Saturday, January 26, 2008

Who Will Be Determined to Fight?

So what if the Chinese believe that both we and the Taiwanese are too weak-willed to fight?

The RAND study on how China would try to fight us raises this scary possibility:

This strategy assumes that China can raise the costs of military action to a level the United States deems unacceptable. According to this author (Jiang, 1997, pp. 117–118),

if we can destroy a portion of the enemy’s effective forces, it will create a traumatic experience for the enemy; the resolution to fight the war of an enemy with high-technology equipment that is extremely sensitive to casualties and costs will be clearly shaken; and we will be able to compel the enemy to decide to withdraw from the war. [authors’ translation]
As a result, “smashing the adversary’s will to resist” has become more important than thoroughly destroying the enemy’s military forces in high-technology local wars (Peng and Yao, 2001, pp. 436, 486 [authors’ translation]).

This analysis may have worrisome implications if Chinese analysts are convinced that the resolve of China’s potential adversaries is relatively weak. Indeed, there is some evidence that Chinese strategists doubt Taiwan’s political will to resist Chinese attempts at coercion. For instance, one PLA researcher (Zhu, 2001) asserts that “resolving the Taiwan problem is not a matter of actual strength [􁅲􀡯]; it’s a matter of determination [􀞇􁖗].” Some of the same researcher’s comments suggest a dangerous overconfidence on the part of at least some in the PLA (Zhu, 2001):

Apart from the will of the people in Taiwan—practically everyone has a passport from another country—Taiwan’s 􁟬􁭫􀡯 [fighting capacity] is also doubtful. Moreover, there is the tradition of anti-Taiwan independence education, as well as anticommunist education in Taiwan. As soon as the fighting starts, whether the military would support a government that wants Taiwan independence is doubtful. [authors’ translation]

As we weigh the military balance in the Taiwan Strait, we have to seriously worry about whether China has an overly optimistic assumption about what it would take to beat us and beat the Taiwanese. It doesn't matter what the real balance is. That won't deter Peking. If the Chinese leadership believes we and/or the Taiwanese are too soft to fight the PLA, they will feel free to start a war.

Remember, when deciding whether they should launch a war, Peking will define rational. After reading the RAND study, that scares the crap out of me even more than it did before.