Judging by statements from the Pentagon and Washington, the US is preparing the public for war with China. Why such a war? China is no threat to America and provides the low-cost goods on which America depends. Since the rest of the world also depends on Chinese goods, a war would wreck the global economy. Is this a good idea? Has anyone asked the rest of the world? Why does Washington want this?
Because China (and a rapidly growing Asia) threatens the American military empire. You, gentle reader, may not be interested in empire. You may want jobs, medical care, prosperity, good schools for your children. But Washington wants empire. Wants it badly, at any cost.
Thus we are being prepared. In particular we hear about Chinese aggression,” which for some reason America must fix. But it doesn’t exist. China is not militarily aggressive. Look at the record. Choose a year–say, 1800–and count unprovoked wars started by China against other countries. There was the annexation of Tibet, arguably a war, in 1950. China fought a short war with Vietnam after the American defeat, and took part in various border clashes of disputed with India. That’s about it. China has one overseas military base, at Djibouti. Americas has something like 750.
By contrast, since that date America and its European parents have fought constantly against each other and invaded most of the world. Whether the aggressiveness of the European races is genetic is a question for those wiser than I.
China currently is at war with nobody and shows no sign of wanting to be. It is a commercial nation. By contrast, America has recently wrecked Iraq, spent twenty years killing in Afghanistan, wrecked Syria and Libya, bombs Somalia, runs a war against Russia in Ukraine which has killed some two hundred thousand Ukrainians and Russians, and wrecked Europe’s economy, prepares to provoke a war with China, and threatens to invade Mexico. Where in this do we see Chinese aggression?
The underlying cause for the aborning war fever is of course that the Asian economies will dwarf that of America. The proximate cause is Taiwan.
From Washington we hear the usual about freedom, sovereignty, goodness, human rights, democracy, and niceness, about none of which Washington cares at all. The real cause is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, TSMC, which is the largest and most advanced microchip manufacturer in the world.
Until Trump began America’s attempt to strangle China technologically by cutting it off from supplies of advanced chips, TSMC was happily making semiconductors for all the world. Washington, grimly determined to maintain its imperial control of the world, is terrified that China might take over Taiwan and its chip fabs. This, not motherhood and human rights, explains the constant provocations of China.
The plan seems to be to arm Taiwan, as it did the Ukraine, and then provoke a war, as it did in the Ukraine, and let Taiwanese do the fighting as it did with the Ukrainians. To reasonable people, the solution might be to leave TSMC alone to sell chips to anyone who wants them, but that is not Wahington’s way.
One should not underestimate the seriousness of the hostility to China. America cannot compete with the Chinese in normal international competition. The US seems to have realized this. America collapses internally, its education fails, it increasingly depends on Asians in matters technological, and its finances seem on the brink. The solution is war.
If you doubt Washington’s obsession with TSMC: China hawks say that if in a war, China seemed to be winning, America would destroy TSMC in a scorched-earth policy. That is, if it does not get its way it will destroy Taiwan’s most important industry and cause a catastrophic, years long shortage of chips for the entire world.
America starts its wars by overestimating itself, underestimating the enemy, and misunderstanding the kind of war it is getting into. The overconfidence arises because we are told from birth that America is the freest, most democratic, wisest, most scientifically virile, virtuous, and militarily astonishing country ever. Some of this was true, some almost true, but that was then. The economic, financial, and technological center of gravity shifts hard to the east. Note, for example, that Taiwan, not America, is the most advanced maker of semiconductors.
What would happen in a war? We don’t know. Military men are remarkably poor at predicting outcomes of wars. Politicians are even worse. Martial expectations almost routinely turn out to be catastrophically wrong. This is another point worth considering carefully. Pardon the length of the following list of disastrous martial misjudgement. It may prove enlightening.
When Napoleon invaded Russia, he did not foresee Russian soldiers marching in Paris. Which is what happened. The American Civil War was expected to be over in an afternoon at First Manassas, wrong by four years and perhaps six hundred thirty thousand dead, equivalent to about six million in today’s population. When Germany launched WWI in 1914, it expected a short war of movement followed by victory. It got a four-year war of attrition followed by defeat. When the Japanese Army brought on WWII, its war aims did not include GIs diddling its daughters in the bars of Tokyo. Which is what happened.
When Germany attacked Poland in WWII, having Berlin divided between US and Russian soldiers was not intended. It happened. When the French went back into Vietnam after the war, their intentions did not include getting clobbered by les jaunesat Dienbienphu. When the Russians invaded Afghanistan, they were fought to a standstill by the Afghans and had to leave, which greatly surprised them. When the Americans invaded Vietnam, defeat and a panicked exit were not in their plans. When the Americans invaded Afghanistan, after seeing what happened to the Russians, they did not foresee defeat and route.
Is there a pattern here? Even cause for caution? Especially since the American military is short on experience?
The US military has not Fought a serious enemy since 1973 and the American fleet which would be crucial in a war over Taiwan, has not been in combat since 1945. Weaponry changes. We don’t know what a modern war would look like. We do know that China would prove a bruising, able, and powerful opponent. Various authoritative military sources, such as the Pentagon’s own Rand thinktank, predict an American military disaster. (See links at end.)
Americans have no idea of real war against a huge, technologically advanced military fighting with home-court advantage. The US is accustomed to bombing lightly armed peasants. American forces take for granted protected bases and airfields which, in war with China, they would not have. Casualties would be quick and ugly. Carriers have crews of thousands. That is a lot of dead.
Unused militaries deteriorate. A common problem is personnel rot. America no longer has a hardy, physically fit rural population. Since few of today’s young want to enlist, and few of those who do meet minimum physical, mental, or police-record standards, the military now accepts candidates of low mental category and even with criminal records. In peacetime, this doesn’t greatly matter. In war, it will.
In prolonged peace, the officer corps also deteriorates. An officer’s chief interest becomes promotion. He gets promoted by agreeing with higher-ups and never making waves. In today’s military, avoiding offense to racial minorities and sexual curiosities is more important than serious training. The military has become a social-betterment laboratory primarily interested in notions of political faddism. The officer corps knows that this is disaster in the making. That they accept it does not bode well should war come. But a major who wants to retire as at least a lieutenant colonel cannot afford to let military considerations trip him up.
Interestingly, America would be attacking a country that makes a high proportion of almost everything that Americans use. How much of China’s trade with what countries would be stopped by a war is anybody’s guess. Suddenly-empty shelves at Walmart and everywhere else would be noticed by voters, of course. I would like to see a list of things from pharmaceuticals to electronic components that come from China and that America could not make for itself without years of building factories. Of course American factories in China would instantly become Chinese factories.
A danger, almost a prediction, is that in war with China, Washington will have no Plan B, no idea of what to do if things go badly. In official Washington there broods a mixture of imperial arrogance, misinformation, and a sense of entitlement. This has to be experienced to be grasped. The hawks in Washington really do believe, viscerally, that America has both the right and the military and economic power to dominate the rest of the world. Most hawks have no military experience, much less in combat, and seem pathologically aggressive: Bolton, Pompeo, Biden, Nulan, Rubio. Like spoiled children whom they closely approximate, they will throw hissy fits if they don’t get their way. Here I am not calling names, or not merely calling names, but pointing to what seems a genuine character defect. What will they do if they have, once again, misjudged circumstances and America suffers a stinging defeat? They lack the maturity to say, ok, that didn’t work, let’s negotiated and get the best deal we can. They would likely go to tactical nukes, or bomb the interior of the mainland, combine the two, or block the Strait of Malacca. The consequences would be unpredictable.
Even at a glance, the idea that America can defeat China in its home waters is doubtful. (See links below.) To begin with, the Chinese are excellent engineers. They dominate America’s elite scientific high schools and technical universities. They make Mars landers, dominate in Five G are neck and neck with American in various fields and are gaining in others. Lightweights they are not. They have focused hard on the wherewithal specifically to defeat the US in nearby seas. They have hypersonic missiles, a technology in which they are currently ahead of America, that outrange carrier aviation, and they have the satellite guidance to hit moving targets.
Briefly—again, see links—modern warships are fragile. They are not the armored behemoths of WWII. A single missile hit would take a Tico class or Arleigh Burke destroyer out of the war. It is probably true that one plunging terminally-guided ballistic missile, punching through the flight deck and exploding in the hangar deck, would disable a carrier.
Maybe, just for once Washington should think before deploying.
Ghe first link is well worth reading. The others make the point that China is progressing in military technology, though details of technology and confirmed reports of effectiveness are lacking.
Asia Times: US Can’t Win, and Scorched Earth
Chinese AI Piloted Fighter Beatss Human Pilot
Airborne Supercavitating Torpedo