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A forthcoming war

A forthcoming war: The evidence-base and narrative

Before the complexities of a kinetic phase of actions is introduced an overarching basis of understanding within the political realm needs to be expanded upon, in order for the politico-freedom of actions toward Taiwan to be enmeshed in the coming war, as well as the politico-constraints Taiwan will face. Based on history, a cathartic violent event or series of events have long-term sovereign and rhetoric-driven irredentist policies attached and a concomitant nationalism. All assist in initiating kinetic actions by an actor (or actors). These factors, combined with the axiom that all countries that have undergone an ‘industrial revolution’ have sought to extend power extramural to a pre-industrial revolution border/s[1] and the use-of-force is the common occurrence. China will be no different. To be sure, not all acts of preponderance are violent acts—Taiwan is an exemplar of such an actor as it has only sought politico-determinants after its industrial revolution—circa-1970s onward. Notwithstanding these factors, many countries have incorporated military actions in their extramural ambitions. There is a clarification needed at this point to extend upon the actions and counter-actions that prompt a conflict to be termed a legal and definable ‘war,’[2] or any long-term action which for all intent and purpose is observed as representing a war. It is here that the politico-elements of the UNSC are able to be introduced as they directly allocate what constitutes a ‘war’ as a ‘legal happening.’ For instance, the Vietnam War for all intent and purpose would be described as a ‘war’ in the popular press of Western populations per se, however it would not achieve a legal status in the UNSC and therefore, would remain a ‘conflict.’ The UNSC would persistently debate the ‘war’ although it would not, for many reasons, allocate the legal status to it.

China will exploit the above-mentioned avenues in the twenty-first century and it should be noted and acknowledged upfront that whatever military actions China takes in order to conquer Taiwan, if there is any objection within the UNSC China will, due to its standing and status as a UNSCP5 member. As a result it will exercise its inherent ‘right of veto’ of any and all nominations for actions against Taiwan to be declared a ‘war’—as did the US during the ‘Vietnam War.’ Therefore, the ‘war’ remained a conflict. Whilst the action would be legally acceptable (and deeply symbolic), it would subsequently have the effect of reducing and possibly stymieing further deliberation of nuanced argument regarding overt military actions; impede progress toward resolutions; and encumber UN assemblies in decision-making. The ineffectiveness of the UN and its inherent inabilities to accomplish any progress toward an irenic solution beyond China’s demands will mirror its maladroit handling of numerous conflicts: the Algerian War; the Malayan Conflict/War of the Running Dogs; First Indo-China War; Second Indo-China War (Vietnam War); Israel-Palestine Conflict; Russia-Afghanistan War; Second Persian Gulf War; the Syrian Conflict; and the ongoing US-NATO-Afghanistan Conflict. These comprise only some of the clashes the UN has made little or no politico-progress. Therefore, and based on systemic practices Taiwan should not view the UN as a body-politic that will confront and then disassemble the CCP’s intrinsic and focused application of power; nor will it be able to retard China’s politico and military intent. Notwithstanding the obvious shortcomings of the UN, war does not happen ‘in a vacuum’ and requires a set of circumstances to take place in order for kinetic action to commence. And furthermore, war requires linkages to other components for it to be sustained and these ‘components,’ specific to a Taiwan-China war, can now be addressed.

How a war will ‘happen’ and the interdependencies therein

It is a germane yet necessary point to make that war will happen due to the government of Taiwan persisting with its monologue of independence; of its right to declare independence at any time; and in the process gain (or have the perception of gaining politico-traction) a sympathetic cum willingness from other actors. The CCP will react to any politico-movement by Taiwan if it undertakes the tangible practice of gaining independence. Regardless of whether successive Taiwanese governments move toward greater independence or direct independence the politico-stance of the CCP will over time become more sclerotic. From this standpoint, military action will have to be taken. The state-of-affairs between the two main actors will therefore, remain consistent with past practices; and generate future dialogue based on the past—principled, virtuous and irreproachable on the part of Taiwan; magniloquent, magnanimous and unambiguous on the part of China. Therein lies an impending kinetic collision and it is with this in mind, that the most likely scenarios can be brought to the fore, and a concomitant evidence-base be offered.

To be sure, it is unlikely that the Taiwanese government will moderate its stance regarding its independence claim as the KMT and the (current) government (the Democratic Progressive Party) face an ‘independence demographic’ of voters[3] that favour an independent country—with the view to establishing complete sovereignty. Notwithstanding these factors, and attempting to understand the milieu the politico-situation presents, the focused persistence of Taiwan—including its ongoing alliance with the US—will prompt China to become more forceful in its irredentism; unification intent; and power-projection into the A-P region. The intensity with which China applies pressure is multi-faceted and complex per se. Major influencing components however, will consist of although not necessarily be limited to whether

  • Taiwan declares independence outright;
  • Whether the US directly stipulates it will come to Taiwan’s aid should there be an attack;
  • How many direct allies Taiwan will be able to depend upon; the asset base and capabilities of Taiwan’s armed forces at the time;
  • what proportion of the domestic populace that would create a backlash in Taiwan and favour China;
  • The support for direct kinetic action within the mainland Chinese population;
  • The level of domestic harmony within the Chinese mainland;
  • The active status of the Chinese military; and
  • The anticipated level of opposition cum hostility from the UNSC and the UNSCP5; and the chronological time-frame that the Chinese people will allow for the subjugation of Taiwan.

Whilst all of the aforementioned are, to a certain extent subjective, and would not necessarily happen in the ascribed linear way they nonetheless, contain fundamental underpinnings that either encourage or discourage direct action. All of these factors considered, how will a war happen?

China: A cautious approach toward retrocession

China will incrementally approach the retrocession of Taiwan with a pre-set determination from which a definitive set of parameters will be absolutely and overtly stated. The parameters alluded to will be immersed in history and reflect why no direct force has been applied in the past—the twentieth century to be precise. As unprecedented as it may be—at least in the twenty-first century—China, due to its increased cosmopolitanism and in an attempt to show magnanimousness and to offer non-malice (read: the non-application of a preemptive or ‘surprise attack’) will revert to the history lesson of what other countries have provided in the subjugation of others and mask its future intent in similar prosaicisms. There are strong reasons for not applying direct force too quickly as the failures of the US in Iraq; and the USSR and the West in Afghanistan; and the Syrian military and its allies in Syria have proven. China will apply a more steady focus of force at least in the first instance, and it will be because of the manifest failures that a ‘steel-to-target’[4] (also referred to as ‘shock and awe’) delivery of munitions creates and the unnecessary destruction it causes. More importantly, it will be because the first priority will be not to be immersed in a war of attrition. The way in which retrocession through force will be afforded can now be examined.

Paradoxically, the answer to China’s problem and the action it will take is reflected in the actions of the US in its determination to circumvent communism and the lesson that it contained.  Certainly China has already progressed down a similar path although some clarification is needed here. China will utilise the actions of, and by President Kennedy in 1961 which cobbled together the somewhat nebulous mantra of the West’s ‘values’ being threatened and constructed a ‘security dilemma’[5] in order to justify and launch an incursion into Vietnam. The CCP will take its lead from the West and cite the perils of non-unification that will actively create a regional security dilemma and in doing so it will also cite the ‘values’ mantra. This has been done before and has a blighted history. To be certain, the issue of ‘values’ and what they mean to a country has been oft-repeated throughout the latter-part of the twentieth century by numerous nation-states: the British military’s taking of the Falkland Islands/Islas Malvinas from the Argentinian military; the Russian Federation’s commitment to subjugating Chechnya, France in Mali; Saudi Arabia in Yemen; the evolving tenets of the PNAC and the US’ actions on the ‘War on Terror’ in Iraq, Pakistan and the Horn of Africa is to name only several examples of ‘value-laden’ engagements. Furthermore, these examples represent preponderance in the twentieth century which it should be noted, have been unable to be stopped through diplomacy and sufficient gains by the most powerful belligerent have been made. The CCP will apply power in this way in order to increase domestic support; retard any capabilities the UNSC may have; and deter overt actions on the part of other powerful actors. This is how a war will happen. The move toward war will be an incremental advance upon the ‘war of rivalry’[6]  that is already in place between Taiwan and China (circa-1995 – ongoing). The push toward unification at first in a cautious way—the non-application of military force—will be couched in Taiwan being, ‘the ultimate test for China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,’[7] and as the push continues will be  an advance on the so-called anti-secession law that have been enacted within China. The security dilemma the war of rivalry provides for China and the legal (domestic) underpinnings that it has in place will also provide an impetus to use ‘military force against Taiwan… .’[8] as per its ‘entitlement.’ Notwithstanding all of the aforementioned, China will take a different path—at least initially.

China’s right to use force in the taking Taiwan will be construed through an idealist prism (unification and reclamation); with the tenets of ‘structural realism’[9] intact; and the morality of righteousness and veracity of claim therein. The taking of Taiwan and its necessity will be premised upon what has gone before as other global powers have sought to establish their ‘rightful claims’ and as alluded to, France and its presence in Africa and Oceania; the United Kingdom in Northern Ireland; the US presence in Diego Garcia and Hawaii; Japan and its claim on Okinawa; Russia and Chechnya; Israel and the West Bank/East Jerusalem; and Indonesia in West Papua/Irian Jaya. All, in varying degrees display a way in which conquering and annexation is able to take place and thus, offer China examples of what cosmopolitan sophistication and an adroit use of politico and military might can achieve. These examples also illustrate the UN’ long-standing ineptitude of confronting the issues-at-hand. The examples offered it is fair to argue, have strengthened China’s resolve and offered the CCP a way in which to allow a war to take place on its terms; and with control largely maintained within parameters that it has constructed. A further analysis of why China will not immediately apply direct force can now take place.

Continued tomorrow … The surprise of a no ‘surprise attack’

Previous instalment … Taiwan as the epicentre of the Asia-Pacific war

 

[1] For a brief and comprehensive understanding of the way in which an industrial revolution or industrial revolutions affect countries and the expansionism that is created see: Strobe Driver. ‘The Impact of Industrial Revolutions: China’s Rise and the Decline of Japan.’ E-International Relations. 13 Dec, 2015. https://www.e-ir.info/2015/12/13/the-impact-of-industrial-revolutions-chinas-rise-and-the-decline-of-japan/

[2] For ease of understanding, the first ‘legal war’—which requires the legitimacy and recognition of the UNSC in the post-WWII twentieth century—the Korean War (1950- 1953) in which UN, US and Republic of Korea forces fought the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea Army and the Chinese People’s Volunteer Army. See: ‘Invasion And Counterinvasion 1950 – 51.’ Encyclopædia Britannica. The Editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica. https://www.britannica.com/event/Korean-War/Invasion-and-counterinvasion-1950-51

[3] ‘Three quarters [75%] of Taiwanese people think Taiwan and China are two separate countries, while only about 14 per cent believe they are both part of one nation, according to the results of a survey released on Tuesday. The poll, commissioned by the pro-government Ketagalan Foundation and the Taiwan Brain Trust, also showed that about 54 per cent of those polled prefer independence for the self-ruled island if the status quo across the Taiwan Strait cannot be maintained. About 24 per cent prefer unification and the rest revealed no preference.’ See: ‘Most Taiwanese consider Taiwan, China separate countries, poll suggests.’ South China Morning Post. 21 Jun, 2017. https://www.scmp.com/news/china/policies-politics/article/2099286/most-taiwanese-consider-taiwan-china-separate-countries  

[4] A steel-to-target modus operandi consists of a combination-package or singular unit massive delivery of high-explosive munitions via seaborne, airborne, and/or ground methods on a designated and (relatively) immobile target. From a tactical perspective, the operation and subsequent suppression offers an all-pervading short-term means-of-control, from which a follow-up strategy is given a launch window. The concept deserves a further brief historical analysis in order to contextualise it within the parameters that had been set, and to ground the strategies used in Vietnam in history. One of the main tactical objectives when utilising a steel-to-target pre-invasion barrage is to, in the first instance clear a path for ground troops, and to provide a window of opportunity for the ground forces to establish a foothold in the second instance. See: Why winning a war is no longer necessary: Modern Warfare and the United States of America through the prism of the wars of Vietnam and Iraq, 27. And, William Lind. ‘Understanding Fourth Generation War.’ Military Review. 84, July 2005, 12 – 13. http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=14796704

[5] The ‘security dilemma’ that was constructed by the US in Southeast Asia demanded a response and the level of concern becomes evident in the words of President Kennedy in his postulation that if Laos, Cambodia, and Vietnam fell to the communists, this would result in the gates of defeat for liberal-democracy being ‘open wide.’ The ‘security dilemma’ was therefore, one that the West ‘faced’ and it was America’s duty to retard the advance of communism on behalf of the West. See: John Newman. JFK and Vietnam: Deception, Intrigue and the Struggle for Power. New York: Warner Books, 1992, 323. For an interpretation of the reason why a speech would be given in terms of cultural relevance see: ‘Kennedy suggested that if Vietnam fell to the communists, the doors of communism would be “open wide” and the defeat of all of Southeast Asia would follow. As communism made its way throughout Southeast Asia, it would be blindly and humbly accepted by each Asian nation-state—each of which would be too stupid to respond in a proactive or articulate way due to its dire political consequences. Once again, the question is: Why would a US president think and say such a thing? The answer lies in the homogenisation of the Asian population — the assumption that all Asians’ are the “same.”  For a privileged, xenophobic, culturally isolated, God-fearing, Eurocentric, “civilised” and wealthy white, elite male — and his advisory group — he had absolutely no understanding of Asia. That an Indonesian could possibly be culturally, religiously and politically different from a person born in the Philippines was simply beyond Kennedy’s and his advisers’ thinking. All these people were simply a “bunch of Asians.” That the Vietnamese fought against the French, that Malaysians defied the English and that Indonesians reacted violently to the Dutch had no place in their understanding of the East.’ Strobe Driver. ‘The vagaries of US ‘commitment.’ Taipei Times. 5 Aug, 2018, 3. http://www.taipeitimes.com/News/editorials/archives/2018/08/05/2003697989/3

[6] A war of rivalry is a particular type of war. According to Goertz and Diehl ‘rivalry’ broadly refers to ‘repeated, militarised conflict between two states: rivalry is a relationship in which both sides deal with issues using the military tools of foreign policy … [and] signifies a hostile relationship, in which competition is conducted militarily … [the expectation is] to have future conflict.’ See: Gary Goertz and Paul Diehl. ‘(Enduring) Rivalries.’  Handbook of War Studies II. Edited by Manus Midlarsky.  Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan Press, 2000, 223-226.

[7] Aleš Karmazin ‘China’s Nationalist Discourse and Taiwan.’ China Report, Nov 2017, 53, 4, 430.

[8] ‘China’s Nationalist Discourse and Taiwan,’ 440.

[9] According to Buzan, ‘structural realism’ is an advancement on the concept of realism which ‘emphasises the competitive and conflictual side of international relations…and the security dilemma,’ whereas ‘structural realism’ defends the ‘centrality of the state, and especially the great powers, exposing the partiality of some interdependence views of international relations, and reaffirming the power … in the international system.’ See: Barry Buzan. ‘The timeless wisdom of realism?’ International theory: positivism & beyond. Edited by Steve Smith, Ken Booth and Marysia Zalewski.  Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, 49-51.

Strobe Driver – Strobe completed his PhD in war studies in 2011 and since then has written extensively on war, terrorism, Asia-Pacific security, the ‘rise of China,’ and issues within Australian domestic politics. Strobe is a recipient of Taiwan Fellowship 2018, MOFA, Taiwan, ROC, and is an adjunct researcher at Federation University.

 

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8 comments

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  1. mark delmege

    Once upon a time I was an education officer in a Max Security jail and I was the editor of the Prison paper – produced by prisoners and me. One bloke I remember, a bank robber, was well on his way to receiving a degree from the local uni and asked me for advice. He wrote a little like Strobe. Big words and confusing sentences. I had one go at trying to suggest that simpler words would make his text more readable. But he was a big bloke and had a history for violence. So I shut up and didn’t even mention his content.

  2. Phil Atkinson

    At present, Taiwan seems more of a distraction to China, than a reason to go to war. The two countries have co-existed for about 70 years – why make Taiwanese independence an issue now? China has always maintained that Taiwan is an integral part of China, ever since the losing side (KMT) retreated to the island following Mao’s successful revolution on the mainland.

    China is currently engaged in a massive economic undertaking, the One Belt One Road project, in concert with Russia, eastern European countries and a number of Asian and African countries, plus India. It has trade issues with the USA which are, as yet, unresolved. It has major economic issues to deal with domestically, as the result of its economic expansion “at any cost” over the last few years. It is a founding member of BRICS, a grouping of countries (Brazil, Russia, India, China & South Africa) which together, wish to supplant a new “world” financial system in place of the US dollar as key to international transactions. China has enough on its plate at present without being overly concerned with Taiwan.

    On the military side, it’s almost certain that China could carry out an invasion of Taiwan. The two countries are only 180kms distant from each other and China certainly has the weaponry and manpower. The question is whether China would risk intervention from any third party countries (obviously the USA, for one) and a consequent escalation of hostilities. The Chinese, if nothing else, are pragmatists and it’s possibly the thought of a large scale retaliation that’s prevented an invasion over the last 70 years. It’s hard to see that view changing at a time when economic matters are forefront in their minds.

  3. Alcibiadies

    China takes the long view … as should a nation with a history going back millennia would … the rogue province of Taiwan will re-unite with China proper … all in due time … there is no need for war. See German re-unification post WWII.

    Unless the US, whose dark and maleficent involvement and conduct since before ’45 thru to today re ‘Taiwan’ you have curiously studiously avoided, or otherwise misrepresented, decides to use its profound influence over its vassal, Taiwan, to create a hot conflict, as usual, purely to serve its own perceived interests, for its own ends.

    When my insomnia becomes unbearable, your multi-part epic, of oh so many words, yet saying very little of substance or insight, helps immensely. Thank you kindly.

    PS The Vietnam War was fought in the Sth, only ?! Ha ! It’s akin to a historian stating the Luftwaffe was NOT part of the Wehrmacht. Credibility fail, much ?

  4. Kerry

    to Mark: well put.

    This is gobbledygook and nasty pro war gobbledygook to boot.

    I would have advised the author that an introductory paragraph is the standard method of introducing the reader to the concept and content of an essay. But having read as much as I could stomach, I realized that this is just a pro war piece and I would hate it even if it was well constructed.

    I have no idea why this type of fear mongering rubbish gets published anywhere outside the Murdoch media and its ABC proxy.

    We should be reading articles extolling how peace could break out instead of war.

  5. Strobe Driver

    Good comments and I am able to take the criticisms, as any writer should. Though I think I am allowed a little ‘defence,’ especially to Mark and Kerry. I ‘have’ to use ‘big words’ as it is a quasi-academic document. For instance, I can’t state ‘the way Chinese people think,’ as that is subjective, whereas ‘irredentism’ is much more focussed and offers the politico-inclinations of the narrative more clearly; and I have to use ‘kinetic exchange’ rather than ‘firing missiles’ because the first statement encompasses all types of weaponry etc. And moreover, it is difficult to believe that a ‘war is coming’ for Australians as we ‘haven’t done anything wrong,’ that is to say that we are observers rather than actors in the region — this is a complete misunderstanding of the situation. This thesis is predicated on a war happening, I stated this in the opening chapters and in the conclusion (which is yet to be put up) and as much as I want peace too, my ‘job’ as a war studies/conflict writer is to bring to light that a war is well on the way to happening. The more people know this –politicians and their cohorts–the more likely something will be done about it. Nevertheless, are some of my sentences a bit long-winded? Yes!! Oh well …

  6. Kerry

    Hi Strobe Driver,
    Thanks for responding.
    FYI I have no problem with academic language 🙂

    In the pursuit of peace, Is it more useful to write about a potential war that probably won’t happen or all the wars that actually are happening?

    And war is already happening and Australia is ALREADY AT WAR in several middle East countries, on the ground, in the air as well as providing deadly intel for the US and the UK from Pine Gap.

    I accept you are writing within the limits of your own area of enquiry which ironically happens to be one of the few places on the planet that is currently NOT at war.

    FYI Chechnya was part of the USSR, actually inside Russian borders not a separate country conquered or annexed by modern Russia, so it is actually NOT the same as the French in Africa or Israel in Palestine or the US in Hawaii etc.

    Personally I am not bothered by China making war which they seldom do, and very very concerned about the US making more war which they always do.

    Since your areas of expertise is war so I will politely decline to read the last instalment because I object to your ignoring actual war in favour of writing about imaginary war.

    What other purpose could this possibly server other than to support fear mongering?

    it seems disingenuous for you to claim that your motive is peace. What are these newly informed politicians going to do once they “know” that China is planning war with Taiwan? Send in the cavalry?

    Hardly!

    Use it as a pretext for more US military bases?

    More likely

  7. Strobe Driver

    Hello again Kerry,

    Thankyou for your reply. Australia is not at war with any country as only the UNSCP5 can declare a war and they have not — Australia is involved in conflicts/skirmishes and low-intensity campaigns, not (legal) wars. We seem to disagree on Chechnya as I thought Stalin took it, not unlike Indonesia took West Papua and then declared it to be theirs. But I may be wrong. My motive is to announce what my evidence-base suggests, I go where the evidence of my research takes me, I am not ‘married to them,’ although based on my thesis war is ‘probable’ rather than ‘possible.’ Personally, I think war will come and it will be a ‘shitstorm like no other,’ as I think China will go after the Port of Darwin, as the Brits went after India and Ireland; and the US after Guam and Diego Garcia as well as Okinawa. But, I couldn’t put that in the thesis as it is an emotion-laden content and has no place in my thesis. Nevertheless, thankyou for commenting.

  8. Alcibiades

    Australia is not at war with any country as only the UNSCP5 can declare a war and they have not …

    Bollocks!

    Any sovereign nation may declare War in its own right !

    It is not, and has never been, the sole prerogative of the UNSC. A nation may choose to seek a UNSC declaration authorising certain actions, yet that is sought a State/s as a political/legal cover, and to avoid ‘formally’ declaring War in order to avoid the difficulties/consequences, legally, post conflict. Hence why most modern Post WWII ‘Wars’ have generally not been ‘formally declared’.

    The sole exception is the corrupted UNSC declared War against Nth Korea under an exclusive US command, UN mandate.

    Australia is still at War with Korea, as is every nation that signed on with the US led, UNSC mandated Korean War. Fact.

    A temporary armistice, it repeatedly serially abrogated, was only signed by appointed military commanders representing the belligerents, not by any nation State nor authorised plenipotentiaries. Fact.

    There is no Korean War peace Treaty.

    Australia and the above are also technically & legally still at war with China, as the declared co-belligerent of Korea against the UN forces, signatory to and chief participant in the conflict and signatory (Military rep.) to the temporary armistice.

    The rogue province of Taiwan declared in the mid 80’s it was no longer at War with China. There has been no Armistice nor Peace Treaty signed. The Chinese Civil War, as for the Korean War, is legally still extent. Fact.

    The non recognition of Taiwan as the legitimate representative of the Chinese nation, as well as the Treaty of San Francisco of ~1955, acknowledges Taiwan as a province, merely under the control of a defeated civil war remnant and an unrecognised, defeated, ‘government-in-exile’. Akin, hypothetically, to the Confederate government and CSA remnants fleeing to the State of Hawaii at the end of the US Civil War circa 1865, and to this day declaring themselves a legitimate sovereign nation and the rightful government of the US of A.

    Your contentions re Taiwan as ‘legitimate’ is unfounded. There can be no new War, ‘no surprise’ or otherwise, only a possible resumption of open hostilities in continuance by the belligerents of the still extent Chinese Civil War.

    Look, one apologises for somewhat dissmissive and disrespectful previous comments, however, if you intend this as a formal paper(?), the critical lack of relevant context and demonstrably cavalier mis-representative statements contrary to historical fact, destroys any credibility and brings questions of motive and objectively directly to the fore.

    Ie. The Vietnam war was fought only in the Sth. ???

    Bollocks.

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