rid of their armed forces and forcing them to pay massive reparations."

      Not quite. The German government, though having undergone an internal revolution, remained intact. The German military remained intact, though limited by treaty in numbers of men and types of equipment.

      Germany was not occupied other than the Rhine border.

      The treatment of Germany by the Allies was more punitive than rebuilding. Contrast this with the total occupation and treatment of Germany and Japan after WWII.

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  2. The World War 1914-1989, resulted in Germany having its place in the Sun as the strongest European power, as the Kaiser declared as his goal in 1914.

    With the rise of Nationalism instead of the 20th centuries obsession with ideologies, Bismarckian notions of warfare for defined goals is once again possible, I'd argue.

    The old Cold War slogan "Ban the Bomb, Make the World Safe for Conventional Warfare" seems to have come to pass, in an operational sense.

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    1. "The World War 1914-1989, resulted in Germany having its place in the Sun as the strongest European power, as the Kaiser declared as his goal in 1914."

      So, losing two world wars, being totally obliterated, and being rebuilt by the Allies was the Kaiser's secret plan? That aside, what does this have to do with the post?

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  3. Remember that Strategy is not limited to only a Military component. The Geo Political perspective or global view contains many other aspects than just the Military.

    A Geo-Political view of where countries are dedicated to common principals can preclude the need for war.

    As examples:

    Countries accept that same environmental rules and work to improve environmental responsibility.

    Countries trade on a level playing field and move towards more open trade based on the same rules.

    Countries respect Intellectual Property rights.

    Countries renounce territorial gains. Only government unions of states.

    Countries move towards representative forms of government with free and fair elections.

    Countries foster and promote transparent banking systems.

    With these as a higher goal policy can be made to implement them with means other than war. Tariffs are one way to do some of these things (even though it is a tax on consumers). Embargoes could be another.

    My point is these are short of war.

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    1. Yes, hugs and kisses are short of war. What does this have to do with the post?

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    2. Sigh …
      You go to war as part of your Geo-Political Strategy. That is what defines you Military victory conditions. Based on your strategy and the other sides goals you have a range of Military Victory conditions. If it is a low level item from a few bad actors, you can merely raid or patrol an area of the world (Somalia pirates). If it is terrorist bases you can either destroy them (granted maybe repeatedly) or invade enough to get regime change to stop that from happening again.

      The historical US response, up to the beginning of the US empire view, is isolationism followed by total war/unconditional surrender, when they finally pissed us off enough. Unconditional Surrender/Total Destruction in NOT a good or even efficient Military victory definition. It is one, but not the best.

      Why fight if a worldwide embargo could do the job? I am not against fighting, I served 20 yrs in the USMC. But I don't need to see another Vietnam, Afghanistan, or Operation Enduring Freedom. Desert Storm worked and put Hussein back in his bottle where the Iraqi people could decide their own fate.

      See the difference in the 2 Iraq approached now?

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    3. Sigh …

      You didn't grasp the post at all.

      "I don't need to see another Vietnam, Afghanistan"

      Ask yourself, why don't you want to see a repeat of those? The answer is because we spent a lot of blood and resources and accomplished nothing, in the end. Why? Because we didn't approach them with the military objective of total defeat. Anything less than total defeat guarantees a repeat war, as proven in the post. I take it you're against repeat wars?

      "Desert Storm worked and put Hussein back in his bottle where the Iraqi people could decide their own fate."

      What?! You're rewriting history. Desert Storm was a tactical victory and strategic failure. Sadaam remained in power, continued to oppress his people, continued to foment problems in the region, continued to … well, I don't need to recite the litany. The Iraqi people had no say in their own fate - you are completely incorrect, factually/historically. The Iraqi people were free to decide their own fate only after the 2nd Iraqi war (the guaranteed repeat part of the post!).

      "have a range of Military Victory conditions."

      Not a wise range. If you believe a problem is severe enough to go to war then there's only one wise victory condition and that is total victory to permanently eliminate the problem. Hey, by the way, how's that partial military victory in Korea working out?

      Our military has forgotten what true war is and what true victory is - the kind of victory that means you'll never refight the war.

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  4. I think this is an excellent point. It is vital not going to war without knowing what you want to achieve beyond killing the enemy soldiers and some collateral damage to go with it. As stated by anon 5:03AM your assessment of Germany in the world wars is somewhat off. The US deserves credit for the aftermath of WWII both in regards to both Japan and Germany not being punished above the necessary but instead being made pillars of a new world order. That is why Japan now is an ally and not a foe.

    The second war with Iraq (while the first failed more miserably than the second) is not really a good example of a well made peace. The place is a mess and a hotbed for various extremists. The reason for this is not that they weren't beaten up properly but rather that there was no vision of what to make of the country once it was defeated.




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    1. "assessment of Germany in the world wars is somewhat off."

      How so? Germany was torn down after WWII and rebuilt under Allied control. The result was not only lasting peace but formation of a good world neighbor, as you note. This is what was stated in the post. What are you disagreeing with?

      "The second war with Iraq (while the first failed more miserably than the second) is not really a good example of a well made peace."

      The premise of the post is not exactly about a well made peace, it's about the need, or lack thereof, for a repeat war with the losing country. In this respect, the Iraq was has been a success. There has been no repeat. That terrorists have emerged or that the Iraqi government is not the shining beacon of democracy and free enterprise is not the point of the post.

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    2. Removing Iraq, a counterweight to Persian power,
      just got us to the present cold war with Iran.
      When calculating victory, try not end up in the same
      place you started, with different colors on the pieces.

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    3. "Removing Iraq, a counterweight to Persian power,
      just got us to the present cold war with Iran."

      This is absolutely false. US-Iranian relations were extremely strained long before the Iraq-OIF war. For example, the US engaged in combat with Iran in 1988 (Operation Praying Mantis) and imposed a trade embargo on Iran in 1995. And so on.

      People, you've got to read your history!

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  5. I must disagree with both the Russo-Japanese and Iraq comments.

    The Russo-Japanese war didn't lead to Russian attacking Japan in WW2, it was continual Japanese aggression that did.

    As for Iraq, the 2003 invasion was 9/11 hysteria and political machinations that lead to that 2nd war, thou technically, the case could be argued that desert storm never ended as we were running combat missions continually up to 2003 over Iraq in one form or another. As for the 2003 invasion being the end of the conflict, that is highly debatable, given the fact its 2019 and were still conducting combat operations there.

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    1. "I must disagree with both the Russo-Japanese "

      There's nothing to disagree with. It's a simple statement of fact. The reasons (and there are many on both sides) are debatable but irrelevant. By not achieving total victory, Japan wound up fighting the losing country again which is exactly the premise of the post.

      "Iraq"

      Read the post! OIF achieved all its goals, removed the government, and we have not had to refight Iraq. That was the premise of the post. That terrorism arose is a separate issue as relates to the post premise. Again, it is a simple statement of fact: we have not had to refight Iraq.

      There is nothing to disagree with. The events are historical facts. You're attempting to expand the premise of the post beyond what it is. Why is that? What is it about the simple truth of the post premise that bothers you enough to try to change it?

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  6. The Government of imperial Russia was dismantled, the military destroyed. All the criteria that you put forth as total victory was achieved, thou not by Japan alone.

    As I stated, the Russo-Japanese war isn't the reason Russia attacked Japan, it was Japan's lack of restraint that necessitated it.

    Just look at Japan's repeated conflicts with China over the same time period. That's essentially repeat "total victories" as one can get and yet Japan still had military conflicts with China. It was because Japan kept attacking china.

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    1. "The Government of imperial Russia was dismantled, the military destroyed. "

      ???? You need to reread your history. Nicholas II entered into a negotiated peace (The Treaty of Portsmouth) and remained in power. A negotiated peace is far from the total victory discussed in the post. The military remained intact and, in fact, underwent reforms that enabled it to be better prepared for WWII. Though suffering significant naval losses, the Black Sea fleet remained intact.

      Again, I'll repeat, the premise of the post was that failure to achieve total victory leads to repeat wars and that is exactly what happened. The details of how and why are irrelevant. Had Russia truly ceased to exist as a country, there would have been no repeat war, regardless of the reasons. Japan's failure to achieve total victory (probably not even possible) ensured a repeat war and that's exactly what happened. This is not debatable, it's simple historical fact.

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    2. I get the vibe you dont wish to continue to debate this. However, I wish to clarify. The Imperial government of Russia and its monarch died in the revolution, as did most the military infrastructure.

      In essence, Japan fought two separate enemies for all intents and purposes that happened to live in the same areas.

      Japan's military prowess or lack there of, in the 1904 conflict had little to no bearing on the renew conflict of 1945, except in the peace settlement that followed in the form of returning lands.

      I'm having difficulty understanding your position or definition, of total victory and its disregard for the distance of time in between events as a factor.

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    3. There's nothing to debate. Simple historical facts are not debatable.

      "The Imperial government of Russia and its monarch died in the revolution, as did most the military infrastructure."

      You appear to be referring to the revolution of 1917, a dozen years after the end of the war with Japan. As far as the premise of the post, the two are completely unrelated.

      For the very last time, at the end of the war RUSSIA RETAINED ITS GOVERNMENT, LEADER, MILITARY, AND BORDERS. Simple, historical fact. Whatever came years later is irrelevant as far as the post premise is concerned.

      The subsequent war with Japan in WWII was with the same country, same people, same borders, and many of the same issues. That the Russia's leadership/government changed in the ensuing period is historically interesting but utterly meaningless as regards the post premise. The government of the US changes every 4 years but we're still the same people, country, borders, and issues.

      You appear to be trying to manufacture an argument for some reason.

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  7. As to the terrorism issue in Iraq, it was the disarming and disbanding of the Iraq military that contributed to the terrorism issue significantly.

    While we're not fighting a unified Iraq, we are still fighting in Iraq, so there isn't victory yet.

    Dismantling the government or military, and not having a suitable replacement, leaves a power vacuum. Even without military conflicts, power vacuums naturally develop, allowing less then ideal governments and factions to take control

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    1. This is getting tedious. The premise of the post is that total victory assures that the winner won't have to fight the loser again and THIS IS EXACTLY WHAT HAS TRANSPIRED. We have not had to refight Iraq. That terrorism arose was due to a myriad of factors which include US mismanagement of the post-war situation but that is separate from and beyond the premise of the post.

      For the last time, the US achieved total victory and has not had to refight Iraq. This is a simple statement of historical fact.

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    2. I apologize for being tedious. I guess we must agree to disagree on the definition of what constitutes fighting in Iraq.

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    3. " I guess we must agree to disagree on the definition of what constitutes fighting in Iraq."

      No, we are not fighting Iraq. It's that simple. Terrorists are a different war, different problem. The premise was that total victory would ensure we don't fight the same war again and that is exactly what has happened. This discussion is over.

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  8. Russia spans some 11 time zones and has far more resources than Japan, Japan had no choice but to leave Russia intact. Japan got the territory it wanted, though lost those territories after WWII.

    What is missing from the post is the intent and the objectives of each side in the cited conflicts. Unconditional surrender, which I would equate to total victory, was true against Japan and Germany. But, that's not always the goal as we often fight limited wars for specific objectives. I would consider the Korean War and Gulf War as limited wars.

    The objective of the Cold War was to defeat Communism and it was a success. Germany became reunified and many of the former Warsaw Pact countries are part of NATO.

    The objective of the Korean War was to liberate South Korea and was successful in that regard though hostilities technically still exist today. We could have extended the war and invaded North Korea, but that was at the risk of further hostilities with Russia and China. Hostilities that could have extended to Europe.

    We could have invaded Iraq after liberating Kuwait, the objective of Desert Storm, but our allies weren't willing to take on Saddam at that time. In hindsight, removing Saddam then might have been the right thing to do.

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    1. "What is missing from the post is the intent and the objectives of each side in the cited conflicts. "

      You could not have missed the intent or message of the post more, if you tried!

      "Unconditional surrender, ... total victory, ... But, that's not always the goal as we often fight limited wars for specific objectives."

      Wow, did you miss the point! The message/point of the post was that limited victory is counterproductive in the long run. Specific, limited objectives almost invariably guarantee that the war will have to be refought. That's the premise and I presented the historic data to support the premise. Before you reply, take some time and think about it. Make sure you actually grasp the point, as you clearly did not on this first attempt.

      The post serves as a caution that limited victory equates to long term loss - loss, in the sense that the war will have to be refought. Therefore, entering into a war with limited victory conditions is unwise. Desert Storm is a perfect example of the premise of the post. We had the means and opportunity to eliminate a threat (Sadaam) and failed to do so, thereby ensuring we would refight the war later.

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    2. "We could have extended the war and invaded North Korea, but that was at the risk of further hostilities with Russia and China."

      Fear is the great enemy of peaceful societies. We fear the risk of escalation and that prevents us from doing what needs to be done and the cost is increased loss of life and suffering in the long run. Why is the risk always on us? Wouldn't Russia and China incur risk confronting the US? Who would come out ahead in such a confrontation? Clearly, the US. The greater (much greater!) risk lay with the Russians and Chinese. Only our own timidity and fear prevented us from doing what was needed. How many more people would be alive and free today had we forcefully resolved the Korean war? How many people would have been spared starvation and oppression had we forcefully resolved the Korean war?

      Yes, more soldiers on all sides would have died if we continued the war to total victory but how different and better would the lives of millions of people have been? In the long run, the scales would lean heavily towards finishing the Korean war.

      Consider the magnitude of the evil that NKorea perpetrates on its own people, the US, and the world, today, year after year because we lacked the will to finish the war with total victory.

      On a closely related note, total victory implies total war. No sanctuary rivers that we can't cross, no safe cities, no government off limits from attack. The only good thing about war is ending it as quickly and decisively as possible using every means available. Fight that way and you lose a lot less people. We tried careful, measured, limited, political messaging war in Vietnam and that was an abject failure. We need to recognize the lessons of history and heed them even if they seem unpleasant.

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  9. One sure sign we don’t understand victory?
    When have we ever genuinely declared war since the end of WW2? I mean actually use the Constitutional definition of actually declaring war against another nation? We haven’t. Not even the “war on terror”. Why? Because that means we will use everything at our disposal to win.

    I remember MacArthur’s famous retort that he had “not yet learned how to bomb half a bridge” when faced with being told the bridges linking NK with China could only be partly bombed when Chinese troops were swarming across them.

    With China, we would be a bit foolish to break the Princess Bride rule of “never get involved in a land war in Asia”. Victory would be so breaking their economy by blockade and other means to force regime change. Would that be enough?
    That would be more like “winning” the First World War or the Cold War: regime change with a risk of future conflict with a revanchist regime who misses the old days.
    But there may be a slim chance of a more real victory if we also broke the back of the Social network/ propaganda machine using both Cyber warfare and treaties that suppress the one Party system and encourages free speech. Then they might break the mind set as Japan did.

    Of course we should first guarantee our own free cyber speech here before attempt it elsewhere.

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    1. "One sure sign we don’t understand victory?
      When have we ever genuinely declared war since the end of WW2?"

      Excellent point.

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  10. I am sure that war with the Soviet Union looked inevitable.
    Why is war with China more likely?
    The only difference is that the Soviet Union matched the USA with regards to atomic weapons, I suppose that the US must start a war earlier before the Chinese catch up.

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    1. "Why is war with China more likely?"

      I've laid out the reasons in repeated posts. Peruse the archives.

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  11. We are already at war with china. They started snatching our towed arrays over 8 years ago. An activity done only by an apex predator.
    Their island building and ridiculous territorial claims are no different than Hitler's. While most here are arguing the finer points of history, most are missing the obvious premise in the argument. How do we win? I have always assumed that china's lousy
    geographical position, they are essentially in a bathtub in the first island chain would help us contain them. But that is not a victory. The Australian writer that revealed the "key line" monitoring system ringing the first island chain died soon after his reveal. That system would aid in the containment. But that is not a victory. I guess the answer is there can be no victory in the nuclear age.
    Maybe china will get their Lech Walesa (Polish Solidarity Leader) and they will do a 1989 collapse. US military would not carry out orders to kill 20 million "civilians" in your previous proposed total destruction scenario for winning.



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    1. "But that is not a victory."

      Congratulations! You seem to be the first person to grasp the premise.

      "US military would not carry out orders to kill 20 million "civilians" in your previous proposed total destruction scenario for winning."

      ??? When did I propose total destruction and 20 million dead?

      What I have suggested is military and military capacity destruction coupled with academic destruction. Military aside, that doesn't necessarily require any civilian (to the extent that there are civilians in a war) deaths although some of those would be inevitable.

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  12. A limited victory means your children will have to fight the same war. This is the conclusion I draw from the argument laid out above, and it is something the public should be more aware of.

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  13. "A limited victory means your children will have to fight the same war."

    A particularly astute and apt way to put it.

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  14. When reading of the European power struggles of the 18th century they all end with a treaty being signed, some land changes hands and a shift in the balance of power. Then it all happens again.

    If you take nuclear weapons off the table then I am not sure how the USA or China could avoid this situation and achieve a total victory. The level of escalation required to achieve a total victory surely is not worth the cost.

    A peaceful solution would seem sensible if there is no realistic chance of total victory for either side.

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    1. "A peaceful solution would seem sensible"

      The problem with that statement is that both sides have to want it and, currently, China has no interest in a peaceful solution. They've made the calculation that they can achieve the victory they want through total war - total in the Chinese sense of economic, intellectual, military, diplomatic, industrial, etc. China's disdain for a peaceful solution is ensuring eventual war.

      "If you take nuclear weapons off the table"

      Neither side is going to enter into a nuclear war of mutual annihilation. We, in the West, are absolutely terrified of even the tiniest risk of nuclear war. So much so that we allow ourselves to be held hostage to our fears.

      "if there is no realistic chance of total victory for either side."

      You raise an important aspect. If, for any number of reasons, total victory is just not possible, what is the next best solution? What is your thought on the second best solution?

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    2. "total victory"

      Your reference to nuclear weapons leaves me concerned that you are misunderstanding what total victory is. Total victory doesn't mean killing every enemy citizen. It means achieving a victory that results in removal of the enemy government, disbandment of the enemy military, and initial control of the enemy country during recovery. The fewer people you have to kill to achieve that, the better. WWII Germany and Japan surrenders epitomized total victory.

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    3. 1. If the Chinese government is nearing or fearing annihilation, why wouldn't they launch nukes? They could attack our cities, or they could attack our forward bases and forces in the field, or both.

      2. Invading and occupying a country with four times as many people as ours seems impractical, if not impossible. Short of the Indian's joining in, we don't have enough allies to even out the numbers, let alone have an advantage. The Chinese Army has 2 million members. They could easily have ten or even a couple hundred times as many in wartime if the homeland is under attack. China has over 300 million military age males, and another 300 million military age females.

      We would probably have to resort to using nuclear weapons offensively to reduce their numbers.

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    4. "If the Chinese government is nearing or fearing annihilation, why wouldn't they launch nukes? "

      They might but that would mean certain and nearly instant death for themselves. Are China's leaders suicidal? I don't know but most dictators will do anything to stay alive.

      You need just a bit of objective analysis, here. If the war has reached a point where China's defeat is overwhelming and imminent, that would mean we've achieved a massive reduction in the command and control, undoubtedly reduced most of their nuclear weaponry (that would be a very high priority in the war), cut communications to nuclear launch sites, etc. In other words, their ability to launch nuclear weapons would be hugely reduced. It would also mean that we would have as much ballistic missile defense capability in theatre as possible. So, the ability to conduct an effective nuclear launch would be greatly reduced and would be coupled with the guaranteed, instant retaliatory nuclear death of the leadership. Would they choose to attempt to launch an insane attack at that point? Possible but unlikely and even if they did, it would be unlikely to be successful.

      So, take a deep breath, calm down, and return to your normal life!

      "China has over 300 million military age males"

      Again, you need to apply just a tiny bit of objective analysis. While sheer numbers are impressive, on a modern military battlefield, firepower and armor are far more impressive. Human wave attacks against sufficient armor and firepower are just an exercise in pointless suicide.

      It's one thing to have 300 million men and another to have 300 million TRAINED, WELL EQUIPPED, COHESIVE, OPERATIONALLY USEFUL military units.

      We don't need to kill every military age male in China in order to win a war.

      This is not to downplay the value of a large manpower pool but to believe that the entire Chinese population is some kind of coordinated, highly trained, fighting machine is ridiculous.

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    5. 1. As soon as it got to the point where their nukes were threatened, they would face a use or lose proposition. The risk of nuclear escalation skyrockets as soon as they see a viable threat to themselves or their nuclear deterrent. In fact as soon as we set foot on Chinese soil, we risk escalation.

      Planning a war on the mere hope that they won't want to risk nuclear annihilation, but are, for some reason, ok with conventional annihilation seems far fetched to me.

      Ask yourself, if the Chinese were invading the US with the intent of total victory, and were winning, would a US leader use nukes in response? I think the answer is pretty assuredly yes.

      2. We've seen in Vietnam, Iraq, and Syria how troublesome poorly trained, poorly equipped, but motivated people can be. It would be several orders of magnitude worse in China. And that's on top of fighting the PLA, which is no pushover.






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    6. Just idle curiosity … are you asking these same questions on a Chinese military blog or is the responsibility to avoid nuclear war strictly on the US? This kind of fear is crippling.

      Regarding some kind of imagined guerilla warfare from the common people of China, I've addressed this in other comments.

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    7. "As soon as it got to the point where their nukes were threatened, they would face a use or lose proposition. "

      The instant they opt to use a nuclear weapon they face instant, total annihilation so the question you should be asking is, are the Chinese insane enough to commit suicide?

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    8. "we risk escalation"

      Oh no!!!!! We can't risk escalation! We should surrender before risking escalation. I envy the Chinese who don't have to worry about escalation like we do because, as frightened Western observers assure us, only the West risks escalation.

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    9. Escalation could mean the top 50-100 cities in the US and China erupting in nuclear fireballs.

      That should frighten everyone.

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    10. You might want to go back and research Chinese ICBM capacity, US defenses, use scenarios, and the like - you know, if you're interested in the least little bit of reality.

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    11. China currently has around 50 land-based ICBMs that can reach the USS. As they replace old ICBMs with newer ones, that number is likely to go up to 75-100. They also have up to 72 SLBMs on six Jin-class SSBNs

      It is unclear how many have MIRVs. Many have single 1MT warheads, but their inventory appears be heading in that direction.

      Our defenses are geared towards intercepting a handful of missiles and we are a long ways from even proving that capability.

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    12. Unless China opts to launch a preemptive nuclear strike on CONUS on day one, most of those limited nuclear assets will be quickly destroyed. SSBNs, for example, I assume are routinely trailed and would be instantly destroyed at the onset of a war. All other nuclear assets, command and control, storage, etc. would be very high priority targets on day one. Little would be left by the time the question of use arose.

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    13. As soon as any nuclear assets are attacked, the Chinese may decide to launch the remaining. Use it or lose it.

      They have a significant number of road mobile ICBMs and are building more. Not going to be easy to find.

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    14. "As soon as any nuclear assets are attacked, the Chinese may decide to launch the remaining."

      If we impose another tariff or sneeze in their general direction, they may decide to launch nuclear weapons. We can be paralyzed by fear or we can carry out our own plans, just as the Chinese are doing while running roughshod over international laws, treaties, and norms.

      If you're this frightened of nuclear weapons, you should be the first one to advocate doing whatever is necessary to eliminate an enemy's nuclear arsenal. How long do you want the threat of Chinese nuclear blackmail to hang over us?

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    15. A trade dispute is a bit different than attacking the Chinese nuclear force as a precursor to an invasion.

      The Soviet nuclear blackmail hanged over us for over 40 years, and yet we survived and prospered. They were far more antagonistic than the Chinese ever have been.

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    16. "A trade dispute is a bit different than attacking the Chinese nuclear force as a precursor to an invasion. "

      Why? I'm terrified that we're risking escalation! Isn't the fear of escalation your biggest concern? What if the Chinese are offended and decide to launch a nuclear attack because we're threatening their trade? I don't think we can risk it!

      How is it that you think all the risk and all the responsibility falls on us and none on the Chinese?

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    17. Each side evaluates the risks of its own actions based on its imperfect knowledge of the other side.

      Ask yourself what you would do in their situation.

      As the Chinese Premier I would respond to a trade war in kind. I wouldn't resort to nukes.

      As the Chinese Premier if the US attacked my nukes as a prelude to an invasion, I would be very hard pressed not to use my remaining nukes, before I lost them. I would probably attack concentrations of US forces first, or Guam. But once nukes start flying, things may escalate quickly.

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    18. "A peaceful solution would seem sensible"

      I agree with you that this requires both sides. I know that you do not see the cold war as a total victory but perhaps a situation like that is preferable. Maintaining enough military strength to deter aggressive action from China. Encouraging and supporting allies to do the same. Focusing on the economic, intellectual, military, diplomatic, industrial, etc that is the foundation of China's strength with actions short of war, with the intent of curbing growth and limiting foreign influence rather than openly defeating China. This would be a long term struggle but I think in this situation it is the better option than all out war. My long term hope would be that the increasingly wealthy and educated population would bring about change in China from within. Ending the single party state and creating a more internationally responsible nation. Perhaps this is an unrealistic hope.

      I do not see total victory requiring the total destruction of an enemy with nuclear weapons. Both the USA and China are almost continent sized nations with large populations. An occupation of either along the lines of Germany/Japan seems almost impossible. It is not in US culture to submit and China if defeated at sea would have no reason to submit as they are realistically a land power. If defeated on land the nation seems just too vast to occupy. I have seen no evidence from modern history that makes me think they would just give up. War would also be an excuse to take even tighter control over their population reducing the chances of civil disobedience. The total victory over Hyper powers like the USA and China seems out of reach. By striving for it war weary nations may eventually just sign treaties based on limited success/failure, live in peace for a generation then do it all again which is exactly the situation that we would like to avoid.

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    19. "Maintaining enough military strength to deter aggressive action from China."

      How's that working out, so far? China has annexed the entire South China Sea (international waters, no less!), most of the first island chain, built illegal islands, weaponized the islands, seized a US EP-3, seized US unmanned vehicles, confronted US ships and ordered them out of the South China Sea (and we obeyed!!!), expanded into Africa, encroached on the Philippiines and Vietnam territorial waters, and is laying the groundwork for claiming and annexing the second island chain. How's that deterrence working out?

      "Focusing on the economic …"

      Having just finished mocking your belief in deterrence, I will now turn around and say that the rest of your concept of attacking China's economy, cyber activities, industry (presumably through return of US companies to the US and limitation of raw materials to the extent possible), diplomatic efforts, etc. is spot on as the short term strategy.

      "My long term hope"

      Hope is a poor strategy. Very aggressive actions like those you listed are a much better strategy with a constant, slow escalation that tells China that they are on the clock is what's needed.

      "I do not see total victory requiring the total destruction of an enemy with nuclear weapons."

      You'd rather see a sworn enemy retain their nuclear weapons in perpetuity so that they can continue to threaten us? Wow!

      I want their nuclear weapons destroyed. The only question is how best to go about it.

      I've outlined a viable strategy for war with China in a previous post. Check the other comments or the archives.

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    20. China drew a dotted line on a map. Other countries drew their own lines. Nobody respects any of those lines. The US Navy regularly operates inside the nine-dashed line, as do other countries' navies.

      They have not seized any of the first island chain (Philippines, Indonesia, Taiwan, Japan). They seized a handful of barren rocks in the South China Sea.

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  15. With reference to a US-China conflict, the Falklands War is an interesting case study re this question. Both sides were operating beyond the bounds of the logistics their forces were optimized for, so lacked the ability to conduct effective conventional operations against each other's homelands, even if they wished to. Notably, the UK SAS reconnaissance effort against the mainland was unsuccessful, although effective secrecy meant that it was not perceived as a failure, and probably even helped at the time by diverting Argentine effort.

    Compared to the UK government, the Argentine government was fragile. It's fragility was intrinsic to the conflict, being a major driver of the decision to initiate war, and decisions made regarding war (especially not waiting until more Exocets had been delivered and winter was closer). The weaknesses of our system of government are easy enough to see, and liberal democracies make stupid decisions regarding war readiness time and time again. But our system of government has many strengths which are less easy to appreciate. The Falklands victory was enough to trigger a change in the Argentine system of government, and effectively remove the military threat to the Falklands (though not the underlying dispute). I would propose a change of system of government as an acceptable second-best solution.

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    1. The problem with regime change as a war objective is that it's very difficult to achieve. Sometimes it happens when the populace of the losing side becomes disgruntled and revolts but that's not something that is normally a direct result of the winning side's combat efforts.

      So, yes, regime change might be a good second-best solution but it's virtually impossible to achieve by the winning side.

      The other problem with regime change is that there's no guarantee that the new regime will be any better (from the victor's perspective). For example, the Russian revolution was partially sparked by the Russo-Japanese war and resulted in a regime change. The Tsar was ousted and a Soviet government took its place - not exactly a change for the better!

      FYI … I did not include the Falklands conflict in my examples because it was not a war. It was a mutually agreed upon, single battle with very restricted scope.

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    2. Other regime changes, der Kaiser and Mossadegh.
      Those turned out poorly, using your 40 year gate.

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    3. the Falklands isnt a great example because the Brotish didnt remove the Argentine govt, that was the argentinians themselves. The legacy of the Falklands was the new civilian govt and its sucessors gutting the Argentine military, to the state that it remains a shadow of its pre-Falklands self, but that's not something the british did.

      you can't plan for war with the assumption that the opposing civs are going to finish the job for you.

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    4. I addressed this as an invalid example and explained why in both a comment and the post.

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  16. So.... By historical example, we have a problem, in that total victory is achieved by crushing defeat, then an occupation, wherein we then restructure everything and create a prosperous democratic country. Umm...i dont think we can do that!! I mean, even if somehow we brought about an unconditional surrender like in WWII, we dont have the manpower to do it, and i cant imagine the population going along with it. I think an occupation would make Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan seem tame by comparison. A never ending, bloody guerrilla war that we could never sustain or win. Maybe im wrong there, but...(?) I think the destruction of regime is the best we could do, and hopefully a better one replaces it. Unfortunately history says it wont happen, so we really do have a quandry! Why go to war if you cant ultimately and completely win, yet what if you dont?? Containment, and hope it withers n dies ala' USSR?? This is an incredibly difficult problem to sort out CNO...

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    1. I agree with you, Jjabatie, that the occupation and total dismantling of the govt and military would be a massive undertaking.

      That's why they'll have to do it the way it was done in WW2- with massive help from Allies.

      eg during D-day, the UK and USA each contributed 40% of the 150,000 odd personnel involved.

      eg India can help restore Tibetan independence, or let Tibet become a semi independent territory, and have an Indian military presence.

      It'll be WW3, with the same actors, but on different sides.

      China vs USA+India+Australia+Japan+Taiwan+UK. Others?...maybe.. South Korea, maybe other European countries, maybe Indonesia and other SEA nations.

      This is just imho.

      Who knows the future?

      Andrew

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    2. "A never ending, bloody guerrilla war that we could never sustain or win. "

      I'm reminded of the never ending, bloody guerrilla war that the defeated Germans fought when we attempted to occupy Germany after WWII. Oh wait … that didn't happen.

      Well then, I'm reminded of the never ending, bloody guerrilla war that the defeated Japanese fought when we attempted to occupy Japan after WWII. Oh wait … that didn't happen, either.

      Hmm … is there a lesson, here? Is it that a thoroughly defeated country, weary after a long war, AND TREATED FAIRLY AND GIVE THE PROMISE OF A FUTURE OF THEIR OWN, won't be motivated to conduct a never ending, bloody guerrilla war?

      "Maybe im wrong"

      Maybe. The point is that you've assumed the worst case as a given when history shows that the best case is quite possible.

      "Why go to war if you cant ultimately and completely win, yet what if you dont??"

      The point of this kind of post is to illustrate the ideal, preferred outcome to a war. If the reality is that we can't achieve that outcome, for whatever reason(s) (and we haven't yet established that we can't) then we can begin to consider the second best outcome, INFORMED BY THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE BEST OUTCOME. In other words, what second best solution can we craft that incorporates as many features of the best outcome as possible and achieves as much of the best outcomes results?

      Let's momentarily consider the concept of occupying China. After WWII, we simultaneously occupied Germany and Japan. From an area perspective, German and Japan cover 284,000 sq.mi. China is 13x larger. Quite the challenge! Of course, much of China is not remote country that doesn't need to be occupied. Still, a big area! That's where allies would come in. In a China war, I've got to believe that an allied coalition of the US, UK, India, Australia, Korea, Japan, NATO, and others would form. That's quite a pool of potential occupying forces! I'm just saying that it's not flat out impossible as so many seem to think.

      The overarching question is, how many times do we want to fight China? If we only want to do it once then history tells us what we have to do.

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    3. Great points, and Im not arguing the posts premise at all, in fact, I agree. But in China-specific application, there are differences to the historical examples that I think are significant, which led me to those "worst-case" thoughts...

      "is it that a thouroughly defeated country,weary after a long war....."

      The difference here is that a major part of Germany was occupied as it was being overrun, and resistance was destroyed foot by foot, town by town. Most of the population was exposed to the horror of their cities being razed by bombing and other methods that showed the folly of German victory, or even survival. Japan saw most major cities attacked by overwhelming force. All but the most rural population was touched by family losses, distruction of homes and infrastructure, displacement etc. Both countries were utterly defeated, and the general population was well aware of it, in spite of what their propaganda machines might say. Thats the key that we would lack in the future. In Chinas case, we arent capable of such massive demonstrations of superiority. Frankly I think just achieving our basic military victory goals against China will "empty the magazines", and a protracted war of attrition is going to favor them. We dont have the time or inventory to pound the people into submission. I just dont see the ability to wage a campaign that will mentally defeat the population.Never mind the fact that attacking non-military targets is awfully unpopular these days. (Personally i dont care a hoot about "world opinion", but its still a relevant issue today) So, say we militarilly beat them, but I dont see us creating a "war weary" population that could be easilly occupied.
      Second, Im not too hopeful about a coalition. The UK, Japan, and Australia are the only allies I see as ones we could assume would stand with us. I think the major NATO members are too self engrossed and would steer clear, or do the absolute minimum to look as if they were supportive. In fact, India is a country we should be actively courting as a stronger friend/ally, as theyre regionally involved, and a strong relationship there would be mutually beneficial.
      So yes, I generally lean towards worst case...but when contemplating war, shouldnt you always??
      Im not trying to nitpick here, and this post makes excellent points. Maybe im way off, and after a surrender the population would welcome occupation and dismantling the pseudo-Communist system...idk... But I think that by looking deeper into historical example, we need to know that outcomes will change if we cant precisely follow those examples...

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    4. "Frankly I think just achieving our basic military victory goals against China"

      Yes, the first step is actual victory and given the current trends, that's not guaranteed. Still, we need to plan for victory since surveys indicate that most Generals plan for victory rather than defeat.

      "I generally lean towards worst case...but when contemplating war, shouldnt you always??"

      No. That leads to ridiculous, self-limiting, self-defeating thinking. For example, we think China has two hundred combat effective ships but, worst case, let's assume 10,000. Well, we can't defeat 10,000 ships so let's negotiate our surrender to China right now! I'm being ridiculous to make a point.

      What the wise military planner does is assume the worst REASONABLE case while constantly striving to collect more and better actual data.

      " Maybe ... after a surrender the population would welcome occupation and dismantling the pseudo-Communist system"

      You've identified a key point. Our worst case scenario (sorry to pick on the worst case issue, again!) envisions a billion virulently, rabidly anti-American Chinese citizens, each heavily armed and praying each night to live just long enough to kill an American, rising up to fight off the occupying US forces. Or … taking a lesson from history and a bit of knowledge about the popularity of communist dictatorships, in general, we might assume that the bulk of the population doesn't really care about the communist dictatorship, might even want it gone, and wouldn't be very motivated to resist if we treat them fairly and offer hope of returning their country to them. Germany wasn't filled with frothing-at-the-mouth Nazi party members - it was mostly common people, as I described and they, in fact, didn't resist the occupation.

      "we need to know that outcomes will change if we cant precisely follow those examples..."

      Precisely, and that's what history, combined with insightful blog analyses (!), can tell us. So, using your knowledge of history and your new-found understanding of the issue, do you see any historical examples we might study and apply to our China problem?

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    5. "In Chinas case, we arent capable of such massive demonstrations of superiority."

      Of course we are - we would just have to go about it a bit differently, if that was our goal. A populace doesn't have to be physically bombed to become war weary. The US homeland population was war weary by the end of WWII despite not a single US home being bombed. The absence of basic staples, food, materials, gas, etc. can quickly wear on a population that is used to them. Attacks on Chinese power stations, dams, roads (supply routes), industry, etc. would quickly make for a war weary populace. That's not to say that would make them give up in mass surrender but add to that a likely lack of enthusiasm for supporting a communist dictatorship and you begin to sense the possibility of a populace that isn't going to resist too much if we did occupy the country.

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    6. I don't see a large scale shooting war happening any time soon. No sealift capability, not near enough naval capacity, and the Air Force is tiny compared to what would be needed. No appetite among the civvies to commit to anything close to the effort required.

      The US is developing a problem with allies compared to the turn of the century or end of the cold war. No one in their right mind is going to help in attacking China, there simply isn't enough to gain. The EU gets along pretty well with China, so there goes most of NATO. The Indians have disagreements with China, but they also have some big issues with the US.

      I see the status quo trickling along until the US eventually becomes an also-ran power, not dissimilar to the British after WWII. China has a particularly effective form of government and the trade war with the US has generally solidified Chinese popular opinion in support of the CCP. Just look at the results from the last 15 years or so.

      China has four times the population, excellent education, great tech base, pretty much unrestricted access to most of Africa's resources and reasonable relations with much of developing Asia-Pac.

      I suspect the time for decisive action is now past. Watch how Huawei does in the next year, that will be a microcosm of how China will fare in competition with the US as things heat up. I'm also pretty sure that backing off the Iran confrontation and trying to create a better relationship would be smart and in everyone's interest. I would take Iran in a heartbeat over Saudi, and I've lived and worked in both.

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    7. "Of course we are, we would just have to go about it differently"
      Fair enough....it did occur to me that part of our strategic level planning should do just that. And while maybe a strain on our combat power, possibly "bringing the fight to the people" thru widespread infrastructure attacks, while of minimal or no military value, might be an important part of shaping the post-military-victory situation. A sort of "violent propaganda" to let the average citizen know of potential defeat, and a possible rosy (regime change?) future...

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    8. "Attacks on Chinese power stations, dams, roads (supply routes), industry, etc. would quickly make for a war weary populace."

      A very valid point, but how would you achieve this? That's the part I'm banging my head against.

      I would also suggest the brushing the CCP off as a "Communist Dictatorship" is an oversimplification. The CCP shows some quite democratic behavior at the local and district levels, and even Xi is responsible to the Central Committee and can be voted out for poor performance. The removal of term limits is NOT equivalent to leader for life.

      I'm not a fan of the CCP, but it works for the Chinese. They have made remarkable progress and I'm not sure how ready they are for a change.

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    9. China is not magic

      - They've made great economic strides in last 20 years, but many other nations have made similar progress from poor to middling--it has proven much harder to move from middling to rich.

      - It's not clear China's sclerotic corruption and central planning will ultimately allow them to deliver the goods (though autocratic governance does allow them to extract more resources from their people to put into infrastructure, military, etc., which can lead to some impressive and possibly troubling outcomes)

      - They face big demographic challenges in the coming decades

      - They will not be able to entirely ignore popular dissatisfaction if/when prosperity curve flattens

      The best thing for the USA to do is bring in lots of immigrants because the main thing China has going for it is 4+ times the population. If we continue to grow our population, and it's also younger and more vibrant, we can maintain our position.

      I suspect China in 2050 will be a mess, though perhaps scarier because of it

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    10. "I suspect China in 2050 will be a mess, though perhaps scarier because of it"

      Good points. I'm more than a little wary about how the world will look in general in 2050, not just China. We're only about 5 years away from AI becoming a really significant factor in our lives, and at this point society could go either way as jobs inevitably disappear.

      "sclerotic corruption" makes me think of India more than China, but your point in made.

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    11. "while of minimal or no military value"

      ???? Anything that places a strain on the resources of an enemy is of great military value!

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    12. "A very valid point, but how would you achieve this?"

      The Air Force assures us that B-2 bombers will penetrate Chinese air space with impunity! Not sure how believable that is but it's a valid delivery mechanism.

      More reliable is the sub-launched Tomahawk cruise missile. Of course, we're foolishly eliminating our SSGNs! Still, infrastructure targets are perfect for cruise missiles: generally lightly defended and fixed locations.

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    13. " brushing the CCP off as a "Communist Dictatorship" is an oversimplification. "

      The Soviet Union held regular elections, too! The people understand that their freedoms and rights are severely restricted. Yes, any committee member can vote against Xi - and disappear the next day.

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    14. The rumblings I've read suggest there are less than 10 B2 operational. And I've read some pretty definite sources that say the same about the B1B. Even that B1 crews are being re-assigned because of shortage of aircraft to keep currency.

      I'm thinking about how seriously China seems to be taking A2AD, and how far you would have to scale an airforce, a navy and a sealift fleet to be useful on a target as big as China.

      Then there is the lack of shipyard capacity, and the extremely slow rate of build of modern military aircraft (compared to the old days of simpler systems). I'm having a hard time making all this add up. I know it can be scaled up, but how quickly could that happen?

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    15. " how quickly could that happen?"

      And that's the key question. We were unprepared for WWII but we were able to ramp up fairly quickly. Can that be done with today's weapon systems? I don't know but I hope the military has looked at that quite carefully.

      This also touches on another issue we've dealt with and that is complexity. Is it wise to be building exquisitely complex weapon systems to try to squeeze a few more percent performance out or is it wiser to have simpler, easier to build systems even though they may be slightly less effective? If one is anticipating a major war and the need to quickly ramp up production, the answer seems obvious to me. On a related note, was it wise to build the B-2 which is too complex to keep operational and ready and so expensive that we could only afford 20?

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    16. "On a related note, was it wise to build the B-2 which is too complex to keep operational and ready and so expensive that we could only afford 20?"

      It appears to me that those responsible for funding as so deep in the pockets of LockMart etc that there is exactly NO thought put into a real peer war strategy. All that's really happening is a relatively small number of shiny new toys, at huge cost, that don't have a defined mission but try to do everything.

      Personally I find that disgraceful, but I also don't see it changing soon as there is no real driver for change. Its too comfortable and profitable the way it is.

      Further, the situation with China feels just like boiling a frog. China has MIC2025 going full bore and the US is doing not much of anything other than some poorly thought out tariffs. The Huawei ban has already been walked back as they are deeply entrenched in US infrastructure already and it would bankrupt a large number of rural providers if they had to change.

      I firmly believe the next war is going to be primarily cyber and economic, and as you've rightly pointed out, it started years ago and is going strong today.

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  17. The ball might not be in our court regarding US-China 'total war', or I should say, any lead up to it.

    Remember Cold-War-1, or how it ended? USSR folded because its economy couldn't keep up. However, its '4000 warhead stockpile' prevented us from ever thinking about picking a fight on the Soviets. Or, the following logic can be made: any nation with 4000 warheads (and credible launch vehicles) can live in perpetuity as long as they don't shoot first.

    Now, China certainly at present does not have 4000 warheads, then the question we should ask: Does China have the wherewithal(and sustainment) to go from 400 to 4000 stockpile? Can China change its deterrent policy from 2nd-strike to launch-on-warning? And what will drive China to embark on such 'insurance policy'?

    The answers: Yes, Yes, and the US 'total war' planning and preparation to goad China into the new race-to-4000.

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  18. One big question is how we know when a war is necessary. There is a certain idea of "historical inevitability" latent in the original post which I think should be treated with caution.

    We might point to, for example, the "domino theory" which (bipartisan conventional wisdom held) "required" us to go to war in Vietnam. Once SVN fell, turned out it was wrong. The war was, in broader Cold War terms, unnecessary. (And moreover the majority of SVN citizens evidently perceived little in their supposedly-democratic government to recommend it above Ho Chi Minh's.)

    Or we might point to Patton's plan to attack USSR in 1945. Would we have won? I'd say t's probable, solely due to the a-bomb. Would tens of millions have died? I think so. Would maybe a million have been American? I think so. Would a stable, "good neighbor" government have emerged in Russia? Hard to say, but certainly far from a slam dunk.

    And, would that carnage have been worth inviting, so we wouldn't have to look at Putin's smug face today? In my view, no.

    All that is to say that I think it's not wrong to treat war as a last resort, even if the results might, in hindsight, sometimes appear overly-hesitant. It's hard to value the millions saved when a war *isn't* fought.


    Second, I think the conditions under which an nation can be occupied and made into a "good neighbor" nation are quite narrow.

    Japan & Germany are, of course, the gold standard, but they are also really without parallel, the partial examples of Iraq and Vietnam notwithstanding.

    And they were quite unique in several ways:
    - They felt the brunt of all-out mechanized war, particularly saturation bombing, as well as occupation
    - They had somewhat robust democratic traditions, which were subverted only in the 1930s
    - They were commonly understood, at home, as having been the aggressors in the war
    - Their culpability in war crimes far beyond the norm, shocking to any moral sensibility, was well established

    The result was that there were both institutions that could be rebuilt, and many levers Allied occupiers could use to detach people from the feelings of patriotism and perceived injustice that usually lead to another cycle of war.

    The Chinese people may not love their government, but then I may not love whichever president is in office right now either. At the end of the day, they have a tremendous amount of pride and patriotism, grounded in millennia of cultural achievement followed by the slights of the colonial era.

    I think NVN is a very instructive parallel. Their war effort was fired by a fervor of anti-colonialism, nationalism, patriotism, propaganda. They were willing to undergo slaughter and immense suffering, for decade after decade, essentially out of pride.

    If a war did happen with China, creating a new Japan would be a very uncertain endeavor. To improve the odds of such an outcome, there would be a lot of value to clearly being seen as *not* instigating the war. Moreover, I think it’s worth acknowledging that a war to China's "unconditional surrender" could well require a level of carnage and death that we would be unable to square with our moral code unless we are utterly free of culpability in starting it.


    Finally, as a general comment, I think the fact that a major war was avoided between 1945 and the present is a blessing. One can say it reflects the totality of the US victory, but I think it also reflects just how horrible and barbaric the World Wars were.

    I believe all nations, democratic and totalitarian, learned a lesson from that. I worry that around the globe, the lesson is now being forgotten.

    Of course, if one's opponent is determined to fight, at some point one must defend oneself. But I think we should do all we can to recall the major lesson of the twentieth century, which is that with modern technology, direct, no-holds-barred great power conflicts are uniquely horrific affairs which should be studiously avoided.

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    1. "Vietnam. Once SVN fell, turned out it was wrong. The war was, in broader Cold War terms, unnecessary."

      Quite right. One must be wise enough to recognize when war is actually necessary. Now, just to be fair, the flip side of your cautionary tale is Hitler's Germany and how the world refused to go to war until it was too late and the result was a world war of horrific proportion and consequence. Had we gone to war much earlier, we would likely have stopped Germany before they achieved critical war mass.

      To paraphrase your own statement, it's hard to value the millions who might have been saved had a necessary war not been avoided.

      Had we fought Russia at the end of WWII (Patton sure seemed to see the threat pretty clearly!), untold numbers would not have had to suffer Soviet oppression and extermination both in Russia and in subjugated countries. Would it have been worth it? I bet those people would have said yes.

      "The Chinese people may not love their government, but then I may not love whichever president is in office right now either. At the end of the day, they have a tremendous amount of pride and patriotism, grounded in millennia of cultural achievement followed by the slights of the colonial era."

      There's nothing unique about that. The average German and Japanese people had the same feelings of national pride and identity and, undoubtedly, a litany of real or perceived slights from any number of sources. The Chinese situation is far from unique. The only reason we haven't seen a repeat of Germany/Japan is that we haven't fought a total war since WWII (a failing on our part in Korea and Iraq, certainly).

      "there would be a lot of value to clearly being seen as *not* instigating the war."

      There is no scenario in which I can foresee the US instigating a war with China, short of the direct threat of nuclear blackmail.

      "Finally, as a general comment, I think the fact that a major war was avoided between 1945 and the present is a blessing."

      In the realm of pure philosophy, good can only be recognized by the presence of evil. One could extend that thought to war: peace can only be recognized and valued by the presence of war. Indeed, we see today that the absence of war may be leading to a failure on the world's part to recognize just how horrific war is and that may, in turn be leading us to jump into 'tiny' wars with little provocation and no true national strategic interest. A famous related quote is, "The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants." The lesson has been forgotten, as you suggest, but the solution, ironically, may be war! Pure philosophy. I'm not suggesting we immediately declare war on some country chosen at random.

      "Of course, if one's opponent is determined to fight,..."

      And this is the inevitability of war with China. China is doing everything it can to provoke war: ignoring international law, treaties, and norms, provoking the US through massive cyber espionage, military confrontations, intellectual property theft, etc. The pattern of reckless behavior is leading inexorably to war and the path is being paved strictly by the Chinese.

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  19. Here's my "short of war" containment approach to China:

    * Rebuild strained relations with NATO, North America, SEATO-- reorienting toward countering Chinese aggression

    * Lead joint negotiations by all Western economies against unfair Chinese trading practices (more leverage than going alone)

    * Reinvest in diplomacy and foreign aid in South/SE Asia, Africa, Central America to combat Chinese economic soft power

    * Restore gov't funding for basic R&D (NSF, universities, etc.) to relative Cold War levels

    * Invest in US infrastructure and manufacturing efficiency

    * Rebuild US military capabilities and deterrent value with a focus on value-for-money and war fighting capacity

    * Double legal immigration to US--keep sucking up the world's talent and narrowing the population gap

    * Wait for China to hit the wall on its current governing model and demographic profile

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    1. That's a very good list. I would add

      -terminate all Chinese students in the US (their visas, not their lives); let's stop educating our enemies

      -ban all Chinese companies from business in the US

      -make cyber security a national priority and act like we're at war with it because we are

      -compete with every Chinese foreign policy effort

      -initiate aggressive retaliatory military actions "in kind" when confronted

      And so on.

      Very nice comment.

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    2. That's have the downside of all the investors from USA doing business and getting profits from China. All of them would scream murder about it. They are not interested in anything but their money

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    3. You create a regulatory and legislative environment that encourages investment at home rather than abroad and you'll see them flock home of their own accord - following the money, as you point out. Trump has done some of this and it has produced results. We just need to scale it up and really put the pressure on China.

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  20. In your concept of total war, when or how does the "Pottery Barn" rule apply. After you beat an enemy into submission, what do you do once they are defeated? Nature abhors a vacuum and doing nothing to rehabilitate/rebuild your former enemy could lead to a worse situation later. Case in point is Libya, after we killed off Gadaffi and did little afterwards, ISIS eventually moved in and killed thousands.

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    1. As noted in the post, the model is post-WWII Germany and Japan. You occupy the countries, assist with rebuilding to a limited degree, assist in establishing a government (not necessarily democracy), and work to get them back on their feet economically.

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    2. Im not sure how to state this, but I think the seeming failures in the Middle East are due to the ideological differences. Countries already splintered by different Muslim factions are difficult places to build true western style democracies. While admittedly a subjective observation, I just dont think theyre ready for it..

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    3. " I just dont think theyre ready for it.."

      They're not! Not even close. It's not their tradition and they have no foundation to build on. Western philosophy has focused on the individual for hundreds of years which, over time, evolved and led to the concept of individual rights, natural (God-given) rights, and democracy. The Mid East has not gone through that so democracy is unlikely to succeed. I have no problem with that. I've repeatedly stated that it is a mistake to force Western democracy on a people who are not ready for it. I'd be perfectly happy to see kingdoms, benevolent dictatorships, or whatever other form of government they want, as long as it makes them good world neighbors. The challenge is that most other forms of government tend to produce bad neighbor outcomes.

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    4. "You occupy the countries, assist with rebuilding to a limited degree, assist in establishing a government (not necessarily democracy), and work to get them back on their feet economically."

      In for a penney, in for a pound. We can't afford nation building on the cheap. It has to be a full blown commitment until that nation can fly on its own. And, depending on the situation, the cost could run into the hundreds of billions.

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    5. " the cost could run into the hundreds of billions."

      All right, let's tone it down a bit. I get that you're engaging in hyperbole. Nothing wrong with that. I'm a practicing hyperbolist(?), myself!

      Setting aside a hyperbolistic(?) estimate of hundreds of billions (we're assisting a recovery, not buying the eastern hemisphere), the cost is a bargain compared to the cost of having to refight a major war. Whatever we spent on Germany and Japan was a bargain and, given that they developed into major trade partners, the long term cost was even more of a bargain.

      Worth every penny and then some!

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    6. "Case in point is Libya, after we killed off Gadaffi and did little afterwards, ISIS eventually moved in and killed thousands."

      This is incorrect. I suspect you're thinking of Hussein and Iraq which eventually led to the rise of ISIS. Libya has various factions vying for control, including Islamic groups of varying degrees of militancy, but there has been no significant ISIS activity that I'm aware of.

      Also, 'we' did not kill Gadaffi. He was killed by NATO-backed rebel groups. The US largely avoided direct action in that particular debacle although Hillary Clinton certainly bears some significant responsibility for the overall situation.

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