War over Taiwan? A gorgeous stupidity!

17 Apr
Most hawks have no military experience, much less in combat, and seem pathologically aggressive: Bolton, Pompeo, Biden, Nulan, Rubio. Like spoiled children whom they closely approximate, they will throw hissy fits if they don’t get their way. Here I am not calling names, or not merely calling names, but pointing to what seems a genuine character defect. What will they do if they have, again, misjudged circumstances and America suffers a stinging defeat? They lack the maturity to say, ok, that didn’t work, let’s negotiate the best deal we can. They would likely go to tactical nukes, or bomb the interior of the mainland, combine the two, or block the Strait of Malacca. The consequences would be unpredictable.

Yesterday, April 16, a Washington Post editorial ignored a global scientific community united in rejecting as counter to all available evidence Donald Trump’s warmongering smear that China manufactured COVID-19 in its Wuhan Institute of Virology. Today Andre Damon from WSWS penned an incisive piece on the what and why of so dangerous and ugly a lie. In doing so he nailed media promotion of Sinophobia, though without locating its drivers in business models which regardless of ownership patterns leave them systemically incapable of doing otherwise. 1

(Though most media did draw the line at WashPo’s egregiously ongoing fabrication – much as they did at The Guardian’s egregious fabrication, for which it has offered neither evidence nor retraction, that Julian met Paul Manafort in London’s Ecuador Embassy. 2 Both lies are useful – if they backfire they’re shelved and soon forgot – but not essential to power.)

Andre closes with this:

Where the interests of the ruling class and science conflict, the US media has made clear that scientific truth must be sacrificed on the altar of war.

Do read the piece. At under 1500 words it won’t take you long. Meanwhile let me stress for the umpteenth time how warped our understandings of the world cannot fail to be when our prime sources are media whose business models tie them – Bezos’s ownership of the WashPo, like Murdoch’s of News International, is only half the story – to ruling elites. Never more so than in their silence, in the face of oceans of evidence, on the existence and genocidal venality of the US Empire. Without acknowledging that reality we can no more understand the political world than get to grips with evolution while believing the earth 6,000 years old.

If your understanding of world events doesn’t account for the easily quantifiable fact that the US is the most tyrannical regime on earth by a massive margin, nothing else in your understanding of world events will be fact-based. Sure, you can name governments more  oppressive toward their own citizenry, but none that are more oppressive when you zoom out and look at the big picture. 3

A culture of media omerta  does not depend on most journalists being liars 4 but does leave too many of us buying – if we haven’t abandoned political thinking, period – a myth we can liken to the Genesis account of earth’s origins. This myth being that the coming showdown with China is NOT about shoring up the waning power of America’s rulers to subjugate the planet.

Going on alignment with known facts – starting with the above, digesting the doctrines of US exceptionalism, full spectrum dominance and PNAC, then proceeding to China’s February report on US hegemony – I’d say Genesis has the edge. Isn’t it time we left The Guardian and Economist, WashPo and CNN in the nursery and raised our game on the news intake front?

To that end I’m once more in the debt of steel city reader Dave Hansell. In a comment below my post of April 12 – WW3? A matter of chips freedom – he linked to a March 21st piece, its author not known to me. As ever I have carps but, like my regrets, they’re too few to mention. Besides, this Fred Reed dude is one hell of a wordsmith.

War Over Taiwan, a New and Gorgeous Advance in Stupidity

Judging by statements from the Pentagon and Washington, the US is preparing the public for war with China. Why such a war? China is no threat to America and provides the low-cost goods on which America depends. Since the rest of the world also depends on Chinese goods, a war would wreck the global economy. Is this a good idea? Has anyone asked the rest of the world? Why does Washington want this?

Because China (and a rapidly growing Asia) threatens the American military empire. You, gentle reader, may not be interested in empire. You may want jobs, medical care, prosperity, good schools for your children. But Washington wants empire. Wants it badly, at any cost.

Thus we are being prepared. In particular we hear about Chinese aggression, which for some reason America must fix. But it doesn’t exist. China is not militarily aggressive. Look at the record. Choose a year– say, 1800 –and count unprovoked wars started by China against other countries. There was the annexation of Tibet, arguably a war, in 1950. China fought a short war with Vietnam after the American defeat, and took part in various border clashes with India. That’s about it. China has one overseas military base, at Djibouti. America has some 750.

By contrast, since that date America and its European parents have fought constantly against each other and invaded most of the world. Whether the aggressiveness of the European races is genetic is a question for those wiser than I.

China currently is at war with nobody and shows no sign of wanting to be. It is a commercial nation. By contrast, America has recently wrecked Iraq, spent twenty years killing in Afghanistan, wrecked Syria and Libya, bombs Somalia, runs a war against Russia in Ukraine which has killed some two hundred thousand Ukrainians and Russians, and wrecked Europe’s economy, prepares to provoke a war with China, and threatens to invade Mexico. Where in this do we see Chinese aggression?

The underlying cause for the aborning war fever is of course that the Asian economies will dwarf that of America. The proximate cause is Taiwan.

Why Taiwan?

From Washington we hear the usual about freedom, sovereignty, goodness, human rights, democracy, and niceness, about none of which Washington cares at all. The real cause is Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Company, TSMC, which is the largest and most advanced microchip manufacturer in the world.

Until Trump began America’s attempt to strangle China technologically by cutting it off from supplies of advanced chips, TSMC was happily making semiconductors for all the world. Washington, grimly determined to maintain its imperial control of the world, is terrified that China might take over Taiwan and its chip fabs. This, not motherhood and human rights, explains the constant provocations of China.

The plan seems to be to arm Taiwan, as it did the Ukraine, and then provoke a war, as it did in the Ukraine, and let Taiwanese do the fighting as it did with the Ukrainians. To reasonable people, the solution might be to leave TSMC alone to sell chips to anyone who wants them, but that is not Washington’s way.

One should not underestimate the seriousness of the hostility to China. America cannot compete with the Chinese in normal international competition. The US seems to have realized this. America collapses internally, its education fails, it increasingly depends on Asians in matters technological, and its finances seem on the brink. The solution is war.

If you doubt Washington’s obsession with TSMC: China hawks say that if in a war, China seemed to be winning, America would destroy TSMC in a scorched-earth policy. That is, if it does not get its way it will destroy Taiwan’s most important industry and cause a catastrophic, years long shortage of chips for the entire world.

America starts its wars by overestimating itself, underestimating the enemy, and misunderstanding the kind of war it is getting into. The overconfidence arises because we are told from birth that America is the freest, most democratic, wisest, most scientifically virile, virtuous, and militarily astonishing country ever. Some of this was true, some almost true, but that was then. The economic, financial, and technological center of gravity shifts hard to the east. Note, for example, that Taiwan, not America, is the most advanced maker of semi-conductors.

What would happen in a war? We don’t know. Military men are remarkably poor at predicting outcomes of wars. Politicians are even worse. Martial expectations almost routinely turn out to be catastrophically wrong. This is another point worth considering carefully. Pardon the length of the following list of disastrous martial misjudgement. It may prove enlightening.

When Napoleon invaded Russia, he did not foresee Russian soldiers marching in Paris. Which is what happened. The American Civil War was expected to be over in an afternoon at First Manassas, wrong by four years and perhaps six hundred thirty thousand dead, equivalent to about six million in today’s population. When Germany launched WWI in 1914, it expected a short war of movement followed by victory. It got a four-year war of attrition followed by defeat. When the Japanese Army brought on WWII, its war aims did not include GIs diddling its daughters in the bars of Tokyo. Which is what happened.

When Germany attacked Poland in WWII, having Berlin divided between US and Russian soldiers was not intended. It happened. When the French went back into Vietnam after the war, their intentions did not include getting clobbered by les jaunes at Dienbienphu. When the Russians invaded Afghanistan, they were fought to a standstill by the Afghans and had to leave, which greatly surprised them. When the Americans invaded Vietnam, defeat and a panicked exit were not in their plans. When the Americans invaded Afghanistan, after seeing what happened to the Russians, they did not foresee defeat and route.

Is there a pattern here? Even cause for caution? Especially since the American military is short on experience?

The US military has not fought a serious enemy since 1973 and the American fleet, which would be crucial in a war over Taiwan, has not been in combat since 1945. Weaponry changes. We don’t know what a modern war would look like. We do know that China would prove a bruising, able, and powerful opponent. Various authoritative military sources, such as the Pentagon’s own Rand thinktank, predict an American military disaster. (See links at end.)

Americans have no idea of real war against a huge, technologically advanced military fighting with home advantage. The US is accustomed to bombing lightly armed peasants. Its forces take for granted protected bases and airfields which, in war with China, they would not have. Casualties would be quick and ugly. Carriers have crews of thousands. That is a lot of dead.

Unused militaries deteriorate. A common problem is personnel rot. America no longer has a hardy, physically fit rural population. Since few of today’s young want to enlist, and few of those who do meet minimum physical, mental, or police-record standards, the military now accepts candidates of low mental category and even with criminal records. In peacetime this doesn’t greatly matter. In war it will.

In prolonged peace, the officer corps also deteriorates. An officer’s chief interest becomes promotion. He gets promoted by agreeing with higher-ups and never making waves. In today’s military, avoiding offense to racial minorities and sexual curiosities is more important than serious training. The military has become a social-betterment laboratory primarily interested in notions of political faddism. The officer corps knows that this is disaster in the making. That they accept it does not bode well should war come. But a major who wants to retire as at least a lieutenant colonel cannot afford to let military considerations trip him up.

Interestingly, America would be attacking a country that makes a high proportion of almost everything that Americans use. How much of China’s trade with what countries would be stopped by a war is anybody’s guess. Suddenly-empty shelves at Walmart and everywhere else would be noticed by voters, of course. I would like to see a list of things from pharmaceuticals to electronic components that come from China and that America could not make for itself without years of building factories. Of course American factories in China would instantly become Chinese factories.

A danger, almost a prediction, is that in war with China, Washington will have no Plan B, no idea what to do if things go badly. In official Washington there broods a mix of imperial arrogance, misinformation, and a sense of entitlement. This has to be experienced to be grasped. The hawks in Washington really do believe, viscerally, that America has both the right and the military and economic power to dominate the rest of the world. Most hawks have no military experience, much less in combat, and seem pathologically aggressive: Bolton, Pompeo, Biden, Nulan, Rubio. Like spoiled children, whom they closely approximate, they will throw hissy fits if they don’t get their way. Here I am not calling names, or not merely calling names, but pointing to what seems a genuine character defect. 5 What will they do if they have, again, misjudged circumstances and America suffers a stinging defeat? They lack the maturity to say, ok, that didn’t work, let’s negotiate the best deal we can. They would likely go to tactical nukes, or bomb the mainland, combine the two, or block the Strait of Malacca. The consequences would be unpredictable.

Even at a glance, the idea that America can defeat China in its home waters is doubtful. (See links below.) To begin with, the Chinese are excellent engineers. They dominate America’s elite scientific high schools and technical universities. They make Mars landers, dominate in Five G are neck and neck with American in various fields and are gaining in others. Lightweights they are not. They have focused hard on the wherewithal specifically to defeat the US in nearby seas. They have hypersonic missiles, a technology in which they are currently ahead of America, that outrange carrier aviation, and they have the satellite guidance to hit moving targets.

Briefly—again, see links—modern warships are fragile. They are not the armored behemoths of WWII. A single missile hit would take a Tico class or Arleigh Burke destroyer out of the war. It is probably true that one plunging terminally-guided ballistic missile, punching through the flight deck and exploding in the hangar deck, would disable a carrier.

Maybe, just for once Washington should think before deploying.


The first link is well worth reading. The others make the point that China is progressing in military technology, though details of technology and confirmed reports of effectiveness are lacking.

Asia Times: US Can’t Win, and Scorched Earth
South China Morning Post: Chinese AI Piloted Fighter Beats Human Pilot
Asia Times: China unveils supersonic missile torpedo


Worth adding to Fred Reed’s assessment of US armed forces is an assessment of its bloated military industrial complex. I wouldn’t want to be unduly reductive. There are more reasons than one for Russia’s and China’s superiority, despite far smaller arms-spend, in hypersonic missile technologies. With no evidence that either has imperial ambitions (whatever The Guardian and sections of the Marxist Left may say) both have focused their defence budgets on neutralising US ability to launch with impunity a first nuclear strike. As I put it in footnote 10 of the second of the two posts linked in this paragraph:

Russia having focused her deterrence efforts on surface-to-air and other missile systems (as has China) removes US capacity to launch a first strike, aimed at taking out most of her response capability, secure in the knowledge it could deal with the remnants through ‘star wars’ shields. There is currently no answer to incoming missiles at Mach 10 or higher. To which I add only this. It is a habit with bullies to see any diminution of their power to abuse as an act of aggression by the abused.

But there’s another reason why the two Eurasian powers are ahead in such critical arenas. The overriding goal of Boeing, Lockheed-Martin, Northrop Grumman, Raytheon, General Dynamics etc is not deterrence or even aggression. It is to enrich the shareholders to whom they are first and foremost answerable. 6


Coming soon. Three discussions which progressively widen the focus: from Alex Mercouris on Kiev’s much heralded spring counter-offensive, through Brian Berletic on strategic aspects of Washington’s war on Russia, to Michael Hudson and Radhika Desai on the momentous import of Moscow’s decisive turning away from the West.

* * *

  1. “Regardless of ownership patterns …”  I’m making the point (again!) that Guardian Media Group has – for reasons set out here – been no less active in its reckless promotion of Sinophobia than the billionaire owned media it loves to distance itself from. See, inter alia,  The whataboutery of Simon Tisdall.
  2. This Guardian lie – specifically, Luke Harding’s, backed by Editor in Chief Katharine Viner – had twin aims. One was to promote the now discredited but then powerful ‘Russiagate’ narrative on Trump. The other, in tandem with the rape smears, was to ensure that Julian and Wikileaks lost support within a credulous liberal intelligentsia.
  3. “If your understanding … look at the big picture.” This quote is an amalgam. The words are all Caitlin Johnstone’s, but from two separate posts.
  4. “A culture of media omerta does not depend on most journalists being liars …”  Media distortion is less by outright lie than careful omission, reliant less on mendacity than self-serving credulity. Journalists please editors. Editors please proprietors. Proprietors need advertisers. Ergo, even before we get to direct state curbs on, and state disinfo fed to, ‘our’ media on matters of ruling class interests national security, independent media is what we do not have. Since consent is meaningless when not informed, the same goes for democracy.
  5. “Bolton, Pompeo, Biden, Nulan[d], Rubio …” For a view from the belly of the beast of how such moral and intellectual midgets could seize the reins in the Beltway, see the Andrei Raevsky piece featured in Did the crazies capture the USA? How?
  6. Of course Russia’s arms sector, like China’s, is capitalist. But in those dirigiste  economies the state remains in control. The revolving door between high office and huge corporate interests in the USA – in ‘defense’ as in energy and banking – is a licence for bloated abuse.

15 Replies to “War over Taiwan? A gorgeous stupidity!

  1. Greetings Philip, and in a roundabout way Dave and all your other regular posters (postees?)
    Please forgive me for not having posted a comment for some time, but I have to be honest I was just trying to keep up with the insane events, informed by people like yourself, and many others.
    Regarding this post, you certainly weren’t wrong in your assessment :
    “Besides, author Fred Reed is one hell of a wordsmith.”
    Just wanted to let you know how I and I assume many others appreciate your hard work in these dark times.
    Billy ( that incorrigible SAFFA living in Germany)
    Gawd, don`t get me started…….

    • Thanks Billy. Good to hear from you. Is it springtime for Ursula in Germany?

      Your comments are always welcome but never obligatory! Take care my friend.


  2. It is a commentary on the militarisation of our discourse that we so often assume that there is any possibility of war over Taiwan- its been well over seventy years now and, despite every effort of the United States, it hasn’t happened.
    It will only happen if the US invades Taiwan, again, and installs a government against the wishes of the people of that island. They have done it before- the KMT regime under the man known on the Goon Show as Cash My Cheque was a brutal dictatorship of the sort familiar to observers of the US overseas, complete with Death squads, bans on political parties and Unions and thoroughgoing brainwashing at every level of education and throughout the licensed media (remember this is Taiwan under Chiang, not Ukraine under Zelensky).
    But they are unlikely to try it again, not least because the KMT is committed to re-unification and most of Taiwanese public opinion is dead against fighting with the Peoples Republic.
    In other words the most likely outcome is a decisive electoral victory by parties committed to negotiating unification, followed by negotiations preserving some local autonomy and a graduated process of re-unification.
    By the time that comes around the US warmongers will have bigger fish to fry as the Monroe Doctrine dies at the grand old age of 200- a process which is going to be highlighted during the next couple of weeks as the Russian Foreign Minister visits, Cuba, Nicaragua, Venezuela and Brazil. An invitation to visit Mexico is likely to follow.

    • Hi bevin. I’ve twice visited Taiwan, once taking the boat out to Green Island where Chiang Kai-shek, his KMT forces routed on the mainland, and having fled to and imposed himself on Formosa, incarcerated tens of thousands suspected of communist sympathies. Even Washington loathed him but that, like its early support for Ho Chi Minh in Indochina, all changed as WW2 gave way to Cold War 1.

      (This period is included in a potted history of “the beautiful island” I tucked into my 2017 post, Green Island; White Terror.)

      I made good friendships in Taipei, Kaohsiung and Hualien, with my visits reciprocated by young Taiwanese honouring steel city house with visits of their own. (Here’s a pictorial account of a day in England’s Peak District with Ting.) While politics formed only a small part of our conversations, I was pleasantly surprised at the nuance and sophistication of their attitudes to China. Just as millions in the Ukraine recall its Nazi past, so do many Taiwanese – or the tiny sample I accessed – reflect with dread on KMT terror. This, and observation of Beijing pragmatism, gives them a view of the mainland more calibrated than that of our own credulous populations.

      • It is a commentary on the militarisation of our discourse that we so often assume that there is any possibility of war over Taiwan- its been well over seventy years now and, despite every effort of the United States, it hasn’t happened.

        I see a number of reasons for that. (And let’s not forget that the USA is not one of the handful of nations which recognise Taiwan nationhood.) The most important are the 1960 Sino-Soviet split (to which Nixon’s 1972 visit to Beijing was a belated acknowledgement) and China’s 1964 acquisition of the bomb.

        These things should not leave us complacent about the dramatically altered circs now prevailing. Above all a US ruling class facing BRI challenge across the global south and – see my reply to Bryan – with no Plan B for the slow but sure demise of dollar hegemony.

  3. Thanks yet again Phil for helping to keep us across geopolitical developments. I look forward to your trailed post re Mecouris, Beletic and Hudson.

    One would think that the unfolding debacle in Ukraine would give US foreign policy makers pause for thought – but apparently not. The propaganda softening up of us westerners continues a pace re China. Commentators like Beletic point out that many in the US ruling elite see only a small window for intervention (before 2025) before China starts to pull away economically and militarily. Beletic suggests that from a US point of view it would be handy if one of their naval vessels was to go down in the South China Sea ……

    • We’ve spoken of this before, you and I. On the one hand I see objective factors at play, led by the reality – lost on most people, alas, due again to media induced blindness to empire – that the US ruling class is structurally incapable of dismantling, even gradually, the neoliberal system from which it has not only profited hugely but on which it is now eggs-in-one-basket dependent. There’s no plan B. If time is called on dollar rule – as now seems to be happening not despite but, in ways reminiscent of Greek Tragedy, because of its panicked efforts to maintain it – there can be no retreat to industrial capitalism. As Fred Reed notes:

      … we are told from birth that America is the freest, most democratic, wisest, most scientifically virile, virtuous, and militarily astonishing country ever. Some of this was true, some almost true, but that was then. The economic, financial, and technological center of gravity shifts hard to the east.

      On the other I see subjective factors in play. See footnote 4 above.

      • PS in this context we should note too that for the entirety of their half-millennium in the sun, the West’s elites have feared the rise of a Eurasia united at both its east and west poles.

        This (in abridged form) is taken from an Alfred McCoy piece from January 2022, featured in CounterPunch:

        In the 500 years since European exploration first brought the continents into continuous contact, the rise of every global hegemon has required one thing above all: dominance over Eurasia.

        … In 1509, off the coast of northeast India, Portuguese gunners destroyed a Muslim fleet to establish a century-long dominance over the Indian Ocean. Meanwhile, the Spanish used silver from the Americas to check Muslim expansion in the Mediterranean, leading to the destruction in 1571 of the Ottoman fleet at the Battle of Lepanto.

        Next, Britain’s sea power began with an historic naval triumph over a French-Spanish fleet at Trafalgar in 1805 and only ended when, in 1942, a British garrison of 80,000 men surrendered Singapore to the Japanese. Winston Churchill called it “the worst disaster and largest capitulation in British history.”

        Like all past hegemons, U.S. global power has similarly rested on geopolitical dominance over Eurasia … After the Axis alliance of Germany, Italy, and Japan failed to conquer that vast land mass, the Allied victory in World War II allowed Washington, as historian John Darwin put it, to build its “colossal imperium… on an unprecedented scale,” becoming the first power in history to control the strategic axial points “at both ends of Eurasia.”

  4. Yes indeed, this Fred is a helluva wordsmith. Unfortunately he’s also a rabid racist.

    As a long time reader and admirer I very much hope you haven’t visited his Substack. Regrets, you might have a few more.

    Maybe this is a kind of Tucker Carlson situation? Strange days indeed when leftists can sometimes feel closer to Trump than Biden, even MTG to AOC.

    I’d appreciate your reaction.

    • … he’s also a rabid racist …

      Dang – just my luck! But more regrets? Nah. As on many an occasion, my endorsement of this third party is confined to the words I cite.

      In this case they provided a way in to exchanges on matters vastly more important than whether or not one writer is racist.

          • As it happens, the carps I’d thought too few to mention did have to do with Fred Reed’s idealist reading of history, in the sense of lacking a materialist perspective. This is most apparent in the two paragraphs beginning, “When Napoleon invaded …”

            Two mirror opposite consequences of such idealism? One, the kind of liberal denialism which capitulates to militant transgenderism’s many absurdities, and in a different arena prompts Caitlin’s observation:

            In just 200 years we’ve moved from expecting our leaders to slaughter brown-skinned people while saying racist things, to expecting our leaders to slaughter brown-skinned people while condemning racism.

            Or as Chris Hedges recently put it:

            The haves scold the have-nots for bad manners, racism and non-PC language but ignore the causes of their economic distress.

            Two, a reification of race without reference to relations of exploitation which drive and thrive on its capacity for division, and have historically been legitimated by the alleged superiority of the white man.

            In this second piece Fred Reed crosses the line at several points in his pursuit of the latter. That does not invalidate the piece replicated here.

        • Sorry, I’m an old fart who can’t do links but just go to his substack and pick just about any post. Here’s one:

          ***Dear God, What Now? A Racial Diagnosis
          March 3, 2023Americana, Cops, Politics
          America does not have a race problem. It has a black problem. The other races work, meld, contribute, study, and often intermarry. Chinese, Indians, Vietnamese, Lebanese. Given the huge size of the Latino influx, the low level of friction is remarkable. America is not on the brink of a racial explosion against any of the foregoing.
          Blacks are very, very different. They are intensely hostile to other races and, it seems, incorrigibly so. Degrees and exceptions, yes, but the centerline is hatred. The racial attacks on Asians one reads of in the media are black attacks on Asians. Nor do blacks get along well with Latinos. They attack whites both in words and deed. Beating of whites is common, brutal, and ignored by the media. This fellow posts a monthly list of whites murdered by blacks. ***

          Anyway, thanks for the blog. I’ve been reading since long before Ukraine but once it kicked off it sometimes seemed like you were the only person in Britain who saw things like me.

          Keep it up.

          • That’s strong stuff alright. And riddled with epistemological howlers of the “wet streets cause rain” kind.

            Anyway, thanks for the blog. I’ve been reading since long before Ukraine but once it kicked off it sometimes seemed like you were the only person in Britain who saw things like me.

            There’s a few more but you’re right of course. We’re in a minority. It’s our job to make it a growing one.

            Keep it up.

            Will do – don’t know how to stop.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *