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Wednesday, July 20, 20051121885700

Boot on "Unrestricted Warfare"

In a nice, timely coincidence, Max Boot discusses Chinese "unrestricted warfare" in his latest column, a topic that has popped up over the past couple of days in the discussion on 5GW. See ZenPundit for the relevant links.

In 1998, an official People's Liberation Army publishing house brought out a treatise called "Unrestricted Warfare," written by two senior army colonels, Qiao Liang and Wang Xiangsui. This book, which is available in English translation, is well known to the U.S. national security establishment but remains practically unheard of among the general public.

"Unrestricted Warfare" recognizes that it is practically impossible to challenge the U.S. on its own terms. No one else can afford to build mega-expensive weapons systems like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which will cost more than $200 billion to develop. "The way to extricate oneself from this predicament," the authors write, "is to develop a different approach."

Their different approaches include financial warfare (subverting banking systems and stock markets), drug warfare (attacking the fabric of society by flooding it with illicit drugs), psychological and media warfare (manipulating perceptions to break down enemy will), international law warfare (blocking enemy actions using multinational organizations), resource warfare (seizing control of vital natural resources), even ecological warfare (creating man-made earthquakes or other natural disasters).

Cols. Qiao and Wang write approvingly of Al Qaeda, Colombian drug lords and computer hackers who operate outside the "bandwidths understood by the American military." They envision a scenario in which a "network attack against the enemy" — clearly a red, white and blue enemy — would be carried out "so that the civilian electricity network, traffic dispatching network, financial transaction network, telephone communications network and mass media network are completely paralyzed," leading to "social panic, street riots and a political crisis." Only then would conventional military force be deployed "until the enemy is forced to sign a dishonorable peace treaty."

This isn't just loose talk. There are signs of this strategy being implemented. The anti-Japanese riots that swept China in April? That would be psychological warfare against a major Asian rival. The stage-managed protests in 1999, after the U.S. accidentally bombed the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade, fall into the same category.

The bid by the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Co., to acquire Unocal? Resource warfare. Attempts by China's spy apparatus to infiltrate U.S. high-tech firms and defense contractors? Technological warfare. China siding against the U.S. in the U.N. Security Council over the invasion of Iraq? International law warfare. Gen. Zhu's threat to nuke the U.S.? Media warfare.

And so on. Once you know what to look for, the pieces fall into place with disturbing ease. Of course, most of these events have alternative, more benign explanations: Maybe Gen. Zhu is an eccentric old coot who's seen "Dr. Strangelove" a few too many times.

The deliberate ambiguity makes it hard to craft a response to "unrestricted warfare." If Beijing sticks to building nuclear weapons, we know how to deal with that — use the deterrence doctrine that worked against the Soviets. But how do we respond to what may or may not be indirect aggression by a major trading partner? Battling terrorist groups like Al Qaeda seems like a cinch by comparison.

This is not a challenge the Pentagon is set up to address, but it's an urgent issue for the years ahead.

Posted by Phil

Update: See a recent Coming Anarchy post on 4GW by Younghusband. Or read Unrestricted Warfare for free -- tdaxp


Hi Phil,

Well...that was timely !

Posted by: mark safranski | Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Like trying to fight America with "global guerrilla" tactics, an attack against us with high-tech blitzkrieg is doomed to failure. The Chinese are smart for recognizing this.

Mao's fighting style focused on draining the enemy's will to fight. We should also drain China's will to fight -- be connecting with them and integrating with them into this great wealth-machine called global capitalism.

Hopefully their politicians help this happen faster than their military can think of nifty new ways to fight us.

Posted by: Dan | Wednesday, July 20, 2005

"this great wealth-machine called global capitalism."

For me, its actually monopolistic capitalism.

Also throughout its history, China is not a conquering nation. (only when the Mongols took over, but they were not Chinese).

China's strategy throughout history has always been to be like a black hole. It sucks everything in until it reaches an equilibrium.

You can only conquer China by either becoming them or sedating them (you could destroy them but then it would be mutual).

Posted by: Taylor | Tuesday, March 21, 2006

"China is not a conquering nation."

That's substantially helped by the fact that there is no Chinese nation. Just an Empire that one nation-state ("province") or another happens to conquer.

One of Charles V's titles was "Emperor of Europe," and China was always an Empire in this sense. It kind of makes sense as a geographic entity, and it's historically been in kind of a political union, and it's not democratic, so it's imperial.

The geography of Europe did not provide the same safe-havens to troublemakers that Europe's did, though -- nor the same access to seas -- allowing more despotic, centralized rule than the great Europeans ever achieved.

Posted by: Dan tdaxp | Tuesday, March 21, 2006