The United States Pacific Command and the People’s Liberation Army of China have quietly begun an exchange of military officers that is intended to reduce the chances of a miscalculation leading to hostilities between the established power in the Pacific and the rising power of East Asia.
A delegation of 20 senior Chinese officers visited Hawaii, where the Pacific Command has its headquarters, and Alaska, which is within the command’s area of responsibility, in November. A group of Chinese specialists in military personnel came in January. The first American delegation is scheduled to go to China next month.
We are officially in favor of these missions because we believe that if the Chinese see how powerful we are, they won't try to fight us.
This is a crock. The Chinese know we are technically more advanced. What they think is that we are too pampered to fight them. And seeing our nice barracks and PXs with Chanel No. 5 won't convince them that we are hard warriors able to absorb high casualties. Seeing our military up close will simply give them insights into fighting us or at least cause them to believe that they have insights into fighting us:
U.S. officers said they were ready to respond to Chinese questions about strategy but found the Chinese not prepared to discuss issues at that level. Instead, they focused on tactical questions such as how long it took to begin moving a brigade (18 hours) and how did a U.S. colonel control his brigade.
We hope to teach them the big picture--don't mess with us; but the Chinese are just interested in learning how to do their job--fighting us--so they focus on details.
And even if this flawed approach works, who cares if their officers think we are too tough to beat? Did not Admiral Yamamoto prior to Pearl Harbor conclude from his familiarity with the US that he could go wild against us for 6 months to a year before we brought our power to bear to counter-attack? The people in charge of Japan did not believe that his insights meant that he was right about fighting us. And even if Chinese officers learn the lesson that they can't beat us, the people in Peking who decide on war will not be these officers.
And I believe we are learning the wrong lessons from this exchange:
During their visit, the Chinese were taken to the USS Arizona memorial above the battleship sunk by the Japanese in their surprise attack of Dec. 7, 1941, to bring America into World War II. The ship still rests on the bottom of Pearl Harbor, reflecting perhaps the greatest defeat in American history.
About 200 yards downstream, however, sits the battleship USS Missouri aboard which the Japanese surrendered to end World War II on Sept. 2, 1945. It reflects a distinct triumph of American arms. U.S. officers said they thought the Chinese had gotten the message:
"You do bad stuff to us," said an American officer, "and bad stuff happens to you."
I don't think the Chinese will learn this message. I think seeing the Arizona on the bottom of the harbor taught the PLA officers that if they can achieve surprise, they too can put key elements of our fleet on the bottom.
As for what they learned from the Missouri? Well, if those stupid Japanese had possessed nuclear weapons capable of reaching Los Angeles, we'd never have dared approach Japan let alone conquer them.
We are the ones who have miscalculated. The Chinese won't learn what we are teaching. And if it comes to war, we will find out what they learned.
This exchange is such a stupid and counter-productive program that I am simply stunned that we would do this.