Chinese bomb U.S. Guam base!

But only in the movies.

“The People’s Liberation Army Air Force released a dramatic promotion over the weekend showing … its H-6K strategic bomber… conducting a simulated attack on an unnamed military base … identical to … Andersen Air Force Base in Guam,” Newsweek reported on Wednesday, September 23, 2020. The Air Force condemned the video, but didn’t say whether it fired simulated missiles. Read story here.

Blowing up the Guam base in movies is chickenfeed compared to Hollywood’s depiction of a North Korean invasion of mainland America in the 2012 remake of “Red Dawn,” which like the 1984 original, feeds every American kid’s fantasy of playing war in his own backyard. In those movies, paratroopers land in an American town, shoot the place up, and the kids get to shoot back at them with AK-47s. The kids who salivated over that movie at age 12 are now 17 years old, have real AR-15s, and shoot real-life BLM protesters, who in their underdeveloped minds are indistinguishable from North Korean paratroopers.

The Air Force is well aware that today’s movie fantasy can become tomorrow’s reality. In the past, it kept bomber squadrons stationed at Guam, but it now rotates them in and out of there on unpredictable schedules, making it harder to take them out with an attack on the base. The strategy is equivalent to sailing battleships in and out of Pearl Harbor instead of keeping them tied up at the piers.

A propaganda film like this can be used to send a message to American leaders, and also helps to psychologically prepare the Chinese public for a real war. It’s part of an overall more militaristic strategy by China, which is rapidly building up its military forces, especially anti-ship capabilities designed to drive the U.S. Navy out of the South China Sea. China is adopting a more aggressive posture toward Taiwan; just last week Chinese warplanes buzzed the Taiwan Strait in an apparent show of force.

American strategists are in the habit of regarding China’s navy as a coastal defense force. But China clearly is developing an oceangoing navy with specific emphasis on targeting U.S. military assets in the Far East, including the base at Guam. Military planners in general are notoriously slow at adapting their thinking to new realities, as anyone familiar with the history of the world wars is aware, and I’m not convinced that U.S. official thinking is up to speed on China’s changing intentions and evolving capabilities.

Two weeks ago, I posted an article about China’s “ghost fleet” of armed fishing vessels (here). There are thousands of these boats, of ocean-going capability, and with military-trained crews. They can disperse all over the world, and while they’re lightly armed and no match for warships, merchant shipping would be helpless against them. It seems obvious they would be used to shut down or at least hinder seaborne movement of troops and supplies in a conflict — this is how a 21st-century Battle of the Atlantic could be fought — as well as conducting small-scale commando raids and landings on small but vital ports and coastal installations.

There have been a couple of books written, in the form of novels, by knowledgeable military insiders about a hypothetical World War 3. These books are used to display the strategies and technologies that would be used in such a conflict. In The Third Wolrd War by Sir John Hackett, published in 1982, the main adversary is the Soviet Union, and the novel reads much like a traditional military history. The plot involves a Soviet invasion of Western Europe that culminates in a nuclear exchange in which one city is destroyed on each side (Birmingham, England, and Minsk, Russia), and the book is used as a vehicle to describe what a nuclear attack on a city would be like. (Basically, the government uses troops to seal off the impact zone so no one can get in or out, and leaves the survivors in the blast zone to fend for themselves, essentially writing them off. That’s probably an accurate description of what would happen in an actual nuclear attack, because caring for the casualties and displaced civilians of even one destroyed city would be beyond the resources of any government.)

Ghost Fleet by P. W. Singer and August Cole, published in 2016, reads more like a novel, focusing on a few individual characters, with only a sketchy birdseye view of a war that unfolds when China takes out America’s satellites and electronic communications, eliminates the Pacific Fleet, neutralizes its ICBMs and ballistic missile submarines, and invades and occupies Hawaii. The U.S. fights back with a handful of antiquated weapons and the story ends with a truce that restores the status quo antebellum. This book is much more up to date in terms of weaponry, technological warfare, who the belligerents likely would be, and how a world war would be fought if it occurred today. Despite the title, it ignores the “ghost fleet” of Chinese armed fishing boats, either because the authors were ignorant of that force, didn’t take it seriously, or didn’t bother to fit it into their narrative. In a global war, control of sea lanes is so crucial to victory or defeat, that no plausible novelization of a U.S.-China war on a global scale can fail to take that naval capability into account.

Trump’s “America First” policy, which revives in principle 1930s isolationism and leaves our allies to fend for themselves, appears to be emboldening China’s leadership. Nature abhors a vacuum, and the U.S. pullback from global engagement is happening in tandem with Russian and Chinese military buildups and more aggressive posturing by both of those countries. It’s reasonable to conclude those things are connected; they see in our fatigue an opportunity to become more assertive on the world stage.

Although I call myself a “liberal” and loathe war as much as anyone, I’m not a rubber-stamp ideologue. My thinking on policy issues is always eclectic and pragmatic. This is especially true of foreign affairs and military matters, on which I spend more time than, say, constitutional law or domestic environmental policy. Disarmament and minding our own business are nice warm-and-fuzzy sentiments, but if we abandon our role of global cop, which has kept peace for 75 years, a revitalized Russia under Putin and an ambitious China under Xi will fill that vacuum and not for benign purposes. Neither Putin nor Xi are warm-and-fuzzy sentimental guys. I think Trump’s “America First” policy is one of his biggest, and among his least-talked about, mistakes. Don’t get me wrong, I think this president doesn’t do anything right, but some stupidities are more consequential than others.

The Chinese movie release is a little thing in itself, although you must remember that everything is censored in China, so this is different from Hollywood fantasy in that it reflects official thinking and has a purpose beyond entertainment. It ought to be a wakeup call for the American public, which is why I’m writing about it.

Assessing another country’s intentions is tricky, but you can read tea leaves. It’s natural for nations to defend themselves, and seek military capabilities equal or superior to any potential adversary’s, even if all they want is to not be invaded or pushed around. But buzzing aircraft, bumping ships, and issuing threats in response to longstanding dispositions and maneuvers aimed at preserving the status quo isn’t defensive posturing. I don’t think America can safely assume China is only interested in self-defense. It’s reasonable to believe that under Xi’s leadership they will continue to avoid direct military confrontation, but will exploit any perceived softness on our side. In any event, attacking Guam would have to precede invading Taiwan. Too far fetched to contemplate? Well, they seem to be thinking about it.

Photo below: What a fat target for a surprise attack! How tempting is this?

Return to The-Ave.US Home Page



0 Comments Add Yours ↓

  1. Mark Adams #

    This would be a direct act of war upon the United States. Guam is the United States most western territory and Guamanians are US citizens. Any attack would be like the attack on Hawaii on December 7, 1941. (Japan invaded Guam on December 8, 1941)

  2. Roger Rabbit #

    No kidding?