The Pointless Taiwan Crisis Of 2022
China has launched an unprecedented set of extremely aggressive military exercises that more or less surround Taiwan.
So, uh, this is not good, mmkay.
It proves exactly why Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan was so utterly irresponsible, a naked political maneuver that stands a very real risk of starting a horrific war.
And for what? Maybe a fleeting bump in the polls that won’t matter come November because all most people care about right now is the economy.
But what’s done is done — now the world gets to live with the consequences of one politician’s vanity.
See why I’m an anarchist? What most people call “order” is just violence sanctified with pretty speech.
In reality, this is anarchy, of the purest form.
When an 82-year old multi-millionaire can push the world into another needless crisis on a whim, something is deeply wrong with the system.
Understanding this new Taiwan crisis is not all that difficult.
It isn’t about democracy against autocracy, good versus evil, communism against capitalism, or any of the other sick stories the pundits will sell.
The simple truth is that Taiwan is effectively an independent country, but admitting this truth aloud threatens one of the pillars of the Chinese Communist Party’s claims to legitimacy.
Why doesn’t really matter now— it’s all just history.
What’s relevant at this point is that the world’s second-largest economy, possibly biggest once you correct for purchasing power disparities, claims a territory the United States has a legal obligation to help defend.
People are people, tribal by nature, and the organizations they build are no different. Each survives as a kind of organism by securing resources and reproducing itself.
Countries, corporations, clubs — all tribes. Each holding their own set of sacred truths to be self-evident.
For the vast majority of the people involved, it ultimately doesn’t matter who is right or wrong when two tribes disagree. The outcome is decided by who can deploy more power to secure vital terrain and the resources it holds.
People caught in the middle pay the price.
Right now, China and the United States are on a collision course over Taiwan that is more likely than not, going by world history, going to end in a nasty clash.
And frankly, it’s far more likely that China will win than the United States of America.
Why? Geography, mostly.
A hazard of picking fights next to someone’s coast.
Just take a look at the map above I pulled from Wiki Commons.
Taiwan is right next to China, and some of its outlying islands are literally in rifle range.
By contrast, the nearest US base is a thousand kilometers away. Most US combat aircraft like the F-15 or even the more modern F-22 and F-35 have a combat radius of about half that, unless they refuel close enough to the fighting that their tankers are at risk of attack.
And a flying milk cow for jet aircraft is not a difficult target, by any means — things have the radar cross section of a flying school bus.
China, on the other hand, can disperse jets up and down its own coastline and keep fighters in the air near Taiwan around the clock. It has deep stores of missiles and solid air defenses to shoot down incoming strikes, so you aren’t keeping their weapons out of the fight by trying to hit them before they fire.
Any actual open conflict over Taiwan would be a straight-up slugfest, where both sides would lose thousands of people and the world economy would crumble.
Everyone in a position of responsibility knows this, yet the politicians are all still playing a deadly game of chicken, like they do.
And sorry (not sorry) to burst Americans’ bubble, but China is in a much better position to win a fight if one breaks out.
Ignore the trolls who will come for the comment section — I’m not sympathetic to the regime in Beijing at all.
But I refuse to conflate all 1.4 billion people in China with Xi Jinping, or accept the ridiculous fiction that is the idea of coherent, bounded nation-states.
And America’s atrocities abroad have been far worse than anything China has ever perpetrated. Those at home rival Mao’s own vain efforts to purify Chinese society.
Oppose China all you like, but don’t fall into the trap the Americans always set of choosing sides.
The nation-state is simply broken as a concept, yet the zombie faith in the things is likely to plunge the planet into a Third World War — if that hasn’t broken out already.
The nation-state is a fiction, in scientific terms, like so many other of the social structures we are taught by professors from fields like politics and economics and sociology to believe exist in and of themselves.
But the logic of power requires that organizations demonstrate their resolve in certain matters, and a lot of politicians earn their daily bread by acting as if things like nation-states are holier than they really are.
For the leadership in Beijing, preventing Taiwanese independence is seen as a matter of life and death, whether anyone else thinks this is right or wrong.
Fortunately, unlike Russia’s leaders, China’s aren’t suicidal — in fact, it is abundantly clear that Beijing wants to avoid bloodshed even as it presses for unification.
Therein lies hope for a better future: some form of legal agreement will be reached that leaves Taiwan independent but ensures China never has to fear it will become part of a US-led anti-China alliance.
But if you call a mob boss out on a vow they’ve made to their family and footsoldiers all their lives, they will and must demonstrate that you are wrong.
Their survival depends on it.
Pelosi’s visit was a deliberate provocation designed to make China over-react and prove it is a threat as part of the weird effort to contain a country that simply cannot be.
The fact Biden and the US military publicly advised against the trip was a way of trying to have it both ways — provoke Beijing while holding America to be blameless, signaling that this trip isn’t the start of anything more than a rude poke.
In power games, impressions matter. America’s leaders are basically daring China to do something that either makes it look hesitant to challenge US power or escalate in a way that pushes China’s neighbors towards America’s nascent China containment pact.
Like most American strategies, it was designed by a committee to serve the purposes of its members, not any real scientific sense.
China’s response has been telegraphed carefully and is unfolding deliberately, sending its own message to the world: that Beijing doesn’t need to directly invade most of Taiwan to achieve its goals.
All it has to do is prove it can cut Taiwan off from aid, perhaps secure a couple of the islands right off the Chinese mainland.
And also, that the global economy will crater if fighting ever does break out. China’s exercises have been carefully and deliberately planned — this is a dress rehearsal.
Which is good news — careful planning makes accidents less likely.
But less is not zero. Or even close.
The abject self-destructive stupidity of Pelosi’s visit is that it forces China to do something aggressive, giving Beijing a perfect excuse to show off its military capabilities without looking like the move was unprovoked.
Pretty much nobody abroad is buying Washington’s game, which by acting like this has only managed to irritate countries that have more than enough on their plates already.
It’s a sad attempt to bully US allies into accepting DC’s self-serving lie that the world is split into democratic and authoritarian camps.
The hard truth is that the United States and its allies could not break a Chinese blockade of Taiwan without taking extreme losses no US leader will ever be willing to tolerate.
Look at how Biden’s polls have cratered thanks to inflation. A fight with China would do an order of magnitude more damage to the economy, meaning his political career and probably his party would be doomed.
The geographic peculiarities of the region make the outcome of an American intervention almost a foregone conclusion.
Weirdly, the best case scenario for the US in any conflict is that China directly invades, wasting huge amounts of combat power trying to knock out Taiwan’s defenses.
Even then the Pentagon can only hope to hold Chinese forces on a beachhead at the cost of tens of thousands of lives. And as China’s exercises the next few days are intended to demonstrate, US support wouldn’t even get that far — nor does Beijing need to launch an all-out invasion.
The thing about a quasi-blockade, like China is planning to set up over the next few days, is that it can be done without openly attacking anything or breaking any international laws.
It’s a loaded gun pointed at the sky — not an immediate threat… but can you be sure?
And if it’s happening now, it can happen again.
Even better, civilian vessels are already avoiding the area, disrupting shipping at a moment the global supply chain is already messed up, further proving how bad any conflict would be for everyone, everywhere.
It’s an excellent dual-purpose operation, because in theory these exercises could switch to an actual attack or full quarantine instantly. That’s a threat Taiwan can’t ignore, so it has to prep its armed forces for intercepts and tracking, which burns money and gear and reveals how it plans to fight to anyone watching.
Meanwhile US and allied military leaders face the hard question of what they could actually do to break a quarantine. That is where China’s careful military buildup over the past twenty years comes into play — it was designed to take advantage of American military weaknesses like lack of adequate missile defense and reliance on expensive stealth jets.
Every US base in the region is now within range of hundreds of accurate ballistic and cruise missiles. Surface ships can be struck if they come within a thousand kilometers of China’s coast, so could only launch cruise missiles from a long distance — which themselves can be shot down.
Only submarines could hope to get close enough to destroy Chinese vessels enforcing a maritime blockage, and China has lots of subs too. American submarines would be hunted by Chinese aircraft, making their job even harder.
China’s air defenses are strong enough that US Air Force fantasies about achieving air dominance anywhere near the battlezone much less behind are ludicrous.
The US and its allies can’t gain air superiority. They can’t control the seas. There are no land connections to Taiwan to send troops.
A bloody stalemate is literally the best case scenario in the even of open war.
None of what I’m saying here is a matter of opinion. It’s all hard facts stemming from the realities of military geography.
Talking heads like to talk as if countries possess magic weapons that can obliterate their enemies defenses in a fell swoop, but there has literally only been one war in recent memory where that was remotely true: the Persian Gulf War of 1991.
It was unique. A nearly global coalition came together to eject Iraq from Kuwait, and Saddam Hussein’s forces were used to the style of fighting that was common in the long, brutal Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s.
This is not then.
American military superiority in the present day is, bluntly speaking, a myth —note that it has never been proven.
And the first battles of a war rarely go well for the USA, a fact schools rarely teach because of the forced patriotism shoved down young people’s throats.
And if the debacles in Iraq and Afghanistan are any indication, any open conflict with China would reveal awful weaknesses across the forces. America’s military power has always been a bluff backed with nukes, which is why it can’t do counterinsurgency.
Fighting on China’s doorstep? In 2022?
A recipe for an epic military defeat of the kind that rips countries apart and plunges their remains into civil war.
Fortunately, the deliberate nature of China’s exercises mean this moment will likely pass without spiraling into the nightmare it so easily could.
The conflict in Ukraine continues to pose a higher risk of degenerating into a wider war, thanks to the half-measures taken by Ukraine’s foreign partners to help it hold off Putin’s assault.
But never discount the potential for an accident. Chernobyl wasn’t supposed to happen. Neither was Fukushima.
And in any fight over Taiwan, it is quite possible that neither side could afford to lose.
Want to see where that ends? Play Fallout.
Thanks for this wonderful gift, Nancy Pelosi. I’m glad I’ll probably outlive you, because it will be my pleasure to help future generations see just how much of a craven hypocrite you really are.
The future belongs to the young.
And we’re sick of this bullshit.