The spectre of World War 3 receded a little with the end of the Cold War, but now the bad old days are back, a retired US Admiral has warned.
Retired US Admiral and head of Special Operations Command William McRaven has said that military analysts in the West have experienced what he calls a “holy sh*t” moment.
All the current situation would need is a spark. And that spark is small island Taiwan, less than half the size of the UK.
The US is sworn to protect Taiwan’s interests, but not only has the danger of a confrontation between America and China increased, the possibility that the Americans might come off second best looks like a worryingly real possibility.
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“The US could lose,” warns Gary Roughead, a retired admiral who is co-chair of a group reviewing the Trump administration’s defence strategy.
“We really are at a significant inflection point in history.”
The US National Defence Strategy Commission has said that in a face-off with China, America “might struggle to win …or perhaps lose, a war against China or Russia”.
Even if they did manage a win, “the US military could suffer unacceptably high casualties” says a report from the commission.
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David Ochmanek, a defence analyst for the RAND Corporation, says in every simulation they run, the US comes off worst.
He told the New American Way of War conference earlier this year: "Things that rely on sophisticated base infrastructure like runways and fuel tanks are going to have a hard time.
"Things that sail on the surface of the sea are going to have a hard time.”
‘Carrier-killer” cruise missiles, perhaps tipped with nuclear warheads, would quickly neuter American sea power in the region.
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China has never abandoned its desire to reclaim Taiwan. Since 1949 Taiwan’s political position has been uncertain and its powerful export-oriented industrial economy makes it an attractive prize for the Chinese.
Earlier this week China’s defence minister, Wei Fenghe, declared that the assimilation of Taiwan was Beijing’s “greatest national interest” — and that no foreign force could prevent Chinese reunification.
And with China in a far better position to recover economically from any conflict, a future US government will have to weigh up whether their loyalties to Taiwan, Japan and South Korea would be worth the brutal cost, both in lives and in infrastructure, that a shooting war would levy.
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