Posts Tagged ‘Taiwan’

My 2011 Master’s Thesis Now Available: Looking at China’s A2/AD Capabilities and U.S. Perceptions of the Challenge

April 24, 2012

It’s been a long time coming, but I’ve finally been cleared to post my 2011 master’s thesis, entitled “AMERICAN PERCEPTIONS OF CHINA‘S ANTI-ACCESS AND AREA-DENIAL CAPABILITIES: IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. MILITARY OPERATIONS IN THE WESTERN PACIFIC.” I completed the research on it in May 2011, defended it in June in front of a thesis committee featuring a pair of highly-regarded defense and security experts in Taiwan (Dr. Wen-cheng Lin of National Sun Yat-sen University, who served as my thesis advisor, and Dr. Andrew N. D. Yang, Taiwan’s currently serving Deputy Minister of National Defense), and then made my post-defense revisions throughout the summer, finally completing the work in September. It’s basically been in various states of review for release since then. I suppose it is only fitting that I am finally able to release it on the occasion of the joint Chinese and Russian naval drills taking place in the Yellow Sea and the anniversary of the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN). Enjoy!

Abstract:

The post-Cold War world has created a number of important new challenges to the United States‘ power projection capabilities. The worldwide network of bases and stations that enabled the U.S. to contain the Soviet Union have, in many cases, been made into liabilities. U.S. dependence on fixed, vulnerable ports and airfields for the buildup of combat power, as seen in the 1990-91 Gulf War and 2003 Iraq War, have shown potential foes like China and Iran that it doesn‘t pay to allow penalty-free access and freedom of action in maritime, air, and space commons. In the Western Pacific, China has pursued an anti-access and area-denial (A2/AD) strategy, developing capabilities designed to deny U.S. freedom of movement in the region.

This study examines U.S. perceptions of China‘s growing A2/AD capabilities and their implications for U.S. military operations in the Western Pacific through the analysis of authoritative official and unofficial U.S. documents and studies. This work establishes a comprehensive, up-to-date picture of Chinese A2/AD capabilities through American eyes, updating previous comprehensive works in key areas such as the status of China‘s anti-ship ballistic missile, conventional ballistic and cruise missile capabilities and their implications for key U.S. facilities in the region, and new technology and platforms like China‘s first aircraft carrier and stealth aircraft.

The thesis concludes that the U.S. has been slow in reacting to Chinese A2/AD developments and that it is unlikely that continued Chinese military modernization (including the refinement and development of additional A2/AD capabilities) will end in the near future. For the U.S., this means that development and implementation of a truly joint concept for counter-A2/AD operations, as well as the right mix of military capabilities to carry out such operations, cannot be delayed any longer.

View this document on Scribd
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53rd Academy Assembly and Olmsted Scholar Panel

January 17, 2012

In October 2011, I had the opportunity to go down the road to the U.S. Air Force Academy (USAFA) in Colorado Springs and participate in their annual foreign affairs conference, called the Academy Assembly. 2011 marked the 53rd running of the event, and in the past it has featured speakers and participants from the likes of Paul H. Nitze (1959) to Donald Rumsfeld (representing the Office of Economic Opportunity in 1970) to John Nagl (2009).  It was a great experience, not only professionally, in what really was my first opportunity to interact with some really bright cadets and also undergraduate students from various public and private universities across the U.S. who were delegates of their schools to the Assembly, but also personally, in that I had never really been any of our nation’s military academies before. While I was there I had a chance to tour the famous chapel (see a few of the photos I took at the chapel below (along with some other photos from the week) – really beautiful!), take a meal with the cadets (all 3,000 of them!), and stroll the grounds of what really is a fantastic location, situated hard against the front range of the Rocky Mountains overlooking Colorado Springs. I came away from the experience really impressed by the caliber of cadets at the Air Force Academy and hoping that I have a chance to visit again soon!

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My official duties at the Academy Assembly were threefold: first, moderate the discussions of  the several cadets and civilian delegates assigned to my roundtable. I believe there were about ten of us, in total, including me and the cadet who was assigned to guide me around the campus during the week I was there, Cadet Second Class Andrew Gallion. After each major event/speaker during that week, we convened a roundtable to discuss what we had just heard attempt to tie it in with the overall Assembly theme, “Power and Influence: Global Dynamics in the 21st Century.” Speakers at this year’s assembly (bios here) included Mrs. Gillian Sorensen, United Nations Foundation Senior Advisor and National Advocate; several Olmsted Scholars (include myself; more on this aspect below); Undersecretary of the Air Force Erin Conaton; Mr. Peter Brookes, Senior Fellow for National Security Affairs at the Heritage Foundation; USAFA’s own Dr. Schuyler Foerster, Brent Scowcroft Professor of National Security Affairs at the U.S. Air Force Academy (I liked his presentation the best of all the week’s presentations – it was candid and realistic), and finally, Ambassador Christopher Hill, currently Dean of the Josef Korbel School of International Studies at the University of Denver (and previously U.S. Ambassador to Macedonia, Poland, South Korea, and Iraq, as well as Assistant Secretary of State for East Asia and Pacific Affairs from 2005 – 2009). All the roundtable discussions augured towards a final deliverable: a set of “findings” that distilled each small group’s several hours of discussion and debate on the issues presented into a short document complete with conclusions and recommendations.

The second thing was to participate in a special panel featuring all the Olmsted Scholars who came to the Assembly, which in 2011 totaled six (there were originally supposed to be seven of us, but one scholar had to cancel at the last minute). This was an inordinately high number of scholars, according to the scuttlebutt floating around the Assembly, so the organizers decided to devote an entire panel to our insights. We each had a chance to speak for a few minutes about some of the major issues facing our nation/region of study, and after everyone had a chance to speak, the floor was opened to the cadets and delegates for questions. By the miracles of modern technology, I have obtained for you a chance to watch the Olmsted panel in full, which runs about 1 hour and 6 minutes. There are some pretty interesting perspectives shared by the various Scholars on Turkey, China (x2), France, Russia, and, of course, Taiwan.

The final role of Olmsted Scholars at the Academy Assembly is just to interact with the cadets and delegates, and for the cadets in particular, be a resource for them regarding the Olmsted Scholar Program and service as a military officer in general. (Full disclosure: the Olmsted Foundation is one of the primary donors which fund the Academy Assembly each year.) This was perhaps the easiest role to fill – after all, it’s pretty simple to convey the sheer awesomeness of the opportunity available to young military officers to spend 3 years studying the language and culture of their country of choice, spending at least 2 of those years overseas and essentially “own your own program” to pursue a master’s degree and advanced language and cultural studies. The Olmsted Scholar Program is pretty well-known amongst the U.S. Air Force Officer corps, and, from what I saw at the Academy, also amongst cadets. Obviously, part of the reason past Olmsted Scholars such as myself are invited to these conferences (similar events are held annually at both the U.S. Military Academy and the U.S. Naval Academy) is to help spread the word about scholarship to cadets who in a few short years will be in the eligibility window for the program.

Finally, the 28 October 2011 edition of Academy Spirit, the official newspaper of the U.S. Air Force Academy, carried a two-page spread about the 53rd Academy Assembly. You can see it here (html), or, if you prefer to read a “broadsheet” format, check out pages 8-9 here (PDF).

Bonus: on the final day of the Assembly, I had the opportunity to see the entire USAFA Cadet Wing put on a parade in honor of General Peter Pace, USMC (Ret.), who was being honored with the 2010 Thomas D. White National Defense Award, the highest honor the Academy can bestow. You can see some of the photos from that event here.

Links of Interest 03/29/2011

March 27, 2011
P.R.of China PLA Navy emblem

Image via Wikipedia

  • tags: China naval_power military_modernization FC

    • China is deploying new submarines at an impressive rate — three a year. They are suited to pushing back U.S. power projection in the Western Pacific. China’s much-discussed ballistic and cruise missiles also seem designed to keep U.S. surface forces far from China’s soil. And China seems increasingly inclined to define the oceans off its shores as extensions of the shores — territory to be owned and controlled like “blue national soil.” This concept is incompatible with the idea of the oceans as a “common.”
  • tags: FC China space militarization jamestown

    • In all, according to Chinese analysts, as a result of the actions of the world’s major space powers, space war is no longer the stuff of science fiction. Indeed, they argue that it is already more a reality than a myth. Consequently, they conclude that China must be prepared not only to degrade an adversary’s ability to use space, but also to protect its own space capabilities. Chinese writings suggest that Beijing would consider doing so through a combination of defensive measures and deterrence.
  • tags: FC China Taiwan US

    • What all of this indicates is that it is just as easy to envision a Chinese takeover of Taiwan making security concerns worse as it is to imagine such a takeover making the security environment better. Indeed, PRC control of Taiwan could very easily further serve to escalate any future conflict elsewhere. The psychological effects on US allies and security partners of a US retreat or abandonment has already been explored at length elsewhere and will not be repeated here. What I propose instead is that analysts miss the fact that a PRC takeover of Taiwan would give the Chinese the “central position” in the Asia-Pacific.
  • Looks like a very interesting book.

    tags: nuclear FC

    • Rosenbaum, a columnist for Slate Magazine and the author of several well-received books, including Explaining Hitler and The Shakespeare Wars, has explored the danger of nuclear weapons since the late 1970s, when he published a major piece in Harper’s on nuclear command and control and weapons and the problem of “moral choice” raised by the existence of nuclear war plans like the SIOP (Single Integrated Operational Plan). In this new and highly original book, Rosenbaum revisits these issues in an extended meditation on the risks of nuclear catastrophe in the 21st century world. By looking at the careers of key individuals such as Bruce Blair, Colonel Valery Yarnich, and Harold Hering, the challenges posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions and Israel’s nuclear arsenal, and why the post-war system of deterrence could break down, Rosenbaum shows why nuclear peril did not go away when the Cold War ended.
  • tags: FC China US Taiwan

    • George Washington University professor Charles Glaser wrote in the recent issue of Foreign Affairs that, because a crisis over Taiwan can easily escalate to a war, the US should consider making concessions to China, backing away from its commitment to Taiwan. His views may be questioned on several bases:

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 03/26/2011

March 26, 2011
SOUTH CHINA SEA (May 6, 2010) Marine amphibiou...

Image via Wikipedia

  • tags: FC China thesis

    • The CASS Asia-Pacific Blue Paper underscored the challenges facing China’s peripheral environment in terms of four types of external trends and threats.  According to the report: First, the “return” of the United States to Asia has made China less appealing to some of its neighbors, through tapping some long existing disputes and incidental security accidents.  Second, instability in Northeast Asia (i.e. North Korea) has become the most serious security challenge to China’s peripheral defense, particularly because of the Cheonon incident and Yeonpyeong artillery shelling.  Third, maritime disputes have become an important source of security tension along China’s periphery.  Fourth, some non-traditional security issues—water security in particular—have affected China’s stability and its regime security, and China’s relations with some neighbors (World Journal, January 13).
    • China’s security environment is increasingly challenged by the United States in that the latter has taken the opportunity presented by regional tensions to shore up its alliance with both South Korea and Japan, as well as through trilateral defense coordination.  If the United States’ “return” to East Asia has not been enough, Washington is also apparently revamping its relations with some Southeast Asian countries and urging these nations to hedge against China’s rise.  In July 2010, Secretary of State Clinton openly challenged China’s position on the South China Sea in her address to the 17th ARF Ministerial Meeting in Hanoi, which was bluntly rebuffed by her Chinese counterpart.
  • tags: FC China missiles Taiwan US thesis jamestown

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Links of Interest 03/25/2011

March 25, 2011
  • tags: soft_power China FC

    • What kind of national image has China sought to project to the world through its cultural diplomacy that distinguishes it against other Asian nations?

      I’m not sure China is trying to portray itself against other Asian nations, but I think it has used its soft power to boost its image compared to its own image of the past—its image in the 1970s and 80s and early 90s—as either disinterested in regional affairs or difficult and aggressive to deal with. Also, I think China has utilized its soft power and cultural diplomacy to try to create the idea, at least regionally, that it’s truly a good neighbour—that it shares values and heritage with its neighbours—and that the United States, in contrast, doesn’t.

  • tags: guam buildup FC USMC V-22

    • The Navy is looking for eight MV-22 Block C Containerized Flight Training Devices to be delivered starting in 2013, with the last two being installed on Guam in 2015, the Naval Air Warfare Center Training Systems Division said. Containerized Flight Training Devices are self-contained units, which house a non-motion simulator, a host computer, a visual display system, and an instructor operating station.

      The Navy, which is preparing for the transfer of 8,600 Marines, their family and support staff from Okinawa to Guam as early as 2016, said the first delivery of the CFTD’s will be to the capitol region in April, 2013.

  • tags: China internet censorship activism FC

    • The question for U.S. policymakers is how to manage these different views of cyberspace. There is going to be no silver bullet solution. There are economic disputes such as access to the Chinese market and competing technological standards. There is the espionage issue. There are the human rights and access to information issues. And there is the cyber war problem: how states might use computer network attacks in a conflict.
  • tags: us carrier Japan FC

    • THE aircraft carrier USS George Washington was moved this week from its Japanese port to avoid a potentially costly and complex clean-up to remove traces of radiation, the US Navy revealed.
  • tags: US China maritime navy book FC

    • Three members of the U.S. Naval War College’s China Maritime Studies Institute (CMSI) collaborated on a recently released book titled, “China, the United States, and 21st-Century Sea Power,” which explores areas of mutual maritime interest between the United States and the People’s Republic of China.
  • tags: taiwan US FC

    • Former US Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage will lead a delegation to Taiwan on Sunday for a four-day visit.
    • The delegation will meet with President Ma Ying-jeou and other high ranking officials. They will discuss US-Taiwan relations and cross-strait issues.
    • Armitage will be joined by a group of former US foreign policy and security officials on the four-day visit. The delegation will include former state department officials such as former Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for East Asian and Pacific Affairs Randall Schriver.
  • tags: FC guam buildup

    • Yesterday, Naval Facilities Marianas released a statement detailing some of the projects, which amount to about $1 billion in total cost. Projects can now be awarded to contractors, who can begin designing or building complexes that Marines will use when they relocate from Okinawa to Guam in coming years.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

“A disaster of absolutely historic proportions”

March 14, 2011

You’d have to have been living under a rock not to have heard about the massive earthquake (they’re giving it a 9.0 magnitude now), then tsunami, now nuclear disaster of unclear proportions that struck Japan starting on Saturday, March 12. It seems almost like the “perfect storm” of calamities is unfolding –  a national security strategist’s worst nightmare. The most surreal part of it all is that it took place in the middle of the day and that people around the world were able to watch the destruction unfold live on television and online.

For its part, the U.S. Navy has kicked its deployments in the region into high gear in order to provide as much humanitarian assistance / disaster relief (HA/DR) as possible, as soon as possible. At least eight warships have been dispatched to the area to render assistance, with more to follow. And it’s not just the Navy pitching it – the Marines of the 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit, from Okinawa, Japan, are embarked on the USS Essex (LHD-2) and related ships of the Essex Amphibious Ready Group and are also on the way after a brief stop in Malaysia. Already there has been a nuclear issue, with personnel from the USS Ronald Reagan (CVN-76) being irradiated to an as yet-to-be-determined degree after the ship steamed through the nuclear fallout cloud emanating from the damaged nuclear reactor at Fukushima. Some people believe that the nuclear crisis we are witnessing in Japan will be the death knell of the resurgence of nuclear power in the U.S.

Meanwhile, Michael Turton over at The View From Taiwan muses about a similar disaster striking Taiwan. From what he says, it leaves one with the distinct suspicion that the regime that brought you the botched handling of Typhoon Morakot in 2009 would not be making the strong showing that the Naoto Kan government in Tokyo is (though he also emphasizes that it is not simply a Ma Ying-jeou issue or a KMT issue).

Finally, the best bunch of photos of the destruction in Japan I have yet seen are here at the Atlantic’s In Focus blog – truly worth looking at. Amazing, terrifying stuff.

Links of Interest 03/03/2011

March 3, 2011
Sunset on the South China Sea off Mui Ne villa...

Image via Wikipedia

  • Asia: A sea of troubles | The EconomistMore on the South China Sea from The Economist (from December 2010; still worth a read if you missed it).

    tags: FC south_china_sea china US

    • Chinese naval influence is extending not just deeper, but farther from China’s shores. In 2010 Sri Lanka opened a Chinese-built port in the south, at Hambantota. Work proceeded on the port at Gwadar in Pakistan. And Chinese warships paid their first call on Myanmar. All of this fuelled Indian suspicions of a “string of pearls” strategy designed to choke its own maritime breathing-space. It is as part of this broader extension of influence that the South China Sea will be a focus of concern.

      Time to prepare for a rainy day

      That concern will be heightened by two particular aspects of China’s military modernisation. One is an unannounced aircraft-carrier programme. The other, of more immediate relevance in 2011, is China’s development of the world’s first anti-ship ballistic missile, which the Chinese and some foreign newspapers have touted as a “game-changing” carrier-buster.

  • The South China Sea: A sea of disputes | The EconomistWhy the South China Sea is such a thorny issue – nice overview.

    tags: FC south_china_sea china

tags: FC Taiwan China US

  • International Relations theorist Charles Glaser has joined a growing chorus calling for the abandonment of Taiwan. His take on why we should abandon the island is tucked into his “nuanced version of realism” argued on the pages of Foreign Affairs. As do most “abandon Taiwan” arguments, he begins with a “realist” argument for why war between the United States and China is unlikely. Why? Because besides Taiwan, Sino-U.S. interests are compatible.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

Review: American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964

March 3, 2011

American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964American Caesar: Douglas MacArthur 1880-1964 by William Raymond Manchester
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Like most Americans, I knew of Douglas MacArthur before listening to this audiobook. I knew he was a five-star general of the army like Eisenhower, Marshall, and Bradley. I knew he commanded forces in the Pacific in World War II, constituting the southern effort that mirrored the central Pacific effort commanded by Chester Nimitz. I knew that he was sacked early in the Korean War by President Truman for insubordination. I knew that he was called “Dugout Doug” by troops who believed he did not share their privations in forward positions, close to the enemy.

I learned so much more about MacArthur in this book. I learned that his Army career spanned a remarkable 52 years, and that he was a general officer for something like the last 30 of these. Contrary to the “Dugout Doug” epithet that followed him in the Pacific, he was hardly a coward in the face of the enemy – in fact, it was quite the opposite. He was virtually suicidal in taking undue risks in battle. In World War I, though he was a high-ranking officer (colonel as chief of staff for the Rainbow Division, and later brigadier general in command of his own units), he insisted on commanding from the front, not some tent or quarters far removed from the battlefield. He accompanied his troops on raids and reconnaissance efforts armed only with a riding crop and refused to wear a steel helmet or carry a gas mask (he was gassed at least once because of the latter). Much later, when he withdrew to Corregidor in Manila Harbor after the Japanese invasion of the Philippines, while everyone else rushed for cover when the island came under air attack, he routinely came out of the underground shelters to observe. It was much the same when he later returned to the Philippines after withdrawing to Australia to regroup. Though the Japanese knew the location of the house he was using as a command post and regularly strafed and bombed the area, he refused to leave the building or seek shelter when attacks came. In fact, one of the first actions he took upon assuming the private home as his headquarters was to demolish and fill in an “unsightly” bomb shelter that spoiled the aesthetics of the home’s lawn. Even during the Korean War, he still needed to get close to the front lines to get a feel for the fighting, much closer than many of his aides would have preferred (though in Korea he always made “day trips” to the fighting – flying in, touring, then returning to Tokyo at the end of the day).

Though he was quite fearless in battle, he was also a megalomaniac, highly egotistical, unable to accept blame for mistakes, and unwilling to allow anyone but himself to be acclaimed. His cables were routinely studded with accolades of his own exploits and triumphs, rarely if ever even mentioning the name of any other officer from his command.

I was unaware that Dwight Eisenhower had been one of MacArthur’s aides in the 1930s when MacArthur had retired from active duty and had gone to the Philippines to oversee the U.S. military assistance program there. It would forever sting MacArthur that Ike, who had been a major or lieutenant colonel while working for him, would have such a meteoric rise thereafter, pulling equal with him in rank as a five-star general of the army in the next decade and even further when he won the presidency – something MacArthur always coveted.

His seniority and reputation earned him a great deal of autonomy in how he conducted his business as a warfighting general. In World War II, orders were issued to all other theater commanders, but to MacArthur, the orders were sent for information only. This would lead to his ultimate fall from command in Korea. The man simply could not refrain from dabbling in politics, even going as far as launching an abortive presidential bid in 1948. He could not see the line between civilian control of the military, and was belligerent and insubordinate to commands and instruction issued even from the president himself. The lesson for American civil-military relations was clear – something was wrong with how the system allowed MacArthur to behave as he had – and would yet.

One thing I thought completely remarkable was that even after Truman fired him and he returned to the U.S. – his first time back in over a decade (he had been in the Philippines, Australia, and Japan during his time abroad) – he toured the country, making political speeches attacking the president while in full uniform, still on active duty, still drawing full pay and benefits from the military, jetting about the country on a military plane. This would never happen today.

In the end, MacArthur was a tragic figure – so talented, so gifted and driven (largely by the influence of his mother, who always pushed him to best the achievements of his father, who had been an Army three-star general), but also so terribly flawed. He failed to adequately prepare the Philippines for the Japanese invasion in World War II, responded sluggishly to reports of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor (which preceded the strike on the Philippines by several hours), and largely repeated these mistakes in Korea in 1950. US troops in Japan were soft from easy occupation duty there, and the U.S. posture on the peninsula itself was abhorrent when the North Korean attack came. Of course, MacArthur could never be blamed for any of these shortcomings. (In an interesting sidenote, many of the Japanese troops who attacked the Philippines in December 1941 came from Takou, Formosa – now Kaohsiung, Taiwan, from which I write these words. MacArthur failed to conduct any aerial reconnaissance missions of Southern Formosa to determine the disposition and strength of Japanese troops – something he and the Filipino people would pay dearly for.)

It’s a long book – nearly 800 pages in print and over 31 hours of unabridged audio – but very interesting for military history buffs and students of Asia-Pacific geopolitics. (MacArthur to this day is probably regarded more fondly in the Philippines and Japan than he is in much of the United States.) I have read another book by the same author, William Manchester, called “Goodbye, Darkness” about his experiences fighting as a Marine in the Pacific theater during World War II, and there is no doubt that he is a skilled writer. Recommended.

View all my reviews

On Cyberwar with China, and other recent publications

March 2, 2011
Cyber-attack on Mastercard.com

There’s been a glut of military journal releases this week – the stalwart Military Review, featuring an excerpt (PDF) from Bing West‘s new book on Afghanistan; a new issue from the journal Prism, which discusses what are known as “complex operations” (basically, the messy, nation-building-type wars heavy in interagency coordination that have proliferated in the last decade) with an interesting-looking article on human security in complex operations (human security is a newer concept in security studies with the premise that without security at the human level – essentially addressing Maslow’s hierarchy of needs at the lowest level – then you aren’t going to be able to achieve any other type of security); and finally a new issue from Strategic Studies Quarterly. Regular readers will recall I examined an article from their last edition on the “new” Korean War and implications for Taiwan. (It came out just about when the NorKos were shelling Yeonpyeong Island and it seemed as if we were about to say goodbye to the 1953 armistice.) The latter contains an article called “Blown to Bits: China’s War in Cyberspace, August–September 2020“. (PDF) OK, you got me – I’m pretty interested in China’s computer network operations capabilities – let’s take a look at this one.

The author, Christopher Bronk, Fellow in Information Technology Policy at the Baker Institute for Public Policy at Rice University, sets up the fictitious future cyberwar scenario by discussing the development of U.S. information warfare superiority from the 1991 Gulf War to the 1999 Kosovo War. He also mentions the other, more recent bellwethers of possible future cyber conflict, the 2007 and 2008 cyber wars on Estonia and Georgia, respectively. (The belligerent in both instances was thought to be Russia.) In the latter case (Georgia), kinetic conflict was preceded by a cyber “preparation of the battlespace” just as many analysts believe would be the case if the U.S. and China at some point come into a state of military conflict. On the prospects of such an occurrence, Bronk notes

While it is the author’s deepest and most sincere hope that no military conflict will come between China, Japan, India, the United States, or any other states of the Western Pacific and Asia, the massive interest in cyber conflict among these countries leads many to ponder such a struggle.

And so here we are. The scenario he asks us to ponder is this: it is 2020, Taiwan has completed its Finlandization, and the PRC aches for greater conquest in Asia. It sets its sites on Singapore, at the southern end of the Chinese “lake” called the South China Sea and at the eastern mouth of the Strait of Malacca, perhaps the most crucial maritime chokepoint in the Pacific Basin, if not the world. Quite plausibly, China’s actions are spurred by concerns about the security of precious seaborne fossil fuel imports coming through the Indian Ocean.

The author’s intent is not to try to present a litany of details about potential cyberwar that would be impenetrable to anyone not holding an advanced degree in theoretic mathematics or computer science, but instead to consider “how cyberwar might supplant more traditional conflict and how cyber dimensions may alter warfare.”

After laying the groundwork, the scenario begins:

Many a pundit and strategic theorist had wondered what shape unrestrained information warfare might take. The opening hours of China’s virtual war with the United States and its allies over Singapore would confirm many of the worst suspicions of that crowd. Chinese forces were quite clearly working inside the decision loop of the allied forces. Preliminary moves by the PLA in the information space indicated that it could do much damage to enemy communication and computing resources, but a series of hints would reveal that China also likely had compromised, at least to a degree, the encryption mechanisms used to secure US and allied military and diplomatic communications. At times, Beijing most probably held the capacity to have a fairly complete information picture even of very high-level, classified systems, although the reverse was also likely true.

Though the author intended to “stay out of the cyber weeds”, there is a bit of digital undergrowth to deal with, though not too much to detract from his main intent: starting a discussion about whether a forceful political goal can be achieved by cyber means alone. I think this is a lot like the shopworn, discredited thesis popular in the late 1990s that wars could be won by airpower alone that grew from the 1999 Kosovo War – it would be great if the answer was yes, but it’s not.

The scenario demonstrates ably the potential vulnerability of U.S. and allied information nets to cyber attack; the question remains if U.S. decision-makers are willing to take concrete steps now to really protect these vital information channels. Sure, the U.S. has established a formal joint command to deal with cyber issues, but in many cases the lines of responsibility have not been clearly drawn and require further clarification.

Odds and Ends

February 27, 2011
National Sun Yat-sen University

Image via Wikipedia

So the new academic semester is underway here in Taiwan – week two will begin on Tuesday after the 228 Memorial Day holiday. This will be my final semester studying in Taiwan, and should be quite different than my previous three semesters here, in that I have no classes this time around. I was able to complete all my course requirements during my first three semesters, so now I am free to focus on the final piece of the puzzle – my thesis.

I’ve been pretty satisfied with my progress on my thesis thus far. A month ago, I hadn’t even written the proposal, and now I’ve already got a pretty good first draft of the first two chapters done. My deadline is mid-May to turn the final product in to my advisor, and the defense should go in the first half of June. It’s going to be a lot of work, but already in the short time I have been working on it, I have enjoyed the fact that its production is truly my responsibility and that I can basically follow the research where it leads.

June will be our last month in Taiwan. Yes, nothing lasts forever, and I’ve already got orders to my next assignment. As luck may have it, I’m headed to Denver, Colorado to be a company commander. I am looking forward to that duty. I guess I will have to decide at some point whether or not I want to continue with exclusively Asia-Pacific focus for this blog after that, or if perhaps a transition to a more “general-purpose” military blog would be more in order (something like, I don’t know, maybe Wings Over Iraq? – by the way, I just noticed this blog made the blogroll there – thanks, Crispin!). Regardless, rest assured that Taiwan, China, and the Asia-Pacific will remain vital interests of mine and that material related to the same will appear here from time to time whether or not the overall focus shifts once I move from Taiwan.

But in the meantime, it’s nose to the grindstone for me! That, and a little traveling to indulge in a hobby, triathlons. I will head to Singapore next month for a race and then to the Beijing area in May for a final hurrah before heading back to the U.S.

Completely unrelated to all that, but of interest nonetheless, I commend your attention to a new blog written by one of my classmates at National Sun Yat-sen University. It’s only been around for a little over a month, but already Observations, Comments, and Whatnot is chock full of opinion and well, commentary on Taiwan, China, and more. Head on over and check it out: http://observerlhs-observations.blogspot.com/. The author, Nathan Novak, is averaging greater than a post a day so far in February, and they are not short ones, either. Finally, at least one of his posts has been picked up for publication by the Taipei Times after he posted it to his blog. Take a look.


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