Wednesday, December 04, 2013

So Who is Outside This Defense Perimeter?

If we are talking a purely American-Chinese war, I have no problem with relying on a more distant blockade of China. I've noted that we don't even need to get close to China to do that. So a proposal to stay away from China despite Air-Sea Battle doctrine has some value.

While I have concerns about a full-scale application of Air-Sea Battle that has US forces heavily bombing China and wonder just what we'd do if we fight our way into the Chinese littorals, we can't telegraph a refusal to operate there as this article argues:

This logic leads to the concept of Offshore Control. Operationally, Offshore Control uses currently available but limited means and restricted ways to enforce a distant blockade on China. It establishes a set of concentric rings that denies China the use of the sea inside the first island chain, defends the sea and air space of the first island chain, and dominates the air and maritime space outside the island chain. No operations will penetrate Chinese airspace. Prohibiting penetration is intended to reduce the possibility of nuclear escalation and make war termination easier.

The denial element of the campaign plays to U.S. strengths by employing primarily attack submarines, mines, and a limited number of air assets inside the first island chain. This area will be declared a maritime exclusion zone with the warning that ships in the zone will be sunk. While the United States cannot initially stop all sea traffic in this zone, it can prevent the passage of large cargo ships and tankers. In doing so, it cripples China’s export trade, which is central to China’s economy.

If a war involves allies, however, being on the other side of that closest concentric ring isn't comforting, as I noted about another article urging the use of a blockade to defeat China.

South Korea is an obvious state that might feel a little lonely. Taiwan is ambiguous. Vietnam looks on their own.

Is Japan okay with abandoning the Senkaku Islands?

And do we really write off the South China Sea that China can sweep up, accepting whatever attrition our subs, mines, and limited air assets inflict?

Really, if China faces a major blockade and can't break it, might they not attempt to use their air and land power to conquer South Korea to strike back?

Then we'd need the ability to penetrate and operate within that first ring just to reinforce and support our ally (and to avoid abandoning the relatively few troops we station there).

With an acceptance of caveats that we don't want to stress China's leaders too much by smashing up the mainland and risking nuclear escalation; and that we should have a purpose to closing with China and risking losses and escalation; we do need the ability to penetrate that first concentric line.

Operations in the South China Sea are obviously an avenue for limited offensive operations.

The defense of South Korea is another reason to penetrate that first line, of course.

And simply having a ground option to land major ground forces around China rather than relying solely on air and naval power will compel China to limit whatever they might want to send to attack South Korea, no?

Just don't set aside all our weapons if it comes to a war with China. Our ground forces are really our most fearsome part of our arsenal, after over a decade of combat experience. Why would we telegraph to China that we won't use our Army and Marine Corps?

It may not be wise depending on circumstances to approach China to expose our fleet to China's air, sea, and missile power, but we should be prepared to do just that to keep the Chinese guessing and on the defensive in case we do the worst.