In his classic study of guerrilla warfare War of the Flea, Robert Taber compares the small, disadvantaged opponent in an armed conflict to a flea, whose small, intractable nature can be turned into an advantage against its enemy.
As the military divide between China and Taiwan widens in China's favor -- thanks, in part, to the Chinese Nationalist Party's (KMT) efforts to block weapons development and acquisition -- Taiwanese who are committed to defending the nation have had little choice but to begin considering asymmetrical or nonconventional options. That is, they have been forced to look at a potential war with China from the flea's perspective.
While much has been said in recent weeks about Taiwan's development of the Hsiung Feng II-E cruise missile and -- for a brief, hallucinatory moment -- nuclear weapons, ultimately these remain part of an arsenal that, should war break out, stands little chance of overwhelming Beijing's massive and widely distributed forces. Even if, for a while, Taiwan could inflict punitive damage against an invading People's Liberation Army (PLA), past experience shows that massive casualties within PLA ranks does not deter Beijing. During the Korean War, Chinese "volunteers" suffered 148,000 deaths, while an estimated 20,000 lost their lives in the debacle following China's invasion of Vietnam in 1979.
History also teaches us that successive regimes in Beijing have no compunctions about noncombatant casualties -- as the Cultural Revolution and the Tiananmen Square Massacre so starkly remind us. More recently, former PLA chief of the general staff Xiong Guangkai's (
Two traditional pillars of deterrence -- massive military losses or threats against civilian populations (a reprehensible option) -- are denied Taiwan. It must therefore find China's Achilles' heel elsewhere.
And that's its economy.
Enter the graphite, or "blackout" bomb, a non-lethal weapon that can knock out an enemy's power grid by short-circuiting it. Taiwan has announced it could begin development of that weapon, which can be dropped by aircraft or mounted onto cruise missiles such as the Hsiung Feng. Whether that device will suffer the same fate as the Hsiung Feng at the hands of the KMT remains to be seen, but its introduction shows that a paradigm shift has occurred within the nation's defense apparatus, which, by sheer virtue of its size and the prevailing international context that favors China, is awakening to the realization that it cannot hope to compete with China in conventional military terms.
Beyond the graphite bomb, Taiwan must explore other venues where its technological advantage could be put to good use and continue to identify other weaknesses in China's defenses, such as maritime ports, industrial centers and command-and-control nodes.
Beijing has made no secret of the fact that, aside from the very survival of the Chinese Communist Party, the economy is paramount. Many of its policies are formulated to ensure that economic growth continues unhampered, even at a debilitating social or environmental cost. It is therefore not difficult to imagine how Beijing could be made to pause should a credible threat to its economy come from Taipei.
Taiwan has all it needs to mount a countervailing strategy based on innovative technologies and an asymmetrical mindset to make Beijing think twice before it attempts to take on the flea.
The beauty of it is that Taiwan might not even have to kill people to achieve its objectives.
An old Latin adage reads: Si vis pacem, para bellum. Translated it means: “If you wish peace, then prepare for war.” This adage has many variants and claims to authorship, but what is most important is its message for a peaceful Taiwan. Why should Taiwan prepare for war? The reasons are many and obvious. Certainly, such preparation is not because Taiwan wants war or is a warlike nation. Instead, the answer is found in its neighbor, China. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP), which rules China as a one-party state, is ambitious and troubled — and that combination makes war a viable option,
Unless Hollywood movies like Greenland, Deep Impact, and Armageddon have predictive powers and a rogue space rock is heading our way, stopping Chinese Communist Party expansionism is likely to prove the single most challenging and dangerous problem of our lifetimes. How can the United States, Taiwan, and other liberal democracies prepare for and prevent attacks from China? How can Washington bolster Taipei’s confidence when it doesn’t recognize Taiwan as a real country and, so far, lacks the political will to make major adjustments to its ossified China policy and Taiwan policy? How can Taiwan make itself heard on the world stage when
Hypersonic weapons are defined as armaments capable of traveling at speeds faster than Mach 5 and can be broadly classified into two types: hypersonic glide vehicles (HGV) and hypersonic cruise missiles. The former are launched into the upper atmosphere by ballistic missiles. The vehicle is then separated from the booster to maneuver, or glide, toward its target. The latter can be launched from a jet plane or rocket to reach supersonic speed before igniting a scramjet engine to achieve hypersonic speeds. As the US engages in a great-power competition with China and Russia, all three countries are racing to field hypersonic
As a Reserve Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) cadet, I frequently get asked how quickly the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) might overrun Taiwan if it invaded before 2040. My answer is that the PLA will not be able to take over Taiwan within that time frame, because the more eager the PLA is to complete the task in a short period, the more likely it would fail — and fail big. Having a slim chance of winning is what keeps the PLA from taking action. From time to time, some PLA leaders or keyboard fighters make threats — one of the