I suppose this is a fairly smart thing to do after Nancy Pelosi threw a rock through the Chinese hornet’s nest. Dozens of military and intelligence officials are huddled in a room in Washington playing a series of hundreds of different war game scenarios. They are trying to estimate what will happen if China invades Taiwan and the United States steps in militarily to defend the island nation. The results thus far are something of a “good news, bad news” prediction. In nearly every scenario they have tested thus far, our combined forces would eventually repel the Chinese invasion leaving Taiwan under the control of the current government. That’s the good news. The bad news is that the cost of fighting that war would be horrendous and it would almost certainly end up looking like a pyrrhic victory. (Bloomberg)
The unofficial what-if game is being conducted on the fifth floor of an office building not far from the White House, and it posits a US military response to a Chinese invasion in 2026. Even though the participants bring a US perspective, they are finding that a US-Taiwan victory, if there is one, could come at a huge cost.
“The results are showing that under most — though not all — scenarios, Taiwan can repel an invasion,” said Mark Cancian, a senior adviser at the US Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), where the war games are being held. “However, the cost will be very high to the Taiwanese infrastructure and economy and to US forces in the Pacific.”
In sessions that are to run through next month, retired US generals and navy officers and former Pentagon officials hunch like chess players over tabletops along with analysts from the CSIS think tank.
As with any effort at prognostication, these predictions are not certainties, and they rely on some major assumptions we’ll look at in a moment. But the overall cost in lives, equipment and infrastructure would be catastrophic.
First of all, most of the island of Taiwan would be in ruins. China simply has too many long-range rockets and air-to-surface missiles. They aren’t projecting the total number of people who would be killed yet, but most of the government, business, and even residential buildings would be destroyed or seriously damaged. The US Navy and Air Force would be crippled. Most of the United States and Japanese surface fleets in the western Pacific would be destroyed. (The scenario assumes Japan would allow America to use naval ports while not directly engaging the Chinese themselves.) We would lose an estimated 900 fighter jets or roughly half of the American Navy and Air Force inventory. The number of sailors and pilots who would be lost would be staggering. But China would eventually run low on resources and call for a truce.
The first big assumption that these scenarios make is that the United States and Taiwan would be fighting alone. None of our other allies – even the ones in the immediate region like Japan or South Korea – would send any military support. Is that likely? Probably. Nobody has a treaty binding them to support Taiwan militarily and they don’t want to create a permanent state of threatening warfare with China and its nuclear weapons capabilities right on their doorsteps.
The scenarios also assume that China will not use its nuclear weapons against America or Taiwan. That’s also probably a safe assumption because China will already have enough on its plate dealing with the US military without triggering world war three. If they did, however, they could quickly turn Taiwan into a permanently uninhabitable wasteland.
The more unpredictable part of the war appears to involve what would happen with the ground forces. China would likely try to land a large number of troops on the southern end of Taiwan. Taiwan’s own armed forces would be almost entirely responsible for fending them off. The United States would not be able to deploy a significant number of our troops to the island safely on short notice. In some scenarios, Taiwan forces all of China’s troops back across the strait, but in others, China permanently takes over and occupies portions of the island, but not Taipei and not the entire island.
So there’s some depressing news for you to keep in mind as all of the tension over Taiwan continues to escalate. The one possible upside to all of this is the idea that China has been running similar simulations and coming to the same conclusions. If they don’t believe they can win, they probably won’t invade.