Saturday, March 19, 2005

What is This? January 1941?

I am amazed that a number of people have been mortified that I suggest China could be aiming for a summer 2008 invasion of Taiwan.

I've read assertions that China lacks the logistics but no actual supporting arguments. Heck, I don't blame them since large staffs are needed to compile massive loading and movement schedules. I'm just an old Signalman and not a logistician, so I'm not going to try it.

I've read that the Taiwanese are perfectly capable of defending themselves though this DOD assessment certainly highlights problems that the Taiwanese have in a number of areas.

I've read that all our satellites would detect the Chinese before they could get going; but aside form the fact that sats are predictable and can be fooled, strategic surprise is more about letting your target fool themself than hiding your own efforts. If your target believes this is just as exercise or a bluff since they've been talking for 50 years and never did anything, then analysts will place any data into this view until actual shooting starts--and maybe even for a while after that.

I've read that the US Navy could rip apart the Chinese invasion effort even though I thought I was pretty clear that we could do that if we can get into the fight quickly enough. I could write those arguments fairly easily myself using terms like "Los Angeles class subs" and "Harpoon" and "Aegis." The US Navy is so much better than the Chinese fleet that if it gets into the fight we will decimate the PLAN. Heck, the Japanese navy is superior to the Chinese fleet. My major fear is that the Chinese, knowing the problems of taking on the US in a protracted struggle in the air and at sea where our advantages are greatest, will try to force a fast decision on the ground where the Chinese see their advantage.

In addition, all the discussion about how an invasion would fail all seem to assume that the invasion starts next week. Have I not mentioned that I'm looking to 2008? And that Chinese shipbuilding seems to have a number of elements coming out in the 2006-2008 timeframe? I suppose one could look at our amphibious capabilities in January 1941 and easily conclude that it is ludicrous to imagine we could invade a heavily defended northwest Europe in June 1944. (One day I may try to find and list all my China posts, but Google "China" and "Taiwan" and "Olympics" and "2008" along with "The Dignified Rant" to hit most of them. Do all of them for the most comprehensive results)

So, let's establish some groung rules, eh? In 1996, the Chinese could not invade. Nor could they hold off the US Navy long enough even if they could have invaded. Indeed, the Chinese were horrified that they could not even locate our two carriers let alone target them during the 1996 missile crisis. (And we were horrified that we couldn't easily communicate with the Taiwanese, making it possible we were visibly backing the Taiwanese when they might have been preparing to strike without our knowledge. Hence our current hotline). And at some point in the future, the Chinese will have the ability to invade without a doubt given their trend lines. Some say a decade. Some say two. (I say sooner) Fair enough?

So at what point does the Chinese capability tip from can't to can? That is a reasonable question that I have posed. And I am happy to take hits if this discussion takes place rather than a blanket dismissal of the very idea.

One more thing about the tipping point. From the cited DOD report above:

If all other military options for subjugating Taiwan failed, Beijing could try to occupy the entire island of Taiwan. Such an operation would require a major commitment of civilian air and maritime transport assets, and success would not be guaranteed. The PLA's success in a D-Day-style invasion of Taiwan would rest on a number of variables, some tangible -- principally lack of amphibious lift -- as well as a number of intangibles, including personnel and equipment attrition rates on both sides of the Strait; interoperability of PLA forces; and the ability of China's logistic system to support the necessarily high tempo of operations. For an invasion to succeed, Beijing would have to conduct a multifaceted campaign, involving all of the above options in concert. The PLA most likely would encounter great difficulty conducting such a sophisticated campaign throughout the remainder of the decade. Nevertheless, the campaign could succeed -- barring third-party intervention -- if Beijing were willing to accept the political, economic, diplomatic, and military costs that an invasion would produce.

DOD recognizes the problems China would have. But barring third-party intervention (that's us, people), China could succeed (no guarantees in any war) if they are willing to accept the various costs.

I think they are willing to accept those costs.

I really will get on the ball to write up my part III for a Taiwan war, a scenario for a successful invasion (surely no more speculative than the scenarios I've read of Taiwanese forces trouncing the Chinese or rapid US intervention to do the same). Until then here's my Part I about intentions and Part II about one historic example of an invasion in the face of enemy naval superiority without any amphibious capabilities and a small parachute capability.

No promises on timing. Certainly before summer 2008.