Vultures Row: China Worries the Pentagon

China Worries the Pentagon

Jim Yardley and Thom Shanker of the New York Times have a great article in today’s International Herald Tribune. It focuses on the growing capabilities of the Chinese military.

I have long held that there will be a conflict with China and the US in the South China Sea. I believe it will be fought over two things, the oil that is under the SCS and Taiwan. China has repeatedly stated that they will do whatever it takes to bring Taiwan under its control. They consider the Island Republic a breakaway democracy, whereas the people of Taiwan seem to treasure their independence.

The United States is obligated to protect the tiny democracy. Congress passed a bill (HR 2479) on March 29, 1979 which was signed into law (PL96-8) by Then President Carter on April 10, 1979 that established a new relationship with Taiwan following U.S. recognition of the People's Republic of China.

Despite the US commitment, China has been making both military and political preparations for an assault on the island. Ten yeas ago the pentagon did not worry about this prospect as it deemed that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) did not have the amphibious capability to sustain a crossing of the Taiwan Straights.

"While the American military is consumed with wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, global terrorism, and the threat of nuclear proliferation in North Korea and Iran, China is presenting a new and strategically different security concern to America in the western Pacific, as well as to Japan and Taiwan, Pentagon and military officials say.

China, these officials say, has smartly analyzed the strengths and weaknesses of the American military and focused its growing defense spending on weapons systems that could exploit the perceived weaknesses in case the United States ever needs to respond to fighting in Taiwan."
(Yardley/Shanker 2005)

The recent law and the strategic planning and military build up are evidence enough that the PLA and the Government have the will to use force. The question is will the United States have the will and capability to honor its commitment? George W. Bush has the will, but if China waits until after the 2008 election to launch an attack the new administration may not be so eager to enforce the law. The American people, weary of the war on terrorism could quickly turn against any support for Taiwan. The Not In Our Name and A.N.S.W.E.R. crowd seem to be opposed to any military action, no matter the justification. They would likely start rallies and anti-war protests against getting involved. This would only serve to undermine any support for defending a nation of free people.

The US Military is already stretched thin. Current operational intensity and lack of production of new missiles, weapon systems, ships and armor leaves gaping holes in the ability to respond to addition crisis spots. Once, it was US policy to have a military that would be able to fight one two full scale war fronts. In the early nineties this has shifted to the so called “Rouge Doctrine” where the US Military was scaled down to fight one war and two regional conflicts. Current operations in Iraq and Afghanistan have proved that the military is straining to meet the commitments of this policy. The military is doing a tremendous job but simply does not have the resources to sustain extended operations in a third major front.

Will the US honor its commitment to the freely elected democratic government of Taiwan? It will, but at great cost. Instead of standing up to China now and building up the military, it will try diplomatic means that are most likely to fail. These delays in providing a “Big Stick” and taking a hard stance will certainty lead to a longer conflict and higher casualties when it does come.

Only time will tell if the US will stand up and defend not only Taiwan’s sovereignty but is own honor too.


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