The PRC's Preparation of the Battlefield
Conditioning is one of the oldest techniques we humans use against each other. Either we learned it from domesticating animals, or we used the techniques learned in domesticating animals against the top animal in the wild - our fellow humans.
You get the target of your attentions used to either your presence or a specific activity that comes and goes on a regular basis. A few cycles of it happening and eventually it just becomes part of the environment - hardly noticed at all.
In the national security environment it can be something relatively benign like Freedom of Navigation Operations (FONOPS), or as we saw in the second half of 2021 and the first couple of months of 2022 on the borders of Ukraine - it can not benign and but a prelude to conflict.
During the Cold War, FONOPS were so regular that no one noticed. That was the point. One of our responsibilities in the post-WWII agreed order was to keep the sea lanes open and to avoid a return to closed seas. Sure, we passed paint to each other now and then - or with the Libyans on occasion switched MASTER ARM to ARM, but it was benign.
Sometimes an exercise is just an exercise. Sure, the Russian exercise in January & February of 2022 was just an prelude to invasion - with most of the Smartest People in the Room™ refusing to believe war was in the offing, but ABLE ARCHER 83 was just an exercise - not that cowboy Ronald Rayguns starting WWIII.
You need to be careful with your mirroring and projecting - and what possibly might be happening in the brain bucket of the other party … but on occasion, an opponent is signaling exactly what they plan to do.
In hindsight - and in the moment for some - what Hitler did in Europe should not have been a shock to anyone. He clearly outlined what he intended to do - with some of the nasty details left between the lines, in his book Mein Kamph published in 1925.
There is a track record here.
So, what do we see this month west of Wake? The People’s Republic of China already has a larger navy than the United States of America and is not slowing down their building and modernization. She has a plan. She has a list, and we know what is at the top once conditions are ripe.
Taiwan's defence ministry said it had spotted nine Chinese ships and 26 aircraft, including J-16 and Su-30 fighters, carrying out combat readiness patrols around the island late Tuesday morning.
Taiwan's air force, navy and shore-based missile crews are closely monitoring and responding, it added.
Taiwan's government has repeatedly denounced the drills, but said it will not escalate or provoke.
Writing on her Facebook page shortly before midnight on Monday, Tsai said that as president, "I represent my county to the world", and that her visits abroad, including stops in the United States, are not new and are what Taiwan's people expect.
"However, China used this to launch military exercises, causing instability in Taiwan and the region. This is not a responsible attitude for a major country in the region," she said.
She is training herself and conditioning the Taiwanese. Will she strike soon? I don’t know. I don’t think so.
Do they plan to? Of course they do. They have a few areas to work on first though, and they are moving along in the training routine in a rather deliberate and professional manner.
For the first time, the Chinese navy appears to have simulated strikes by aircraft carrier-based warplanes on Taiwan, as drills around the island wrapped up on their third day.
Beijing launched the drills on Saturday, a day after Taiwan’s President Tsai Ing-wen returned from a 10-day visit to Central America and the United States where she met US House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.
Taiwan’s Ministry of Defense reported on Monday that during the past 24 hours four J-15 fighter jets had crossed into the southeastern portion of the island’s air defense identification zone – a self-declared buffer that extends beyond the island’s airspace.
The J-15 is the version of J-11 twin-jet fighter that was developed for use on Beijing’s growing fleet of aircraft carriers.
As we have discussed here since we started the “Long Game” series 18-years ago, war is coming, the only question is “when.”
If we have not already, we are quickly running out of time to create conditions that will keep the PRC from taking what she has long coveted. While she grows stronger and more capable, we seem to think it is still 1998.
It is 2023.
We need to start acting like it.
If China takes Taiwan without American intervention - that will signal a soft end to the American Century.
If China takes Taiwan in spite of American intervention - that will signal a hard end to the American Century.
Either would usher in to the People’s Republic of China being the new global power.
Are you ready for that?
Wouldn’t it be better if the PRC just couldn’t find a way to ensure they could take Taiwan?
By actions of commission and omission, our leaders both in uniform and out seem to be in complete denial that we are well past the “theory” part of thing thought game - the very real game is afoot.
Ponder the 2nd and 3rd order effects of a new reality when the United State pulls back or is pushed back east of Wake and ask yourself, “Is that worth keeping our defense budget habits, acquisition program requirements, and workforce rules designed back in the mid-1980s?”
Yes, that is the operative question because that is exactly what is preventing us from responding as agilely as a communist country four time the size of us.
Our defense bureaucracy is more blinkered and hidebound in both intellect and action as the PRC’s - and we seem to be happy with that.