The surprise of no ‘surprise attack’
By Dr Strobe Driver
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 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.’ 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 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’ 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’ or a modified version of the strategy might develop and from the ‘ashes’ of a Taiwan military counterattack and an ‘asymmetrical’ 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. 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.
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’ 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 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.’ 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
 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. http://www.un.org/Depts/unmovic/new/documents/resolutions/s-res-1284.pdf
 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. http://bushlibrary.tamu.edu/research/public_papers.php?id=2767&year=1991&month=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.
 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.
 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.
 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.
 Jeremy Shapiro. ‘The latest battle for Fallujah is a symbol of the futility of US efforts in Iraq.’ Vox. 25 May, 2016. https://www.vox.com/2016/5/25/11750054/battle-fallujah-iraq
 Geoffrey Blainey. The Causes of War. London: Macmillan, 1973, 249.
 ‘Text of George Bush’s speech.’ The Guardian. 21 Sep, 2001. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/21/september11.usa13https://www.theguardian.com/world/2001/sep/21/september11.usa13
 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. http://search.epnet.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=aph&an=15375754
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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