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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. https://nationalinterest.org/feature/the-third-taiwan-strait-crisis-the-forgotten-showdown-19742

[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, http://www.au.af.mil/awc/awcgate/warden-allhtm ‘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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5 comments

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  1. King1394

    It is a worry that you and other war theorists can discuus these possibilities without any reference to how such actions would create such a volume of greenhouse gas emissions that equally destroy all the aggressors and non-participants alike. The next war needs to be fought at the conference table, not on the ground

  2. Strobe Driver

    I agree King1394, as a war theorist unfortunately, it’s my job. I was in Taiwan in 2001 – 2002 as a freelance journalist and I thought the situation was bad. Last year I went back and wrote the mini-thesis, hoping that I would produce a more reasoned and perhaps even a moderated piece of work. The writing reflects what I observed through conference after conference and conversation after conversation — I describe the situation as ‘frightening.’ The forecast is in the Conclusion chapter. War is not a possibility it’s a probability as far as I am concerned and it is my job to enunciate this as loud and as clearly as I can. I have already been compared to Goebbels and been told I’m into ‘war porn,’ but I can cop that no problems, as it’s more important to get the analysis out there.

  3. Alcibiades

    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.

    Hm, perhaps it’s also crucially, & ultimately determined by the historical adherence of each belligerent to adhere to, in good faith, the relevant Geneva Conventions, as well as the spirit & true intent, of the Laws of War. Or not.

    And also the degree to which the political and military leadership, deliberately indoctrinates their own officers, troops and civilians in order to dehumanise the ‘selected’ enemy, sometimes over generations, so as to create a permissive mindset re breaches of the GC & the LoW

    And in such context the ultimate application of military force, by which and how particular weapon systems & platforms, and what type and how the armaments and ammunitions may be permissely selected & targeted, for ‘effect’. And how permissive is said targetting in accordance with the GC & LoW. In order to prevent non combatant casualties, hm ?

    Hm, thermobaric weapons such as Daisy cutters, Napalm bombs, Phosphorous & depleted uranium ammunition use, comes to mind.

    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.

    Major wars critically impact domestic politics by producing sometimes durable social changes, sometimes transient and by redistributing political power amongst groups … wars may make as well as break states … By late 1971 [after approximately 13 years of covert warfare & support in support of French Colonialism, followed by 8 years of open overt warfare] the Vietnam War had significantly impacted on Unites States domestic politics. Anti-War & Anti-militarism became strong throughout the United States … and continued to do so until Ronald Reagan,in order to prevent a truly dire imminent threat to US National Security, invaded the tiny impoverished virtually defenceless Island of Grenada, on yet another false cassus belli, and subsequent regime change in 1983, to restart the cycle of Might makes Right yet, and the weak suffer what they can, again. For non-Americans especially, the Vietnam war became a unifying symbol of their opposition to the US Empires rule, even in suborned supposedly sovereign vassal States. FIFY.

    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.

    Hm, having given Taiwan a chance, in your purely hypothetical new war scenario and narrative ? Machinations of unification ? Such a neutral, objective, unbiased turn of phrase …

    Fun Fact: The Chinese Civil War never ended ! Any hypothetical war between China & Taiwan, would actually merely be a resumption of open hostilities. No armistice nor Peace Treaty has ever been signed. The rogue province of China, Taiwan, not a soveriegn nation, and specifically NOT legally recognised by the UN nor UNSC, nor by ~86% of the worlds nations, ihas in reality & legally merely been occupied by the military remnants of the decisively defeated & nationally rejected side, and the remnants of the legally illegitimate defeated ‘Government-in-Exile’, since seizing the province with US assistance in 1949. But let us not let facts get in the way, shall we.

    Having NOT dealt with numerous scenarios and the possibility of the actions, another possibility must be examined …

    China will continue to await the return of the Chinese citizens of the Province of Taiwan, to willingly choose to re-unite with the Chinese mainland proper. As the Chinese take the long view, apposate to western cultural norms of thinking, being a civilisation in existence for millenia, will as has been the case since 1949, largely wait out the patron providing a military umbrella, and unofficial informal defence alliance, the US, to collapse,due its economic ponzi scheme, and promptly subsequent global military collapse as a direct consequence. Hence, the then peaceful re-unification of the province by choice, economically, politically & militarily, given the destitution and bleak future the non nation and future generations would otherwise face. Unless of course the US decides to prematurely incite or trigger an unnecessary resumption of open hostilities, by fair means or foul, surprisingly (or not ?), for its own exclusive perceived self/national interests.

    Should, in some bizzaro world alternate reality, China decide to launch a full scale military operation to resume full sovereignty and rightful governance of its territory and its citizens re the province of Taiwan, the costs in both gold and blood would be immense. The outcome though, would be inevitable. Re-unification.

    Unless US military patronage and support was still extent, and the US made the fateful decision to intervene militarily, in a limited operation. This would involve in the best case frequent risk of open conflict and subsequent losses of naval vessels and aircraft in constant high risk situations of collision, or accidental direct engagement. This would likely rapidly escalate out of Command Control into widespread open warfare. A Cuban Missile Crisis redux, on steroids, with the roles reversed. This again, would, given the then subsequent direct risk to the existance and continuity of the Chinese nation State and, alternately the continuing global assertion of absolute Military supremacy, quite possibly trigger a limited nuclear exchange. From there, it’s anyone guess.

  4. Josephus

    Would the US and its allies be sucked in? China and others do have nuclear weapons. Oh well, a nuclear war portends a nuclear winter, so hey presto, Dr Caldecott, that is the solution to global warming. Some living creatures would survive, adapt and reproduce, e.g. flies.

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