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War Games Exposes US Military Shortcomings Against China

by Richard A Reagan

Is the Biden administration finally waking up to the China threat? A January Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) report revealed some unsettling news. The report analyzes the results of war games simulating a Chinese invasion of Taiwan.

The results show that the US is not fully prepared to defend Taiwan. During the 24 war game simulations, the US, Taiwan, and Japan defended the islands but with significant casualties and losses. 

Why is the report so shocking if we are able to defend Taiwan in all scenarios?

Well, the report highlights serious shortcomings in our current strategy for the China-Taiwan conflict. The war game shows how a serious conflict could have harsh economic implications. The report states, “The United States might win a Pyrrhic victory, suffering more in the long run than the ‘defeated’ Chinese.”

The CSIS report indicates that a serious commitment to the Taiwan Relations Act is not possible. This act provides support for Taiwan without sending US troops for its defense. [Source]

President Biden, on record, has made a commitment to supply Taiwan with the means to defend itself in line with the Taiwan Relations Act. [Source]

Conclusions from the report suggest that we can’t make that commitment.

All instances of the invasion started the same way, with China bombarding Taiwan’s navy and air force. The Chinese navy, with the support of a rocket force, then tries to encircle the island in an attempt to prevent US support from coming.

While Taiwanese forces deter the Chinese military from trying to land with ground troops, US submarines, bombers, and fighter aircraft eliminate the Chinese amphibious force. In this scenario, the US is consistently aided by the Japan Self-Defense Forces.

In an attempt to prevent US attacks, China tries to bombard Japanese bases and US ships. This didn’t change the scenario in any way; Taiwan was defended.

However, there is one significant condition in the scenario. The report states: “There is one major assumption here: Taiwan must resist and not capitulate. If Taiwan surrenders before U.S. forces can be brought to bear, the rest is futile.”

This clearly indicates that the use of US forces is necessary to defend Taiwan.

The report further states: “This defense comes at a high cost. The United States and Japan lose dozens of ships, hundreds of aircraft, and thousands of service members. Such losses would damage the U.S. global position for many years.”

This should serve as a wake-up call for the Pentagon. Is a “One-China” policy possible? A policy that acknowledges China’s claim over Taiwan without formally recognizing it?

Adherence to this policy has led to mixed signals from the Biden administration. Biden suggested that US military personnel would defend Taiwan if the Chinese military were to launch an invasion. After Biden’s comments, US Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said that Washington’s “One-China policy” toward Taiwan has not changed. [Source]

Another unsettling conclusion from the report shows that the Pentagon was blind to a serious conflict in China. It provides four serious conditions for successfully defending Taiwan. One of them is that we must “increase the arsenal of long-range anti-ship cruise missiles.”

The war games revealed a significant weakness in our supply of weapons, specifically long-range missiles. CSIS concluded:

“Bombers capable of launching standoff, anti-ship ordnance offer the fastest way to defeat the invasion with the least amount of U.S. losses. Procuring such missiles and upgrading existing ones with this anti-ship capability needs to be the top procurement priority.”

The timing of this news is unfortunate. The Ukraine invasion led us to spend $50 billion in 2022 on arming Ukrainian forces. We now have to consider a two-pronged threat from Russia and China seriously.

It’s worth noting that the Biden administration has made some efforts to prepare for the China threat. Biden signed the National Defense Authorization Act that commits the US to a program to modernize Taiwan’s military. It provides for $10 billion of security assistance over five years.

Biden also recognized that procuring missiles is a priority. In March, he proposed an $886 billion defense budget with a focus on future wars. [Source]

Despite these efforts, a more serious approach is needed. The CSIS report makes that evident. We need a firm stance, and we need to avoid mixed messaging.

The results of the war games show that we must be prepared. Unlike in Ukraine, our flow of supplies can be disrupted. When the war starts, Taiwan must have everything necessary to defend itself.

Being prepared will deter a Chinese invasion. CSIS concluded, “if China believes that the United States would be unwilling to bear the high costs of defending Taiwan, then China might risk an invasion.”

They recommend: “The United States should therefore institute policies and programs to make winning less costly in the event of conflict.”

The war games scenario was set in 2027. Do you think we will be able to improve our strategy and arsenal by then?

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