Category Archives: Asia-Pacific

Analysis relating to USPACOM.

Need a New Idea? Try An Old One: Revisiting PAC-10 in the Air-Sea Battle Concept

One does not need to look to far into the history of maritime operations to discern a pattern of importance: you are always attempting to locate and fix your adversary in order to destroy them, while simultaneously, your adversary is attempting the same. The sea provides a certain ubiquity that cannot be reduced in any aim of contestation by the other domains or more directly via control. Yet, when one considers the problems of a domain, there is interplay of practical constraints, which are: tactics, technology, organization, and doctrine. Here, I would briefly like to focus the reader’s attention on the latter item—doctrine—although there will be references to the other aspects throughout. Specifically, I would like to highlight the importance of the 1943 Pacific Fleet Tactical Orders and Doctrine, also known as PAC-10, and its possible relevance to the Air -Sea Battle Concept (ASBC).

The proper usage of naval aviation, and especially its carriers, has been debated since the days of Eugene Ely’s first flights launching and recovering on rudimentary aircraft carriers in 1910-11. During the interwar years between the World Wars there was vast variance in doctrine recursively revised as result of technological improvements, experimentation, and exercises. Doctrinal development and revision did not stop there, even as World War II unfolded in the Pacific, but in 1943, PAC-10 provided both timely clarity and flexibility to commanders in that theater.

Vice Admiral Richard “Terrible” Turner (Wikimedia Commons)
Vice Admiral Richard “Terrible” Turner (Wikimedia Commons)

Prior to World War II, specifically in 1937, U.S. Navy Captain Richard K. Turner presented a lecture at the Naval War College titled “The Strategic Employment of the Fleet,” and produced an associated pamphlet entitled “The Employment of Aviation in Naval Warfare.” While his lecture maintained a decisively Mahanian tenor, Turner’s pamphlet stated that “nothing behind the enemy front is entirely secure from observation and attack,” which provides rhyme to today’s “attack in-depth” in the ASBC.

According to Thomas Hone, before and during 1942, aircraft carrier doctrine focused upon three things: raids, ambushes, and covering invasion forces. Where raids attempted to fix Japanese forces in particular areas, ambushes would seek to attrit Japanese ability to control the seas, and invasion forces sought to add cumulative strategic effect by maneuvering amphibious forces to occupy specific islands for follow-on usage against Japan by joint forces.

A Japanese “Val” Dive-Bomber is shot down over the USS Enterprise on October 26, 1942 during the Battle of Santa Cruz (Wikimedia Commons)
A Japanese “Val” Dive-Bomber is shot down over the USS Enterprise on October 26, 1942 during the Battle of Santa Cruz (Wikimedia Commons)

The major shortfall of the doctrinal precursors to PAC-10 was that, while useful for thinking (and spurring debate) about the control of the maritime domain and maximizing the contest of the air and land domains, they fell short of effectively suggesting to commanders how to best employ aircraft and carriers operationally in task forces. This shortfall came into clear focus during the Battle of the Santa Cruz Islands. Enter the innovation of PAC-10.

In his Naval College Review article entitled, “Replacing Battleships with Aircraft Carriers in the Pacific in World War II,” Thomas Hone described PAC-10 as the following:

PAC-10 was a dramatic innovation. It combined existing tactical publications, tactical bulletins, task force instructions, and battle organization doctrine into one doctrinal publication that applied to the whole fleet. Its goal was to make it “possible for forces composed of diverse types, and indoctrinated under different task force commanders, to join at sea on short notice for concerted action against the enemy without interchanging a mass of special instructions.” PAC-10’s instructions covered one-carrier and multicarrier task forces, and escort- or light-carrier support operations of amphibious assaults. It established the basic framework for the four-carrier task forces—with two Essex-class ships and two of the Independence class—that would form the primary mobile striking arm of the Pacific Fleet. However, it did this within the structure of a combined naval force, a force composed of surface ships— including battleships and carriers….

 PAC-10 solved two problems. First, “the creation of a single, common doctrine allowed ships to be interchanged between task groups.” Second, “shifting the development of small-unit tactical doctrine to the fleet level and out of the hands of individual commanders increased the effectiveness of all units, particularly the fast-moving carrier task forces.”

PAC-10 was truly a watershed moment in operationally considering complement of sea and air capabilities en masse for strategic effect. It moved beyond the oversimplified “duty carrier” (self defense combat air patrol and/or antisubmarine warfare) and “strike carrier” (maritime strike and/or support to land forces ashore) concepts. “Whether a task force containing two or more carriers should separate into distinct groups . . . or remain tactically concentrated . . . may be largely dependent on circumstances peculiar to the immediate situation,” the doctrine stated, where “[no] single rule can be formulated to fit all contingencies.” Unsurprisingly, context was key in the application of PAC-10. Ultimately, PAC-10 focused commanders upon unified effort by maximizing strike, whether that is raids, ambushes, or amphibious attack, while also mitigating the risk of destruction via advanced detection.

Account of the valiant engagements off of Sumar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. (Wikimedia Commons)
Account of the valiant engagements off of Sumar during the Battle of Leyte Gulf. (Wikimedia Commons)

There are several similarities and differences that need to be drawn from PAC-10 to now for consideration with the ASBC. First, and most importantly, the doctrinal concept did not and could not divine strategic victory. It was neither easy to accomplish, nor did it ignore the necessary requirement for termination to be chosen by the adversary, and furthermore, many heroically died in its use. However, and this is a fundamental truth that cynical detractors of the ASBC chose to ignore, many more would have died had PAC-10 not been developed. Rather, and it was apparent to them at the time, PAC-10 provided commanders an improved tool for use towards strategic effect. So say we all with concern to the ASBC.

U.S. Army Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Launch (SMDC Photo)
U.S. Army Terminal High Altitude Area Defense (THAAD) Launch (SMDC Photo)

Second, and almost as important as the first comparison, PAC-10 was a doctrinal concept that entailed warfare. And although there were no further constraints against escalation in World War II, PAC-10 provided considerable potential for strategic effect. How such an improved tool is used is a matter of decision in either the march towards war or during warfare to be made by policy makers via strategic negotiation, careful signaling, and demonstration. One mustn’t deny the value of PAC-10, or the doctrinal aspects of the ASBC, simply because of an over-wrought conflation of a tool with its purpose.

Tactical proficiency and operational effectiveness, are best measured in peacetime from the potential ideal, with the acknowledgment that fog and friction will chew away at that ideal in exercise and practice; whereas, strategic effect is best measured relative to a status quo and desire for continued advantage. The ASBC is focused clearly upon the former, and will only contribute limited strategic effect towards the latter. Clear-eyed strategists must admit that limited effect may be sufficient, but then again it may not as determined by context. However, neither is cause for rejection of an operational concept like the ASBC as a useful tool.

U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Force (Wikimedia Commons)
U.S. Marine Corps Amphibious Assault Force (Wikimedia Commons)

Third, the tactical combination of air and sea forces in PAC-10 combined with amphibious land attack, contributed to numerous successes in the Pacific. Similarly, a balanced ASBC, that includes a naval economy of force (relative to World War II), along with concomitant of air and land component forces, will create a complicated problem for mounting a successful defense at any one place; just like the PAC-10 doctrine similarly achieved at the Marcus, Gilbert, and Marshall Islands and elsewhere in World War II. In recent, yet more modern times, fleet defense may have been sufficient with only carrier-based aircraft. But at present, both the smaller number of available carriers, an inability to replenish weaponry while underway in the current submarine and destroyer forces, not to mention the basic prudence of joint capability, means that combined arms by way of only one service is no longer a prerogative that the United States can afford to ignore. Similar to the PAC-10 doctrine of yore, the modern ASBC doctrine of the near-future must be able to more effectively balance all joint forces. Needless to say, even if service prerogative still dominates, using carrier aviation alone will diminish strike potential in fleet defense. Dissimilar to the PAC-10 doctrine of yore, the modern ASBC doctrine of the near future must effectively raise its doctrine above that of the fleet and into the joint realm. This means finding effective ways to use Air Force assets and Army assets in roles of fleet defense and sea control just like disparate forces from various carriers in PAC-10 effectively formed a coherent and formidable task force.

Learning Large LessonsAs a guide for the ASBC, the interoperability between air forces (of all types) and land forces (of both traditional and amphibious focus) have benefited from the development of joint doctrine from the combined capabilities and tactics of the Air Land Battle Concept (ALBC). Despite some cynical “easy war” views of ASBC, the ALBC provides a useful scorecard for joint action. The latter has proven unquestionably effective in both mission success and preserving lives in battle from Operation DESERT STORM to the current fight in Operation ENDURING FREEDOM; but its equal in terms of joint combined effect does not yet exist to the same fidelity in the maritime and littoral environments. Our ability to project power, achieve strategic effect by joint combined arms, and experiment with doctrine costs relatively little compared to operational failure. Instead of playing politics — actual joint thinking costs nothing. After all, history and pragmatic thinking proves the obvious, you can’t finish without access.

Need a new idea? Try an old one. Take a look at Pacific Fleet Tactical Orders and Doctrine (PAC-10), and you might see the future of a balanced Air Sea Battle Concept doctrine.

Major Rich Ganske is a U.S. Air Force officer, B-2 pilot, and weapons officer.  He is currently assigned to the U.S. Army Command and General Staff Officers Course at Fort Leavenworth.  These comments do not reflect the views of the U.S. Air Force or the Department of Defense.  You can follow him on Twitter at @richganske and he blogs via Medium at The Bridge and Whispers to a Wall.  Tip of the hat to “Sugar” for the reference to an old idea (or book).

Strategic Architectures

A primer on concepts and their relationships

Five strategic architectures can be applied to U.S.-China confrontation. The nature of how each achieves “victory” differs, and they have unique strengths and weaknesses. 

Inside Out is Air-Sea Battle elevated to a strategy despite self-stated limitations.  It is the DoD’s current vector via the rapid victory requirement dictated in planning scenarios.  In this strategy, the United States applies technological asymmetries to enable small, tailored forces to survive intensely defended approaches and strike vital PRC targets.  This demands operations at the furthest limits of our own power projection while holding the enemy at risk in his most defensible zone.  The risk of failure in this technological arms race is difficult to calculate as both sides depend on secretive “silver bullets.” Once an Inside Out fight begins, each side is likely to locally blind the other via space and cyber attacks, radically limiting control of combat forces and increasing the risk of miscalculation, stagnation, and inadvertent escalation.  This is an unsettling prospect against a nuclear-armed superpower whose redlines are difficult to determine.

Outside In relies on a more classic “peel the onion” approach to dismantle the PRC’s “anti-access/area-denial” (A2/AD) capabilities, without exclusive dependence on penetrating forces attempting a technological coup de grâce.  This approach targets Chinese power projection capability.  As PRC forces disperse beyond their shore based A2/AD zone they diffuse and lose synergistic protection.  This flips the long distances of the Pacific battle-space from an offensive liability to strategic depth.  In addition, while the U.S. military has been exercising its global reach throughout the 20th century, the Chinese have yet to demonstrate commensurate expeditionary air and sea operations.

Hedgehog strategy builds regional allies who complicate the PRC’s hegemonic calculus.  Enhancing the “spines” on the back of nations like Vietnam, the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand can mitigate PRC aspirations in the South China Sea as it blunted Soviet expansion in Europe.  Success looks like multi-lateral networks of lethally equipped partners who enable a favorable balance of power in phase 0.  This checks China’s ability to intimidate Southern neighbors into its sphere of influence.  Failure to invest in strong partnerships in Southeast Asia while reassuring existing alliances in Northeast Asia risks creating the perception of a “paper pivot” that boosts PRC regional clout.

Distant Interdiction exploits China’s massive dependence on foreign commodities.  Called the “Malacca dilemma,” Pacific topography creates natural choke points beyond the reach of PRC power projection. U.S. Air, Naval and amphibious forces could selectively interdict vital commodities (especially oil) to break the PRC’s war making potential.  This strategy can be executed with both lethal and non-lethal techniques, providing unique reversibility.  Logistics interdiction is, by the Chinese own admission, one of their worst vulnerabilities.  

Picture1 

Figure 1 Massive SLOC dependence for oil/LNG – most refineries on East Coast   (credit http://noelmaurer.typepad.com/aab/2011/08/)

No-Man’s Sea exploits our own A2/AD capabilities to make Chinese home waters a mutual exclusion zone.  The U.S. can pen-up both their military and merchant ships, forcing China to expend military capabilities on break-out operations to fetch vital supplies, while their merchant fleet sees the global market reconstitute without them.  The loss of China will hurt the world market, but the loss of the world market could be catastrophic for the PRC.

NMS

 Figure 2 Simultaneous application of A2/AD keeps the U.S. out, and the Chinese in (credit http://globalbalita.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/10/Air-Sea-Battle-map.jpg)

Inside Out appeals to our preferred ways of war, and exploits the defense industrial base’s promotion of war as a contest between hardware rather than strategies. While Inside Out is only exclusive from Outside In, the former demands so much new-tech investment that it may totally strangle resources required to orchestrate the other four. Hedgehog allows the U.S. to engage the PRC in phase 0, where they have thus far demonstrated significant strategic gains.  While Outside In, Distant Interdiction and No-Man’s Sea obviously work together in phases 1-3, they do not attempt to promise Inside Out’s rapid victory.  Instead, they forego technological tempo compression – rife with potential for unpleasant strategic surprise – and accept that any war with a superpower will be measured in months, not days. 

The combined application of these  stratagems amounts to a grand-strategic maneuver campaign, from the Sea of Japan to the Straits of Malacca.  Seeing time and distance as assets rather than liabilities can allow the U.S. to pull apart and separately engage PRC diplomatic, economic and military COGs.  Air-Sea Battle enabling technologies and operational concepts can be useful in multiple strategies, but the United States should trade force design that emphasizes an Inside Out military gambit for a force that enables a more robust gamut of strategic options.

Jeremy Renken is a Major in the U.S. Air Force. The opinions and views expressed in this post are his alone and are presented in his personal capacity. They do not necessarily represent the views of U.S. Department of Defense or U.S. Air Force.

Sober Thinking Over a Glass of Air Sea Beer

The supremacy of the conventional projection of U.S. naval power has come under the threat of foreign naval expansion and comparatively low-cost Anti-Access/Area-Denial (A2/AD) capabilities, namely those of China. As planners finally come to terms with these challenges, a loud and very confusing debate is raging between what many consider the two strategies to counter these threats: “Air-Sea Battle” (ASB) and “Offshore Control” (OSC).

A young ENS Patrick Hipple goes mad listening to the ASB debate and calls in all the airstrikes on himself.
A young ENS Patrick Hipple goes mad listening to the ASB debate and calls in all airstrikes on himself.

If you are lucky, you have missed most of the ASB vs. OSC debate outside the comforting walls of CIMSEC, since it has a high noise-to-signal ratio: many arguments with mislabeled terms.

ASB-detractors decry what they see as an expensive, high-tech campaign to penetrate Chinese airspace and pepper their critical networks with precision strikes. It is often labeled a “strategy,” with its central tenant being an escalatory, wide-spread attack on the mainland using a force that would actually only play into the opponent’s numerical and cyber/space advantages.

Detractors of OSC oppose what they imagine is a “sit back and wait” strategy in which a blockade is utilized to choke the economy of a belligerent China. It is accused of ceding the PRC too much freedom to pursue military objectives and too much time to develop the conditions necessary to consolidate gains before negotiating a lift of the blockade.

The problem is that these views are off-point; the ways in which ASB and OSC have been defined are wrong; the concepts are actually compatible, not oppositional.

ASB is not a “strategy” like a “convoy” is not a strategy. One could compare ASB to a brewery; it takes the water of the Navy, the hops and roasted malt of the Air Force, adds yeast and ferments them together into a delicious stout in which 500lb bombs get dropped from an F-16 onto boats attacking a carrier in a major strait. The military has always talked about acting in a “joint” way, but ASB imagines the capabilities, advantages, and application of taking that a step further: beer, not a cup of barely mixed with water. In spirit, ASB remain very close to its origins in ADM Stravridis’ (USN, Ret.) Naval War College papers (.pdf download).

The official DoD ASB report does talk about “attacks-in-depth” (.pdf download) that detractors claim are escalatory, but ASB is just a toolbox and not nation specific. As with every toolbox, not all tools are used for every job. The Kennedy administration emphasized this idea with “flexible response.” Though the United States had nuclear weapons, we also had other qualitative and quantitative degrees of force for our strategies as appropriate to the scenario. To quote the Old Salt Emeritus, ADM Harvey (USN, Ret.), ASB is “not about dropping JDAMs into downtown Beijing.” You don’t have to drink the whole keg of ASB; you can pour yourself a pint and you can definitely drink it in far more places than the Pacific.

Unlike ASB, OSC is a strategy, one that sees economic strangulation as the means to victory in a war against China. However, wouldn’t any campaign against a major conventional opponent seek at least in part to strangle their economy? Col TX Hammes (USMC, Ret.) created OSC as a sober guard against attacking the Chinese mainland, which he sees as the possible escalatory route nuclear war. He does note in his writings that he would not cede what is called the “first island chain” to a belligerent China and would, where able, attack force projection assets outside the mainland. However, in order to accomplish such a wide campaign…one might want to use ASB. The loud debates miss that actually, ASB and OSC could walk hand-in-hand if properly applied.

The major point of contention is then, not between ASB and OSC, but an operational debate on one side and on the other a debate about the nature of escalation, the capabilities we would retain, and our starting conditions. Arguably, with our pivot to the Pacific and concerns with China, that strategic debate is far more important.

OSC beats ASB as an “answer” in so much as it is an actual strategy against a specific opponent, but Col. Hammes doesn’t get away scot free. Robert McNamara, reflecting on the Vietnam War, said that one of our major flaws was that we assumed our opponents thought the same way we did. Would the PRC see the destruction of military assets and projection power capabilities as more escalatory than shutting down the Chinese economy? Would a “systemic” attack like a blockade be met with an in-kind cyber-attack to bring down the US economy as possible, in ways that a naval exchange in the South China Sea would not? The potential for escalation is difficult to divine, and OSC may not identify the correct tripwires. To be fair however, as GEN Eisenhower said, “plans are useless, but planning is indispensable.”

In applying any “big” strategies, we are challenged by the unknown spark and scale of our conflict: from Taiwan, to the South China Sea, to North Korea. While there are many scenarios where the United States might respond with full-fledged military operations, there are far more that will involve general or targeted low-level escalation (such as the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone).

While we debate a potential high-end conflict, a real conflict of passive-aggressive escalation is occurring now in the East China Sea where the PRC is burrowing under our tripwires to their objective. In “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower,” the U.S. Navy declared that “preventing wars are as important as winning them.” We want a war-winning strategy, but we don’t want China to gain a position of confidence in which they would force us to use such a plan. Moreover, we don’t want to miss a subtle fait-accompli while we’re waiting for a war that will never come. Suffice it to say, an operational plan that puts American forces shoulder-to-shoulder with our allies, a soft power plan that strengthens political and military alliances and interoperability, and unwavering U.S. regional commitment is at least a start in preventing regional bandwagoning with the PRC.

Matthew Hipple is a surface warfare officer and graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service. He is Director of the Online Content and hosts of the Sea Control podcast. His opinions may not reflect those of the United States Navy, Department of Defense, or US Government. Did he mention he was host of the Sea Control podcast? You should start listening to that.

Towards a More Intelligent Debate over Air-Sea Battle

One of the curious aspects of the debate over Air-Sea Battle has been that the arguments taking place often dwell not on substance, but on definitional disagreements. For example, one side will critique ASB out of concerns of strategy or the nature of our relationship with China; the other side will rightly complain that these concerns belong in a separate, well-deserved debate because ASB is an operational concept, not a strategy. CIMSEC has commissioned an entire week on ASB in the hope that we can move past this inescapable logic-loop. On that note, I recently came across two pieces (both published journal articles) that are stand-ins for where we do and do not want this debate to go.

One is a recent article published in the journal Military Review, entitled “A Role for Land Warfare Forces in Overcoming A2/AD,” written by COL Vincent Alcazar and COL Thomas Lafleur, formerly Air Force co-lead and Army strategist for the Air-Sea Battle Office, respectively. Sounds promising! Unfortunately, what followed was a jargon-laced, logically questionable, and utterly indefensible article. In a sentence, they argued that ASB is not sufficient to meet the A2/AD challenge of the future. Instead we should land a Brigade Combat Team on the soil of our future putative enemies to conduct reconnaissance, raids, and seizures of key A2/AD capabilities. What an incredible argument! Without any reference to actual scenarios, concrete adversaries, or political costs this is not just a useless argument, it is a dangerous one, because someone somewhere out there might actually take it seriously. Beyond substantively bad ideas, this article is also marred by poor writing. For example:

Land warfare forces are not an invasion or long-term occupation force, or utilized as the vanguard of a nation-building effort; even “kicking in the door” comes later. Early land warfare force employment against A2/AD is about tailored BCTs and slices of BCTs that enter the neighborhood to shape its places for the joint force subsequently to kick in the doors to the key houses, which themselves constitute key opponent targets. (p. 80)

If you can understand that, I’m not sure I can congratulate you. The entire article reads like this. A final problem is that the article bizarrely confuses strategy, operations, and tactics. One choice quotation: “Nations employing A2/AD have four goals; however, it is inaccurate to conflate these ‘goals’ with ends. Rather, these goals are considered a framework to explain the strategic and operational so what of A2/AD.” (ital. original) (p. 82-83) How are the authors distinguishing “goals” from “ends?” How can you even talk about strategy without referring to specific countries? What does the term “so what” mean? In sum this article indicates to me that even within the ASBO itself people are still confused over definitions, and basic logic. Pardon the overwrought nautical metaphor, but it does not instill in me much confidence that the ship is being steered in the right direction.

Striking a completely different tone, Jonathan Solomon’s recent article published in Strategic Studies Quarterly, “Demystifying Conventional Deterrence: Great-Power Conflict and East Asian Peace,” was a tour de force. Even though I do not necessarily agree with his conclusions, Solomon expertly defends the necessity of Air-Sea Battle and long-range conventional strike systems through a clear and logical (if dense) elucidation of conventional deterrence theory. He also makes criticisms of blockades that proponents of competitors to ASB, like Offshore Control, must contend with: that over-land blockade running or rationing could thwart a blockade; that a blockade might harm third-party allied countries; and that an adversary could put the US in a situation where it had to choose between further escalation or compromising the integrity of the blockade.

But I still have issues with an article even as well written as this. First, the author is largely talking about an “end of the world” scenario in which China initiates a premeditated first strike a la Pearl Harbor. Solomon spends comparatively little time addressing lower-order conventional deterrence/crisis escalation scenarios, except to say that high-end conventional deterrence is still useful between levels of escalation and that U.S. and allied constabulary functions are still necessary. While some argue that China has an incentive in certain situations to conduct a preemptive strike, it seems likely that such a strike would come in the context of an ongoing political crisis rather than as a bolt out of the blue attack. In this case, lower-end deterrence (defusing the crisis) would be more important than higher-end deterrence.

Second, Solomon intelligently lays out example after example of how both conventional and nuclear deterrence could fail due to strategic misperceptions, psychological issues, China becoming more volatile, and the U.S. fiscal situation weakening, etc. But then he pins the solution on confidence-building measures and multi-track diplomacy. But what happens when multi-track diplomacy does NOT work and China continually rejects confidence-building measures? I am actually one of the biggest proponents of Sino-U.S. mil-mil cooperation, but I am NOT confident that, as Solomon puts it, the United States and China “educate” each other about “their respective escalatory threshold perceptions.” (p. 133)

This is why it is important to craft a more conservative deterrence policy that does not depend on having perfect knowledge of the adversaries’ intentions, doctrine, strategic culture, or leadership psychology. As is well documented by history, intelligence has often been catastrophically wrong, and signaling has been imperfectly interpreted or outright failed—such as the fine-tuned signaling intended by U.S. strategic bombing during the Vietnam War, or when the United States thought it was fighting an anti-communist war in Vietnam while the Vietnamese thought they were fighting a nationalist and anti-colonialist war. We absolutely must try to increase transparency and mutual understanding, but we also have to be aware that we could fail, with catastrophic results. It seems as if Solomon is well aware of these issues, but at times he contradicts himself; there is even one section where he suggests “overt, predeclared ‘automaticity’ in [the] deterrent posture,” which clashes with his warnings against misperceptions, etc. (p. 136)

Finally, the author rightly points out that a Chinese first-strike would inflame the Clausewitzian passions of the U.S. and allied publics and would provide a psychological boost to our side. Why then wouldn’t U.S. retaliatory strikes against mainland targets (even if they are only against counterforce targets) not inflame the passions of the Chinese public, making de-escalation on the Chinese side that much more difficult? We have ample evidence of the nationalist sentiments of the Chinese public, and the below-the-surface antipathy towards the United States that could erupt (e.g. the Belgrade embassy bombing). CCP leaders could fear popular revolt if they capitulated, even if they understood themselves to be in a long-term losing situation. The CCP’s interest in maintaining their leadership position may not be the same as China’s national interest. That is a scary thing to consider.

These two articles seem to strike out two different future intellectual trajectories for the military and our national security apparatus. In one, alternative strategies are debated with an eye towards academic theory, well-informed history, and sound logic. In the other, a gob of reheated mush is coated in incomprehensible jargon and delivered to us as “fresh thinking.” Which direction do we want to go? We can have intelligent or unintelligent debates about ASB. The choice will directly influence our national security, and whether we stumble into yet more undesired wars or keep an uneasy peace. It is my hope that this week at CIMSEC will steer us in the right direction.

William Yale is a graduate student at Johns Hopkins SAIS. He has lived in China for two years, and worked at the Naval War College and the U.S. State Department. He tweets @wayale and blogs at williamyale.com.