Wednesday, June 27, 2012

The new hot point in the world

Save Capitalism already covered the most interesting economic event today; so I will post an interesting article by stratfor. It requires a subscription, so I will summarize it.  It covers the growing focus of the United States towards the Pacific, specifically China's growing naval capability.
China has made enormous advances in its military capability over the years.  They've had too, considering that their geopgraphic position makes them extremely vulnurable to being blockaded by the foreign powers. China has Japan, a nation very closely aligned to the US,  directly to the east, and their main acces to the world lies in the South China sea; which you can see is ensconsed by the few straights running through Indonesia, the Philipines, and coordoned off by the Ryuuku island chain of Japan, which houses a major US military installation in Okinawa.

China greatly fears that one day the US might try to straggle them economically, politicaly, and militarily the same way the US did to the Soviet Union.  Very real fears, as the United States has taken a much firmer stance with China than it has in the recent past. Yes neoconservative news sites abound with our 'placation' of our new chinese overlords.  But public speeches are not the same thing as private dialouge and actual foreign policy.  The US has increased its committment to the nations like the Phillipines, which has a dispute over the exclusive economic zone with China, and continues to address its military focus on the south pacific. Remember the spy plane incident a decade ago? Those incidents will continue to pop up as China continues to exert its influence in the region.

This is the reason why the Chinese have invested heavily in developing their new aircraft carrier; however, a carrier alone does not a threat make. China still lacks the support infrastructure and training needed to make a carrier task force.  Getting the infrastructure put together could take as little as a decade, but the trained man power and leadership required could take 20 years or longer.  Because of that, China has focused their naval capability on defensive measures, anti-ship missiles, and very quiet diesel submarines.  Both are potentially very effective defensive measures, one that the US must consider carefully. But even then Chinese military leaders know that they cannot win a long drawn out war, a chinese general was quoted, that it (fighting the US) was tantamount to throwing an egg against a wall. Their goal is to make the conflict so bloody as to deter the US from persuing it.

The biggest variable isn't the anti-ship missiles, which I imagine are very stationary and are in fact vulnurable themselves to a variety of measures, but the diesel submarine.  Very quite, and in the littoral coasts they can be very difficult to detect.  This is why the Chinese have amassed the largest diesel submarine force in the world.  These vessels would prove very dangerous to a carrier task force if they were able to get past the US anti-submarine net, given the underwater topographical features of the south china sea, a real possibility.  Coupled with the anti-ship missile shield that China is building and it is apparant that the Chinese seek to keep the Americans at arms length. Yet, even with all focus by the Chinese during these last two decades, they are still extremely vulnurable to US naval power.

Many posters in the manosphere, economic blogs, and the internet in general lament, or rejoice, what they view as downfall of te United States.  They point to the fall of past empires before it, most notably the Roman Empire.  The barbarians are at our gates, our leaders corrupt, our government incapable of action, and our economy ruined.  They aren't wholly wrong, but I do not agree with their sentiments.
I am a major student of Roman history, as American history and cultural values largely mirror that of our ancient ancestors, and I would argue that we are more Rome circa Sulla and Marius, the two consuls who began the end of the republic and the rise of Caesar and Agustus, and less Edward Gibbon Decline and Fall.  I would recommend anyone who reads this post to check out The History of Rome a set of recorded podcasts about one mans studies into the Roman Empire.  It's rather informative, complete, and even when I disagree with his conclusions, well thought out.

I will argue my standpoint on why the US has not seen its last days being the dominant power in the world at a later date, and have covered it somewhat in earlier posts. Suffice it to say, our control of the worlds oceans, paticularly the North Atlantic and entire Pacific precludes any real challenger.  Yes the world has increasingly relied  on ephemeral bits of digitized information, but until you can invent a teleporter to move physical goods across the internet, then control of physical terrain and space matters.  Most importantly, control of the oceans, through which trillions of dollars of goods are exchanged throughout the world. And to put it simply, the US controls the worlds oceans.

The US possesses the largest and most technologically advanced navy in the world.  It posses 12 aircraft carriers not including the psuedo helicopter carriers of expiditionary units or mothballed older carriers sitting in drydock, which is more than the rest of the world combined. More importantly, each carrier is part of a task force capable of blue water operations.  Only France and Great Britain can realistically claim to have a blue water capable navy.

A blue water Navy is a navy that is capable of operating for extended periods away from its coastal waters. Specifically being capable of maintaining the logistics and communication networks to do so en mass.  It's one thing to send one or two frigates or submarines to the far corners of the world, quite another to do so with a fleet.  China currently lacks this capability, though they are certainly trying to change that.
Another problem for China, is that while they possess the largest diesel submarine force in the world, the United States posses the largest nuclear powered submarine force that is equal in size to China's and far more technologically advanced. China could certainly do damage, but the US navy can punch right back. The decades long cold war with the USSR, a major naval power in its time that rivalled the US, has lead the Navy to develop extensive anti-submarine counter measures.  This means that the Chinese Navy stands little chance against the US in blue water operations, but even in littoral seas the fighting would be difficult.
Adding to China's difficulty is that tactics that the Chinese could use to keep the US at arms length from their coasts, are the same tactics the US Navy could use to bottle China in.  There are very few avenues from which China could sends its navy. The US itself could block those avenues, or use its allies to do so.  Conflict between China would most assuredly draw Japan in, whether the nation wants to be involved or not, and other island nations would likely be amendable to US operations.

China's best bet, outside of avoiding conflict outright, would be to do massive damage to the US Navy at the onset of hostilities and hope to situate its defenses in such as way as to disuade the US of the possibility of a long and drawn out conflict.  This was Japans strategy during WWII.  However, outside of luring most of the US fleets into a trap, the ability of the Chinese to do so is limited, there is not much China can do.  Moreover, tensions with the south east asian nations over their claims on the south china sea makes it unlikely that they would find allies in the conflict.  So if China were able to strike a severe blow to US capabilities, which would buy them the time to establish defensive perimeters around the straights, they would likely be unable to secure the allies needed to actually do so.  This doesn't even begin to go into their inability to operate in the open ocean.  China could possibly secure the south china sea, but they would still have to risk US naval power elsewhere in the world.

We need to remember that the US navy can operate within strike range of Chinese shores, and has demonstrated this fact over the years. This naturally antagonizes the Chinese, and is a source of consternation amongst globalists, peacenicks, and the pacifist strain of libertarians.  The reason the US does so is simple. Firstly, it demonstrates a willingess the defend its erstwhile allies, and perhapes to dissuade them from thinking of going against US policy. Secondly, it telegraphs the might of the US navy. It has the largest navy, the most carriers, the most fleets, the best technology, and controls the worlds gps system. It can go where it wants, when it wants. The US navy is to America what the legions were to Rome. Unstoppable, or at least that is the image wants to present. Remember Sun Tsu, the greatest general can get his opponent to give up without a battle by making his opponent think that the conclusion is foregone.

The likelihood of US occupation is non-existant. America has no desire to occupy China, and controlling the nation militarily would be an impossibility, or even if it were posible, economically ruinous.  But economic strangulation is another story.  China experienced this once during their sick man if Asia years, when the great European powers and Japan carved little holdings out of China. That is China's greatest fear.
China is in a precarious position. Despite the set backs that the US has experienced recently, it is still the biggest boy on the block. It is in the center of, and if it does not control then heavily influences, the global financial, economic, and political systems.  This means the US has the power. And even if nations do not like what the US does, like in Iraq, they will do nothing to oppose it outside of a few speeches. Now this doesn't mean US dominance will continue, or that China would lose a conflict. But a rational examination of long term trends and nation fundementals makes the scale lean in favor of the US. Expect south east Asia to get more tense in the coming years.

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Seattle resident whose real name is Kevin Daniels. This blog covers the following topics, libertarian philosophy, realpolitik, western culture, history and the pursuit of truth from the perspective of a libertarian traditionalist.