Is America Headed for War?

Yesterday, China’s Hu urged the navy to prepare for “warfare.” Xinhua used the term “warfare” instead of combat. This is China’s way of countering the new US strategy that shifts primary focus from the Middle East to Asia. The American strategy shift itself was a counter to China’s aggressiveness in the South China Sea.

Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tuesday urged the navy to prepare for military combat, amid growing regional tensions over maritime disputes and a US campaign to assert itself as a Pacific power.

In a translation of Hu’s comments, the official Xinhua news agency quoted the president as saying China’s navy should “make extended preparations for warfare.”

China’s Hu urges navy to prepare for combat

China has declared the South China Sea to be a core interest.

What are the ‘core interests’?

Identifying China’s “core interests”, the Chinese leader Dai Bingguo, who plays a major role in foreign policy making, said in end July 2009 that “the PRC’s first core interest is maintaining its fundamental system and state security, second is state sovereignty and territorial integrity and the third is the continued stable development of the economy and society.”[1] A similar priority to protection of national sovereignty and security above the development imperative is being seen of late also in China’s defence policy formulations[2]. In specific terms, Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan and South China Sea Islands as well as strategic resources and trade routes[3] stand listed under the ‘core interest’ category; authoritative Chinese State media have averred that the PRC will make no compromises on them and never waive its right to protect them with military means.[4] What immediately comes to one’s mind is that such recalibration of policy goals has followed the ethnic riots in Tibet (March 2008) and Xinjiang (July 2009), perceived by Beijing as serious internal security challenges.

China: Assessing ‘Core Interests’- Driven Foreign Policy

China has already signaled in the past that it is ready to go war to safeguard its national or core interests.

BEIJING: Terming US attempts to woo India and other neighbours of China as “unbearable,” an article in a Communist party magazine has said that Beijing must send a “clear signal” to these countries that it is ready to go to war to safeguard its national interests.

“We must send a clear signal to our neighbouring countries that we don’t fear war, and we are prepared at any time to go to war to safeguard our national interests,” the article said, suggesting an aggressive strategy to counter emerging US alliances in the region.

‘China ready to go to war to safeguard national interests’ – The Times of India

Many nations border the South China Sea. Normally this sea would be carved up into exclusive economic zones for each country:

Under the law of the sea, an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is a seazone over which a state has special rights over the exploration and use of marine resources, including production of energy from water and wind[1]. It stretches from the seaward edge of the state’s territorial sea out to 200 nautical miles from its coast. In casual usage, the term may include the territorial sea and even the continental shelf beyond the 200-mile limit.

Exclusive economic zone

Now China has come along and basically said it will go to war to claim the entire South China Sea.

“China is becoming much more confident in the region and there are signs it is becoming giddy with success. It has become much more influential much more quickly than it expected,” says Dr Kerry Brown of the Asia Programme at Chatham House in London.

Vietnam and the Philippines in recent months have seen the snarl of a resurgent regional power that is fast losing patience with the gripes of smaller neighbours over maritime borders.

“If these countries do not want to change their ways with China, they will need to prepare for the sound of cannons. It may be the only way for the dispute in the sea to be resolved,” said the state run newspaper, the Global Times, in a recent editorial.

BBC News – South China Sea tensions rattle China’s neighbours

Recently, the US has shifted its center of focus from the Middle East to Asia. It has been working with many of the countries bordering the South China Sea. Part of the US strategy to counter China is the shifting of some assets to Australia to make them safer in the event of conflict with China.

”This is all about the rise of China, the modernisation of the People’s Liberation Army and, particularly, it’s about the increased vulnerability of US forces in Japan and Guam to the new generation of Chinese missiles,” said Alan Dupont, the Michael Hintze professor of international security at Sydney University.

”The new Chinese missiles could threaten them in a way they’ve never been able to before, so the US is starting to reposition them to make them less vulnerable. Australia’s ‘tyranny of distance’ is now a distinct strategic advantage.”

US Marine base for Darwin

China sees a “cold war mentality” in the US base plans for Australia.

Recently, there have been quite a few warnings about the possibility of American running into conflict and war with China:

American strategy guru Paul Stares says: ‘If past experience is any guide, the United States and China will find themselves embroiled in a serious crisis at some point in the future.

But we should be in no doubt, that China and the United States are squaring off for a historic Indo-Pacific confrontation.

Will World War III be between the U.S. and China? | Mail Online


In Washington, defence analyst Dana Dillon, author of The China Challenge, wrote earlier this year that China’s assertiveness in its claim to sovereignty over the South China Sea, “could well be the first rounds in an escalating shoving match between China and the US”. He concluded that China “posed a substantial military threat”.

Similarly, University of Queensland academic Daryl Morini recently wrote that, “The Australian strategic debate about the rise of China is heating up…(and) the possibility of a future Sino-American war is no longer considered outrageous or alarmist.

Warnings as China’s rise spooks the West – The West Australian


Territorial tensions in the South China Sea could explode into “full-scale conflicts” unless quarrelling neighbors abide by international law, a Vietnamese diplomat warned on Friday.

Vietnam envoy warns of war in South China Sea | Inquirer Global Nation


Historians will look back and ask whether America’s re-engagement in the Pacific in November 2011 marked the moment when tensions with China, the superpower-in-waiting, escalated irreversibly. Throughout the ages, the failure to accommodate rising powers – or rather the failing of rising powers to accommodate the existing state system – has been a source of conflict.

In search of a new Metternich for the Pacific century –


At the end of the PLA’s increasing capabilities are emboldening it to more directly challenge US military policies—such as the air and maritime surveillance activities—that it has long opposed but had to put up with. This being the case, confidence-building measures will have little effect. Why? Because the problem the two countries face isn’t the risk of accidental clashes due to misunderstandings. It’s the fundamental disagreement of principle between Beijing’s expanding notion of national sovereignty and the Pentagon’s insistence on freedom of movement in the global commons.

Are China and US Destined to Clash? | The Diplomat

The last article is interesting in that it points out we don’t really need to worry about an accidental clash that escalates into a full blown nuclear war. Both America and China will be careful to ensure that clashes don’t escalate. No, the real problem is fundamental disagreements of principle. What that means is that war will happen when one side decides to make it happen.

Historically, when an empire runs into conflict with a rising power, then the probability of war is 6 out of 7. Will the rise of China lead to conflict with the US?

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Great power rivalries in history:

1. Spain versus Holland in the 16th century. [War]
2. Holland versus England in the 17th century. [War]
3. Britain versus France in both the 18th and 19th centuries. [War]
4. France and Britain versus Germany in the 20th century. [War]
5. Germany versus Russia in 1914. [War]
6. Germany versus Russia (Soviet Union) in 1941. [War]
7. Soviet Union versus the US and its allies in the Cold War after 1945. [No War]

Part of the real problem lies even deeper than the differences of principle. It lies in history.

The Parable of Goujian

The story of the king [Goujian] who slept on sticks and tasted gall is as known to the Chinese as George Washington and the cherry tree are to Americans. He has become a symbol of resistance against the treaty ports, foreign concessions and the years of colonial humiliation.

King Goujian (Yue) was defeated by King Fuchai (Wu) and taken prisoner. He worked in the royal stables and gradually won the respect of Fuchai. Later he was allow to govern his old kingdom under Fuchai. Goujian quietly bided his time and hide his capabilities over eight years until he was strong enough to finally attack and defeat Fuchai. During the eight years he quietly undermined Fuchai and facilitated Fuchai’s growth of debt.

Taken like that, the parable of Goujian sums up what some people find alarming about China’s rise as a superpower today. Ever since Deng Xiaoping set about reforming the economy in 1978, China has talked peace. Still militarily and economically too weak to challenge America, it has concentrated on getting richer. Even as China has grown in power and rebuilt its armed forces, the West and Japan have run up debts and sold it their technology. China has been patient, but the day when it can once again start to impose its will is drawing near.

Economist Magazine: Sticks and Gall

War Between Wu and Yue

The war between Wu and Yue comprised several separate phases. It was started when a Yue princess, who was married to one of the princes of the neighbouring State of Wu, left her husband and fled back to the country of Yue. This became the spark for the war to come.

Upon the death of Yunchang and the accession of Goujian, King Helü of Wu seized the opportunity and launched an attack on Yue. At the Battle of Zuì L? (????), however, Yue defeated Wu, and King Helü was mortally wounded; before his death he instructed his son, King Fuchai of Wu, “Never forget Yue!” Yue would be defeated three years later by a resurgent Wu, and Goujian captured, to serve as Fuchai’s servant for three years until he was eventually allowed to return to his native state.

Upon resuming his rule King Goujian quickly appointed skilled politicians as advisors, such as Wen Zhong and Fan Li, to help build up the kingdom. During this time, his ministers also worked to weaken the State of Wu internally through bribes and diplomatic intrigue.

All the time, whilst ruling his kingdom, Goujian never relished in riches as a king, but instead ate food suited for peasants, as well as forcing himself to taste bile. This way, he could remember his humiliations while serving under the State of Wu. There is a Chinese idiom, ???? (Pinyin: wò x?n cháng d?n, literally “sleeping on sticks and tasting gall”), the second half of which refers to Goujian’s perseverance.

After ten years of economic and political reforms the last phase of the war began, by which time the State of Yue had come a long way from its previous defeat; as described in the Shiji, Ten years of reforms; the state is rich, the warriors well-rewarded. The soldiers charge in the face of arrows like thirsty men heading for drink… making use of Fuchai’s expedition to struggle with Jin for hegemony Goujian led his army and successfully attacked the Wu capital, killing the crown prince. In the 24th year of his reign (473 BC), Goujian led another expedition, laying siege to the capital for three years before it fell; when a surrender from Fuchai was refused he committed suicide, and Wu was annexed by Yue. After his victory, he ruthlessly killed Fuchai’s scholars and his own scholars who helped him, not allowing himself to make the same mistake Fuchai did by letting his enemies live.

King Goujian’s army was known for forcing their front line, composed of criminals sentenced to death, to commit suicide by decapitation to scare their enemy before battle.

King Goujian of Yue – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Some Historical Signs of War

Historian Niall Ferguson discusses the three key factors present before wars in the 20th century.

In The War of the World, I argued that three factors made the location and timing of lethal organised violence more or less predictable in the last century. The first was ethnic disintegration: violence was worst in areas where majorities lived uneasily side by side with religious or linguistic minorities. The second factor was empires in decline: when imperial rule crumbled, battles for power were most bloody. The third was economic volatility: the greater the magnitude and frequency of economic shocks, the more likely conflict was.

The Axis of Upheaval

The general signs of war (historically) are present today. The greatest sign is when an empire goes into decline. If you only knew one thing, then the decline of an empire is a harbinger of conflict and war. And it is generally accepted that America has gone into decline as of the start of the financial crisis in 2008.

The next problem is ethnic conflict in the Middle East between Israel and its neighbors. Israel’s neighbors are primed and ready for a war with Israel unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. There are signs of a covert war between Iran and Israel and the US. Iran is very close to completing nuclear weapons and may finish before the next US election in 2012.

There are great signs of economic volatility as the global financial crisis moves into its fifth year with no end in sight. While the US, Europe and Japan are baring the brunt of the crisis, China is starting to show some cracks as property prices are starting to decline and an economic slowdown has set in. Russia is also showing some strain under a decade of Putin’s rule.

There are signs too that Russia may be on a path to conflict and war with the United States:

If the United States continues to underestimate Russia it will be a gigantic mistake.

The Cold War is not over.  Anyone that runs around saying that does not know what they are talking about.  The top politicians and military leaders in Russia do not view us as a friend at all.

If Russia was ever able to pull off a successful first strike and take out most of our remaining nuclear warheads (remember, our nuclear arsenal is now less than 10% the size it used to be), it is entirely possible that Russia would be able to totally defeat the United States in a future war – especially if they are allied with China at the time.

Most people in the U.S. think that this can never happen, but the top brass in Russia and in China spend long hours on exactly such scenarios.

Sadly, very little about Russia will be said during the entire 2012 election season.  Instead, everyone will be focused on the “massive threat” posed by the goat herders that are running around the hills of Afghanistan.

The blind are leading the blind and meanwhile the world is dramatically changing.

The Russian Bear is back, and Russia is going to play a huge role in world events in the years to come.

The Russian Bear Is Back, The Soviet Union Is Being Revived And The Cold War Is Not Over


… A top-level Russian General Nikolai Makarov said NATO’s eastward expansion or an attack on Iran by the U.S. and Israel could cause Russia to enter the conflicts threatened ‘The possibility of local armed conflicts along nearly the whole border has increased dramatically. In certain conditions, I do not rule out local and regional armed conflicts developing into a large-scale war, including using nuclear weapons.’ In other words, Russia is prepared to use nuclear weapons!

While America has been naively disarming, Russia has over 12,000 antiballistic missiles in its defense system. Many of these ICBM’s are aimed at cities and key locations in America. Ever since the “fall of the Soviet Union,” Russia has been conducting massive military exercise in partnership with nations like Iran and China. These defense drills are designed to help prepare Russia for any U.S. missile attack against their nation. In addition, Russia has been building a vast system of underground bunkers and nuclear blast shelters. Some military experts are speculating Russia is secretly preparing for World War III.

Paul McGuire — Is Russia Preparing to Attack United States?


Given the state of the world today, how is it even possible to think about a Russian nuclear attack on the US? Why would Russia want to attack the US?

What I want to show is that the Russian leadership (Putin) is quite capable of launching a nuclear attack against America and absorbing the resulting counter-attack. We need to get into the mind of Putin and find out what he is like. If he is capable of such an attack, then why, and when, would he do it?

Very briefly, Putin hates America. In effect he has told us this many times. Next we will learn that Putin thinks Stalin wasn’t all that bad. Now that should make you take notice.

Signs Russia Would Have No Problem Nuking America