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Nuclear Blackmail and America’s Fantasy War with China
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Another day, another piece of US think-tankery poo-pooing the prospects for a nuclear confrontation with the PRC.

RAND came up with a new report on the economic costs of war with China,Thinking the Unthinkable. In RAND’s view the war won’t escalate beyond a limited conventional war fought in the West Pacific and over Chinese territory, China gets devastated beyond its ability to resist and keep military forces in the field, we win, the world economy staggers but carries on, The End.

I beg to differ, for reasons given in my current piece for Asia Times, RAND’s ‘Unthinkable’ War with China.

It’s always possible that I’m out of line here, but I think RAND’s public confidence is borderline delusional.

The PRC is narrowing the conventional military disparity with the US and it seems most likely sooner or later, maybe around 2025, the US is going to have to bring nukes into the equation to make sure it can win a war with China.

That’s what we had to do with the Soviet Union—that’s why we’ve still got those nukes at Incirlik in Turkey—and I don’t see any reason why this wouldn’t happen in Asia.

My personal theory is that Thinktankistan has been put on notice not to provide any oxygen to the nuclear narrative right now because, if a nuclear exchange is seen as feasible, then Japan, South Korea, and even Taiwan are going to want to have their own nuclear deterrent.

Faith in the technical capabilities of Raytheon missile defense ain’t gonna cut it, in my opinion, if we’re talking about a clutch of Chinese missiles making it through the shield to take out US bases in Japan and that nice THAAD installation in South Korea…and they might be nuclear-tipped.

If everybody’s got nukes, they not only don’t need the US nuclear umbrella; they’ve got their own defense and security policies and the US, instead of acting as the maestro of the China-containment orchestra, is just the fat guy with the tuba in the back row who provides some extra oompah to support the front line players.

The PRC therefore has two incentives to abandon its old fashioned No First Use/MAD deterrent based on a few ICBMs.

First, naturally, is that the threat of a nuclear deterrent based on first use or launch on warning becomes more useful, maybe necessary, as the US packs offensive capabilities, including dual use (nuke as well as conventional) enabled fighter-bombers and cruise missiles into the East Asian theater.

Second, triggering a nuclear arms race in Asia shreds the US nuclear umbrella that underpins US leadership of the pivot, fragments the alliance, and allows the PRC to target—and intimidate—US allies bilaterally and bring its local superiority to bear.

Interesting element of PRC leverage, isn’t it? PRC current and future nuclear policy (and the US dance of provocation and accommodation with China) should probably weight this factor pretty highly.

China isn’t the only country with the ability to upset the US nuclear applecart.

If the genuine history of US strategy for East Asia is written, it will of course cover the multi-decade effort to d*ck with China. But it will also include the secret history of the US effort to direct and control Japanese rearmament as an asset for US hegemony, while keeping a rein on Japanese geo-strategic ambitions…and keeping Japan from turning the nuclear assets covertly gifted by the Pentagon into a declared nuclear weapons capability (Joseph Trento can write that section).

This is not a theoretical issue. Shinzo Abe is a dyed-in-the-wool anti-Americanrevisionist Japanese nationalist who is determined to exploit the US eagerness to remain the official East Asian hegemon to extend Japan’s geopolitical sway into East Asia and restore its dignity as a full-fledged regional power.

For Team America, keeping a leash on Japan and the US in the driver’s seat for Asian security policy is Job One. That means the pot has to keep boiling enough to keep the US in control of the pivot polarization narrative and development of security alliances with the Philippines, Vietnam, et al. while keeping things calm enough that Japan stays on rez as a nominal junior partner of the coalition, whose military adventurism is still officially circumscribed by the principal of “collective self defense” in support of US operations.

As it pays lip service to US leadership, Japan has used the US pivot to develop its own bilateral security ties down ASEAN way and with India—and is reaching out to the Tsai Ying-wen government on Taiwan, which probably gives US planners a distinct case of the collywobbles.

Japan is, in other words, edging toward the full formal resumption of a “normal” role in overseas military affairs, one in which it officially pursues its own interests and doesn’t just follow US policy.

If Japan goes nuclear, it’s pretty much game over. The US becomes just another passenger on the pivot bus. So Japan can also use its nuclear weapons potential as leverage over the US to shape policy and extract concessions.

Which means, in my opinion, RAND has to pretend, at least publicly, that nuclear weapons are not a factor in Asian strategy in order to defend the status quo of US leadership and nuclear monopoly.

Privately, I suspect, it’s another matter entirely, and US strategy is shaped both by Chinese and Japanese nuclear blackmail.

(Republished from China Matters by permission of author or representative)
 
• Category: Foreign Policy • Tags: China, Japan, Nuclear War, South China Sea 
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  1. Meh, the Chinese need only deliver a couple exoatmospheric nuclear detonations over The Homeland and let the EMP attack leave us stewing in our juices without our i-toys and other modern conveniences. Unless we are willing to commit horrific mass murder that will surely invite mass retaliation, we are actually quite vulnerable to asymmetric escalation that will totally disrupt the socio-political fabric of the US.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Astuteobservor II
    which is why all the hawks needs to have their fucking wings clipped, for the good of us all, americans and chinese.

    I have even recently started reading about "limited nuclear war"

    every "expert" talking shit like this needs to be shot by a firing squad for the future of human kind.
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  2. @The Alarmist
    Meh, the Chinese need only deliver a couple exoatmospheric nuclear detonations over The Homeland and let the EMP attack leave us stewing in our juices without our i-toys and other modern conveniences. Unless we are willing to commit horrific mass murder that will surely invite mass retaliation, we are actually quite vulnerable to asymmetric escalation that will totally disrupt the socio-political fabric of the US.

    which is why all the hawks needs to have their fucking wings clipped, for the good of us all, americans and chinese.

    I have even recently started reading about “limited nuclear war”

    every “expert” talking shit like this needs to be shot by a firing squad for the future of human kind.

    Read More
    • Replies: @Anonymous
    I agree with Astuteobservor II
    100%. Since nuclear power plants give nations Pultonium, they all should be shut down, and all nukes destroyed. International trade beats international war. When will the USA elites realize fossil fuels are so 20th century and quit fighting over stranded assets in the Mideast. Price for electricity from PV is already less than that from nuclear and fossil fuel.
  3. Anonymous says: • Website

    “Almost every new U.S. president goes to war somewhere – often in his first year in office.” Kishore Mahbubani: Beyond the Age of Innocence. pg 106 In a bad moment, he can destroy the planet.

    in 1974, when Nixon was threatened with impeachment, he told reporters, “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.” (quoted in Elain Scarry’s book: Thermonuclear Monarchy)

    General Lee Butler, the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, which was armed with nuclear weapons remarked we have so far survived the nuclear age “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” Further, he said: “It is my profound conviction that nuclear weapons did not, and will not, of themselves prevent major war. To the contrary, I am persuaded that the presence of these hideous devices unnecessarily prolonged and intensified the Cold War. In today’s security environment, threats of their employment have been fully exposed as neither credible nor of any military utility.”

    “In periods of heightened tensions and reduced decision times, the likelihood of human and technical error in control systems increases. Launch-on-warning is a relic of Cold War strategy whose risk today far exceeds its value. Our leaders urgently need to talk and, we hope, agree to scrap this obsolete protocol before a devastating error occurs.” General James E. Cartwright

    “The NPT … is the most important arms control treaty of all. If it were adhered to, it could end the scourge of nuclear weapons.” Noam Chomsky (8/20/2015)

    the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China – each possess nuclear arms – are legally obliged, under Article VI of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to pursue in good faith and conclude negotiations for the complete elimination of their nuclear forces. They are prohibited from engaging in activities (such as warhead modernization and the construction of new nuclear delivery vehicles) that would make this goal less likely or impossible to achieve. DontBankOnTheBomb.

    The United States still refuses to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, despite being a signatory. Russia, on the other hand, ratified the agreement in 2000. Despite initially identifying the CTBT as a “top priority” during the President’s second term in March of 2013, the administration later acknowledged that getting Congress to move on the Test Ban fell somewhere between highly-unlikely and hopeless. (Alex Ely 9/11/2014)

    the regular five-year NPT review conference, which ended in failure in April when the U.S. (joined by Canada and Great Britain) once again blocked efforts to move toward a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Such efforts have been led by Egypt and other Arab states for 20 years. As Jayantha Dhanapala and Sergio Duarte, leading figures in the promotion of such efforts at the NPT and other U.N. agencies, observe in “Is There a Future for the NPT?,” an article in the journal of the Arms Control Association: “The successful adoption in 1995 of the resolution on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East was the main element of a package that permitted the indefinite extension of the NPT.”

    “The U.S. Senate has not ratified a major multilateral treaty since 1997.” GlobalSolutions.org

    Although there was an immediate danger of nuclear war when Russia was about to send nukes to Cuba, the U.S provoked Russia and China by placing missiles on their borders, thereby creating the conditions for a new arms race. Neither of our political parties is for peace. We have the world’s largest military, which means death for democracy.

    In January (2014) the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies estimated that the U.S. would spend $1 trillion on the nuclear arsenal in the next 30 years. Noam Chomsky (2/2014) That’s about as much as would be needed to provide universal health care, or to pay off student debt.

    Notice that the security of the population is not an issue,

    Read More
    • Replies: @Lawrence Fitton
    security of the population is never an issue. 9/11 was 'the chickens coming home to roost.' except they came to roost on the heads of innocent civilians.
    our response to 9/11 assured that the security of the population would be put in further danger. orlando happened. our government - the obama regime - knew it would. obama knows it will happen again, yet he won't stop creating revenge-minded terrorists.(bush is just as much at fault as are presidents going back many years)
    look at germany, england and france. see our future. notice spain isn't attacked. spain quit iraq and the self-defeating war on terror, after the madrid train bombing. a new government decided to protect the population. of course they were called cowards and worse. however, discretion is the better part of valor.
    the american empire extracts wealth from citizens to fight wars and support a bloated military. but who benefits? cui bono? certainly not the majority of citizens. we, the people, foot the bill for our own endangerment. we are what stalin called 'useful idiots.' meanwhile, creative spending - projects that actually benefit the citizenry - are sacrificed to imperial pursuit
  4. Jason Liu says:

    I wouldn’t mind a “normalized” Japan, to be honest. Part of the reason Chinese nationalists hate Japan is because they’re an American vassal. Not saying that hatred would disappear overnight if America leaves, but it would a step in the right direction. An invasion by a re-armed Japan seems completely unlikely.

    As for nukes, Japan is already a de facto nuclear power, with plutonium stores and a rocket program. This might even be the future norm in East Asia, as South Korea is apparently planning on doing the same with their nuclear waste. Not much would change between the nations except for public perception.

    Read More
  5. Anonymous says:

    Have you noted US never ever had confronted firstly, directly a major power all along her short existence? US presents itself as very courageous only when adversary is weak…if strong, US waits until other players have wearing power of adversary…it happen at first and second wars for the banksters, once enemy weakened hero appears and saves the world…even US had worked hard (with a little help from…) to stole Russian glory. It have a name I dare not to mention…if US decides go to war against China or Russia it will be the first time that US shows real…balls, nah, they will dare not, they are mounting scenario to set some false flag op obliging others (Taiwan, S, Korea, Japan, Philippines…) to spill first blood, helping them by selling them some “marvellous” weapons…later hero could appear…to help “allies” and save the world…it will work not now

    Read More
  6. @Anonymous
    “Almost every new U.S. president goes to war somewhere - often in his first year in office." Kishore Mahbubani: Beyond the Age of Innocence. pg 106 In a bad moment, he can destroy the planet.

    in 1974, when Nixon was threatened with impeachment, he told reporters, “I can go into my office and pick up the telephone, and in 25 minutes 70 million people will be dead.” (quoted in Elain Scarry's book: Thermonuclear Monarchy)

    General Lee Butler, the last commander of the Strategic Air Command, which was armed with nuclear weapons remarked we have so far survived the nuclear age “by some combination of skill, luck, and divine intervention, and I suspect the latter in greatest proportion.” Further, he said: "It is my profound conviction that nuclear weapons did not, and will not, of themselves prevent major war. To the contrary, I am persuaded that the presence of these hideous devices unnecessarily prolonged and intensified the Cold War. In today's security environment, threats of their employment have been fully exposed as neither credible nor of any military utility."

    "In periods of heightened tensions and reduced decision times, the likelihood of human and technical error in control systems increases. Launch-on-warning is a relic of Cold War strategy whose risk today far exceeds its value. Our leaders urgently need to talk and, we hope, agree to scrap this obsolete protocol before a devastating error occurs." General James E. Cartwright

    “The NPT ... is the most important arms control treaty of all. If it were adhered to, it could end the scourge of nuclear weapons." Noam Chomsky (8/20/2015)

    the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France and China – each possess nuclear arms - are legally obliged, under Article VI of the Nuclear Non Proliferation Treaty (NPT), to pursue in good faith and conclude negotiations for the complete elimination of their nuclear forces. They are prohibited from engaging in activities (such as warhead modernization and the construction of new nuclear delivery vehicles) that would make this goal less likely or impossible to achieve. DontBankOnTheBomb.

    The United States still refuses to ratify the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty, despite being a signatory. Russia, on the other hand, ratified the agreement in 2000. Despite initially identifying the CTBT as a “top priority” during the President’s second term in March of 2013, the administration later acknowledged that getting Congress to move on the Test Ban fell somewhere between highly-unlikely and hopeless. (Alex Ely 9/11/2014)

    the regular five-year NPT review conference, which ended in failure in April when the U.S. (joined by Canada and Great Britain) once again blocked efforts to move toward a weapons-of-mass-destruction-free zone in the Middle East. Such efforts have been led by Egypt and other Arab states for 20 years. As Jayantha Dhanapala and Sergio Duarte, leading figures in the promotion of such efforts at the NPT and other U.N. agencies, observe in “Is There a Future for the NPT?,” an article in the journal of the Arms Control Association: “The successful adoption in 1995 of the resolution on the establishment of a zone free of weapons of mass destruction (WMD) in the Middle East was the main element of a package that permitted the indefinite extension of the NPT.”

    "The U.S. Senate has not ratified a major multilateral treaty since 1997." GlobalSolutions.org

    Although there was an immediate danger of nuclear war when Russia was about to send nukes to Cuba, the U.S provoked Russia and China by placing missiles on their borders, thereby creating the conditions for a new arms race. Neither of our political parties is for peace. We have the world's largest military, which means death for democracy.

    In January (2014) the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies estimated that the U.S. would spend $1 trillion on the nuclear arsenal in the next 30 years. Noam Chomsky (2/2014) That's about as much as would be needed to provide universal health care, or to pay off student debt.

    Notice that the security of the population is not an issue,

    security of the population is never an issue. 9/11 was ‘the chickens coming home to roost.’ except they came to roost on the heads of innocent civilians.
    our response to 9/11 assured that the security of the population would be put in further danger. orlando happened. our government – the obama regime – knew it would. obama knows it will happen again, yet he won’t stop creating revenge-minded terrorists.(bush is just as much at fault as are presidents going back many years)
    look at germany, england and france. see our future. notice spain isn’t attacked. spain quit iraq and the self-defeating war on terror, after the madrid train bombing. a new government decided to protect the population. of course they were called cowards and worse. however, discretion is the better part of valor.
    the american empire extracts wealth from citizens to fight wars and support a bloated military. but who benefits? cui bono? certainly not the majority of citizens. we, the people, foot the bill for our own endangerment. we are what stalin called ‘useful idiots.’ meanwhile, creative spending – projects that actually benefit the citizenry – are sacrificed to imperial pursuit

    Read More
  7. Anonymous says:
    @Astuteobservor II
    which is why all the hawks needs to have their fucking wings clipped, for the good of us all, americans and chinese.

    I have even recently started reading about "limited nuclear war"

    every "expert" talking shit like this needs to be shot by a firing squad for the future of human kind.

    I agree with Astuteobservor II
    100%. Since nuclear power plants give nations Pultonium, they all should be shut down, and all nukes destroyed. International trade beats international war. When will the USA elites realize fossil fuels are so 20th century and quit fighting over stranded assets in the Mideast. Price for electricity from PV is already less than that from nuclear and fossil fuel.

    Read More
  8. Anonymous says:

    Re: “…in the West Pacific and over Chinese territory, China gets devastated beyond its ability to resist and keep military forces in the field, we win, the world economy staggers but carries on, The End…”

    When I see that phrase…
    “The End”…I think of these book / movie / http://www.wikipedia.org entries:
    A.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Beach_(novel)
    B.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Beach_(1959_film)
    C.) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/On_the_Beach_(2000_film)

    In short, the plot of this book / these films is there was a Nuclear War, and the resulting harm done to earth’s environment eventually, (within a matter of just a few years), caused…
    hominid_extinction.

    The late astronomer_scientist, Carl Sagan did two studies using India and Pakistan as potential Nuclear_Belligerents, limiting each side to a mere 50 megatons, each; ‘On_The_Beach’ was realized BOTH times!

    The late Tom Clancy did a novel called “The Sum Of All Fears”…
    Postulating a lost nuclear weapon…found /re-manufactured / used, on a U.S. stadium. In the novel it’s a ‘fizzle’, aka, an N.-W.M.D. which doesn’t quite explode, precisely, to specifications;
    There is a scene which rings, true for me, as a, (retired), urban paramedic:
    It describes an urban battalion chief who sees the Mushroom Cloud as his chief’s truck is first, leaving the firehouse on the way, to the assignment!

    NO, I’ve NEVER responded to a Nuke, but I HAVE seen the flames / smoke as i responded from the firehouse!
    Yes…
    I was a mere 5 weeks, ‘Romney_Sized’, (aka: ‘outsourced’), from my office / employer, located in the late, great 1 World Trade Center, losing 359 coworkers in the process of some Intolerant Abrahamic_Monotheists using car_jacked airliners!

    We get rid of ALL N.-W.M.D.’s or…they get rid of us!
    …Tt’s that simple, in this retired urban paramedic’s, (humbled…), opinion!!

    Read More
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