Centrist Democracy Political Institute - Items filtered by date: April 2023
Sunday, 30 April 2023 10:18

War gaming China-Taiwan conflict

THESE last few months, two American think tanks conducted war games on China's Taiwan invasion and published their findings. Both the Center for New American Security (CNAS) and the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) arrived at analogous conclusions. CSIS, running 24 iterations, published its report in January 2023, while CNAS did its war game in May 2022 with 26 iterations. These two war games are augmented by other hypotheses proliferating online by less stellar think tanks and this columnist's own research. In most scenarios, Taiwan, the US and Japan defeated China's amphibious invasion. But it came at a great cost. Taiwan saw its economy devastated.

The US and Japan lost ships, aircraft and soldiers; America's world standing suffering perhaps for years. China lost heavily but its failure to occupy Taiwan could destabilize the Chinese Communist Party and bring about the downfall of Xi Jinping. In essence, all sides were lost in this conflict. No victors. Only victims.

Deterrent fails

The CNAS saw the hypothetical invasion occurring in 2027, while CSIS set the conflict in 2026 and others next year. It starts with the assumption that deterrence has failed. American policy for decades depended on its superior military forces and its economic might as a deterrent to China. America's policy of deliberate uncertainty known as "strategic ambiguity" depended on the US taking advantage of China's risk aversion abetting a deterrence strategy.

Although in 1955 the US Congress passed the "Formosa Resolution" giving President Eisenhower total authority to defend Taiwan and off-shore islands, it was never unequivocal whether America was going to defend Taiwan with "boots on the ground," considering that America had recognized the One China policy in 1972. To complicate matters, the US in 1979 transferred recognition from Taiwan (PROC) to the People's Republic of China (PRC). Yet the Taiwan-US relationship became "unofficial and informal" with various consular agreements signed — elevating the relationship to "official and high-level," resulting eventually in the US removing its self-imposed restrictions on executive branch contact with Taiwan in 2021.

It was never a secret that Beijing was mobilizing a large concentration of its forces in the Fujian province fronting Taiwan. When the time comes, its ports will be the embarkation points, roughly 130 kilometers to Taiwan's beachheads. Beijing's forces, therefore, had the advantages of proximity while Taiwan had the forces of its allies along the First Island Chain. Since US Speaker Nancy Pelosi's Taiwan visit in August 2022, Beijing retaliated by ignoring the Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) of Taiwan, its aircraft flying sorties through Taiwan's airspace. Since then, 1,700 incidents have been tracked — more than those of the previous three years combined, as assertive violations, meant to keep a constant level of pressure on Taiwan's armed forces, obscuring over time its intentions: harassment, military exercise or actual invasion.


Which is exactly what was conjectured in the war games. The first option for China was to do a pre-emptive strike going for an early knock-out with its warplanes and missiles on Taiwan's small air force and weak navy, a surgical strike with all its resources going for a quick decapitation of Taiwan's defenses, communications and leadership. This massive bombardment will precede the amphibious invasion forces of hundreds of thousands of the PLA aboard ships and civilian boats and secure a foothold on the beaches. All were designed to destroy Taiwan's capacity to fight, resulting in its virtual surrender — allowing Beijing to present allied forces a fait accompli, within 24 to 48 hours. This conflict is thus confined to Taiwan — China's renegade province. Restraint was applied to keep Japan and US forces from the war zone. It is estimated that at worst, 70 percent to 80 percent of Taiwan's air forces are destroyed on the ground. At this point, US forces have not yet been committed.

But the war game scenario hypothesized that Taiwan's determined ground forces, augmented by its battle-ready civilian conscripts, can hold the PLA to the beaches, allowing the polarized US Congress a democratic debate. Some quarters (not the CNAS/CSIS) suggest the military-industrial-congress-complex (MICC) will win the argument. So off to another war, we go!

China is ahead of the curve here. Long-range bombers and hyper missiles will attack US bases in Guam, Japan and the Northern Marianas, and Darwin and Tyndall air bases in Australia, rendering US forces less effective to intervene. Missiles will be employed to attack EDCA bases in the Philippines degrading US capability.

US response

China anticipates the US 7th Fleet to wreak havoc on the cross-strait invasion forces with its submarines, carrier planes and bombers from Hickam Airbase in Hawaii and those still intact from Japan hitting Fujian ports and Chinese supply lines. The meager forces of Australia will be in play and its surface ships used for blockading the strait. The remnants of EDCA and the Filipinos will have to do the Oratio Imperata. This segment of the war can take from a few days to a few weeks.

At this point, China's advantage of its proximity to the war zone allows its forces a lodgment in the beaches at a very steep price, estimated at 100 warships sunk by US submarines and the US Navy, and "thousands of soldiers killed, wounded or captured." But with Chinese advances in rocket and missile technology and quantity, they will sink 30 US warships, including two carriers. But the US Air Force will destroy 13 Chinese warcraft for each US loss.

But it is expected that US air superiority will not be total as Chinese planes are just across the strait while US air forces, bombers and fighters are based in "operationally unpredictable" places, far from the war zone; the reason why they have the EDCA bases in the Philippines.

But the CNAS war game scenario has one scary moment. To avoid annihilation and the fall of the CCP and Xi government, they may throw a high-altitude electromagnetic pulse (HEMP shot) nuclear explosion above the US forces as a signal that China is serious about the use of nuclear weapon. This could be the game changer!

Lessons learned/alternative strategies

1. The greatest lesson learned is that avoiding war altogether may be in China and America's best interest.

2. The invasion turning into a war of attrition may change the character of the conflict. And the political profile of each country over time will drastically change. America will need the continued support of its polarized people as its batting average is questionable. America has suffered defeat in long wars — Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq. Totalitarian China, if Xi survives, has the edge.

3. The ultimate question of Taiwan's status as a province of China, the middle kingdom's desire for reunification, and America's overall role are actually just put in a hiatus. Nothing has been permanently resolved. China will eventually reach parity with America. What then?

Perhaps, Dr. Geoff Babb, professor of the Department of Military History, US Army Command and General Staff College admonishing his students, is appropriate: "Do you really wanna go to war with one-fifth of mankind with nuclear weapons in their home court? You need to think through that."

In the long term, America's decline as a world hegemon is a necessary condition for China to take over that role.


Published in LML Polettiques
Sunday, 30 April 2023 09:37

He's coming back!

First of 3 parts

I will prevent, and very easily, World War 3. Before I even arrive at the Oval Office, I will have the disastrous war between Russia and Ukraine settled ... quickly. I will get the problem solved. And I will get it solved in rapid order and it will take me no longer than one day. I know exactly what to say to each ... I got along with them."

– Donald Trump

ON this declaration alone, I think Americans should get him re-elected in 2024. We Filipino colonials, once under American tutelage, are reminded of a great American who after tasting defeat in WW2 in Bataan and Corregidor, declared in 1942, "I shall return!" These three simple words gave hope to the Filipinos and sustained their will to fight the Japanese. And when Gen. Douglas McArthur indeed returned to liberate the Philippines in 1944, we knew America, or at least McArthur, kept its word. This sealed the special bond between the two races that has proven to be a boon and bane over the years.

The Donald, after an election "defeat" — one that was stolen from him, according to his MAGA base — demands retribution. He was cheated out of his destiny to fulfill the promises of his great presidency, by the very structure he sought to overhaul. As he claimed in accepting the GOP nomination in 2016, "Nobody knows the system better than me, which is why I alone can fix it."

Although his statement is not "McArthurian," at the very least it should inspire Americans, not only his "basket of deplorables" (BOD) — not my words, it's Hillary's — who did in fact help elect him to office. This is not to disparage his supporters — but in a curious way, even they themselves cherish their appellation, wearing this title on their sleeves gleaning from the behavior of his "tremendous crowd" in his campaign sorties.

Which brings me to the conclusion that the way the political cauldron is boiling in America, its society polarized, and the discombobulation he has caused the Republicans, etc., there is little doubt he can capture the GOP nomination and his MAGA-BOD will carry him through to victory over "Sleepy Joe" Biden. And 2025-2028 will usher in a new American age!

Perfect phone calls

I'm sure he will also solve the China-Taiwan problem, preventing the inevitable. This could be a tutorial in the art of the deal — a direct virtual face-to-face initiative, I suspect, with Xi Jinping, through another phone call. This could be a replay of his "perfect phone calls," similar to one he did with Ukraine President Zelenskyy in 2016, presumably asking the latter for dirt on his Democratic political opponent Biden and his son, Hunter, with his now famous 10 words "I would like you to do us a favor, though..." triggering the first impeachment inquiry against him..

And the other call to Georgia secretary of state Brad Raffensperger to change his losing election results: "What I want to do is this. I just want to find, uh, 11,780 votes, which is one more than (the 11,779 vote margin of defeat) we have, because we won the state." This is now being investigated by a special grand jury and awaiting multiple indictments.

Trump must come back

Since he left office, a slew of books on Trump hit the book stands and social media. These will form the core of my subsequent columns to understand the man better in case he recaptures the White House in 2024.

A Very Stable Genius (Penguin Press, 2020) by Philip Rucker and Carol Leonnig, two Washington Post investigative reporters and Pulitzer Prize winners who followed Trump's White House stint interviewing many of Trump's administration people. Their inferences in their book basically revolve around the Donald's ignorance of subject matters that traditional American presidents are expected to know, and his propensity to dismiss, ignore and even berate his own advisers and experts if their opinions run counter to his. His earlier encounters with his most senior military leaders calling them "losers" prompted Secretary of State Tillerson to label America's commander-in-chief "a fucking moron."

This is a consequence of his aversion to reading briefing papers from his advisers, thus, he is prone to impulsive foreign policy decisions. Two particular cases cited here are his December 2019 decision to pull out of Syria and the demand to close the US-Mexican border, which are both popular with the MAGA-BOD fringe.


In the first case, the US special forces had been assisting Kurdish forces successfully fight IS. For two years Trump agreed that US forces were there for the long haul, their presence being a deterrent to a Turkish invasion; until he had a conference call with Turkish President Erdogan who was not particularly fond of the Kurds, questioning the US position. "You know what, it's yours — I'm leaving." A US policy commitment established over the years, which Trump on a whim, abandoned in seconds, not even coordinating with US allies, the UK and France, that also had boots on the ground working alongside the Americans. "All it had taken was a single phone call."

South American migration

In 2018, the Donald demanded from his secretary of homeland security, Kirstien Nielsen, the immediate closure of the US-Mexico border to prevent an "invasion" of migrants fleeing Central America. Nielsen, although hawkish on immigration, refused to follow this illegal order. Apparently, people have legal rights to cross the border and claim asylum, denying his MAGA brand looking at the bigger picture; America's immigrants are what made America great!

These two cases depict Trump as non-traditional, non-conventional, and cavalier on his approach to legalities — traits that endear him to the MAGA-BOD tired of the deep state, woke-washing, antifa, limousine liberals as portrayed by the hated fake mainstream media. The Donald simply reflects not only his base but perhaps a segment of American voters who in the first place caused him to be elected (through the electoral college) despite losing the popular vote.

And as far as these fanatics are concerned, the Donald is right, correct and real. They all sing hosanna to his accomplishments, among others:

Abraham Accords normalizing diplomatic relations among Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Morocco.

His North Korean Gambit, persuading Kim Jung-un in a summit to stop his missile tests. It was a nice approach until Kim tested his first ICBM demonstrating the potential to reach the US continent. This ended in the two immature boys trading insults.

But an accomplishment that would put an indelible stamp on his presidency is the continued conservative direction the US will take in the years to come. His nominees made up roughly 54 judges in 13 circuit courts, an estimated 25 percent of all circuit judges. The courts are the final arbiter in US politics, setting precedents, shaping the country for years to come.

Part 2 and 3 will examine the repercussions of Trump's possible return based on his past actions described in four books: The Making of Donald Trump (Melville House Publishing), American Kompromat (Dutton), A Warning (Hachette Book Group), and I Alone Can Fix It! (Penguin Press).


Published in LML Polettiques
Saturday, 15 April 2023 00:12

Are our interests aligned with America?

YES and no! This is such a complex matter that has polarized our country from the time we were passed on to the Gringos from our Spanish colonizers. First, a lesson in history.

We were nothing more than war booty to the conquerors. Historically, we had just begun our revolution against Spain on Aug. 24, 1896 when we were caught in the middle of the Spanish-American war. On April 21, 1898, America declared war against Spain — America's first overseas conflict. Cuba and the Philippines were then the colonies of Spain. Although there was no explicit agreement of alliance, this was the first brief implicit alignment of US-Philippine interest: defeating Spain. Manila fell to the Americans in a bloodless "moro-moro" battle, lasting hours. United States forces held Manila, but the Filipino revolutionaries controlled the rest of the country. The 1898 Treaty of Paris between America and Spain — without our participation — transferred sovereignty from Spain to America. We were sold out!

The US rejected Filipino claims of independence. We were had! Thus, in February 1899, the Philippine-American war erupted. Gen. Emilio Aguinaldo formed the Philippine Republic that was promptly ignored by America. Thus, the first guerrilla warfare ensued in November 1899. After the surrender of Gen. Miguel Malvar, America declared Filipino guerrillas to be mere bandits. The Philippine revolution/insurgency ended. Thus began a rape which turned into a love story!

America's first colony in Asia

From then on, our interests aligned completely with America, when we were promised complete independence by virtue of the Commonwealth that America established for us in 1934, under the Tydings-McDuffie Act. This was a period where we, little brown brothers, had to learn self-governance for later independence. And we did learn well — as America's first colony in Asia. We imbibed their culture, with the now famous dictum "...300 years in the convent, and 100 years in Hollywood..." The Thomasites came to educate us, and we learned English, our second language. But more importantly, the educated, cognoscenti and the elite among us learned to think in English, and still do. Within the interim, we were America's experiment in governance, inculcating democracy, republicanism and the rule of law, all alien and contradictory at first to our datu/sultan/patron culture. But we were fast learners. Although there were flaws in the application, we had a mongrelized version of government format. Whereas America had a presidential-federal form, we had the more American-controllable and centralized presidential unitary format (please refer to"Unitary-presidential and alternatives," The Manila Times, March 15, 2023).

World War 2

As a hard lesson in geopolitics, WW2 was a classic case in alliances and alignments of interests. Prior to WW2, a series of moves and counter-moves for Asian hegemony between the West and East arose. Expansionist Japan emerged ascendant, invading Manchuria and China in 1937. Driven perhaps by the threat of America, Japan had the notion to displace this encroaching power in the Pacific. Japan, the country of the samurai with a long history of warfare and violence coated by the traditional rituals of Bushido, attacked US forces at Pearl Harbor. Although Juan de la Cruz had no direct say in it, he had to suffer the consequences of our pact with America. Since United States forces were stationed in the Philippines, we became vulnerable.

The briefest of debate in those days during the rise of Japan was centered on whether Philippine interests were aligned with that of America. We were to have our independence from US tutelage in 1945. The obvious answer is, we didn't have a choice.

Perhaps these battles fought against Japan forged special relations with Mother America. With a combined force of 76,000 Filipino and American soldiers — all under the American flag — this surrender was a devastating defeat for America's first land battle, ever. The subsequent "Bataan Death March" with only a handful of survivors burned into Fil-American consciousness the camaraderie and brotherhood-in-arms between the two races. Together with the battle for the liberation of Manila where hundreds of thousands of Filipino civilians perished, and the capital totally devastated. American and Filipino blood flowed freely — this bond of equals came into its own.

Misaligned interest post-WW2

In this war, 250,000 Filipinos fought with America and after the withdrawal of US forces in 1942, Filipino guerrillas carried on the resistance. It will be noted that American President Roosevelt put all military forces in the Philippines under US control in 1941 — thus the revered US Gen. Douglas McArthur became the only Field Marshal in the history of the Philippine armed forces. And his ringing promise — "I shall return" — kept the Filipinos' faith with America.

But after the war in 1946, the US Congress passed the Rescission Act, stripping recognition from Filipino veterans, explicitly barring "rights, privileges or benefits" to most veterans and guerrillas who fought side by side with America. Then we were granted our independence!

Mendicants never learn. After we abrogated the 1947 Military Bases Agreement with America in 1991, subsequent administrations skirted the constitutional ban on foreign bases and signed the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) within the ambit of the 1951 Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) with the US. This treaty under the 1935 Commonwealth Constitution was ratified by both the Philippines Senate and US Senate. The 1998 VFA under the 1987 Constitution was ratified only by the Philippine Senate, not the US Senate. Go figure! Today we have the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) that allows US troop rotations, building of and operation of facilities in the Philippine bases.

As explained in my past columns, these are forward staging areas for American war materiel, fuel depots and ammunition dumps for the use of their planes and ships — and even nuclear devices in the event of conflict with China ("The winds of war," TMT, March 29, 2023).

Grudgingly, we must ally with US

Now with the winds of war blowing in our direction, powerless to defend ourselves by our lonesome, with these EDCA bases targeted in a shooting war with China; can we arrogantly insist that we are an independent nation, with our foreign policy of "friends to all and enemies to none"?

History is littered with the carcasses of the arrogant and the naïve! Countries are attacked and swallowed by dominant states and are made cannon fodder. These are the fates of declared "neutral countries." The German Wehrmacht ran roughshod over Scandinavia and Belgium in WW2. Russia's rape of Ukraine is ongoing. But those officially allied to the NATO countries survive — Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, among others, the reason Finland and Sweden are now pleading for alliance with NATO!

We have always been captives of America. This collective Stockholm syndrome developed a psychological bond with our captors, hostage to their wiles and promises from the very beginning.

And where do we go from here? Because of the stupidity of our past political leadership verging on the criminal we have not made preparations to defend ourselves and are left with no alternatives.

And we now proclaim to have these US bases and compacts abrogated? And boot the Americans out? Too late! In the Filipino street parlance, we are "na pusoy" — estoppel!


Published in LML Polettiques
Friday, 14 April 2023 23:45

Is China prepared for war?

MY last two articles touched on the coming conflict with China. A case was made on a proposition advanced in a book by Graham Allison, Destined for War (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017). His conclusions make war inevitable. Xi Jinping's declaration to recover by force China's renegade province, Taiwan, could be the trigger. US military prediction is that this war could happen sometime between the years 2025 to 2027.

But there is another facet to this geopolitical development negating this inevitability. A compendium of contrarian views inundating mass and social media are condensed in this column. The thesis is: China will not invade Taiwan (for now)!

Military complexities

First, such invasion involves amphibious operations where the logistics are excessively complex comparable to land invasions, like Russia invading Ukraine. True, China may now have the largest naval force, but China never did have the experience with joint sea-land operations. Its last was the Battle of the Yalu River in 1894 where the Japanese Imperial Navy trounced the Chinese Beiyang Fleet. America is formidable in combined sea-air-land strategies, being the quintessential warmonger these last hundred years, going through the Korean War, 1950-1953; Vietnam War, 1959-1975; Gulf War, 1990-1991; Iraq 2003-2011; Afghanistan, 2001-2014; not to mention America's invasions of Grenada, 1983, and Panama, 1989, deposing strongman Noriega, etc. The possibility of the US getting directly involved in Taiwan's defense is what could deter China.

Also, Taiwan's defenses are daunting, with its forest, mountains and high cliffs and potential vulnerable landing points facing Fujian province plugged. More importantly, it is designed to withstand China's onslaught for hours/days until the US, Japan and other allies come to its defense. Taiwan's strategic partnerships are critical, which includes South Korea, Australia, India, Indonesia and the Philippines — part of the first island chain fronting China. Only North Korea is a willing but problematic Chinese ally, while Russia is absorbed with its own problems.

Political ramifications

China's leadership has always been belligerent about their intentions to reunify Taiwan, from Mao to Deng to Hu Jintao and Jiang Zemin targeting the year 2049. But recent pronouncements by Xi Jinping hints of earlier adventurism. Experts, however, consider this as simply braggadocio designed to intimidate Taiwan and partners and not an indicator of actual military intent. This bluster feeds into its narrative and propaganda reflecting China's emergence as an economic force in Asia. It bolsters Xi's international image among the leading nations — projecting China as America's equal helping him consolidate power internally. It is even more crucial at this time that China's economy has contracted from a decades high of 7.9 percent GDP growth at the beginning of Xi's tutelage to 6 percent pre-pandemic to 2.3 percent post-Covid. China must maintain an image of invincibility — a matter of saving face for Xi. An actual invasion of Taiwan with its unacceptable risks could obliterate that image.

US historian Gordon Chang at the Institute of World Politics (IWP) proposes that China is casualty-averse, contrary to what is peddled about America being one particularly after its Vietnam debacle. Chang's hypothesis is that China's one-child policy is an empirical restraint. Any death of a male heir ends the bloodline. The CCP understands only too well the repercussions of a military misadventure. Popular support will fizzle out.

Economic consequences

Since the Republic of China's creation, Taiwan has not severed its economic ties with the mainland. Over the intervening decades, their economies intertwined relying in each other for their own prosperity. In 2019, China and Hong Kong were Taiwan's most important export partners. "... with cross-strait revenue source amounting to $150 billion. Taiwan provided China with $188 billion of FDI between 1991-2020 and is the largest chip and semiconductor manufacturer in the world producing 84 percent of the world's most advanced chips, under 5 nanometers." (Kamome 163 video capture)

The attendant political and economic risks may be too much of a gamble for China — shrinking further its economy, isolating the country as a pariah, not fit as Asia's hegemon thereby threatening Xi's hold on power.


But it doesn't mean abandoning the idea of reunification. The Chinese perspective, seen through the prism of its cultural orientation, typically a society that has survived millennia, is fixed in terms beyond years that the West seldom fathoms. This hiatus is not a rapprochement. They built the Great Wall over the centuries to ward off the barbarians, not annihilate them. They can very well tolerate Taiwan until such time that the old hegemon America collapses, ushering in China's century.

Xi Jinping and his China

Since October 2022 when China was co-opted by the modern version of a communist emperor, the political architecture was drastically altered with Xi demonstrating a distinctive leadership style and dominance over the CCP. "Xi inherited a consensual political system in 2012 where power was shared among the CCP outstanding committees, and the wider public bureaucracy and no Chinese leader got too much credit or blame because of consensus. Xi became very popular with the anti-corruption campaign ... but then he eliminated political rivals by jailing them." (Gordon H. Chang, IWP)

Xi, unanimously elected for an unprecedented third term, warned that "the path ahead of China is perilous...and [must] not allow this problem (Taiwan) to be headed from one generation to the next." He has made it known that Taiwan was not only to be recovered "...but the destruction of Taiwan's democracy is critical test for his personal legitimacy. His concept of China and its role transcend 300 years of traditional relations, since 1648 — the Treaty of Westphalia establishing the international system of sovereign states." (Gordon Chang, IWP) For Xi, America is an existential threat. America's values negatively impact on China's people. And Taiwan's democracy, at China's doorsteps, along with America, must be destroyed. This megalomaniacal view is what drives Xi to eventually do what he must.

Can China win?

Having witnessed America's debacles, particularly Vietnam and Kabul, Xi may have arrived at these conclusion. With these assumptions, America can be defeated.

– Xi executes a swift successful invasion, presenting America and allies with a fait acompli. This entails a quick and decisive first few hours' battle — throwing in hundreds of thousands of China's sons — despite it being casualty-averse.

– China possesses first strike missiles capability (short of nukes), destroying allied forces in the region in the first half-hour of any conflict — before US bases in Guam, the Philippines, South Korea, Japan, and the Seventh Fleet have time to react.

– China believes that a substantial portion of Taiwanese will welcome it with open arms.

– America, even prior to Trump's ascendancy, has been polarized and absorbed in its internal politics and may not have the stomach for its sons dying in Taiwan. Now Trump is back! Biden's unequivocal responses supporting Taiwan are oftentimes contradicted by his advisers, hinting hesitation in putting boots on the ground.

China has been updating its technology and quality of arsenal for a cross-strait invasion. It has a superb but inexperienced air force. Professionals agree that China has the weapons and missiles. And China's forces fronting Taiwan are on "unsinkable aircraft carriers." America's are not.

Today Xi is the CCP, and the CCP is Xi. And they can wait!

Published in LML Polettiques