Sunday, June 26, 2005

Here Be Dragons

Back in March, in Ready. Set. Go? I pulled together some threads of thoughts I've written about over the life of this blog that assume China will invade Taiwan on the eve of the 2008 summer Olympics.

Instapundit linked to it and I received more hits in one day than I've ever received. And I received more email and attracted more posts in response than I've ever seen. While some agreed (including one who said he was modeling scenarios for DOD and who had far scarier worries than I could see), most ridiculed the very idea that China could invade any time in the near future and not get waxed by our forces in the effort.

Well, Bill Gertz (via Instapundit) writes that some defense analysts see a Chinese attack on Taiwan coming in the next couple years:

China is building its military forces faster than U.S. intelligence and military analysts expected, prompting fears that Beijing will attack Taiwan in the next two years, according to Pentagon officials.

And what about the Olympics? Won't that stay Peking's hand?

The war fears come despite the fact that China is hosting the Olympic Games in 2008 and, therefore, some officials say, would be reluctant to invoke the international condemnation that a military attack on Taiwan would cause.

Still, isn't China pinned to the mainland of Asia, unable to do more than gaze out to sea?

"We left the million-man swim behind in about 1998, 1999," the senior Pentagon official said. "And in fact, what people are saying now, whether or not that construct was ever useful, is that it's a moot point, because in just amphibious lift alone, the Chinese are doubling or even quadrupling their capability on an annual basis."

Asked about a possible Chinese attack on Taiwan, the official put it bluntly: "In the '07-'08 time frame, a capability will be there that a year ago we would have said was very, very unlikely. We now assess that as being very likely to be there."

An Office of Net Assessment report recently highlighted China's growing energy vulnerability. Yes, we could cut China off rather easily. But China might think they have no option but to strike Taiwan and believe they can compel us to accept the attack.

And what are China's options?

The report stated that China will resort "to extreme, offensive and mercantilist measures when other strategies fail, to mitigate its vulnerabilities, such as seizing control of energy resources in neighboring states."

U.S. officials have said two likely targets for China are the Russian Far East, which has vast oil and gas deposits, and Southeast Asia, which also has oil and gas resources.

If it comes to war over Taiwan, I want us to be ready to win. I'd rather we were able to persuade China not to attack Taiwan in the first place. But Ideally, I'd like to point China inland to Asia and away from the sea where conflict with America and our allies is a likely result. The stakes of this Great Game are too great to lose.

It is too easy to just dismiss the Chinese threat to Taiwan. The Chinese think they deserve Taiwan. They think they can take it. They think they can do it before we can decisively intervene. And deep down, they don't think we have the guts to go toe-to-toe with them.

Far from a mythical creature, a Dragon that we must remain ready to slay is loose in the kingdom.