All Quiet(ed) on the Eastern Front

All Quiet(ed) on the Eastern Front—14.47gh.,b12-3

“Great power competition” has just become a phrase that the Pentagon is forbidden to use when speaking of the People’s Republic of China and the United States. The order was conveyed in the last few weeks. The administration thought the word competition “inaccurately frames the U.S. and China as on a collision course,”

the Obama administration also believed this would be understood as a gesture of good will, which might reciprocally elicit better behavior from the Chinese, as they saw how sincere we were about peace.

If these were their hopes, they were almost instantly dashed when China, on September 25, flew an air armada of unprecedented size and lethality through the small Miyako gap in the Japanese island chain that extends south of Okinawa. Our hand proffered for a handshake, our attempt to walk a mile in their moccasins, our gestures of restraint will signal desire for peace and understanding, even friendship. That is the message we are trying to send.

How do the Chinese receive it? Not at all as intended but as the opposite. We have successfully intimidated Washington to the point she won’t mention us. They are weak, irresolute, and, when it comes to it, craven. We can deal with them and drive them out of Asia.

“Compromise” is a scarce concept in Chinese theories of conflict. Rather the phrase they use is ni si wo huo—”you die, I live.” A template that turns our good will, deeply embedded in a culture of trust, into a show of weakness.

China is now pushing massive territorial claims, China possesses the largest military in the world, with technology increasingly close to our own and far greater numbers of weapons. They are asserting a claim to some million-and-a-half square miles of sea to the east.

The White House reaction? Tell the military specialists, including the four-star admiral commanding the Pacific, to shut up. This is like someone with a persistent painful cough who decides the answer is to avoid doctors. “Maybe it will just go away.” Instead of keeping mum, we should be deterring, in a very big way—and indeed should have started doing so in 1995, when China grabbed her first small piece of territory from the Philippines,

Now the conflict, which potentially ranges from Japan and Korea to Indonesia and India, is perhaps beyond deterrence. So the president should listen to our top military and civilian experts, not mute them.

Kissinger, clings to the misconception of a militarily restrained China. For them, the present illegal one-and-a-half-million-square-mile territorial grab—accompanied by new bases, new runways, rocket emplacements, and so forth.

Aggression and illegal annexations of territory must be stopped, as early as possible. The two factions cannot agree. This president has chosen—like those before him—to kick the can a little further down the road. Kick that can far enough, and you will have to abandon our allies and a Pacific role that goes back more than a century.

Suppose for the sake of argument we do just that: We tell Japan, Korea, the Philippines, and Taiwan (which has 1,000 missiles aimed at it, or one for every 20,000 Taiwanese), “We’re out of this, you are on your own.”

The Japanese have never been pushovers. Without the United States to back them, China’s neighbors will still resist, creating the potential for a ghastly war. For now, they want peace, and they are talking to China. They are not, however, caving to China’s demands.

Could they fight without the United States? Of course. Anything we can make, Japan can make too. Furthermore, Japan does not need to steal technology. They already have their own. They can easily supply the weapons needed, weapons we intentionally deny. Japan got no F-22s, our best fighter jet. So they are building their own. How good will it be? Very good. Japan’s submarines are the stealthiest in the world. We cannot even build equivalents, as theirs are nonnuclear. They could, however, sink a Chinese fleet—as they have American fleets in exercises where a laser hit is counted as deadly.

It is clear, however, that sometime before 2009, Beijing made the highly consequential assessment that it no longer needed the United States to offset the former Soviet Union, Now China has poked her enough to wake her up. That was a mistake. One that may rebound humiliatingly against proud Beijing.

So what are we Americans doing about this grave danger? Forbidding the mention of it.

source–weekly std, arthur waldron, navy times, harry harris,



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