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Category Archives: AIM Extra

Militarised Conservation: Paramilitary Rangers and the WWF

Think charity, think vulnerability and its endless well of opportunistic exploitation. Over the years, international charity organisations have been found with employees keen to take advantage of their station. That advantage has been sexual, financial and, in the case of allegations being made about the World Wild Life Fund for Nature, in the nature of inflicting torture on those accused of poaching.

BuzzFeed, via reporters Tom Warren and Katie J.M. Baker, began the fuss with an investigative report claiming instances of torture and gross violence on the part of rangers assisted by the charity to combat poaching. It starts with a description of a dying man’s last days, one Shikharam Chaudhary, a farmer who was brutally beaten and tortured by forest rangers patrolling Chitwan National Park in Nepal. Shikharam, it seems, had been singled out for burying a rhinoceros horn in his backyard. The horn proved elusive, but not the unfortunate farmer, who was detained in prison. After nine days, he was dead.

Three park officials including the chief warden were subsequently charged with murder. WWF found itself in a spot, given its long standing role in sponsoring operations by the Chitwan forest rangers. As the BuzzFeed report goes on to note, “WWF’s staff on the ground in Nepal leaped into action – not to demand justice, but to lobby for the charges to disappear. When the Nepalese government dropped the case months later, the charity declared its victory in the fight against poaching. Then WWF Nepal continued to work closely with the rangers and fund the park as if nothing had happened.”

The report does not hold back, insisting that the alleged murder of the unfortunate Shikharam in 2006 was no aberration. “It was part of a pattern that persists to this day. In national parks across Asia and Africa, the beloved non-profit with the cuddly panda logo funds, equips, and works directly with paramilitary forces that have been accused of beating, torturing, sexually assaulting, and murdering scores of people.”

The poach wars are a savage business, throwing up confected images of heroes and villains. They do not merely involve the actions of protecting animals, but military-styled engagements where fatalities are not uncommon. Anti-poaching has become a mission heralded by the romantically inclined as indispensable, its agents to be celebrated. Desperate local conditions are conveniently scrubbed out in any descriptions: there are only the noble rangers battling animal murderers.

The Akashinga, for instance, are an anti-poaching enterprise of 39 women operating in Zimbabwe who featured with high praise in a report from the ABC in October last year. Who are the victims, apart from the animals they protect? There is little doubt in the minds of the reporters: the women themselves, victims of assault, many single mothers from Nyamakate. Laud them, respect their mission.

It is clear is that these women are feted warriors, armed and given appropriate training. They “undergo military-style training in unarmed combat, camouflage and concealment, search and arrest, as well as leadership and conservation ethics.” Their source of encouragement and support is Damien Mander, formerly a military sniper and founder of the International Anti-Poaching Foundation.

Mander’s own laundry list for being a “good anti-poaching ranger”, as featured in an interview to the Hoedspruit Endangered Species Centre in 2015, is unvarnished: “A passion for nature, strong paramilitary base, and ability and willingness to work in hostile environments for extended periods of time as part of a team.”

The line between the mission of charity and its mutation into one of abuse is tooth fine. In February 2018, The Times, assisted by information supplied by whistleblowers, sprung the lid off Oxfam GB workers in Haiti, suggesting that charity workers had received sexual favours for payment in the aftermath of the Haiti earthquake. (Nothing like a crisis that breeds opportunity). It was duly revealed that the organisation had done its level best to conceal the fact. The UK International Development Secretary Penny Mordaunt’s statement to Parliament in February took most issue with the latter. “In such circumstances we must be able to trust organisations not only to do all they can to prevent harm, but to report and follow up incidents of wrongdoing when they do occur.”

In the course of its conduct, Oxfam did not, according to Mordaunt, furnish the Charity Commission with a report on the incidents. Nor did the donors receive one. The prosecting authorities were also left in the dark on the subject.

Defences have been mounted by those working in the aid sector. Mike Aaronson, writing in August last year, pleaded the case that aid organisations were being unduly singled out, the scape goats of moral outrage and privileged ethics. “Aid organisations carry a lot of risk, operating in chaotic and stressful environments where in trying to do good they can end up doing harm.” In condemning them, it was easy to ignore the fact that they had “done most to address the issue”.

The WWF situation, which has moved the matter into the dimension of animal protection and conservation, has hallmarks that are similarly problematic with the humanitarian sector in general. And the reaction of the organisation has also been fairly typical, laden with weasel-worded aspirations. “At the heart of WWF’s work are places and people who live with them,” an organisation spokesman for WWF UK asserted in response to the allegations. “Respect for human rights is at the core of our mission.” There were “stringent policies” in place to safeguard “the rights and wellbeing of indigenous people and local communities in the places we work.”

Students of the broad field of humanitarian ventures suggest four instances where militarisation takes place. Charities and relief organisations have become proxy extensions in armed conflict (consider Nicaragua and Afghanistan during the 1980s); creatures of embedment (the Red Cross in the World Wars); agents of “self-defence” – consider the Order of Saint John of Jerusalem in the twelfth century; and engaged in direct conflict (the International Brigades of the Spanish Civil War).

The WWF case suggests a direct connection between the mission of a charitable organisation and its captivation by a dangerous militancy. It has become a sponsor, and concealer, of vigilante action, obviously unabashed in cracking a few skulls in the name of shielding protected species. Along came the networks of informants, surveillance and exploiting local issues. No longer can this be regarded a matter of altruistic engagement in the name of animal conservation; it is a full-fledged sponsorship of a paramilitary operation with all the incidental nastiness such an effort entails.

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What a war involves: A brief deliberation

What a war involves: A brief deliberation

What a war ‘involves’ does not need a great deal of nuanced explanation as there is ample historical evidence to the severity that war, as a happening, causes. Nevertheless, the level of destruction and disruption depends upon the degree of the ‘punishment phase’ of operations, the types of munitions used, whether a slog-of-attrition is employed, how chronologically long the conflict is, how many actors are involved, and whether the conflict spirals out of control of the belligerents. These are the simple avenues with which a conflict or war takes and with this in mind, some applicability to Taiwan can be made. The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis[1] is able to be used as a guide to what a war would bring and although this crisis did not evolve further than a show of strength on the part of China through a live fire exercise, it nevertheless ‘disrupted naval shipping and air commercial air traffic, causing harm to Taiwan’s economy … [and] Taiwanese scrambled to reserve seats on flights to North America.’[2] The evidence suggests that those able to exit Taiwan as a crisis evolves do so. And moreover, it can be safely assumed the number is prone to the level of threat and the concomitant resources some members of the populace have to act upon their desire to exit—in this case, air travel being the best option. For those that are compelled to stay for whatever reason, there are also threats which impact upon their, and the society’s function. Resource management, especially for an island is optimum, as it requires the allocation of resources beyond the actual daily requirements of the populace and the ability for the resources to be delivered to the populace—including the sick and infirmed. To be sure, distribution of services by civilians and military logistic personnel is dependent upon the amount of exploding ordnance delivered, the rate of firings, severity of the attacks encountered; and the terror induced by the operation of low-platform, non-fixed-wing and fixed-wing aircraft. In the punishment phase of bombing or strike allocation, delivery and distribution resources are required and this entails personnel external to a country’s defence capabilities—in this case, Taiwan. Beyond the basic needs of a populace, there is also the broader fiscal issues associated with the well-being of a country. A stable currency is required in order to service debt, allocate future proclivities and ensure present and future investors remain engaged. Beyond the milieu of day-to-day encumbrances for a populace, there is also societal components that intrude, as has been alluded to in the USSR-Afghanistan Conflict. Taiwan is especially vulnerable due to its geographic isolation and thus, it can be assumed that persistent strikes and the non-engagement of defending actors and allies, would evolve into a significant depreciation of living standards, quality of life and infrastructure destruction, regardless of Taiwan’s ability to strike back at China.

Taiwan and the realities of a war with China: A brief deliberation

Taiwan as a liberal-democracy is therefore prone to the amalgamation and dissemination of ideas and ideals and the percolation of those within a society. A war tends to expose political fissures in a society, and therefore any expression of hostility by China—that involved direct action—would produce ‘small groups’, able to express their recalcitrance to the ‘model-of-governance’ under which they live. The critical issue for Taiwan, as it is a liberal-democracy and due to the freedoms therein, those that favour China unification will actively and legally exercise their right to disrupt formative action against the ‘enemy.’ The factors alluded to, whilst integrated in the Afghanistan-USSR Conflict present an understanding that unless there is a total and focused cause and effect edict in place—the defeating an adversary as per the North Vietnam compulsion toward the South Vietnamese and their allies—a war presents and then produces animosities that fester in a society. In simpler terms, there would be a reaction by some members of Taiwanese society which favoured China’s unification intent and would cause domestic disruptions. The event of a major war with China must, for Taiwan, produce elements of the following accounts as per Russia and its incursion into Afghanistan. As alluded to in the milieu of globalisation, the knock-on effects can be substantial; and unnerving to a government. A summary of the phenomenon is

Major wars critically impact domestic politics by producing durable social changes and by redistributing political power amongst groups … wars may make as well as break states … By late 1986 [after approximately four years of fighting] the Afghanistan war had significantly impacted on Soviet domestic politics. Anti-militarism became strong in the non-Russian Soviet republics … For non-Russians the war became a unifying symbol to their opposition of Moscow’s rule.[3]

In tandem with the issues, the notion of a war being able to take place, as opposed to one actually happening, by necessity promotes and often produces political disharmony in a liberal-democracy. In simpler terms the populace will exercise a right to express support for the government policies; or to change the government. The knock-on effects alluded to would for Taiwan impact upon immediate and future business investment confidence; elicit a drastic downturn in an immediate (and the perception of a future) standard of living; generate a downturn in the normative standard of living and well-being that has been part of the Taiwanese community for decades; engage the populace about whether conscription should be introduced; and cause the Taiwanese military to be on constant alert. There would indubitably be more issues that come to the fore than the aforementioned and as orderly and of good governance that Taiwanese society is, the problematics for the government would be overwhelming based on the understanding that only ‘most’ Taiwanese consider the two countries to be separate.[4] The fractiousness that would be produced in Taiwan, especially if China did not actually cause massive asset destruction and deaths by introducing and then moderating a punishment phase of operations, would be enough to completely disrupt and possibly retard meaningful dialogues between Taiwan and other governments. The position of China would be most likely deemed perspicacious by others—‘of having given Taiwan a chance’—and therefore, China would be elevated in its machinations of unification. The dangers of this approach and what it would create as per the above-mentioned (and more) in Taiwan cannot, and should not, be underestimated.

Taiwan-China and a high-intensity munitions exchange: A brief deliberation

Having dealt with numerous scenarios and the possibility of the actions, another possibility must be examined—the action of an unmitigated kinetic exchange that involves mass destruction and high casualties. As unlikely as it is to happen does, however, require a brief examination. Should China launch a high-intensity distance-exchange the challenges for Taiwan’s forces would be immense and it is fair to argue, be overwhelmed unless aid was immediate and continuous. This would have to happen in the form of naval and air assets immediately being available, with a follow-up of boots-on-the-ground with additional armour assets implemented by its allies not long after the initial strike. A strike of this magnitude would incur a high level of destruction and it would have to be momentous in the first waves of attack. Major infrastructure—ports, airports, bridges, infrastructure and lines-of-communication—would have to be destroyed in order to enforce parallel-disablements and ‘bullseye’ targeting[5] which involves decapitation of the government followed by ‘parallel-warfare’[6] infrastructure disablement, which would diffuse a coordinated defensive attack. The use of inhabited and uninhabited low-platform aircraft would also have to be utilised as both psychological and practical warfare components; and a naval blockade of all Taiwanese vessels would take place in the Strait; as well as the seizing of all Taiwanese physical assets on mainland Chinese territory—civilian aircraft and shipping. Retaliation would be only available to Taiwan via air and nautical assets, as the use of the PLA would be restricted to the formation of specialist strike forces, although there may be some territorial infiltration of its Special Forces units in order to engage in sabotage and search-and-destroy missions; and to disperse Taiwanese army personnel and equipment. Whilst the aforementioned is possible it should not be given overt credence as a strike of this immensity would assist in galvanising the population (which is something China would not want) and moreover, it would encourage possible allies to become certain allies; prompt immediate political reaction from other powerful actors; and encourage said actors to employ a military presence in the Taiwan Strait.

The components of both low-and high-intensity strikes, extended beyond the political environments and the realities with which Taiwan would be confronted aside, it is appropriate to engage in the direction a war may ‘take’ and the complexities which will come to the fore in the A-P region; and in a globalised world.

Continued tomorrow … The direction a war will ‘take’

Previous instalment … The surprise of a no ‘surprise attack’


[1] Michael Cole. ‘The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis. The Forgotten Showdown between China and America.’ The National Interest. 10 Mar, 2017.

[2] ‘The Third Taiwan Strait Crisis.  LThe Forgotten Showdown between China and America.’

[3] ‘The Afghanistan war and the breakdown of the Soviet Union,’ 696 – 698. Emphasis added. The evidence-base cited and to which the article refers can be found in the following references and as ascribed by the authors: Jack Goldstone, ‘Theories of Revolution: The Third Generation’, World Politics, 32, 1980, 425–53; Robert Higgs, Crisis and Leviathan: Critical Episodes in the Growth of American Government. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987; Theda Skocpol, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1992; William R. Thompson, ‘The Consequences of War’, International Interactions, 19, 1993, 125–47; and Bueno De Mesquita and D. Lalman, War and Reason, New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1992.

[4] ‘Most Taiwanese consider Taiwan, China separate countries, poll suggests.’ South China Morning Post.

[5] For a definitive understanding of the tactic and strategy of the focussed application of airpower see: Colonel John Warden’s Five Strategic Rings and although is not the result of a single document. It is the outcome of several of Warden’s studies entitled: The Air Campaign: Planning For Combat. National Defense University Press, 1988, ‘Air Theory for the Twenty-first Century,’ Challenge and Response, Edited by Karl P. Magyar, Alabama: Air University Press, 1994, and John Warden’s, ‘The Enemy as a System,’ Airpower Journal 9, 2, Spring 1995.

[6] ‘Parrallel warfare’ comprises, ‘First the early warning sites are put out of action to mask ingress of friendly strike packages. Next operation centers controlling enemy defensive fighters, antiaircraft artillery, and surface-to-air missile systems are targeted to force defensive systems into autonomous operations, which destroys the integrated enemy defense systems. Enemy defensive force elements are targeted, and finally the target of [highest] value, in this case, enemy leadership, can be hit.’ See: David Deptula.  ‘Parallel Warfare: What is it? Where did it come from? Why is it important?’ Eagle In The Desert. Looking Back on U.S. Involvement in the Persian Gulf War. Edited by William Head and Earl Tilford. Westport: Praeger, 1996, 130.

Strobe Driver 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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This man has his own mountain to climb in Nepal… and it’s not Everest

Media Release

For almost ten years Dr Ray Hodgson, an Australian specialist gynaecologist has travelled to and from Nepal with a team of volunteers in the hope that he can somehow make some impact on the lives of the desperate women there. After finding very little in the way of women’s specialist health in remote Nepal, in 2010 he founded the charity organisation, Australians for Women’s Health (A4WH). The objective of A4WH is to improve the appalling state of women’s health in Nepal. Their current focus is the construction of a Mothers & Babies Hospital in East Nepal. To aid this enormous undertaking and raise the $500K plus needed, Dr Ray has written a book about his experiences over the last 9 years aptly called, Heartbreak in the Himalayas. The book is due to launch in Sydney next month on Friday March 8th, International Women’s Day.

Dr Ray’s story details the adventures and challenges during a four-week surgical camp in a remote area of Nepal. The story is based on actual events that he and his volunteer group have faced over the years. Challenges are both medical – the team work in dilapidated buildings with very limited supplies, enduring frequent power blackouts as well as managing the cultural challenges in what is a highly patriarchal country. Heartbreak in the Himalayas presents the realities of life for an ill-equipped medical team who often have worked in tents under flashlights with team members giving their own blood in order to save their dying patients.

The magnitude of women’s reproductive health problems in Nepal is enormous. This is largely due to a deep-seated culture of gender discrimination from early childhood, coupled with limited access to health services. Nepal has extremely high levels of maternal and perinatal mortality – a mother dies every four hours and a baby dies every 20 minutes. Nepalese women have very high levels of uterine prolapse – a debilitating condition that plagues 10 percent of Nepal’s 13 million women. Severe prolapse is distressing, both physically and emotionally and women are often cast out from their families and homes. These women suffer symptoms including urinary incontinence, dragging pain, infection and great difficulty when undertaking simple tasks like sitting or walking.

Dr Ray says, “You can’t help being moved by the heartbreaking stories of these women describe. We wouldn’t stand for this in our country and we shouldn’t stand for this in any country. But most people are blind to the appalling conditions these women and babies suffer. I want this book to open people’s eyes, and to realise how very lucky we are in Australia. And I want people to realise that every single one of us can help these desperate people.”

According to the World Economic Forum, the 2016 Global Gender Index reveals that Nepal ranks 110th out of 144 countries on gender parity. UNESCO found that 23 percent of men in Nepal had never attended school compared to 44 percent women who never attended school. UNESCO also found that 50 percent of students in primary school will drop out before secondary school with high dropout rates for females mainly caused by child marriages.

Heartbreak in the Himalayas gives readers a priceless insight into Nepal’s true culture and its intimate relationship with the health of its people. Dr Ray Hodgson weaves his way into the heart of this mesmerising country, and shines a light on the hopes, dreams, and heartbreaks of the local people who are usually hidden in statistics.

The book will be available for purchase from the Australians for Women’s’ Health website from Friday 8th March 2019. All proceeds from the sale of the book will directly fund the construction of the Mothers and Babies Hospital. The book will be launch at The Freedom Hub in Waterloo, Sydney on Friday 8th March (International Women’s Day) from 7pm.

About the author: Dr Ray Hodgson is a specialist gynaecology surgeon based on NSW Mid North Coast. Ray has had a long-standing passionate interest in overcoming the inequities of global women’s health. Ray graduated from Sydney University 1981 and underwent his surgical training in both Sydney and London. He is currently an Associate Professor at University of NSW where he is actively involved in education of medical students, registrars and consultant surgeons. Ray is also an examiner of trainee specialists at Royal Australian New Zealand College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists. More recently Ray was appointed Director of Medical Education at UNSW Medical School, Port Macquarie Campus. He is also the Rotary Director of International Health, based in Port Macquarie.

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The F1 Race In Melbourne BEFORE The Formula 1 Race!

Media Release

Australia’s top teenage race car designers and ‘drivers’ are preparing to arrive in Melbourne to do battle in the days leading up to the Formula 1 Australian Grand Prix…in the 2019 F1 in Schools National Final.

These 36 teams from across the nation are some of the 40,000 high schoolers who participate in the world’s biggest STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) competition [globally more than 9,000,000 students from 17,000 schools in 50 countries are involved].

The students used complex 3D computer software and special applications like virtual wind tunnel testing to design futuristic miniature F1 cars which rocket from 0-80 km/h in 1 second. They collaborated with industry to learn about materials, engineering processes and production techniques.

Teams invested hundreds of hours in order to qualify for the National Finals – working after school, in their evenings, weekends and during their holidays.

The Formula 1 teams are patrons of this program and at each World Finals they donate car components to be used for category trophies. They will open up their pit garages at Albert Park to the students, following the National Finals, and the young teams will also meet their heroes such as driver Daniel Ricciardo.

Australia has become the dominant force. Our report card includes six world championships, five seconds, three thirds, eight Best Engineered Car Awards and three international speed records.

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The surprise of no ‘surprise attack’

The surprise of no ‘surprise attack’

Crucially and as stipulated, China is unlikely to mount a surprise attack as this would give other actors an overt reason to react to China; unite countries against it; and crucially, cause reactions against its broader A-P policies. With this in mind and regardless of the pretence of why a war will take place it is necessary to observe that the CCP will need to be discerning in its politico-manoeuvrings as missteps could enliven  or actually initiate an overwhelming politico and possibly kinetic-response from other actors, or draw in would-be actors. The situation that the US invoked and how it gained UN-sponsorship in the (1991) First Persian Gulf War[1] which brought in allies through the prism of a security dilemma, allowed for a renewed dominance of the Middle East  and in time the placement of a ‘new world order.’[2] China will want to avoid an intervention of this magnitude at all cost. Therefore, the CCP will do all in its power to keep Taiwan separate from the intent of other nation-states. The way in which it will accomplish this is to offer Taiwan a ‘window-of-opportunity’ for unification—which will be a period of years. The CCP will then stipulate that it will have the legal right to forcefully impose its claim—essentially, the right to declare war—in order to bring the situation to an unambiguous ending. From the point of non-settlement—Taiwan not agreeing to negotiate a ceding timeline with Taiwan—China will reserve the right to attack at any time beyond the end of the ‘window-of-opportunity’ that has been stipulated, in order to bring a long and arduous timeline to a close—as per its unification and integrity paradigm.

The reason China will take this trajectory is it will want to be observed as a ‘reasonable actor’ in the UNGA, the UNSC, the UNSCP5 and the international arena in general. The predication that will be set up in the process is the offering of a timeline will create an advantage: when a war happens it will be on China’s terms. This said, China will not necessarily revert to the kinetic phase of operations upon the termination of the window-of-opportunity for Taiwan to be peacefully ceded. The CCP will simply announce that because the ceding has not happened it now has the right to enforce kinetic action (read: invade, annex or blockade) at the time of its choosing. An approach of this type will diminish the chances of direct action—political or otherwise—on the part of NATO, EU, US, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and other concerned parties. Because China will not have directly invaded Taiwan at the time of declaration of the ‘right.’ A peripheral yet advantageous component will be having succeeded in raising the status of alert for the Taiwanese military; create panic in Taiwan’s domestic environment; and motivate political comment in the UNSC (of which China will have an inordinate advantage). Crucially, China will also have created a time-frame for China, from which it will be able to assess and continually position its position of power. The aforementioned understood there is a peripheral issue that also needs to be addressed to offer some clarity to the kinetic phase of a war happening and that is and for obvious reasons, the fear of what the term ‘invasion’ implies.

Why a ‘traditional’ invasion of Taiwan will not occur

From the above-mentioned perspective and the issues that it throws up, no conversation about the Taiwan-China debate can be addressed without observing that there is an overriding belief that Taiwan will be invaded. As unlikely as this is, it must be addressed through the prism of history and the concomitant elements. The historic ‘baggage’ of the concept within the ‘invasion paradigm’ is premised upon and posited in, the ‘model’ of the D-Day invasion[3] of WWII (June 1944). The largely sea-borne landings consisted of large-scale formations of Allied troops clashing with fortified positions on exposed beaches, in an attempt to break through and establish a beachhead (a strategic ‘footprint’), from which further operations could be launched. The result, although successful was mass casualties on the part of the invader. To be sure, this model of invasion has taken place in the post-WWII era and therefore has gained further comment in the annals of history. Whilst the invasions alluded to have involved smaller force-on-force collisions the concept—as militarily redundant as it is in terms of accomplishment—has retained some acceptance. Certainly, this is because it has the popularity of opportunistic results which have within them some political advantageous on the part of the invader. Whilst it is not assured that an attack of this type cannot be completely ruled out it is nonetheless, highly unlikely. Therefore, it is the contention of this thesis that an invasion of this ‘type’ will not take place. Some further clarity is needed here and that is to stress that if an invasion did take place it would not be in the formulaic of large-scale beachfront troops amassing against a fortified adversary, followed by the establishment of beachheads, followed by an expansion from these strongholds into broader territorial acquisition. The mainstay of this argument is premised on the evidence that it has failed in the post-WWII era as the populations and militias that the invasion has been utilised for and to ‘bring under control’ has merely succeeded in dispersing the militias in the face of overwhelming odds; and then reformed to counter-strike in either an ad-hoc or through cell-organised militias. The incursion into Iraq and Afghanistan are prime examples of the West utilising redundant strategies and of being ‘immediately victorious’ and of then having to face ongoing violent repercussions from the ‘subdued’ populace. It can be construed therefore, that warfare is obviously not a static event and adversaries ‘learn’ how to fight in the face of oppression, and this is due to ‘low-intensity warfare’[4] being enabled and maintained as per the aforementioned countries. This aspect however, needs no further explanation as returning to a D-Day tactical landing is of most relevance here.

The PLA attempting to mount a campaign which involved large-scale landings would be tactically suicidal and without value strategically, as Taiwanese forces would be able to exploit ‘choke points,’ and apply steel-to-target barrages. The PLA would become involved in persistent defensive manoeuvres rather than being able to exploit the attack, with strategic ‘footholds’ followed by an advance. As unlikely as it is to happen the fact remains it is a possibility and therefore, an assumption that the PLA moved inland from beachheads and Taiwanese defence forces the worst case scenario for the PLA would extend beyond the landings. A war of a ‘third kind’[5] or a modified version of the strategy might develop and from the ‘ashes’ of a Taiwan military counterattack and an ‘asymmetrical’[6] tactical nightmare for the PLA would evolve. The PLA would not want the population at large becoming belligerent and defensive and one which countered PLA at every stage of advance. Should street-fighting ensue and whilst it would be horrendous for the population of the cities, it would require years to defeat (if at all)—as per Fallujah, in the Iraq conflict for the US.[7] Moreover, it would plunge the PLA into a slog-of-attrition from which others could take a politico- and military-advantage of, which would in turn assist in others exploiting any weaknesses in China’s status in the A-P region per se. Hence, a broad-front collision will not take place as it presents too much of a risk. The PLA, the PLA Navy (PLAN) and the PLA Air Force (PLAAF) if involved in a strategy of this ‘type’ would also see it in a contained territorial space (beachheads) which would favour fortified Taiwanese forces; reduce any effective countermeasures should the initial landings fail; and as has been alluded to would involve mass PLA casualties in what would quickly evolve from a series of skirmishes to a mid-intensity conflict. This would undoubtedly cause unrest in China’s domestic population—as per the US and its allies in Afghanistan; and the (then) USSR in Afghanistan. A war-of-attrition would not be a part of the PLA’s tactical planning or the CCP’s grand strategy, as the risk outweighs any advantages and to be sure, whilst war always has a component of risk, defeat is unintended.[8]

Upon the rarity of a shock-and-awe, high-intensity attack taking place, as highly unlikely as it is, and to offer a perspective on an invasion following, in the interests of a balanced argument and because this thesis rests on a kinetic exchange it must be examined, regardless of the minimal chance of it happening. In the Taiwan-China case it would consist of one or more chronologically short-distance munitions exchanges. A significant part of the reason this type of exchange is highly unlikely is because it would immediately demand an instantaneous decision-making process and responses on the part of other A-P nations; and cause ASEAN and the UN to mandate for cease-and-desist dialogues. This is not what China wants to happen. The more the UN is involved and regardless of its past inabilities it does maintain a level of involvement in international frictions and it does bring actors to negotiation points. Any nuanced involvement beyond the UNSCP5 is not what China wants, as it reduces the level of control over the circumstances of the conflict; has the propensity to draw in many other A-P (and non-A-P actors) immediately; increases the potential of the situation rapidly escalating beyond a regional mid-intensity conflict; and crucially has the potential for the conflict to spiral out of control and evolve external to the A-P region and into a broader limited war. In the worst case scenario, if a large amount of actors entered the fray too quickly and haphazardly the limited war could escalate to a total war with a collective of military united against it. China, due to its inabilities to manage in the nascent phase of its elevation would not want this to happen, if only that anything beyond a medium intensity conflict in the next decade (to 2028) would stretch its forces to breaking point. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, the chance of a sudden and cathartic war taking place is minor as it is more likely that the build-up and initiation of hostilities which would be premised on a Kennedy-esq oration rather than the immediacy of a George W. Bush fallacious ‘with us, or against us’[9] mantra.

To be sure, the CCP is by definition, aware of the frictions that were caused through this style of call-to-arms. Hence, the taking of Taiwan will be enmeshed in broader legends and be concomitant to the ‘integrity’ factors that been stipulated and are resplendent with but not limited to, Chinese homogeneity; cultural veracity; territorial unity; traditional reinstatement; and crucially, the final affirmation of the historic bequeathing that would no longer subjugate future Chinese generations to the imposed fragmentations of their history. A myriad of other nuanced foundations are able to be applied to this formulaic, however China’s approach to war will be modelled on the Kennedy politico-model of the (somewhat subjective) ‘greater good.’ The advent of any call-to-arms will also have the addendum and trajectory of launching the possibility of, or actual conflict of it being a ‘just war’—jus ad bellum[10] which will offer a greater advantage to China.

The way in which China will most likely approach the capitulation of Taiwan is through the prism of the UNSC and due to its power in the UNSCP5 it will offer Taiwan a ‘window-of-opportunity’ to peacefully retrocede to China. Should the opportunity not be ‘committed to’ by Taiwan and the mantle of independence—through the prism of a defence-imperative—remain steadfast on the part of the Taiwanese government, China will then issue an imposed deadline. This will be accompanied by rhetoric of China having given Taiwan the opportunity to cede peacefully.  A significant reason for this approach will be the ‘shock and awe’ component of the US ‘war on terror’ (the Second Gulf War, 2003) which prompted contempt by many nation-states—especially France and Germany. Effectively, this meant that the aforementioned governments of countries were unable to join the war due to the rage of their constituents, much to the chagrin of the US which would eventually see them being derided as ‘old Europe.’[11] China will not want this level of debate to be enacted, nor will it want repercussions from other powerful actors. The issue for China is it will want to be seen of as tolerant, magnanimous and beneficent. This method toward war can be deemed to be a ‘pause-and-effect’ approach as it implies a moderation to hostile intent and a willingness, on the part of the most powerful actor, to forgo hostile action which, as history has proven to be immediate, deliberate and overwhelmingly destructive.

The CCP has learned. Due to its post-Deng cosmopolitanism and understanding of social networking in a globalised world and of the populaces of liberal-democracies being globally-aware and truculent, launching an immediate high-intensity attack on Taiwan would invite a severe reaction in the UNGA—as per Saudi Arabian forces in Yemen and Syrian forces in Syria. As such, it will seek a more moderate line. The CCP will adhere to the path of the 1991 First Gulf War/Persian Gulf War and remain within the remit of how the US garnered support for its ‘reasonable and assiduous’ approach to Iraqi forces exiting Kuwait. This could safely be argued as the first time the pause-and-effect approach to a war was utilised. This is what China will aim for as it offers the opportunity of less derision of its actions within the UNGA, and through the guise of a ‘reasoning,’ it will henceforth commit to its ‘right’ to take Taiwan. The application at this point in time will be, by ‘any and all means possible’ which offers the prospect of utilising military action which will be further examined in the ‘conclusion.’ The ongoing cosmopolitanism of both belligerents will without doubt continue and the associated assertive actions will involve independence cum defence on the part of Taiwan; and retrocession cum offence on the part of China. The politico-bulwarks set in place by both actors will (and must), involve an adversarial outcome that involves a kinetic exchange. Thus, the inter-dependencies and conflictual components in place it is now appropriate to examine what war will ‘bring.’

Continued tomorrow … What a war involves: A brief deliberation

Previous instalment … A forthcoming war


[1] There were several resolutions passed by the UNSC demanding Iraq withdraw from Kuwait, however it was Resolution 686 that demanded Iraq withdraw from Kuwait by 15 January, 1991 and authorised the use of force if Iraq failed to comply. See: Charles Tripp. A History of Iraq. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2000, 253-254. For the resolution see: ‘UNSC Resolution 686,’ March 1991. Vote: 11 for, 1 against (Cuba), 3 abstentions (Yemen, China, and India). See: United Nations Security Council.

[2]  President Bush stated in an address to Congress (1991), “I thank the Members of this Congress—support here for our troops in battle was overwhelming. And above all, I thank those whose unfailing love and support sustained our courageous men and women: I thank the American people. … Tonight, I come to this House to speak about the world—the world after war. The recent challenge could not have been clearer. Saddam Hussein was the villain; Kuwait, the victim. To the aid of this small country came nations from North America and Europe, from Asia and South America, from Africa and the Arab world, all united against aggression. Our uncommon coalition must now work in common purpose: to forge a future that should never again be held hostage to the darker side of human nature…Now, we can see a new world coming into view. A world in which there is the very real prospect of a new world order. In the words of Winston Churchill, a world order in which “the principles of justice and fair play protect the weak against the strong. …” A world where the United Nations, freed from cold war stalemate, is poised to fulfil the historic vision of its founders. A world in which freedom and respect for human rights find a home among all nations. The Gulf war [sic] put this new world to its first test. And my fellow Americans, we passed that test.” See: ‘Address Before a Joint Session of the Congress on the Cessation of the Persian Gulf Conflict 1991-03-06.’ Bush Library. Public Papers-1991-March.

[3] The commentary on the D-Day event of WWII is immense, however in order to reflect the direction of this thesis see: Omaha Beach: A Flawed Victory.  Adrian Lewis, Tempus Publishing, 2001.

[4] According to Thompsen, ‘low-intensity’ conflict is associated with a ‘diverse range of politico-military activities less intense than modern conventional warfare. The types of conflict most frequently associated with the concept are insurgency and counterinsurgency and terrorism and counterterrorism.’ See: Loren Thompsen. Low-Intensity Conflict. The Pattern of Warfare in the Modern World. Massachusetts: Lorington Books, 1989, 2. Furthermore, and in a more practical military sense, the ‘essential features of [low-intensity] guerrilla warfare are avoiding the enemy’s strength—his main fighting forces—whilst striking at outposts and logistical support from unexpected directions.’ See: John Nagl. Counterinsurgency Lessons From Malaya And Vietnam. Learning to Eat Soup with a Knife. Westport: Praeger, 2002, 15.

[5] A war of the ‘third kind’ is a complex event and has a multitude of factors involved. In relation to the Vietnam War and the resistance displayed by the North, the notion of ‘third way’ warfare is eminently traceable and involved the guerrillas being ‘indistinguishable from the general population [and] engagements must be sporadic and their perpetrators unobserved and unidentifiable … The deadly game [of direct combat and psycho-political interplays] is played in every home, church, government office, school, highway, and village.’ See: Kalevi Holsti. The State, War, and the State of War, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996, 36-39. Expanding on this description, is to note the following: ‘in wars of the third kind there are no fronts, no campaigns, no bases, no uniforms, no publicly displayed honors, no points d’appui [pressure points], and no respect for the territorial limits of states.’ See: Martin Van Creveld. The Transformation of War. New York: Free Press, 1991, 206. Emphasis in original.

[6] Asymmetrical conflict has within it similar intangible components as limited war. For example, in order to fight a conflict in an asymmetrical way some aspects of a conventional symmetrical force-on-fore conflict may need to take place. Asymmetrical war in contemporary times however, has the traditional aspects of allowing a situation to be developed where ‘an adversary, is able to take advantage of its strengths and an opponents’ weakness.’ This stated, a microcosm of this in contemporary times is that of terrorism which acts ‘outside the limits imposed on the use of force’ which is the use of asymmetry in conflict. See: Roger Barnett. Asymmetrical Warfare. Today’s Challenge to US Military Power. Washington: Brassey’s Inc, 2003, 53. Emphasis in original.

[7] Jeremy Shapiro. ‘The latest battle for Fallujah is a symbol of the futility of US efforts in Iraq.’ Vox. 25 May, 2016.

[8] Geoffrey Blainey. The Causes of War. London:  Macmillan, 1973, 249.

[9] ‘Text of George Bush’s speech.’ The Guardian. 21 Sep, 2001.

[10] What comprises a ‘just war—jus ad bellum—is subjective as the term has within it interpretations in its action, and is in the ‘eye of the beholder.’ For the purposes of this thesis and because it is not rooted in philosophical cum religious interpretations, China will exert pressures associated with its right to take Taiwan as has already been explained. Therefore its application will be appropriate and therefore the action will have ensconced within it a ‘manifest right intention,’ and thus, will be deemed a ‘just war’ by China. For an interpretation of what is ‘just’ in war see: James Johnson. ‘Just War, As It Was And Is.’ First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion & Public Life. 139, 2005, 14.

[11] Mark Baker. ‘US: Rumsfeld’s ‘Old’ And ‘New’ Europe Touches On An Uneasy Divide.’ RadioFreeEurope/ RadioLiberty. 24 Jan, 2003.

Strobe Driver 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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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.

[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.

[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.  

[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.

[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.

[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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Taiwan as the epicentre of an Asia-Pacific war

Taiwan as the epicentre of an Asia-Pacific war

As this thesis is predicated on the evidence-base of there (eventually) being an A-P war, it is important to come to terms with numerous broad-based issues to draw out a more nuanced and developed argument. The following are significant elements and though they only comprise a snapshot of issues within the current state-of-affairs, they nonetheless offer pivotal points which are able to lead to deeper analysis and are labelled ‘points of relevance.’

Taiwan: points of relevance
  • Taiwan is, and remains in permanent politico and military defence mode;
  • Taiwan can only defend and repel, it cannot gain and maintain a strategic foothold on the Chinese mainland;
  • The defence of Taiwan is a dynamic and dependent upon many issues within and extramural to its territorial and regional boundaries;
  • Taiwan has inherent freedoms and constraints within its political system;
  • Taiwan has a fluidity within its (domestic) foreign policy toward China;
  • Taiwan has no legal recognition in the UN General Assembly (UNGA) and more importantly, the UNSC;
  • Taiwan is an import-dependent country;
  • China has a focused and unambiguous foreign policy towards Taiwan;
  • China is currently in the nascent phase of its elevation as a politico, military, regional and global hegemon;
  • China is a legal sovereign nation-state and is a member of the UNGA and is a UNSCP5 member;
  • Hong Kong and Macau have been peacefully retroceded to China; and
  • China is an ongoing, determined and forthright military actor in the region and will ultimately act violently on its irredentist policies of historical ownership and retrocession of Taiwan.

In the post-WWII era and due in part to the process of globalisation—and its codicils of sciences and technologies—and the implementation of UN policies through which the international order and Realpolitik[1]operates, the rapidity of change in terms of politico and military intensity has been ongoing and shows no signs of retardation. Whilst it is true that territorial ambition has always existed—long before the Treaty brought about ‘international order’—it is safe to argue, that the twentieth century introduced a rapidity in outcomes. However, to venture into other historical avenues and whether those territorial gains are warranted remains beyond the remit as what is of interest here is the quick evolvement of a direct kinetic phase of action—colloquially known as a ‘shooting war.’ What is important from a regional and international perspective is what and how other actors will respond and how other UN members will react and what will unfold as the regional tensions are incrementally; and exponentially elevated through the trajectory of an the announcement of  war.

Throughout 2018 the political and military actions of both actors[2] have persisted in their pro-active regional- and international-suasions. There has been a litany of politico and military responses to numerous situations in the public arena and whilst it is difficult to estimate how many incidences will happen in the future at some point, and because of the increasing tenseness an exchange will take place. The intensity of the situation is ongoing and the following, have been listed from the pages of the Taipei Times (an English broadsheet masthead daily newspaper) and represent information that is in the public sphere. In date order only, they comprise

  • Threats from China are intensifying;
  • Taiwan confronts its darkest hour;
  • A role for Taiwan in the Indo-Pacific;
  • Trade War looming over Taiwan;
  • [President] Tsai lauds military after joint exercise;
  • Chance of Chinese Invasion slim: poll;
  • Taiwan happy with US response to PRC;
  • Taiwan boosting domestic defence industry abilities;
  • First Taiwan-US defence forum held;
  • US recognition of Taiwan possible.
  • Toward a new UK-PRC ‘golden age;
  • More uncertainties for US, China;
  • CCP striving to lure Taiwanese;
  • China blocking Taiwan from the WHO: ministry;
  • PLAAF conducting drills skirting Taiwan’s space;
  • China lures Dominican Republic; and
  • Asia sees China and US as threats to rules-based order.[3]

Overt actions such as these whilst they do not reflect the certainty of a kinetic exchange do reveal a germane and consistent state-of-affairs and shows China is in a determined mode of consistently pressuring—Taiwan politically in the first instance, and militarily in the second.

Scrutiny of cross-Strait machinations during and pre-2018, and especially since the timeline of 1995, as has been alluded to, is to observe that China has consistently built up its military presence; and continued its ‘ownership’ rhetoric. Whether China has a legal right to claim Taiwan is an arid argument and will not be entered into further, as the current state-of-affairs consists of China claiming Taiwan. Whilst this situation remains robust and Taiwan maintains its independence stance and its non-China suzerainty must elicit a reaction. Indubitably, and due to the evidence-base of history the only outcome of this standoff is war. Notwithstanding this state-of-affairs and in order to argue for balance the munificence of what Taiwan and China as benevolent neighbours show to each other in their cross-Strait relations does at times react against the possibility of a war. Areas such as tourism, search and rescue, quasi-residency, education opportunities and numerous other relevant civil actions do exist they will however, not stop a hostile exchange. Acknowledging that some cooperation exists is all that is needed here. With this in mind the happening of a war can now be explored.

Having established that Taiwan’s relationship with China is fraught with tensions on many levels and moreover, that there are domestic issues within the government of Taiwan about the ways in which to best approach China, it is also necessary to state forthwith, that there is no disagreement regarding said retrocession of Taiwan within the CCP. The CCP has made continuous and straightforward statements that the retrocession of Taiwan is a priority;[4] and will remain on its politico- and military-agenda until this has been achieved. The Taiwanese government has adopted a continuous politico-campaign to maintain a robust diplomatic-status; and altered its defence posture from ‘defeating’ an invasion by Chinese military forces to that of ‘effective deterrence, [and] resolute defence.‘[5] The change in tactical and strategic approach effectively means that the fighting will be at such a great cost to China that if it succeeds it will comprise a ‘pyrrhic victory.’[6] With the aforementioned in mind it is pertinent to now examine what a war comprises ‘of’ in terms of action; what ‘type’ of war can take place specifically between the belligerents; and the politico and military complexities.

After its successes in the Pacific phase of WWII the US went on to dominate the A-P. England was finally exhausted from WWI and WWII, Europe was essentially in ruins, and it was the US and the United Soviet Socialist Republic (USSR) became the hegemons. The US was robust in its claims in the A-P whereas it is safe to argue the Soviets remained without a significant geo-strategic presence in the A-P; although they did, through the auspices of the UNSC, maintain a political interest in the region. The question that the circumstances throws up is to what extent the political cum geo-strategic value of Taiwan changed, due to the rise China? To assess this spectrum, a brief historical analysis is needed.

Taiwan did not need to be ‘grabbed’ by the US[7] as part of its hegemonic acquirements as it was a robust independent country—progressing toward a liberal-democracy—with a sympathetic view of the West and the values therein. Including within its immediate post-Chinese mainland history of having a staunch anti-communist stance. Therefore, Taiwan posed no threat to the West per se and moreover, although it was a dictatorship it was capitalist and ‘Westernised’ and along with Japan and South Korea a bastion of the West in a geographic area fraught with Cold War tensions. During the mid to late-twentieth century it also retained strong political ties to other nation-states and had many political allies—until 1998 Taiwan had 27 political allies.[8] From this political stance and even though the UN rejected Taiwan’s independence from mainland China in 1971—which excluded the ROC from sitting on UN intergovernmental agencies—the sheer number of countries that tolerated Taiwan’s presence as has been alluded to, offered it a quasi-sovereign nation-state status. There were many reasons Taiwan was tolerated throughout the mid to latter-twentieth century. Notwithstanding this factor, it was the threats the Cold War posed to the West and Taiwan’s geographic location positioned it as beneficial to any geo-strategic machinations the West may need should a kinetic exchange with the Soviet Union take place; the geo-strategic placement of the ROC (which had proved worthwhile for the US in the Vietnam War); and the economic benefits it provided to the West, especially in the military matériel realm garnered support either directly, or in a by-proxy manner.

Placing a perspective on the immediate history of Taiwan-US relations is nevertheless, to state categorically that the US remains Taiwan’s closest ally in 2018. There is near-daily commentary in the popular press, which has been alluded to in the aforementioned paragraphs with regard to the current situation of Taiwan-China frictions; and more broadly Taiwan-US-Japan-China relations. Whilst the government of Taiwan remains deeply concerned about China’s plans to place its geo-strategic footprint on the region it still maintains viable and productive economic, military, societal and governance-components. The South China Sea and the East China Sea as geographic locales also demand considerable debate in the popular press and it is through this prism too, that it must categorically acknowledged, the US remains Taiwan’s closest ally. The level of evincing, focused and forthright dictum toward it however, compared to that of 2001—a matter which will be discussed later in the thesis—is no longer as focused. To wit, Taiwan has been and is dealt with in a much more broad-spectrum way by the US. The question is what has contributed to the state-of-affairs?

The considerable amount of reasons this situation has arisen is far too vast for this thesis, suffice to state that the US Congress—encouraged by the ‘America First’ stance of the Trump administration—is showing signs of returning to the Congress of the 1930s which was ‘isolationist’[9] and if it continues it must have an impact on Taiwan; and the A-P region in general. The Trump administration is reflecting a core belief within the American people. Simply put, the US has ‘done enough’ in the global arena, and it is strategically unaccompanied in its attempts to bring order to an increasingly fractious world; and moreover, the US has ‘shouldered’ an unfair burden and responsibility for too long; and is unappreciated for its efforts. Some of the ongoing and therefore, increasingly problematic issues that are worth mentioning in order to highlight the point are, the US’ and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (NATO) inconclusiveness in Afghanistan; ongoing recalcitrance in Iraq; an inability to stymie Pakistan’s tolerance of the Taliban; disagreements with NATO’s forces in Europe; the continuing obduracy of China as an aggregate economic, politico and military power; the Russian Federation’s unilateral actions in the Middle East, and its ongoing presence in the A-P; and the EU developing its politico-input into the A-P region. All instances have had considerable impacts on the way in which the Trump administration views the world. The globalisation of geo-strategic world events and the multi-polarity that has been introduced, due to powerful actors re-configuring their international and regional spheres-of-influence in the twenty-first century, has been so vast in momentum that it has caused a backlash in previously dominant Western societies[10]—and the US is no different.

As a result of globalisation and in particular its impacts on China has meant the A-P region in 2018 has become increasingly fractious and one of the main reasons for this state-of-affairs hinges on the US attempting to hold onto its A-P hegemonic history, and of China as a nascent hegemon attempting to dislodge American primacy.[11] The complex dichotomy of the US attempting to maintain military supremacy and its subsequent withdrawal from its responsibilities as a global actor aside, and whilst it must be noted that other Western countries have gone down this path, the situation remains it does have a presence in the A-P region. Albeit this analysis has only dealt with some of the major issues and as the thesis is predicated on a ‘shooting war’ taking place it is timely to introduce how it will ‘happen’ and deliver a quantifiable evidence-based approach to the ascribed state-of-affairs. The evidence-base will be viewed through the prisms of history, politico-actions and kinetic actions from which, and upon this premise and the transformations therein, will also incorporate probabilities in the first instance and possibilities in the second. From these precepts, a forecast will be made in the ‘conclusion’ chapter.

Continued tomorrow … A forthcoming war

Previous instalment … The Asia-Pacific


[1]Realpolitik’ is posited in the notion of power and the desire and to a certain extent the ability to use it in a forum of sophisticated peers and recognised institutions. Realpolitik is summed up as ‘traditional power politics … Realpolitik is a ‘jungle’, so to speak, where dangerous beasts roam and the strong and cunning rule, whereas under the League of Nations [now the UN] the beasts are put into cages reinforced by the restraints of international organisation … .’ See: Robert Jackson and Georg Sorensen. Introduction to International Relations. Theories and approaches. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003, 38.

[2] Military kinetic actions it must be stated, in the instances and at the time of writing have not involved the use of live munitions specifically directed at each other, on the part of either actor, and have not consisted of deliberate flights by the Republic of China Air Force (RCAF) through the Strait and similar flights by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Both sides are robust in their activities although it is safe to argue, the RCAF Force does not indulge in provocation exercises and the role of the RCAF is restricted to responses to PLAAF actions.

[3] Military kinetic actions it must be stated, in the instances and at the time of writing have not involved the use of live munitions specifically directed at each other, on the part of either actor, and have not consisted of deliberate flights by the Republic of China Air Force (RCAF) through the Strait and similar flights by the People’s Liberation Army Air Force (PLAAF). Both sides are robust in their activities although it is safe to argue, the RCAF Force does not indulge in provocation exercises and the role of the RCAF is restricted to responses to PLAAF actions.

[3] In ascending order the authors’ where relevant are, Chang Yan-Ting, 31 Mar, 8; Tu Ho-Ting, 7 Feb, 8, 2 April, 2018 Abraham Denmark, 2 Apr, 1; Parris Chang 16 Mar, 8; Staff Writer,14 Apr, 1;  Staff Writer, 24 April,1, 7 May, 2018, Nadia Tsao and Sherry Hsiao, 7 May,1; Ralph Jennings, 11 May, 7,1; Jonathan Chin, 4Jul,1. Staff Writer 4 Jul, 8. 3; Andrew Hammond, 31 Jan, 8; Joseph Lee,10 Apr, 8; Masao Sun, 11 Apr, 8; Staff Writer, 27 Apr, 3; Jonathan Chin; 20 Apr, 3; Stacy Hsu, 2 May, 1; Mark Champion, 9 Jun,  9. See: Taipei Times, 2018.

[4] A relevant argument to the current state-of-affairs is that China’s success within the politico-realm of retrocession and therefore, is not disinclined to threaten force. An example of the belief in hard power is the discussions between Britain and China with regard to Hong Kong. It has been stipulated that Deng suggested to (then) Prime Minister Thatcher that China could ‘seize Hong Kong later today.’ See: Danny Gittings. ‘Thatcher reveals Deng’s threat to seize Hong Kong in a day.’  South China Morning Post. 17 Oct, 1993.

[5] See: Ministry of Defense. R.O.C

[6] The term ‘pyrrhic victory’ derives from King Phyrrus the ruler of Epirus who led several (Greek) campaigns against the Romans—finally defeating them in 279 B.C.E. In doing so, he sustained such heavy casualties his power was severely compromised, the ‘victory [was] achieved at great or excessive cost; a ruinous victory.’ See: Random House Dictionary. Dictionary.comUnabridged. 1998.

[7] The US, as with many Western European countries, employed subjugation and colonisation as a modus operandi to enhance regional and international ambitions. Nevertheless, what is of importance here is the US had become the post-WWII A-P regional hegemon and it had a long history of taking control of other nation-states. To wit, the US ‘grabbed’ ‘the Hawaiian islands, Guam and part of Samoa, and it took over Puerto Rico, Cuba and the Philippines after defeating Spain.’  See: Stanley Karnow. Vietnam A History. The First Complete Account of Vietnam at War. New York: Penguin Books, 1983, 12.

[8] ‘Taiwan braces for prospect of zero diplomatic allies.’ The Mainichi. 24 Aug, 2018.

[9]  ‘American Isolationism in the 1930s.’ Department of State. Office of the Historian.

[10] The changes that are inferred by the statement include, Brexit, immigration reforms, the rise of far right groups, physical infrastructure to keep immigrants from boarders and waves of immigrants from countries that have not been encountered since the end of WWII.

[11] For a complete and thorough account of this happenstance and its possible consequences see:  Hugh White. The China Choice: Why America should share power, Black Inc, 2012.

Strobe Driver 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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The Asia-Pacific

The Asia-Pacific – 2018

The Taiwan Strait

The Taiwan Strait is the main body of water that separates Taiwan from mainland China, and as a result of enormous importance as per strategic positioning and moreover, it must be physically crossed in order for a decisive military incursion to take place, or be politically cum symbolically overcome in terms of establishing ownership. To be sure, Taiwan consists of a main island and a series of smaller islands, all however, constitute Taiwan ROC’s territories.[1] It is the capture of the main island that presents the singular importance to the retrocession by the CCP and extending on this parameter, it is from both a semiotic and physical perspectives that the main island must be gained passively or aggressively by China if the unification it desires is to take place. From fiscal and economic perspectives—with investments by Taiwanese in China and the resultant nautical and air-traffic associated with trade and tourism—the Strait is not problematic as there is abundant mercantile activity which poses only isolated problems.[2] From a military, strategic, and tactical perspective however, the Taiwan Strait must be acknowledged as a definitive signaller of intent—to all nautical and air-traffic whether allied to Taiwan, China, multi-allied or neutral—and moreover, the semiotics of robust involvement in the Strait, as in the A-P, should not be underestimated.

The Strait as a strategic locale has a turgid history beginning in 1954 -1955 when Chinese mainland forces bombed the islands controlled by Taiwan and again in 1958 which in the latter occurrence involved the US, which actively intervened on behalf of ROC forces. The initial frictions are summed up

The importance of the islands in the Taiwan Strait was rooted in their geographic proximity to China and Taiwan and their role in the Chinese Civil War. Jinmen (Quemoy), two miles from the mainland Chinese city of Xiamen, and Mazu, ten miles from the city of Fuzhou, are located approximately one hundred miles west of Taiwan. When the Nationalist Government of the ROC under Chiang Kai-shek recognized that it had lost control of mainland China during the Chinese Civil War, the officials and part of the Nationalist Army fled to the island of Taiwan, establishing troops on these two islands and the Dachen Islands further north. In the early 1950s, Chiang’s forces launched minor attacks from Jinmen and Mazu against the coast of mainland China. Leadership on both sides of the strait continued to view the islands as a potential launching pad for an ROC invasion to retake the Chinese mainland and had an interest in controlling the islands.[3]

In the early phases of Taiwan’s independence and for many reasons, it could rely on the political and military input of allies. This would result in two issues coming to the fore: Taiwan would stiffen its resolve in the quest for independence; and China would do the same in its quest for unification. In the 1950s however, China would not have the capabilities to engage in progress toward unification other than a UN presence, and its accompanying Maoist repetitive monologue.

The manner in which the Taiwan Strait is viewed comprises a regional geo-strategic element that must come to the fore in terms of dealing with the Taiwan – China impasse. For Taiwan however, the Strait inevitably takes on disproportionate levels of strategic importance and this remains true for China. Notwithstanding the strategic component alluded to, a single element of the Taiwan Strait, aside from the geo-strategic remains omnipresent: symbolism. The Strait encompasses and signals immediate tactical rationale and future intent. For Taiwan it represents a bulwark to China’s expansionism, for China it represents a link to the terra firma of its ‘rightful claim’ and the trajectory therein. There have been throughout history numerous locales that have symbolically represented more than the geo-physical or nautical ‘space’ they represented. The Pacific islands leading to Okinawa in the Pacific phase of WWII were required to be conquered. In the island-hopping push toward Japan they were symbolic as well as tactical and strategic necessities and thus, the occupation of them was required for the ‘punishment phase’[4] of the bombing of Japan to take place. The taking of the islands was as much a symbol of American power as was the actuality. Other islands during WWII were also of prime importance, Malta had to be taken by German forces, and then fought over by Allied forces due to its strategic value in the Mediterranean theatre of operations. The disproportionateness that is alluded to is able to be observed in compared to the English Channel during WWII; and the Gulf of Mexico for the US after its entry into the war. For the island nation-state of England the English Channel had a long history of enabling it to mount meaningful littoral naval challenges towards its enemies and of protection by the placement of naval forces.[5] This would prove to be the case once again, in WWII and the Gulf of Mexico would provide advantage for Nazi Germany’s U-boats and the American admiralty after entry into WWII (1941), would make a point of breaking the German stranglehold on the Atlantic by harassing German submarines in the Gulf. The usage of refined tactics and the overall geo-strategic kinetic and politico advantages that control (or near-control) of waterways brings cannot be underestimated from the perspectives of both symbolic and physical cum kinetic manoeuvrings and should be predominant in understanding the way in which Taiwan – China relations will evolve.

In contemporary times and as China increases its littoral and blue-water activities this should be a pivot in coming to terms with the Taiwan Strait; and the cross-Strait machinations therein. This stated, said machinations do not begin and end with kinetic actions upon and under the water; nor in the air-corridors above it. With the aforementioned acknowledged and an exploration of the nascent phase of pax-Sino in place, an interlinking of A-P machinations can now be addressed.

Continued tomorrow … Taiwan as the epicentre of an Asia-Pacific war

Previous instalment … Total war


[1] The ROC government has jurisdiction over 22 islands in the Taiwan group and 64 islands to the west in the P’eng-hu (Pescadores) archipelago. Two island groups controlled by the ROC government, Matsu and Quemoy, lie just off the coast of China’s Fujian (Fukien) province. In the East China Sea, the ROC claims the group of islands it calls Diaoyutai, which also are claimed by Japan as Senkaku and by the People’s Republic of China as Diaoyu.’ See: John Cooper. ‘Taiwan, Self-governing Island, Asia.’ Encyclopædia Britannica.  The Editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica

[2] A recent problem has been the rearranging of air-corridors over the Taiwan Strait by China which Taiwan viewed with some consternation. See:  Michael Cole. ‘Analysis: China’ new air routes Near Taiwan. Why Now? To what End?’ Taiwan Sentinel. 11 Jan, 2018.

[3] ‘The Taiwan Strat Crises: 1954 – 55 and 1958.’ Office of the Historian.

[4] The punishment phase of aerial bombardment is designed to ‘inflict enough pain on enemy civilians to overwhelm their territorial interests’ and in doing so induce surrender, or hasten total defeat.’ See: Robert Pape. Bombing To Win. Air Power and Coercion in War. New York: Cornell University Press, 1996, 59.

[5] The English Channel as an opportunistic zone-of-control and one of employing defensive strategies according to Danner, would cause Napoleon Bonaparte (circa 1810) to be ‘prevented by the “wooden wall” of the British Navy from invading England directly.’ See: Philippe-Paul De Ségur. Defeat. Napoleon’s Russian Campaign. Translated by David Townsend. New York: New York Review of Books, 1986, xxiv.

Strobe Driver 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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A Response to John Howard’s Character Reference for George Pell

Former Prime Minister John Howard has written a character reference for Cardinal George Pell, who was recently convicted of child molestation. Mr. Howard is one of many conservative politicians and pundits who have come out in defence of Mr. Pell, with one even going so far as to call his conviction this generation’s Dreyfus affair. Such a comparison is absurd since, unlike Captain Dreyfus, Mr. Pell was convicted based on the evidence. But the focus of this post is to respond to Mr. Howard’s character reference for Mr. Pell.

Following an introduction stating how long the two have known each other, the statement is fairly brief. The entire text of the actual character reference is as follows:

Cardinal Pell is a person of both high intelligence and exemplary character. Strength and sincerity have always been features of his personality. I have always found him to be lacking hypocrisy and cant. In his chosen vocation he has frequently displayed much courage and held to his values and beliefs, irrespective of the prevailing wisdom of the time.

Cardinal Pell is a lively conversationalist who maintains a deep and objective interest in contemporary social and political issues

High intelligence and exemplary character, you say? His conviction would tend to argue against both of those claims. His character is surely questionable in light of his conviction for inappropriate sexual interactions with children! It is amazing how Mr. Howard can continue to defend this man after his conviction. Strength and sincerity have always been features of his personality, you say? This man repeatedly lied and took every possible step to avoid testifying about the issue of his alleged involvement in these matters, including claiming to be too unwell to fly, which inspired comedian Tim Minchin to pen the song Come Home Cardinal Pell. Sincerity is evidently not part of his character. As for strength of moral character generally, the immediate response to this is to quote the cardinal himself. In July of 2002, he said that ‘abortion is a worse moral scandal than priests sexually abusing young people’. Moral character indeed.

Mr. Howard then says that he has always found Pell to be ‘lacking hypocrisy and cant’. If it is necessary to point out that someone has never applied double standards in your view, that in itself is not much of a standard. Not being a hypocrite is not a virtue; it should be the default position. Principles matter, and not doing something negative does not mean doing something positive. Also, this man is of the cloth. He practices hypocrisy daily by claiming to be the moral compass of the human race while preaching from the bible of all books; a text which quite explicitly condones (indeed, it orders) slavery, mistreatment of women and genocide among other highlights. To say that Mr. Pell does not practice hypocrisy is either a bald-faced lie or it comes from a place of visceral tribalism which demands that the team be defended at all costs.

The statement then says that ‘he [Pell] has frequently displayed much courage and held to his values and beliefs, irrespective of the prevailing wisdom of the time.’ Translation, Mr. Pell has stuck to his fact-free, utterly subjective religious beliefs regardless of how society has progressed and moved away from such ideas. Seemingly, Mr. Pell is a man after Mr. Howard’s own heart, since he did the exact same thing while in office. But back to Mr. Pell. Doggedly sticking to your own beliefs regardless of how well they fit in with an ever-evolving society is not something to be praised: that is being an ideologue. The evidence should guide your actions rather than your beliefs which seemingly are not subject to change. That kind of rigid idealism is, frankly, out of place in a society where information on any topic is available at the press of a button (or, indeed, the use of one’s voice). Mr. Howard’s praising of Mr. Pell’s moral and social rigidity, statements best understood as he opposed marriage equality, is repugnant.

We end with Mr. Howard’s last statement

Cardinal Pell is a lively conversationalist who maintains a deep and objective interest in contemporary social and political issues

To suggest that a religious individual of any persuasion maintains an ‘objective interest’ in contemporary issues is absurd. Their views are determined by the underlying religious beliefs of the institution of which they are a part. Their views are pre-determined, the diametric opposite of the term objective. Indeed, a cynical reading of that statement might be that ‘objective’ is best understood as being in accordance with Mr. Howard’s own views.

So much for Mr. Howard’s defence of Mr. Pell.

This article was originally published on CRITICALANALYSTSITE.

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Total war

Total war

Acknowledging that total war and limited war are complex happenings is a germane, yet necessary point to make, however there are some overarching elements within the definitions which are able to be used as guidelines to the politico – and kinetic – actions. Notwithstanding, the possibility of kinetic action a critical input into the power stakes is an escalation in friction, in which a dominant power seeks to minimise its own losses rather than maximise its gains, and in having this mindset often launches a preemptive attack. Such a course of action signals events escaping human control.[1] Human control, can be taken as a failure in negotiations, or in the recognition that war does not necessarily have to be a course of action. An overt kinetic action therefore signals that the ‘talking is over,’ and a new outcome must be established. There is however, a striking paradox in the act of using total war as a strategy. The reason is that a belligerent wants a definitive outcome and the use of total war and why it is ‘preferred’ in a broad sense is regardless of its cost the political enticement to generate a war of this ‘type’ and at this extreme level, is that total or ‘hegemonic’ war has, a ‘benefit’—‘victory and defeat re-establish an unambiguous hierarchy of prestige congruent with the new distribution of power within the [political] system.’[2] External to the psychological and strategic machinations of striking first in order to establish advantage, is any kinetic actions there is inevitably a requirement beyond the initial strike. This can be summed up as

Total wars involve a high mobilization of society … Because total wars take on the characteristics of a fight for survival, they tend to mobilize resources and means to wage battle with few restraints … The goals in total wars are much more open-ended and often expand as the war progresses. Total wars often demand the complete overthrow of the leadership of the other side whether through demand of unconditional surrender as in World War II, or complete annihilation [of the enemy]… .[3]

And further underpinning the severity of this ‘type’ of war and its significant implications is

[C]haracterised by the unlimited means employed and by the general scope of the warfare. Because all parties are drawn into the war and the stakes involved are high, few limitations if any, on violence are observed with respect to the means employed; the limitations in violence and treachery tend to be only those necessarily imposed by the state of technology, of available resources, and the fear of retaliation.[4]

In contemporary times, and although total war is a possibility in the Taiwan-China frictions it is safe to argue the escalations and outcomes of WWI and WWII—especially the thermonuclear end to the Pacific phase of WWII—the devastation of both altered the way in which wars would be fought. Based on this understanding, ‘limited war’ is able to be introduced and albeit briefly analysed.

Limited war

The quest for power and power-stakes as general political machinations would not, and did not end with the cessation of hostilities in the human catastrophe that was WWII. Sovereign nation-states and other actors remained vying for an elevation of their status, and this continued to be sought through violent kinetic actions, or war. The recognition that another thermonuclear exchange needed to be avoided introduced a unique form of (internationally recognised) violent interaction: limited war. To wit

Modern limited war required a nation-state to place artificial restraints in the conduct of war to preclude it from escalating into more total war … Artificial limited war required nations to place limitations on the objectives sought; weapons and manpower employed; the time, terrain, and geographic area of hostilities; and the emotions, passions, and energy, and intellect committed by a nation.[5]

As difficult as this is in times of tension a ‘balancing act’ in limited war is required—the application of the correct amount of force at the correct time in order that set parameters are set and only limited means are applied. This is summed up

[A] strategy [utilising limited war] would harness the nation’s military power more closely to the attainment of its political objectives. A variety of military instruments, including conventional forces, would be readied to respond to different threats at different levels. The amount of force employed in any situation would be limited to that necessary to achieve political aims. The objective would be not to destroy the opponents but to persuade to break off the conflict short of achieving their goals … Limited war must be directed by the civilian leadership … [and] the military must be a controllable instrument of national policy.[6]

There is an overriding complexity within limited war however, and it is summed up ‘[t]he problematics of limited war are that it has within it conceptual tensions: how much of a commitment is ‘limited,’ and by what ‘means’ should they be measured?’[7] The complexity resides in ‘at what point does a belligerent consider a war to be limited’? As this is a concept rather than a strict definition it is exactly that it is ‘limited’ that (theoretically) it is able to be escalated or retarded at any time. The inherent tension in the concept however, is expressed in a ‘war may be limited from the perspective of one belligerent, yet virtually unlimited in the eyes of another.’[8] An example of the aforementioned is the Second Indo-China War—commonly referred to as the Vietnam War[9]—involved the Army of the Republic of Vietnam (ARVN), the US and its allies is a case in point. For the US and its allies, the war consisted of stopping the encroachment of North Vietnamese (NV) forces into the south; the establishment of a stable (and favourable) government; and stalling the enemy advance beyond the 17th parallel. In simpler terms it was a regional limited war that was being fought by the ARVN and its allies in the south of the country only. Alternately, the NV forces both in the north and south of the country were fighting a total war. The different approaches to a war further signals the distinctly different military outcome required by the belligerents. For the government of North Vietnam the only effective and acceptable outcome that would be consistent within the schema of their ‘fight for survival’ was the crushing of the ARVN; the complete expulsion of the US and its allies; and absolute unification of the north and south of their country.

Having briefly examined war and its definitions allows for a nuanced analysis of the milieu that is facing Taiwan which can now be focused on with the aforementioned as a guide to the politico, military, and geo-strategic position that Taiwan has been placed, in the early twenty-first century.

Continued tomorrow … The Asia-Pacific

Previous instalment … War as it ‘is’


[1] Robert Gilpin, War and Change in World Politics. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1981, 200-202. 

[2] War and Change in World Politics, 200.

[3] The War Puzzle, 67. Emphasis added.

[4] War and Change in World Politics, 200.  Emphasis added.

[5] Adrian Lewis. The American Culture of War.  The History of U.S. Military Force from World War II to Operation Iraqi Freedom. New York: Routledge, 2007, 203.  Emphasis in original.

[6] Limited War: The Challenge to American Strategy, 22-27. Osgood’s limited war theory is precise in its meaning and line reasoning, although Herring argues it has numerous flaws as it is ‘primarily an academic, rather than a military, concept, and it drastically misunderstood the dynamics of war.’ See: George Herring.  LBJ and Vietnam. A Different Kind of War. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1994, 4. Emphasis added.

[7] Strobe Driver. 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. Federation University, PhD Thesis, 2010, 103.

[8] Robert Osgood. Limited War: The Challenge to American Strategy.  Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957, 2.

[9] The Vietnam War is ‘known as the “American War” in Vietnam.’ See: British Broadcasting Corporation. Timeline: Vietnam. <>

Strobe Driver 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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The Chagos Islands Case, WikiLeaks and Justice

Let this be a lesson to its detractors, doubters and stuff shirts of the secrecy establishment: the documents sourced from WikiLeaks can have tangible, having significant value for ideas and causes. They can advance matters of the curious; they can confirm instances of the outrageous and they can add to those fabulous claims that might change history. While Julian Assange and the publishing organisation have been sniped at for being, at various instances, dangerous, unduly challenging and even less than significant (odd no?), its documentary legacy grows.

Nowhere has there been a tangible demonstration of this than the issue of litigation. With gradual but relentless commitment, advocates and activists have been introducing documents obtained from WikiLeaks into court proceedings. The judicial benches have not always been consistent on how best to cope with the adducing of such matters. Would, for instance, a document obtained improperly still be relevant in proceedings? Or should be excluded on grounds of confidentiality? This state of affairs sits oddly with reality, but then again, the law is more often a fiction that resists reality.

The technological imperative here should be obvious. Such documents lose their factual character of confidence the moment they appear on the website, however obtained. Millions have the means to access it, even if, legally, the document might retain a certain character. In this regard, state officials remain jealous of their secrets and their correspondence, keen to ensure that prying publics are kept in the necessary dark.

The case of removing the inhabitants of the Chagos Archipelago is a particularly ugly one, deeply mired in political considerations and diplomatic intrigue. The islands, located some 1,800 kilometres from Mauritius, became part of an arrangement between Britain and the United States, the latter particularly keen to acquire a military base in the area, the former keen to be in the good books as Greek advisor to all-powerful Rome. 

In 1965, with cards firmly kept to their chests, British diplomats disaggregated the Chagos Islands from Mauritius. Mauritius, in turn, received four million pounds for the favour. This underhanded arrangement became the prelude for the removal of all 3,000 occupants from the Islands. The UK Permanent Under-Secretary overseeing the sordid business was intent on being brutal, suggesting in 1966 with all the crudeness of an ethnic cleanser that Britain be “tough about this. The object of the exercise was to get some rocks which will remain ours; there will be no indigenous population except seagulls who have not yet got a Committee (the Status of Women does not cover the rights of Birds).” 

The handwritten note appended by D.A. Greenhill on August 24, 1966, on the same document was filled with lashings of vulgarity: “along with the birds go some few Tarzans or Men Fridays” who had to be moved on. Once done, “we must be very tough and a submission is being done accordingly.” What followed was a forced eviction of the inhabitants and the construction of the US base on Diego Garcia.

This nastiness proved perennial.  The Chagossians took up their claims of return, including unacknowledged fishing rights, badgering the UK government repeatedly in their efforts. One ploy adopted by the good officials in Her Majesty’s Government was its attempt to turn the area of claim, known as the British Indian Ocean Territory, into a marine park or reserve. 

This is where WikiLeaks proved particularly valuable, with cables clearly outlining the improper and frustrating motive of UK officials. This wily and heinous move, went one summary on May 15, 2009, of a discussion conducted by US political counsellor Richard Mills at the Foreign Office, would make it “difficult if not impossible, to pursue their claim for resettlement on the islands if the entire Chagos Archipelago were a marine reserve.” The assent of the United States would also be required – a mere formality.

That cable in question became the subject of a legal claim by the Chagossians that wound its way through the British legal system, culminating in two approvals of the use of WikiLeaks cables, the first being the Court of Appeal in 2014, and the second being before the UK Supreme Court in 2018. The latter duly acknowledged that the principle of inviolability would normally “make it impermissible to use such documents or copies in a domestic court of the host country” except in extraordinary circumstances or instances of a waiver by the mission state. In this case, the cable in question did not form part of the London Embassy archive, meaning it could be used in court proceedings. Even more significantly, the very fact that it came into the public domain “even in circumstances where the document can be shown to have been wrongly extracted from the mission archive” destroyed its inviolability.

Such proceedings formed part of a momentum that saw the UK referred to the International Court of Justice via vote in the United Nations in 2017. Many European states that might have voted for the UK decided to abstain, a result of Brexit fever. The ICJ duly found that “the process of decolonization of Mauritius was not lawfully completed when that country acceded to independence in 1968, following the separation of the Chagos Archipelago.” Accordingly, the UK was “under an obligation to bring to an end its administration of the Chagos Archipelago as rapidly as possible.”

The UK Foreign Office has been snooty in response. This island dot continues to irk, worry, and gets under the skin of the establishment. “This is an advisory opinion, not a judgment.”  Besides, “The defence facilities on the British Indian Ocean Territory help to protect people here in Britain and around the world from terrorist threats, organised crime and piracy.” When in a tight corner, always aspire to universal relevance and importance. In the meantime, the fortunes of the Chagossians and international opinion, have turned.

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War as it ‘is’

International Relations and the term ‘nascent’: A brief deliberation

First and foremost ‘nascent’ is a subjective term as its definition is indeterminate and prone to opinion and debate, from which each person or actor will take into account their own notions and configuration of what the term means. To be sure, it is impossible to determine a political actor’s ‘rise’ through the prism of a single term as the chronology and machinations associated with a rise is largely indeterminate. Furthermore, and there are inherent  tensions within the argument—how much progress is a ‘rise,’ and how should it be measured? Notwithstanding these factors, there is a need to come to term with the tensions within what the term ‘nascent’ throws up. For instance, in feudal societies the rise of a clan or group may impact upon a region yet in the grand scheme of cause and effect of the rise, if there is not a ‘spill over’ beyond localised boundaries should it be designated a ‘rise’ or is it merely a coalescing of violent opportunism to undermine and defeat another actor? Extending upon this, if the initial success of an actor is not developed further through the continued conquering of additional groups is the term ‘rise’ applicable? From this broad-base, an understanding can be achieved.  Beyond the triumvirates’ of the Roman Empire[1] and from which constituted the rise of organised, disciplined and focused power came about, and is to some degree the mechanism through which imperialism[2] is measured what constitutes a ‘rise’ can now be addressed.

A rise when viewed through a Western/Eurocentric framework of sovereignty affords a systemic application of sovereign power—through the prism of the Treaty—which assists expansionism through the lens of recognition. Beyond the Roman Empire the ‘rise of England’[3] is perhaps the most iconic and long-lasting example of power-stakes. For the purpose of clarity this is arguably is the model China is intending to emulate albeit through the prism of expansionism although at this stage, without the overall violence attributed to conquest and colonisation. Returning to what a rise comprises of, England from circa-1700 onward would, through the mechanisms of efficient tax collection, advances in science and technology through the auspices of education and apprenticeship; fiscal tenacity; inculcated nationalism; fear of being a penultimate power to France; sovereign aggrandisement; ‘impressment;’[4] a disciplined and loyal military; the practice of colonialism which was driven by a desire to ‘civilise’[5] the known world to a ‘standard’ beyond ‘savagery.’ Implicit in the understanding of conquering is the use of the dyad threat-of-force and direct force and are two of the major components of a sustained rise. Europe too, would be involved in a rise which throws up a point of when does an actor begin a trajectory to power, at what point should it be determined the rise began and moreover, at what point does a rise move beyond its nascent phase?

Within the paradigm of a rise, the complexities therein and the subjectivity of the matter it is pertinent to enquire if the trajectory stalls and a recovery period is required has the trajectory gone beyond its nascent phase and simply continues its political, economic, and strategic ascent, or does the actor begin another nascent phase? These are questions and facets which are in need of recognition although do not need further explanation as the political philosophy associated with the ascribed subjectivity is not required here and moreover, the debate is beyond the realm of geo-strategic necessities in this thesis. The complexities within the subjectivity of the term ‘nascent’ and what it represents are however, able to be lessened somewhat by simply understanding that a rise is viewed through a Western cum Eurocentric prism in which lands are absorbed as protectorates and suzerain-states and therefore have a direct attachment to the conqueror. Other examples are necessary to elaborate on the points made.

Germany is a good example of the aforementioned enquiry, as prior to WWI it pursued expansionist polices under the guidance of Otto von Bismarck and Kaiser Wilhelm Weimar. The republic began to rise and it would continue until its defeat in WWI. Through 1918 – 1929 a period of enforced stabilisation would take place as Germany struggled with the ramifications of the Treaty of Versailles after its defeat. Germany would rise again under the dictator Adolf Hitler and it would undergo another nascent phase of a military build-up which would trigger WWII. The upsurge in power would only be reduced when unconditional surrender took place and the European phase of WWII ended. Germany through the auspices of the Marshall Plan[6] would surge again and sustain its position as a powerful international economic actor throughout the 1980s; gain a commanding political status in Western Europe in part due to the successful merging of East and West Germany in the early-1990s; and become high-level European geo-strategic actor with a global presence. In the 1990s it would extend this to being a high-level economic actor through in the first instance the European Economic Community; and the European Union (EU) in the second. The example of Germany does supply the gravitas albeit briefly, of the way in which nation-states rise, fall and rise and in doing so supplies a ‘measurement’ of what the West purports to deem responsible government and governance—fiscal responsibility, personal well-being, safety, high education standards, good government and governance; and rule-of-law. Germany falls neatly within this measurement and offers examples one nascent phase of rising after another. Both England and Germany for all intent and purpose associated with this analysis have had a ‘rise’ happen several times under different circumstances and for different lengths of time.

Notwithstanding the above, there is a necessity to widen the focus of nation-states that experience a rise beyond England and Europe as the state-of-affairs alluded to is beyond Western influences, and to observe it is a robust practice is reflected in

Regional hegemony and the striving for it is not new.  In 1948 it [‘Western hemisphere’ governments] created the Organization of American States [OAS] … to promote regional security and cooperation. American influence ensured that the OAS remained silent on, or even legitimized various U.S military and political interventions in Latin America. … Another regional hegemon. Japan pursued similar strategies in the empire that dominated the region in the early twentieth century. … it reformed and managed local economies in a regional network, standardizing the  region’s currency in a “yen bloc” and despatching Japanese banks throughout the area so that they controlled the majority of the region’s bank deposits. Tokyo also created the Southern Development Bank, which provided financial services and printed currency in occupied territories.[7]

Japan, particularly after the Meiji Restoration (1895) developed into a successful trading nation and whilst it had been efficacious at mercantilism in both the pre-Meiji era and post-unification Japan would exponentially increase the rapidity of its rise. Japan, like countries such as Spain and France in previous centuries would utilise preponderance as an effective expansionist policy, and it would be a mainstay of power. Post-unification Japan would commence a war with Tsarist Russia (1904 – 1905)—a war the European elite expected Japan to lose—and would attain a victory that would place it on a trajectory of regional dominance. This is exemplified in its political manoeuvrings of attempting to become a member of the League of Nations (LN)—a forerunner to the UN. After its rejection by the LN it would nonetheless, maintain its regional dominance and invade Manchuria, control continue to control and the Korean Peninsula, and Formosa; and eventually attack Pearl Harbor (which initiated the Pacific phase of WWII). The short-term dominance of Southeast Asia would eventually, reach as far east as Micronesia. After the unconditional surrender of the emperor in 1945 Japan would undergo occupation and reconstruction by the victorious Allied forces and its subsequent fiscal, industrial and societal successes would come to fruition in the early-1970s and allow for another nascent economic and political rise to take place. To be sure, Japan would develop post-WWII into a strong international politico- and economic-actor; and from a military perspective it would become an A-P regional middle-power.

The examples provided are evidence that nation-states are able to undergo several ‘nascent phases’ when numerous programmes and strengths combine; and these components are able to be interconnected and interweaved successfully. For the purpose of this thesis the term ‘rise’ therefore remains grounded in the determined and focused elevation of political, economic, and military power and if there are interruptions to the elevation or if one aspect overrides another which are not cathartically disruptive—such as a revolution, a significant terrorist attack, or invasion by another actor—the rise will be deemed to be ongoing. Establishing whether China has begun its ‘nascent phase’—particularly in relation to the military facets alluded to, or has extended its power-base beyond ‘nascent’—can now be addressed. Within these paradigms Taiwan will be also assessed and be allocated the status of the least-powerful of the two actors and therefore, any determinations will be announced with this factor firmly embedded in the analysis. Within the constraints of the aforementioned it is assumed that the rise of China and the power-stakes therein will involve hostilities which for all intent and purpose, will evolve into a kinetic exchange. Based on this assumption, it is pertinent to address the underpinnings of war that must impact on said exchange.

War as it ‘is’: A conceptual underpinning

The fact that wars exist in contemporary times is an obvious statement and one need only access the news media via its many platforms to observe that sovereign nation-states utilise war as a means-to-an-end; and where necessary advance this form of suasion as an autocatalytic process. This germane understanding however, does not analyse war, nor does it offer an explanation of the ‘how and why’ of war—and in some cases ‘warfare,’ or the way in which a war is fought—and this requisite needs to be established. War is the most substantial exploitative element of suasion and one which it must be assumed Taiwan will have to confront in its A-P machinations.

First and foremost war and its inherent aggression components is deemed by a belligerent to be politico and military necessity and therefore, has a meaningfulness ascribed to it. In order to understand this more fully is to exclude moral, ethical and other existential parameters and observe it in the clinical reality of what it represents.  Vasquez succinctly states, war comprises

[C]ontention over something and that while war differs from other contentions in that it employs a special means, namely force, we should not lose sight of the fact that war is a form of contention … From this perspective, war may be considered a violent way of getting objects of value.[8]

In the post-WWII realm and in the process of gaining the ‘objects of value’ alluded to by Vasquez, ‘war’ as an act must be a legally recognised occurrence and whilst this will be of particular relevance to Taiwan in the future and which will be addressed later in this thesis, it is pertinent at this time to only reflect on what war ‘is.’ The way in which the recognition happens is for a ‘war’ is for it to be recognised and approved of (read: given a legal status) is within the UN Security Council (UNSC) and by the UNSC Permanent Five (P5) members: China, France, United Kingdom, the US and Russia.[9] In accordance with the post-WWII legitimacies there are also ten non-permanent members[10] of the UNSC which influence, develop and offer opinions regarding a given crisis or crises. To be sure, there are many conflicts around the world in 2018, and whilst there are often more than two belligerents involved in order to emphasise the point of war per se, are Syria and the Islamic State of Iraq[11]; the US and its allies contesting the Taliban in Afghanistan[12]; and the Saudi – Yemeni border conflict.[13] The three conflicts are ongoing and have long-term histories although they are not ‘legally-recognised’ wars. The UNSCP5 must issue the legitimacy for a war (or conflict) to become a legal occurrence and when this paradigm is met the UN is able to put into place whatever mechanisms its members deem appropriate to bring about an irenic agreement; or enforce UN-approved conditions upon the belligerents.

The success or otherwise of the UNSC and the UNSCP5 is a moot point and need not be debated here beyond a simple explanation of the UNSC’s role. The only extension that need be offered for clarity is in there is much debate in the UNSC when making and issuing of resolutions. The UNSCP5 however, has the legal power to veto any or all issues associated with the making of a resolution. The ultimate point is and remains: the UNSC must be the arbiter and decider of whether a war is legal; and whether it should be accorded due status. To date the conflicts mentioned—along with many others—have not been issued the aforementioned legal status. Understanding ‘war’ as a concept is to go beyond whether an action or actions is legal or otherwise and is beyond the remit of this thesis although it is safe to argue the public-at-large observe conflicts as ‘wars’ and do not expand on this understanding. It is with this in mind that a ‘type’ of war can now be explored and moreover, can be used as evidence and further extrapolated upon—including a direct relevance to Taiwan through the auspices of the UNSCP5 later in this thesis.

In keeping with refining and understanding the Taiwan-China frictions and whether there will be a war, it is a germane yet pertinent point to make that this thesis excludes the advent of a thermonuclear kinetic exchange should the ructions in the A-P escalate and any belligerents that are capable of utilising nuclear ordnance, should they choose to do so, would completely change all other possible outcomes. Resorting to this type of war—commonly referred to as mutually-assured-destruction[14]—would create a situation in which the consequences of such an action would be so dire as to plunge the world into a situation of which the A-P would only be a small part of the problems facing humanity. With this in mind the two types of war that are relevant to the A-P, and the Taiwan-China milieu are ‘total’ and ‘limited.’

Continued tomorrow … Total war

Previous instalment … International Relations and War


[1] Adrian Goldsworthy. Augustus. From Revolutionary to Emperor. Great Britain: Weidenfeld and Nicolson, 2014, 512.

[2] Imperialism is the ‘state policy, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas. Because it always involves the use of power, whether military force or some subtler form imperialism has often been considered morally reprehensible, and the term is frequently employed in international propaganda to denounce and discredit an opponent’s foreign policy.’ See: ‘Imperialism.’ Encyclopædia Britannica. The Editors of the Encyclopædia Britannica.

[3] Whilst the rise of England and its successful imperialistic endeavours through territorial expansionism are tantamount to focused application of geo-strategic strategies of power, it is important to note that other than the cultural and institutional reasons alluded to in the main text, it should be noted that England over an the long-term dedicated abundant fiscal resources to its endeavours. To be sure, England’s rulers dedicated ‘between 70 and 90 percent of their financial resources to the acquisition and use of the instruments of military force.’ See: David Held.  Democracy and the Global Order. From the Modern State to Cosmopolitan Governance.  Cambridge: Polity Press, 1995, 53.

[4] ‘Impressment is ‘recruitment by force’ and was used extensively by the British Navy in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries. See: ‘British Navy Impressment. The History Detectives.

[5] The French embarked upon a colonialist mission, the mission civilisatrice or ‘civilising mission,’ (1895 – 1914) as it was ‘their duty as an enlightened race to elevate the ignorant masses of the non-Western world.’ See: ‘Mission Civilisatrice.’

[6] The European recovery Plan/Marshall Plan was put in place at the end of WWII to fund Western Europe after the devastation of WWII. See: ‘Marshall Plan.’

[7] Jennifer Lind. ‘Life in China’s Asia.’ Foreign Affairs. New York: Council of Foreign Relations. Edited by Gideon Rose. March/April, 2018. 74.

[8] John Vasquez. The War Puzzle. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1993, 30. Emphasis in original.

[9] United Nations Security Council. ‘Current Members. Permanent and Non-Permanent Members.’ See:

[10] The ten non-permanent members of the UNSC 2018 (at the time of writing): Bolivia; Côte d’Iivoire; Equatorial Guinea; Ethiopia; Kazakhstan;  Kuwait; Netherlands, Peru; Poland; and  Sweden. See:

[11] ‘ISIS Fast Facts.’ CNN Library.

[12] Michael Fuchs. ‘It’s time to end America’s war in Afghanistan.’ The Guardian.19 Aug, 2018.

[13] ‘Key facts about the war in Yemen.’, 26 Mar, 2018.

[14] The relevant aspects of mutually-assured-destruction (MAD) are complex and dependent on model-driven analysis as it never eventuated in a real world event. Mutually-assured-destruction is a singular hypothetical event and is dependent upon a multitude of factors associated with missile warfare—as advanced upon after WWII—and there are definitive and specific actions needed in order to support the hypothetical. To wit, ‘underlying technical and timing factors in a simulated missile war…[and] the Richardson Model is one of the first analytical approaches to an arms race between two countries…This model has been applied in modern treatments to arms races in the missile age.’  See: Michael Intriligator. ‘Strategic Considerations in the Richardson Model of Arms Races.’ The Journal of Political Economy. Vol. 83, 2, 339.

Strobe Driver 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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Responding to Jordan Peterson on Socialism

I’ve just been watching You Tube videos featuring Canadian right-wing public intellectual Jordan Peterson making a litany of claims against Marxism: basically to the effect that Marxism is ‘essentially and inevitably totalitarian’. I intend to criticise this viewpoint at length.

But bear with me a moment while I summarise some of his arguments.

Peterson claims Marxism is politically irredeemable in any sense. Numerous examples of Stalinism are provided to illustrate the arguments ; and to suggest an ‘essential causal link’ between Marxism and the Stalinist dystopias of the 20th Century.

Peterson makes the usual claims that Marxism leads to mediocrity and failure because it fails to reward excellence and initiative. That it fails to accommodate the functionality of inequality in that sense of providing incentive and reward for effort and innovation. And furthermore, Peterson argues that Marxism is a basically destructive ideology founded on envy ; and is ‘fundamentally authoritarian’ and antagonistic towards liberty. In response to Marxist critics of Stalinism, Peterson dismissively claims that their position can be written off as suggesting ‘the utopia would have been ushered in if only they had been the dictators’. Peterson links Marxism with atrocities having claimed millions of lives over the course of the 20th Century.

From his perspective he finds it hard to grasp how some people are still claiming ‘that was not real communism’ ; and that ‘real communism deserves to be tried’.

In response, you could just as easily argue that the First World War was waged between capitalist nations ; inspired by Imperialist rivalries ; and resulted in the deaths of tens of millions. Do we conclude therefore that is the only kind of capitalism possible? That is: a capitalism characterised by imperialism, aggressive nationalism and world war?

Many Marxists have made just that conclusion. Though by contrast Karl Kautsky suggested the possibility of an ‘ultra-imperialism’ whereby the Great Powers carved the world up between themselves in a relatively peaceful fashion.

Yes, there is a common, historical and functional link between capitalist imperialism and war. The drive for economic growth and political power provides a motivation to try and secure external markets in the context of Great Power rivalry. And to exploit the resources of ‘colonised’ and ‘Third World’ countries. But ideologies around competitive individualism, market economies and so on are not essentially linked with war. Do we not distinguish between pacifist liberals and imperialist hawks under capitalism?  Nor should socialist ideologies be ‘essentially linked’ with oppression as if only one kind of outcome is possible.

On the other hand, those ideologies (of market based competition) are often appealed to in a misleading way. Socialists can also accommodate a place for competition and markets. For some socialists the real challenge is in working out ‘the best mix’. And that could involve a balance of competition, planning and economic democracy. (For instance imaginably in a context of producer’s and consumer’s co-operatives ; with peoples’ democratic organisation as producers and consumers providing checks and balances against each other).

Some markets deliver the goods in terms of innovation and responsiveness to consumer need. In other instances co-operation and civic responsibility deserve to be considered as options and as motivations. ‘Natural public monopolies’ can pass on superior cost structures to the broader economy ; assisting not only consumers – but even capitalist enterprises. There is no ‘one way’ in which to organise economies. The ‘essence’ of capitalism is neither markets nor competition (which existed before capitalism) : but rather capital as a form of property ; a social relationship and a process of accumulation ; a process through which the surplus value created by workers is appropriated ; with startling divisions resulting in both wealth and power. Divisions which are becoming more and more marked ; and with economic insecurity a means of disciplining the working class into submission.

Marx’s critique of capitalism focused on the intense human alienation which arose in the age of industrialisation. Extremes not only of inequality: but the brutality involved in long working hours, subsistence wages, inhuman and sometimes dangerous working conditions. And further: the distributive injustice arising from the expropriation of surplus value: that workers were not fully compensated for the value which they created through their labours. The division of labour under capitalism was dehumanising in that there was little opportunity for rewarding creative labour. Labour was commonly ‘broken into small, repetitive parts’ in a way which ruled out creative control or fulfilment. For many workers this is still the reality. As opposed to oppression, Marxism actually aimed to extend “personal freedom”, not of isolated individuals but through mutual “association” providing “the means of cultivating [our] gifts in all directions” (Marx and Engels Selected Works, Vol. I, pp 27-28, 68).

We cannot go into some comprehensive rendition of ‘key Marxist concepts’ here ; but in short Marxism is a plural tradition spanning the best part of two centuries. Its prestige has declined with the collapse of the Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc. Triumphalist proclamations of its collapse and irrelevance have had a telling effect through sheer repetition and attrition ; amidst hostility in the monopoly mass media. In fact the world is always changing ; and ‘classical Marxism’ on its own is not enough to grasp every aspect of such a constantly changing world. That said ; Marx still grasps the fundamentals of capitalist accumulation and exploitation ; the problems of monopolisation and class bifurcation ; and the dilemmas where exchange value is emphasised sometimes to the exclusion of use value. (For example ; great swathes of unoccupied properties amidst widespread homelessness). He also recognised as early as the ‘Manifesto’ of 1848 that constant change (and hence insecurity) were ‘the essence of capitalism’ ; though Social Democracy has strived to ameliorate this through the welfare state, social wage and so on.

Marx provides a foundation upon which further theoretical innovation can progress – often in different directions. Every word ‘should not be taken as holy writ’. Sometimes even fundamental and iconic ideas deserve to be revised.  But aside from the horrors of totalitarian misappropriation there are other traditions : traditions of the Democratic Left. For instance ; of the Revolutionary Social Democracy which preceded the ‘Social Democratic/Communist Split’ of 1914.  And which survived on the Left of Social Democracy. The great plurality of modern Marxism – and of newer traditions – such as ‘Post-Marxism’ (eg: Mouffe and Laclau), and the Critical Theory developed by the likes of Jurgen Habermas – also demonstrate a productive engagement with liberalism.

Peterson concedes that much Marxist analysis withstands criticism and maintains its appeal ; but argues that it can only have one outcome when applied in practice. That is: totalitarian oppression and suppression of individual dignity and liberty. These kind of claims are fundamentally ahistorical. They look not to the specific historic conditions which saw Marxism twisted into an ‘official Ideology’ of authoritarian, and even totalitarian states. Rather they generalise that given such degeneration became widespread over the 20th Century that it is the only possible outcome.

But let’s remember also that the original (Marxist) social democrats were among the first to promote the fight for full, equal and universal suffrage at a time when the idea was unthinkable for most Conservatives and even most Liberals. And that Bolshevist pressure contributed to the conditions whereby liberal and parliamentary democracy was widely adopted in Europe following World War One. Let’s also remember Rosa Luxemburg’s critique of Leninism ; and the critiques of Bolshevism from figures such as the German-based Marxist – and most prominent theorist of ‘Marxist Centrism and Orthodoxy’ ; Karl Kautsky , as well as the Left-Social Democratic Menshevik leader, Julius Martov. In short: right from the beginning there was resistance to Bolshevist strategies from the revolutionary social democratic and libertarian communist Left. Right from the beginning there was resistance from within Marxism – on the basis that suppression of democracy and liberties ; and the progressive narrowing of decision making to an ever narrowing stratum of Party leaders – counter-acted the corrective forces of participatory democracy. And that the narrowing foundation for real power could very well corrupt the Revolution over the longer term. (As it did).

Further ; accelerating and entrenched Terror abrogated the Marxist principles of fighting human alienation and defending human dignity. Yes, Marx understood Terror could be inevitable in certain revolutionary contexts ; but those strategies also held certain dangers ; and pervasive Stalinist Terror became permanent and indiscriminate.

Bolshevist centralisation and Terror held the same danger of facilitating effective counter-revolution: as occurred also with the Terror in Revolutionary France ; and the transition from ‘the Republic’ to ‘The Empire’ of Napoleon. Stalinism is understood by some as exactly that: counter-revolution. Some ‘orthodox’ Marxists (including Martov and Kautsky) also viewed radical Bolshevist voluntarism regarding the establishment of socialism without the foundation of prior capitalist economic development – as involving dangerous potential risks and ramifications. Most importantly: that while the Bolshevists engaged in a ‘bold gambit’ of pursuing revolution and withdrawing Russia from the War ; that the ultimate degeneration of the revolution (under enormous pressure from isolation and foreign intervention and destabilisation) could see socialism discredited in the eyes of many for generations.

On the other hand: while these flaws in Bolshevist strategy can be appreciated, assumptions of ‘inevitable, irresistible and gradual progress towards democratic socialism’ were also flawed. For example, while the Austrian Revolution of 1918 did not replicate Bolshevist strategies, the failure of the Austrian Social Democrats to fully and permanently consolidate their control of the state apparatus of force when the opportunity provided actually left the way open for the undermining of democracy in Austria from within – and the eventual rise of a domestic ‘Austro-Fascism’ over the longer term.

The fact is that a more liberal capitalism is possible ; but so is a more liberal socialism. Also let’s remember the ambitions of (pre-Leninist) Marxism – for whom the aim was economic development with the aim of promoting cultural growth, development and freedom. The drift of socialism into more authoritarianism and repression that occurred under Lenin – and radically accelerated and deepened under Stalin – also need to be understood in context.

Again: Lenin and the Bolsheviks seized power amidst World War. The Entente responded to the loss of their former Russian ally by promoting destabilisation and supporting the White Armies. Desperation accelerated: became a matter of life and death – as heating materials, food supply and so on – were threatened in the context of civil war. And so Bolsheviks such as Trotsky were led to embrace war, militarisation of labour, political repression – to prevent the collapse of the communist government – and broader social and economic disaster. Everything became justifiable because it was done in the name of the (nominally) proletarian state. But that very state became more and more divorced from any real accountability to the Soviet People in practice. Again: Democratic and libertarian communists such as Luxemburg, Kautsky, Martov (who were also significantly different from one another in important respects) did see that justifying everything and anything for the sake of the ‘end cause’ was a dangerous path which could lead to the discrediting of socialism for generations.

But still: why is it that the Right can judge Marxism as a whole (and in an undifferentiated way) so harshly – but has so little so say about Western Intervention in the Civil War, and the World War that led to Russian social collapse, the deaths of tens of millions;  the desperate struggles for survival under Lenin ; and ultimately that setting the preconditions for the degeneration under Stalin? Why is it there is so little historic memory of anti-Communist Cold War atrocities? (Chile, Guatemala, half a million murdered in Indonesia ; the social and psychological trauma of McCarthyist paranoia and repression)  Why the double standards and selective historic memory? If you want some idea of what socialism and Marxism COULD have been – better to look to the examples of Red Vienna under the Austrian Social Democrats during the interwar period. Look to the mass movements in Austria which promoted working class cultural growth, democratic freedoms, and the provision of social goods and services – especially in Vienna itself. As well as effective conditions of ‘dual power’ with the maintenance of the republican ‘Schutzbund’ ; a working class militia with the aim of providing an ‘insurance policy’ for the preservation of  Austrian democracy.

There was a ‘middle way’ between Marxism-Leninism, and the ultimate degeneration under Stalin that followed on the one hand – and ‘the social democratic Chauvinists’ on the Right who rationalised support for a World War (WWI) in which tens of millions were slaughtered, disfigured and traumatised. Let’s again restate how democracy was trailblazed in Revolutionary France – and the stated principles of the French Revolution inspire still. But also let’s remember they faced comparable dilemmas re: revolutionary Terror in the face of destabilisation, war and invasion, starvation and so on. And the Terror eventually devoured its own; and led to a kind of counter-revolution – much as in Russia.  But we do not therefore abandon democracy on account of the fate of the French Revolution, do we? The French Revolution led to Bonapartism and Empire – But democrats never concluded that that was the only possibility arising from democratic and liberal revolution. Which is what Conservatives like Peterson effectively argue about socialism, and especially Marxism. Soviet and Eastern Bloc Socialism degenerated under very specific historic circumstances. But that was not the only socialism possible ; nor was it the only Marxism possible.

So a different kind of socialism and indeed a different kind of Marxism is possible.

Capitalism is not ‘essentially’ about freedom either – especially for the most exploited. And in reality wealth polarisation suppresses opportunity rather than promoting it ; and effectively narrows the cultural, social and economic support base upon which real power rests. The capitalist Ideology often bears little resemblance to the reality. Just like Stalinism bore little resemblance to the original communist ideology. But a ‘good and decent Marxism’ today will also engage with liberalism. Hence the pluralism of Agonists and post-Marxists like Chantal Mouffe on one hand ; or liberal social democrats like Habermas on the other. They are radically different from one another in many respects. One (Habermasian critical theory) believes that through Reason and the application of Enlightenment principles Modernity can resolve its shortcomings with the growth of rational consensus through dialogue. The other (Agonism) sees difference of values as perhaps perpetually inevitable ; but asks how this can be accommodated via a genuine and deep liberal pluralism. But both defer in a sense at least to liberalism.

As for the final word on ‘Communism’ ; most of us have forgotten what communism really meant. It did not originally equate with permanent Terror, Cult of Personality and so on – nor should it do so today. It’s not about an ‘essential human nature’ provided for under capitalism and suppressed under communism. The ‘fate of Communism’ revolved around ethically treacherous tactical and strategic decision-making amidst some of the worst possible historic circumstances ; which saw the Marxist (formerly Social Democratic) movements diverted in many instances for decades – into the historical dead end of Stalinism. But the (Marxist) Left Social Democrats stand out still by the examples they gave and stood for as well.

Stalinism emerges from the desperation and degeneration which occurs under conditions of permanent Terror – which in of themselves arose under extraordinary historic conditions of social and economic disintegration. It also arose in the context of war, civil war, foreign intervention, the threat of starvation – and the furious response of the Entente Powers who could not forgive Lenin for withdrawing from World War One. Without World War One – and without Western intervention – there may have been no Stalinism. Without those treacherous dilemmas and desperate historic circumstances – maybe there really could even have been a (relatively) ‘peaceful march forward for socialism and democracy’. But history rarely progresses just as we would like.

Of course the ‘Marxist Centrist’, Kautsky is not without fault either ; arguing for abstention on the issue of war credits in 1914 rather than outright opposition. But by 1915 most Marxist social democrats (including Kautksy) were agitating relentlessly for a separate peace. Lenin drew a certain prestige from never compromising or conceding in the face of a War which claimed tens of millions of lives. What he was not open or honest about was the fact he could not deliver the peace which working people wanted ; because under the specific circumstances Civil War was inevitable. Lenin wanted a world revolution which ended war, repression, exploitation and capitalism permanently. What we eventually got under Stalin was a regime whose cynicism and brutality discredited Marxism in the eyes of millions for generations. Martov and Kautsky clearly understood this.

And for working people the Horror of War is similar whether in the name of Imperial Russia or the (nominally) Proletarian State. (Trotsky argued the Proletarian State made all the difference ; But after decades through which workers suffered War, Forced Industrialisation, Labour  militarisation and so on – the ‘end goals’ must have seemed like a mirage). In any case though, we should concede that Horrors and brutality have occurred under both capitalist and (nominally) communist regimes. It’s historic contingency more so than ‘human nature’ which saw the degeneration of those nominally communist regimes.

A different kind of revolutionary social democracy is possible – which draws what is best from the history of Marxism – and grapples to understand the worst of it ; that those outcomes can be avoided into the future. That also means grappling honestly with liberalism – both its insights and its limitations. Again: it involves taking the best from the Marxist traditions ; but being open to revision and innovation where necessary.

An ‘essential’ link with personal dictatorship?

As opposed to Peterson’s arguments: if you actually read Kautksy, Martov, Luxemburg – You will see that they are NOT arguing ‘things would have been different if THEY were the dictators’. If you look at Karl Kautsky for instance you will see that for him ‘the dictatorship of the proletariat’ was interpreted as the ‘dictatorship of a class’ as opposed to the dictatorship of an *individual*. And if you look further to Kautsky, Martov, Luxemburg (or Otto Bauer for instance if you look to the Austro-Marxists) – you will also see that for them this could be interpreted as a form of democratic majoritarianism. That is: the implementation of a democratic mandate provided by the working class democratic majority. But if you look to Kautsky also you will see things are more complex than this even as well. That is: the liberties of minorities are important ; and ideally that includes the liberties of your ideological rivals. Which is basically what Kautsky argued in response to Lenin. Though the worst circumstances inevitably complicate matters. (Best to avoid those circumstances in the first place if possible).

Marxism should have a future ; but it needs to ‘settle accounts with liberalism’. And it needs to eschew simplistic romanticism about revolution. Desperation leads to treacherous ethical dilemmas – and ultimately can lead to degeneration into regimes such as Stalinism. But let’s not be historically selective about our memories here ; let’s concede that atrocities occurred under both sides during the Cold War. Western intervention could even be accused as accelerating that degeneration by escalating the sheer desperation involved. The Ideology of the ‘victors’ is stronger of course ; and you’d expect that given the narrow economic base upon which much cultural power rests. But those who do not heed the lessons of history are doomed to repeat it. THAT can be applied to BOTH the Right and the Left.

‘Absolute’ Equality?

Socialists like Eduard Bernstein never argued there would (or should) be ‘perfect and simple economic equality’. As far as they were concerned there should always be recognition that there should be differences to account for varieties in skill, effort and so on. Even under socialism. But the reality under capitalism today is radical and accelerating economic polarisation. We’re not talking about ‘functional inequality’ ; we’re talking about a narrowing economic and hence cultural basis for power. Which has a corrosive effect on democracy. We’re talking about (in the US) an outrageous gap between the destitute and the working poor on one hand ; and the wealthy on the other. Indeed there is a yawning gap between the capitalist class and the middle income layers of the working class as well. Meanwhile efforts are made to construct certain (largely, objectively working class people) as ‘the middle class’ – and undermine solidarity between these and the working poor and destitute.

So no – there should not be perfect and absolute economic equality. But nor should there be accelerating polarisation and exploitation. And nor should the working class be ‘disciplined’ by the threat of destitution. There should be equality in educational opportunity ; and there is a moral imperative for equality in health care ; and provision of basics like housing as ‘non negotiable needs’ for everybody. Cultural opportunity should also arguably be extended to society in general. Enterprise and initiative can (and should) exist ; but how much better to have enterprise and initiative exercised with the involvement of co-operatives of working people than to have the economy – and hence culture and politics – dominated by a narrowing stratum of ultra-rich? How much better can goods and services become when working people have a clear and genuine stake in their production and provision?

Competition can be much of a motivation – but also in certain contexts a drag – on the broader economy. Competition can mean economic responsiveness. It can also mean enormous waste. The answer is a genuinely mixed economy ; preferably a *democratic* mixed economy. With natural public monopolies and collective consumption via tax. But also where effective the competition that fires market responsiveness: which can even exist in an economy marked by a strong co-operative movement. Getting rid of economic waste (eg: the inefficient cost structures that have been involved in privatisation) can also be the basis of providing for base economic needs more efficiently ; and from that is the possibility of going beyond the vicious circle of consumerism. That is: there is the economic basis to provide cultural opportunity for everybody. And broader cultural opportunity is more important that the dynamic of ‘more, ever more’ under capitalism ; where the sheer scale of economic consumerism lends stability to a system which needs perpetual growth and control of ‘external’ markets in order to offset its enormous waste. In the end that is both socially and environmentally unsustainable. Hence the need for a ‘democratic mixed economy’ providing a better mix of natural public monopoly, collective consumption and democratic markets.

Jordan Peterson is developing something of a reputation as an anti-Communist public intellectual. But many of his arguments involve simplifications and distortions. Peterson has every right to denounce historical Stalinism. Indeed he has the right (under free speech) to put his broader arguments on socialism forward as well ; even where these are so terribly misconceived. But it is for socialists to meet Peterson and others like him on ‘the democratic battle-field of ideas’. We cannot let Peterson and others like him ‘utterly write socialism off’  based on selective examples, distortions and simplifications. The truth of Marxism is that it is a highly plural tradition. Much of which has been firmly grounded in the principles of liberty and democracy. ‘Another Socialism’ is possible. And there are clear historical examples which illustrate this. This is what we need to argue in response to Jordan Peterson.

This article was originally published on ALP Socialist Left Forum.

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No tunnel-vision under a Labor Government

Media Release

The Liberal Government have forged ahead with plans for a Beaches link tunnel without effective planning or disclosure, all while ignoring public opinion.

The business case for the estimated $14 billion and over 10km long and deep tunnel has not been released by the NSW Government. There has also been no analysis of the costs and benefits of public transport options.

The tunnel will impact significantly on local green space and amenity, especially during construction. Due to the secrecy around the business case, it is widely speculated that the Liberals will do what they do best and privatise the tunnel and tax users with an ever-rising toll.

Local Labor candidate for Manly, Natasha Phillips-Mason, in collaboration with Federal Labor Candidate for Warringah, Dean Harris, will be hosting a Transport symposium for local community members to hear from infrastructure experts and discuss their concerns for the proposed build on Sunday 3 March at the Balgowlah Golf Club.

Natasha has said she will oppose the Beaches Link Tunnel and instead focus on public transport to ease traffic congestion.

“The Beaches Link Tunnel is an ineffective and dangerous solution to our congestion issues.” Natasha said.

“I am particularly concerned about the secrecy and missing business case for the $14 billion dollar Tunnel project that will lead to more cars on local roads as well as a decade of construction chaos, tolls and the inevitable push for more development to fund it.”

“We need a solution focused on improved public transport, for example introducing new ferries and ferry routes, to make public transport a more viable option for local residents and encourage them to leave their cars at home.”

“Furthermore, the planning and risk management for the proposed Liberal Beaches Tunnel puts many in our community at risk. The plan sees smoke stacks located dangerously close to schools during the construction phase, and untold predicted damaged to houses in the vicinity of the drilling.”

Residents are invited to attend the event to share their opinion and help set a more community minded agenda to ease congestion on the Northern Beaches.

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International Relations and War

International Relations and War

Globalisation as a continuum: Politico-power and preponderance

China incrementally began to embrace the ever-increasing and omnipresent advent of globalisation. The Deng era, as has been stipulated triggered a trajectory of progress however it is necessary to convey that as greater prosperity took hold, so too did its commitment to geo-politics—eventually, this would not augur well for Taiwan. It can be safely argued that China became a more emboldened actor in the international sphere post-1997—the retrocession of Hong Kong being a major and successful undertaking. This did not however, happen in isolation. To emphasise the point perhaps the most ardent aspect of change that China encountered and which definitively and inexorably changed its outlook toward its ‘place’ in the world and one which impacted on their domestic environment—essentially with the ‘knock-on’ effect alluded to intact—and of globalisation writ large was the 1999 bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade by the US. Certainly, ‘after the 1999 Chinese embassy bombing incident in Belgrade, [which the was the outcome of US targeting[1]] Jiang Zemin, in certain pronouncements for the domestic audience, transformed the lesson of being humbled by the USA into a call for China’s further economic reform, strengthening China’s economic position in the world, embracing globalisation and catching up with the advanced countries.’[2] Thus, a single event signalled to China that it needed to completely reassess its role in the A-P region; and the international arena. Whilst it can also be argued the CCP’s newfound attitude was spurred on at this time by its success in the retrocession of Hong Kong, the consequence of the happening moved its determination to be regional- and global-actor to an elevated level. Within the formulaic of power-stakes there resides a greater understanding and reasoning of the PRC’s intent, and this will be dealt with later in this thesis. To wit, the problem for Taiwan is that China from this point on, China would begin to benefit from the phenomenon of globalisation and it would prompt the CCP through the aforementioned doctrines of economic, military, and nationalistic proclivities to intensify its irredentist demands; and stimulate its politico-intensity in general. Taiwan’s retrocession would now become a core component of the CCP’s demands.

Henceforth, Taiwan would have its political gains made from the 1950s though to the mid-1990s shifted to a more problematic platform, that of encountering a more focused, demanding and determined China—beginning circa-1995 and continuing to 2018 (and beyond). From an historical perspective it is well-known that Mao had always claimed Taiwan to be manifestly interconnected to China however, it is the pace of change that the impact of globalisation represents that is of interest here. Notwithstanding the aforementioned, China in its climb to new regional and international status and Taiwan having established and sustaining its independence polity would bring about new challenges. Globalisation would reinvigorate a strategy to the fore that had been a mainstay of the Cold War (1948 – 1989): ‘brinkmanship.’[3]

In addition to and emphasising the fundamental issue associated with the political repercussions of globalisation, the rapid unravelling of the Soviet Union at the end of the Cold War the (new) Russian Federation resulted in Taiwan having its previous status of pseudo-independence being rescinded in 1992.[4] The dyad of the rapidity of change combined with the Russian Federation completely embracing sovereignty even though it was still in a state of flux. The accepted sovereign statehood of China and its claims on Taiwan remained applicable and as globalisation took hold in a much more substantial and cognisant way and as a happening proved deeply troubling for Taiwan—and moreover both Cold War superpowers had withdrawn support. Globalisation and its repercussions would show that major actors would exert policies that were ever-more rigid in their politico and strategic-influences and as a result Taiwan and China would increase their attempts at influence.

To be sure, both Taiwan and China have sought to extend their influence through numerous aspects of globalisation. China it is fair to argue had managed to spread at an exponential level from the early twenty-first century. Nonetheless, Taiwan too sought to maintain its influence through the redundancy of independent politico-imagery and its associated dialogue. There has been and continues to be, within the power-paradigm that globalisation demands a triad of ways in which to exert influence. The triad consists of ‘soft power,’ economic (through utilitarian aid programmes), education, cultural and passive political support[5]; ‘hard power’ which consists of a deliberately focused military and the concomitant economic ties, which often entail an agreement of protection or direct support[6]; and ‘sharp power’ which extends to military ties (such as a host country allowing a military base to be built and operated by a foreign actor) and the subsequent economic ties that enable the power projection to be carried out—road-, port-access and overfly rights is to name only several. As part of the globalisation matrix, the types of power in order to extend influence may merge and overlap, although all have the propensity (and do) facilitate and improve preponderance capabilities. Taiwan has been able to access both soft and hard power, while China has been able to access all three. Within the structure of confirming or striving for superiority the elements of control alluded to are diminished if all three are not able to be accessed. What is of interest here is the application of sharp power. The extent of sharp power comprises but  is not limited to the enlargement of patrolling range through littoral or ocean-going/blue water assets; improving territorial access through infrastructure; continuing to establish zones-of-control; the availability of deterrent or blockading mechanisms; utilising threat-of-force through standoff actions; extend littoral zones through static territorial, air, and nautical placements; an increased ability to protect the homeland’s domestic environment through force dispersion; asset utilisation to test responses of other allied and non-allied actors; and where necessary apply direct kinetic applications—no-fly-zones and (the option for) invasion.[7] China is particularly adept at sharp power—as have previous imperial powers such as Britain, France, Russia and the US have been. The ongoing issue for Taiwan and its independence and it is fair to argue, is a problem made worse by the increasing globalisation of the world.

Due to the domestic, regional, international and cosmopolitan perspectives that have been summed up (albeit briefly), the relevant cross-Strait machinations—including the retrocession components of China’s ascendant irredentist attitudes and the ubiquitous independence stance and position of Taiwan, there is a need to observe the fulcrum of other issues. What can now be addressed is the geo-strategic, geo-political avenues that must be encountered and navigated through will comprise, though not be limited to the following: the necessary relevant chronological (historical) perspectives; present influencing factors, near-future outcomes; and forecasting. With this in mind and for the sake of clarity it must be assumed the CCP will be astute in its control of China and that its tenure as a ruling power will remain steadfast. From the perspective of Taiwan however, it must also be stated up front that it is a liberal-democracy and it must be acknowledged that like every democracy it is prone to the vagaries and impulses of voting blocs per se.[8] China does not have this problem and to give this context, whilst there are voting blocs within the NPC,[9] which affects policy outcomes and polity overall, it is a moot point and need not be entered into here, as it is these stark political difference that only needs mentioning.

In conclusion to the above structural underpinnings, the governments of both countries are aware of, and deal with numerous politico and strategic elements external to their domestic environments demanding issues of cross-Strait relations and the associated regional and political machinations. And whilst it may be the case that liberal democracies are definitively beholden to the vagaries of specific voting-blocs in the public sphere-of-influence—a point which will be drawn upon later in this thesis—Taiwan and China are nonetheless, committed to diplomatic suasion and the building of favourable polity to progress their specific needs; and advantage. To wit, the aforementioned falls in the realm of gaining politico and military-advantage regionally, internationally and indubitably, in competition to dominate cross-Strait relations. However, this has not always been the case and in order to balance the current state-of-affairs it is appropriate to reflect on less-confrontational times and observe there has existed more harmonious elements.

Continued tomorrow … War as it ‘is’

Previous instalment … Taiwan and China: The way it might have been


[1] Kyle Mizokami. ‘In 1999, America Destroyed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade (And Many Chinese Think It Was on Purpose).’The National Interest.21 Jan, 2017.

[2] William Callahan Contingent States: Greater China and Transnational Relations.  Minnesota: Minnesota University Press, 2004, 52. Italics mine.

[3] According to Gochman brinkmanship becomes part of political manoeuvrings when, ‘decision makers perceive a dramatic impending shift in the balance of power in favour of an adversary and/or a substantial internal challenge to their own political position at home.’ See: The Process Of War. Advancing the Scientific Study of War. Edited by Stuart Bremer and Thomas Cusack. Australia: Gordon and Breach, 1995, 97. There are common features in what Calhoun describes as the ‘rhetoric of nations’ and though they do not completely define what a nation comprises they include but are not limited to, boundaries of territory, indivisibility, sovereignty, legitimacy, participation in collective affairs, direct membership, culture, temporal depth, common characteristics and special histories. See: Craig Calhoun. Nationalism. Buckingham: Open University Press, 1997, 4-5.

[4] Shaohua Hu. ‘Russia and Cross-Strait Relations.’ Department of Government and Politics, Wagner College, 5.

[5] ‘[S]oft power’ ‘arises from the attractiveness of a country’s values, political ideals, and policies. See: Joseph Nye. ‘Soft Power and European-American Economic Affairs.’ Hard Power, Soft Power and the Future of Transatlantic Relations. Edited by Thomas Ilgen. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited, 2006, 26.

[6] ‘Hard power’ centres on military and economic power … .’ Hard Power, Soft Power and the Future of Transatlantic Relations, 26.

[7] Protecting a powerful actors’ domestic environment through the use-of-force is not new and is able to be observed in an article by Frankell: ‘U.S. Mulled Seizing Oil Fields In ’73. British Memo Cites Notion of Sending Airborne [Troops] to Mideast.’ The plan is also referred to as Dhahran Option Four, as articulated by Shenkman in Saudi Arabia’s Doomsday Plan, which states, ‘In 1973 the British were told by American Defense Secretary James Schlesinger that the United States might use force to maintain open access to the key oil fields of Saudi Arabia, Kuwait and Abu Dhabi. Two years later, in 1975, the Sunday Times of London published an account of a classified American plan, “Dhahran Option Four,” which provided for an American invasion to seize the oil wells of Saudi Arabia. In an interview with the media in 1975, Henry Kissinger publicly acknowledged that the United States might use force to free up oil supplies in the Middle East to save the West from strangulation.’ See: Rick Shenkman. ‘Saudi Arabia’s Doomsday Plan.’ See: Rick Shenkman. ‘Saudi Arabia’s Doomsday Plan.’ HistoryNewsNetwork, http//

[8] This concept of voting-blocs and the way in which a war encourages them is expanded upon in the heading under ‘Taiwan and the realities of a war with China’: A brief deliberation,’ 59.

[9] According to a fellow MOFA (2018) recipient and PhD candidate Gustavo Henrique Feddersen, voting-blocs within the NPC are able to be traced when applying an astute application to the way in which the CCP conducts its political acumen. Feddersen suggests and based on our discussions, there is much debate that continues in the private realm of the CCP and influence can be traced to provinces that a particular CCP member will be known to support and policies or policy input will reflect that influence. Regard for internal CCP informal coalitions, based on patron-protégé relations and upholding specific policy orientations, also contributes when inferring the origins and support for certain initiatives. Upon policy declaration being made however, all NPC members support the policy presented, which unlike in liberal-democracies there is much post-policy debate that happens. This does not accord with CCP principle and therefore, does not take place. This practice relates to the combination of Leninist “democratic centralism” and post-Deng era “collective leadership”. See: Cheng Li, Chinese Politics in the Xi Jinping Era: Reassessing Collective Leadership (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2016); David M. Lampton, Following the Leader: Ruling China, from Deng Xiaoping to Xi Jinping (University of California Press, 2014); Joseph Fewsmith, The Logic and Limits of Political Reform in China (Cambridge University Press, 2013); Tony Saich, Governance and Politics of China, 3rd ed. (Hampshire, UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011); and David Shambaugh, China’s Communist Party: Atrophy and Adaptation (University of California Press, 2008).

Strobe Driver 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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