Monday, January 28, 2008

Two Chinas. One System

If the Chinese capture Quemoy, Matsu, the Pescadores Islands, and Taiwanese Spratly Island specks in a very limited war that seeks to break the Taiwan-United States defense links, how could we make sure the ceasefire that ends the brief First Taiwan War is not merely a lull during which the Chinese prepare to attack again, Americans resolve not to risk such a clash again, and the Taiwanese resign themselves to defeat?

We'd want to visibly control the escalation decision by demonstrating that we can win any level of fight that Peking contemplates; conduct the last offensive action of the war; make sure that Taiwan is not more vulnerable to the next Chinese attack; clearly strengthen the U.S.-Taiwan bond; and strengthen the U.S.-Japan bond on the Taiwan issue. Finally, we'd need to appreciate that a Chinese attack on Taiwan ends the agreement with China that holds that the Taiwan issue is narrowly about Taiwan's relationship with China. We'd need to make the crisis an issue of China's relationship with Taiwan and how we end Peking's strong desire to absorb Taiwan.

During the war, make sure we airlift a Stryker brigade into Taiwan and fly in fighter squadrons in the early phases of the war to get our people on the ground before any ceasefire is proposed by China. We must not wait until the Navy clears sea lanes to move forces in by sea. China might offer a ceasefire before that can be achieved.

Our forces should seek out the better PLAN warships wherever they are and target older ships at sea only when they are a threat. We'd rather impede fleet modernization by preserving the older derelicts than effectively scrap the obsolete PLAN ships with our missiles.

We should support Taiwanese missile strikes on the Chinese mainland against Chinese staging areas and ballistic missile sites used to hit Taiwan.

We must blockade China with sea and air assets during the fighting. And we should maintain a naval quarantine of China even while we negotiate. Let food and oil tankers in enough to prevent starvation but not enough oil to thrive or end Peking's worry of internal unrest. And of course stop their exports. We'll live without their toys and appliances.

After we dominate the air over Taiwan, we should focus our air power on achieving air supremacy over Chinese territory opposite Taiwan. Smash Chinese air defenses and sweep away their fighter defenses so we can demonstrate our ability to escalate over China at will to the Chinese people.

Get the Japanese to fly the air defense mission over Okinawa in order to free up our forces for offensive action. The Japanese navy should patrol to protect Okinawa and the sea lines of communication to Japan. This will hold our northern flank. And it will be a defensive mission that does not strain Japanese politicians as they seek to help us while observing the spirit of their pacifist constitution.

We'd want the last offensive action of the war to be American and Taiwanese to nullify the impact of absorbing the Chinese blow and falling back under the weight of the attack. Recapturing the Spratly Island specks will demonstrate our ability to reverse Chinese gains. If we can support Taiwanese marines in retaking Pescadores, that will be even better.

We should insist that our Stryker brigade and fighter aircraft remain on Taiwan after the ceasefire. The only way the Taiwanese and Chinese will believe the US commitment to defend Taiwan remains strong is to increase our tangible commitment to make sure that the next time the Chinese strike Taiwan, the PLA won't have a week or two of time before the Chinese have to risk tangling with American forces. We'd need to maintain fighter aircraft and Army troops on Taiwan, in at least the strength of our South Korean commitment. Our Marines on Guam would need to regularly exercise with Taiwanese marines to prepare for recapturing any islands lost to China in the war. And we'd need to insist that Taiwan build up its defenses.

We should develop a Mobile Offshore Base designed for use at sea. It would be based in Taiwan normally and towed east to deep waters between Taiwan and Guam during non-monsoon months to serve as a staging area for sending reinforcements and supplies to Taiwan or for refueling or staging Guam-based fighters for missions over Taiwan. Guam should continue to be reinforced. And we should look at restoring Wake Island as a military asset. All these things would establish depth to the defense of Taiwan.

National missile defense, sea-based missile defense, and airborne missile defenses must be strengthened to reduce Chinese temptation to consider nuclear weapons even as a signal to us.

A free trade zone between Taiwan and United States should be established to keep Taiwanese businesses from looking to the mainland too easily.

And obviously, once we've fought one war with China over Taiwan, we have to take the gloves off. Simply remaining on defense hoping we can hold off the next Chinese attack--or the one after that--is foolish. The Chinese would attempt to leverage the conquest of Taiwan into expelling us from the western Pacific and stripping us of our allies in the region.

China is vulnerable to internal unrest and fissures. Once Peking shows it will wage war to upset the status quo over Taiwan by use of force, we need to push back and attempt to end the threat at the source--by attempting to roll back the Communist dictatorship that will without a doubt launch the Second Taiwan War when the time seems right to them. Call our policy "Two Chinas. One System." The one system being Taiwan's system of democracy and free markets.

This approach will provide America and Taiwan with a political victory in the First Taiwan War in the face of any Chinese effort to fight a narrow war with the political objective of setting Taiwan up for the killing blow and expelling us from the western Pacific.