Thursday, December 04, 2003

More Chinese military threats against Taiwan. They are primarily a message to us, not to Taiwan. The Chinese premier is coming to visit the White House next week, and the Chinese want us to tell Taiwan not make China angry by holding a referendum on official independence. I half wish we'd respond to the Chicoms in kind, with some of our military officers putting out statements containing something like "We're ready to lay the smackdown if China wants to take the Taiwan thing to next level." Warmongering words can deter war you know. And it would deflate the warmongerers over there, as they know they can't win. What can they do? Bluff about how many millions of Chinese they're willing to sacrifice in a nuclear exchange? Please.

I only half wish this because, believe it or not, I actually do care a little about diplomacy. It sounds much better to make high-minded pronouncements about the need to resolve the Taiwan issue peacefully and to make threats more implicitly than explicitly. More importantly, being diplomatic gives bellicose foes (at least the sane ones) the option of backing off without losing as much face.

While I'm on the topic of military confrontation, let me posit the following prediction. An huge conventional war fought directly by two nuclear powers' militaries is not only a possibility but an eventuality. Nuclear weapons rule out either side being totally defeated and conquered, but they don't rule out a huge fight over something nonessential, like a disputed border region. There are many disputed borders around the world and the nuclear club is getting ever more inclusive. Moreover, in such a war, victory is not total victory but rather reducing one's opponents options to suing for peace and nuclear escalation, the latter being unlikely due to the usual MAD deterrent. (Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising envisioned such a scenario in Cold War Europe.)

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