Discussion is heating up – about war with China. Understanding what that would mean is vital, and argues strongly for deterrence. Wars are imagined as short, limited, victorious affairs, somehow worth the loss, a chance for advantage, or to defend unjust advances. They usually turn out differently.
World War I began with Kaiser Wilhelm II heading for France, then Russia, to elevate Germany and Central Power allies Austria-Hungary and Ottoman Empire. It was to be a short, affordable, limited, and glorious.
The war began with an assassination in Serbia, Russia coming to Serbia’s defense, then entry by allies France, Britain, Italy, Japan, and the US. In four years, it killed nine million solders, five million civilians, millions by genocide, and left 23 million wounded.
Hardly limited, it spread from Europe to the Middle East, Asia, Africa, and the Pacific, leaving a trail of blood, loss, and multigenerational devastation. Almost 20 percent of the French Army died. Germany lost 15 percent, Austria-Hungary 17 percent, Ottoman Empire 26 percent, Serbia 37 percent, Romana 25 percent, and so it went.
Far from glorious, it led to Wilhelm’s abdication and the Bolshevik Revolution in Russia, creating misery of a kind that would hobble, threaten, divide, and nearly destroy Europe over the next 70 years, plunging hundreds of millions of Germans, Russians, and countless others into the abyss of Communism.
As bad, it bankrupt Germany, which led to hyperinflation, mass resentment, pre-Soviet agony, and ultimately created an unquenchable thirst for vengeance – met by a fascist hate-state, led by Hitler.
As history cascades, resentments take on new forms, often rooted in earlier wars, raising the level of devastation. WWII, which began in 1939 and ended with nuclear weapons in 1945, involved 50 nations and 100 million in uniform. Historians put the total death toll at between 70 and 85 million souls.
Was it worth it? Well, to defend the future against Fascism, systematic death, deprivation, and perpetual perversion of the human condition, yes. But was it necessary? Could it have been deterred? Maybe.
Today, we face a direct threat from China, a Communist nation with an aggressive, modernizing military, philosophy of unrestricted warfare, and political leadership convinced of its advantage, even if wrong.
Many wars – if not all – are started on misconceptions of advantage, perceived weakness on one side, perceived opportunity by the other. The power of unknowing, wishful thinking, circular reporting, and self-reinforcing falsehoods is like an undertow – often pulling nations down, until they drown.
Often miscalculated – or viewed as “worth it” by elites – are the financial, personal, cultural, physical, psychological, and irreversible costs of war. Like an addiction, getting in is easy, getting out difficult.
Today, China thinks it operates outside the sphere of societal destruction that attends major wars. As in the Korean War, Chinese Communists so devalue the lives of their countrymen that accept human loss.
China thinks it can catch, overtake, neutralize or disarm, and then intimidate, demand, and ultimately command Western nations, especially the United States, with mass modernization, nuclear weapons creation, and unconventional warfare – cyber, psychological, economic, biological, and chemical.
While arguably primitive, the Chinese are nevertheless aggressively building, deploying, and leveraging what they have, undeterred, certain they can force a unipolar, Communist China- dominated world. That should give Western leaders pause – because it means we will either reverse that thinking or go to war.
To date, US leadership has indulged wishful thinking, shockingly underestimated China’s intent – economic, diplomatic, military, cyber, maritime, and space-based. It has encouraged Chinese ambitions with stunning missteps, cowardice in Afghanistan, failure to hold China accountable for illegalities.
The perception one has is that the Biden team thinks evil is not evil, China’s rhetoric not real, oppression just a cultural difference, or that all this will pass, war never come, appeasement and hope win the day.
Wrong. History teaches, again and again, what we genetically resist. Wars are not averted by wishing them away, cow-towing, ignoring the runup, thinking an aggressor does not mean what they say.
Let us be clear: The world is a nasty, selfish, brutal, brutish place – and Communist countries like China and former Soviet Union make the point persuasively. To ignore their aims and actions is folly.
What must be done to deter China is the question. The answer is allied unity and absolute clarity among free nations – a coordinated legal, political, economic, and military answer that convinces China the jig is up. They cannot win a war with us, would pay a price that destroys their society. We will do that.
Deterrence requires helping an adversary understand reality – with certainty – that a war with us will not be fast, limited, or containable – and is unwinnable. It will be fought to bitter end, will ruin them. To deter war we must believe in ourselves, prepare for it, then convince China it is folly. That is the mission.
Robert Charles is a former Assistant Secretary of State under Colin Powell, former Reagan and Bush 41 White House staffer, attorney, and naval intelligence officer (USNR). He wrote “Narcotics and Terrorism” (2003), “Eagles and Evergreens” (2018), and is National Spokesman for AMAC.
Read full article here