Thursday, December 27, 2012

The Aim of War

The Aim of War is to Achieve Political Objectives

Marshal of the Soviet Union Boris Shaposhnikov captured the essence of war in military-political terms:

[A] war must begin with the defeat of the strongest and most dangerous enemy, and it must not be diverted by successes over a weak one by leaving the stronger to hang over one’s neck... It must be not forgotten that for the resolution of a war, it is important to have not only military successes, but also obtain political success, that is, win a victory over a politically important enemy ... Otherwise, only after an extended period accompanied even by military successes, will we be forced to return to the same fight against the main enemy against which we initially were only on the defensive.[1]
Lessons of the Cold War.

 George Kennan in discussing American foreign policy and democracy notes that we made two big boo-boos dugint the cold war.  (1) to attribute to the “Soviet leadership aims and intentions it did not really have; in jumping to conclusion that the Soviet leaders were just like Hitler and his associates…” with the same aspirations, timetable, and who could only be dealt with in the same manner as Hitler was. [2]  (2)  The second postwar mistake was to embrace the nuclear weapon “the mainstay of our military posture, and the faith we placed in it to assure our military and political ascendancy in this postwar era.”[3] 

It is from these two great mistakes that there has flowed, as I see it, the extreme militarization not only of our thought but of our lives that has become the mark of this postwar age.  And this is a militarization that has had profound effects not just on our foreign policies but also on our own society…  And this habit—the habit of pouring so great a part of our gross national product year after year into sterile and socially negative forms of production—has now risen to the status of what I have ventured to call a genuine national addiction.  We could not now break ourselves of the habit without the serious of withdrawal symptoms.  Millions of people, is addition to those other millions who are in uniform, have become accustomed to deriving their livelihood from the military-industrial complex.  Thousands of firms have become dependent on it, not to mention labor unions and communities.  It is the main source of our highly destabilizing budgetary deficit.  An elaborate and most unhealthy bond has been created between those who manufacture and sell the armaments and those in Washington who buy them.  We have created immense vested interests in the maintenance of a huge armed establishment in time of peace and in the export of great quantities of arms to other peoples—great vested interests, in other words, in the Cold War.  We have made ourselves dependent on this invidious national practice; so much so that it may fairly be said that if we did not have the Russians and their alleged iniquities to serve as a rationalization for it, we would have to invent some adversary to take their place—which would be hard to do.[4][My highlight] 

Kennan notes that the problem is made worse by the unnecessary wastefulness of it all, the lack of coherent relationship between the way Congress figures out civilian and military costs.[5] 

It sometimes seems to me that those of us not involved in this great military-industrial enterprise are in danger of becoming, in the figurative sense, a nation of camp followers, like the pathetic civilian stragglers who trailed along behind the European armies of earlier centuries in the hopes of picking up remnants from the relative abundance of the military resources of food and clothing which the armies disposed.[6]

And because of these requirements we need to keep demonizing our opponent and giving him qualities which make them 10 feet tall in order to justify the military-industrial requirements which become self-generating.[7]
We should not allow politicians with vested interests to define China, North Korea, Iran or any other threat in order to justify military requirements which are not needed for our political / military aims in war. 


    [1]  David M. Glantz, The Military Strategy of the Soviet Union:  A History, (Portland, OR:  Frank Cass, 1992), p. 42.
[2] George F. Kennan,  At a Century’s Ending.  Reflections 1982-1995 (New York:  W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1996), p. 130.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Idid., pp. 130-131
[5] Ibid., p. 132
[6] Ibid.
[7] Ibid.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

North Korea's Nuclear Security: The Third Alternative in Nuclear Confrontation

The world is more complex and dangerous than during the Cold War. The problem we now face with nuclear-armed states like North Korea and possibly Iran is the possibility that in a confrontation, a weaker North Korea or Iran may opt for the grave risk of mutual devastation to unilateral defeat.

In discussing the risk inherent in nuclear threats, Barry M. Blechman and Robert Powell, "What in the Name of God is Strategic Superiority" in National Security and Strategy, ed. by Robert H. Connery and Demetrios Caraley (Academy of Political Science, 1983) wrote:

"Before the introduction of ballistic missiles and long-range bombers armed with atomic weapons, battles has to be won or lost on the ground before either side considered surrendering a vital interest. Moreover, when a military verdict finally forced the issue, the only alternative to surrender was further intolerable damage. Military superiority was fundamentally asymmetric: If one side had it, the other did not. Thus, the losing side’s policymakers had only two alternatives: surrender or face continued destruction and suffering.

In the present era, the set of alternatives available to the “loser” is larger. Nuclear-armed missiles and bombers that can withstand an enemy’s attack and retaliate with devastating force … have invalidated the previous asymmetry of military verdicts. Throughout any confrontation, both sides will retain the capability to destroy one another. Thus, policymakers on the losing side of a military struggle have a third alternative. At any time during a confrontation, they may attempt to coerce the opponent (and apparent victor) by beginning to implement, and thus to make credible, the threat to destroy the other’s society implicit in the existence of nuclear forces. Of course, such a strategy would have to be pursued in full realization that the other side could respond in kind, thereby leading to mutual destruction, but the risk of mutual devastation may well seem preferable to the certainty of unilateral defeat… In short, when faced with defeat, the prospect of, at best, a negotiated settlement and, at worst, mutual defeat may appear the “least worst” choice among a set of awful alternatives.

Whether or not this third alternative exists affects profoundly the utility of military superiority, because it drastically alters the character of risk in confrontations… The crucial questions for policymakers who perceive to be superior militarily is whether the party they threaten might still choose the third alternative, preferring a grave risk of mutual devastation to unilateral defeat." (Id., pp. 82-83).

The answer to this crucial question remains... elusive; but must be addressed.

North Korea clearly has chosen to pursue nuclear-based security to prevent itself from being coerced politically and militarily by the United States, and gain political respect and legitimacy as a regional power. The nuclear option is insurance against defeat and/or humiliation at the hands of the United States, South Korea, or anyone else. It is worth pondering that as the force structure and technological capabilities that the United States displayed in recent wars are beyond the capacity of any nation in the foreseeable future, the only recourse available to a developing power is the cheaper and more accessible nuclear/ballistic missile option.

Paradoxically, our search for a conventional combat capability in order to preclude nuclear war has proven so successful, that others seek to counter this capability through nuclear forces. Iraq could have drastically altered the outcome of the war, politically in particular, had they used SCUD attacks earlier and with more powerful warheads. Iraq's missile force structure was both logical and affordable; its poor execution and lack of punch is what rendered it ineffective. We cannot use this lack of combat effectiveness as a planning factor, for other nations may prove better capable of effective employment.

For example, during the Falklands War, Argentina successfully used their very limited number of Exocet missiles to cause considerable damage to the British Navy. Despite recent failures, North Korea's missiles are bound to perform better after failures are studied and corrected. Massive strikes, properly timed and combining alternate conventional, chemical, and/or nuclear warheads can create widespread damage, both in military terms and more importantly in political terms which will dictate the war's tempo and determine what outcome will follow. Strategically, a nation equipped with a missile force which is facing a far better armed and more capable opponent will seek to retain a retaliatory capability, with a secure reserve force which will guarantee unacceptable pain, or cause sufficient doubt as to intentions and capabilities upon the enemy, thus allowing for the maximum room for political maneuver. Our future adversaries will combine mobile missiles for offensive operations, dispersing them in depth, using active deception measures for protection and ensuring its operational capacity.

This is the face of future war.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Chinese Communist Struggle Againt Japanese Imperialism 1937-1945 PART 2

We are now engaged in a war; our war is a revolutionary war; and our revolutionary war is being waged in this semi-colonial and semi-feudal country of China. Therefore, we must study not only the laws of war in general, but the specific laws of revolutionary war, and the even more specific laws of revolutionary war in China. [Selected Military Writings of Mao Tse Tung (Peking:  Foreign Languages Press, 1963), p. 75]

Mao and the Chinese Communist Party acquired a vested interest in a protracted war against the Japanese because its resultant chaos facilitated their expansion in the countryside and allowed them to exploit their guerrilla base areas for political, as well as for military purposes.

Mao Zedong identified four characteristics of China's revolutionary war from which all strategies and tactics derived:

The first is that China is a vast semi-colonial country which is unevenly developed both politically and economically, and which has gone through the revolution of 1924-27... The second characteristic is the great strength of the enemy ... The third characteristic is that the Red Army is weak and small... The fourth characteristic is the Communist Party's leadership and the agrarian revolution. [Mao Zedong, "Characteristics of China's Revolutionary War", in William J. Pomeroy, Guerrilla Warfare and Marxism (New York:  International Publishers, 5th printing, 1984), pp. 179-181.]
Mao's conception of the war against the Japanese, and eventually the KMT as well, was that of an agrarian-based protracted revolutionary war, passing through three phases. The first phase is devoted to organizing, consolidating, and preserving the regional base areas from which the war will be conducted and sustained. The second phase, involves a progressive expansion of operations against collaborationist, puppet troops, and the enemy. The primary purpose of these operations are to procure arms and supplies. In the final phase comes the decision, or destruction of the enemy. In this phase, the guerrilla bands form into regular line units able to engage the enemy in conventional operations. [Samuel B. Griffith, Brigadier General, USMC (Ret), trans., Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare (New York:  Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1961), pp. 20-22.]

Translated into strategic terms, Mao’s model led the Red Army into fighting a protracted war which was: (1) a war of national resistance against the Japanese; and at the same time, (2) a revolutionary war against the Kuomintang. The war was revolutionary in that its aims went far beyond merely defeating the Japanese: it aimed at establishing Communist power in China proper. Under the cover of nationalist fervor through the 'united front' strategy, they effectively convinced large numbers of people that they were the true defenders of China. Accordingly, the Red Army established large base areas behind enemy lines from which to conduct operations. In the words of General Chu Teh, the commander of the Communist Eighth Route Army:

"Our plan is to establish many regional mountain strongholds throughout north and northwest China." [Quoted in Agnes Smedley, "The Red Phalanx", in Guerrilla Strategies: An Historical Anthology from the Long March to Afghanistan, ed. by Gérard Chaliand (Berkeley:  University of California Press, 1982), p. 55.]

Our regulars can return to such bases for rest, replenishment and retraining... From these strongholds we can emerge to attack Japanese garrisons, forts, strategic points, ammunition dumps, communication lines, railways. After destroying such objectives, our troops can disappear and strike elsewhere.

The chief military aim of the Red Army against the Japanese was to wear them down through protracted guerrilla operations against their lines of communications (LOCs). By establishing guerrilla base areas from which to operate, the Red Army was able to maintain relatively short LOCs, therefore not dependent on long and vulnerable LOCs such as the Japanese were. Moreover, at the same time the Red Army's logistical needs were limited as the guerrillas were, essentially, largely light infantry who were given local support by the peasants. We may note that the communists got most of their arms from Japanese forces whom they had ambushed and defeated, as well as from the troops of puppet governments.

During the war, the Communists’ chief political objective were to prevent the capitulation of Chinese forces, maintain the 'United Front' strategy with the KMT in order to defeat the Japanese invaders, co-opt every Chinese into the struggle, and the establishment of Communist control over China. The Chinese Communist Party’s political guidance provided a major strategic advantage to the Communist forces: a clearly defined objective. All political and military actions were planned and executed with these goals in mind. Translated into military terms, the mission of the Red Army became: (1) to prevent capitulation of the resistance against the Japanese, identify traitors and collaborationist, and continue fighting; (2) to maintain a unity of effort with the KMT and other forces in the struggle against the Japanese. According to Mao "When the Red Army fights, it fights not merely for the sake of fighting but to agitate the masses, to organize them, to arm them, and to help them establish revolutionary political power." [Mao Tse-Tung, "On the Purely Military Viewpoint", in William J. Pomeroy, ed., Guerrilla Warfare and Marxism, (New York:  International Publishers, 1968, 5th Printing 1984), pp. 174-75.] Finally, in order to prevent China's complete capitulation, the Chinese Communist Party called for the masses of people to be drawn into civil and military work. In practical terms, this meant that every Chinese had to be co-opted into the struggle against the Japanese.

Operationally and tactically, the vastness of China and the remoteness of the center of Red Army's power ensured its survival through their ability to "move around". As previously noted, Mao identified the Communist limitations as the smallness and weakness of the Red Army which prevented it from engaging the enemy in force and winning quickly; this is why guerrilla warfare was to be used in order to ensure eventual victory. According to Mao, because the enemy was large and strong, he could destroy the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army if they did not follow a 'United Front' strategy with the KMT in their common fight against the Japanese. Additionally, in order to counteract Chinese weakness, Mao emphasized guerrilla warfare operations as opposed to conventional military operations. He characterized the former as follows:

In guerrilla warfare select the tactic of seeming to come from the east and attacking from the west; avoid the solid, attack the hollow; attack; withdraw; deliver a lightning blow, seek a lightning decision. When guerrillas engage a stronger enemy, they withdraw when he advances; harass him when he stops; strike him when he is weary; pursue him when he withdraws. [Mao Tse-Tung, p. 46]
The success of this tactic depends on speed an agility, with an ability to move at a moment's notice.

As an illustration of their readiness in this respect, the Bethune International Peace Hospital located in the Wut’ai base, the largest of the guerrilla base medical centers (1,500 beds), could be evacuated on a half-hour’s notice and was some twenty times.  [Chalmers A. Johnson, "The Japanese Role in Peasant Mobilization", Reading H, Course A653 Asian Military History, (Ft Leavenworth KS:  US Army Command and General Staff College, Class 1994-95), p. 146.]
Therefore if the strategic center of gravity of the Communists was the smallness of the Red Army, then it follows that the operational center of gravity of the guerrillas the preservation of their forces in order to destroy the enemy, both Japanese and KMT. [ Mao Tse-Tung, On Guerrilla Warfare, p. 95.]

Operationally, the best example of Red Army operations against the Japanese was the Eighth Route Army’s Hundred Regiments Offensive. The offensive begun on August 20, 1940, when 400,000 troops in 115 regiments of the Eight Route Army attacked the Japanese forces in five provinces. [Johnson, p. 148.] The operation lasted for three months, it being divided into three phases. The first phase which lasted from August 20—September 10, 1940, consisted of attacks directed against Japanese railroad lines of communications (LOCs) as well as coal mines which supplied the Japanese. In the second phase, lasting from September 20, 1940 to early October 1940, Red Army attacks were directed against Japanese strongholds and blockhouses which bounded or protruded into Communist areas. In the final phase, lasting from October 6—December 5, 1940, the Red Army went on the defensive, counterattacking a reconstituted Japanese First Army which was conducting large scale mopping-up operations against Chinese Communist Party base areas, from the Taihang Mountains of southeast Shansi to the area west of Beijing. [Johnson, p. 148.]

In order to fully appreciate Mao’s strategy, at this point it is worth noting that the main Japanese objectives in China were: (1) the blocking of American economic influence in East Asia; (2) a determination to keep China disunited to facilitate their advance into the mainland; and (3) the fight against international communism, i.e., the Soviet Union . [Saburo Ienaga, pp. 112-113.] After the conquest of a portion of eastern China in 1937-1939, they settled down as an occupation force, installing puppet governments and ruling through them such. The major puppet figures were Pu Yi in Manchukuo, and Wang Ching-wei's Reorganized National Government at Nanking which was established in March 1940. All of these governments were doomed to failure, as Japanese governors and their occupation policies robbed them of any possible claim to legitimacy that they may have otherwise have achieved. Regardless, the aim of the Japanese was to prevent the unification of China, and to control the portions of the country that they had taken through these puppet governments.

Militarily, the Japanese operated primarily in the coastal areas and out of Manchuria. Due to the size of China and the lack of Japanese military manpower, all they could do was to garrison the main cities and try to protect their railway LOCs. This was their main limitation, which combined with the war in the Pacific led to their defeat. They confined their movements largely to secure their LOCs primarily around railroads. As the Japanese did not control the countryside, these LOCs were constantly at risk. Consequently, the Japanese center of gravity was their exposed lines of communications. As the communists controlled the countryside, through their guerrilla operations, they continuously drained the Japanese of their material and manpower resources. The Hundred Regiments Campaign was very effective tactically and caused the Japanese to reassess the Red Army's capabilities and effectiveness as a military force. [Johnson, p. 148, quoting intelligence assessments by the Japanese.] However, it was also very costly to the Red Army, particularly in ammunition.

Moreover, the Japanese response to the offensive was typical of the Japanese: swift and brutal. After the Hundred Regiments Offensive, General Okamura Yasuji, assumed command of the North China Army on July 7, 1941. He instituted the sanko-seisaku or "three-all" policy: kill all, burn all, loot all. (My italics).

The essence of the sanko-seisaku was to surround a given area, to kill everyone in it, and to destroy everything possible so that the area would be uninhabitable in the future. Instances of the policy’s implementation were common: 1,280 persons were executed and all houses burned at Panchiatai, Luan hsien, east Hopei, in 1942. the largest scale destruction occurred in the Peiyueh district of Chin-Ch’a-Chi border region, where more than 10,000 Japanese soldiers carried out a mopping campaign between August and October 1941. The results in that area were some 4,500 killed, 150,000 houses burned, and about 17,000 persons transported to Manchuria."  [ Johnson, p. 147.]

The US War department analyzed the Japanese response in the following manner:

The Japanese reply to guerrilla war was a policy of frightfulness. It drove the people into the arms of the communists, because they undertook to organize the rural areas for defense after the regular Chinese armies had been defeated and fled. The people subscribed fully to the Communists' answer to those who doubted their ability to fight the superior Japanese forces: "If we don’t fight, what happens? The Japanese kill us anyway. If we fight, let’s see what happens."  [Johnson, p. 158.]

As previously mentioned, the 'United Front' strategy did not last for long. The effectiveness of Chinese Communist Party operations became worrisome for the KMT which was focused on events which would follow after the end of the war, the effect of communist political control being their main concern. In January 1941, the KMT surrounded and destroyed the headquarters detachment of the CCP's New Fourth Army, killing 9000 men and capturing its commander. Chang Kai-shek ordered the Fourth Army disbanded but the Chinese Communist Party refused. Instead it appointed a new commander, Ch'en Yi, and built up the army to 260,000 men by 1945. After Japan attacked the US at Pearl Harbor, the Americans suspected that the Nationalist Chinese were happy to let them fight the Japanese while the KMT fought the communists. For example, the American attache, in the embassy at Chunking noted that over 400,000 of Chang's best troops were manning a cordon around the Shensi-Kansu-Ninghsia Border Region which was the major communist base area.

Thus the combination of Japanese and KMT attacks against the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army caused the years 1941-42 to be the most difficult for the CCP and the Red Army. The population in the Communist areas in North China was cut from about 44 million to 25 million and the size of the Eighth Route Army was cut from 400,000 to 300,000. [Johnson, p. 149.] But the Japanese policy drove the peasants and the Chinese Communist Party closer together as there was not a village untouched by Japanese brutality. By the Spring of 1943, the Eighth Route Army was again operating in the areas of Hopei and Shantung.

However, the results of the Hundred Regiments Offensive had brought a change in the Red Army's guerrilla tactics. As the Japanese and the KMT were blocking the Red Army's sources of supplies, the Red Army began attacking puppet armies, and these seizures provided the Red Army's major sources of military supplies through the rest of the war.

Additionally, with the entry of the United States in the war against Japan, the guerrillas placed greater emphasis on economic warfare against the Japanese. For example, the Eighth Route Army in May to July 1944 fought off Japanese grain confiscation units in Hopei and Shansi. The Army attacked Japanese storage houses, captured grain, ambushed raiding parties. [Johnson, p. 150.]


The Chinese Communist Party's strategy was clearly effective in achieving its goals and objectives. The Japanese were only able to hold a few strategic points but in the end, Mao Zedong's analysis of the situation combined with a strategy of protracted warfare against a stronger enemy. Mao basically placed the Japanese in the situation that Sun Tzu had warned against: do not engage in protracted war because it will lead to your ruin. [Sun Tzu, The Art of War, trans. by Samuel B.Griffith, (New York:  Oxford University Press, 1963), pp. 72-76.] The Japanese accomplished their immediate operations quickly early in the campaign but could not control all of the area of operations, that is to say, the rest of China; therefore the war dragged on. Mao, by preventing the Japanese from achieving quick victory, ensured their ruin, and their ultimate defeat.

Of great significance as well is that the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army were involved in a revolutionary war as well. As already noted, their military operations were clearly subordinate to their political goal of "liberating" the countryside of both Japanese and the KMT as well as collaborationist. It was this unity of purpose that was their main strength. Some Western commentators have criticized Chinese Red Army operations as lacking significance and as relatively small in number given the nature of the theater. This is an erroneous argument because as we have seen, Red Army operations were geared to the establishment of Communist power in China, which ridding China of the Japanese invaders was but one obstacle and not an end in of itself.


In conclusion, if the Japanese had been able to concentrate all of their forces in China perhaps they might have been able to achieve greater success in their war against the Chinese. However, the Japanese seriously under-estimated the size and scope of China, as well as the capability of the Chinese people to resist. Japan's strategic objectives had clearly exceeded its capabilities. They also could not come to grip with the nature of the war that the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army forced upon them. As Mao noted:

It has been definitely decided that in the strategy of our war against Japan, guerrilla strategy must be auxiliary to fundamental orthodox methods... The Japanese military machine is thus being weakened by insufficiency of manpower, inadequacy of resources, the barbarism of her troops, and the general stupidity that has characterized the conduct of operations... We can prolong this struggle and make it a protracted war... If we cannot surround whole armies, we can at least partially destroy them; if we cannot kill the Japanese, we can capture them... The destruction of Japan's military power, combined with the international sympathy for China's cause and the revolutionary tendencies evident in Japan, will be sufficient to destroy Japanese imperialism." [Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare, pp.  94-99]

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

The Chinese Communist Struggle Againt Japanese Imperialism 1937-1945 PART I

War is the highest form of struggle for resolving contradictions, when they have developed to a certain stage, between classes, nations, states, or political groups, and it has existed ever since the emergence of private property and of classes.

               Mao Zedong

Mao Tse Tung, Quotations from Chairman Mao Tse Tung, (Peking:  Foreign Languages Publishing House, 1976), p. 58.  Hereinafter referred to as Little Red Book.

When Mao wrote this, Japan had already been in China for over 30 years as an occupying power.  It had established itself in China as a result of the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905. In the aftermath of the Russo-Japanese War, as part of the spoils of its victory, the Japanese Army captured Port Arthur and Mukden from the Russians, and forced them out of southern Manchuria.[1] In the 1905 Treaty of Portsmouth which formally ended the war, Russia ceded to the Japanese the southern half of Sakhalin Island, their railroads in southern Manchuria, and the Russian lease on Liaotung Peninsula.

By 1931, the Japanese regional army, the Kwangtung Army, disdainful of the civil government in Tokyo, on its own initiative, staged the “Mukden Incident”, claiming that the Chinese had tried to blow up the Japanese controlled Southern Manchurian Railroad in Mukden; Manchuria was overrun.  The Japanese quickly established control over Manchuria in 1931-1932, created the puppet state of Manchukuo in February 1932, and placed Henry Pu Yi, the last Manchu Emperor, as its emperor.  US Secretary of State Henry Stimson initiated a "Non-Recognition Doctrine" vis-a-vis Manchukuo, not recognizing governments  established through aggression and demanded that Japan withdraw from Manchuria.  The League of Nations censured Japan for the invasion as well.  Japan ignored the Stimson doctrine and withdrew from the League in 1933.

China's ill-fortune was a blessing for the Chinese Communist Party.  The CCP had been almost decimated by Chiang Kai-shek in 1927-1928 during the Shanghai uprising and the Kuomintang (KMT)/Chinese Communist Party (CCP) split.  As a result of the KMT's white terror campaign the CCP’s membership decreased from an early 1927 figure of about 60,000 to 20,000.[2]  By 1933 the Central Committee of the CCP was obliged to leave Shanghai and move to the Kiangsi region where Mao had established himself.  Mao's rise can be attributed to this period.  During this time, however, Chiang Kai-shek conducted a series of campaigns to rid China of  Communist influence and Communists.  The CCP, though able to mobilize the peasantry, could not fight Nationalist armies;  Chiang eventually got the upper hand.  In late 1934 the CCP took off on a 6000 mile trek which became known as the Long March.[3]
Its objective was to establish a new territorial base at the periphery of nationalist power.  About 100,000 individuals began the year-long trek, with only about 4,000 finishing it.  At the end of the Long March in October 1935, the CCP become entrenched in the Shensi Province in Northwest China.

The extreme remoteness of this area was one of its greatest strengths, enabling the Communists to operate freely and unopposed, and to establish their main base areas here.  The geo-physical characteristics of Shensi province, which became the central base for the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army, include yellow thick-layered loess soil-acolian dust (very fine grained) from a few feet to 250 feet in depth blown in over the ages from the deserts in the North.  It is a dry area, with frequent droughts, with a climate that is very cold in the winter to over 90 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer.  The landscape of the country is one of steep-sided valleys, gullies, and cliffs which enables the people to cut their homes directly into the vertical cliff faces.[4]  Very little industry was located in this area and transportation was rudimentary with few railroads.

By the end of 1936, the Red Army strength at Shensi totaled around 80,000 men.  Mao and his colleagues faced two primary tasks:  how to feed and equip the Red Army, and how to win over the peasantry.  Obviously, the first was dependent on the second.  Through land confiscations from rich landlords, suspension of taxes, and exemplary conduct on the part of Chinese Communist Party cadres such as helping the peasants with their harvest and growing their own crops, the peasants became supportive of the communists.  For example, Mao Zedong tells us that the Communist Eighth Route Army "put into practice a code known as "The Three Rules and the Eight Remarks.""[5]

These were:


1. All actions are subject to command.

2. Do not steal from the people.

3. Be neither selfish nor unjust.


1. Replace the door when you leave the house.

2. Roll up the bedding on which you have slept.

3. Be courteous.

4. Be honest in your transactions.

5. Return what you borrow.

6. Replace what you break.

7. Do not bathe in the presence of women.

8. Do not without authority search the pocketbooks of those you arrest.

Using such simple rules of engagement and conduct, the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army were able to accomplish both of their immediate tasks.

In its political program, the Chinese Communist Party advocated a 'United Front' strategy with the Kuomintang against the Japanese.  This strategy, in accord with the 'United Front' strategy promulgated by the Seventh Congress of the Communist International in 1935, called for communist cooperation with all groups and political parties opposed to Japanese fascism.  Essentially, the Communist International's strategy called for communist parties to unite with nationalist parties in the common struggle against the larger threat of fascism.  In China, the "United Front" was created as a result of the so-called "Sian Incident" of December 1936.  A group of Nationalist Chinese generals led by Chang Hsueh Liang placed Chang Kai-shek under house arrest and kept him prisoner until he agreed to work with the Communists against the Japanese. In August 1937, Chiang even appointed Chu Teh, who was leading the Communist forces, as commander of the Eighth Route Army, and in the following month issued a communiqué announcing the KMT- Chinese Communist Party reconciliation.[6]  In all cases, the “United Front” strategy was purely a marriage of convenience which, in the Chinese case, was not destined to last for long.
Regardless, to the Japanese a potential peace between the Kuomintang and the Communists was considered a major threat to their plans of eventually controlling and pacifying all of China. Hitherto, the Japanese had been steadily encroaching upon Chinese territory, for example by exploiting Mongol restlessness and through a myriad of incursions in the periphery of Manchuria. On 7 July 1937, some Japanese troops, part of the China Garrison Army which was there as a result of the Boxer Protocol of 1901, broke into a small town near Beijing, allegedly searching for a comrade. A fire fight broke out between Chinese and Japanese soldiers and, this so-called Lukouchiao, or Marco Polo Bridge Incident, set off the Sino-Japanese War which lasted until the autumn of 1945.

While the Japanese invasion of China was disastrous for Chiang Kai-shek, it provided a tremendous opportunity for the Chinese Communist Party and the Red Army. It allowed the Chinese Communist Party to claim political legitimacy as patriots fighting the Japanese and, through the Red Army's military efforts, to promote their political program among the population. The success of these efforts can be measured by the growth of personnel: at the beginning of 1937, communist forces totaled about 100,000 men in northwest China. By 1945 these forces had grown to more than 900,000[7].

Aiding the Communist cause was the barbarous behavior of the Japanese armies in China.  In one early incident, Japanese troops from Lieutenant General Yanagawa Heisuke's 10th Army occupied Nanking, the Nationalist capital, in December 13, 1937.  In the ensuing few weeks, they killed between 20,000 to 200,000 people (the figures vary depending on the sources).[8]

Regardless of the actual figure, it was widely condemned by the rest of the world as an act of inhuman proportions. Events such as these, this particular episode becoming known as the "Rape of Nanking", differing from others only in scale, helped to rally the Chinese people against the Japanese invaders and to ensure world censure against Japanese actions. The Americans, in particular, were highly incensed and by 1938 had stopped selling aircraft and scrap iron to Japan, this incident being one of the reasons for initiating this policy. Regardless of how the world felt, by October 1938 the Japanese had taken Hankow, moved into the south by sea-borne operations, taken Canton, and had begun a tight blockade on the China coast. The KMT moved its capital first to Wuhan, and then eventually to Chunking further inland. This move cutoff the KMT from its roots, and instead of being the central government of China, became a fugitive in a mountain redoubt.

However the size and primitiveness of China which combined with the nationalistic feelings of an aroused Chinese populace, prevented the Japanese from fully controlling and defeating China itself. Though the Japanese had driven nationalists forces out of North China into the western areas, they were unable to control more than a few strategic points. The peasants smoldering with hatred for the Japanese, it was relatively easy for the Communists to convince the peasants that they were the real defenders of China. In order to effectively do this, they established nineteen main guerrilla bases behind Japanese lines and set up effective operations from these areas, as well as establishing their own Communist-sponsored governments, which gave the Communists political legitimacy among the people.

[1]   Thomas E. Gries, Series Ed.,  Atlas for the Second World War:  Asia and the Pacific, The West Point Military History Series, (Wayne, NJ:  Avery Publishing Group Inc., 1985), Map 37.

[2] John King Fairbank, The Great Chinese Revolution 1800-1985 (New York: Perennial Library, 1987), p. 227.

[3] Fairbank, p. 233.

[4] Central Intelligence Agency, People's Republic of China Atlas, (Wash DC: US Government Publishing Office, November 1971).

[5] Samuel B. Griffith, Brigadier General, USMC (Ret), trans., Mao Tse-Tung on Guerrilla Warfare (New York: Frederick A. Praeger, Inc., 1961), p. 92.

[6] Saburo Ienaga, "The War in China: A Clash of Political Values," Reading G, Course A653 Asian Military History, (Ft Leavenworth KS: US Army Command and General Staff College, Class 1994-95), pp. 113.

[7] Whiting, Kenneth R. Chinese Communist Armed Forces, AU-11. (Maxwell Air Force Base AL: Air University Press, 1967), p. 34

[8] Meiron and Susie Harries, Soldiers of the Sun: The Rise and Fall of the Imperial Japanese Army, (New York: Random House, 1991).

Sunday, September 9, 2012

The Maginot Line and Ballistic Missile Defense


The Maginot Line has traditionally been viewed by military historians and thinkers as an example of the catastrophe that a defensive orientation combined with an obsolete conception of the nature of future war will produce. That the Maginot Line did not fulfill the purpose originally assigned to it certainly gives credence to these conclusions. However, it must be noted that (1) the Maginot Line indeed did fulfill the main role assigned to it as the Germans did not penetrate it; and (2) the German outflanking of the Maginot Lien was the result of German operational flexibility and of French strategic inflexibility and political limitations rather than a defect in the concept of a defensive line in itself.

The Maginot Line is of conceptual relevance to efforts in developing ballistic missile defenses on a strategic level. Hence the Maginot Line revisited.


The concept of fortifications on a vast scale are not new in history. The Great Wall of China was began during the Qin Dynasty (221-206 B.C.) to keep out nomads from the north out. It went through various additions and expansions until what we have now which was built by the Ming's during the sixteenth century. What impact the Great Wall had on french strategic thinking is unknown, but certainly as a precedent it did not go unnoticed as will be shown later.

The experience of World War I was traumatic for France who although considered a victor, it was a certainly a phyrric victory at best as a whole generation of Frenchmen perished on the battlefields, which according to Anthony Kemp, totaled 1.4 million killed, 4.3 million wounded, and 500,000 missing. Further, the doctrine of the offensive which had guided French strategic and tactical thinking had also been a victim of the machine gun and barbed wire. As a result of these considerations, Marshal Pétain who had been appointed Inspector General of the Army, in 1921 became convinced that the answer to France's future security needs lay in what he described as 'battlefields prepared in peacetime.' "which he understood as a continuous front on the principles of the wartime trenches." What Pétain envisioned was a system of fortifications around the French frontier like those of the Battle of Verdun which would safeguard France. It was with this strategy of positional warfare that France went into war in 1940. On January 4, 1930, the French National Assembly voted for the appropriations for a "Great Wall on the eastern frontier." André Maginot, the Minister of War, was responsible for the construction of the fortifications and therefore bear his name. By 1936 some seven billion francs had been invested in the Maginot Line and the fortifications were largely complete. The purpose of the fortifications was: (1) to protect the frontiers against a surprise attack initiated without a declaration of war; (2) in case of a formal declaration of war, to protect the frontiers during the critical three weeks needed for mobilization; (3) after mobilization, to provide a core resistance and to ensure the industrial potential of the nation, and the nation itself.

The Maginot Line did stop the Germans; who had to plan around it. Hitler thought that the next war would be quite different than that envisioned by Pétain. Hitler has become an avid supporter of General Heinz Guderian's concept of fast armored warfare. He is said to have remarked that: "I shall manoeuvre [sic] France right out her Maginot Line without losing a single soldier." The Germans instituted a number of deception plans to make the French think that a real attack, or at least a serious secondary attack, would come from Army Group C which was facing the Maginot Line. As it was there was never an intention to actually attack the Maginot Line head on, when it could be outflanked. Therefore, as a defensive shield against a German invasion the Maginot Line was successful. It was only taken from the rear in the last days of French resistance. So why is the Maginot Line considered to be a failure?


The Maginot concept would have worked if it had been carried to its logical end which would have been to fortify the whole French frontier. As was pointed out previously, the Germans clearly realized that the only way to attack the Maginot Line was to go around it. So why was the plan of a full Maginot Line stretching around the entire frontier of France not carried through? Besides the financial considerations which certainly had an impact, two key diplomatic and political issues are salient. First, if the Maginot Line had been constructed all around France's borders, this would have meant, in political terms that France had no confidence in the Belgians, Belgium being a traditional invasion route against France. In practical terms, this meant throwing the Belgians to the wolves, and it would have been very difficult, if not impossible, for the weak French governments of the Third Republic to do this. The second point is that if line had been completed, there was the likely probability that British would not come to France's aid in case of war and British aid was central to French strategy and planning. France truly felt that it could contain a German thrust but would need British help to repel the Germans back across their borders. The only way to get the British in was to show that both French and British were fighting for Belgium against German aggression. Thus the line was only completed along the eastern portion of the border and not the along the north. The French did not consider that they would have to ask for Britain's help to save French soil itself. Thus these political and diplomatic considerations entered the national security calculus, limiting the expansion of the line, and which combined with French strategic misconceptions such as the impenetrability of the Ardennes to large armored formations, led to France's defeat in 1940. Hence, the Maginot Line did not fail; France failed by not completing it and through an antiquated military strategy that did not credibly foresee the possibility that the Germans would attach through the Ardennes; bypassing the Maginot Line.

The concept of the Maginot Line must be considered when planning for a ballistic missile defense shield of the nation; and/or  of theater air defense. The desirability to shield our nation, and military forces in theater, from ballistic missiles is quite in line with the French desire to protect their nation from attack by building impenetrable fortifications. What we must learn from the French experience is that military considerations must be integrated within the larger context of the national security environment. Building their military strategy around fortifications which they knew to be incomplete due to political and diplomatic considerations is the cardinal sin that the French military committed. Another lesson that may be gleaned from the French experience is that these defenses should not be piecemeal but rather should be complete in order to be effective.


Fairbank, John King. China: A New History. Cambridge: The Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1992.

Horne, Alistair. To Lose a Battle: France 1940. London: Macmillan and Co Ltd, 1969.

Kemp, Anthony. The Maginot Line: Myth and Reality. New York: Stein and Day/ Publishers, 1982.

"Maginot Line." In The Encyclopedia of Twentieth Century Warfare, gen. ed. Noble Frankland. 1st US edition. New York: Crow Publishers, 1989.

Monday, September 3, 2012

On War, Part VIII: Friction in War

1.7 Book One, Chapter 7: Friction in War

If one has never personally experienced war, one cannot understand in what the difficulties constantly mentioned really consist, now why a commander should need any brilliance and exceptional ability. Everything looks simple; the knowledge required does not look remarkable, the strategic options are so obvious that by comparison the simplest problem of higher mathematics has an impressive scientific dignity. Once war has actually been seen the difficulties become clear; but it is still extremely to describe the unseen, all-pervading element that brings about this change of perspective.

Everything in war is simple, but the simplest thing is difficult. The difficulties accumulate and end by producing a kind of friction that is inconceivable unless one has experienced war… Countless minor incidents—the kind you can never really foresee—combine to lower the general level of performance, so that one always falls far short of the intended goal. Iron will-power can overcome this friction; it pulverizes every obstacle, but of course it wears down the machine as well. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 119)

GIV: The above should be read by every reporter, pundit, politician and would-be commander who is ready to offer ready-made [non]solutions—to problems they do not understand.

Friction is the only concept that more or less corresponds to the factors that distinguish real war from war on paper. The military machine—the army and everything related to it—is basically very simple and therefore seems easy to manage. But we should bear in mind that none of its components is of one piece: each part is composed of individuals, every one of whom retains his potential of friction. In theory it sounds reasonable enough… In fact, it is different, and every fault and exaggeration of the theory is instantly exposed in war. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 119)

This tremendous friction, which cannot, as in mechanics, be reduce to a few points [every soldier is a source of friction, etc.], is everywhere in contact with chance, and brings about effects that cannot be measured, just because they are largely due to chance. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 120)

Action in war is like movement in a resistant element. Just as the simplest and most natural of movements, walking, cannot easily be performed in water, so in war it is difficult for normal efforts to achieve even moderate results. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 120)

Moreover, every war is rich in unique episodes. Each is an uncharted sea, full of reefs… An understanding of friction is a large part of that much-admired sense of warfare with a good general is supposed to possess. To be sure, the best general is not the one who is most familiar with the idea of friction, and who takes it most to heart (he belongs to the anxious type so common among experienced commanders). The good general must know friction in order to overcome it whenever possible, and in order not to expect a standard of achievement in his operations which this very friction makes impossible… Practice and experience dictate the answer: “this is possible, that it not.” (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 120)

Friction, as we choose to call it, is the force that makes the apparently easy so difficult. (Book One, Chapter Seven, p. 121)

[GIV: A clear sense of priorities is also necessary to overcome friction. Don’t waste energies on the unimportant; concentrate on the main objective.]

Saturday, August 25, 2012

On War Part VII: On Physical Effort and Intelligence in War

1.5 Book One, Chapter 5: On Physical Effort in War

Among the many factors in war that cannot be measured, physical effort is the most important. Unless it is wasted, physical effort is a coefficient of all forces, and its exact limit cannot be determined… it takes a powerful mind to drive his army to the limit. (Book One, Chapter Five, p. 115)

Our reason for dealing with physical effort here is that like danger it is one of the great sources of friction in war. Because its limits are uncertain, it resembles one of those substances whose elasticity makes the degree of its friction exceedingly hard to gauge. (Book One, Chapter Five, p. 115)

No one can count on sympathy if he accepts an insult or mistreatment because he claims to be physically handicapped. But if he manages to defend or revenge himself, a reference to his handicap will be to his advantage. In the same way, a general and an army cannot remove the stain of defeat by explaining the dangers, hardships, and exertions that were endured; but to depict them adds immensely to the credit of a victory. (Book One, Chapter Five, pp. 115-116)

1.6 Book One, Chapter 6: Intelligence in War

By “intelligence” we mean every sort of information about the enemy and his country—the basis, in short, of our own plans and operations. (Book One, Chapter Six, p. 117)

Many intelligence reports in war are contradictory; even more are false, and most are uncertain. We one can reasonably ask of an officer is that he should possess a standard of judgment, which he can gain only from knowledge of men and affairs and from common sense. He should be guided by the laws of probability… In short, most intelligence is false, and the effect of fear is to multiply lies and inaccuracies. As a rule most men would rather believe bad news than good, and rather tend to exaggerate the bad news. The dangers that are reported may soon, like waves, subside; but like waves they keep recurring, without apparent reason. The commander must trust his judgment and stand like a rock on which the waves break in vain. It is not an easy thing to do. If he does not have buoyant disposition, if experience of war has not trained him and matured his judgment, he had better make it a rule to suppress his personal convictions, and give his hopes and not his fears the benefit of the doubt. Only thus can he preserve the proper balance. (Book One, Chapter Six, p. 117)

GIV COMMENT:  Interestingly, the above remains just as valid today as when it was written. For example, during Operation Desert Storm, General Schwarzkopf stated that ambiguous intelligence reports full of caveats was the norm; which were actually more harmful than helpful. Another point is that we have so much information coming in that the Commander may be overwhelmed by minutiae and detail, and have difficulty in sorting out meaningful information.

This difficulty of accurate recognition constitutes on of the most serious sources of friction in war, by making things appear entirely different from what one had expected. (Book One, Chapter Six, p. 117)

[S]elf reliance is his best defense against the pressures of the moment. Was has a way of masking the stage with scenery crudely daubed with fearsome apparitions. Once this is cleared away, and the horizon becomes unobstructed, developments will confirm his earlier convictions—this is one of the great chasm between planning and execution. (Book One, Chapter Six, p. 117)

GIV COMMENT: which is why planning needs to be detailed in preparation but flexible in execution—which is easier said that done.  As previously noted in a prior posting, Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasili I. Chuikov observed in his book “The Battle for Stalingrad”:   “But for success in battle beautifully drawn maps count for very little.  A good strategic or operational plan needs to be implemented in good time, needs good tactics and the flexible handling of armies.  But when a decision is taken late, it will inevitably be carried out in haste.  In such cases, there will as a rule be a lack of organization and co-ordination.”  This is the reality of war:  maps and calculations count for very little.

Sunday, August 19, 2012



GIVEN: That deterrence fails and China initiates hostilities against another Asian state.

GOAL: Restore regional stability and protect political/economic interests of the United States.


  - Maintain forces within the region capable of dealing with potential for aggression by China. Forces in Korea and Japan are sufficient
      -- Recurring exercises with other nations in the area will ensure smooth combined operations in combat situation

  - Once hostilities begin, US forces first establish a cordon sanitaire around the area of hostilities, sealing it off from further expansion
     -- Prevent escalation of hostilities; of prime importance, nuclear weapons must not be used
     -- Punitive strikes may be initiated in order to prevent Chinese from achieving goals, though these could lead to escalation

- Diplomatic - Seek UN sponsored resolution to the crisis or offer good offices to mediate dispute; the objective is to end hostilities quickly

- Political - Stress that we do not seek China's destabilization but a return to the status quo ante
     -- US will not tolerate aggression to settle disputes/stress that grievances can be addressed within the context of UN
     -- Support Vietnam and other South East Asian efforts against Chinese pressure
- Military - Logistical support and provide military equipment to Vietnam and other SE Asian nations akin Lend-Lease Act

- Economic - Threaten the use of sanctions or actually seek to impose sanctions against China to cease hostilities; withdraw MFN status from China

ADDITIONAL COMMENTS: We must recognize that China because of its size, population, economy, and military power vis-a-vis its neighbors will be the greatest regional power in Asia. It is in our national interest to recognize and accept this. We should not overreact to, or feel threatened by, China's increasing political interests in the region. International relations theory recognizes that as powers begin to grow, their interests expand.

In war with Chinese aggression, our interests dictate that our goal is to seek a return to the status quo ante. Ultimately, our 'vital' interests in Asia are economic in nature as our physical security is not threatened directly. It is in our national interest to have a stable Asia to promote economic activity and trade. Our policy should reflect this goal.