• Text smaller
  • Text bigger

The architect of our present naval superiority was Alfred Thayer
Mahan who, in the late 19th century, emphasized the importance of the
interaction of commercial and strategic considerations. He was
particularly concerned with this interaction in the Pacific. Ironically,
as we come to the close of this century we seem to have forgotten those
lessons. Our “nodal analysis” of key strategic points in ocean shipping
underlying and necessary to the operation of our two ocean “forward
deployed” strategy in times of conflict seems to have been neglected
even as the Chinese have increased their study of these matters. Nor
have they limited themselves to study. Quietly they have moved to cut
off our ability to support our technical naval and military superiority
by taking advantage of the increasing “forwardness” of its deployment as
we have abandoned our forward base at Subic Bay, a base without which we
could not have waged the Vietnam conflict or any other such regional
conflict and sustained our firepower at the front.

The more “forward” the deployment, the more dependent we are upon
logistics with our lines of supply stretched over much greater
distances. At the forward point of the long supply chain, out where the
carrier groups’ firepower perimeters are opposite those of the potential
foe, we have a technological edge over Communist China’s navy that is
overwhelming at this time. They have no carrier task forces to match
ours. They do not have, just to pick one example, submarines that can
match ours. But why would we expect them to seek to match us at our
strongest points?

I have already pointed out in extensive testimony how they have
positioned themselves at our weakest link, the Isthmus of Panama,
through the use of closely allied commercial entities. See my Senate
testimony from this past summer
(“Chokehold for China,” Jan. 29,
1999).

Cutting us off at that weakest point would enable the Chinese Communist
military to so weaken our capacity to keep our forward forces supplied
with munitions and jet fuel that we would have to bring all the troops
and ships home in a matter of days.

But there are other vulnerabilities which the Chinese would exploit
and which we seemed to have abandoned thinking about. In addition to
resupply and refueling there is the question of maintenance and repair.
All of the maintenance and repair for the Western Pacific was done at
Subic. After we abandoned Subic, the Chinese military, again through
commercial fronts, tried to take it over. Then President Ramos (a
graduate of West Point) alerted to this impending takeover, not by us
but by private individuals and information, prevented them from doing
so. At this point, our forward-most repair facility to support our
forward-deployed fleet is at Guam. But here again it has been private
action, not that of our government, that has preserved that facility in
our hands and expanded it. Hearing of the impending takeover of the
small shipyard there by non-U.S. interests, a private U.S. group, led by
retired Admiral James A. “Ace” Lyons, bought the shipyard, turned it
around and has now upgraded it. Our government and military planners do
not appear to have played any role in either of these events. We have
been oblivious to the need to maintain logistical support.

However, there seems to be no lack of planning on the Communist
Chinese side. Indeed, they appear to be following a plan which Mao Zedong was implementing when he was interrupted by the Vietnam conflict,
with which I was quite familiar. This plan involves moving Communist
Chinese control outward to an island chain that, if you look at a map,
can be seen to run from the southern part of the Japanese islands all
the way to the Indonesian archipelago. One of the largest islands in
this string of islands is Taiwan. Further, by controlling these islands
and the straits of Malacca, which, like Panama, is one of the seven key
chokepoints of the world’s maritime commerce, China breaks our power in
the Western Pacific and installs its own in our stead. We now have
reliable reports that piracy in recent years has increased in the
Malaccan straits, although last year it appears to have decreased
slightly. More importantly, there are reliable reports that Chinese
Communist officials have protected Malaccan straits pirates who would
otherwise have been brought to justice. Shades of the Spanish main. We
have not seen piracy as an instrument of strategic control and
intimidation for several hundred years, but it is cheap and effective
and requires no technological upgrades. It is, in fact, how England
began its defeat of a much larger and more militarily powerful foe,
Spain in those faraway years.

So we see a vast chain of resupply, repair, maintenance and
underlying need to control the maritime commerce supporting it that
stretches from Panama across the Pacific to where its narrow head, like
the head of an arrow, meets the chain of islands which I have described,
which includes such groups as the Spratleys and the Paracels in addition
to Taiwan and its surrounding islands. While we were still tied down in
the Vietnam conflict, the Chinese Communist military began to occupy and
fortify these islands, always doing so in a part of them that did not
directly challenge our capabilities and with regard to which we were
powerless to stop them due to geopolitical considerations of which they
were well aware.

Most recently, for example, they have greatly built up and fortified
an airstrip on Woody Island, one of the Paracels. It has a 7,300 ft.
runway. From Russia they are buying fighters and developing their own
fighter-bombers. In the Spratleys they have built up an extensive
facility at a place called Mischief Reef. Islands, of course, as was
said of Malta during World War II, are unsinkable aircraft carriers.
Needless to say, today they are also unsinkable missile batteries. The
additions that the Chinese Communists have been making to their navy
include particularly swift destroyers designed to fire stand off
missiles. So while we have been reading about missiles that can reach
Los Angeles and missiles bracketing Taiwan, the Chinese have been
building capabilities that can force us to retreat dramatically if they
do cut off our logistics in the rear, without having to challenge us
where our technological superiority would cause them to lose. If the
shaft of our arrow of logistics and resupply, maintenance and repair, is
broken at its base, we have to pull back the head. It is that simple.

The Chinese military have studied American military actions and
capabilities intensively since their preparations leading up to their
entry into the Korean conflict. There they fought us to a stalemate,
first by overwhelming us with effective if relatively unsophisticated
tactics, and next because we elected not to use our superiority in air,
naval and nuclear capability against their base in China itself. Public
representations to the contrary notwithstanding, they teach their
military trainees and their schoolchildren that we, the United States,
are “the enemy.” Under this administration their operatives have been
brought into our Department of Defense and into all branches of our
military operations, where their aggressive intelligence gathering has
become legendary. Under their system, moreover, all “students” in this
country, and there are thousands, are also assigned to the care of party
or government overseers and are used to gather intelligence.

However, our studies of the strategy and tactics of the Communist
Chinese military appear to have had artificial restrictions and to have
been dominated in some cases by ideas that appear faddish. In the face
of an increasingly evident intent to displace us in the Western Pacific
and take Taiwan, we have been excessively preoccupied, for example, with
information warfare and now with urban warfare and this seems to have
resulted in a blindness to the obvious — the overwhelming dependence of
our military effort in actual conflict upon ocean transit. For over two
hundred years, with the exception of our own Civil War, we have been
able, with extremely minor exceptions, to keep actual combat far from
our shores. We are now in danger of eroding badly our capacity for
forward deployment which has enabled us to have that protection. Why is
this being allowed to happen is the question, and who is responsible for
not dealing with it?

As a result of our failure to focus on the basic and the obvious, and
of our forgetting the lessons of Mahan, the Chinese, as happened in
Korea, now have us at a serious disadvantage despite our technological
superiority at the point of forward deployment. Once again their methods
are relatively unsophisticated but quite effective. By establishing
their presence in the Isthmus, in the island chain and the straits of
Malacca, and by moving forward their air war capability and creating
flanking stand-off missile threats they place us in a position where our
superiority can be neutralized and we will be unable to bring it to
bear. They have used what they do have more effectively than we have
used what we have. We have not countered their moves and they continue
them unchecked. We do not even study their strategy any more.

The use of the technique of gaining control of your opponent’s
logistics in his rear while confronting him only where you have the
advantage on his flanks should not be a surprise to us. It is classic
Sun Tzu strategy, as he, their greatest general, expressed it centuries
ago in his classic “The Art of War”: The surest way to defeat an enemy
is to so arrange matters that you do not have to go to war with him to
win, for you have made it so that he cannot defeat you. You render him
unable to sustain the battle and see that he knows that he cannot. Then,
since he cannot defeat you, you advance your position forward at the
expense of his. The mere capacity to damage the Canal and make it
impassable creates this situation. It is accentuated by our failure to
provide for forward maintenance and to counter each forward move of the
Chinese communists as they increase their threat to our allied countries
in the Western Pacific. They have employed their Art of War well. We
have forgotten ours. It is they who have melded Mahan with Sun Tzu and
it is we who have forgotten the lesson.

Not content with control of the key chokepoint at Panama and that in
the Malaccan straits, they have now established an intelligence
chokepoint on Tarawa, the scene of one of the bloodiest battles of World
War II in the Pacific. They have taken a superb monitoring post right
in the middle of our stretched out arrow of supply and maneuver. There
has been a pattern of misleading about the Panama Canal and its
strategic importance which is traceable from the report of a young
staffer to whom I was asked to respond on the Helms Committee through
testimony at the hearings last summer, to the testimony then submitted
by the President through Ambassador Hughes which was critical of my own.
When we have another Tarawa, will those who have misled take
responsibility for it? When our failure to train and prepare to meet
this very real threat costs lives and casualties, will those who have
taken this position that a commercial threat only exists acknowledge
that we should have prepared and trained for the communist Chinese
expansion now occurring before our eyes and an attempt to capture the
free people of Taiwan?

For it would seem that this pattern of misrepresentation is a far
more dangerous type of “information warfare” than that which is now so
frequently studied under that name. The point of information warfare, we
are told, is to confuse the enemy, render him incapable of acting
effectively and sap his will to fight and resist. Sounds like what the
Chinese are doing to us now. For this concept, broadly conceived,
encompasses not only the disruption of sophisticated command and control
functions, and particularly computers and information networks, but also
the ancient art of political penetration of your enemies’ political
structure and the influencing of his decisions in your favor, such is
documented in “The Year of the Rat” concerning the threatening moves by
the communist Chinese in the Taiwan straits in 1996. Who needs
sophistication when through campaign donations you can control the high
defense and foreign policy decisions of your opponent by those,
including the leader, who are ostensibly making his decision?

One wonders what the sailors and marines of the fleet feel like as
they realize that while they were out there at that point of forward
confrontation it was their opponents who were making the decisions as to
how American ships would be deployed and moved. How do those who have
engaged in this pattern of deception feel about covering up for this
kind of confusion of our will by a power which considers us the enemy?
The recent announcement by Admiral Prueher, upon his retirement, that
the Chinese communists were a strategic threat to us after all, should
not have been forthcoming only upon retirement. It should have been the
center of the debate all along. Who is preventing our high officers from
speaking the truth before they retire?

The recent announcement by the DoD (Department of Defense) that the
Chinese communists will be in a position to take Taiwan by 2005 seems to
be overly optimistic. Why would the Chinese wait until then when they
can control our decisions now with our current president in office? Why
would they risk having someone else in that position, someone whom they
might not be able to control? Why would they risk having a president who
might build our military up instead of down, who might have our military
focus on the real threat instead of ones that suit a political agenda?

This president has not done a single thing to indicate that he has
any intention of analyzing and countering the clear intent of Communist
China to displace our power in the Western Pacific and become militarily
dominant in the region, including taking Taiwan. Instead, he has done
much to assist the Chinese communists in gaining military ascendancy at
our expense. It is our will to resist that expansion that is being
sapped by the continuing acts of misrepresentation and the failure to
analyze and give an accurate picture. It is we, the American people, who
are being confused — and by our own leader. We have not only forgotten
the lessons of Alfred Thayer Mahan, we have learned to help apply the
strategies of Sun Tzu to ourselves, all to win domestic political gain
for a leader who refuses to oppose a foe that ever more clearly seeks to
displace us as a world power as soon as it can.

The British, leading up to World War II, erected powerful
fortifications at Singapore, only they neglected to put any on the
landward side, across the narrow straits from the Malaysian Peninsula.
They assumed the Japanese would attack from the sea. The Japanese,
however, landed on the peninsula, and employing such means as
commandeering bicycles from the Malaysians, moved quickly opposite
Singapore and took it from the landward side. Churchill, when challenged
about this in parliament, stated that it had no more occurred to him
that Singapore’s fortifications had been built without defenses on the
landward side than if a battleship had been built without a bottom.
Presently, with the Chinese Communist presence in Panama and their push
outward through island chains, and their growing presence in island
countries all across the Pacific, such as the one that gave them Tarawa,
our entire Pacific forward deployment and defense is effectively without
a bottom. For it has to be bottomed upon our logistical support
capabilities, and they have been either abandoned or compromised.

Now the Communist Chinese troops have targeted ours stationed at
Taiwan in the straits. They have sent the signal, and the countries of
Western Asia have seen it. To our recent demands the Communist Chinese
have either not responded at all or have responded by telling us to mind
our own business and have now even stated without equivocation that if
we dare to try and protect Taiwan, they will give missiles and missile
technology to other countries that are hostile toward us. With each
futile pretense of a gesture from this president the Chinese Communists
only increase their drive to dominate the Western Pacific. The message
to all of the surrounding countries is as clear as it can be: China, not
the U.S., is the real power in Western Asia.

Who among our legislators will now inquire into this, our Senate
having been so thoroughly cowed? Have we a Churchill to acknowledge the
error and take charge? If we had one would not his files be rummaged
through? Would not Messrs. Blumenthal and Carville lie about him? Would
not Messrs. Dershowitz and Rivera dutifully echo those lies? Would not
this Attorney General investigate him? Would not Mr. Flynt print
scurrilous stories about him, calling him a hypocrite? Churchill was,
after all, as he himself was quick to admit, not a saint. Imagine if
this crowd had been working on him, with this press so eager to join the
attack. He never would have made it to Prime Minister. You can see where
our commander-in-chief is leading, and it is not against our foe.


Retired Admiral Tom Moorer is a former chairman of the Joint
Chiefs, chief of Naval Operations, commander-in-chief Pacific, supreme
Allied commander Atlantic and commander-in-chief Atlantic Fleet. He is
the honorary chairman of U.S.Defense – American Victory in Washington,
D.C. and may be reached at lawnet@erols.com

  • Text smaller
  • Text bigger
Note: Read our discussion guidelines before commenting.