Marcos Jr Wins The Presidency In Phillipines

The victory of Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr in Monday’s presidential election is official. The era of his father was one marked by immense greed and brutality that left a permanent scar on the soul of the Philippines. As the son and namesake of the former dictator, Bongbong’s rise to the presidency was made possible by a combination of prestige held from being the new face of the nation’s former ruling family, and the organization of the Duterte political machine. Bongbong’s running mate was Sara Duterte, daughter of the soon to be outgoing president. With the Philippines now poised to begin a new era, questions about the nation’s future relations with China and the United States have become more significant.

Marcos seems to want friendlier ties with China, but not at the expense of ceding sovereign territory. During the campaign, Bongbong bragged of having friends in Beijing and spoke of working towards a bilateral agreement with China to settle differences between Manila and Beijing. “If you let the US come in, you make China your enemy,” Marcos said during the campaign. “I think we can come to an agreement (with China). As a matter of fact, people from the Chinese embassy are my friends. We have been talking about that.” He is also eager to attract investors from China to help finance a massive national infrastructure plan.

Marcos is said to hold some personal issues with the United States. Understandable, given the manner in which the US government handled the aftermath of the elder Marcos’ departure from power. However, the current geopolitical situation in the Western Pacific has made relations with the US exceedingly important. The same holds true for the US-Philippines defense relationship. Marcos will seek to maintain the national interests of his country as a priority, even in the face of US-China power politics and competition in the region.

It will be a pretty neat trick if he can pull it off.

The Pentagon Plans Improvements To Pacific Military Bases. Too Little, Too Late?

The Pentagon is planning to begin building up key military installations in the Pacific theater early in 2022. The purpose behind the move is to counter and deter China. The build up and improvements will affect Andersen AFB and US Navy facilities on Guam as well as a number of installations in northern Australia which US forces operate from. Infrastructure improvements are at the top of the list with the overall goal to make these locations able to absorb larger numbers of troops, aircraft and supplies in the event of a crisis. The origins for the decision to build up and improve these installations stem from the Global Posture Review, the end result of months of analysis and investigation by the service branches and numerous government agencies to recommend changes to the postures and deployments of US forces in theaters worldwide. The recommendations for the Pacific region did not stop at infrastructure updates. The GPR also strongly recommends the US increase cooperation and planning with allies in the region, as well as increase the number of combat-ready assets in theater.

How much impact the GPR recommendations will have if implemented is anyone’s guess at this point. With China’s recent saber-rattling and its progress made in hypersonic weapon testing, all eyes are on the Pentagon and White House. One concern among defense analysts and former DoD officials is that the GPR’s findings are a matter of being too little, too late. The People’s Republic of China is obviously gearing up for a future war in the region. These measures have been underway for some time now. The US response has been rather slapdash. Part of the reason for this is the absence of a solid doctrine for fighting a potential war in the Pacific against China. In the past decade every effort to craft such a doctrine has withered on the vine due to political indifference or the simple fact that the doctrine was inadequate. From Air-Sea Battle to its successor JAM-GC, the Pentagon has been a day late and a dollar short.

Quite honestly, the current situation in the Pacific seems to resemble Europe in 1939. Once again, we have a nation-state building up its military and preparing for war in front of the entire world. The world has taken note of the developments but the regional and global powers have done little to challenge China’s actions and intentions, and will fail to do so until the shooting starts. By then, as history has shown us countless times before, it will be too late. As for the US military in late 2021, its resemblance to the British and French militaries in the summer of 1939 is astoundingly close. Stale doctrine, low readiness and indifferent senior officers combined to bring about disastrous defeats on the battlefield from late 1939 through 1940.

I pray that I’m incorrect, but it appears we are going down a similar road at present.

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.

Taiwanese Government ‘Very Concerned’ About A Possible Chinese Invasion

Taiwanese concern over continued Chinese military exercises and activity in and around Taiwan Strait is once again becoming apparent. Taiwan’s Foreign Minister Joseph Wu, while conducting an interview with Stan Grant of Australia’s ABC News program The World voiced his belief that the risk of a military conflict in that area is increasing. Through the summer and fall months of 2020, when world attention was focused elsewhere, Chinese naval and air activity in the Taiwan Strait area was extensive. Wu went on to say that Taiwan’s government is now ‘very concerned’ about the prospects of a Chinese invasion of the island. China’s increased military posture around Taiwan comes as part of multiple Chinese moves beyond its borders. From leashing Hong Kong and dragging it fully into the Chinese sphere of influence, to the territorial expansions into the South China and East China seas.

Taiwan faces an uncertain future at the moment. Its close relationship with the United States will become even more valuable through the next four years. A Biden administration is not going to provide Taiwan with the material support that the Trump administration has. Nor will it stand firmly behind Taiwan as a counterbalance to recent Chinese actions and behavior in the Western Pacific. Although Joe Biden claims his administration will continue to support Taiwan, a look back at the relationships that the Obama, and Bush administrations had with Taiwan earlier in the century show that Taipei has valid reason to worry.

Even now as relations between Beijing and other powers in the Western Pacific have turned sour it provides no advantage for Taiwan. In the event of a large-scale PRC military operation against the island, Taiwan will have no formal allies it can turn to for assistance. Historically, the United States is the only friend it can rely on in the event of a crisis. But with Joe Biden sadly likely to take power in January, 2021, even that is no longer a guarantee.

Comparing the US Navy and the People’s Liberation Army NAVY (PLAN) Part I

As we stand prepared to move deeper into the 2020s naval power is again becoming a valuable asset among the great powers of the world. In the conflicts of the first two decades of the 21st Century navies became secondary to land, and airpower as the United States and her allies grappled with low-intensity conflicts and insurgencies in the Middle East and Central Asia. Naval arms were ignored to an extent, denied the lion’s share of budget funds, and almost as a rule were first on the chopping block when budget cuts loomed. Gradually, navies have come back into the spotlight given events like China’s rise, and  Russia’s annexation of Crimea.

Now in 2020 many global powers are reaching the point where their future ambitions, and economic well-being depend upon the power and capabilities of their navies. The South China Sea and Eastern Med are just two contemporary examples of areas where seapower is directly tied to the economic fortunes of a nation-state. In the coming years other bodies of water will be added to that list, and more nations will grasp and respect the importance of their navies.

The United States and China need not wait. Both nations recognize the value of seapower. For the Chinese, a relative newcomer to the ranks of first-class navies of the world, a powerful fleet is paramount to advancing its territorial ambitions in the region and beyond. China has embarked on a major ship building program that is adding platforms to the fleet in considerable numbers very quick, especially surface combatants, and amphibious assault ships. Two further aircraft carriers are also currently under construction, as well as multiple ballistic missile and attack submarines. China is transforming the People’s Liberation Army Navy (PLAN) into a major blue water force.

Then there is the United States, the perennial world naval power. Even though China has overtaken the US Navy in numbers of ships, the US still enjoys  major advantages in quality, and technology. After almost two decades of fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan, the US Navy is finally refocusing its attention on fighting and defeating a near-peer opponent at sea. New weapons and sensors are entering service. Doctrinal changes are in the works, and frequent exercises with allies are improving interoperability. Naval shipbuilding is at lower levels than most leaders would like, however, and there are still a number of challenges to address but the US Navy is on the right path.

Author’s Note: Next week’s Project entries will look at the following:

1.US Navy and PLAN ships, equipment, organization, and strategies

2. How both navies might operate in a hypothetical Sino-US war in the near future