A recent Rand report commission by the Office of Undersecretary of the Army has raised many eyebrows since it touts that the war with China may be inevitable. The reports analyzed four scenarios and concluded that the U.S. will win without causing nuclear war if the U.S. initiates the war the sooner the better. At least two articles have criticized the report for making dubious assumptions and suggesting questionable conclusions which may embolden the hawks to prepare war with China within 3 to 8 years.
For national security and defense, it makes sense to be cautious making broad assumptions and taking long-term view as well as near-term events seriously. Therefore, the Defense Department must conduct war studies based on hypothetic assumptions and targeted enemies. In making assumptions and choosing enemy target, conflict of interest is logically the primary concern. Thus it is fairly easy to understand that, if two countries have serious conflicts, they would likely be hypothetical enemies possibly entering war if conflicts are not solved. In order to prevent or minimize conflict, each country should clearly define her core interests so that other countries would understand and could avoid escalating a conflict. Often, a serious condition is defined for a particular interest as a ‘red line’. We would hope other countries would not step over the ‘redline’ defined by us, if it was defined and declared rationally.
Among countries big or small, all have their own interests defined by their national or societal ideology, economic endeavors, geopolitical or territorial concerns with neighbors or other countries. Redlines are drawn on certain interest to highlight the seriousness. When a country steps over the ’redline’ defined by another country on an interest issue, chances are serious conflict or confrontation will result possibly leading to war. Hence logically war studies are usually made when a country perceives that her interest and redline may be challenged. For example, in 1962, the Soviet Union was going to install missiles in Cuba which obviously threatened the U.S. security, a clear redline being stepped over by the Soviet and Cuba. President Kennedy took a decisive position to confront them, entering war if necessary. In the end, the Soviet backed down. Presumably, a war study had been done by the U.S. before the crisis; the Soviet Union would never be able to win a war against the U.S. on the battle field of Cuba and in the Atlantic Ocean so far away from the Soviet Union.
Recently, Rand Corporation published a war study, entitled, War with China – Thinking Through The Unthinkable. This study was sponsored by the Office of the Undersecretary of the Army, conducted by the Strategy, Doctrine & Resources Program at Rand’s Arroyo Center, and authored by David C. Gompart, Astrid Stuth Cervallos and Christina L. Garafola (ISBN 978-0-8330-950-0 2016). While I was pondering on the purpose of this study, why it becomes public and how could such a serious study be based on wrong assumptions, analyzed with wrong parameters and concluded with wrong implications (worse! leading the readers to think a war with China is to our advantage, sooner the better, strike first to win and no concern of escalation to a nuclear war), a number of authors beat me to it in criticizing the report. One article, entitled, Rand Corporation Lays Out Scenarios for US War with China, by Peter Symonds, was published on 8-5-2016 on the World Socialist Web Site (wsws.org as well as strategic-culture.org & usfriendship.com). Another article is entitled, Making A US-Sino War ‘Thinkable’, by Amatai Etzioni (9-12-2016, Diplomat). Peter Symonds, a staff writer of WSWS and a member of the Socialist Equality Party, the Australian section of the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI), writes with a socialist view against war; however, his arguments of war being not inevitable and too many uncontrollable variables (beyond ‘intensity and duration’ of the war being considered by Rand) making the Rand report implausible. Amatai Etzioni, a professor of international relations of George Washington University and a military analyst, also questioned the validity of Rand’s report because of its dubious assumptions and questionable conclusions (no possibility of nuclear war and US will sure win with first strike sooner the better); the report may erroneously embolden the hawks to prepare war with China eagerly.
Not only am I in agreement with the above points the two authors made but also I want to emphasize that this report gives no regard on two important aspects, one is there was no credible analysis on why a US-Sino war is inevitable based on conflict of interest and what redline each one may be crossing to justify a war. Furthermore, I agree with Prof. Etzioni that the Rand research never bothered to think through what will the U.S. gain in making a first strike and winning a severe war with China? Professor Etzioni questioned ‘regime change’ as a valid objective, since we have failed in many of our regime change endeavors in the past. China is a big country rising rapidly. The conflicts with China are like competition in the Olympic Games; the redlines are lines defining the race track. So long no one is crossing the red track line to stop the other from racing fairly, there is no serious conflict. Recently, the U.S. declared that the South China Sea (SCS) as our critical interest trying to elevate SCS issue as redline to the interest of the U.S. Let us think about it, the U.S. has no territorial interest in the South China Sea, why should we draw a redline there. The new President of the Philippines, Mr. Duarte, seems to understand that; hence, he is distancing from the U.S., not wishing to draw redline to provoke China. After all, China has kept her SCS interest soft, taking a position that any conflict can be negotiated bilaterally at a negotiating table.
A bible in the Art of War and Diplomacy, Sun Tze War Strategy, is well known in the world and it is taught in many military academies and universities. Sun Tze said unequivocally war is the last resort between nations; leaders must exhaust all other means to resolve conflict before thinking of war. Even under circumstances of looming war, smart leaders must prepare measures to minimize war, however possible, rather than to maximize the war, never provoking war The leaders of the U.S. and China must honestly analyze each nation’s critical interests with people’s welfare in mind, carefully define redlines in a rational rather than an arbitrary manner and truthfully anticipate compromise rather than provoking confrontation. The back-off of the Soviet Union from the Cuban crisis was the blessing of all mankind, a valuable history lesson. Placing Ternial High Altitude Area Defense system (THAAD) in South Korea and agitating the SCS issue bear some similarity to the Cuban crisis. A compromising posture will lead to peaceful solutions more likely than beating the war drums and preparing for war. If war would be inevitable between the U.S. and China, battle ground occurring on the U.S. homeland might also be inevitable, an all-out nuclear war might also be inevitable as well. As said by Prof. Etzioni,”as someone who has been to war, I join the many who observe that all assumptions and scenarios about how a war will unfold, hold only until the first missile is lobbed”.
The hypothetic war dates mentioned in the Rand report are 2015, 2020 and 2025. 2015 was already passed, fortunately, no war other than military exercises took place in South or East Asia. 2020 and 2025 are only 3 and 8 years away, wouldn’t it be insane to urge our government to prepare for war with China?!