Sunday, August 12, 2012

Let's always speak softly people, and carry a "Big Stick."

USS Iowa
Container ship unloading at Port of Los Angeles
Photo LA Times
The past few weeks the focus has been nautical as I have been writing about being a volunteer helping to restore the USS Iowa BB-61 from a state of suspended life, to a return to glory as a museum and education center. The ship is berthed along the main channel for the Port of Los Angeles where the guests and staff are treated to the daily arrival and departure of all manner of commercial vessels carrying the bulk of global commerce that fuels the rise of a global middle class. When a great container ship comes up the channel people gather on the port rails to gaze in amazement as these great ships make their way up the channel. For most of the people on the ship, this is the only opportunity to experience how connected the United States is to the rest of the world. Watching their reaction and having the opportunity to speak to many of them as they voice their new found awareness, led me to pen this post.
From the CSBA report on the ASBC: the section entitled "Blind PLA ISR Systems."
As our armed forces begin to find a way to extract ourselves from what has turned into a war of attrition in Afghanistan, the focus has turned to the sea and the discovery that our influence is adrift in many areas. Some voices are doing all they can to do what might be seen as "tagging" in a political sense by publicly releasing bombing targets to be sought in the opening rounds of a Sino/US conflict. Saner voices have begun to point out the inconsistency of our position as noted in this post from Thomas PM Barnett in Time's Battleland online, where Barnett pulls no punches in his criticism.
Nice Washington Post piece (by Greg Jaffe, of course) on the great COIN counterattack that is the Pentagon’s AirSea Battle.
As scenario work goes, what the Center for Strategic and Budgetary Analysis has done in its war-games has to rank right up there with the most egregiously implausible efforts ever made to justify arms build-ups.
Read more: AirSea Battle: The Military-Industrial Complex’s Self-Serving Fantasy

On the Beach (1959)

Barnett was just getting wound up in his desconstruction of this concept and continued write more on the topic, by commenting and linking an analysis by an Australian strategist who if we recall the film On the Beach  is about the last place standing after a bunch of great powers pulled the ultimate trigger.
AirSea Battle calls for deep strikes on the Chinese mainland to blind and suppress PLA surveillance systems and degrade its long-range strike capabilities. Such an attack, even if it relied solely on conventional systems, could easily be misconstrued in Beijing as an attempt at pre-emptively destroying China’s retaliatory nuclear options. Under intense pressure, it would be hard to limit a dramatic escalation of such a conflict – including, in the worst case, up to and beyond the nuclear threshold.
 Barnett adds his own comments and literally calls out loudly the reality of pulling the trigger in a hope of preserving US hegemony.
Keeping China from doing something truly stupid in East Asia is not hard. We need to undermine their asymmetrical approach by - as this article argue - creating our own, and NOT by setting ourselves up for a rapidly escalating great-power war. Bombing the length and breadth of China in the opening hours of some crisis is just plain stupid and reckless and painfully unimaginative. This is a massive retaliation response that pretends China isn't a nuclear power capable of significant retaliation.
Sometimes I feel like I'm the only person who hasn't taken the crazy pill on this one: YOU DON'T CONDUCT WIDESPREAD BOMBING CAMPAIGNS AGAINST THE HOMELANDS OF NUCLEAR POWERS!
Why is Thomas Barnett right on this isssue? It is written in his next post, which goes hand in hand with those container ships that slide past the USS Iowa on a daily basis.
Point being, we are locked in a symbiotic relationship with China. There is no good global economy without us and there is no good global economy without them.
 This is what gets me when Pentagon strategists casually consider war with China, to include direct attacks on the Chinese homeland. What happens to the global economy when the two intertwinned biggest national economies decide to start blowing each other's citizens up? The global economy would tank at a speed that would stun everybody. There wouldn't be any days or weeks of bombing campaigns. We'd have global economic turmoil of a stunning nature well before that, as the markets would freak out.
And this final spot-on broadside from Barnett's keyboard.
Beyond that fantastic scenario extension lies CSBA’s plans to basically destroy the entire Chinese air force and submarine fleet, plus institute a “distant blockade” that would see us interdict and search—and here the irony balloons—China’s seaborne trade, which ought to be fairly simple since so much of it involves the US economy. And because it’s not easy to stop committed large ships (don’t tell Somalia’s pirates), CSBA broaches the notion of using Air Force bombers to “provide ‘on-call’ maritime strike.” One can only imagine how many thousands of Wal-Mart containers the US military could send to the bottom of the Pacific before the White House would hear some complaints from the US business community. But why let that reality intrude?

Read more: A complication that displays the interdependency between the Chinese and US economies

Now I am a realist, as well as being a bit of a hawk in the area of defense, but Barnett makes sense on this one.

The interest of the United States strategically remains and has always been to preserve our interests as a maritime nation and having not only a strong navy, but a solid strategy is the bedrock principal in continuing to lead that role. It seems that other's are sensing the same thing. Several new blogs have appeared in the past couple of months to join the bevy of excellent sites like Information Dissemination, and US Naval Institute Blog. Two of the most active are the Center for International Maritime Security and most recently, The Diplomat's Flashpoint.  Naval centric topics have joined the list of simulations on Wikistrat "When China’s Carrier Group Enters the Persian Gulf".

My advice is for everyone to keep their powder dry and their nukes locked shut and take the time to ponder how we can all share this blue, as in mostly covered in water planet in peace. Being prepared is essential to a nation's survival, but bluster, and veiled threats of insured destruction, are about as productive as announcing that your planning to negotiate a new loan, while seated across from the banker, fully armed and wearing combat gear and twirling your pistol. In the best traditions of our country, we have always managed our way through over a century of being a great power by following Theodore Roosevelt's admonition to "Speak softly, and carry a big Stick." It is not lost that the USS Iowa's nickname is "Big Stick."

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It takes two to tango. China builds MRBMS that can target our ships in port (I don't buy the mobile targeting), airfields, and facilities.

Yet we cannot do the same because, well why that would risk nuclear war by misunderstanding. Well in reality it works both ways, if they can hit deep behind our lines with BM without risking nuclear war, then we can do the same with obvious conventional weapons without risk.

You don't avoid war "deterrence" by making yourself equally weak compared to your enemy. You do it by making your enemy see that in any scenario they will lose and lose badly even if they can get some good blows in on the way down.