The China Scapegoat
Scapegoat-“A person, often innocent, who is blamed and punished for the sins, crimes, or sufferings of others, generally as a way of distracting attention from the real causes.” Wikipedia
China’s military has become a convenient excuse of late for exquisite weapons programs and grandiose military plans, but not just in the United States. Countries as diverse as India, Japan, and Australia have fingered the world’s most populous nation for some future conflict, and have devised their strategies in consideration of this ominous idea.
All nations have a right for self-defense, and China hasn’t gone out of her way to allays fears and tensions rising in the Pacific and Indian Ocean regions. Her actions in the China Seas with American warships, as well as ongoing rhetoric against the free Taiwanese are cause for concern but not overreaction. It appears though that some countries are using the strained relations as grounds for the biggest arms race since the 1980s, while hoping to persuade their presumed foe to do the opposite. For example:
India-The great sub-continent recently completed its first nuclear powered submarine, after decades of trying. While apparently geared toward the rising Chinese threat in the Indian Ocean, it is its long-rival Pakistan who seems to be the most concerned. According to a report, up to 125 new ships are planned including ” Nuclear submarines, Aircraft carriers, Warships, Frigates, Remote controlled underwater submerged war apparatus are all in the making.” After the horrible Mumbai terrorist attacks which were launched in a unique amphibious raid, it is difficult to see how the nuclear boat and aircraft carrier, and advanced missile escorts will defend the nation’s shores from such agile foes who cannot be tamed by massive conventional arms, as we have consistently seen in this decade. More essential than a 20th century warship, would be scores and perhaps hundreds of coastal patrol craft which could be purchased at the same price, plus more troops to watch the historic northern land invasion route.
Australia-Another Continental power has decided to expand its influence after centuries as a junior partner to first Britain then America. In the greatest military buildup that nation has seen since World War 2, plans are for a fleet of 12 submarines, 2 air-capable amphibious ships, plus Aegis anti-air warfare destroyers, and at least 100 F-35 stealth bombers. The Australians posses a long and vulnerable coastline (25,760 km) easily penetrated by terrorist insurgents striking from the sea. At drastically less expense than its current defense plans, a drastically larger fleet of coastal submarines, patrol ships, and UAVs could be purchased, greatly enhancing its security without fueling a 21st century arms race. Thanks to the power and accuracy of new sensors and smart weapons, the Aussies would not necessarily be giving up capability, but they would fielding a 21st century force for real 21st century threats.
Japan-Currently our former Pacific foes are lobbying to purchase the advanced F-22 stealth fighter. Such an outcome stands a better chance of happening than some think, now that the USAF has been denied future purchases by a White House focused on winning current conflicts. Like America, Japan can only afford a handful of these $300 million superjets, and it is difficult to see how perhaps 50 fighters can stand up to the 2000 plane Chinese Air Force, no matter how capable the weapon. Unlike the USA but like Taiwan, the island nation is close enough to China’s massive conventional missile and rocket arsenal and any airbase capable of launching the Raptor would easily be targeted for destruction early in a conflict. Lots of cheaper fighters and UAVs, dispersed around the countryside, able to fly from highways or rough airstrips would be more survivable, more useful in current insurgent conflicts, and while being able to launch the same precision smart bombs and missiles as the more expensive American plane.
Finally, we examine the USA/Sino relationship. Aside from the obvious, that is is ludicrous to make designs against a nation currently bankrolling our economy, there is also the enormous expense. While we try to push ourselves into a conflict with one of the world’s fastest growing economies, we are stretched thin fighting two campaigns in the Middle East, while using battleships to fight pirates in the Gulf of Aden (another example of preparing for the wrong conflict).
This is not to say that war with China isn’t a possibility. If history is a guide it is even a likelihood that powerful economic competitors will eventually turn to arms to settle their trade differences. Still, there is no hurry in this impending clash of nations, and it is doubtful our old 3rd Generation weapons updated somewhat in order to call them “future weapons” like our Raptor jets, the aircraft carriers, and destroyers from the 1980s, can contend with these masters of 4th Generation Warfare.