Russia-Ukraine War Military and Geopolitical Lessons Transferred To China/Western Pacific: Introduction

In the last few months as the Western Pacific has heated up and fighting in Ukraine continues, a number of prominent Western geopolitical and defense analysts, along with an equal number of their less-than-prominent OSINT counterparts have attempted to take a number of lessons learned in the Russia-Ukraine War and transfer them to the deteriorating situation in the Western Pacific. More precisely, onto China’s rise and recent shift to aggressive posturing as well as onto a hypothetical China-Taiwan conflict in the near future.

Geopolitically speaking, China in the Western Pacific and Russia/Ukraine are two completely different animals that share few similar parts. This is clear from the first comparison and has been discussed to death here, in academic IR journals and in government reports from around the world. There’s no point beating a dead horse, so to speak. However, there are other geopolitical aspects where the similarities and difference between the Western Pacific and Ukraine are not as clear, leaving them open to interpretation and theory from professionals and amateurs alike. This is the area that the geopolitical crowd has identified as best suited to take Russia/Ukraine lessons and transfer them to China/WestPac. A practice that’s become akin to fitting a round peg in a square hole.

On the military side of the equation the game is similar. Analysts and OSINT ‘experts’ are trying desperately to evaluate the lessons being learned in the Russia-Ukraine War and break them down to fit a hypothetical China-Taiwan conflict or China-US Great Power conflict taking place at some point in the next twelve months. In this area the differences between amateur and professional is unequivocal. On one hand, the professionals have a dearth of knowledge as well as experience to draw from when putting together a plausible model to support their theories. The amateurs (OSINT) are starved for experience and formal education of military matters. Most of these folks are veterans and knowledgeable in their respective fields, such as infantry or cyberwarfare. Their inability or reluctance to contextualize tactical lessons and apply their value to the strategic picture ends up being their undoing in many instances.  

In spite of the disparities between professional defense analysts and their OSINT counterparts, they share a common quirk. A startling number of people from each group have found themselves caught up in the moment, so to speak, and issuing bold prognostications about the future of warfare with conclusions reliant almost entirely upon the latest news releases from the Ukrainian battlefield. Irresponsible behavior at best, simple laziness at worst. Especially when one remembers that in the first months of the war, Western media outlets were receiving their information directly from the Ukrainian government and military and often reporting it word for word. The kill numbers being reported, in both men and material, were significantly inflated, as initial numbers usually are. Fog of war and all of that.

I intend to delve into some of the geopolitical and military lessons from Ukraine that are being translated both properly and improperly for use in the Western Pacific in the coming month. I’d give a more accurate timeline for when these posts will be published, but as many readers are aware, this act usually backfires on me. This time I’ll play it safe 😊 Besides, with the unstable and uncertain world we’re dealing with at present it’s probably best not to commit to a firm schedule. Lord only knows what crisis will pop up next, or where.

The US Military Is Woefully Unprepared To Fight The Next War

We are at a pivotal moment in history as the consequences of a global pandemic have created turbulent waters in a wide variety of areas from international trade to socio-economic concerns. China’s increasingly assertive nature has been regarded as a consequence of the COVID-19 pandemic in the past eighteen months. However, the fact of the matter is that China’s emergence was preordained by two decades of inconsistent and short-sighted US policies and actions. As I mentioned over the past weekend, China has reached a point now where it confidently views itself to be an ascendant superpower, while regarding the United States as a declining power. This new ethos, whether an accurate assessment of the global picture or not, raises the prospect of the People’s Republic of China resorting to military force in to achieve its expansionist-minded ambitions.

The writing has been on the wall for quite some time. For the United States military, the prospect of having to square off against China is hardly new, whether Washington is keen to admit it or not. Unfortunately, the current condition of the US military leaves much to be desired. On the surface, its branches make up the most powerful military force that the world has ever known. With a potential war with China on the horizon, the Pentagon’s priorities are out of order. Rather than concentrating on repairing readiness issues and preparing for the next war, the current Joint Chiefs of Staff, and their civilian leaders in the Defense Department are fixated with implementing ‘woke’ and socially popular policies upon the troops. Even more damning is the fact that every effort to construct and implement a sound doctrine for conducting a future war in the Western Pacific region against the People’s Republic of China has been stillborn or developed into a half-baked abortion of failed past tactics and amateurish concepts on the future of warfare that its growth was stunted.

The failed efforts of the Pentagon, and the dangers of the US entering into a conflict against a near-peer opponent without a plan to win will be discussed at length through 2-3 entries next week. I have not forgotten about North Korea and will return to it by Christmas. But for now, exploring the troubles facing US military efforts to develop both a doctrine and the forces necessary to defeat Chinese forces in a future war seems a more pertinent research topic for November.

The Post-COVID World

 

With the COVID-19 pandemic waning in most areas of the world, the time to begin seriously pondering what the post-COVID world will look like is almost upon us. To be fair, there has been a healthy amount of speculation about that topic since the beginning of the pandemic. However, between then and the present day, new economic, military, diplomatic and geopolitical realities have emerged and obscured the global picture in a myriad of ways.

There will be new realities to contend with. Some nations will refuse or fail to live up to this and inevitably their power and influence will retrograde. Others will recognize the new dynamic in play and attempt to turn it to their advantage. Both of these groups will be made up mainly of middle powers, with a handful of notable Great powers in decline tossed in. One tier above this coming fray will be the remaining Great Powers jockeying for position and searching for ways to extend their influence and power around the world. The obstacle facing some of these powers is their obstinance. Specifically, their tendencies to resort to reflexive, short-term policies and solutions to long term matters. The failure to reengineer their thinking and equip properly for the coming era, which has the potential to be an era defined by unpredictability and sudden shifts in the balance of power.

Finally, at the top stands the United States and China. The two Superpowers are primed to set the tone into the first years of the Post-COVID era. Both have the power and potential to shape the world through their policies and actions, as will the direction and tone of  Sino-US relations.

Throughout the summer, the potential look of the Post-COVID world will be examined and discussed at length.

Author’s Note: Holiday weekend is wrapped up, so I’m starting off slow with a short post today and will get up to speed again by the end of the week.

UN General Assembly 2019: The Last Chance for Diplomacy?

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This week in New York, the chief diplomats of the United States, and Iran are entering the UN General Assembly with two specific mission goals, and guidelines regarding how to best achieve them. What transpires in Manhattan this week will almost assuredly affect the national interests of Iran, and the US. In the case of the former, the same holds true with regards to its economic wellbeing, and overall security.

Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s mission is to convince world leaders to pressure the United States into loosening the economic sanction noose it has fastened around Iran’s neck. Zarif has been dangling the possibility of talks between Iranian President Hassan Rouhani and US President Donald Trump taking place on the sidelines of the General Assembly this week in exchange for a loosening of the sanctions. Washington has shown no interest in this approach, and its not likely that Zarif will find too many sympathetic world leaders who possess the clout, or willingness to persuade the US to go easier on Iran.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo comes into the General Assembly looking to lay the foundation for a diplomatic outcome to the crisis. Contrary to the opinions expressed by countless left-leaning journalists, politicians and talking heads, the United States does not want to begin a war with Iran. SecState, and the rest of the Trump administration’s national security team have left no stone unturned while searching for a diplomatic solution to the crisis. Regrettably, none have been found. Despite its claims otherwise, Tehran has demonstrated no sincere desire to resolve the current issues through diplomatic means. The Iranian government only wants to return the US-Iran relationship to what it was previous to President Trump’s inauguration and that is not going to happen.

So, as the week begins and the drama starts to unfold in Manhattan, it will be useful to keep in mind that if there is no diplomatic breakthrough by Friday, the Trump administration will begrudgingly admit that diplomacy has failed. From that point on, the US focus will shift towards non-diplomatic means to contain Iran. And by non-diplomatic means, I’m referring to the application of military power, of course. 😊

Military Coup Ousts al-Bashir in Sudan

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After thirty years of autocratic rule, Sudan’s Omar al-Bashir has been removed from power by the nation’s military and arrested. Defence Minister Awad Mohamed Ahmed Ibn Auf announced al-Bashir’s arrest and that a military council will now run the nation. A two year period of military rule is being instituted, and will be followed by presidential elections. The military is apparently backing this transition to democracy, however, it must be remembered that power corrupts. Therefore, it’s quite uncertain whether these elections will ever materialize, or if this is merely a power grab by the military. Auf also announced the a state of national emergency is now in effect, along with a ceasefire, and suspension of the constitution. Sudanese airspace will be closed for the next 24 hours, and all border crossing points are closed.

The Sudanese Professionals Association, responsible for organizing recent protests against Bashir, has rejected the defense minister’s plans. It has called on protesters to remain outside of the defense ministry. Demonstrations calling for Bashir’s removal have been widespread across the country since December, 2018. Economic problems, and social issues also contributed to the growth of the demonstrations. Fuel and cash shortages in Sudan have become commonplace, and the government’s attempt to raise bread prices served as a catalyst for the protests.

Sudan has been down this road before. Peaceful popular uprisings brought about the removal of military leaders in 1964, and 1985. The main difference this time is the absence of a road map on the part of the coup leaders. Ibn Auf appears to be winging it, and this fact leads to questions about when, or even how, the intended elections and transition to democracy will ever come about.