Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Match the Threat to the Objective

Whenever someone points out that the Chinese military is outclassed by our military and that we therefore shouldn't worry too much about them, I can't disagree with the first part but don't understand the leap to the conclusion. Strategypage puts China's military in its place (even as they "salute" their cyber-theft of Western technology):

Just how real is Chinese military power? Technically, a lot of Chinese gear is well built. This we know by observing how China has absorbed Western (including Russian) technology over the last sixty years. They can build good stuff (if you have an iPhone or iPod, you are using Chinese built, or at least assembled, tech). China is still learning how to invent, design and build many of the iPhone/iPod components. Chinese have the talent and persistence to acquire the needed management and technical skills. It takes time, and Chinese leaders like to take the long view. That means realizing that current Chinese armed forces are not so good. Peacetime soldiers in general and Chinese ones in particular, develop a lot of bad habits that translates into defeats early in a war. But in a world with nuclear weapons, the old Chinese strategy of fighting a long war and grinding down a superior (man-for-man) force, no longer works. If you use conventional forces, you strike first and fast, then call for peace talks before the nukes are employed. This situation does not work to China's advantage. Chinese generals are going through the motions of creating a well-trained and led army, like many Western nations have, but are making very slow progress. Meanwhile, the Americans are particularly admired, with all their practical training methods and combat proven NCOs and officers. China still has far too much corruption in their military establishment, and too little initiative and original thinking, to create a force that can match the Americans. Going through the motions may work in peace time, but not once the shooting starts.

So the problem is that China can't hit us hard enough to defeat us quickly and end the fighting before the threat of nuclear weapons ends a fight.

Far be it for me to state the obvious, but that just means that China doesn't hit a nuclear-armed America whose conventional military is world class--indeed, in a class all our own.

China can defeat America just by defeating Chinese neighbors while keeping us out of the fight long enough for China to win. That could be a quick strike against Russia, North Korea (in case of collapse to keep South Korea from moving north), Japan, China, the Philippines, Vietnam, islands in the South China Sea, or India. Which of those targets can deploy armed forces as strong as ours?

How does our excellent military figure into the equation if China plans and executes a first strike that aims for limited objectives against a foe before anyone can mobilize against them and before the threat of nuclear escalation from a nuclear-armed state can develop?

China has the advantage of location. China can deploy a lot of power against a weaker enemy (or even against our forward-deployed forces) and call for negotiations after they grab something of value. This does not require inflating Chinese capabilities to something that can cross the Pacific and land on Hawaii.

NOTE: Scheduled posting capability still out. What gives?