If You Could See America Through China’s Eyes

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China-US Flags.jpgSeveral years ago, I met with the Deputy Director of the Policy Planning staff of China’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and I asked him what he was working on — and what China’s grand strategy was.
His reply: “We are trying to figure out how to keep you Americans distracted in small Middle Eastern countries.”
It’s pretty memorable when one can joke and be truthful at the same time. China has had opportunities throughout the world open up to it easily — mostly because of systemic American inattention to much else beyond its war slogs. The Obama administration, which in its first year in office, has managed high level presidential and cabinet level face time with leaders around Asia, Africa, Latin America, and the Middle East has done a lot to correct the impression from the G.W. Bush years that America has completely checked out from the rest of the world — but there still is a sense that American pretensions in the world are more veneer than real.
Now read in full (on the extended page) a short, brilliantly written report titled “Strategic Contraction Replaces Arrogance: Chinese Analysis of the Quadrennial Defense Review” by Li Shuisheng at China’s Academy of Military Science on the Pentagon’s recently released Quadrennial Defense Review.
This is a very sobering “offshore perspective” on American power.
The introduction starts with a quick tip of the hat to the Obama administration for greater pragmatism and less arrogance than the George W. Bush years – but also says that Obama’s course is leading to the strategic contraction of the U.S.:

After the United States was bogged down in the Afghanistan War for more than eight years and in the Iraq War for more than seven years, in early February, the Obama administration published its first “Quadrennial Defense Review” (QDR). This was a report submitted to US Congress by the US Department of Defense every four years as required by law, and was also a framework document for the future building of the US military.
Against the background of being deeply mired in “one crisis and two wars”, this year’s report somewhat restrained the usual “arrogant style” appearing in the previous QDR reports, epitomized the more pragmatic defense policy pursued by the Obama administration, manifested the trend of the United States’ strategic contraction to a certain extent. The report also revealed some noteworthy new changes in the US military building.

The author also sees what this writer has argued: that American obsession with Afghanistan and an ever-expanding quest to stamp out Islamic insurgencies will “further chip away at the United States’ strength, aggravate its strategic adversity, and increasingly narrow the room for maneuvers on other issues.” The author writes:

The report, for the first time, mentioned that winning the currently ongoing wars was a priority task for the US military, and also the top priority in the consideration of the US Department of Defense on the defense budget, the defense policy, and military modernization. To stress the importance of winning the current wars, the report took this as the primary objective of the US defense strategy. While the counterterrorist wars lasted over a long time in an undecided condition, the US military actually faced the question: Which should be the priority, winning the current wars or coping with future threats?
In the period of Rumsfeld, the US military stressed that both sides were priorities, but the efforts for coping with future threats was put to a more important position, and stress was actually laid on speeding up the military transformation through the counterterrorist wars. However, with the continuing worsening the battlefield situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military changed this line of thinking, and laid greater stress on winning the current wars and coping with the instant threats. In April 2009, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out in a speech at the US Naval War College that the primary task of the Department of Defense was to prevail in ongoing wars rather than just continuously making war preparations.
The reasons for the change of the US military’s thinking lay in following factors. First, as the current wars dragged on over a long time without a decisive outcome, this would further chip away at the United States’ strength, aggravate its strategic adversity, and increasingly narrow the room for maneuvers on other issues.

The full essay follows:


PRC Daily Views: US Military Strategy As Per DoD Quadrennial Defense Review
Beijing Zhongguo Qingnian Bao Online in Chinese – 12 Feb 2010

“US Arrogance Replaced by Strategic Contraction: Trends of US Military Strategy As Drawn From the ‘Quadrennial Defense Review Report”
by Li Shuisheng, Academy of Military Science

After the United States was bogged down in the Afghanistan War for more than eight years and in the Iraq War for more than seven years, in early February, the Obama administration published its first “Quadrennial Defense Review” (QDR). This was a report submitted to US Congress by the US Department of Defense every four years as required by law, and was also a framework document for the future building of the US military.
Against the background of being deeply mired in “one crisis and two wars”, this year’s report somewhat restrained the usual “arrogant style” appearing in the previous QDR reports, epitomized the more pragmatic defense policy pursued by the Obama administration, manifested the trend of the United States’ strategic contraction to a certain extent. The report also revealed some noteworthy new changes in the US military building.

Prevail in the Current Wars, Move Out of the Strategic Adversity

The report, for the first time, mentioned that winning the currently ongoing wars was a priority task for the US military, and also the top priority in the consideration of the US Department of Defense on the defense budget, the defense policy, and military modernization. To stress the importance of winning the current wars, the report took this as the primary objective of the US defense strategy. While the counterterrorist wars lasted over a long time in an undecided condition, the US military actually faced the question: Which should be the priority, winning the current wars or coping with future threats?
In the period of Rumsfeld, the US military stressed that both sides were priorities, but the efforts for coping with future threats was put to a more important position, and stress was actually laid on speeding up the military transformation through the counterterrorist wars. However, with the continuing worsening the battlefield situation in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US military changed this line of thinking, and laid greater stress on winning the current wars and coping with the instant threats. In April 2009, US Secretary of Defense Robert Gates pointed out in a speech at the US Naval War College that the primary task of the Department of Defense was to prevail in ongoing wars rather than just continuously making war preparations.
The reasons for the change of the US military’s thinking lay in following factors. First, as the current wars dragged on over a long time without a decisive outcome, this would further chip away at the United States’ strength, aggravate its strategic adversity, and increasingly narrow the room for maneuvers on other issues.
Second, winning the current wars was directly related to the US strategic interests. The US military held that failures in Iraq or Afghanistan would cause a disastrous impact on the United States’ reputation and credibility. The United States cannot just concentrate on making preparations for conventional or strategic conflicts in the future and neglect the necessity of winning the ongoing battles for the time being.
Third, winning the current wars was also a matter concerning the US military’s capability of coping with conventional threats in the future. The US military held that in a fairly long period to come, the pattern of war that they might be facing would be a kind of composite irregular warfare, the “age of lasting conflicts” with non-state, irregular, and lethal adversaries would not come to an end in the near future, and the current wars were actually the “next war”.
Play Down Challenges From Large Powers, Give Prominence to Regional Threats
In both the 2006 “Quadrennial Defense Review” and the 2008 “National Defense Strategy”, the United States laid great stress on the challenges posed by new rising big powers to the United States. However, the latest “Quadrennial Defense Review” basically did not mention this issue, and turned to give prominence to regional threats.
The report took “deterring and defeating aggression in anti-access environments” as one of the six core capabilities of the US military. When commenting on the report, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff pointed out the two strategic tasks for the US military: One was to thoroughly defeat and destroy the terrorist organization of Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and Pakistan. The other was to prevent and deter conflicts in regions of great strategic significance, especially conflicts with Iran and the DPRK.
The “anti-access capability” refers to the ability to blunt or deny the US military’s power projection. The report held that as the regional opponents developed and deployed advanced intermediate-range and cruise missiles, anti-ship cruise missiles, stealth submarines, advanced mines, comprehensive air defense systems, and anti-satellite capability, all this had posed greater and greater threats against the US military’s power projection and forward bases. To “deter and defeat aggression in anti-access environments”, the report came up with following measures for the US military: develop a “joint air-sea battle concept”; expand future long-range strike capabilities; exploit advantages in subsurface operations. At the same time, the “Ballistic Missile Defense System Review” that the US military recently published also emphasized the necessity of taking the development of the US missile defense system for coping with regional missile threats as a top priority.
Another point that gave expression to the US military’s giving prominence to regional threats was that the report, for the first time, changed its assessment of China’s status from a “potential global rival” to a country ranking side by side with the DPRK and Iran that might carry out “regional aggression”, or from a more or less ambiguous position to an explicitly-determined status. This showed that the United States would take its response to the so-called “aggression” by China in the theater of the Taiwan Strait as a major task for the US military. In addition, for the first time, the US military officially came up with the notion of “joint air-sea battle” and took it as one of the measures for dealing with regional adversaries. This was also a noteworthy point.

Respond to Composite Threats, Building General-purpose Forces

While narrating the operation environments that the US forces were facing, the QDR report took on the notion of ” composite threats” in the theory of “composite warfare”. The report held that with the development of globalization and the influence of technological proliferation, non-state actors would use advanced military technologies and conventional military means, and it would also be possible that state actors use nonconventional technologies and means to challenge the US military. The future wars would be more complicated; war actors would become more diverse; and the boundary of traditional patterns of war would become more blurred. In 2009, Gates pointed out in an article: “While determining various types of threats, people tend to draw a divide between “high-end” and “low-end”, between conventional and nonconventional, between armored divisions and guerillas carrying AK-47. In fact, as political scientist Colin Gray noted, the boundary of various war patterns is getting increasingly blurred, and it is hard to clearly categorize wars any more.”
Taking into account the demands of a complex and dynamic security environment, the report required that the US military be more agile and more adaptable in responding to challenges across the board, and carry out more extensive battle and non-battle actions from homeland defense and support for the civil authorities to deterrence, anti-terrorist and anti-insurgent wars and then to possible wars in the future.
The report outlined the general parameters of the wartime force structure, which fully reflected the US military’s notion of responding to composite threats and building general-purpose forces. The report expanded the notion of “simultaneously winning two regional wars”, made the force structure more complex and more gigantic. In fact, the 2006 “Quadrennial Defense Review” already made a change to the “two wars” notion. On the premise of not giving up the goal of winning two regional wars, the US military then took homeland defense, counterterrorism, nonconventional (asymmetric) operations as the standards for force building. The latest “Quadrennial Defense Review” basically maintained this line of thinking.
Attach Importance to Cyber Security, Strengthen Cyber Warfare Forces
The report took effective operations in cyberspace as one of the core capabilities of the US military, and took the protection of the security of the Department of Defense networks as one of the major operation risks in the near term. The report said: The US Department of Defense currently operates more than 15,000 different computer networks across more than 4,000 military installations around the world. On any given day, there are as many as 7 million Department of Defense computers and telecommunications tools are in use. The report came up with following measures for strengthening cyber security and strengthening the capability of operations in cyberspace: Apply comprehensive means to integrating the cyberspace activities in the Department of Defense as a whole; strengthen people’s knowledge about and awareness of cyberspace; strengthening cooperation with other government departments.
In fact, the US military has long realized the importance of networks in military affairs, and has taken some relevant measures. In 2007, the US Air Force came up with the “National Military Strategy for Cyberspace Operations”, which, for the first time, defined cyberspace as a domain where military actions could be taken. In 2002, the United States established the world’s first cyberspace hacker force — the Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations. In May 2009, Obama released a cyberspace security review, stressing that threats from cyberspace had become one of the most serious economic and military threats to the United States. In June 2009, the “Joint Task Force-Global Network Operations” (responsible for cyberspace attacks) and the “Joint Functional Component Command – Network Warfare” (responsible for network defense) under the US Strategic Command were merged into a new “US Cyber Command”, whose tasks were to coordinate the defense of computer networks and direct the United States’ cyberspace attacks. The new command began its operation as of October 2009, and will reach full operating capability by October 2010.

Reduce the Impact of the Wars, Give Consideration to the Stability of the Troops

The report, for the first time, take the work of stabilizing the force morale and strengthening force building as one of the US defense strategic objectives. This showed that the negative impact of the wars in the past eight years on the US military force building had become conspicuous.
So far, the number of deaths suffered by the US military in the Afghanistan exceeded 900, and 4,375 military personnel were killed in the Iraq War, plus 31,648 people wounded. In 2010, the United States will dispatch another 30,000 troops to Afghanistan. Although Obama announced that most combat troops would be withdrawn from Iraq by August 2010, and force withdrawal from Afghanistan would begin in July 2011, the development of the situation would still make such force withdrawal plans uncertain.
The wars that dragged on over a long time not only pushed the United States into an adverse condition, but also caused great harm and pressure to the American military personnel and their families. On 5 November 2009, Major Hasan, an Army psychiatrist who were about to be deployed for overseas duty, opened fire at Fort Hood, a US Army base in Texas, killing 13 people and injuring 30 people. This was an obvious instance reflecting the serious psychological problems among the American military personnel. The report admitted that care for the military personnel was insufficient in the past, and the input of resources was not adequate. So in the future, policies, budgets, and plans would be tilted more in favor of the benefits of the military personnel and their families. In fiscal year 2010, the expenses for military personnel accounted for 20 percent of the military budget, and increased from $124.9 billion in FY2009 to $136 billion, up by 8.9 percent.

Strengthen the Capabilities of the Partners, Create Conditions for Force Withdrawals

The report took the “strengthening of partner state’s security capability” as one of the six core capabilities of the US military, and held that developing the capability of the partner states was one of the major risks in the military operations in the near term, and was also the key to whether the United States could prevail in today’s wars. The report came up with following measures for elevating this capability: Strengthen and institutionalize the capabilities of the general-purpose forces for helping the security forces of the partner states; enhance the linguistic, regional, and cultural ability of the forces, with $47 million being allocated by the Department of Defense for this purpose; strengthen and expand capabilities for training partner aviation forces; strengthen capabilities for training regional and international security organizations.
While Nixon took office in January 1969, the Vietnam War had been fought for eight years. Nixon came up with a plan of “localizing” the Vietnam War, staging a force surge, and then withdrawing the US forces. Forty years later, in January 2009, the Afghanistan War had dragged on for seven years and the Iraq War had lasted nearly six years, when the Obama administration took office. At present, the United States is facing an international environment similar to that in the Nixon period at least in three points: Multiple power centers appeared in the world; the United States was deeply mired in two wars; the US economic status continued to decline amid the crisis.
For this reason, in the whole report, the term “partner” appeared 180 times; “partnership” 38 times; and “alliance” 148 times. Such words averagely appeared nearly four times every page. The fact that the US military attached such great importance to the strength of the partner states indicated that the Obama administration seemed to have an idea about “localizing” the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and its policy of force surge and force withdrawal looked the same as that of the Nixon administration.
— Li Shuisheng, Academy of Military Science

Comments

11 comments on “If You Could See America Through China’s Eyes

  1. Stan Burnitt says:

    It seems rational and necessary that there is a strategic contraction by the US. Its military budget is unsustainable and its electorates’ lack of curiosity about what goes on outside of US borders results in the promotion of leaders with a similar worldview. For this reason there is little chance that the US will skilfully handle — as it is demonstrating — the enormous, diverse, and increasingly complex set of strategic issues it currently faces. It seems that Obama’s — and future Administrations’ — best hope is to manage a contraction as gracefully as possible, in ways that do the least harm to the US public interest.
    As for the Taiwan-PRC relationship, maybe it is time for this matter to be left to the Taiwanese and the PRC to work out. There are factions in Taiwan which want reconciliation. This is pragmatic. China’s increasing economic strength is something Taiwan’s economy can benefit from. This is speculation, but it is logical to assume that many Taiwanese are likely to come to the conclusion that reconciliation with the mainland is more rational than relying on a distant country in decline, and continuing to sustain an expensive, antagonistic, and dangerous situation. On the US side, reconciliation between Taiwan and the mainland would reduce one more strain on the US economy. It would also eliminate a source of friction between China and the US. The US could play the role of mediator instead of insisting on the perpetuation of the status quo.
    Li Shuisheng’s report also notes the stress that these long, drawn out wars put on the military and military families. I would like to also point out that they also create serious, permanent divisions within US society, even within families. (Within divided nations exist divided families.) As these wars drag on and compound the economic stress on Americans, the possibility of internal unrest (in the US) is increased. All of these factors can serve to embolden Chinese military personnel who have aggressive strategic agendas.
    These wars also strain the important relationships between the US and Europe, the US and Japan, and may even be inducing the largest Latin American country to cultivate relations with Iran, which is currently engaging the US in more than one proxy war. Lastly, these wars — combined with the legacy of a half-century of hostile actions by the US against Iran — provokes that country to speed its development of a deterrent nuclear capability.
    It seems time for the US military to take a hard look at what it means to “defend the American people”. The insistence on prevailing in dubious adventures has costs which they may not have taken seriously enough.

    Reply

  2. Dave Everson says:

    To Roci — What has Sun Tzu done for the Chinese? And what has our ignorance of Sun Tzu done for us? Open your eyes and look around.
    Also, you make a blind assertion this will be the ‘Chinese Century’. We are almost ten years in and they still have a huge population of impoverished and uneducated peasants, an autocratic government which is inherently unstable, and an economy built around cheap exports which cannot be sustained indefinitely. They cannot project conventional military power beyond their borders or into blue water and won’t be develop any substantial projection capabilities any time soon. Politically, militarily, and economically, they have substantial problems. All they really have going for themselves is a vast pool of cheap labor. ‘Chinese Century?’ Really?

    Reply

  3. DonS says:

    Drew, I do understand debt financing and I understand that China is attempting to bring their own internal inflation under control, not primarily screwing with the US. As for you statement that “I don’t want US policy (domestic or foreign,
    civil or military) to reflect the interests of our largest debtholders . . . ” that horse left the barn quite a while ago. Or should I say that China could do far more harm to our economy if they chose. Fact is, both nations are tied up in an unholy dance thanks to the intertwined financing. Let’s all just say a big thank you to the real masters of the universe, the international corporations that have effectively cut themselves loose from any control. Meanwhile the ignorant rightwingers still mouth their drivel about ‘world government’, the UN, blah blah blah.

    Reply

  4. Drew says:

    I think, MarkL, that there is a powerful strategic reason not to be
    in Afghanistan now (and Iraq before). (I also think that there are
    practical reasons but I’ll ignore them here.) But it’s not for the
    reason others assert.
    My reason is that from one perspective we are winning very
    difficult wars of global inconsequence, while potentially handing
    the Chinese a different form of hegemony, a *financial*
    hegemony.
    These are not pay-as-you-go wars. We are putting them on our
    BankChina credit card. The Chinese will use the debt they have
    purchased from us to influence American policy and power.
    DonS, you don’t understand, apparently, the mechanics of bond
    finance. The selling party of any debt security (USA here)
    establishes a proposed interest rate; the market reacts to that.
    When yields are raised, prices go down. When a party holding
    debt dumps that debt security into the market, the price goes
    down and the effective yield, or interest rate, goes up. If China
    could afford to execute a fire sale on U.S. Treasuries (they can’t,
    but that’s another post), they would drive our cost of borrowing
    to fund our deficits through the roof. That is the strategic lever
    that the Chinese military suggested be pulled, this most recent
    week.
    My point is simple: I don’t want US policy (domestic or foreign,
    civil or military) to reflect the interests of our largest debt
    holders, the Chinese. If the Chinese are going to be our bank,
    they are going to start telling us what to do.

    Reply

  5. Roci says:

    Napoleon Bonaparte once said of China, “Let her sleep, for when she wakes, she will shake the world.”
    This will be a Chinese Century, and the Chinese have had the two before it to learn (the hard way) and prepare for the future.
    American policy makers have just begun to spend time where they must. In the minds of the Chinese. America has made a hobby out of ignoring Sun Tzu over the last century, and we are still paying the price. Perhaps information and insight like this will let us begin to understand our competition at last. Ignorance is easy, and expensive. The question becomes whether Americans are willing to pay the hard way for another century of self-imposed ignorance abroad.

    Reply

  6. DonsBlog says:

    I still think our focus on just the middle east is
    mistaken. We have troops deployed all over the
    world. Around each of these bases we pump millions
    of dollars into foreign economies.
    I think it’s time we contracted from empire and
    brought a majority of these troops back to the US.
    Countries interested in their own protection can
    keep these bases ready for quick deployment of
    troops if the need arises. We’ve got to stop being
    the world’s rich uncle.

    Reply

  7. Linda says:

    Or maybe we keep fighting wars and increasing our DOD budget because there is a military-industrial-complex that has managed to spread its operations into almost every Congressional district and state in the country.

    Reply

  8. MarkL says:

    Drew’s comment leads directly to the conclusion that we should not have invaded Iraq; in addition, we clearly should NOT be in Afghanistan now.
    Iraq was not an existential threat, and the Taliban is not either.
    We are fighting these wars in large part because the military which Drew admires wants wars to fight.

    Reply

  9. DonS says:

    Drew, you put up some pretty provocative statements (e.g., “it nearly cost us the war”), but I’ll just note one: “it’s equally in error to, once again, confuse Vietnam with whichever current conflict is under way . . . we walked away from VN for reasons that had little to do with military affairs, and everything to do with political decisions.”
    The real question was should we every have butted into Vietnam in the first place or was it another fucked up political miscalculation based on outdated thinking? The whole mindset results that once we are “committed” to a military conflict, then it must de facto be a legitimate one, and it must be “won” is. Lie and bend whatever facts are necessary to justify war and more war.
    That’s not so different at all from Iraq, much though the apologist try to clean it up after the fact, when all other excuse prove false, and relabel it “nation building”. The same doublethink we get fed all the time; I recall it was Junior Bush who decried ‘nation building’
    It’s nice that you admire the military. More damage has been done to the US by obfuscating the line between the military and civilian, with the result being irrational policy. When things fall apart its CYA, and the military is as good at that, or better, than most institutions.
    Your last paragraph makes little sense. China raised interest rates to address inflation; not ‘dumping treasuries’.
    Now let’s try to wade through Steve’s entire post since that’s the topic.

    Reply

  10. PissedOffAmerican says:

    If You Could See America Through China’s Eyes….
    “Lets lace it with melamine. Those asshole Americans will buy anything”

    Reply

  11. Drew says:

    There’s a great line in _The Hurt Locker_ when one of the
    troopers notes the idiocy of shipping tanks to Iraq, as though if
    we looked hard enough we could find the Fulda Gap.
    I think there’s quite a large mistake in conflating the manner of
    conflict being waged in Afghanistan, and the initial five years in
    Iraq. The first five years in Iraq showed the tension between the
    old and the new in the Pentagon, and it nearly cost us the war.
    In Petraeus’ ascendency we actually see the possibility of a new
    military. Investment in unconventional assets and troops is a
    multiple now of what it used to be, and going unconventional in
    your career path is no longer a career-killing decision.
    I think it’s equally in error to, once again, confuse Vietnam with
    whichever current conflict is under way. As Giap’s memoirs
    show, we walked away from VN for reasons that had little to do
    with military affairs, and everything to do with political
    decisions.
    I must say that I admire the military very much, both for its
    achievements and value system. But I do not admire the
    decision-making of a government that can’t get snow off the
    streets or Amtrak to run at a system-wide average speed of
    greater than 50 mph — and then turn around and suggest that
    we will engineer the human souls of such incongruous, remote
    places as Afghanistan.
    Anyway, we can’t afford any more nation-building exercises.
    That may be all you really need to know about the US military.
    No more wars will be undertaken until the threat is truly
    existential, and our primary, conventional adversary knows this.
    That’s why they suggested that China dump some treasuries this
    week. Pretty soon Gates will be getting calls from Geithner,
    directing this or that Naval exercise farther away from China, if
    we don’t stop selling them debt.

    Reply

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