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    Drums of War: Is the US Preparing for an Unthinkable Conflict with China?

    China and the United States are now seriously worried about going to war. China has been building up its military under Xi Jinping‘s leadership, which has made the Indo-Pacific situation very tense. China’s aggressive actions have also made things worse by taking over territories that are important to America’s allies.

    Potential Flashpoints

    The primary source of possible conflict is Taiwan. U.S. strategists are considering different scenarios. One scenario is China quickly taking control of Taiwan. Another scenario is a coalition led by the U.S. protecting the island. Taiwan is essential strategically. If China were to launch a military operation, it would have significant consequences. However, other areas of tension make the situation more complicated. These include disputes in the South China Sea, airspace violations, and clashes along the first island chain.

    Strategic Theories

    U.S. strategists are grappling with various theories regarding potential Chinese military actions. There are three critical scenarios to consider:

    • A conquest that is already done.
    • A defense led by the U.S.-led coalition.
    • The risk of the situation getting worse and leading to nuclear warfare.

    U.S. policymakers must understand these scenarios. This shows the importance of taking the situation seriously.

    Nuclear Deterrence and MAD

    China and the United States have a nuclear balance. This introduces the idea of “mutually assured destruction” (MAD). People worry about nuclear escalation. However, historical examples, especially during the Cold War, show that countries tend to avoid using nuclear weapons, even during regular conflicts.

    Potential for a Protracted Conventional War

    There may be a long war between China and a US-led group. This war would be a big test for the United States and its allies. It would be the first major conflict since World War II. The war would cover a large area and be expensive. It would not be as destructive as nuclear war, but it would still be very challenging.

    The Geopolitical Landscape

    The Indo-Pacific geopolitical landscape today differs from the Cold War’s strict alliances. The situation is more complicated because U.S. regional partners have uncertain responses. Additionally, Asian allies don’t have shared defense commitments.

    Restraints and Redlines

    China and the United States both have challenges to control the conflict and avoid nuclear escalation. To prevent unintentional escalation, it is essential to communicate redlines. This is because war is dynamic and can change these thresholds.

    Strategies in a Prolonged Conflict

    Analyzing potential strategies for China and the U.S.-led coalition in a protracted conflict becomes imperative. The considerations include annihilation, attrition, and exhaustion as possible war strategies, emphasizing the need for systematic defense plans aligned with plausible scenarios of Chinese aggression.

    Industrial Preparedness and Resources

    Revitalizing the industrial bases of the United States and its coalition partners is critical for sustaining a protracted war. The lack of capacity to surge the production of munitions and major military systems underscores the importance of preparedness in prolonged conflict.

    Implications and the Path Forward

    A long-lasting conflict between China and the United States could have significant consequences. It would impact global trade, infrastructure, and people. Leaders must persuade their populations to strengthen defenses and sustain a long war. They must understand how serious the situation is.

    In navigating these rising tensions, policymakers must approach the evolving situation with a nuanced understanding of potential scenarios, emphasizing the importance of communication, strategic planning, and international cooperation to avoid descending into a prolonged and devastating conflict in the Indo-Pacific.

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