The following is a representative sample of some recent written correspondence I had with a well-read person from the political science world. It is not meant to represent or demonstrate favoritism for any one political candidate. Rather, my hope is that persons viewing the below will focus on the factual underpinnings elucidated herewith. The person writing to me has been labeled “POSITION” and my responses have been labeled “SUNDAR”.
POSITION: Mark my words. Obama is evil and it will show in spades. The U.S. will have armed conflict with Iran. The U.S. will have a naval battle with China. Obama is setting all up. Not to mention the crash our economy is about to take. Employers are going to slash jobs to save costs on Obamacare, if not just shut down completely. A disaster is headed our way and this guy is leading it. It’s Obama’s way of getting back at his country cause he had to deal drugs when he was younger. A scumbag is a scumbag is a scumbag. Sadly, any one who voted for him shares his ideals and morality.
SUNDAR: We should be careful not to overestimate the actual power granted to the President of the United States. He has veto power against bills on their way to becoming laws– that veto can be overturned by a 2/3rds majority vote in both houses of Congress. The President is also the Commander in Chief of all branches of the U.S. military. However, he never brings to fruition any military action which is not first sanctioned by Congress and first vetted by a large number ofmilitary advisors, members of the Intelligence Community and the Department of Defense. He’s one man who must have the talent and the people skills to work successfully with many, many others. He must make the hard decisions, and those decisions are his, yes; but the work and research and opinions of, literally, hundreds of others go into that final decision. He doesn’t do anything alone. As to armed conflict w/Iran, that is already in play, just currently being executed at a subterranean level; we have assets on the ground there and the Intelligence Community is performing activities consistent with sabotage, espionage, and digital warfare. What is your reasoning regarding the proposed naval battle with China?
POSITION: China just put its first air carrier to sea last month. It has another due to launch in the spring. China wants to strangle the sea routes. China wants to control the shipping lanes to control global economic growth. China wants to put pressure on Taiwan and Japanese sovereign rights in the Okinawan Islands. China wants a naval engagement to prove they can go head-to-head with the US Navy.
SUNDAR: The capability of China’s new aircraft carrier, the “Liaoning” is, so far, very limited. It’s a refurbished Soviet vessel, and, the design for launching/landing aircraft (the “ski ramp” as opposed to the tensioned catapult that U.S. carriers use) severely limits aircraft payload and fuel efficiency. This also prevents many types of aircraft from being launched (not compatible with this launching system), limits takeoffs to 1 aircraft per cycle, and consumes valuable deck space which could otherwise be used for storage and preparation of additional aircraft. At the moment, the most this carrier can do is preserve its own existence. It is, at best, a very, very expensive prototype. The Liaoning is not a substantial or sustainable threat, and, we may even see it decommissioned or relegated to only testing exercises within the next five years. It will require many more years of R&D (this one took in excess of 7 years) to produce and/or bring to sea a carrier on par with the American or European vessels. The intel on the 2nd aircraft carrier is largely inconclusive. India and Japan, meanwhile, will likely have three carriers each by 2014, and, this is a driving catalyst for China to produce more aircraft carriers- especially effective ones. However, that demands an IMMENSE amount of time/money/resources be dedicated to the effort. It’s not going to happen until 2015-2020. By that time, the U.S. and NATO, which are already far ahead of China’s Naval technology, will have R&D’d the next-gen vessels to stay ahead of the pack. Of course, that is largely dependent on the U.S. Navy getting proper funding, so, that may be a legitimate concern.
Regarding the shipping lanes, the Chinese navy doesn’t currently have anything in its fleet that could substantially threaten or impose embargoes or blockades against the force of the US Navy. My main concern would be that they exert too much control over the SCSO (South China Sea Oil) shipping lanes which move goods to Japan, Malaysia, The Philippines, Indonesia, India, Thailand, etc. However, the smooth functioning of those shipping lanes is extremely, extremely vital to China’s own economic prosperity, so, it would be foolish of them to interfere with any of those lanes at all. And, as stated above, they simply don’t have anything seaworthy which could substantially control shipping lanes outside of the SCS. The only other thing I can think of that is worth controlling is the Strait of Malacca, which connects the Indian and Pacific oceans. That strait accommodates over 50,000 vessels a year which carry over 25% of the WORLD’S goods. Believe me, the minute China, or anyone else, tries to make a move to impose any type of aggressive naval presence there, they will be immediately sanctioned, countered, and every other thing you can think of to keep them open. (Same goes with the Straits of Hormuz, and, while that’s not applicable here, the same principle applies.)
Overall, I tend to believe that China is far too smart to want to interfere with their current, highly successful economic relationship with the U.S. They manufacture an amazingly LOW percentage (it’s only 3%, contrary to popular belief) of U.S. goods. However, the items which they do make are items that the U.S. consumes very, very aggressively, either wholle or partially, on a DAILY basis, so, those products do account for a hight percentage of U.S. usage. China happens to own a substantial portion of U.S. debt. But, we also import over $450 BILLION in goods from them per YEAR. And we owe them over $1.2 TRILLION in debt. They won’t get paid if there’s a war, or even the threat of one. Without a highly functional economy, a state or polity barely exists, what to speak of functioning on the global stage. In any event, the instinct for self-preservation, something inherent in the values of that culture for many centuries, will guide China’s decisions. If you’d like to do some deeper reading, from the perspective of an intelligence analyst, on the topic of China‘s role in the global economy and the way in which that role maps itself onto any proposed military actions, I highly recommend the works of Chalmers Johnson.