Friday, August 5, 2016

war with China

That's the provocative title -- lacking even a question mark -- of a new report by Rand. I have great respect for David Gompert, the lead author, and find his recommendations very valuable. Among them:
  • U.S. and Chinese political leaders alike should have military options other than immediate strikes to destroy opposing forces.
  • U.S. leaders should have the means to confer with Chinese leaders and contain a conflict before it gets out of hand.
  • The United States should guard against automaticity in implementing immediate attacks on Chinese A2AD and have plans and means to prevent hostilities from becoming severe. Establishing "fail safe" arrangements will guarantee definitive, informed political approval for military operations.
  • The United States should reduce the effect of Chinese A2AD by investing in more-survivable force platforms (e.g., submarines) and in counter-A2AD (e.g., theater missiles).
  • The United States should conduct contingency planning with key allies, especially Japan.
  • The United States should ensure that the Chinese are specifically aware of the potential for catastrophic results even if a war is not lost militarily.
  • The United States should improve its ability to sustain intense military operations.
  • U.S. leaders should develop options to deny China access to war-critical commodities and technologies in the event of war.
On the other hand, I fear that all too many analyses of military options, including Rand's, fail to account for the unprecedented nature of a war directly between two nuclear powers. Throughout the cold war, it was always by proxies. I'm dubious that political leaders can avoid escalation if the conventional battle is being lost, or that civilians can fully control the military if commanders see advantages in going nuclear. Too many risks.

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