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Taiwan’s Defense: National Interests over Semantics

The Diplomat has recently brought us a debate on international law – centering on the legality of military intervention on behalf of Taiwan during a conflict with the PRC. Zachary Kech kicked off by proposing that Japan’s recent reinterpretation of Article 9 of their Constitution to permit collective self-defense could allow for Japan defending Taiwan in the event of an attacked from China. This was followed by Julian Ku arguing that intervention by any nation on behalf of Taiwan against the mainland would be illegal since Taiwan is neither definitively recognized as an independent nation nor a United Nations member. Michal Thim quickly refuted those claims in an article, which is followed again by Julian Ku coming back with some clarifications on personal opinions and reiterates the original argument. Finally, Michael Turton and Brian Benedictus co-authored a somewhat convoluted argument that actually Taiwan’s unsettled status as an independent nation makes military intervention acceptable.

With no disrespect meant toward the authors, the merits of discussing this point are mostly academic. Though the debate may be stimulating to those with an interest in the topic and some might learn more about the subject of international law as a result of it, it has little to no bearing on practicality.

One of the key questions present in all of the articles is if Taiwan is an independent nation or an extension of mainland China and how international law views each situation. Clearly arguments can be made in support of both positions or else we would not have so many articles written about it in the past couple of weeks, but does it really matter? Whatever semantics used to describe relationships with Taiwan or China, the U.S. has active relationships with both of them.

Money keeps this machine running
Money keeps this machine running

According to the Office of the United States Trade Representative, China is currently the U.S.’s second largest goods trading partner with $562 billion in total goods trade during 2013 and Taiwan is currently the 12th largest with $64 billion in 2013. Would any of this change if the United Nations passed a resolution stating Taiwan was not an independent nation and officially a part of the larger mainland China? Of course not. Money, and more importantly national interests, will conquer over semantics any day.

Whether the U.S. or Japan would defend Taiwan if China decided to repatriate the island through military force should have nothing to do with semantics and everything to do with strategic interests. The strategic basis for protecting Taiwan or not is neither the subject of this article nor the debate at the Diplomat which inspired it. This article makes no comment as to should or would other nations protect Taiwan, but instead discusses could they.

There is so much talk about international law in the debate. International law, as opposed to simply international norms and conventions, has been in vogue since the fighting of two world wars and the founding of the United Nations. Why? Because law has an absolute and moral feel about it. If you are breaking the law then you are doing something wrong and others have a moral obligation to stop you. If you are following the law then you are doing something right and others have a moral obligation to support you. This grossly oversimplifies the complexities of international relations. Decisions are made to promote strategic national interests and all nations are not necessarily playing by the same moral and ethical code. In the domestic concept of law, you have a like peoples under a recognized government authority with enforcement power. This does not seamlessly translate to the international stage of co-equal governments with differing interests and no central authority with absolute enforcement power.

Welcome back
The Party welcomes you back

If China decided tomorrow to repatriate Taiwan with military force and the U.S. and Japan intervened, would they be protecting a sovereign nation from an invading force or helping to liberate a people from a government they do not want? This semantic difference might matter when deciding what article of the United Nations charter you are going to try to use for propaganda to gain support for your cause or generate opposition for your enemies or what the victor who writes the history will use to justify their actions in the history books. But in all practicality, nations should base their use of force on national strategy and not semantics.

LT Jason H. Chuma is a U.S. Navy submarine officer currently serving as Navigator and Operations Officer onboard USS SPRINGFIELD (SSN 761). He is a graduate of the Citadel, holds a master’s degree from Old Dominion University, and has completed the Intermediate Command and Staff Course from the U.S. Naval War College. He can be followed on Twitter @Jason_Chuma.

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 the U.S. Navy.

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SUMMARY: CNAS National Security Conference

By: Kiara Earle and Trevor Parkes

On Wednesday June 11, employees of various national security focused companies, agencies, and armed forces branches packed in alongside academics, enthusiasts and students for the eighth annual Center for New American Security’s National Security Conference.  The crowd talked excitedly around the coffee and pastry table in anticipation of the day including panels and presentations on topics from U.S. leadership in the world to the future of the defense industry to robotics on the battlefield, all headlined by addresses from Congressman Paul Ryan and National Security Advisor Susan Rice.

What Does the World Expect from U.S. Leadership?

The opening panel featured Dr. Zhu Feng, German Diplomat Wolfgang Ischinger, and General Amos Yadlin (Ret.), with Judy Woodruff as moderator.  The panel inquired about the role of the U.S. in the world, what it should be doing in the years to come, and strategies of implementation for its foreign policy.

Dr. Feng spoke on the positives of United States leadership in the East Asian region, and the threat of a rising China.  Much of the media proclaims China as the greatest modern rival to U.S. primacy, but the U.S. should not be too concerned because China has little soft power, and is “free riding” on U.S. primacy.

Expressing the sentiment that “America is not listening to us, but listening in on us,” Diplomat Ischinger emphasized the necessity to re-establish trust between Europe and the U.S.  As many of the international institutions experience gridlock, the U.S. should lead an initiative to reform these institutions.

General Yadlin commented on U.S. leadership’s hesitance and critiqued its effect on U.S. diplomacy.  According to the General, diplomacy becomes ineffective once military action is taken off the table.  However, military action should not include occupation of a country.  For U.S. diplomacy to be more effective, U.S. leadership needs to gain a clear direction.

Each panelist was very insightful, and their contributions to the panel gave a clear regional perspective of U.S. leadership continuing, at least, for the next few years.

A Strategy for Renewal

Congressman Paul Ryan said the United States must rebuild lost credibility by improving three sources of our strength: our allies, our military, and our economy.  U.S. credibility with our allies has been shaken by President Obama’s announcement that troops will leave Afghanistan in 2016 and recognition of the Palestinian Authority government including Hamas. We should be pressing NATO countries to invest in a coordinated set of capabilities, make a stand in Eastern Europe, and beef up our Pacific fleet with the refueled U.S.S. George Washington. In regards to the military, the Budget Control Act made progress against the deficit but slashed the defense budget, leaving obsolete equipment and a lack of funding to build technology for tomorrow’s threats.

To strengthen our economy, and therefore our military, we must reform entitlements, balance the budget, and pay off the national debt which is “the greatest threat to American leadership.” Congressman Ryan commented on China’s aggression; China “isn’t trying to bend the rules—it’s trying to rewrite them altogether. It’s stealing our intellectual property. It’s attacking our companies. It’s promoting crony capitalism.” The US has to improve ties with China’s neighbors and show China “it doesn’t pay to break the rules.”  In conclusion Congressman Ryan described himself as Jack Kemp once did, a heavily armed dove, and proclaimed “we constantly renew our strength so we don’t have to use it.”[i]

Creative Disruption: Strategy, Technology and the Future Defense Industry

Panelists, former Deputy Secretary of Defense William J. Lynn III and Admiral James Stavridis (Ret.), with Ben FitzGerald moderating, discussed the future of the defense industry.  The message this panel sent to its audience is that the world is changing, and the defense industry, whether it wants to or not, is changing with it.

Violent extremism and religious warfare increasingly threaten global security as rogue states and terrorist groups are changing warfare itself.  The Department of Defense needs to reform in order to confront these changes.  Admiral Stavridis expressed that some of these changes need to occur by investing more in DoD people.  By investing in language and culture, people within the DoD should be better equipped to approach complex security challenges.

Former Deputy Secretary Lynn shared the same sentiment of reform.  Currently, the U.S. is superior in many fields, such as cyber.  The heavy dependence on cyber technology, however, has created a major vulnerability to critical infrastructure that the U.S. government needs to address.  Evolving strategic challenges threaten U.S. infrastructure, as well as its competitive advantage.

Strategic Risk and Military Power: A Briefing to the Next President

Panelists, General James E. Cartwright (Ret.), CNAS CEO Michele Flournoy, and Roger Zakheim, briefed the 45th president on the strategic risks that will be faced in 2016.  Each panelist presented their reports on how the president should strategically approach new risks and challenges.  The common theme from their reports emphasized ensuring the U.S. would be better equipped with confronting threats posed by non-state actors.  These plans would require not only reform in the DoD’s capabilities and structure, but a more comprehensive economic strategy set by Congress.

Risk and Opportunity in Indo-Pacific Asia

Ambassador R. Nicholas Burns, Dr. David F. Gordon, Stephanie Kleine-Ahlbrandt, Vikram J. Singh, and General James D. Thurman (Ret.) gathered together with moderator Dr. Patrick Cronin to discuss the risk and opportunities that exist for the U.S. in Indo-Pacific Asia.  The instability of the DPRK was discussed, along with the economic rise of China in the region.  China, however, was also discussed as an opportune partner for the U.S.  The panel touched on ASEAN, its potential for highly effective regional governance, and the inefficiencies that limit the organization.  Each panelist shone a different light highlighting various relationships that affect the region and U.S. interests.  The panel collectively expressed that the U.S. has an important role within the region, but this role must work to keep the peace without trying to dominate other countries.

Keynote Address by Ambassador Susan Rice

National Security Advisor Susan Rice echoed President Obama’s West Point Speech and explained that it was not a matter of if the United States would lead the world, but how it would. The U.S. must continue to take a leading role in mobilizing coalitions to handle the toughest problems in the international community such as bringing economic sanctions down on Russia in response to its annexation of Crimea, updating our defense strategies with South Korea and Japan, funding counter-terrorism efforts worldwide, sending humanitarian aid to Syria, and working on a nuclear agreement with Iran.  In addition, National Security Advisor Rice touched on a wide range of issues from stopping disease outbreaks, reversing climate change, and protecting internet security and openness.

Mobilizing coalitions also allows for expanding shared prosperity through trade partnerships, private investment, and achieving the Millennium Development Goals. Finally, coalitions help reinforce universal values that protect human rights, dignity, and health and pressure abusive countries.  National Security Advisor Rice ended by saying “we are stronger still when we mobilize the world on behalf of our common security and common humanity…and that is what’s required to shape a new chapter of American leadership.”[ii]

Visualizing Today’s Veterans Population and Forecasting the Issues of Tomorrow

If the Veterans Administration had seen CNAS Director of the Military, Veterans, and Society Program Phillip Carter’s visualization of the US Veterans Population it might not be a thorn in the Obama administration’s side today.  Director Carter’s project uses data and calculations to show where the veterans population lives, a population projection, what area gets what funding, and how the projection can change given the chance of future conflict. These visualizations show that some counties receive way less or more funding than needed and can help make predictions on what services will be needed in the future.  Given that the VA is under intense scrutiny, Vietnam veterans are hitting the retirement age, and a decade long war is winding down, this information is going to become invaluable as the country moves forward.

Robotics on the Battlefield: The Coming Swarm

Featuring a display of unmanned aircraft, underwater and surface vehicles, and land robotic units taking part in a military operation the Project Director of CNAS’ 20YY Warfare Initiative Paul Scharre laid out the future of robotics on the battlefield.  If a pilot found himself in a fight for his life a swarm of unmanned aircraft could tip the scales.  If a carrier was targeted by long range missiles unmanned vessels carrying anti-missile rockets could protect the ship.  If a landing force faced opposition unmanned robotic units could take the beach without suffering casualties.  Although these projects are still a few years and millions of dollars from deploying, swarming robotics may be the way to overwhelm future challenges with superior numbers and technology while avoiding human casualties.

Energy, Iran and the Future of Gulf Security

The panel of the Honorable Stephen Hadley, CNAS Director of Energy, Environment and Security Program Elizabeth Rosenberg, and Ambassador Dennis Ross discussed continued American involvement in the Middle East. As long as it produces the best crude oil in the world, terrorist groups threaten peace, and Iran defends its nuclear program, America will have a reason to invest interest.  Oil levels worldwide will fluctuate as the shale boom starts and will be exacerbated if Libya and Iran are able to export on the world market.  As Syria is in civil war and Iraq is primed for sectarian violence ISIS has carved out a state for itself, threatening the region.  Looming large is the fact that a nuclear agreement with Iran may not be reached any time soon.   Stability in the Middle East is not in the immediate future and, although the Obama Administration has heralded a Pivot to Asia, it should be prepared to continue its Middle East focus simultaneously.

[i] For Paul Ryan’s Speech see: http://paulryan.house.gov/news/documentsingle.aspx?DocumentID=384106#.U6DyDPldWSo

[ii] For Susan Rice’s Speech see: http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2014/06/11/remarks-national-security-advisor-susan-e-rice-keynote-address-center-ne

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Sea Control 41: The View From China

seacontrol2Dean Cheng joins us to discuss China. Like a flourless brownie, this podcast is dense and delicious. We hit China’s goals and perspectives: From the Chinese “status quo”, to the South China Sea, to India, to the use of crises as policy tools. If you want to see behind the headlines, this is your podcast.

DOWNLOAD: Sea Control 41 – The View from China

Remember, subscribe on iTunes or Stitcher Stream Radio. Leave a comment and rate five stars!

Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer Haikou (171) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii

RIMPAC 2014 – The Ins and Outs

On June 26th, one of the world’s largest and most significant naval exercises began in and around Hawaii. Rim of the Pacific (RIMPAC) is a biannual event led by the United States Navy and usually involves maritime forces from more than n Pacific countries, including Canada. Although the exercises have been held consistently since 1971, this year’s edition promises to have an unprecedented impact on military and strategic affairs in the Asia-Pacific region.

Chinese People's Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer Haikou (171) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii
Chinese People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) destroyer Haikou (171) at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam in Hawaii

Of particular note, 2014 marks the first time China participates in RIMPAC. Previous editions have involved regional neighbours, like Japan and South Korea, but curiously excluded the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Early this year, as planning was underway for the upcoming edition of RIMPAC, the US extended an invitation to China for the first time. However, the fallout from the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore on May 31-June 1 left considerable doubt that China would accept the invitation. It therefore came as a surprise when China formally accepted the invitation one week after the heated debate in Singapore. In a move that could help reduce regional tensions, four PLAN vessels have participated in the exercise, serving alongside ships from other participating countries, like Japan, the Philippines, and Canada.

This is also the first RIMPAC exercise for the small Southeast Asian state of Brunei. The Royal Brunei Navy is a rather small force, especially in comparison to the impressive naval might of nearby Singapore, but it has contributed two off-shore patrol vessels. These smaller ships, the KDB Darussalam and KDB Darulaman, are also Brunei’s newest acquisitions and so RIMPAC is viewed as an opportunity to test out their capabilities in simulations of large-scale maritime combat operations.

With Brunei, participation in RIMPAC increases among Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members to six out of ten, indicating a willingness by the bloc to become more actively involved in Pacific security. The four member states not participating in 2014 either lack the capacity to participate, such as landlocked Laos, or they were not invited to participate, such as the despotic regime in Burma.

While China and Brunei are in this year, Russia is out. In 2012, Russian maritime forces joined RIMPAC for the first time. Three vessels took part, led by the destroyer RFS Panteleyev, which had previously served alongside NATO forces as part of Operation Ocean Shield. But with tensions rising over Russia’s actions in Ukraine, no invitation was extended to join RIMPAC in 2014.

In May 2014, Russia and China held a large-scale joint naval exercise of their own in the East China Sea, but Russia has otherwise been left isolated in Pacific military affairs since the Crimean crisis. Aside from supplying Vietnam with new submarines and other vessels, Russia has scant opportunities to build security ties with the countries of Southeast Asia, stalling any effort by Vladimir Putin to pivot eastward. This suggests that any ‘soft power’ influence Russia may have had is now in severe decline, with many governments in the region reluctant to trust or engage with Putin.

HMCS Calgary (FFH 335)
HMCS Calgary (FFH 335)

RIMPAC 2014 is also a significant opportunity for Canada to demonstrate its capacity to become a major player in the Pacific. This has clearly not been lost on Canadian defence officials as there is a considerably increased contribution from Canada as compared to 2012, despite the fact that many Royal Canadian Navy vessels are either undergoing repairs or are being retrofitted. This time, Canada’s fleet is led by the HMCS Calgary, a Halifax-class frigate, joined by a Victoria-class submarine and two Kingston-class patrol vessels. As RIMPAC is a combined arms exercise, Canada has also sent an infantry company from the Third Battalion, Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry to act as marines, while a Royal Canadian Air Force component will be deployed that includes eight CF-18 Hornets.

By involving all three elements of the Canadian Forces, it will be possible to demonstrate Canada’s ability to participate meaningfully in a multilateral intervention in the Pacific. As tensions between countries in the Asia-Pacific region are enflamed, discussion surrounding the potential for a Pacific equivalent to NATO occasionally surfaces. By showing leadership through RIMPAC and developing interoperability with countries ranging from Brunei to China, Canada secures a place at the table for itself in case those discussions ever turn serious.

Paul Pryce is a Research Analyst at the NATO Council of Canada and CIMSEC’s Director of Social Media. With degrees in political science from universities in both Canada and Estonia, he has previously worked as a Research Fellow at the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly and an Associate Fellow at the Latvian Institute of International Affairs. His research interests are diverse and include maritime security, NATO affairs, and African regional integration.

 

Disclaimer:

Any views or opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors and the news agencies and do not necessarily represent those of the NATO Council of Canada. This article is published for information purposes only.

This post appeared at the NATO Council of Canada in its original form and was cross-posted by permission.

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China’s Conventional Strikes against the U.S. Homeland

Bruce Sugden brings us this dour scenario, representing the last of our “Sacking of Rome” series.    

With its precision-strike complex, the United States has conducted conventional strikes on enemy homelands without fear of an in-kind response. Foreign military developments, however, might soon enable enemy long-range conventional strikes against the U.S. homeland. China’s January 2014 test of a hypersonic vehicle, which was boosted by an intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM), suggests that it has designs on deploying a long-range conventional strike capability akin to the U.S. prompt global strike development effort.[1] If China pushes forward with deployment of a robust long-range conventional strike capability, within 20 years Americans could expect to see the U.S. homeland come under kinetic attack as a result of U.S. intervention in a conflict in the western Pacific region. With conventional power projection capabilities of its own and a secure second-strike nuclear force, China might replace the United States as the preponderant power in East Asia.

The implication of Chinese long-range strike is that U.S. military assets and supporting infrastructure in the deep rear, an area that is for the most part undefended, will be vulnerable to enemy conventional strikes—a vulnerability that U.S. forces have not had to deal with since the Second World War. Furthermore, China would be tempted to leverage its long-range strike capabilities against vital non-military assets, such as power generation facilities and network junctions, major port facilities, and factories that would produce munitions and parts to sustain a protracted U.S. military campaign. The American people and the U.S. government will have to prepare themselves for a type of warfare that they have never experienced before.

Emerging Character of the Precision-Strike Regime

            What we have become familiar with in the conduct of conventional precision-strike warfare since 1991 has been the U.S. use of force in major combat operations. The U.S. precision-strike complex is a battle network, or system, of intelligence surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) sensors designed to detect and track enemy forces and facilities, weapons systems to deliver munitions over extended range (e.g., bombers from the U.S. homeland) with high accuracy, and connectivity to command, control, communications, and computers (C4) organized to compress the time span between detection of a target and engagement of that target.[2] Since the 1990s weapons delivery accuracies have been enhanced by linking the guidance systems with a space-based positioning, navigation, and timing (PNT) system.

            China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) has studied the employment of the U.S. precision-strike complex and has been building its own for years. Since the 1990s, China has been increasing the number of deployed short- and medium-range ballistic missiles, many of which U.S. observers tend to believe are armed with conventional warheads.[3] China has also been improving the accuracies of its missiles by linking many of them to its space-based PNT system, Beidou. In addition, the PLA has been deploying several types of land-attack and anti-ship cruise missile systems.[4] These weapons systems are part of a layered defense approach that the PLA has adopted to keep foreign military forces, mainly U.S. forces, outside of China’s sphere of interest.

There are indications that China is expanding its precision-strike complex to reach targets further away from Chinese territory and waters. First, as the most recent DOD report on Chinese military power notes, China is developing an intermediate-range (roughly 3,000-5,000 kilometers) ballistic missile that could reach targets in the Second Island Chain, such as U.S. military facilities on Guam, and might also be capable of striking mobile targets at sea, such as U.S. aircraft carriers.[5] Second, the PLA Air Force has developed the H-6K bomber, which might have a combat radius of up to 3,500 kilometers and be able to carry up to six land-attack cruise missiles.[6] Third, as mentioned above, China has tested a hypersonic vehicle using an ICBM.

China’s Interest in Hypersonic Vehicles

            In the previous decade, one American observer of the Chinese military noted that the Chinese defense industry was showing interest in developing long-range precision strike capabilities, including intercontinental-range hypersonic cruise missiles.[7] Drawing from Chinese open-source literature, Lora Saalman believes that “China is developing such systems not simply to bolster its regional defense capabilities at home, but also to erode advantages of potential adversaries abroad, whether ballistic missile defense or other systems.”[8] Moreover, compared with the Chinese literature on kinetic intercept technologies, with “high-precision and high-speed weaponry, the Chinese vision is becoming much clearer, much faster. Beyond speed of acquisition, the fact that nearly one-half of the Chinese studies reviewed cover long-range systems and research low-earth orbit, near space, ballistic trajectories, and reentry vehicles suggests that China’s hypersonic, high-precision, boost-glide systems will also be increasingly long in range.”[9]

            China’s attraction to hypersonic technologies seems to be related to U.S. missile defenses.[10] As many U.S. experts have believed since the 1960s, when the United States first conducted research and development on hypersonic vehicles, such delivery systems provide the speed and maneuverability to circumvent missile defenses.[11] These characteristics enable hypersonic vehicles to complicate missile tracking and engagement radar systems’ attempts to obtain a firing solution for interceptors.

How a Future U.S.-China Conflict Might Unfold

            Although we cannot be certain about how a future military conflict between the United States and China might develop, the ongoing debate over the U.S. Air-Sea Battle concept suggests that alternative approaches to employing U.S. military force against China could persuade the Chinese leadership to order conventional strikes against targets in the U.S. homeland. On the one hand, in response to PLA aggression in the East or South China Seas, an aggressive forward U.S. military posture would include conventional strikes against targets on the Chinese mainland, such as air defense systems, airfields and missile operating locations from which PLA attacks originated, C4 and sensor nodes linked to PLA precision-strike systems, and PLA Navy (PLAN) facilities and ships.[12] These strikes would threaten to weaken PLA military capabilities and raise the ire of the Chinese public and leadership. Even assuming that China opened hostilities with conventional missile strikes against U.S. forces at sea and on U.S. and allied territories (Guam and Japan, respectively) to forestall operations against the PLA, the Chinese public and the PLA might pressure the leadership to respond with similar strikes against the U.S. homeland.

            A less aggressive U.S. military posture, on the other hand, such as implementation of a distant blockade, would focus military resources on choking off China’s importation of energy supplies and denying PLA forces access to the air and seas within the First Island Chain.[13] While this approach might play to the asymmetric advantages of the U.S. military over the PLA, the threat of being cut off from its seaborne energy supplies over an extended period of time might convince Beijing that it needed to reach out and touch the United States in ways that might quickly persuade it to end the blockade.

Targets of Chinese Long-Range Conventional Strikes

            Although many recent PLA doctrinal writings point to the use of conventional ballistic missiles in missions to support combat operations by PLA ground, air, naval, and information operations units, a stand-alone missile campaign could be designed to conduct selective strikes against critical targets.[14] Ron Christman believes that the “goals of such a warning strike would be to display China’s military strength and determination to prevent an ongoing war from escalating, to protect Chinese targets, to limit damage from an adversary’s attack, or to coerce the enemy into yielding to Chinese interests.”[15]

            The PLA’s ideal targets might include low density/high demand military assets, major power generation sites, key economic and political centers, and war-supporting industry.[16] More specifically, with U.S. forces conducting strikes against PLA assets on mainland China, sinking PLAN ships at sea, and blocking energy shipments to China, PLA military planners might be tempted to strike particular fixed targets to weaken U.S. power projection and political will: Whiteman Air Force Base, home of the B-2A bombers; naval facilities and pierside aircraft carriers at San Diego and Kitsap; facilities and pierside submarines at Bangor; space launch facilities at Vandenberg Air Force Base and Cape Canaveral; Lockheed Martin’s joint air-to-surface stand-off missile (JASSM) factory in Troy, Alabama; Travis Air Force Base, where many transport aircraft are based; and major oil refineries in Texas to squeeze the U.S. economy.

Effects of Conventional Strikes against the U.S. Homeland

            It is plausible that Chinese conventional precision strikes against targets in the U.S. homeland would set in train several operational and strategic effects. First, scarce military resources could be damaged and rendered inoperable for significant periods of time, or destroyed. Whether at Whiteman Air Force Base or the west coast naval bases, such losses would impair the conduct of U.S. operations against China. Furthermore, damaged or destroyed munitions factories, logistics nodes, and space launch facilities would undermine the ability of the U.S. military to conduct a protracted war by replenishing forward-deployed forces and replacing lost equipment. The U.S. military might have to re-deploy significant numbers of forces from other regions, such as Europe and the Persian Gulf.

Second, the American people, if they believed that fighting in East Asia was not worth the cost of attacks against the homeland, might turn against the war effort and the politicians that supported it. Even if a majority of Americans were to remain steadfast in support of the war, however, public opinion would not protect critical assets from being struck by Chinese conventional precision strikes.

Third, the operational effects might sow doubt in the minds of U.S. allies about the survivability and effectiveness of the U.S. power projection chain, while American protests in the streets against the U.S. government would undermine allies’ confidence in the resolve of the United States. If the allies judged that the United States lacked the capability or the will to wage war across the Pacific Ocean against China, then they might accommodate China and cut military ties with the United States. The loss of these military alliances, moreover, could result in the disintegration of the international order that the United States has built and sustained with military might for decades.[17]

Fourth, facing damage from strikes against the homeland and perhaps lacking the conventional military means to defend its allies and achieve its war aims, the United States might have to choose between defeat in East Asia or escalation to the use of nuclear weapons to fulfill its security guarantees. U.S. nuclear strikes, of course, might elicit a Chinese nuclear response.

Measures to Mitigate the Effects of Conventional Strikes

            Three approaches come to mind that might mitigate the effects of conventional strikes and, perhaps, dissuade China from expending weapons against the U.S. homeland. The development of less costly but more advanced missile defense technologies that could be deployed in large quantities could protect critical assets. The technologies might remain beyond our grasp, however. Directed energy weapons, for example, would still need to find and track the incoming target for an extended period of time, and then maintain the laser beam on one point on the target to burn through it.[18]

            If missile guidance systems remained tied to space-based PNT in the 2030s, then ground-based jammers might be able to divert incoming hypersonic vehicles off course. Without accurate weapons delivery, the conventional warheads would be less effective against even soft targets. Future onboard navigation systems, however, might enable precise weapons deliveries that would be unaffected by jamming.[19]

            The final and possibly most effective approach takes a page from China’s playbook: disperse and bury key assets and provide hardened, overhead protection for parked aircraft and pierside ships.[20] Because burying some facilities would be cost prohibitive, another protective measure might be to construct hardened shelters (including top covers) around surface installations like industrial infrastructure and munitions factories (though this measure might be cost prohibitive as well).

            This preliminary discussion suggests that cost-effective remedies are infeasible over the next few years, yet the threat of distant conventional military operations extending to the U.S. homeland will likely continue to grow. Therefore, more comprehensive analysis of active and passive defenses as well as other forms of damage limitation is needed to enable senior leaders to make prudent investment decisions on defense and homeland security preparedness against the backdrop of a potential conflict between the United States and China.

Bruce Sugden is a defense analyst at Scitor Corporation in Arlington, Virginia. His opinions are his own and do not represent those of his employer or clients. He thanks Matthew Hallex for valuable comments on earlier drafts of this essay.

 

[1] On China’s January 2014 test of a hypersonic vehicle, see Benjamin Shreer, “The Strategic Implications of China’s Hypersonic Missile Test,” The Strategist, The Australian Strategic Policy Institute Blog, January 28, 2014; on the U.S. prompt global strike initiative, see Bruce M. Sugden, “Speed Kills: Analyzing the Deployment of Conventional Ballistic Missiles,” International Security, Vol. 34, No. 1 (Summer 2009), pp. 113-146.

[2] For a broad overview of the evolving precision-strike regime, see Thomas G. Mahnken, “Weapons: The Growth and Spread of the Precision-Strike Regime,” Daedalus, 140, No. 3 (Summer 2011), pp. 45-57.

[3] Ron Christman, “Conventional Missions for China’s Second Artillery Corps: Doctrine, Training, and Escalation Control Issues,” in Andrew S. Erickson and Lyle J. Goldstein, eds., Chinese Aerospace Power: Evolving Maritime Roles (Annapolis, Md.: Naval Institute Press, 2011), pp. 307-327.

[4] Dennis Gormley, Andrew S. Erickson, and Jingdong Yuan, “China’s Cruise Missiles: Flying Fast Under the Public’s Radar,” The National Interest web page, May 12, 2014.

[5] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China (Washington, D.C.: Department of Defense, 2014), p. 40.

[6] Ibid., p. 9; and Zachary Keck, “Can China’s New Strategic Bomber Reach Hawaii?” The Diplomat, August 13, 2013.

[7] Mark Stokes, China’s Evolving Conventional Strategic Strike Capability: The Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile Challenge to U.S. Maritime Operations in the Western Pacific and Beyond (Arlington, Va.: Project 2049 Institute, September 14, 2009), pp. 33-34.

[8] Lora Saalman, “Prompt Global Strike: China and the Spear,” Independent Faculty Research (Honolulu, Hi.: Asia-Pacific Center for Security Studies, April 2014), p. 12.

[9] Ibid., p. 14.

[10] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, p. 30.

[11] William Yengst, Lightning Bolts: First Maneuvering Reentry Vehicles (Mustang, Okla.: Tate Publishing & Enterprises, LLC, 2010), pp. 111-125.

[12] Jonathan Greenert and Mark Welsh, “Breaking the Kill Chain,” Foreign Policy, 16 May 2013; and Department of Defense, Joint Operational Access Concept (JOAC) Version 1.0, January 17, 2012, p. 16.

[13] T.X. Hammes, “Offshore Control: A Proposed Strategy,” Infinity Journal, Vol. 2, No. 2 (Spring 2012), pp. 10-14.

[14] Christman, “Conventional Missions for China’s Second Artillery Corps,” pp. 318-319.

[15] Ibid., p. 319.

[16] Ibid.

[17] Stephen G. Brooks, G. John Ikenberry, and William C. Wohlforth, “Lean Forward: In Defense of American Engagement,” Foreign Affairs, Vol. 92, No. 1 (Jan-Feb 2013), p. 130.

[18] Sydney J. Freedberg Jr., “The Limits Of Lasers: Missile Defense At Speed Of Light,” Breaking Defense, May 30, 2014.

[19] Sam Jones, “MoD’s ‘Quantum Compass’ Offers Potential to Replace GPS,” Financial Times, May 14, 2014.

[20] Office of the Secretary of Defense, Annual Report to Congress: Military and Security Developments Involving the People’s Republic of China, p. 29.

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The Quebec Wars

Daniel S. Matthews brings us this fourth article for our Sacking of Rome Series.

It is the unexpected turns that vex empires the most. Rome did not expect Hannibal to cross the Alps, the French did not expect the dramatic events of Quiberon Bay, the British had their guns pointed the wrong way at Singapore, we were not prepared for World War III to start in Canada.

Matthews-1            Thought of Canada being the region where the sparks for World War III will be struck may not seem likely, but there is one area where a foreign foe could surprise the West: Quebec. If Quebec were to secede from Canada, two unsettling possibilities could occur. The first is that Canada could go to war with its wayward province. The second is that some power like China or Russia could build an alliance with Quebec. While such possibilities are unlikely, there are means of defense.

The Canadian Civil War

 

If Quebec were to secede from Canada, there are several points that could spark a civil war between the two. The least likely would be national pride. There are several economic reasons that could provide the tinder for war. Quebec controls the mouth of the St. Lawrence River, and Quebec could use that control to wage economic war with Western Canada. In addition, Quebec possesses significant reserves of natural resources that currently contribute to the North American economy on a free basis. An independent Quebec would change that. Finally, Canada proper would become a split country, with a third of Canadian provinces being geographically separated from the Capital. In light of the fact that no state wants to be divided, and Canada already has several fluttering independence movements, the urge to prevent further dissolution will be strong.

 

While it is true that Canada does not have a large military, and Quebec has none, it is not impossible for war to break out. The Quebec separatists have used violence before, most notably with the murder of Quebec Labour Minister Pierre Laporte, and it would be easy for a semi-independent Quebec to buy arms on the international market.

 

If Canada did get involved in civil war with Quebec, there are several options open to both sides if the war drags on. Canada could invoke Article 5 of the NATO treaty, which could split NATO as France has traditionally expressed support for Francophone Quebec. It is unlikely Britain would be unconcerned with a core Commonwealth state being embroiled in civil war; especially depending on how the vote for Scottish independence goes this year. The United States would be committed, as they are deeply intertwined with Canada at every level.

 

States like Russia, China, or Iran could use the distraction of a civil war in the very center of the Anglosphere to press their boundaries with the Western Alliance. Furthermore, they could start supporting the Quebec rebels, either directly or through third party means. If the war was presaged by an internationally recognized referendum, then Russia or China could take the position that they are upholding international norms, and paint the Western states in a negative light. Attempts at arming the rebels or openly supporting them would directly threaten the fundamental security of the United States, as it would provide a foothold on the continent from which hostile states could threaten the United States.

 

The Bear and the Dragon in Quebec

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While the first scenario of a successful Quebec independence movement immediately descending into world war is unlikely, the far more dangerous one of an independent Quebec making allies with states hostile to the West is possible. An independent Quebec would have the full ability to make alliances with foreign powers, and it is unlikely they would be readily welcomed into NATO, NAFTA, or other treaties with the Western powers. Canada would put pressure on any attempts to allow Quebec a seat at the table, and European countries would be wary of admitting Quebec, as it could fuel separatist movements within their own countries.

 

In addition, the United States would not want the possibility of Canada dissolving, even if most of the providences would likely join the United States. This method of amalgamation would be undesirable, if for no other reason than there is no guarantee that each section of Canada would join the US, and a unified Canada is better for the US than a series of states on its northern border. The dissolution of Canada could also embolden separatist movements in the United States.

 

Given the internal danger to Western countries an independent Quebec would present, it is likely that Quebec would be forced to look for friends elsewhere. Russia and China are the most likely candidates. Both countries would be interested in the natural resources of Quebec. China and Russia would also both enjoy the prospects of helping to develop Quebec’s Arctic resources. In addition, the possibility of a military alliance with Quebec would present an opportunity not present since Alaska became part of the United States; a land connection to the United States.

 

Right now the Anglosphere is protected by its island status, with no major hostile powers sharing a land border with any member. An independent Quebec would be courted by hostile powers to allow such a chance thought. Russia would view it as retaliation for NATO expanding into the Baltics, Poland, and developing close relations with Ukraine and Georgia. China would view it as a chance to have a mirror for the US alliances in China’s First Island Chain, with the added bonus of a large land connection to the American heartland, as opposed to the slender one that the US has against China on the Korean peninsula. The presence of a near-peer competitor with bases on the North American heartland would greatly reduce the flexibility of Western countries as they exert their influence on the world. Such a situation would be more bothersome to the United States and its allies than the Zimmerman telegram of a century ago, or the presence of Soviet missiles in Cuba half a century ago. It would have the same effect as Germany’s race to rival Britain on the high seas before World War I.

 

Possible Western Responses

 

Despite the perils presented by an independent Quebec, there are steps that the US and its allies can take to mitigate the dangers. The easiest remedy would be to continue the integration of the US and Canada, so that Quebec does not have economic or cultural incentives to break away. In addition, the West should focus more on promoting its unifying cultural values internally to provide less fuel for separatist movements. The US and Canada should also do more to encourage English proficiency, to increase the bonds of unity within and between both countries.

 

Internationally, the West should focus less on supporting the forms of Western states, elections being a key issue, and more on cultural reforms such as the acceptance of the loyal opposition, freedom of the press, and the like. Encouraging every group that wanted its own state did not work well for the peace, freedom, and stability of Europe from 1815 to 1939; it is not going to work well elsewhere. Such an approach would help cement the cultural idea that it is undesirable for states to break up along ethnic lines.

 

Finally, if Quebec does become independent, the West must make every effort to keep them within the Western sphere of influence. The United States should immediately offer closer association with the rest of Canada to stress the message of unity. An independent Quebec can be offered membership in the trade agreements that the Western nations have with one another and limited military exchange. Alternatively, a Canadian confederacy could be proposed where Quebec has almost total control over domestic affairs, but for international relations, it would still be part of Canada.

 

Militarily, Quebec already has more ties with Western countries, as they have served in the unified Canadian armed forces since that country was formed. Quebec citizens have served alongside the armed forces of other Western nations and have developed close ties; therefore, they would likely want to maintain those bonds. This should be encouraged.

 

As a final point, if hostile foreign powers do make inroads to an independent Quebec, the US should step up integration with its allies militarily and economically so to prevent further wedges being driven between the parts of the alliance. Alliances are easier to break apart than unified countries, and neither Russia nor China would want to face a unified power stretching from Japan to Eastern Europe.

Lieutenant Daniel S. Matthews is currently assigned to Marine Corps University, preparing to take over the role as Naval Gunfire Liaison Officer for III MEF. He has served in a wide range of sea and shore billets. LT Matthews is a native of Warrenton, Virginia, and graduated from Old Dominion University in 2007.

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India’s Role in the Indo-Pacific

“What is India’s role in the Indo-Pacific?” “Does India have a national interest at stake in the South China Sea?” “How should India shape its maritime relationship with China?”

Last week I had the opportunity to travel to India to take part in an engaging three-day conference on maritime security in the Indo-Pacific, joining two other CIMSEC members in Chennai and Kochi. While the above questions of India’s maritime strategic future were not the theme of the conference (that being Sea Change: Evolving Maritime Geopolitics in the Indo-Pacific Region), they were frequent points of discussion, only natural given the event’s location and the preponderance of preeminent Indian minds. While I’ll focus here on these conversations, the conference’s top-notch organizers from the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) and Stimson Center are publishing a collection of the papers presented, on an array of topics, which should make for stimulating reading. I’m grateful to the organizers for inviting me, and the U.S. Consulate Chennai for sponsoring the event.1

I’m also grateful for the effort these organizations made to bring together scholars and practitioners from the United States, China, Japan, Australia, the United Kingdom, Indonesia, the Philippines, and India to consider the challenges and opportunities in the Indo-Pacific from a variety of perspectives. These representatives from the fields of maritime shipping, offshore energy, geopolitics, international law, private maritime security, and fisheries and climate sciences had the chance to share and contest ideas in a cross-disciplinary approach. And contest they did.

juObservers and attendees of similar events will be familiar with the contentious dynamic that can develop between Chinese and Japanese or Chinese and American representatives, as highlighted at the Shangri-La Dialogue in Singapore earlier in the month. In India, Dr. Liu Zongyi of the Shanghai Institutes for International Studies (SIIS) carried China’s banner. Some of the feistiest exchanges involved his assertions that the United States had previously agreed to Chiang Kai-Shek’s claims to the South China Sea and that there were no maritime disputes in the South China Sea prior to U.S. involvement in the region in the 1960s-70s – the former rebuffed by a personal account of the post-War discussions with Chiang relayed by U.S. Pacific Fleet’s Director for Plans and Policy, W.J. Wesley. As for Liu’s latter argument, South China Sea claimants on all sides have produced a multitude of historical documents stretching back centuries, but if he was referring to the start of a more active phase of the disputes he may have the timing more accurate. Yet China’s seizure of the Paracels from South Vietnamese forces in 1974, killing 70, is probably not what he meant as an illustration of U.S. trouble-making.

In spite of these disagreements over China’s positions, the conference to its credit maintained a cordial atmosphere, with several presenters touting the benefits of establishing personal connections and dialogue over beers or cocktails – the benefits to which many CIMSEC chapters can attest. The organizers’ ringing of a concierge bell to mercilessly keep panelists to their allotted time also built a sense of shared sacrifice against a common enemy. Even by continuing to press his country’s positions Liu won some professional empathy for resoluteness in the face of near-universal criticism.

For it was near-universal. If anything surprised me at the conference it was that the Indian panelists and presenters also openly disparaged both Chinese claims and their actions in the South China Sea. The 9-dash line came in for particularly sharp treatment, with one analyst noting that by the same basis of drawing lines in the water Spain could claim all lands 370 leagues west of the Cape Verde islands – with a treaty to back it up. Yet a consensus on the merits of the issues doesn’t mean India will take action. Indian participants led a robust discussion and were of divided opinion as to whether India had a national interest in getting involved in these disputes on the eastern end of the Indo-Pacific.

To be fair, it was not only China that came in for criticism. During Q+A segments Indian audience members asked why the United States is focused on destabilizing China, whether it should be viewing the region through a Cold War lens, and whether the Rebalance to the Pacific is waning. None of these questions reflect the reality or the logic of U.S. goals in the region, but they do highlight some existing perceptions.

Dr. Liu’s view of India’s role was clearer, arguing “a swing state and hedge is the best choice,” and describing newly elected Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in The Global Times last month as having a chance to become “India’s Nixon,” and bring about closer ties with China. The outreach to India was oddly tinged with scare tactics, however, as Liu claimed “If China was crushed, India will become the target of the U.S.,” based on a remark former Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made calling India an “emerging threat.” Even a Pakistani newspaper acknowledged this slip-up as a gaffe.

For their part, many of the Indian representatives saw opportunities to increase already growing maritime cooperation in the region while weighing the risks of increased Chinese activity in the Indo-Pacific. Inspector General Satya Sharma, of the Indian Navy, touted India’s sustained and close cooperation with several counter-piracy efforts from East Africa to Singapore and room for closer Coast Guard collaboration in the near abroad. ORF’s Manoj Joshi and Madras Christian College’s Dr. Lawrence Prabhakar explored ways India could build its own deterrent power in the context of increased risk from increased contact with China at sea.  Prabhakar further stated that India would continue to focus primarily on bilateral relationships with regional powers, but noted several instances of developing trilateral engagements, including the upcoming Malabar exercise with the United States and Japan. At the same time, ORF’s Dr. P.K. Ghosh cautioned against expecting India to “play the role of headmaster” in setting the agendas of its neighbors at the west end of the Indo-Pacific.

article-0-1EC45E6C00000578-448_966x490Taken as a whole, the workshop was more productive than most with its focus on presenting not only challenges but also the potential means to mitigate them. By the time I presented my paper on U.S. Maritime Security Relationships and Partnerships in the Indo-Pacific I had coalesced some ideas around a concept raised by retired Vice Admiral Hideaki Kaneda earlier in the day on “webs of maritime collaboration,” specifically creating linkages between such structures as maritime domain awareness and info-sharing agreements for counter-piracy and EEZ enforcement. For despite the focus of this article on some of the more contentious issues in the conference2 there were in fact large areas of agreement and mutual concern – from the need to protect sea lanes to the projected impacts of climate change on coastal regions and ports to the benefits of collaborative humanitarian assistance / disaster response (HA/DR). As noted yesterday at The Diplomat, there’s a real need for workshops such as these, where participants talk with each other and not just at each other, to bring productive dialogue to the region.3

 

Scott Cheney-Peters is a surface warfare officer in the U.S. Navy Reserve and the former editor of Surface Warfare magazine. He is the founder and president of the Center for International Maritime Security (CIMSEC), a graduate of Georgetown University and the U.S. Naval War College, and a member of the Truman National Security Project’s Defense Council.

1. Fittingly, it was held as Monsoon rains began to lash southern India during the 5th anniversary of the precursor article to Robert Kaplan’s book of the same name, discussing India’s role in the region.

2. In addition to the more academic debates over the scope and history of the term “Indo-Pacific.”

3. And well worth cramming one’s 6’3″ frame into 40+ hours of coach flight.