Sunday, June 22, 2014

Asia's Cauldron: the South China Sea and DF-21D ASBM

I recommend Robert Kaplan's Asia's Cauldron: The South China Sea and the End of a Stable Pacific. A key question: how effective will conventional ballistic missiles (ASBM: e.g., DF-21D, CEP ~ 10m? recent report) and cruise missiles (ASCM) be against US carrier groups?

Over the last decade, the center of world power has been quietly shifting from Europe to Asia. With oil reserves of several billion barrels, an estimated nine hundred trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and several centuries’ worth of competing territorial claims, the South China Sea in particular is a simmering pot of potential conflict. The underreported military buildup in the area where the Western Pacific meets the Indian Ocean means that it will likely be a hinge point for global war and peace for the foreseeable future.

In Asia’s Cauldron, Robert D. Kaplan offers up a vivid snapshot of the nations surrounding the South China Sea, the conflicts brewing in the region at the dawn of the twenty-first century, and their implications for global peace and stability. One of the world’s most perceptive foreign policy experts, Kaplan interprets America’s interests in Asia in the context of an increasingly assertive China. He explains how the region’s unique geography fosters the growth of navies but also impedes aggression. And he draws a striking parallel between China’s quest for hegemony in the South China Sea and the United States’ imperial adventure in the Caribbean more than a century ago.

To understand the future of conflict in East Asia, Kaplan argues, one must understand the goals and motivations of its leaders and its people. Part travelogue, part geopolitical primer, Asia’s Cauldron takes us on a journey through the region’s boom cities and ramshackle slums: from Vietnam, where the superfueled capitalism of the erstwhile colonial capital, Saigon, inspires the geostrategic pretensions of the official seat of government in Hanoi, to Malaysia, where a unique mix of authoritarian Islam and Western-style consumerism creates quite possibly the ultimate postmodern society; and from Singapore, whose “benevolent autocracy” helped foster an economic miracle, to the Philippines, where a different brand of authoritarianism under Ferdinand Marcos led not to economic growth but to decades of corruption and crime.
See also John Mearsheimer: Can China Rise Peacefully?


Pat Boyle said...

My guess is that the traditional large US style aircraft carrier is done for. It is a warship that is now only effective in peacetime. If and when real hostilities break out it will prove too vulnerable to survive for long.
At the present time giant nuclear carriers are useful for 'showing the flag' i.e. engaging in bluff. This is very like the 'Great White Fleet' a century ago. After Jutland all the world's great powers focused on battleships foolishly. Japan - most authorities agree - wasted the most resources on the Yamato and the Musashi. In real combat those mighty ships were nearly useless. Fortunately we lost most of our battleships at Pearl Harbor, so we got an opportunity to rethink the strategic position.
Carriers won the Pacific war for us but they only were successful in conjunction with another weapon - the Catalina PBY. We spotted the Japanese carriers before they spotted ours at Midway largely because of luck and the range of the Catalina. But distance and cloud cover can no longer hide a carrier. As a plane the Catalina is very, very obsolete. No one is quite sure if a carrier that can be seen from space is still survivable. My guess is that it isn't.
Carriers which are now so useful in peacetime for projecting force will go under the waves quickly when a determined enemy tries to sink them. In the last days of WWII in the Pacific our carriers proved to be vulnerable to Kamikazes. The modern version of a Kamikaze is a cruise missile. A single missile controlled remotely could kill a billion dollar carrier and drown thousands of sailors. If we have a conflict in the South China Sea or off the coast of North Korea I expect we will lose a carrier nearly at once. The 4,600 sailors on the USS Enterprise would be a bigger loss than loss of life from the Pearl harbor attack or 9/11. We would have to withdraw back to Hawaii and deploy smaller assets.

Hacienda said...

So the Politburo has spoken about what mongoloids should want from the US?

RagnarDanneskjold said...

Disabling a carrier and forcing it out of battle is different from sinking one. Sinking a U.S. carrier and killing everyone on board would turn whatever limited battle was underway into total war.

dxie48 said...

DF-21D is unproven in live situation. What had been proven is this,
"In the month of October 2006, Kitty Hawk and her escort warships were undergoing exercises near Okinawa, and a Chinese Song-class submarine shadowed the group then surfaced within 5 mi (8.0 km) of the group on 26 October 2006.[14] It was considered to be quite rare for Chinese subs to operate that far from their home ports on the mainland, though with this incident that may be changing. Reports claim that the submarine had been undetected until it surfaced.[15][16][17] In 2009, Timothy J. Keating, commander of the United States Pacific Command, commented on the issue, stating that the carrier was "in a very relaxed posture. If there were some heightened state of tension, we would, believe me, we would not let them get that close."[18]"

Kaplan asserted that US has no 'coast-guard vessels' to deal with Chinese cargo ships and fishing boats.
Apparently Kaplan was not aware of the US 'mine sweepers' on the South China Sea. One of which was grounded on a
UN heritage certified coral reef recently.
"On 17 January 2013, following a port call and fuel stop in Subic, Guardian proceeded across the Sulu Sea and entered the Tubbataha Reefs Natural Park.[2] where she grounded at 2:25 am."

Missing its occasional traveling companion, the Chinese cargo ship went to have a 'look see' and apparently immediately developed sympathy labor by having engine problem and dropped anchor south of the site,
"Bulk carrier Tai An disabled in Sulu Sea south of USS Guardian"

Rather than staring at each other, both parties were on front row seats to witness something interesting,
"About 200 armed men from the Sulu archipelago in the southern Philippines arrived in Sabah (Malaysia) by motorboat and occupied a town in Lahad Datu on February 11, catching the Malaysian and Philippine governments by surprise.
"Malaysian Prime Minister Najib then ordered an air and ground assault on March 5. The escalation of violence failed to drive the Filipino gunmen from Lahad Datu, but it did result in significant casualties. The fighting has killed at least 52 members of the Sulu group and eight Malaysian police officers."

RMB said...

You say "[t]he US took over the Philippines, Cuba and Guam, after all, but later came to champion democracy, peace and equal rights, even in its colonies and former territories. Hopefully China will simmer down and do likewise--and sooner--in its development."

While it's true to say that the US didn't champion democracy, peace and equal rights until more recently in its history, in the context of the times no country was doing those things to the extent that we now think normal and proper. What makes China's behavior so troubling is that they are acting this way at the beginning of the 21st century. Given that the world has changed so much in the last 200 years, and that it is now widely accepted that democracy, peace and equal rights are of paramount importance, such behavior is indeed troubling.

Magus Janus said...

"but later came to champion democracy, peace and equal rights, even in its colonies and former territories. Hopefully China will simmer down and do likewise"

I really hope not. Vietnam, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Libya, Afghanistan, Panama, Nicaragua, countless interventions in Africa (and indirectly through forcing decolonization) and South America. "democracy"-totalitarianism that the US pursues abroad is disastrous and has destroyed way too many countries already.

If China just behaves as a traditional great power, that'd be a huge improvement on the insanely idiotic progressive foreign policy of the US.

David Coughlin said...

This is a terrible discussion to have on the internet.

BobSykes said...

What is this 21st Century nonsense? The international rules of behavior today are the same as those governing Rameses and the Hittites, and Alexander, and Mohammed, and Genghis Khan, and Stalin et al. They are as permanent as the existence of animal life and will govern whatever beast rules after humans are gone.

As to American exceptionalism, since the fall of the Soviet Union America has been running amok: Kosovo/Serbia, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iraq, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt, Syria, Ukraine. There is no end to the wave of American terror.

Perhaps the Pax Americana was in fact a Pax Sovietica, or at least a Mexican standoff.

yulva said...

Oh my, I was told that climate change is the greatest threat in that area of the world..

"Despite renewed threats from nuclear North Korea, missile stockpiling in China and a standoff between China and Japan over a small string of islands, the head of the U.S. Navy’s Pacific fleet {Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III} has declared the greatest threat to long-term peace in the region is climate change."

"Locklear's comments come after the Department of Defense released a Quadrennial Defense Review in which it described the shifting global climate as a national security threat and "accelerant of instability and conflict," placing the burden of response on militaries around the world."

"The U.S. military has also adopted a variety of clean energy projects in an effort to green its image and reduce the armed services’ carbon footprint."

The world will love us and peace will break out all over if we just became more green.

David Coughlin said...

I think that it is a valuable peacekeeping mission for advanced economies to transfer energy technology to the less so. We are still very much staring backwards at the 1950s, rather than trying to invent a new social-business paradigm for a long running future.

aseuss said...

"Given that the world has changed so much in the last 200 years..." No, it was really just a century ago that the US was acting in a fashion inconsistent with its democratic ideals. Yes, no other country was championing democracy and equal rights, but the US projected itself not only as a champion of these values but as an entity founded and defined by those values. Hence, its imperial activities were not excusable or explainable because these directly contradicted everything it stood for. By contrast, other countries like Britain and Germany were elitist even internally, being defined by class and birth.
My point is that things changed rather quickly, i.e. in less than 100 years. Therefore, there is hope that the current situation in the Southwest Pacific can likewise be resolved, especially since China has historically been defined by its relative pacifism and tendency to establish relations based on mutualism. This pattern already seems to playing out in Africa. If you read "The Dragon's Gift" by Deborah Brautigam, you find that China's involvement there really began way back, in the 1960s--long before there was any real economic benefit to investment there. Fast forward to today, and Brautigam reports that a lot of the deals actually benefit China's African partners--governments, companies, etc.--more than China herself, both in the short- and in the long-term. I've heard her make the same point in person on C-Span as well. When building infrastructure like much-needed hospitals, powerstations, rail systems and roads, China does enjoy economic benefits but these often pale in comparison to what it's giving back, according to Brautigam.
So while the situation in China's backyard does seem troubling, China's approach in Africa, though not without faults, shows that it is quite capable of working peacefully with others and aid in their development. This is especially remarkable has little experience dealing with Africa, while it has lived in relative peace with its Asian neighbors for centuries.

aseuss said...

I misspoke. I hope China never does have colonies or territories. What I meant is that I hope China takes a page from its history of non-intervention (it rarely had conflicts with its neighbors in ancient times), and applies this pacifism to its future relations. One can champion democracy and equal rights without military intervention, and I hope (as we all hope) that China takes this route.

Peter Connor said...

One thing to be said about Marcos, he didn't wreck the place and allowed Chinese businessmen to operate freely. English remained the official language, now seen as a huge benefit.

Peter Connor said...

The real problem with carrier groups vs. missiles is that missiles are rather cheap, and a mutli-billion carrier only has to fail to shoot down one for a disaster to ensue. Very cost effective situation for the attacker.

yulva said...

"We have gone forth from our shores repeatedly over the last hundred years and we’ve done this as recently as the last year in Afghanistan and put wonderful young men and women at risk, many of whom have lost their lives, and
we have asked for nothing except enough ground to bury them in, and otherwise we have returned home to seek our own, you know, to seek our own lives in peace, to live our own lives in peace."

Colin Powell

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