The Pentagon is spoiling for a fight with China

SATURDAY, AUG 13, 2011 13:01 ET
The Pentagon’s new China war plan salon.com

Despite budget woes, the military is preparing for a conflict with our biggest rival — and we should be worried

BY STEPHEN GLAIN

This summer, despite America’s continuing financial crisis, the Pentagon is effectively considering trading two military quagmires for the possibility of a third. Reducing its commitments in Iraq and Afghanistan as it refocuses on Asia, Washington is not so much withdrawing forces from the Persian Gulf as it is redeploying them for a prospective war with its largest creditor, China.

According to the defense trade press, Pentagon officials are seeking ways to adapt a concept known as AirSea Battle specifically for China, debunking rote claims from Washington that it has no plans to thwart its emerging Asian rival. A recent article in Inside the Pentagon reported that a small group of U.S. Navy officers known as the China Integration Team “is hard at work applying the lessons of [AirSea Battle] to a potential conflict with China.”

AirSea Battle, developed in the early 1990s and most recently codified in a 2009 Navy-Air Force classified memo, is a vehicle for conforming U.S. military power to address asymmetrical threats in the Western Pacific and the Persian Gulf — code for China and Iran. (This alone raises a crucial point: If the U.S. has had nothing but trouble with asymmetrical warfare for the last 45 years, why should a war with China, or Iran for that matter, be any different?) It complements the 1992 Defense Planning Guidance, a government white paper that precluded the rise of any “peer competitor” that might challenge U.S. dominance worldwide. The Planning Guidance is the Pentagon’s writ for control of what defense planners call “the global commons,” a euphemism for the seaways, land bridges and air corridors that are the arteries of international commerce. For a foreign power to challenge this American dominion is to effectively declare war on the United States, and that is exactly what China appears to be doing in the South China Sea, a resource-rich and highly contested waterway in Southeast Asia.

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