Saturday, September 18, 2021

War Nerd on US-China-Taiwan

Highly recommended. Read this article, which will enable you to ignore 99% of mass media and 90% of "expert" commentary on this topic.
... The US/NATO command may be woofing just to get more ships and planes funded, but woofing can go badly wrong. The people you’re woofing at may think you really mean it. That’s what came very close to happening in the 1983 Able Archer NATO exercises. The woofing by Reagan and Thatcher in the leadup to those exercises was so convincing to the Soviet woof-ees that even the moribund USSR came close to responding in real—like nuclear—ways.
That’s how contingency plans, domestic political theatrics, and funding scams can feed into each other and lead to real wars.
Military forces develop contingency plans. That’s part of their job. Some of the plans to fight China are crazy, but some are just plausible enough to be worrying, because somebody might start thinking they could work. 
... What you do with a place like Xinjiang, if you’re a CIA/DoD planner, is file it under “promote insurgency” — meaning “start as many small fires as possible,” rather than “invade and begin a conventional war.”
And in the meantime, you keep working on the real complaints of the Uyghur and other non-Han ethnic groups, so that if you do need to start a conventional war in the Formosa Straits, you can use the Uyghur as a diversion, a sacrifice, by getting them to rise up and be massacred. Since there’s a big Han-Chinese population in Xinjiang, as the map shows, you can hope to stir up the sort of massacre/counter-massacre whipsaw that leaves evil memories for centuries, leading to a permanent weakening of the Chinese state.
This is a nasty strategy, but it’s a standard imperial practice, low-cost — for the empire, not the local population, of course. It costs those people everything, but empires are not sentimental about such things. 
... The Uyghur in Xinjiang would serve the same purpose as the Iraqi Kurds: “straw dogs destined for sacrifice.” If you want to get really cynical, consider that the reprisals they’d face from an enraged Chinese military would be even more useful to the US/NATO side than their doomed insurgency itself.
Atrocity propaganda is very important in 21st c warfare. At the moment, there’s no evidence of real, mass slaughter in Xinjiang, yet we’re already getting propaganda claims about it. Imagine what US/NATO could make out of the bloody aftermath of a doomed insurgency. Well, assuming that US/NATO survived a war with China, a pretty dicey assumption. More likely, CNN, BBC, and NYT would be the first to welcome our new overlords, Kent Brockman style. Those mainstream-media whores aren’t too bright but Lord, they’re agile. 
... Xinjiang, by contrast, can easily be imagined as One Giant Concentration Camp. After all, our leading “expert” on the province has never been there, and neither have his readers.
... The era of naval war based on carrier groups is over. They know that, even if they won’t say it.
If there’s a real war with China, the carriers will wait it out in San Diego harbor. I don’t say Honolulu, because even that wouldn’t be safe enough.
I’m not denigrating the courage or dedication of the crews and officers of USN vessels. At any level below JCOS, most of them are believers. But their belief is increasingly besieged and difficult to sustain, like an Episcopalian at Easter. You just can’t think too long about how cheap and effective antiship missiles are and still be a believer in aircraft carriers. As platforms of gunboat diplomacy against weak powers, they’re OK. 
... The thing is, and it’s weird you even have to say this: China is a big strong country coming out of an era of deep national humiliation and suffering, proud of its new prosperity. China’s success in lifting a desperately poor population into something like prosperity will likely be the biggest story from this era, when the canonical histories get distilled.
A nation hitting this stage is likely to include a lot of people, especially young men, who are itching to show what their country can do. Their patriotic eagerness is no doubt as gullible as most, but it’s real, and if you pay any attention in the online world, you can’t help seeing it.
People who mouth off about China never seem to imagine that anyone in China might hear, because as we are told over and over again, China-is-an-authoritarian-state. The implication is that nobody in China has any of the nationalistic fervor that we take for granted in our own Anglo states.
... Given the history of US/China relations, from the pogroms against Chinese immigrants to the Chinese Exclusion Act of 1882, through the demonization of Chinese mainlanders in the Cold War (which I remember distinctly from elementary school scare movies), the endless attempts to start insurgencies in Tibet, Xinjiang, and Fujian, to the nonstop violence and abuse of Asians in America, you don’t need to find reasons for Chinese people to want a war.
The odd thing is that most of them don’t seem to. That’s a remarkable testimony to the discipline and good sense of the Chinese public…so far. And it’s also, if you’re thinking clearly, a good reason not to keep provoking China in such gross, pointless ways. A population with that level of discipline and unity, matched with zooming prosperity, technical expertise, and pride on emerging from a long nightmare, is not one to woof at.
Of course the plan in the Pentagon is not real war. The plan is to slow China down, trip it up, “wrong-foot it” as they say in the Commonwealth. 
... So what will China do about Taiwan? China could take it right now, if it wanted to pay the price. Everyone knows that, though many fake-news sites have responded with childish, ridiculous gung-ho stories about how “Taiwan Could Win.” 
But will China invade? No. Not right now anyway. It doesn’t need to. The Chinese elite has its own constituencies, like all other polities (including “totalitarian” ones), and has to answer to them as circumstances change. 
So far China has been extraordinarily patient, a lot more patient than we’d be if China was promising to fight to the death for, say, Long Island. But that can change. Because, as I never tire of repeating, the enemy of the moment has constituencies too. And has to answer to them. 
So what happens if the US succeeds in hamstringing China’s economy? Welp, what’s the most reliable distraction a gov’t can find when it wants to unite a hard-pressed population against some distant enemy? 
That’s when China might actually do something about Taiwan. ...
See also Strategic Calculus of a Taiwan Invasion.

Note Added: Some readers may be alarmed that the War Nerd does not seem to accept the (Western) mass media propaganda about Xinjiang. Those readers might have poor memories, or are too young to know about, e.g., fake WMD or "babies taken out of incubators" or the countless other manufactured human rights abuses we read about in reliable journals like the New York Times or Washington Post.

Take these recent examples of US journalism on Afghanistan: 

The fake drone strike that killed 10 innocent family members, one of our last acts as we abandoned Afghanistan. (Fake because we probably did it just to show we could "strike back" at the bad guys.) Non-Western media reported this as a catastrophic failure almost immediately. But very few people in the US knew it until the Pentagon issued an apology in a late Friday afternoon briefing just recently. 

The drone strike was in retaliation for the suicide bombing at Kabul airport, in which (as reported by the Afghan government) ~200 people died. But evidence suggests that only a small fraction of these people were killed by bomb -- most of the 200 may have been shot by US and "coalition" (Turkish?) soldiers who might have panicked after the bombing. This is covered widely outside the US but not here.

If you want to understand the incredibly thin and suspicious sourcing of the "Uighur genocide" story, see here or just search for Adrian Zenz. 

Just a few years ago there were plenty of Western travelers passing through Xinjiang, even by bicycle, vlogging and posting their videos on YouTube. I followed these YouTubers at the time because of my own travel interest in western and south-western China, not for any political reason.

If you watch just a few of these you'll get an entirely different impression of the situation on the ground than you would get from Western media. For more, see this comment thread:
I want to be clear that because PRC is an authoritarian state their reaction to the Islamic terror attacks in Xinjiang circa 2015 was probably heavy handed and I am sure some of the sad stories told about people being arrested, held without trial, etc. are true. But I am also sure that if you visit Xinjiang and ask (non-Han) taxi drivers, restaurant owners, etc. about the level of tension you will get a very different impression than what is conveyed by Western media. 
No nation competing in geopolitics is without sin. One aspect of that sin (both in US and PRC): use of mass media propaganda to influence domestic public opinion. 
If you want to be "reality based" you need to look at the strongest evidence from both sides. 
Note to the credulous: The CIA venture fund InQTel was an investor in my first startup, which worked in crypto technology. We worked with CIA, VOA, NED ("National Endowment for Democracy" HA HA HA) on defeating the PRC firewall in the early internet era. I know a fair bit about how this all works -- NGO cutouts, fake journalists, policy grifters in DC, etc. etc. Civilians have no idea. 
At the time I felt (and still sort of feel) that keeping the internet free and open is a noble cause. But do I know FOR SURE that state security works DIRECTLY with media and NGOs to distort the truth (i.e., lies to the American people, Iraq WMD yada yada). Yes, I know for sure and it's easy to detect the pattern just by doing a tiny bit of research on people like Cockerell or Zenz. 
Keep in mind I'm not a "dove" -- MIC / intel services / deep state *has to* protect against worst case outcomes and assume the worst about other states. 
They have to do nasty stuff. I'm not making moral judgements here. But a *consequence* of this is that you have to be really careful about information sources in order to stay reality based...

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