Thursday, October 23, 2008

Being There

A RAND study looks at Chinese anti-access strategies (Tip to Michael Turton for his link to Guambat Stew) and worries that in time the Chinese will be able to hold off our air power long enough to conquer Taiwan.

We are right to worry about this. I've long written that our worry shouldn't be that China can beat us in all-out war, but that China can delay us long enough for China to beat Taiwan.

The problem is that getting to Taiwan in time to hold off the Chinese is getting tougher as Chinese strength increases. The RAND report lists things that we could do to counter Chinese anti-access strategies to reduce the impact of these Chinese efforts:

The United States can, however, can take a number of actions to counter Chinese antiaccess threats, including the following:
--strengthening passive defenses at air bases
--deploying air and missile defense systems near critical facilities
--diversifying basing options for aircraft
--strengthening defenses against attacks by covert operatives (PLA special operations forces or covert agents under the control of China’s nonmilitary intelligence services)
--reducing the vulnerability of naval forces to attack while in port
--reducing the vulnerability of command, control, communications,
computer, intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems
--taking steps both to deter and to mitigate the potential effects of high-altitude nuclear detonations
--bolstering allied capabilities. (See pp. 95–103.)

These are all fine ideas. But aren't we just trying to keep up with a faster conveyor belt rather than trying to change the problem?

If the very nearby Chinese can build up anti-access capabilities well enough to delay our distant military power, should our response continue to be trying to penetrate those capabilities to reach Taiwan in case of war?

Why don't we put some of our capabilities very close by, say on Mobile Offshore Bases east of Taiwan. Or maybe even on Taiwan itself?

Right now, our response has been to make Taiwan harder to take in order to extend the amount of time we have to reach Taiwan to do any good and to increase our ability to penetrate Chinese anti-access assets.

In the long run, this strategy will be a loser and the RAND study shows this well. Time to change the game operationally. If we can't get to Taiwan after the shooting starts, the correct response is to be on Taiwan before the shooting starts.

And change the game strategically, too, while we're at it.